Pitching Matchups for Dodgers/Reds Series

The Los Angeles Dodgers made their annual visit to GABP for a three game weekend series…

I remember when the Dodgers were the most hated of rivals for the Reds back in the good ol’ days of the NL West. And while we are seeing more “issues” regarding home plate collisions, I also recall a play against LA where Norm Charlton bowled into the Dodger catcher (I believe it was Mike Scioscia) to score a run. And yes, the crowd at Riverfront erupted. While that edge seems to have somewhat vanished since MLB reshuffled the divisions, it’s always good when we can knock ’em around a bit. A series win would go a long way here.

So here’s BRM’s peek at the starting pitching matchups for the series…

Game 1 – Tonight, 7:10 PM ET
Hiroki Kuroda (season: 5-5, 3.50 ERA; v. CIN: 3-0, 2.41) v. Bronson Arroyo (season: 3-5, 5.74 ERA; v. LAD: 3-4, 4.04)

These pitchers have experienced similar seasons to date. Both were dealing a bit in April only to have May put a halt on their seasons thus far. That doesn’t apply as much to Kuroda as it does Arroyo. All you have to do is look at the monthly splits of each.

April: 3-2, 3.10 ERA, 1.180 WHIP, 4.29 SO/BB, .263/.295/.417, .293 BAbip
May: 2-3, 4.02 ERA, 1.468 WHIP, 2.09 SO/BB, .289/.341/.496, .320 BAbip

April: 3-2, 3.64 ERA, 1.315 WHIP, 5.40 SO/BB, .279/.310/.500, .326 BAbip
May: 0-3, 7.64 ERA, 1.727 WHIP, 1.36 SO/BB, .336/.383/.606, .319 BAbip

Yes, Arroyo’s May is far more gaudy than Kuroda’s, but their April’s are pretty much on the equal once you look into numbers other than the wins and losses. But one area where the numbers are really on the same course is run support. It is always easier when you’re allotted 6 runs in order to post a W, and both are flawless when that number is achieved. It’s iffy for both when it falls below that 6 run threshold. Kuroda is 3-5 in such games where Arroyo is 0-5.

And we all know why that has been the case for Arroyo, especially as of late. While Arroyo will pitch to contact more frequently, Kuroda has the pitches where he doesn’t have to as much. The Dodger hurler throws mostly a sinker (41.3% at 92 mph) and will also toss a slider (21.2% at 84mph), a four-seamer (16.5% at 91.5 mph), and a splitter (15.3% at 86 mph). He will also throw an occasional curve (4.6% at 78 mph).

And that presents a major difference…the mph. We know Arroyo does not hit 90+ with regularity as he’s more likely to retire you by mixing speeds and location. They say pitchers usually get the jump on the hitters as teams come out of spring training. Both the numbers of Kuroda and Arroyo bear that thought.

No Reds player has more than 9 PA against Kuroda, but he has allowed 2 HR to Reds (Votto and Rolen).

Same can’t be said for the veteran Aroyo. Here’s how the current crop of Dodgers do against the righty…

One name that jumps out at you is Matt Kemp. Kemp cooled off considerably in May compared to his April, but he likes seeing Arroyo on the mound. James Loney, Casey Blake and Jay Gibbons also fare well against Arroyo as all are hitting over .300 and have more than 10 PA.

Game 2 – Saturday, June 4, 4:10 PM ET
Clayton Kershaw (season: 6-3, 2.62 ERA; v. CIN: 1-1, 2.53) v. Johnny Cueto (season: 2-2, 2.20 ERA; v. LAD: 0-3, 5.40)

What I said above in regards to Kuroda and Arroyo is the opposite of how 2011 has transpired for Kershaw…

April: 2-3, 3.53 ERA, 1.252 WHIP, 2.73 SO/BB, .234/.306/.362, .292 BAbip
May: 4-0, 1.77 ERA, 0.959 WHIP, 5.11 SO/BB, .203/.247/.264, .284 BAbip

Less guys on base does lead to better outcomes, and Kershaw has proven that even more with his substantial differences for the first two months of this season. He is on a roll as Kershaw allowed more than 3 runs only once in May (5/18 v. SFG – 4 ER), and that same outing was the only start during May where he did not go at least 6 innings (5.0 IP). He also posted two games (5/13 and 5/29) where he rang up 10+ opposing hitters on strike outs.

