I love these days where I get to watch baseball instead of working. I especially love them when Mike Soroka is on the bump. The Braves once again kept Soroka’s pitch count down as he left after 5 innings and 88 pitches. He has thrown less than 90 pitches in 7 of his last 14 starts. It looks like he’ll end up with about 170 innings pitched in the regular season. Whether any of this makes an impact on his performance in the postseason, I don’t know, and I don’t think I know anyone who does.
For these games, I don’t think anyone is really making strong observations about the team other than looking at mini-storylines. I’d like to share mine with you:
-Now that Ronald Acuna Jr. has hit his 40th home run, will we see a difference in his performance and approach. I know not the mind of Ronald Acuna Jr., but he was hitting .190 since mid-August coming into this game. Will having no possible interest whatsoever in reaching a certain home run total have an impact on him? We shall see.
Also, we will be able to see fairly definitively if Acuna is going to alter his game to get into the 40/40 club. You can argue that it’s impossible to know if Acuna is trying to hit home runs. Every swing is a home run swing for him; how does one know what’s in his mind? However, trying to steal a base is a conscious effort. He has attempted 7 stolen bases in the last 15 games. If he keeps the pace of one attempt every two games or so, then he will have to go 3 for 4 on attempts in the remaining 8 games of the year. Does he try to run more often to get it out of the way?
– Will some of the offense get back on track? Acuna’s 87 wRC+ in September going into today has been a disappointment. But Dansby Swanson‘s 41 wRC+ this year is in dire need of repair. McCann’s .163/.305/.204 line in 29 PAs in September is even worse. The 16.9 BB% is uniquely troubling considering the fear of fatigue with an aging catcher. Has the bat slowed down a bit, and he’s just trying to contribute any way he can? His .194/.341/.194 line in 44 August PAs hints at it as well. Out of Dansby, McCann, Ender Inciarte, Johan Camargo, Adeiny Hechavarria, Matt Joyce, and Adam Duvall, we need 2/3 of those players to be healthy and able to contribute in the playoffs.
-Do we have six solid guys we’d want to give the ball to in relief? Obviously Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, Chris Martin, and even Sean Newcomb are guys you probably have no problem with going into the postseason. From there, Jerry Blevins looks like a potential lock to be used in LOOGY situations. From there, I’d love to see at least one (obviously more would be great) of Grant Dayton, Darren O’Day, Luke Jackson, Josh Tomlin, and Jeremy Walker solidify themselves as a shutdown option in the playoffs, even if it’s situational. If they keep giving the ball to Kyle Wright, maybe even he becomes an option.
-Can Mike Foltynewicz continue to prove me wrong? I’ve been pretty critical of Folty this year, especially lately. Pitchers will often struggle with bouts of ineffectiveness. But with Folty, there are always conversations around his mental make-up, even from the beat writers, not just us fans. And when he has to leave games early due to hydration/nutrition, that just irks me. Could it be out of his hands? Absolutely, I don’t know.
Anyway, since a putrid start where he left after 4 2/3 innings having thrown 107 pitches, Folty has been pretty good: 1.52 ERA in 29.2 IP across 5 starts. The reason I say pretty good is that it’s still less than 6 IP per start. Within that stretch, he’s had outings of 5 and 4 2/3 innings pitched. But there is reason for optimism that his last two starts have included longevity to the tune of 6 and 7 inning performances. If he puts in another strong start, then I would say he should be your 4th option for the playoff rotation.
-Can something akin to what happened to the NBA players in Space Jam occur to Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Clayton Kershaw? Listen, a guy can dream, can’t he?