Atlanta Braves bullpen angst heading to the finish line
Real estate 101
Pitching has a lot in common with real estate; success depends largely on location, and Smith’s location this season hasn’t been consistently good enough to turn swings into outs.
In Smith’s 50 innings for the Atlanta Braves this season, his
- Total WHIFF rate is down from 15.5% to 13.9%,
- Batters out-of-the-zone-chase rate is down from 36.5% in 2019 to 34.8%,
- His era is up from 2.76 to 3.78, FIP up from 3.23 to 3.89 and SIERA up from 2.71 to 3.45
A quick look at the pitch location charts from Baseball Savant tells you all you need to know about why he’s getting hit so hard. In 2019 his slider looked in the zone until it disappeared off the plate and down. When that happened he generated a 42% groundball rate. Those ground balls turned into outs and double plays. This season the slider isn’t disappearing, his ground ball rate plummeted to 29.4% and the hits turned into line drives.
Smith’s 2019 fastball ran off the plate and away from the bat; this year it sits out over the plate and stays on the bat head.
His inability to locate pitches consistently out of the hitting zone produces some easy-to-see differences in the result. Even though Smith’s fly ball rate stayed the same, more of those fly balls were line drives that turned into hits due to an increased barrel rate and more solid contact.
I know it seems more at times, but he’s given up seven homers in 50 innings this year, In 2019 he gave up ten in 65-1/3 innings, playing at a Oracle park with its 88 park factor for home runs. In 2019, SunTrust/Truist Park has a 97 park factor for homers.
That’s a wrap
The Atlanta Braves have an opportunity to make a statement this weekend, They can’t afford to carry dead weight, and Tomlin is dead weight.
I wish the Braves had signed David Robertson after his return from the Olympics, but the Rays got there first. I’ve heard some suggest Touki Toussaint go to the pen. I don’t think he’s the right guy, but he can’t be worse than Tomlin.
The Braves will likely keep running Smith out there to try to get his confidence back, though I doubt the success of that plan. I hope they keep Matzek and Rodriquez back just in case he collapses into a puddle.
On a happier note, it appears Alan was right: the Snakes just swept the Phillies! [ed. note: maybe… but I didn’t expect Wheeler to lay the egg today!]