The Braves eluded ill impacts from devil magic in the series opener, as they thrashed Dakota Hudson and hung on despite two late homers by the Cardinals and another terrifying Will Smith appearance. Tonight, the Redbirds are doubling down on wormburners as they send Andre Pallante to the hill.
Ian Anderson, bouncing back?
The Braves have rolled merrily along, with much of the roster humming, but none of that applies to Ian Anderson. The 24-year-old is down to 0.4 fWAR on the season, and had one of his worst starts ever last time out — it was his worst start by ERA and Game Score (v2), and his third-worst by both FIP and xFIP.
In the past, Anderson hasn’t spiraled — even post-shoulder injury, his inconsistency has prevented him from getting on a roll, but hasn’t really condemned him to a stretch that’s been all bad, all the time. In his 2022 season debut, Anderson lasted just 2 2⁄3 and had a near-unspeakable 1/5 K/BB ratio. Yet, right after, he allowed just a solo homer to the Padres in 5 1⁄3 innings, with a 7/1 K/BB ratio. He had a really horrid outing at Coors last year, with an 0/4 K/BB ratio and two homers allowed in three innings — and followed that up with a 9/2 K/BB ratio game against the Marlins (one homer in five innings).
Anderson needs a similar bounceback. If he doesn’t get one... well, the Braves don’t seem amenable to changing how they use him, so it might be interesting to see whether they just opt not to use him altogether.
Austin Riley, fastball discerner
Over the last few years, we’ve seen the league move away from fastballs because, well, they’re easier to hit and punish than other stuff. There are lots of hitters who are good because they kill fastballs, and do well enough against the other stuff to not tank their lines.
Austin Riley, though, is a different beast, kinda. Namely, look at this, which is specific to 2022:
Among pitches he’s regularly seen, Riley has been least-effective against four-seamers.
This creates an interesting matchup between him and Pallante. The latter throws a ton of four-seamers... but they don’t work like four-seamers. Instead, they have almost no horizontal movement (“fade”) and have sinker-like drop. I don’t know how this is going to shake out, but it’s something kind of cool to watch for.
Riley, by the way, has kind of fallen by the wayside in offensive discussions this year, as the focus has been on a bunch of other stuff. But, he has more or less the same offensive line as last year, albeit with underperforming his xwOBA (he overperformed it last year) and greater power output. He’s second on the team in xwOBA at this point (behind Ronald Acuña Jr.), and second in fWAR as well (behind Dansby Swanson).