Another young Braves pitcher is demoted. But what does that mean?

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Matt Wisler (37) works in the first inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies Thursday, July 28, 2016, in Atlanta,. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Matt Wisler in that awful first inning. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Matt Wisler needed 27 pitches to record an out Thursday. The first six Phillies did this: Walked, singled, homered, homered, singled and walked. Not so long ago, Wisler seemed the first actual graduate of the Atlanta Braves’ charter class in their Rebuild Around Pitching. Late Thursday, Wisler was demoted to Gwinnett.

This makes three big names — Mike Foltynewicz (last year) and Aaron Blair (last month) being the others — among the Braves’ high-profile young pitchers who’ve been called up and then sent back. Blair has had two strong starts in Triple-A after four bad ones. Foltynewicz is back in the bigs and seems to have figured it out, but that could be a momentary thing. Young pitching is both tantalizing and maddening.

Pete Van Wieren used to say — I believe Pete was quoting somebody, but I forget who — that of every three starts by a young pitcher, you’d get a good one, a bad one and an indifferent one. Go back and check Tom Glavine’s numbers from 1988 or John Smoltz’s from the the first half of the worst-to-first 1991. Heck, check Sandy Koufax’s first five big-league seasons. Those three became first-ballot Hall of Famers.

This time a year ago, the Mets’ young pitching was the envy of baseball. Today those arms are yet another chapter in the tome of cautionary tales. Matt Harvey has had season-ending surgery. Noah Syndergaard reported a “dead arm” before the All-Star break. Steven Matz has bone chips in his elbow. Zack Wheeler’s return from Tommy John surgery has been delayed.

Even the best Dodgers pitcher since Koufax isn’t impervious to pain. (Koufax himself retired at 30 because his left arm hurt so much.) Clayton Kershaw is on the disabled list with back issues. There’s no assurance he’ll return this season. He might need surgery.

The good news for the Braves is that Wisler appears healthy. To invoke Mike Minor’s description of himself, Wisler is simply making “too many non-competitive pitches.” (Still not sure exactly what that means, but it sounds about right.) In this season’s first 10 starts, he yielded six home runs. In the past 10, he has been touched for 16.

As noted, the first six Phillies reached base Thursday, five scoring. Wisler then retired 13 of the next 15 batters. About here, you thought, “The ship might have sailed, but this is rather better.” Then Cody Asche reached on a two-out single. Then Aaron Altherr, making his seasonal big-league debut, hit a home run. Now it was 7-nil and the game was well and truly gone. The Braves would score five runs — Aaron Nola, one of the Phillies’ young pitchers, didn’t have much, either — and lose.

So that was Wisler’s night: Started badly, settled nicely, ended poorly. Then: Sent to Gwinnett. If you’re still a Braves’ fan — and if you are, bless your heart — this is massively frustrating. (Imagine how it feels to the Braves themselves.) But it comes with the territory. That Wisler and Blair have disappointed doesn’t mean the plan to rebuild around pitching was wrong-headed; on the contrary, it means that the idea of stockpiling arms was spot-on. If one (or two, or five) don’t pan out, the next one (or two, or five) just might.

We saw again in this week’s trade with Texas how even first-place teams and first-tier organizations can run short of pitching. The Rangers sent a first-round draftee with power potential here for two pitchers who weren’t on the Braves’ roster 2 1/2 months ago. And we just saw the Cubs, who’ve rebuilt around hitters, send a package of prospects to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman, who throws 105 mph, but might wind up being a three-month rental.

Moral of our story: As nerve-racking as the cultivation of young pitchers can be, it’s worth the aggravation. There’s always a market for pitching. Always.

Reader Comments 0

15 comments
Gman84
Gman84

Tearing the team down is easy, but a successful rebuild takes skill and luck....the Braves have neither

jim024
jim024

Where are the likes of Warren Spahn, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and others who were able to pitch a lot of innings at a high level for fifteen or more years without major injuries?  Is having to be able to throw 95+ mph in high school to get noticed by the scouts causing the early demise of these young arms in pro ball?

jim024
jim024

please dpn't trade Teheran!  There is nobody  above A ball ready to step in and be a competent big-league pitcher, let alone anchor the staff.  And it would cost much more money to bring in another starter as good.  These hauls of prospects that we got for Simmons and Miller seem to be highly over rated.  Miller might turn out to be a bust for Arizona, but not sold on Blair, not sure Swanson will be the star we are lead to believe, and Inciarte is a nice 4th outfielder type.  Not sure we will get value for Simmons either as that trade plays out.

Archangel
Archangel

I don't get this article. It tells me nothing. 

POV1948
POV1948

@Archangel It's Bradley trying to give cover to the Braves front office.  Everything he writes about the team lately seems to be for that purpose.  But Bradley is THE WORST analyst and prognosticator ever in AJC sports.  If he thinks the Johns have a winning plan, bet the other way.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@POV1948  Ha ha.  I'm worried about him.   I think he's finally lost it.  Wisler going down last night might have done it.  He's got another Fantasyland blog up about the 2018 Braves.  Anything to take his mind off the current train wreck of a team I guess....

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

The first true sign the Braves front office will give the fans about the progress of the rebuild is when they announce who will be managing the 2017 team. If they keep the current staff intact ,it could signal another year like this year,with a revolving door pitching rotation backed up by a few castoff veterans and one or two rookie position players learning the job at the MLB level. 

Although, now that I think about it, Who is the big name Hart/Coppy could hire to manage the Braves? Any ideas on this Mark, and please don't say Bud Black,he is almost the same age as Snitker, and only had a small amount of success in San Diego.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@Buschleaguer Would've loved for them to lure Bochy away, but he's now locked up through 2019.  He wouldn't want to mess with a rebuild anyway.


BTW, how many posts do you see on this blog?  Did my previous post in front of yours show up?  I log out, my post disappears.  I log in, it reappears.  Weird....

Jdub2500
Jdub2500

We're still here (Braves fans). We're just sad, frustrated, and ready for things to get better. New ballpark or no new ballpark, losing like THIS sucks.