Sunday, August 24, 2008

Scouting Report: Nationals at Cubs (8/24)

Because of my vacation schedule, I'm shortening up the previews to just the pitching match-up basics and prediction. If any of the probables change, these match-ups will obviously be rendered moot.

Pitching Match-Up
Rich Harden
: The Cubs mostly got positive reviews for the trade that brought Harden to Chicago. They gave up four guys who are all ok but none really great or even potentially great. Then again, there were a lot of people just a few months ago who were convinced that Rich Harden had pitched his last full season as a big-league starting pitcher because of injury. But to give up Harden and the useful long-man/back-end starter Chad Gaudin and only get back Matt Murton, Eric Patterson, catching prospect Josh Donaldson, and Sean Gallagher, who's kind fo a younger, cheaper Gaudin? Just doesn't seem like enough, although Billy Beane's track record of selling high on pitchers is about as flawless as Bowden's record of selling low.

Harden has been great since coming to the NL. He's put up a 1.50 ERA in seven starts.
He throws a 92-94 mph fastball and a great change-up. He also mixes in a slider and a splitter, though he's throwing the splitter much less this season and the change way more. In fact, he's become almost a two-pitch guy, as 63% of his pitches this year have been fastballs and 28% change-ups. (In the past he's thrown the same number of fastballs, but 16% changes, 14% splitters, and 7% sliders.)

He's strikes out a ton of hitters. In fact, his 11.4 per 9 this year is tops in all of baseball for starters with 110 innings or more. His walk rate is a bit high--9.6%. And he's stranding a whopping 87.1%--also the highest rate in baseball. That's not sustainable.

Another concern for Cub fans, and a concern for a guy moving into a hitter's park, is that he's really become quite an extreme flyball picher this year. His rate has jumped to 48%, compared to 36.8% career. That kind of number doesn't usually fluctuate that much unless the pitcher really has changed his approach or stuff. Probably it's that he's throwing the slider and splitter more. If I was him, moving from Oakland to Wrigley I'd bring those groundball pitches back.

Jason Bergmann
: The Cubs at home are a tough match-up for any pitcher. Wrigley is a hitter's park, and for Bergmann, the league's most extreme flyball pitcher, it could be very dangerous.

Here's the good news: the Cubs are an extremely righty-heavy line-up, and righties are hitting just .239 BA / .289 OBP / .446 SLG off him. Those numbers aren't that great, but lefties are hitting .307 / .350 / .467.

Fearless Prediction
Cubs finish off the series with a 4-0 win.

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