For the most part, the Braves were quiet at this year’s trade deadline, but that wasn’t the case last season when Alex Anthopoulos made a multitude of moves before the calendar turned to August. Those deals are still paying off over a year later.
The core of Atlanta’s bullpen has been incredible through the first month-plus of the season — the primary reason the Braves have been able to right the ship despite a crumbling starting rotation. It’s been a combination of two things: some unsung heroes over-performing, like Josh Tomlin, Tyler Matzek, and A.J. Minter — and the high-priced arms that Alex Anthopoulos acquired last July.
Like they did this year, the Braves avoided making a blockbuster move for a star player at the trade deadline in 2019, but Anthopoulos was active, bringing in three relievers to repair what was an abysmal bullpen at the time. Of the three, two of them — Mark Melancon and Shane Greene — were under contract through 2020, and the Braves were able to re-sign Chris Martin in the offseason. All three have been sensational this season.
Melancon began the year with a minor injury, but he never had to spend any time on the IL and has been pretty close to perfect in his thirteen appearances, giving up just four earned runs (2.84 ERA). He’s now 17/18 in save opportunities with the Braves, about as good as Anthopoulos could have asked for when he acquired him last July.
Greene’s been even better. Brian Snitker has called on him 15 times, and he’s only surrendered one earned run — good for a 0.55 ERA — while allowing just 13 opponents to reach base (nine hits and four walks). Aside from the numbers, though, the simple eye test shows how much more confident he is in his stuff this year than in 2019 with the Braves. Here’s a look at the type of zone Greene has been in this season.
Shane Greene, 90mph Two Seamer and 89mph Cutter, Overlay pic.twitter.com/2RGHXz5E33
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 16, 2020
If you remember, Greene had a minuscule 1.18 ERA and 22 saves in 38 appearances (38 innings) for the Tigers last season before the Braves acquired him, so his success this season may very well be sustainable, especially over a 60-game campaign.
Outside of a short stint on the IL, Martin’s been equally as impressive as Greene, allowing just one earned run and three baserunners in nine innings. The only run he gave up was on a homer in his first appearance of the season. Since then, he’s allowed just two baserunners in eight innings of work.
These three arms have already combined for 2.0 WAR in 34 games season. Over a full season, that translates to about 10.0 WAR. So if you’re wondering why Alex Anthopoulos might not have acted like a crazed maniac at the trade deadline, dealing all of his prospects for starting pitching, it’s because of how fantastic this bullpen has been — in particular, the high-leverage guys at the end of games.