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Think of It This Way / You Could Either Be Successful or Be Us: Next Series Pitchers Preview

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the Blue Jays take on the Texas Rangers at the Rogers Centre.  As we all know, the Rangers were a very offence-heavy team last year, scoring 901 runs and allowing 967 (in contrast, our Jays scored 714 and yielded 610).  These should be three very winnable (yes, that is a real word) games for the Jays, as we are fortunate to miss their top two second starters, Kevin Millwood, who was a hard-luck loser on Saturday night, and Vicente Padilla, who also pitched against the Royals over the weekend.

Game 1, Tuesday 21 April

Brandon McCarthy

McCarthy (1-0, 4.91, 1.455 WHIP) is a tall (6'7") 25 year-old righty with a career 4.56 ERA and a 1.369 WHIP who managed to get by at the major league level despite not putting up solid peripherals in his one semi-full season as a starter in 2007.  He struck out 59 and walked 48 over 101 2/3 innings (5 K/9; 4 BB/9) but did an excellent job limiting the long ball, allowing just 9 HR (0.76 HR/9).  He was shut down partway through the year and spent most of 2008 on the DL.  In two starts this season, he's struck out 12 and walked 7 over 11 IP (9.6 K/9 and 5.6 BB/9).

Over his career, he has been about equally effective against lefties (.246 / .326 / .454; 1.62 K/BB) and righties (.246 / .326 / .429; 1.90 K/BB).

McCarthy features a 90 mph fastball that he's thrown about 70% of the time this year along with a curve that is really more of a slurve due to its lack of vertical movement, which he's thrown 19% of the time and a 77 mph straight change that he's thrown about 11% of the time. 

Game 2, Wednesday 22 April

Kris Benson

Benson (1-1, 9.00, 1.909 WHIP), the first pick overall of the 1996 draft, has made his living as a League-Average pitch-to-contact type, although he did manage 184 K in 217 2/3 IP (7.6 K/9) back in Pittsburgh in 2000.  Benson, who (prior to this season) had not pitched in the Majors since 2006 is possibly best remembered for when his wife, Anna, claimed that if she caught Kris cheating on her, she would sleep with his entire team "all the way down to the groundskeepers."  In his two starts this year, Benson has pitched 11 innings and stuck out and walked five.

Benson's career platoon splits are pretty normal for a righty.  Lefties have hit him well (.288 / .363 / .470; 1.22 K/BB) but he has been pretty dominant over righties (.249 / .302 / .382; 2.81 K/BB).

Benson, who has lost four or five mph from his fastball (from 92-93 at the beginning of his career down to 88 mph this season), has upped his usage of his cutter and curveball in his first two starts this year.  He also throws an 80 mph changeup.

Matt Harrison

Harrison (0-2, 8.44, 2.438 WHIP) is a 6'4" lefty in his first full season with the Rangers at just 23 years old.  He was somewhat effective last year, starting 15 games and pitching 83 2/3 innings with a 5.49 ERA.  His strikeout rate (4.3 K/9) was less encouraging, particularly K-rates usually don't go up much.  This season there has not been much to like in Harrison, who has walked nine and yielded two homeruns while striking out just five in 10 2/3 innings over two starts.

He has handled righthanded batters (.313 / .372 / .514; 1.07 K/BB) slightly better than lefties (.300 / .377 / .560; 1.38 K/BB) over his career, which is consistent with his minor league performance.

Harrison's fastball (about 90 mph) and changeup (82 mph) account for about 75% of his pitches.  He also throws a curve and slider.  He's lost about 2 mph from his fastball this year, which does not bode particularly well for the youngster.

Game 3, Thursday 23 April

Benson is not starting, they've moved Harrison up the day, as Tom said, and have slotted Millwood in for Thursday's game.

This is unfortunate, as Millwood is a far superior pitcher to Benson and is coming off an excellent start against Kansas City.

In three starts this season, the veteran righty Millwood (23 IP, 1-1, 1.17, 0.783 WHIP) has pitched a complete game and struck out 14, while surrending just four walks and 14 hits.  If his K-rate (5.5 / 9IP) stays low, some of these batted balls should start dropping in for hits.  Obviously, his career 2.7 BB/9 IP shows that he isn't going to do the Jays many favours in terms of putting men on base.

Over his career, Millwood has had pretty strong platoon splits.  While he has limited righties to an anemic line (.249 / .293 / .382, 3.49 K/BB), lefties have managed to hit him pretty well (.270 / .340 / .419, 2.09 K/BB).

Millwood has always been a groundball pitcher with a 92-mph four-seam fastball and an 89 mph two-seamer, using the four-seamer more on lefties and the two-seamer more on righties.  He also throws a slider and curve with regularity and mixes in an occasional change.

By the way, the post title comes from Belle and Sebastian's "Get Me Away from Here, I'm Dying" and hopefully describes how the Rangers pitchers will be feeling as our bats heat back up.