This weekend the Dodgers (25-13) face their first team with an over-.500 record since the Nationals series. The Cardinals (22-16) will throw Lance Lynn and a couple of surprising veterans in Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse.
Friday, May 18: Lance Lynn (R):
Chris Carpenter, who? Lance Lynn has been as good as any expectations for Chris Carpenter would have been, and better. He's 6-1 in 7 starts, striking out almost a better per inning but only walking 2.82 per 9 innings, good for a K:BB of 3.14 (remember 3:1 is very very good). Though his last start was his worst by far (6.0IP 3ER, 7K, 3BB), so the Dodgers may be catching him at the right time. Lynn has an incredibly low oBABIP (.219) and a very high percentage of runners left on base (87%). The strikeouts tell me he has the raw stuff to be successful, but the LOB% and low oBABIP suggests he shouldn't be AS good as he's been. Lynn throws a 92mph fastball 67% of the time, which in and of itself is very solid. He backs that up with a 79mph curveball (22%) and an 84mph changeup (7%). He'll also throw a couple of sliders per outing.
What to Watch For: What's interesting is his curveball usage. He throws the same curveball regardless of which side of the plate the hitter stands on, which results in a backdoor curveball to lefties and a frontdoor curveball to righties. What this means is he'll start his curveball off the plate away and work it back in against lefties, but start it at the right handed hitter and run it towards the middle of the plate for a strike. Also interesting is his changeup usage. He completely abandons the changeup, his third best pitch, against right handed hitters.
- Lynn was drafted out of Ole Miss by the Cardinals 39th overall in 2008.
- Lynn holds the Memphis Redbirds single-game franchise strikeout record of 16.
- Lance Lynn threw exactly one pitch in Game 2 of the 2011 NLCS, and was awarded the win.
Saturday, May 19: Jake Westbrook (R)
Now in his 12th season, Jake Westbrook is the ultimate known quantity. He throws a 90mph sinker 70% of the time and an 85mph slider 20% of the time.The other 10% of his pitches are changeups and curveballs, but hitters can be certain they are going to see a heavy dose of heavy sinkers.
What to Watch For: Jake Westbrook simply is not this good. He has a 2.35 ERA on the year, and a 4.28 ERA for his career. He hasn't changed anything in his repertoire, but he's stranding 10% more runners than normal. The key is going to be making Westbrook elevate his sinker and not fish at the sinkers in the dirt. If they can do that, we could put his ERA more at his career averages after a nice 4 inning start. The question will be if we have the offense to make it matter.
Sunday, May 20: Kyle Lohse (R)
For almost everything I wrote about Jake Westbrook, repeat for Kyle Lohse. Also in his 12th season, Lohse's ERA this season is 2.70 despite his career ERA of 4.58. He hasn't magically started striking out hitters (5.76K/9 this year, 5.60 career), he is walking fewer hitters so far this year, but his control has always been good. The only thing that's been out of the ordinary is how many runners get left on base against him (70.1% career, 76.9% in 2012). Lohse throws an 89mph sinker, 83mph slider and 81mph changeup. He's a modern marvel.
What to Watch For: Like Westbrook, the Dodgers will have to force Lohse to elevate his fastball. The only real thing to watch for is that he ignores his slider against lefties, relying on his fastball and changeup. Against our current lefty-heavy lineup, without a breaking ball, Lohse could fall into some trouble.