Pittsburgh Pirates v. Chicago Cubs – The Infielders

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Oct 4, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli (29) doubles against the Cincinnati Reds during the sixth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Catcher: Francisco Cervelli vs. Miguel Montero

Montero is a grizzled 32-years old veteran catcher. After missing some time due to a thumb injury, Montero found himself appearing in 113 games this year and was adequate at the plate, with run production numbers that were pretty much in line with his career arc to this point. Defensively, it is very clear that his best days are behind him. Opposing baserunners took 71 bags against him this year, the highest total in his career despite playing in only 113 games. Sporting a 20% caught stealing rate, it’s easy to see why. Montero’s dwindling offense is still viable, with a .754 OPS, and that fact alone may keep in the lineup over Kyle Schwarber, who was called up as his replacement. Schwarber has great multipositional flexibility, so it may behoove Joe Maddon to keep Kyle in the field for double switching purposes later in the game. The onus to control the Pirates’ running game falls squarely on Montero’s shoulders.

Francisco Cervelli has been just as-advertised when he was brought in as Russell Martin‘s replacement. Quickly taking a position as team leader, Cervelli did not provide the pop that Martin would provide in Toronto, but he is a solid contact hitter that can be penciled in anywhere in the mid-to-lower third of the order. Leading the Pirates in batting average at .295,  Cervelli will need to show that he can work a count against Arrieta. I am confident that he will, as his 9.4% walk rate suggests. Cervelli struggled in catching base runners as well (22%), but part of this has to be chalked up to the Pirates pitchers being slow to the plate. Cole was never a big culprit in that fact, so I suspect this will be a non-factor.

Verdict: Cervelli. By a nose, Cervelli gets the edge here by being a better overall hitter with far-superior walk and strikeout rates.

Final Verdict: To me, Rizzo’s presence gives the Cubs a slight edge at the infield positions. Rizzo is an absolute thumper who is finally growing into his long-displayed power. He is as close to a complete major league hitter as you will find in the current era.

The good news: with the Pirates enjoying an edge defensively up the middle, the game may not be won off of Rizzo’s bat but perhaps by a sparkling defensive play or a costly mistake. Behind the plate, Cervelli will continue to do what Cervelli has done all year: provide a spark while also executing the Pirates’ advanced scouting plan.

If the Pittsburgh Pirates can limit Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, they stand an excellent chance at winning this game, despite anything Arrieta might bring to the table.

Please check out our previous matchup analysis – The Outfielders – by clicking the link below

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