The Braves lost the game 4-2, but Muller did exactly what the team hoped: He covered four frames of a seven-inning game. Manager Brian Snitker praised Muller, saying he threw the ball “extremely well” and lauding the breaking ball.
For the Braves fans unaware of Muller’s profile, it probably didn’t take long to figure out his selling points. The Texas native is an imposing presence, standing 6-foot-7 and listed at 250 pounds (he said he’s closer to 265).
Muller’s velocity hovers in the mid-to-high 90s. His fastball grades as the best in the system, according to Baseball America. But to reach his potential as a starter — or to even stay a starter long term — Muller needs to refine his secondary pitches.
The southpaw has a four-pitch mix, including a curveball change-up and slider. He said the curveball is his most advanced off-speed pitch. In his first start, Muller used his fastball 57% of the time. It averaged 94.9 mph. He threw 12 sliders, which prompted nine swings including four whiffs.
“I love watching him pitch and would love to see him pitch like that in the future, as well,” outfielder Ronald Acuna said via team interpreter Franco Garcia. “He did a great job overall.”
Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna (13) and New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) chat during a pause in action in the second game of a doubleheader, Monday, June 21, 2021, in New York. (Kathy Willens/AP)
Credit: Kathy Willens
Credit: Kathy Willens
Among the highlights of Muller’s outing, however, wasn’t something he did on the mound. He drew an eight-pitch walk off deGrom in his second career at-bat in the third inning to become the Braves’ first base runner.
“That at-bat against deGrom was awesome,” starting pitcher Ian Anderson said. “He’s so hyped up. He’s probably more hyped up at the plate than he might be on the mound, which is funny.”
Muller’s recollection of the at-bat: “I figured the first pitch I got was going to be the best one, so I swung as hard as I could. After that, then I think he threw another fastball and then three sliders up. If he’d have thrown the good one that he threw to every one of our hitters, it might have been a different story. But yeah, I was pumped.”
There’s reason to be encouraged by Muller. The Braves, as they have all season, are hoping someone steps up and earns a regular role. That’s not to say that’s their expectation for Muller, whose big-league career isn’t even a week old, but the team would welcome him forcing his way into their regular plans, just as Ynoa and Davidson did before him.
“He’s got the makeup; he’s got the stuff,” Anderson said. “So it’s exciting to see him get a chance.”
The question now: When will his next chance be?