Game Times and Probable Pitchers
Monday, June 13, 2016, 7:10 ET: RHP Daniel Wright vs. RHP Aaron Blair
Tuesday, June 14, 2016, 7:10 ET: LHP Brandon Finnegan vs. RHP Julio Teheran
Wednesday, June 15, 2016, 7:10 ET: RHP Anthony DeSclafani vs. RHP Bud Norris
Thursday, June 16, 2016, 12:10 ET: RHP Dan Straily vs. RHP Matt Wisler
Not much has gone right in Atlanta this season, and that includes the starting pitching. So far, Aaron Blair has been the worst starter in the rotation. In eight starts he's racked up a 7.13 ERA and 55 ERA+. This was somewhat unexpected considering that Blair was one of the best pitching prospects in baseball according to Mark Bowman. The twenty-four year old was called up in late April, but thus far he's struggled to find much success.
Admittedly, his ERA is weighed down by the 9 ER he gave up in 1.1 innings of work against Pittsburgh on May 17. However, he's given up at least three runs in four of his eight starts, and he still hasn't pitched past the sixth inning. Control has been a major issue for Blair as he currently sports a 5.35 BB/9. Cincinnati will look to jump on Atlanta early in the series.
Julio Teheran is the lone (healthy) starter for the Braves who's having an above average season. The twenty five year old is actually off to the best start of his young career. Teheran comes into this series sporting a 2.85 ERA, but his 4.13 FIP should give fans pause. Part of his success stems from holding hitters to a career low BABIP of .228 which is well out of line with his normal numbers. Still his 8.45 K/9 and 2.52 BB/9 are note worthy.
This is the one matchup on paper that could give the Reds some trouble. Teheran is one of the few established Braves players who hasn't been traded, but that could change by the deadline. However, it sounds as if Atlanta's demands in a deal for Teheran are unreasonable at this point
Bud Norris (83 ERA+) was signed by Atlanta as a free agent this past offseason. He opened the season in the starting rotation, lost his spot, was put in the bullpen, and now finds himself back in a starting role. None of his numbers will jump out at you, but he did hold the Chicago Cubs to one run in his last start.
It's pretty much the same song and dance with Matt Wisler. High ERA (4.36), high FIP (4.62), below average ERA+ (90), low strikeout numbers (6.5 SO/9), and an increasing number of home runs served up (1.4 HR/9).
This is going to be a prime series for the Reds offense to bust out of the funk it fell into against Oakland.
CF Ender Inciarte
2B Chase d'Arnaud
1B Freddie Freeman
RF Nick Markakis
3B Adonis Garcia
C Tyler Flowers/A.J. Pierzynski
SS Erick Aybar
LF Mallex Smith
How Kevin Hart reacted after someone read this lineup to him
Well where do you want to start with Atlanta's offense? Their 66 wRC+ clearly positions them as the worst offense in all of baseball (Philadelphia is next to last with a 72 wRC+). They're tied for the worst batting average in the league (.230) and last in slugging (.319), They're the only team in MLB not to crack two hundred runs yet (192).
However, my favorite offensive stat for Atlanta this season is that they've hit twenty five home runs. The next smallest number that a team has hit is 52 (Miami). How do you not accidentally hit more than 25 home runs in your teams first 62 games? Well, you put a lineup on the field like the one described above. The MLB league leader in homers is Mark Trumbo with 20. Yes, he's almost out homered Atlanta's entire team.
One of the best hitters still in the lineup, and the one you probably recognize, is Freddie Freeman. His 106 OPS+ would be the worst mark of his career, but it's hard to fault him for being one of the few productive hitters in this lineup. The two time all star is currently hitting .242/.336/.414 to go with 9 HR and 18 RBI. He's also on the list of players that might find themselves playing elsewhere by the trade deadline.
Of the other starters Chase d'Arnaud is probably having the next best season. He hasn't been a full time member of the starting lineup, but he has produced a .764 OPS when given an opportunity. Mallex Smith is their next best regular by OPS + (and he's still below league average at 97). Gordon Beckham was giving Atlanta some nice production at the plate, but he currently finds himself on the 15 day DL.
Do you want a summary of Atlanta's offense in one sentence? Jeff Francoeur hit cleanup for a major league lineup in 2016 yesterday.
Let's go to a live look-in of the Reds starters being told they'd face the Braves this week:
What? You didn't know a few of them flew planes on the side?
So...I believe I had heard of two of these guys before writing this preview.
Vizcanio has actually looked good for Atlanta in the closer's role (in those few and far between opportunities he's had to save games). His 2.08 ERA is paired with an equally impressive 2.31 FIP. He's striking out 12.8 hitters per nine, and now I want him in the Cincinnati's bullpen.
Many will remember Jim Johnson for his time as the closer in Baltimore. In 2012 and 2013 he led the league in saves, but since then he's struggled to find similar success. He's off to a rough start this season with a 6.62 ERA in 19 appearances.
Cervenka and Ogando have both been serviceable options out of the pen.
As a unit they have the fourth worst bullpen ERA in baseball at 4.66. They've given up the fourth most runs at 110, and they've walked the fourth most hitters at 101. So they've been bad, but I probably don't need to tell you that those numbers aren't the worst in the baseball.
Come to think of it, how does a team that's actively trying to lose games have a better bullpen than Cincinnati?
The Braves come in to this series with an 18-44 record. They're 2-8 in their last ten and have an abysmal 7-25 record at Turner Field. Other than Teheran's start, it's hard to imagine the Reds won't be favored in every game.
I know this hasn't been the easiest season for Reds fans, but hopefully this series helps them appreciate one thing. At least for this season, Atlanta is a good reminder to us all...it could definitely be worse.
Also, there are major Dumpster Fire Division implications on the line in this one.