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Series Preview # 7 : Diamondbacks @ Braves

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A trio of 3’s provides insight into this series. 

Ronald Acuna Jr jumps with joy after hitting homer.
Ronald Acuna Jr jumps with joy after hitting homer.
Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

3 true outcomes (homers, walks, and strikeouts) from each plate appearance.

Do the Braves and Diamondbacks rank high (percentiles compared to other teams) in true outcomes? Let’s look at batters and then let’s look at pitchers.

For this season through 18 April, the following graph looks at true outcomes plus BABIP for Braves batters and Diamondback batters. For true outcomes, season totals were converted to percentiles for comparison to other teams. Also, BABIP was converted to percentile

Data from Baseball Savant.

Batters on both teams have mastered the 3 true outcomes. Both teams hit homers at the top of the Majors, slight edge to the Braves. Both teams walk near the top of the Majors, slight edge to the Diamondbacks.

When they put the ball in play, the Diamondback batters were at the 17th percentile in the Majors. That was significantly below the Braves, who were below average at the 37th percentile.

For this season through 18 April, the following graph looks at true outcomes plus BABIP for Braves pitchers and Diamondback pitchers. For true outcomes, season totals were converted to percentiles for comparison to other teams. Also, BABIP was converted to percentile.

Data from Baseball Savant.

Pitchers for both teams allowed more homers than 80% of the teams in the Majors. Pitchers on both teams struggled with the 3 true outcomes, with two exceptions - strikeouts by Braves pitchers and walks by Diamondbacks pitchers. The Diamondbacks were below-average in strikeouts, albeit below average walks made up for some of that.

Both teams failed to prevent a high batting average when the ball was put in play against them. The Braves BABIP allowed was at the 3rd percentile. That was significantly below the Diamondbacks, who were below average at the 21st percentile.

3 former Diamondback prospects are Braves.

Dansby Swanson. Last season was a career best for him. His 9 DRS at shortstop ranked first in the Majors per the Fielding Bible. His hitting (OPS+) was below average except for 2016 and 2020 per Baseball Reference. His weaknesses are a high whiff % and strikeout rate - they are at the 31st and 28th percentiles per Baseball Savant.

This season, his OPS+ was 65 after 67 PAs.

Ender Inciarte. He won Gold Gloves in 2016, 2017, and 2018. His defense fell off in 2019 and 2020. His hitting (OPS+) was slightly below average (except for 2015 which was average).

This season he is the Braves’ fourth outfielder. His OPS+ was 93 in 20 PAs. On 16 April, he injured his hamstring.

Touki Toussaint. It’s unclear whether his best future is as a starter or as a reliever. In 3 seasons, he started 11 games and relieved in 27 games. In 2018, his ERA as a starter was 3.33. In 2020 his ERA as a starter was 7.53.

This season, due to injury he has not yet pitched in the Majors.

3 Braves batters are in the zone.

Ronald Acuna Jr. He was a silver slugger the last two seasons. He left Sunday’s game with an injury. An MRI Monday indicated it was a mild abdominal strain. At the time of his injury, he led the team with 7 homers, and his .564 wOBA ranked third per Baseball Savant. He is day-to-day and is expected to play this series.

Freddie Freeman. He was a silver slugger the last two seasons. In November he was named NL MVP. Through 18 April his 5 homers and .395 wOBA were a major part of the offense.

Pablo Sandoval. Through 18 April, his .637 wOBA led the team (albeit 13 PAs). He has 3 homers. Why he is a fan favorite is explained in this AZ Snake Pit article.

Pitching Matchups.

Friday. Huascar Ynoa (3.94 ERA) vs Luke Weaver (3.78 ERA)

This season, Huascar Ynoa pitched very well. If we exclude one inning, his ERA would be 1.80. That inning happened in his last start. He allowed two homers that scored 4 runs.

This season, Luke Weaver pitched very well. If we exclude one inning, his ERA would be 2.30. That inning happened in his last start. He began the fourth inning with two doubles followed by two singles. It took him 38 pitches to get through the inning with 3 ERs.

This matchup is even, either team could win.

Saturday. Bryse Wilson (3.60 ERA) vs Madison Bumgarner (8.68 ERA)

On April 18th, Bryce Wilson, 12 years after his latest appearance in the Majors, Bryce WIlson was the starting pitcher for the Braves. He is the 10th oldest player in the NL.

I’m optimistic that Bumgarner will pitch a quality start. I’m jazzed that he attributed his better execution to an improvement in his “mental side.” My desire is that when he is ready that he will share more about that improvement.

  • “...But you, Bum, you’re going to focus on executing your pitches.” — Matt Herges
  • “...it’s nice to see a transition to the way that I want it to go.” — Torey Lovullo
  • “...Maybe down the road, I’ll divulge a little more of it, but that was a key driver, I think — the mental side and kind of how we went about it.” — Madison Bumgarner

This is an interesting matchup because both pitchers could be stellar or disappointing.

Sunday. To Be Announced, Braves vs Zac Gallen (3.72 ERA), Diamondbacks

Max Fried injured his hamstring running the bases. Which pitcher will start for the Braves has not yet been announced.

Zac Gallen, the Diamondbacks’ ace, has pitched two games since recovery from his injury. One troubling statistic is his ERA is about the same a Luke Weaver. Providing context is that his ERA would have been 2.79 with one less earned run. That better ERA could have and should have happened!

  • With two outs, Zac Gallen left an inherited runner on first base. Based on 2019 data, I would expect there would be 0.24 runs scored in the remainder of the inning. Instead, Yoan Lopez allowed 2 runs, including the inherited runner.
  • An unlikely double by the pitcher and a pop fly hit were followed by a ground out RBI. In the gameday thread, Jim McLennan provided the expected batting averages (xBAs) of 0.30 and .130, which showed the hits were very unlikely based on exit velocity and launch angle.