López, Sale reaping rewards of extra rest

June 21st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mark Bowman’s Braves Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ATLANTA – Within a few months, we’ve gone from "Should be a starting pitcher?" to "Should Reynaldo López be the National League’s starter in this year’s All-Star Game?"

You can argue that the Phillies’ Ranger Suárez or López’s Braves teammate are more deserving of this honor. Suárez has constructed his own sub-2.00 ERA (1.75) while throwing 18 more innings than López. Strikeout and walk rates help Sale and the Dodgers’ Tyler Glasnow to have better WAR and expected stats than López.

But López has a strong resume courtesy of the MLB-best 1.57 ERA he has produced through his first 13 starts. He is the first Braves pitcher to have a sub-1.60 ERA through 13 starts since Tom Glavine, who produced a 1.57 ERA through this same span in 2002.

Glavine tallied 91 2/3 innings through those 13 starts. López has been limited to 74 1/3 innings as the Braves have masterfully limited his workload in his first full season as a starting pitcher since 2019. Nineteen of the 30 appearances he combined to make at the Triple-A and Major League levels for the White Sox in 2021 were starts. But he was a reliever the past two seasons.

Yeah, the Braves have reason to be excited after seeing their offense awake from its slumber this past homestand. But while all the recent concern had been focused on the offense, the key to this team making a long postseason run continues to rest on the health of the pitching staff.

Winning a seventh straight National League East title would be nice. But the Braves won’t chase a division crown at the expense of wearing out any of their starting pitchers, especially López and Sale, who is also bidding to experience a full season as a starter for the first time since 2019.

Where the Braves are seeded entering the playoffs isn’t nearly as important as where Sale and López stand in terms of health and stamina once October arrives.

If both are available, having them lined up with Max Fried and Charlie Morton for a postseason series will provide the Braves a comfort they didn’t possess with the injury-depleted rotations they carried into the playoffs the past two years.

The Braves are one of many teams currently benefiting from a six-man rotation. This setup guarantees Sale and López will get at least one extra day of rest before every start.

López has a 2.00 ERA in the five starts he’s made with one extra day of rest and a 1.05 ERA in the seven starts he has made with at least two extra days of rest. He has completed at least five innings in all but one start this year. He lasted 4 2/3 innings in the 4-1 loss against the Pirates on May 25. That’s the only start he has made thus far with regular rest.

Sale has a 3.72 ERA in the seven starts he has made with one extra day of rest and a 2.05 ERA in the five starts he’s made with at least two extra days of rest. He allowed one run over five innings in the only start he has made with regular rest on May 1. He has pitched into the sixth inning in 11 of his other 13 starts.