The Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets play a doubleheader on Monday night at Citi Field. This is a write-up for Game 1, so that is the one that features Kyle Muller and Marcus Stroman. It is a 5:10 p.m. ET start and will be that same stupid seven-inning format that we’ve seen all season long. I cannot wait until that goes away and the ghost runner in extra innings is a thing of the past.
The Braves are only five games out in the NL East, but it feels like more in light of Ronald Acuna Jr.’s injury, doesn’t it? This series will go a long way in determining what the Braves do by Friday’s Trade Deadline, which is actually July 30 instead of July 31 this year. Atlanta has the four-game series here to try and close the gap before determining whether or not selling or buying is the right call.
They can set the tone with tonight’s double dip. Muller does get the Game 1 call for his fifth MLB start and sixth MLB appearance. Muller has a 3.20 ERA with a 3.15 FIP in his 19.2 innings of work. He’s struck out 23, walked 11, and only allowed 11 hits. Muller’s walk rate stems from having some questionable control, but he has gotten back into counts nicely and has generated a ton of swing and miss with a 14.7% SwStr% in his work so far.
His F-Strike% is 49.4%, so being a little more accurate with first pitches would certainly cut that walk rate down. He has allowed five runs in his 18.2 innings as a starter. Muller did face the Mets back on June 21, so they have gotten a look at him, but he’s done pretty well overall and has even hung in there on the road at Cincinnati and last time out against the Padres.
The leap from the minors to the bigs is a big deal, but he has a 3.92 ERA in nine minor league starts with 56 K in 41.1 innings of work.
I like Muller, but this is also a spot where I am really interested in fading Marcus Stroman. I thought about fading Stroman last time out against the Reds and he did exactly what I wanted him to do when I didn’t pull the trigger. He threw eight shutout innings to lower his ERA to 2.58.
Stroman has a 2.58 ERA with a 3.49 FIP and a 3.57 xFIP. He has some clear regression signs in the profile and his margin for error seems to be dwindling with just 18 strikeouts in his last 27 innings. Stroman’s primary regression signs aren’t really going to be found in his traditional profile.
Stroman’s BA-xBA is -.040, which is the fifth-biggest gap on the negative regression side. His xBA is .269. His actual BA against is .229. His SLG-xSLG is -.097, the second-biggest in baseball behind Jack Flaherty. Stroman’s xSLG is .419, so his actual SLG is .322. Stroman’s wOBA-xwOBA is -.058, again, the second-biggest gap on the negative regression side among pitchers with at least 200 plate appearances against.
All of Stroman’s “x stats” signify big, impending regression. His Hard Hit% is 42.8%, well higher than league average, but he’s running a .268 BABIP. The Braves aren’t the same lineup that they would be with Acuna, but there are still enough hitters here to be dangerous. Among pitchers to allow at least 100 batted balls of 95+ mph, Stroman’s wOBA is the lowest at .463 and his .420 BA is the seventh-lowest.
I’ll take a chance at fading that profile when I can get a big plus price on the other side. I usually don’t mess with doubleheaders, but the Braves have to be hyper-aware of how important this series is and that means that Game 1 comes at a premium. This game should be managed aggressively by the Braves. They should run out their optimal lineup. Win Game 1 and figure out Game 2 later. That should be the mantra.
I’ll fade all of these Stroman factors and hope that Muller and the Braves hold up their end.