NLDS Preview: Atlanta Braves vs. Miami Marlins

The NLDS is here and two East division rivals are facing off.

(2) Atlanta Braves vs. (6) Miami Marlins

In advance of the Division Series starting today, we’re going to break down each series for you. In this article, we cover the second-seeded Braves’ series against the sixth-seed Marlins, broken down by Tim Jackson and Kyle Horton, respectively.


Series Schedule


Game One: Tuesday, October 6th at 2:08 p.m. ET on FS1/MLBN – Max Fried vs. Sandy Alcantara

Game Two: Wednesday, October 7th at 2:08 p.m. ET on FS1/MLBN – Ian Anderson vs. Pablo López

Game Three: Thursday, October 8th at 2:08 p.m. ET on FS1/MLBN – Sixto Sánchez vs. Kyle Wright

Game Four (If necessary): Friday, October 9th at 2:08 p.m. ET on FS1/MLBN – TBD vs. TBD

Game Five (If necessary):  Saturday, October 10th at 4:08 p.m. ET on FS1/MLBN – TBD vs. TBD


Atlanta Braves (35-25)


When the playoffs started, I said this squad featured a vicious lineup of hitters, but they’d still have to pitch to get the job done, and such a task might be difficult given their thin rotation. The offense went on to score just six runs across two games and 22 innings, but the pitching was elite and didn’t allow a single Cincinnati Red to cross the plate. We can sigh at the Reds’ big bats going silent to end their season with a whimper, but it’s hard to overlook the staff that made it happen. The regular season means pretty much nothing when it comes to October, and the most important thing about a team getting hot in the playoffs is that it happens in the playoffs. We might be seeing that from Atlanta now. Max Fried went seven strong innings. He only struck out five, but most importantly he didn’t give away any free passes. Ian Anderson gave up two walks across six innings in his start, but he also coaxed nine Ks. The pair kept the team from relying on the erratic Kyle Wright in a winner-take-all game three and will likely have to replicate such success if the Braves are to get to the league championship series.

The other thing we noted about Atlanta’s offense in the wild card preview is just how critical Freddie Freeman has been. The MVP candidate went only 1-for-6 in two games against the Reds, but the hit was the game winner in a 13-inning marathon. He also registered four walks (one intentional). Getting on base at a .400 clip with a lineup as potent as the one around him is bound to lead to runs more often than not. Atlanta hitters combined for one of the best performances against right-handed pitchers during the regular season sprint and will face another rotation of all righties. The sample size won’t be big enough to lean on now, but we can use this information to set the scene. This series could be decided by a few passing moments and the Braves have plenty of guys who have been making moments all year.



Atlanta Offense

Atlanta Hitters


At the point we know that Atlanta handles righties like no one else. The only holes are at the bottom of the starting lineup in rookie Austin Riley and veteran Nick Markakis. Markakis has been in this kind of rut before, though, and even he could turn it on. Every other regular for the club worked a wRC+ at least 11 percentage points better than average against righties. What’s more is that the core bats leading the wayRonald Acuña Jr., Freddie Freeman, and Marcell Ozuna—have generated a 165 mark or better this year. The three big boys also generate walks at a clip that’s well above average. When they knock the veritable snot out of the ball when they do swing, and get on base when they don’t, it can be trouble for any pitcher. Game two could be especially interesting given that they’ll face Pablo López, whose primary off-speed pitch, a changeup, has only found the zone just over 34% of the time this year.

It’s not just about the obvious bats for Atlanta, though. Another key could be how Travis d’Arnaud continues to perform. The 31-year-old is in the midst of one of the best stretches of his career. His plate discipline profile tells us he’s been pretty much the exact same guy he’s always been and his .411 BABIP says he might just be riding a banana sled in this bizarre season. Behind him, how Ozzie Albies handles batting from the left side of the plate will also be critical. Albies has been better as a lefty through his young career, to the tune of a 145 wRC+ compared to just a mark of 95 from the right hand side, but he could be rusty. An injury contributed to him getting only 29 plate appearances as a southpaw this season and he’s only gotten on base seven times from those chances. The way these two perform in the middle of the lineup could cause headaches for Miami or be a breath of sweet relief. Adam Duvall has tweaked himself this season to whiff a little less by reaching a little less, while Dansby Swanson has been more aggressive than ever. Rounding out the lineup are the two players who have been the only holes in it: veteran Nick Markakis and rookie Austin Riley.

