The Braves were a little inconsistent in the month of May, but they still managed to go 17-11 against some tough competition. It is now June and it's time for the big boys to establish themselves and the others to fade away into the dog days of summer.
After years of poor management, the Mets are a club currently in the earliest stages of rebuilding a proud franchise. They have ridden themselves of high-dollar guys such as Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo and their lineup consists of multiple no-name players who are filling in for the time being. Despite these personnel changes, New York's record is still a respectable 26-30 and won a wild game on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Let's take a closer look at their team:
Despite a lineup consisting of a bunch of guys who would usually be playing in the Minor Leagues, the Mets have been a solid bunch at the plate. The lineup has been fluctuating in recent days, but manager Terry Collins will likely give us something similar to this:
Jose Reyes - SS
Justin Turner - 3B
Carlos Beltran - RF
Jason Bay - LF
Angel Pagan - CF
Daniel Murphy - 1B
Ronny Paulino - C
Ruben Tejada - 2B
With All-Star third baseman David Wright on the disabled list, shortstop Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran have picked up the slack and are both enjoying big years. Reyes (.333/.382/.489, .385 wOBA, 145 wRC+) is due for some regression with his BABIP being unsustainable at .362, though his 19 stolen bases have him tied for second place among everyone in baseball. Beltran (.288/.374/.534, .391 wOBA, 149 wRC+) has carried the club offensively and his power (.246 ISO) has been really impressive in 2011.
Despite not getting the recognition he should, second year first baseman Ike Davis has had a monster season. Unfortunately for him, he recently sprained his ankle and will likely miss three weeks. Davis (.302/.383/.543, .395 wOBA, 151 wRC+) originally projected to be an above-average player, and while he's been a tad lucky this year (.344 BABIP), he's still on pace to solidify himself as one of the better young first baseman in the league assuming he can stay healthy. In addition to Davis, utility man Daniel Murphy is enjoying a nice season (.293/.352/.425, .342 wOBA, 116 wRC+) and will play all over the field.
Jason Bay and Angel Pagan are two of the more well-known names in the Mets lineup and neither are having a very good year. Bay (.228/.320/.307, .290 wOBA, 80 wRC+) has battled injuries the last two seasons and is off to a slow start in 2011. Pagan was a nice surprise for the club last year, but he's struggling thus far (.224/.297/.306, .279 wOBA, 73 wRC+).
This is where the Mets start to fall off. Jonathon Niese has been their most valuable starting pitcher at 0.7 fWAR. Same goes for Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez as far as relievers go. To give you an idea of how that compares to the Braves, these two pitchers would rank seventh in terms of WAR on the Braves pitching staff. Seventh.
Friday, 7:10EDT: Derek Lowe Vs. Jonathon Niese (SportsSouth)
Lowe: 3-4, 4.03 ERA, 3.63 FIP, 3.33 xFIP, 67.0 IP, 7.79 K/9, 3.63 BB/9, .299 BABIP, 55.8 GB%, 1.0 fWAR
Niese: 4-5, 3.92 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 3.76 xFIP, 66.2 IP, 6.75 K/9, 3.38 BB/9, .305 BABIP, 49.5 GB%, 0.7 fWAR
We all know about our own starters so I'll focus on New York's. Jonathon Niese has arguably been the Mets best pitcher. The 24-year old lefty features a high-80's, low-90's fastball, a cutter, a solid curveball and a decent change, which he'll use on occasion to get a tough right-handed batter out. He won't "wow" you with any pitches, but if history tells us anything it's the Braves struggle with young, left-handed pitchers and there's no reason to believe Friday will be any different.
Saturday, 7:10EDT: Jair Jurrjens Vs. Dillon Gee (SportsSouth)
Jurrjens: 7-1, 1.51 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 3.49 xFIP, 65.1 IP, 5.21 K/9, 1.51 BB/9, .262 BABIP, 47.0 GB%, 1.6 fWAR
Gee: 5-0, 3.83 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 4.06 xFIP, 47.0 IP, 7.09 K/9, 3.45 BB/9, .241 BABIP, 45.9 GB%, 0.5 fWAR
Similar to Jair Jurrjens, Dillon Gee has had a solid start to his 2011 season, though he has been pretty lucky. Gee features a fastball in the high-80's, a solid changeup which is his out-pitch, and will occasionally work in a curveball or slider. Similar to Jonathon Niese, Gee won't blow you away with any of his pitches, though he is a capable back-end starting pitcher.
Sunday, 8:05EDT: Tim Hudson Vs. R.A. Dickey (ESPN)
Hudson: 4-4, 3.75 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 3.74 xFIP, 72.0 IP, 5.13 K/9, 2.25 BB/9, .247 BABIP, 57.6 GB%, 1.0 fWAR
Dickey: 2-6, 4.93 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 3.93 xFIP, 67.2 IP, 5.99 K/9, 3.06 BB/9, .320 BABIP, 56.1 GB%, 0.5 fWAR
R.A. Dickey is a knuckleballer. It's a lost art and it's nice to still have at least one decent pitcher left in the league. He'll throw his knuckleball frequently (75.7%), though he's actually pitched better when he uses his fastball effectively. Dickey will throw an occasional fastball (19.6%) that sits in the low-80's, though when the going gets tough, the Braves should still look for the loopy knuckleball. That's what got him to the Major Leagues and he's not going to stray away from it.
The Mets bullpen isn't very good. Wild-yet-effective closer Francisco Rodriguez has been their best pitcher out of the 'pen and currently has 16 saves. Set-up man Jason Isringhausen has been decent in the 8th inning and guys like Taylor Buchholz and Pedro Beato have been decent in the middle innings. LOOGY Tim Byrdak has been tough against lefties and we'll likely see him multiple times in this series against Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman.