2013 Reds / Series Preview

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs

Halfway through their stretch of 20 games in 20 days, the Cincinnati Reds find themselves atop the division standings. They play the final three of their current 10-game home stand starting tonight against the Chicago Cubs.

After winning two out of their opening 3-game series against Pittsburgh, the Cubs have gone 3-11 to drop into last place in the division. It’s where many predict the team will finish as Theo Epstein continues rebuilding an organization that lost 100 games last season.

2013 W-L exW-L GB RS/G RA/G RS Rank OBP Rank LOB Rank
Reds 11-8 13-6 0.0 5.6 3.9 1st 1st 2nd
Cubs 5-12 7-10 5.0 3.4 4.4 28th 27th 27th

WHERE TO WATCH

Two of the matchups will get national exposure on WGN (Tuesday) and MLBN (Wednesday.) In the Cincinnati area, only the night games on Monday and Tuesday will be televised on FSO. For those of you in the Chicago television market, Monday’s and Wednesday’s games will also be on CSN.

CHICAGO’S OFFSEASON MOVES

Epstein made very minor upgrades to a team that ranked 14th in the National League in runs scored last year. Geovany Soto (mid-season trade), Tony Campana, and Bryan LaHair, are replaced on the roster by Dioner Navarro, Nate Schierholtz, and Scott Hairston.

On the pitching side, Chicago only retained Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, and the still-rehabbing Matt Garza for the starting rotation. They added four starters through free agency: Edwin Jackson, Carlos Villanueva, Scott Baker (DL), and Scott Feldman.

The bullpen remains another weak link overall for Chicago. Epstein added a quality late inning arm from the international free agent market, signing Kyuji Fujikawa of Japan.

PROBABLE BATTING LINEUP

Player Bats Pos Age PA AVG OBP SLG OPS+ BABIP SB/CS
David DeJesus (L) CF 33 59 .283 .356 .547 145 .342 0/0
Starlin Castro (R) SS 23 75 .301 .320 .466 114 .351 2/0
Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B 23 71 .210 .310 .532 127 .184 1/0
Alfonso Soriano (R) LF 37 70 .284 .314 .388 93 .346 1/0
Nate Schierholtz (L) RF 29 56 .300 .364 .560 150 .302 3/0
Welington Castillo (R) C 26 51 .375 .400 .500 147 .472 1/0
Luis Valbuena (L) 3B 27 55 .217 .345 .391 103 .229 1/0
Darwin Barney (R) 2B 27 19 .059 .158 .059 -37 .083 0/0

The Cubs have brought back most of the starting eight from the end of last season. Nate Schierholtz is the only change to the everyday lineup. Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are the foundation of this lineup and the future of the Cubs rebuilding campaign. Rizzo is the Cubs strongest power threat with 6 homeruns already this season.

The Cubs bench isn’t contributing in a positive way at all. The rest of the offensive players not listed above have combined for a .137/.176/.265 slash line in 125 plate appearances. The bench has also been caught stealing twice in three attempts.

We may see former Reds Dioner Navarro and Dave Sappelt make an appearance in a pinch-hitting or spot start role in this series.

PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS

• Mon 7:10pm: Travis Wood (L) vs. Mike Leake (R)
• Tues 7:10pm: Carlos Villanueva (R) vs. Tony Cingrani (L)
• Wed 12:35pm: Jeff Samardzija (R) vs. Mat Latos (R)

Starter GS QS ERA xFIP WHIP BABIP HR/9 BB/9 K/9
Wood 3 3 1.83 4.56 1.07 0.232 0.0 3.7 5.9
Leake 3 1 4.26 4.32 1.32 0.293 1.0 2.8 6.2
Villanueva 3 3 1.29 3.38 0.81 0.189 1.3 1.7 6.4
Cingrani 1 0 1.80 2.47 1.60 0.364 1.8 5.4 14.4
Samardzija 4 2 3.38 2.71 0.98 0.262 0.7 2.4 10.5
Latos 4 4 2.73 2.66 1.14 0.333 1.0 1.4 9.9

BULLPEN

Carlos Marmol started the year in the closer’s role and has already lost his job. Kyuji Fujikawa took over the role temporarily until he landed on the disabled list. That leaves closing duties “by committee” to either veteran Shawn Camp, left-handed reliever James Russell or righty Michael Bowden.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

While Theo Epstein continues to rebuild the Chicago roster, ownership is also working to literally rebuild Wrigley Field. The Cubs are not expected to be competitive until 2015. Maybe 2014 at the earliest. They do have some talented young players on their squad, but currently lack the depth and talent of other teams in the division.

