I hope you like good pitching
Well, it’s Trade Deadline day. At the time of writing (Friday morning), the Braves haven’t made any moves. Will they? We’ll see. But it’s hard to see those moves significantly budging any kind of needle for Atlanta, and this injury-depleted roster is probably what it is at this point. The Braves have alternated wins and losses since the All-Star Break, and as a result of only being able to pick up a single game on the Mets in their just-concluded five game series, still have playoff odds marginally below 10 percent.
Things don’t get any easier with the Brewers coming to town for a three-game set across Hank Aaron Weekend, either. Milwaukee is tied for the fifth-best record in baseball and has absolutely smothered opposing bats with a nearly best-in-class rotation and some stellar defensive play that leverages positioning moreso than players’ athletic skills. That’s not a great matchup for a Braves team that’s had trouble stringing offense together — while alternating wins and losses, the Braves haven’t strung together back-to-back games of more than two runs scored since the weekend after the All-Star Break.
One way to avoid getting smushed by a strong team in a short series is to miss their best pitchers, the ones that make them a strong team. Unfortunately, that is absolutely not happening for the Braves in this series, as Brandon Woodruff is scheduled to pitch on Saturday, and MLB pitching fWAR leader Corbin Burnes will face Atlanta tonight. It’s hard to heap the necessary amount of superlatives onto Burnes’ season, but I’ll just say a couple of things to that end:
- Burnes has had 17 starts. He’s had a Game Score below 50 (i.e., a below-average start by this metric) just three times, and two of those were 45 and 47.
- By FIP, Burnes has had 16 starts with an FIP- of 67 or lower (i.e., a third lower than league average)… and one start with an FIP- of 95.
- Burnes has yet to have a start this season with an xFIP- of 100 or higher.
This isn’t a guy who has a bunch of gaudy outings but some blow-ups. This is a guy who dominates every time out. All things must come to an end, and there’s some outside chance that the Braves will somehow be the team to deal Burnes a bad start… but it’s real hard to count on.
What this means is that the Braves probably need another dominant outing from Touki Toussaint, who’s risen to the occasion twice in two tries so far. Toussaint’s debut was very successful (6 2⁄3 innings, one run, 5/2 K/BB ratio) but not particularly sustainable, both of because of pitch location (lots of hittable stuff) and outcomes (.318 xwOBA, .205 wOBA). However, he followed that up with an outing that looked similar in some ways on paper (seven innings, one run on a homer, 10/0 K/BB ratio), but was legitimately dominant: .206 xwOBA, retiring the last eight batters faced, only having two of seven innings where he faced more than the minimum, etc. Both of his starts so far were 2-1 games in the end, with the Braves winning the first but not the second… and honestly a 2-1 game seems about right as an expectation for this pitching matchup. We’ll see what happens, but for the Braves, “that was a tough pitcher, we’ve got plenty of games left” is no longer much of a comforting statement. They’ve got to find a way to win this game and pretty much every other one where they have a shot, or else, well, you know.
Milwaukee Brewers @ Atlanta Braves
Friday, July 30, 2021
7:20 pm EDT
Truist Park, Atlanta, GA
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network, La Mejor 1600/1460/1130 AM
XM Radio: Ch. 187