Atlanta Braves dependable pen ready for postseason play

Atlanta Braves closer Kenley pitched a clean ninth inning to earn the save in game two of the 2022 NLDS. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sport
Atlanta Braves closer Kenley pitched a clean ninth inning to earn the save in game two of the 2022 NLDS. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sport /
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Atlanta Braves reliever Collin McHugh had a great season. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports /

Collin Dependable

If I ask fans to select the Atlanta Braves’ most effective middle relievers from a list that included Chavez, Lee, Matzek, McHugh, and Jackson, the names I’m likely to hear most are Tyler Matzek and Colin McHugh. However, that answer is only half right.

After a visit to the IL early in the year, McHugh returned looking like the batter-baffling reliever the Braves expected when they signed him. He’s capable of pitching multiple innings and pitches to a reverse split; RHH bat .220/.273/.326 and post a .266 wOBA, while LHH manages to bat only .182/.237/.264 with a .223 wOBA.

Marshal Dylan

A lefty is running neck-and-neck with McHugh, but it isn’t Matzek; it’s Dylan Lee. Fans remember Matzek’s destruction of opposing lineups in last year’s postseason; he’s struggled this year while Lee’s excelled.

Lee doesn’t throw high-velocity gas, but he locates his pitches well. Greg Maddux says a pitcher’s job is to throw balls that look like strikes and strikes that look like balls; Lee was listening.

Lee’s 44.3% chase rate and 33.5% WHIFF rate are the best of any Atlanta Braves reliever, and his ERA- and DRA- are second only to  A.J. Minter.

The graph below shows that no matter your favorite flavor pitching metric, the Braves middlemen are among the best in the game.

Lee 2.13 52 68 2.64 3.28 75 44.3% 33.5%
McHugh 2.63 63 69 2.78 3.39 78 38.6% 25.3%
Stephens 3.38 82 88 3.81 4.26 98 33.1% 19.5%
Matzek 3.24 85 114 5.23 4.21 104 31.1% 24.3%
Chavez 3.56 88 86 3.13 3.38 75 33.2% 21.8%

(Most statistics from Fangraphs, DRA, and DRA- from Baseball Prospectus)

They are those M. . . . . . . . . . . .s

Where would the team be without Stephens and Chavez? Both pitchers filled any role thrown at them, starting, finishing, and mopping up.

We know Jackson Stephens is a bad, bad man because we saw him take a line drive to the head and say he was ready to pitch the next day.

We know, too, that coincidence isn’t causation, but Jesse’s superpower to send opposing batters back to the dugout shaking their head only appears when he puts on an Atlanta Braves uniform. It’s no coincidence that only Kenley Jansen threw more first-pitch strikes than Jesse… and Jansen only took the lead last weekend.

That’s a wrap

It’s still true that great pitching beats great hitting, but it is harder today than it once was. The Atlanta Braves bullpen is better than last year and capable of holding any lineup in check.

Next. It's Michael's year!. dark

The club’s already strong rotation will be the best in the playoffs when Strider returns. If the lineup does its job, we’ll have a long and happy postseason run.