In his last outing (that game on 5/29), Kershaw pitched a complete game shutout of the Florida Marlins.

Kershaw relies mostly on his fastball (67% at 93 mph) and also will display a slider (23.8% at 83 mph). Once in a while, he will toss a curve (6% at 73 mph) and a change (2.8% at 83 mph).

Johnny Cueto has given Reds fans a reason to be optimistic since he returned from the DL in early May. The Reds are 3-2 in games where Cueto has started. He could be 3-1 if not for a lack of offensive support in his last outing in Atlanta. Cueto tossed a complete game (8 IP) and threw a season high 116 pitches (64 strikes). He only threw one bad pitch that resulted in a two-run homer to Atlanta’s Martin Prado that provided the difference in the game as the Reds dropped a 2-1 decision.

In his two previous starts, Cueto seemed to be fighting control and command issues. That was as present last time out. And here’s something to keep in mind. The Reds are only averaging 3.79 runs in games where Cueto starts. This could be one of those games where Cueto doesn’t receive a lot of run support either given the May Kershaw posted.

Game 3 – Sunday, June 5, 1:10 PM ET
Chad Billingsley (season: 4-4, 3.46 ERA; v. CIN: 4-2, 3.43) v. Travis Wood (season: 4-3, 5.05 ERA; v. LAD: 1st app.)

You can look at Billingsley’s record and ERA and think that the Dodgers just aren’t scoring enough runs for him. That’s a partial truth. In his 12 starts this season, Billingsley has provided LA with 8 quality starts, but two of those are what I call a “fringe QS” where he barely met the requirement (6 IP and 3 ER or less) of posting a QS. He’s 1-1 in those games and 2-2 in his other QS. The Dodgers only hold a 50-50 chance of winning games where Billingsley starts as they are 6-6 in those 12 games.

What will the Reds bats be in for when they go to the plate? Unlike his teammate Kershaw, Billingsley mixes it up a little more. He does throw is fastball more than his other pitches (38.9% at 91.5 mph), but he can also mix in a cutter (24.6% at 89 mph), a two-seam fastball (14.1% at 91 mph), and a slider (13.8% at 77 mph). Every once in a while, you will see a changeup (6.2 at 85) and a curve (2.4% at 68).

For Travis Wood, 2011 has been a strange one especially his last three outings. Wood was cruising along only to hit a big bump in the road. But May was still good to Wood (had to say it) as he was 3-0 and lowered his ERA from 6.82 to its current standing of 5.05. Five of his 6 starts have been QS (2 of the fringe variety) and the Reds were 4-2 in May when Wood started. Like Billingsley, the Reds are only a 50-50 shot to win in games Wood starts (6-6 for 2011).

In the games where Wood has received 5 days rest (as he will heading into Sunday’s game), he has not fared as well when on 4 days rest. He is 1-2 with a 9.42 ERA in those games. But the last game where Wood pitched on 5 days rest resulted in one of his better outings of the season (6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO) in a 9-7 win over the Cardinals.

Other Series Notes:
– To the amazement of no one, Jay Bruce was rightfully awarded the NL Player of the Month (.342/.402/.739, 12 HR, 33 RBI).
Brandon Phillips has hit a bit of a lull at the plate since returning to the #2 spot in the lineup (.179/.273/.204, 0 HR, 3 RBI).
Drew Stubbs has been striking out at an alarming rate as pointed out by the Reds announcers. He leads the bigs with 73 SO and whiffs 28.4% of the time (73 in 257 PA). As astonishing as that is, Stubbs is still tied for second in the NL in runs scored (39 with Bruce, Joey Votto and Rickie Weeks) and is only one run behind league leader Ryan Braun (40).
– We’ve heard that the Reds bullpen is overworked. How does this grab you? In the Reds 57 games, the bullpen has averaged a little of 3.1 IP per game (3.47)! That means starters are only averaging 5.53 IP per start! That will tax a pen…