The Braves picked up Tommy Milone from the Orioles in a trade this morning and the reaction could be described as being anywhere from “tepid” to people letting out a dryly sarcastic “Hallelujah” once they they heard the news. That’s a totally understandable reaction to have — it’s Tommy Milone. He’s a 33-year-old veteran pitcher who is fully entrenched as a journeyman baseball player at this point. If you see this many number circles on someone’s Baseball-Reference page, then you already know what time it is with the player that you just acquired. You’re not getting a star, you’re not getting a burgeoning talent with potential, you are getting “a guy.”
Fortunately for the Braves, they will absolutely take “a guy” at the moment and welcome him in with open arms. If you take a look at Milone’s FanGraphs page, he’s currently sitting on 0.6 fWAR through six starts. That is not great, and it places him firmly in the middle of the pack when compared to other starters across baseball who have made six starts so far this season. While everything else on his stat line is kind of unspectacular, two things stick out a bit: His strikeout rate and his walk rate. He’s currently striking out 24 percent of batters that he’s face while his walk rate is only 3.1 percent. If he’s able to make that continue, then he’d be on pace to edge out his career “high” in walk rate and he’d actually obliterate his career high in strikeout rate. There’s probably some regression on the way, but the Braves are surely hoping that he can eat some innings while riding this wave of performance.
While those numbers are still unspectacular, there is reason to be remotely excited. While the thought of Tommy Milone may be as exciting as spending a day watching a single, solitary blade of grass grow, he is going to receive a hero’s welcome in that clubhouse due to the simple fact that he is a starter who can eat innings. We’ve seen it time and time again with the parade of starters that the Braves have sent to the mound. The starter (not named Max Fried, Mike Soroka, or Ian Anderson) will go out there and have maybe one or two good innings before hitting a wall where they lose all command and control and the other team inevitably has a big innings. Sometimes, they’ll just skip the “good innings” part and go straight to the part where the train is getting ready to careen off the rails and into the abyss. Seeing that process play out again and again had to have gotten tiring and the Braves did something about it by bringing in a capable starting pitcher in the form of Milone.
As of right now, Milone would walk into the rotation with his 0.6 fWAR and be second in fWAR behind Max Fried by nearly a full win. He supplants Ian Anderson on the leaderboard, whose lone start notched him 0.1 fWAR. Obviously, we’re all hoping that Anderson’s first start wasn’t a fluke and that he can continue to put up some solid starts as a rookie so that Tommy Milone won’t have to help serve as the foundation of this year’s rotation. With that being said, welcome to 2020: The year where Tommy Milone is immediately a better option than the majority of younger healthy pitchers who the Braves have called upon this season to start games. What a time to be alive.
Should we expect Tommy Milone to enter the rotation and become the savior? Absolutely not. The best we can ask of Milone at this point is that he can get to the fifth and sixth inning without having a calamitous frame where the other team scores a bushel of runs. As long as he can make things easier on the bullpen and keep Atlanta’s offense in the game for as long as possible, then Tommy Milone will have done his job. He is very much a stopgap solution and the return that the Orioles got from the Braves is proof of that. Atlanta’s rotation situation is still the stuff of nightmares, but things have gotten a tiny bit better with the addition of Tommy Milone.