Winners of seven in a row, the Braves will try to add to their winning streak as they host Pittsburgh
Winners of seven straight and now just one game out of a playoff spot, the Braves continue their homestand through the weekend as they play host to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a four-game set.
At 24-30, the Pirates are not exactly surprising anyone, but they’ve been a wee bit better than expected. Perhaps the most surprising part of their season is going 5-1 against the Dodgers, including a three-game sweep in L.A., but they’ve also won two of three against the Diamondbacks and Rockies, while taking three of four from the Nationals in April. They had won two straight series before being swept by the Tigers in a brief two-game set earlier this week.
In terms of production, the Pirates are, again, maybe a little better than you’d expect. Their position player cadre ranks 27th in fWAR, and hasn’t provided much on either side of the ball. The pitching’s been better (20th) with a top-10 bullpen that has had a number of names put up good numbers so far.
Player-wise, the Pirates are led by a resurgent Jose Quintana (1.2 fWAR), the excellent relief work of David Bednar (1.0 fWAR), and great play by Ke’Bryan Hayes (1.7 fWAR), who has a massive .382 xwOBA that he’s substantially underhitting. Unlike a bunch of other bad teams, the Pirates’ lack of production is more related to mediocre or underwhelming value than a bunch of sub-replacement bleeds.
Thursday, June 9, 7:20 pm EDT
JT Brubaker (11 GS, 51 2⁄3 IP, 4.70 ERA, 4.03 xERA, 4.61 FIP, 4.40 xFIP)
Righty JT Brubaker will kick off the series for Pittsburgh, and is exactly the type of meh producer that fills their roster. His 116 FIP- has put him on a 1.2 fWAR/200 innings pace, essentially a generic fourth starter. That’s right in line with his career averages. Brubaker had a nice run of 11 2⁄3 scoreless innings across two games to end May, but got shelled by the Diamondbacks for three homers and six total runs in four innings his last time out. Unlike a lot of other guys, Brubaker is primarily sinker-slider with a few other things mixed in, but his sinker has been his best pitch overall at managing xwOBA so far.
Brubaker has faced the Braves once in his career, last May, and had a really weird start: 7/0 K/BB ratio, but three homers and seven total runs allowed in 5 1⁄3 innings.
Max Fried (11 GS, 69 IP, 2.74 ERA, 3.54 xERA, 2.92 FIP, 3.02 xFIP)
At this point it’s hard to write new superlatives for Max Fried, whose 1.7 fWAR is tied for 11th-highest among all MLB hurlers this year. His most recent outing was an eight-inning dazzling, no-run performance at Coors Field. He hasn’t had a start with an xFIP above 4.00 yet this season, and just three of his 11 in-start FIPs have exceeded that mark.
Weirdly enough, Fried has struggled with the Pirates a fair bit in his career: he has three career starts against them. Last year, he was shelled once (BABIPed, six runs in five innings) and shut them down albeit a 2/3 K/BB ratio in another game; in 2019, he was shelled by them, allowing five runs in four innings.
Friday, June 10, 7:20 pm EDT
Roansy Contreras (6 G, 3 GS, 23 1⁄3 IP, 1.93 ERA, 3.23 xERA, 3.18 FIP, 3.30 xFIP)
Top prospect Roansy Contreras will make his fifth career start in a battle of young well-regarded hurlers on Friday night. Contreras has dazzled through three starts so far, allowing just two runs across 15 2⁄3 innings with a 16/5 K/BB ratio. His pitch mix and shape look phenomenal on paper with a hard, rising fastball and two breaking pitches with a lot of downward bite. The command could stand to be improved a bit, but this is probably an exciting game for Pirates fans.
Spencer Strider (13 G, 2 GS, 32 2⁄3 IP, 2.76 ERA, 3.20 xERA, 2.19 FIP, 2.93 xFIP)
And also an exciting game for Braves fans, at that. Strider struggled with walks in his second career start, putting up a 5/5 K/BB ratio in four innings at Coors Field last Saturday. It went better in the box score than his first career start, which was marred by bad defense and led to five runs being scored against him, and the Braves probably hope that whatever walkathon plagued Strider last time out was the result of the venue.
Saturday, June 11, 4:10 pm ET
Zach Thompson (11 G, 10 GS, 45 IP, 4.60 ERA, 4.22 xERA, 4.81 FIP, 4.31 xFIP)
Acquired in the Jacob Stallings trade, second-year player Zach Thompson is another mediocre producer for the Pirates thus far, with 0.2 fWAR across his 45 innings of work, though his xFIP suggests some degree of poor luck when it comes to homers on fly balls dampening his value. Thompson threw five scoreless against Arizona last time out, but allowed five runs and three homers across his past 8 2⁄3 innings spanning two starts.
Thompson made two starts against Atlanta last year as a Marlin, including shutting them out for five innings in his second career appearance, followed by another fine effort (three runs in six innings, 6/1 K/BB ratio, one homer allowed) on July 4.
Kyle Wright (11 GS, 67 2⁄3 IP, 2.39 ERA, 3.32 xERA, 2.76 FIP, 3.26 xFIP)
Kyle Wright actually has more fWAR than Fried right now, enough to put him into MLB’s top 10. He continued his strong season by spinning eight frames against Oakland in his most recent outing, recovering from getting BABIPed into two first-inning runs by shutting down the Athletics with a 7/0 K/BB ratio the rest of the way.
Sunday, June 12
Jose Quintana (11 GS, 53 2⁄3 IP, 2.85 ERA, 4.58 xERA, 3.03 FIP, 3.90 xFIP)
At one point, Quintana was among the premier pitchers in MLB, but his career took a hard nosedive after 2019. He’s back on the warpath now, perhaps not as effective as at his peak, but still well above-average (except by xERA). A lot of his FIP is driven by the fact that he’s allowed just two homers all year, and he’s prone to getting BABIPed, but otherwise has given Pittsburgh solid peripherals and results.
Quintana has faced Atlanta four times in his career, most recently in 2018, and hasn’t avoided getting shelled by them since his first outing against them back in 2013.
TBD but probably Charlie Morton (11 GS, 54 1⁄3 IP, 5.63 ERA, 5.05 xERA, 4.60 FIP, 4.53 xFIP)
We’re well into June and Morton is still looking to find whatever “it” is. He’s allowed four runs in three straight starts, and while his most recent outing at Coors at least came with a gladdening 8/3 K/BB ratio, it’s been a consistent struggle for the veteran right-hander. He’s been homered against in four straight games, hasn’t had consecutive games with good results since mid-May, and has generally underwhelmed. Maybe he turns it around against his old team, maybe not.