Atlanta Braves: Mike Foltynewicz Needs Bounce Back Year

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 5: Mike Foltynewicz
ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 5: Mike Foltynewicz /

Coming off of an inconsistent year in 2017, Mike Foltynewicz will look to get back on track for the Braves this season.

The Atlanta Braves starting rotation has many question marks as we are now underway with Grapefruit League action. With games happening now, one pitcher to keep a close eye on is right-hander Mike Foltynewicz.

The 2017 season was a disappointing season for Folty. At times he looked like he was becoming the front-line starter that I believe he can be. But then his next start might take him 2 steps backwards.

It was frustrating watching a guy with such tremendous stuff unable to take that next step in his career in becoming a dominant pitcher. His inconsistencies last season have led some folks in Braves country to question whether or not it would be smarter to use Folty as a reliever, or potentially the closer. While I feel he could be successful in the bullpen, he must remain a starter.

A Look Back at 2017

Coming into the 2017 regular season, Foltynewicz was going to be relied on to take the experiences and struggles he faced the previous year and turn them around and have a breakout year. That unfortunately did not go to plan. Folty went 10-13 with a 4.79 ERA in 28 starts last year for the Braves. The twenty-six year old righty threw 154 innings and struck out 143 batters, which both were career highs.

While he did strike out more guys, Foltynewicz struggled all season to put hitters away with two strikes. An inability to locate his secondary pitches led to hitters sitting on his fastball and eventually teeing off when they got one, which occurred a lot with a two-strike count. Hitters nowadays are able to hit 95+ mph fastballs, but when you are able to throw off-speed pitches for strikes, it makes it more difficult to look only for fastballs.

Sometimes in 2017, Folty’s baseball ability was not the only cause of his inability to get outs. His emotions would get the best of him, causing him to lose his composure on the mound.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a player showing emotion on the field rather than being a robot. But when emotions hinder the player of performing at their optimal level, that has to change. I want to see Folty take his rage and put it towards putting hitters away. Go have a 10+ strikeout game because early in the first inning you got squeezed on a pitch on the corner. Don’t pitch mad, but harness that anger and turn it into something positive.

It wasn’t all bad for Folty in 2017. Anyone remember when he had every Braves fan on the edge of their seat (or standing, holding their breath after every pitch…guilty) when he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Athletics in the summer?

Dominant performances like this one gave a glimmer of hope that the season may be turning around for Folty. But unfortunately Foltynewicz could not string together two or three solid starts to get his season back on track. One good start would be followed by a start that made you scratch your head. Knowing he has the ability to be dominant gives me hope that he can become the pitcher I know he can be.

All in all, 2017 is a year that did not go the way everyone had hoped it would. But look for Folty to bounce back in 2018.

Folty Turns It Around?

If the Braves are going to contend going forward, Mike Foltynewicz is going to have to become a starter that the Braves can count on every fifth day to give them a chance to win the ball game. In order for that to happen, he is going to have to figure some things out this spring.

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Having a plus-fastball is great, but the secondary pitches have to be there to be able to change speeds and keep the hitters off balance. Folty needs to get with pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and figure out how to tighten up his slider and make it an out-pitch. Too many times his slider would spin across the middle of the plate, and then find its way to the outfield seats. With a tighter slider, Foltynewicz can make it look like his fastball and then let it fall off the table creating more swings and misses.

Going deeper into games is also needed to be a front-line starter on any team. Pitching six to seven strong innings each start takes the pressure off of your bullpen, and gives your team an increased chance of winning the game. Foltynewicz must pitch deeper into games if the Braves are going to compete this year, and for years to come. With 2018 being the most important season of turning the Braves into contenders, Foltynewicz needs to make these changes quick.

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I’m a huge fan of Folty and want to see him succeed in a Braves uniform, but if he continues pitching like he has in the past the Braves are going to be faced with a difficult decision. A bounce back season for Foltynewicz is going to be crucial for him and this team.