Braves Face Tough Giants Rotation Four Times This Weekend

Jair Jurrjens faces Tim Lincecum in the series opener. Photo courtesy of Tim Evearitt.

While we wait for word on Kris Medlen‘s MRI results, the Braves face a tough series ahead by seeing four pitchers from one of the best rotations in the league. The Giants come to town for the weekend and at the wrong time for the Braves.

The Giants went 20-8 in July and moved to within a game of the Padres in the NL West at 62-46. Offense has long been their problem but they turned that around last month, scoring five or more runs in 15 of their 20 wins. They’re middle of the road across the board offensively, posting a BB/K of 0.47, a .321 wOBA, and .145 ISO. Aubrey Huff has been the anchor of the lineup this season with a .411 wOBA and .241 ISO. Buster Posey is right behind at .402 wOBA and has played beyond expectations since his call up. Andres Torres has hit over his head all season and has contributed plenty to the offense, recording a .384 wOBA and has been worth more than four wins to the Giants. Pat Burrell has also been a pleasant surprise. Who hasn’t been a pleasant surprise is Pablo Sandoval, who is at a .304 wOBA and .118 ISO.

The Giants pitching staff has a 4.30 xFIP, good for seventh in the league. They have a better strikeout rate than any other staff in the league at 8.14 K/9, but also the worst BB/9 at 3.93. They have been perhaps the luckiest staff in the league this season with an E-F of -0.50 and BABIP of .291.

More after the jump…

It’s tough to say any matchup is better than the rest considering they are all very good, but any time Tim Lincecum pitches it’s worth watching. Even more so since he’s facing Jair Jurrjens on Thursday. Lincecum hasn’t been the same pitcher as in his past seasons, posting a 3.40 xFIP and 2.76 K/BB. His walks are up at 3.41 BB/9 and his strikeouts are down at 9.41 K/9. He’s also giving up more home runs, though the amount was so small to begin with you can’t take much from it. Lincecum’s command is off and his velocity is down some, causing some concern from the baseball world. He tweaked his delivery recently to come over the head with his hands. Lincecum continues to give up a good number of hits but only four runs in his last 15 innings, while walking three and striking out 14. He has good numbers against the Braves despite getting hit hard by them last season. He gave up two runs in seven innings against the Braves in April, striking out ten.

Despite the increase in runs allowed lately, Jurrjens is still pitching great and bad luck and bad managing has caused his increase in ERA. He allowed five runs in 6.2 innings to the Reds in his last start, but four were in the seventh when he should have never been out there to begin with. The best part was no walks and six strikeouts, which seems to be a trend recently. In his last three starts, Jurrjens has walked three and struck out 19. It makes me so happy I almost want to cry. He has allowed six runs in 20.2 innings against the Giants in his career.

Friday night’s game features another solid matchup in Barry Zito vs. Tommy Hanson. Zito has been getting praise for reviving his career and returning to his Oakland ways, when in fact he’s pitching about as bad as he usually does. He has an xFIP of 4.70 and a BABIP of .271 shows that 3.38 ERA isn’t indicative of how he has pitched. He is walking fewer at 3.38 BB/9 but strikeouts remain low at 6.52 K/9 and his whiff rate remains the same, which isn’t good. He has been worth 2.2 wins to the Giants, which is the same as last year. Zito gave up just one run on three hits in seven innings against the Dodgers in his last start. He has had success against the Braves in four starts, giving up seven runs in 26 innings.

Hanson has pitched much better recently despite awful defense behind him. He has given up just two earned runs in his last 13.1 innings, walking one and striking out 13. Hanson has one career start against the Giants and it was good, allowing three runs on five hits in seven innings, walking three and striking out 11.

Saturday’s game features Matt Cain against Tim Hudson. Cain is in the same boat as Zito in that his shiny ERA is covering how he is really pitching. Cain has never pitched to his ERA but his .255 BABIP this season is by far his lowest. His 4.50 xFIP is right in line with his average. He is walking the lowest amount of his career at 2.98 BB/9 but he’s also striking out the fewest at 6.74 K/9. In turn, his whiff rate is the lowest of his career. As a result, Cain’s WAR of 2.6 is the lowest of his career. It’s hard to believe how people continue to say how unlucky he is. Cain has pitched a shutout in two of his past three starts, including 7.2 shutout innings on four hits against the Dodgers last time out. He has allowed ten runs in 24 career innings against the Braves.

Hudson wasn’t as sharp in his last start, walking three and striking out three while giving up six hits in six innings. But his luck remained as he allowed just one run in a win over the Mets. Hudson has a 3.90 ERA in 12 starts against the Giants. He allowed two runs on three hits in seven innings against them in his first start of the season.

The Sunday afternoon game will see Jonathan Sanchez face Derek Lowe. Sanchez is pitching right in line with his averages this season despite a drop in ERA. He has a 4.20 xFIP and a .281 BABIP shows that the 3.38 ERA is a little low. As always, he walks a ton at 4.57 BB/9 and strikes out a ton at 9.56 K/9. Sanchez pitched six shutout innings in his last start against the Rockies, allowing three hits, walking four and striking out nine. The Braves have hit him in the past, scoring 14 runs in 23 innings, though they have struck out 27 times. He gave up three runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings against them in April, striking out six.

Lowe was actually efficient in his last start, allowing one run on six hits in six innings against the Mets, not walking any and striking out three. It was a nice change. Lowe has a 3.00 ERA in 16 career starts against the Giants, including allowing one run on four hits in six innings against them in April, though he walked seven.

Topics: Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants

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