Series Preview - Braves @ Padres (August 3rd-5th)
August 3rd - Kenshin Kawakami (5-8, 4.37) vs Mat Latos (2-1, 2.70)
Kawakami was an absolute mess against the Marlins last week, not even making it out of the 5th inning...allowing a whopping 6 runs, courtesy of 3 Marlins homers and 3 KK walks. Yeesh. Just when I thought Kenshin got his groove back after the horrid Nats starts...he had 3 really great starts, and then just laid an absolute egg on Wednesday. This was of course, THE BILL HOHN GAME, but we really can't dwell on that crap anymore. The Padres can't really hit their way out of a paper bag, so Kenshin should cruise. Should being the key word.
Assuming I'm able to stay up for the whole game this evening, I'm really excited to see Mat Latos for the Padres. My first time! So exciting. Latos was one of their top rated prospects coming into the year, and actually started the year off all the way down in A ball, before being promoted to AA after a silly start to his year (1 run, 10 hits, 3 walks, 27 K in 25 IP). He was just as good in AA, striking out 46 in 47 IP, only allowing 32 hits and walking 9. Latos's career WHIP is 1.11, and he's striking out 9 and a half batters per 9. So in short, he's pretty damn special. Now, his overall pitching style...Latos does not walk a lot of men (2.29 per 9), and has the already mentioned great strikeout rate. Aside from a 4.01 in A ball last season, his highest career WHIP has been 2.19. In his 3 starts with the Padres this year, Latos has been pretty successful. The Padres have (rightfully) been treating him with kid gloves, and he's flourished. Latos has only allowed 9 hits and 4 walks in 16 2/3 innings, and has struck out 13. One major problem thusfar has been the homer rate...he's allowed 4 in his 3 starts. Thats something thats going to need to change, but when you're pitching with the other peripherals that Latos is, it should.
August 4th - Javier Vazquez (8-7, 3.01) vs Tim Stauffer (1-2, 2.57)
Vazquez has another one of his ho hum great efforts on Thursday against Florida, allowing 3 runs in a solid 7 2/3 innings. Javy struck 8, and only walked 1. He's so awesome. For the season, his K:BB is sitting at a svelte 5.64. Thats just nasty. He only hasn't made it through the 6th inning twice this year...now THAT is durability you can count on.
Lets talk Tim Stauffer. He's another one of the Padres young kids (though at 27...he's not really that YOUNG), and he may have finally put it together this year. He was pretty dire in 2005 and 2006 with the Padres and their AAA team, and was a little better in 2007 in AAA. He got absolutely shelled in San Diego in 2007, and missed all of 2008 with a torn labrum. But this season, Stauffer (the former 4th overall pick in 2003), has got his groove back. In his 4 starts with the Padres this year, 3 of them have been of the quality variety, while the 4th only lasted an inning before Stauffer was pulled after a rain delay. Stauffer isn't going to be a guy who strikes a lot of men out, but he also doesn't walk a whole lot. Keeping the ball in the park has been an issue in the past, but wasn't in his two stops this season before reaching San Diego. Stauffer's success this year is a pretty good story, but I'd like nothing more than to score 10 runs off him in 3 innings and make him retire from baseball forever. Eh, maybe thats a little harsh.
August 5th - Tommy Hanson (5-2, 3.25) vs Chad Gaudin (4-6, 4.76)
The formerly perfect Tommy Hanson suddenly looks mortal, losing his last 2 starts, but pitching relatively well in the process. I touched on his quality start outing against Milwaukee last weekend, which the Braves offense was stifled by the more impressive Yovani Gallardo. In his last start against the Dodgers on Friday, Hanson was a little less sharp, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits in 6 innings. On the bright side, he only walked 1. He did however, allow a homer. His FIP for the year still sits about a run higher than his ERA (currently at 4.42), so Tommy really needs to get the peripherals improved a little bit so the HOPE TRAIN to continue to fill up.
Chad Gaudin...he's been a starter, a reliever, a spot starter...he can do whatever you want. After posting a 3.09 ERA as a reliever in 2006, the A's switched him to the rotation in 2007, where his ERA rose to 4.42. He was converted back to a reliever in 2008 when he played with Oakland and the Cubs, and posted a nearly identical ERA of 4.40. This year, the Padres switched him BACK to the rotation...and he's sitting at 4.76. Gaudin's FIP this year is a very good 3.69, due to a career high strikeout rate, a walk rate lower than his career average, and the lowest homer rate since the previously mentioned 2006 season. Gaudin's ERA is highly skewed however by a miserable 63.4% strand rate. Thats just horrible, and no pitcher should have to go through that. Maybe his strand rate will stablilize as the year goes on, and he'll finally get some more respect as a solid 4/5 in a rotation. Or maybe the Padres will continue to play really bad defense and keep shooting his ERA skyward.
The Braves offense was flat out embarrassing against the Dodgers this weekend, scoring 5 runs in 3 games...and one of those games was started by the corpse of Jason Schmidt. Much of that offensive ineptitude can likely be tied to the lack of starting shortstop Yunel Escobar in the lineup, since Diory Hernandez is straight bad. Escobar is still having problems hitting the inside pitch and throwing, so its doubtful he'll be in the lineup tonight. So yeah...hooray for Diory!
The Padres offense is laughably bad. They're hitting .235 as a team, and have a MLB worst .689 OPS. Imagine a team of nothing but Ryan Church. That team would score more runs than the Padres. Yikes. The Padres top offensive player is, without a doubt, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, who's OPSing .920 despite a .250 average. Thats some Mark McGwire stuff right there. The only other player on the team who can sniff an .800 OPS is rookie OF wunderkind Kyle Blanks, at .796. Blanks is a good young prospect, but is pulling a Schafer and is striking out 35.6% of the time. Thats really, really bad. But hey, a .222 ISO is damn good.
So after a disastrous series against one southern California team, the Braves...get to TRAVEL to southern California to take on both of the National League's teams down there. Fantastic. Thankfully, the Padres are a pretty bad team, and the Braves should be able to get back onto the winning track. But then again, I say that every time we play the Nats, and we know how THAT turns out.