The back-end of the rotation has been a hot topic for about a month now. Once Ian Anderson returned, someone had to be relegated to the bullpen. At first, it was Touki Toussaint, but after just one bad outing by Drew Smyly, Toussaint was back.
Unfortunately, Touki hasn’t been much better. He was on the mound last night for the Braves and delivered another lackluster performance, giving up four runs over five innings. Entering last night, Toussaint had posted a 5.29 ERA with a 6.69 FIP in his last eight appearances (seven starts). It’s clear he’s no longer the answer, and the Braves don’t have any more time to mess around. It’s time for a fresh face to occupy that last spot in the rotation.
Alex Anthopolous made an appearance on 92.9 The Game yesterday with Dukes & Bell and commented on the state of the Braves rotation. He mentioned Morton, Fried, Anderson, and Ynoa as the stalwarts before talking about Smyly. By the sound of it, it doesn’t look like we will be seeing him in the rotation again.
“We have four guys right now that are locked in. Ynoa, Anderson, Fried and Morton…Drew (Smyly) had an up-and-down year for us. He’s had a lot of wins for us but right now we’re going with the hot hand.” Alex Anthopoulos on the rotation to @MikeBellATL @putemupcdukes #forthea
— DukesandBell929 (@DukesandBell929) September 14, 2021
Moving Smyly out of the rotation was long overdue. He had a nice stretch in the middle of the season, and the Braves were winning a lot of his starts, but the body of work doesn’t lie. Smyly has a 4.74 ERA and 5.29 FIP over 117.2 innings this season. Anthopoulos has done many fantastic things over the last calendar year, but signing Smyly for $11 million certainly has to be a decision he regrets; just imagine if the Braves had allocated those dollars on bullpen help.
Speaking of the bullpen, that’s where Smyly is currently located. However, that may not be a permanent solution either. Brian Snitker attempted to use him in a high-leverage situation a week ago, and he surrendered a run on three hits. It really could have been a lot worse, too, if it weren’t for a clutch double-play on a hard-hit ball. Smyly could assume Josh Tomlin‘s role of mop-up duty; I definitely think he’s a slight upgrade over Tomlin, but other than that, I’m not sure where he fits.
The Braves have a couple of other options to fill the final spot in the rotation. Kyle Wright looks to be figuring it out in Gwinnett, but it’s the other Kyle — Kyle Muller — that is most deserving of another shot with the big league club. Muller’s been electric ever since the Braves sent him back to AAA. He’s yet to allow more than two runs in any of his five starts, including two scoreless outings, which has resulted in his ERA dropping nearly a full run.
I wouldn’t call him the ideal option. I’m sure the Braves would like someone with a little more experience, but Muller has impressed all season. At this point, he’s the best candidate to make a start five days from now.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire