Houston Astros: Know your World Series foe – Atlanta Braves

Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /
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Atlanta Braves
Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

What do the Braves not do so well?

Travis D’Arnaud struggles with throwing out base runners.

I did say that the Braves were a great defensive team, but one chink to their armor might be Travis D’Arnoud’s arm. D’Arnaud is a terrific offensive hitting catcher and has good command of plate, but he’s vulnerable to base stealing with his below-average arm.

D’Arnaud only threw out five baserunners it is 470 innings this season and is 0-for-13 in throw out opportunities so far this post season. Martin Maldonado is nowhere near the offensive player that D’Arnaud is, but D’Arnaud’s subpar arm could be a soft spot for the Astros baserunners to attack.

If Houston can get on and then subsequently steal second, that’ll both eliminate the double play and putting runners in scoring position.

The Braves’ bullpen struggles late and close.

I know the Atlanta bullpen is on fire right now and some would even consider it their strength right now, but let’s take a large 172-game sample size view. And the evidence there shows that the Braves bullpen might be a bit leaky.

Will Smith, the Braves All-Star closer that has been perfect thus far in his four four save opportunities, averages an impressive 11 strikeouts per nine with his great lefty curve. But he’s been known to give up some big hits in key spots and walks batters 10% of the time.

Tyler Matzek, probably one of the best stories in baseball right who has been near-perfect this postseason, also generates 11 strikeouts per 9 innings, but he walks batters 15% of the time. When he’s finding the plate, he’s dominant like 1999 John Rocker.

When he’s missing the plate, he’s erratic like 1989 Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn – or 2003 John Rocker.

Other guys like AJ Minter and Luke Jackson are all solid and having career years, but the staff as a whole hasn’t been exactly “unhittable”. The Braves bullpen was 10th in walks this season, 10th in ERA, 18th in WHIP and 18th in OBA.

And if you take out Will Smith and Tyler Matzek, the remaining bullpen pitchers combined for a 1.38 WHIP on the season.  Not ideal – especially against a patient Astros lineup.

Houston hitters needs to stay within the zone on these pitchers and challenge them on placement. If they can punish balls inside the strike zone and force these Braves pitchers to explore the box, Houston should generate a decent number of baserunners and apply big pressure to this less-experienced bullpen.