2022 Braves Player Review: Jackson Stephens

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If one were to look at Jackson Stephens and his full body of work through the eyes of K per 9 (7.9 per 9)and walks per 9 (3.9 per 9), one would come to a conclusion that the Braves made the right decision in letting him walk after 2022.

What the simple metrics of Ks per 9 and BBs per 9 cannot show us is what happens to a ball that is put in play when Jackson Stephens throws said ball. Luckily, thanks to Statcast, we have that data readily available.

As a mop-up man, Jackson Stephens’ job is to keep the game close. For the most part, Stephens did that well and the secret to his success is quite simple: He keeps the ball in the park. In a period of baseball when all or nothing swings is the dominant approach, Stephens only allowed 3 home runs in 53.2 innings. Of pitchers that threw 50 innings or more, only Spencer Strider matched his 0.5 HR/9.

How did he do it? Looking above, it’s pretty easy to dissect: Nothing was straight. With 5 pitches ranging from a mid-70s changeup to a fastball that hits 94, every pitch has serious movement. Combining that 20 MPH difference in his fastest and slowest pitches with massive break on pitches, barreling anything thrown by Stephens was a difficult task.

Stephens, the Person

When Stephens went to the IL at the end of August, we got the privilege of seeing him in a more relaxed setting when he made a cameo on the Braves broadcast outside the Chophouse, and what a treat he was during that segment. Both Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann seemed to really enjoy his energy and enthusiasm for the game. I did too. Of all the games I watched in 2022, it was this broadcast that stuck out to me.

Hopefully Stephens returns to the Braves on a MILB deal and becomes the team’s mop-up man in 2023. However, if he never pitches again with the team, can we at least have him in the booth after retirement? Here’s my favorite quote from Jackson during the segment when asked about pitching teammate Spencer Strider:

“He throws absolute hush puppies up there”.

Jackson Stephens

And I LOVE this video! What’s more to love than a jolly, fat man with a beard receiving player of the game?

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

15 thoughts on “2022 Braves Player Review: Jackson Stephens”

  1. I had hoped that Stephens would follow in Matzek’s footsteps and be the next “found gold” but he was perfectly cromulent. I find it a little odd that the Braves signed Matzek who won’t play in 2023 and released Stephens. That may give us a clue as to how the Braves regard Stephens. For my part, I’d love to see a competition between Stephens, N. Anderson, Santana, Tonkin, and maybe Chavez for the last spot or two in the bullpen.

    We have Iglesias, Minter, McHugh, Lee, Yates and I’ll think we’ll sign one (we’re short a lefty so maybe Taylor Rogers?). So that leaves two spots remaining in the bullpen unless you believe that Soroka, I. Anderson, Muller, Tarnok, Allard, or Elder might wind up in middle relief.

  2. The only time I saw Gaylord Perry pitch was with the Padres in 1978, his 2nd Cy Young year. As was often the case whenever I’d see a future Hall of Fame pitcher (Gibson, Ryan, Carlton) at AFC Stadium, he got bombed. In fact, Rowland Office, of all people, hit a 3-run HR off him.

    A little later in the game, a Braves rookie named Bob Horner hit his 3rd Major-League homer off some long-forgotten reliever. I remember that it was the typical Horner blast – a short-stroked rocket that just lined over the LF fence & rattled up under Nocahoma’s teepee. Little did we know…

    http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1978/B07070ATL1978.htm

    Almost 15-years-old, I was visiting ATL for the wknd with a neighborhood friend from Columbus and his wonderful mother who took us there. We stayed at the Howard Johnson’s next to the Stadium. The next day after the Braves game, we went to the Omni International Hotel (now the CNN Center), saw “Saturday Night Fever” in the cinema there, then went next door to the Omni arena to see (ahem) Ted Nugent. My ears rang for a week.

  3. Some fun notes in Rosenthal’s latest piece:

    1. Braves are shopping Ozuna for other bad contracts and Yankees are shopping Donaldson. Hmmm…
    2. AA has checked in on Sean Murphy. Yes… a catcher! Why? Rosenthal speculates that Contreras could be moved.
  4. Is it just my imagination or didn’t Atlanta have some interest in Sean Murphy a few years ago? He seems to have some value, and at 27 has a lot of room for growth. However, I would think that Contreras would be much more valuable. If this is the case, I wonder what we would be looking to get for Contreras.

  5. I will say that Atlanta has always seemed to put a high value on defensive catchers. Contreras improved immensely last year, but he does not seem to fit the profile for the kind of primary catcher Atlanta usually looks for.

  6. I’ve got a whole lot of thoughts on Bill Contreras and will be sharing them on this here blog soon!

  7. @5 – My family came down to Fulton County for one of our rare visits from NC in about ’79 or ’80, I would have been 15 or 16. My brother and I went out in the left field seats for batting practice. I was a pretty good outfielder, I thought, and I was going to catch a ball.

    The aisles were pretty well staked out, so we naively took up a spot in a row of seats. The rows were so tightly spaced together that you literally could not move forward or backward at all though, just side to side.

    All was good until Horner came up. He started line driving balls into the seats, richocheting all over creation, and we were trapped like sitting ducks with no way to move. We got the hell out of there pretty quick after that.

    We also stayed at the Howard Johnson, by the way.

  8. Nice stories, guys.

    Aren’t all baseballs dry in heaven? And doesn’t everyone bat 1.000 and toss perfect games?

  9. LET’S GO.

    FanGraphs currently estimates the Braves’ 2023 cash payroll to be $196 million. But the outlet estimates the Braves’ luxury tax payroll to be around $228 million, which is close to the $233 million luxury tax threshold for the 2023 season.

    Internally, the Braves have talked about how they would surpass the luxury tax threshold, and accept the penalties, for the correct player and deal. They don’t see the threshold as a hard-and-fast limit. No one likes getting taxed, but the penalty for first-time offenders – a 20% tax for the overages – isn’t seen as debilitating.

    https://www.ajc.com/sports/atlanta-braves/where-the-braves-payroll-stands-what-it-could-mean-for-rest-of-the-offseason/3LGK7FIDUNDIZFLT5UVSPSC7WQ/

  10. I saw Perry pitch the game in the link below when I was 11. He looked like Superman out there. I was amazed by how much power his windup generated. My chief memory, however, is that, after we moved from the cheap seats to the 1st base side of the dugout late in the game, Willie McCovey nearly hit me in the face with a line drive foul. The link contains quite a list of stars and future stars in both lineups (most lost on me at the time, though I do remember Johnny Bench snapping off several quick pick-off throws to first), and there’s a wonderful detail about how Perry couldn’t even lift his arm after they took him out. One of my friends’ dads had taken us to the game, and we watched all 21 innings. My parents were terrified by the time I got home after 4 AM.

    Thanks for all the great commentary on this site! It’s been part of my daily reading for years.

    https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/september-1-1967-marathon-man-gaylord-perry-goes-unrewarded-in-giants-21-inning-win/

  11. @13 – That is insane. Perry threw 186 pitches with 132 strikes and struck out 12 while allowing 10 hits and no runs in 16 innings. That is about 1/4 of a season for most relievers today!

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