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Monday, May 5, 2014
Top stats to know: Cardinals at Braves

By John Fisher

"Monday Night Baseball" this week (7 p.m. ET/ESPN) features a matchup of the league's top two teams in starters' ERA, as the Atlanta Braves (2.42 ERA) host the St. Louis Cardinals (2.71 ERA).

Here are some of the top stats to know about Monday's pitching matchup between Shelby Miller and Aaron Harang.

Shelby Miller
One of the most powerful fastballs in the league is that of Cardinals starter Shelby Miller. He throws it hard, his average velocity of 93.6 mph ranking 11th in the league among starters since the start of last season. He also uses it effectively; he is tied for fourth in the league among starters since the start of last season in miss percentage (22.3 percent).
However, he has gone to his cutter more often this season, at the expense of his signature curveball.

He’s throwing that curveball in the strike zone less often, and hitters are learning to lay off it (15.9 percent chase percentage this season, compared to 26.2 percent last season). But they still whiff when they offer at it.

Overall, Miller is striking out fewer hitters and walking more, perhaps because he’s using the curveball less with two outs (14.3 percent of the time this season compared to 21.7 percent last season). His BB percentage nearly doubled, from 7.9 percent last season to 14.2 percent this season, and his K percentage dropped from 23.4 percent to 17.6 percent.

Aaron Harang
Despite losing two starters for the season, the Braves lead the majors in starters’ ERA and overall ERA. Part of that success has been due to the play of Aaron Harang, at least until recently.

Harang was leading the majors with a 0.85 ERA until Wednesday, his previous start, when he gave up nine runs, all earned, in 4 2/3 innings against the Marlins. After that outing, his ERA went up to 2.97, and he fell all the way to 42nd in the majors in ERA.

What has made him successful in the early going?

• His opponents’ BABIP is .258 (would be lowest of his career).

• His opponents’ well-hit average is .129 (his lowest since the start of 2009).

• Opponents are hitting .688 on well-hit balls (MLB average is .687).

• Opponents are hitting .526 on line drives (MLB average is .686).

• Allowed one HR in 50 AB to lefties (16 HR in 305 AB last season -- a rate of 19.1 AB per HR).

What went wrong on Wednesday?

• Allowed seven hard-hit balls (allowed 10 in first five starts combined).

• Threw 59 percent of his fastballs in the strike zone (45 percent in his first five starts combined).

• Didn’t get one swing-and-miss against his fastball (hitters missed 22 percent of their swings against his fastball in his first five starts).

• Allowed six hits with his fastball (allowed five in first five starts combined).

• Allowed five well-hit balls off his fastball (five in first five starts combined).