ATLANTA — If this past Friday was the first time you’ve watched Atlanta Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz pitch, you probably don’t have much hope for the Braves’ current season or the young RHP’s long-term career.
What if I told you that Friday’s start was just one small bump in the long road to sustained success in Major League Baseball for No. 26? What if I told you that the kid who got rocked for seven runs in a 10-0 loss his last time out IS the future of the Braves? What if I told you that the guy you watched give up hit after hit on Friday night had the makeup of an annual All-Star and possible Cy Young Award Winner? Would you call me crazy?
Well, if Friday night was your only sample size of what Mike Foltynewicz can do, sure you would say that. However, if you’ve been watching “Folty” in all his starts this season, and if you’ve seen the progression of his career to this point, don’t you think you’d at least consider those possibilities?
Foltynewicz, 25, may have had a rough go of it in his last start. I mean, he did match a career high when he surrendered seven earned runs in just four innings. Now prior to that, Folty hadn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of his first five outings of the 2017 season. In his previous three starts before Friday, he gave up just four earned runs in 20 innings pitched. That was good enough for a 1.80 ERA.
So, if Foltynewicz was giving up an average of less than two runs in that three-game span, you’d have to imagine he picked up at least a couple of wins during that time, right? Well, that’s not the case. Folty turned in three straight quality starts and wound up with a whopping six total runs of support during that time. In all, the Braves have scored just 10 runs combined in all of Foltynewicz starts this season.
Only three other pitches have started at least five games this season and received fewer than the two runs a game Folty was awarded with. It’s that stat that highlights the number one reason that the righty has been forced to settle with an 0-4 record, despite his five dominate starts and an ERA of just 2.81 before Friday.
In fact, only one other Braves pitcher, who has pitched as well as Folty, has received worst run support in the last 10 years. That would be Shelby Miller, who managed to somehow escape the 2015 season with a 6-17 record but was among top-15 leaders in lowest ERA at 3.02 that season, despite receiving a league-worst 2.5 runs per nine innings.
Folty and Miller could trade war stories about pitching some of the best games of their young careers and not getting the proper run support to reflect strong outings in their win-loss record. Again, Miller finished the 2015 season, 6-17 but was widely considered one of the best young pitchers that year. So, for now, throw out Folty’s 0-4 record. In fact, throw out pitching records all-together now a days. (I’ll explain why in my next article later this week.)
At just 25, Foltynewicz’ future in the big leagues is bright. He spent most the 2016 season with big league club after beginning the year at Triple-A Gwinnett. The slow start to 2017 is a bit of unfamiliar territory for Folty, as he led the Braves last season with nine wins total and finished the year recording wins in each of his final five decisions of the year to set a career high winning streak.
Expectations have been high for Folty since he arrived in Braves Country; in large part because he was the key return piece in the off-season trade that sent fan-favorite Evan Gattis to the Houston Astros prior to the 2015 campaign.
The Astros had selected the right-hander in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft with the 19th overall pick. The kid out of Minooka High School in Minooka, Illinois hasn’t been intimidated by the expectations for him coming into 2017. Assuming his last time out against the Cardinals was merely “a bad night at the office,” the best is yet to come.
This season for the Braves is going to have plenty of ups and downs, but I promise you, with the makeup of a future ace, Foltynewicz is a guy you want to build your rotation around.