How this former Atlanta Braves pitcher saved his career

Michael Soroka will always have a soft spot in Braves fans hearts. Just when it was looking like Soroka may be done at the Major League level, a role change rejuvenated him.

Chicago White Sox v Arizona Diamondbacks
Chicago White Sox v Arizona Diamondbacks / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

Michael Soroka quickly won over Atlanta Braves fans with his dominant 2019 rookie campaign. Unfortunately, that run of dominance was cut down way too early when Soroka tore his Achilles in the 2020 season.

From there it was an extensive run of devastating injuries for the young Canadian. It was a long and hard fought road back, but Braves fans finally saw the young right-hander return to the mound last year in Oakland. However, Soroka wasn't his past self, and his 6.40 ERA in the 2023 season kept him from reestablishing himself in Atlanta.

Thus brought change for the 26 year-old Canadian. Soroka was part of a six-player deal that sent him to Chicago to play for the rebuilding White Sox. A change in scenery was thought to be needed for Soroka, and something that could perhaps spark him to be the pitcher he once was.

Sadly, it was only more adversity for Soroka as he was often hit hard in his starts to begin 2024. Soroka was handed the ball nine times as a starter to begin the year, and he allowed an abysmal .251/.347/.509 slash line on his way to a 6.39 ERA. However, a switch in roles may have been the needed change to keep Michael Soroka in the majors.

Soroka moves into the bullpen

On May 18, against the New York Yankees, Soroka made his first bullpen appearance for the Chicago White Sox. On that day he would pitch four innings of seven strikeout shutout baseball. Since that day, Soroka has made eight more relief appearances.

Five of those bullpen outings have been of the multi-inning variety. And while every outing hasn't been perfect, the numbers showcase that Michael Soroka's move to the bullpen has turned him into a different pitcher.

As a reliever, Soroka has trimmed that awful slash line mentioned earlier down to .200/.333/.307. His ERA as a reliever has dropped all the way down to 3.54. Soroka has also seen a dip in his FIP (6.75 as a starter to 3.35 as a reliever), and wOBA (.368 as a starter to .296 as a reliever).

The biggest improvement for Soroka has been the spike in strikeout percentage. As a starter, Soroka had a 12.4 K%. Out of the bullpen, Soroka has an impressive 37.6 K%. That can be attributed to the jump in velocity in these shorter stint outings.

Meanwhile, Soroka has changed who he is as a pitcher, Braves fans know him for being a sinkerball specialist in his prime. However, this season Soroka has cut down significantly on his sinker usage, and upped the usage on his slider and four-seamer.

And for good reason, opponents are batting under .200 against Soroka's slider this season via Baseball Savant. The uptick in velocity has made his four-seamer play much better out of the 'pen as well. From here, Soroka still needs to work on his BB% (15.1% as a reliever) in order to become a big-time weapon out the bullpen.

However, this move to the bullpen may have just been punctuated by Soroka's 3 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 7 K performance against the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday. While his season numbers may not inspire many people at first glance, Braves fans can feel good for their 2015 first round pick because they know his resilience has finally shined through. And all it took was a move to the Chicago bullpen.

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