If that’s what the Atlanta Braves can expect from every demoted/promoted pitcher, this rebuild will be just fine. If we go by Game Score (a Bill James creation that attempts to quantify how a starting pitcher pitches), Matt Wisler’s first start after riding the Gwinnett shuttle produced his second-best outing of the season.
He worked six innings without yielding a hit or a run against an Arizona team that can really hit, especially in its ballpark. In the first three games of this Phoenix series, the Diamondbacks scored 23 runs on 38 hits. In eight innings against Wisler, the Snakes managed one and two. The no-hitter went away when Paul Goldschmidt poked a two-strike slider into right field. It was a good pitch spoiled by a very good hitter.
Wisler wasn’t knocking the bat out of many hands. He had no strikeouts through five innings. He finished with three. But he was sharp with his pitches, which he hadn’t been in the starts that triggered his trip to Triple-A. In those five games, Wisler yielded 38 hits, eight walks, nine homers and 26 earned runs in 26 1/3 innings.
His Game Scores in those five — 45, 32, 30, 35 and 28. (A pitcher begins every game with 50 points, meaning Wisler went backwards in all five.) His Game Score on Thursday in the desert — 75. Much better.
Until those five lesser starts, Wisler had stamped himself as something approaching a constant, which young pitchers rarely are. He’d get through six innings — his 13 quality starts (at least six innings with three or fewer earned runs) lead the Braves — and give his team a chance to win. He doesn’t have an overpowering fastball; if he gets a swing-and-miss, it’s apt to be with his slider. (See Brooks Baseball for verification.)
If he has never appeared a No. 1 in the making, he looked capable of becoming a No. 4. Until, weirdly, he didn’t. It’s unclear why the Braves’ big-league staff couldn’t get Wisler squared away without a Gwinnett sojourn, but lots of things about a young pitcher are unclear. Why did Sandy Koufax need six years to become Sandy Koufax?
Sometimes a guy just needs to clear his head. The Braves can only hope Aaron Blair and Tyrell Jenkins get similarly defogged.
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