Monday, May 9, 2011

Pirates vs. Dodgers Preview (Series Twelve)

Well what should have been a sweep of a poor team turned into another 2-1 series win for the Pirates and now has them sitting at .500. While this is definitely a positive, and there is no harm in being excited, I think some tempered expectations are in order. This is not the latest in the season the Pirates have been playing .500 ball, but this is how you get to the latest they have been playing .500 ball.

The Pirates have improved in two key areas. Obviously the first area is on the road. The Pirates won four road series last year, this year they have already won five, and their eleven road wins is good for second in the league.

The second area is divisional play. The Pirates have a 9-6 division record, on a pace to demolish last years 31- 48 division record. This has them sitting in third place, just 2.5 games behind the Cardinals for the division lead, with four more home games before heading back on the road for an odd seven game road trip in which they play two, two game series’. Five of those games come against divisional opponents, and five come against teams with a losing record. The Pirates have a great chance to make up some ground in the division in the next ten games, before their first taste of interleague play.

The Dodgers were your opening day opponent last season, a series in which the Pirates were victorious, winning two out of three. The Pirates ended up losing the season series against the Dodgers though, winning the first game and then dropping three straight. The Pirates averaged just two runs a game in that road series, after averaging over five in the first series at home.

The Dodgers probable pitchers are Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, and Jon Garland.

Chad Billingsley (26) RHP

First up is 26 year old veteran Chad Billingsley. Billingsley is another one of those somewhat young guys who just seems like he has been around forever. He is currently in his sixth season, coming up in 2006 as a 21 year old and being just a solid major league pitcher since. He is off to yet another solid start this season with a 2-1 record in seven starts and an ERA of 3.92. All of his numbers so far have just been good, 2.38 SO/BB, 8.3 SO/9, 3.5 BB/9, .7 HR/9, and a WHIP of 1.282. Solid, if unspectacular numbers.

Billingsley is on a streak of four straight games with 6+ IP, all but one a quality start. His last game was a seven inning four hitter in which the only run he allowed was a solo homer. He struck out eight, and gave up just two walks but it wasn’t enough for a decision as the bullpen allowed three runs to score, and the Dodgers only got him one run anyway. That was his second game of the season in which he went 7+ and didn’t give up a decision. The other as an 8 IP gem on April 17, 2011 in which Billingsley gave up just three hits and struck out eleven, giving up zero runs. Prior to that start he had actually struggled, pitching just 14 innings over three games and posting an ERA of 7.71.

Billingsley saw the Pirates twice last season, once at PNC and once at Dodger Stadium. He got a win in both games allowing just three runs over 11.1 innings, two of which came at Dodger Stadium. He actually allowed quite a few base runners, though the Pirates couldn’t capitalize. The WHIP overall of 1.588 is not extremely impressive, and going 6 and 5.1 innings respectively seems low for someone who posted a 2.38 against the Pirates.

Billingsley has never lost to the Pirates. He is 4-0 in his eight appearances (four starts) with a 4.73 ERA. A pretty high number given the success of his two starts last season being included in it. He just seems to put Pirates on. 29 hits in 26.2 innings and, while he has struck out 26, he has walked 14. Billingsley has allowed two homers against the Pirates, both of them came at PNC Park, where Pirates are hitting him to the tune of .269/.345/.423.

Surprisingly few current Pirates have faced Billingsley, Chris Snyder (.136/.208/.409) has two homers , Ryan Doumit (.556/.636/.667), Garrett Jones (.000/.667/.000), Andrew McCutchen (.333/.333/.500), and Matt Diaz (.000/.000/.000) being the only ones. He will not be included in the below chart for that reason.

Ted Lilly (35) LHP

The Dodgers rotation is a pretty good mix of young and old. Ted Lilly has almost ten years on the guy pitching before him, but the lefty hasn’t shown his age the past two seasons. Lilly was traded to the Dodgers mid-season from the hated Cubs, along with Ryan Theriot, for Blake Dewitt and prospects Brett Wallach and Kyle Smit. Except for an increase in SO/9 Lilly was basically the same pitcher we saw with the Cubs after the trade. This season he has struggled a bit though. He has a 2-3 record but his ERA is up to 4.93 in seven starts. You’d have to go back to 2005 to find a worse full season ERA than that for Mr. Lilly. Lilly has always given up his share of homers, and he isn’t really off pace this year, the problem is hits. Guys aren’t fooled by his stuff so far, and he is giving up 11.3 hits per nine. Lilly doesn’t strike out a whole ton of guys, but he can get away with it because he doesn’t walk many either. Even though his SO/9 this season is 5.9, his SO/BB is a good 3.13. Lilly has lasted six plus four times so far, but only has two quality starts to show for it. His last outing, a loss to the Cubs, saw him go six innings but give up five earned on eight hits, three of which were homers. Oddly his homers seem to come in bunches, having no games with one homer and two multi-homer games.

