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St_Louis_CardinalsThis is it, friends. The last series of the year, and it comes against the hated Cardinals. Were the Cubs modestly competitive this year, perhaps the series would feel a bit more exciting. As it stands, the best the Cubs can hope for is a sweep of the Cardinals, which pushes them into a tie with the Pirates for the division (if the Pirates can win out). It’s something, at least.

By way of reminder, the Series Preview hooks you up with what you need to know about every series this year – streaks, broadcast information, pitchers, expected lineups, etc. That way, if you want to check only one place to get a sense about an upcoming series, or to plan ahead, you’ve got it. There’s also some fun stuff, because fun stuff is fun.

We’re Going Streaking

The Cubs avoided the sweep by the Pirates this week, which was good in some ways. Probably less good in other ways, like …

As noted above, the Cardinals are three games up in the NL Central, and have a magic number of one. If they win a single game or the Pirates lose a single game, that’s all she wrote.

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, September 27 at 7:15 CT on CSN.
  • Saturday, September 28 at 6:15 CT on WGN.
  • Sunday, September 29 at 1:15 CT on CSN.

Expected Starters and Lineups

These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what actually gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Cubs

Starters: Travis Wood (9-11, 2.98), Edwin Jackson (8-17, 4.74), Jeff Samardzija (8-12, 4.33)

Lineup:

  1. Starlin Castro, SS
  2. Luis Valbuena, 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Nate Schierholtz, RF
  5. Ryan Sweeney, CF
  6. Dioner Navarro, C
  7. Brian Bogusevic, LF
  8. Darwin Barney, 2B
  9. Pitcher

Cardinals

Starters: Lance Lynn (14-10, 4.09), Joe Kelly (9-5, 2.81), Adam Wainwright (18-9, 3.01)

Lineup:

  1. Matt Carpenter, 2B
  2. Carlos Beltran, RF
  3. Matt Holliday, LF
  4. Matt Adams, 1B
  5. Yadier Molina, C
  6. David Freese, 3B
  7. Jon Jay, CF
  8. Pete Kozma, SS
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Although it may seem like he’s turned things around a bit, it’s worth pointing out that Starlin Castro’s September line stands at just .250/.298/.344.

Unfortunately, Anthony Rizzo isn’t any better for the month: .236/.310/.337. Not a great way for either of these guys to close out the season.

Did you know that Brian Bogusevic has a .278/.331/.481 line in 145 plate appearances with the Cubs this year? The BABIP is a little higher than his career norm, and the K rate is higher than you’d like to see, but with good outfield defense, I’d say he’s emerged as a quality bench option for 2014. Makes you wonder what happens with Ryan Sweeney’s free agency and Junior Lake’s future role. As much as I like all of them as bench pieces, a starting outfield of, say, Bogusevic-Sweeney-Schierholtz is going to disappoint a lot of folks, even with optimal platooning.

Adam Wainwright’s ERA has been steadily climbing since the first week of July. In that time, his ERA is 3.90. Not bad, but not ace-level.

Matt Adams – just another dude churned out by the voodoo magic machine – is hitting .338/.363/.675 in his last 21 games.

Series She-View

The Series She-View is one beautiful woman representing the Cubs taking on another (usually) beautiful woman representing the opponent. The Cubs’ representative will change as the team’s needs change – in other words, if the Cubs are winning, the rep will stay the same. But if the Cubs’ performance calls for a change, someone new will step in. The opponent’s representative will change from series to series, at my whim. But at least she’ll probably be wearing the opponent’s colors or have some connection to the team or something like that. It is immature, and the connection to baseball is tenuous at best. These things, I know.

This year, the Series She-View will live over at the Message Board. Here’s your She-View for the Cardinals series.

Caption the Enemy

A new feature for the Series Preview this year – since folks on the Internet can’t get enough of cracking wise about pictures, I thought it might be a fun addition to the Series Preview. I’ll drop in a picture (hopefully one ripe for captioning), and you’ll drop in your clever captions into the comments. Then, if there are good ones, we can meme-ify them for use down the road.

