This weekend, the Jays come back north across the border where they will host the Baltimore Orioles in a three game set for their first action against an American League East Division rival. Tomorrow night, Roy Halladay returns to the hill to pitch for Toronto and will try to get the team back on track after its first losing "streak" of the season.
David Purcey Robert Ray (?) and Scott Richmond pitch on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Pitching for the Orioles will be Mark Hendrickson on Friday, Brad Bergesen on Saturday and Jeremy Guthrie on Sunday, three pitchers who aren't exactly going to set the world on fire, but do manage to limit their walks pretty well. Hopefully our Jays can get back to their winning ways against three pitchers, none of whom has a WHIP lower than 1.62 this year. After finally losing a series against the Royals 3-1, it would be nice if they can come back home and sweep the Orioles here, and it shouldn't be out of the realm of possibility.
Game 1, Friday 1 May
Hendrickson (1-3, 5.40, 1.964 WHIP), the former Blue Jay, is probably best known for the time he spent in the NBA. More of an innings-eater type, Hendrickson's career ERA of 5.08 is quite a bit below park-adjusted league average (ERA+ of 89) and his career WHIP of 1.461 is nothing to write home about. In 2007 and 2008, he served as a swingman for the Dodgers and Marlins, respectively, and actually posted very good peripherals in 2007 (6.8 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9), but those strikeout- and walk-rates are both much better than he's pitched at other times. In 18 1/3 innings this year, Hendrickson's been hit hard, as his WHIP would suggest, and he's been particularly prone to the gopher ball, yielding seven homeruns already. He's struck out 14 and walked 12.
The 6'9" tall southpaw has been quite good at limiting lefties over his career (.262 / .316 / .376; 2.17 K/BB) but has had his fair share of trouble with righthanded batters (.300 / .348 / .478; 1.80 K/BB). His splits in 2008 were in-line with his career performance.
He's never really overpowered anyone with his fastball (87 mph or so), but he can spot it pretty well and mixes it up with a decent enough straight change. If he is behind in the count and leaves the fastball up, though, it will get hit hard. He doesn't throw his curveball that frequently, and when he does, he tends to stay off the plate with it.
Game 2, Saturday 2 May
Bergesen (1-0, 5.59, 1.759 WHIP) is making just his third big-league start on Saturday. A righthanded thrower who didn't strike many out in the minors (5.8 K/9 career), Bergesen seems to survive on not issuing free passes (1.6 BB/9). He had some success at AA ball last year, but his strikeout-rate was even less inspiring there (4.4 K/9). He did, however, start this season at AAA and struck out nine in just 11 innings there, while striking out seven in 9 2/3 in the AL, so maybe he's figured something out this year.
In the minors, Bergesen has been much more effective against righties than lefties, mainly on the basis of walking them only half as frequently (1.12 BB/9 vs. Right, 2.10 BB/9 vs. Left). The platoon splits for his strikeout-rates are much less extreme, but he has struck out lefties a bit more (5.07 vs. Right, 5.85 vs. Left).
He is mainly a two-seam fastball - slider pitcher. The fastball does not really come in all that fast (89 mph), but as long as he keeps it down, he should be able to induce some grounders. He very rarely will mix in a change to keep the batters from sitting fastball all the time.
Game 3, Sunday 3 May
Guthrie (2-1, 5.20, 1.627 WHIP) has pretty quietly composed two consecutive well-above league average (ERA+ of 125) seasons in 2007 and 2008, despite relatively modest strikeout-rates (6.3 K/9 and 5.7 K/9, respectively). He's kept his walks to a minimum (2.4 BB/9 and 2.7 BB/9, respectively) and has thrived in the difficult AL East, where he compiled a 17-17 record for the lowly Orioles. This season, Guthrie has had one excellent start, one pretty good start, one mediocre start and two stinkers -- similar in a sense to what David Purcey has done. Guthrie is looking to build on his last start, which was the pretty good one.
Career-wise, the righty has almost no platoon split, as righties (.252 / .312 / .405; 2.15 K/BB) have fared almost exactly as well as lefties (.255 / .319 / .429; 1.95 K/BB). He had almost no split in 2008, but in 2007 was actually quite a bit better against righties (.243 / .299 / .368; 2.20 K/BB) than lefties (.255 / .302 / .455; 3.09 K/BB), who hit 39 extra-base hits in 373 plate appearances, whereas righties hit only 22 in 350.
Guthrie can bring some heat, dialing his fastball up to 93 - 95 mph, depending on the day, but he has been reducing his reliance upon it in favour of his changeup. He does not quite throw a straight change, because it stays out over the plate a bit more than his fastball does and I'm not sure that he should be relying on it so much, because it's been tagged for a couple of homers already this year. He throws a slider that is not exactly a plus-pitch and will mix in a curve once in a while that he probably just shouldn't even bother with.