Who Goes Where When Keuchel Gets Here?

At some point, Dallas Keuchel will wear an Atlanta uniform. Everything from reporters is saying that he’ll be here in a month, but like I said in the comments, it would also be smart for them to under-promise, over-deliver. I fail to see how Keuchel would need much more than 3 starts. If he’s up to throwing 90 pitches on his own, then that’s typically the last start of a starting pitcher’s Spring Training. So mark these words: I think Keuchel makes his first start somewhere between the 21st and 24th of this month.

It doesn’t seem like the Braves are interested in a 6-man rotation, so that means that someone has to go. Gabe Burns speculates that it’ll be Kevin Gausman, which probably makes sense. In his last 7 starts, Gaus has a 7.50 ERA across 30 innings. So right off the bat, just putting a competent SP in the rotation will give us more than the 4 innings per start Gausman has been able to give for the last month and a half, which will undoubtedly allow the pen to relax a little. And he’s just been getting tagged: .895 OPS against in those starts, and hitters are hitting a Cobbian .398 on balls in play. He ain’t fooling anybody.

So the big advantage Keuchel gives you is obviously another starter in the rotation that is a true proven commodity. Keuchel has never, ever had a stretch as bad as Gausman’s in his career. And from a roster construction standpoint, avoiding stretches where a starting pitcher is just completely useless really allows the manager and GM to control their bullpen much better. So we’ll see an obvious benefit to replacing Gausman with Keuchel.

But now you get another benefit. You can put Gausman in a bullpen that has actually been pretty good in the last couple weeks. I had been planning on a post specifically about the bullpen, but I’ll just you a quick rundown of how the pen has evolved from neanderthal to almost homo sapien:

March/April: 104 IP, 5.63 BB/9, .303 BIP, 4.41 ERA, 5.06 FIP

May 1-21: 70.2 IP, 3.69 BB/9, .340 BABIP, 4.84 ERA, 4.66 FIP

May 22 – June 7: 54.2 IP, 3.29 BB/9, .262 BABIP, 3.79 ERA, 4.54 FIP

I included those starts to show that obviously the bullpen had been putrid, and it’s now not bad. They made a big adjustment in May in cutting down walks, and that led to more hard-hit balls, but they’ve been able to improve both of them in the last 2 1/2 weeks, limiting hard contact while also limiting walks. FIP doesn’t like them as much since they’ve been a little unlucky with the home run ball. But since May 21st, the Braves have the 5th-best bullpen ERA in all of baseball. Weird.

So adding Keuchel means you just get to throw another quality arm into the pen. People more analytical than I can tell you exactly why Gausman has been terrible, but it’s hard to disagree with the idea that Gausman will probably be more effective if he can come in and air it out in the bullpen. It seems to have worked for the majority of our starters that have moved to the pen.

And if Gausman can right the ship in the pen, Keuchel’s addition also gives us even more flexibility to either trade Julio Teheran, cover an injury, or allow one of our young pitchers to control their innings. I still think the team is short an elite reliever or two, but adding Keuchel at least gets you another guy in the pen for now that can help.

38 thoughts on “Who Goes Where When Keuchel Gets Here?”

  1. Rob, I’ m neither Strunk nor White, but I appreciate good style. Your words, never less than good, have become polished over the years. You, sir, write well.

    Thank you.

  2. What if….. What if Gausman’s problems are due to a leaky infield defense? What if our infield defense is currently comparable to the Orioles’ last year? If Keuchel is an extreme GB pitcher, is there a possibility he succumbs to the same fate?

    Gausman’s FIP is close to last years with the Braves and his xFIP corresponds to close to his Orioles days. We are not being honest about how well Gausman is really doing.

  3. Have you watched Gausman the last 2 starts? A majority of the hits have been rockets, he isn’t fooling anyone. Not many cheap hits in there.

    Your point about defense isn’t entirely without merit though. The team as a whole has been underperforming their capabilities so far this season it seems. Hopefully it’s a small sample size thing and will get back on track.

  4. @3 His poor 2nd inning against the Pirates included 5 singles after 2 outs, three of which were on the ground. Either positioning or poor defense contributed to that disaster.

    I’m not the one that says his FIP is 4.02. That’s Fangraphs. To me that means over 2 runs per game are the result of poor defense in Gausman’s starts.

  5. There’s an article on mlb.com touting the Braves’ Dallas signing. In it the author lauds the Braves defense and says that our boys are number two by defensive efficiency rating, not in the NL but in MLB.

    Two of 30 ain’t bad, but I don’t know (or care, really) who’s doing the rating or what yardstick they’re using. Regardless, somebody somewhere thinks we play good defense.

