Clashing styles; Austin Riley is the (whole) offense, sorta
The Braves and Mets tangle for three games at Truist Park, meeting for the first time since early May on Monday night. The Braves can grab the division lead with a sweep. You’re already gonna be watching for other reasons, but some obvious and maybe not-so-obvious stuff to be aware of is below.
Similar Records and Outputs, Very Different Approaches
I expounded on this at length during the series preview, but it’s worth repeating. You are going to see two teams with very different approaches to scoring runs in this series.
The Braves will come into this series first in xwOBA, fourth in xwOBACON, second in barrel rate, third in hard-hit rate, third in average exit velocity, 23rd in grounder rate, fourth in fly ball rate, fourth in pull rate, and dead last in opposite field rate.
The Mets will come into this series 12th in xwOBA, 21st in xwOBACON, 19th in barrel rate, 20th in hard-hit rate, 21st in average exit velocity, sixth in grounder rate, 24th in fly ball rate, 24th in pull rate, and 17th in opposite field rate.
For the Braves, the most common outcome (relative to the league-average rate of outcomes) is a pulled barrel; for the Mets, it’s a flare up the middle. The Mets have made it work so far, but it’s been quite a double-edged sword. While the Mets still have a wOBA-xwOBA gap half as big as the Braves’ gap (Mets are top 10, Braves are average); since June 1, this has been reversed: the Braves have the ninth-biggest gap, and the Mets are 25th. It’s not as reliable a way to score runs, and while anything can happen in a game, a series, or a season, there’s a reason why teams have been so focused on big exit velocities and imparting them on balls hit in the air.
Austin Riley, offensive savior
The Braves have to be satisfied with their July so far: they’re 8-2 and have a 131 team wRC+. Who’s at the forefront of this? Austin Riley, and his absurd 298 wRC+. Riley has amassed 1.2 fWAR in just 10 games, overshadowing the fact that of the 13 Braves to take a PA in July, nine have wRC+s over 100.
Something even crazier, is just how much of the 8-2 is kind of directly attributable to Riley.
Yes, Riley bailed out the offense on Sunday, but he’s been doing it all month to some extent. Even before Sunday’s game, he was providing a third of the team’s positive WPA by himself. Only Matt Olson and Michael Harris II have positive offensive WPA for the month, and Riley has four times the WPA of those two guys combined in July.
Thanks, Austin Riley.