If the Atlanta Braves want to make the World Series, they need to address this one major weakness.
The Atlanta Braves were just one victory away from reaching the World Series for the first time since they were swept out by the New York Yankees in 1999. They held a 3-1 lead in the NLCS, but managed to blow it, allowing the Los Angeles Dodgers to reach the Fall Classic and win the Commissioner’s Trophy in six games against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The loss isn’t all doom and gloom, because the Braves boast one of the more potent rosters in all of MLB. However, if they want to reach the World Series and eventually win it, they need to address their biggest weakness — starting pitching.
Braves needed to significantly bolster their starting rotation
When looking at the starting rotation on the Braves, it looks pretty good on paper, but you can spot some issues. Mike Soroka, a stud arm for Atlanta, was put on the shelf early on in the shortened 2020 season after tearing his right Achilles when stepping off the mound in a game against the New York Mets. There’s still no timetable for his return, but it’s interesting to note that he tore the Achilles in his push-off leg. It will be interesting to see if Soroka can return to form following this injury.
The Braves, whose championship window is wide open, didn’t head towards the top of the pitching market at the start of the offseason. Rather, general manager Alex Anthopoulous looked at the mid-tier of free agent arms instead, signing Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly to one-year deals like they did with Cole Hamels last year.
Morton is coming off a down-year with the Rays where he dealt with right shoulder inflammation, resulting in him carrying a 4.74 ERA and 1.395 WHIP through nine regular-season starts. He did redeem himself in the postseason, where he posted a 2.70 ERA across four games. But, he is 37-years-old and has hinted at retirement this offseason.
Smyly is coming off a strong season with the San Francisco Giants, posting a 3.42 ERA and 1.101 WHIP, but in only 26.1 innings of work. So there’s not much to suggest that he can put up those numbers in a full campaign. Let’s not forget that in 2019 season, Smyly accumulated a 6.24 ERA with the Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies. That’s something to be concerned about.
The Braves were the most productive hitting team in the majors last season, and it won’t be an issue entering 2021. But, the one thing that could hold them back next season, just like it did this past year, is inconsistencies in the starting rotation. It appears Atlanta is set right now, but they have to hope the rotation comes together and stays healthy for a full season if they want to make a lengthy run to the World Series.