On the bench are some curiosities: a been-there, done-that veteran in Pablo Sandoval, struggling utility guys in Charlie Culberson and Johan Camargo, a veteran backup catcher in Tyler Flowers, and two other rookies who haven’t had a chance to do much in Cristian Pache and William Contreras. If everyone plays the same part, Atlanta could be pushing on to the NLCS.


Atlanta Starting Pitchers


Atlanta Starters


It’s hard to believe just how good Max Fried and Ian Anderson were against the Reds. It felt relevant to acknowledge before last round that Fried was the only starter on the team to have double-digit starts and that Anderson had barely had a cup of coffee in the majors with varying results. Now it feels a lot less important. The two of them may have gotten over a big hump by going scoreless across 13 combined innings. Fried faced 27 batters—the most he’s faced all year—in his playoff debut. Anderson went up against 22, but he’s faced as many as 29 this season. This much is clear: The Braves will allow them a shot at a third time through the lineup, but will be quick to give them the hook.

The hook may be even faster for Kyle Wright, who still hasn’t been able to adjust his fastball to avoid hitters’ swing plane. Wright had managed to end the regular season by going at least six innings in his final three starts, a sign that he may have been turning the tide. That said, Atlanta elected not to use him at all against Cincinnati and hasn’t acknowledged a plan for any situation that involves a game four. He’s nearly giving up as many walks as he’s generating Ks.

That may be the tale for this entire starting staff. Only Anderson has been above average by K-BB% and it’s only been across nine games. The stat is the best for future in-season performance and, given that we’ve only seen enough games to have taken us into May in a standard season, it’s something to keep in mind. Even if the bats do the heavy lifting, the starters will have to be tip-top against a plucky Marlins team.


Atlanta Relievers

Atlanta Relief Pitchers


If the first two games can be any indication, it seems clear that Atlanta trusts a combination of Will Smith, Chris Martin, and Mark Melancon after its starters. They’re the relievers who first saw action out of the bullpen after starters left the games against the Reds. Relievers are generally volatile, anyway, so the small sample size shouldn’t be of much consideration here. This trio offers the most positive track record and in a wildly unpredictable environment, it might be more understandable to lean on them.

Of note are the fastballs of Smith, which rarely break 93 mph, and Melancon, which barely push 92 mph. The league average heater for a reliever in 2020 was 93.7. But plenty of other guys in this bunch can pump it up, including the revived Tyler Matzek who does it from the left side. With injuries and shuffling through so many other arms this year, Matzek actually pitched the most innings of any Atlanta reliever in 2020. The velo difference between the vast array of arms Atlanta could call on ranges from 86 mph (Darren O’Day) to 96 (AJ Minter). There seems to be an arm for any occasion.

That said, the way manager Brian Snitker has called on them to this point feels almost like the way Davey Martinez used Nationals relievers last October. The starters aren’t as good and the relievers aren’t as bad, but the idea seems to be only to use the guys you absolutely prefer. If this series goes beyond three games, it could get especially interesting.


Miami Marlins


The Marlins are without doubt the 2020 postseason’s Cinderella story. They were crossed off by most on Opening Day, but have continued to prove the naysayers wrong every time they take the field. The team has bought in to being the underdog, going as far as to celebrating their Wild Card Series win with shirts that read “Bottom Feeders”, a reference to a comment made by a Phillies analyst back in July. But the fish didn’t just luck into their success. With their underdog mindset, they bring great pitching and a solid lineup. Their staff held the Chicago Cubs to just one run in their two games, winning the first game 5-1 and the second 2-0. They’re firing on all cylinders at just the right time.


