Coming off of their first off day of the season, the Atlanta Braves will return to Truist Park Friday, where they will begin a six-game homestand with a three-game series against the Miami Marlins. Atlanta went 3-4 on their seven-game West Coast trip and will enter play Friday with a 6-8 record. They went 11-8 against Miami in 2021.
It has been an up and down start to the season for the Braves, who are tied for the major league lead with 16 home runs, but are just 11th in the league in runs scored. The problem has been a lack of baserunners, as 15 of those 16 home runs came with no one on base. The top of the order has produced, but it has been a struggle for the bottom of the lineup. The Braves entered today second in xwOBA; like last season, underperforming their inputs (to a greater extent than most other teams in the league) has been a bugbear for the team.
Matt Olson has been an on-base machine for the Braves and is putting together one of the best Aprils in team history. Olson is hitting .400/.516/.640 with a 227 wRC+ in 62 plate appearances.
From a pitching standpoint, the Braves have been somewhat unlucky. They have a staff ERA of 4.65, which is 25th in the league entering play Wednesday. However, they have a 3.67 FIP which is 11th in the league, and have accumulated 1.4 fWAR which is 10th. If you favor contact management, then the Braves have been in the top 10 in minimizing opposing batters’ xwOBA. They’re also fourth in MLB in Outs Above Average, and Dansby Swanson leads all of MLB in that metric at this point. Even with the effective pitching and defense, they’ve been killed by sequencing — they have the worst LOB-wins (a stat that looks at how many more runs a team has given up specifically due to sequencing than assuming it had average sequencing fortune) in the majors, and as a result, have the fourth-biggest gap in MLB between their ERA and FIP.
The Marlins entered Thursday with a 4-7 record, pending the outcome of their series finale against the Cardinals. Miami entered Thursday 22nd in the league in runs scored albeit with a 102 wRC+. They’re 24th in xwOBA but 14th in wOBA; while most teams are underperforming xwOBA until it gets re-calibrated for the current environment, the Marlins have suffered less in this regard than most other teams.
Jazz Chisholm has been a catalyst for Miami hitting .296/.344/.741 with a 192 wRC+, but has found himself out of the lineup at times against left-handed pitching. He’s also outhitting his xwOBA by an insane amount (around .100), the kind that’s mostly possible only in small samples. The Marlins made an effort to beef up their outfield during the offseason, but the returns have been minimal so far. Avisail Garcia is hitting .200/.226/.333 with a 64 wRC+ through eight games. World Series hero Jorge Soler has been even worse, hitting .143/.250/.238 with a 53 wRC+ in 48 plate appearances. Overall, the Marlins have used 13 hitters this year — seven with a wRC+ of 121 or above, and six with a wRC+ of 64 or below. They have literally zero hitters anywhere between 65 and 120 so far. (The Braves are similar, with just one of 13 batters in that range, six above, and six below.)
The Braves announced Thursday that pitchers Touki Toussaint and Dylan Lee were optioned to Gwinnett following Wednesday’s loss in Los Angeles. The team did not announce the corresponding moves. One of those roster spots will go to reliever Jesse Chavez, whom they acquired from the Cubs Wednesday in exchange for Sean Newcomb. The other will likely go to Austin Riley, who was placed on the paternity list prior to Wednesday’s game and traveled back to Atlanta to be with his wife Anna as she gave birth to their first child.
Friday, April 22, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Trevor Rogers (2 GS, 6.2 IP, 17.1 K%, 14.3 BB%, 12.15 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 5.10 xFIP)
Left-hander Trevor Rogers will get the start for Miami in the opener Friday and will be looking to bounce back from a rough outing last time out. Rogers allowed two earned runs and struck out three over five innings in his debut against the Giants. However, he was lit up by the Phillies in his last start allowing four hits, four walks and seven runs in just 1 2/3 innings. Rogers has faced the Braves four times in his career and has allowed 18 hits and 13 runs in 17 1/3 innings. Rogers had an amazing rookie campaign in 2021 (4.2 fWAR in 133 innings), so this could be a tough test for Atlanta hitters if he rights the ship. However, his pitches are all looking off from their 2021 variants, so the Braves could feast if Rogers is still fighting things mechanically.
