Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates (7-2) at Chicago Cubs (5-4)

In Series Previews by berselius11 Comments

The Pirates got off to a hot start with a sweep of the awful Tigers in Detroit. They also split a series with the Twins and won two of three from the Reds, all at home. After trading their top two players in the offseason (both probably a year too late), expectations are pretty low.

Team Leaders

I'm still using the teams' 2017 numbers here instead. The Pirates trading their two best players in the offseason made things slightly more difficult. Their offense was pretty bottom of the barrel last year and it might be even worse without Cutch.


  • OBP: Kris Bryant (.409)
  • ISO: Ian Happ (.261)
  • HR: Anthony Rizzo (32)
  • R+RBI: Rizzo (208)
  • wRC+: Bryant (146)
  • BSR: Bryant (4.8)
  • Defense: Willson Contereras (12.8)
  • SP K/9: Jose Quintana (10.46)
  • SP BB/9: Quintana (2.24)
  • SP FIP: Quintana (3.25)
  • RP FIP: Carl Edwards Jr (12.75)
  • RP BB/9: Brandon Morrow (1.85)
  • RP FIP: Morrow (1.55)
  • WAR: Bryant (6.7)


  • OBP: David Freese (.368)
  • ISO: Josh Bell (.211)
  • HR: Josh Bell (26)
  • R+RBI: Bell (165)
  • wRC+: Corey Dickerson (115)
  • BSR: Gregory Polanco (3.0)
  • Defense: Freese (6.2)
  • SP K/9: Jameson Taillon (8.42)
  • SP BB/9: Ivan Nova (1.73)
  • SP FIP: Taillon (3.48)
  • RP K/9: Felipe Rivero (10.91)
  • RP BB/9: Rivero (2.39)
  • RP FIP: Rivero (2.47)
  • WAR: Taillon (2.9)

Injuries, transactions, vengenace pacts, etc.

See the Pirates NL Central whiparound for more details, or don't. I can't tell you what to do. Gregory Polanco is dealing with a minor foot injury that kept him out on Saturday, and Jordy Mercer is dealing with a jammed finger.

Anthony Rizzo missed the last three games of the Brewers series with a stiff back. At first it sounded like a flareup of the usual stiffness we've seen once or twice this season, but after it lingered for a few days it seems like it could be more serious. It looks like he'll miss the home opener.

Pitching Probables

Projected K/9, BB/9, ERA listed for each pitcher.

Monday: Ivan Nova, RHP (6.62, 1.95, 4.13) vs Tyler Chatwood, RHP (7.28, 4.34, 4.34), 1:20 PM CT

Nova is off to an un-Nova like start to the season, walking three in his first start and getting knocked around for five runs in his second. Chatwood, on the other hand, had an extremely Chatwood start in his lone outing. He walked six, but got a ton of ground balls and allowed just one run in six innings.

Wednesday: Steven Brault, LHP (7.39, 3.92, 4.53) vs Jon Lester, LHP (8.90, 2.59, 3.58), 7:05 PM CT

Brault had solid numbers in AAA for the last two years, but has been rocked in the majors. He's filling in for the injured Joe Musgrove. and managed to pick up a win against the Reds in his last time out. He went five innings and allowed just one run, but walked four and let loose a couple of wild pitches.

Lester had a great bounceback from his shaky opening day start, throwing six scoreless innings and even picking off Ryan Braun. He also put himself on the map for whenever the Cubs decide to have another bunting contest. As dumb as I found it at the time, I actually think it would be kind of useful now considering how prevalent shifting is now.

Thursday: Trevor Williams, RHP (6.56, 3.09, 4.58) vs Kyle Hendricks, RHP (7.78, 2.32, 3.66), 1:20 PM CT

Cyle was the only Cubs starer with a solid start the first time through the rotation, and the reverse was true in the Brewers series. He had a tough time dealing with the tight zone that day and the Brewers started squaring him up.

Williams was also knocked around in his last start, giving up 10 hits in 5+ innings but limiting the damage to just two runs. He threw six scoreless in his first start, but walked five.

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  1. dmick89

    Rizzo the Rat: No, you got the chronology wrong. The Cubs traded for Chapman before Rondon’s injury, when his numbers were excellent.

    My recollection is that Rondon went on the DL almost immediately after the Cubs acquired Chapman and for some reason I seem to recall Theo or Jed talking about how Rondon’s forearm had been acting up for a few weeks. Maybe I’m wrong, but I know that I believed shortly after Chapman was acquired is that it was because the Cubs were concerned about Rondon’s health.

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  2. dmick89

    Yeah, Rondon pitched on August 2nd and then not again until the 14th. He threw again on the 16th and then not until September. I’m certain the Cubs mentioned how it had been a concern prior to the deal for Chapman.

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  3. Rizzo the Rat

    dmick89: I’m certain the Cubs mentioned how it had been a concern prior to the deal for Chapman.

    I believe you’re wrong. They acquired Chapman because they wanted an extra edge in the postseason. The Chapman trade was in July and Rondon kept making regular appearances after it. If they were worried about Rondon, I did not see any public statements to that effect.

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  4. JKV

    Rizzo the Rat:
    Anyway, my issue with proclaiming that Cishek to be much better than Rondon is not that I place a lot of trust in projections for relievers. It’s that I don’t think we can do any better with folk knowledge and observations like “he’s been giving up a ton of homers since his injury.” I mean, for one thing, his home run rate has primarily been driven by an unsustainable ~20% HR/FB rate (a rate that takes hundreds of innings pitched to stabalize). I mean, if someone can provide evidence that arm injuries lead to fly balls travelling farther (without any observable decrease in pitch velocity), I’ll listen, but I think the null hypothesis is far more reasonable.

    I think too often we look at statistics in a vacuum. 20% HR/FB rate wouldn’t be sustainable if Rondon was his previous self – high velocity, location, movement.

    To the very untrained eye (and memory) of mine, his location went to hell and he didn’t seem to get the same movement on his pitches.

    In 2016, his 2nd half K% was cut in half vs. the 1st half. That tells me it wasn’t just some kind of random variation. Hitters were seeing him better, he was locating pitches in the heart of the plate, or his movement greatly reduced.

    It’s not really possible to get a large sample size of someone giving up 20% HR/FB rate because no team would give that pitcher a long enough leash. I think we could probably come to an agreement that professional baseball players will send meatballs into the seats at a much higher rate than well located fastballs.

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  5. Rizzo the Rat

    HR/FB varies widely year-to-year for starting pitchers, let alone relievers (e.g., look at Kershaw). Anyway, I’ll be keeping an eye on how he does this year. My suspicion is that his true talent rate is far lower than the 20% he’s shown lately.

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  6. Author

    To-day’s base ball squadron

    CF Happ
    3B Bryant
    1B Zobrist
    C Contreras
    LF War Bear
    SS Russell
    RF Heyward
    2B Baez
    P Chatwood

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