Atlanta Braves: THE Solution for Fixing the 2019 Pitching Staff

Foltynewicz is having a dominant season for the Braves. Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images.
Foltynewicz is having a dominant season for the Braves. Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. /
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Atlanta Braves, Touki Toussaint
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Leaky Pen

So far in 2019, the Atlanta Braves bullpen as a group has completed 59 2/3 innings as compared to the starters’ 81 1/3 innings pitched.  In 21 1/3 fewer innings pitched, the pen has given up just 2 fewer earned runs, walked just 3 fewer batters, and has given up 2 more home runs than their starting counterparts.  Overall, the bullpen ERA is currently 5.43.

In trying to protect late-inning leads, the reserves have already blown 3 saves while converting just 2.  While these numbers are mind-numbingly bad, they are actually helped by Touki Toussaint’s emergency relief appearance on Saturday where he took over for Newcomb in the 2nd inning and pitched 6 scoreless innings.  Toussaint will start for the club later this week.

Coming into the season, the Braves’ pitching staff was expected to be one giant puzzle that required a bit of sorting and arranging of the pieces to find the appropriate combination for a successful season.

With Foltynewicz, Gausman, and Teheran serving as the experienced nucleus of the starting staff, the Braves also expected to feature a young group of starters potentially including Newcomb, Wright, Toussaint, Wilson, Max Fried, Mike Soroka, Luiz Gohara, and Kolby Allard.  Each of these guys has already started multiple games at the Major League level.  And if you want to get crazy, they also have Patrick Weigel and Huascar Ynoa waiting in the wings and rounding out the 40-man roster.

With the embarrassment of riches that the Braves possess in starting pitchers comes a few issues.  The first is obvious.  They have 11-13 pitchers and only 5-6 spots on the Major League roster.

The second is in regards to inning limits.  Gone are the days of 200 inning pitchers filling the starting rotations at the MLB level.  Teams are careful with young pitchers’ workloads and ideally would like to see their IPs gradually increase over the course of several seasons.

Julio Teheran has consistently gone 180+ IP for the duration of his career, but even veterans like Gausman and Foltynewicz have only had three seasons of 180+ IP between the two of them.

Finally, the Braves have had a hard time finding guys who can pitch efficiently enough to routinely go 6+ innings per start.

As deep as the starting pitching is for Atlanta, the bullpen is equally void of answers.  To conquer a stacked NL East in 2019, the Atlanta Braves must find a way to overcome this disadvantage, and I can see only two real options to fix this mess of a bullpen:

  1. trade minor league assets in a series of deals to fortify the pen, or
  2. get creative.

Option #1 is both undesirable and extremely difficult to accomplish.  First, it is too early in the season to find trade partners willing to give up productive bullpen arms. Secondly, the club would be foolhardy to jettison prized prospects to fill holes in the bullpen unless they are used to acquire a top-flight closer with multiple years left on his contract.

That brings us to option #2.  It’s time for the Braves to get creative and my proposal would, in theory, solve each and every one of the problems outlined in the previous paragraphs.  In fact, I would even be willing to offer my services to the Braves as a consultant for a fraction of the price that it would cost to bring in someone who actually knows what he’s doing.