The Padres go from playing the NL’s best team to the worst team in baseball, as they leave Atlanta and the 56-win Braves behind in favor of Pittsburgh and the 34-win Pirates.
The first game of the series will be started by Kevin Correia, and Wade LeBlanc will start the series finale. Reports are that Mat Latos will come off the 15-day DL to start the middle game of the series, so I’ll assume that’s the matchup that ultimately occurs–hopefully, it comes to fruition and the Padres don’t have to start Tim Stauffer.
It should be noted that the Pirates ran up 11 and 15 runs in consecutive games earlier this week. That came against Milwaukee’s awful pitching, but still, they may be on a hot streak and play above their numbers.
Follow me after the jump for a breakdown of how Correia, Latos, and LeBlanc might fare against Pittsburgh.
The Pirates have the misfortune of being a below-average offensive team against every pitch. They are best against fastballs (-.51 runs per 100 pitches) and curves (-.40), but the team doesn’t have a strong tendency to be a fastball-hitting team, breaking ball-hitting team, or anything else.
Right off the bat, that obviously bodes well for the Padres. Correia can throw any of his five pitches with no trouble, Latos’ four plus pitches could wreak havoc, and LeBlanc won’t have to worry about the Pirates crushing his mediocre fastball or being able to stay back on his changeup.
Of course, just because the team as a whole struggles with every pitch doesn’t mean they don’t have individual hitters who can do damage against certain pitches. Lastings Milledge, for example, can hit a fastball, but that’s about it. Andrew McCutchen crushes curves and can handle fastballs and changeups. Neil Walker‘s had trouble with changeups, but is solid against everything else. Garrett Jones can hang in with hard stuff and crush slow breakers, but struggles with changeups as well. Jose Tabata actually does better with changeups than just about anything else. So do Delwyn Young, Ryan Church, and Jason Jaramillo.
And so on.
The key with Correia, plain and simple, is to follow the scouting reports and mix his pitches well. He’s got five offerings, and the Pirates as a whole aren’t going to take tremendous advantage of any of them. If he keeps the batters guessing and simply uses the individual batters’ weaknesses as his out pitches, he’ll do fine.
Then there’s Latos, who should really focus on his heater, since Milledge is the only Pittsburgh hitter who’s done well-above-average against fastballs. Latos’ fastball can get just about anyone out, and these batters aren’t good enough to match up to it. The Pirates also have nobody who can really do much with the slider, so Latos should be fine there as well. As long as he mixes his pitches and throws strikes, there’s no reason to expect Latos will struggle unless his injury flares up on him.
Finally, there’s LeBlanc, who’s a bit trickier to deal with because he’s mostly a fastball/changeup pitcher. Young, Church, and Jaramillo all can inflict some real damage on changeups, but are all quite inept at catching up to fastballs. Conversely, LeBlanc should throw the changeup quite a bit to Milledge.
It’s well within the Padres pitchers’ ability to succeed against this lineup; they just have to throw strikes and pitch to the hitters’ weaknesses.