After splitting a four-game set with the worst team in the National League (and, well, the majors), the Giants begin a three-game series against the Cubs — who just so happen to have the second-worst record in the National League at 57-77.
Randy Wells has had a quite a down year — through 17 starts (~100 IP), he boasts a K/9 south of 6, a BB/9 at nearly 3.5, and a HR/9 of 1.78 — which ranks as the second-worst home run rate among starters with 90+ innings. At -0.2 fWAR, he’s essentially been replacement-level in 2011; meaning he fits the prototype for pitchers that dominate the Giants.
Garza, meanwhile, is the only legitimately good starter the Giants will face this series: he ranks in the top-ten in the NL in fWAR, and he’s striking out hitters at a clip of 24.1% (good for fifth-best in the majors). His FIP- sits at 75, marking a breakout season for the 27-year-old.
In game three, the Giants face off against a familiar face in Lopez — who, like Wells, is not a good pitcher at all. He’s struck out opponents at a rate of 12.5% this season, which is roughly half that of Garza. His season-high for strikeouts in a game is five, which he’s accomplished once. The only above-average facet of his game is his walk rate — which he maintains in the mid-twos.
The Cubs’ offense, by the way, isn’t too good either — their hitting is essentially in Astros/Marlins/Diamondbacks territory.
Basically, the Giants have no excuse for losing a series like this — they’re facing off against a horrible team, at home, and have the benefit of facing two awful pitchers in Wells and Lopez. Though as for Garza — I expect he’ll embarrass the Giants’ offense thoroughly (if they haven’t yet gotten that out of their system).
A few other notes:
- Reed Johnson still exists, apparently, and is quietly having an excellent season: through 87 games (214 PA), he’s posted a .345/.385/.533 and amassed 1.6 wins above replacement.
- Aramis Ramirez has been the Cubs’ best hitter this season (135 wRC+) after a disappointing 2010 campaign. His OBP is up to .357, from .294 last season.
- I envy the Cubs for one reason: Starlin Castro. He doesn’t walk much at all (one of my pet peeves in a hitter), and he plays some pretty shoddy defense at shortstop, but none of that matters because he’s a) a shortstop, b) 21 years old, and c) good at hitting (currently sitting at a 105 wRC+). He’s not all that flashy, but as a young talented shortstop, he’s quite the invaluable commodity — one I wish the Giants had.
Update: Today’s lineup, courtesy of Extra Baggs:
To preview the Giants-Astros series, I asked Timmy of the Crawfish Boxes several questions about the Astros –
The Astros have posted the worst record in the majors by far. Was it anticipated that Houston would perform this poorly? Or has it sort of come as a surprise?
Nobody expects their team to be the worst team in the league even if they know it’s going to be a bad season. So yes it was a bit of a surprise that they’re playing this bad but not entirely unexpected. I for one thought the Astros would begin playing better baseball in the second half of the season, as they typically do, but it hasn’t happened and with the recent trades of Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence it’s becoming less likely.
The Astros had quite a busy trade deadline. As a whole, what were your thoughts on their moves? Was it a successful deadline for Houston?
As a whole the trade deadline was a positive step in the right direction for the organization. It was a necessary move to try to get younger and shed payroll for an incoming owner. They added some much needed talent and depth to the system as well as clearing the way for highly touted prospects Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez who were residing at AA at the time of the trades. Overall Wade made a good move, a great move and a bad move, but overall I’d say it was a successful deadline for the Astros.
Do you see Wandy Rodriguez being moved within the near future, and if so, how soon?
This is a real tricky one to pin down, my feeling is that he won’t be moved at the waiver trade deadline and instead will be moved sometime in the offseason. There are several factors involved with trading Wandy. Obviously the one talked about the most is his contract and whether a team would be willing to pick that contract up and how much the Astros are willing to eat. With Jim Crane wanting the payroll at 50-60 million moving Wandy is viewed as one of the quickest and easiest ways to hit that target. Now that the approval process for Crane has been delayed again the plans for moving Wandy could be in limbo. Ultimately I believe he’ll be moved this offseason.
Granted, he’s only made two starts for the Astros thus far, but what are your thoughts on Henry Sosa?
Sosa has certainly got some potential to be a solid guy in a Major League rotation. In both his starts he’s had trouble in the early inning, but then settled down and was able to make it through the six innings. It appears he can get his fastball into the low to mid 90′s which would be something this rotation needs. Obviously it’s still early but he’s shown positive signs.
Any specific player to watch for in this series?
Matt Downs, I know he was only a bench guy with the Giants last year and technically he’s only a bench guy with the Astros, but this guy is just statistically sound and really should be starting a lot more than he has been. I’m guessing because of his connection to San Francisco and his recent success he could be in the lineup for a game or two, if anything though he’ll be used in close late game situations.
Another guy I’d like to point out is J.D. Martinez who is the Astros new three hole hitter an unlike Downs should be starting all three games this series. Drafted in the 20th round in 2009 by the Astros this guy has done nothing but rake and is now starting to show some promising power potential.
Who takes the series — Astros or Giants?
I think there’s no question the Giants take this series. The real question is if it’s going to be two games to one or a sweep. I know the Giants have been struggling recently but the Astros are just what thy need. The Astros have made a habit this season of winning a series, showing signs of progress and hope, and then quickly turning right back around and going the other way. The Astros just took a series against the Cubs so the Giants are in town at just the right time.
To preview the Giants/Marlins series, I exchanged questions with Dave Gershman of Marlins Daily (ESPN SweetSpot). You can check out my responses to his questions here.