Friday, September 5, 2008

Scouting Report: Nationals at Braves (9/5)

As Harper over at Oleanders and Morning Glories has been counting up, the Nationals have now been shut out 21 times, more scoreless outings than any team in 30 years. Not since the 1978 Braves has any team shown this level of offensive ineptitude.

But getting shut out by someone named James Parr in his major league debut? I flipped open my Baseball Prospectus Annual to find out who Parr is and was surprised to see the kid didn't merit even a single mention. In 604 pages, the Annual pretty much mentions everyone but the bat boys in A-ball. He also didn't rate anywhere on Baseball America's top 10 prospects coming into this season, and he didn't even make John Sickels's top 20 Braves prospects.

I did find that the Chop-n-Change Braves blog had a profile of him a few days back, in case you're interested in the license plate on that truck.

Of course, you could just forget it and move on. Here's my take on game 2. For more on Atlanta's offense, check out my preview of game one.

Pitching Match-Up
Jair Jurrjens: The 22-year-old righty, brought to Atlanta in the Edgar Renteria deal, is already a solid mid-rotation starter with upside for more. He throws a fastball at 92-93, a slider, and a change, and has very good command of all three pitches. He's striking out a slightly above average 16.8% and walking a few too many at 9.5%, but his real strength is his ability to get groundballs. 52.2% of his outs come on grounders, a fantastic number.

Oh, and he's from Curacao. Two Curacaoans in two nights. When has that happened before?

Jason Bergmann: I've been as big a Bergmann backer as there is, but he needs a good start badly. He got rocked for 6 runs on 4 and 1/3 last time out against Atlanta. He has an 8.55 ERA over his last 4 starts. This isn't even back of the rotation stuff. He needs to finish with at least 3-4 strong starts to remind the team that he belongs. It would be very nice for 2009 to be able to pencil him in as an adequate fifth starter, but he's frittering away that status.

A lot has been made of his flyball tendencies, which is appropriate, but command has been the bigger problem of late. He's walked 13 in his last 20 innings. That's about twice as many as he can get away with. He's also striking out fewer lately--just 11% in this recent stretch, compared to a solidly average 16% on the year. Flyball pitchers can get by, but not if they're also issuing a ton of free passes and not striking anyone out.

He's also getting absolutely killed by left-handed hitting. Lefties are now hitting .305 / .355 / .477 against him for the year, which means the average lefty hits Bergmann like Adrian Gonzalez or Bobby Abreu. In that August 30 game, the Braves sent up a lineup of 6 lefties: Chipper, McCann, Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco, Brandon Jones, and Kelly Johnson. That group had 3 doubles and a homer in Bergmann's 4-plus. With Kotchman back, Bergmann could very well see a lineup of 7 lefties tonight.

Fearless Prediction
(Season record: 21-15)
Bergmann does ok, but not great, while Jurrjens shuts 'em down. Braves win, 6-1.

PS Happy birthday to me!

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