After having one of the worst starting rotations in baseball in 2020, the Atlanta Braves rotation could be a strength in the coming year.
The Atlanta Braves had high hopes for their starting rotation in 2020. They added veteran Cole Hamels to a young and dynamic staff, hoping those arms would be enough to bring the team back to the postseason. While the Braves did find their way to the NLCS, the rotation was not what they had hoped.
Injuries decimated the rotation as 13 different pitchers made at least one start for the Braves. The results were disastrous – the Braves rotation posted a 5.51 ERA, the worst in the National League and 28th in the majors. Atlanta’s starters were slightly better at keeping runners off the bases; their 1.45 WHiP ranked 27th in the majors last year, and was better than the Nationals.
The Braves did address that issue early in free agency. They were one of the more aggressive teams in the early going, bringing in both Drew Smyly and Charlie Morton as an upgrade. With Mike Soroka expected to be healthy, and the emergence of Ian Anderson and Max Fried, the Braves rotation should be much better.
There are still some concerns. Smyly has had moments of brilliance, but has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. Morton has been a steady veteran arm since his emergence with the Astros, but showed signs of slipping last season. Both pitchers are a gamble, but with a great deal of upside.
Intrigue surrounds the returning arms as well. Soroka lasted just three starts before tearing his Achilles and may not be right at the start of the season. Anderson has had command issues in the past, which appeared during the NLCS when he walked seven batters in seven innings. Fried is likely the least of the Braves worries, but he did have his struggles in 2019.
Even with those possible issues, the Braves starting rotation is vastly improved. Adding another veteran arm for depth would make sense, especially given the plethora of injuries sustained last season, but Atlanta should be in much better shape for the 2021 season.
The Atlanta Braves rotation was their biggest weakness in 2020. This time, the Braves rotation has the potential to make a difference.