The Braves don’t need any more injuries than they already have, but right-hander Ian Anderson told reporters after his latest start that he felt some tightness in his shoulder that he’s going to have checked out (link via Gabe Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). Manager Brian Snitker suggested to reporters that Anderson could land on the injured list after undergoing some tests tomorrow.
Anderson, 23, hasn’t matched his brilliant rookie season from 2020, but he’s still given the Braves 96 innings of 3.56 ERA ball with a 24.3 percent strikeout rate and a 9.7 percent walk rate. Those 96 frames rank second on the team behind Charlie Morton, the team’s only other starter who has not yet required an IL stint in 2021. Anderson walked a career-worst five batters in his most recent outing and has walked 15.2 percent of his opponents through three July starts — nearly double the 8.6 percent rate he’d recorded across 15 prior starts. He’s also tossed three wild pitches in July after throwing only two all season prior.
The rotation was expected to be a strength for the Braves heading into the season, but it’s been a more middle-of-the-pack unit, ranking 14th in ERA (4.05), 11th in innings pitched (461 2/3), 13th in strikeout percentage (23.9) and 19th in walk rate (8.4 percent). Injuries have been a major factor in those rankings and in the Braves’ lackluster showing overall. As with any team that is slowed by injury woes, health (or lack thereof) isn’t the sole factor, but it’s hard to overlook the Braves’ mounting number of issues.
Atlanta won’t get a single inning out of Mike Soroka in 2021 and recently lost superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. to a torn ACL. Starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud went down early with a torn ligament in his thumb. Lefty Max Fried has twice landed on the IL (hamstring strain, blister), and many of the team’s promising young arms are banged up as well. Righty Huascar Ynoa looked to be on his way to a breakout — at least until he broke his hand after punching the dugout bench following a poor outing. Twenty-five-year-old hurlers Tucker Davidson (forearm) and Touki Toussaint (shoulder) are both on the 60-day IL, too.
The end result is a 44-45 record and a third-place standing in the division through the season’s first half. Thankfully for the Braves, the rest of the division is also floundering for various reasons, leaving them just four games back from the lead. That leaves the team a chance to fight back into the mix, although losing Soroka and Acuna for the season are potentially backbreaking injuries that’ll make it extra difficult to right the ship. And with the NL West being stacked up with three of the game’s best records, the Braves are seven back in the Wild Card race, which makes their cleanest path to the playoffs a divisional crown.