Braves - Nationals Preview
ATLANTA CAN MAKE A STATEMENT IN ROAD BATTLE WITH NL EAST LEADING WASHINGTON
When we were studying "Wins Minus Home Games Played" last week in an MLB Notes article, we noticed that the Atlanta Braves were grading out as a more serious threat than the New York Mets in terms of contending with the Washington Nationals in the National League East. Then the Braves swept the Mets!
Now the Braves have a chance to do damage against the best in the division in a three-game series with the Nats that began Tuesday night in Washington. Is Atlanta a real contender in this division? Or, is that just a temporary illusion because Washington has been so slow to find anything resembling championship form?
Entering the series:
That's just a two-game lead in the standings. So, Atlanta is obviously a "contender" in that sense. But, a .500 record really isn't anything special. Atlanta is much further out of the Wildcard chase behind teams like Pittsburgh, the Chicago Cubs, and San Francisco. That's right...Washington's record wouldn't be good enough to earn a Wildcard in the other divisions entering this series!
For now...you have to assume that nobody but Washington from this division is likely to really matter in the championship chase. That's unless Washington flounders for so long that they keep Atlanta and the Mets within striking distance.
Let's run some numbers for Wednesday night's meeting in the nation's capital. We'll throw in Thursday's probable pitchers as well for the afternoon finale...
Atlanta: 4.20 runs per game, .322 on-base, .370 slugging
Washington: 4.44 runs per game, .323 on-base, .409 slugging
Edge to the Nationals thanks to their superior slugging. It has to be said though that many expected this to be a down year for Atlanta's offense. Well, it was supposed to be a down year for the whole team! Preseason projected win totals were around 93 for Washington (championship caliber) and 73 for Atlanta (distant also-ran). Playing .500 ball for 70 games was a big surprise for fans in Hotlanta.
Shelby Miller: 1.99 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 6.5 K-Rate 6.5 IP-per-Start
Jordan Zimmerman: 3.75 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 6.4 K-Rate 6.0 IP-per-Start
Miller's ERA was as low as 1.33, but he's been regressing over the past few weeks. Still, GREAT numbers so far for one of the NL's biggest pitching surprises. He wasn't supposed to throw like THIS. Zimmerman's ERA has risen from 2.88 to 3.75 because of two recent shaky outings. He had a long string of quality starts before that. Tough call here because their career assessments aren't that far apart. Clearly a chance for Atlanta to compete as a road dog here.
Matt Wisler: 1.13 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 2.3 K-Rate, 8.0 IP-per-Start (1 start)
Doug Fister: 4.80 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 4.2 K-Rate, 5.6 IP-per-Start
Note that this is a day game with a 4:05 ET starting time. That could put some odd shadows on the field that will help the pitchers out. Wisler shut down the Mets in his only Braves' start. He's obviously not nearly as good as that current pitching line would suggest. And, getting just two strikeouts vs. the Mets isn't a great sign for future success. Fister missed a month with a sore forearm. He came back and was hit hard by Tampa Bay last time out. Toughie to handicap because the shadows could be an equalizer...and because "future" numbers are likely to favor Fister over Wisler regardless of what very short-term data is showing above.
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College football joins the mix here in the NOTEBOOK this weekend. Here's what's coming up the next few days...
Thursday: MLB Series Preview...New York Yankees at Houston Astros
Friday: MLB Series Preview...Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals
Saturday: College Football...Mountain West "East" Preview
Sunday: College Football...Mountain West "West" Preview
Monday: MLB Series Preview...Kansas City Royals at Houston Astros
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview...Pittsburgh Pirates at Detroit Tigers
Baseball's a lot of fun right now because so many interesting storylines are developing. Las Vegas oddsmakers are always about a month behind in this sport! Have you been making money on your own? Are you well-positioned to make a big score this Fall in the Football? Get SERIOUS about your sports betting! You'll always GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!
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