2020 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Robbie Erlin

I’m showing Erlin with the Padres because I want to forget he was ever a Brave. Plus, I’m pretty sure there will never be an Atlanta Robbie Erlin baseball card.

In the history of baseball, 45 pitchers have pitched in 9 games with 5 starts, some of them spectacularly, like the 19 year old Rick Ankiel in 1999. Two of them pitched for the Braves in 2020, neither spectacularly. One of them, Huascar Ynoa, did all of his work with the Braves. The other, Robbie Erlin, split his season between Pittsburgh (2 games, no starts, 5.40 ERA) and Atlanta (7 games, 5 starts, 8.49 ERA). The Braves acquired Erlin when Pittsburgh waived him on August 7, and he hung around for 5 weeks before being released on September 14th.

Pittsburgh was 3-11 when they let Robbie go. There are two ways to think about this:

  • (a) A player who can’t help a 3-11 team isn’t a very good player
  • (b) A team that’s 3-11 may not be a very good judge of who’s a good player.

Alex Anthopolous went with theory (b). I want to be fair about this decision. Mike Soroka had gone down on August 3, and Anthopolous was probably still in shock. I know I was. There were no other starting pitchers signed by anyone between August 4 and August 7.

So I’m just assuming that AA watched the waiver wire and thought: “I’m taking anyone on the waiver wire who’s had over 30 career starts” Robbie just happened to be the guy who popped up. In favor of theory (a), though, after Erlin left the Pirates were 16-30, so there seemed to be improvement by subtraction. Not a lot of improvement, mind you, but this is the Pirates we’re talking about – baby steps.

His initial appearance was an appearance in relief against Philadelphia after Sean Newcomb had given up 8 runs. Erlin gave up three homers in 43 pitches.  To be fair, that was his worst appearance.   His next performance was his only good one: four shutout innings against the Marlins. But in only two of his seven appearances, none of which went beyond 4 innings, did he not yield a homer, and he ended up with a less-than-sterling Atlanta line: 1.457 WHIP, -0.5 WAR, a 0.983 OPS yielded. Think about that: the average player he faced hit like Mark McGwire.  It could have been worse, though.  A lot of you wanted the Braves to spend a bunch of money on MadBum in the last offseason.  Robbie’s season wasn’t that much worse than his, and Erlin was a lot cheaper; so there’s that.

To be fair again, the Braves were 4-3 in games in which Robbie appeared. To be cruel, that is only one more game over 0.500 than in the games in which I appeared, and I’m 64 years old. And he had no decisions, not even in that first game. But while he had no decisions, I’m not undecided: he was pretty much worthless. Robbie did not have the worst season ever for a guy appearing in 9 games and starting five. That would be Wee Willie Sudhoff who put up a 30 ERA+ for the 1906 Washington Senators in the last year of his 9 year career. Robbie was twice as good as that at 60. I wish him luck. (Robbie, not Willie, who died in 1917.)

Author: JonathanF

Alive since 1956. Braves fan since 1966. The first ten years were pretty much wasted. Exiled to Yankees/Mets territory in 1974 --- bearable only with TBS followed by MLB.TV.

43 thoughts on “2020 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Robbie Erlin”

  1. Some Erlin Statcast ratings:

    Hard Hit Rate: 42% (bad)
    XSLG: .535 (really bad)
    WOBA: .395 (really bad)
    Barrel Rate: 13.5% (really bad)

    Biggest warning sign that should’ve been blinking like a freaking beacon: 28.4% groundball rate.

  2. I’m sorry, I gotta call this out:

    Ryan Cothran says:
    December 15, 2020 at 9:21 pm
    I don’t think we’ve entered political discussion on either side. Even my excerpt from the piece I forwarded doesn’t say that I want a name change, rather the reasons why it might be considered. Sure, I want the Braves to stay the Braves, but a name change wouldn’t kill my fandom.

    There’ve been a few that have commented their distaste for a name change, and no one has really stated the Braves SHOULD change their name. People have the right to show their stance on the matter but it doesn’t have to get political and it didn’t. That’s the way it should be. It rarely ends well when that happens.

    It hasn’t gotten political because it’s not allowed to be. Dan said it, I’ll say it: it’s really ridiculous that very soon all of my Braves apparel may be worthless because people want to play politics and be social justice warriors on an absurd topic. It’s where we are, I get it, but it’s stupid. It’s people cramming their politics down people’s throats. It’s people that don’t understand that there has to be intent to offend. That merely referencing groups of people brings no intent to offend.

    The Braves should be the Atlanta Braves for the rest of their existence. They are in no way trying to offend any people groups with their name. Anyone actually saying that is forcing their politics on other people, which is morally wrong.

