Braves Statcast Report: How has Kyle Wright turned it around?

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Expectations for Kyle Wright coming out of Vandy were astronomical. But to this point in his career, fans have grown frustrated with his inconsistency. One game, he displays enormous potential; the next, he gets battered by opposing offenses. Many figured 2022 would be the year he either realizes his potential or reaches the end of his rope with Atlanta. Fortunately for the Braves so far, it’s looking like the former. Here’s why: 

Pitch Usage

Wright has five offerings — 4-seamer, slider, sinker, changeup, and curveball. Since his early years in the majors, he has toyed around with pitch usage quite a bit (albeit in small sample sizes). His primary weapon in 2018 and 2019 was his 4-seamer while using his slider as his secondary pitch. The RHP didn’t find much success with this configuration for two reasons — he was leaving fastballs over the heart of the plate and couldn’t command his slider. 

During those years, Wright was abysmal on the mound, giving up 22 runs over 25 innings. Compare that to his two starts this season; he is boasting an otherworldly ERA+ of 264 (100 is league average). Wright has changed a lot, and one of the keys has been his pitch usage. 

The 26-year-old no longer uses a 4-seam fastball as his primary pitch. Long gone are the days when 40 percent of his pitches are fastballs. That percentage is down to 2.4. Instead of such heavy 4-seam usage, Wright has moved to a deadly sinker, with a curveball now his most-used secondary offering. 

Confidence

An altered repertoire isn’t the only difference we’ve seen in Kyle Wright this season. Increased confidence is also having a considerable effect on his performance. In Wright’s first few seasons, the pressure to perform as a former top pick was clearly taking its toll, as he would lose all control. Once a runner or two got on base, everything deteriorated. Wright started pitching away from the strike zone with runners on, leading to more walks, which was typically followed by a back-breaking hit. However, something happened last October that just might have changed his entire career path. 

With Charlie Morton going down in Game 1 of the World Series, the Braves were forced to turn to Wright in Game 4. Keep in mind that Wright essentially didn’t pitch in the majors last season, and the last time we saw him in the playoffs, he was shelled by the Dodgers to the tune of seven runs without even getting out of the first inning. This had the potential to be disastrous — not just for the Braves in the World Series but also for Wright’s career. Instead, it just might be what turned his entire career around.

Wright tossed 4.2 innings of one-run baseball on the biggest stage against one of the best offenses in baseball. The Braves would go on to win the game and the World Series. If that isn’t enough to give a young man confidence, I don’t think anything will. However, that performance has clearly had a profound effect on his approach moving forward. Wright looks like a new man on the mound, and if the Braves want to repeat, he’ll be a critical piece to the puzzle.

Photo: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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