The Braves may have lost a tight one yesterday afternoon to the Padres, but they still sit at 14-5 through their first 19 games, one of the best starts they’ve had in franchise history. They’ve proven early on that they are the class of the National League, and they’ve yet to be anywhere close to full strength, particularly the bullpen, which has been missing Collin McHugh and Raisel Iglesias for most of the season.
The two pitchers have combined for three appearances this year, and Raisel Iglesias, the team’s closer, has been on the IL for the entire season. Despite that, the Braves bullpen has managed to produce 1.1 fWAR, just behind the Rangers for the most in baseball, who have accrued 1.2 fWAR.
In all facets of the roster, the Braves have flexed their depth early in the season, but none more so than their bullpen. At every level, guys have stepped up. Dylan Lee and Jesse Chavez have been asked to serve in much more prominent roles. They’ve combined for 20 appearances through 19 games and have yet to allow a run. Nick Anderson wasn’t even on the roster to begin the season. Now, he’s consistently finding himself in high leverage situations and thriving in them, boasting a 3.12 ERA, 2.29 FIP, 0.692 WHIP, and 11.4 K/9. Then there’s A.J. Minter, who has stepped in as the team’s closer in Iglesias’ absence and looked the part, going 4/5 in save situations and recording a 2.00 ERA over nine innings.
The success continues even further down the roster as well. Michael Tonkin, who hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2017 coming into the season, has performed valiantly as the team’s long reliever, owning a 3.72 ERA. Kirby Yates is starting to show flashes of who he used to be after a shaky start to the season, and Joe Jimenez is beginning to look like the pitcher he was with the Tigers a season ago.
The Braves have had a rough go of it in the injury department this April, but the best teams are stockpiled with enough depth to withstand blows throughout a 162-game season. There’s a reason there is a 40-man roster. It takes a lot more than just 26 guys to get the job done over a six-month regular season.
Injuries are inevitable, which is why the deepest teams generally find themselves at the top of the division every season. The Braves aren’t just loaded with All-Star talent; they have the necessary depth in all areas to take everything in stride. No one man (or two or three) is going to derail this season, and they are showing that in a number of ways through the first month.
Photo: John Adams/Icon Sportswire
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