Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pirates vs. Cubs Preview (Series 1)

The Pirates open the 2011 season on the road this year against their division rival Chicago Cubs. The Cubs come off a disappointing 75-87 campaign which saw them above only the Pirates in the NL Central. The Pirates actually had a great deal of success playing the Cubs last year, in fact, their 10- 5 record against the Cubs was the Pirates only winning record against NL Central opponents.

Cubs probable pitchers are Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and newly acquired Matt Garza. These three have had mixed results in Spring, with Dempster being fantastic, Zambrano being average, and Garza being terrible.

Ryan Dempster (33), RHP

Dempster had another solid season last year, leading Cubs starters in wins (15), starts, and K/9, while posting a 3.85 ERA.

He had very little success against the Pirates last season, in fact he picked up the loss in all three of his starts. While striking Pirates out at a 10.6 per 9 clip last season he also gave up 19 hits in 17 innings.

His career stats tell a pretty similar story. He has faced the Pirates more than every team but the Houston Astros in his 13 year career, and has found little success. In 45 games (20 starts) he has a 5.63 ERA. No team has scored more runs, or interesting been hit by more pitches, against Dempster over the course of his career than the Pirates.

Dempster at home is pretty much what he is. His Wrigley numbers show a 3.82 ERA, and 8.2 SO/9, and a 33- 26 record in 56 starts.

Carlos Zambrano (29), RHP

Zambrano’s 2010 season will likely be remembered more for his outbursts, and his removal from the rotation. All of that takes away from what was actually an improvement over his previous year. Zambrano was able to increase his wins, decrease his ERA (in fact he had the best ERA amongst starters), and honestly post pretty similar numbers to his All Star season in 2008. How much of the improved numbers comes from his trip to the bullpen? Not much. He was actually better as a starter last season in many statistical categories and similar in the rest.

The Pirates actually had some success against him last year despite his decent numbers. Pirates hitters hit him for a .300 avg and an OPS of .867 in his 3 games (1 start) last season. He ended up 1 -1 with a 3.68 ERA. While he struck out a ridiculous 11 Buccos per 9 he also gave up 9 hits in 7.1 innings. His four walks gave him a SO/BB ratio of 2.25, not so great considering the high SO numbers. His 1.773 WHIP was highest among team whom he threw more than 5 innings against.

His career against the Pirates has been pretty average, has his 12-8 lifetime record indicates. He has a 4.02 lifetime ERA against the Pirates in 161.0 innings. Zambrano is another guy who pretty much is his average at home, which makes sense because that’s obviously where he does most of his pitching.

Matt Garza (27), RHP

Garza came to the Cubs via trade after three good, and consistent years in Tampa Bay. The Cubs gave up a good bit for Garza in RHP Chris Archer, OF Brandon Guyer, C Robinson Chirinos, SS Hak-Ju Lee, and OF Sam Fuld. Adding Garza gave the Cubs another 15 game winner from last season, and just a really solid, consistent pitcher.

Garza has never faced the Pirates, in addition to that he has never pitched at Wrigley Field.


vs. Dempster

vs. Zambrano

Vs. Garza

Vs. Cubs

Pedro Alvarez





John Bowker





Ronny Cedeno





Matt Diaz





Ryan Doumit





Jason Jaramillo





Andrew McCutchen





Lyle Overbay





Steve Pearce





Josh Rodriguez





Chris Snyder





Jose Tabata





Neil Walker





The Pirates probable starters are Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, and Ross Ohlendorf. All three of these guys had struggles in Spring Training, although Ohlendorf’s ERA was close to his loss total of last season. Correia was probably the best, and due to McDonald’s injury is probably the reason for these three going right now.

Kevin Correia (30), RHP

The oldest member of the rotation will pick up the Opening Day start for the Buccos. Correia came to the Buccos via Free Agency this offseason after spending the past two years with the San Diego Padres. Correia looked to be rebounding last season, until the tragic death of his brother.

Correia has spent 8 seasons in the majors, all of them in the National League so he has faced the Cubs before, and having little success. He has faced them a total of 8 times in the course of his career, 4 of which were starts. In those appearances he has given up 27 hits in 24.0 innings while striking out 15, and walking 14. His 5.63 lifetime ERA against the Cubs looks great compared to his 8.49 ERA at Wrigley. He made two of his four starts at Wrigley, and 6 of his 8 appearances came there. Out of his 27 career hits given up to the Cubs 17 came at Wrigley in just 11.2 innings.

Paul Maholm (28), LHP

Paul Maholm comes off his second disappointing year in a row since he posted his career best (10+ starts) 3.71 ERA in 2008. Things were looking alright for Maholm, through his first 14 starts he had 4 wins and an ERA of 3.77, but opponents were hitting him fairly well. His overall line was .280/.341/.446. The turning point in his season was the next game @Texas where he only went 1 inning. This stretch of 14 games saw him post a 7.35 ERA, and a line of .340/.395/.500. This period also saw his BABIP increase from .307 to .357. Maholm did put up three strong starts, and one real clunker, together towards the end of the year, but overall he was bad. He didn’t go deep into games and he was very inconsistent from start to start. This offseason also included trade rumors, and a mini-outrage about him skipping voluntary mini-camps. Can Maholm put his bad season and all the talk behind him? We’ll just have to wait and see.

For how bad his season was, it was kind of odd against the Cubs last season. Somehow he managed a 3-1 record against the Cubs, but his ERA was 5.01 in those four starts. His SO/BB ratio of 2.50 was second only to his 3.75 against the Astros, but the Cubs hit .323/.356/.495 against Maholm. This is in line with his odd career numbers against the Cubs where he is 7-2, with a horrid 6.42 ERA.

Even worse then those career numbers though are his stats at Wrigley. He is 5-2, but his ERA is even worse than his career numbers, a bloated 7.26!

Ross Ohlendorf (28), RHP

Ohlendorf, fresh off his controversial arbitration win, looks to build on another solid season. He also looks to avoid the injury bug that has plagued him over the course of the last two seasons. Ohlendorf. Ohlendorf missed a month between April 7 and May 10 with a back injury, but was relatively healthy the rest of the way.

His 1-11 mark really doesn’t tell the whole story. He led the rotation in ERA, WHIP, H/9, and K/9 for guys with 15+ starts, his ERA was just about league average. He was the best Pirates starter over the course of the whole season.

Ross only had two starts against the Cubbies last year but he was good. He pitched 13 innings, gave up three runs, and kept his WHIP down to an impressive .923. Two of those three runs were scored in Wrigley, where he went 6 and gave up four of his seven hits against in his only career game at Wrigley.

Ohlendorf’s only other start against the Cubs came in 2009 at PNC where he went seven innings allowing only five baserunners in the Pirates 3-0 win against the Cubs.

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