The Braves announced a two-year deal for Roger McDowell on Saturday, preventing the Phillies and any other potential suitors from grabbing him. Financial terms were not disclosed.
You're likely to see McDowell get praise from Braves pitchers after this announcement. Atlanta's staff seems to be on the same page as McDowell, and he's surely had a positive effect on the team's arms in the clubhouse.
But can you quantify the positive effect? What remains the best way is how pitchers fare under a coach's tutelage. McDowell has been in Atlanta eight seasons, and the Braves have had a top 5 ERA in six of those years. Their staff ERA has dropped each season since 2008, and it culminated in the No. 1 ERA in baseball this year at 3.18.
The Braves had the fourth-best FIP in MLB this season, knocking their fWAR to fourth despite the best ERA. But this is all despite the absence of Brandon Beachy, Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty, and Tim Hudson for part of the season.
I think the combination of Frank Wren's excellent ability to pick up relievers off the scrap heap and develop good arms in the system, and McDowell's excellent ability to lead them, is the biggest reason for the positive ERA trend. Wren has become one of the best in baseball at building bullpens on a budget, while McDowell has kept them together.
In 2013, you had David Carpenter sign for pennies and record a 1.78 ERA, and Jordan Walden had a 3.45 ERA after being acquired for a bum-shouldered Tommy Hanson. Also, Luis Avilan emerged as a reliable lefty reliever in place of O'Flaherty.
It's the sort of thing mid-market teams have to rely on in order to compete, and the Braves understand this and are executing it.
Wren-McDowell is a great combination that has served the Braves well, and it's great for Atlanta that the two are guaranteed to be around for at least another year. Hopefully, for the Braves' sakes, it lasts much longer.