Braves: Here’s another sign Mike Soroka could be close to returning

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When it comes to Mike Soroka, I’ve tempered my expectations over the last couple of years. I never thought he would make an appearance for the Braves last year, and I didn’t have high hopes coming into this season either. However, that’s beginning to change the more I see of him. In his first start with the Gwinnett Stripers, he gave up just one run over 3.2 innings. That’s more than respectable, but stats aren’t what make me excited.

Soroka was able to throw 61 pitches, and his velocity on all of his offerings were up considerably compared to where he was pre-injury.

The stuff looks great, perhaps even better than it did back in  2019 when he finished sixth in the NL Cy Young race as a rookie, and the early advanced metrics back that up.

Eno Sarris helped create an advanced stat called Stuff+ for FanGraphs. Here’s a brief explanation of what it takes into consideration: 

Stuff+ looks only at the physical characteristics of a pitch. Important features include, but are not limited to, release point, velocity, vertical and horizontal movement, and spin rate. A pitcher’s secondary pitches are defined based on their primary fastball — with “primary” defined by usage in an outing — and so are judged by velocity and movement differentials along with raw velocity and movement numbers. The model also includes “axis differential,” a statistic that attempts to describe the difference between the movement expected by spin alone and the observed movement affected by the phenomenon described as seam-shifted wake.

Unless you’re a baseball nerd, a lot of that might sound like gibberish. Hell, I’m a baseball nerd, and it’s still pretty foreign to me. But regardless, this advanced statistic judges pitchers strictly on their stuff, and after one start, Mike Soroka is in the top 10 of AAA pitchers when it comes to Stuff+.

I no longer think it’s a ridiculous thing to believe Soroka can come back and become an impact starter for the Braves again this season. In fact, I’m expecting it. He’s still only 25-years-old, and even after everything that he’s been through, the stuff is still elite.

Health is my only concern. If Soroka can stay healthy all season, the confidence he once had will return, and that’s all he needs to be a successful big-league pitcher again.

Mike Soroka is scheduled to pitch again for the Stripers tomorrow. I’ll be keeping a close eye on his performance and pitch count. If he looks like he did last time out and is able to throw around 80 pitches, it’s possible we see him in Atlanta before the end of the month.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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