21 thoughts on “Series Preview: Chicago Cubs

  1. The cubs SP has been pretty good so far this year. Maybe overperforming abit, but hopefully the reds break out of the 2-run/6 innings rut they’ve been in.

  2. Homeruns or not I’m kinda surprised that Rizzo is still hitting 3rd. Schierholtz has been quite a surprise so far.

    I’m looking forward to seeing Tony Cingrani take another step, showing what he can do against the worst offense in the NL Central after being successful against the worst offense in the NL. Hopefully Leake and Cingrani can keep their competition for a rotation spot interesting.

    Hopefully the Reds hitters can get Villanueva and Samardzija out of the game after 5 or 6 innings. I look forward to seeing the Cubs’ bullpen.

    I wonder if we’ll see Corky Miller start a game in this series, and if so, who he’d catch. Hopefully we’ll see Zack Cozart back sometime in this series. Finally I hope we see Derrick Robinson start another game in LF.

  3. At one time, I was a big Heisey fan. Now, whenever I look at his name in the lineup, I hear a giant sucking sound.

  4. Sure is nice to have our weakest offensive links be guys like Heisey and Cozart, both very capable just inconsistent. Also, it’s early, but for what it’s worth they’re perfect in the field thus far. Very very nice/subtle problems to have.

    • @RedManifesto: Very impressive for a SS. Cozart is as solid as it gets and I don’t think he’s going to post a .243 OBP for the whole season either. He probably shouldn’t be hitting 2nd but I don’t really think moving BP out of the 4-hole is a great idea either. Also, Heisey isn’t hitting either so he shouldn’t be batting 2nd. So, who should hit 2nd?

      • @LWBlogger: That’s the ultimate question, right?

        I wouldn’t mind moving Frazier to the 2-hole while Hannigan is out. Something like this:

        Choo – CF
        Frazier – 3rd
        Votto – 1st
        Phillips – 2nd
        Bruce – RF
        Paul – LF
        Meso – C
        Cozart – SS
        Pitcher

  5. Unsustainable BABIPs for Wood, Villanueva, and Rizzo. The first 2 work in our favor.

    Rizzo has been godawful vs. lefties so far in his young career. It’s still a matter of debate whether he sticks as a full time guy. Of course, the Cubs will give him plenty of slack.

    Honestly, is there a single Cubs player you’d rather have at their respective positions? Heck, even Castro (3.6WAR) vs. Cozart (2.5WAR) is debatable given the high error totals from Castro and the suspect nature of defensive metrics.

  6. Had a chance to see Hamilton play last night in Cincy, boy can run, beat out a bunt to the first base side that was an easy play and it wasn’t even close. Made some nice catches in CF on the move and made it look easy. Right now isn’t hitting much so not sure if I am ready next year to put him in center and leadoff. Would much rather see him in center hitting lower down for his first season or two and say sign Choo to like a 4-5 year deal and play Choo in LF next year and trade Ludwick.

  7. I hope the discussion regarding Heisey’s playing time in LF will begin to migrate from a decision between XP & Heisey to a full, straight-up platoon with XP playing against RHP and then the discussion becomes who plays against LHP, Heisey or Robinson?

  8. Reds need to sweep Cubs, because the upcoming road trip we will struggle in DC and well struggle in St. Louis, and go into Chi town needing some wins. If we can win out the next three days, then shoot for a .500 road trip we should be okay. A win in DC and St Louis and 3 in chicago is my hope….

  9. Didi is liking his Arizona gig. In 3 games, he is hitting .545/.583/1.182 with 2 HR & 1 2B in 11 AB. Someone else also mentioned Stubbs who is hitting .259/.344/.370. In the last 10 games, Stubbs has 10 H, 9 SO & 7 BB. I really hope Stubbs can pull things together in Cleveland. No matter how well Didi & Stubbs perform, I still like Choo, even if it’s only for 1 season, but please get Choo extended.

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