NLDS Game Two Preview: Atlanta

After being shut down by Tim Lincecum in game one, the Braves get to hit the reset button in game two.

The Hitting
Even though Lincecum pitched well last night, a good chunk of his success stemmed from the Braves’ offensive ineptitude. Timmy was leaving fastballs up in the zone, and the Braves didn’t end up doing much with them. Making matters worse, most of Lincecum’s strikeouts were on balls out of the zone, so the Braves’ hitters need to do a much better job of controlling the dish and keep the flailing to a minimum.

Atlanta should have an easier go of things tonight, as Matt Cain doesn’t have nearly the same swing-and-miss stuff as Lincecum. The Braves are going to need to try to take advantage of Cain’s fly ball tendencies, and try to stroke shots into the gaps as much as possible.

The Starter
After being nailed in the eye during batting practice yesterday, Tommy Hanson is good to go against the Braves this evening. Hanson put up very similar numbers to Matt Cain this year, so I’m expecting a fair fight on the mound.

Hanson was a highly-touted prospect just a year ago, but hasn’t done anything spectacular in the bigs. Don’t get me wrong, he’s been worth 4.3 WAR this year, but his numbers are far from superstar status.

One of Hanson’s biggest problems this year has been finding a consistent release point, and a simple glance at a pitch f/x chart will show how erratic he has been. If there is any good news to be taken from his release point, it should be noted that he is not necessarily tipping his pitches, as he’s had trouble with all of his offerings.

As far as his actual pitches go, Hanson relies on a hard four-seam fastball, which should be clocking in around 93 mph tonight. He also has a slider with good movement that he can throw for strikes, along with a slower, looping curveball. None of his pitches get a whole lot of whiffs, so the Giants may be able to keep the strikeouts to a minimum this evening.

The Defense
According to UZR, the Braves defense has been one of the worst in the league, coming in at 34 runs below average. Hanson gives up fly balls and grounders at the same rate, but he should try to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible tonight, thanks to an outfield defense that is often, shall we say, lacking? If the Braves play Rick Ankiel over Nate McLouth tonight, the defense doesn’t look so bad, otherwise it could be a death sentence if the Giants can pound balls towards center.

Prediction
Accuscore has the Braves losing by a full run in their simulations, and I tend to agree. I see Cain shutting down Atlanta, with the Giants taking a two game lead thanks to a 3-2 victory.



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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.


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Dan
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Dan
5 years 9 months ago

“Hanson was a highly-touted prospect just a year ago, but hasn’t done anything spectacular in the bigs.”

This is just an odd thing to say. He’s put up a 3.16 ERA, 3.38 FIP and 7 WAR in his first 55 starts. And he just turned 24. He may not be “spectacular” or “superstar”, but I’d say he has definitely lived up to his highly-touted status.

verd14
Guest
verd14
5 years 9 months ago

He has been very good. I think this might be nit-picking.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 9 months ago

Matt Cain has largely been under the radar which is strange given the quality of his stuff. Asking a team to beat he and Lincecum 2 out of 3 times is likely too much in the LDS.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
5 years 9 months ago

Oops, I meant to add that this post-season could serve as a coming out party for Cain, much like recent post-seasons have been for Adam Wainwright.

Lincecum and Cain could reach the deserved 1-2 status enoued by Carpenter and Wainwright with dominating playoff performances. The opportunity is certainly there.

B N
Guest
B N
5 years 9 months ago

Re: “Timmy was leaving fastballs up in the zone, and the Braves didn’t end up doing much with them. Making matters worse, most of Lincecum’s strikeouts were on balls out of the zone, so the Braves’ hitters need to do a much better job of controlling the dish and keep the flailing to a minimum.”

I feel like this comment misses the point of what Lincecum was doing on the mound. From what I’ve read and what I saw, he had a bit of a deceptive delivery going that made it hard to tell if batters were going to get a fastball or a hard breaking slider. When you throw pitches like that, you’re going to catch people looking in the zone and flailing at things out of the zone.