Miami Offense


Marlins Projected Lineup

* = sidelined with injury and left off Division Series roster.

Magneuris Sierra will likely start in Marte’s place. Sierra only had 53 PA this season, but is a plus defender with elite speed that can steal a bag at any time. The Marlins offense put up 13 hits against the Cubs with two homers and three stolen bases. They also found 19 hard hit balls and eight walks. The biggest offensive performances came from Corey Dickerson, who hit a three-run homer in game one, Jesús Aguilar, who had two hits and two RBI in game one, and Garrett Cooper, who hit a solo homer in game two. Look for big hits from middle-of-the-order hitters Aguilar, Cooper, and Brian Anderson.

Defensively, they don’t stand out either. By Statcast’s Outs Above Average (OAA), the fish rank 25th with -7 OAA. But, they still have some plus defenders! Anderson has played elite defense this season, putting him in the top 6% by OAA, and Rojas and Marte are both in the top 19% by the same statistic. That’s some solid coverage on the left side of the infield and middle of the outfield, the three most important defensive positions aside from catcher. So, their defense probably fares better than we think!


Miami Starting Pitchers

Marlins Projected Rotation

The starting pitching for Miami has been the club’s biggest bright spot in 2020. In the Wild Card Series, the starters went 11.2 innings allowing just one run, walking five, and striking out 10. The two pitchers, Sandy Alcantara and Sixto Sánchez, allowed just seven hits and nine hard hit balls combined. In the regular season, Alcántara turned in a 3.00 ERA and 3.72 FIP across 42.0 innings. He has a fastball velocity in the top 8% of the league with middling spin. Sánchez, who throws a fastball in the top 3% of the league, threw 39.0 innings with a 3.46 ERA and 3.50 FIP. Sánchez held a staff best xERA at 3.11. The remainder of the staff features Pablo López and Trevor Rogers. López threw 57.1 innings in 2020, posting a 3.61 ERA and 3.09 FIP. His 24.6% strikeout rate and 7.5% walk rate aren’t much to write home about, but López found success from a 52.2% groundball rate and fantastic contact management. Rogers pitched just 28.0 innings in 2020, delivering a 6.11 ERA and 30.0% strikeout rate. Advanced stats paint a completely different picture of Rogers, because of his high strikeout rate and decent contact control. He induces weak contact and whiffs at an above average rate.

The Marlins will roll out Alcantara for game one, López for game two, and Sánchez for game three. If the series goes to a fourth game, it is probably safe to assume the Marlins will go with Rogers, although it is yet to be announced. For a possible game five, the Marlins don’t have a clear option. However, they might choose to pitch Braxton Garrett. Garrett has only made two starts for Miami this season: throwing five innings with one earned run against the Phillies and giving up four earned runs in just 2.2 innings against the Nationals.

Miami Relievers
Marlins Bullpen


The Marlins bullpen was lights out versus Chicago. In the two games combined, the pen threw 6.1 innings, allowing zero runs, striking out six, and walking none. They also allowed two hits and just five hard hit balls. The bullpen features an elite arm in Yimi Garcia and a few really solid arms in James Hoyt, Brandon Kintzler, and Richard Bleier. Garcia has done an exceptional job suppressing contact in 2020, while also getting plenty of whiffs. He saw 15.0 innings, posting a 0.60 ERA and a 1.66 FIP. He has a hard hit rate in the top 2%, xwOBA in the top 6%, and an xERA in the top 6%. Hoyt posted a 1.23 ERA in 14.2 innings and Kintzler posted a 2.22 ERA in 24.1 innings. Hoyt struck out 32.3% of hitters, placing him in the top 8%, and got whiffs at a rate inside the top 2% of the league! Lastly, Bleier gave up some hard contact, but managed it with a 70.5% groundball rate. He turned in a 2.63 ERA across 13.2 innings.


