The general conversation that took place about the Braves in the offseason generally sounded something like, “Hey! The Braves might not be awful this year! Maybe they’ll even grab a Wild Card spot. That’d be crazy.” But right now Atlanta is putting every one of our tempered expectations to shame. The team leads the NL East with a 2.5 game lead over the Phillies, and they didn’t get there just because the Nationals and Mets are struggling. Across the MLB, the Braves are 5th in team WAR, 6th in wOBA, and 9th in wRC+.
Even the starting pitching that finished 18th by WAR in 2018 has posted the second-lowest team ERA on the season. The rotation sits at only 13th by collective WAR though, and while some starters are returning from the DL, another is showing a concerning pattern of injury.
Mike Soroka’s shoulder, specifically, just won’t let him live. The talent and potential Soroka possess has shown through in his MLB debut and his debut from the DL a week and a half ago. In his May debut, he went 6 innings, allowing 1 run with 5 strikeouts and 0 walks. In his DL debut, he no-hit the Mets into the 7th inning. After his first debut, his velocity dipped, he struggled and ended up on the DL with shoulder inflammation. Now the same process will repeat.
Other Braves starters have dealt with their share of cycles like this, though personalized. Mike Foltynewicz had shown that he would go through a stretch of brilliance and then a stretch of not-so-brilliance that would skyrocket his ERA right up. Both Foltynewicz and McCarthy are about ready to return back from their respective trips from injury as Soroka embarks on his. Soroka can be a big piece for the Braves’ future if he can keep the cycle that’s attached itself to him at bay.