After a three-game set in Atlanta last weekend that saw the Braves win a shutout and then split two close games against the Giants, these two teams will square off once again in a three-game set, this time in San Francisco. Spencer Strider started the shutout game, while the Braves won the game started by the Giants’ Logan Webb on a late homer by Eddie Rosario; tonight, these two will square off in one of the better pitching matchups in a Braves game all season.
Strider comes into the game with 4.3 fWAR compiled across 146 1⁄3 innings (25 starts). His line, 80 ERA- / 67 FIP- / 65 xFIP-, is among the best in MLB, but as you can see, he’s been victimized by his defense a fair bit. Strider trails Zack Wheeler by 0.5 fWAR and Zac Gallen by a little less for the NL fWAR lead; his FIP- is slightly better than Wheeler’s but he’s pitched fewer innings, while Gallen’s lead is entirely innings-based. Notably, Strider has a much better xFIP- than both Wheeler and Gallen, but he’s the only guy of the three with a HR/FB rate above 10 percent. The potential for Strider to pass both Wheeler and Gallen in fWAR is certainly there, and probably rests on how many fly balls fly over the fence when he’s on the mound the rest of the way.
One thing that might help is pitching like he did last time out, against these same Giants. In helping the Braves complete their third straight shutout, Strider allowed just two baserunners (one hit, one walk) while striking out ten across seven innings. Because it’s Strider, it’s not clear whether that even registers as one of his better starts of the year, unless you’re measuring solely by outputs... but the point is that it’s Strider, and he’s awesome, no matter how you slice it.
Logan Webb has also been pretty awesome. Now in his fifth season, Webb will probably put up a career year in 2023, as he already has 3.7 fWAR and it’s only late August, while his prior career high was 4.2 fWAR in 2022. Webb has a 79/78/67 line, so in many respects he’s pitched about as well as Strider, but he’s been stung by the home run ball, as well as defense and ball-in-play stuff, even worse than Strider has. One notable thing about Webb is that especially this season, he’s been so around the plate that his contact management hasn’t been particularly impressive. He’s been in or near the zone more than ever before, and while that usually just results in more fieldable grounders, further reducing his already-low walk rate, sometimes a guy guesses right and gets a hold of one. It’s hard to say that it’s been a bad trade for Webb given his xFIP, but you do wonder whether he and the Giants will stay the course into next year or try to get him back to a bit more contact management (if that’s even possible to implement).
I bring this up because in his last outing against the Braves, his pitching style was incredibly clear. Even relative to his other performances this season, Webb had one of his highest zone rates... and one of his highest xwOBAs-against. The Braves took advantage as best they could, with three straight hits to lead off the second and eventually tie the game at two-all, an RBI double from Travis d’Arnaud in the fourth, and then a game-tying homer by Ronald Acuña Jr. in the fifth. The Braves got two more hits to start the sixth, but Webb ended his outing on a double play ball, finishing with a 5/1 K/BB ratio and once again, an ERA > FIP > xFIP line. (The Braves ended up winning the game on Eddie Rosario’s come-from-behind two-run homer.)
Anyway, this game seems primed for a pitching duel on paper, given that the Giants play in a homer-suppressing park, and furthermore, it is the least-friendly park overall to homers by left-handed batters, which is probably the main way to ding up Strider and Webb both. Now that I’ve typed this, it’s probably going to devolve into 15-14 pandemonium or something, but that’s why we tune every night... even if it’s very late at night.
Friday, August 25, 2023
10:15 pm EDT
Oracle Park, San Francisco, CA
TV: Bankruptcy/Fraudulent Transfer Sports Southeast, MLB Network
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan
XM Radio: Online, Ch. 176