Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pirates vs. Cubs (Series Eighteen)

Another pathetic performance by the offense wastes two more awesome pitching performances. I thought Clint Hurdle was the god of pitching coaches with Texas? All I’ve seen is a guy who says all the right things to the media, but manages a terrible game. I’ve also seen a pretty inept team fundamentally. Much of this is probably the talent level, but for all the love heaped onto Hurdle from the apologists this team isn’t all that much better (record-wise) than last season.

That said there are still plenty of bright spots, and Hurdle does deserve some credit. This team has improved on the road and against the division. The pitching staff also has really turned a corner, although I think Searage deserves the credit for that as the staff seemed to be making some strides of he took over for Joe “Don’t Use That Sinker Charlie” Kerrigan.

The Pirates will once again take on a division rival, this one a team they kind of dominated last year, the hated Chicago Cubs. This is a great opportunity (again) to get this thing moving in the right direction. The Pirates took the first series in Chicago, outscoring the Cubs by a slim margin of 14-12 earlier in the season, with Correia and Karstens picking up the wins. The Pirates will once again play at Wrigley, all of the games are day games.

The Pirates are coming off three straight losses, including the mini-sweep by the Braves and the bats have been absolutely pathetic. Pathetic to the point of absurdity actually. Still it can’t be stressed enough how important these road games against division opponents are. I think that in some ways winning on the road is more important for the growth of the young players. The home wins will come, but being able to go in and take a series from a team on the road can help to bring these guys together.

The Cubs probable pitchers are Doug Davis, Randy Wells, and Ryan Dempster.

Doug Davis (35) LHP

Davis is, and has been, a journeyman for quite some time now. He spent last season with the Brewers, his second stint with them, where he was 1-4 with a 7.51 ERA in eight games. Davis really was never all that great to begin with. His career WHIP is 1.505, but has only been that low one season since 2005. His career SO/BB is a pathetic 1.65 and he has had one full season since 1999 in which he gave up less than a hit an inning. The ONLY reason he is still pitching is because he is a veteran lefty. And I don’t know why anyone cares about that.

Davis has two starts this year, a 5.0 four hit game in which he gave up one run and a 3.2 inning eight hit abortion in which he gave up seven.

Davis did face the Pirates last season and he got hit up pretty good. In five innings he gave up seven hits, including two homers, allowing four runs (all earned), while walking three, and striking out just two.

Davis is another one of those guys I just always remember playing. He has faced the Buccos more times than any other team somehow, appearing in 23 games (all starts). Somehow he is one of the few mediocre pitchers that the Pirates haven’t made look like Cy Young. While Davis does have a winning record of 8-6, he has an ERA of 4.91 in his 128.1 innings he has given up a staggering 150 hits. In fact the Pirates line for Davis’ career is .298/.379/.437. The only Pirate who currently has a better OPS than that this season is Ryan Doumit.

The thing that blows my mind about Davis that he has made $32,510,000.00 in his career! He has a 91-103 record! That means he has gotten $357,252.75 per win! Teach your kids how to throw left-handed!

Randy Wells (28) RHP

Randy Wells comes off a pretty mediocre season. A lot was expected of him last season coming off his 12 win Rookie season, but he bumped along his way to a 8-14 record, with an ERA of 4.26. Not bad by any stretch, but pretty mediocre considering what people expected.

Wells was actually drafted as a catcher by the Cubs, and eventually was lost to the Blue Jays in the Rule V draft, but returned to the Cubs three days after making his debut.

Wells will make his first start of the season against the Pirates Saturday. His only other start came on April 4, 2011. He would go six strong innings en route to the win against the Diamondbacks, giving up just one earned on six hits, the only run being a solo homer. He wouldn’t get another opportunity going down with a forearm strain.

Wells actually wasn’t very good against the Pirates last season in his three starts. He would post an 0-1 record and pitch just 13 innings over three games. He also struggled with control, walking ten batters, the same number he struck out. His ERA and WHIP really tell the story, 4.85 and 1.615 respectively.

That’s a contrast to his 2009 season in which he faced the Buccos twice and went 13.0 innings as well. This time he would get the win in each game and post an ERA of just 2.08, with a WHIP of 1.231. He also managed to K more than BB, in fact his SO/BB was more than double (2.33).

In five career starts, spanning 26 innings he has never allowed a home run to a Pittsburgh Pirate, although Chris Snyder has one as a Diamondback.

Ryan Dempster (34) RHP

Dempster was the Cubs Opening Day starter this year getting shelled by the Pirates and picking up the loss at Wrigley. The Pirates were able knock two out of the park against Dempster chasing him after 6.2 with six earned on six hits. The homers are a trend for Dempster, giving up at least one homer in seven of his eleven starts with two of them being two homer games, and one a three homer outing.

He has been pretty inconsistent this season, but looks to be turning things around a bit after giving up seven earned runs in just .1 innings on April 28, Dempster has four quality starts in the five games since. Still he has a losing record, sitting at 3-4 with an ERA of 6.29, though that is heavily inflated due to his .1 inning game. Dempster really has given up not only the longball (1.6 per nine) but an uncharacteristic amount of hits (10.6 per nine, compared to his career average of 8.9).

Here is what I wrote in the previous preview about Dempster’s career numbers against the Pirates:

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.


vs. Davis

vs. Wells

vs. Dempster

vs. Cubs

Pedro Alvarez





Xavier Paul





Ronny Cedeno





Matt Diaz





Ryan Doumit





Garrett Jones





Andrew McCutchen





Lyle Overbay





Steven Pearce





Brandon Wood





Chris Snyder





Jose Tabata





Neil Walker





Pedro Ciriaco





The Pirates probable pitchers are Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, and Jeff Karstens.

