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How the Braves might beat the Brewers

Once again, a pointless simulation

Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves Photo by Edward M. Pio Roda/Getty Images

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t planning on dusting off this model again. But apparently it was fun enough that people wanted to see it again, so here I am, and here we are. If you need a refresher, refer to the front of this post: Basically, the gist of it is that this post is not an analysis. It’s me relating the results of a singular model run, where the model itself is based on weaving together things that have already happened this season, just not at the same time, in the same game.

This season, the Braves have hit okay, generally better than the Brewers have. Milwaukee, meanwhile, has been amazing at run prevention, both in terms of pitching, and in terms of catching the ball when it’s put in play. Braves’ starters, including Charlie Morton, Max Fried, Ian Anderson, and others, have faced lineups like those fielded by the Brewers. The Braves have faced good pitching (though generally not as good as the Brewers are going to throw at them this series). The Brewers, likewise, have faced decent lineups like the one to be deployed by the Braves, and their bats have, of course, swung it against all sorts of hurlers. So, when we yank out one trial result for this series, and peel back the cover so we can look at what exactly happened, what does it look like? That’s what this post is... for a trial run where the Braves win. (There’ll be a second for a run where the Braves lose.)

One note: this post uses my own guesses about playoff rosters and rotations, since nothing has been announced at the time of writing.

Game 1: Charlie Morton vs. Corbin Burnes

What a boring first result for our first hypothetical 2021 NLDS win, but one pleasing to hypothetical Braves fans. Burnes and Morton trade zeroes for three innings; Morton strands a leadoff double in the second. The Braves strike first in the fourth, as Ozzie Albies hits a one-out single up the middle, and comes around to score on Adam Duvall’s two-out double to left. Then, in the sixth, with Morton still cruising, the floodgates open against Burnes in weird fashion. With the top of the order coming up a third time, the Braves manage to string together five straight hits: double, single, single, double, single. Of those five, however, only Riley’s is hit hard; the others are bloops or seeing-eye grounders. Burnes ends up getting pulled after those five hits score three runs, and the Braves score a fifth run off the bullpen.

The Brewers try to respond with their own bats coming up a third time against Morton, and they almost do... Morton walks two to begin the bottom of the sixth, gets a strikeout, and then allows a hard liner to Kolten Wong to load the bases. The Braves leave Morton in despite the trouble, and he rewards them with a three-pitch strikeout followed by a five-pitch strikeout to escape the jam. Tyler Matzek and Luke Jackson throw scoreless frames, while Duvall and Riley connect for homers against the underbelly of the Milwaukee bullpen and the Braves score another run as well; they lead 8-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth,

Will Smith comes in despite the massive lead. He gets ahead of the leadoff batter 0-2, then walks him. The next batter hits a double. Two outs later, the Braves still lead 8-1, but then Smith gives up a gopherball, and it’s 8-3. After a single, Smith mercifully retires his final batter on a pop in foul territory, ending the game.

Burnes ends up getting really hosed in this game, allowing five runs in five-plus despite a 9/0 K/BB ratio. Morton cruises, with a 4/0 K/BB ratio through five, and three strikeouts in the sixth to go with two walks.

Game 2: Max Fried vs. Brandon Woodruff

In our sim-world, this game is a turnaround from Game 1, and also incredibly dumb, as the Braves’ pitching gets shelled so bad that it completely neutralizes the dominance of the first game.

Max Fried looks shaky all game; he escapes the first despite a single and a walk, but gives up a leadoff homer in the second, and then two more runs in the inning on back-to-back doubles and a single. There’s another leadoff homer in the third, and he gets hung out to dry in the fourth, as the Brewers score four more runs in the inning to make it 8-0. Omar Narvaez is the guy who hits the leadoff homer in the third and then the two-run double that makes it 6-0 in the fourth, despite a 22 wRC+ on the season against southpaws.

The Braves choose to wear the loss using a combination of Jesse Chavez, Drew Smyly, and Jacob Webb, who bleed another six runs over the rest of the game. Meanwhile, nothing happens for Atlanta offensively against Woodruff. He goes six scoreless, allowing just four baserunners. The Braves try to rally in the fourth by having the first two reach, but Woodruff strikes out the next three. They manage just six baserunners all game and lose 14-0 without scoring a run.

