The second place Dodgers take on the second place Pirates over the next three days. Coming off a successful series against the Padres in which they won three of four, the Dodgers look to continue their strong start against Kevin Correia, Erik Bedard and Jeff Karstens. As always, special thanks to Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs.Tuesday, April 10: Kevin Correia (R)
An All-Star in 2011, Kevin Correia has an oddly wide range of pitches, of which he doesn't seem to have a dominant one. He has a four seam fastball (30% of the time) that averages 90mph, a two-seam fastball that he throws at 90mph (17%), an 87mph slider (22%), a 78mph curveball (12%), an 86mph changup (10%) and a 90mph cutter (8%). If we see Rod Barajas taking off his cleats to call pitches, all bets are off. Correia likes to stay away from both right and left-handed batters with all of his pitches, rarely pitching inside. Frankly, none of his pitches are very good, and it results in Correia allowing an unusual amount of home runs, even somehow allowing 1.24HR/9 two years ago while a member of the Padres. Oddly, despite the home run tendencies and wide array of pitch choices, Correia doesn't strike anyone out, with a career average of 6K/9 and a career low 4.50K/9 last season. He did a good job limiting his walks last year, but over his career has walked about half as many batters as he's struck out. Ideally, you want to see a pitcher's K:BB ratio closer to 3:1, with anything under 2:1 being totally unacceptable.
You can see in the picture above that Correa's pitching hand is far behind his legs at this stage of his mechanics. To get to a proper release point from this position, his throwing hand will have to take the shortest path possible, which will result in him being under the ball rather than releasing out in front. This will result in pitches being left out over the zone, and into the outfield bleachers.
What Does This Mean?: It means expect a lot of baserunners, and a lot of good contact. This game is going to rely more on the whims of the Baseball Gods as to whether the contact finds holes than the Dodgers' offensive abilities. I do think one of Correia's MAJOR flaws is that his fastballs and offspeed pitches are thrown at roughly the same speed. This allows a batter to guess wrong, or see a pitch wrong, and still make good contact. Because Correia doesn't throw very hard and prefers to stay away from both right and left-handed hitters, I expect his approach to play right into the power of Matt Kemp. Most of our other hitters prefer the ball inside, so it's kind of a crapshoot from there. Again, with the lack of a dominant fastball, expect Dee Gordon to make good contact and create havoc on the basepaths.
Wednesday, April 11: Erik Bedard (L)
Erik Bedard has run the MLB career gamut from bonafide ace when he led the AL in highest K/9 (10.9) and lowest H/9 (7.0) in 2007 to Top 5 NL Question Marks heading into 2012. Over the last four years, Bedard has made 55 starts, thrown 300.1 innings, with 291 K and a 3.36 ERA. When he's pitched, he's been very good still. Now 33 years old, Bedard is looking to revive his career with the Pirates in time for one big payday. Bedard never threw exceptionally hard, averaging 92mph in 2007, but now he has almost entirely abandoned his 90mph four seam fastball (thrown 10% of the time), and now prefers throwing an 88mph two-seam fastball (42%), a 73mph curveball (28%) and a 75mph changeup (20%).
It's difficult to see from the picture above, but Bedard has two major mechanical tendencies that have led to a series of arm problems. First, as he comes to his balance point, Bedard twists his body away from the hitter, much like Ted Lilly does. If done incorrectly, this can start momentum going on one plane (if you imagine the pitcher as standing in a plastic bubble, this momentum is along the equator. someone help me out with the official term) when the arm and legs want to go on a path directly to the plate to deliver the pitch. In essence, this pushes body parts in two different directions at very high speeds and very high torque. Second, Bedard allows the ball to raise first, rather than his hand bringing the ball up. More on this in another fanpost.
What Does This Mean?: It depends which Bedard we see. In his first start on Thursday against the Phillies, Bedard went 7 innings allowing 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 4 and walking 1. It would appear we will be facing a healthy Bedard, with the ability to dominate our left-handed hitters. In his start against the Phillies, Bedard didn't face a single left-handed hitter, so our lineup will certainly be interesting for him.
Thursday, April 12: Jeff Karstens (R)
Jeff Karstens came up in 2006 as a 23 year old top prospect in the Yankees organization. Six years and a trade later, Karstens is coming off his best season as a major leaguer, having posted a 9-9 record, 3.38 ERA and 2.91 K:BB ratio. He's had very good success limiting his walks over the last three years, but last year he significantly reduced his number of hits allowed per inning. A quick check shows his oBABIP was also lower, but his line drive % remained roughly the same. As Karstens' career has progressed, he's used his 89mph four seam fastball less and less (now 16.5%), and his 89mph sinker more and more (44%). He compliments the sinker with a 79mph slider (79%), 70mph curveball (14%), and 81mph changeup (15%).
Karstens has interesting mechanics. You can see in the above picture that he practically jumps towards the mound when he throws. It's disconcerting that someone who propels himself forward so well doesn't generate more velocity.
What Does This Mean?: Anyone noticing a trend? The Dodgers have come up against a series of pitchers who don't throw all that hard, don't strike anyone out, and are moving away from a four seam fastball in favor of a sinker or cutter. Karstens prefers to throw his slider to righties and his curveball to lefties, working primarily away to all hitters. Again, I expect the soft-thrower to play into the strengths of Kemp and Dee. If he tries to throw his curveball away to Ethier, I expect Dre to have a good day. If he is able to throw it inside and under the hands of the lefties, he should be able to successfully navigate our lineup.