Recent History


The Marlins don’t have an extensive amount of postseason experience, having made it to October just twice in their 28-year existence prior to 2020. Still, the 1997 National League Championship Series featured the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves. The Marlins bested the Braves in the series, 4-2, and went on to win the World Series. As for more recent history, the two division rivals have seen each other plenty of times. In 2020, the two clubs met 10 times during regular season play. The Braves won the regular season rivalry, beating the Marlins six times and outscoring the Marlins 68-44 (albeit with one Braves win that featured a 29-9 score).

Pablo López and Sixto Sánchez, two starters that are guaranteed to toe the rubber in the series, each made two starts against Atlanta in the regular season. López logged 12.2 innings with a 6.39 ERA and 4.38 FIP. Sánchez threw 9.0 innings with 4.00 ERA and 3.41 FIP. The two pitchers combined for 24 strikeouts in their 21.2 innings.

All time, the Braves are 277-101 versus the Marlins. However, it’s worth noting that the Marlins haven’t lost a postseason series in franchise history. Will the Braves continue to dominate the rivalry? Or will the Marlins prevail and remain undefeated in October?




Atlanta’s bats are so dang good and even seem to have a response for when the game turns into a pitcher’s duel. But let’s keep it weird. Marlins in 5. 

-Tim Jackson

This series is going to be a good one. The Marlins have the pitching, the Braves have the hitters, and both teams have a solid bullpen. It isn’t going to be easy for either club. But like I said in my Marlins Wild Card Series preview, the Marlins are the only MLB team with an anthem written and performed by Creed’s Scott Stapp. Stapp led his band to a 2001 and 2003 crown of American Music Award’s Favorite Alternative Artist, while also winning a Grammy for their 2001 hit-song “With Arms Wide Open”. He will lead the Marlins to the promised land. Stapp is the Marlin’s secret weapon and every other team’s kryptonite. I’m asking all Marlins fans to stand and sing it with me, “Come on Marlins make us proud!”, because 2020 is the Marlins’ year to soar. Marlins in 4.

-Kyle Horton


Featured image by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)

Tim Jackson

Tim Jackson is a writer and educator who loves pitching duels. Find him in the PL Discord, editing, managing, and podcasting with @BREAKINGPodPL here or writing at Baseball Prospectus.

3 responses to “NLDS Preview: Atlanta Braves vs. Miami Marlins”

  1. theKraken says:

    You guys are crazy lol. I mean that in the nicest way. There is nothing wrong with keeping things weird! There is also no reason FLA should win this series. ATL won the lottery here with this once-in-a-lifetime cupcake of a matchup. It seems like you are putting a lot of stock in a two game series which is really representative of close to nothing. Just a week earlier, FLA was starting Jazz Chisholm and some guy in CF who can’t hit by varying names. The fact that they don’t have guys or an identity hurts them. While I agree that ATL is really streaky and I don’t really like them as much as most, they do have Freeman and Ozuna who are pretty consistent and on fire over the second half. Those guys are the kind of tough outs that make a staff sweat. That is the point where ATL becomes scary as Acuna is a huge threat although he is more inconsistent than anyone else of his status. The also have guys like Albies and Swanson who can impact a game and Markakis who is at least a professional hitter – guys like him make pitchers work at least. I never mind when ATL loses because they are on of those transient, bandwagon fan favorites but FLA is facing a really uphill battle. I get that the ATL rotation is very poor but I could see them getting really weird and putting together a magical postseason stretch that they are never able to replicate. I won’t be upset if ATL loses as it would serve to validate how meaningless this season was in the big picture. In fatc I am kind of talking myself into that as I write this essay that nobody will ever read. I wrote some great ones last year too!

    • Kyle Horton says:

      Good God. For such a self-proclaimed expert as yourself, you seem to be forgetting that the Braves don’t have an anthem written by Scott Stapp.

    • Tim Jackson says:

      I actually think Atlanta is really well suited to go right through Miami but I honestly don’t know what I know at this point. This season’s been so wild and the Marlins have been at the center of it. Look at what Magneuris Sierra is doing today! Just can’t predict that kinda stuff. Potentially chasing Fried after just four innings?! Nuts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login