The Cubs have a quick two-game set against the Giants before they hit the road to play Houston. Aramis Ramirez is back in the lineup, Bobby Scales is on the bench, Carlos Zambrano is on the DL.
The Cubs don’t have a lot of PAs against either Giants started, Jonathan Sanchez or Tim Lincecum, so I’m not going to do my usual preview. Instead, let’s take a look at the two games’ pitching matchups.
Tonight Jonathan Sanchez matches up against Ryan Dempster. Sanchez’s numbers are kind of interesting – he threws fewer strikes than average, but he throws more first-pitch strikes than average, too. (actually, Dempster is the same way – but I haven’t looked at enough pitchers’ data on these numbers to figure out what the takeaway is) I’m not sure what that means for a hitter – if it’s better to take the first-pitch strike and force him to work deep counts, knowing he’s probably not going to pound the zone, or if you should try to do something with the first-pitch strike because it’s your best chance to get something good to hit. I’d guess the former – Sanchez only went five innings, throwing 96 pitches, in his last start, so if the Cubs are patient they can probably make him rack up the pitches and get him out of the game.
Dempster has a slightly longer track record against the Giants. Edgar Renteria has 23 PAs and a .316/.435/.632 line against him, but overall the team is only hitting .222/.325/.343 against him. That’s better than Dempster’s career .350 OBP against and .411 SLG against, but then again, this current Giants roster is not the greatest hitting team ever assembled.
For tomorrow’s game, Sean Marshall matches up against Tim Lincecum, so that has to be advantage Giants. Cubs hitters are hitting .189/.211/.270 against Lincecum, with only Derrek Lee (.385/.429/.462) with any kind of success against him in more than ten PAs. Lincecum is a real ace, and there’s just not much you can do against him other than expose him to peanuts, if the scene that was cut from his MLB 2K9 commercial is any indictation.
Against Marshall, the Giants only have 39 PA, where they’ve put up a .314/.368/.711 line. Even worse, the normally anemic Giants offense has a .279/.338/.426 line against lefties, which is a lot better than they do against righties. Lincecum is probably not going to give Marshall a lot of margin for error tomorrow – anything can happen, but the Cubs really ought to take tonight’s game if they want to do more than break even on the homestand.