  6. DeRo also loves the signing, of course. He mentioned the mentoring aspect for Soroka and Fried.
    I don’t think AA is done. He might be just getting started. The Phillies have some problems with McCutchen out.

  7. @Roger

    I watched every pitch Gausman threw last night and there is 0 FIP numbers that can show how frickin’ hard the ball was hit nearly every time the opponent made contact. There’s no FIP numbers that can show how simple the approach can be for a hitter when, truly, the only pitch that can find the strike zone is FB that 80% of the pitchers in the MLB can throw.

    If Gausman wants to be a successful SP, he’s going to have to find a 3rd pitch. Even if it isn’t that effective, it’ll create imbalance and boost the other 2 pitches.

    Or…or he becomes a 1 inning reliever that pushes his 95-96 to 98-99 and finds his value again.

  8. Yeah, if you’re claiming that Gausman was unlucky on balls in play or the victim of bad defense the other night, you either didn’t watch the game or you’re being willfully obtuse. He was beaten to within a half-inch of his life.

    I’d be willing to bet that every single one of those ground balls you’re referencing came off the bat at over 100 mph. None of them were fieldable. Some of them were borderline unfieldable even if they’d been hit right at somebody.

  9. Duvall was acquired to platoon with Ender. Ender got hot and the plan was gone. Duvall ended up starting 8 games total in a #Braves uniform.

    I say this because, with Snitker at the helm and AA not interfering, it’s going to take an act of Congress to get Snit to platoon Kakes

  10. Neanderthals had really sturdy frames and hunted with heavy spears. I bet they’d make good bullpen arms.

  11. Alex…

    what chance did he have the little rest they gave him. Incomprehensible with who we have available. Totally predictable lousy man management.

  12. @12

    I’m sorry the local blackout up here precluded my seeing this 100mph barrage. Must have been something, they had to have bitched in the dugout, surely.

  13. @8 I guess data has no meaning when you don’t want it to. You only look at one start, but his FIP is calculated over all his starts.

    @6 I have seen that, but someone posted here in the last couple of days that the Braves GB defense is near the worst in the league. Apparently, their FB defense is near the best. I think that’s according to Statcast. MLB.com’s DER has consistently had us near the top, but FG has consistently had our defense in the 20s out of the 30 teams. Who’s right? I don’t know, but my eye test tells me the defense is not nearly as good as last year. I think Freddie’s range has been reduced and that Dansby and JD don’t work together all that well (Camargo is missed on defense at 3B). I have watched a lot of games this year (yes, actually watched, Ryan) and a helluva lot of GBs are getting through more than last year for all the pitchers. Maybe the ball is even more juiced and the EVs are higher, I dunno. But it’s out there.

    Gausman to the bullpen did not work well with the O’s. He will be better in the 2nd half. This is not unusual for his 1st half performances. Another example of “if he could only extend that 2nd half performance into next year” expectation that almost never works out.

  14. I wish Snitker would see the light on Markakis. We are at another point like last year. His hot-out-of-the-gate performance is in the past and now he needs to be back in a platoon or as an occasional starter off the bench. Same pattern as last year, ain’t it?

    I also think it’s time to shake up the lineup to turn the offense around. Wouldn’t it be fun having Riley hit behind Freddie? JDs strikeouts and Markakis’ slump are killing the middle of the lineup. Would we get more production if Camargo got optioned to AAA to get regular ABs and Duvall came up to take Nick’s place as the primary half of a platoon?

  15. Johan may as well go to AAA. He’s only getting a couple of at bats a week in Atlanta. What a waste of talent!

  16. Pretty lame of Snitker to let the blowpen ruin Soroka’s ERA lead. Why even send him out to start the ninth inning just to pull him after one walk?

    And Winkler ‘stuck the landing’ on the Grybo by getting the final two outs without allowing any of his own runs to score, lowering his personal ERA.

  17. And the run belongs to Soroka. Thank you, Mr. Winkler. But …

    Braves win! Braves win!

  18. Ugh, I’m pissed that Soroka didn’t get a chance to finish off the complete game. Winkler sucks.

  19. And Winkler ‘stuck the landing’ on the Grybo

    When it comes to Braves Journal isms, that’s a deep track. Well done.

  20. That means Keuchel will make exactly 3 rehab starts then be called up the next day.

  21. On that basis when will his 1 year contract expire? What happens in June ’20, middle of the campaign? Or does such a contract automatically extend itself to the end of the season? How?

  22. I think the contract expires at the end of this season. On paper, he signed a one-year deal worth about $21MM but he’s only going to collect the pro-rated amount of $13MM.

  23. @braves14
    That could very well be the case, but if June 18th is the day…

    6/8- 1st rehab start
    6/13- 2nd rehab start
    6/18 is activation day, which would be his day to start.

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