  3. I genuinely don’t want to get into my opinion on this or others’ opinions on this, because it gets heated. I would always rather steer clear of subjects that will clear the bar.

    Those stats on Erlin are great. I genuinely didn’t realize it was possible to write a piece this long and this interesting about Robbie Erlin of the Atlanta Braves.

  4. Robbie Erlin is pretty much the perfect personification of how bad the rotation was last year. That he got five starts is ridiculous on its face, but there simply wasn’t anyone else to give them to at the time.

    On the theoretical name change, the problem with No. 1 on Rob’s list on the previous thread (as with much political conversation) is that it doesn’t lead anywhere other than a bunch of people screaming about PC police gone mad. I’m no great fan of changing the name, but I think we have to admit the possibility that it will happen. Therefore, I see no problem with kicking around names. Everybody just yelling NO NAME CHANGE THE REAL FANS MUST BE HEARD into the comments section of a blog is of, uh…limited value.

    And referencing Rob’s point above, I would argue that some aspects of the team culture (read: the chop and chant) have veered dangerously close to “intent to offend” in recent years. The name itself has not IMO, but the louder people scream about it, the closer it’s likely to get to that.

    On the Hammers, I’m still just not feeling it. If it actually happened, I would tacitly accept it and be happy that the team finally recognized Hank Aaron in some sort of manner commensurate with his contribution to the organization, but at base, the team name would still be that of a tool. Would the mascot be like the Home Depot hammer from the tool race running around? I dunno…maybe I’m overthinking it and all this ancillary stuff could shake out to an extent where I’d wind up being fine with it, but right now I’m skeptical.

    Also, this team has repeatedly refused to so much as name their stadium after Hank Aaron when given at least three chances (Turner Field, SunTrust Park, Truist Park). And really, there’s no reason they couldn’t have named Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium after him, either. I highly doubt the city, county or Falcons (when they would’ve had a say, prior to their 1992 move to the Georgia Dome) would’ve vehemently opposed. So they haven’t done that and now they’re now gonna name the entire team after him? I don’t see it happening.

  5. @ #4

    I believe they listed the address in front of Turner Field as “755 Hank Aaron Way,” but, you’re right, that’s as close as they’ve come.

  6. @2

    Actually your garb will become more valuable. Try buying a Redskins or Indians (especially with Chief Wahoo) tee shirt. As the PC police continue their campaigns, these items will increase even more in value.

  7. @6 I’m not concerned with the potential slight monetary value increase of my t-shirts. First of all, how are you going to liquidate all that? I’m going to start putting stuff on eBay myself? Not a chance. Hire a broker? All because the PC police is running amok? That’s silly, IMO. Plus, what likely happens is every Tom, Dick, and Harry throws thousands upon thousands (if not millions) of Braves stuff on the interwebs, and the value of the subsequent supply plummets. Plus, my well-worn 2007 Tomato Red John Smoltz shirsey has no monetary value, has intrinsic value to me, but not if that team no longer exists.

    @4 The root of this whole thing is whether it’s possible to offend without intent. That’s where we’ve been with team names for a decade now. It’s fundamentally impossible to offend if you do not intend. That’s why the political left has been trying to change the definition to shift from sender responsibility to recipient discretion. Put it this way: you and I are in a public place. You walk past me, and violate the six-foot halo that I would like people to stay outside of. I say, “GET AWAY FROM ME! THIS IS OFFENSIVE! WE’RE IN A PANDEMIC, SIR! ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME!” Now, you might pay me some lip service and apologize, which would be the southern gentleman thing to do. But really, you’re thinking I’m a loonbag, because I am. But, did you offend me? According to me, yes. But, c’mon. ::eye roll::

    Also, the people leading the charge don’t have standing. They’re not Native Americans. They have no dog in the fight. For instance, if you talk to most FSU football fans, they say, “The Seminoles are quite happy with us, so STFU.” It helps FSU that there is still a tribe called the Seminoles, they seem to have some sort of cohesive body, and they speak on these things. It also helps that FSU gives them money. :) There’s no “Braves”, from what I gather. So, because the “Braves” can’t speak for themselves, SJWs feel compelled to speak for “them” (even though there’s no “them”). So there’s no victim. Who’s the victim? Show me these “Braves” that are the victim.

    It’s absolutely silly.

  8. Rob @ 7 & 4 —

    It’s one thing to not want the name to change, but it’s hard to see sweeping generalizations about “the political left” (some of whom happen to frequent this bar, and have for many years) and the “PC police” and think you actually want to discuss this in good faith with people who might disagree with you.

    I guess I do have to say though— I’m in my early 30s. I inherited fandom for a baseball team which was named during my great-great-grandparents’ time, an era in which women were not yet even permitted to vote, and an era in which it was socially acceptable to use systematically marginalized people as mascots. Being in favor of a name change doesn’t mean I think everyone who likes the name “Braves” is a bad person; we all grew up with it and formed attachments to it. That is understandable! I get it! I just think we can do better, and that because we can, we ought to.

