Monday, April 21, 2014

Lineup, Wandy to DL, Hughes up, Marte, Grilli, Pitching...

Francisco Liriano (0-3, 3.96 ERA) takes on Mike Leake (2-1, 2.95 ERA) tonight at PNC Park. Liriano is 0-4 with a 3.73 ERA in five career starts against the Reds, while Leake is 6-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 16 career starts against the Pirates.

The lineup: Starling Marte LF, Russ Martin C, Cutch CF, Pedro 3B, Neil Walker 2B, Ike Davis 1B, Jose Tabata RF, Clint Barmes SS and Frankie P. Travis Snider (shiner) and Jordy Mercer (ankle) are nursing minor injuries and will be available from the bench.

The Reds are on a little bit of a roll, having won 4-of-5, and the Pirates don't want to fall very far behind the pack so early in the season. However, the Reds are 4-0 in Leake's last 4 starts vs. Pirates, while the Pirates are 1-5 in Liriano's last 6 starts vs. Reds.

The game will be aired on ESPN and 93.7 The Fan with first pitch at 7:05. Root Sports will be covering the Pens tonight.
  • RHP Jared Hughes has been recalled from Indy & Wandy Rodriguez has been placed on the 15-day DL due to right knee inflammation. Calling up Hughes means the Bucs plan to go with Stolmy Pimentel/Jeanmar Gomez (less likely) while Wandy's out, unless the Bucs are covering the pen after yesterday's 14-inning match and plan to yo-yo Hughes.
  • It's kind of odd, but as Starling Marte's discipline has increased, so have his whiffs. His K rate has jumped from an worrisome 24.4% in 2013 to a horrendous 34.4% in 2014 and he's struck out at least once in 14 consecutive games. At the same time, his walk rate has doubled from 4.4% last year to 8.9% this season and his swing rate at pitches off the plate has dropped from 37 to 33%, so he's not chasing bad balls as much. It's a poser.
  • Another question is the dependability of Jason Grilli's stuff. Did this weekend's blown saves come as a result of being Ryan Braun'ed when he was on a roll or because at the age of 37, inevitable performance decline is setting in?  
  • Pittsburgh starters have posted a 4.27 ERA, 12th in the NL. So whassup with Pirate pitching? The ball - up in the air, that is. The Pirates had 52.5% of the balls put in play against them on the ground last year as opposed to a pedestrian 46.5% this year. There's a corresponding jump in fly balls, from 27% to 34.6%, and as a result the staff has given up more homers that any other NL club, a season after leading the majors with the fewest homers surrendered. 
  • Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs looked at Edinson Volquez's rebound, and posted "Now that Volquez has tightened things up, hitters are swinging more aggressively, and Volquez is getting into fewer deep counts." His premise is that Edinson isn't throwing a lot more strikes, but throwing a lot more balls in the plate's zip code than before, drawing more swings.
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