Game Thread: Where Is The Pitching?

There’s a schism amongst Braves fans, and it’s at the evaluation of the pitching side of the rebuild. The rebuild began 5 years ago — time flies when you’re having this much fun! — so we’ve had enough to at least make a “pass/fail” determination on how well the Braves have done rebuilding their team through pitching.

My grade? Fail. Harsh, maybe, but it’s certainly not “pass”, unless you’re referring to the desire to “pass” on watching all of these failed pitching prospects. I could spend 10,000 words on this subject, but the easy point is that you just simply can’t tell me that we’ve gotten enough yield out of Allard, Folty, Fried, Wisler, Blair, Touki, Sims (he was already around), Gohara, Soroka, Anderson, Wentz, Muller, Wright, Minter, Weigel, Wilson, Davidson, and the middling relief prospects that have come and go. Out of that list, on September 9, 2020, exactly 2 1/2 of them have become quality starting pitchers (Soroka, Fried, and Anderson is the “half”).

I don’t know what success looks like, but this is not it. 2.5 out of 17, using very rough numbers, is just not good enough. Yes, there is potential for one of more of these pitchers to work out. Obviously I would not give up on Kyle Wright at all. We haven’t even seen Kyle Muller yet. But if you’re 5 years in and you only have 2.5 pitchers to show for your offer, that ain’t it.

120 thoughts on “Game Thread: Where Is The Pitching?”

  1. One of Touki’s problems IMO is his purposeful varying of his delivery for the purpose of deception. While I enjoy watching pitchers who tinker with slow windups, quick pitches, varying arm slots….those are a master’s tools. Once you have the command of a Greinke or a Cueto, go nuts. But if you can’t throw a first pitch fastball for a strike…well, that’s just Job One.

  2. I hear what you’re saying, Rob, but just to piggyback on the mention of O’Flaherty on the last thread (or, as Mac called him at first, “O’Failurety”) — he’s a pretty great object lesson in the perils of giving up on a guy too early. In his first three seasons with Seattle, ages 21-23, he had cups of coffee in 2006 and 2008 sandwiched around a full season in 2007. In all, he twirled 70 innings with an ERA of 5.91, FIP of 4.42. Most of the ERA damage came in 6 2/3 horrific innings in 2008 when he gave up 15 runs.

    Bill Bavasi, the Franciscan monk of a GM who enriched numerous teams by giving away all of his team’s worldly possessions, was so unimpressed by that performance that he literally waived O’Flaherty, and the Braves took him.

    Just to refresh your memory, O’Flaherty was a Brave for the next five years, during which he threw 249 1/3 innings with an ERA of 1.99.

    Don’t give up on guys that easy.

  3. @4 But Atlanta is trying to have it both ways. They’re trying to not give up on guys too easily and therefore trade them away when they have value, and they’re also giving roster spots to veterans picked up in trade and free agency and not to the youngsters.

    In 2017, they said they had no more time to give starts to the kids. They need to be respectable. So they gave 62 starts to Dickey, Garcia, and Colon, and would have given even more to Colon had he been effective. And still to this day, I don’t think I can say that the Braves have had a coherent plan for what the heck they were really ever going to do almost 20 starting pitching prospects. What has happened with Folty and Newcomb have been unfortunate. They have given 175 starts to those two pitchers, we’re in the midst of our competitive window, and their value is at an all-time low. But we know that pitching prospects are a game of roulette, and so far, they have played the game and lost.

    This can change quickly. Newk or Folty, for instance, could come back and be lights out. But it’s hard to say that on September 9th, 2020 that the war is being won.

  4. By the way, Eric O’Flaherty gave up 15 ER in 6.1 the year he was released. That’s really, really bad. But he was only 23 and had options, so I’m not sure why Bavasi DFA’ed him unless he really needed that 40-man spot. And if he did, I can see why he would release a soft-tossing, unheralded lefty reliever with a 5.91 ERA in 70 career IP with Seattle. What he was immediately able to do for Atlanta is nothing short of amazing, but it’s not like Seattle released Billy Wagner while he was leading the league in saves.

