Series Preview #16: Braves @ Diamondbacks

The 23-26 Diamondbacks and their fans are excited to see the Dodgers leaving town after losing 4 straight games in LA for the second time this year. The next meeting between the two teams will not take place until September 12th. Arizona sits 4th in the NL West, just a game ahead of the bottom-placed Rockies.

Now they face off against reigning world champions, the Atlanta Braves, who have had a lackluster start to the season. Here are a few things I notice when looking at Braves Baseball’s reference pages

Be sure to visit our sister site, Battery Power, for a look at the series from the Braves’ point of view. Some very good insights there.

Schedule and Results: At 23-25, they’re already 8.5 games behind the New York Mets in first place. Atlanta was at or near .500 on almost everything. 14-14 at home, 9-11 on the go. 10-12 in April, 13-13 in May. 6-6 in one run games, 3-4 in blowouts. They went 4-3 in their last homestand and 3-3 on the road trip just before that.

key club:

Ronald Acuna Jr. is back and has 130 OPS+. Newcomer Matt Olson, set to replace Freddie Freeman, has 20 doubles and 121 OPS+, but the two-time Gold Glover surprisingly sits at -1 on the rDRS. Austin Riley has 11 homers and Dansby Swanson has 113 OPS+

As of 2020, Swanson has played in 268 games out of a possible 270, averaging 3.7 WARs per 162 games. Oops.

One thing to note about the Braves is that they play their starters EVERY DAY. They have 6 guys who started between 45 and 48 games. And their main catcher, Travis DdArnaud, started at No. 33, sixth-highest in MLB. They did that last year too. With this team there is no load management or “getting it going”. Completely different from Arizona.

Batting Splits Page: They batted well in the recent homestand, .283/.329/.464. and overall they scored much better at home than on the street. Their OPS at home is 89 points higher than on the road and while it’s normal to be better at home, their sOPS+ (split relative to the rest of the league) at home is 110 and only 90 away, which means rank 7th and 13th each in the NL. This isn’t park-adapted, however, and Truist Park plays out as a pretty extreme hitter park. The multi-year impact park factor is 108 and 115 in 2022 so far. That means their scores might be a bit inflated.

Unsurprisingly, their right-handed dominant lineup fared much better against lefties and lefties. LHB Matt Olson has strong splits against RHP. If you contain him against RHP, you’ve come a long way in containing Atlanta’s offense.

While it’s always important for pitchers to get ahead on the count, in sOPS+ the Braves are bottom of the league when the pitchers are ahead.

On the pitching split side of the Ledger, we’ll get to the starting pitcher matchups in a bit, but overall, the Braves pitched better on the road than they did at home, compared to the league, which offset their poor hitting on the road . 4.27 home ERA, 3.47 road ERA, 97 sOPS+ against home, 89 on the road.

Their bullpen was great, ranking just a hair’s breadth behind the Brewers in Fangraph’s Reliever WAR. Their pen probably got a bit lucky with HR suppression (0.66 HR/9), but they lead the entire MLB in Reliever K/9 with a 10.86. Conversely, the D-Backs pin is dead in both fWAR (-0.2) and Reliever K/9 (7.11).

We’ll all know the approacher Kenley Jansen, who made 12 out of 14 saves.

Beginning Pitcher Matchups:

Strider makes its first start of the year, filling a need for Atlanta. He was excellently penned. The main question is how far he can go. After reading at Batter Power linked above, it sounds like 50-65 pitches is probably the limit. It’s up to the D-Backs thugs to figure out a way for the division of labor to count early.

Gallen will try to recover from his worst performance of the year. He gave up 6 runs in 5.1 IP to Kansas City on May 24. He’s the best pitcher on the team and they’re going to count on him to pitch like a stopper tonight and end the losing streak.

Morton had a bad year in 2022. He wasn’t really blown away, but he does get between 3 and 5 runs on 6 of his 9 starts, while failing to last past 6 on most of them. In his last start against the Phillies, he couldn’t get out of the 4th inning and allowed 9 hits and 4 runs in 4.1 IP. However, the Braves came back to win the game and they are 5-4 in Morton’s starts.

Castellanos was knocked down in his last start against the Dodgers, allowing 6 runs of 10 hits in 4 innings. That ended a series of bends but didn’t break any excursions. Suddenly he has to post a good outing to stop the talk of removing him from the rotation and he has to hear Corbin Martin’s footsteps.

Drafted 1st round 5th overall in the 2017 draft, Kyle Wright got a glimpse of majors every year from 2018-2021, including 8 starts in the 2020 pandemic season. Most of the time, he struggled with an ERA of 6.56 in 70ips. But this year he lives up to his pedigree and was the best starter in the Braves. If you don’t know Wright, check out his Statcast page and google a video. Here’s one from earlier this year. He’s got a big curveball that he almost used 13 of the time, along with four Seamers and Sinkers in the mid ’90s. He’ll also mix in a move (more often against LHB) and a slider. (usually against RHB)

Bumgarner still has a good ERA thanks to a hot start to the season, but he’s now had three underperforming starts in a row. The Homers begin to support him. He’s allowed 9 in 48 innings, including 5 in his last two games. He’s at a stage in his career where he’s mastering the edges, he can hit a lot of quick outs and get deeper into games. He can go 5-6 games in a row on courses where command is there for him. But he also has multi-game stretches where he’s constantly catching too much of the hitting zone and getting hit hard. Looking at his FIP/xFIP it seems that his ERA still has a lot of room to go backwards.

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