Friday, March 6, 2015

Favorite Braves List - Right-Handed Reliever

(Previous information on this series can be found here. Of importance, this is not a best list, but a favorites list since I started to follow the Braves. That limits options from 1991-to-now.)

Favorite Braves List (so far)
Ace Starter - Greg Maddux
#2 Starter - John Smoltz
#3 Starter - Tim Hudson
#4 Starter - Tom Glavine

Closer - Craig Kimbrel
Catcher - Brian McCann
First Base - Fred McGriff
Second Base - Marcus Giles
Shortstop - Andrelton Simmons
Third Base - Chipper Jones 
Left Field - Ryan Klesko
Center Field - Andruw Jones
Right Field - Jason Heyward
Backup Catcher - Eddie Perez


Honorable Mention: Greg McMichael is often forgotten, but the dude was money and posted a 3.03 FIP in 280 games out of the Braves pen. Kerry Ligtenberg, like McMichael, closed enough games to save 44 for the Braves and was also a quality pitcher. Not too shabby for a scab that was acquired for $730 of baseball equipment. Though he wasn't the best Braves reliever by any means, I had a little sympathy for Chris Reitsma for the amount of hate Braves fans gave him.

Favorite Braves List - Right-Handed Reliever
Peter Moylan

Atlanta has had a few sidearm pitchers over the year. Of course, Gene Garber stands out, but Brad Clontz was pretty damn solid for a year or two. In recent years, no others are quite as memorable as Peter Moylan, an Australian native who is one of the few real success stories from the World Baseball Classic. His best days were before Craig Kimbrel, but in my bullpen, he is my primary setup guy from the right side.

Getty Images Sport
Born December 2, 1978 in Attadale, a suburb of Perth, Moylan got his start in the minor leagues like many Australians of the time did - with the Minnesota Twins. What CuraƧao is to the Braves, Australia is to the Twins. In addition to Moylan, they have also signed Grant Balfour, Liam Hendricks, and Luke Hughes from "down under." In 1996 and 1997, Moylan would spend two seasons in the Gulf Coast League for the Twins, but was released before the 1998 season. He hadn't been all that impressive but worse, he had been in some kind of fight though he contended another man threw the first punch. Regardless of the particulars, Moylan's dream of being a major leaguer looked like it would come to an end. He returned to Australia, became a sales representative for places like Pearce Pharmaceuticals, and played baseball for some club teams. After two back surgeries, Moylan would adopt his now-familiar sidearm delivery.

Moylan still wasn't getting much interest and actually spent a good amount of time playing first base. However, the switch to sidearm had upped his velocity from high 80's to low-to-mid 90's. As if over night, Moylan was a different pitcher and with the inaugural World Baseball Classic on the horizon, he would secure a spot on the national team.

On March 9, 2006, Moylan introduced himself to the world with an outing against Venezuela. While he struggled with his control and walked five, he still struck out four, including mowing down some pretty talented hitters like Magglio Ordonez and Bobby Abreu. When the WBC ended, Moylan selected the Braves over the Red Sox and after nearly a decade away from professional ball in the states, he was back.

After an uneven 2006 that included 15 games with the Braves, Moylan broke out in a big way in 2007. The 28 year-old actually did not break camp with the team, but an injury to Chad Paronto opened the door for Moylan. He took advantage of the opportunity and would lead Braves relievers with 90 innings over 80 games. Hitters struggled to elevate the ball and Moylan posted a 62% groundball rate during the season. Now, the stathead in me looks at his 3.97 FIP and thinks "yeah, but he wasn't THAT good," but when you combine his unique story with a 1.80 ERA, it's tough not to be happy.

It looked like 2008 would be more of the same, but dealing with adversity is kind of Moylan's shtick. Like a good Braves soldier, Moylan would need Tommy John surgery. However, he bounced back quickly and was ready for the opening of the 2009 season, eleven months after surgery. He didn't miss a beat, posting a 2.95 FIP, the best of his career, while setting a record with 87 appearances and no homeruns allowed. His control did take a step back, though. It took an even larger step back the next season when Moylan appeared in 85 outings, but posted a 1.41 WHIP on the heels of a 5.2 BB/9.

Regardless of some alarming numbers, Moylan was still productive and seemed to love being a Brave. For their part, Atlanta loved him and chose to bring him back in 2011. Unfortunately, he needed a third back surgery that wrecked his season. Once he finally returned, he didn't stay healthy for long before tearing a rotator cuff. He missed half of 2012 before starting a lengthy road back that finally had Moylan in the majors for September. The Braves would choose to cut ties with Moylan after the season. He struggled with the Dodgers in 2013 before missing all of 2014 after needed a second Tommy John. He's currently on the road back and hopes to contribute this season to a team that needs him.

Moylan is why we love baseball, though. Not his FIP or his strikeout-to-walk rate. It's the fact that this guy could have given up on a dream after returning to Australia. He had went for it and things didn't work out. Many of us would say, "well, I did my best and now, I'm going to play slow-pitch softball with my co-workers." Instead, Moylan tinkered and found a new arm slot. He kept working hard and got a chance to play in the WBC. He was able to seize the moment and within a year, he was playing in the major leagues. He worked on his craft and kept coming back for more even as the injuries piled up. His personality made him an even bigger fan favorite and Atlanta fans were already in love with the guy. He seemed to not take himself too seriously and sought to enjoy every moment of getting paid to play a child's game. Other righty set-up guys were better, but he takes a rightful place on my favorite team because he was easily that. A favorite. A guy to root for. A guy you are happy is on your team not just for the stats he puts up, but the person he is.

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