There were some hopes that Grant Dayton could be a useful piece for the Braves bullpen, but unfortunately the 2021 season did not go as planned.
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The Braves bullpen ended the 2021 season as a strength for the club, but there was a time when there was a lot of uncertainty as to who would provide the depth there that the team desired. LHP Grant Dayton was supposed to be a part of that depth, as he had been marginally effective when healthy for the team, but unfortunately the injury bug bit him yet again, which left the Braves looking for other options in the second half.
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Just a week after Alex Anthopoulos became the general manager of the Braves back in November of 2017, one of his first moves as general manager was to claim Grant Dayton off of waivers from the Dodgers. While Dayton was coming off of Tommy John surgery, Anthopoulos clearly saw some value in Dayton as a reliever and he ended up being a part of a package of moves just before the Rule 5 draft deadline that season. He did not make an appearance for the Braves until the 2019 season, and went on to make 32 appearances for the team over the next two seasons. In those two seasons, he outperformed his peripherals by a bunch (55 ERA-, 107 FIP-, 111 xFIP-) and was overall marginally successful leading up to the 2021 season (0.0 fWAR in 39 1⁄3 innings over two seasons).
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While the Braves seemingly had the back end of the bullpen fairly well established for the 2021 season, the hope was that Dayton would be able to provide useful middle relief innings for the Braves. ZiPS projected Dayton to post a 4.40 ERA while making 36 appearances for the club and totaling 43 innings (0.2 WAR), while Steamer was similar at 0.1 WAR for the season. If you were the Braves, you would have happily taken that from one of your lower leverage relievers, especially since there was some upside with Dayton from the left side.
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While we are talking about an exceedingly small sample with Dayton (more on that in a bit), the regression monster reared its ugly head with him as his results were significantly worse than some of his peripherals would have guessed. Consider it revenge for 2021 — his FIP- and xFIP- barely budged from where they were in 2019-2020, but his ERA- jumped from 55 to 145. Dayton saw jumps in his BABIP-against as well as his walk rate, which led to the rough parts of his peripherals getting punished more by worse bad luck on balls in play.
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