This baseball weekend gets underway with a good Windy City duel and a few other matchups that are definitely worth your time. Check a��em out:
Jake Arrieta (CHC) vs. Jose Quintana (CWS)
7:10 p.m. ET
Two of the more underrated pitchers in the game face off in this one, as Arrietaa��he of the 2.38 ERAa��takes on Quintana, who is probably the third-most popular lefty on his own team. Just Zack Greinke (1.59) and Jacob deGrom (2.03) have lower ERA marks in the National League than Arrieta, who has evolved from a failed high draft pick for the Orioles into a strikeout machine with the Cubs. But ita��s not just strikeouts that set Arrieta apart; hea��s also got a very good walk rate (2.3 BB/9 which is top 20 in the NL), and the 11th-best groundball rate in the senior circuit as well (51.3 percent). Hea��s the sole reason why therea��s any debate who would start a one-game playoff should the Cubs make it. And considering that hea��s made that even a consideration with Jon Lester in the picture, well, you get a pretty good idea of how well hea��s pitched this season.
Nothing about Quintana is flashy, but he flat out gets it done. Eight of his last 10 starts have resulted in three or fewer earned runs, and the White Sox have won just four of those starts. Quintana himself has just three wins in that stretch, and thata��s something that has plagued him over his career. Despite being a solid pitcher pretty much throughout, hea��s still never won even 10 games, perhaps one of those most telling reasons that pitcher wins are not a terribly good statistic.This year looks to be quite a bit the same, as hea��s won just six games through 23 starts, despite posting a 3.59 ERA (with better FIP and xFIP figures), a career-best 47.5 percent groundball rate and solid strikeout and walk rates.
Herea��s a look at todaya��s a�?aces in isolation:a�? Felix Hernandez (opposed by Bostona��s Wade Miley) and Chris Archer (Texasa�� Colby Lewis). Blowups have been a bit more frequent for Hernandez in this, his age-29 season. But each time hea��s been able to bounce back relatively quickly, like with his last start where he allowed just two earned runs in seven innings in a win over the Rangers. Hernandez had allowed 11 earned runs over his previous two starts (13.1 innings), so the bounce back was good to see.
Archer has turned the corner into full-blown ace mode with this yeara��s 2.62 ERA, which ranks fifth in the American League. That ERA marks a career best, and is matched by another career besta��a 2.54 FIP. Essentially hea��s been good, and deservedly so. Hea��s also fanning a career-high 11.1 batters per nine innings, and pairing that with other career bests in walks per nine, WHIP and hea��s already tied last yeara��s win total with 10. This is a dark horse Cy Young candidate, though he might need his Raysa��two games out of a wildcard spot entering Saturdaya��to make the postseason to gain a significant enough amount of steam behind that bid.
Masahiro Tanaka versus Marco Estrada is a good way to lead off your baseball day. Tanaka has been up and down this season with injuries and ineffectiveness, but the overall package hasna��t been terribly bad: 3.79 ERA, 92 strikeouts, 19 walks, and 1.02 WHIP. The scary thing is the 18 home runs in 99.2 innings. Thata��s usually Estradaa��s jam, though hea��s allowed just 11 in 117.2 innings this year. Everyone suspected his move from the NL to the AL East would exacerbate this issue, as he allowed a shocking 29 home runs in 150.2 innings with the Milwaukee Brewers last year. But for whatever the reason, it hasna��t been an issue for the 32-year-old, whoa��ll be a free agent at the end of the season. Hea��s pitching very well at the right time, with a 3.21 ERA for the Blue Jays as a swingman this year (24 appearances, 18 starts).
Matt Shoemaker versus Johnny Cueto profiles as a really nice righty battle, though the former is coming off getting obliterated last time out. Shoemaker was on a really nice run before his last start, with three straight scoreless appearances spanning 19 innings. That all fell apart last time out against the White Sox, however, as he allowed seven earned runs in 5.2 innings, pushing his ERA up from 4.01 to 4.36. That paints a pretty good picture of the struggles Shoemaker has had this season however, as hea��s needed to pitch extremely well to dig out of the hole he was in. Shoemaker entered July with an ERA north of 5.00. Cuetoa��s acquisition finally paid off for the Royals last time out, as he stymied the Tigers in a complete-game shutout, fanning eight and walking none while scattering four hits. His first two starts werena��t terrible by any meansa��for reference, his Royals ERA through three starts is 2.05a��but that third start had to be huge validation for Dayton Moore and company. Nobodya��s catching this team, and theya��re going to be tough to beat in October too.