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 just had a stroke of bad luck in 2019. Actually, none of the following names had bad seasons by any stretch. You may be surprised by the names listed. They simply could have been better, and that positive regression is the expectation set by the advanced statistics as we enter the 2020 season.
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 can exceed their production from 2019.
Fried’s development alone is encouraging enough to expect progression in his game going into his second full year as a starter. He is one of the most promising young arms in the game and will be a huge X-factor in the team’s success this season.
In some ways, Fried was actually a bit lucky last year in the sense that he went 17-6 with just a 4.02 ERA, but the basic eye test will tell you that regardless of good run support, he deserved those wins behind his bulldog mentality and was much better than the ERA he posted. The advanced statistics suggest the same.
Fried posted a 3.72 FIP, which is a good margin below his ERA. The mean for BABIP in the MLB is generally around .300. Opposing hitters had a BABIP of .338 against Fried, which is in line with his career average. In other words, Fried seems due for some positive regression.
A touch of good luck compounded with another year of development for Fried could see him turn into the Robin to Mike Soroka’s Batman in 2020. While he only has the one full year under his belt, it is easy to forget Fried is 26 years old. He reduced the free passes last year, and after a longer development due to being a lefty and undergoing Tommy John Surgery, he is now entering his prime years and is expected to be a main contributor once again.
Jackson served as a punching bag for some Braves fans last season, as it seemed his bad luck hit him at the worst times. Sure, maybe there is something to be said about falling apart in the big moment, but he is projected for a much lower-leverage role in 2020.
The numbers don’t lie. There is absolutely no denying Jackson was super unlucky. He did not have bad statistics by any stretch. He finished with a 3.84 ERA, but his FIP was actually 3.24. Hitters also put up an uncanny .388 BABIP against him. That is highly unlikely to repeat itself.
At the end of the day, Jackson had some of the worst luck in the MLB while posting a very strong 13.1 K/9 rate. If he can pitch at the same level as he did in 2020, he is almost certain to see improved results, and not having to close games should help too.
Melancon may not be the dominant closer he was from 2013-2016, but the advanced stats suggest that he had his best season outside of that time frame in 2019. Melancon posted a 3.61 ERA and 12 saves last season after serving a majority of his innings in a setup role, but there was a 75 point differential between his ERA and his 2.86 FIP.
You can make the argument he was exponentially more unlucky after moving to Atlanta from San Francisco, posting a 3.86 ERA over 23 appearances but an unreal 1.83 FIP. Opposing hitters had a .349 BABIP off Melancon.
Melancon’s numbers may not pop off the page to you, but the peripheral stats show that he is due for positive regression and still a dominant major league reliever who is set to be the Braves’ closer for now. Regardless of whether Will Smith takes that job back from him like the good ole days in San Francisco, Melancon is a quality veteran that will certainly have a late-inning role for the Braves and be a huge piece of their success as they enter the season with the strongest bullpen they have had since the O’Ventbrel days.