2020 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Tommy Milone

Once upon a long, long ago, there was a young boy from Saugus, California. Just like many young boys across America, and just like you and me, this particular young boy dreamed of playing baseball.

During his senior year of high school, he went 23-4 as a pitcher and batted .507 as a first baseman, and was one of two players from his high school to be drafted that year — and one of 21 Saugus graduates to play in professional baseball overall. He still owns the single-season school record for RBI, and he’s tied for fifth-most hits, second-most home runs, and fourth-lowest ERA, and he tossed the only perfect game in school history.

Then he went to the University of Southern California, where he became the Tommy Milone we all know far too well: he went 16-17 with a 4.78 ERA.

The Nats drafted him in the 10th round, then traded him to Oakland in one of the many Gio Gonzalez trades, and he was pretty much fine in his first four full seasons in Oakland and then Minnesota: 619 innings, 3.97 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 98 ERA+, 2.9 K/BB, 1.2 HR/9. As John Sickels wrote after his rookie campaign:

Age 25, silenced the doubters by going 13-10, 3.74 in 31 starts with a 137/36 K/BB in 190 innings, allowed 207 hits. He’ll give up some hits and some homers, but he controls the damage by never walking anybody. Outstanding changeup.

But it wasn’t outstanding enough to give him any margin for error. Since that 2015 season, he has replacement-level or worse. In the last five seasons, he’s twirled just 294 2/3 innings, with a 5.80 ERA, 5.35 FIP, 75 ERA+, 3.70 K/BB, 2.1 HR/9. Those are the numbers of a man who doesn’t have enough to get by in the modern game.

It is not his fault, of course, that Alex Anthopoulos approached his starting rotation in the 2019 offseason like a blackjack player who stood pat on a 14, waiting for the dealer to bust. Nor is it his fault that in his first six starts in Baltimore’s COVID-delayed 2020 season, Milone pulled out some smoke and mirrors and posted a 3.99 ERA in 29 1/3 innings.

It is Anthopoulos’s fault that he saw a left-handed pitcher with no fastball and an ERA near six in the previous half-decade and viewed him as a solution in the starting rotation.

Milone pitched three games in a Braves uniform. On August 30, he got seven outs and yielded eight runs. On September 4, he got 12 outs and yielded one run. On September 9, he got 10 outs and yielded eight runs. It was good for a 14.90 ERA in 9 2/3 innings, a whopping 22 hits including four homers, and a wholly irrelevant 9-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

I don’t really want to dunk on Tommy Milone. He sucked as a pitcher but as far as I can tell he doesn’t suck as a person. He doesn’t appear to have been the kind of self-satisfied slob that we all love to hate. He just seems to have been the 2020 Braves’ answer to 2007 Mark Redman: a past-his-prime journeyman lefthander with less than nothing left in the tank.

His career to this point has been remarkable, really. Hell, he has a lower career ERA in the majors than he had at Southern Cal. He had the exact sort of career that, if not for injury, Chuck James might have enjoyed. But that career has come near to an end.

Of course, as a lefthander with an agent and a pulse, he’ll probably be able to draw a paycheck from some team in some league somewhere for about as long as he’d like, and several of those prospective employers may even be in the majors.

I just dearly hope that none of them are the Braves.

33 thoughts on “2020 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Tommy Milone”

  1. Hammers shirt update:

    I’ll be heading to the UPS store tomorrow AM to send out some more Hammers shirts. If you are interested, the cost is $25/each out the door. Send me an email at cothrjr at gmail.

    Also, still collecting people that are interested in a Hammers Long-sleeve tee. Email me if that tickles your fancy.

  2. Apparently there are teams out there that are looking at Marcus Semien as a 3B. It’s most of the time career suicide for a shortstop without an elite bat (I’m assuming 2019 is the outlier, not the norm) to make a move to the corner. He doesn’t really fit Braves needs, but I thought it was interesting nonetheless.

    Also, NL teams are being told to go forward with the mindset that there’ll be no DH in 2021. What. A. Mess.

  3. @3, it’s hard to be anything but cynical about the way that Manfred operates, and if NL teams are in limbo over the DH, then it means the free agent market will remain ice-cold, and that will likely help to depress player salaries, which is ultimately what the owners want above all.

  4. He just seems to have been the 2020 Braves’ answer to 2007 Mark Redman: a past-his-prime journeyman lefthander with less than nothing left in the tank.

    Frickin’ nailed it. Great comparison.

    Yeah, I mean, Milone got 3 starts, he was terrible, and we cut bait. But to Alex’s point, it was being that desperate for a starter that was the real sin.

  5. Fay Vincent was fired by the owners after invoking the, “Best interests of baseball,” clause in his brief to force the owners back to the table and end the 1990 work stoppage (the owners wanted to have the 1994 lockdown then). Selig had that clause removed from the Commissioner’s contract.

  6. I’m aware of this community’s desire to move past talking about trading Ender, but I nevertheless feel compelled to point out that it was on this very date five years ago that the Braves traded for him, Aaron Blair and, of course, Dansby Swanson.

  7. @5 I empathize as I often wonder the same. It would seem that what’s good for the owners isn’t necessarily what’s good for the fans. For a guy so weasel-y and obviously so bad at lying, one would think he is an utter failure, but then he still has a job.

