After Kyle Wright struggled with his curveball and allowed four homers in a 6-4 loss on Thursday night, the Braves will hand the ball to Ian Anderson in Game Two as they look to knot up their five-game set against the division-leading Mets.
It’s been a roller coaster ride of a season for Anderson so far, as he’s struggled in the first inning, struggled the third time through the order, and sometimes just struggled in general through his first 20 starts of the year. While his 119 ERA- is inflated relative to his 107 FIP- and 104 xFIP-, none of those numbers are particularly good. Still, the real story of his season has been an extreme degree of inconsistency.
Right now, league ERA is 4.00. Anderson’s actually had 11 of his 20 starts with an ERA below 4.00. He’s had nine of 20 starts with an FIP below 4.00. He’s had 10 of 20 starts with an xFIP below 4.00. 11 of his 20 starts have a Game Score (v2) above 50. There’s not much of a pattern, though.
- The longest stretch of ERA-below-4.00 starts this season has been four games; the longest stretch of ERA-above-4.00 starts has been three.
- The longest stretch of FIP-below-4.00 starts this season has been three games, the longest stretch of FIP-above-4.00 starts has been four.
- The longest stretch of xFIP-below-4.00 starts this season has been two games, the longest stretch of xFIP-above-4.00 starts has been two.
- The longest stretch of Game-Score-v2-above-50 starts this season has been three games, the longest stretch of Game-Score-v2-below-50 starts has been two.
The point is that on average, Anderson has been bad. But start-to-start, it’s more like you have no idea what he’s going to do. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than his last two outings. On July 24, he was dismantled by the Angels, letting them about around in the first and allowing more runs later — 2/3 K/BB ratio, a homer allowed, just three innings, 21.00 / 9.11 / 7.27 / 10 Game Score — a bottom five start for him for his career by any metric, and one of the worst the Braves have had this year.
And then, on July 30, against the Diamondbacks, a career-best outing, with a 9/1 K/BB ratio with six shutout, one-hit innings — 0.00 / 0.61 / 0.86 / 80 Game Score.
So, what’s Ian Anderson going to do tonight? I have no idea, and neither does anyone else. Not that looking at his past history against the Mets would be much help in general, but his only outing against them this year was also nonsensical — one run allowed despite a 1/4 K/BB ratio, as the Braves won a blowout in New York.
Of course, the Ian Anderson saga is not the only thing going on in this game. The Braves bats will have to take aim at Taijuan Walker, who’s always been confusing. For his career, and this season, Walker has outpitched his peripherals, but the way he gets there tends to be different. This year, it’s a low HR/FB and an elevated strand rate; in other years it’s been other stuff. He doesn’t really manage contact, which is extra-confusing because this year he has an elevated chase rate but also an elevated o-contact rate, which seems like it would lend itself to getting lots of bad contact... but nope. His only real strength so far this season, has been limiting walks, but when you do that and run a low HR/FB (to be fair to Walker, his xHR of 8 is just one higher than his total HR allowance of 7), you can engender a 73/87/97 line and it’s not that weird or anything.
Walker has missed the Braves in the prior two series this year. You could think that perhaps this is a decent matchup for him, because he gets hit fairly hard and the Braves hit the ball fairly hard, but in reality, who knows. If you want to feel optimistic, you could point to Walker struggling in each of his last two starts, with a combined 7/3 K/BB ratio and three homers allowed after allowing just four longballs in his 16 starts prior. If you want to feel pessimistic, you can look back at the fact that prior to these last two starts, Walker reeled off a seven-start stretch with a dominant 47/55/70 line, as well as the fact that the Mets have won each of his recent two poor starts despite his issues.
So, I don’t know. Stuff is gonna happen. Just remember that the Braves playoff odds are still a hair below 99 percent at this point, and that as miffed as you may be that their division odds keep sinking, they’re still projected to currently finish around three wins better than their preseason expectation. Beyond that, what more can you really do?
Atlanta Braves @ New York Mets
Friday, August 5, 2022
7:10 pm EDT
Citi Field, Flushing/Queens/New York, NY
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan
XM Radio: Online / Ch. 180