Game 2 is coming at us live in a few hours which means it’s game thread time! Before we get to the lineup, let’s take a look at the news of the day:
Replacing Charlie Morton
For me, this is a little surprising considering the Astros don’t hit RHP as well as LHP, but it’s so minimal that it’s likely fair to just go with the better arm. I’m guessing Tucker Davidson is here in case he’s really needed more than a starter for Game 4.
Without further delay, here’s Dusty!
NLCS MVPs and LVPs
It is so much more fun to write one of these after a series win, and the Braves gave us a thrilling win and exorcised some Dodger demons in the process. Now time to get some revenge for 2004 and 2005 and Roger Clemens will not be coming out of the bullpen nor will Chris Burke be on the Astros bench. For a bit of a primer for how I come up with these lists, I’m starting with cWPA which in its most basic sense measures the cumulative effect each player has on his team’s chance of winning the World Series. There are some limitations as cWPA only really measures what each hitter does and doesn’t measure defense or baserunning, and for pitchers, again there is really no accounting for the defense behind you. Also, timing is everything. A first inning homer in a tie game may add 10% to your team’s chance of winning that game, whereas a walkoff homer in the 9th could add 50% or more to your team’s odds depending on the circumstances. All of those caveats aside, I still think cWPA and WPA are the best way to put into context what actually happened in a given series. They aren’t predictive stats, they are historic stats. Also, I agree with the sentiment that it is a bit harsh to give out LVPs for a monumental series win, but I still think it’s useful to dissect who came up big and who didn’t. For me it isn’t about assigning blame, but about ranking the performance from most helpful to least helpful.
Before I get to the top 10 lists, I’ll say that while I wanted to keep these lists to just players, a ton of credit goes to Snitker and the entire coaching staff (especially Wash) for supporting the players and putting them in the position and the mindset to win. Also a special thanks to the Giants and the Cardinals (gag) for pushing LA to the brink, and thanks to Dave Roberts or whoever was making the calls to burn out the Dodgers starters through overuse and through putting them in situations they hadn’t been in all year. The Braves kept their players in roles they were used to, and it paid off big time.
Ladies and gents, the LVPs counting down from 10 to 1:
10) Freddie Freeman (-0.05 WPA, -1.2% cWPA) – You know the Braves had a good series when Freeman cracked the top 10 LVPs. It was actually between Freeman and Fried here. Freddie’s series is a good example of why timing is everything when it comes to WPA. Most of Freddie’s damage in the series came in the two losses or so early in the game, it was still a low leverage situation. Freeman had several high leverage opportunities (bases loaded in game 3 where he flew out to end the rally comes to mind) and didn’t really capitalize on any of them. Still played great first base and had a key scoop in game 6 on Riley’s short hop to save an error. Also to be on the LVP list with a 1.063 OPS is hard to do. I’m confident he will be on the other list for the next series.
9) Ozzie Albies (-0.14 WPA, -1.7% cWPA) – You can see why it’s a tough task to pick out LVPs for a winning series. Almost everyone contributed something and Ozzie, to his credit, scored 7 of the Braves 28 NLCS runs. He also went 7-25, walked twice, and played solid defense. Pretty much anytime he got on base, he scored including hitting a single and stealing second ahead of Riley’s walk off in Game 1, not to mention advancing Rosario to 3rd in the first inning of Game 1, which allowed Eddie to score on a wild pitch. He was also part of the game tying rally in Game 2 off of Urias, driving in Rosario (though not taking second which almost cost us) and scoring on Riley’s double. Came up empty a few times in high leverage spots and only 1 XBH in the series, but also stole 2 bases.
8) Guillermo Heredia (-0.05 WPA, -0.7% cWPA) – Had two AB’s in Game 2 and took an 0’fer though he did groundout weakly enough to move Dansby to 2nd for Rosario’s eventual walk off. Made a bad play on the bloop from Taylor allowing the Dodgers to take a 4-2 lead in Game 2.
