Maximizing the Braves' No. 5 starter options for 2014
FEB 27, 2014 11:36p ET
With free-agent signee Gavin Floyd (elbow) not expected to join the Braves until mid-to-late May, rookie David Hale and second-year pitcher Alex Wood have an early window to claim the No. 5 starter's job for two months -- if not longer.
But are things that simple for a club which sustained a rash of injuries last season?
Given Floyd's injury rehab, Wood's potential innings cap (whispers of 160), emergency asset Freddy Garcia's age (37) and Hale's relative inexperience in the bigs (11 innings), this might be the ideal year for the Braves to strategically platoon the No. 5 starter for six full months -- without skipping a beat, production-wise.
Here's a numbers-based, start-by-start speculation of No. 5 options for every month of Atlanta's 2014 campaign.
Adding to the challenge of this exercise, each pitcher gets multiple starts, when tapped, at various points of the season.
4/5 @ Nationals -- Wood
Rationale: Assuming full health during spring training, Wood (3-3, 3.13 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 77/27 as a rookie) should get first crack at No. 5 to start the season.
4/11 @ Nationals -- Wood
Rationale: In two starts against Washington last year, Wood posted a 0.82 ERA and 12/2 K-BB rate.
4/16 @ Phillies -- Wood
Rationale: Amongst National League clubs last year, the Phillies had bottom-five rankings with runs, hits, batting average, on-base percentage and OPS against left-handed pitching.
4/21 vs. Marlins -- Wood
Rationale: In his first three appearances against Miami last year, spanning 10 innings, Wood allowed just one walk and zero runs (with 10 strikeouts).
4/27 vs. Reds -- Hale
Rationale: In 2013, the Reds hitters led all National League teams with cumulative walks on the road (303). Hale, in turn, surrendered just six walks in his final five starts last year.
5/3 vs. Giants -- Hale
Rationale: If this speculative column actually holds true (and it won't), this would mark Hale's fourth consecutive MLB start at home -- career-wise -- with zero on the road.
5/9 vs. Cubs -- Wood
Rationale: It might not matter who logs this start. In 2013, the Cubs finished dead-last in total hits and batting average -- amongst NL clubs -- when playing on the road. Of similar relevance, Chicago finished 14th with on-base percentage.
5/14 @ Giants -- Wood
Rationale: The Giants don't have a very thick book on Wood. Plus, San Francisco belted only 32 homers against left-handed pitching last year (13th in NL).
5/20 vs. Brewers -- Wood
Rationale: When pitching on Tuesday (18 total innings entering 2014), Wood boasts sterling MLB marks of a 2.00 ERA and 19/8 K-BB rate.
5/26 vs. Red Sox -- Floyd
Rationale: It's a wonder the Yankees or Rays couldn't find room for Floyd in their respective rotations. In his 10-year MLB career, Floyd has the following marks against the Red Sox: 7-0, 3.21 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 48/13 K-BB.
5/31 @ Marlins -- Floyd
Rationale: Against right-handed pitching last year, the anemic Marlins finished last (among NL clubs) with runs, hits, homers, RBI, batting average and OPB. Ugh!
6/7 @ Diamondbacks -- Floyd
Rationale: Color us curious: Spanning 10 major league campaigns, Floyd (averaged 12.4 victories from 2008-12) hasn't pitched a single regular-season inning against Arizona.
6/12 @ Rockies -- Floyd
Rationale: Speaking of rare air, Floyd allowed just two earned runs in his lone MLB start at Coors Field (June 2011).
6/17 vs. Phillies -- Hale
Rationale: Hale racked up his first and only MLB win against Philly last September, allowing just one run in six stellar innings.
6/24 @ Astros -- Hale
Rationale: The Astros actually outscored the Yankees against right-handed pitching last year ... but still finished 14th, among American League clubs, in that category.
6/29 @ Phillies -- Wood
Rationale: The Braves southpaw has been solid in two career starts against the Phillies, notching one win, 10 strikeouts and a 3.86 ERA.
7/5 vs. Diamondbacks -- Wood
Rationale: Similar to the Giants, the Diamondbacks don't have a substantial book on Wood (zero runs in 0.2 innings last year).
7/10 @ Mets -- Wood
Rationale: It's only fitting that Wood collects the last No. 5-starter-outing before the All-Star break. He allowed only two earned runs to New York last year.
7/22 vs. Marlins -- Hale
Rationale: On paper, Hale catches a post-break, uh, break, by drawing three consecutive starts against the Marlins and Padres (twice).
7/27 vs. Padres -- Hale
Rationale: This could be an interesting period with Hale's development as a major leaguer -- posting back-to-back starts against the same team (San Diego). Which carries us into August ...
8/2 @ Padres -- Hale
Rationale: Amongst NL teams last year, San Diego hitters finished 13th in batting average and OBP for home games.
8/9 vs. Nationals -- Wood
Rationale: Of his five consecutive August starts last year, spanning 30 innings, Wood supremely notched a 0.90 ERA and 28/9 K-BB rate.
8/14 vs. Dodgers -- Wood
Rationale: The Braves have only one 12:10 p.m. home start scheduled for Thursday all year; so why not ride Wood and his 2.75 career ERA during matinee games? (We're also crossing our fingers for a Wood vs. Clayton Kershaw matchup.)
8/19 @ Pirates -- Wood
Rationale: Atlanta doesn't play Pittsburgh for the first 3 1/2 months of the season. That aside, Wood had a 3.09 ERA in 15 road appearances last year -- allowing just one homer.
8/24 @ Reds -- Wood
Rationale: There are no 'automatic' options here among the fifth starters, due to the bandbox design of Great American Ballpark. Especially when summer breezes are blowing out toward right field.
8/30 vs. Marlins -- Wood
Rationale: By this point, Wood could be approaching the 140-inning mark, possibly hindering his chances of starting more than twice in September. However, unlike the Stephen Strasburg case from a few years ago (with the Nationals), Wood would presumptively be on the Braves' postseason roster (if applicable).
9/6 @ Marlins -- Floyd
Rationale: The right-handed Floyd has never lost to the Marlins (3.86 cumulative ERA against Miami).
9/12 @ Rangers -- Floyd
Rationale: Back in 2011, a healthy and productive Floyd stifled the Rangers bats -- surrendering just one run and two walks over 14 superb innings (with 11 strikeouts).
9/17 vs. Nationals -- Floyd
Rationale: This is the final regular-season outing between the Braves and Nationals -- both World Series contenders. Better make this one count.
9/23 vs. Pirates -- Floyd
Rationale: It's a small sample size, but Floyd has the following career marks against Pittsburgh -- 3-0, 0.89 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 17/9 K-BB rate.
9/28 @ Phillies -- Floyd
Rationale: For now, Floyd hypothetically draws the last start of the season -- unless the Braves are in win-or-else mode. In that case, either Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran or Mike Minor gets the ball.