2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Chad Sobotka

You know you’ve had a strange season when your most memorable incident was hurting your teammate…while playing catch on a travel day. Such was the year of Chad Sobotka. Chad was an out-of-nowhere bullpen stud in 2018, and made the club out of spring training with some relatively lofty expectations for 2019.


The first two appearances of the year were actually really encouraging, with 2 IP, 1 H, 2 K, and 0 BB. And then the wheels fell off the bus. Over his next ten innings, Chad gave up 13 runs (!) and was promptly IL’ed with an abdominal strain at the end of April. From that point onwards, it almost felt like Sobotka was an afterthought, both for the rest of the season and moving forward. The crazy part is, he actually wasn’t bad, and may have even been good.

Post-Injury: Minor Leagues

Once Chad got healthy, he was sent to Gwinnett on a minor league stint. He would stay there for basically all of June and August, with trips to Atlanta in July and September. His surface numbers for the Stripers were less than encouraging: 20.2 IP, 4.79 ERA, 23 H, 11 R, 4 BB, 32 K. But a deeper dig shows that he was simultaneously unlucky and let down by his fielders behind him. Chad’s BABIP was an astronomical .408 and his xFIP was 2.63, which would have put him in the top 10 of all minor league players if he had enough innings to qualify.

Post-Injury: Major Leagues

There was less bad luck at the major league level, but still enough to heavily way his number down. Over the rest of the season in the majors, Chad was actually pretty good. Aside from a meltdown against the Nationals where he gave up 4 runs and got one out, his rest of season numbers were decent. 16.9 IP, 2.72 ERA, 15 H, 5 R, 10 BB, 21 K.

Next Season’s Outlook

I have Chad as a prime bounce back candidate for a solid 2020 season. He is probably not the closer of the future, but he absolutely could have a role in the back half of the bullpen. He needs to work on some things, but for a player with roughly only a year of MLB experience, there is still plenty of time for him to figure it out.

17 thoughts on “2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Chad Sobotka”

  1. Sobotka meets the Braves rebuild pitching archetype. That is, he has great stuff, but if he harnesses it better, he could be really good. If he doesn’t harness it, he could be cold crap.

    I put his odds now (WAG method) at

    decent ML reliever: 40%
    really good but not great: 15%
    elite: 5%

  2. Also, though ultimately probability variance is an issue, I believe the Nationals as now constituted almost show the formula for postseason success. Actually, the Astros and Dodgers both do as well.

    1. Maximum quality in your 3 best starters.
    2. Maximum quality in your 3 best relievers, one of who needs to be lefthanded (or your 4th reliever is also very good and is lefthanded).
    3. Hitters with patience and power.

    1 and 2 were both “iffy” for Braves this year. Actually, no better than last year overall. 3 went from pretty good last year to excellent when adding in JD and getting Albies a little more patient and a little more effective against righthanders.

    I think the development of the young pitching will make both 1 and 2 better this year. Keeping Green with Melancon coming back would almost solve 2 IF either Sobotka or Minter or somebody launches to his peak.

    So, offseason work:

    a. Sign JD
    b. Trade for or sign an elite starting pitcher, if possible without hamstringing everything.
    c. Maybe pick up 1 elite reliever, but probably can’t and won’t if b happens.

    The you have a division pennant competitive team with a good (not super team) chance to advance.

  3. Sobotka had an elite slider in 2018 for about 2 weeks then it disappeared. I’ve heard mix things and neither were concrete:
    1. He was using a “frowned upon” substance for grip.
    2. The pitch was killing his arm.

    Either way, I’m guessing that slider is going to be less effective but if there’s one pitcher that could benefit from training at Driveline, it would be Sobotka. Increasing his FB velo to 98-99 and getting his slider more consistent could change his results dramatically.

  4. @2
    I think it’s worth pointing out that the elite SP/RP don’t necessarily have to be on the team until the trade deadline. I think back to the acquisition of Zack Greinke and what that could’ve meant for the 2019 playoff run.

    Maybe the Braves didn’t feel it was the right time to make a big move like this, but Greinke getting 2 starts against the Cards likely changes the series.

  5. @Ryan Cothran I’m really enjoying the things you hear about. Just as soon as we hit the winter, I’m hopeful I’ll begin to hear more interesting stuff from my scout buddy. Should be a fun off-season. Should be… :)

  6. Am I wrong to not care one bit about who the rivals hire as their manager? Even Joe Girardi, a World Series-winning, big name manager. Who’s to say his success wasn’t entirely fueled by the fact that he managed the most expensive teams in baseball?

  7. I also don’t really care about who another team hires as their manager. I think front office hires and staffs are significantly more important. Unless you watch a team play for an entire season, the manager is relatively unimportant.

  8. @8 I think the wrong hire can negatively move the needle for a club, like when the Sox hired Valentine. Otherwise I’m somewhat inclined to agree with you.

    Girardi won’t be that awful, nor is he probably that great. I do feel he’ll be a slight upgrade over Kapler for them, only because Kapler was pretty awful. It still comes down to the players on the field though, and right now Braves and Nats are both better than the Phils. I honestly like the Mets talent better, too.

  9. I promised I’d do my retrospectives before the end of the WS. The Astros better pick up the pace or they’re going to make a liar out of me….

  10. The more I think about the postseason, the more I think that the Braves need a different manager. The team loves Snit, and I think he’s a great person also. But, the Braves weren’t outplayed so much in the post season, as they were out managed. Maybe it wasn’t all on Snit that Keuchel made 2 starts. Nor that Freeman and Donaldson weren’t hitting. But both game 1 and 4 were there for the taking. The bullpen management was bad. That led to the failure to move to the next round. Braves management isn’t going to make a move. But I’d like to see them go in another direction.

  11. @12 Snit just got Manager of the Year at Sporting News and may get two in a row from MLB. He’s not going anywhere.

  12. 12 and 14 – I think too many are focusing on a couple of decisions that didn’t work out and not giving credit for ones that did. Say what you will about the way the starting pitchers should have been lined up, Atlanta got ace performances in games 2 and 3 and had those two guys started different games the stories may have been different. Also I think Snit correctly had the quick hook with Keuchel in games 1 and 4. Also the usage of Duvall wound up being just about perfect and he had a big impact because of it.

    The things I didn’t like were:

    – starting McCann and Markakis every game
    – not sticking with the hot hand (Fried in game 1, Tomlin in game 4)

    Things that could’ve gone either way:

    – Only letting Soroka start 1 game
    – Keuchel over Julio in game 4

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