Beavan (3-6, 5.92 ERA) vs Verdugo (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Jair Jurrjens vs. Barry Zito
Of SF's league-worst 52 home runs, 37 of them have come away from home. Zito is 3-1 in five starts against the Braves, receiving a no-decision in his most recent start against them in 2010. Each of his last four starts were in Atlanta; all three wins have been at Turner Field. Uggla has seen him the most, earning six hits in 20 at-bats with a homer.
One winning streak will come to an end today. Go Braves!
Tuesday, Jul 17, 2012, 8:05 PM EDT
Partly cloudy. Winds blowing out to center field at 5-10 m.p.h. Game time temperature around 95.
The Miami Marlins are coming by to visit the Chicago Cubs at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field for a three-game series starting tonight. The Fish are facing a team that is actually worse than them for a change in the Cubs, who have struggled on both sides of the ball. So have the Marlins, so this series will not be a cakewalk certainly, but the Fish can feel confident that they are facing a team that has performed worse than them this season for a change.
Catch the series preview for the Cubs/Marlins series here.
On the mound tonight is Anibal Sanchez, who will look to recover from a series of mediocre starts. He will be facing Travis Wood, who has been decent despite mediocre peripherals.Pitching Matchup
Anibal Sanchez has not had a good June and July, posting a 6.69 ERA and a 4.65 FIP. Still, Sanchez's overall season performance is about where we expected it to be, minus the inflated ERA. He is pitching to right around his averages, so it is what we would expect to see given his performance since 2009. All this June month did was really regress him quickly to his previous mean, signaling that his high strikeout rate really was an early season mirage. He remains an excellent starter nonetheless.
Wood has struggled throughout his young career despite decent strikeout and walk numbers. He had an excellent rookie year a few seasons ago with the Cincinnati Reds, but following a disappointing 2011 year, he was dealt to the Cubs for reliever Sean Marshall. This season, his ERA has dropped despite his worst strikeout-to-walk ratio and otherwise poor peripherals. There is a very good chance his .218 BABIP will fall like an ugly house of cards, and the Marlins hope that happens tonight.
Bold Prediction: Marlins def. Cubs 4-2
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Let's talk some baseball after that rousing late-night win...
"I think I made some strides delivery-wise, getting a little bit taller, working downhill," Lyles said. "The curveball definitely comes to mind, so I’ve definitely got to work with that. It’s been
a pretty successful pitch my last four or five outings."
That’s the curveball he learned from Wandy Rodriguez and implemented in his last four starts.
Any time a new pitch is discussed, it interests me. How is the pitch different? Is it a new grip or just a more effective way of throwing? Is it more about break or consistency on throwing the pitch?
Luckily, we have the Pitch F/X data to break it down, thanks to Texas Leaguers. Now, take this for a very big grain of salt, because we're working with very small sample sizes and the data is not even consistent in terms of which Pitch F/X cameras he was seen by. With that being said, let's look at his pitches:
This is what his curve looked like up until this new development:
He uses the curve as his second-favorite pitch. It's got good vertical movement with more drop than league average, and good, if average horizontal run. Notice the spin angle and rate, too, because that's where we can see differences in the pitch later on (maybe).
This is what his curve looked like over the past four starts:
And the verdict? Almost identical to the point of standard deviation-type stuff. He has slightly more vertical break, but not enough to matter. His horizontal break is the same and both the angle and spin rate are almost identical. So, this "new" curve he was taught doesn't look remarkably different than the one he was throwing before-hand.
How does it compare to Wandy's curve?
Lyles' curve has more drop than Wandy's right off the bat and we see similar horizontal movement from both pitches (which is right about league average). The velocity is nearly the same, but Wandy's pitch spins completely different, with a slightly different angle (difference of 50-odd degrees) and a slower spin rate.
So, if the pitches don't behave the same way to Pitch F/X's way of looking at things, does that mean Lyles' really picked something up? Well, we still have that consistency angle. Maybe Wandy's curve isn't a different way to throw the pitch, but just a different motion to make Lyles' finish more efficiently and accurately.
That's what we see next, when looking at pitch results. The only sign we have that Lyles' curve has been more effective is that he's throwing it for a strike about seven percent of the time more, he's getting more swings at it to the tune of about 12 percent more, and he's gotten quite a few more swing-throughs on it. Is that conclusive? With this tiny sample, not in the least.
