Everybody with a baseball pulse knows how it went for the Atlanta Braves last year.
The Braves won a few and lost a lot. Atlanta finished third in the five-team National League Eastern Division. The Braves had another rebuilding season with a record of 72-90.
Atlanta was competitive, but the Braves were not good. And a big reason that the Braves fell far short of their hopes and expectations was a wishy-washy, sometimes up and sometimes down pitching staff.
The Braves were not consistent enough, which is why they finished 25 games behind the division-winning Washington Nationals. If Atlanta is going to get relevant again in the National League the Braves are going to need to take some major strides with their pitching staff.
It all starts with potential, which Atlanta has plenty of. But talking and playing are two different things. The Braves need more clutch outings from their pitching staff this year.
Is there pressure?
Yes. This is Major League baseball where players come and go. They are judged on performance. That is the bottom line. And the Braves did not quite measure up in that department last season. It was not one pitcher who bottomed out and fell far short of expectations for Atlanta.
It was just the Braves pitching staff as a whole that did not cut the relish and the mustard on a semiregular basis. The 2018 season is going to be a big year for a roster full of Atlanta pitchers.
At the top of the heap is Mike Foltynewicz. He stands out no matter what, win or lose. The man does have 11 letters in his last name. Foltynewicz is a long drink of Grade A milk, too, as he stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 200 pounds.
And No. 26 for the Braves knows how to tow the line and the pitching rubber. When they were handing out pitching skills,Foltynewicz was standing in front of the line.
He is a strapping young flamethrower at the age of 26. He pitches hard. He plays hard, and he takes every setback with a grain of salt and pepper. Foltynewicz is maturing, just not fast enough for the Braves front office staff and field manager Brian Snitker.
No. 26 has all the pitches needed with the slider, the fastball and the curveball. But what the Braves need to see from Foltynewicz this season is more productivity, more wins and more leadership from the pitching mound.
The right-hander needs to battle a little more and develop into one of the top pitchers in the National League East, which the Braves know Foltynewicz is capable of being. He was 10-13 with a 4.79 earned run average last season for Atlanta.
He did strike out a total of 143 batters in 154 innings. Foltynewicz is a strikeout pitcher, without question. He is now searching for consistency in all of the other parts of his game as well, including fewer walks and longer pitching stints. Foltynewicz needs to get out of the fifth and sixth innings. Talent has never been the issue with No. 26. Foltynewicz is going into his fifth season of big league baseball – four years with the Braves and one previous season with the Astros. Foltynewicz is a former first-round draft pick of the Astros.
And the Braves are counting on Foltynewicz now, and 2018 could be his breakout season. It needs to be just that for the Braves. Foltynewicz has a career pitching record of 23-25 with 345 strikeouts.
He is due for something bigger and better with a lot more W’s. The Braves do believe in Mike Foltynewicz and his smoking fastball.