Relief Pitching Needs Help From Young Talent

Relief Pitching Needs Help From Young Talent

At the beginning of the season, I wrote an article focusing on some keys to pitching for the Braves. Those keys included a reliable closer and veteran pitching to help out the young guys. Now that we are about a month in, what does Braves pitching look like? Well they have a reliable closer that pitches in the 8th inning rather than the 9th and they have two veterans, one has been a killer starter and the other has a right hamstring injury. More so in recent years, teams are relying more on relief pitching than starting pitching, which in turn means you need your relief to be able to get more outs. That is very true this season, as the Braves only have 2 starting pitchers who have made it to the 7th inning, Julio Teheran and Matt Wisler.

Pitching has definitely been better than in years past, in that pitchers are allowing fewer runs than in previous years. Last year the team ERA at this point in the season was 4.31 and up until now in the 2018 season, the team ERA is 3.56.

With the amount of amazing talent in Gwinnett right now, one thing is very evident – there is a lot of talented starting pitching, but the Braves aren’t really in need of starting pitching right now. The starting rotation has 9 quality starts and 8 wins.

As I said in my article at the beginning of the season, pitching is key and with guys like Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard, it seems a waste to leave these guys in the minors when they could be getting some big league experience from the bullpen. Yes, I said bullpen. Both have had a measure of success in the minors and spring training. Soroka and Allard are just too good right now to keep down in the minors. It would be a great help to the team as well as to the young pitchers if they were given the opportunity to pitch one or two innings in relief in order to get them acclimated to the big leagues.

If you think about all the consistent and dependable pitchers in Gwinnett right now, what names come to mind? Soroka, Allard, Fried – these are all starting pitchers. After reevaluating pitching, what the Braves need is more reliable and solid relief pitching to bring up the rear for guys like Sam Freeman, Peter Moylan and Jose Ramirez.

Shane Carle | Eddie Michaels,

Braves relief pitching has 4 wins in relief and 5 losses in relief. In 3 save opportunities, they have only 1 save. Braves relief pitching has also issued the most walks in all of the majors with 61 and the Marlins are behind them with 45. Additionally, Braves relief pitchers walk the first batter they see more than any other team in the majors. This is the place I see the Braves pitching lacking the most right now. Lacking as in, Braves relief pitching is almost there, but they are missing something and one of the younger guys in Gwinnett could be the missing piece.

After so many good starts for the starting rotation, it is hard to watch the relief come in and ruin a game by allowing run after run after run and lose the game. If they can bring up some of the younger guys the Braves would have an all-around, strong, reliable pitching staff to get the job done no matter who is in the batter’s box. It’s not like switching a starting pitcher to relief pitcher is a new thing or a bad thing. In the majors, it can sometimes be thought as a demotion for a starting pitcher to transition to relief pitching when a player is doing poorly. One recent example of this would be Matt Harvey, but if it’s a pitcher coming from the minors to the majors, this is a great stepping stone for a young pitcher.

According to an AJC article from David O’Brien, he stated that even Alex Anthopoulos has mentioned the possibility of taking some of the young starting pitchers and moving them to the bullpen since there is not enough room in the starting rotation and it’s a good way to break-in young starters. When he was a GM in Toronto this strategy work for him multiple times.

You see more teams do that,” Anthopoulos said. “We’ve explored it. A long time ago, starters would break in as relievers. Great way to get your feet wet and finally transition back to the rotation. It’s something that’s come up internally in our conversations. It’s not something we’re planning on doing right now, but at least it’s been discussed, in light of the market for relievers and the price points right now…Plenty of guys have converted to the bullpen and become great for various reasons. It’s something that we talked about, just because there’s so much (Braves pitching) depth on the mound. It’s something that we can explore.”– AJC, December 13, 2017

One example of this in his time in Toronto is Aaron Sanchez. Sanchez spent a good chunk of his time the first two seasons of his career as a reliever. 54 of his 65 appearances in those two seasons were spent working in relief for Toronto. Then in 2016, he went 15-2 was a 3.00 ERA as a reliable starter. Marcus Stroman is also an example. He made 4 relief appearances before his first start in 2014.

