Atlanta Braves 2012: Power Ranking Braves Starting Pitchers Post Trade Deadline
Coming into the 2012 season, chatter surrounding the Braves mostly dealt with the strong group of pitchers Atlanta had assembled.
They talked about Tim Hudson, the grizzled veteran who would anchor the group.
They talked about Tommy Hanson, ready to break out and become an ace.
They talked about Jair Jurrjens, fresh off a year that saw him post a first-half ERA of 1.87.
They talked about Brandon Beachy, the kid from Kokomo that surprised everyone and became perhaps Atlanta's best pitcher.
They talked about the promise of Mike Minor, Randall Delgado, and Julio Teheran, the trio that hoped to turn "the future of the rotation" into the present.
Unfortunately, it hasn't exactly panned out quite that way.
Hanson has regressed, Beachy's season ended prematurely with a visit to Dr. James Andrews, Minor has pitched terribly until recently, inconsistency has cost Delgado a spot in the rotation, Teheran has had the worst season of his minor league career, and when he's not been injured, Jair Jurrjens has seen a fair amount of time being demoted to the minors.
I'm keeping the glass half-full, though. There have, in fact, been positives in the Atlanta rotation this year, and I am going to highlight the positive in each of the power ranking profiles to follow.
I understand you're not going to agree with me; I welcome it. Let's hash it out in the comments below. Just understand that power rankings are temporary, and are due to change with time.
8. Jair Jurrjens
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This one didn't take much thought. Jurrjens hasn't been right all year. In fact, he hasn't been right since the 2011 All-Star break.
He's pitched to the tune of a 6.89 ERA in 2012, posting a K/9 and BB/9 rate of 3.54 and 3.35, respectively.
I don't believe this is the real Jair Jurrjens though. The problem is such: Jurrjens is an enigma, wrapped in a quandary, topped off with a few question marks for presentation. Because of his alternating fortunes and questionable peripheral stats, absolutely nobody has any idea which pitcher Jair Jurrjens is.
Since 2008, Jurrjens has been baffling us with his Jekyll and Hyde ERAs from season to season: 3.68, 2.60, 4.64, 2.96, 6.89. It sounds silly to say, but I believe that Jurrjens is closest to the pitcher he was his rookie year: a number three starter.
I've found myself rooting hard for him throughout this season; I'd really like to see him become an asset to Atlanta down the stretch. And after watching him baffle Boston through 7.2 innings on June 22 (three hits, one run, one walk), I really believe he can.
With some time on the DL and in the bullpen, he should return to form, granted he is fully healthy. Whether he regains his rotation spot though, is yet to be determined.
7. Randall Delgado
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Let's get this straight: Randall Delgado has not been bad.
Inconsistent, yes. But bad? No.
Thus far, Delgado sports a 4.42 ERA with a 4.13 FIP, a 7.17 K/9 rate, and a 4.12 B/9 rate.
Several times this season, Delgado has teased us with dominating performances. With a 93 mile an hour fastball and two pretty dirty offspeed pitches, he has all the potential of a number two starter-perhaps even more.
His problem has simply been his control. When it is harnessed, Delgado shows us that he is capable of greatness. When he can not locate though, Delgado hints that he is not quite ready for the Atlanta rotation.
I'm very excited Delgado was not shipped to Chicago; seeing him in an Atlanta jersey for years to come is going to be pretty exciting.
Don't expect Delgado to get back into the rotation in 2012, but expect him to earn a spot in the Braves bullpen in the playoffs and showcase what he can do.
6. Kris Medlen
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Confession: Kris Medlen is my favorite Atlanta Braves pitcher right now.
His ability to both start and relieve makes Medlen an invaluable asset to the Atlanta pitching staff, and his performance has earned him an extended stay in the rotation while Tommy Hanson is on the DL.
By the time Hanson returns to the rotation, Medlen may find himself further up on this list. But because he has only started one game this season, he remains behind his fellow starters.
Through 59.1 innings this season, Medlen has posted a 2.43 ERA while not walking anybody (2.12 BB/9) but he's only striking out a puzzling 5.92 men per nine innings, down from 6.94 in 2010, and 9.58 in 2009. His fastball velocity has only dropped an average of .3 miles an hour since 2010, so it's yet to be seen if Medlen's K/9 rate will return to normal.
