Series Preview

Reds and Cubs battle for 4th place in the NL Central

The Cincinnati Reds (63-68) will begin a three game series against the Chicago Cubs (58-72) on Tuesday night at Great American Ballpark. The Reds have dominated the Cubs of late. The Reds are 9-4 against the Cubs in 2014, and are 58-24 against the Cubs since 2010.

As an interesting side note, the Reds are 1031-1029 all-time against the Cubs (that includes 40 games in 1901-1902 when the Cubs were known as the “Chicago Orphans”).

The Cubs are of course in the middle of a massive rebuilding project, as they have traded Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, Emilio Bonifacio, Darwin Barney, and James Russell in the last two months. All signs point towards a bright future for the Cubs, as they currently have three of the top six prospects in the MLB (according to MLB.com): #3 Kris Bryant (3B), #5 Javier Baez (SS/2B), and #6 Addison Russell (SS). At a time in baseball when top controllable position players are at a premium, the Cubs are stockpiling them.

The Cubs are coming off an impressive three game sweep at Wrigley Field over the weekend against the first place Baltimore Orioles. The Cubs come in winners in 6 of their previous 8 games.

Offense

offense

The Reds and the Cubs are pretty even offensively. The Reds have scored just two more than the Cubs over the course of the season. The Cubs have shown much better power than the Reds, although the Reds have been much better on the basepaths.

Projected Lineup

  1. LF – Chris Coghlan .267/.337/.443, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 4 SB, 115 wRC+, 1.3 WAR

  2. 2B – Javier Baez .207/.244/.488, 7 HR, 11 RBI, 0 SB, 99 wRC+, 0.4 WAR

  3. 1B – Anthony Rizzo .278/.376/.510, 29 HR, 70 RBI, 4 SB, 145 wRC+, 4.0 WAR

  4. SS – Starlin Castro .284/.333/.429, 13 HR, 64 RBI, 4 SB, 110 wRC+, 2.6 WAR

  5. 3B – Luis Valbuena .241/.321/.422, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 0 SB, 106 wRC+, 1.8 WAR

  6. C – Wellington Castillo .237/.301/.387, 10 HR, 34 RBI, 0 SB, 91 wRC+, 1.6 WAR

  7. CF – Arismendy Alcantara .228/.286/.359, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 7 SB, 78 wRC+, 1.0 WAR

  8. RF – Ryan Sweeney .252/.305/.340, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 0 SB, 77wRC+, -0.1 WAR

Bench

cubs bench

The lineup that the Cubs are bringing out everyday right now is pretty solid. Manager Rick Renteria has pretty much put out the same lineup everyday, with the exception of RF. He plays Sweeney, Ruggiano, and Szczur in RF. When the Cubs have Ruggiano in the lineup (who has recently been dealing with ankle soreness), the Cubs lineup features six above average hitters (using wRC+), plus the young stud Javier Baez, and a solid catcher in Wellington Castillo.

Starlin Castro is currently on the bereavement list, but he is expected to return to the Cubs lineup on Tuesday.

One of the Cubs top prospects Javier Baez (#5 overall prospect in the MLB according to MLB.com) was called up earlier this month, and he hasn’t disappointed in the power department. Baez has already hit 7 HR in just 20 games. He has however struck out 36 times in 86 PA (41.9 K%), while only walking 4 times. Baez certainly has a lot of room to improve, but the Reds pitchers better not miss down the middle of the plate to him, or we will see some bleacher shots.

baez

Pitching

Starting Pitching Matchups

SP

Monday and Tuesday’s pitching matchups give the Reds a significant advantage. Cueto is having a tremendous season, and Latos has pitched very well since returning from the DL in early June.

Wednesday afternoon’s pitching matchup will be much more tough. Mike Leake is coming off a tremendous start on Saturday (6.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K) against the Braves. Jake Arrieta is having an outstanding season for the Cubs. Among pitchers with 120+ IP, Arrieta ranks 14th in the MLB in WAR (3.6), 9th in ERA (2.53), and 3rd in FIP (2.41). Arrieta has only allowed 5 HR this season, and his 0.36 HR/9 ranks 5th best in the MLB. Arrieta was our NL Central pitcher of the week yesterday in Central Intelligence (14.0 IP, 6 H, 14 K, 1 ER, 3 BB, 0.64 WHIP, 0.64 ERA, 0.4 WAR).

