Results tagged ‘ Series Previews ’

Series 34 Preview: Cubs vs. Brewers

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All-Star shortstop Jean Segura has been one of the few bright spots for the Brew Crew in 2013. (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty)

Not much has gone right for the Brewers this season, as Milwaukee continues its tumble from perennial contender to NL Central also-ran. The Brew Crew suffered a huge power outage in the early going thanks to a rash of injuries, starting with preseason surgeries to two first basemen—Corey Hart and Mat Gamel. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who had a terrific 2012 campaign, has played only 54 games because of knee issues. But as stagnant as the offense has been, the pitching has been even worse. Milwaukee’s pitchers own a combined 4.09 ERA, 11th in the NL, and their starters have a league worst 4.79 ERA. To add insult to injury, there’s the inescapable saga of former MVP Ryan Braun, who has drawn the ire of baseball pundits, players and teammates for his reported PED use and links to the Biogenesis Clinic in Florida. Braun’s suspension, which will keep him out of action for the remainder of the season, puts an exclamation point on an already disappointing year in Milwaukee.

HITTING: 3.9 Runs Scored/Game (10th in NL)
Despite their middle-of-the-road offense, the Brew Crew have profited from one of the top one-two punches in the game, with Norichika Aoki leading off and Jean Segura having a breakout season in the second slot. Aoki’s .360 on-base percentage is one of baseball’s best from the top of the order, while Segura has been doing it all. He leads the NL in hits, and is second in the league in triples and stolen bases. And Segura is not the only hitter who has developed In Milwaukee when given a chance to play every day. Center fielder Carlos Gomez has finally become the player many expected him to be when the speedster was a top prospect in Minnesota. On a less positive note, second baseman Rickie Weeks’ game continues to be in free fall, and the Brewers have yet to find a playable bat to man first base with Hart out for the season.

PITCHING: 4.6 Runs Allowed/Game (T-15th in NL)
The Brewers’ initial decision to go with a youth movement in the rotation was moderated by their late-spring signing of veteran free agent Kyle Lohse, who is having another solid season in the NL Central. But whatever Milwaukee’s master plan is—or was—none of it has worked in a rotation that ranks close to the bottom in quality starts. Expected ace Yovani Gallardo hasn’t been able to pitch reliably past the sixth inning, and not one other starter has truly been effective. Just three Milwaukee starters have made more than 20 starts on the season (Lohse, Gallardo and Wily Peralta). Other than those three, only Marco Estrada (12) has made as many as 10 starts. Matters aren’t much better in the bullpen, as John Axford pitched his way out of the closer’s role, and replacement Jim Henderson lost time due to injury. With the trade deadline nearing, the Brewers could be looking to deal experienced bullpen arms such as Mike Gonzalez.

Series 27 Preview: Cubs at Mariners

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Hisashi Iwakuma has been excellent in the rotation this year for Seattle. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Much like the Mets team the Cubs faced a couple of weeks ago, the Mariners have ended up with a few veteran success stories mixed with several prospect failures. It’s a far more concerning outcome for GM Jack Zduriencik’s rebuild than their 34-45 record and fourth-place rank in the standings might indicate. The offense has been terrible, though it’s hard to get a read on Safeco Field’s impact on run scoring after its dimensions were reduced last winter. The pitching hasn’t been much better yet—at least beyond the outstanding front duo of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. The Cubs will see the latter but miss the former in this weekend’s three-game set. Most of Seattle’s future hopes now hinge upon a bevy of high-ceiling arms, headed by Taijuan Walker, who was just promoted to Triple-A.

HITTING: 3.6 Runs Scored/Game (15th in the AL)
There’s not all that much to see here, particularly with the continued disappointments of catcher-turned-DH Jesus Montero, infielder-turned-outfielder Dustin Ackley and first baseman Justin Smoak. Catcher Mike Zunino hasn’t been the answer either, though he looks like he’s pushed Montero off of backstop for good. That said, there have been a few bright spots amongst the youngsters selected after Ackley (who was second overall) in the 2009 draft. Switch-hitting second baseman Nick Franklin (27th overall) pairs a good glove with a solid contact bat and some pop, and he has pushed Ackley to the outfield after a brief demotion. Third baseman Kyle Seager (third round) is now in his third partial big league season, and he’s shown consistent improvement in all areas. Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez is a cornerstone when available—he’s not this series—but he has also cleared 30 years old. Beyond that, there’s little optimism that comes with 41-year-old Raul Ibañez mashing, as the youth will have to carry the future. The Mariners do draw a decent amount of walks, but they swing and miss a lot too, which comes at the expense of the team batting average, which currently sits at .236.

PITCHING: 4.4 Runs Allowed/Game (8th in the AL)
The Cubs may miss Hernandez this weekend, but they’ll face a real challenge in Iwakuma, now in his second year on this side of the Pacific. Iwakuma works in the low-90s with his fastball, an offering that he can cut and pinpoint on both sides of the plate. He uses those pitches to set up a hard-tumbling splitter against lefties and a good two-plane slider for righties. Iwakuma has kept batters off-balance even more frequently in his second season through the AL. He sports a 2.26 ERA and limits opponents to just 6.5 hits and 1.4 walks per nine innings while striking out 8.0. The Cubs will next see a pair of veteran retreads, Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman. Harang has added and subtracted his way to more strikeouts and fewer walks than in his solid 2011-12 campaigns, but he’s also been more hittable, including for home runs. That’s a more general symptom of a rotation that doesn’t have great stuff outside of the front two arms. Meanwhile, Bonderman has gotten good outcomes so far but also a lot of contact. It’s his first big league season since 2010, so he’s a huge wild card. It all leads up to a back end of the bullpen that gets a lot of strikeouts, particularly from Carter Capps and lefties Charlie Furbush and Oliver Perez. But Furbush, Perez and closer Tom Wilhelmsen struggle with their control, while Capps frequently gets roughed up with the long ball.

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