Mike Foltynewicz’s Breakout Season Is Better Than You Think

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Heading into the 2018 season, Mike Foltynewicz‘s consistency as a major-league rotation piece was in question. He had dominant flashes in 2017. He was three outs away from a no-hitter at Oakland in June. But he was inconsistent enough for most of the season to place him in the middle of the pack statistically.

Now—through 17 starts—Foltynewicz is having a breakout season in Atlanta. The 25-year old right-handed pitcher has dominated National League hitters all season. He ranks in the top-eight among National League pitchers in almost every important category. ERA, FIP, xFIP, K%, HR/FB%, fWAR… you name it, Foltynewicz is among the best at it.

Mike Foltynewicz’s 2018 success owes most to that inconsistency he’s left behind. Not only has he been the one of the most dependable starters in baseball for 2018, but he’s anchoring an Atlanta staff that has been anything but. Between Mike Soroka landing on the 60-day disabled list and every other starter having stretches of hot/cold, Foltynewicz has been the guiding light. In 11 of his 17 starts, he has thrown at least five innings with one run or less allowed. For perspective, the only other pitcher with 11 is Aaron Nola, who’s thrown two more starts. No other pitcher in the National League has more than nine.

Mike Foltynewicz’s Breakout Season Is Better Than You Think

To understand Mike Foltynewicz’s new found consistency on the mound, let’s look at the only two outings where he allowed more than three runs. In fact, let’s look at the only two INNINGS this season where Foltynewicz has unraveled.

First Inning from Hell

Mike Foltynewicz has a 2.37 ERA, 3.18 FIP and 3.48 xFIP through 95 innings this season. In just two of those innings, he allowed 11 runs. Eleven.

The first horrid inning came on May 4 against the San Francisco Giants. Atlanta just won seven of their last eight games, claiming first place from the New York Mets (insanely) and were looking to come home and increase their lead. Instead, the Giants swept the Braves and it all began with Foltynewicz’s start.

The inning went as follows: single, walk, triple, strikeout, double, single, fielder’s choice, double, ground out, ground out. That’s six runs on five hits and a walk, easily Foltynewicz’s worst inning of the season so far. Over his next 57 innings, he would allow seven runs, tossing 69 strikeouts. The 58th inning of that stretch would truly be Foltynewicz’s worst inning of the season.

Second Inning from Hell

This dreadful inning came during his most recent start, on July 6 against the Milwaukee Brewers. This was his third start coming off the 10-day disabled list. In the two previous starts, he threw 10 innings, allowing one run on two hits—one a home run—while striking out thirteen.The first two innings in Milwaukee went as planned. Foltynewicz went thru the minimum, recording two strikeouts and no walks. Then the third inning. Again, the line as follows: single, home run, strikeout, single, hit batter, home run, fly out, single, strikeout.

Foltynewicz had allowed only six home runs in his first 16 starts of the season. In Milwaukee—in the same INNING—he allowed two, resulting in five runs. He would allow six during the inning on five hits and a hit batter. He pitched the next three innings with no trouble, allowing a double that didn’t score with three strikeouts and no walks. Atlanta mounted a comeback in the seventh inning, but eventually lost 5-4.

Foltynewicz so far has been the picture of perfection. However, during those two innings, he gave up 38 percent of his runs allowed this season. So, if those two innings and eleven runs are removed from his stat line, how impressive has Foltynewicz been? The answer is better than you think.

93 Innings of Near Perfection

As stated earlier, Mike Foltynewicz has impressed in all of the major pitching statistics in the National League. When you ignore the two uncharacteristic innings, the numbers are unbelievably better.

It’s hard to produce a precise stat that evaluates a pitcher’s complete performance, but FIP and xFIP do the job well enough. Foltynewicz’s FIP of 3.18 and xFIP of 3.48 rank among the best in the National League. When you factor out those two innings, the numbers lower to 2.89 and 3.21, respectively. Only five pitchers in the National League—11 in all of baseball—have FIPs under three. Foltynewicz would be one of them. His xFIP would rank 5th in the National League, tied with Aaron Nola, the aforementioned pitcher with 11 starts of five innings with one run allowed or less.

Least Affected

Two stats not affected by these two innings and strikeout and walk rate. Foltynewicz’s K% rises from 29.4% to 30.1%, placing him 4th in the National League and 10th in all of baseball, where he ranks now. The BB% actually increases from 10.3% to 10.6%, adding insult to the sixth-worst walk rate in the National League. No matter what Foltynewicz does on the mound, he’s going to strikeout batters and walk them at a high rate.

Most Affected

There are two numbers that are most drastically affected by the two innings in San Francisco and Milwaukee. One is home run per fly ball rate. He was already one of the top pitchers in baseball at having balls stay in the ballpark. His 9.9 HR/FB% ranked 7th in the National League. Factor out those two innings, the rate drops to 7.7%, placing him 3rd in the league, passing Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer.

The next is left on base percentage. Left on base percentage measures the percentage of base runners that a pitcher strands on base over the course of a season. It’s calculated using a pitcher’s actual hits, walks and runs allowed instead of actual “left on base” numbers in box scores. Again, Foltynewicz is among the best in baseball with a 81.6 LOB%. Well, factor out the two innings and the rate increases to 89.0%. That’s the best in major league baseball.

Oh, and for ERA lovers out there, if you factor out those two horrid innings, Foltynewicz has an ERA of 1.36. That’s the best in baseball by almost half a run.

The Most Consistent Pitcher in the National League

In short, Mike Foltynewicz threw two bad innings that resulted in 11 runs. In his other 93, he’s been nothing short of perfect. He’s been exactly what the young contending Atlanta Braves has needed in their rotation. Any questions surrounding his consistency have been erased. Now, Foltynewicz can take the next step in his career. Along the way, expect him to consistently dominate National League hitters.

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