Last year, the Braves clinched, and then added insult upon insult on the division rival Phillies as they rolled out a post-clinch, “hangover” lineup and beat the Phillies again, with their ace (Aaron Nola) on the hill, securing the series sweep. The Braves didn’t quite get a chance to do the same thing in 2019, but they won their post-clinch, semi-”hangover” lineup game anyone by an 8-1 score, and now have a chance to celebrate their feat with another weekend sweep.
While this rotation spot was previously in a bit of flux, it looks like the Braves will indeed roll with regularly-scheduled starter Dallas Keuchel on Sunday. Keuchel was straight-dominant for six straight starts after being destroyed by the Marlins in Miami, but that streak came to a screeching halt in his last outing, as the Phillies tagged him for five runs, including a couple of longballs, in just five innings of work. Aside from that Miami shellacking, it was his worst start of the year.
Keuchel faced the Giants as recently as last year (one run in six innings), but before then, he hadn’t pitched against them since 2012, his rookie season. He brings a 81 ERA-, 104 FIP-, 88 xFIP- line into this game, and like Max Fried, probably won’t go longer than 70 or so pitches, or around five innings.
The Braves, meanwhile, will be seeing a name and arm they haven’t before: 22-year-old right-hander Logan Webb. A fourth-round draft pick in 2014, Webb was rated the Giants’ fifth-best prospect by Fangraphs, with a 45+ FV grade as a result of 45 FV command combined with three potential above-average pitches. The big surprise is not so much that Webb is in the majors, but that he’s here now: Fangraphs gave him a 2021 ETA, and he spent most of last season in High-A with just six Double-A starts to end his year. This season, he started the season in Double-A once again, but got popped for with an 80-game suspension for (say it with me now, all together) dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, or dehydrochlormethyltestosterone for short. From what I can tell, that’s an old Soviet bloc doping agent, and Webb has maintained his innocence, so it’s definitely a bit weird. You can read a lot more about this sort of thing from Bryan Murphy at McCovey Chronicles here: https://www.mccoveychronicles.com/2019/5/1/18525575/sf-giants-prospect-logan-webb-suspended-80-games-after-positive-ped-test.
In any case, Webb has been a bundle of contradictions in his tiny-sample six major league starts. He has a 154 ERA- to go with a 110 FIP- and a nice 90 xFIP-, and the inflated ERA is due to one ghastly outing where the Giants left him in to get annihilated to the tune of seven earned runs in 2 2⁄3 innings against the Cardinals. His overall profile looks like a groundball-generator, as he pairs a below-average strikeout rate with a crazy-high grounder/fly ball avoidance rate, but his sinker is his least-used pitch. Beyond that, while you’d expect a guy with his batted ball profile to mitigate damage on contact, Webb really hasn’t, mostly because a lot of his not-fly-balls have turned into high-hit-probability line drives when they’re not becoming grounders. Unlike other groundball-type pitchers, he also doesn’t pound the zone. Everything he throws is fairly slow, and that helps his changeup get more drop and his breaking pitch become slurve-y rather than purely slider-y or curve-y.
Webb started off his major league career with two dominant starts in three tries, while getting pounded by the Athletics in his second career outing. Since then, he’s gotten destroyed by the Cardinals, got BABIPed (four runs in 4 2⁄3) by the Pirates, and battled his command (and lost that battle) against the Red Sox (allowing three runs in five innings). Those two early starts suggest that he might have a path to success as a weird grounders-on-four-seamers guy, but he hasn’t been able to replicate anything of the sort since then. But hey, he’s ahead of schedule, and the Giants are wisely using this season to evaluate who might help them down the line. Maybe that’s Webb, maybe it isn’t.
(Is it just me, or is this the most likable Giants team in two decades? And no, not just because they’re no good.)
San Francisco Giants @ Atlanta Braves
Sunday, September 22, 2019
1:20 pm EDT
SunTrust Park, Atlanta, GA
TV: Fox Sports South, MLB.tv
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network
XM Radio: XM 186 (Streaming 841)