A rematch of the greatest world series of all time, though with considerably less at stake. The Braves got off to a slow start this year, winning just nine games in all of April, but after winning 12 of their past 16 games, are now leading their division by 2.5 games. Of course, the big story of the year has been likely ROY Jason Heyward. Heyward was one of the top prospects in the Braves’ system and has been every bit as good as advertised: batting .272/.398/.505 with a .393 wOBA, .233 ISO, and providing above-average defense in the outfield. Oh yeah, the Braves also dealt away Javier Vazquez during the offseason, since their starting rotation was pretty strong and they didn’t really want to pay the $11.5 million left on his contract (also, I’m guessing they couldn’t find any takers for Derek Lowe). The trade looked like a win for the Yankees at the time, but now it kind of looks like a wash. Anyway, for more on the Braves and the series, check out Tomahawk Take.
Friday, June 11:
Tim Hudson: 2.44 ERA, 4.44 xFIP, 1.17 K/BB, 3.97 tERA. It’s the matchup of former greatest-pitchers-in-the-AL looking to recapture their pre-Tommy John glory. Hudson is quite a bit older than Liriano and his chances of returning to his previous form are pretty long, but he’s been a useful pitcher since returning last year. The Braves organization hopes the 35 year-old Hudson will continue being useful for the next three years.
Francisco Liriano: 3.10 ERA, 3.13 xFIP, 3.62 K/BB, 2.46 tERA. I’ve said my piece about F-Bomb here. Oh, and don’t let Hudson’s shiny ERA and 6-1 record fool you: Liriano has been the better pitcher in almost every way this year.
Saturday, June 12:
Derek Lowe: 5.04 ERA, 4.24 xFIP, 1.38 K/BB, 4.38 tERA. This is the battle of two league-average sinkerballers hoping to not get shelled. Lowe is long removed from his days as a 3+ win pitcher, posting a 4.77 ERA since signing with the Braves. I predict a 10-9 Twins win.
Nick Blackburn: 5.21 ERA, 5.18 xFIP, 1.21 K/BB, 5.11 tERA. Blackburn has the lowest strikeout rate of his entire career, a league-worst 2.27 K/9, so it’s no wonder he’s getting smacked around. Oh, and if you think the Blackburn contract is bad, check out what the Braves are paying Lowe.
Sunday, June, 13:
Kris Medlen: 3.21 ERA, 3.72 xFIP, 4.33 K/BB, 4.41 tERA. Medlen has been pretty lights out in his second season with the Braves. He and Tommy Hanson essentially made Vazquez expendable.
Kevin Slowey: 3.45 ERA, 4.64 xFIP, 3.27 K/BB, 4.00 tERA. After failing to make it past the fifth inning in all but two starts, Slowey is coming off of back-to-back strong outings. The righty struggled a bit with his control, posting a career-high 2.83 BB/9 rate through the end of May, but it’s now around his career average. We will see how the control artist fares against a lineup currently leading the NL in walks.