In the third inning on Aug. 3, Braves ace Mike Soroka reacted to a grounder to first base quickly, looking to cover first base as pitchers are tasked with doing on those types of balls. Instead, he crumpled to the ground with a torn Achilles. When he went down, did he take the Braves' chances of winning the NL East with him?
It might seem a hyperbolic proposition, considering Soroka is but one pitcher in a rotation of five, that the Braves are in a virtual tie for first place and that the Phillies, Mets and Nationals have been very disappointing so far. Still, the rotation for the Braves right now is a mess. Here's what they're left with:
- Max Fried, who is good and has looked the part so far this season.
- Touki Toussaint, who has a 7.27 ERA in 17 1/3 innings and had a 5.62 ERA last year.
- Huascar Ynoa, who had a 5.09 ERA last season with stops in Class A, Double-A and Triple-A.
- Kyle Wright, who has a career 7.41 ERA in 37 2/3 MLB innings, though there is plenty of untapped upside.
That's troubling for a division favorite.
Now, Cole Hamels is looking to throw a bullpen session next week, but that still puts him a few weeks away from a return and there are only about six weeks left in the season. Plus, Hamels is 36 and fell apart down the stretch last season (6.57 ERA in his last nine starts). It's not like he's a sure thing.
At best, this is a collection with good upside and you hope for development from the likes of Toussaint, Ynoa and Wright. At worst, it's a total mess.
There's a silver lining and it's the circumstances surrounding the team right now. It's good news!
The good news is the rotation hasn't been good to date and the Braves are 11-8. Starters for them have posted a 5.57 ERA and 1.37 WHIP with a 3-7 record. The bullpen has a 3.05 ERA and has worked nearly as many innings. Further, with such a short season, fluky things are bound to happen -- as we're seeing already league-wide -- so it's possible they can somehow survive a dreadful rotation. Even more, as noted previously, the expected competition in the division has all looked either bad or mediocre. I'm not expecting the Marlins to hang around, the Braves only have to be in the top eight spots in the NL to make the playoffs and they've bought themselves a little breathing room at the top from the Nationals, Phillies and Mets with almost 1/3 of the season banked.
If the Braves do run into problems, however, it's going to be in the rotation. It is worrisome.