But, it does explore whether the pitch is new or just more effective, which is a fascinating question. Obviously, something changed. Maybe one of you enterprising commenters can find screen caps of Wandy throwing the curve and Lyles before-after throwing his pitch to see if his delivery has changed to match something Wandy does.
2) Luhnow responds to fan outrage over Wallace...sort of - Brian McTaggart has the goods (h/t to Astros County for the link), talking to Astros GM Jeff Luhnow about Brett Wallace and his long-awaited call up to save the season and offense in one fell swoop.
"Brett will spend the vast majority of the remainder of the season in Houston," Luhnow said. "Right now, there are a lot of moving parts between injuries and guys coming back from injuries and other things that may or may not occur the rest of this month. We haven't made the decision to do it right now, but I would suspect Brett will spend the bulk of the season in Houston."
The emphasis up there is mine. May or may not happen, huh? Does that sound like he might try to move Chris Johnson? How else does he open up a spot for Wally?
Adding to the intrigue, we find out that the grand Second Base experiment may be ending soon, with Jimmy Paredes switching to the outfield and possibly saving us from the Jordan Schafer Experience.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Monday he's had conversations with manager Brad Mills and director of player development Fred Nelson about possibly moving Minor League infielder Jimmy Paredes to the outfield.
Luhnow also kind of admits at the end that the Paredes move was made in part because they didn't know what they had in Jose Altuve. Now they know, which makes another position switch possible. There have been discussions about moving him to short, but expect Marwin there for the time being.
3) How long a leash? - So, Fernando Rodriguez got out of a jam last night he basically created after relieving J.A. Happ. F-Rod has been pretty terrible lately, but there's an inherent volatility to relievers. The question is: how long does Houston wait on this guy before making a move to someone else?
Obviously, the Wilton Lopez injury has complicated things, but now that he's back, is Houston just waiting to reshuffle things for the trade deadline? Are they not wanting to part with Rodriguez, who may be lost to the waiver wire if he's sent down, knowing they might also have to replace Brett Myers and Brandon Lyon later in the season?
Or, are there secret numbers saying Rodriguez is good, just in certain situations?
Maybe Rodriguez is just a lightning-rod for a bullpen that hasn't performed like it did early in the season. F-Rod is on pace to appear in 69 games, tops on the team. His xFIP and FIP are both lower than his ERA, suggesting he's been sort of unlucky so far. And, though fWAR doesn't work especially well for relievers, his is only at 0.3, so he hasn't even cost Houston half a game this year with his suckitude lately.
Of course, that's an objective way of looking at it. Subjectively, he's been horrible for almost a month now. I doubt Houston will make a move on him for similar reasons to why Brick hasn't been promoted...they're waiting out the trade deadline first.
Still, some fresh blood and fresh usage patterns need to emerge in the bullpen fast. Things are getting ugly.
Jonathan Sanchez has been designated for assignment, per 810 WHB.
The Miami Marlins travel to Chicago to face the Chicago Cubs for a three-game set during a midwest swing that will also take them through Pittsburgh. The Fish are looking to pick up some steam against a poor Cubs team, and at least earlier in the season, the Marlins were able to do such a thing. The last time these two teams met, the Fish came away with a sweep of the Cubs and helped recover after a poor April start.
Tale of the Tape
Finally, a team that has stats that are worse than the Marlins'. As bad as the Fish have been, they were expected to be better but just have not been. The Cubs, on the other hand, figured to be bad and have actually been bad this season. But the Cubs have the advantage in that Theo Epstein and company knew this would be a rebuilding season that was important to build trade value and evaluate assets; the Marlins, on the other hand, saw the 2012 year as a competitive campaign that is closing in on circling the drain.
Stadium: Wrigley Field
Five-Year Run PF*: 1.04
Five-Year Home Run PF*: 1.04
*Denotes five-year regressed park factors as calculated by Patriot here
To preview the series, I sent a few questions over to Al Yellon of SB Nation's Cubs blog Bleed Cubbie Blue. Al and I have crossed paths with regards to the Marlins before, but this time, we discussed the Cubs and how they have been doing in a set of questions.-----
1) The Cubs have had issues this season, but one good problem they have had is having two first basemen who have both hit well. Bryan LaHair has been excellent in 2012, picking right back up from his awesome 2011 cup of coffee. Meanwhile, Anthony Rizzo has started off well in the majors after tearing through Triple-A. How do the Cubs "resolve" their "two first basemen" dilemma? Can LaHair handle the outfield?
