That was worth staying up for. I consumed way too much baseball last night. I watched the first four innings of the high-A affiliate being drubbed by the Yankees’ affiliate (10-1 after I left), then came home to watch these guys.
Sean Newcomb has had a terrific start to his career. After a minor league career that was heavy on both strike outs and walks, he’s pitched like a different pitcher since arriving in Atlanta. In 18 1/3 innings, he has 13 strike outs and 7 walks (1 intentional). Walks are still a problem (and his lower strike out rate), but his 1.04 WHIP in those innings and 1.96 ERA will do just fine. More importantly, he looks very polished. He works quickly, confidently, and smoothly. He doesn’t seem to get rattled on the mound, and if you had to give it an eye test, he just looks like a major league starting pitcher. I would assume his leash is going to allow him to pitch the entire season in Atlanta, even if he encounters a lot of struggles. His line for tonight: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K. I think we have a graduated prospect.
I’m not sure, though, that we have a closer. After Arodys Vizcaino allowed a run following a cheap triple by Denard Span, Jim Johnson blew his fifth save in 18 chances by giving up a home run to Hunter “.658 OPS” Pence. Jim Johnson would be a fine setup man, but I don’t think a playoff team is giving him the ball in the 9th regularly. But encouraging notes are that Sam Freeman and Luke Jackson both pitched well in relief. Jackson and Freeman both have upper 90’s fastballs, and we’re a long ways away from pitching Cody Martin or Edwin Jackson in these spots.
Did you know, though, that the Braves are third in all MLB in OPS in close and late situations? Yeah, these guys rake to a team .842 OPS when it counts. This team finds a way to stay in just about every game that a starting pitcher doesn’t ruin before it starts. Good on these guys.