The Dodgers come into town scuffling, having lost their last two series. The Cubs took two of three from them this week, and the Padres did it last weekend. Their struggles make Juan Uribe emo. The Dodgers have a strong rotation, top to bottom, and the Mets face a couple tough hurlers this weekend. Here are the matchups:
Friday, May 6th, 7:10 PM: LHP Jon Niese vs. RHP Hiroki Kuroda
Saturday, May 7th, 7:10 PM: RHP Chris Young vs. RHP Jon Garland
Sunday, May 8th: 1:10 PM: RHP R.A. Dickey vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw
Dodgers pitchers are guided by pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. You may remember him from his 21 season MLB career. He pitched well out of the bullpen for Sandy Alderson's Oakland A's from 1987-1993. No word if the two will share a "Bash Brothers" elbow bump before the series. Don "Donnie Baseball" Mattingly manages the Dodgers and has a fetish for batting Aaron Miles at the top of the order. Now some words on the starters our heroes will try to figuratively destroy this weekend:
#18 / Pitcher / Los Angeles Dodgers
Feb 10, 1975
Word association: Mr. Baseball
Interesting fact: Kuroda's teammates on the 1997 Hiroshima Carp included Timo Perez and Alfonso Soriano.
What's the story? The 36 year-old Kuroda is one of the more underrated pitchers out there. He boasts the 24th best ERA and 16th best FIP of pitchers who have thrown at least 400 innings since 2008. His specialty is control but he is also adept at inducing groundballs and has an average strikeout rate. Kuroda has a low-90s fastball and also mixes in a slider and splitter. It's been business as usual for him early on in 2011 -- his K/BB ratio is 4.29, thanks in part to a 11.6% swinging strike rate, seventh best in the league.
Against the Mets: Kuroda has struggled overall in 24.1 career innings against the Mets, striking out just 10 and allowing 17 runs. However, he tossed eight innings of shutout ball against the Mets last July at Dodger Stadium. It's been feast or famine.
#21 / Pitcher / Los Angeles Dodgers
Sep 27, 1979
|2011 - Jon Garland||1-2||4||4||1||0||0||0||26.0||20||11||11||4||7||18||3.81||1.04|
Word association: Judy
Interesting fact: Despite a guest spot on The Bernie Mac Show, Garland's acting career hasn't quite taken off. Chris Capuano has been stealing all the great acting gigs.
What's the story? Left coast homeboy Garland has pitched for four different West division teams since 2008 -- the Angels, Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Padres. He is a less groundbally version of Jason Marquis, an innings eater who has a knack for outperforming his underwhelming peripherals. This season he's added a splitter to his repertoire because "it gives them one more thing to think about". I'm not versed enough in pitch F/X to determine if it's the reason for his improved strikeout and walk rates early on but it's another option in his hodgepodge arsenal.
Against the Mets: Garland has a 3.00 ERA against the Mets in 27 innings over 4 starts. He was the losing pitcher for the Padres during Jon Niese's one-hitter last June.
#22 / Pitcher / Los Angeles Dodgers
Mar 19, 1988
|2011 - Clayton Kershaw||3-3||7||7||0||0||0||0||45.1||41||17||17||6||15||45||3.38||1.24|
Word association: Clay Fighter
Interesting fact: Kershaw's trademark flatulence has earned him the nickname "The Fartful Dodger".
What's the story? It's hard to believe that Kershaw the southpaw is just 23 years-old. This is his fourth season in the majors and he's pitched well in each of them. He is a strikeout pitcher, and only Tim Lincecum, Yovani Gallardo and Jonathan Sanchez have posted better strikeout rates since Kershaw entered the league. A low-to-mid 90s fastball and slider are his weapons of choice. Kershaw's control is the only thing holding him back from "elite" status but it has been improving. If he can keep his walk rate at ~3 per 9 innings, he'll be in the Cy Young conversation for years to come.
Against the Mets: Kershaw has a 2.04 ERA in 17.2 innings against the Mets. That shiny ERA comes with a less-than-stellar 1.71 K/BB ratio. He struck out three in eight shutout innings against the Mets last July.
Overall outlook: Kuroda and Kershaw are two of the top 15 pitchers or so in the league. Garland is one of the better back-of-the-rotation guys in MLB. Let's say the Mets knock around Kuroda tonight in honor of @samtpage's birthday, pound Garland into submission on Saturday night, then lose a 1-0 pitcher's duel to Kershaw on Sunday.