The Atlanta Braves have won the pennant and they’re going to the World Series. That sentence alone is wonderful to type out and if I could just sit here and keep on typing it for 1000 words, I would. As nice as it is to type that out, it wouldn’t be fun for me and I’m sure that even though you’re as thrilled as I am, you don’t want to just click on this article and read a bunch of spam. So let’s talk about why they’re in the World Series.
Short answer: Eddie Rosario and Tyler Matzek could run for office right now on the same ticket and they would probably win. That’s how good both of them have been during this Postseason run, with Rosario’s performance being the major standout. Before getting into Rosario’s astonishing performance in the NLCS, it’s time to talk about just how good Tyler Matzek has been.
Starting with Baseball-Reference’s Championship Win Probability Added metric, you may be shocked to see that Matzek ended up contributing a grand total of 0.00 cWPA in the NLCS. Here is my personal reaction to seeing things shake out like this in that particular department:
In all seriousness, I understand why the metric didn’t think that Tyler Matzek pulled a Greg Jennings in Madden NFL Football and put the team on his back. That’s why baseball is a wonderful sport, though: It’s not played by a computer with calculations determining the outcome. Winners and losers are decided by the human beings themselves and my goodness, Tyler Matzek was a massive human being who played a huge role in ensuring that the Braves were winners. He was incredible in the NLDS and he followed that up with yet another outstanding performance in the NLCS.
His crowning jewel was his effort in Game 6, which is when he entered with two runners in scoring position with nobody out and struck out all three batters he faced in order. The strikeout of Mookie Betts in particular was astonishing on its own. For starters, the fact that it happened on just three pitches is wild. It’s even wilder that all three pitches were fastballs right down the heart of the plate. The wildest of all is that Mookie took the first two pitches. So facing down an 0-2 count against the hottest reliever left hurling at the moment, Mookie Betts was surely behind the 8-ball and it’s worth noting that he was only a 36 wRC+ hitter during the regular season when he was faced with an 0-2 count.
So considering the situation, he likely felt compelled to swing at whatever Matzek was going to throw up there. It ended up being another fastball and Betts waved at a 98 miles-per-hour heater before going back to the dugout within an electric stadium in Cobb County. Simply put, Tyler Matzek challenged Mookie Betts in his own home within the strike zone and came out an emphatic winner. In a situation where Mookie Betts usually swings at pitches right down the middle, Matzek basically dared him to hit his heater and Betts chose not to do so until he was down to his last chance and then Matzek just finished him off.
It took an incredible amount of fortitude to pull off that disappearing act and fortunately, Matzek appeared to be very much up for the task. He’s come up incredibly huge for the Braves during this Postseason and Game 6 was saw him reach a level of dominance that was needed to take out that Dodgers team in that situation. It’s a situation that they’re used to thriving in and one where it honestly would’ve been understandable if the game was tied by the end of that frame. Instead, Tyler Matzek continued his incredible October and not only cleaned up the seventh inning mess, but went ahead and knocked out the eighth inning in just six pitches. We’ve seen it for two rounds now and there’s no reason to doubt Matzek has what it takes to tackle the high-leverage innings as the Braves play for a World Series title.
Then there’s Eddie Rosario, who had the Championship Series of not just his life, but anybody else’s life. There’s only one good time to cite slash line stats for a single series and that’s whenever someone goes absolutely nuts during a Postseason series. Rosario’s 2021 NLCS fits the bill after he hit for a scarcely believable .560/.607/1.040 slash line with a 1.647 OPS during the pennant-deciding series. While cWPA was not a fan of Tyler Matzek in the NLCS, it absolutely adored Eddie Rosario, as he was credited with a whopping 18.83 worth of cWPA in the NLCS. Watching him mash during that NLCS was complete and utter madness and it was worth pinching myself to make sure that this wasn’t some sort of stress-induced delirium that I was experiencing.
Nope, that really was career 105 wRC+ hitter Eddie Rosario hitting at a godlike level during the National League Championship Series against the (now formerly) defending World Series Champions. It was so absurd that it can be compared to the stunning exhibition of hitting that Barry Bonds put on display during a losing effort in the 2002 World Series. With that being said, it’s not much of a comparison since even a normal player’s best efforts can barely compare with Barry Bonds at his best. Still, Rosario can now brag to anybody he knows that his .560 batting average in the NLCS is better than any batting average that Bonds had in any of his Postseason series — including that ‘02 Fall Classic. That’s all Rosario topped Bonds in, though, as Barry ended up powering his way to a .471/.700/1.294 slash line and a comical 1.994 OPS.
The fact that we’re even able to fathom comparing the series that Eddie Rosario had in this year’s NLCS to a Postseason masterclass from Barry Bonds should tell you that we watched something special this past week. Even though Rosario had a perfectly fine performance during the NLDS and even filled in quite admirably at the leadoff spot on short notice after Jorge Soler was knocked out of that series by COVID-19, there was no reason to expect Rosario to become possessed with the spirit of Hall-of-Famers from the past and proceed to slug it out at an incredibly high level. It was extremely out of character for him as a hitter but at the same time, that’s the type of stuff that tends to happen during magical playoff runs. Sometimes you have unheralded players come up huge in big situations and Eddie Rosario was more than happy to play the role of hero during the NLCS.
Both Eddie Rosario and Tyler Matzek will never be the first two players you think of when you think of the Atlanta Braves. That may be the case if the Braves end up going all the way and winning the whole daggone thing, but for now they were simply considered as role players when compared to the marquee names on this team. Even if both of these players come back to earth during the World Series, you’ll never be able to take away what these two did in order to help the Braves win the pennant. Not bad for one man who was traded for Pablo Sandoval and another man who had once been out of the majors for five years, huh?