The 6-9 Cincinnati Reds head out of town for their second road trip of 2014 to take on the 4-10 Chicago Cubs. The Cubs are coming home in the midst of a 4-game losing streak.
The Cubs have been particularly bad in recent years, averaging 94 losses per season the past four years while finishing in 5th place each time. In 2013, the Cubs broke their franchise record (which was set in 2012) for most batters used in one season (56) and most number of pitchers used in a season (31). For comparison, the Reds franchise record in each category occurred in the disasterous 2003 season where they used 57 batters and 30 pitchers.
Dave Sveum appeared to be the leader of choice for Theo Epstein’s latest curse-breaking project, but 197 losses the past two seasons were deemed too many, even a rebuilding franchise. Rick Renteria, the new team’s skipper, is the club’s 4th manager in the past five seasons.
Steve gave an excellent rundown of all the Cubs’ offseason comings and goings in his preseason Cubs preview. The bottom line is that this is still an organization in the midst of a rebuilding project, and the upside for the Cubs this year is to get back into 70 win territory.
WHERE TO WATCH
In typical Wrigley fashion, each game of the series will start in the afternoon at 2:20pm. All 3 games will be on Fox Sports Ohio in the Cincinnati market. For those of you in the Chicago television market, which includes a good chunk of Reds country throughout Northern and Central Indiana, each game will air on a different channel: WGN, CSN, and WCIU on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively.
The Friday afternoon game will air nationally on WGN and the MLB Network.
The Cubs are currently ranked 14th in National League offense with 3.36 runs per game. Emilio Bonifacio (.339/.381/.390) has been leading off most games and getting on base. Anthony Rizzo (.333/.403/.519) bats 3rd and leads the team in most offensive categories. The rest of the Cubs lineup has been juggled daily by manager Rick Renteria. Shortstop Starlin Castro (.298/.322/.439) leads MLB with most hits by SS since 2011 with 568. (h/t View From the Bleachers)
All stats below are from 2013.
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS
Friday, 2:20pm with an afternoon high of 43 degrees.
- Jeff Samardzija – 2014 xFIP = 3.60; 2013 xFIP = 3.45
- Alfredo Simon – 2014 xFIP = 3.80; 2013 xFIP = 4.22
Jeff Samardzija has been the Cubs best starter this year, going 7 innings in each of his three starts while allowing an average of 1 run per start. Alfredo Simon has stepped into the shoes of the injured Mat Latos and has made two big starts. Simon has thrown 15 innings in his two starts and allowed just one run in each of his appearances.
Saturday, 2:20pm with an afternoon high of 61 degrees.
- Edwin Jackson – 2014 xFIP = 5.04; 2013 xFIP = 3.86
- Tony Cingrani – 2014 xFIP = 3.74; 2013 xFIP = 3.49
His 2nd year into a 4-yr/$52 million deal, Edwin Jackson is not performing at the level that the club was hoping for. The team has won only one of Jackson’s last 13 starts, dating back to July 31, 2013. Unfortunately, that one team win came against the Reds on September 10th in Great American Ballpark. In 3 starts this season, Jackson has allowed 11 earned runs and issued 11 free passes in 16 innings.
Tony Cingrani hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t allowed more than 5 hits in any of his first 21 major league starts (h/t to Neal Kendrick). While relying significantly on his fastball, Cingrani has been steadily mixing in other types of pitches. In his 5 inning cup of coffee back in 2012, 91% of his pitches were fastballs. Last season, 81.5% of his pitches were fastballs, while so far this year that percentage has dropped to 74%. Cingrani has only allowed 5 runs in 17.1 innings so far this season.
Easter Sunday, 2:20pm with an afternoon high of 66 degrees.
- Carlos Villanueva – 2014 xFIP = 4.32; 2013 xFIP = 3.97
- Homer Bailey – 2014 xFIP = 2.69; 2013 xFIP = 3.34
Carlos Villanueva is on bubble of losing the 5th starterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s spot, and potentially his 25-man roster spot. Making two relief appearances and two starts this year, Villanueva has allowed at least 1 run in each appearance. He was hammered one week ago by the St Louis Cardinals, allowing 9 runs over 3 innings.
While Homer Bailey (Sunday) has had a rough couple of starts this season, last year he ranked 21st among National League starters in WAR. Justin Inaz wrote about Bailey’s bizarre season earlier this week. After reading that, I don’t believe there is any need to panic about Mr. Bailey.
The Cubs bullpen has already had 11 different relievers make appearances this season. They cumulatively have a 4.05 ERA and have issued 30 walks in 46 innings. Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon each threw 7.2 innings and are yet to allow a run while striking out more than a batter an inning. The other nine relievers have combined for a 6.03 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, and 6.3 K/9 over 31.3 innings pitched.
The Reds beat the Cubs 14 times in 19 contests last season outscoring Cubs 88-58. I don’t see much in the match-ups this year to suggest that the outcome should be any different. The Reds have the better pitching, and with the recently resurgent offense (30 runs in the past 4 games), I’m optimistic for the Reds second series win of the season this weekend in Chicago.