The Atlanta Braves have stumbled out of the gates following the All-Star Break, going 4-7 since then. The only series they have won since the break was against the Milwaukee Brewers, and they’ll they play them again this weekend, this time in Atlanta.
The offense hasn't been firing in the same way it was in June, with Marcell Ozuna and Eddie Rosario’s struggles standing out. Ozuna has reverted to his April form lately, with a -31 wRC+ and 35.8 percent strikeout rate since the start of the Rays series before the All-Star Break. You could point to his .248 xwOBA over that span as somewhat better than his outputs, but it’s still terrible. Rosario’s xwOBA is even worse at .234, but his results have been marginally better (16 wRC+).
For their part, the Brewers have been playing good baseball lately, as their 14-7 record in July shows. They have played nine games against their main competition for the NL Central crown, the Reds, and have gone 7-2 in those contests, which has allowed them to open up a 1.5 game lead in the division.
In an effort to bolster their lackluster offense, the Brewers acquired veteran Carlos Santana from the Pirates on Thursday. Outside of Christian Yelich and William Contreras, the Brewers offense has been bad, with Willy Adames, Jesse Winker and Rowdy Tellez struggling to match their normal production. Yelich and Contreras have kept the offense afloat though, with both having an fWAR over 3.0; Yelich has an impressive 135 wRC+.
Interestingly, while Contreras has a solid 113 wRC+ bat, most of his value has come in the field, where his defense has improved to a shocking extent. This is common among Brewers catchers, with Omar Narvaez being another example of an offense-first catcher making a jump defensively in Milwaukee.
Max Fried’s return saw a very minor set back, as he missed his fourth and final rehab start with illness. He was expected to make one more read start before coming back, but now it is to be determined. However, he will be back soon, which will massively bolster the rotation.
Friday, June 28, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Yonny Chirinos (15 G, 4 GS, 62.2 IP, 11.8 K%, 7.6 BB%, 43.2 BB%, 4.02 ERA, 5.52 FIP)
The Braves picked up Chirinos off of waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays. Chirinos had some good seasons in Tampa, most notably in 2018 and 2019 where he served as a capable swingman type, racking up 2.6 fWAR in 223 innings of work. Injuries have hampered him since, with 2023 the first time he’s consistently been on the field since 2019, and it has not been great. His 4.02 ERA is very fortunate if you look at the underlying numbers. His FIP of 5.52 is a big reason why the Rays had seen enough. His batted ball data is even more pessimistic, with an abysmal 6.37 xERA. The regression was already coming in his last few outings, with the 29 year old posting a 5.79 ERA in his last seven appearances. One thing the Braves might have been intrigued is his splitter, which has a .120 batting average against and a solid 30 percent whiff rate. If he throws that pitch more and his abysmal slider less, he could have a resurgence. Chirinos is an innings-eater capable of filling multiple roles, so if he can get back to his best he can be a valuable piece.
Adrian Houser (11 GS, 63 IP, 17.7 K%, 7.6 BB%, 47.3 GB%, 3.86 ERA, 4.22 FIP)
Adrian Houser put up an uncharacteristic double-digit strikeout performance in his last start against the Braves, and the Brewers would love a repeat on Friday. Houser is a fastball-heavy starter, throwing either a four-seamer or a sinker 72 percent of the time. He uses his sinker to get ground balls, which he does at an above average clip, while using his four-seamer, which is over a tick harder, to get swings and misses. He has been hittable this season, but he avoids the long ball well, allowing only one homer per nine innings so far. His ability to limit barrels is a key part of his success, ranking in the 67th percentile for barrel rate.
Saturday, July 29, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Bryce Elder (20 GS, 114.2 IP, 18.1 K%, 7.8 BB%, 54.2 GB%, 3.30 ERA, 4.27 FIP)
Bryce Elder had a bounceback start last time out against the Brewers, where he went six innings while allowing two runs on four hits. Despite only getting two strikeouts, Elder largely avoided mistakes. Still, it’s been a brutal run for him recently, as he has an ERA/FIP/xFIP all over 6.00 in his last five starts, with only one of those starts having an xFIP under 5.00. Despite the recent bumps, Elder has had a magical first full season in the big leagues, where he went from afterthought to All-Star by inducing a lot of ground balls and using his slider to put guys away when he has the opportunity. In a season where the Braves have had massive injury issues in the rotation, Elder has been the guy to step up and fill the void. He doesn't do it with sexy stuff, but he gets the job done... or he did until this recent bad stretch.
Julio Teheran (10 GS, 57.2 IP, 17.5 K%, 4.8 BB%, 43.1 GB%, 3.75 ERA, 4.71 FIP)
Julio Teheran’s renaissance continued in his first-ever start against his former team, where he went six innings while only allowing one run on three hits and no walks. Limiting walks has been a big part of Teheran’s new found success, with his 4.8 percent walk rate ranking in the 93rd percentile. Avoiding walks is crucial for Teheran because he can't afford to put on free base runners with his middling stuff. He is not a big strikeout guy and is only decent at limiting hard contact. Another adjustment Teheran has made is adding a cutter, which has been a great pitch for him, with opponents hitting .204 against it. These adjustments have brought Teheran back into big league relevancy. The Braves won this matchup on Sunday on Ozzie Albies’ late three-run homer, and will try to find a way to take it again.
Sunday, July 30, 1:35 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
The Braves Starter is TBA. It is Charlie Morton’s turn in the rotation but the team elected to give the 39 year-old right hander an extra day of rest and he will start on Monday.
Colin Rea (17 GS, 91.1 IP, 19.6 K%, 7.1 BB%. 44.2 GB%, 4.53 ERA, 4.76 FIP)
After largely being in the baseball wilderness since 2016 when he threw 102 2⁄3 innings and was part of an infamous trade saga where he made a start for the Marlins and then was returned to the Padres after medical red flags. Colin Rea is back and has been a quality innings eater for the Brewers. Every team needs a guy to eat innings at a league average level and Rea has been that guy for Milwaukee. He has a deep arsenal, throwing six different pitches, including a sweeper which has been a solid new weapon for him. He gets a lot of whiffs on his four-seam fastball, which he uses to put guys away, while using a sinker to get soft contact, similarly to Houser. Rea has struggled keeping the ball in the ballpark, allowing 1.48 HR/9.