Yesterday’s game against the Diamondbacks was a thriller, but it was also ultra-concerning if you’re a Braves fan. Atlanta ultimately fell 16-13, as their pitching staff imploded from start to finish, beginning with Bryce Elder.
The 24-year-old has experienced a meteoric rise in the baseball world this season. He started off the year as Gwinnett’s Opening Day starter and ended the first half as an NL All-Star. For most of the season, he’s been the league leader in ERA, despite his peripherals suggesting severe regression was in line.
Elder doesn’t have the kind of stuff that will blow opponents away. His sinker oftentimes doesn’t even crack 90 MPH, but he’s had so much success because of his ability to get ground balls and pitch out of jams. In his last two starts, that hasn’t been the case.
Prior to the All-Star break, the Rays had a field day against Bryce Elder, tallying seven earned runs off the right-hander over just 3.1 innings. Fast forward to yesterday, and the Diamondbacks torched Elder to the tune of seven runs (five earned) before he could even get out of the third inning. Put those two together, and Elder has given up 14 runs over his last six innings, raising even more concerns regarding the Braves starting pitching staff.
In reality, Atlanta’s rotation over performed in the first half of the season without Max Fried and Kyle Wright. Spencer Strider and Charlie Morton did what was expected of them, followed by Bryce Elder, who was out of this world. After that, the Braves sort of threw things at a wall and hoped something sticked. It worked, but hoping that will continue down the stretch and into the postseason is wishful thinking. Regression was always coming, and it’s beginning to rear its ugly head as August approaches.
I’m not going to overreact to a few porous starts from Elder. He’s a young pitcher that has experienced nothing but success at every level of his professional career, but when you throw it in the low 90s, there’s a lot less room for error. Elder is figuring that out the hard way right now, but like Spencer Strider before him, I have confidence he’ll find his groove again.
However, I would be lying if I said the rotation isn’t a growing concern as the trade deadline approaches. Even if Bryce Elder bounces back, the starting pitching staff is thin, and if someone else suffers an injury or a setback, it could be detrimental to the team’s ultimate goal of winning a World Series. Given the expectations because of the talent on this team, it may be best if Alex Anthopoulos ensures the starting staff isn’t an issue, even if it only means adding a depth piece at the trade deadline.
Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire