Things haven’t gone to plan for Ian Anderson in 2022, and though he’s had his fair share of bad stretches and disaster starts, the Braves keep forging ahead on the same path. His pitching triple-slash is now a 127 ERA-, 113 FIP-, and 109 xFIP-, but the Braves haven’t really done anything. He’s not getting an opener or working as a bulk option. He’s not being explicitly limited to 18 batters. No starts have been skipped, there hasn’t been an Injured List stint, or a trip to the minors. No, Anderson will make his regularly-scheduled 20th start this Saturday night against Arizona, after the Angels trashed him for seven runs, a 2/3 K/BB ratio, and a homer in three innings last time out. We shouldn’t be surprised, though: the Phillies got him for seven runs in two innings with a homer and a 1/1 K/BB ratio, and Anderson was right back out there with no edits or amendments right after.
To be fair, in the three outings between those two blow-ups, Anderson was more than fine: 13/8 K/BB ratio, no longballs, four runs over 15 2⁄3 innings if you care about that sort of thing. Basically, a 55/76/94 line. So it’s not that Anderson is incapable of a good outing or a good stretch... it’s just that it’s no longer happening often enough to live with the blow-ups.
To that end, this matchup is somewhat terrifying for Anderson. The Diamondbacks are a weak offense on paper, but they’re good at waiting pitchers out and walking a bunch. Meanwhile, among any starter to throw at least 10 innings this year, Anderson has the 13th-lowest zone rate and a top-30 walk rate. This could get bad in a hurry, but actually not so much in a hurry as a long slog with a lot of balls and deep counts. Who knows, though. Maybe Anderson is able to throw way more strikes, or maybe the Diamondbacks go off-script and swing at junk. The real question if the start goes poorly, though, is going to be whether the Braves finally decide to do something other than just keep running Anderson out there with no gameplan adjustments. We’ll see.
If Anderson doesn’t rebound in this game, one saving grace might be that the Diamondbacks are starting Corbin Martin against Atlanta’s potent offense. Martin’s pitched parts of three seasons in the majors and has a 151/156/136 career line in 53 2⁄3 career innings. Compiling -0.9 fWAR in 16 career appearances seems pretty hard to do, but that’s what he’s done so far. Martin’s stats at Triple-A have been similarly dreadful — his ERA and estimators are all over 5.00 in 12 minor league starts this year. Pretty much the only silver lining here is that he pitched well in his first four relief outings of the season, all in April, before a bad relief outing after which he was sent down, and a horrendous start last Sunday against the Nats.
The right-handed Martin has some nice pitches on paper, with a decently-rising fastball and a changeup with pretty good two-plane movement. His breaking pitches are somewhat unusual, with a hard cutter-type pitch (classified as a slider) and something more akin to a generic slider (classified as a curve). The problem is, as is the case with pretty much every fringy pitcher, that his command is awful, and he struggles to locate his two best-shaped pitches (four-seamer, changeup) in particular. The combination of wasted pitches and walks, especially on his changeup, combined with the not-too-uncommon grooved fastball or hanging curve-slider thing, has been a tough one for him.
In his last outing, Martin last four innings against the Nationals and somehow allowed just a run, but issued five walks and only struck out a single batter. He benefited from a double play in the first and caught-stealing in a three-walk third.
Martin has never faced the Braves. Anderson faced the Snakes once, late in the 2021 season, and had one of his best starts ever against them: 8/1 K/BB ratio, no homers, just two hits and a run in seven innings. It’s been one of his best starts since being shelved with the shoulder injury in the middle of last year, something that’s marked a real turning point in his overall effectiveness. Maybe he can replicate the feat tonight.
Arizona Diamondbacks @ Atlanta Braves
Saturday, June 30, 2022
7:20 pm EDT
Truist Park, Atlanta, GA
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan
XM Radio: Ch. 185