Series Preview - Mets @ Braves (July 16-19)
July 16th - Oliver Perez (2-2, 8.78) vs Derek Lowe (8-7, 4.39)
Oliver Perez has really never been that good of a pitcher. His best year was 2007, when he posted a FIP of 4.35, aided by a career high strikeout rate of 8.85 (and just for the hell of it, a walk rate of 4.02). In the 2 years since that miracle season, his strikeouts have decreased, and his walks have increased...this season, the increase in walks was very sharp, with a jump to 9.45 per 9. You don't want a walk rate that resembles an awesome strikeout rate...thats really, really not good times. His strikeouts have decreased by about a full batter per inning since 2007, but his homer rate has actually dropped. The walks are clearly the major horrible issue for Perez. If he can manage to get them to somewhere along his career level, he should be OK. But the big issue...can he manage to cut them as severely as he needs to?
Derek Lowe's last start was, how do they say...vintage D-Lowe. In his 6 innings at the hitting mecca of the world, Coors Field, Lowe allowed 1 run and 4 hits while only walking 1 in 6 fine innings of work. Just as a special shoutout to me, he even struck out 5 batters, and threw up a 10:6 GB:FB ratio. If Lowe can put up a couple more starts like that this July, he can really wash the sour taste of a bad June out of the mouths of very fickle and demanding Braves fanbase.
July 17th - Mike Pelfrey (7-4, 4.47) vs Jair Jurrjens (7-7, 2.91)
Ah yes, Mr Pelfrey. He's not that great. He's not terrible either. Pelfrey is a ground ball pitcher, getting 2 on the ground for every 1 in the air this season. He's got an average walk rate (sitting at 3.28 this year) with an absolutely dire K rate (4.65....you don't want a K rate that close to your ERA). The main thing about Pelfrey that keeps his FIP low, is that he doesn't allow any home runs (only 6 all season, one of the best marks in the league). If Pelfrey keeps the ball down, he can have an effective outing. However, if the ball stays up, it could get rocketed all around the park, and things could go topsy turvy on him rather quickly. Fortunately for the Mets, he's been quite good this season.
Jair Jurrjens just kept doing what he's been doing at his last start in Colorado. 2 runs in 6 innings with 3 strikeouts and 3 walks. Ho hum. And honestly, he shouldn't have even given up those 2 runs, as he stayed in the game to start the 7th when he was beginning to labor a little bit. A homer to start the inning and a hit later, and he was out. JJ is becoming quite a workhorse this season, as he's only pitched less than 6 innings in a start 3 times since the beginning of May, and 2 of those starts were due to rain delays. Thankfully, he's throwing about 4 less pitches per start this year than last year, though the rain delays skew his numbers a little bit.
July 18th - Johan Santana (10-7, 3.09) vs Kenshin Kawakami (5-6, 4.26)
Crap, I knew we wouldn't miss him again. People have been saying that Santana is off this seasons...not nearly as good as he once was. But is he really? In a word...yes. His FIP this season is a startling 3.82, which he posted with the Twins in 2007, but before that, not since he was coming out of the bullpen. Santana's K rate is below his career norm, but higher than his mark posted last year in his debut in the Big Apple. His walk rate though, is at its highest level since 2002, when he was still only a part time starter. And the home run rate? Over 1, for only the second time since he became a full time starting pitcher. The ball is also getting up in the air moreso than usual for him. So, is Santana done? Of course not, thats complete lunacy. But is he the dominant, soul taking force he once was? Maybe not. But I'd like to see more than 18 starts of data before coming to that concluison.
By the time this start rolls around, it will be Kenshin Kawakami's first start in 10 days, since he allowed 1 hit to the Cubs over 6 innings back on the 8th in Chicago. It was a great bounceback start for Kawakami after his embarrassing showing in Washington on Independence Day weekend. I'd still like to see more strikeouts and less walks...but isn't that true of every pitcher? He's also allowed 5 homers over his last 7 starts. Obviously, not good. Cut that crap out, Kenshin.
July 19th - Fernando Nieve (3-3, 3.03) vs Javier Vazquez (6-7, 2.95)
When I looked at this matchup, I had to glance back twice, because I had no idea who Fernando Nieve was...I assumed someone meant Jon Niese and typoed really badly. But alas. The Mets picked Nieve off waivers from Houston back in March, and he started the season in Buffalo, where we went 3-0, 3.70 in 4 starts. He's got a decent line thusfar with the Mets, so whats the deal, is he legit, lucky, or what? Well...yeah, he's lucky. Nieve's strand rate is sitting at 85%, which makes his ERA drop drastically...FIP has him sitting at 4.83 due to a HR rate of 1.01, a K rate of 5.80, and a walk rate of 4.54. Nieve was straight up BAD for Houston last year, with a 8.44 ERA in the majors in 10 2/3 innings...he wasn't too much better in Round Rock, with a 5.72 ERA in 72 1/3 innings. I hope to god the Braves burst his bubble with a machete on Sunday.
Javier Vazquez was supposed to start for the Braves on the Sunday leading into the All-Star Break, but was scratched and sent back to Atlanta for evalution with a tweaked muscle in his abdomen. Kris Medlen started in his place, and didn't fare too well, not getting out of the 5th inning...a huge change from what we're used to with Vazquez. Javy has been absolutely fantastic all season, and has allowed 4 or more runs in only 4 of his 18 starts this season. Thats around one a month...hell, I'll take that ratio
The Braves offense put up some decent numbers in Colorado, averaging over 5 a game for the 4 game series. Martin Prado is still white hot, though the extra base hits have fallen off since he hit 5 doubles in 3 games against the Nats. Brooks Conrad is also on a nice little hot streak, starting all 4 games of the Rockies series and busting out with 6 hits in 17 at bats. If we can keep getting production like that out of a sub like Conrad, things could be looking up in the second half.
FINALLY, we get another crack at the Mets. The Braves are 2-3 against the Mets this season, taking 2 out of 3 in New York back in May, and losing 2 straight at home just a week earlier. This time however, we are missing the albatross known as Jeff Francoeur...who is now a New York Met! Hooray! Also, we luckily get to face the really, really bad Oliver Perez (who is an albatross of a whole nother kind on the Mets). Without any further ado...