  5. In the late ’80’s and early ’90’s there were a lot of highly regarded prospects who didn’t make it: Paul Marek, Nied, Ben Rivera, Gary Eave, Eddie Mathews, Brad Woodall, Dennis Burlingame, Donnie Elliott, Kevin Coffman, Marty Clary, Kevin Blankenship, Matt Murray. I’m sure there were more. Then there were guys kind of made it but didn’t live up to their promise, like Tommy Greene and Pete Smith. Lilliquist.

  6. Let’s walk through again.

    Any high school pitcher added after the 2015 season is just now 22 years old. The more recent draftees are even younger.

    Braves went heavy to high school to get ceiling. Not an unreasonable thing.

    The “look like they may never be anything or already absolutely flamed out” group is composed of trade pick ups. Some of the trade pick ups were obviously “maybe we can get by” guys (Wisler, Blairt).
    Some of them were “raw, but if everything breaks right, magnificent” (Fried, Gohara, Newcombe, Fotynewicz, Toussaint). As a group the “trade objects” haven’t produced what you would expect. You now have Fried and younger players that haven’t quite done it (Ynoa and De La Cruz).

    The draftees are a different thing. Out of those you have traded Allard and Wentz. You have gotten a good one in Soroka. You have apparently now a good reliever in Minter. You have Anderson who still is probably on track to be somewhere from a 3 to better than that. Then, you have the problem children in Wright and Wilson. You also have the “we pulled a rabbit out of the worn out hat of the late rounds” in Weigel and Tucker Davidson.

    Yes, the Braves tried to work 2 ways at the same time (finish developing the young un’s and find somebody to cover innings to keep from having to use the young un’s). Each year I felt they played that about right. Last year they went to get Keuchel after it became clear there wasn’t a likely step up in any of the prospects that would help 2019. They may have done a poor job in developing the pitchers. They may have done a poor job in evaluating them. However, I do not feel that overall it was a bad thing.

    Actually, it can be viewed that the position side came on stronger and faster than anybody expected and was too good not to push forward on a faster time line than was reasonable once the “trade objects” were failing left and right. This is kind of what I think. If Ozzie and Ronald aren’t knocking hard by 2017, I think you probably would not have seen as many inning eating arms brought in.

  7. @6, I noted his horrific 2008, but he was hurt (back injury), which is typically the kind of reason why you see results like that. I wouldn’t totally say he was “soft-tossing” — he threw in the low 90s, which wasn’t bad for a lefty back in those days. As I noticed when I wrote about him two years ago, Dave Cameron more or less called it back in 2006, two years before they stupidly waived him:

    O’Flaherty, by the way, is pretty good. He was drafted out of Walla Walla HS in the sixth round of the 2003 draft. They tried him as a starter in ’04 with poor results, but improved after a move to the bullpen and a repeat assignment in Wisconsin last year. He started the season in Inland Empire and worked his way up to Tacoma while sustaining lights out success at each level.

    He throws 90-93 from the left side with good sink on his fastball. He has an above average slider and good command.

    He’s just 21 and has taken a big step forward this year. With his sinking fastball and effective out-pitch slider, he could be a very good left handed reliever. He’s pretty much major league ready, and it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see him pitch quite well the rest of the year.

    Don’t give up on guys that easy.

  8. @9 I’m just saying that it was not obvious that O’Flaherty was going to be as good as he was. And he was quite bad at the time. So if there was a roster crunch at the time, which I don’t know, then I can see why he wouldn’t have waited around for O’Flaherty’s upside. It’s like us in 2017 when we’re starved for pitching and we let David Hernandez go, who then has a 2.23 in 36 IP for the Angels. Wisler’s dealing for Minnesota. Lucas Sims is dealing for Cincinnati. None of these are as significant as O’Flaherty, but I just don’t begrudge GMs when they let a reliever go who is struggling.

  9. Serious question for the bar?

    Simply put, other than paying young promising players way below market value early on and gambling on them being what they think they are… what is the Braves Plan ™?

    Like what is the Braves P L A N right now?

    I watch every game and have since probably the 80s and I can’t really tell you what our organizational “philosophy” is. What is it? What do you think we’re teaching hitters outside of the fundamentals of baseball as it has always been taught. Likewise, what about with pitchers?

