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73-game-thread-can-we-at-least-not-get-swept | July | 2008 Articles

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7/3 Game Thread: Can We At Least Not Get Swept?

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This year, we've been swept four times (Rockies, Reds, Phillies, Cubs) and we've swept four times (Dodgers, Reds, Padres, Mets). Let's try to keep that balance even. Going into the series, we were three games under .500, playing a team that had been playing horribly till they met us, and getting Chipper Jones back into the everyday lineup. Now, following consecutive shellackings of Charlie Morton and Jorge Campillo, we'll be lucky if we can just break a four-game losing streak. And we'll have to do it the hard way, facing Cole Hamels, pretty much the only good starting pitcher they have. I've complained enough about the bad season, attempted to analyze the various sources of our ills, so I'll spare you some of that for now. Instead, I'll talk a little about Jair Jurrjens, our pitcher today. If you can believe it, he's actually almost a half-run of ERA lower than Cole Hamels: 2.94 to 3.38, an ERA+ difference of 139 to 131. One reason for the difference is that, while Hamels has struck out substantially more batters and walked slightly fewer batters than Jurrjens, he has also allowed three times as many homers, 15 to 5. Jurrjens has also been getting a lot more ground balls, 50.7% to 38.6%, while he and Hamels have a nearly identical LD%, 21.4% to 21.7%. Jair's essentially a two-pitch pitcher, fastball and change, with a slider he mixes in only occasionally. (In Josh Kalk's PitchFX sample, Jair threw 65% fastballs, 32% changeups, and 3% sliders.) Despite Hamels' famous change, he actually throws fewer changes and more breaking balls than Jair -- 60% fastballs, 24% changeups, and 16% curveballs. But while Jair's fastball is a little faster (92 on average, compared to around 90 for Cole), his change is too (84 to 80), so the spread in velocity isn't as great. The ERA difference doesn't hold up in all of the advanged stats. While Jair maintains a slight edge in FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, 3.31 to 3.69) and NRA (Neutralized Runs Allowed, 3.40 to 3.52), he's actually got a worse xFIP (expected FIP, 3.95 to 3.72) and DERA (3.90 to 3.74). And Hamels maintains a sizeable edge in Pitching Runs Created, 59 to 45. Jurrjens' major advantage over Hamels this year has been his ability to limit the homer, a skill he also had in the minors. Hamels is generally vulnerable to the longball, as he yielded 25 last year, and 19 in only 23 starts in his rookie year. If the Braves can't put him over the wall, they'll have a lot of trouble with him: he's already had 7 starts against us, and is 4-2 with a 3.59 ERA in 47 2/3 innings. Jair will be making his first start against the Phillies, and is coming off his best start of the year, 8 shutout innings on only three hits against the Blue Jays, the only game we won in that series. He seemed to be hitting a slight wall at the end of the spring, as 4 of 5 starts from May 16 to June 5 had game scores below 50 (the general line between an effective start and an ineffective one). But he's put together three good starts in a row since then, capped by the gem in Toronto. Hamels' last three starts have been 7 innings each, in which he has given up 2, then 3, then 4 runs respectively. Hopefully we can continue that streak by laying a 5-spot on him. Let's put up some crooked numbers and reclaim a bit of our dignity.

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