Bryan LaHair is definitely NOT a right fielder, but that's the only place they can play him right now to keep his bat in the lineup. Alfonso Soriano is the immovable object in left field (figuratively and literally); LaHair would be a little less bad defensively in left.
Long term, with prospect Brett Jackson presumably ready in 2013, LaHair probably has to be traded, if Soriano isn't. LaHair is no kid -- he'll be 30 in November -- so the Cubs would probably be well-advised to sell high on him, if they can.
2) Starlin Castro has done a little worse this season than in the last two years. What is different about this year with the All-Star shorstop?
Castro needs some time off. Until a couple of days before the All-Star break, he had started every game and only missed a couple of defensive innings. Unfortunately, the way the Cubs are currently constructed, their backup shortstop is the starting second baseman, Darwin Barney. Unless the Cubs can come up with a competent backup infielder who can start a game every now and then, Castro is going to be playing every day.
Another possibility is this: Castro drew just six walks in his first 52 games. The Cubs have an interim hitting coach -- James Rowson -- after firing Rudy Jaramillo in mid-May. Since early June Castro has drawn eight walks -- but is hitting only .231/.276/.361. It may be that in an effort to get Castro to be a bit more patient, they've taken away the aggressiveness that makes him such a good hitter. A middle ground on this would be nice.
3) Matt Garza has come back to Earth after an amazing 2011 season. What would it take to pry him from the Cubs now at the trade deadline?
That's a good question. Garza did throw outstandingly well in his last start, Sunday against the Diamondbacks. The Cubs are looking for a third base prospect and young pitching; how much of that, and at what level it would need to be, in return for Garza, remains to be seen.
One thing about Garza that any acquiring team needs to know: he's been much better at Wrigley Field than on the road for the entire time he's been a Cub. That seems odd, given Wrigley's reputation as a hitter's park, but here are the splits.
2011: 2.46 ERA, 1.12 WHIP in 17 starts at home; 4.56 ERA, 1.46 WHIP in 14 starts on the road
2012: 2.12 ERA, 1.11 WHIP in 7 starts at home; 5.67 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in 10 starts on the road
It doesn't seem like a fluke, because it's now gone on for a year and a half. I don't really have an explanation, either.
Oh, and one more thing. Matt Garza should never be allowed to touch a baseball hit on the ground near him. He simply cannot make easy throws to first base.
4) Can the Cubs trade Alfonso Soriano by the trade deadline?
Sure they can. There's approximately $45 million left on Soriano's deal. They would probably have to eat about $40 million worth of this to make Soriano dealable; that way, an acquiring team is paying about $5 million for a good-hitting DH/part-time OF for the rest of this year. If the acquiring team doesn't want him after this year, they simply release him and the Cubs pay the rest of the deal.
Soriano played six games at DH this year and hit .360/.407/.880 (9-for-25 with four home runs). He seems perfectly suited to the role; now, the only question is: does any team need such a player?
5) Are the Cubs on the upswing or downswing after the first half of 2012 under the guidance of Theo Epstein and the new front office staff?
Clearly, on the upswing. The team has started to play better and Theo and Co.'s 2012 draft was widely praised. It will still take 2-3 years to make a contending team out of this bunch, but they do appear headed in the right direction. Acquiring some young talent at the trading deadline would help, too.
I want to thank Al Yellon of Bleed Cubbie Blue once again for answering my questions. Good luck on the series!
Joe Morgan 2005 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Classic Just the other day I presented a small list of players that I actively collect, but have not declared myself a ‘Super Collector’ of. One of the few players on that list … Continue reading →
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The Miami Marlins announced that Juan Carlos Oviedo is out indefinitely with an elbow sprain. Specifically, a sprain of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL). The team has not released any other details, nor have they speculated on a return date. Oviedo would have been available to the Marlins next Monday, on the completion of his [...]
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