The Braves enter play against the Phillies on Wednesday with the hope of trimming their magic number, which currently sits at three. A tough loss a night ago, in which the Braves had the tying run on third base in the ninth inning, will sting but can quickly be avenged as Atlanta turns to Julio Teheran in the second game of the series.
Teheran currently owns a solid 10-9 record with a 3.50 ERA, but a 4.55 FIP in 1671⁄3 innings pitched this season. The right-hander leads the National League in walks with 80, which serves to buoy his FIP considerably. A solid strand rate and low batting average on balls in play have aided Teheran in the way of run prevention this season, but the continuation of delayed negative regression has been the hallmark of his 2019 season. At some point, an FIP in the mid-4’s is going to rear its ugly head, as it did last week in Philadelphia.
Teheran relies heavily on his fastball (63.2% of all pitches), and complements it with a slider that he utilizes much more prominently (21.5%) than any of his other secondary offerings. The prolonged command issues that have plagued Teheran throughout the season have been assuaged greatly by a 78.7% strand rate. In addition, Teheran has posted his lowest HR/FB rate (10.8%) since 2016, which has helped to drive his xFIP to astronomical levels (5.21) given his perceived effectiveness.
Negative regression has merely revealed itself for Teheran, but with peripherals of such an egregious nature, there could be a major dropoff coming for the right-hander at some point. The hope is that Teheran can temp the fates for at least the next two weeks, but these underlying numbers make giving him a playoff start a very risky proposition. The Braves will hope for at least one more run of luck tonight as they look to even the series with Philadelphia.
Opposing Teheran for the Phillies will be right-hander Zach Eflin, who sports an 8-12 record and 4.20 ERA entering play on Wednesday. Eflin has also been the beneficiary of good luck this season, as his 4.72/4.71 FIP/xFIP might suggest. Eflin started against the Braves last week, completing just 32⁄3 innings with three runs allowed on three hits and three walks, with five strikeouts.
Eflin is less reliant on his fastball (55.9%) than Teheran, as he mixes in a cutter (29%) that averages ~6 MPH less than the fastball. Those two pitches are the featured offerings in Eflin’s repertoire, as he relies on offspeed (changeup, slider, curveball) just 15% of the time. Braves hitters are familiar with Eflin and should be able to find success as their lineup sets up well to beat right-handed pitching, though they struggled a night ago with Vince Velasquez.
The Braves have an opportunity to pull closer to a division title tonight, and after a letdown last night should be focused on evening the series. Washington will play another game against the Cardinals tonight, which could leave the Braves with an opportunity to clinch tomorrow should Atlanta and St. Louis win.
Time/Date: Wednesday, Sept. 18, 7:20 pm ET
Location: SunTrust Park
TV: Fox Sports South (Streaming: Fox Sports Go, MLB.tv)
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network