The Braves have had a nightmare when it comes to losing pitchers through the first quarter of the season.
They lost John Smoltz from the rotation and are waiting for him to join the bullpen. Tom Glavine missed two weeks, and Mike Hampton is still in the witness protection program. They lost Rafael Soriano and Peter Moylan from the bullpen, while waiting for Mike Gonzalez to come back later this month.
But despite all the losses in personnel, the Braves pitching staff is doing remarkably well. The team ERA through the first 41 games is 3.56, the best in the National League and the third best in baseball. The rotation's ERA is 3.56, the best in the National League and also third best in baseball. While the bullpen's combined ERA is 3.57, the sixth best mark in the NL.
The bullpen has been extremely effective in May, posting a 2.22 ERA in fourteen games. Last month the Atlanta bullpen had a 3.52 ERA, after a 10.47 ERA in those two games in March.
The Braves' rotation this month has an ERA of 3.89, compared to the 3.48 ERA it compiled in April and 2.25 in the two games played in March.
Is it time to give pitching coach Roger McDowell a little credit for a job well done? How in the world has this pitching staff held up so well, losing its two best relievers, it's ace in the rotation, and another starter for two weeks? And we know that "Mike and Mike" are still looking to return at some point.
But despite all the mess that we've seen with the injuries, the Braves pitching staff is actually holding this team together while the offense continutes to search for consistency.
Maybe McDowell, who occasionally is still compared to the currently unemployed pitching coach he replaced three seasons ago, is due an ovation from the Braves Nation.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta and 105.5 the Fan in Macon. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.