Pair of former underachieving Braves are thriving in 2023

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A lot of Braves Country believes Alex Anthopoulos can do no wrong when, in fact, he isn’t perfect, which would be ridiculous to expect. Sure, he’s hit some home runs — locking up young talent at an extremely team-friendly rate, fleeced fellow GMs in trades, and made some pretty remarkable selections in the draft. But he’s also had his fair share of whiffs.

Cole Hamels is the one that comes to mind immediately. The Braves handed the 36-year-old $18 million before the COVID-shortened 2020 season even though he was steadily declining in the prior years. The thought process was for him to provide stability and veteran leadership to a young rotation, but instead he only pitched one game, giving up three runs in just 3.1 innings. A shoulder injury ended his season, marking arguably the worst move of AA’s tenure.

Drew Smyly was another lackluster signing. In 2021, he signed a one-year, $11 million deal, even though he culminated a 5.71 ERA across the two seasons prior. It wasn’t as big of a failure as Hamels; Smyley was serviceable, starting 23 games and throwing 126.2 innings in 2021, but the production wasn’t great.

He tallied a 4.48 ERA and 5.11 FIP with a WHIP of 1.374, accumulating a paltry 0.3 fWAR, which ranked 89th highest in the MLB, despite being the fourth-highest paid player on the Braves roster that year. It was inconsequential because the club ended up winning the World Series, but Smyly didn’t exactly contribute significantly, posting a 6.14 ERA in 7.1 innings that postseason.

However, it seems he’s turned back the clock with the Cubs this year. Across 10 starts and 55.1 innings, Smyly owns a 2.93 ERA and an NL-leading 0.958 WHIP. For a Braves team with a thin starting rotation, Smyly sure would be nice to have in Atlanta right now, but he’s not the only former underachieving Brave that is thriving right now.

Kevin Gausman leads the AL in strikeouts with 81 and boasts a 3.14 ERA across 10 starts and 63.0 innings. He’s giving the Blue Jays a lot this season, but nowhere close to what he provided for the Braves.

Gausman joined the club in 2018 via trade from the Orioles and was actually really productive, sporting a 2.87 ERA in 10 starts and 59.2 innings. However, it was his second season that really stung. In 2019, Gausman started 16 games across 80 innings and racked up an unsightly 6.19 ERA and 1.488 WHIP. Over two seasons, he totaled a 4.77 ERA and 1.339 WHIP for his Braves career.

Baseball is a fickle sport, and nothing is more volatile than pitching, evident in this pair’s resurgence.

Photographer: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire
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