Arguably the best team in baseball in the month of June, the Braves looked human last night. One of, if not the, best pitchers in baseball was on his game, Julio Teheran struggled, and the expected outcome occurred. However, this is where it gets exciting. The Atlanta Braves’ responses to losses since the beginning of May is what makes this team so special.
The Braves have suffered consecutive losses only three times since the start of May. And the amazing thing is that Atlanta has not played as a team clicking on all cylinders at the same time yet. In May, the source of success was the starting pitching, as Atlanta was sixth in ERA, 13th in FIP, and 10th in xFIP while the offense was 24th in wOBA and 26th in wRC+. In June, the source of success has been the offense, as the Braves are first in wOBA and wRC+ while the starting pitching is 22nd in ERA, 17th in FIP, and 20th in xFIP.
Even though the offense will likely experience some regression, it still should remain one of the best in baseball. However, the starters have had their ups and downs over the past 10 days. Both Mike Soroka and Julio Teheran have been brilliant since May 1st, but have experienced subpar starts recently. Mike Foltynewicz may be finding his groove, and the debut of Dallas Keuchel is Friday night. While both positives and negatives are occuring, a big boost for Atlanta will be Max Fried rediscovering the magic he had to begin the year.
Fried’s (4.11 ERA, 4.15 FIP, 3.64 xFIP) recent stretch of starts have been a mixed bag of allowing more contact and bad luck. Fried’s K% has decreased from 23.3 % in May to 19.7% in June. His BB% has increased from 5.5% before May 1st to 7.0% since. Basically, Fried is allowing more contact and base runners as the league is adjusting to him. However, Fried’s pitching triple slash since May 1st (5.36 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 3.61 xFIP) suggests he has pitched better than his numbers suggest. This is supported by the fact that Fried has allowed the sixth highest BABIP and third highest HR/FB% percentage for all pitchers with 40 or more innings pitched since May 1st. Just like Fried was likely to experience negative regression after his hot start, these numbers suggest he could see positive regression at any moment.
Fried’s opposing southpaw tonight will be Steven Matz (3.93 ERA, 4.63 FIP, 4.11 xFIP). His current triple-slash is nearly identical to where his 2018 numbers finished. Many of his peripherals are right in line with his career numbers, except that hitters are making harder contact against him. Fried is currently giving up the highest season measures in BABIP. Hard-Hit%, and HR/9 of his career.
While this may seem like a good matchup on paper for a Braves team that is one of the best in the league against left-handers, it should also be noted that Matz has had success against Atlanta. In 8 career starts, Matz has registered a 2.78 ERA and a .639 OPS allowed against the Braves, good for a perfect 5-0 record. Few pitchers have had more success against Atlanta than Matz since he has come into the majors.
The key tonight may come down to which defense plays better. If the Braves can support Fried, they will put themselves in a good position to win. This is especially true if they can keep their awesome rate of home runs going as they have in June.
WPA- Ronald Acuna Jr.- In the one game he face Matz last year, Acuna went 2-3. It feels like another opportunity for Acuna to gain the momentum for Atlanta early. The fact he is as hot as Hades at the plate right now also helps.
Time/Date: Wednesday, June 19, 7:20 pm ET
Location: SunTrust Park
TV: Fox Sports Southeast (Streaming: Fox Sports Go)
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network