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This Strange Plan is Random at Best: Next Series Pitchers Preview

This weekend, the Jays travel to Chicago to take on the White Sox for a three game set Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoon.  The Jays have Brian Tallet starting again tomorrow night, Brett Cecil Brian Burres (maybe?) coming up on Saturday to replace the injured Ricky Romero and Roy Halladay going on Sunday afternoon.  The White Sox have Mark Buehrle tomorrow, Gavin Floyd Saturday and Jose Contreras on Sunday.


Game 1, Friday 23 April

Gavin Floyd

Floyd (2-1, 4.74, 1.368 WHIP) had been around as a prospect for quite some time before finally making his big splash last year when he put together a pretty solid year (17-8, 3.84, 1.260 WHIP) in his first full season as a major league starter.  At 27, Floyd is looking to build on that this season.  So far, he's had two very effective starts (14 IP, 16 K, 2 BB combined) and one very bad start (5 IP, 2 K, 7 BB).  He may be headed for a bit of a decline in 2009, though, because of his extremely good luck on balls in play in 2008 (.268 BABIP).

His platoon splits are much more extreme than Beuhrle's.  Lefties have hit him well (.280 / .363 / .513; 1.33 K/BB), while he has been very good against righties (.251 / .320 / .426; 2.38 K/BB).  His overall numbers were better against both lefties and righties last year, but his platoon splits were the about the same.

He has a pretty standard arsenal, featuring a lively 92 mph fastball that he spots well and a straight change (84 mph) that he only throws once a while.  He throws a slow curve and a hard slider as well.


Game 2, Saturday 24 April

Mark Buehrle

Buehrle (2-0, 3.00, 1.222 WHIP) is a veteran soft-tossing lefty control-specialist with a 3.79 career ERA and 1.269 WHIP.  He has never struck many out (career 5.3 K/9) but does not really have to, since he has done such a good job limiting free passes (career 2.1 BB/9).  His easy motion has helped Buehrle stay healthy (he has pitched at least 200 innings and made at least 30 starts every year since he broke into the bigs as a starter in 2001), but as can be seen in his 122 career ERA+ he has not just been an innings-eater, but has given effective innings throughout his career.  So far this season, he's pitched 18 innings, struck out 13 and walked 6, typical of his career.

Righties have hit him a little bit better (.272 / .317 / .418; 2.24 K/BB) than lefties (.262 / .303 / .414; 4.03 K/BB) over his career, which is not surprising, considering that he is a southpaw, but he is not a power pitcher.  In 2008 lefties actually hit him better than righties, but that may have been largely driven by luck (lefty Batting Average on Balls in Play of .335, righty BABIP of .304).

He throws an 85 mph fastball which he mixes in with a cutter and straight change.  He has gotten away from throwing his breaking pitches, but still throws his curve occasionally and his slider a few times per game.


Game 3, Sunday 25 April

Jose Contreras

Contreras (0-3, 8.04, 1.915 WHIP) is a veteran Cuban who defected to pitch for the New York Yankees.  When he first came over, he was striking a lot of batters out, but his K-rate has declined consistently since then to just 5.2 last season.  Over his career he has managed a 4.62 ERA and 1.366 WHIP.  As his strikeouts have dropped, he has been able to cut his walks, which has helped him continue to pitch in the majors, but if his K-rate goes much lower than it is now, his days could be numbered.  He hasn't had a good start yet this year and is coming off a particularly bad one in which he walked six and struck out two in 5 1/3 innings.

His platoon splits have been less extreme than Floyd's, but moreso than Buehrle's.  Lefthanded batters have hit him reasonably well (.270 / .347 / .421; 1.61 K/BB) while he has been pretty hard on righties (.247 / .309 / .407; 2.07 K/BB).  Last season, however, his splits were more extreme as lefties hit him hard (.286 / .351 / .474) but he made up for it by being better against righties (.258 / .297 / .348).

Contreras, like his paisan Orlando Hernandez, throws a bunch of different pitches including a 90 mph fastball that he used to use to set up both his change and forkball, but now uses the forkball, which serves as both a change of pace and vertical plane, almost exclusively.  He rarely, if ever, throws his curve, but does throw a slider that acts as more of a slurve.