K: BGS welcomes new blood to the Series Preview as young, impressionable Kyle Norton joins me in looking ahead to the Pirates series. First things first: what do you think about this particular Braves team, Kyle?
Kyle: K, it’s good to be here, buddy. This Braves team is bad at baseball. But I like it. My expectations coming into the season were extremely low. I thought we were going to win like 20 games. So I have been pleasantly surprised. I started following the Braves non-casually in 2013. So while everyone else is pissed we aren’t the 90’s or even the early 2000’s Braves, I’m just having fun watching us suck. I also think it’s fun to see Braves fans get angry. I didn’t think I would like the players as much this year, but I have found myself becoming attached to Baebin, Tasty-Kaks, Jace “ROY” Peterson, and Juan “Chub Club” Uribe. But I miss Heyward and Upton a lot. So in conclusion, I like the Braves.
K: All my favorite guys are toasted, like Heyward and J-Up and Kimbrel. My main man Kelly Johnson was providing both enjoyment and #dingers until he got hurt, and now I am left with nothing. This bullpen is extremely bad and uncool, and it cost us quite dearly against the Diamondbacks. There’s not many series I look at and say “yeah, we could take 2 of 3!” but the series in Arizona in which we drew Archie Bradley and Josh Collmenter was one of them. Naturally, we found a way to lose in spectacular fashion. We don’t get much of a reprieve in this series as we face Gerritt Cole in game three, who has one of the best fastball/slider combos in the bigs, and ex-Braves-turned-groundball-master Charlie Morton in game one. Sandwiched between is another ex-Braves, Jeff Locke, who I had unreasonably high hopes for, but has been fringe average early in his career. Which Pirates player are you most stoked about getting to see?
Kyle: The Pirates outfield is my favorite in all of baseball. They are all really cool dudes who are pretty good at baseball. They do this awesome celebration where they all act like planes. It’s awesome. Cutch is amazing, even if he’s not 2013 Cutch. Polanco is one of my favorite young players. And Marte is just so freaking fast. He stole 41 bases in 2013 along with my heart. They all seem so cool, too. I feel like hanging out with them would be super chill. I’m excited to see these dudes play baseball. Hey K, what’s a pirate’s favorite letter?
K: Trick question because I won’t humour such a ridiculous question (it’s ‘Q’).
Kyle: HA! you think it would be “R” but it’s actually the “C”
K: I, too, love the hell out of McCutchen, and even though he hasn’t been “2013 Cutch,” most of it is due to a slow start, as he’s still rocking a .293/.381/.495 line, good for a 141 wRC+ and 1.9 WAR. The dude has been so incredible (158, 155, 168 wRC+ last three years) that this is considered a down year, and he’s still out there killing it. His power/speed combo is one of the best in the league, second in terms of excitement to me only to Mike Trout, and he combines that with a great eye and great bat control, consistently walking 10%+ of the time and posting sub-20% K-rates. He’s so great. Beyond him, the roster has sneaky depth, as I love guys like Jordy Mercer (very unlucky in 2015), Pedro Alvarez (.220 ISO and a 112 wRC+), and Sean Rodriguez (for some reason), so this could be a tough series for us to win unless we get vintage Teheran.
Kyle: I don’t see us winning this series. Heck, I think we could get swept. But now that we have person who has two last names, Williams Perez, somehow winning games, we might have a chance. I have really hated watching Teheran struggle. I like him so much. I was hesitant to pass judgement early in the season, because I thought he might have been getting unlucky. But with a negative WAR a third of the way through the season I am panicking. Should I be worried, K?
K: I would be worried. The sudden loss of control is deeply troubling. A lot has been made of his velocity in recent starts, and maybe he’s been feeling the effects of getting hit a while back, but his average fastball velocity is only down 0.3 MPH from last year. The skyrocketing walk rate and ineffectiveness of the breaking pitches (first time he’s had negative values per 100 thrown in his career) are the real issues. The good news is if Williams Perez keeps up his black magic and Alex Wood’s recent resurgence continues, the Braves have an outside shot at coming away with a win. But regardless of how any of the three starters pitch, there’s always the bullpen to worry about, so ultimately, it’s a crapshoot. We likely won’t win the series, but who knows. On to the infographic: