Sobotka has scuffled out of the gates for the Atlanta club, turning in a dozen innings of 8.25 ERA ball to open the year. While he’s getting grounders (46.9%) and strikeouts (12.8 per nine), he’s also coughing up quite a few walks (6.8 per nine) and home runs (2.25 per nine on a 25.0% HR/FB rate).
It’s hard to diagnose the true root of the issues. Though Sobotka is still sitting at over 96 mph with his fastball and generating a 14.6% swinging-strike, opposing hitters are simply making better contact than they did in his debut stint last year. He’s getting first-pitch strikes 63.9% of the time, which is generally a good sign for walk rate, but is in the zone with just 35.8% of his pitches.
In any event, a brief respite may not be the worst outcome here, so long as the strain isn’t too serious. It’s not yet clear whether he’ll need a rehab stint and how long he’ll be sidelined. Of course, the Braves pen isn’t in the best position to weather any absences, even from a pitcher that hasn’t produced the desired results.
It’ll be interesting to see what the club gets from Dayton, a 2017-18 offseason waiver claimee who is now back from Tommy John surgery. He seems to be throwing the ball well at Triple-A, having compiled eight strikeouts without a walk (but with one home run against him) in his 5 1/3 frames. Dayton was a fascinating breakout reliever for the Dodgers in 2016 but did not sustain his initial showing in the ensuing season before going under the knife.