by David Kelley

Opponent Preview: Braves Relief Pitchers

The Braves come into the postseason repping a top-notch bullpen led by Tyler Matzek, Shane Greene, Mark Melancon, Chris Martin, and Will Smith. See how they match up against other bullpens in the NL:

  • FIP – 3.91 (2nd)
  • xFIP – 4.41 (6th)
  • SIERA – 4.05 (6th)
  • HR/9 – 0.99 (2nd)
  • IP – 272.2 (1st)

In the postseason, a reliable bullpen becomes even more important as starters are pulled earlier in games in high-leverage situations. Yet, this shouldn’t be an issue for the Braves as they rely heavily on their pen who pitched 272.2 innings, or 51.9% of the innings (highest in NL). Take for comparison the Reds whose bullpen pitched 192.2 innings only 38.1% of all innings pitched (2nd lowest in NL). Let’s breakdown the top arms in the Braves bullpen.

Tyler Matzek (L) has been a lock-down arm in the bullpen for the Braves all season long. The lefty has thrown the most innings (29.0 IP) for the Braves and touts a 1.92 FIP (9th in MLB), 2.56 ERA (95th percentile in MLB), 0.181 xBA (96th percentile in MLB), 0.238 xwOBA (98th percentile in MLB), and 35.5 K% (95th percentile in MLB). The lefty primarily relies on a fastball (62.3%) accompanied by his slider (19.3%), cutter (9.3%), and curveball (9.1%). Expect to see Matzek late in games taking over after the Braves starters leave the game.

Shane Greene (R) has made the most appearances for the Braves (28 games; 27.2 IP) but has had a mediocre season looking past ERA (2.60). He holds a 3.81 FIP, 4.75 xFIP, SIERA 4.51, 0.223 xBA (62nd percentile in MLB), and 0.279 xwOBA (68th percentile in MLB). Despite a misleading ERA, Greene is the Braves go-to reliever, so you’ll likely see him put into high-leverage situations. Greene’s most valuable pitch is his slider which he throws 21.9% of his pitches with a 0.223 xBA, 0.215 xwOBA, and 34.2 Whiff%.

Mark Melancon (R) is another solid right-handed reliever out of the Braves bullpen sporting a 3.72 FIP, 4.42 xFIP, 0.247 xBA, 0.275 xwOBA, and 2.78 ERA. Melancon relies heavily on his cutter (54.8%) and curveball (39%) with his curveball being his lethal pitch: 0.254 xwOBA, 31.0 Whiff%. Melancon is their closer and has successfully saved 11/13 save situations. He relies heavily on ground balls (59.4 GB%) and does not strike out very many batters with a K% of only 14.7% (6th percentile in the MLB).

Chris Martin (R) the set-up man, was recently injured in Sunday’s game against Red Sox. Martin threw only four pitches in the 7th inning before exiting with right groin discomfort. Martin has been nearly untouchable all season allowing only 2 earned runs in 18.0 IP and 19 appearances. Martin uses his sinking fastball (41.8%) the majority of his pitches with his slider (25.9%, 0.165 xBA)  and cutter (18.4%, 30.0 Whiff%, 38.1 PutAway%) as his put-away pitches. If Martin is unable to pitch in the series it will leave a hole in the Braves bullpen. Other relievers including Will Smith and Josh Tomlin.

Will Smith (L) former All-Star reliever, will be expected to pick up some of the slack if Chris Martin is unable to go due to injury. Smith has pitched well despite a misleading 7.38 FIP and 4.22 xFIP. Smith has given up 7 HR in 16.0 IP (3.94 HR/9), which bodes well for the Reds – a HR heavy team.

Other relievers the Reds are likely to see are Josh Tomlin (R) (2.65 FIP, 3.02 xFIP) and AJ Minter (L) (2.82 FIP, 3.80 xFIP). Minter has also been very impressive allowing only 2 ER over 21.2 IP.

The Reds will have a tough-task against them batting late in games as the Braves have one of the strongest bullpens in the National League.

Featured image:

David Kelley is a lifelong Reds fan and has lived in Northern Kentucky all of his life. As a kid he fell in love with the Redlegs, especially Bronson Arroyo, and would often be seen imitating his high leg-kick while pitching. David is still waiting to see his first Reds’ playoff series win after being in the nosebleeds for the infamous 2012 NLDS Game 5 loss vs the Giants. He is graduating from Thomas More University this spring with a Biology and Chemistry dual-degree and will be attending medical school in the Fall. @D_Kelley18

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1 year ago

An obvious conclusion: The Reds will need to take the lead against their starting pitchers. But the much improved Reds bullpen has a chance to beat the bullpen of any team.

Steve Mancuso
1 year ago
Reply to  pinson343

Because of the way the season played out, the Reds have several strong longish relievers (Lorenzen, Mahle, Antone) and Sims is good for a couple innings. Amir Garrett seems to have conquered his command problems for the most part. Raisel Iglesias has been dominant. Never know how it will play out, but the Reds bullpen is in great shape for the series and, as you say, a match for the Braves.