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Opposing Pitcher Preview: 4/20-4/22 Happ, Weiland and Wandy

Looking forward to the last time the Dodgers will play in a National League Houston ballpark, the Astros will be throwing J.A. Happ, Kyle Weiland and Wandy Rodriguez. As always, information gathered from Baseba--Reference, Fangraphs and www.minorleaguecentral.com. This week I'm trying out a new feature, and I choose a "Pick to Click". Feel free to drop a line in the comments with who you think will go off this series or each game, and your reasoning.

Friday, April 20: J.A. Happ (L)

Best known to Los Angeles fans as the reason Roy Oswalt doesn't wear Dodger Blue, J.A. Happ has had a nice start to his age 28 season. Through two starts, Happ is striking out more hitters while walking fewer than his career averages. Happ uses a pretty standard rotation, throwing his 90mph fastball (65% of the time), 82mph changeup (5%), 84mph slider (18%) and 76mph curveball (11%). Occassionally, he'll turn his fastball over and give it some sink, but it maintains the same velocity as his four-seamer. When he does go with the two-seam fastball, it has an average of 10 inches of horizontal and vertical movement! It's really a wonder why he doesn't throw this pitch more. Happ will throw all of his pitches away from both right and left-handed hitters due to his lack of velocity. What's interesting here is how similar in velocity his offspeed pitches are. He should be able to generate some poor contact on his curveball because the velocity differential is high enough, but he needs to make sure he locates his other pitches to be successful.

What to Watch For: Watch for Happ to pitch aggressively to both right- and left-handed hitters. Both his curveball and slider break pretty close to 12-6, so I don't think our lefties will have any sort of additional issues. I expect the Dodgers to have more success against this soft-thrower.

Pick to Click: AJ Ellis

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Saturday, April 21: Kyle Weiland (R)

Pronounced WHY-lind, Kyle will be making his tenth career major league appearance and eighth career start on Saturday. Drafted out of Notre Dame in 2008, Weiland made his way through the Red Sox system only to be traded with Jed Lowrie to Houston for Mark Melancon (who?) last December. This is what soxprospects.com had to say about Weiland:

Scouting Report: Big frame right-handed pitcher, but on the lanky side. 90-95 MPH fastball that comes in two-seam and four-seam varieties. Two-seamer has excellent late life and arm-side run. Attacks the zone with solid-average command of his fastball. Doesn't make a lot of mistakes with it and uses both sides of the plate, but can leave it up on occasions. 78-81 MPH curveball has made strides since signing. When he throws it arm side, it shows sweeping backdoor action and is effective against left-handed hitters. Can also bury his curve across the strike zone with harder break. Shows plus depth at times, but can wrap his wrist too much to cause loopy break. Has re-incorporated his cut-fastball this season. Sits 85-88 MPH and gives him another weapon to work with. Creates tight rotation and grades as a solid-average offering. Also throws a fringe-average low-80s changeup with late arm-side fade. Tends to float. His delivery is somewhat unconventional and long in the backend with his arm action. Expends a lot of energy with his motion causing him to wear down. Best suited as a late inning bullpen arm on a contending team as major league career progresses. Capable of fulfilling a swing man role when stretched out. Ceiling of a back-of-the-rotation starter with a second division club.

Ceiling of a back-of-the-rotation starter with a second division club like, say, the Houston Astros? From the sound of this scouting report and his numbers on fangraphs, Weiland is mostly fastball, with a decent curveball and a changeup he should never ever throw.

What to Watch For: If the scouting report is to be believed, the key is going to be waiting out Weiland and getting his pitch count up, then really attacking him the second and third time through the order. That said, he also doesn't sound like he has the stuff to strike fear into anyone. This is going to be an interesting matchup between a newer starter to the league who doesn't have a lot of stamina, and a Dodgers line up that is tied for 6th in MLB with 50 walks through 12 games.

Pick to Click: James Loney

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Sunday, April 22: Wandy Rodriguez (L)

I was tempted to just copy and paste Happ's preview to Wandy's section, but thought better of it. Wandy throws a four and two seam fastball as well as a cutter which all check in at 89mph (50%). He also throws a curveball (30%) and changeup (20%). As you can see, he's VERY offspeed pitch oriented, which makes sense due to his lack of velocity. Wandy is consistently in the tier of pitchers who are better than league average, but not enough so that they warrant much consideration.

What to Watch For: Wandy also likes to run everything away from hitters on both sides of the plate. Lacking a dominant pitch, Wandy will change pitches frequently and pitch backwards a lot (fastballs when ahead of the hitter, breaking balls when behind) so as to keep hitters from being able to sit on a particular pitch.

Pick to Click: An 11:05am game with a trip home following the game, expect the subs to get a lot of play in this one. Pick to click is Jerry Hairston.

For the series, I expect James Loney to take advantage of these three pitchers in his homecoming series, while Dee Gordon should get the opportunities to get on base.

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