I’m pretty sure that a lot of y’all are very familiar with the reference I’m about to make — whether you’ve actually watched the show I’m about to bring up or you’ve just been on the internet long enough to run into some fresh memes every now and then. Still, I’m going to break it down just so I can initiate the uninitiated who may not know what I’m talking about.
So yeah, once the classic TV series Breaking Bad is finally approaching its climax, one of the supporting characters is simultaneously so wracked with guilt from his own actions and enraged with the actions of the main character that he breaks into the latter character’s house and attempts to burn it down. Fortunately, he was followed into the house and has to be convinced to not just take a flame to the gasoline-doused interior, but it wasn’t easy and it led to the character of Jesse Pinkman letting out this now-iconic line:
That line plays in my head every time I watch Bryce Elder pitch. Now granted, Bryce Elder has been successful and it’s been awesome to see him find a way keep bats quiet while also proving that he’s capable of doing this against teams other than the Miami Marlins and the Washington Nationals. Elder has been a boon to the Braves rotation and his contribution to the Atlanta Braves here in the early stage of the season has been invaluable.
With that being said, all you have to do is take one look at his Baseball Savant page and it’s easy to see that we are witnessing a miracle take place.
He can’t keep getting away with it! If you took one look at that image, you’d think that he would be getting walloped routinely and back in Gwinnett by this point. Instead, he’s entering tonight’s game with an ERA of 1.58 and a FIP of 2.52 over four starts and has already tallied 0.8 fWAR for the season. If not for Spencer Strider spending last night flirting with a perfect game, Elder would be the clubhouse leader in fWAR among starting pitchers here in the final week of April! If I had told you back in spring training that he’d be leading starters in fWAR at this pint in the season, you’d probably believe that this meant that the Braves had gotten off to yet another slow start.
Instead, the Braves have fired out of the gate and Bryce Elder’s performance has contributed to the fast start. It’s also very fair to ask how long Elder will be able to keep this up, since usually pitchers who give up a lot of hard contact while also not having the best stuff in the world usually don’t last for this current world of major league baseball. Still, Elder is making it work mostly because for three important reasons.
Firstly, he doesn’t walk a ton of batters and doing that alone is half of the battle for any major league pitcher. He’s also managing to avoid getting barrelled up, which seems to suggest that while he does get hit hard, it’s not the type of dangerous contact that gets other pitchers in trouble. Elder has had 13 starts in his big league career and he’s given up a grand total of four home runs in the big leagues, so that’s definitely encouraging and explains why his xSLG in the graphic above is slightly pushing into the pink. There’s also the fact that while he does give up hard contact, he’s also found a way to miss bats as his Whiff percentage is in the 66th percentile.
Bryce Elder’s body of work is incredibly weird to look at and again, you’d think that he should be getting shelled if you simply looked at what Baseball Savant had to say about him. Maybe big league hitters will find a way to figure him out at some point and turn the hard contact into something substantial. For now though, it’s best to enjoy the ride and simply watch him for however long he can keep this up.
Again, it’s been great to see Elder dance his way out of trouble while also getting deep into games and we’ll all be rooting for him to keep it up as he progresses through his big league career. I also wouldn’t blame any of y’all for watching his starts through the gaps between your fingers as you hide your head in your hands. Let’s hope that he keeps on getting away with it for as long as he wants!