Series Preview - Dodgers @ Braves (July 31st-August 2nd)
July 31st - Jason Schmidt (1-1, 7.88) vs Tommy Hanson (5-1, 2.95)
Jason Schmidt has been an injury nightmare for the Dodgers since they brought him in before the 2007, recording a whopping total of 8 starts in those 2 and a half seasons. Not too good. His career in LA has been ravaged by high walks rates, high homer rates, and unfeasibly low strand rates. For a guy who's been as injured as Schmidt has been over the past few years, its tough to get a read on how he's going to perform. He's had a pair of pretty bad starts for the Dodgers this season, only striking out 3 men in a total of 8 innings while walking 4. I'm not even sure if Schmidt is all the way back, but honestly, I really doubt it. The Dodgers would love nothing more than to not have to worry about what he'll do in the rotation for them, but at this point, any trade for a pitcher like Halladay would require the Dodgers to trade either Chad Billingsley or Clayton Kershaw, which would require Schmidt to stay in the rotation. A shame, really.
Those gosh darn Milwaukee Brewers victimized Tommy Hanson in his last outing, but he pitched much better than he did 6 weeks ago. Despite only striking out 1, Hanson balanced that by walking just a pair, and kept his GB:FB even. For the game, Hanson allowed 2 runs in 7 innings, but was unfortunately bettered by Yovani Gallardo for Milwaukee, who was just spectacular. Hanson shouldn't need to be as good this time with Schmidt on the hill for the Dodgers, but stranger things have happened.
August 1st - Randy Wolf (5-5, 3.43) vs Derek Lowe (10-7, 4.20)
Oh Randy Wolf, what would we do without you? He's having an interesting season in LA. His strikeout and walk rates are at the lowest levels they've been since 2004, but his K:BB is reminiscent of the days early in his career in Philly in 2001 and 2002. His homer rate is dead on with his career average, but his numbers are skewed by a BABIP thats pretty low (currently at .264). Wolf's pitching this season is nearly identical to his pitching last season (2008 FIP: 4.17, 2009 FIP: 4.14), but yet, his ERA is nearly a full run lower this year. God bless the defense behind you.
Derek Lowe kept things rolling against Milwaukee last Sunday, allowing a pair of runs in a game that ended up being a blowout win for the Braves. I'm encouraged by the groundballs exceeding the flyballs, and the walk rate sinking down a little further. Lowe will be fine if those 2 trends continue, which I'm hoping they will. The Dodgers hit the third most ground balls in the NL (currently at 45.9%, behind the Astros & Mets), so hopefully Lowe will be able to get them to roll over on the ball a lot and look stupid, and give Chipper and whoever starts in the middle infield (more on this in a couple sections) an easy night.
August 2nd - Chad Billingsley (10-6, 3.96) vs Jair Jurrjens (9-7, 2.69)
I have a huge mancrush on Chad Billingsley, as anyone who has ever played fantasy baseball with me can tell you. This kid is a really great young pitcher. He strikes over 8 per 9 and keeps the ball in the park and on the ground. I'm not in love with his walk rate...its sitting at over 4 this year, which is a number that makes me wince when it comes to pitchers and peripherals (that aren't ratios, of course). In his 4 year career, he's yet to post an ERA over 4 (despite FIPs well over that mark), and has won 10 or more games 3 straight years (including this year). I'm not going to say anything silly like he's a BORN GAMER or something like that, but he's just a really good young pitcher.
Speaking of really good young pitchers...Jair Jurrjens. He pitched pretty well on Tuesday in Miami, giving up 2 earned in 6 to earn a no decision matched up with the fantastic Ricky Nolasco. Most of JJ's numbers are nearly identical to last year (much like Wolf...theres 3 hundredths of a point difference in FIP between this year and last), but yet, he's got an ERA a run lower than last year (again...much like Wolf!). Why? Luck, of course. Jair's BABIP has dropped by 40 points, resulting in a 30 point drop in BAA and a .17 drop in WHIP. That explains it. Less baserunners = less runs scored. Its really that simple. Though I really don't know how thats happening, since he's had some pretty bad defense behind him, especially in the outfield with Matt Diaz being the only real adequate fielder all season (Gold Gloves not withstanding). Just a little something we'll have to think about.
Now we get to what I was talking about earlier. Martin Prado took a liner to the leg in fielding practice before tonight's game in Miami, and was scratched from the lineup. Kelly Johnson started in his place. Also, Yunel Escobar got hit in the wrist/forearm area in the second inning of the game, and was pulled when the team came out for defense in the bottom of the inning. He was replaced by Diory Hernandez. An update during the game said that both players had contusions and were day to day, and that no x-rays were required. Thats a relief, because if Escobar would be out for any extended period of time, this team would be absolutely doomed with how well he's playing lately. The loss of Prado would also hurt the team a good deal, but the blow would be dampered assuming Kelly Johnson's head is back on straight and that his wrist issues are under control. Judging from tonight's game, maybe neither of those are true and we're totally screwed if KJ gets any playing time. We shall see.
Also, a big BravesHeart umpire fist bump goes out to Garret Anderson, who's now hitting .300 on the season with an .802 OPS. At this moment in time, he's performing exactly as his career numbers would suggest, which has naysayers like me eating a giant heaping plate of crow (with a side of Taco Bell's volcano sauce). Over the month of July, he OPSed .991 with 5 homers (more than half of his season total). If August and September are anything like that, we could have one hell of a force to be reckoned with in left.
Weekend schedule: series recap of the Marlins series will be up tomorrow evening (I wanna do it tonight, but dammit, I'm just too tired), HOT or NOT on Saturday afternoon (hopefully early in the day...I'm going to the local AA team in the evening), series recap of the Dodgers series on Sunday night (the game is the ESPN game...so yeah, late night for me. Sigh), and look at that, I have to get the Padres series preview up on Sunday as well. Wheeeee....and to think, I wanted to do a little minor league HOT or NOT type thing. We shall see...I don't foresee my schedule suddenly crowding up...but youneverknow.
So after salvaging the series against Florida, the Braves return home for a quick weekend homestand against the best team in baseball, the LA Dodgers. Fantastic. By the time this series kicks off, the pitching matchups may have been thrown all out of whack for the Dodgers, who are still in discussions to acquire Roy Halladay from Toronto, so I'm just previewing the CURRENT MATCHUPS AS OF THURSDAY NIGHT. If things change in the next 24 hours...these things happen. My previews always get screwed over by various reasons anyway.