So you ride yourselves over the fields
And you make all your animal deals
And your wise men don’t know how it feels
To be thick as a brick
When it comes to pitching prospects, I’m the opposite of our own Chief Nocahoma. Some on here accuse Chief of being unduly pessimistic about all prospects. I will admit to irrational optimism. I fully realize TINSTAAPP; that expression summarizes much of my Braves fandom for the first 25 years of Atlanta Braves history. But then along came Glavine, Smoltz, and Avery—three homegrown pitching prospects who blossomed into a rotation that took the Braves to the World Series in 1991 and 1992.
Over the years, I remember some eagerly anticipated major league debuts from highly rated Braves pitching prospects. In August 1987, Tom Glavine started against the Astros. He went 3 2/3, giving up 10 hits and 5 walks; he was fortunate that he surrendered only 6 runs. The Astros went on to defeat the Braves 11-2. Glavine’s ERA after one start was 14.73. Tom went on to finish that season with a 2-4 record and an ERA of 5.54 9 in 9 starts.
Three years later, another young lefty, this one even more highly regarded, made his debut in June. Steve Avery had been the number 3 overall pick just two years before. I was especially excited about this one, as the Braves, who had been simply horrible for many years, were starting to show signs of life. Glavine and Smoltz, after taking some lumps, had started to figure it out, showing flashes of who they would become. And Avery had dominated in the minor leagues, skipping AAA to make his major league debut. Avery went 2 1/3 innings, surrendering 8 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks. The Reds won that game 13-4. Avery’s ERA after one start was 30.86. Steve went on to finish the 1990 season with a 3-11 record and an ERA of 5.64 in 20 starts
John Smoltz turned in a terrific 8 inning start in his debut against the Mets in June 1988—one run on 4 hits in a 6-1 Braves victory. (That doesn’t fit my narrative, though, so I’m downplaying that one. ) Although that first start was a gem, Smoltz finished the season with a 2-7 record and an ERA of 5.48 in 12 starts.
Nineteen years after Avery’s debut, Tommy Hanson made his major league debut in June 2009 against the Brewers. I remember this one especially well. Hanson had dominated the minors, and the previous fall he was the MVP of the Arizona Fall League. My son had seen him pitch in the desert and raved about Hanson’s stuff. Hanson went 6 innings, giving up 6 earned runs on 6 hits and one walk. Unfortunately, 3 of those hits left the yard. Hanson’s ERA after one start was 9.00. The Braves did manage to win this one 8-7, with a 3 run 8th inning. Unlike the other guys above, Hanson shook off the disappointing debut and turned in an excellent rookie season. In 21 starts, he went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA; he finished third in the ROY voting.
* * *
Which brings us to Ian Anderson. Like Avery, he was the number three overall draft pick. But despite my general optimism about pitching prospects, the history recounted above led me to fully expect that Anderson would struggle in his own anticipated debut. After all, he was facing the best pitcher in the game in the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole, who hadn’t lost in 27 consecutive starts. And Anderson is a New York native who grew up a Red Sox fan in Yankees country. Ian has great stuff, but he’s had only a few starts above AA, and of course no real game action this year.
So once again, what the hell do I know? In case you haven’t heard, Anderson made the most phenonemal major league debut that I’ve ever seen. He no hit the Yankees through 5 and a third, until Luke Voit launched a solo homer to right. He completed six innings, giving up just the one hit and one run.
Although not as surprising as Anderson’ performance, I did not expect the Braves to hit three dingers and score four runs off Cole in the first three innings. But that’s exactly what they did. RAJ made his own debut, coming off a couple of weeks on the Injured List. I figured he’d be rusty and that it would take him a few games to get his timing back. So of course he took a Cole fastball in his first AB and deposited it some 473 feet away in the left field bleachers—the longest home run of Ronald’s career. In the third Dansby hit a two run shot to right, and then Ozuna hit a solo shot almost as far as Ronald’s.
In the bottom of the sixth the Braves tacked on an insurance run on doubles by Freeman and Markakis. Chip and Jeff got a kick out of the fact that Nick’s tied him with Babe Ruth on the all time doubles list.
Shane Greene pitched a scoreless ninth to seal a 5-1 Braves victory.
Max Fried pitches the nightcap. His high school classmates Giolito and Flaherty have given up a total of one hit in their last two starts. I think Max can match them.