It’s the Cardinals, and it’s the last series of the year, so this is just a weird one …

  • Cubbie Tim

    Going to the game tomorrow. God I hope the Shitbirds don’t clinch while I’m there. Got great seats section 150 behind 3rd base. Super excited to cheer on my Cubbies. Cuck the Fardinals.

    • Cubbie Tim

      Wish I had a bleacher nation shirt but I’m poor. Sux living in St. Louis.

  • cjdubbya

    “We’re already running, may as well find a fire so we can get rid of these craptastic jerseys!”

  • Saving Grace

    “How many steps do you think they will give us before they start shooting?!”

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Looking at some stats this morning. Travis Wood has the same offensive WAR for the season as Anthony Rizzo. Not a good equation for a ball club.
    Wood also has a 4.8 WAR pitching. Get this man an extension. And for all those who keep telling me that Edwin Jackson has ok peripheral stats, please look up his WAR. He is less than a AAA replacement level pitcher on the season.

    • ssckelley

      no no no NO! There is some stat out there that says Edwin Jackson is a good pitcher and has just been unlucky.

      Tell him Hamburger guy! :D

      • willis

        And all Rizzo needs are some singles. Don’t forget that.

        • ssckelley

          Oh, I thought he needed to hit those weak dribblers and fly balls 3 feet another direction.

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      Yep. It’s not been a good season for Jackson. But… part of what he is getting paid for (Whether we like it or not) is that he’s going to make 30+ starts this year for the 7th(!) straight year. I don’t know how to quantify that veteran presence and consistency in dollar amounts, but it’s something. And there’s a good chance that when we actually need to win (2014 we hope? 2015), Jackson will return to around his 5-year average of 2 WAR.

    • mjhurdle

      Jackson has had a down year, but that doesn’t dismiss the fact that his peripheral stats give hope that he will get better and return more to a career norm.
      I actually think we have seen this recovery starting if you look at his first 16 games of the season vs the last 14.
      Obviously the whole year counts, and this year was bad for Jackson, but it is encouraging to see him pitching better over an extended period to end the year.

      • cubfanincardinalland

        I actually think this is where the saber boys get themselves in trouble. They look for what they think are statistical anomalies, and use that as a predictor of future performance. I have watched Jackson pitch every game. While he can look good at times, the last thing I would think of his performance this season would be “unlucky”.
        His command has been bad, making big pitches when he needed it, bad.
        He epitomizes what a former coach I know used to call the type of player he is. “He is just good enough to get you beat.”
        I would love it if he could pitch better next year. As is, just a horrific player acquisition by the front office.

        • MichiganGoat

          Not to nitpick (and I’m not looking to get into a horrid debate) but wouldn’t your analysis of watching games also be you seeing anomalies to support your belief that he was a bad signing? The one thing I’m certain about stats – they cover every pitch as compared to the eye ball test of watching games on TV or live can’t ever possibly cover.

          • Cubbie Blues

            Nitpick, because Louse eggs doesn’t have the same ring to it.

          • hansman1982

            This. Stats, while not gospel, yet, are unbiased (their usage is a different story).

            The fun thing is, with pitching and pitch f/x, I can go in and statistically quantify what cubfan was looking at and precisely compare that information to other pitchers and then use that data to make predictions about next year. And I never have to even see Edwin Jackson.

        • bbmoney

          I think this is where people who just trust their gut and their eyes get in trouble. They just go based on what they think they see and forget that the human mind is fairly unreliable and is hugely dependent on first impressions which lead to seeing what you want/expect to see.

          Edwin Jackson had a bad year in terms of results. There isn’t much arguing that. But results (in terms of ERA and w/l record) aren’t always the best indicator of future performance. Neither is what we think we saw in term of command and control.

          • hansman1982

            NO. HE SAID JACKSON HAD NO CONTROL THIS YEAR!!! (Just pay no attention to the same BB % he has had the last two years)

            • cubfanincardinalland

              No, I said his command was bad. Big difference.
              Watch when Jackson pitches, how many of his deliveries are really non competitive pitches. That is, they miss the target he is throwing for by so much, it is easy for the batter to lay off. These are the subtle things in the game that your stats will fail you on.
              And how often he misses his target, and throws the ball over the heart of the plate. These are the things that separate the good from the bad pitchers. And you won’t find them in sabermetrics.

              • Cubbie Blues

                If he misses his spot, he is just as likely for it to be out of the zone (a ball) than it is to be over the heart of the plate. Missing his spot and being out of the zone would increase the amount of walks he gave up for the year, which, he did not.

              • MichiganGoat

                Again… Pitch F/X will show you exactly what pitches miss and show you ever single pitch he throws.

              • MichiganGoat

                I’m guessing you have a different definition of sabermetrics than the rest of us?

              • hansman1982

                What is the difference between command and control?

                • cubfanincardinalland

                  Control is he can throw a strike when he gets behind in the count, and thus limit his walks. But usually right down the middle. This is Jackson this year, always behind in the count, and hitters are sitting on his stuff many games.
                  Command is the ability to put the ball on the edges of the plate, with all of your pitches, and get the hitter to swing at deliveries out of his hot zone. And put him behind in counts. See Greg Maddux.

                  • hansman1982

                    So control is putting the ball where you want it when you want it, but you’re behind in the count.

                    Command is putting the ball where you want it when you want it, but all the time.

                  • Cubbie Blues

                    If he misses his spot, he is just as likely to throw a ball than to groove one down the middle of the plate.

                • bbmoney

                  I’ve always interpreted Control as the ability to pitch around the zone and at least throw strikes. Kind of the broad brushstroke.

                  Command as the ability to hit your specific spots on pitches.

                  You can’t really have command without control. But plenty of pitcher can throw enough strikes without hitting their spots real well.

                  • DocPeterWimsey

                    These days, control is being able to hit the blue spots.

                    “Command” is imprecisely used, but I often hear it as “Today, Smith had command of his fastball and curveball, but not of his slider” or “He had command of all four pitches today” or something like that. That is, how well is a pitcher throwing a class of pitches. That includes both control and “stuff”: it’s not enough that the fastball was going to the blue zone, but it has to have the velocity, movement, etc., to keep that zone blue.

                    • jt

                      A pitch is often broken down in order to quantify 3 qualities: velocity, movement and location.
                      That the average poster speaks in general terms such as command and stuff is fine. Intuitively they seem to know that pitchers often have the same velocity and movement when lacking the ability to locate. I guess technically when a guy is has his curve flattening out or the is losing the tail on his curve he is losing command of a pitch. But the color guy usually states that explicitly.
                      Jackson’s first 11 games showed a FIP not consistent with his ERA or his BB rate. His K rate rose. The FIP didn’t show he was a better pitcher. It showed his velocity and movement were still ML worthy. His BB rate and his WHIP and his ERA indicated his ability to locate was not good. It showed that at that time his locating was not MLB worthy. It indicated that a look see at the RED/BLUE zone charts was in order.

              • hansman1982

                “And you won’t find them in sabermetrics.”

                HR/FB, K and BB %, LD% ???

            • jt

              Jackson sucked his first 11 games. In those games his BB/9 was 3.87
              Jackson’s stats for his last 19 games has been close to his historical line.
              His BB/9 for his last 19 games has been 2.44
              Jackson lacked command his first 11 games. Not only did he walk more but he was missing his spot in the K zone and was hit hard.
              The past 19 games he has much more control and has been a much better pitcher.

              • Cubbie Blues

                I guess it’s a good thing he played the whole year then.

              • Cubbie Blues

                If you really want to break it down, he had 7 games where his BB% was above 10%: 3 in April, 1 in June, 2 in August and 1 in September. He also had 11 games where his BB% was 5.0 or less.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          “They look for what they think are statistical anomalies, and use that as a predictor of future performance. ”

          I do not think that a more incorrect description of what statisticians do is possible. Statisticians (interested in this sort of thing) look for correlations and distributions. That is, when a pitcher gives up X HR, Y K’s and Z BB’s, how many runs does he typically give up? Taking it a step further, when a pitcher gives up W flyballs, Y K’s and Z BB’s, how many runs should he give up?