Overall its evident that the bullpen hasn’t been the greatest for Atlanta this year. When they have been bad, they have been really bad all at once. That’s why it might be a good idea to let the young talent get some experience in the big leagues, but to also pick up the slack of the relief pitching. For the most part, my keys to Braves pitching have come to fruition. Now all they need is a little more reliable relief pitching to really round out the team and getting more outs in the later innings, especially when starting pitching is being consistent. By bringing up a few of the younger guys, the Braves could have solid pitching from beginning to end.




Brittni, where is all the talented starting pitching outside of Soroka and Allard? Right now it’s Gohara, Fried, Wisler, Sims. So Gohara is already in the rotation; Fried, Wisler, and Sims have been pitching out of the bullpen and spot starting since last year. I absolutely do not think Allard is ready; hasn’t shown consistency and dominance yet. Soroka is ready. At Mississippi, what do you have? Wright, Mader, Parsons, Sanchez, Touki. Outside of possibly Wright, do you think any of those are ready for even a bullpen assignment? Also, you have to think how well their stuff might play in the bullpen; I think Wright would be fantastic but Soroka might not be a bullpen type except maybe in long relief. You may not think of Wisler, Sims, and Blair as part of the cavalry but they are the ones in the here and now (except Blair). Also, don’t overlook Biddle who is really good and was a 1st round pick. Lindgren, too, was supposed to help but can’t get over his arm injuries. The Braves need to bite the bullet and keep Fried up and use him regularly. The bullpen beginning with Viz, Minter, Winkler, Carle, Biddle, and Fried. Add Wisler when Gohara returns to the rotation and that’s seven good arms. That leaves out Freeman, Moylan, and Ramirez (and Whitley, Ravin, Socolovich, Sims, Hursh etc…), completely, and A. Sanchez, too. One of them could be the 8th (I’d vote for Sanchez or Whitley at this point). Barring an injury or trade, there’s no real room for Soroka or Wright currently. On the other hand, I think you’re right, we could use one more hot shot reliever and I see 8-10 names up there that could be useful to another team. A trade is the way to go right now.

You’re right and I think the Braves are following though with what you recommend, although I wish they’d commit to both Wisler and Fried to the bullpen (that would leave the 8th slot for the rotating arm).

There was once this guy named Ryan. He was a rookie and pitching only in relief. He ended up winning a game in the NLCS with 7 innings of long relief and pitching in his only WS as a reliever. Soroka, Wright, and Fried and the Braves should be so lucky.

Roger….Soroka, Allard and Wright will not be called up until after The ASB (with Gohara coming back in early May, Wisler and Sanchez will be the options to fill in for IF injuries start to plague our Starting Pitching). The idea of bringing up these guys…will be as starting pitchers (stretching them out in The Minors…so they have it in them to consistently go 6-7 innings a start).

With Fried getting called up today (bye bye Miguel Socovich)…..The Braves have an 8 man bullpen of 4 lefties/4 righties.

Hopefully we’ll see Fried GO AFTER the hitters (dude has great stuff….leave the freaking nibbling in last year’s rear view mirror). If Fried can be a multi-inning LOCKDOWN reliever…that would do SO MUCH lengthen out/potentially save our bullpen!

When Sanchez and Gohara come back in early May….the following could be the makings of a VERY TOUGH BULLPEN:

1. Vizcaino
2. Minter
3. Winkler
4. Carle
5. Freeman
6. Moylan
7. Sanchez
8. Fried

Regardless of how well Wisler performs in his next 2 starts…Gohara will resume his place in the rotation…which would result in Wisler getting sent down to AAA UNLESS Fried shows that he cant get hitters out during the next week or so (Wisler can keep starting in AAA…being the 1st man called up IF a need arises in The Rotation).

Sanchez and Fried (and even Carle) all have multi-inning capability. The Braves are going to need all 3 to be healthy/effective IF we’re going to be able to compete in 2018.

Now if I’m wrong..and AA decides to use Soroka and Wright as relievers initially (Allard isnt a reliever type)..then it looks like Moylan and Freeman could be on the outs sometime this summer.

Snitker is going to have to SQUEEZE contributions from EVERY SPOT, 1-25 (bullpen and bench) because The 2018 Braves simply DO NOT have the type of lineup that is going to blow out opponents (we lack consistent power). Freddie Freeman is the only 20 homer and above hitter that we have right now! AA is trying to work his magic to find the right 1-8 bullpen mix. Bautista, Flowers and eventually Acuna will satisfy the efforts to get the 1-4 bench mix (Tucker, Carmago, Flaherty/Bautista and Flowers/Suzuki…will make the 4 man bench…which means BYE BYE to Charlie Culberson and Peter Bourjois).

