The Braves rotation could use a solid outing from Ian Anderson on Tuesday given their recent struggles.
The Braves picked up an important win on Monday, hopefully exorcising some of the demons that revealed themselves on Sunday. Concerns over another paltry offensive were quickly dismissed as Atlanta scored four runs in the first inning, hammering Chicago starter Zach Davies. A multitude of great at-bats by the Braves were encouraging, but that warm feeling subsided in the third inning when Charlie Morton was unable to hold the lead. Run prevention has plagued Atlanta since the start of the season, and for all the struggles felt by the Braves offense, the rotation appears to be the bigger issue.
Bouts with injury and ineffectiveness have thinned the depth of reliable options for the Atlanta rotation early-on, but two pitchers have found consistency: Ian Anderson and Huascar Ynoa. In a rotation that, on paper, features such a heartening blend of young talent and veteran stability, these two rookies have emerged as leaders to this point. The right-handers appear entrenched in the big league rotation for now, and could figure heavily into the Rookie of the Year discussion if their performances continue at this rate.
On Tuesday, Anderson will look to continue his good work. The rookie pitched an outstanding game at Yankee Stadium last week, working 62⁄3 innings scoreless with four strikeouts. Entering play on Tuesday, Anderson is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 22 innings. Though an xERA of 5.10 and FIP of 4.27 may be slightly concerning, the right-hander does have an xFIP of 3.45. Part of the discrepancy could be attributed to his 25% HR/FB rate (2nd highest in baseball, behind only Huascar Ynoa), which is astronomical, especially given his 26.7% soft contact rate. The rates suggest that when Anderson has given up hard contact or fly balls, the results have been particularly harsh. A four start sample size is hardly enough time to draw any meaningful conclusions, but some positive regression would seem to be in order for Anderson at some point.
Opposing Anderson will be Cubs right-hander Trevor Williams. Chicago signed Williams this offseason, plucking him from the sinking ship of the Pittsburgh Pirates, for whom he performed to moderate success since his debut in 2016. This season has been much of the same for Williams, who currently sports a 2-1 record with a 4.66 ERA. He has struck out 19 batters in 191⁄3 innings while allowing 21 hits. For all the bad luck absorbed by Ian Anderson, Williams has been equally lucky with regards to home runs. His HR/FB rate is just 7%, as he has allowed just one homer thus far. His FIP 3.35 may indicate some bad luck on batted balls, but his BABIP is .351, so not egregiously high. According to Statcast, opposing batters have a 43.1% HardHit rate, which could explain the batted ball profile.
Overall, this is an intriguing matchup on both sides. The Braves hope Anderson can keep the ball in the ballpark, which has essentially been his only downfall thus far. If he can keep the Cubs within the confines of Truist Park, he should find success as he did against the Yankees. The Atlanta offense will need to work against Trevor Williams and avoid hammering his sinker into the ground, but he is prone to hard contact, so this could be another great matchup for a team looking to establish its offense for the remainder of the season.