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Anderson searches for consistency as Braves aim to make it two in a row versus Reds

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Ian Anderson’s been quite good in total, but the results haven’t been there start-to-start

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets - Game Two Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

So far, Ian Anderson’s sophomore effort hasn’t quite been as good as his electric rookie campaign (1.1 fWAR in 32 13 innings), but it’s been very good nonetheless (1.7 fWAR in 75 23 innings). One of the main differences has just been results — Anderson had a ridiculously low HR/FB rate in 2020, but it’s crept upward this year (from 4.5 percent to 11.1 percent) despite the less-juiced ball. As a result, his ERA- has gone from 43 to 82, and his FIP- from 58 to 80, while the xFIP- has only changed from 78 to 85. Still really good, just not Cy Young-caliber god.

However, one thing that hasn’t quite been the same for Anderson so far is the consistency of his results. While it’s hard to draw too much of a pattern across six starts from anyone, Anderson’s 2020 featured just one game with a Game Score (v2) below 50. This season, meanwhile, he’s basically alternated good and bad starts, outcome-wise, to some extent. Through June 4, he was following two good starts (again, outcome-wise!) with two bad starts; for the rest of June, he’s gone good-bad-good from start to start. The FIP and xFIP tell a different story — he’s had just one game with an FIP above 4.00 in his last seven outings, and just three such games in terms of xFIP. He’s also riding a four-start homerless streak, which you really hope continues at Great American Ball Park, as that’s a really good way to beat the Reds (and anyone).

Anderson’s mound opponent for this afternoon game will be Luis Castillo. After a breakout 2019 and a ridiculously dominant 2020 that was basically like Anderson’s debut but over twice as many starts (70/58/64), Castillo has scuffled somewhat in 2021, though a lot of that is just underperforming his peripherals to a severe extent (137/100/98). Still, the Reds were hopping for more than average starter-caliber pitching from their budding ace, so Castillo’s season has been a bummer so far, and there aren’t many easy answers as to why.

He has somewhat turned the corner in June, stringing together four straight decent starts. The most runs he’s allowed in a start in June has been three; he only allowed that few in four of his past 11 outings. Castillo also has a pretty amusing stretch of three straight starts with a 7/3 K/BB ratio and no homers allowed going, and it could be tough for the Braves to win if he manages to make that a very unique four-in-a-row stretch. It’s hard to say that he’s really changed what he’s doing in June, as his pitch mix is pretty similar, he’s throwing a tiny bit harder, and the plate discipline stats are all over the place (lower o-swing but lower o-contact and z-contact, more pitches in the zone but higher overall whiff rate).

The Braves weren’t really able to solve Castillo in the playoffs last year (5 13 IP, 1 R, 7 K, 1 BB, 0 HR), so here’s hoping they do better this time around with what seems to be a diminished pitcher. Anderson, of course, also started for the Braves in that game, stifling the Reds with six innings of shutout, 9/2 K/BB ratio ball, so here’s hoping he’s able to do the same or better against what is a much better Cincinnati attack this time around.

Game Info

Atlanta Braves @ Cincinnati Reds

Saturday, June 26, 2021

4:10 pm EDT

Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, OH

TV: Bally Sports Southeast, MLB.tv

Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network

XM Radio: Online / Ch. 185