May 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game 1 in St. Louis
Following a series loss to the Cubs in Chicago, the Braves wrap up their road trip with three in St. Louis against the 20-11, first-place Cardinals. Mike Minor faces Jaime Garcia at 8:15. Atlanta: Peachtree TV, Fox Sports South, WNNX 100.5, WCC 680. St. Louis: Fox Sports Midwest, KMOX 1120. National: MLB Network.
Braves lineup: Michael Bourn (CF), Martin Prado (LF), Freddie Freeman (1B), Dan Uggla (2B), Brian McCann (C), Chipper Jones (3B), Jason Heyward (RF), Tyler Pastornicky (SS), Mike Minor (P).
Cardinals lineup: Rafael Furcal (S, SS), Jon Jay (L, CF), Matt Holliday (R, LF), Carlos Beltran (S, RF), Allen Craig (R, 1B), Yadier Molina (R, C), Matt Carpenter (L, 3B), Tyler Greene (R, 2B), Jaime Garcia (L, P).
Mike Minor’s peripherals certainly spell regression from his 5.97 ERA in 37.2 innings, but this is due to his last two starts. He has maintained a 21.7 K% and 7.6 BB% while recording a swinging strike percentage of 8.7%. But in his last two outings, Minor has allowed 15 runs in 11.1 innings. His walks have been up, allowing six unintentional free passes over this stretch. But there is no reason to believe this will continue going forward. The Braves will certainly need much better from Minor as he faces the offense with the most runs scored in the National League.
Jaime Garcia continues to produce solid numbers, although he’s doing so without the normal strikeout rate, which is at 13.8% right now. A pitcher with a career 18.2 K% is likely to see an increase from 13.8% as the season progresses. To do so, he will need more whiffs from his breaking pitches. He’s throwing more sliders, but his whiff/swing rate on the pitch is down to 24%, off from his career mark of 39%. His curve has been relatively ineffective, as he has thrown it only 8% of the time and received a whiff/swing rate of 7%. Garcia is relying more heavily on his go-to changeup, and he’s getting excellent results, recording a whiff/swing rate of 55%. The Braves will need to identify the change, because if it’s working for Garcia, they will see it quite often.
Update (4:00p): Diane Firstman of the SweetSpot blog features the Braves and Pirates and their extreme run differentials from this year and last year.
In case you missed the update on the news post late yesterday, I’ll give it to you again here: Jim Callis of Baseball America has his first mock draft of the year, with the Braves choosing Georgia Southern outfielder Victor Roache 21st overall. This immediately raised an eyebrow because of several things. Roache is a local at Southern, so it makes sense. He’s a college outfielder with the potential for great power, but he broke his left wrist at the beginning of the season, so he will be coming back raw, and it’s unknown whether the wrist will play a factor going forward. Also, I’ve seen Roache mentioned all over the board in the first round since his wrist injury, as people are not really sure how teams will view him come draft day. Roache is certainly an intriguing pick with the potential for solid power, and if he falls to the Braves, I would be happy to see him get chosen; not to mention the dearth of position player talent in this year’s draft. But there’s really no way of knowing where he will land.
Chipper Jones and agent B.B. Abbott are featured by Mark Bowman in a great piece.
Jason Dunbar of The Hardball Times combs through Brooks Baseball’s data to find the best whiff/swing rates in the game for a particular pitch. Jonny Venters tops the list with his slider.
Max Marchi of Baseball Prospectus examines velocity readings and factors that influence them.
Around the NL East
The Nationals checked in on the availability of Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos. It’s no secret the Nationals need better production up the middle, and I’ve mentioned several times in the past they will likely attempt to go big for a center fielder at some point to solve the issue once and for all.
Ruben Amaro said if the Phillies continue to play at this rate in July, they will be sellers at the deadline.
Stephen Strasburg did Strasburg things to the Pirates on Thursday, including receiving 20 whiffs and 13 strikeouts in six innings. David Schoenfield answers the question of how to stretch Strasburg’s innings.