Flyers 5: Takeaways from Game 1 of Flyers-Canadiens
First Win in a Playoff Series Just Another Game for Hart

Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves in 2020

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

With their four-game series in the rearview mirror, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves have completed 40 percent of their contests. However, the other six games are before August’s end, and the trading deadline may not affect their current rosters unless either club acquires pitching prior to Aug. 30.     

 

Two New Obstacles:

For the Phillies and Braves, the keys are avoiding injuries caused by the lack of a player’s usual routine and/or downtime exposure to COVID-19. To illustrate, Joe Girardi has indicated in his interviews the important  differences are management’s and the players’ approach. Ergo, healthy talent wins!       

IN OTHER WORDS:

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” - Roger Staubach

For the third consecutive summer, winning the National League East boils down to four organizations with the potential for the divisional pennant. But it requires good fortune and health even under normal circumstances because you can’t pull the wagon over the finish line without the horses.  

In ‘20, stars must have the discipline to avoid risky situations off the field, and the skipper must keep them from doing too much. Even so, some Phils fans may question Girardi’s bullpen moves by, for instance, counting one pitch Hector Neris threw but ignoring the 30 warmup tosses before the save.     

In 2019, I had questioned Mike Soroka’s workload, and some Braves supporters obviously disagreed. Including all frames --minors, majors and playoffs-- the rookie had worked 56 ⅓ innings in 2018 and accumulated 191 frames in 2019. I don’t know, but did more than tripling his innings lead to his injury? 

 
RotationsRotations:
 
 
Rotations:
 
While some fans believe they are disagreeing with me, they are really not concurring with a retired general manager from an American League franchise: not a rival to Philly or Atlanta. According to the GM, though, a player makes an impact in or after his third season: 60 to 105 starts. 
 

#

Phillies

Starts

Braves

Starts

1

Aaron Nola

130

Max Fried

43

2

Zack Wheeler

129

Kyle Wright

7

3

Jake Arrieta

VET

Touki Toussaint

9

4

Zach Eflin

76

Bryce Wilson

5

5

Vince Velasquez

101

Mike Foltynewicz*

118

--

Spencer Howard

1

Sean Newcomb*

57

--

Nick Pivetta*

71

* not on 28-man roster

 

--

Ranger Suarez**

3

** on IL (injured list)

 

 

Numbers through 8/12.

 

 

 

Both teams have young starters who are having growing pains. Realistically, neither has a second-year Cole Hamels or Tim Lincecum: Hamels only needed 23 starts to Lincecum’s 24. Before they developed, however, Nola required 60 outings to Wheeler’s 75, but other youngsters here are works in progress.  
 

Phillies Rotation:

  • Nola: 60 Gms., 356 ⅔ Inn., 151 ER and a 3.81 ERA.
  • Nola: 69 Gms., 426 Inn., 153 ER and a 3.23 ERA.
  • Wheeler: 75 Gms., 421 ⅔ Inn., 189 ER and a 4.03 ERA.
  • Wheeler: 54 Gms., 346 ⅓  Inn., 131 ER and a 3.40 ERA.
  • Stats through Aug. 13.

Due to doubleheaders, 10 starts will probably be tops for most rotation arms, plus Fried and Arrieta are having early 2020 success. But Arrieta has suffered June injuries in both 162s here, and Fried faded in ‘19 after May. Otherwise, no comparison exists between them. 

Starters in 2019:

  • Fried: 10 Gms., 54 ⅔ Inn., 18 ER and a 2.96 ERA.
  • Fried: 20 Gms., 104 ⅔ Inn., 56 ER and a 4.68 ERA.
  • Arrieta: 11 Gms., 70 Inn., 28 ER and a 3.60 ERA.
  • Arrieta: 13 Gms., 65 ⅔ Inn., 42 ER and a 5.76 ERA.
  • Eflin: 10 Gms., 62 Inn., 19 ER and a 2.76 ERA.
  • Eflin: 18 Gms., 95 ⅔ Inn., 55 ER and a 5.17 ERA with experiment.
  • Eflin: 14 Gms., 80 ⅔ Inn., 33 ER and a 3.58 ERA without experiment.

While Fried felt growing pains compared to Arrieta’s maladies, Eflin literally had two good performances out of every three, and the coach had wanted him to advance to one clunker out of four: management’s expectation for all moundsmen. But the high fastball with a sinkerballer was disastrous.      

With the starting staff, the Fightins will need 6-7 hurlers due to five twin bills in September and one on Aug. 20. But although some want rookie Howard to replace Velasquez, both will have more starts through September. And lefty Suarez --heading to Allentown-- could be here before August’s end.     

After Fried, the Braves rotation is an adventure due to Soroka’s and Hamels’ injuries, plus Foltynewicz had a six-mph drop in velocity: DFA (designated for assignment). And if his fastball doesn’t return, he won’t because he’s two starts shy of free agency with 2020’s pay: He may not be an option.                 

