The Braves have made it work so far this weekend against a depleted Miami lineup, winning the first three games of the series, including both games of a doubleheader, with a patchwork rotation that’s included Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Muller, and the demoted-but-not-really Ian Anderson. Today, they’ll send Bryce Elder to the mound in lieu of any other regularly-scheduled starter in their bid for a sweep.
Elder’s presence on the roster is a bit of an oddity. Kyle Wright has lost velocity and movement and is receiving a breather from his turn in the rotation. Max Fried is on the 7-day Concussion Injured List. Elder himself was called up in between games of the doubleheader, but is apparently going to start because he wasn’t needed in long relief given Anderson’s six innings of work with a lead in the nightcap.
On the year, Elder’s stats are horrendous: 131 ERA-, 147 FIP-, 142 xFIP-, and an xERA that’s probably north of 170. He has as many walks as strikeouts and -0.2 fWAR in 21 1⁄3 innings, spanning four starts and a relief appearance. Arguably his only encouraging outings were his MLB debut (4/0 K/BB ratio against the Nationals, though he did allow two homers) and his most (and only relief) appearance against the Mets (2/0 K/BB ratio in 2 1⁄3 innings). He did make a start against the Marlins, with a 4/6 K/BB ratio in 4 2⁄3 innings, in a game the Braves ultimately lost.
The thing with Elder is that despite a fairly nice set of pitches (the cutter has a strange shape which doesn’t seem to be working for it, the slider should be devastating), his sinker has bad command and isn’t really hard to hit given its 91 mph average velocity, which causes a lot of problems that two decent secondaries (slider/changeup) can’t solve, at least not given the rate at which he currently throws his sinker.
The ineptness of the current Miami lineup has helped the Braves overcome their tattered rotation so far, and that may play a big part in the outcome of this game as well, as the Braves will need to contend with Braxton Garrett. In 62 2⁄3 innings, Garrett has a 103 ERA- but an 87 FIP- and 80 xFIP-, though his xERA is much closer to his ERA than FIP. He has 1.2 fWAR in those 62 2⁄3 innings, i.e., nearly 4 fWAR/200. He’s succeeded in a fairly traditional way: lots of strikeouts, few walks, pairing less-effective fastballs with more-effective secondaries as a part of a five-pitch mix. Less traditionally, he uses his two-plane slider as his main offering, and leverages horizontal movement a bit more than other hurlers.
The Braves faced Garrett once in 2021, when he walked six batters in three innings against them in what was arguably his worst career start. He’s never walked more than four batter in any start previously or since. He had a devastating run earlier this year with a 37/6 K/BB ratio in four starts, but those four starts all came against the Reds and Pirates, and his numbers have been a lot less gaudy when facing better offenses.
From what I can tell, the Braves have never swept the Marlins in a four-game set in Miami. They’ve swept a three-game set in Miami as recently as August of last year, and swept them in a four-game set at home as recently as August 2018, but have never actually combined the two. Today could be the day.
Atlanta Braves @ Miami Marlins
Sunday, August 14, 2022
1:40 pm EDT
LOANdEPOT PARK, Miami, FL
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan
XM Radio: Online, Ch. 178