          Your counter probably is: “that doesn’t take into account his failure to make big pitches when it counts.” That is, of course, rubbish. Bad pitches turn into HR or Walks, and result in fewer cases. Now, maybe, just maybe, if the Cubs were a really good team or a really awful team (think Astros in terms of absolute quality), then you could say that Jackson doesn’t pitch in many “big” situations. However, the Cubs have been in a lot of close games. They do not score a ton of runs. The Cubs pitchers know this: and they know that runs given up early in games probably will cost them the game. That means Cubs pitchers are throwing “big” pitchers a lot more often than are other pitchers.

          And that is why your “eye test” fails you: you are subjectively excluding a lot of circumstances because it doesn’t “fell” big to *you.* (This is the same logical fallacy as stating that a play in the 9th determined a 1-run game: actually, the plays in inning 1-8 all were just as important, as were the other plays in the 9th!)

          • Cubbie Blues

            Happy Birthday Doc!!!

            • MichiganGoat

              Indeed Happy “Bottled On Day” you robot.

              • Cubbie Blues

                Speaking of, Upland is tapping their Harvest Ale today at 3:00. I’ll be there with my bib on.

                • MichiganGoat

                  DROOOOOOOLLLL, I’ll be at Founders today to enjoy some Black IPA and other delicious brews.

            • hansman1982

              Holy canoli, have a beer and bend some numbers to fit our narratives!

            • DocPeterWimsey

              Aw, thanks. In celebration, I intend to drink a SECOND beer tonight without falling asleep!

              A Cubs win would be nice: I am irrationally rooting for the Pirates.

          • jt

            I agree as far as it goes. But the world is not flat and nor is the set of events that builds the sample.
            Jackson is age 29. That is the measure when the effects of aging typically effects a pitchers performance. That he sucked in his first 11 games but returned to form in his next 19 could be an indication that he his off-season conditioning which was once good enough is no longer so. It could also mean he had a mechanical glitch that was fixed. OK, it could mean a lot of things. But something has changed. He is now not walking as many batters and is now not being hit as hard as he was early in the season.
            Sure, The Universe runs on a sine curve. Sure, undulation an pulsation is the norm. But it makes a difference as to viewing the Sun revolving around the Earth or visa-versa. It makes a difference in the manner in which the state of affairs can be managed.

            • Cubbie Blues

              You may want to look at his game-logs again. His FIP was above 4.0 11 times during the year and they were throughout the whole year, not just the beginning. (4.0 is considered average)

              • jt

                FIP is also a function of K’s. His K rate was up in his first 11 games and has since dropped to his historical norms.
                Doc mentions “stuff”. There is velocity, stuff quality and location. They work in concert. Technically you can change temperature by either changing pressure of changing volume or BOTH. The pitcher has the triad of functions listed above. They work in concert. If a pitcher with lacks command (in the sense of location) he can fall back on velocity or movement to the extent that skill or talent permits. Jackson has good enough stuff to K folks. But his velocity and movement is not good enough to get batters out as consistently as a Bob Gibson. Jackson’s K rate has fallen as did his BB in the past 19 games. Wood has to have good enough movement and velocity to go along with precise location to get the thing to work for him. But he doesn’t have to have Garza’s stuff. Jackson is a better pitcher when he is locating within HIS efficient range of location with HIS efficient range of velocity and movement.

                • Cubbie Blues

                  He had 7 games where his BB% was above 10%: 3 in April, 1 in June, 2 in August and 1 in September. That kind of hits the whole year doesn’t it? I’ll grant you the 3 in April is bad, but the rest is spread out. The rest of what you said, I agree with.

