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What to watch for in Wednesday night’s Braves-Nationals game

The Orlando Arcia story; so much Erick Fedde

MLB: JUN 14 Braves at Nationals Photo by John McCreary/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Braves go for win number 14 in a row as they wrap up their series in Washington. They clobbered Nationals pitching in the first two games, but the longer the streak goes, the more you start to wonder what kind of weird thing is going to result in it being snapped. The Nationals swapping out their starter in Game 1 didn’t do it, and a guy making his major league debut couldn’t hinder the Braves in Game 2... will the generally-underwhelming Erick Fedde somehow upend the Braves’ rollicking tonight?

The Orlando Arcia 2022 Experience

When the Braves acquired Orlando Arcia, he had failed to make much of an impact in Milwaukee — .282 wOBA, .272 xwOBA, 1.8 fWAR in around 1,900 PAs. He played well in Gwinnett, but didn’t do anything when promoted to Atlanta in 2021, with a .269 wOBA / .248 xwOBA that pretty much made him look like the same Orlando Arcia. While the Braves may have hoped that his 2020 (career-best .338 xwOBA and .317 wOBA) reflected something to build on, he really didn’t show any signs of doing so.

But the 2022 Orlando Arcia Experience has been crazy. In 61 PAs, Arcia has an insane .422 xwOBA (.373 wOBA). Basically every offensive stat for him is good if not great, and way better than at any time in the past. His exit velocity is literally fourth in MLB for anyone with 25 or more batted balls (though of course he has way fewer of them than most players). His barrel rate is nearly twice the league-average rate. He’s gone from a guy who chased a ton, and swung a ton in general, to a guy that doesn’t do much of either.

And yet, the Braves have had little interest in playing him, until forced to by Ozzie Albies’ injury. In April, Arcia started three games at DH, five games in LF, and one game at 3B. He finished the month with a .431 xwOBA but just a .326 wOBA, and his inability to look passable in the outfield got him not just regular-benched, but pretty much super-benched.

Since April 24, he’s had layoffs (where he didn’t even appear in a game) of: eight days, seven days, three days, eight days, seven days, and nine days. Yet, this hasn’t impeded anything about his numbers, as with that sporadic playing time, he’s put up a .450 xwOBA (.462 wOBA).

None of this makes much sense, in the best way that baseball can deliver. Is Orlando Arcia suddenly a fearsome hitter, after a career of being anything but? This could just be a little “hot atoll” for him (you can’t call it a streak or a patch since it hasn’t been contiguous), and we’re going to find out now that he’s the de facto starter, but those things don’t usually feature wOBA and xwOBA going nuts. Moreover, if this is the unlocked potential the Braves were hoping for when they acquired him and coached him into making various changes, why have they been so reluctant to play him for pretty much any reason? The team has tried reasonably hard to integrate William Contreras into daily proceedings due to his great work (.410 xwOBA, .443 wOBA in his first 101 PAs of 2022), but Arcia has the better xwOBA and didn’t get to play much until now. (Also worth noting: both Contreras and Arcia are absolutely flattening anything that doesn’t break, including changeups, but can’t hit breaking pitches at all this year.)

To be clear, I’m not advocating for more Orlando Arcia here, that’s going to happen anyway. I’m also not advocating for less. It’s just very confusing.

Fedde, Vini, Vici

29-year-old Erick Fedde made his MLB debut in 2017, and has pitched nearly 400 innings since, with a career 121/118/105 line. He provided little until a 109 FIP-/96 xFIP- campaign last year across 133 13 innings (1.2 fWAR).

The Braves have seen a lot of Fedde. Since the start of the 2017 season, he’s in the top 30 of starters the Braves have faced in terms of games (seven), innings pitched, and PAs taken. He’s also been horrid in the process, with a 7.80 FIP and 5.41 xFIP. Here’s a brief history of their matchups:

  • July 30, 2019: Braves shell Fedde for nine runs, including two homers, win 11-8
  • September 14, 2019: Braves shell Fedde for five runs in two relief innings, win 10-1
  • September 5, 2020: Braves shell Fedde for four runs, including three homers, but bad defense and Chad Sobotka lead to a 10-4 loss
  • September 11, 2020: Fedde actually does okay with two runs in five innings and zero homers, Josh Tomlin starts and implodes, Braves tie the game with a three-run ninth, but fall in Manfredball in the 12th (preceded by five scoreless Manfredball frames)
  • April 7, 2021: Fedde allows six runs while getting just four outs, Braves win 7-6
  • May 5, 2021: Fedde allows five runs and two homers in five innings, Braves win 5-3
  • August 6, 2021: Fedde allows five runs and leaves in the fifth (zero homers), Braves win 8-4
  • September 9, 2021: Fedde allows four runs on three homers in six innings, Braves win on Joc Pederson walkoff single

There are two ways to react to the above. One is to brace yourself for what this Braves offense is about to do to Fedde. The other is to panic, because that track record, combined with this Braves offense, and the streak... well, that’d be the most You Can’t Predict Baseball thing ever if Fedde were to somehow bamboozle the Braves, right?

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