Kyle Wright (2 GS, 11.0 IP, 35.7 K%, 2.4 BB%, 1.64 ERA, 0.89 FIP, 2.09 xFIP)
Kyle Wright will be making his third start of 2022 for the Braves in Friday’s opener. Wright has had an up-and-down career so far, but has been impressive in two outings this season. Wright allowed just two hits and struck out six over six scoreless innings against the Reds in his first start. He allowed five hits, two runs and struck out nine in five innings in his last outing against the Padres. Wright battled elevated walk rates early in his career, but has issued just one free pass in 11 innings this season. Wright already has 0.6 fWAR this season after combining for -0.8 in parts of his prior four seasons.
Saturday, April 23, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Elieser Hernandez (2 GS, 10.2 IP, 23.9 K%, 8.7 BB%, 4.22 ERA, 6.07 FIP, 4.27 xFIP)
Righty Elieser Hernandez will get the start on Saturday for Miami. Hernandez wasn’t sharp in his debut, but is coming off a solid outing against Philadelphia where he allowed five hits and one run over six innings. Hernandez struck out five and issued just one walk. He has good numbers against the Braves in his career posting a 2.27 ERA in 10 career appearances (5 starts), albeit with a 3.38 FIP and 4.12 xFIP. Considering that he’s been a replacement-level hurler for over 200 career innings now, this would be a good time for the Braves to make those numbers creep up.
Ian Anderson (2 GS, 8.1 IP, 22.2 K%, 16.7 BB%, 6.48 ERA, 4.87 FIP, 4.42 xFIP)
Ian Anderson struggled at the end of the spring and then had a lackluster debut against the Reds in his first start of the season. However, he quieted some of the concerns in his last outing, where he allowed just two hits, one run and one walk over 5 2/3 innings against the Padres. Anderson relied heavily on his changeup in San Diego leading to seven strikeouts. He struggled against the Marlins in three starts in 2021 allowing 17 hits, 11 walks and nine earned runs in 12 1/3 innings. However, one of those games was the one in which he left with a shoulder injury that shelved him in the middle of the season; his other two starts against them were fine-to-good.
Sunday, April 24, 1:35 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Jesus Luzardo (2 GS, 9.1 IP, 37.5 K%, 7.5 BB%, 4.82 ERA, 0.82 FIP, 2.09 xFIP)
Hard-throwing lefty Jesus Luzardo will get the start for the Marlins in Sunday’s series finale. Miami acquired Luzardo at the trade deadline last season. He struggled down the stretch but turned heads during the spring and won a spot in the Marlins’ rotation. He was impressive in his season debut, racking up 12 strikeouts in just five innings against the Angels while allowing two hits and one run. He struggled in his last start, allowing seven hits and four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Cardinals. That performance swelled his ERA to 4.82 but he is still carrying a miniscule 0.82 FIP.
Bryce Elder (2 GS, 10.0 IP, 15.6 K%, 11.1 BB%, 4.50 ERA, 6.07 FIP, 4.79 xFIP)
Bryce Elder will make his third start of the season in the series finale Sunday. Elder was thrust into the rotation following short starts by Ian Anderson and Huascar Ynoa during the previous homestand. He was sharp in his debut, allowing six hits and three runs over 5 2/3 innings. All of the runs came late as the Braves tried to stretch him as far as they could. Elder wasn’t as sharp in his second start allowing three hits, five walks and two runs in 4 1/3 innings. He did a good job of minimizing the damage, but isn’t the type of pitcher that can get away allowing that many baserunners. Every start from now until when the rosters contract on May 2 is big for Elder as he tries to stick in the major league rotation. Still, he’s gonna have to do better than his current stats to make that work, as a 4.4 percent K%-BB% won’t fly.