                  • jt

                    First 15 games Jackson pitched 7 games where he gave up 4 or more ER’s and did not pitch 6 innings. In an 8th game he pitched 6 inning and gave up 5 ER’s.
                    You are not looking at the IP. Walking 2 guys in 4.6 IP is close to a BB rate of 4BB/9BB and he didn’t get through 5IP. In another game he walked 1 in 3IP. He only lasted 3 IP. Now that I take another look see, the 11th, 14th and 15 games were also bad. His BB/9 was 3.67 and his K rate games was 8.11 for his first 15 games. The ERA over that period was 5.84
                    His BB rate for his last 14 games has been 2.3/9IP and his K rate 6.1/9IP earning him a 0.376 ERA over this span. Not only is he walking fewer, he is pitching to contact much more.
                    Historically Jackson has tossed his share of turkeys. But they are usually in the midst of a series of some pretty well pitched games. That is what you get from him. His first 15 games saw a much larger than normal share of games that were really poorly pitched. He was also using a lot of pitches per game during that period.
                    A team can not win with a SP’er tossing 8 turkeys out of 15 tries. A team can win with a guy hurling 11 well pitched games out of 14.
                    This has been a terrible year for EJax. If in 2014 he shows up throwing as he did in the first half then it is going to suck. If he pitches as he has in the 2nd half then it should be a good season.

                    • Cubbie Blues

                      I was looking at % not actual number of walks. I never said he didn’t get hit around. I was only talking about the BB%.

    • bbmoney

      Also…fangraphs WAR: Jackson 2.2; Wood 2.8.

      I posted something about this the other day. Pitcher WARs vary hugely from B-R to Fangraphs. It’s all about how much you believe pitchers control things besides K’s, BB’s and HRs allowed. Fangraphs WAR says that’s all they control. B-R WAR says they control everything that happens which leads to runs allowed including good and bad defensive plays.

      The truth, as usual, is almost certainly somewhere in the middle. The million dollar question is where in the middle?

      • willis

        EJax has been a bit disappointing, but I’m still on board with having him. As was said, he’s durable as hell and we know as fans he’ll be there every 5th day to take the ball and give you innings. Sometimes pretty sometimes not. He’s what he is, a durable 4/5 type. $13 mil a year? Probably not, but that was the market and this club desperately needed pitching.

        • bbmoney

          Yup.

        • C. Steadman

          exactly, 100% agree with this ewok

        • YourResidentJag

          I disagree. I don’t think that the Cubs were ready to take this step with respect to the market in needing a 4-5 starter. If they were a playoff team and “desperately” needed a back of the rotation starter, then yes. But we all know that they’re not at this point. They ‘ve also proven that they can find potential 4-5 starters on much lesser deals (like Malhom) and make surprisingly (Feldman, though not as surprising to me given his FIP numbers). Given that they could find these guys, a Jackson multi-year deal, to me, wasn’t necessary at this point in time.

  • CubChymyst

    “That squirrel just stole my nuts!!”

  • bbmoney

    A bit off topic perhaps, but Travis Woods underlying numbers the past two years are pretty fascinating.

    .244 BABIP in 2012 AND 2013. K’s a little down in 2013, but more importantly, his walks were also down (not by a large amount, but that’s crucial for him). The biggest difference between his 4.27 ERA in 2012 and 2.98 ERA this year seems to be his HR/FB rate (12.7% in 2012 and 7.0% in 2013). 2013’s rate is more in line with his career numbers.

    If he can keep his walk rate declining and if that HR/FB rate doesn’t spike like it did in 2012 maybe he his a guy who can consistently keep his BABIP low and out-pitch his peripherals.

    • jt

      In a well pitched game the color guy often says the hurler is hitting his spots. It is a margin of error thing. Randy Johnson could get away with missing the catchers setup more often than Jason Marquis. When the wind blows out the margin of error decreases.
      When Wood hits his target he is good. He has been hitting the target. I imagine that is not an easy task though.

  • Funn Dave

    “The mascot costumes are just standard Shitbirds hazing. We’re actually the Card’ newest call-ups.”

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