Tuesday, October 01, 2013

ESPN's Kurkjian: Dodgers Over Braves In Five

Tim Kurkjian of ESPN.com previewed our upcoming series with the Braves, and he gave it a tempered nod toward the Dodgers. If there's any consolation to the fact that our outfield has a gaping hole with two injuries, it's that Atlanta's OF isn't hitting well altogether:

1. How good is the Dodgers' rotation?

It is the best in the league. Clayton Kershaw, who can pitch twice in the series if it goes five games, is the best pitcher in baseball.

His 1.83 ERA this year was the lowest by any ERA qualifier since Pedro Martinez in 2000 (1.74), and the lowest by an NL pitcher since Greg Maddux (1.63) in 1995. Only Sandy Koufax had an ERA as low among Dodger pitchers (1.74 in 1964 and 1.73 in 1966) in the live ball era (1920-on). Maddux, Kershaw and Koufax are the only pitchers in NL history to win three straight ERA titles.

Kershaw will be followed by Zack Greinke, who went 7-1 over his last 12 starts and had a 1.85 ERA in the second half of the season. Kershaw and Greinke represent the best 1-2 pitching combination in the game. You also can't do much better than Hyun-Jin Ryu (3.00 ERA) and Ricky Nolasco as the third and fourth starters.

2. Who is the Braves' ace?

They might not have one, but Game 1 starter Kris Medlen has pitched like an ace lately. In his last six starts, he is 5-0 and has allowed four earned runs -- no home runs -- during that stretch (43 innings).

"This is as well as I've seen him pitch since his great stretch last year," one scout said. "He has his confidence back."

The rest of the four-man rotation -- Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Paul Maholm -- each won at least 10 games, and only the Cardinals had more wins from starting pitchers in the NL than the Braves.

3. What will the Dodgers do with their outfield?

[Okay, I'm going to skip this one as it's too damn depressing.] [...]

4. What will the Braves do with their outfield?

They have no choice: They have to move Jason Heyward to center field, play Evan Gattis in left field, and bench B.J. Upton.

Upton is hitting .184; only teammate Dan Uggla (.179) has a lower batting average this year among players with at least 400 plate appearances. Upton hit .157 against left-handers, and the Braves will see Kershaw twice and Ryu once if the series goes five games.

Upton hit .108 with runners in scoring position. Gattis is a subpar defensive player, but he is a very dangerous hitter. And against the Dodgers' pitching, the Braves might need all the offense they can get.

5. How good is the Braves' bullpen?

It is the best in the game.

The Braves' 2.46 bullpen ERA was the best in the NL; next best was Pittsburgh at 2.89. And only the Tigers had fewer bullpen innings this year than the Braves, which means they haven't been overworked.

Closer Craig Kimbrel (50 saves, 1.21 ERA) is virtually unhittable. Luis Avilan, David Carpenter and the rest of the pen are really good, too.

The pick: Dodgers in five.


Fred's Brim said...

Gotta keep pitching