The Atlanta Braves played like the Atlanta Braves in game 2, winning 4-3. Of course, they also played like the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 as well, when they lost 6-1. You’ve heard the phrase, Feast or Famine thrown around a good deal about the Braves, and honestly – for good reason. They can be hot one minute, and cold as a corpse the next. They were cold in game 1, although admittedly having to deal with Clayton Kershaw, but came out firing in game 2 against an almost equally tough pitcher in Zack Greinke. The point is you never really know what you’re going to see from the Braves, and we fans can only hope that a trip out to enemy territory in game 3 will see the Braves hot rather than not.
Road and Home Records
The table belows shows the Los Angeles Dodgers road record this year, with splits for the year, and splits for each month. As you can see, their home and road records are very similar, and other than sub .500 efforts in May and September, the Dodgers have been winning more than losing both at home and on the road. You could argue looking at LA’s home/road split, that they are not the least bit perturbed by being on the road, as they play quite consistently wherever they are.
|Month by Month|
The table below shows the Atlanta Braves’ overall record, as well as their road/home record and monthly efforts. You can see that Atlanta has a much better home record than LA, and in fact had the best home record in baseball! That said, their road record was below .500, if barely, and they only had one month (September) below .500 overall. For all the talk of how much better LA is than the Braves (and you know who you are), the Braves have played better month to month. Both teams got really fired up in August, showing an equal hunger to make it to the post-season, and a less than stellar last month of the season (September) showing equal amounts of fatigue.
|Month by Month|
If the Atlanta Braves have a Feast or Famine moniker, it’s only because they have had a tendency to lose to teams they should easily have beaten, and have had moments where they put double digit wins up, then efforts where 1 or 2 runs were all they could muster. Many of those differing outcomes were back-to-back! We just saw famine in game 1, and feast out of the Braves in game 2. Does that mean we’ll see famine from the Braves again in LA for game 3? It’s a fair question the way the Braves have played on the road this year.
Ryu Versus The Braves
As of this article, there’s still a question in the air about who will be on the mound for the Dodgers in game 3. Hyun-jin Ryu is nursing a sore elbow, and may not get the start if the Dodgers don’t feel he’s perfectly good to go Ricky Nolasco would probably get the nod if Ryu cannot start, although Nolasco is scheduled for game 4. We’ll look at Nolasco as well.
I’m not going to delve too deeply into the hitting matchups, except to note Braves that have hit Ryu or Nolasco well. I’ll mostly be looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the Dodger two I’ve already named, and what they may offer the Braves’ hitters.
As a team, the Atlanta Braves have hit on a line of .224/.309/.265/.574 against Ryu this season, with Andrelton Simmons going 2 for 7 with a .286 BA, and Freddie Freeman going a whopping 3 for 4 with a .750 BA! Other Braves hitters have an occasional hit in several at-bats, but outside of Freddie and Andrelton, the hits have been few and far between against Ryu.
Ryu relies heavily on his four seam fastball, and his changeup, but during the last month of the season, he relied more heavily on his four seamer and curveball than the change. If the change is his bread and butter, which his pitch selection stats suggest is the case, and he’s not using it as much due to fatigue, injury, etc., that could be an open door for the Braves if Ryu does get the start.
As you can see from the heat maps below, Ryu loves to throw his change down and away to right-handed batters (Note that heat maps are always viewed from the catcher’s perspective), and can throw the fast ball inside or out to righties, although preferring to stay out and away. I won’t show you the heat maps for lefties, but trust me when I tell you – Ryu doesn’t offer the change much against lefties because he tends to miss too much to the heart of the plate when he does. He will offer the fast ball to lefties often, but has a tendency to go down and away more often than not.
Nolasco Versus The Braves
Ricky Nolasco is scheduled to go in game 4, and if for any reason Ryu needs another day of rest, the Dodgers could move Nolasco up for tonight’s game.
Nolasco has never been great, but he’s always been pretty good, and was the all-time leader in wins for the Miami Marlins. Arguably, he’s pitched better this year as a Dodger than at any time in his carreer. He’s tied his current ERA (3.52) and had a better WHIP (1.195) only one time in his career, and after being traded by Miami earlier in the year, he may have found a home.
In the last month or so, Nolasco has increased the use of his slow curve and sinker quite a bit, and his change and slider only slightly. He’s moved away from throwing the splitter and is even throwing less four seamers.
The Atlanta Braves may see different offerings from him than in the past for the NLDS, but the Braves have hit Nolasco pretty well this season. Six different Braves have gone 1 for 3 against Nolasco, including Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Chris Johnson, Brian McCann, Andrelton Simmons, and even B.J. Upton.
Based on Nolasco’s heat maps as shown below, he likes to throw his slider to lefties mostly down and in, but often lands them right over the heart of the plate as well. He throws the slider a great deal more to righties, tries to go down and away to them, but often misses there as well.
Nolasco’s curve offerings are a bit more interesting, and since he’s been throwing it more lately, I thought we should take a look at his maps for those as well.
The maps below show that Nolasco makes an effort to throw his curves to righties down and away, but tends to hang a few right over the plate. To lefties, he tries to stay outside, but again has a tendency to be toward the middle and more hittable. As a few of the Braves have some trouble hitting the curve at times, they will need to be patient and wait if Nolasco is offering that pitch much.
Heat maps, pitch tendencies, plots, graphs, and all this baseball wizardry is interesting, but in the end you can never fully predict what a pitcher will do. There are too many factors statistics cannot control.
We hope the Braves will have done their homework though. Certainly their professional scouts are more adept at figuring this stuff out than we are. Hopefully the Braves’ hitters will stay patient and continue to hit like they did in game 2, and that Julio Teheran will bring his A game to the show tonight.
All Heat Map plot information, courtesy of Fangraphs