It’s been a strange season. Or at least a funny last couple of weeks.
Chris Sale has an ERA of 4.40 on the year. Reds phenom Aristedes Aquino has 15 homers in his first 32 games. The Twins are leading the league in home runs while the Red Sox sit nine games away from elimination, following their 2018 World Series win.
One of the strangest things I’ve noticed, however, is the consistency of Mike Foltynewicz.
Folty came into 2019 off the best season of his career, looking the ace position right in the eye. That is, before his spring training injury sent him to the IL to begin the year.
Once Folty retook the mound, things started…crumbling…to say the least.
From his first game up until June 6th, Folty sat at a 1-5 record with a 5.69 ERA. He was never able to shake off the cobwebs and eventually was sent down to AAA.
That time in Gwinnett seems to have changed ol’ Folty.
#Braves have won each of Foltynewicz's past nine starts, and this win was his fourth decision in that span.
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) September 4, 2019
Yesterday wasn’t any different. Mike went 5-0-2 against AA’s former franchise, improving his ERA to 5.59 and his WHIP to 1.43.
I don’t know about you, but Folty just looks…better. He’s got his command of the corners back, found control of his slider, has found confidence in his changeup and shown more poise when he gets in a jam. The only remaining problem? His experiences the third time through the order.
Folty's past five starts entering tonight:
First two times through a lineup: 21 IP, .235/.303/.358, .661 OPS
Third time through: 6 IP, .367/.424/.700, 1.124 OPS
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) September 4, 2019
Folty’s troubles late through the lineup could be a fluke. I’ve never seen a fluke that lasts for five games, though. He may need to change up his approach after the fourth or fifth inning. That way, batters won’t be able to read him as much. Typically, problems late into games come from opponents figuring out patterns and capitalizing on mistakes that wouldn’t have been made early on.
If we want to see substantial production from one of our potentially most reliable options, then he needs to make these changes sooner rather than later. Maybe mixing things up will do the trick.
After all, the element of surprise typically works best.
Now, comparing this season to last may not make sense. I mean, comparing a 5.59 season ERA to a year where he finished 8th in the Cy Young voting while leading the majors in complete games and shutouts seems pointless. But, when considering where he started the season out, it’s almost like night and day. This looks like the Folty of old, and with each outing, he’s cementing a spot on the Braves playoff roster. That will be one of the most intriguing underlying storylines to watch in September as Atlanta aims to clinch the division.
Foltynewicz will have at least four more starts to prove he belongs in October. The Braves rotation has been spectacular, but it looks a whole lot more threatening with Folty at the top of his game.
Atlanta is on one of the more impressive runs the league has seen this season. They have won 14 of their last 16, posting an MLB-best 2.16 ERA out of the ‘pen. The Braves start a crucial four-game series with Nationals on Thursday, allowing them to make this an uneventful September by taking care of business.