Report card time: 2019 pitching grades for Atlanta Braves

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 13: Mike Soroka #40 of the Atlanta Braves pitches against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Nationals Park on September 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 13: Mike Soroka #40 of the Atlanta Braves pitches against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Nationals Park on September 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
(Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) /

Team pitching


Surprising to some, the 2019 Atlanta Braves took a small step back in terms of overall pitching (numbers-wise). Although, as I pointed out in the previous slide, pitching in the majors was a bit tougher this year.

Just looking at the commonly referenced stats, Braves’ pitchers allowed almost half a run more in ERA, as well as .31 more home runs per nine compared to 2018.

Despite the increase in runs and home runs, as well as a minute drop in strikeout rate, the Braves did manage to improve its walk-rate this season. Still, the run environment was just too much to overcome, as the Braves produced more than 2.6 less WAR as a pitching group than in 2018:


WAR 12.3 17th
ERA 4.20 9th
K rate 8.64 K/9 18th
BB rate 3.40 BB/9 t-17th
HR rate 1.26 HR/9 t-6th
BAA .253 16th

Keeping the ball down

Last season only one other team had a lower BABIP-against then the Braves, as Atlanta’s pitchers benefited from great defense and a bit of luck to the tune of a .278 mark. In 2019, some of that luck dissipated, thanks to a 3.6% increase in the opponent’s hard-hit rate.

We know that nowadays the trending approach at the plate for hitters is to pull and launch, as a higher percentage of home runs come from hits to the pull side, as well as balls that are struck at a higher launch angle.

And in 2019, the Braves did an even better job at countering that fly-ball approach, increasing its ground ball rate by almost 2% — good for 3rd-highest in the majors. Although, Braves’ pitchers allowed a 2.4% increase in their pull-rate (which isn’t neccesarily all bad):


Groundball rate 45.2% 3rd
Pull rate 41.0% t-10th
Hard-hit rate 38.7% 14th
BABIP .302 t-15th

A change in pitch usage

In 2018, of the six most common pitches (fastball, slider, cutter, curveball, changeup and split-finger), the Braves finished ranked outside the top-10 in pitch value (FanGraphs’ runs-above-average) in just two, with neither offering ranking worse than 15th — sliders and curveballs.

However, in 2019, three of those six pitches were ranked outside the top-10, with one ranking 20th (changeup).

The fastball, a pitch that only three other teams threw better than the Braves last season, was the offering that saw the biggest decline for Atlanta, possibly from the regression of Mike Foltynewicz for over half the season.

The Braves were so-so at throwing the curveball in 2018, but this season it was one of the team’s highest ranked offerings, thanks to relievers Jerry Blevins and Mark Melancon, and even Sean Newcomb, who threw the pitch very well in 2019.


Fastball -15.1 16th
Slider 16.4 16th
Cutter 12.1 6th
Curveball 14.5 4th
Changeup -1.6 20th
Split-finger 8.8 4th

Enticing batters to chase

Perhaps the least apparent aspect of Braves’ pitching in 2019, when compared to last year, was opposing hitters plate discipline versus Atlanta’s pitchers.

Last year, Braves’ pitchers were never all that successful at compelling opposing hitters to chase their pitches out of the zone, ranking 19th in O-Swing rate (out-of-zone swing rate). But in 2019, the group made some headway, increasing that rate by almost 2% and finishing 12th in that regard.

The catch to that minuscule improvement in generating chases is the fact that while opposing batters swung at more balls this season… they also made contact with more of them as well, including more contact against all pitches overall.

The only silver lining from basically a wash in the Braves’ 2019 contact-rate improvements is that Atlanta’s pitchers allowed less contact on pitches solely in the strike zone, admittedly just a decrease of less than one percent.


O-Swing rate 31.8% t-12th lowest
Overall swing rate 46.9% t-13th highest
O-Contact rate 63.6% t-16th lowest
Z-Contact rate 85.5% t-13th lowest
Overall contact rate 76.5% t-12th lowest
Swinging-strike rate 11.0% t-12th highest

Altogether a solid group

Overall, even being conscience of the extreme change in offense in 2019 — which perhaps makes the team’s number seem worse than they truly are — I still believe the Braves pitching (as an entire group) did rather well.

The group suppressed home runs at an elite level, while also maintaining a top-ten ERA in all of baseball, all while deploying a young rotation that included only one star addition (albeit after the season had already began).