4. Atlanta Braves Player to Worry About: Bryce Elder
I'm not changing my stance just because Bryce Elder had a good game against the Yankees. He was a stud in the first half of the season. He earned an All-Star appearance after being sent down to start the season. It's kind of crazy to think about now, isn't it? We started the season with Dylan Dodd and Jared Shuster in the rotation and Bryce Elder was in Triple-A.
Speaking of the seven shutout innings against the Yankees. That was like swimming from a depth you shouldn't have been at and you barely made it to the surface for air. You sucked that breath in as if you had almost drowned. That's what that last Elder's last start was like. Not drowning.
In the two games prior to that start, Elder gave up 10 earned runs on 13 hits and five walks in just 9.2 innings pitched. The Cubs and Pirates combined to hit .317 with a .908 OPS against the 24-year-old right-hander.
We've discussed the underlying metrics before and included a bit about it in our 5 Reasons the Braves Won't Win the World Series article. There were many reasons to believe Elder could not continue his first-half dominance.
Of the top 30 ERA leaders among qualified starting pitchers in 2022, only one had a K/9 lower than Elder's current 6.5. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it is very difficult to strike out as few hitters as Elder does (in the modern game) and remain among the elite.
His Baseball Savant page doesn't look too hot, either. There is a lot of blue on that page. In fact, there are only two metrics in which he rates in the top half of the league. His fastball spin is in the fourth percentile, his fastball velocity is in the bottom nine percent, his chase rate is 43rd, his K% is 14th, and his expected batting average is 27th. Also, his average exit velocity is in the 38th percent, so he's getting hit pretty hard... which is not good for a guy with who pitches to contact.
You can read into those underlying stats and determine that he must have been fairly lucky to begin the season. Luck might have been running out over the past couple of months. If you look back to June 6th and we even include his latest domination of the Yankees, the numbers aren't good.
Over his last 13 games, Elder has a 4.85 ERA with a 5.05 FIP. He looks like a control pitcher and smells like a control pitcher, but his walk rate is right in the middle of the league. He's league average when it comes to walks allowed. Elder is barely holding the fourth spot in the rotation together right now and in a seven-game series, we are one bad start away from needing his services.