Atlanta Braves Blog

The Atlanta Braves blog by David O'Brien, baseball writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

This just in: Rookie pitchers struggle

For the latest in a neverending series of reminders of how most rookie pitchers struggle, whether prospects or not – and Atlanta's Aaron Blair is definitely a legit prospect – look no further than tonight’s matchup of Blair vs. Reds rookie Daniel Wright.

Blair, who turned 24 in May, is 0-4 with a 7.13 ERA in eight major league starts. This season he was 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA in four starts in Triple-A, with 26 strikeouts and eight walks in 22 innings.

Wright, who turned 25 in April, is 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA in three major league games including one start. He was 3-0 with a 0.79 ERA in 10 games (four starts) in Double-A and Triple-A this season, with 32 strikeouts and five walks in 34 innings.

Blair is 0-3 with a 6.08 ERA and .300 opponents’ average in five home starts, and all four homers he’s allowed as a rookie have been at Turner Field.

The big right-hander has allowed a .313 average, .438 OBP and .484 slugging percentage in 64 at-bats against lefty batters, and .320/.388/.467 in 75 at-bats by righties.

Blair has allowed a .265 average and no homers in 68 at-bats with bases empty, and a .366 average and four homers in 71 at-bats with runners on. Opponents have a .420 OBP and .620 slugging percentage against him with runners on, compared to a .405 OBP and .320 slugging percentage with bases empty.

In first innings, he’s allowed a .371 average (13-for-35) and .467 OBP, with eight walks and five strikeouts.

On first pitches, opponents are 9-for-18 with three homers – that’s right, three of his four homers allowed have been on first pitches.

After getting ahead 0-1, he’s limited hitters to a .200 average and .283 slugging percentage. But after getting behind 1-0 to hitters, Blair has allowed a .377 average (23-for-61) with 11 walks, a .459 OBP and .492 slugging percentage.

In his first 15 ptiches of games, he’s given up a .471 average (8-for-17), .583 OBP and .529 slugging. He’s generally settled in and pitched well from that point until about the fifth inning or third time through the order.

In pitches 76-90, Blair has allowed a .412 average (7-for-17), .545 OBP and .824 slugging percentage, with four walks and no strikeouts.

After going 0-2 with a solid 3.31 ERA and .241 opponents’ average with no homers allowed in his first three major league starts, Blair is 0-2 with a 10.42 ERA and .365 OA in his past five.

Again, Blair is a legit prospect, a smart kid with good stuff. And he has been told and understands when and why he’s struggled so far, what he needs to do.

But knowing it and correcting it are two entirely different things at this level, which is so much more demanding than the minor leagues.

And that’s why it’s so damn hard to pitch in the majors against the best hitters in the world -- for anyone, but particularly for guys who are just starting out.

After giving up three homers and six runs in four innings against the Giants on June 2, he bounced back with a pretty good outing Tuesday at San Diego, here he allowed two runs, six hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings, with two of the hits, one run and one walk coming in the fifth inning when he retired one of four batters faced before being replaced.

The Reds have used 11 starters already including nine who’ve made multiple starts. Wright has a 7.20 ERA in three games including one start. He lost his first major league start May 24 against the Dodgers, allowing seven hits and four runs (three earned) in 5 1/3 innings with one walk and four strikeouts.

Wright has six strikeouts and one walk in 10 innings overall, with 19 hits allowed including two homers. Left-handed hitters are 12-for-27 (.444) against him with two doubles, a homer and a .630 slugging percentage, and righties are 7-for-19 (.368) with two doubles, a homer and .632 slugging percentage.

The Braves have used nine starters, including seven who’ve made five or more starts.

Reader Comments ...

About the Author

David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002.