    Also— whether you’re cool with it or not, the use of marginalized people as mascots is, itself, political. It just feels like it’s not because, in our lifetimes, it’s always been the status quo. I understand you don’t want the name to change, but I don’t think anyone, on any side of this, can pretend theirs is not a political stance.

    Finally, the merits here aside, the idea that it’s not possible to offend someone if no offense was intended just makes zero logical sense to me. You’re going to tell me you’ve never had someone take something you said or did the wrong way, even if you didn’t mean it that way?

  9. I want to know how AOC hacked into Rob Copenhaver’s account.

    Ok. The temperature is rising, and as welcome as that would be for me as a snowstorm heads to my house, I think it’s time to turn down the thermostat.

  10. @8

    I appreciate the viewpoint. I disagree, but I appreciate that you didn’t degrade me, and I’m glad we have a community that allows for these discussions as adults. There are idiots on Facebook and bullies on Twitter, and neither have their place on Braves Journal, and I really appreciate that.

    Ryan and I are having an offline discussion, and I’m going to STFU because I love Ryan and this blog. But my response to him is something that I’d like the blog to consider: Covid and the name change discussion contain viewpoints that become political landmines. And when stepped on, they blow up. I ask for these two minefields to be roped off if all viewpoints are not allowed to be given. When the “no politics” rule was implemented, sports was not infused with politics to the degree they are today. Covid and the name change are inherently political discussions, so if all viewpoints can’t be given, the conversation shouldn’t occur.

  11. From a practical standpoint, IF the team were to change its name, they would probably know its new name well in advance, and would be buying up domain names and trademarking stuff before any of it was ever public. (Unless that team was the Washington Football Team.)

    I don’t know if promoting a new team name makes it more or less likely that name is chosen, but I suspect it would be slightly less likely, if people start getting the jump on the marketing.

  12. Just one more set of bad names. Many teams use names representing the state or city in some way so:

    Atlanta Peaches or Atlanta Peachtrees
    Atlanta Peanuts
    Atlanta Soybeans

  13. Okay, you know what? I’m going to say it.

    I don’t believe in Riley. The Braves should trade for Kris Bryant. The Chicago Crybabies should just cut bait after flirting with trading him for the last two years and change.

  14. Kris Bryant is a move right up AA’s alley IF he had underlying stats that looked promising. He doesn’t.

    His statcast numbers for 2020 are atrocious and his BABIP has always been inflated, which seems like a skill, until it’s not (which it was not in 2020). His exit velo numbers are really low. He might be too large of a gamble for AA. Both Donaldson and Ozuna had promising underlying stats. Hamels did not. 2 of those 3 worked out.

  15. I still believe in Riley. He hit well enough in AA and AAA to make me think he will age into a .265 something batting average and corresponding OBP and SLG increases. I’m happy to slot him in the 7th spot at age 24 and wait for that.

    The issue at the moment is that we need one more bat to make that lineup work.

  16. @15, at the end of the day, everyone knows he’s sort of a buy-low, so it really just all comes down to the price. I certainly wouldn’t pay retail for him, that’s for sure.

    But I appreciate Rusty’s faith!

  17. Speaking for myself, PgDn is the only silencer I really need, here or elsewhere on the intertubes. There have occasionally been posters who grant themselves special dispensation here to rant, which gives hot-button issue discussions such an oddly warped shape that I believe it would be better to just allow more free-wheeling dialogue. But I am more temperamentally inclined to argue than those who run this site, and run it well.

  18. Just saw where the Reds only have 32 players on their 40-man roster. I’m telling y’all, the Braves and the Reds matchup so well in a 1-2 player(s) for 3-5 players swap. My eyes are on Suarez and Winker.

  19. I agree that I used to have an unfair standard. I apologize. I now see that a free-wheeling dialogue is much better. I wish I had done things differently.

  20. Getting rid of Hutcheson was imperative for the ongoing health of this community IMO, and I’m glad you did it.

  21. I’d like to add just one more point on the political stuff…

    Even if the discussion didn’t seem to really go anywhere, it did this reader’s heart some good to hear the diverse set of viewpoints among the blog’s readers. Coming from some other echo chambers (some conservative, some very, very liberal), it’s reassuring to find places with a balance. That’s all.

    Hmm, hmm, hmm I love this bar…

  22. No comment from anyone on MLB reclassifying the Negro Leagues as Major League and then rewriting the record books to match?