7) Orlando Arcia (-0.06 WPA, -1.0% cWPA) – Two relatively low leverage PH appearances but went 0-2. I suppose he is the only competent backup to Dansby, so he needs to stay on the roster, unless you think Adrianza or Camargo could fake it in case of injury. Otherwise, it seems like this or Camargo’s spot could go to a 3rd catcher, Gore or another pitcher. Especially with the DH for up to 4 games, it seems another pitcher would be smart.
6) Johan Camargo (-0.06 WPA, -1.0% cWPA) – Still hitless with the big club this year. I have always had a soft spot for Camargo as he shares a birthday with my 7 year old daughter and has been her favorite player since she learned this a few years ago. Went 0-4 and seemed to be the first or second choice off the bench for Snitker. I would keep him and drop Arcia, but his performance hasn’t warranted it to this point. How cool would getting your first hit of the year in a key WS game be though?
5) Jacob Webb (+0.01 WPA, +0.2% cWPA) – I’m diverging from WPA here a bit. Webb earned some positive marks for his work in Game 2. He walked Taylor to lead off the inning in the 6th, who stole second and went to 3rd on a sac fly from Bellinger. Webb battled back to get a huge K from Pollock, before giving way to Matzek who struck out Pujols to end the threat. Webb also gave up 4 runs in an inning in game 5 when the game was already pretty much out of reach. Hard to count the garbage time against him too much and the Braves will need him against Houston as they have to find a reliable righty or two.
4) Adam Duvall (-0.05 WPA, -0.6% cWPA) – Duvall looked lost for most of this series at the plate going 4-21 with 1 walk (intentional) and 9 K’s. All of his productivity came in the game 3 loss and in the game 4 win (solo homer and a sac fly in a 9-2 win). In Atlanta, Soler should probably be getting starts over Duvall unless he finds the groove in Houston.
3) Chris Martin (-0.11 WPA, -1.2% cWPA) – Martin looked like his old self with a clean inning in Game 2 and that wound up being key in a 1-run game, so hard to knock him too much, but he tried to let the Dodgers back in it Game 4, sticking the double grybo, allowing both Smyly’s runners to score and leaving the score at the dreaded 5-2. Also allowed one of Max’s runners to score and helped the Dodgers put the game out of reach, giving up Taylor’s second homer of the game in Game 5. If Martin stays on the roster, he needs to be a clean inning guy.
2) Dansby Swanson (-0.32 WPA, -5.7% cWPA) – It wasn’t as bad as cWPA indicates and Dansby deserves extra credit for making that play on the last out of the series, but Swanson had a pretty rough series at the plate. 6-23 wasn’t horrible, but the 6 hits were all singles, no walks, only 1 RBI and 0 runs. Also, like Duvall, several non competitive at bats. It’d be nice to see Dansby get back to being patient as he seemed to chase much more than usual in this series. Did score the winning run in Game 2, but that was a result of being on base after the failed sacrifice attempt against Graterol.
1) Luke Jackson (-1.00 WPA, -16.5% cWPA) – This one was clear cut I’m afraid. As he said in the interview, the Dodgers are his daddy. Luke had a nice, clean inning in Game 1 which allowed for the eventual Atlanta walk off, but then allowed the pop up to Taylor to score Matzek’s 2 runs in Game 2 (not entirely his fault), followed by the crushing 3 run HR to Bellinger in Game 3 on an impossible pitch to hit out. Luke finished his series by abandoning the fastball and letting LA tee off on the slider, allowing 3 baserunners, a run and almost the game in Game 6. Here’s hoping it was just a Dodgers thing and Luke finds his way back onto the other list for the World Series.
And the NLCS MVPs counting down from 10-1:
10) Ehire Adrianza (-0.11 WPA, -1.2 cWPA) – Again WPA doesn’t tell the whole story here. While Adrianza was only 1-6 in the series, that one hit is probably not given enough credit given what followed. The double in Game 6 added 4% to the probability of a Braves win that game, but based on the decision to pull Anderson there and the HR which followed (which added 26%) by Rosario, let’s just say if Ehire didn’t get a hit when he did, there’s no telling how that game would have gone.
