Friday, August 22, 2008

Scouting Report: Nationals at Cubs (8/23)

Yeah, that's right. Underestimate us. Take us for granted. You haven't won any dang thing for a century, but you really should just toss your gloves out on the field and expect to win without trying. I particularly like this Cubs blog post, which, in classic Cubbie fashion, blames the weather for their bad fortune.

Hey, we suck. I mean, we suck. But we have enough self-respect not to blame goats and curses and Bartman and the weather.

Woo! That was fun. My juices are flowing. Suddenly I kinda want to beat the snot out of these self-satisfied, gentrified, yuppie punks. This could be our Mets of '07. Go Brewers! Go Nationals!

Here's my take on Game 2 of the Nationals series against these Schlubs.

Pitching Match-Up
Ryan Dempster: Raise your hand if you saw this coming. To my friend Dave, you're lying. Everyone else, at least you're honest. A 31-year-old failed closer returns to the rotation out of basically a sense of adventure by the manager and turns in a career year worthy of legitimate Cy Young consideration. Sure, good movie, but who'll believe it?

Dempster's always had a live arm, throwing his fastball at 90-93. He also throws a slider and a change. He gets a lot of strikeouts and ground outs but has been undone by walks
. And before this year, the groundouts and strikeouts were declining pretty sharply (2005: 57.9 GB% and 8.71 K/9; 2007: 47.1 GB% and 7.43 K/9).

Joe Morgan said on Sunday Night Baseball that Dempster also throws a splitter and furthermore credited his success to a change in mechanics that kept him from tipping the pitch. But Pitch F/X says he hasn't thrown that pitch since 2006. If anyone knows what the deal is there, lemme know.

This year the Ks are back to 8.21 per 9 while his walk rate has reached a career-low 3.53 per 9 (which is still too many, but way better). It's common for relievers to see their command improve when they move into the rotation, but usually everything else gets worse. His peripherals have all gotten better or held steady. He's definitely had some good luck. His .270 BABIP is unsustainably low (.290 is typical), and his 8% HR/FB rate is a below the league average of 11%. But still, with an ERA at 2.92, he has room to have some bad luck and still be pretty darn good.

Dempster enters the game on a major roll, having not allowed more that 2 ER in his last 6 starts dating back to July 20, a 38 2/3-inning stretch with a 1.82 ERA, 45 Ks, and 14 walks. He's just having a great year.

Odalis Perez: I keep predicting doom for the guy, and I keep getting proved wrong. It's not just because I want to write headlines about Odious Perez or Onerous Perez or Odoriferous Perez... I just keep looking at that 77% strand rate (70% is typical, and you only usually do better if you are actually a better than average pitcher) and that temperamental personality and thinking, boy, an ERA north of 5.50 can't be far off...

Well, maybe Odalis is just a steady, reliable, 4.00 ERA guy? Don't get me wrong--that's 4th of 5th starter stuff for a good team. But his K rate (15.2%), walk rate (8.4%), and flyball rate (35.5%) are all almost right on league average.

Nah, he's still more of a 4.60 ERA guy, but he's not a 6.00 ERA guy, and I might have taken the over on that bet at season's beginning. So again I tip my hat to JimBo. Good signing. Now don't go do anything stupid like resigning him for 2 years and $10m!!

What to Look For
--The pitching probables say it's Perez v. Dempster, and the schedule says it's Nats v. Cubs, but we all know that the real battle is Odalis Perez v. Angel Hernandez. If you don't remember, Hernandez is the royal douchebag of an ump who called two B.S. balks on Perez back in early July and then ejected Odalis after he suggested Angel copulate with a certain immediate female ancestor. Later, Perez and Bowden both called out Hernandez in the press, and Hernandez got the last word (as umps usually do) by costing us a run when he looked the other way and allowed Orlando Hudson to interfere with Cristian Guzman in the base paths. Hernandez is scheduled to be the first base ump. Watch closely when Odalis makes his first pick-off play. If the balk gets called, Perez needs to not go all Milton Bradley again.

What to Cheer For
I'm not going to spin this. I want to win the game. Period. Screw these guys. They disrespected us.

Fearless Prediction

(Season record: 17-13)
Cubs, 3-2, but we make them sweat. And if this is the best they can do against us, they're not going anywhere.

No comments: