Upcoming Series Matchups (8/24/10)--Padres Bats vs. D'backs Arms

The Padres face Rodrigo Lopez (who they always seem to get), Joe Saunders, and Ian Kennedy in this three-game series.

Let’s take a quick look at these matchups.

From my article earlier in the month, on Lopez and Saunders:

Game 2 is started by Rodrigo Lopez. To quote myself from the last time he faced the Padres, on July 17:

The Padres get Lopez next, and he’s been lucky to post a 4.40 ERA this year. The 34-year-old isn’t a dominating pitcher by any means, striking out a batter just every other inning.

Lopez is a pitch-mixer, tossing a fastball, slider, cutter, curveball, and changeup. He uses the slider as his “out pitch” to an extent, but generally just mixes up his patterns. Lopez tops out around 90 mph, so even though the Padres aren’t very good against fastballs, they should be able to handle his. Lopez’s reliance on the slider plays into the Padres’ hands, as the team generally handles sliders well. Lopez doesn’t command his changeup very well, so it’s not a pitch to worry about either.

Lopez simply isn’t a good pitcher. The Padres should have success against him.

They did have success against him, knocking four homers out in six innings. With the stronger, more balanced lineup in place now, I wouldn’t expect Lopez to fare well. I don’t have much else to add on him.

Finally, lefty Joe Saunders takes the mound. Of course, the lineup against him will likely include Denorfia, Cabrera, and Scott Hairston, in place of Headley, Gwynn, and Venable, so the numbers against the pitches from the beginning of the article obviously change with the different personnel in. The quick-and-dirty differences: Denorfia’s about average against everything, Cabrera’s bad against everything, and Hairston is a fastball hitter, and they replace Venable and Gwynn, who hit changeups…and that’s about it, and Headley who hits fastballs and curves but flails against sliders and changeups.

Saunders, like Hudson, is primarily a fastball/change pitcher, but neither his fastball nor his changeup is as impressive as Hudson’s, largely because neither one misses many bats. Saunders lacks a swing-and-miss pitch, so he employs the ol’ Kirk Rueter strategy–throw a fastball for strike one, and then throw a bunch of pitches just outside the zone, hoping to get a batter to chase and induce weak contact. It’s not the worst of strategies, but Saunders doesn’t do the best job of keeping the ball down, and he doesn’t have the stuff to miss up, particularly in Arizona.

With Gonzalez, Ludwick, and Hairston all around to crush fastballs, and Saunders not having the sort of offspeed stuff that can make the Padres blink, he could run into some trouble. Against Mat Latos, he’ll have a small margin for error.

The Padres hit Saunders hard back on the 8th, so it looks like that worked out well, and you always have to like your chances against Rodrigo Lopez. Of course, Saunders draws Wade LeBlanc instead of Latos this time, so it won’t be as easy, but especially given the discrepancy in bullpens here, you have to give the Padres the edge in the first two games.

Finally, there’s Ian Kennedy, who I haven’t profiled before, so it’s time for some good ol’ actual research, rather than just copying my old research. Ahh, well, there goes the laziness, I suppose.

Not a hard thrower, the righthanded Kennedy sits around 89 mph, and his fastball lacks life. Not surprisingly, it isn’t very good, although he does throw it for strikes.

His slider is so bad that it makes Wade LeBlanc‘s curve look like the most devastating breaking ball of all time. Kennedy sensibly doesn’t throw it much. Instead, he throws a curveball and changeup that both rate as plus pitches.

Kennedy doesn’t throw the big curve for strikes, which could be a problem against the Padres. It also doesn’t generate many empty swings, although it gets plenty of grounders and is tough to square up. The changeup is good, but the Padres are one of the best teams at recognizing curves and changeups and only swinging at the ones in the strike zone.

Kennedy reminds me a bit of a right-handed LeBlanc, and this sort of pitcher isn’t really equipped to beat San Diego. Again, I’ll take the Padres here, but as I mentioned in the other half of the preview, the pitching on the other side could tip this any number of ways.

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