Lilly had four starts against the Pirates last season, his most against any team, and he had a losing record of 1-2. His 3.58 ERA was good, but he had problems keeping the Pirates off the basepaths, he gave up 27 hits in 27.1 innings, and allowed four homers. He didn’t strike Pirates batters out at a great clip either, just 5.5 per nine against a really bad strikeout club last season.

Lilly picked up both of his losses at PNC Park last season. He lost both of his starts in the Burgh and gave up three of his four homers there and the Pirates scored seven of their eleven runs against him in the Steel City.

Lilly hasn’t been much better career-wise against the Buccos either. He has faced them sixteen times, fourteen starts, and has just a 5-4 record, with an ERA of 4.08. He has given up a ton of hits to the Pirates over the course of his career, allowing more than one per inning. His 101 hits allowed come in just 92.2 innings. The total hits allowed is second most to the Boston Red Sox, who have 104 hits, although they came in 111.1 innings. His PNC numbers are a tad bit worse. He is 3-3 in nine appearances (all starts) with a 4.50 ERA. Out of 11 career homers allowed to the Pirates ten of them came at PNC. He has also allowed 66 hits in just 56.0 innings.

Hiroki Kuroda (36) RHP

And we go from old to older. Kuroda has been consistent if nothing else in the big leagues. Sadly for the Bucs their is something else, he has been pretty damn good in his four big league seasons. His ERA per season has looked like this, 3.73, 3.76, 3.39, and his current ERA is 3.69. Remarkably consistent. The only real anomalies in his secondary numbers are this year. His H/9 is .7 higher than his career average, and his HR/9 is .6 higher. Other than that he is the same pitcher he has been. He is 3 -3 in seven starts so far, and has gone six plus in five out of those seven games, all of those being quality starts. His last outing was pretty bad, a 5.2 inning, five run affair which saw him give up two homers.

Kuroda faced the Pirates once last year, an eight inning domination of the Buccos in which he gave up just one run on five hits at Dodger Stadium. He obviously picked up the win in that one.

Kuroda is 3-1 against the Pirates in five career starts, his only loss coming at PNC Park on September 28, 2009. That start was terrible for Kuroda, he only lasted four innings giving up seven runs, but only three earned on eight hits, two of which left the yard. Overall though against the Bucs he has basically just cruised. Even with that one bad performance his career ERA is 2.32, which is awesome considering a full 20% of his starts were so bad. Taking that start away though he basically averages around seven innings per outing against the Bucs and just over one run allowed. It’s safe to say the Bucs might have their hands full with this match-up.

Jon Garland (31) RHP

The Dodgers have yet to name a fourth starter for the Pirates series but I think they will probably go with Jon Garland. I could be wrong, but he last pitched May 7th which puts him at normal rest for the last game of this series on the 12th.

Garland spent the first nine years of his career with the White Sox, but since 2008 when he went to the Angels he has moved around quite a bit. He is currently in his second stint with the Dodgers after making six starts with them in 2009. Garland is off to a pretty good start, posting a 3.66 ERA with a 1-2 record in five starts. The record, as usual, isn’t really indicative of how he is pitching though. Garland’s numbers are all good. The WHIP is low, he isn’t allowing a ton of hits, and while his strikeout numbers aren’t amazing they never have been and he is a full strikeout per nine higher than his career average. Garland’s first loss came in his first start, a start in which he got roughed up for five runs in four innings. Since then he has only thrown a complete game one run clinic and, including that game, now has four straight quality starts in a row. Taking away that first start Garland has and ERA of 2.57 and is holding hitters to a batting average of just .189 and throwing 62% of his pitches for strikes.

Garland picked up a win against the Pirates last season, throwing six innings of one hit ball for the Padres.

