Today's Matchup: Milwaukee (Fiers) vs. Pirates (McDonald)

Fiers, when ready.

James McDonald (4-1, 2.20) had a season, ee-eye-ee-eye-oh.

And on that season he had a breakout, ee-eye-ee-eye-oh.

With an 8.68 K/9 here and a 2.62 BB/9 there

Here a 0.28 HR/9, there a 2.20 ERA

Everywhere a 2.41 FIP.

James McDonald had a season, ee-eye-ee-eye-oh.

But seriously, McDonald has been excellent this season. I guess you could gather that if you looked at those stats. Actually, that was really easy. Now I don't need to do a whole paragraph on that.

McDonald has never had a season like this, though. He was a highly touted prospect, at number 59 on Baseball America's top prospect list prior to 2009. But he has always had troubles with giving up walks, with over a 4.00 BB/9 in two of his three major league seasons. In addition, he is getting hit far less, with nearly three fewer hits per nine innings than his career norms. That comes, in part, from a .258 opponent BABIP, so he's due for some regression back to the mean.

It remains to be seen if this is a true breakout year for McDonald. Keep in mind how well guys like Charlie Morton and Jeff Karstens performed in the first half of 2011. Maybe Pirates' pitchers just tend to have really good first halves before tailing off. Still, McDonald can actually strike out a lot of people, unlike most of the Pirates' staff last season. That leads me to believe that he has a better shot at maintaining his success than Morton or Karstens.

McDonald primarily throws four pitches: A 92 MPH four seamer (41%), an 80 MPH slider (19%), a 91 MPH two seamer (18%), and a 77 MPH curveball (17%).

McDonald has yet to face a current Brewer at least 10 times.

Michael Fiers (1-0, 1.29) will be taking his turn in the rotation today. It's tough to say much about a guy who has only had one start so far. If you want a run down of his minor league career, you can check out my profile on Fiers here. Fiers allowed just five hits and one earned run in seven innings against the Dodgers in his first start. He also struck out three and walked none. He has a very deceptive delivery that should lend him well against new opponents. His name can also be made into some fantastic puns. I won't do any here because I'm saving myself.

Clearly, Fiers has never faced a Pirates' hitter at least ten times.

Lineups, sans Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez. Should be fun:

And in the bullpen:

Jose Veras pitched an inning (10 pitches) last night.
Kameron Loe pitched an inning (17 pitches) last night.
Tim Dillard
pitched .2 innings (8 pitches) Thursday and 2 innings (44 pitches) Friday.
Juan Perez pitched 1 inning (15 pitches) Friday.
Manny Parra pitched .1 innings (6 pitches) Thursday.
John Axford pitched an inning (18 pitches) on Wednesday.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched an inning (10 pitches) on Wednesday.

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