Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Mike Foltynewicz's Slider is the problem, and he's likely still hurt

Something is very wrong with Mike Foltynewicz. If you've watched his major league starts at all in 2019, since coming off what was described as "right elbow soreness" initially, you've noticed that very little of the All-Star caliber pitcher from 2018 has translated to the field lately.

Folty has pitched 21 innings in 4 games and has an ERA over 8.00. Those are the simple numbers so I like to look a little deeper to see where the problem lies. For that we head into a few advanced statistics I like.

In terms of pitchers with more than 20 innings pitched this year, there are 193 qualifying players. Of that 193, Folty ranked 189th in WAR (Wins Above Replacement). In fact, his negative WAR of -0.6 in such a short amount of time is indicative that almost anybody else could have pitched instead of Folty, and the Braves would have had a better result.

This is a HUGELY different WAR than what Folty posted in 2018 when he was 20th in WAR out of 140 pitchers that pitched more than 100 innings that season. That's not even the same person really. What does that tell me? Something is still wrong with his arm or his mental game.

Missing spring training can throw a pitcher off for sure, but usually those pitchers don't get more than 20 innings of work during the spring. As an example in 2018, Folty only got 16 innings of work in the spring, and he was excellent for the year. In my mind, having 20 regular season innings is enough to be "prepared" for the regular season and not screwing around with morale-building double-talk which belies the performance on the field.

The numbers get worse when you dig deeper. Folty is giving up 3.38 HR/9, 3.38 BB/9, and only 5.58 K/9. The walks are fairly consistent with his 2018 numbers, but the K's are almost 3.5 lower per 9 innings, and the Homers have increased by 2.5 per 9 innings. He's not striking out people and he's giving up bombs left and right.

What's the reason? His slider is way off. In 2018, it was his most effective pitch, and the pitch he could go to for outs, coming off a 96 MPH fastball. In 2019, it's getting killed. His Slider Runs against average is a -4.5 in 2019, where in 2018 it was a +22.9. You know what you can't do when your elbow is hurting? Throw a slider well.

My feeling is he's still hurt and not admitting it at all, but the lack of effectiveness of that Slider is what's turning 2018 All-Star Mike Foltynewicz into 2019 probably shouldn't be pitching on an MLB roster Mike Foltynewicz. I'm hoping he either heals up fast, admits he needs to take time off to fix it, or the Braves realize what needs to happen and decide it for him.


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