Braves: What starting rotation struggles? 

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Entering the postseason, and essentially throughout most of the 2020 regular season, we read about how bad the Braves starting rotation was. Hell, I wrote about how bad they were. Although reading about it wasn’t even necessary. All you needed to do was watch a game or two. 

Just check out the proof, featuring the staff’s season stats along with their rank among the rest of the majors…

  • 5.51 ERA (3rd-worst)
  • 4.98 FIP (7th-worst)
  • 4.04 BB/9 (3rd-worst)
  • .256 AVG (9th-worst)

So the narrative was perfectly acceptable. The Braves 2020 starting rotation was NOT good during the regular season, and there was plenty of evidence to concur that it would be a rather significant weakness in the playoffs. 

Good thing they actually play the games, instead of just going by whatever’s on paper, right? 

Because five games into the postseason this year, the Braves starting staff has been about as solid as you could ask for. Two playoff series and two sweeps later, it may be time to trash the whole “the Braves can’t pitch” storyline.  


A three-headed monster 

I know the Braves postseason starting rotation has consisted of just three arms thus far: Max Fried, Ian Anderson, and Kyle Wright. So I can definitely understand those of you still a bit skeptical of this staff when actually including a four or five-man rotation. But I can’t knock the team for taking care of business versus the Reds and Marlins, and regardless, pushing the can down the road in regards to addressing the back-end of the rotation isn’t a bad plan. This is the playoffs, and anything can happen, so go ahead and ride your best arms as hard as you possibly can.

But let’s review what each starter has done…


Max Fried

  • 9/30 vs. CIN – 7 IP, 6 H, 5 K
  • 10/6 vs. MIA – 4 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, HR, 4 K

We all suspected it going in, but Fried’s outing against Cincinnati was a near-perfect matchup. The Reds were a bad-hitting team overall, and even worse against the breaking ball. Therefore the Braves left-handed ace picked the Reds apart with 27 curveballs and 18 sliders — two offerings that combined to total nearly 60% of his entire pitch-count, not to mention literally ALL of his generated whiffs in that Game 1 start. When he’s on, Fried’s breaking balls are unhittable.

Game 1 of the NLDS versus Miami went a bit differently. The Marlins lineup was a bit peskier at the plate, and Fried leaned on his fastball more, though with far less command than a week ago. Still, his outing against the Marlins wasn’t terrible. A fluke-like solo-homer in the second-inning by Miguel Rojas and then some unlucky sequencing in the third charged four earned runs against Fried before he had even worked up much of a sweat. However, after Miami’s Brian Anderson singled in Garrett Cooper during the third, the Marlins managed just one more hit off of Fried as he put away six of the next seven batters he faced before heading to the showers having thrown only 70 pitches. 


Ian Anderson 

  • 10/1 vs. CIN – 6 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 9 K
  • 10/7 vs. MIA – 5.2 IP, 3 H, BB, 8 K

So raise your hand if you predicted that Anderson would basically pitch like a seasoned veteran in the postseason up to this point? Remember, this is a 22-year-old that barely pitched in Triple-A last season. The Reds need no reminder, for Anderson carved up Cincy’s lineup in the NLCWS, allowing just a pair of singles thanks to a fastball/changeup combo that generated whiffs at a combined 79% clip. If you thought his success in the regular season was fluky… you were wrong.

After seeing Fried actually scuffle some versus Miami in Game 1, I’ll admit, I did wonder whether or not Anderson could dominate like he did last time out. However, 94 pitches and eight strikeouts later, my mind was definitely at ease. After a single by the Marlins Jesus Aguilar in the first inning, the Fish didn’t record a hit until the fourth when Brian Anderson slapped an insignificant double with no one on and one out. Then Anderson sat down six-straight before Jon Berti singled. However, that base hit was followed by some revenge as the prospect pitcher punched out Aguilar in the sixth. The righty’s pitch-count was near 100, so understandably manager Brian Snitker let the bullpen take over. However, Anderson and his changeup probably had plenty left. The man has won both of his first two postseason starts. 


Kyle Wright

10/8 vs. MIA – 6 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 7 K

Wow. I mean, there’s not much else to say about Thursday’s performance by Wright, who, known for his four-seam fastball, finessed his way through Miami’s offense with a curveball and sinker — of which the former induced a whiff-rate of 83% (5 of 6 swings against the offering were whiffs). I’m not sure any of us saw it coming, especially after the Marlins tallied two base hits in the opening frame, followed by a five-pitch walk to Jazz Chisholm to start the second. However, Wright quickly settled in, and after Chisholm’s free pass, the Braves’ righty couldn’t be touched as a Corey Dickerson single in the third inning was all Miami could muster through the rest of Wright’s outing. The hat trick was complete: three starts and three quality outings, and the Braves are headed to the NLCS for the first time since I was in elementary school.

The pitching summarized above is exactly what the Braves needed to set themselves up for a National League pennant. Naysayers will claim the first two rounds consisted of two mediocre opponents, and that may be correct. However, taking care of business against a pair of lesser teams in the playoffs is never a given. Sure, the Braves were favorites in both series, but Atlanta didn’t just simply win; they swept both the Wild Card and Division Series and did it on the backs of their starting rotation. If that’s not impressive, then baseball just isn’t the sport for you. 

The next series (the NLCS) will require at least four games if the Braves wish to sweep again, so at the minimum, a fourth starter will need to step up (unless Snitker opts to put the load on the bullpen). And just like heading into the series with the Reds, we’ll probably wonder how Atlanta plans to cover so many games with so little pitching. I don’t know about you, though, but I’m now convinced there’s more to this staff than a rough two-month stretch during a fluky regular season. If the last two series are any indication, someone is willing to take the reigns for five or six innings in a potential Game 4 or 5. Get ready, because we’ll find out who it is next week. 

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