Game 3: Freddy Peralta vs. Ian Anderson

The series shifts to Atlanta, tied 1-1. The Atlanta offense continues to slumber. Ian Anderson allays a few concerns by striking out the first batter he faces, but he walks the number eight hitter ahead of Peralta, who hits an 0-2 pitch back up the middle on a line with runners on first and second to score Milwaukee’s first run. Luis Urias clubs a two-run double in the third, and Willy Adames doubles home another run in the fourth. Anderson leaves having allowed four runs in four innings with a 5/2 K/BB ratio, more or less getting BABIPed to death (albeit with doubles, so not quite seeing-eye singles). The Braves cobble together relief for the rest of the game that works mostly fine, until A.J. Minter and Jacob Webb combine to yield three more runs in the ninth.

None of this really matters, though. Freddy Peralta one-hits the Braves for five innings despite four walks as the Braves just can’t seem to connect effectively when they swing. Brent Suter rolls out of the bullpen for three ridiculously quick scoreless innings in which he allows just a walk, and the Brewers don’t even bother to use Josh Hader to close it out. At this point, the Braves haven’t scored in over two full games’ worth of innings.

Game 4: Huascar Ynoa vs. Eric Lauer

(The Brewers have a lot of options here. I’m using Eric Lauer, it’s a pointless sim, it might be someone else. The Braves start Huascar Ynoa because they haven’t needed him so far.)

Backs against the wall, the Braves finally break out. Ynoa throws six innings of two-run ball, getting touched only for a two-run homer in the fifth. Eric Lauer, well, he gets jumped on before the Brewers can even get their other arms ready. Travis d’Arnaud starts the second with a leadoff homer. Then, with two outs and a man on first, Lauer issues back-to-back walks to Jorge Soler and Freddie Freeman before Albies clears them with a liner to right. Riley follows with a homer, and it’s 6-0 Braves. d’Arnaud hits his second leadoff homer in as many frames in the third, chasing Lauer. The Braves end up scoring 10 in the game, which makes it not so bad that both Luke Jackson and Tyler Matzek end up allowing runs. Will Smith throws a 1-2-3 frame this time; Braves win 10-4.

Game 5: Charlie Morton vs. Corbin Burnes

Back to Milwaukee, for all the marbles, with the Game 1 starters. (And hey, remember, this is the version where the Braves win, so you don’t need to sweat the outcome.)

This game ends up being super-tense. Morton allows just one base-runner, a one-out double to Jackie Bradley Jr., through three innings. That gives the Braves a chance to put up a three-spot on Burnes: Freeman starts another rally chain in the fourth that goes walk-single-walk. Duvall’s rolls a ball through the right side to make it 1-0, Rosario follows with his own opposite-field grounder to make it 2-0, and d’Arnaud connects for a sacrifice fly before Burnes gets a strikeout and a grounder that actually finds a fielder to end the inning.

Bradley pops a homer off Morton in the fifth, but the Braves have a two-run lead. They extend it back to three when d’Arnaud’s liner scores Duvall off a leadoff double. That’s all the Braves get, but it’s somehow enough. Tyler Matzek throws a perfect seventh and gets left in for the eighth, which starts with a walk and two singles to load the bases. With the go-ahead run at the plate, Jackson starts the inning with a wild pitch. After a popout, an intentional walk that reloads the bases, and another shallow flyout, Jackson walks in a run on four pitches. The cushion is a lone run at this point, but a routine fly preserves the game for the moment. The Braves go down 1-2-3 to Josh Hader in the top of the ninth, and it’s Will Smith, with the season on the line.

Like I said, you know this is a happy ending. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t give some hypothetical sim-fans heart attacks. Smith starts the frame with a strikeout that gets away from d’Arnaud, but not enough for it to be a reach-on-strikeout. Then he walks the tying run on base. Another strikeout, and the Braves are an out away. A terrifyingly-risky stolen base opens up first, and Smith issues a second walk with the base open. Then he throws four straight balls on 0-1 to load the bases. It’s do-or-die at this point, but Smith starts the PA-of-the-season-to-date with two balls on sliders close to the dirt. He then throws three straight fastballs: a whiff on one at the knees, a whiff on one at the belt, and one that’s right down the middle but fouled off. He goes back to the slider. It’s a good one, just below the corner. It’s swung on and missed. The sim-Braves advance, in this one trial.

(And no, I didn’t pick a really dramatic Will Smith appearance. This is literally just what came up. Blame him for having those dramatic appearances in the first place.)

So, that was theoretically fun. Check back later for an alternative universe in which things are less fun by miles.

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