Rotation

ERA

NL #

MLB #

Phillies

3.34

5

7

Nationals

3.88

7

10

Mets

5.18

12

25

Braves

5.57

13

27

Stats through 8/11.

 

 

 

 

Relief Corps:

Most pens have 3-5 solid relievers including the closer and setup men, and expanded rosters mean 10-11 bullpen pieces instead of the usual eight. Therefore, most clubs have 5-8 middle relievers instead of 3-5 extra arms. Translation: Any pen with five solid pitchers or more is fortunate.

Relief-corps usage baffles many locals because they believe the manager doesn’t go with his best hurler, but he instead makes a lesser choice. Well, the next day’s starter and relievers’ workloads dictate who is available before the contest. But other considerations are the scoreboard, a hurler’s record against a team and their lineup. 

If there’s a lopsided score, the skipper goes with the least of these, but a close game dictates his best options depending on the frame. Before Nola’s last outing, though, Girardi had Jose Alvarez and Tommy Hunter to set up for Neris hinging on Nola’s pitch count and/or the scoreboard. 

Basically, seven-inning doubleheaders should be beneficial for the red pinstripes, yet they are 1-3 against the New York Yankees and Atlanta. But those 14-frame affairs exist because of their stop-and-start campaign producing rusty moundsmen. To fanatics, though, reality can be an excuse.  

The Phils have one twin bill on Aug. 20 and five twofers in September for their six starters. However, Suarez and David Robertson are nearly ready to throw to batters in Allentown, and Victor Arano is there as well. 

 

Bullpen

ERA

NL #

MLB #

Braves

3.05

4

7

Nationals

3.42

6

10

Mets

5.11

11

24

Phillies

10.19

15

30

Stats through 8/11.

 

 

 

 

Bullpens protect leads or keep the score close after the starter has worked 5-7 innings. Therefore, the stats indicate the Phils can’t protect an advantage, and the Braves don’t have a lead frequently enough. But Atlanta can be victorious using an opener, while Philly starters must eat innings to triumph.     

Besides Neris, Hunter and Alvarez, the Phillies have Adam Morgan: four total for ‘20. And a winning streak means excellent pitching appearances or an offensive onslaught. So, a .500 record is their future barring heavy run scoring or help from Suarez, Robertson and Arano (situation unknown).    

For the Braves, they eventually will have Will Smith closing and Mark Melancon for the eighth frame. And their other setup arms are Shane Greene, Darren O’Day and Luke Jackson, but AJ Minter could be in this group if he can avoid another demotion: a tally of five or six.    

Moreover, they’ve also received nice outings from Chris Martin (now on the IL), Grant Dayton, Josh Tomlin and Tyler Matzek. But Matzek's last major league stint was 2015 with the Colorado Rockies. So, the southpaw must have a story involving the expanded rosters.     

Offense:

While each organization has three main hitting weapons, the Braves have a more balanced attack so far due in part to no stoppages in play. But the Phillies went 2-2 each against them and the Yankees including Gerrit Cole, and Atlanta was 0-2 against them in Gotham.           

For the Fightins, JT Realmuto (5 HRs, 13 RBIs), Bryce Harper (4 HRs, 10 RBIs) and Didi Gregorius (3 HRs, 11 RBIs) are the heart of the order. And they’ve hit 12 of the 20 homers and driven in 34 of 59 RBIs.        

On the Braves, Ronald Acuna Jr. (4 HRs, 9 RBIs), Freddie Freeman (3 HRs, 12 RBIs) and Marcell Ozuna (4 HRs, 11 RBIs) are the run producers. But they’ve only launched 11 of 27 home runs and knocked in just 32 of 99 RBIs.

 

Offense

Runs 

NL #

MLB #

Braves

101

1

1

Mets

71

9

21

Phillies

64

10

22 tie

Nationals

53

13

27

Overall

fWAR *

NL #

MLB #

Phillies

2.5

4

10

Braves

2.3

6

13 3-way tie

Mets

1.9

7

16 tie

Nationals

0.3

14 tie

27

Stats through 8/11.

 

 

 

 * Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement

 
In the two hole, an RBI slot, Dansby Swanson is averaging .276 with 14 RBIs, and he stands to benefit by being between Acuna and Freeman. Meanwhile, Andrew McCutchen atop the Phils’ lineup is off to a slow start in comparison to last summer with a .184 average instead of 2019’s .261 with 10 bombs and 29 RBIs through May.  
 
The wild cards in each batting order are Rhys Hoskins and Austin Riley, but one huge difference is Hoskins had a solid track record for over two years before his continuing struggles. As for Riley, he was on fire for his first MLB month. Currently, Riley has three long balls and eight RBIs, and Hoskins has 14 walks and a .404 OBP. 
 
Both franchises have enough offense to capture the NL East, but the Phillies have the stronger rotation, while the Braves have a solid pen. However, the red pinstripes will have two more successful relievers for at least a full month, but --the big but is-- what is 2020 to most people? Upside down!  
 
 
NEXT:
Rsz_howard
Spencer Howard
 
 

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)