Braves Vs. Twins: Series Preview

The Braves are looking for more high fives against the Twins this week. - Scott Cunningham

A look at the pitching matchups this week for Atlanta's series with the Twins.

The Minnesota Twins head south this week for their first ever visit to Turner Field. Atlanta and Minnesota will play three games to open the week before the Braves get an off day on Thursday. The Braves, fresh off a sweep of the Dodgers, meet a Twins team that is reeling. Minnesota is 18-22 on the year and has lost 5 games in a row, including a weekend sweep at the hands of the Red Sox. Needless to say, this series lines up very well for Atlanta.

The Twins offense has been rather middling so far this year, as they rank near the middle of the pack in several scoring categories including runs (15th), batting average (18th), on-base percentage (13th), and wOBA (20th). However, they only rank 23rd in slugging percentage and 22nd in wRC+, a sign that their offense is built around walks and singles, mostly.

The Twins really only have one great hitter, and the numbers back that up. Joe Mauer leads all Twins with a 149 wRC+; only 3 other qualified hitters have over 100 (meaning they are greater than league average). Josh Willingham is second on the team with a 112 wRC+ despite a putrid .197 batting average. Trevor Plouffe and Justin Morneau check in with a 107 and 102, respectively. Basically, you can't let Mauer beat you.

Series Pitching Matchups

Monday, May 20, 7:10 PM

2013 - Julio Teheran 2-1 4.57 1.48 26 8

2013 - Kevin Correia 4-3 3.35 1.23 22 8

Tonight's game matches up Julio Teheran with Kevin Correia, who has been the surprise of the Twins rotation so far this year. Correia currently leads all Twins' starters in both ERA (3.35) and WHIP (1.23), as well as pitcher wins (4), for what that's worth. A 4.17 FIP suggests that he's a bit over his head, but that number still leads all Twins' starters as well.

Correia is a five-pitch pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball, a cut fastball, a sinking fastball, a changeup, and a curveball. His fastballs sit around 89-90 most of the time, and he leans extensively on them, throwing them almost 75% of the time. His cutter is his bread and butter, as he tosses it a whopping 36% of the time. His curveball is his strikeout pitch, but he doesn't even go to it that much when he's ahead in the count, preferring to throw his cutter and pitch to contact. That said, he hasn't been terribly effective at getting ground balls off his cutter this year, as hitters are hitting almost .300 against it. If the Braves can sit on his fastballs, they should be able to do something with them.

Tuesday, May 21, 7:10 PM

2013 - Tim Hudson 4-3 5.12 1.31 39 15

2013 - Mike Pelfrey 3-4 6.57 1.77 18 11

Many Braves fans will remember Minnesota's game two starter from his days with the Mets. To say Mike Pelfrey's numbers have been rough so far this year would be an understatement. With an ERA north of 6, it would appear that "Pelf" hasn't been fooling anyone. A look at his FIP (4.31) would suggest that unlike teammate Kevin Correia, Pelfrey has been rather unlucky so far this year.

Pelfrey is primarily a fastball guy, as he'll throw a four-seamer and sinker over 70% of the time. He'll also mix in a cutter, curveball, slider, and splitter on occasions to round out his arsenal. Pelfrey's fastballs sit around 92, and he can command them to both sides of the plate fairly well. Pelfrey throws hard from the right side, and actually has the lowest percentage of homeruns allowed (both per nine innings and per flyball) of any Twins starter. I know the numbers don't suggest it on the surface, but I could see Pelfrey giving Atlanta some trouble.

Wednesday, May 22, 12:10 PM

2013 - Paul Maholm 5-4 3.83 1.24 44 19

2013 - Vance Worley 1-4 6.20 1.89 22 13

Another former NL East pitcher lines up to take the ball for Minnesota in the series finale on Wednesday afternoon. Worley came to the Twins as part of the Ben Revere trade, and, much like Revere in Philly, hasn't lived up to expectations. Worley's been a train wreck so far, posting an ERA of 6.20 and a FIP of 4.72. So he has been a bit unlucky, but he still hasn't been great. Of concern for the Twins so far are Worley's disappearing strikeouts. Last year, he whiffed over 7 batters per 9 innings. This year, that number has dropped all the way to 4.40.

Worley throws three main pitches: a four-seamer, a sinker, and a slider. He'll seldom mix in a curveball and a changeup as well. In addition to getting fewer strikeouts than ever before, he's also getting a lower percentage of whiffs as well. Combine that with a rising percentage of line drives, and you have a recipe for trouble.

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