The Atlanta Braves began the season with a rotation of Julio Teheran, Bud Norris, Matt Wisler, Williams Perez and Jhoulys Chacin. This rotation today: Mike Foltynewicz, Tyrell Jenkins, Rob Whelan, Joel De La Cruz and Roberto Hernandez.
Teheran and Perez are on the disabled list. Norris and Chacin were traded. Wisler was demoted. (So was Aaron Blair, who joined the rotation after Norris was moved to the bullpen.) In all, the Braves have used 14 different starting pitchers, and this was, as we know too well, a lousy team to begin with. But here’s the weird part: Having been reduced to deploying the 35-year-old Hernandez, who was twice released by the Blue Jays this year and was signed by the Braves last month, the rotation is looking …
The Braves have won 10 of 14 games. Five of those 14 games have produced quality starts, including one by Lucas Harrell, who was traded to the Rangers two days later. In all, this change-on-the-fly rotation — seven different pitchers have started the 14 games — has produced an ERA of 4.35, which is slightly better than the Braves’ ERA for starting pitchers on the season (4.48). Which goes to show … well, who the heck knows?
Some of this can be ascribed to the Braves’ collection/cultivation of young pitchers: Foltynewicz and Jenkins, both of whom seemed ticketed for the bullpen, have been impressive; Whalen was acquired in last year’s Kelly Johnson trade, not to be confused with this year’s Kelly Johnson trade. But Hernandez, who’s on his seventh different organization since 2012, and De La Cruz, who was signed by the Brewers in 2006 and acquired by the Braves as a minor-league free agent over the winter, are the definition of journeymen.
Even if the only overarching theme is the part about necessity being the you-know-what, it’s still fascinating to watch. What’s the one thing guaranteed to destroy a team? Injuries to its starting pitchers. The Braves have had a cluster. (John Gant, acquired in the same deal as Whalen, took four turns and got hurt. Even the fill-ins are falling out.) And yet they’ve won 10 of 14.
Yes, the schedule has eased. Yes, the Kemp-added lineup has hit better, though Matt Kemp himself is 6-for-26 as a Brave. The Braves remain a distant last in the majors in runs, home runs and slugging percentage, but they’ve climbed to 25th in batting average. One small step for man!
In the grand scheme of a six-month season, 10 wins in 14 games is a blip. For the Braves, though, any diversion from the misery of 2016 is most welcome. After being swept out of Denver on July 24, they were 33-66, on pace to finish 54-108, which would have made this the worst Atlanta Braves team ever. Today they’re 43-70, on pace to go 62-100. Still bad, sure, maybe even bad enough to snag next year’s No. 1 draftee. But not historically awful.