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Series Preview #16: Braves @ Diamondbacks

The Defending World Champions Come to Town for a Three Game Set

Kansas City Royals v Arizona Diamondbacks
Zac Gallen will try to get the Snakes back in the win column against the Braves on Memorial Day
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The 23-26 Diamondbacks and their fans are happy to see the Dodgers leave town, having just dropped 4 games in a row to LA for the second time this year. The next meeting between the two teams won’t be until September 12th. Arizona is in 4th place in the NL West, just a game ahead of the last place Rockies.

Now they get to take on the reigning world champions Atlanta Braves, who have had a lackluster start to the season. Here are some things I notice when looking over the Braves Baseball Reference Pages

Be sure to check out 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 1st place New York Mets. Atlanta has been at or around .500 in almost everything. 14-14 at home, 9-11 on the road. 10-12 in April, 13-13 in May. 6-6 in one run games, 3-4 in blowouts. They went 4-3 in their most recent homestand, and 3-3 on the road trip just prior to that.

Key Batters:

Ronald Acuna Jr is back and has a 130 OPS+. Newcomer Matt Olson, brought in to replace Freddie Freeman, has 20 doubles and a 121 OPS+, but the two time gold glover surprisingly ranks -1 in rDRS . Austin Riley has 11 Homers, and Dansby Swanson has a 113 OPS+

Since 2020 Swanson has played in 268 out of 270 possible games and averaged 3.7 WAR per 162 games. Ooops.

One thing to notice about the Braves is they play their starters EVERY DAY. They have 6 guys who have started between 45-48 games. And their primary catcher, Travis DdArnaud has started 33, 6th most in MLB. They did this last year too. There is no load management or “getting them off their feet” with this team. Quite the contrast with Arizona.

Batting Splits Page: They hit well in the recent homestand, .283/.329/.464. and overall, they they’ve hit much better at home than on the road. Their OPS at home is 89 points higher than on the road, and while being better at home is normal, their sOPS+ (Split relative to the rest of the league) is 110 at home and just 90 on the road, ranking 7th and 13th respectively in the NL. That’s not park adjusted however and Truist Park is playing as a fairly extreme hitters park. The multi year batting park factor is 108, and 115 in 2022 so far. That means their batting numbers are a bit inflated perhaps.

Their right-hand dominant lineup has unsurprisingly done much better against left hand pitching and left-hand starters. LHB Matt Olson has strong splits against RHP. Contain him against RHP and you’ve gone a long way towards tamping down Atlanta’s offense.

While getting ahead in the count is always the key for pitchers, the Braves are last in the league in sOPS+ when pitchers are ahead.

On the pitching splits side of the ledger, we’ll get to the starting pitcher match ups in a moment, but overall the Braves have pitched better on the road than at home, relative to league, which has made up for their poor road batting. 4.27 Home ERA, 3.47 Road ERA, 97 sOPS+ against at home, 89 on the Road.

Their bullpen has been terrific, ranking a hairs breadth behind the Brewers in Fangraphs Reliever WAR. Their pen has probably been a bit fortunate with HR suppression, (0.66 HR/9) but they lead all of MLB in reliever K/9, with 10.86. Conversely, the D-backs pen is dead last in both fWAR (-0.2) and Reliever K/9, (7.11)

We’ll all be quite familiar with closer Kenley Jansen who has converted 12 of 14 save opportunities.

Starting Pitcher Matchups:

Strider is making his first start of the year, filling in a need for Atlanta. He’s been excellent out of the pen. The main question is how far can he go. From reading over at Batter Power, linked above, it sounds like 50-65 pitches is probably the limit. It will be up to the D-backs hitters to find a way work pitch counts early.

Gallen will be looking to bounce back from his worst outing of the year. He gave up 6 runs in 5.1 IP to Kansas City on May 24th. He is the best pitcher on the team, and they’ll be counting on him to pitch like a stopper tonight and end the losing streak.

Morton has been having a down year in 2022. He hasn’t really been getting blown out, but he’s allowed between 3-5 run in 6 of his 9 starts, while failing to get through 6 in most of them. In his last start against the Phillies he couldn’t get out of the 4th inning, allowing 9 hits and 4 runs in 4.1 IP. The Braves came back to win the game however, and they’re is 5-4 in Morton’s starts.

Castellanos was crushed in his last start against the Dodgers, allowing 6 runs on 10 hits in 4 innings. That ended a streak of bend but don’t break outings. Suddenly needing to post a good outing to forestall talk of removing him from the rotation, he must be hearing Corbin Martin’s footsteps.

Drafted in the 1st round, 5th overall of the 2017 draft, Kyle Wright got looks in the majors in each year from 2018 to 2021, including 8 starts in the pandemic season of 2020. For the most part he struggled, posting a 6.56 ERA in 70 IP. But this year he is living up to his pedigree and has been the best starter on the Braves. If you’re not familiar with Wright you’ll want to check out his Statcast Page and google some video. Here is one from earlier in the year. He has a big time curveball which he used almost 13 of the time, along with mid 90’s four seamers and sinkers. He’ll also mix in a change up (more often against LHB) and slider. (usually against RHB)

Bumgarner is still sporting a good ERA thanks to a hot start to the season, but he’s now had three sub par starts in a row. The homers are starting to back up on him. He’s allowed 9 in 48 innings, including 5 in his last two games. He’s at a phase in his career when he commands the edges he can get a lot of quick outs and get deeper into games. He can go on stretches where the command is there for him for 5-6 games in a row. But he also has multi game stretches where he consistently catches too much of the strike zone and gets hit hard. Looking at his FIP/xFIP it appears his ERA may still have plenty of room to regress.