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All These Verses Share a Theme, It's the Great Decay: Next Series Pitchers Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Well, that was another incredibly frustrating series.  If it seems like our boys have been in 'em, but just can't seem to win 'em, there's a reason for that.  Despite being outscored only 42 - 34, the Jays have now dropped six of their last seven games.  No one likes to be outscored, but the Pythagorean Winning Percentage in that case should be about 40%, which means that, if luck were even just a bit on their side, this team could easily be 3 - 4 instead of 1 - 6 over that span (still not great, but certainly not let's-cash-in-all-our-chips-bad, either).

Anyway, the Jays hope to turn things around this weekend in Baltimore 10 - 12 July.  Local boy Brett Cecil gets the start tomorrow night at 7:00 against Jason BerkenRicky Romero starts the Saturday night game for the Jays and the Orioles counter with Brad Bergesen, whose been quite successful thus far.  It's been unannounced who will pitch for the Jays on Sunday (their last game before the All Star break), but I am anticipating that it willl be Marc Rzepczynski.  Jeremy Guthrie is slotted to make the start for the O's.

Okay, guys, let's take this series, head into the break with at least a .500 record and enjoy some well-deserved time off.  We know you've had to deal with injuries and we just want to see you play your best.  By the way, today's post title comes from Cursive and -- while I'm sad to say it -- I think we all know what's inspired it.

10 July

Jason Berken (1-5, 6.25, 1.661 WHIP)

Berken is a lean (175 lbs, 6' 0" tall) righthander who underwent Tommy John surgery years ago, but has recovered quite well.  He has run into some trouble after some possibly flukey success following his late-May callup to the Orioles rotation.  Over eight starts, Berken has pitched 40 1/3 innings, striking out 25 (5.6 K/9) and walking 15 (3.3 BB/9).  In his favour, Berken has done an excellent job keeping the ball in the park so far (just 3 HR), but his batted ball data seem to suggest this dearth of homeruns as being more luck-driven than a result of a repeatable skill (38.9% groundball, 5.8% HR/flyball).  If it is luck-driven, Berken is probably deserving of it, as he has had quite a bit of misfortune on balls that do not leave the park (.345 BABIP), nor has he been particularly lucky stranding batters that do reach (61% strand-rate).  As time goes on, Berken will have trouble keeping his homerun-rate where it is (particularly at hitter-friendly Camden Yards), but as his other luck improves, things should even out a bit for him and his ERA will probably come down a tad from where it is now.  He did have a strong season at AA last season, but at the age of 24 was a little old for the league.

In Berken's eight starts so far, he has PQSed 2, 3, 0, 0, 4, 3, 2 and 0 for a mean of 1.75 and Dominance- and Disaster-rates of 13% and 38%.  Berken's had quite a bit of trouble pitching deep in games, pitching more than five innings just twice so far this season and topping the hundred pitch mark just twice (though he threw 99 once as well).

So far in the majors, lefties have seen a moderately strong platoon advantage against Berken (.337 / .390 / .481; 1.57 K/BB) as compared to righties (.273 / .360 / .416; 1.75 K/BB), though the difference in BABIP (.367 against lefties vs. .317 against righties) seems to have more to do with it than any slight difference in walk-rate or isolated power (.144 against lefties vs. .143 against righties).  Berken was a bit less effective against lefties in the minors, striking out a bit less and walking a bit more, but their advantage was slight at best.

Berken is your classic four-pitch pitcher, throwing a low-90's four-seamer that he mixes up with a decent straight change.  If his fastball had just a bit more life, it would make his change that much better, but unfortunately you can't have everything.  He also throws an average slider and an average curve.


11 July

Brad Bergesen (5-3, 3.59, 1.188 WHIP)

Bergesen was covered earlier this season.  Since then, Bergesen has ridden his sinker to a 3.59 ERA and a 1.188 WHIP.  His success comes from his ability to induce grounders at a 52.8% clip, while keeping his walks down (just 23 in 97 2/3 IP, 2.2 BB/9).  He has only struck out 50 (4.8 K/9), but as long as you keep the ball out of the air and you don't issue any free passes, it's all right to pitch to some contact.  Since our write-up, he's turned some heads, see Dave Cameron's quick look here at fangraphs.

Over his 15 starts this season, Bergesen has PQSed 4, 0, 3, 3, 2, 3, 2, 4, 3, 5, 2, 4, 5, 5 and 4 for a mean of 3.5 and impressive Dominance-/Disaster-rates of 50% and just 7%.  PQS is kind to pitchers who tend to keep the ball in the strike zone and out of the air.  The string that he's run off in his last six starts (the 2 was a complete game five-hitter) is particularly noteworthy (and potentially troubling to us Jays fans).

As mentioned in the previous writeup, Bergesen does not walk righties (Cito, please do not start Bautista), but lefties are another story.  Righties have actually exhibited a better line (.264 / .290 / .415; 4.83 K/BB) than lefties (.236 / .310 / .360; 1.24 K/BB), but luck has had a significant part to play in that (.289 BABIP against righties vs. .240 BABIP against lefties).

Bergesen has mainly stuck to the same formula he had when he started the season, but he's become a bit more comfortable with his change and will challenge lefties out of the zone with it, even when behind in the count.


12 July

Jeremy Guthrie (6-8, 5.35, 1.426 WHIP)

Guthrie was also covered in the writeup.  For some reason, Guthrie has had problems keeping the ball on the ground in 2009 (37.6% GroundBall-rate vs. 42.2% career), which has led to a league-leading 20 HR in 101 IP (1.73 HR/9).  Otherwise, Guthrie has not been too bad, though he has lost some of the life on his fastball.  He shouldn't be too bad going forward, but the declining groundball-rate could be a bad sign.  Neither FIP nor xFIP (which normalizes HR-rate) show him to be unlucky so far.

In 18 starts, Guthrie has PQSed 2, 4, 0, 2, 3, 3, 4, 1, 2, 4, 3, 0, 3, 4, 4, 2, 3 and 0 for a mean of 2.44 and Dominance-/Disaster-rates of 28% and 22%.  Hopefully the Jays can draw his Disaster-rate even with his Dominance-rate.