One thing that was an interesting wrinkle to the 2020 MLB Playoffs was that it was highly likely, although obviously not certain, that the team(s) that you would encounter in the playoffs were teams that you had not played at all during the regular season. Normally, you would have at least a series or two against the teams in your league at the very least, but with how the schedule was constructed this year, teams would avoid two-thirds of the league. That has ultimately led to some situations where a lack of familiarity with pitchers may have aided with some less than inspiring offensive performances so far in the postseason.
However, the Braves do not have that same quirk with their NLDS opponent in the Miami Marlins. The Marlins overcame their seeding to take down the Cubs in the opening round of the playoffs and being division foes, the two teams are quite familiar with each other. While it is still weird to talk about the Marlins as participants in the playoffs, lets take a look at how the regular season match-up between the two teams went.
2020 Match-up by the Numbers
Overall Records: Braves 35-25, Marlins 31-29
Run Differentials: Braves +60, Marlins -41
Pitching fWAR: Braves 4.1, Marlins 2.2
Batting fWAR: Braves 11.2, Marlins 3.5
2020 Head-to-Head Record: Braves won season series 6-4
It is no secret that, traditionally speaking, the Braves have owned the Marlins. Overall, the Braves are 277-191 against Miami and after dominating them last season over a large sample of games, the Braves won the 2020 season series by a smaller margin thanks to a bit of good luck from the Marlins and bad luck on Braves end. Implosions from Kyle Wright and old friend Robbie Erlin played significant roles in three of the Braves’ four losses to the Marlins this season and that plus the Marlins getting some good pitching performances at times led to the season series being closer than its run differential (Braves +22) and subjective analysis would suggest.
That said, the Braves did have their own bit of good fortune with a 29-9 win over the Marlins on September 9 that set the National League mark for most runs scored by a team in a single game. The season series has been far more favorable to the Braves later in the season with Atlanta winning four of the last five games against Miami. In three of those wins, the Braves scored nine or more runs. Overall, Atlanta posted a .280/.363/.489 batting line against the Marlins in 2020 with Miami slashing .255/.329/.388 in those same 10 games.
Key Differences between regular season and postseason matchup
The primary differences between what we saw in the regular season series and the National League Division Series are going to be in the pitching staffs. For the Braves, they are not going to be getting starts from Tommy Milone or Robbie Erlin as was the case earlier in the season although they will need Kyle Wright to be better than he was against the Marlins this season. Max Fried and Ian Anderson have looked the part of aces this postseason and both pitched well against Miami with Fried’s start where he hurt his ankle being a notable exception. The Braves will also have Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. for this series which is notable given that both players missed significant time this season including being absent from chunks of the regular season matchup with the Marlins. Acuña is not completely healthy as it sounds like his wrist injury is going to require some sort of procedure this offseason, but based on his performance against the Reds, that may not matter at all especially since he has historically loved to beat up on the Marlins.
For the Marlins, there are some notable changes as well. Sixto Sanchez was an August addition to their rotation from their prospect pipeline and he has been very, very good for them. He also pitched very well against the Braves on September 8 although most recent start against Atlanta was riddled with command issues and led to an early exit. The Marlins will also be without Jose Urena who they had traditionally relied on towards the front of their rotation. He had his arm broken on a line drive and is out for the rest of the playoffs. The irony of Urena of all people having to experience the consequences of a ball hitting him at a high rate of speed is not lost on us.
Finally, we have Starling Marte who is a bit of a question mark for the Marlins. Miami has been coy with the status of their big trade deadline acquisition after he broke his pinkie after being hit by a pitch. Marte did not play in the second game of their series against the Cubs, but the team has said that it is possible he could play through it and/or appear as a pinch runner. While he has not played well against the Braves this season with a .161/.188/.290 in 32 plate appearances, he is still a very talented player and with the quality of the Marlins pitching staff, if he gets going....that could be a key difference. The Marlins bullpen was also one of the worst in baseball this year with -1.4 fWAR on the season with a 5.50 ERA and 5.65 FIP to go along with the worst strikeout rate amongst bullpens in all of baseball at 7.30 K/9.