Game 1 was a doozy, wasn't it? Oh my goodness that was fun. The starting pitching matchup turned out to be about as close as I thought it would - although it took quite a few funny turns to end up that way. Both starting pitchers had their ups and downs - as they have all season - but both ended up turning in decent performances as far as postseason games go in today's day and age.
In Game 2 on Friday (snap shot by Tara Wellman here, for more info), the Atlanta Braves will turn to Mike Foltynewicz and the Cardinals will go to the best pitcher in the series in Jack Flaherty. I'll go ahead and spoil it and say that my research leads me to believe the Cardinals - even on the road - hold a significant advantage in this game with Flaherty on the mound. Why? Let's go to the stats.
A quick reminder of what I'm doing here in these previews:
Mike Foltynewicz has faced the Cardinals 7 times and thrown just 33 innings in those starts, largely because he's been quite ineffective. His WHIP is north of 1.75 in those games with an ERA over 7.50 and a K:BB under 2. He's somehow 3-4 in those starts. He's allowed the Cardinals to hit .301/.397/.602/.999 off of him. They've basically been peak Mike Trout against him as a team thus far.
Foltynewicz has pitched in 2 post-season games in his career and has kinda stunk in those as well. He's thrown 6 innings of 5 hit, 7 walk, 10 K, 7.50 ERA, 2.000 WHIP ball.
Here is Folty's repertoire over the last two months of baseball, first in visual form (thank you cardinalsgifs), and then in tabular form:
You can see that he varies his repertoire more than Keuchel did in the game 1 preview. His slider and curve have nearly the same spin rate, but are 5.5 miles per hour apart. His fastball is quite hard and has a decent spin, while his offspeed pitch probably has a bit too much spin.
Of course, I say that about his offspeed pitches and over the last two months, hitters have an xwOBA of just .197 against it - shows what you know Cerutti. His curve is his second best pitch over the last two months with a .263 xwOBA against. His fastball and slider have both been tagged (.342 and .364 xwOBAs, respectively).
Cardinals hitters have seen pitches like his in the last couple of months and have teed off on fastballs, curve balls, and sliders like his with respective xwOBAs of .368, 422, and .343 against them. However, against offspeed pitches like his the Cardinals have just a .179 xwOBA in the last two months. If Folty only relies on it 8.4% of the time against the Cardinals, I think he'll be out of the game by the 4th. My model suggests the Cardinals should have a wOBA of .325 against him - similar hitters in MLB this year are Domingo Santana, Dexter Fowler, Roberto Perez, CJ Cron, Teoscar Hernandez, and Jonathan Schoop.
Jack Flaherty gets the nod for the Cardinals in game 2 as the Cardinals attempt to sweep the first two on the road and come back home only having to win one of two in order to avoid a trip back to Atlanta. Flaherty is coming off of a second half of the season that is one of the best second halves of the last few decades, honestly. Let's hope he can keep it up in his first trip to the playoffs. Flaherty may be young, but he has faced the Braves 3 times already in his young career. He's held them to a 193/.288/.263/.551 line over 16 2/3 innings in those three games. His 1.080 WHIP is great, but timing has been bad for him as he's allowed 8 earned runs for a 4.32 ERA despite barely allowing anyone to reach base. His 2.71 K:BB is good but not great against the Braves.
Let's address the obvious outlier first. He has thrown ONE offspeed pitch since August 1st. We'll just ignore that one data point. In fact, I didn't even ask cardinalsgifs to put that singular pitch into the visual representation.
Of the other three pitches, Flaherty's fastball has been hit the hardest with a .250 xwOBA allowed. His two breaking pitches are at .106 (curve) and .172 (slider). Incredible. Flaherty might want to rely more on the breaking stuff as similar fastballs have been hit to an xwOBA of .393 by Braves hitters over the last two months. However, against breaking pitches similar to his velocity and spin, Braves hitters have .275 (curve) and .198 (slider) xwOBAs.
All in all, my model suggests a .265 xwOBA against Flaherty by the Braves. That would set their hitters up to be similar to some of the worst hitters in the game like Orlando Arcia, Elias Diaz, Chris (with a C) Davis, and Nicky Lopez.
Thanks to cardinalsgifs again, here is a visual as to how Flaherty has been dominating:
That's a significant enough advantage that I believe the Cardinals should be expected to win the road game Friday and come back to Saint Louis with a two games to zero edge over a 97-win regular season Braves club. That would be quite incredible.