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Atlanta Braves Series Preview: Home sweet home...for Ned anyway

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A two-game set will have Georgia on everyone’s minds.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at San Diego Padres
Jul 14, 2019; San Diego, CA, USA; Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) reacts toward the Braves bench after hitting a three-run home run during the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Dayton Moore and Ned Yost are going home this week as the Royals travel to face the Atlanta Braves for a quick two-game set. The other half of the home and home will take place in Kansas City in the last homestand of the season, so this isn’t the last between these two teams. The Braves are leading the NL East pretty comfortably after taking two of three from Washington over the weekend. They score a bunch of runs because there isn’t really a weak spot in their offense. Even a good chunk of their regular bench can really hit, so they have pinch hitting options as well for the middle and late innings. Their park is great for hitting, but their pitching staff is actually pretty darn good too. Thankfully for the Royals, they’ll miss Mike Soroka, but the starting staff is solid and the bullpen is better than you’d think if you only listened to team needs around the deadline. They could definitely use another arm or two, but this is a really solid team that has a ton of upside too, so they might just be getting better.

Meet the Braves

Royals vs. Braves Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Braves
Category Royals Braves
Winning % .366 .594
Team wRC+ 88 103
Team xFIP 4.87 4.60
Run Differential -76 51
Highest fWAR Whit Merrifield, 2.8 Ronald Acuna, Jr., 3.7

Braves Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Ronald Acuna Jr. CF 461 .295 .378 .510 10.2% 23.4% 130 3.7
Dansby Swanson SS 426 .263 .329 .468 8.5% 20.4% 103 1.7
Freddie Freeman 1B 450 .301 .387 .567 11.3% 18.7% 143 2.8
Josh Donaldson 3B 406 .256 .374 .524 14.5% 24.4% 131 2.9
Nick Markakis RF 404 .290 .364 .439 10.6% 12.6% 109 0.6
Ozzie Albies 2B 430 .286 .344 .472 7.7% 16.0% 108 2.2
Brian McCann C 214 .278 .341 .465 9.3% 17.3% 105 1.0
Austin Riley LF 236 .248 .301 .514 5.1% 34.3% 102 0.7

Braves Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Tyler Flowers C 189 .240 .323 .443 10.1% 35.4% 93 1.7
Johan Comargo INF/OF 167 .244 .275 .375 4.2% 17.4% 64 -0.3
Charlie Culberson INF/OF 76 .300 .342 .529 6.6% 23.7% 120 0.6
Ender Inciarte OF 148 .208 .297 .308 9.5% 19.6% 57 -0.1
Matt Joyce OF 102 .276 .382 .460 14.7% 19.6% 122 0.5

Braves Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Luke Jackson 44 48.0 5 2 32.2% 8.8% 3.19 2.60 0.8
Anthony Swarzak 21 21.1 0 0 29.5% 10.3% 0.42 3.57 0.7
Sean Newcomb 29 44.1 3 1 20.4% 7.9% 2.23 4.63 0.8

Probable Pitching Matchups

Tuesday July 23rd - 6:20pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Danny Duffy 15 83.2 4 5 19.4% 8.7% 4.52 5.18 0.8
Dallas Keuchel 6 37.2 3 3 13.8% 7.5% 3.58 4.47 0.1

The Braves won the bidding for the services of Dallas Keuchel, basically as soon as the draft was over so they didn’t have to give up a pick for him. He signed a one-year deal, so he’s a hired gun and so far he’s been really just okay, which isn’t surprising after just two minor league starts. He’s a different guy than the pitcher who won the Cy Young as he’s seen his strikeout rate drop every year since then. The last time it was this low was his rookie year in 2012, so there’s limited upside in his arm, but he’s been pretty effective so far. He’s still a ground ball machine, getting them 57.7 percent of the time, and guys like him tend to succeed more often at least with a low strikeout rate, so his peripheral stats may not tell as much of the story with him as they do with many. He ranks at the bottom in fastball velocity and fastball spin rate but really does continue to get by and succeed. His slider is the pitch to avoid if you’re a hitter. He’s allowed a .300 average and .400 slugging percentage on it, but his xBA is .164 and his xSLG is .201 on the pitch, so he’s bound to have some positive regression there. It’s a tough matchup, but Keuchel’s struggles with right-handed bats should be good for the Royals as most of their best bats are righties.

Danny Duffy has had a weird season. He’s thrown at least six innings and given up three or fewer runs in eight of his 15 starts and in five of his last seven. When he’s been bad, a lot of it has been after getting hit with line drives, which has happened twice now somehow. It’s very weird. And through it all, he’s only gotten double digit swings and misses twice in his last eight starts. I think this is what Duffy is now. He’s a guy who can be a quality back of the rotation starter because he’s going to give you a lot of solid starts, but I just don’t see any dominance in him like we saw in 2016 and at time all around that year. The Braves have handled lefty starters this year, hitting .269/.340/.485 off him and Duffy has had some serious problems with home runs at times, which doesn’t bode well for this outing against a very good offense, but he has surprised before, so I guess you never know.

Wednesday July 24th - 6:20pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 21 125.0 6 9 16.8% 10.5% 4.18 4.92 1.6
Julio Teheran 21 112.1 5 6 21.1% 10.7% 3.61 5.20 1.0

Julio Teheran isn’t that different from Duffy in his inconsistency, but the results have been there. From an ERA-perspective, he’s having his best year since 2016. After a really rough 2017 when his strikeouts dropped, he’s been a bit of a different pitcher. He’s walked way more hitters the last two seasons than ever before, but the strikeouts popped back up, at least on a per nine rate. He was on a heck of a run and got his season ERA down to 2.92 afer a really strong six innings against Pittsburgh, but the wheels fell off a bit in his next two starts, giving up 13 runs in eight innings. Since then, though, he’s been quite good and has a 1.53 ERA in July with just three walks in 17.2 innings. The walks are everything for him because he’s had so much trouble with them. The concerning thing is the fastball, which used to average 93+ but is now down to below 90 MPH. Ultimately, like Keuchel, he’ll go as far as his slider will take him. That’s a pitch he’s gotten a 34.1 percent whiff rate on and could give the Royals lots of trouble.

Since the walks have started to decrease (for the most part), Keller has been considerably better. After a five walk game on May 17, he’s made 11 starts and is 4-4 with a 3.76 ERA over 67 innings. In that time, he’s walked just 20, which is a very solid 7 percent walk rate. His ground ball rate in that time is 52.4 percent and his strikeout rate is a slightly better than his season 17.2 percent. If this is who he can be moving forward, he’s a guy you can really use in your rotation for years. The walks are just so important for him to keep under control because he’s not going to get hurt by the home run too often. As a side note, he’s gotten double digit swings and misses in each of his last two starts. He only had three straight double digit whiff starts last year once, so he’s trying to match that in this one.

Prediction

The Braves are good. The Royals are not, but are playing better. I think we’ll see a fair amount of home runs in these two games and that doesn’t benefit the boys in blue, but I think ultimately they find a way to split this series and head home with a respectable road trip.

Poll

Short series, who takes it?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Royals Sweep
    (24 votes)
  • 52%
    Braves Sweep
    (90 votes)
  • 33%
    Split
    (58 votes)
172 votes total Vote Now