There is always more to a pitcher’s stat line than simply their ERA. Luck is a huge part of pitching, good or bad, and many things are out of a pitcher’s control such as team defense. Luckily, the Braves are a great defensive team, but a few of their pitchers had a stroke of good luck in 2019 that may not be sustainable.
This is not to say these guys aren’t talented. This is simply based on indicators from advanced statistics. These Braves pitchers overachieved in 2019 and may be due for some negative regression in 2020.
Some metrics we will take a look at in this article are as follows:
FIP- According to FanGraphs, this metric measures what a player’s ERA would look like over a given period of time if the pitcher were to have experienced league average results on balls in play and league average timing.
BABIP- measures how many of a batter’s balls in play go for hits, or how many balls in play against a pitcher go for hits, excluding home runs. In this case, we will be looking at opposing batters’ BABIP against individual pitchers.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at which Braves pitchers likely overachieved in 2019.
When the Braves acquired then Tigers’ closer Shane Greene, it did not take a rocket scientist to figure out his 1.18 ERA at the time was unsustainable. His FIP of 3.69 suggested that, while he was having a fantastic season, he had been super lucky. That luck changed the second he put on a Braves uniform.
It only took a few outings for him to cede the closer role to Mark Melancon, as Greene simply was not the same guy with the Braves. His luck changed too. He posted a 4.01 ERA over 27 appearances with the Braves the rest of the way, so the regression from the first-half performance that made him an All-Star in 2019 has already been witnessed.
With a career 4.09 FIP — a statistic that has been inflated by a couple of horrendous outlier seasons from him — Greene still projects to be a solid contributor for the Atlanta bullpen. We are likely see him most in the seventh inning this year.
Newcomb has a bit of a different angle to him here because it seems as if he will transition back to a starter role. He excelled in a bullpen role last year, posting the best ERA of his career at 3.16 (3.04 as a reliever). However, you may be surprised to learn that he actually posted the lowest FIP of his career too at a 4.24 mark.
The standard deviation of this statistic (FIP) over Newk’s three-year career has been minuscule. With a career 3.87 ERA, this means he has actually been a bit lucky. Hitters have had a below-average BABIP against him the past two seasons at .275 and .282 respectively.
Newcomb transitioning back to the rotation as well as being due some negative regression may not seem promising, but the biggest concern is whether he can continue to limit issuing free passes as he gets stretched out. Regardless of what the FIP says, limiting the walks transformed him as a pitcher in 2019.
The Braves did not give up Andrelton Simmons with the hopes of landing a middle reliever and Cole Hamels is going to miss some time to start the season, so Newcomb will have the opportunity to show if he can stick in the rotation.
Advanced statistics will show you that Webb was one of the luckiest pitchers in baseball last season. The injury report may have indicated otherwise, but Webb has been fully cleared for all baseball activities this Spring Training and appears to be a favorite for one of the back-end spots in the Braves’ bullpen.
This should seem obvious after Webb posted a ridiculous 1.39 ERA in 36 appearances for Atlanta. Of course, these numbers are not sustainable for most pitchers. His 4.30 FIP is one of the biggest discrepancies you are going to find in the MLB. Additionally, his opponents’ BABIP of .235 is well below the MLB mean which sits around the .300 neighborhood.
We are still high on Webb, and he made me proud after I deemed him a dark horse candidate to be a bullpen contributor last offseason. He is certainly a major -eague caliber reliever and had a 2.89 ERA throughout the minor leagues. I would expect him to pitch well this season, just not that well.
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