After a dominating sweep of the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Braves look to keep up the strong play against a San Francisco Giants team that is fighting for their playoff lives. The Giants appear to be comfortably entrenched in the second wild card spot, but after losing eight of their last 11 games, they only have 1.5 game lead on the pack of three teams which are all tied for the last spot. Going on the road, to face the best team in baseball is probably not something they want right now.
While the Giants are sputtering, the Braves are thriving, winning six out of seven against the two New York teams while outscoring them 58 to 13. With an offense, where every regular player has a wRC+ of at least 100, there are no easy outs in the Braves offense. They also have the high end talent to go along with the depth, with Ronald Acuna jr. and Matt Olson putting up MVP caliber seasons.
The Giants have quality depth in their lineup, with solid platoon options all across the field, but they do not have the high end bats that Atlanta has. Thairo Estrada and Patrick Bailey lead the team in fWAR for position players at 2.8, but both are better with the glove than at the plate, with Estrada posting a 106 wRC+ and Bailey posting a just below average 98 wRC+. Their best hitter this season has been Wilmer Flores who has a 140 wRC+. Flores started the season mainly as platoon option against lefty’s, but his play has forced manager Gabe Kapler to play him every day.
While the Braves usually stick to the same lineup, the Giants will change their’s a lot depending on the matchup. The lineup to face Spencer Strider will likely be very different than the one that faces Max Fried.
Friday, August 18, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Spencer Strider (24 GS, 139.1 IP, 37.9 K%, 7.9 BB%, 34.1 GB%, 3.75 ERA, 2.95 FIP)
After a disastrous start against the Pirates, Strider had a nice bounce back outing against the Mets, going seven scoreless innings. It was a notable outing because it was the first time all season that Strider struck out less than a batter per inning. Being able to pitch deep into the game effectively without having his best strikeout stuff is a positive development for Strider. The young right-hander has had to deal with more adversity this season, as the league has gotten a better look at him. While there have been some bumps in the road, Strider has shown he is willing and able to make adjustments. He still has one of, if not the most overpowering fastball-slider combination in baseball. He gets ludicrous whiff numbers on both pitches, which have led to him striking out 14.02 batters per nine innings. That is an unprecedented number for a starting pitcher. Strider has struggled against the Giants in two career starts, allowing 15 hits and eight earned runs across 8 2/3 innings.
Alex Cobb (22 GS, 121.2 IP, 21.2 K%, 6.2 BB%, 56.6 GB%, 3.62 ERA, 3.84 FIP)
Veteran Alex Cobb has been a steady presence in the Giants rotation and has put up quality numbers for a second straight season in San Francisco. However, he has been struggling lately, posting a 5.63 ERA in his six starts since the all-star break. He has allowed at least five runs in back-to-back starts, and the Braves lineup is not exactly a slump buster for pitchers. Cobb relies heavily on getting ground balls, with his ground ball rate ranking ahead of Bryce Elder, a ground ball heavy pitcher himself. His two primary pitches, his sinker and splitter, post an average launch angle against of 0, which is how he keeps the ball on the ground so much. His 56.6 GB% ranks third in baseball among qualified starters. When he gets ahead of hitters, Cobb uses a curveball as a whiff generator, getting a 36 whiff% on the pitch. Cobb has faced the Braves three times and has had a lot of success, posting a 1.29 ERA across 21 innings.
Saturday, August 19, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Yonny Chirinos (19 G, 8 GS, 81 IP, 14.1 K%, 7.5 BB%, 46.4 GB%, 5.22 ERA, 5.45 FIP)
Yonny Chirinos has struggled in his brief time with Atlanta, posting a ghastly 9.33 ERA in four starts since being claimed off of waivers. He has given up six runs in each of his last two starts against the Mets and the Pirates. While Chirinos was brought in to be an innings eating place holder, he will need to limit the damage if he is to keep his place in the Braves rotation. One bright spot for Chirinos has been his splitter, which has a .181 average against and a 30.9 whiff%. Over half of his 49 strikeouts have come on the splitter, with the off-speed pitch getting 26 strikeouts. Chirinos has faced the Giants once in his career where he went five scoreless innings, hopefully he can repeat the trick.
Logan Webb (25 GS, 163 IP, 24.4 K%, 4 BB%, 60.8 GB%, 3.26 ERA, 3.25 FIP)
Logan Webb is another ground ball heavy starter, whose 60.8 GB% is the highest among qualified starters. With Webb and Cobb, the Braves are facing two of the three best ground ball heavy starting pitchers in baseball. Webb has been a legitimate Cy Young candidate this year, due to his numbers and workload. His 163 innings are the most in baseball, and his 6.52 innings per start is also an elite number. Webb has gone at least seven innings in 14 of his 25 starts. In addition to ground balls, Webb is very stingy in terms of walks, with his 1.44 BB/9 ranking third among starters. Webb has a sinker, slider and changeup, all of which he uses over 20% of the time and is confident throwing any pitch at any time. The off-speed pitches are what make him elite, with batters hitting .217 against his changeup and .173 on his slider. He throws his changeup nearly 40% of the time and it still posts elite numbers, making it one of the best pitches in baseball. His sinker is not overpowering, sitting at 92 MPH, but he is able to use it enough to keep hitters honest. Webb has been absolutely brilliant against the Braves, posting a 1.33 ERA in four starts across 27 innings, where he has struck out 29 batters and only walked three.
Sunday, August 20, 1:35 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Max Fried (8 GS, 42 IP, 23.4 K%, 4.8 BB%, 63.8 GB%, 2.57 ERA, 2.67 FIP)
Max Fried had a quality start against the Yankees in his last start, going six innings while allowing just two runs. He did allow eight hits and only struck out two but he was able to deliver regardless. A big reason for that is his ability to keep the ball on the ground. His 63.8 GB% would be the highest among starters if he had enough innings to qualify. Unlike Webb, Cobb or Bryce Elder who are ground ball pitchers who allow louder contact, Fried is excellent at inducing soft contact. His 84.8 MPH average exit velocity allowed is in the top 1% of the league. His barrel% is also in the top 2% of the league, making him one of the best pitchers in baseball at avoiding quality contact. While he is no Spencer Strider when it comes to generating whiffs, he is solid in his own right. He has three quality secondary pitches, with his big overhand curveball being the cream of the crop. In 33.1 innings against the Giants, Fried has a 1.89 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP.
The Giants have not announced their starter for Sunday, but it is likely Alex Wood will play a big role, either as a starter or as a bulk arm behind an opener. Wood has a 5.30 ERA over 35.2 innings in his career against the Braves.