Try as he might, Bryce Elder just can’t break free of the malaise that’s gripped him since late June. Through his first 15 starts, he was phenomenal, an out-of-nowhere savior to an injury-stricken rotation: 54 ERA-, 86 FIP-, 84 xFIP-. Since then, it’s come crashing down a bit: 12 starts with a 108/116/126 line instead. This isn’t a case of results catching up to peripherals, as the problem is the peripherals themselves have gotten far worse. In that entire span, Elder is yet to have a single start with an FIP and xFIP below 4.50.
Elder’s most recent outing, against the Dodgers, was a pretty good example of how this last long stretch has gone, even when runs haven’t crossed the plate. He managed just a 4/4 K/BB ratio in six innings, and for a guy who theoretically keeps the ball on the ground, he managed a grounder rate under 30 percent. Hence, his xFIP for the game was 5.59, and so it goes. Even when Elder had that ostensibly nice stretch of a single run allowed in 12 1⁄3 innings against the Yankees and Mets, he had a 3/3 K/BB ratio in each of those games, so you get the idea. His other start against the Pirates this year showed the dark side of the walks-and-few-grounders-with-limited-strikeouts thing, as he ended up being charged with five runs in five frames despite a 5/2 K/BB ratio. If we have to choose between Bad Results Elder and Good Results Elder with a mediocre K/BB ratio, we’ll obviously take the latter every time, but I’m mostly hoping that he rediscovers the slider location that helped him bamboozle offenses for three months at the start of the year.
As for the Braves’ prodigious bats, they’ll take aim at Mitch Keller, who leads his team in fWAR with 3.1. Keller has a nice 88/83/85 line for the season, which both shows him fulfilling his promise, and gives him two seasons where he’s avoided the horrible, undeserved ERA inflation he suffered earlier in his career.
While many pitchers accrue something like a 3 WAR season by steadily eating innings with decent peripherals, Keller has been much more erratic. He gets blown up a fair bit, and has a lot of brilliant outings. The Braves knocked him out after five innings despite a 4/0 K/BB ratio, as he allowed a homer (leadoff, to Ronald Acuña Jr.) and was charged with three total runs. In the start before that, he was charged with eight runs in five frames. But, since then, he’s been on a roll — a combined 33/8 K/BB ratio, just one homer allowed, and five total runs charged to him in four outings. Is it time for another blow-up, or will Keller keep rolling? Stay tuned and find out.
Friday, September 8, 2023
7:20 pm EDT
Truist Park, Atlanta, GA
TV: Can you believe we made it through nearly a whole season with Bankruptcy Sports Southeast as the broadcaster?
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, La Mejor 1600/1460/1130 AM
XM Radio: Ch. 180