Let me warn you all: I’m gonna be making a lot of “hand” puns. So get ready for those.
As of right now, the Braves starting pitching is all but set in stone, following the signing of Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly. Now, their focus (as far as the pitching staff is concerned) turns to the bullpen — an area where the Braves were fantastic in 2020.
Relievers currently in Atlanta’s bullpen have combined to throw 22.2 consecutive scoreless innings dating to August 1 vs. New York, and have a 0.93 ERA (5 ER/48.1 IP) between the nine who have pitched in a game this season.#ForTheA pic.twitter.com/vZSCvs3xXi
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) August 7, 2020
Scary, right? It should be. This group of rag-tag short-inning maestros helped propel the Braves straight through the playoffs, within arms reach of the Fall Classic. Much like the Braves of the early 90’s, they went from worst to first without a second glance. However, with Shane Greene, Darren O’Day, and Mark Melancon now unrestricted free agents, the Braves have a lot of work to do.
What Do We Do?
Now, I’m well aware that the Braves’ pen would be so much better off if Greene and Melancon came back; they’ve been key members in the highest of pressure and shown they know how to handle themselves in tough situations; they love to compete and they love to win.
But, we live in an imperfect society. A virus is running rampant around the world. The country is divided amongst political unrest. Bobby Bonilla is still getting money from the New York Mets. It’s a year of disarray. As long as Bonilla keeps getting paid, there will always be a chance of heartbreak. In the event of said heartbreak, we need options to fill the gaps in the bullpen.
I guess you could say the Braves need a HAND?
Yeah, we just don’t see it anymore; at least, not yet.
We could very easily see Brad Hand enter the conversation as one of the best left-handed relievers in the game if he can further control the lightning in his arm.
The Minneapolis import found success following his departure from Miami, becoming a closer once he hit the mainland in San Diego. Upon joining the Padres, Hand exploded, dropping his ERA from 5.30 the previous season to 2.92. It’s also important to know that since his fixer season of 2016, his ERA hasn’t dipped below 3.30. Hand is also one of the remaining players out there who experienced playing for the Florida Marlins. Anyway, once he began working the late innings, he found success, as well as the confidence and motion that works well for him.
Like Chris Sale, Hand delivers from the side and works his way across the plate, leaving pitches like his slider and four-seamer essentially undetectable when executed correctly.
Look at the first pitch against Stewart. He fires a slider from the inside, which essentially dies upon arrival and dips below the zone. Finding that command in the zone isn’t an easy thing to do, especially for a side-to-side lefty.
Off the shortened season, Hand walked away with a 2-1 record, 2.05 ERA, and MLB-leading 16 saves. His consistency and ability to control the path of the ball — as a lefty no less — would help him fit right into a pitching staff known for elite performance.
If Anthopoulos can work around his reported $8.5M projected AAV, Hand would be another no-brainer signing for a general manager who views pitching at the highest esteem, like Anthopoulos. Working out a deal within the confines of 2/16M would help solve the Braves bullpen issues while leaving enough left over to fix the ever-looming hole in the outfield.