In 2018, Mike Foltynewicz kept me up late at night full of excitement. His 97-mph fastball was cooking, and his slider had NASTY movement. That breaking pitch became the best in all of baseball with a 40.1% chase rate, 17.9% whiff rate, and 41.8% strikeout rate. (Not to mention opponents were only batting .177 when it crossed the plate.)
One short year later, Folty is keeping me up again, but now it’s with angst and consternation. Just nine starts into the 2019 season – that beautiful slider is nowhere to be seen. The Braves projected number 1 starter in the rotation has left fans thwarted. Every time I close my eyes; I see opposing players taking him yard. He’s already given up 15 bombs (he only gave up 17 long balls last year through 31 starts). I’ve self-diagnosed myself with dream anxiety disorder – the result of constant nightmares – thanks to the former first-round pick.
My Stages of Sleep
Stage 1: the lightest stage of NREM sleep. Often defined by the presence of slow eye movements. This drowsy sleep stage can be easily disrupted, causing awakenings or arousals.
Mike Foltynewicz looked fine. He had just come back from a stint in the minors and was recovering well from his elbow soreness. While he didn’t look great (6.11 ERA in Gwinnett), there were no red flags, only rust. A little hiccup in AAA shouldn’t worry anybody – the guy was an All-Star – he’ll bounce back. I am not emerged in this purgatory yet. I’m starting to doze, but the disruptions begin. Mike is shaking off the cobwebs; there’s nothing to worry about.
Stage 2: This is the first actual stage of defined NREM sleep. Brain waves continue to slow with specific bursts of rapid activity known as sleep spindles and K complexes. Both sleep spindles and K complexes are thought to serve as protection for the brain from awakening from sleep.
My K complexes and sleep spindles are in full gear as they turn to protect. Brain shields activate as I slowly but surely enter this unpleasant ride. I begin to argue with anyone talking trash or attacking my pitcher. Mike is a former All-Star with a 2.85 ERA and 202 strikeouts. Sweet dreams are in sight!
Folty adds confirmation, telling the AJC, “Sometimes during the season you lose a pitch here and there, but it’s going to come back.” Foltynewicz said. “We’re professional athletes, so we know what we’ve got to do to make adjustments, so I’ll find it out quick.”
If he’s not worried, I’m not worried. The 6’ 4” righty has a cannon, and we’ll see it sooner or later. I continue to use sleep spindles and K complexes as I fall further into a very troubled sleep. However, four games into the season, I’m still in a protective mode as an ERA of 8.02 and only 8 HRs makes for great slumber. Maybe that slider will materialize, or is that only a pipe dream?
Stage 3: Known as deep NREM sleep. Parasomnias are abnormalities or undesirable behaviors that occur during transitions between sleep stages, including nightmares, sleepwalking, and bedwetting (sleep enuresis). Parasomnias occur during Stage 3 sleep.
The nightmares and bed wettings have begun. We are currently nine starts into the season, as opponents continue to crush the seams off of every baseball that hangs over the plate — the sound of their bats cracking rings in my head. A trip to the bullpen can’t come soon enough. He now has a 6.10 ERA, and opponents are slugging .617 off of his slider. They have a .321 batting average overall against Folty, and his WAR on the season is -0.8. “The Bazooka from Minooka” has turned into the “Nerf Toy from Illinois.”
Stage 4: REM sleep: REM sleep, also known as rapid eye movement, is most commonly known as the dreaming stage.
Let the real dreaming begin! My trip to the Rome Braves game has reminded me that this night terror is only going to be temporary thanks to Dallas Keuchel. The former Cy Young winner has now filled my dreams with images of him dominating in a World Series game as Mike watches from the bullpen – if he’s lucky.
This frightening slumber is almost over Braves fans. A dreamlike starting rotation will be here sooner than the irritating sound of your clock alarm. And the Atlanta Braves’ team anthem can be borrowed from the lyrics of Steven Tyler: Dream on!