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Soroka’s search for success segues to Milwaukee

Michael Soroka is still searching for an unequivocally good outing in his return after a long, long hiatus from the majors

Chicago White Sox v Atlanta Braves Photo by Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/Getty Images

On Friday night, Michael Soroka’s continued search for success will take him to Milwaukee, where he will make his first start of the second half against the NL Central-leading Brewers. Soroka’s injury-laden absence from the majors has been a story of setbacks and small triumphs, but now that he’s back, it still remains to be seen if and when he’ll return to accumulating effective outings.

On the year, Soroka has a gnarled line: 122 ERA-, 155 FIP-, 111 xFIP- through four starts and a relief appearance spanning 23 13 innings. He’s shown flashes of effectiveness, like a 7/0 K/BB game against the Marlins that was marred by two homers, and a three-strikeouts-in-three-innings-with-no-walks relief appearance against the White Sox, but still seems be vacillating between “too near the plate and prone to getting hit hard” and “too nibbly, leading to too many walks.” Soroka’s challenges on a pitch shape basis are that he’s not getting as much downward sink on his sinker, nor really any action on his changeup. That’s put a lot of pressure on his slider, which has fine shape and location, but he may be getting too predictable with it when the sinker fails to get weak contact and quick outs.

To that end, the Brewers may not be a horrible matchup for Soroka, as their 88 team wRC+ is 27th in MLB, and while they currently have one of the bigger xwOBA underperformances, their xwOBA itself is still a bottom-10 mark. They have, however, hit much better in July (.341 team xwOBA), though of course that’s a much smaller sample size than the whole season. This will be the first time Soroka faces the Brewers in his career.

At 54-43, the Brewers currently have a 2.5-game lead in the NL Central, and have really killed it in July so far with an 11-4 record. They had consecutive series against the Reds bookending the All-Star Break and won five of six therein, including a sweep in Cincinnati to take sole possession of first, and followed that up by taking two of three from the Phillies. All that said, though, the Brewers have an interesting aura about them, as they’re currently outplaying their Pythagorean expectation by six games, and their BaseRuns by eight games, the second-most of any team. On paper, they really haven’t produced much anywhere except defensively, where they appear far and away like the best team in baseball, but they’ve been able to make it work so far.

While there haven’t been a ton of great individual seasons in Milwaukee this year, save for a resurgent Christian Yelich, old friend William Contreras, and perhaps Corbin Burnes being pretty good again, a lot of the team has chipped in so-so performances for one reason or another. That’s definitely the case for Friday’s scheduled starter, Freddy Peralta, who has 1.0 fWAR in 98 innings spanning 18 starts, as a result of an inflated HR/FB, seen through his 101 ERA-, 103 FIP-, 93 xFIP- line. “Fastball Freddy” was close to dominant in each of the last two years (74/74/88 combined), but has been afflicted with fewer strikeouts and way more homers this year. He’s actually throwing about two ticks harder than he did last year, but it’s possibly come with worse command. His fastball now ends up in the middle of the zone more frequently than before, and his once-pinpoint slider location (despite some really erratic mechanics that made the slider basically an amoeba) is now all over the place. That said, Peralta has pitched much better since a rough eight-start stretch between mid-April and early June. While he’s still been homer-prone since, his strikeout is back up and his pitching triple-slash over his last seven outings is 93/92/80.

The Braves are no strangers to Peralta, as they’ve faced him in four starts and a relief appearance for his career. He dominated them in both 2021 and 2022, but he may be a bit off his game this year relative to those two campaigns.

Game Info

Atlanta Braves @ Milwaukee Brewers

Friday, July 21, 2023

8:10 pm EDT

American Family Field

Milwaukee, WI

TV: Bankruptcy Sports Southeast

Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan

XM Radio: Online/Ch. 185

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