I won’t lie: it’s getting hard to come up with different ways to phrase the equivalent of “Braves look to rebound” in these game previews. After two surreally-awful losses in Philadelphia, both of which featured a Braves reliever giving up over .800 points of win expectancy, well... the Braves will look to rebound in Miami, as they face the Marlins in a three-game set. While the series does present some opportunity for respite, as the Marlins are not a good team, I’d hold any horses that tell you to expect a favorable outcome with any certainty.
The reality is that the Marlins have not fared well, but neither have the Braves. Miami endured an eight-game winning streak that was snapped five games ago, hurtling them into last place in the NL East, but the gap between their record (27-35) and the Braves’ (29-31) is smaller than the gap between that of the Braves and the Mets (30-24). Moreover, believe it or not (why wouldn’t you?), the Marlins have more WAR-wins than the Braves. Yes, the Braves only have the equivalent of a season-long 79 WAR-wins right now, while the Marlins, well, they actually have the pace of 87 WAR-wins at present despite a .435 winning percentage. (Also, did you know that both the Braves and Marlins have bottom-ten MLB records? Fun.) Basically, the Braves have hit well, fielded poorly, and pitched pretty awfully, while the Marlins have pitched well, fielded well, and hit awfully. Unless things change in a hurry, the Braves can hope for a port in a storm in this series, but I’m not sure they’re going to get one.
On the hill for Atlanta will be Charlie Morton, who is not really underperforming expectations peripherals-wise, but is underperforming his peripherals. (Welcome to the 2021 Atlanta Braves.) Morton’s ERA- of 104 is not very interesting, but his 91 FIP- puts him in the vague ballpark of expectations, and the 80 xFIP- is basically exactly in line with his aggregate post-resurgence (2017-2020). It’d be cool if this outing were one where his HR/FB started to come down given that the Marlins are a bottom-five team in homers, but the last time I said this, Drew Smyly gave up two homers to the least-homers-in-baseball Pirates, so eh.
Last time out, Morton helped the Braves top the Dodgers with five innings of 5/1 K/BB ratio ball, that included zero homers (yay) and four runs (two earned) in total. It was yet another ERA/outcomes-way-worse-than-peripherals start for him, a category best exemplified by his April start against the Marlins: 9/2 K/BB ratio, one homer allowed, yet five runs in six innings.
While Morton may not have huge issues with a Miami attack that ranks 19th in wRC+ and dead last in xwOBA, the Braves can’t say the same for their matchup with Sandy Alcantara, yet another in a set of strong starting arms they’ve faced recently (Alcantara has the 43rd-highest fWAR among pitchers in the majors, which is literally the lowest rank the Braves have faced in seven games). He has a nifty 87/90/89 line, has improved both his walk and strikeout rates over 2020, and throws everything super-hard. Seriously, the guy’s out there throwing 90-93 mph changeups as his primary pitch. The last time the Braves faced him, he wasn’t particularly impressive (4/3 K/BB ratio, 6 1⁄3 innings, three runs, zero homers), but he’s really picked it up since, with a four-start stretch where he’s had a 23/6 K/BB ratio, though he’s actually lost two of those outings anyway.
Anyway, as usual, it’d be nice if the Braves finally went on a run and played up to their talent level for an extended stretch, but it hasn’t happened yet. It could start tonight, but don’t be surprised if the Marlins give the Braves some issues: they already won three of four from them in Atlanta ealier this season, and they prevent runs pretty well. We’ll see what happens. If you’re looking for one positive, the Braves have won each of Morton’s last four starts, including games against the Mets, Red Sox, and Dodgers.
Atlanta Braves @ Miami Marlins
Friday, June 11, 2021
7:10 pm EDT
loanDepot park, Miami, FL
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network
XM Radio: Online / Ch. 186