    OK. I’ll start. I don’t know enough about the Negro Leagues to know if that makes sense or not. I only hope that the people who made the decision learned enough to make that decision sensibly…

  23. My first question: How many homers did Hank Aaron hit with the Indianapolis Clowns in 1952? Anybody have a source?

  24. @27

    My first thought as well, but at first glance they appear to be counting only 1920-48. I assume the rapid departure of talent at that point is the explanation for the cutoff. Which really is too bad, but I’m over the moon about it otherwise.

  25. @26 I had the same initial take as you, but after spending my lunch reading about the effort to get these leagues classified as major leagues, it became clear to me that the leagues had elite level talent in them. They had elite starting pitchers and hitters who could have been league MVP of either American or National leagues. They played games with huge attendance numbers. Like you, I had never really delved much into the negro leagues, but one thing is for certain: the Negro leagues aren’t the first historic leagues reclassified as major leagues, and there have been leagues of less repute to be reclassified. I doubt it will hurt anything records wise.

    I then went from reading about the leagues to reading about Josh Gibson… wow, and wow.

  26. @30: I have no doubt that they had elite talent, and I know the names that everyone else knows: Gibson, Bell, Paige, etc. My question (and it’s just a question… I really don’t know) is about the average level of play, not the peak level. It’s good to see that a lot of effort has gone into this, though… and that more will come as Elias gets into the act.

  27. @31, I am by no means an expert but I would generally guess that the average caliber of talent in the Negro Leagues was probably at least on par with other defunct major leagues like the American Association or Federal League. I’m sure there’s plenty of actual good scholarship answering that exact question, though!

  28. I am old. I esteem Mac and what he created. Others still around have been here since the beginning. People like sdp, urlhix, sansho1, ububba and smitty, and a host of others, witnessed the creation. I did not. I have no platform from which to speak. That has never stopped me. Nor will it now.

    Mac was wonderful, but the stewards of his legacy – Alex, Rob and Ryan – have brought this pub into the 21st century. Well done, gentlemen, and thank you. You kicked ass.

  29. While it doesn’t appear that Hank Aaron will be reinstated as the all-time home run champion, I suppose this does mean that the Atlanta Black Crackers, and not the Braves, are now the city’s first major league team.

  30. @31

    Important points being made in the aftermath of this announcement that I admit I never fully considered. One of the hurdles in assessing the average level of play is that major league teams cherry-picked Negro League star players, and it was several years before they allowed anything approaching real integration in their developmental systems. So while we have a lot of data on how well the best Negro League players performed once they arrived in ML (very well!), there’s not much to assess in re how well some of the solid, everyday players might have done. This may have created an erroneous assumption (not necessarily stated or even conscious in the mind of the beholder) that, aside from those who were given the opportunity, the level of play was not comparable.

  31. Charlie Pride, who just recently passed away, played in the Negro Leagues. He and a teammate were traded for a camper I believe.

  32. @35: Exactly. Ichiro was clearly a world-class baseball player, but that doesn’t mean adding his hits in the Japanese League is an appropriate thing to do. (It doesn’t mean it’s not either, but the history of marginal US talents being far more successful in Japan makes it easier to see that the average quality of play was, and is, lower.)

    The best evidence available (I think) is the performance of those who made the transition to MLB, adjusted for (a) the fact that they were older; (b) the acculturation problems they had; and (c) difference in playing conditions. There are, so far as I know, no players who came from MLB to the Negro Leagues who could better help gauge the average quality of play. So just as it would be harder to judge the quality of the Japanese league by looking only at Ichiro and Ohtani, but much easier when you look at Tuffy Rhodes as well, so too with the Bells and Paiges.

  33. There are other leagues where the direction is pretty much just one-way: the Cuban League, for example, where as I understand the level of talent is theorized to be somewhere around Double- or Triple-A. It’s obviously harder than it is with the Japanese or Korean leagues where we’ve had players go in both directions, but there’s some precedent for the kind of models that we need.

    (IIRC, NPB is thought to be somewhere around Triple-A, and KBO somewhere around High-A.)

  34. The Cuban League is a good example with similar issues, Alex. I haven’t read any of that research, but I know others have done a lot.

    As long as Hector Olivera doesn’t go into the HOF, I’m good with it.

  35. My only concern as regards the Negro Leagues announcement is over the accuracy of the stats kept during those years. I’ll admit that I don’t know enough about it to have a definitive position, but even early NL player stats from the 19th century are sometimes iffy.

    Other than that, I applaud the decision. Bout damn time.

  36. I should add, I guess, that I approach these issues as a statistician, not as a human being. The noncomparabilities across time in MLB are so huge that the noncomparabilities between MLB and the Negro Leagues are just one extra bit of variance.

    Reminds me of the old Ted Williams line where he said he’d struggle to hit .280 against today’s pitching. “But then again, I’m over 70 years old.”

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