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We Are the Sultans of Swing: Next Series Pitchers Preview

Sorry this post is a day late, but better late than never, I guess.  The Jays continue their road trip this week when they go to Kansas City to take on the Royals, who've been slowly improving the last couple of years.  Anyone watching last night knows that they've opened up the four game series with a loss behind an offense that couldn't buy a hit and a bad start from David Purcey.  Their series-winning streak will be on the line tonight (Scott Richmond vs. Gil Meche), and hopefully Wednesday (Brian Tallet vs. Zack Greinke) and Thursday (Brian Burres vs. Kyle Davies) as well.



Game 2, Tuesday 28 April

Gil Meche

Meche (1-1, 2.63, 1.024 WHIP) is a veteran righty with a 4.33 career ERA and 1.385 WHIP.  Over the first few years of his career, he was almost the definition of an average starter, but he has pitched well enough to justify signing his big contract with Kansas City before the 2007 season.  His strikeout and walk rates have fluctuated throughout his career, but in 2007 and 2008 he had about a 2.5 K/BB ratio (higher K- and BB-rates in 2008 than 2007).  So far this season, he's pitched very well, having struck out 25 and walked just four over 27 1/3 innings (8.2 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9).

Over his career, Meche has mild reverse platoon splits, as righties have hit him a little bit better (.229 / .337 / .421; 1.75 K/BB) than lefties (.251 / .323 / .408; 1.97 K/BB) over his career.  In 2008, Meche's platoon splits were much more drastic, as righties hit a similar line, but he dominated lefties (.238 / .298 / .366; 2.97 K/BB).  Nonetheless, I assume that the lefties will be in the lineup tonight to face him.

His fastball tops out around 92, and he mixes it up with an effective straight change.  He throws a curve with nice 11-5 movement and an okay slider.


Game 3, Wednesday 29 April

Zack Greinke

Greinke (4-0, 0.00, 0.862 WHIP) is a fireballing righty who has dealt with quite a bit of adversity (both on the field, when he led the league in losses in 2005 and off the field, where he has seemingly won a battle with depression).  With the exceptions of this season in 2005 and a season where he only pitched six innings in 2006, since coming up at just 20 years old, Greinke has consistently posted K/BB ratios 2.94 or better (3.27 in 2008).  He has been absolutely sparkling this season (11.2 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 0 HR/9) as his ERA and WHIP show, though he did let up an unearned run in his last start.

As one would expect of a flamethrowing righty, he has had much more success against righthanded batting in his career (.254 / .305 / .405; 3.72 K/BB).  Lefthanded batters have hit him pretty well (.286 / .337 / .465; 2.48 K/BB).

As I said earlier, Greinke's arsenal features a plus-plus-fastball that he can dial up over 95 or 96 mph that he uses to set up his change and his slider.  He will occasionally throw a curve, but even that has more horizontal than vertical break.



Game 4, Thursday 30 April

Kyle Davies

Davies (1-1, 4.88, 1.292 WHIP) should be a welcome change after facing Meche and Greinke.  The career well-below-average (5.88 ERA, 1.627 WHIP, 1.49 K/BB) starter did put together a decent season by ERA last year (4.06) but, with a WHIP of 1.451 and a lower K-rate than ever, even that may have been pretty fortunate.  He has, however, gotten off to a pretty good start over his first 24 IP this season, striking out 23 (a great 8.6 K/9) but walking 10 (a not so great 3.8 BB/9).

Davies's career splits are very modest, but reverse, for a righthanded pitcher faring a bit better against lefties (.269 / .360 / .461; 1.41 K/BB) than righties (.303 / .371 / .473; 1.60 K/BB) throughout his career, but that may be heavily influenced by his worse luck with balls-in-play from lefties (as both his K/BB rates and his .336 BABIP vs. righties and .301 BABIP vs. lefties suggest). 

Although Davies has generally thrown a 92 mph 4-seam fastball almost exclusively in the past, he has begun to throw a cutter this year and has been relying more heavily on his changeup as well.  His slider acts somewhat like a 2-seamer, as it has little horizontal action but pretty good downward movement.

The post-title refers to how the Jays offense is going to have to play if they want to continue their series-winning streak.