Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Tale of Two Pitchers: Nolasco / Jurrjens matchup kicks off important intradivision series

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Nolasco's was the highest of ERAs, Jurrjens' was the lowest of ERAs. OK, you get the picture.

The Braves and Marlins head into action today tied at three games back of the National League wild card spot. In Ricky Nolasco and Jair Jurrjens the Marlins and Braves, respectively, send two young pitchers to the mound whose differences don't stop at their widely divergent ERAs.

Jurrjens' sparkling 2.67 ERA belies a deteriorating skill set (128 IP, 88 K, 47 BB, 43% groundball rate) likely brought on by his heavy workload during the 2008 season - a season in which, it's worth noting, the Braves were not in contention for a playoff spot late in the season at which time a more cautious approach might have called for Jurrjens to be shut down.

Nolasco, on the other hand, has been haunted all season long by a 5.42 ERA despite displaying skills that promise much better future results (103 IP, 105 K, 26 BB, 39% GB rate).

So give the advantage in staring pitching goes to the Marlins tonight, but what about the bats? The Braves are hitting .261/.334/.408 against righties on the season, while the Marlins are a little worse at .260/.331/.397.

If the Braves can work deep into pitch counts and send Nolasco home early, they might fare better against the Marlins' bullpen who have had to work a little more often than the Braves' bullpen has this year. In 312 IP, Marlins relievers have struck out 294, walked 161, and given up 23 HR while boasting a 3.79 ERA. The Braves' bullpen has given up earned runs at a slightly higher clip (3.80), but have the better K/BB ratio (2.01 to Florida's 1.83), including 271 K, 135 BB, and 17 HR in 295 1/3 IP.

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