The Braves gave Josh Tomlin a role with few expectations, and he lived up to them. Pitching mostly in long relief, Tomlin got 4 outs or more in 25 of his 50 relief appearances. He put up a 3.74 ERA, and had a 1.122 WHIP, largely fueled by walking only 7 batters in his 79 1/3 innings. He allowed 82 hits and struck out 51.
Tomlin was signed in March after spending 9 seasons in Cleveland and a failed Spring tryout with the Brewers. Josh was mostly a starter in Cleveland, and he led the A.L in shutouts in 2014 with 5. However, in 2018 he was coming off of a 6.14 ERA and 1.479 WHIP.
Tomlin was trusted with the 7th most innings pitched of any Brave, behind only the 5 starters, and by 2/3 of an inning, Kevin Gausman. Despite this, Josh was only involved in 3 decisions: 2 wins and a loss. He finished 21 games and had 2 saves. He also started a game. 65% of his batters faced were in low leverage situations.
There are arguments that the long relief role is a good way to break young starters into the majors, but the Braves elected to go with a 34 year old veteran. Sometimes you need that long reliever to take a beating, or possibly to throw more pitches than might otherwise be healthy. I’m reminded of what the eponymous walk-on was told in the movie “Rudy” – “Your greatest value to us is we don’t care if you get hurt.” With Tomlin now a free agent, we will see if the Braves will go young or old in 2020.