After a rough season opening series against the Mets, Atlanta gets out of New York and heads south to take on the Houston Astros for three games.
It's hard to look at the Astros and see anything but a team that will finish last in the National League Central and be one of the worst in baseball. With that said, the Astros took two of three from the Colorado Rockies to start their season.
In terms of offseason moves, the biggest one was not on the field, and its effect will not be known completely for some time. That move was the hiring of Jeff Luhnow from the St. Louis Cardinals to be their general manager. The hiring was met by rave reviews, but he's got a gigantic rebuilding task in from of him.
His biggest move on the field this off-season was to trade reliever Mark Melancon to the Red Sox for shortstop Jed Lowrie, who is on the disabled list with a sprained thumb, and pitcher Kyle Weiland.
Outside of first baseman Carlos Lee, who is coming off a 2011 season where he hit .275/.342/.446 with a 115 wRC+ and .339 wOBA, there isn't much there in terms of production or name value. Minuscule second baseman Jose Altuve hits lefties well, but is mediocre at best against right handed pitching.
Left fielder J.D. Martinez has gotten off to a hot start in 2012, with a home run and three RBI's against the Rockies. Our old friend Jordan Schafer notched a homer in the season opening series, as did right fielder Brian Bogusevic. Shortstop Marwin Gonzalez is a true glove-only player at this point.
There's just not much there offensively for Houston as a whole. Braves pitching should do well in the three game series.
Pitching matchups and a look at the bullpen after the jump.
Monday April 9th, 8:05 PM ET
#37 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Sep 03, 1986
#30 / Pitcher / Houston Astros
Oct 19, 1982
In the first game of the series, Brandon Beachy takes on J.A. Happ. Happ is a really average pitcher, with a lifetime ERA of 4.00, FIP of 4.51, and xFIP of 4.54. He features five pitches, a four-seam fastball, cutter, sinker, curveball, and change-up. Topping out at around 90 miles per hour, Happ isn't going to blow batters away. He's mostly fastball-sinker, with the change-up appearing to be his most used off-speed pitch. He struck out 7.71 batters per nine innings last season, but also had a BB/9 of 4.78, so Atlanta would do well to be patient at the plate against him. In 38.2 career innings against the Braves, Happ is 2-0 with a 2.09 ERA and 24 strikeouts.
Tuesday April 10th, 8:05 PM ET
#48 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Aug 28, 1986
#56 / Pitcher / Houston Astros
Sep 12, 1986
In game two of the series, Tommy Hanson takes on newly acquired Kyle Weiland. He made seven appearances, five of them starts, for the Red Sox last season, but didn't pitch well. A good spring however won him a rotation spot for Houston after being included in the Melancon deal. Weiland throws five pitches, a four seam, sinker, cutter, curveball, and a change-up. Going off the limited number of innings he has in the majors, Weiland gets his fastball up around 93 miles per hour, and primarily uses the four seam, sinker, and cutter while mixing in his two off-speed pitches when needed. He struck out 13 and walked 12 for the Red Sox last season, so Atlanta would again do well to work the count and wait out Weiland.
Wednesday April 11th, 8:05 PM ET
#40 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Feb 09, 1990
#51 / Pitcher / Houston Astros
Jan 18, 1979
The series finale pits Delgado against Wandy Rodriguez, who has to be chomping at the bit to face Atlanta after seeing the teams struggles hitting lefties so far. He throws a four-seam, sinker, curveball, and a change. The first three are his primary pitches, but his change is pretty good when he throws it. Both off-speed pitches have generated large swing and miss numbers over the course of his career (Curve: 29.36%, Change: 23.27%). Last year, he struck out just under eight batters per nine innings while walking 3.25 batters per nine innings. In his first start of the year, Rodriguez went 6.1 innings, giving up six hits and three runs (none earned) while walking two and striking out two.
***Pitch stats from www.brooksbaseball.net.***
Brett Myers -RH (CL)
Wilton Lopez -RH
David Carpenter -RH
Fernando Rodriguez -RH
Wesley Wright -LH
Rhiner Cruz -RH
Fernando Abad -LH
Brandon Lyon -RH
Atlanta enters the series badly needing some wins, and taking two out of three shouldn't be out of the question. The series finale against Rodriguez could be rough given the Braves struggles so far against left-handers.