9) Travis d’Arnaud (-0.03 WPA, 0.2% cWPA) – Travis has struggled at the plate no question, but his hits have been timely. The Game 2, 9th inning lead off hit off of Graterol allowed for the eventual winning run to be scored. His hit ahead of Ardianza in Game 6 allowed Travis to score his only run of the series on Rosario’s HR. His game calling didn’t seem as sharp as the Brewers series, but the Dodgers hitters basically make the Brewers seem like an AAA squad. In both series, he has done a great job blocking balls in the dirt, but a pretty lousy job at controlling the running game.
8) Joc Pederson (0.04 WPA, 0.8% cWPA) – Joctober carried on, at least for the first few games of the NLCS. Joc had a momentum-shifting, game-tying 2-run homer off of Scherzer in Game 2 and was a key part of the rally against Buehler in Game 3. Went largely silent after that. I assume Atlanta-area jewelers will disagree with my low ranking of Joc as he has helped move some pearl necklaces.
7) Ian Anderson (0.05 WPA, 1.3% cWPA) – Other than the early homer to Seagar in Game 2, Anderson was really solid and probably deserved a longer leash. Over two starts, he only made it through 7IP allowing only 6 hits and 3 runs on 6 K’s. Would like to see him work deeper against Houston, but you also have to note that the Braves won both of Anderson’s starts and he was up against Scherzer and Buehler.
6) Drew Smyly (0.10 WPA, 1.9% cWPA) – Easy to overlook the job that Smyly did coasting through 3 innings in Game 4 after not pitching in weeks. He left a couple of baserunners that Martin politely allowed to score in the 5th inning. He saved the rest of the pen from having to overwork and kept the Braves in the game.
5) Will Smith (0.38 WPA, 6.1% cWPA) – What an incredible turn around. At this point, other than Matzek, there is no one I’d rather have on the mound. Will pitched 4 scoreless innings allowing only 2 baserunners. Just sad that the rest of the country isn’t getting the full Will Smith Experience, but I’ll take it.
4) A.J. Minter (0.34 WPA, 6.1% cWPA) – Smith and Minter were pretty equal based on WPA, but I gave the edge to Minter since he threw 2 more innings. Just lights out and glad he has earned back Snitker’s trust. The 2 inning bridge to Matzek in Game 6 was extraordinary. In all A.J. threw 6 innings of 2 hit, 2 walk (one intentional) 0 run, 8 K ball. That’ll play.
3) Austin Riley (0.65 WPA, 10.6% cWPA) – Pretty impressive for only batting .200 (5-25) in the series. Austin played great defense again, but added some extremely timely hits all at Truist Park. Austin actually went 0-13 in LA, but in Game 1 he had a game-tying homer and a walk off single, in Game 2 he walked ahead of Joc’s game-tying homer, and added his own game-tying double, and in Game 6 Riley drove in the game’s first run with a ground rule double. Again timing is everything.
2) Tyler Matzek (0.65 WPA, 12.4% cWPA) – I have seen several arguing for Matzek to be the MVP and I am not unsympathetic to this position. Remember, I named him the MVP of the NLDS over the Brewers. Matzek was tough as nails, and really never gave any reason to feel concerned. Tyler pitched in every game but game 5 and the only runs on his ledger show why reliever ERA is an unreliable stat. He walked Betts in an epic 10 pitch battle and after Betts stole second and Matzek got two outs, he was told to IBB Will Smith before giving way to Luke who promptly hit Justin Turner and allowed the bloop hit to charge 2 runs to Matzek. Also, in that same game, Matzek bailed out Webb with a runner on 3rd and 2 out but striking out Pujols. One final note on Matzek, I thought his battles with Betts were a real highlight of the series. Betts did get the one walk, but in the other 4 ABs he popped out to Freddie twice and struck out swinging twice.
1) Eddie Rosario (1.10 WPA, 18.8% cWPA) – As much as I love the job Matzek did and his whole story, the MVP is clearly Rosario to me. 14-25 (no other Brave had more than 7 hits) 6 runs, 5 XBH, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 1SB, 3 BB only 3 Ks. Scored a key run in Game 1, 4 hits and the walk off in Game 2, 4 hits in the Game 4 win and the dagger 3 run homer in Game 6. What a find and what a performance.