    Look, I’m a curmudgeon and they aren’t a bad franchise. At all.

    But it’s a bar to talk baseball, LOL.

    I’m not meme-ing btw, I am completely serious.

  10. @8

    It just depends on what success actually looks/looked like. 5 years into this, where should we be? And I recognize that I’m setting some arbitrarily line that we are falling just short of, but I think the goal would be that by 2020, we’d have had 4 excellent starting pitchers. In a few weeks, we might very well be saying we have 3: Soroka, Fried, and Anderson. And had Newcomb or Folty been effective this year, we’d have our 4+, injuries notwithstanding. And baseball’s a funny game; we might be sitting here this time next month, and Newcomb and Folty have both come back, pitched well, pitched well in playoff games, and we’re talking about how cheap, young, and elite our starting pitching is. That’s baseball. Maybe Kyle Wright rights the ship (see what I did there?). Who knows.

    But you can’t sit here and tell me that on September 9th, 2020, we’re winning the war.

  11. @11 – I have been thinking about this a lot since the trade deadline, and I think it goes back to the fact that there have been 2 different architects in this rebuild. Coppy had a plan; it was not necessarily a great plan, but AA inherited it and it’s not clear to me that he has the same plan, or even what the plan is.

    I wrote this “Where Do We Go From Here?” shortly after Coppy left in 2017: https://bravesjournal.us/2017/10/30/where-do-we-go-from-here-third-base/

    “Once upon a time there was a Plan, and the Plan involved trading established ballplayers for prospects, with the idea some would succeed, some would flame out, and some would be traded for established ballplayers. I’m not sure the Plan understood the conservation of mass, but now the Plan is dead. Long live the Plan, whatever it is.”

    It was recognized then that a lot of guys acquired would not be part of the next great team, but the idea of trading prospects for established ballplayers seems to have mostly gone out the window. leaving us only with successes and flame outs.

  12. I would prefer there not be a Plan. A Plan suggests to me a preference for adherence over professional autonomy. A Plan is vulnerable to myopia and toadyism. This is why I prefer to root for a team that tries to win every year. Baseball has already been invented, there’s no need to do it again.

  13. No, of course they haven’t. I bailed on them for three or four years because of the move and the tanking, and I’ll never go back to the degree of fandom I once had. But I missed the game, and I’m compelled to watch and root for the exciting core talent we now have.

  14. @13

    Amongst players on the current roster, Shane Greene, Chris Martin, Darren O’Day, Mark Melancon, and Adam Duvall were all acquired in trades where we sent a prospect over. So it’s not like we never traded a prospect for an established player. I think what you might be referring to is that the deal that Hart and Coppy always talked about was the one where we packaged up a couple/few pretty good prospects to land an established player with some control. Shane Greene is probably your closest to that. Duvall was intended to be that, then he was a disappointment, and then he was not. Allard-for-Martin would also be an example of that. But I think it was more of a thought that you’d trade more to get an established starting pitcher or an every day middle-of-the-order bat, not relievers and platoon players. I think the thought was that the prospects would become the relievers and the platoon players.

    There’s also just frustration that we seemed to collect pitching prospects, have very little to show for it, and instead we have young nucleus of position players, which didn’t seem to be our focus, and a couple were already here before we started this whole thing.

  15. I’m sure you’d be shocked but I don’t think that collecting pitching prospects to be a wise proposition. I’d go so far to say its one of those thing that sounds good but doesn’t work out too often.

    I’d much rather collect young position players, which given the demand vagaries of baseball historically, should be easier to do…

    IMO you develop hitters, you trade for and sign proven FA pitchers. Period. Any SP prospect you produce is closer to luck than skill. Nothing will dissuade me.

  16. In general, the Braves strategy, to the extent it is one, is to win 89 games a year, sneak into the playoffs, and roll the dice. Ideally they’d like to do so with a payroll in the bottom half of the league, which they believe can buy them a good enough roster of about four stars (three homegrown, ideally at least one of three making the minimum), eight average starting players, a decent cheap catching platoon, a couple cheap unproven pitching prospects, seven relievers ranging from crappy to above-average, and a few veterans who suck.

    Rinse and repeat.

