Friday, April 22, 2011

Pirates vs. Nationals (Series Seven)

Swept again. It didn’t help that we faced what I, at least, consider two very good pitchers in Florida but the bats were absolutely dead. Still the starting pitching just didn’t show up and with the bats being frozen there isn’t much you can do. This team is going to be a rollercoaster, they are young. Pedro may have broken out of his slump this last game and that’s huge. Being able to move him back up in the order will be good for everyone. The Pirates really need to regroup at home though after their pathetic first homestand.

The Pirates were downright terrible last season against the pathetic Nationals. They were 1-5 against the type of team they really need to beat. The nationals outscored them by 18 runs, or about three runs a game. One of the “highlights” of last season was the Pirates getting some national coverage as they were the team that went against Stephen Strasburg in his Major League Debut. A game that would see the fireballer strikeout 14 and walk none en route to his 7 inning win against the Buccos. The only great offense in that game was Delwyn Young’s homer.

The Nationals probable starters are Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, and John Lannan

Livan Hernandez (36) RHP

I literally do not remember a time without Livan Hernandez. This guy made his debut in 1996, when I was just eleven years old. Hernandez is coming off a bit of a bounce back season. A season which saw him get ten wins for the first time since 2008, and a season that featured his lowest ERA (3.66) since his 3.60, 2004 season. He really kept the ball in the park too, his .7 HR/9 was his second best, and his best amongst seasons with twenty or more starts. If there was one cause for concern last year it was the high number of walks compared to strikeouts, although I wouldn’t call a 2.7 BB/9 absurd or anything, his 4.8 SO/9 was very low.

Hernandez is doing it again too. He is already 2-1 in his four starts and he is sporting a very nice 2.88 ERA. He has cut down on the walks thus far, but his SO/9 is nearly identical to last year. This is a guy that needs to get outs from his defense, but surprisingly his WHIP is on track to be the lowest of his career. It’s way too early to say that Livan Hernandez is going to have a career year, but the early signs have to be encouraging for the Nationals. The real question is will he be able to hold up at the age of 36? Only time will tell.

So far this year Hernandez has three quality starts in four games. His only non-quality start was a five inning start against the Marlins in which they hit him up for four earned and made him throw 97 pitches. His only loss this season came in his first start, a game which saw him give up just two earned over 6.1 innings. They would be the only two runs the Braves would score, but the bats failed Hernandez and the Nationals were shutout in what was a pretty good first start for Hernandez.

Overall Hernandez was pretty bad against the Pirates last season. In his two starts he threw just 10.1 innings, allowing an average of one run in each, and giving up 13 hits. He did strike out seven but he also walked four, not very good numbers against such a free swinging team. It wasn’t two bad starts though, the overwhelming majority of the damage came at PNC. He lasted just 4.1 innings but gave up eight hits, eight runs, one homer, and two of his four walks.

For someone who has been in the league as long as Hernandez, spending the majority of his time in the National League, I’m surprised he has only faced the Pirates 16 times. Chalk that up to never being in the same division I guess. He has really had mixed results though, going 5-5 with a 5.52 ERA. He has 93.0 innings, less than six innings per start on average, and has given up a whopping 117 hits over that span. Pirates have a .317/.365/.493 line lifetime against Hernandez. He has had little success in Pittsburgh. He was 0-1 in two starts at Three Rivers with a 17.05 ERA. His PNC numbers are substantially better, but not very good. He is 1-4 lifetime at PNC giving up a healthy .321/.357/.505 line at America’s Best Ballpark, and bringing along a 6.17 ERA.

Jason Marquis (32) RHP

Marquis is in his second season with the Nationals after an injury plagued 2010 season saw him make just 13, pretty bad, starts. Marquis spent the time between April 22 and August 8 on the disabled list with bone chips in his throwing elbow. He was good after coming off the DL though, at least better. When he went on the DL he was sporting a 20.52 ERA, after his DL trip he put up a 4.29 ERA, although he did pick up just two wins to six losses in his ten games. He wasn’t “good” but he was better.

So far so good this year for Marquis, he only has one win win in three starts and he is getting hit around to the tune of 10.1 per 9 but he isn’t walking guys, and his strikeout numbers are well above his average. This screams out unsustainable though. We’re talking about a veteran pitcher who has consistently sat in the 1.51 SO/BB range suddenly pitching at a smoking 5.00. I’d expect both his stirkeouts numbers and walk rates to come much closer together sooner, rather than later. Still he is pitching good, and no one can take that away from him.

He was able to make one start against the Pirates last year, a beauty at PNC Park, in which he pitched 6 innings of one run ball. The only run allowed came on a solo homer, and he didn’t walk a batter. He did pick up the road win though for the Nationals.

Marquis is extremely familiar with the Pirates spending time in the same division. He has appeared in 26 games against the Pirates taking the hill as starter in 22 of them and he has been very good. He is 11-6 against the Buccos with a solid, but unspectacular ERA of 3.57. The good news is no team has taken him deep or been hit by a pitch more than the Buccos. The bad news is that he pitches well at PNC. Of his eleven wins six of them came at PNC Park and his ERA is actually better there, coming in at 3.24. In fact of the 18 homers he has allowed to Pirates batter’s nine of them have come at PNC. His SO/BB is exactly the same at PNC too. He is clearly pretty neutral to pitching as the home or away pitcher against your Pirates.

