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Atlanta Braves: How Much Will Brandon Beachy Regress?

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Atlanta Braves: How Much Will Brandon Beachy Regress?
Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

Right now, Atlanta Braves pitcher Brandon Beachy is the 2012 NL Cy Young award front-runner with an MLB-leading 1.87 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. 

Does a hot start by a young Atlanta Braves pitcher sound familiar? That's because it is.

In 2011, another young pitcher for the Braves got off to an historic start, then faded miserably, and was unable to finish the season in the rotation. 

His name is Jair Jurrjens, and now he can't even get Triple-A hitters out. 

That's not suggesting Beachy will be in Triple-A at this point next season. Jurrjens had other issues, namely injuries and a rapid decline in velocity on his fastball. 

The question is not if Beachy will regress in the second half of the season, but how much he will falter by. 

When the bad luck starts to come Beachy's direction, will he be able to handle it? Jurrjens couldn't 

Beachy has been extremely lucky so far this season. He sports a microscopic .207 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). The major league average is typically around .300.

He is also averaging only 7.04 strikeouts per nine innings. That allows Beachy to pitch deeper in games, but it means lots more bats squaring up on the ball. 

It's just not normal for pitchers to have that good of an ERA for an extended period of time. 

Sabermetrics reflect these ideas and show that Beachy should regress in the second half. 

What will Beachy's 2012 season ERA be?

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Beachy's FIP (fielding independent pitching) is 3.35, and his xFIP, which standardizes the HR/FB ratio, is 4.04.

Last year, many of us didn't rely on advanced statistics. They measure what results ought to be instead of what happened on the field. The main statistics are based on strikeouts and walks. 

But last year we learned sabermetrics hold value. Jurrjens' fall from grace was historic. 

In the first half of last season, Jurrjens was 11-3 with a 1.87 ERA. But he didn't (couldn't) strike many hitters out. 

Jurrjens wasn't too lucky with a .260 BABIP during the first half of the 2011 season. But his strand rate was astronomically high for a pitcher who has a very low strikeout rate.

Pitchers who strike a lot of hitters out can have a better-than-average strand rate because hitters don't make a lot of contact. It's very difficult to score when the ball isn't put in play. 

Jurrjens had a strand rate of 81 percent last season, ranking fourth-best in the major leagues of pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched, according to FanGraphs.com. The major league average is about 72 percent.

Beachy's strand rate is 77.8 percent, which is considered very good. 

Last year we said things like, "Jurrjens created 'bad' contact" and, "He doesn't need to strike a ton of people out; Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux won 300 games without the strikeout," etc. 

But we've learned from our lessons and have realized the value of advanced statistics. It won't be surprising when Beachy's ERA starts to climb. The question is, just how much will it climb?

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