Mike Soroka Rewards Braves For Defying Convention
The Braves’ devastating Division Series loss to the Cardinals carried more low lights than high, but 22-year-old rookie righthander Mike Soroka’s brilliant Game 3 was the franchise’s standout showing of October.
Soroka allowed one run over seven innings in a pitcher’s duel against veteran Adam Wainwright. It continued his masterful road performance, where he posted a major league-best 1.55 ERA in 2019.
Drafted in the first round out of high school in Calgary in 2015, Soroka as a prospect was lauded as a durable command savant who was wise beyond his years. Shoulder issues cut his 2018 major league debut season short after five outings. A separate shoulder problem derailed his spring training and pushed his season debut back into late April.
"That’s what I’m most proud of this year,” Soroka said. "I took health for granted a lot in the minor leagues, never understanding that (injury) is a possibility . . . I learned a lot about what it takes to repeat day in and day out, to understand what it takes to stay healthy for a full season.”
Soroka recorded a 169 adjusted-ERA+ that ranked first among rookie pitchers in the franchise's modern history. He went 13-4, 2.68 with 142 strikeouts and 41 walks in 174.2 innings.
If that inning total appears high, especially for a young player with recent shoulder problems, that’s because it was. Just 11 pitchers 21-and-under since the 1994 strike logged more innings that Soroka, and his total was higher than anybody since Madison Bumgarner logged 204.2 in 2011.
The Braves were never tempted to cut Soroka’s workload. General manager Alex Anthopoulos routinely rejected the notion of being overly cautious with arms, citing lefthander Julio Urias of the Dodgers—Anthopoulos' previous employer—as one example that it doesn’t pay off.
"I think we did a really good job of limiting and monitoring stressful innings more than anything," Braves manager Brian Snitker said, "because a guy like Soroka, it's easy for him to come in after six innings and have 68 pitches . . .
"And I think you've got to really monitor effort in between starts in the course of a long season until they figure out how to do that."