The Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros kick off the 2021 World Series on Tuesday night. The Astros have had the best record in the regular season, meaning they will have the field advantage in Games 1 and 2 (and potentially Games 6 and 7).
Every game is important in a series of this magnitude, but there is something about Game 1 that makes the math a lot easier. Indeed, MLB teams that won 1-0 in a best-of-seven set went on to win the series about 64 percent of the time.
The Braves and Astros can therefore only hope that their Game 1 starters put them on the right foot. Atlanta will send Charlie Morton to the mound to start his third career World Series (he previously pitched with the Astros and Tampa Bay Rays in their respective fall classics); the Astros, meanwhile, will laugh with left-hander Framber Valdez.
What do these two have to offer? Let’s answer a question to find out.
Charlie Morton, RHP, Braves
What is he throwing? Morton technically throws five pitches: a mid-90s fastball that he will sink and occasionally cut, a curveball, and a seldom-used shift. Morton’s Curved Ball is his most effective pitch for generating puffs, coercive chases, and coercive soft touches.
Is there something distinctive about his pitches or his performance? Morton’s delivery features just a touch of cross-fire action, as he lands off after starting on the far side of the first base of the rubber. He has a short, deceptive arm stroke and a low three-quarter point of release. Morton’s fastball had the second horizontal break among right-handed starters this season, behind Aaron Nola. His curved ball, meanwhile, ranked at the 99th percentile of spin rate. He also had the second most horizontal break among righties, behind Corey Kluber.
What ground does he favor when he is behind in the accounts? Morton leans heavily on his grid as he falls behind a left-handed batter. He’ll also throw a curve to keep the dough honest, with his shift and cutter making occasional appearances. Morton prefers his lead to righties, although he will still throw a lot of four seams, knives and curves. Don’t expect him to make a change unless he has the edge of the pack.
And when is he early? Morton essentially becomes a two-length pitcher when he’s ahead in the scoring. He pitched his four seams and his curved ball more than 90 percent of the time in pitchers against left-handed people and about 75 percent against right-handed people.
Nothing else? Morton has allowed seven stolen goals on seven tries this season. In addition, he failed to eliminate a runner in 48 attempts. He made three pitching errors, however, suggesting the Astros would be wise to urge him to act.
How did he fare against the Astros? Morton’s most recent outings against the Astros were as part of the ALCS last fall. He started twice in that series, pitching 10 2/3 scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts.
Framber Valdez, LHP, Astros
What is he throwing? Valdez keeps it simple: he relies overall on his lead from the 90s and his curve ball. It will make a change and from time to time it will go to its four seams. His two side offerings are capable bat duds, and everything in his arsenal spawns Grounders.
Is there something distinctive about his pitches or his performance? Valdez’s delivery sees him stand on the third base side of the rubber and land open. He has a short arm action and he delivers from a three quarter lunge. Valdez’s lead and shift benefit from the offset seam wake concept. You can read more about it here , but it essentially allows its locations to move differently than you would expect based on their axis of rotation. Plus, his curve ranked in the 90th percentile in rotation and boasted the fourth most horizontal break among lefties.
What land does he prioritize when he is behind in the accounts ? Regardless of the situation in the peloton, Valdez adopts a fastpitch mindset when he’s out of scoring. He’s never more likely to throw a four-seam, and that tendency, plus his lead, equates to a fastball use rate in excess of 80%.
And forward? When Valdez is in a more count against a right-hander, it’s almost a 50-50 proposition that he’s going to throw his curve ball. Against lefties, his curveball use rate exceeded 50 percent in pitching count.
Nothing else? Valdez has allowed three stolen goals on as many tries this season. He selected a baserunner on 46 attempts, against Carlos Santana in August. Valdez didn’t make any mistakes to throw during the takedown attempts.
How did he fare against the Braves? The Braves and the Astros haven’t met since 2017. Valdez debuted on The Show in 2018. In other words, Valdez has never faced the Braves in a meaningful contest.
2021 World Series gear now available
The Braves and the Astros will meet at the 2021 World Series. Show your love for your favorite team by purchasing all-new 2021 World Series gear, including hats, shirts, hoodies and more from the Braves and Astros. Buy here now .