Monday, April 29, 2013

Series Preview: Nationals #2

This week gives us a 4 game series with the Nats, the second series of the season. This time, we get the Nats at home after sweeping them in their building. I'm sure they'd love to return the favor, but both teams have been struggling in their last 10 games. Let's hit the matchups.

Game 1: Teheran (1-0) v. Strasburg (1-4)
Game 2: Hudson (2-1) v. Gonzalez (2-1)
Game 3: Maholm (3-2) v. Zimmerman (4-1)
Game 4: Medlen (1-3) v. Haren (2-3)

This first game pits a struggling Strasburg versus a confident Teheran. Julio Teheran is confident because the Braves haven't lost with him on the mound yet, and he's received the benefit of 7 runs per game in run support. My grandmother could win for the Braves with seven runs of support, and then make pie for dessert. It's good pie too, chocolate chess pie with a little dollup for whipped cream on top. That stuff will rock your socks. Strasburg, on the other hand, has had nothing but losses since his first start in April. In fact, he's 0-4 with an ERA of 4.06 for that stretch. Strasburg has had major problems with the first inning of games, and much of the damage done against him has happened very early. He's prone to command issues first time through the lineup, and as a result he's put many men on base with mislocated pitches or walks. That means the Braves need to jump on Strasburg from the first pitch and never let up.

Game 2 pits the two most solid home field pitchers on each team against each other. Huddy had his last two games on the road and got roughed up badly. As a result his road ERA is almost 2 runs higher than his home ERA. Huddy's history at home bears that split out even more, as over the last 3 years he's maintained an ERA near 2.80, a 29-14 record, and a sub .230 opposing batting average. Gio Gonzalez certainly dislikes pitching on the road, but he dislikes even more pitching to Atlanta. He got reamed for 7 runs in 5 innings against us in his first series, and he's held a 4.57 ERA against Atlanta over the last 3 seasons. In addition to that, his ERA is over a run higher on the road in the last 3 years, along with opposing batters hitting 27 points higher. The Braves will look to give him even more fits while Huddy looks to settle into cruise control with some home cooking.

Game 3 will be rough. Zimmerman is coming off of a complete game 1 hitter against the Reds, and a 2.00 ERA on the season. In no game has he given up more 3 runs across 5 outings. Twice he's gone the full 9 innings, one at home and one on the road. His 4-1 record is no accident, and he leads the NL in that category. However, he's yet to face the Braves this season. The odd thing about Zimmerman is that his 4-1 record is a departure from a guy who's been 21-21 over the last 3 years. He's way above his head early on in the season, which may mean the Braves can bring him back to the norm. His 4.03 ERA against Atlanta would suggest that's a possibility, given that he's only won 1 of the 4 games he's started against us. Meanwhile, Maholm is coming off his own road disasters in Pitt and Detroit, looking to reestablish his form from the beginning of the month. The upside is that Maholm has held the Nats lineup to under .700 on the OPS, and his ERA at Turner Field is 3.24 in recent years. The bad news is that he's 1-3 against the Nats with a 5.84 ERA in that stretch. I can't say for certain who holds the advantage here, but it's a game of conflicting trends. The key may be who strikes first.

Game 4 features Kris Medlen, who has been about as far from his last season form as possible. Medlen has had major trouble with his command, and that's a huge concern for a guy who doesn't have overpowering speed. Even so, he's posting a 3.26 ERA in spite the shellacking the Tigers laid on him. The truth is that Medlen isn't getting the movement he wants on his fastball right now, and it's tailing back over the plate too much to hitters. That's why he's getting hit hard, and that's what he has to fix to get back on track. It's not something drastic, it's just an adjustment on one of his pitches to get the command he wants. When that happens, he's good to go. Dan Haren for the Nationals is also struggling with command. In 2013, his WHIP is 1.73 with the majority of that coming from hits. He keeps getting knocked around the yard, and knocked out of games before the 6th inning. The exception was his last game against Cincy where he went 6 IP with 2 ER and a homer. He's prone to getting his pitch count up early, and we all know what happens we you get to the Nationals bullpen. It's 21st in the majors for a reason. It blows.

Since I'm back from Hawaii, that means the CPA is back from it's vacation as well. Let's hope a little layoff brings back the good mojo.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 5 - Nats 3

The CPA thinks both of these starters will give up some runs, but that it comes down to a battle of a bullpens in the last 3 innings and the Braves have the edge to win after a bad road trip. Strasburg has trouble keeping the Braves off the basepaths with a .257 average and a 4.17 ERA. All the more reason we should rough him up again.


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