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Team Preview- Atlanta Braves; Broken Mirror Edition

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The last time the Dodgers and Braves squared off the two clubs were the hottest in baseball. Both teams had finished May with an identical 20-8 record and had started June 2-0.  The Dodgers and Braves would go on to split that series but the two clubs don't exactly resemble one another anymore. The Braves remain (relatively) comfortable in first place of the NL East while the Dodgers trail San Diego by 9 games in the NL West "race."

66-48, 1st place in NL East (Schedule and Results)

Scored 520 runs, Allowed 432 runs. Pythagorean W-L: 67-47

Season Series: Split 2-2

Position Breakdown:

1st Base:  Troy Glaus is the veteran Southern California native who spent his first 7 season with the California Angels.  Glaus has had a strange year. He was red hot in May and June posting an OPS of .942 and .870 and then dropped off the planet in July and August recording an OPS of .546 and .588.  On the year, Glaus has a wOBA of .335.

2nd Base: Martin Prado is on the disabled list with a broken pinkie which is fortunate for the Dodgers since he was raking for the 3rd year in a row. The all-star Omar Infante has been able to fill in at second base.  On the year Infante has a wOBA of .336 as a utility man.

Shortstop: Alex Gonzalez came over from Toronto in a trade which sent Yuniel Escobar the other way. The 33 year old veteran has handled the bat well with a wOBA of .337 on the year.  Gonzalez has always been considered to have plus defense.

3rd Base: Future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones is out for the season (possibly his career) and has been replaced by Brooks Conrad.  Conrad seems to rate as an average defender, and has posted a wOBA of .359 in 116 plate appearances on the season.

Catcher: Brian McCann, the Georgia native, is probably my favorite non-Dodger.  The unquestioned best hitting catcher in the NL is having another excellent season at the plate.  The 26 year old McCann enters the series with a wOBA .378, 18 homeruns and an ISO of .210.

Outfield:

Melky Cabrera came over from the Yankees in the offseason and is capable of playing all 3 outfield positions.  His outfield defense seems average to above average, but his struggles at the plate remain.  Cabrera has posted a wOBA of only .308 on the season.

With Nate McLouth being an absolute disaster at the plate (wOBA of .254) and being optioned to AAA in late July, Rick Ankiel was aquired from Kansas City and is starting in CF.  Ankiel is a below average fielder and has been off to a pretty slow start with Atlanta at the plate.  On the season, Ankiel has a wOBA of .304.

Matt Diaz is a bench player who has been getting starts in LF.  In 161 plate appearances, Diaz has a wOBA of .311.  Omar Infante, being the utility man that he is, can also play some LF.

Jason Heyward has slowed down quite a bit since his Griffy start but the just turned 21 year old is still having a solid debut season. Just hold off on the HOF ballots for right now. His wOBA of .364 is still good enough for 4th place among RF in the NL. The multi-talented Heyward is going to be fun to watch for at least a decade.

Who knew back in May the Brave starting outfield in Aug would be Heyward/Ankiel/Cabrera or Diaz. What happened to McLouth? Dang.

Starting Pitching for our Series:

Game 1: The veteran Tim Hudson takes the mound in Game 1 against Hiroki Kuroda. While Hudson comes into the game with excellent superficial stats- 13-5 with an ERA of 2.24- his peripherals are lacking. Hudson enters the contest with an x-FIP of 4.11.

Game 2: Old friend Derek Lowe is pitching game 2 for the Braves. Lowe who is arguably one of the best free agent signings in recent Dodger history, hasn't had quite as much success with Atlanta.  Lowe has been a bit unlucky on the year with an ERA of 4.40 compared to an x-FIP of 4.05.

Game 3: Jair Jurrjens has predictably come back down to earth this season after completely outperforming his x-FIP in 2009.  In 2009, Jurrjens ended the year with an ERA of 2.60 compared to an x-FIP of 4.34.  In 13 starts this season, Jurrjen's ERA is much more inline with his x-FIP at 4.16 and 4.58 respectively.

Game 4: Tommy Hanson gets the call in the finale against Chad Bilingsley

Bullpen:

Billy Wagner is the Atlanta closer and he's been able to accumulate 28 saves with an x-FIP of 2.69.  Jonny Venters leads the bullpen in innings pitched and has posted an x-FIP of 3.16 on the season.  Old friend Takashi Saito is having a great year. Saito has appeared in 45 games and has an x-FIP of 2.89. 

Series Prediction:

Who cares? I think all of the holdouts who still believed the Dodgers were competing for a playoff spot were firmly converted with the disaster last night. I actually like the matchup for the Dodgers. Los Angeles has the better pitching staff and the Braves are a bit beat up. 

I predict the teams will split the series 2-2.