MLB executives believe regression is coming for Chris Sale, Reynaldo Lopez

MLB: APR 26 Guardians at Braves

The Braves sit nine games over .500 and are in a similar position as last year at this point in the season; however, it looks much different.

The 2024 Atlanta Braves have been pitching-led, compared to the 2023 lineup that broke records. If it weren’t for the Braves three horsemen in the rotation and stout bullpen, the Phillies division lead would easily be of the double-digit variety.

Max Fried has settled in nicely after a rough couple of starts at the beginning of the season, but it’s been the two offseason acquisitions that have been revelations and for very different reasons.

Reynaldo Lopez signed a three-year, $30 million free agent contract this winter and was expected to bolster the bullpen until it was revealed the Braves would be stretching him out to be a starter. To say that experiment has worked out would be an understatement.

Lopez is coming off another quality start, giving up one run over six innings to the Athletics. On the season, he has produced six quality starts in 10 appearances, resulting in a 1.73 ERA through 57.1 frames.

The uncertainty surrounding Chris Sale, who was dealt in a trade for Vaughn Grissom, was much different. The seven-time All-Star has battled injuries for going on half of a decade now, and there were questions if he could regain some of that magic in his age-35 season. The answer has been a resounding yes.

Sale was just named NL Pitcher of the Month for his outstanding May performance. A stretch Sale pitched to a perfect 5-0 record with a 0.56 ERA across 32.0 innings while allowing 23 hits with just two walks, 45 strikeouts, and a 0.78 WHIP. On the season, Sale has compiled an 8-1 record in 11 starts while walking 10 and striking out 82 through 67.2 innings pitched.

However, not everyone is buying the pair’s early success. An MLB executive is expecting regression for the Braves starters. “Meanwhile, executives say, Chris Sale and Reynaldo Lopez are bound for regression,” Jeff Passan of ESPN writes.

Chris Sale isn’t some unknown commodity. The 2018 World Series champion was on the path to Cooperstown before injuries brought his Hall of Fame candidacy into question.

Moreover, Sale’s NL-leading 2.49 FIP suggests his 3.06 ERA isn’t a fluke and should be even lower. Of course, Sale isn’t going to have a 0.56 ERA across the entire year like he did last month, but regression? I’m not quite sure about that. If healthy, Sale should be a top 10 finisher in the Cy Young race.

As for Lopez, the case for regression is much more plausible. The former reliever turned starter isn’t going to sustain his 1.73 ERA, but his 2.72 FIP suggests regression will still keep him firmly among the best starters in baseball.

It’s a marathon of a season, so fatigue is a factor with Reynaldo Lopez too. The Braves have almost adopted a six-man rotation, giving Lopez an extra day of rest to mitigate some of those worries, but we can only wait and see.

David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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