If you can believe it, we are already 1/10th of the way through this year’s regular-season after less than a week of play. It won’t be long before the trade deadline arrives, and then boom, it’s October. The Braves have had an up and down start and are deservedly 3-3. Their starting rotation, as we expected, has been their most significant concern. However, their bullpen has proven to be a weapon that Brian Snitker will have a lot of fun with this season.
As bad as Atlanta’s relief core was to start last year, they were one of the best at the end of the season after Alex Anthopoulos added Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, and Chris Martin at the trade deadline, and that trend has continued into 2020.
Outside of Touki Toussaint’s outing on Monday, in which he allowed six earned runs in 2.2 innings of relief against the Rays, the Braves bullpen has only let four runners cross the plate in 24 innings of work. No other reliever has allowed more than one earned run, and they’ve been outstanding at throwing strikes, which was their most glaring issue last season. In 26.1 innings, Atlanta’s relief core has just four walks compared to thirty punchouts. And for the most part, they’ve been without their two best relievers.
Mark Melancon made his 2020 debut yesterday, tossing a perfect inning in a save against the Rays after back tightness kept him sidelined for a few days. He’s expected to be the teams’ closer going forward. However, Atlanta’s best reliever — based on performance over the last few years — and their newest addition, Will Smith, has yet to join the team after testing positive for the coronavirus before the season. He has since tested negative and returned to camp but still needs some time to stretch out before rejoining the team. We should see him make his Braves debut sometime over the next week.
Atlanta has a lot of figuring out to do in their rotation if they want to make a push come October. Mike Soroka and Max fried are fantastic, but they need more than that before they are viewed as serious contenders. Hopefully, arms like Sean Newcomb and Kyle Wright can step up. Until then, however, the bullpen will have to be at the top of their game if the Braves want to repeat as NL East champions.