This series in Chicago is for bragging rights. The two team enter at 8-8 against each other this year so whoever wins more games this weekend gets bragging rights over the other team, and there is no other way to look at the two teams’ performance except for head to head record during the season. Standings? Nah. Playoffs? No way. Give me head to head record any day. That’s what it’s all about. Cardinals should destroy the Cubs.
With just ten games to go, it really wouldn’t matter who the Cardinals play. The series is big. We could call it a must win for the Cardinals, but that would ignore the way the Mets and Giants have been playing. With two of those three teams going to the Wild Card game, even if one team pulls away, some other team is still likely to back its way into the playoffs. The Cardinals can still be that team, but it would be nice if they had a good series against the Cubs.
Jake Arrieta pitches the today’s game in the afternoon. Arrieta is a very good pitcher and won the Cy Young award last year. He probably won’t win it this year, but he has still had a solid season. When these teams played just recently, I harped on the Cubs pitching getting a ton of help from the defense in writing the series preview. Not entirely satisfied with the minimal research I had done, I decided to dive deeper, and wrote a piece for FanGraphs on the matter. I concluded thusly,
We might try to avoid taking away credit from pitchers, but the Cubs pitchers are good without giving them extra credit for the work of others. Weak contact and low exit velocities might help make the Cubs good pitchers, especially when it comes to limiting home runs and extra-base hits; however, a lot of pitchers give up weak contact and have low exit velocities, and none of them are beating their FIP quite like the Cubs are. None of them have a defense like the Cubs do, and those players deserve a ton of credit for their share of the work.
For all the down and dirty numbers, I encourage you to read the piece, but if you are fine taking my word for it, hear this: the Cubs are good at pitching and the defense makes them look great. Since the beginning of last season, Arrieta has thrown 433 innings, including postseason. That is a ton of wear, even for a workout warrior like Arrieta.
Mike Leake will go for the Cardinals. He has a 3.88 FIP and 2.3 WAR, which is roughly what was expected when he signed that $90 million contract. A bad defense and bad luck have helped him to an absurd 66.5% left-on-base percentage along with a .315 BABIP that have led to a 4.54 ERA, which is less than ideal.
On Saturday Jason Hammel will pitch for the Cubs. Hammel has the reverse-Leake situation with a mid-4 FIP and mid-3 ERA for reasons that have already been discussed above. He pitched well against the Reds his last time out and actually struck out nine Cardinals two starts ago, but he also gave up four runs, including two homer and left in the middle of the sixth inning.
Alex Reyes is pitching for the Cardinals, and while this post is not just an opportunity to plug posts I have written for FanGraphs, here’s a thing I wrote for FanGraphs:
He’s already topped 100 mph on his fastball 18 timesthis season. He has a curveball with more vertical movement than any other pitcher in the big leagues. He has a changeup that averages 89 mph and earns a swing and a miss 25% of the time Reyes throws it.
There are gifs and hyperbole about Reyes saving the season—typical puff-piece stuff. Either way, Reyes is exciting, worth the price of admission, tuning in for, etc. etc. Fax mentis incendium gloria cultum etc. etc. MEMO BIS PUNITOR DELICATUM, etc. etc. It’s all there, black and white.
On Sunday, Jon Lester will go for the Cubs. Last time Lester faced the Cardinals, St. Louis tried to take advantage of Lester not throwing to first, but David Ross kept catching them stealing. He pitched eight great innings in that game. He hasn’t allowed more than one run to any team since August 11 (against the Cardinals). He hasn’t allowed two runs against any team since July 24 (not against the Cardinals). He’s gone at least six innings in ten straight starts and seven innings in four straight starts.
Carlos Martinez will pitch for St. Louis on Sunday night. Last time out against the Cubs, he struck out nine with no walks but gave up two homers for only the third time this season. In six of his last seven starts, Martinez has given up two runs or fewer, with the Cubs game being the lone exception (He also gave up 3 runs against the Cubs eight starts ago). In those last seven starts, Martinez has struck out 26% of batters and walked 8% for a 3.04 FIP and 2.60 ERA.
Today’s game is at 1:20 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest and ESPN.
Saturday’s game is at 12:05 pm CT and will air on FOX.
Sunday’s game is at 7:08 pm CT and will air on ESPN.