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What to watch for in Saturday night’s Diamondbacks-Braves game

Patient snakes versus Anderson’s balls; run for cover, Austin Riley exists

World Series - Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

I’d say that Ian Anderson is pitching for his survival in the rotation at this point, but given that nothing else has supplanted him, I’m not sure whether a bad outing tonight will, either.

Anderson and those patient Snakes

As alluded to in the preview, the Diamondbacks don’t swing very much. They have the league’s third-lowest swing rate, and while opposing teams have adjusted to throw them the most strikes in MLB, the Diamondbacks continue to take called strikes often. They have the third-lowest zone swing rate, and the second-lowest chase rate.

Ian Anderson, though, probably won’t give them much to swing at. Among the 166 pitchers with the most batters faced this year, he has the fourth-lowest zone rate. Notably, his start-to-start effectiveness doesn’t really seem to hinge on how often he finds or misses the zone, as any combination of things (whiffs, chase rate, etc.) seem to drive whether an outing is good or bad — on July 5 and July 10, he had back-to-back highly effective starts with very different zone rates.

Still, this is not the matchup I would’ve designed if looking to give Anderson a bounceback. His approach to pitching isn’t really about throwing strikes on command, and while that may lead the Diamondbacks to be somewhat less effective in what they choose to lay off of, it could also be a long slog into disaster.

Austin Riley velocity appreciation

After notching three barrels in his first three PAs last night, with exit velocities of 110.3 mph, 113.3 mph, and 101.3 mph, Riley is now fourth in average exit velocity among all of MLB (Yordan Alvarez, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton). He’s third in hard-hit rate, seventh in barrel rate, and sixth in the percent of his plate appearances that end with a barrel. His xwOBA is currently an even .400.

Fortunately for our eyeballs, Corbin Martin is the type of guy that’s been hit hard in general, with the greatest exit velocities coming on his two most commonly-used pitches. While pitcher exit velocity is often driven more by the batters that pitcher faces rather than the pitcher himself, there’s not too much reason to think that Martin is going to be a guy who stifles Riley’s prodigious output.

One interesting note, though: Riley hits non-fastballs harder than fastballs. Martin throws mostly fastballs. We’ll see what happens.

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