  8. Just as with Goodell, one of the greatest services that Manfred provides to the owners is deflecting incoming invective from fans. The more time we spend hating him, the less time we spend hating his paymasters. He’s a quacking decoy. What do they care what he actually does in his office all day?

  9. @12 Our only recourse as fans is to… stop watching. That’s the only way to punish the owners. And we’re not about to do that… although, we probably should. I’m much less happy with the quality of baseball we’re getting as compared to 10 or 15 years ago. I kinda regret hating on the PEDs, honestly…

  10. @13

    What don’t you like about today’s game?

    I think my big gripe with today’s game is the lack of stolen bases. I get that the success rates just aren’t there, but I miss watching the speed aspect of the game. Other than that, I’m pretty happy, especially with the advent of the launch angle movement.

  11. You miss the stolen bases like I miss the complete game shutouts and the days of the starting pitcher regularly hanging around into the 8th inning. I really miss those days when it was basically two starting pitchers squaring off and not two sets of a half dozen arms.

    There’s actually much I miss. Even when starting pitchers were thriving, baseball was full of juiced hitters who were putting up phenomenal numbers. Those days were pretty special.

  12. I am absolutely in love with today’s game. I’ve always been a fan of baseball because of all the numbers and now there are more statistics to digest and aid in the understanding of the sport. Some don’t like it and I get it, but looking at the data and trying to find the next Ozuna to unlock is something I really enjoy.

  13. @17 I don’t blame the numbers or the advanced metrics for the game’s changes. I blame the commissioner for basically letting the game grow organically no matter what the impacts are.

  14. What I like about today’s baseball: multiple angles and slo-mo of every play.
    What I hate about today’s baseball: using those multiple angles and slo-mo to improve calls on the field.

    What I like about today’s baseball: the science of pitching
    What I hate about today’s baseball: the way pitching science has made swinging for the fences optimal

    What I like about today’s baseball: Players making a lot of money for very brief careers
    What I hate about baseball: 2.5 minutes between innings to run commercials to make the money to pay the players

  15. It’s the Christmas season, which means every day is like a vacuum doing a drive by on your checking account.

  16. I never had the privilege of watching him, but his baseball card sure belongs.

  17. RIP. The recent player who reminded me most of him was Gary Sheffield, but Allen was like an exaggerated version of Sheffield – an even better and more feared hitter, a worse fielder at less demanding defensive positions, and an even more disruptive personality than early-career Sheffield. I wouldn’t put him in the Hall, but I’m a small Hall person; if I wanted a big Hall, he’d belong in it.

    As for the personality, yes he had to deal with a lot of racism, especially in his early years, but it wasn’t all everyone else’s fault. In different sections of the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, James said Allen, “had three or four seasons when he was as good a player as anyone in baseball but lost half of his career or more to immaturity and emotional instability,” called him, “charming but petulant,” and included him as one of the four players he thought were in the running for the biggest horse’s ass in baseball history. With all that, he ranked Allen as the 15th best 1B in baseball history, just behind Tony Perez and Will Clark and just ahead of Keith Hernandez and Orlando Cepeda.

    Looking at his (very impressive) batting line made me wonder whether borderline HOF candidates do worse in the voting if they’ve bounced around a number of teams than they would if they had stayed with one team for almost all of their careers. If you’re Ricky Henderson, it doesn’t matter, but I wonder if Kenny Lofton would have received more support if he had played 15 years with one team. Maybe that’ll help Freeman in 15 years.

  18. Allen’s the classic example of a player whose relationship with the media was poor enough to doom his chances, at least until a posthumous committee who didn’t know him can evaluate him more fairly. In that way, and in his fearsomeness at the plate, he reminds me of Gary Sheffield in a lot of ways, though his career was significantly shorter: https://stathead.com/tiny/AAedV

    [edit: Ha…. James84 beat me by 2 minutes]

  19. @30 is right, with three unnamed nonplayers also in the running. Hornsby “won.”

    By the way, if I had to pick one book to help me understand U.S. baseball history, not just the names and numbers, but what the game was like in different eras, the Historical Abstract (2nd edition) would be it.

  20. Like coop, I remember Dick Allen as a player. In fact, the first year I followed baseball obsessively was 1964–Dick Allen’s rookie year and the season the Phillies improbably led the NL for most of the year. Because of Allen, I became a Phils fan for that one season only. This is pre-ATL Braves, of course, and before you throw me off this blog, in my I was just nine years old.

    Although I quickly lost any affection for the Phillies after that season, I always remained a Dick Allen fan. He was a historically great hitter during his peak–his OPS+ for his career was 156, and in his first 11 full seasons it was never under 145 for a season. That’s Aaron and Mays territory. Had he played a few more seasons in his late 30’s, I suspect his career numbers would have gotten him into the Hall, notwithstanding his reputation as a troublemaker.

    Although Bill James remains my favorite baseball analyst and writer (I agree that the Historical Abstract is a great book), I think his take on Allen as a clubhouse cancer is off base. Allen was indeed difficult, and it sounds like he may have been an alcoholic. But there is more to the story. Although I can’t find a link, Craig Wright wrote a long piece taking issue with Allen’s reputation as a clubhouse cancer. His teammates and managers overwhelmingly said positive things about his as a person. And we should not overlook the racial bias that infected many media accounts of his behavior. In any event, in his later years he apparently reconciled with many former adversaries, including Phillies fans and the City of Philadelphia. In that respect, he was a better man than I am!

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