The Cubs have opened the 2011 season at an even 6-6, with matching 3-3 records home and away. Now they face some stiff competition.
No offense to the Pirates, Brewers, Diamondbacks and Astros, but a .500 record against such foes isn't much to get excited about, even for a club that can only hope to finish the regular reason with 81 wins.
The Cubs played their first two series at home, dropping a pair to the Bucs before beating back the snakes to finish the opening homestand at even money. After schlepping all the way to Milwaukee, the North Siders dropped two out of three against an injury depleted Brew Crew. The Astros managed to beat the Cubs on James Russell, et al., night in Houston.
Kosuke Fukudome is hobbled from a hamstring injury and hasn't played since Milwaukee. Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner have left the back of the rotation and moved to the disabled list. The Rockies are up next, and the Cubs will manage to miss Ubaldo Jimenez. Coming back from a cuticle injury, Colorado is holding back on their ace until Monday, when they'll face the Giants. The Rockies just called up a fill-in starter for Sunday. They'll go with two much more formidable arms Friday and Saturday.
This is not your grandfather's Chacin. Jhoulys throws a very nice breaking ball, or two. He'll come up over the top and take something off it so we can just about split it into curveball and slider. They're both highly effective. He'll sink the ball or run a low 90's four-seam fastball, rounding out with a change-up.
These graphics are a little fugly at the moment, working up some new stuff in R.
Chacin is a ground ball pitcher, with nearly half of balls in play against tasting some turf. He has three swing-and-miss pitches (if you count his slider and curve as two pitches) but doesn't fill the strike zone.
Hammel is a pitch classifier's friend. Four pitches, easy to distinguish. He may throw a two-seam fastball on the rare occasion, but simplicity reigns. He's more of a strike thrower and less of a bat misser, but almost as good a ground ball pitcher as Chacin.
Like Chacin, Hammel's best pitch is a breaking ball. Overall, it's almost a toss-up.
Update: small correction (first of a few) to the rvERA values
The last two columns are based on pitch-by-pitch results. rvERAi is "independent". The pitcher is credited with "ground ball" instead of "single". rvERAd is "defense". The pitcher is credited with "single" instead of "ground ball". i is xFIPish, d is xERAish.
Chacin is showing signs of avoiding contact and limiting the quality of contact. Hammel seems to get hit harder than his batted ball profile should suggest. These numbers are not adjusted for park effects.
Johnson looks to be the spot starter on Sunday. He pitched a little bit in a Spring Training game that had PITCHf/x coverage, but just an inning. He throws a sinker. Yea, more ground balls.
Updated: just for giggles, Johnson's graphs. A couple of his sinkers may have been mediocre change-ups. The pie charts are my favorites. Woka-woka.
Johnson is actually not far above league average in ground ball rates across his career, but he's got a league relative rate of 107 (100=average) over 2838 batters faced since 2007. In 2010, in 610 batter-pitcher battles in the Pacific Coast League, his rate was a more impressive 119. It's quite possible he's taken up (or resumed) heavy two-seamer usage in recent years. His strike out (83) and walk (88) rates are also low, but combining for a roughly average K:BB ratio. Fits the "pitches-to-contact" profile, for better or worse.