Since he has spent the majority of his career in the American League he has only faced the Pirates five times (four starts). He is 2-2 in those starts with a 2.16 ERA. Both of his losses came in his two starts at PNC Park, where he has given up 17 of his 24 hits, and four of his six earned runs.


vs. Lilly

vs. Kuroda

vs. Garland

vs. Dodgers

Pedro Alvarez





Xavier Paul





Ronny Cedeno





Matt Diaz





Ryan Doumit





Garrett Jones





Andrew McCutchen





Lyle Overbay





Steve Pearce





Brandon Wood





Chris Snyder





Jose Tabata





Neil Walker





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

Jeff Karstens (28) RHP

Karstens has been a pretty pleasant surprise as the fifth starter. Still he hasn’t been lights out, just good. His last outing only lasted four innings and he gave up two homers in spacious Petco Park. This is something you are going to get with Karstens, the guy is going to give up flyballs and by extension homers. Prior to that game he had two straight quality starts, so hopefully he can get back on track against the Dodgers, a team that crushed him in one start last year.

Karstens was dominated by the Dodgers last season at Dodger Stadium. He lasted five innings, but gave up an absurd 11 hits. The Dodgers pushed six across on Karstens on just one homer.

It doesn’t get much better for Karstens either. He has never beaten the Dodgers, going 0-2 in four appearances (three starts). He has given up 27 hits in 13.1 innings and has allowed 13 runs (ten earned) over that same span. His SO/BB of 3.00 is actually quite good, but what is not good is the .435/.439/.710 line the Dodgers have put up against Karstens lifetime.

Kevin Correia (30) RHP

The Pirates ace looks to pick up his sixth win of the season against a pretty familiar team. Correia has 24 appearances against the Dodgers, his second most appearances against any team. Correia has been dominant thus far. He leads the team in both wins and ERA and although he is striking out next to no one has been really getting the job done. He has three quality starts in his last four games, all of them going for wins.

Correia was 1-2 against the Dodgers last season, putting up a 4.24 ERA in 17.0 innings over three games. He wasn’t terribly bad, but he wasn’t impressive by any stretch. His 1.60 SO/BB was pretty bad, but he did average almost six innings per start, and just under three earned runs a start.

And his career numbers are just as mediocre. He does have a winning record in his 24 appearances (ten starts), posting a respectable 5-3 record. His ERA is pretty similar to last year at 4.30. 78 hits in 73.1 innings obviously isn’t good, but his 2.50 lifetime SO/BB is pretty solid.

Correia has been a disaster at home this year. He has been Jekkyl and Hyde this season. All of his wins of come on the road, and all of his losses have come at home. His road ERA is a stellar 1.56 and he is holding batters to a .190/.239/.262 line. His home ERA is a laughable 6.94 and he is holding batters to a putrid .327/.358/.551 line.

Paul Maholm (28) LHP

Maholm has probably been the best pitcher the last three games. He has gone seven innings in all three, and has a 1-1 record to show for it. This team let him down the last time out after he gave up just one run on five hits. Maholm is just having trouble with one big inning early. Generally this means the first or second inning. After that he cruises. He has deserved more than his 1-4 record shows, and he is currently living proof that judging a pitcher based solely off wins and losses is a huge mistake.

Maholm got bombed by the Dodgers at PNC Park last season. A rainy game which I was oh so lucky to attend. Maholm lasted six innings, but he gave up four runs on six hits including a homer, in a game that would eventually end up being a blowout. My fondest memory of this game was getting the Pirates trivia question wrong on the big screen..... damn you Jason Kendall.

The career numbers are no better. Maholm has had seven chances to beat the Dodgers, accomplishing the feat exactly zero times. He does have four losses though. He has given up 51 hits in 43 career innings and has actually walked more batters than he has struck out, 20 walks to just 18 strikeouts.

Charlie Morton (27) RHP

Charlie Morton continues to get it done in spite of mediocre secondary numbers. He has looked good though, and really who would have expected four wins and a 3.13 ERA seven starts into the season? His last outing was quite possibly his best, even including the complete game. He allowed just one run, and struck out five. He did give up seven hits, but he is going to give up hits, being an extreme ground ball pitcher.

Morton was 0-1 in his only career start against the Dodgers last season. He gets credit for a quality start, going six and giving up three earned, but there were also three unearned runs in that game, so quality is a stretch.

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