Series Preview: New York Mets at Chicago Cubs

Mets at Cubs Series Preview

The Mets are playing terribly, and they need a team to beat up on. They have played three out of their last four series against teams above .500 and have suffered badly, losing six of their last seven games. Luckily, they play the Cubs this weekend, who, even though they might be better than the Mets, they are certainly easier to beat than the Pirates and Braves.

The Cubs are rebuilding. That’s very, very clear. Theo Epstein and the rest of Chicago’s front office is trying to build a team from the talented young core they have in place. So far, their plan seems to be working out well. Anthony Rizzo looks like he is a future star and Starlin Castro is shaping up to be a cornerstone piece at shortstop.

The Cubbie pitching staff is getting younger and with Jeff Samardzjia and Jackson to build their rotation around, they have a solid foundation for a playoff team. However, while the Cubs are building, they are still far off from being a playoff contender. They are currently 22nd in runs scored, and don’t have too many offensive threats. They have been carried almost exclusively by Rizzo and David DeJesus this season, rak=nking 24th in On-Base Percentage as a club. If it weren’t for those two, the offense would be one of, if not the worst in baseball. On the pitching side, their starting rotation has been solid, even without Matt Garza, but the bullpen has been awful. Aside from Kevin Gregg, who has been fantastic as Chicago’s closer as of late, they have received almost no consistent production out of the bullpen. Carlos Marmol has been himself (and therefore awful) and Kyuji Fujikawa has been unable to take his place. The Cubs as a team rank 22nd in baseball in bullpen ERA, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to get any better.

Long-term, while the Cubs are on the rise, they are still a very weak offensive team and have a long way to go before they become contenders. While two of the three pitching matchups this series don’t look great for the Mets, the series should be rather close.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Matt Harvey, RHP (56.1 IP, 256 ERA+, 4.43 K/BB) vs. Edwin Jackson, RHP (43.1 IP, 66 ERA+, 2.10 K/BB)

Jackson has failed to live up to expectations after signing a four-year, $52 million deal with the Cubs this winter. His 6.02 ERA is the worst on the Cubs among starters. He has been uncharacteristically wild, walking 4.2 batters per nine innings. Although some of his walk numbers from early on in his career are ugly, he has kept them largely under control the past few seasons. At least until now. He has failed to go more than six innings in a start this season. In his last start on May 11, he gave up two runs on four hits in 5.1 innings against the Nationals, walking two and striking out three.

Game 2:  Jeremy Hefner, RHP (41 IP, 80 ERA+, 1.69 K/BB) vs. Scott Feldman RHP (42.2 IP, 156 ERA+, 1.94 K/BB)

Feldman, 30, is your typical journey man starting pitcher. He pitched with Texas for eight years, in which he had a 4.81 ERA in 204 appearances. He has been much better since coming to the Cubs. He has put together a string of four outstanding starts, including his outing on April 26 against the Padres in which he gave up only two runs on three hits in nine innings, striking out 12 and walking a single batter. In his last start on May 12, he allowed one run on three hits in five innings against the Nationals.

Game 3: Dillon Gee, RHP (39.2 IP, 60 ERA+, 1.69 K/BB) vs. Travis Wood, LHP (53.1 IP, 195 ERA+, 2.12 K/BB)

Despite posting mediocre numbers from 2010 through 2012, Wood has been incredible this season. He leads the team with a 2.03 ERA in eight starts and has given up only 5.4 hits per nine innings. What has been the key to his success? Most likely luck. Wood hasn’t changed anything significant in terms of his approach and none of his pitches have gotten significantly better. However, his .193 BABIP makes it seem like he might come down to Earth soon. Wood shut out the Rockies over seven innings in his last start, allowing just two hits.

Series Notes

The Mets snapped their six-game losing streak with a 5-2 win at St. Louis yesterday…New York is 3-7 in its last 10 games…The Mets are 6-11 on the road this year.

In addition to this three-game series vs. the Cubs, the Mets will return to Chicago later this year to play the White Sox in a two-game series (June 25-26).

The Mets will play four straight day games (yesterday in St. Louis and three in Chicago) for the first time since September 3-6, 2010 (three in Chicago and one in Washington)…New York is 7-10 in day games…David Wright is batting .379 during day games, the fourth-highest average in the National League.

Daniel Murphy went 4-4 with two doubles and a walk on Thursday…The four hits tied his career-high…It was the eighth time he’s collected four hits in a game, last on April 12 at Minnesota…Murphy is 10-for-his-last-16 (.625) over his last four games and currently has a five-game hitting streak (11-20, .550) …Murphy is batting .394 on the road this season, the best mark in the NL and is second in the majors.

The Mets scored five runs yesterday but have scored three or fewer runs in eight of their last 10 games and in 13 of their last 19 games…New York is averaging 4.34 runs per game, the fifth-most in the NL and the 14th-most in the majors.

New York is hitting .238 (15-63) with runners in scoring position over its last 10 games…The Mets are fifth in the NL and 12th in the majors with a .266 (76-286) batting average with RISP…The club has 11 home runs in such situations, tied for the fifth most in the majors…John Buck has four of those home runs, tied for second in the majors…

David Wright is hitting .441 (15-34) with RISP, the fifth-best mark in the National League…As a team the Mets have stranded 256 runners, including eight yesterday, tied for 25th in the majors.

John Buck had one RBI yesterday and is tied for third in the NL with 31 RBI…Buck’s 31 RBI lead all catchers…San Francisco’s Buster Posey is second with 22 RBI.

Marlon Byrd is 4-for-his-last 8 (.500)…He is seven hits shy of 1,100 for his career…Byrd has at least one hit in seven of eight games this month (10-27, .370) with two home runs and six RBI.

Bobby Parnell has three wins and two saves this month…Parnell has hurled 6.0 scoreless frames in May…He leads all relievers with four wins and is eighth in the NL with a 1.04 ERA (min. 17.0 innings).

About Connor O'Brien 336 Articles
Connor O'Brien is a third-year economics student at Rutgers University, a longtime writer here at MetsMerized Online, and an aspiring economist. He embraces sabermetrics but also highly values scouting. Follow him on Twitter at cojobrien.