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Marlins Vs. Braves: Atlanta Seeks First Series Win At Home As Florida Visits

The Atlanta Braves continue their season-opening homestand with three games against the Florida Marlins in Atlanta.

The Braves are hoping to get their homestand back on track after winning the home opener against the Phillies and following with two losses to lose the series. Atlanta is scuffling on offense, ranking near the bottom in most categories, including last in the National League in wOBA at .279.

The Marlins are in the upper half of the league in wOBA at .325. However, they are in the lower half in FIP at 4.11, though that is still not a bad number. The Fish are 5-4 after winning their last two series against the Nationals and Astros.

Tuesday, April 12 - 7:10 (Fox Sports South)
Chris Volstad (2010: 175 IP, 4.58 ERA, 4.34 FIP, 4.43 xFIP, 3.09 BB/9, 5.25 K/9, 47.9 GB%, 5.7 SwStr%)
(59.7 FB%, 14.4 SL%, 13.6 CH%, 12.4 CB%; 43.4 Swing%, 86.4 Contact%)
vs.
Tommy Hanson (2011: 9 IP, 6.00 ERA, 6.58 FIP, 5.58 xFIP, 3 BB/9, 3 K/9, 36.4 GB%, 5.7 SwStr%)
(53.8 FB%, 21.2 SL%, 19.9 CB%, 5.1 CH%; 43.9 Swing%, 86.8 Contact%)

Chris Volstad is a 6'8 sinkerballer who has yet to really put it together for the Marlins. After a great debut in 2008 that included a 2.88 ERA and 3.82 FIP in 84.1 innings, he responded with an ERA over five in 2009 and numbers in the mid-fours in 2010. Volstad's ground ball rate has steadily dropped since '08, probably because of a steady decrease in sinkers thrown while he has thrown more changeups. It hasn't helped his strikeout totals, and for a pitcher who relies on getting grounders, it doesn't make sense. In his first start this season, Volstad allowed one run on four hits in five innings, but he walked four. He upped his slider count while keeping the fastball total similar.

Tommy Hanson's second start went only slightly better than the nightmarish first one, allowing three runs on seven hits in 5.1 innings, walking one and striking out two. Neither side of Hanson has showed up so far; the ground ball side has a 36% rate, while the strikeout side has three punch outs in nine innings. Hanson's stuff has remained flat and up, and his fastball velocity and usage is down. He is relying on his secondary and show-me stuff to get by, which is a recipe for disaster.

Wednesday, April 13 - 7:10 (Peachtree TV/Fox Sports South)
Josh Johnson (2011: 12.2 IP, 2.13 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 3.23 xFIP, 1.42 BB/9 6.39 K/9, 51.4 GB%, 7 SwStr%)
(68.1 FB%, 16.2 SL%, 11.4 CH%, 4.3 CB%; 42.7 Swing%, 83.5 Contact%)
vs.
Tim Hudson (2011: 14.2 IP, 1.84 ERA, 2.48 FIP, 3.55 xFIP, 0.61 BB/9, 4.30 K/9, 61.7 GB%, 5.4 SwStr%)
(55.7 FB%, 14.8 SF%, 13.1 SL%, 8.7 CT%, 4.4 CH%, 3.3 CB%; 44.4 Swing%, 87.5 Contact%)

Josh Johnson has pitched to more contact through two starts this season, recording the highest ground ball rate of his career in 12.2 innings, while posting a tiny K/9 for him. His fastball count is up while his slider count is down, which could be a reason considering his sinking fastball. Johnson is another big righty the Braves will have to deal with, but he has twice the talent of Volstad and is considered one of the best pitchers in the league. He gave up two runs and three runs against the Mets and Nationals, allowing a total of seven hits in the two starts.

Tim Hudson is picking up where he left off in 2010, allowing just four runs total through two starts against the Nationals and Phillies. He recorded 18 groundouts against the Phillies in his most recent outing. Hudson's ground ball rate hasn't quite reached his high total from a year ago, but it's not far behind and is still among the best. He is throwing fewer sinkers and more splitters, but both have been effective so far.

Thursday, April 14 - 7:10 (Peachtree TV/Fox Sports South)
Ricky Nolasco (2011: 15 IP, 2.40 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 3.60 xFIP, 0 BB/9, 3.60 K/9, 38.8 GB%, 9 SwStr%)
(53 FB%, 23 SL%, 12.5 SF%, 11.5 CB%; 57 Swing%, 84.2 Contact%)
vs.
Brandon Beachy (2011: 12 IP, 3.75 ERA, 4.69 FIP, 4.14 xFIP, 2.25 BB/9, 6.75 K/9, 29.4 GB%, 10.1 SwStr%)
(56.7 FB%, 15.9 CB%, 14 SL%, 13.4 CH%; 46 Swing%, 77 Contact%)

Ricky Nolasco had a solid 2010 season cut short due to a knee injury, but he has picked up where he left off with two good starts so far this year. He has allowed two runs in each start against the Mets and Astros, going seven and eight innings, respectively. Nolasco posted the best K/BB of his career last year at 4.45, and while he only has six strikeouts in 15 innings so far this season, he hasn't walked a batter. He has always had solid control and this year seems to be no different. Look for a main combination of fastballs and sliders with a few splitters and curves mixed in.

Chalk up Brandon Beachy's previous start to facing the Phillies. He allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings. Beachy is throwing a large amount of breaking and offspeed stuff early, and while it resulted in seven strikeouts against the Brewers, it only gave him two strikeouts against the Phillies. Beachy will hit his bumps but he will be fine.

The Marlins feature a revamped bullpen that they worked hard to improve after a horrible group last year. Leo Nunez continues to hold down the fort in the ninth. Clay Hensley leads the team in holds with three. Brian Sanches, Mike Dunn and Ryan Webb are all quality relievers.

Projected Marlins Lineup:
1. Chris Coghlan, CF
2. Omar Infante, 2B
3. Hanley Ramirez, SS
4. Mike Stanton, RF
5. Gaby Sanchez, 1B
6. Logan Morrison, LF
7. John Buck, C
8. Donnie Murphy/Wes Helms/Greg Dobbs, 3B

Hanley Ramirez is expected back in the lineup in the series opener Tuesday after suffering a leg contusion. The Marlins have a strong middle of the order with Ramirez, Mike Stanton and Gaby Sanchez, and the addition of John Buck behind the plate has been valuable.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.