Looking back, the Braves lack of activity at the 2020 MLB Trade Deadline seems far less egregious than it did at the beginning of September. Atlanta decided to trust its young arms instead of borrowing from its future to become better in the present. Sure, a significant addition could have helped during the Braves deep October run. However, the Braves starting pitching performed far better than anyone expected in the playoffs.
The Braves did not completely sit on the sidelines as the deadline approached. They acquired Tommy Milone from the Baltimore Orioles, and within 24 hours of the trade, Milone was on the mound making his debut for Atlanta. Through his first six starts of 2020 with the Orioles, Milone produced solid results. The hope was that he could simply be an option that could provide four or five decent innings every time his spot in the rotation was due. During the first six weeks of that season, that type of performance had become a rarity for the Braves’ starters.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: On the surface, the fact that the Braves were undefeated in games that Milone started would seem to indicate the investment in him was worthwhile. His best performance for the Braves occurred against the Nationals, when he allowed only one run over four innings. Another positive aspect of Milone’s starts is that the Braves averaged 16 runs per game with Milone on the mound.
However, this is where the good news ends regarding Milone’s time in Atlanta.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Besides his outing against the Nationals, Milone was terrible for Atlanta. He made three total starts for the Braves in September. In his first start, he allowed seven runs over 2 1⁄3 innings against the Phillies, though a 10 run second inning by the Atlanta offense was enough to overcome his debacle of a debut. In his third start against the Marlins, he allowed eight runs in 3 1⁄3 innings. Fortunately, the Braves were ready to celebrate the start of the NFL season, as they scored 29 runs in one of the most impressive displays of offense in MLB history.
Over 9 2⁄3 innings for the Braves, Milone allowed 22 hits, 16 earned runs, and four home runs while producing nine strikeouts. His 14.90 ERA and 2.483 WHIP are likely numbers you have to look at multiple times to actually believe. Milone’s time in Atlanta was a disaster; fortunately, the Braves offense overshadowed his struggles with memorable performances.
As mentioned above, the Braves did win every game that Milone started for them. Obviously, very little of that was due to Milone’s efforts. The day after his appearance against the Marlins, Milone was placed on the IL. He would not throw another pitch for Atlanta, and was released on September 30th as the Braves made transactions to finalize their postseason roster.
OUTLOOK FOR 2021: With a 6.69 ERA in 2020, Milone finished a season with a 5.00 ERA or higher for the fourth time over the last five years. Though his xFIP marks have stayed in the fours over that stretch, it is clear that Milone cannot be viewed as anything other than a bottom tier back of the rotation starter at this point in his career. His production in Baltimore will likely result in him getting another look from a team during Spring Training in 2021, and he could find himself on an MLB roster, likely a non-contender, as a innings eater at some point. However, with the return of Mike Soroka and the emergence of several young pitchers, it seems like the Tommy Milone experiment is done in Atlanta for good.