Braves Vs. Mariners Preview: Tommy Hanson Returns, Atlanta To Face Felix Hernandez And Michael Pineda

After a tough series loss against the Padres this past weekend, the Atlanta Braves will travel north and take on the Seattle Mariners for a 3-game series at Safeco Field. This will be the Braves' first visit to Seattle since 2001 and fans should prepare for some incredible pitching performances. We'll get to the pitching matchups later on, so let's take a look at the Mariners and how they've performed this year.

Seattle currently sits at 39-39 and are 1.5 games back of the division-leading Texas Rangers. They have one of the better starting rotations in starting baseball, but their offense gives the Braves a run for their money in terms of inability to score runs for any given amount of time. If you're looking for a some high scoring games this week, you might not want to watch this one. You've been warned.

Offense:

The Mariners are the worst offensive team in baseball. They don't hit for much power nor do they get on base at a very high average. They steal a few bases, but not enough to make a huge impact on the game on a nightly basis and the club's wRC+ is 79. Seventy nine.

They'll probably score 30 runs this series against the Braves.

No, that's unfair to the pitching staff. But surely our defense and bad luck can account for at least 15 runs to score.

The Mariners are basically a two man team right now and they play just a few feet from each other. Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley, who are the first and second basemen, respectively, are both special players having special rookie seasons. They're going to eventually lead Seattle back to the top of the AL West within a few seasons, though they'll need some help. Smoak (.255/.357/.470, 132 wRC+) has been good all year long and Ackley (.300/.364/.567, 153 wRC+) has set the world on fire since his promotion last month. If Atlanta's pitching staff is able to contain these two guys, it's tough to imagine Seattle scoring more than a handful of runs this series. If they don't, well, they could be in for their second straight series loss.

Ichiro Suzuki (.273/.319/.326, 84 wRC+) has been very un-Ichiro like this season, and while it's pure speculation on my part, I think he's injured. The guy has been a 4-6+ fWAR player his entire 10-year career, and while those numbers are inflated a bit by his incredible defense -- he's at -8.4 UZR this year, which brings down his fWAR numbers considerably -- a player simply doesn't decline at the rate Ichiro has. He's just too good for all of his numbers to be down as much as they are this season, and while he isn't getting any younger (he's already 37), he's still in great shape and is capable of playing at least three more years. Something doesn't add up.

Outside of Smoak, Ackley and Ichiro, you'd be hard pressed to find any talented hitters in Seattle's lineup. Brendan Ryan (.251/.314/.307, 78 wRC+), Franklin Gutierrez (.202/.235/.254, 31 wRC+) and Miguel Olivo (.233/.269/.401, 82 wRC+) have all been bad this season and Chone Figgins (.188/.235/.252, 33 wRC+) is the worst player in baseball when you take his contract into account. At least Adam Kennedy (.270/.308/.410, 104 wRC+) and Jack Cust (.216/.358/.319, 100 wRC+) have been somewhat decent this year for the Mariners.

Pitching Matchups:

Monday, 10:10EDT - Brandon Beachy Vs. Erik Bedard (SportSouth)

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Brandon Beachy 2-1 9 9 0 0 0 0 50.1 40 19 18 6 14 57 3.22 1.07
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Erik Bedard 4-5 14 14 0 0 0 0 83.0 70 33 27 9 25 80 2.93 1.14


Erik Bedard is finally healthy and he's having a fine season with Seattle. The key to the lefty's resurgence (outside of being able to actually throw a baseball without pain) has been his ability to cut down on walking batters. His BB/9 ratio of 2.71 is very good and he's right on par with his career numbers for strikeouts (8.67 in 2011, 8.76 career). Bedard will throw a fastball with pretty good movement in the low-90's, a big curveball and solid changeup, especially to right-handed batters.

Tuesday, 10:10EDT - (Tommy Hanson Vs. Michael Pineda)

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Tommy Hanson 8-4 14 14 0 0 0 0 83.1 56 26 23 6 30 89 2.48 1.03
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Michael Pineda 7-4 15 15 0 0 0 0 95.2 69 28 26 7 27 94 2.45 1.00


Tommy Hanson is back! Tommy Hanson is back!

If you're a baseball fan, these are the pitching matchups you live for. Two young, talented, aces-in-the-making will face off against light-hitting offenses in a game that'll likely have at least 20 combined strikeouts. 

Pineda, who is currently the favorite for AL Rookie of the Year, has been pretty great this season. His K/BB ratio of 3.48 is excellent and the big kid throws hard. His fastball sits right around 95mph and his nasty slider has been compared to John Smoltz's. He has been a bit lucky this year (.249 BABIP, 79.8 LOB%), but he's talented and the Braves will have their hands full on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, 3:40EDT - (Derek Lowe Vs. Felix Hernandez)

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Derek Lowe 3-6 17 17 0 0 0 0 95.2 96 47 46 7 35 71 4.33 1.37
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Felix Hernandez 8-6 17 17 2 0 0 0 121.1 102 49 43 7 39 118 3.19 1.16


The Braves will face The King on Wednesday afternoon, and it might get ugly. Hernandez, who might just be the best young pitcher in baseball, dominates his opponents and is armed with four plus-pitches. His fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90's and he uses it to set up his filthy changeup, sharp slider and big curveball. He strikes out a lot of batters (8.75 K/9), doesn't walk many (2.89 BB/9) and doesn't give up many home runs. Good luck, Braves.

In conclusion...

These are two similar teams. The Braves have inconsistent all season long and there's really no way to tell which team is going to show up. Atlanta's pitchers are no slouches, but it's tough to have any faith in the lineup right now. Felix Hernadez and Erik Bedard both have huge games and the Mariners win the series.

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