Last week, I wrote about how a traditional rotation should look for Atlanta going forward. Patrick Weigel was actually called up that day, but his first taste of MLB action was a bit sour, and he was sent back down to the alternate site. It’s disappointing to see Snitker toss him into the fire of a one-run game in the ninth inning, but I’m not making those decisions. Weigel will be back, but for these purposes, I’ll exclude him for now.
So let’s look at what the team’s been doing to patch up the rotation. In theory, tossing Josh Tomlin or Robbie Erlin out for two more starts isn’t a horrible idea. Atlanta has an offense to keep pace with almost anyone. But in practice, it’s mostly been a disaster.
Tomlin – 4 starts, 17.1 IP, 10 ER, 3 BB, 10 K
Erlin – 4 starts, 16 IP, 13 ER, 6 BB, 14 K
Both guys have managed to keep their walks down, but they’ve consistently given up runs by the bunches. However, Josh Tomlin’s last outing was spectacular. He only gave up 1 ER and 3 hits over 6 IP and didn’t issue any free passes, making a case to stay in the rotation. Meanwhile, Erlin has been fed to the wolves, being used to mop up for as long as possible. He’ll have his mop bucket out again on Thursday, it seems.
The Braves haven't decided who will take Fried's turn on Thursday. But it sounds like Robbie Erlin (42 pitches) currently stands as the most likely option to start that series opener at Nationals Park.
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) September 8, 2020
It’s unclear how much longer the Braves will let Erlin get shelled, but their backs are against the wall. If this team makes the postseason, they’re going to have to adjust this opener strategy. Luckily, Atlanta’s bullpen has been good enough to provide a few viable options.
I don’t wanna mess with the mastery that Shane Greene, Mark Melancon, Darren O’Day, and Chris Martin have been providing. That being said, let’s see who could potentially take the bump as an opener.
Wait, what? Yeah, Will Smith has had a slow start after recovering from COVID-19. He’s given up 6 ER in 9.2 IP, but I think he’s still dominant and due for some positive regression. He’s struck out 11 and only walked 2. However, if he isn’t closing, he’s definitely a candidate for “best foot forward” if an opener is used in the postseason.
Matzek has been the feel-good story for 2020, but he’s come back down to earth a bit after his blazing start. His ERA has ballooned to 3.66, but the lefty is still only up to 19.2 IP on the season. It’s time to stretch him out and see what he has before the team should trust him in a postseason situation.
We come to our most likely candidate next. Wilson has had a rough 2.2 innings in 2020 and is slowly becoming a fringe roster guy after once being a highly regarded prospect. He’s allowed 4 ER, 4 walks, and 5 hits so far in 2020, so I think it would benefit the club to see what he has. Wilson may flame out, but I’m not willing to give up on him just yet.
Webb is the most intriguing name on this list. He was dominant in 2019, posting a 1.39 ERA in 32.1 innings before an injury sidelined him for what felt like forever. It’s worth giving the former starter a look in his old role with a core of elite short inning guys already in place. I understand the team wanting to ease Webb back into action, but the Braves are running out of time with Philly on their heels.