    Free agent pitchers cost hundreds of millions of dollars and get hurt. No wonder the Braves don’t want to sign anyone more expensive than Derek Lowe.

  17. No offense to TDA, who has been good, but he shouldn’t be batting 4th.

    Kinda agreed, @19, made even more worrisome with the whole covid/debt/payroll situation

  18. That patented Tommy Milone command. This team deserves everything it gets by letting guys like this start games. The better team is winning this series

  19. @19

    Which is why they will never win a World Series under current ownership. When they miss, they have to recoup their losses. Which is why Craig Kimbrel had to go to get rid of B.J. Upton’s contract.

  20. @31, it’s really extraordinary. He’s so short to the ball and generates such easy power, AND now he’s walking all the time. What a hitter.

  21. I don’t have a good feel about What AA’s “plan” is, but he’s done a helluva job signing free agent position players on short term deals—Donaldson and now Ozuna and TDA.

  22. I would let- nay, insist- that Milone throw 120 pitches tonight. At his current pace that won’t even get him through 6 innings anyway, but he’s basically expendable so use him up.

    Edit- unless he keeps on giving up 3-run homers, obviously.

  23. This soft tossing hack with no command needs to be dfa’d. This will be twice we scored him a ton of runs and he won’t get the win

  24. Jazz Chisholm in 2020, before facing Tommy Milone on September 9: 17 plate appearances, .063/.118/.063.

    Jazz Chisholm, facing Tommy Milone: 2-2, 1 3B, 1 HR

  25. I appreciate the reason for wanting to get 120 pitches from Milone, but clearly the Braves would be trailing if that happened.
    And now he has no choice to go to the pen in the 4th inning.

  26. They are still starting Erlin, who they didn’t even pay anything to acquire, so don’t get your hopes up.

  27. @62 if not for covid, I’d like for this to be a promotional event. “Rake the Milone”

    Kinda like racing the Freeze, but in this case you actually have a good chance of winning.

  28. Thirteen runs in three innings ain’t enough for this pitching staff to not feel like they’re teetering on blowing the game.

  29. Tommy Milone is the first starting pitcher in the modern era to have his team score 10+ runs in an inning while he was in the game twice in the same season and not earn the win in either one.

    — Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) September 10, 2020

  30. Anthopoulos: “Our pitching prospects are too good to trade for a legit starter such as Clevinger, but they’re not good enough to start over Tommy Milone.”

  31. Anyone else think this season will end like 2019’s? With the Braves bounced out of the first round and with Foltynewicz starting the deciding game and not getting out of the first. Déjà vu.

  32. Remember when I was saying no one is taking this season seriously, including the players?

    Yeah that.

  33. LOL at bringing in a new pitcher to face Ender. I know Yamamoto’d thrown a million pitches but at least let him go out on a high note.

    Edit- bigger LOL at me for my lack of belief in Ender, clearly.

  34. @84–yeah, that really is taking one for the team. They’ve got two doubleheaders coming up in the next series.
    When Mattingly just took the kid out, Chip imagines that he thanked him for eating innings when the team needed it. Thing is, he only made it 2.2 innings. (He did toss 94 pitches.)

  35. I think Burdette made up for that later, though.

  36. Surprisingly, not much. Talking more about all the home runs.

    Freddie Freeman has a .451 OBP, Acuña has a .433 OBP, Ozuna has a .400 OBP.

    Ozuna, Freeman, Acuña, and Duvall are all slugging over .600.

  37. I’d love for Bryse to pitch 4 strong innings to end this, DFA Milone, and then Bryse would be in line to start next time around. He can’t be any worse than Milone.

  38. Not a perfect appearance by any means, but at least Wilson didn’t live down to our lowest expectations.

    I’ll bet the original Louisiana brand hot sauce is pretty thrilled they paid money to endorse this offense.

  39. If we can do this with Ender Inciarte in the lineup, imagine what we could do with him out of the lineup.

  40. OK, my ironic comment for the day. Tonight was made possible by NOT starting Nick Markakis.

    Also, note that the spark for all of this was a weak Albies GB to score the first run. He actually showed us how to score a runner from 3rd with less than 2 outs. This team NEEDS a healthy Ozzie.

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