Unlike all of the rest of you, I was present at Mike Soroka’s major league debut on May 1st of last year. This give me the wholly unwarranted feeling that I own him and have generously agreed to lend the ability to view his talents to the rest of you. Before he’d ever thrown an MLB pitch, I called him “clearly the best Canadian the Braves have ever had,” and said that Canada owes us 1.2 WAR just to get us back to even. Debt paid. He’s put up 5.5. I wrote a updated version of the Sorokan anthem earlier this year.
As it happens, I recapped that game, including a picture of his first major league pitch. He beat Thor 3-2, and my overwhelming impression of him was how calm he seemed on the mound… in his major league debut, a time when players are supposed to be so amped up that mental mistakes are expected.
I note that his six innings were then completed by Shane Carle, Dan Winkler, AJ Minter and Arodys Vizcaino. This was only last year, folks, and only one of them Is on the Braves’ 40 man today. But I digress.
When he went down with shoulder troubles the next month and didn’t pitch again in 2018, a lot of people got off the Soroka bandwagon. But I have a picture of his first pitch. I was invested. What he showed this year was exactly the great calm he showed in that first outing. All year long.
He came out of the gate with a fantastic start reminiscent of the incandescent start of Buzz Capra in 1974. After 10 starts he was 7-1 with a 1.38 ERA. That was unsustainable of course (especially since our current opponent won’t allow me to mention the one time it was sustained) but 13-4 and a 2.68 is a number 1 starter in today’s game. The Braves were 19-10 in games he started (well above our overall winning percentage) and a lot of those games were in the Era of Bullpen Agony. But even from his first game, he has done what he is supposed to do; pitch 100 or so pitches and leave with a lead. That’s what aces do nowadays.
Even though he’s our best pitcher (and I say this even given Folty’s recent brilliance) he’s starting the 3rd game because of his superior performance on the road. This is less because he’s bad in STP (as for example, Teheran was last year) but because his calmness plays well on the road. He’s 7-1 with a 1.55 ERA outside of STP. In other people’s homes, he is allowing an OPS of .543. I would call him a rude guest, but he’s Canadian, and they’re never rude. Just very good at what they do.
So while you would expect the normal level of nervousness for a rookie making his major league postseason debut in an enemy park in a crucial game, if there’s anyone I wouldn’t worry about, it’s Mike Soroka. Just like his MLB debut, he’s going to be a lot calmer than I am. Michael John Graydon Soroka: M-m-m-ike’s got The Knack. Go Get ‘Em.