Series Preview: Phillies At Cubs
They've asked the numbers guy to do the series preview today, which means that you're like as not to notice more than a few changes in how things is done. Numbers, away!
I'm using a (slightly) more sophisticated version of the Predict-A-Tron. I'm not modeling for the platoon advantage, but I am modelling different lineups. I also made one essential change, adding bullpens to the pitching lines. (I feel kind of stupid for not having done that sooner.)
The Cubs are expected to score 5.37 runs against RHP per game, versus 5.33 against LHP. Phillies use the same lineups against both sides right now, it seems, for 5.25 runs per game. These are both very good offensive teams.
What may surprise you is how good their pitching is. The Phillies have the third-lowest team ERA in the NL. (And it's not like they get a lot of help from their home park.)
I'm using RA instead of ERA - it's just like ERA, but with unearned runs included. It's much easier to compare to team runs scored per game that way. RAs listed are based upon a Fielding Independent Pitching model, and are estimations of future performance, not performance to date. (I wouldn't call them projections - they're not robust enough for that yet.)
The bullpens are neck-and-neck - 4.36 RA for the Cubs, 4.32 for the Phils. This may change, however, if they give Les Walrond more innings. (No, I'm not kidding. Les Walrond.)
"Cubs win" refers to their percent chance to win the game.
Dempster (3.62 RA) versus Hamels (3.65 RA) - This is a real ace on ace matchup, and should be a very good game. The Cubs have home-field advantage and should be favored to win, albeit only slightly. Cubs win .546
Harden (2.98 RA) versus Blanton (5.10 RA) - Two Oakland A's pitchers reuniting after this summer's fire sale. Rich Harden has been amazing for his new club; Blanton... has not. I guess 11 strikeouts a game fares better outside of the Oakland Colliseum than whatever Blanton's doing. Cubs win .656
Lilly (4.62 RA) versus Myers (4.98 RA) - Both players have had disappointing seasons; Myers even spent some time in AAA this year trying to get straightened out. That doesn't make them bad pitchers, necessarily. But neither was the ace their clubs expected them to be. Cubs win .533
Zambrano (4.27 RA) versus Moyer (4.47 RA) - You'd really like to think that Zambrano was really, really better than Jaimie Moyer, wouldn't you? Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus doesn't think our rotation has a high enough fear factor without a 100% effective Big Z. I think he got a little annoyed when I called him Joe Morgan. Another game where the Cubs are favored, although not heavily. Cubs win .520
Estimated Win % for series: .564
Cubs should win at least two games, possibly three. This would be a nice series to do some damage in - even though it is a home set, the Phillies are the third-toughest opponent the Cubs have left, and after that we have a nice six-game stretch with the Reds and Astros where we can lard our win count a bit. A strong showing the next ten games could salt a lot of things away for the Cubs.
I updated the strength of schedule worksheet using these win probabilities, and we're just shy of 100 wins expected at 99.9182. That's another reason I'd like to see a strong showing against the Phils; taking three games from the Phillies would seriously increase our chances at 100 wins. I expect the Mets and Brewers to be more motivated than the Cubs at the end of the season, so an early push to 100 would be fantastic.