Braves Trade for Tommy Milone and Moderate Improvement

Braves Trade for Tommy Milone and Moderate Improvement

When I was a teenager, I loved Dr. Pepper. Drank the stuff like it was crack and I am not convinced their formula at the time didn’t include illicit drugs. But occasionally, my mother would shop the sales and get Mr. Pibb instead. And it’s not bad. I mean, it’s still better than water, I guess. But it’s no Dr. Pepper and no matter how much my mom told me they are the same, I’m not going to enjoy it as much as a cold, delicious carbonated water beverage with a doctorate.

In a way, Tommy Milone is Mr. Pebb.

Hopefully, Alex Anthopoulos still is shopping for a doctor, though.

Today, the Atlanta Braves announced that they have acquired Milone for a pair of players to be named later. Milone is a free agent after the season and will be owed about a month’s worth of his $800,000 salary. The cost of Milone is probably because the Braves weren’t going to pay premium prospect capital – the kind of players that are currently in their 60-man player’s pool – for a player like Milone and the two teams agreed on a list of players the Braves would be willing to deal once the season is over. Obviously, the opinion of the trade may change based on what players are announced once the restrictions on who you can trade end. But then…depending on how this season ends, it might not matter.

Milone is a veteran who has already played for seven teams since 2011 and that doesn’t include a second stop in Washington. His best year was his rookie season back in 2012 when he finished with a 3.74 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 4.02 xFIP, and a 3.1 fWAR over 190 innings. The bad news is that 2012 was a long time ago and he only has 3.9 fWAR since. The good news is that he looks a lot more like that version of Milone this year than the one that has bounced around the league like a LOOGY back when they had value.

A strike-thrower, Milone works mainly off his 86 mph four-seamer and 79 mph changeup. Both rank amongst the Top 5% in vertical drop and horizontal break, which helps to limit the good contact. Good contact against a pitcher is actually bad for the pitcher. I know, that’s weird. But apparently in the medicine community, negative means good. Which makes absolutely no sense. In the real world community, that would…be…chaos. Nevertheless, of 92 batted balls this year, only four have been classified as barrels. I know you did the math in your head because you’re super smart, but if you want to check your results, that’s a 4.3% rate.

The southpaw uses both pitches interchangeably against both righties and lefties. Against fellow left-handed batters, this year he’s featured only a third pitch – the slider. He went to his curveball more last year against lefties, but only uses it against righties this season. He’s brought back his sinker after retiring it for two years, giving him a fourth pitch against righties. Unfortunately, both pitches have been hit hard this season.

Milone is not about spin rate and while he gets a good amount of movement on his main pitches, his biggest feature is that he makes hitters earn a spot on the basepaths. He has a career walk rate of 5.6% and it’s even better this year at 3.1%. Combined with an improved strikeout rate of 24% and you have a sneaky good rate to build on. That’s what Anthopoulos is hoping the Braves are getting.

But there is a reason why Milone is Mr. Pebb and not Dr. Pepper and it’s not entirely built on an extremely average career, nor advanced training in soda. While Milone has done well to avoid barrels, he’s still getting hit hard at a 37% rate, roughly 5% above his career norms and 2% above the MLB average from the last six years. That leads to a lot of line drives (30.4%) rather than mostly painless fly-balls (27.2%).

If there is something to look forward to, Milone historically doesn’t show much difference in wOBA from the first time through the order all the way through the third time through the order. On the meh side, those historical numbers aren’t that good. This year, with an extremely limited sample size, Milone looks quite better the second time through the order than the first time. But that’s probably something that would normalize with a bigger sample.

In most basic terms, Milone is an okay pick-up to help stabilize the back of the rotation. He’s probably not a guy you want to start a postseason game, but he gives you someone who probably won’t blow up every fourth inning. He’s a better option than Josh Tomlin or Robbie Erlin and the Braves will feel better about slotting him into the rotation. But at the same time, he has gone from team-to-team over the last eight years for a reason.

Milone improves the team, but not enough that the Braves should feel like their job is complete and they’re ready for the playoffs. This team still doesn’t know what, if anything, they’ll get from Cole Hamels and Ian Anderson has made one start in the majors. Hoping either one of them – or Milone for that matter – starts Game 2 of a first-round playoff series is not ideal. But then, there are two reasons to not expect the Braves to make the kind of move that acquires a legit #2 or #3. One is that Anthopoulos has shown an unwillingness to make those moves since coming to Atlanta. The other is that the Braves, like most teams, may not have the payroll space they need considering the huge loss of revenue they have experienced. And if you’re hoping to get the other team to help pick up the tab, it’s going to cost the prospect capital Anthopoulos has been hesitant to deal from for the last couple of seasons.

In related news, Matt Adams was designated for assignment. Weird. He was the power that Snit was looking for.

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