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First & foremost, in the grand scheme of the series, we’re fine. It’s tied up at one game apiece as we take it back to the ATL. It’s basically now a three game series & we have home field advantage. We’ve seen their best and we’ve outscored them 4-2. Anticipate that aggregate to grow even larger in favor of the good guys. I’m not saying the series is over, but the path to a Milwaukee series win is hard to find right now barring a Game 5 in Milwaukee with Corbin Burnes on the bump and a Charlie Morton meltdown.
But we’ve already got a loss in a game in which Burnes squared off with Chuck? Yeah, but our offense is definitely better than the Brewers’, enough so that seeing Corbin a second time in such a short period should be a much larger advantage than the Brewers seeing Chuck a second time.
In Game 2 alone, Ozzie & Riley put elite swings on elite pitches, catching the attention of Brewers Manager Craig Counsell in regards to Albies hitting an 0-1 changeup from Brewers right-hander Brandon Woodruff, only 1.04 feet above the dirt, according to Statcast & Riley ripping an 0-1 changeup down and away for a homerun:
“Some of the pitches, they hit good pitches. The changeup to Albies was below the zone. Changeup to Riley was down and away. Got it in a pretty good spot.”Todd Zolecki of MLB.com
BUT, moving on to the three biggest things I’ve gathered from Games 1 & 2 of this National League Division Series…
1) Travis d’Arnaud Has Been A Non-Factor
In Travis’ seven plate appearances so far in the series, he’s logged six strikeouts. The other at-bat…base on balls. So technically he’s 0-for-6 with six strikeouts since walks don’t count as at-bats**
Lil D signed a 2-year/$16M extension earlier this season primarily because of his offense. A weapon he’s yet to unfurl in this year’s installment of Braves postseason baseball. It’s only been two games, but the road has been where he’s done most of his damage in 2021.
To compare, his Home/Away splits in 2021 are as follows: Games-28/32, Plate Appearances-101/128, Runs-6/15, Hits-18/28, 2B-5/9, HR-0/7, RBI-6/20, Batting Average-.200/.235, OBP-.287/.281, SLG-.256/487, OPS-.543/.769, & Total Bases-23/58.
I’m not saying Milwaukee is the only park we’ll see Travis put wood on baseball. But something about Truist Park this year has been unkind to the new father.
2) Joc Pederson Should Be Starting In Left Field
You’ve undoubtedly heard the term “Joc-Tober” by now. The Braves didn’t coin that term. That was the 2017 Dodgers.
Joc’s first World Series went like this: in 18 at bats, he batted .333/.400/.944 and led the Dodgers in runs (6) and home runs (3), while tying for the team lead in doubles (2) and RBIs (5). The birth of Joc-Tober.
Need I remind you of the damage he did to Atlanta in last season’s NLCS? Or the offensive spark he’s given this lineup since his arrival from Chicago? WHY IS SNITKER BENCHING HIM NOW?!
Even coming off the bench in this series, he’s 2-for-2 with a homerun. Defense can’t be the reason, as Joc has an OAA of 3 in LF while Rosario is sitting at 0 (Statcast).
The Rosario-over-Joc decision is only the latest example of how Brian Snitker has been bailed out by his roster while tactically hindering the Braves. Yes the Braves have won four straight division titles. Yes the Braves went to Game 7 of the NLCS with the eventual World Series Champions last year. Yes they’re tied 1-1 with the Brewers in this series. And also: Yes, they deserve better than Brian Snitker.
3) Matzek Should Be The Designated Jam-Guy
The Braves bullpen is not what it was last year. We’re at a point in the season where we can all agree on that with very little, if any, resistance. Now that we know every arm in the bullpen can’t be lights out no matter where they are in the game, we need to approach bullpen arms by situation instead of inning used.
There’s 27 outs in a 9-inning game. For workshop sake here, we’ll say the starter gives us 6 innings every game. That’s 9 outs remaining. In the postseason, very few games will be drama-deficient in the late innings. But the best teams handle that adversity so emphatically that momentum comes to a screeching halt.
Runs count the same, no matter what inning they’re scored. A 2-run double counts just as much in the 7th as it does the 9th. So why not assign bullpen roles based on how each pitcher pitches around contact, to contact, with a clean inning, or with guys on as they appear?
That’s where Matzek the Jam-Guy comes in. He’s not a 7th-inning guy or a setup man; he’s a janitor. He cleans up messes. In last year’s postseason & Game 2 of this NLDS, he’s made a habit of getting out of trouble. It’s kind of his thing now.
In nine career postseason appearances, he’s surrendered only one run. It was a solo homerun in last year’s NLCS. NINE appearances, ONE run. That’s it. One mistake in 9 of the highest stakes games a team will play all season. CUSTODIAN.
Let Matzek navigate trouble from the basepaths when the lead is being threatened. Use the rest of the game to play the matchups when you have empty bases. Late inning RBI-singles & doubles win ballgames. Let’s eliminate those with 97-mph darts on the black from the left arm of Tyler Matzek.
**A walk is not an At-Bat (AB) because At-Bats are used to calculate a player’s batting average. Including walks as an At-Bat would considerably change a player’s batting average, so walks are removed as an official At-Bat.