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series-preview-cubs-braves-45-48 | April | 2010 Articles

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Series Preview: Cubs @ Braves (4/5-4/8)

Written by Joe Lucia on .

First series preview of the year! Wahoo! For those who are uninformed, this feature is straightforward: I look at each game in the series and do a little analysis. New for this year will be game recaps along with the series recap. Also, HOT or NOT will make a return every Sunday during the season. And I'll get the rest of the player previews done this week. Hooray for more content! Chicago Cubs (0-0) at Atlanta Braves (0-0) April 5th through 8th at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia April 5th, 4:10 PM: Carlos Zambrano (0-0, 0.00) vs Derek Lowe (0-0, 0.00) April 7th, 7:10 PM: Ryan Dempster (0-0, 0.00) vs Jair Jurrjens (0-0, 0.00) April 8th, 7:10 PM: Randy Wells (0-0, 0.00) vs Tommy Hanson (0-0, 0.00) Looking at the first game of the series, which is this afternoon on ESPN, you see a pair of pitchers much maligned by their fanbases, mainly due to their whopping contracts. Carlos Zambrano is a player who Cubs fans just don't think is worth the 5 year, $91.5 million dollar contract he signed in August of 2007. The worst part is probably his full no-trade clause, which will not allow the Cubs to dump him off on another team if they look to shave payroll. Zambrano is a very good pitcher, but he sure as hell isn't worth an average of $18 million per season, as the Cubs are paying him. He never did strike out a ton of guys, and his walk rate is through the roof. God knows, when I think $18 million a year, I think 4.05 walks per 9. Zamrbrano pitched one game against the Braves in 2009 and pitched well, allowing a pair of runs in 6 innings while striking out 6 and walking 3. That quality start effort was not enough, and he was dealt the loss in that game. In 3 starts at Turner Field over his career, he's 1-0, 3.00 with 19 strikeouts and 14 walks. He's also allowed 3 home runs. On the Braves side of the hill today is Derek Lowe, in the second year of a 4 year, $60 million dollar contract that has fans screaming their throats out. As we outlined in the preview last week, he wasn't THAT bad in 2009, with a FIP of 4.06. Again...solid, but not $15 million solid. In 2009, Lowe (like Zambrano) only faced the Cubs once, and received a no decision, pitching 7 innings and allowing 2 runs, walking 2, and striking out 4. Game 2 pits Ryan Dempster of the Cubs against the Braves breakout player of 2009, Jair Jurrjens. Dempster is another Cub making a lot of money, signing a 4 year, $52 million deal prior to the 2009 season. Unlike Zambrano, he's been worth the money in his 2 seasons as a Cubs starter, with a 28-15 record, a 2.55 K:BB ratio, and FIPs below 4 in both years. Like Zambrano, he faced the Braves once in 2009, and got pegged with a loss despite a quality start of 2 runs, 8 hits, 4 walks, and 6 strikeouts in 6 innings. One of those bare minimum quality starts...gotta love em! Going back to his Marlins days, Dempster does not like Turner Field...let me rephrase. He HATES Turner Field. In 15 career games, he's 0-8 with a 5.10 ERA and a 38:37 K:BB ratio. Only 4 balls went out of the park...so thats a plus I guess. Starting game 2 for the Braves will be Jair Jurrjens. JJ totally came into his own last year, but as I've outlined in the past, it was luck-aided and will take a miracle to repeat that 2.60 ERA in 2010. He faced the Cubs once last year and pitched poorly: 0-1, 6.00 with 4 runs, 3 walks, and one measly strikeout in 6 innings. We finally arrive to the third game, with a battle of youngsters: Randy Wells vs Tommy Hanson. Wells finished 6th in the NL ROY race last season, and posted a 12-10 record with a 3.05 ERA. Unfortunately for Wells, his ERA was 0.83 points lower than his FIP last year, which indicates there will be some regression to the mean in 2009. He pitched twice against the Braves last season, with one of the games being forever known as Jeff Francoeur's final farewell to Atlanta. In that game, Wells had a no hitter through 6 innings (missing perfection on a HBP to Yunel Escobar that...didn't hit up) before allowing a single in the 7th, and 2 runs in the 8th. Francoeur hit a game tying two run homer with 2 outs in the 9th, and the Braves would win it in 12. His next start against the Braves was just as effective, allowing 2 runs in 6 while striking out 4 and walking none to get the victory. Tommy Hanson is the king of the Braves pitching empire, bursting onto the scene last year and finishing 3rd in the NL ROY race with a 2.89 ERA and a 2.52 K:BB ratio. Like Wells, Hanson's ERA was much lower than his FIP. But unlike Wells, no one is calling for regression for Hanson in 2010, due to his ability to strike pitchers out, and the fact that most of his "bad FIP" numbers happened in June, the beginning of his MLB tenure. The Braves are looking towards Hanson to be the ace of the staff for the next 15 years, and 2010 is looking to be his coming out party. Offensively, the Braves struggled against the Cubs in 2009, with a .639 OPS and only 4 home runs in 210 at bats. Nate McLouth and Chipper Jones thrived however, with McLouth OPSing 1.251 in 19 plate appearances, and Chipper getting a mark of 1.083 in 16 PAs. The middle infield struggled badly though, with no extra base hits and OPSes of .633 and .554 for Martin Prado and Yunel Escobar respectively. And what was up with Brian McCann? He led the team with 27 plate appearances against the Cubbies, and could only muster a .377 OPS with a walk and a double. ZUH!? That takes care of the first series of our season...I'll be back Thursday night with a look at the Giants! And a recap of the Cubs series!
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