Braves at Nationals Series Preview - Strasburg Meets Heyward

The Braves and Nationals will start a 3-game series in Washington DC tonight, and that means two things: Rob Dibble, and the decent chance that the Braves will struggle. Fortunately for us, there's a mute button to deal with Dibble and his ridiculous commentating. The other half isn't so easy to fix though.

Since 2008, the Braves are 8-13 against the Nats at Nationals Park. The worst team in baseball the last two and a half years, and the Braves are 5 games under .500 at their stadium. The Nats have 4 walk-off hits against the Braves in the park and the Braves average a measly 3.7 runs per game. This really needs to change. Fortunately for the Braves, this is the best team we've had at any moment since '08 and I feel pretty confident about the series.

The Nationals are 42-57 and have lost 7 of their last 10 games. They are on pace for 67 wins, which would be better than previous seasons. Let's take a look at the offense first.

Offense:

Runs: 402 (14th)
BA: .258 (9th)
OBP: .327 (8th)
SLG: .399 (11th)
HR: 86 (10th)
SB: 70 (3rd)
BB%: 8.5 (9th)
K%:
21.6% (11th)

As you can see, they're a below-average bunch at the plate. The Nats are led offensively by a lethal 3/4/5 combination of Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham. All 3 are having great seasons and carry Washington offensively. Besides those three, Nyjer Morgan is a decent leadoff man with some serious speed. Pudge Rodriguez has slowed tremendously from his hot start in the 1st half, but is still having a solid season. Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina have potential to be solid players one day, but neither are having very good seasons.

Starting Pitching:

ERA: 4.54 (13th)
FIP: 4.26 (11th)
BAA: .282 (15th)
BABIP: .312 (12th)
WHIP: 1.44 (14th)
K/BB: 1.80 (15th)

That's pretty horrible. Stephen Strasburg is the un-questioned ace of the staff, and he doesn't have much help. Livan Hernandez has been pretty good as the staff veteran, but he's been pretty lucky in 2010 and has fallen off since his great start. Craig Stammen, who'll start Thursday afternoon, isn't very good and neither is Ross Detwiler. J.D. Martin has been pretty solid, but the Braves won't face him in the upcoming season.

More after the jump...

Relief Pitching:

ERA: 3.68 (6th)
FIP: 3.95 (8th)
BAA: .253 (10th)
BABIP: .309 (9th)
WHIP: 1.37 (17h)
K/BB: 
2.09 (5th)

When I looked up the stats, I expected to see the Nationals bullpen towards the bottom. They're actually not that bad. Matt Capps has been great as their closer and has 24 saves. Closer-of-the-future Drew Storen has been equally good this year in the 8th innings. Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett have also been solid and feature low ERAs and FIPs. Miguel Batista, Doug Slaten, and Tyler Walker have all pitched occasionally this year and all three have been pretty good as well. The Braves won't be able to rely on late rallies like they did in Florida if they want to win this series.

Pitching Match-Ups:

Tuesday, 7:05EST:

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Tommy Hanson 8-6 20 20 1 0 0 0 113.2 118 56 52 8 37 114 4.12 1.36
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Stephen Strasburg 5-2 9 9 0 0 0 0 54.1 43 15 14 3 15 75 2.32 1.07


Wednesday, 7:05EST:

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Tim Hudson 10-5 21 20 1 0 0 0 135.0 104 38 37 10 48 67 2.47 1.13
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Livan Hernandez 7-6 21 20 2 1 0 0 132.2 126 48 46 9 38 70 3.12 1.24


Thursday, 12:35EST:

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Derek Lowe 10-8 22 21 0 0 0 0 124.2 129 64 62 12 50 81 4.48 1.44
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Craig Stammen 2-4 18 17 0 0 0 0 93.1 110 62 57 9 27 49 5.50 1.47
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