There’s been a lot of hullabaloo about who the Braves should put out there to pitch the Wild Card 1-Game ultrapalooza sudden death match. Kris Medlen, a young-in who is on a streak of Whitey Ford and Bob Gibson-esque greatness or Tim Hudson, a veteran almost-hall-of-famer who “has been there before?” Our own Lee Trocinski favors giving Huddy the ball. But I don’t want to continue to that conversation that Braves country has basically beaten into the ground.
What I don’t hear anyone talk about is who the Braves can expect to see against them in the Wild Card game. Now, with the Cardinals enjoying a 2 game lead for the second WC spot with only 3 games left to play, chances are pretty much that we will face them in the play-in game. Who might they throw out there? Will they choose a traditional ace, like Adam Wainwright? Or their team ERA leader, Kyle Lohse? Or will they play the platoon splits and start lefty Jaime Garcia? Is this even a relevant question – they likely won’t have the flexibility to set up their rotation? There’s a chance that they wind up tied with the Dodgers and play a 1-game playoff against them on Thursday.
It’s unlikely that the Cardinals will tinker with their rotational sequence, given the tight lead they have. So we can assume that Garcia, Carpenter, and Wainwright, who are pitching over the next 3 days, will be unavailable. If they stick to regular sequence, it will be Kyle Lohse’s turn. If they need to play on Thursday, Lohse will start that game and the Braves will see Lance Lynn. And if the Dodgers actually pull off winning on Thursday, then the Braves would see Josh Beckett. Who would the Braves prefer to see?
We will most likely see Lohse. Lohse has been hands down the most successful of the three with a 2.86 ERA. However, he does seem to have been over-performing, with a 3.52 FIP, a 3.97 xFIP and a 4.06 SIERA. He doesn’t strikeout many (6.10 K/9) but doesn’t walk many either (1.62 BB/9). He has a minimal platoon split. Against righties he has a 3.46 FIP and a .268 wOBA-against. Against lefties, those go up to 2.46 FIP and .288 wOBA. I don’t think this matters much, but Lohse has been pretty terrible in the post-season, with a 5.54 ERA and giving up more than 2 HRs per 9 innings. According to Fangraphs, Lohse’s most valuable pitch has been his slider, which he throws about a quarter of the time and is used frequently as his out-pitch against righties. Unfortunately, Fangraphs also shows that sliders are by far the strongest pitch against the Braves lineup. For what its worth, here are the stats for the Braves vs. Lohse in his career.
Lance Lynn has been solid. 3.69 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 3.62 xFIP on the year. He’s been on quite a hot streak recently, with a 1.88 ERA, 2.44 FIP, and a 2.88 xFIP in September. Nevetheless, he has significant platoon-splits that favor the Braves: against righties he’s had a 2.07 FIP and a .269 wOBA-against. Against lefties, those numbers skyrocket to 5.01 and .352. Fangraphs puts his fastball as by far his most valuable pitch, which he throws about half the time to any hitter in any count. The Braves on the whole are a mediocre fastball-hitting team. Here are the Braves vs. Lynn numbers
Josh Beckett has had a pretty bad year, albeit in the AL East. 4.76 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 4.20 xFIP. Things have been much better recently, however, with a September line of a 2.87 ERA, 3.39 FIP, and a 3.37 xFIP. Beckett also has a fairly large platoon split that favors the Braves. Against righties: 3.72 FIP and a .297 wOBA. Against lefties: 4.48 FIP and a .341 wOBA. He varies his pitches well, but his best pitch has been his 2-seamer. Fortunately, the Braves are pretty good against 2-seamers this year. Here are the stats for Braves vs. Beckett.
Thankfully, each of these pitchers are right-handed, and the Braves will avoid facing lefty Jaime Garcia (unless they pitch him on short rest, but…doubts). The Braves will also miss Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Clayton Kershaw, which is quite advantageous to say the least. Of the three pitchers who we will potentially face, I would most want to avoid Lohse – mostly because he has a minimal platoon split and relies on a pitch that has been devastating to the Braves. For same reasons, I don’t think there’s much to differentiate Beckett and Lynn, so I’d be ok with facing either. We just need to hope the Dodgers catch the Cardinals to force play in game on Thursday.