Bullpen

pen

cubs pen

Who would have imagined the Cubs bullpen would be better than the Reds bullpen before the season? Hector Rondon has done a really good job as the Cubs closer, and Wright, Strop, and Ramirez have also all been nice weapons. Cubs relievers have done a much better job this season at not hurting themselves, by being walking fewer batters and keeping the ball in the park better than the Reds.

Defense

fielding

The Reds are without question one of the best defensive clubs in baseball. The Cubs are around an average defensive club, despite their great fielding percentage. The Cubs official scorer has been known to be very generous to the home town team when it comes to errors.

Arismendy Alcantara has been exceptionally good defensively in the 41 games he has played in since being called up. Alcantara already has 9 DRS in 41 games (5 at 2B, 4 in CF). Alcantara is exclusively playing CF now that Baez has been called up, and he is certainly holding that down defensively. The corner outfield spots however have not been very good for the Cubs. Ruggiano has -11 DRS, Coghlan has -10 DRS, and Sweeney has -1 DRS.

As for the infield, Starlin Castro still struggles at times defensively (-6 DRS), but Javier Baez (3 DRS) and Anthony Rizzo (3 DRS) have been pretty good. Valbuena also is a shaky defender at 3B, as he has -9 DRS this season.

Conclusion

The Reds find themselves out of the NL Central race. They do still have an outside shot at a wild card spot. It almost goes without saying that the Reds would need to sweep the Cubs if they want  any realistic shot at the postseason. It doesn’t get any easier after this either. The Reds next five series are at Pittsburgh, at Baltimore, vs the Mets, vs St. Louis, and at Milwaukee.

 

9 thoughts on “Reds and Cubs battle for 4th place in the NL Central

  1. The future has arrived for the Stupid Cubbies. Theo made his mark quickly and definitively. The NLCD looks monstrous next season, with a realistic chance for all 5 teams to finish above .500. The really scary scenario is the coffers available to Theo going forward along with the young elite talent in the pipeline. He built a champion in Boston from virtually nothing and he’s building a champion in Chicago from virtually nothing. WJ built a marginal
    playoff contender in Cincinnati with a solid foundation. Hmmm…I hear whispered rumors that WJ has an expiring contract?

    • Great post, Nick.

      I’m going to the next two games. I’ll be cheering for the Reds, of course. But I’ll probably be more interested in watching the new Cubs. Feels like other organizations are working to get better, one way or another. And the Reds are utterly paralyzed. Whether that’s a GM or CEO thing, I don’t know. But the Reds are just sitting pat making zero changes.

      • Really wish I could join you in the stadium for this series. Unfortunately, the Old Cossack doesn’t make the trip to GABP without at least 1 Little Cossack in tow and with school started, that is simply not possible now.

        Interestingly, the prior few seasons pointed to a disconnect between the GM and Manager. With a new manager in place, this season points to a disconnect between the CEO and GM. Are we simply looking at an organization FUBAR?

      • Sounds like they’re just going to call up the same names in Sept. we’ve seen all year – Hoover, Contreras, Partch, Lutz, Soto, Barnhart. Zzzzz.

  2. I don’t think there’s anything admirable in the way the Cubs have built their roster. With a top 5 revenue stream they actively chose to suck for 5 years, which is an eternity in baseball. The fanbase was completely alienated, and the money the Rickett’s family said they were squirreling away to spend on free agents never materialized. Nothing is guaranteed, not even these prospects. Heck, just look at the Cardinals and all their vaunted prospects—turns out that most of it was just hype. I feel the same way about the Cubs prospects. While Bryant and Soler are about as can’t-miss as they come, Baez and Alcatara merely seem respectable. I agree that the Cubs could be in contention as soon as next year, but there are still a lot of growing pains to get through before they become the 800 pound gorilla of the division like they should’ve been all along.

  3. As a very longtime Reds fan I am not that knowledgeable about who is and is not available, but I strongly feel that had an offensive acquisition been made, be it even a one year rental, we would not see the Reds, at this point in the season, battle the Cubs for fourth place.

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