AA is going to have to PUSH Snitker to drop Inciarte down to the 7th spot of the order. Inciarte is a singles hitter….having him get the most at-bats on this team…is painful to acknowledge!

How can one argue with the following lineup against righties:

1. Albies…2nd
2. Acuna…left field at home/right field on the road
3. Freeman…1st
4. Flowers/Suzuki…catcher
5. Markakis…right field at home/left field on the road
6. Swanson…SS
7. Inciarte…center
8. Flaherty….3rd

Against lefties:

1. Albies…2nd
2. Acuna….rf/lf
3. Freeman..1st
4. Bautista…3rd
5. Markakis…lf/rf
6. Flowers/Suzuki…catcher
7. Inciarte….center
8. Swanson…ss

If Bautista is going to play…he’ll have to provide some power against lefties…or he simply has no role on this team! That’s why I have him batting cleanup against lefties.

Albies/Acuna’s speed at the top of the order (yesterday in AAA, Acuna walked..then stole 2nd and 3rd on consecutive pitches) would potentially cause havoc for opposing pitchers.

Both lineups have a lefty-righty balance…which will make it TOUGH for opposing teams to bring in lefties to face three hitters in a row (sick and tired of seeing a lefty come in and face Freeman, Markakis and Tucker ALL IN A ROW).

Bad loss by The Braves tonight. The defense started off playing LIKE CRAP…then McCarthy pitched like he’s a career 5th starter type. AJ Minter not SHUTTING DOWN The Reds in the bottom of the 7th….ENDED any chance of The Braves coming back tonight.

Flaherty (3 strikeouts and hit into a double play) and Tucker (other than his double in the top of the 9th inning) both looked TERRIBLE at the plate tonight ..a COMBINED 1 for 11 (Tucker looks AWFUL in left field….Acuna would have easily made that play on that hard hit ball that went over his head).

The ONLY positive tonight….was Freddie Freeman BLASTING 2 homers tonight. If this is the beginning of Freeman waking up at the plate….The Braves offense could be soon waking up! Sure, the comeback in the top of the 9th was nice….and Carle going two innings was a SHOT IN THE DARK (I’ve been touching on THE IMPORTANCE of having relievers who can go MULTIPLE EFFECTIVE INNINGS when needed. Max Fried had his shot…The Reds reliever Hughes was SHOT/DONE for the night. Preston Tucker’s last at-bat against Hughes….Hughes was throwing on FUMES! Tucker swung too early and creamed one foul..then basically popped up A MEATBALL PITCH to end the inning. PATHETIC!

Tomorrow is the time to call up BOTH Bautista and Acuna (the cost of WAITING to call up Acuna before June 4th, in relation to what The Braves are going to have to pay Acuna in 2021 as a Super 2, is going to continue to go up…on a per game basis. In other words, there are 38 games left between tomorrow and June 3rd (June 4th should be the passing of The Super 2 status). Each game that The Braves wait to call up Acuna..makes those games HELLA PRICEY (Kris Bryant settled for $10.85 mil as a Super 2 prior to the beginning of this season…INSTEAD of having to accept around $600k as a pre-arbitration salaried player. If Acuna is as good as we think he’ll be the next 2 plus seasons…he’ll be in line for potentially a $10 mil-plus salary in 2021 INSTEAD of around $600k in pre-arbitration).

Either call up Acuna TOMORROW…or wait until June 4th to call him up! Simple as that!

Damn, lol. I had typed my previous post out right after The Braves game ended. I’m in the middle of binge watching Netflix’s “Lost in Space”…and realized that I forgot to click ‘I’m not a robot’ to post my ‘take on tonight’s game’.

Right after I posted that previous post, I go to The MLB Rumors site to see if any ‘late night rumors’ have been posted BEFORE I go to bed (I’m playing a poker tournament in South San Francisco at 9:30am in the morning..and need my rest)…when LO AND BEHOLD…..Ronald Freaking Acuna has been CALLED UP!

Well, well, well (to paraphrase Bruce Willis’ line from “Die Hard”, when he found out that “Bill Clay” was really Hans Grueber, lol)…..tomorrow’s DEBUT for Acuna…should be HELLA INTERESTING…in addition to A SHOT IN THE DARK for our powerless offense!

