Rotation Locks: Brandon McCarthy (2 of 3)

There is so much to say about the rotation. The rotation is the linchpin of everything the Braves have been doing since November 2014. The rotations of the past few seasons have seen the disappointment of Top 100 prospects like Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair, the collapse of Bartolo Colon, the slowed development of Mike Foltynewicz, the inconsistency of Julio Teheran, and the encouraging success of Sean Newcomb, Max Fried, and Luiz Gohara. The rotation is the most variable thing for the 2018 team. The floor is frighteningly low, but the ceiling is higher than any rotation the Braves have had this decade. And while the Opening Day rotation is more impressive than in years past, the unit has the potential to get even better as the year goes along. This segment is on the 3 locks to make the rotation as of now: Julio Teheran, Brandon McCarthy, and Mike Foltynewicz.

Brandon McCarthhy

So now we talk about Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy came over in the Kemp trade, as I’m sure you know, and he’s slated to make $11.5M this year in the final year of his deal, which is palpable considering his 2017 performance. Between McCarthy and Scott Kazmir, who also came over in the deal, the Braves probably feel like they’re at least going to get one starter who will be on the mound this year.

It may be damning McCarthy with faint praise, but in just 16 GS last year, McCarthy would have been the Braves’ most valuable pitcher had he done it for us. His 2.4 fWAR season would have bested Mike Foltynewicz‘s 1.8 fWAR season as tops on the staff. If that doesn’t depress you, then I don’t know what will. Had he qualified in innings, he’d have been top 40 of starting pitchers in baseball. It was aided in large part by a FIP that was 3/4 of a run better than his ERA, due in large part to his strong peripherals: 6.99 K/9, 2.62 BB/9, and 0.49 HR/9. Had he been healty, he would have obviously been one of the most valuable pitchers in baseball, but therein lies the problem with McCarthy: he can’t stay on the mound. He made 16 starts last year, 9 the year before, and 4 the year before that. And he’s 34, so it would be unwise to think that his best health years are ahead of him.

With that said, Steamer and Depth Charts like him to be about a 2 fWAR pitcher next year, which is not a bad 5th starter. The only problem is we may have an entire rotation of 5th starters. ZiPS has him at 16 GS, so his projection is for a 1.2 fWAR there. When he’s healthy, he can pitch, and so if he’s healthy to start the season, obviously he’s a lock to make the rotation. Because of his contract, you’d have to think the Braves will be looking to trade him if they can find a taker. That taker will only come if he’s healthy and performing, and you can say the same for Kazmir. If the Braves get a total of 30 starts from McCarthy and Kazmir combined, then I think the Braves will jump for joy. If they are able to trade one of them, I think Anthopoulis will do cartwheels instead. I’d pay to see that, actually.

59 thoughts on “Rotation Locks: Brandon McCarthy (2 of 3)”

  1. @1 Dumb. “It’ll be good for Ronald to go back down to AAA to continue becoming a professional….we’ll see him soon enough.”

    McCarthy’s wife is A. comedic gold on Twitter B. hot

  2. Is this going to be the whinge du jour this spring. The “OH MY GOD THEY’RE GOING TO SEND ACUNA TO AAA LIKE AN ANIMAL IN A CAGE?!!!!”

    Kid’s 20. He hasn’t actually hit much early in the spring. He still needs to work on basic things like base running and route taking (which he currently gets by without due to his insane young man speed.) And a week in AAA is worth something close to 20 million dollars to the club’s payroll in six years. OF COURSE THEY’LL SEND HIM DOWN!

  3. Good post, thanks Rob. It is indeed insanely depressing that 16 Brandon McCarthy starts provided more value than any of our pitchers last year.

  4. I don’t have a huge problem with the hat thing. Every team is probably trying to reel guys in a little bit, and we’re no different. And let’s be honest; he’s a pretty flashy guy. And he just went from being a good-but-not-elite prospect to being on the cover of Baseball America and being the most tantalizing prospect in baseball in a very short period of time. It’s a lot for a young man. It wouldn’t be a bad idea if we kept him on planet Earth for a little while.

  5. Right. When you enter a new workplace, you are expected to comply with the existing standards of presentation and behavior of that new workplace. If he hired on as an intern at Google he’d also be expected to dress properly for work there. If he wants to Migos up the look out of office, that’s fine.

  6. Acuna’s agent should cite Atlanta precedent.

    “I’m just a player like that. My jeans are sharply creased. I got a fresh, white shirt on, and my cap is slightly pointed east.”

  7. Missing time to Tommy John pretty much all of 2015 and half of 2016 isn’t that problematic. It’s the subsequent time missed for right hip stiffness, hurting his non-throwing shoulder, and then the yips that is the most concerning. I certainly don’t think McCarthy will pitch 100 innings without injury, but he might get to 100 innings after a few DL stints sprinkled in.

  8. Really, is anybody at all even remotely buying the high-minded “we do things the right way here” BS from this organization after it cheated so badly that it got their GM banned for life? I’m not sure we get to claim we do things the “right way” here anymore.

  9. Quite apart from all the rulebreaking, Don Sutton and Joe Simpson probably shouldn’t pat the Braves on the back for playing championship-caliber baseball when it’s been 23 years since they won a championship. It’s all ludicrous self-congratulatory homerism in service of a mediocre status quo. But what else is new?

  10. @22, @24 Maybe [they] do do things the right way. You mean because ownership acts more like a scummy foster parent and put a couple of guys in the front office where they were able to do whatever they wanted without any oversight, the whole organization should be profiled as criminal scum?

  11. On one hand, yes, the Braves FO has operated in a mostly slimy fashion, especially if you believe Frank Wren’s brother. I don’t even so much care about Coppy getting banned as the most egregious injustice is Hart parading around as if he didn’t do anything. It just shows the lack of accountability that existed in the organization, and no one seems to have any recourse against the guy. But going forward, they still need to repair their image, and they clearly don’t want to be an organization where guys like Acuna can wear whatever and however they want to.

    I do think Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz/Chipper/Andruw/Bobby/Leo for the most part did a good job of maintaining a level of professionalism and respectability, and I’m sure the Braves would love, in a perfect world, for Freddie/Dansby/Ozzie/Ender/Acuna/Snitker to lead the charge in developing a core of players who conduct themselves the way the previous guys did. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

  12. @25

    First of all, by definition, that means that they don’t do things the right way.

    Secondly, I’m not sure I’d put it quite that way, but I wouldn’t blame anybody who thought that. This sanctimonious crap was pretty annoying even before all the cheating mess, it’s nauseating afterward, in my opinion. If they want to tell Acuna to straighten his cap behind the scenes, that’s fine, I guess, though I would still argue their priorities are a little misplaced. To make sure that everyone knew that they told Acuna to straighten his hat is utterly ridiculous.

  13. @20 I almost included the misnomer on Dansby, but overall, their track record had been pretty good with not over-hyping individual prospects before that. Alex did a good job of essentially predicting where the Braves could go wrong with the rebuild where the rebuilding team keeps rushing prospects, ruining them, and extending the rebuild, and the Braves ended up doing just that with Folty, Wisler, Blair, Dansby, and probably even Newcomb. With that said, Acuna, Albies, Ruiz, Camargo, Gohara, Fried, Sims, and pretty much everyone else going forward have or will have earned their playing time, and they didn’t make those decisions based on team need.

  14. @30 I think it’d be hard to keep it a secret after the moment Peanut asks Acuna why his hat is on straight, and Acuna gives his answer. These beat writers are fighting for news crums that you’d have to think that’d get out.

  15. It all depends on the framing. Are they saying “We’re going to do things the right way from now on”? Or “We’re going to get back to doing it the Braves Way.”

    Any acknowledgment that they have lost their way would be nice and less mockable.

    PS: I’m cosigning that Hart should be gone. Even if he wasn’t directly responsible for Coppy’s shenanigans, he’s indirectly responsible for his pathetic lack of oversight.

  16. Any acknowledgment that they have lost their way would be nice and less mockable.

    100% agreed. I think they’re missing that in their communication.

  17. I wonder if there’s some kind of legal liability reason they aren’t saying anything. Like, if it would somehow make it easier for Coppy to sue the team successfully or something.

  18. For reasons, they absolutely should not give any acknowledgement that they ever did lose their way. Those reasons range from legal to PR. We, members of this community, are aware of this offseason nightmare, but they’ve got to assume that at least a majority of those fans passing through the gates to Sun Trust Park don’t know much beyond the workings of the major league roster (and maybe not much beyond the lineup and rotation).

    So, no, as far they’re concerned (and I’m concerned), it’s time to get back to doing things the Braves way (of the ’90s), and that includes straightening that hat before Snitker has to explain it to Bobby Cox.

    In a way, it doesn’t bother me that these Braves are having to slather on the old Braves in these PR stories because when you’re not a winner you’ve got to draw on some past success. Snitker isn’t in the position that Bobby Cox is and was. So having Chipper and Andruw around to yell at these kids can only help some. We need this collection of talent, which includes Freeman, Enciarte, Albies, and Acuna to become a core. Hopefully that core will include Teheran, Folty, and Gohara just to name a few. If things can break right some this year, next year could get very, very interesting.

  19. @31 Rob, am I reading your post right – you think the Braves rushed “Folty, Wisler, Blair, Dansby, and probably even Newcomb” and ruined them? Frankly – out of all of those guys, Dansby is the only one who I’d say was definitely pushed up to the majors ahead of what a prudent development schedule might dictate, and he was a huge success in his first exposure to the bigs. For the rest, there was plenty of reason to think they were ready for MLB action, all had logged (at a minimum) substantial time at AA. Beyond that, it’s impossible to say that the Braves did anything to adversely affect the success of those guys – there’s no way to know how any of them would have done if the Braves had kept them down in the minors for longer. Beyond that, none of the players listed are “ruined” – sure, some of them suck (Blair) but I’m not sure that’s the Braves’ doing. The problem is there’s no good way to know if a prospect fails due to being rushed, or if they -like Aaron Blair- fundamentally lacks the skills to succeed.

    PS – I notice you didn’t list Albies on your “rushed and ruined” list, despite his extremely young age. I assume that’s because Albies looked really good last season and appears primed to succeed; ergo he was not rushed.

    PPS – I still expect good things from Dansby, Folty and Newk.

  20. For the record John Hart IS gone. He’s not banned from baseball, but he’s not in the organization anymore.

  21. @31/37, Out of the list of “Folty, Wisler, Blair, Dansby, and probably even Newcomb,” you could also argue that only Dansby really should be that good…

    With the exception of Dansby, they’re all the kinds of players you’d expect to get back when you’re trading players like JUpton or Gattis who are themselves limited and have dwindling years of control. Folty and Newcomb have real upside and real downside. The Astros clearly decided Folty was not going to be a part of their core, and you’d have to say they weren’t wrong.

    It’s not like the “Acuna, Albies, Ruiz, Camargo, Gohara, Fried, Sims” list are all, like, guaranteed MLB success stories by any means. Arguably Ruiz and Sims go in the category of “we’re only giving these guys a shot because we don’t have a better option right now.” Fried should go in the previous pile.

    But why not “rush” Aaron Blair if you need a warm body? His stuff just isn’t going to play. You could read the scouting reports and know that.

  22. Both Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb had better 24-year old seasons as rookies than did Dallas Keuchel.

  23. @18

    Jaff Decker
    D’yaff a fact checker?
    in the search for your bio
    it was strongly suggested we should lie low.

    congratulations to the poet for rhyming Jaff and not using pecker for decker.

  24. @42

    Dallas’s problem last post season was his feeling of enkeuchelment.


    apparently in a rush to get back to the motel.

  25. Like, if you’re setting up the straw man that I think Folty/Newcomb should be in this year’s bullpen, that’s not my position. Either or both could still pan out. I’m just not that sympathetic to the idea that we rushed them.

    And invoking Dallas Keuchel is just an amusingly weird variation of the “Glavine/Smoltz struggled as rookies too!” fallacy.

  26. “Rushed” is just what you say when it doesn’t work out. I don’t see anyone here crying about Acuna possibly hitting the majors at 20. But you’ll definitely see it if he hits .200 this year.

    You have to pre-register your “rushing” allegations before-hand if you want any cred ;-)

  27. I thought Newcomb wasn’t ready, but I was excited. It wouldn’t bother me at all if Kazmir was able to take his spot in the rotation. He needs to throw strikes.

  28. @37, 41

    Newcomb needed to demonstrate at the higher levels that he could throw strikes, in my opinion. He had a 6.00 BB/9 for the Angels in 7 AA starts. Spent all of 2016 at AA for Atlanta with a 4.56 BB/9. So you promote him to AAA, he makes 11 starts, and he has a 5.15 BB/9 (!!), and they call him up. If someone is struggling that much with their ability to throw strikes, let him spend more time at AAA. But we needed him. Bart had a 7.78 ERA at the time, and his last start was 3 2/3 IP and 8 ER, and at the time, we were 27-32, and a strong argument could be made that you could have flipped that record if Bart wasn’t so bad. The opposite of “rushing” a prospect is making them earn a promotion, and I’ve clearly outlined the circumstances that proved that Newcomb didn’t do that. So, in my opinion, that’s pretty darn close to rushing.

    Folty is even more obvious. The Astros had used him in relief in 2014. He had an ERA of 5 that year in AAA for Houston, and he had made 10 starts at AAA for Atlanta, the Braves were 19-20 at the time, and a rotation of Teheran, Shelby, Wood, Eric Stults (5.36 ERA at the time), and Trevor Cahill (ERA of 8.08) needed reinforcement. They probably felt like they were still in it. Folty didn’t earn a promotion either.

    Contrast that with what happens going forward. For Wright, Allard, and Soroka to see the rotation, for Wisler and Blair to see the bullpen, they will actually have to earn it. That was not the case when Folty and Newcomb were promoted. Newcomb should have made 30 starts at AAA and improved his walk rate. Folty should have at least spend more than 45 days at AAA before he got the call.

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