Kevin Correia (30) RHP

Correia seems to be alternating good and bad starts now. His last start was very nice, going 6.2 IP and giving up just two runs on seven hits. It was also the first victory Correia got at home. And by victory I don’t just mean his decision, I mean it’s the first time the Pirates have won a game that he appeared in at home.

Correia got the win on Opening Day against these very Cubs, allowing two earned on seven hits over six innings. It marked his first Opening Day victory, and was his first of three wins in five games and his first road win in what would turn into five straight wins on the road for Correia.

So far this year Correia hasn’t only been much better on the road he has been pretty dominating. His only road loss so far came against the Brewers who beat him, and every Pirates pitcher, up pretty nice at Miller Park. Still he is 5-1 with a 2.79 ERA on the road this year.

It seems too good to be true though. Correia currently has a 2.79 ERA on the road, his secondary numbers point to that being a good amount of luck though. His SO/BB is a pretty ho hum 1.90 on the road, compared to a healthy 3.00 at home. That’s a bit odd though because his SO/9 is better away. He is walking a much higher amount on the road though. He is walking a batter about every eighth inning at home, on the road he is walking them about every four. Almost twice as much. Another alarming, and very telling stat is his BABIP. At home he has been a bit unlucky, posting a BAbip of .322, on the other hand his BAbip on the road is an extremely low .234, which explains the lower road WHIP and in a lot of ways how he has been able to deal with walking so many guys. His OBP at home is just .016 higher than the opponents batting average (part of that has to do with the high average), his road OBP (while lower than his home) is .050 higher. Once his BAbip comes more in line I think we see him come falling (if not crashing) back down to earth.

For what it’s worth as a starter his career BAbip is exactly .300. As a reliever it’s not much different at .304. So the home numbers might get a bit better, but the road numbers are going to revert to the mean eventually and they will probably look dramatically worse.

Now not to be a Debbie Downer he also hasn’t been very good lifetime against the Cubs. Including his last start he is 2-2 with a 5.10 ERA in nine games (five starts). Surprisingly for having nine appearances against the Cubs seven of them (including three starts) came at Wrigley. He got both of his decisions there but his ERA balloons to 6.62, which fell dramatically from his ERA before his last start of 8.49.

Paul Maholm (28) LHP

Ya know what I’m tired of hearing about? Paul Maholm’s lack of run support. Ya know what I’m really tired of? Paul Maholm’s lack of run support. It is criminal that this guy is 1-7 with how is throwing. Ya know what else? Say the Pirates don’t trade Maholm, then they exercise his option next year and he has a good year. This is the type of thing that could hurt his chances of becoming at Type B free agent. Imagine if this year would cost the Pirates a draft pick in Maholm’s walk year?

Anyway that’s way to far out too care about now. What isn’t too far out is his next game. It’s tough to say about a guy who has done what Maholm has that he needs to go out and give this team six or seven really good innings but it’s true. The Pirates NEED this series, and the Cubs are primed for a sweep. Maholm’s streak of quality starts was snapped at three his last outing, he lasted just 5.1 innings, though giving his chance every opportunity to win, allowing two runs on six hits. The bats didn’t score at all. In fact over Paul Maholm’s past two games he has the same amount of strikeouts as the Pirates have scored him runs TOTAL! Maholm has twelve strikeouts in his past two games, the Pirates have twelve runs in his past ten. That is pathetic.

Maholm got the no decision (better than the L I guess) against the Cubs his first time out. It wasn’t for a lack of results from Paul though, he pitched 6.2 scoreless innings, giving up just five hits. The Pirates would go on to lose that game, a game in which the bullpen not the bats, ruined it for Maholm.

Maholm is 7-2 against the Cubs (5-2 at Wrigley) in 14 starts. His ERA is still a pretty high 5.89 overall and a surprising 6.38 at Wrigley. Paul Maholm’s whole career apparently is a mess of numbers not going together. Who would think a guy with an ERA of 5.89 would have a record of 7-2? At the same time who would think a guy with an ERA of 3.65 would have a 1-7 record?

Jeff Karstens (28) RHP

Jeff Karstens is 3-3 with a 3.57 ERA. It’s true, it’s true. In fact of those three wins one of them, his first of the season, came against the Chicago Cubs at “beautiful” Wrigley Field. He pitched a whole one innings of relief, putting up zeroes in every category.

Karstens actually got the loss in his last outing, giving up two runs in two innings of relief work against the Cubs. He did strike out three and gave up two hits, sadly one was a homer.

As a starter this year Karstens is 2-2 with a 3.82 ERA in 37.2 innings. Guys are hitting him up for a pretty decent line of .280/.316/.500. It will be interesting to see how he pitches on three days rest after pitching out of the pen. It really shouldn’t be that big a deal as he was probably scheduled to throw anyway that day.

Karstens was pretty solid against the Cubs in three starts last season, posting a 1-1 record with an 3.00 ERA over 18.0 innings. That six inning average is about right for Karstens overall. He really gave up the longball against the Cubbies last year, allowing four homers while only allowing 17 hits. Three of those homers came in his two games at Wrigley, where he received both decisions and oddly enough has the exact same ERA and average innings pitched per game.

The Cubs are one of only two teams Karstens has multiple wins against, the other two being the Toronto Blue Jays (2). Karstens is 4-2 in eight appearances (six starts) lifetime against the Cubs. He also has a pretty good ERA of 3.86 and a reasonable SO/BB of 1.90. All four of his wins have come at Wrigley, in fact the only decision he has against the Cubs away from Wrigley is a loss at PNC. He also boasts a fantastic 2.25 ERA and his WHIP of 1.083 is lowest of any ballpark he has made more than one start at.

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