A quote from Diaz:
““On my first strikeout, the second strike was a slider I missed by maybe a millimeter. The third I missed by two feet. And they looked like the same pitch.””

So yes, Atlanta was caught looking at pitches in the zone and they were flailing at ones out of the zone. They literally couldn’t tell which was which. Given that was the situation, I fail to see how Atlanta can “do a much better job of controlling the dish and keep the flailing to a minimum.” If you can’t pick up which pitch is which, you’re basically just caught in a rock-paper-scissors game in even trying to figure out where the ball is going.

TexasRanger
Guest
TexasRanger
5 years 9 months ago

agreed I’ve seen a lot of the Braves beat themselves, and Timmy wasn’t overly impressive. this is strange because Lincecum has lead the league in strikeouts the last three years. Its not Zito came out and struck out 14, it was Tim Leroy Lincecum the guy responsible for more k’s than anybody. His delivery helps make his fastball deceptive and since he had slider working it made both hard to distinguish. Lincecum’s wipeout change is also notorious for getting swings when its in the dirt and he threw it in the zone enough to get away with it. I thought Lincecum was at his best and wasnt bailed out by the Braves lineup.

grafe
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grafe
5 years 9 months ago

Yeah there’s no way Hanson hasn’t lived up to his status, he’s been very good this year (great in his past 17 starts I think it was) and he strikes people out at a decent rate, doesn’t issue many walks, and doesn’t give up many homers (14 all year)

TexasRanger
Guest
TexasRanger
5 years 9 months ago

Yeah Hanson’s been pretty much what you could want out of him his first few years. Sorry you’re second starter is not a five win pitcher is a pretty lofty standard to hold to

Padman Jones
Member
5 years 9 months ago

Groundballs: usually good
Groundballs, when Brooks Conrad and Omar Infante are looming: more nerve-wracking than something that’s really nerve-wracking.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
5 years 9 months ago

I’m almost wondering whether Troy Glaus shouldn’t get a start at third or something. Or maybe, given that Conrad is basically useless with the bat anyway, Diory Hernandez. (But slotting him in at second doesn’t help with Omar being bad at third.)

Creek Johnson
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Creek Johnson
5 years 9 months ago

I was thinking the same thing. For a team struggling to score runs, you’d think they would try out all their options.

Undocorkscrew
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Undocorkscrew
5 years 9 months ago

Starting Brooks Conrad in another game means Bobby Cox waiving that big white flag. Glaus doesn’t have any range, but I’m pretty sure he’s spent his entire career at that position and brings more offensively than a career minor-leaguer.

Conrad is great off the bench, but he’s definitely not a starter.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
5 years 9 months ago

There’s been speculation that Glaus has more serious medical issues preventing him from playing. Not sure why the organization wouldn’t disclose that, or why they would add him to the postseason roster if true, but it’s hard to explain his complete lack of playing time (and Conrad’s staying in the mix) any other way.

bflaff
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bflaff
5 years 9 months ago

Melky Cabrera batting fifth? Good God.

xdog
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xdog
5 years 9 months ago

Glaus’ knees are shot, plus who knows how his shoulder would handle a throw across the diamond. I don’t believe he’s played an inning at 3b since he was a Cardinal.

deadpool
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deadpool
5 years 9 months ago

Glaus did get some time at 3b, both while on rehab and when he came up. He did OK. He’s still a smart 3b, but as you saw his knees limit him. Putting him out there is kind of a catch 23 in that sense.

That said, Conrad is a prime example of why I get frustrated with Braves fans. When Chipper went down there was a contingent screaming for Conrad to play every day, some actually rhought it would make the team better. That same contingent waited till Conrad’s first error to proclaim him useless.

xdog
Guest
xdog
5 years 9 months ago

What a gutsy decision by Glaus to go for the 6-4-3, especially since he could have played for the force at home and had the game continue. Amazing win for the Braves. Ankiel cracks the monster HR and Farnsworth logs the win.

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