I have d’Arnaud about you but I love this highlight! #ForTheA pic.twitter.com/XNPNULhUMH
– Atlanta Braves (@Braves) August 1, 2020
With three straight wins, including two in a row against a damn good Rays team earlier this week, the overall results have been excellent and they are half a game ahead in the NL East over the Marlins (who have played only three games. and miss more than half of their roster)
However, there are a few issues that are currently holding the Braves back, possibly preventing the team from being as good as they can get. And with this season’s trade deadline set for August 31, GM Alex Anthopoulos will have a chance to fill those gaps before it’s time to prepare for the playoffs.
Here’s a look at the Braves’ most obvious need as this year’s deadline approaches and the various challenges Anthopoulos will face as they try to prepare the team for a successful race down the home stretch.
Pitching, pitching … et plus de pitching
Aside from a slow start from several of the roster’s major contributors – guys like Ronald Acuna (currently hitting .152), Austin Riley (.087 AVG), Ozzie Albies (.188 AVG) and Ender Inciarte (.105 AVG) – The Braves The most critical need at the end of this month again seems to revolve around their initial launch. A bad strike to start the year was generally expected as this shortened 2020 season approaches, and it’s not just a Braves problem either … the whole league is facing disappointing performances at plate (Craig Edwards at FanGraphes provided proof of just last Wednesday). Also, I don’t think the Braves are planning to replace Acuna or Albies anytime soon, so maybe it’s best to stay patient and give the young stallions time to pick up their pace. They will be fine. The Braves’ starting rotation, however… that’s a whole different story.
I know you’ve seen the fight, but here are the final lines of the Braves’ 8 starts so far, ordered in Games 1-8:
- Soroka– 6 IP, 4 H, 3 K (ND)
- Free– 5 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K (ND)
- Newcomb– 3.1 IP, 3H, ER, 2 BB, K (ND)
- Folty– 3.1 IP, 4 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 3 HR (L)
- Wright– 2.2 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 K (L)
- Soroka– 5.1 IP, 4H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K (ND)
- Free– 6.2 IP, 3H, ER, BB, 7K (W)
- Newcomb– 4.1 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, BB, 4 K, 2 HR (ND)
As you probably noticed from just watching the team play, Soroka and Fried basically carried the spin on their backs for the first two laps. This is not surprising news in itself, but these numbers may be:
- Soroka & Fried combined: 1,95 ERA
- Rest of the rotation: 13.76 ERA
I don’t have to tell you … it’s a a major problem for the Braves and has already cost Folty his job, as he was DFA immediately after his departure last Monday, when he couldn’t get out of Round 4 (luckily for Folty fans, he wasn’t claimed and was assigned to Gwinnett on Thursday, meaning he could possibly return to the Braves staff).
But a resurgence of Folty will not be enough. Left-hander Cole Hamels already misses Les Braves, whose return – manager Brian Snitker says back on July 20– is “It’s going to take a while. “ And of course there is Felix Hernandez, who has deactivated the season due to concerns about the coronavirus. Would it be nice to have a few departures from him right now?
Given the potential for future injuries, the Braves don’t just need A pitcher… The team could use many.
Granted – like ours Chase Irle reported on Friday– Touki Toussaint could impress today in what will be his first start of the 2020 season (he has appeared as a reliever once so far). A solid exit from Touki, 24, could go a long way to stabilizing an inconsistent staff, but even if he throws well … the Braves again have two more slots in the spin that could desperately use a boost. And I know it sounds hard to criticize after just two outings (only one for Wright), but there’s absolutely no time for the guys.“Make things right” in a 60 game season. Heck, we’re almost one-sixth into the regular season already!
Help won’t come easy
Unfortunately, acquiring reinforcements this year won’t be a very straightforward process, as there have been a lot of changes made to the 2020 season … most of which will make it quite difficult to do a decent trade.
First off, this year’s expansion of the playoffs – from 10 to 16 teams – makes it much harder to determine whether or not it’s time to throw in the towel at the trade deadline. Assuming there are no more postponements or cancellations due to positive COVID tests, the Braves are on track to complete 26 more games between today’s game against the Mets and the game. squad with the Red Sox on August 31, giving out the Braves and most others. of the league 35 games played in total by the deadline. Obviously, it’s a little more than half of the 2020 season… but it’s still only 35 games! Apart from the handful of tankers (Marlins, Orioles, Tigers… etc), will there be as many clubs looking to move their main starting pitchers?
Speaking of the potential for more positive In COVID cases, teams may be reluctant to trade their best leads, given uncertainty as to whether MLB even finish the 2020 season. On Friday, according to Jeff Passan at ESPN, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told MLBPA executive director Tony Clark that while the sport wasn’t doing a better job of preventing the spread of the coronavirus, it would. just turn it off. Now fair or unfair, the odds of many more positive tests are probably very high considering the Marlins just had 21 members of their club tested positive with the virus.
And then there’s the lack of minor league baseball, which robs the development of much vaunted prospects and prevents major league clubs from “working” with a newly acquired player… like a recently released veteran starting pitcher. For example, during this month the Giants decide to let go of Jeff Samardzija – who has had a terrible first start this season (and is getting older there, by the way). Other than some intra-team work at Gwinnett, the Braves would have no way of working him before throwing him to Wolves in a major championship game. And if that was really the case and Samardzija was due to be released in the coming weeks, it probably means he didn’t perform well, which probably means something needs to be fixed. Long story short, there’s not much to work with … unless the Braves can trade for a top starter who is already in mid-season form and throwing well (but few teams are giving away such players)
Overall, it’s obvious the Braves need some help with the rotation. If it was another year, under ordinary circumstances, maybe trying someone like Ian Anderson or Bryse Wilson might have been an option. But as mentioned above, there is simply no time for it. If things continue to unfold as they do, it is for the no. 3 to 5 starters, the Braves will have to make some changes.