Posted by JoshEngleman on 27th July 2009
Hello fellow Braves fans. My name is Josh and this will be my first post here for the Braves Baseball Blog at NL East Chatter. For a bit of background, I’m 24 and have been a Braves fan since the 1991 squad stormed the baseball world. When I was younger, I had a very unhealthy obsession with Jeff Blauser and Mark Lemke. I have a Steve Avery Starting Lineup figure which hung like a trophy in my cubicle at work. I hate Kirby Puckett and Jack Morris. I recently moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, which gives me significantly easier access to seeing a Braves game in Atlanta. While I enjoyed antagonizing Phillies fans each time I went to a game, I would much rather be a full part of the crowd. Anyway, that’s enough about me. Here’s a preview of the upcoming series against the Marlins.
If you aren’t familiar with some of the stats and terminology in the preview, I highly recommend heading over to FanGraphs. All of the things I talk about will be referenced there. If there are any questions, feel free to ask and I’ll be happy to explain myself further.
Atlanta Braves (51-48 6.5GB) @ Florida Marlins (51-48 6.5GB)
Braves Team Stats (Season): -3 wRAA, .327 wOBA, -18.7 UZR
Braves Team Stats (Last 30 days): 26 wRAA, .356 wOBA
Marlins Team Stats (Season): -29 wRAA, .319 wOBA, -10.0 UZR
Marlins Team Stats: (Last 30 days): -12 wRAA, .311 wOBA
ATL: Jair Jurrjens (3.64 FIP, 6.19 K/9, 3.30 BB/9, 2.4 WAR)
FLO: Ricky Nolasco (3.44 FIP, 9.17 K/9, 2.27 BB/9, 2.1 WAR)
This should be a great game to watch. Nolasco has been exceptional all season, although you might not realize that if you only look at his ERA. His demotion at the end of May was unwarranted, as his peripheral stats all seemed to be where they should be. Nolasco’s biggest problem has been luck. He is currently sporting a BABIP of .353, which is .04 higher than his expected BABIP of .313. Those extra hits have proved costly. Between that and 60% LOB rate (which should be around 70%), Nolasco has been the victim of bad luck. Jurrjens’ luck has gone the other way so far, which is not to say that he hasn’t been good. He’s been a bit fortunate on his balls in play, his strand rate is touch high (77%) and his K/9 is down half a strikeout from last season. His ERA is misleading and should likely be where it was last year, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good. Jurrjens’ ability to keep the ball in the park allows him to get by without having the stuff to miss a lot of bats.
From what I see, there isn’t a Vegas line available yet. My guess is that we won’t be favored. Being able to steal this game and break the tie would be a great way kick start this series.
ATL: Kenshin Kawakami (4.35 FIP, 6.46 K/9, 3.86 BB/9, 1.1 WAR)
FLO: Josh Johnson (2.92 FIP, 7.53 K/9, 2.33 BB/9, 3.6 WAR)
As we move from one great Marlins’ starter to another, Kawakami draws the short straw to see who faces arguably the best young pitcher in the NL not named Tim Lincecum. Kawakami has been as-advertised to this point. With his current pace, he’ll likely provide the value that his contract is paying him this season. Johnson, on the other hand, will be worth exponentially more than his contract pays him. He is the total package; misses bats, doesn’t walk people, keeps the ball in the park. It shouldn’t be too long before the Marlins need to jettison Johnson due to contract demands, because he is the real deal.
We will likely be a sizeable underdog in this game and with good reason. A win here would be a pretty big surprise.
ATL: Javier Vazquez (2.53 FIP, 10.15 K/9, 1.83 BB/9, 4.4 WAR)
FLO: Rick VandenHurk
VandenHurk is making his 3rd start of the season, so listing his stats would be a bit misleading. From what I see, he throws predominantly fastballs, mixing in a curveball and a change. It seems like he strikes out hitters at a better than average rate, but he’s never thrown more than 82 innings at one level in a season, so it’s hard to get a true read. But never mind Vanderhurk, the real story in this game is Javier Vazquez. Vazquez has been otherworldly since coming to the Braves, although his record doesn’t exactly show it. The stat that I find so interesting has been his control. He’s walking less than two batters per nine for the first time since 2005, which coincidently was his last season in the NL. If his first half numbers hold up, and I don’t see much reason that they won’t, he should be in the discussion for Cy Young. If the Braves can make the push into the wild card with Vazquez picking up some wins, he could pass Lincecum and Haren, since neither would make the playoffs.
We should be the favorite here. I think the Fish get game two and we should pick up game three, which means tomorrow night’s showdown between Jurrjens and Nolasco will be the swing game. Officially, I’m a bit nervous about our chances in this series. To me, it’s basically a coin-flip. I’m naturally pessimistic, so I’ll say the Marlins take this series.
First post on the blog and I’m picking against the Braves. Do I lose my fan card for this?