I just hope..that AA and Brian Snitker REALLY take some SERIOUS TIME to discuss lineup construction tomorrow! SERIOUS TIME to discuss! Bye Bye Peter Burjouis…..if Bautista comes in a day or two…BYE BYE Charlie Culberson!

Light is at the end of the tunnel Braves fans! AA knows what he’s doing…the question is..can Snitker not SCREW IT UP (by putting forth a HELLA INEFFECTIVE lineup?

Remember….we need SIGNIFICANT contributions from 1-25…no BENCH WARMERS on this team! EVERYONE will probably play most nights (starting pitchers assigned to start other nights excluded…as well as, HOPEFULLY, a few bullpen arms who will pitch the next day, giving the bullpen arms who pitched tonight a night off. Also, a complete game or two (every now and then) would be HELLA FANTASTIC, lol!

Ronald Acuna….April 25, 2018! Remember that date! Bautista coming in a few days…..Flowers a few days after Bautista……Gohara in a couple of weeks….Sanchez around that same time. Come mid-May…this Braves team will be ready to ROCK AND ROLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Day 1 of THE REAL SEASON…starts TOMORROW! 12-10 to start off…..let’s see what kind of record we have come October!

Brittni, I’m in favor of using a few of the young starters as relievers initially, too. I think it’d both help them learn, and help stabilize the team’s bullpen. Aaron Sanchez is a great example of how that strategy can be effective, and one this GM knows well. Plus young starters aren’t conditioned in the minors to pitch deep into games anymore, so perhaps you help eliminate some of the fatigue that might come along with the learning process if they’re brought up as RP?

The only hesitation I would have is I maybe wouldn’t rush to do it until after the date where the Braves gain the additional pre-arb year. Normally I’m not huge into gaming the arb system, but in this instance it’d make some sense. If we assume they’d pitch maybe 3 innings a week as relievers, we’d be talking what, 18-21 innings worth of ball maybe? I don’t know if that’d be worth cutting a big check early for.

King…I’m totally with you on waiting until The Super 2 passes for our young pitching.

It’s not ‘gaming’ the’s being PRUDENT ECONOMICALLY! It isnt like The Braves are going to try and SKATE with a SKIMPY payroll the next few years! With my FIRM BELIEF that AA is going to go after the likes of Machado, Harper AND Kimbrel during The 2018 Free Agent Offseason…it is IMPERATIVE that The Braves ‘manage’ The Super 2 Status of a number of our pre-arbitration players (ESPECIALLY those who are slated to make SIGNIFICANT contributions over the next few years).

Having a balance of HIGHLY PAID/PRODUCTIVE players….and 12-15 pre-arbitration players who are producing SIGNIFICANT WAR (in value to their pre-arbitration salaries)….is what will determine how strong of a World Series contender The Braves are the next few years!

Too bad Fried shrugged off Zuk yesterday. He was pitching well before that monster hit. A learning experience for sure; and I think that’s the most important thing for our young guys (not just pitchers) this year. Next year could be awesome if our pitchers get in the groove.

Aaron…..How can you say that Fried was ‘pitching well’ last night? He comes in in the bottom of the 12th inning..and proceeds to walk Votto on 4 STRAIGHT PITCHES (that we not even close to the plate)…then gives up a HANGING CURVE homer to Scooter Gennett!

Look, I’m not going to say that Fried should be sent down. I believe that his stuff is TOO GOOD and that he’ll eventually prove to be an effective reliever (possibly in an Andrew Miller-like role down the line). However he has to BUCKLE DOWN and pitch WAY BETTER than that WEAK A$$ CRAP that he threw last night!

Paul, you are dead wrong about about Fried’s walk if you watched the pitchcast. One of the pitches was near the middle of the plate and still got called a ball and others were close. The scoop on last night was that he kept shaking off Suzuki until he got a ball hit out against him…. a chance to live and learn.

Roger…pitchcast WAS WRONG last night about Fried. I watched THE WHOLE GAME live on The MLB Package dude! Fried didnt even come close to going after Votto last night. He walked him on 4 straight balls!

He threw AN ABSOLUTE hanging curve ball that was in Gennett’s WHEEL HOUSE! Look at the replay dude!

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