John Lannan (26) LHP

Lannan was finally announced the probable pitcher for Sunday after what must have been a few days of debate. Riggleman seems to be turning into the next Dusty Baker in Washington, throwing the lefty who is coming off of two straight hundred plus pitch games on just three days rest. Gotta question that move when you consider it’s an April road game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Lannan was mediocre last season, a boring 8-8 record and a ho-hum 4.65 ERA highlight some equally mediocre secondary numbers, including a WHIP of 1.563, 11.0 H/9, and a 1.45 SO/BB.

Lannan is having a pretty good year, already having 2 wins in four starts with a 3.43 ERA. He is getting decent results in spite of some shaky peripherals though. He is giving up 10.1 H/9, and isn’t really striking out that many in relation to his walks (1.33). In fact he has only gone 6 innings once in his four starts, the other three going for 5.0 each. Problem is he has needed a lot of pitches to get through them. His last three starts saw him go 90 (in six innings) then 100 and 101 (both in five). He has only given up two runs in each of his last five but if he can’t get deeper in games, even with that many pitches thrown he is going to start to really tax this bullpen and have trouble picking up decisions. His season high thus far is four strikeouts, and he hasn’t struck out more batters than he has walked since his second start on April 7th.

The lefty picked up his only career win in two starts against the Buccos last year. He posted a 3.86 ERA overall against the Bucs, but his ERA at PNC Park was an outstanding 1.29. Out of 11.2 innings pitched against the Pirates last season seven of them came in his five hit, seven strikeout performance at PNC. The only run he allowed was a solo homer. His other start at home was pretty bad. It lasted just 4.2 innings and saw him give up four runs on ten hits.

For his career he is 1-3 in six starts, and his ERA is 4.67, much like his usual self. He does seems to strikeout the Bucs at a bit higher clip, but that is to be expected.


vs. Hernandez

vs. Marquis

vs. Lannan

vs. Nationals

Pedro Alvarez





John Bowker





Ronny Cedeno





Matt Diaz





Ryan Doumit





Garrett Jones





Andrew McCutchen





Lyle Overbay





Steve Pearce





Josh Rodriguez





Chris Snyder





Jose Tabata





Neil Walker





The Pirates probable pitchers are Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia, and Paul Maholm.

Jeff Karstens (28) RHP

With word that Ross Ohlendorf is probably another month away Jeff Karstens will get another turn in the rotation. Karstens was very good in the early going before hitting the “Great Wall of Karstens” and getting bombed in the fifth. He gave up five runs, including two homers, on eight hits. Those were the first runs Karstens allowed this season. Karstens is notorious for not being able to go deep into games, and the fact that a swingman who usually pitches out of the bullpen was going on eight days rest was an absolute recipe for disaster.

Karstens faced the Nats once last season, and went his maximum five innings. He was bombed though, giving up four runs on nine hits. Three of those hits made their way over the fence though which is a bit of a problem for Karstens who is a fly-ball pitcher.

Karstens has four appearances against the Nationals of which two were starts. The fact that he has just 13.2 innings isn’t encouraging considering he started twice and isn’t the type of pitcher who goes out there for one batter. He has given up a whopping 24 Hits in those innings and FIVE homers. He only has six strikeouts, and has three walks to go with them. Needless to say Jeff Karstens hasn’t been good at all against the Nationals.

Kevin Correia (30) RHP

Kevin Correia continues to prove the doubters wrong (this guy included), already out to a 3-1 record. His last start, which was thrown on four days rest, was a complete game gem that was just a ninth inning two run homer away from being a complete game shutout. He has gone at least six innings in every one of his starts, and the only non-complete game was one in which he ran into one rough inning after pitching five innings of no hit ball. There are still a lot of things to complain about with this staff, but Kevin Correia can’t be considered one of them as of right now.

Correia did not face the Nationals last season but he does have ten career appearances against them. Surprisingly of those ten appearances only three of them were starts. He has been solid though. He is 2-1 with a 2.32 ERA in 31.0 innings. Just fairly steady numbers, his WHIP is a steady 1.097, tops amongst teams he has faced 10 or more times.

Paul Maholm (28) LHP

Paul Maholm actually had the exact opposite start of his previous game his last time out. He started off pretty good, but rapidly went down hill. His last start was concerning because it marks the fourth time in ten starts, going back to last year, Maholm has gone 3.2 or less innings. Even worse is the fact that he has gone less than six innings in five of those ten starts.

Maholm has looked shaky all season though. He had trouble inducing ground balls in his first start but it didn’t hurt him. His second start he gave up three in just 5.2 innings, only striking out one. His third start was very nice and featured him rebound after a rocky start. His last start was by far the worst. Maholm threw 76 pitches to get through just 3.2 innings and gave up six runs on seven hits. He also walked three batters for the second game in a row.

One of those five starts I mentioned earlier was against the Washington Nationals. In Maholm’s only start against Washington last season he got bombed. Maholm needed 85 pitches to get through just 4.1 innings at PNC. The Nationals only managed one homer, but when you give up nine hits in so few innings it should come as little surprise that the Nationals were able to plate seven runs.

Maholm has never defeated the Nationals, although he has four losses in seven games. His 41.2 innings are just a shade under six, but the 56 hits he has allowed are well beyond the realms of reasonable. No non-division opponent has hit more homers off Maholm than the Nationals (10), and even the Astros and Cardinals don’t have that many. Of teams Maholm has faced five or more times his 6.26 ERA against the Nationals is his worst.

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