I'm glad to be able to watch Medlen in the rotation the next couple weeks, but when Hanson's groin heals, expect Medlen to return to his crucial bullpen role.
5. Mike Minor
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I believe in Mike Minor.
His stat line is ugly, I'll give you that. A 5.01 ERA is nothing to write home about. But his command has improved as the season has waned, and with an improved control, a new Mike Minor has emerged.
That's right, in his last five starts, Minor has allowed just six earned runs in 31 innings, striking out 27, and walking just six. Just to be straight, that's a 1.74 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and 4.5 strikeouts for every walk.
If his August 2 start against Miami didn't result in a rain delay, Minor could have added to that ridiculous stat line. Nevertheless, Minor went from being demotion worthy to working his way into consideration for the playoff rotation.
Like Delgado, control has been the issue for Minor this year. On nights that he locates his fastball, Minor looks untouchable. For two months, Minor struggled with his control, but as I mentioned above, he has turned a definite corner.
Now, with Paul Maholm in the rotation, Minor can learn from a veteran lefty with lesser quality pitches who has learned how to outsmart hitters on his way to becoming one of the most dominant pitchers in the game this season.
If Minor can take a few lessons from Maholm, Atlanta's rotation will improve dramatically.
4. Ben Sheets
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The Ben Sheets signing is already looking like a thing of genius.
After being out of baseball for two years, Sheets hasn't missed a beat, allowing just four runs in his first four starts (24.2 innings), striking out 23, and walking just six.
He's an entirely different pitcher than he used to be, so it's hard to project his success moving forward. It's obvious that his command is sharp, and his curveball is still devastating, but Sheets now employs his change-up much more than ever (25.5 percent up from 7.8 percent in 2008), and has lost a couple miles an hour on his fastball.
Again, it should be stressed that two years out of the game did nothing to damage his vintage command (career BB/9 rate of 2.07), or signature curveball.
Basically, the same old Ben Sheets has reinvented himself. And if his success thus far is any indication of what's to come, that's a very good thing.
I could rank Sheets higher, but like Mike Minor, I would like to see him continue his success for a few more starts before I rush him up the power rankings.
3. Tommy Hanson
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Falling K/9 rates and rising BB/9 and HR/9 rates don't typically result in an improvement of ERA.
And Tommy Hanson is no exception.
Hanson may be Atlanta's most talented starting pitcher, and if the Braves want to go deep into October, they will need Hanson to provide all he can.
The 2009, 2010, and 2011 versions would do. But this 2012 version? Not so much.
A stat line of a 4.29 ERA, 4.61 FIP, and 1.44 WHIP needs to be a thing of the past when Hanson returns from his back injury. Atlanta probably won't survive the deep rotations of Washington, Cincinnati, and San Francisco without Hanson performing up to his talent level.
However, the talent is still there, and Hanson has a track record of success that leads me to believe he can step it up as the season ages.
2. Paul Maholm
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Meet the newest member of the Atlanta rotation: Paul Maholm.
All he's done is allow one or fewer run in 11 of his 21 starts this season. Oh, and in his last seven starts, he's allowed five runs over 45 innings, sporting a proud ERA of 1.00 (Baseball-Reference).
His 3.74 ERA may not be worthy of much praise, but if his first two starts are thrown away, his ERA drops to 3.04. He doesn't walk anyone (2.54 BB/9), and his BABIP against (2.81) suggests that his success is indeed sustainable.
If Maholm can continue his surprisingly dominant season, the Atlanta rotation will have gained not only another lefty, but a stabilizing force, and an October starter that can hang with anybody.
1. Tim Hudson
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He doesn't strike out many hitters. He doesn't hit 98 on the radar gun. He doesn't have a knee-buckling curve. But for the last 14 years, every time Tim Hudson has trotted out to the mound, his team has had a very good shot to win the game.
The advanced metrics like him (3.48 FIP). He doesn't walk anybody (2.37 BB/9). His BABIP against is sustainable (.282), and his strand rate (69.7 percent) suggests that his success could improve. (Fangraphs)
And even though he may not have an ounce of flash to him, Hudson can still get on a tear and dominate the game. May 20 saw Hudson go into Tampa Bay and allow zero runs in 7.2 innings. On June 8, Hudson went into Miami and tossed a complete game shutout. Later that month, he allowed one run in eight innings against Arizona. On July 6, Hudson went into Philadelphia and allowed zero runs in seven innings. (Baseball-Reference)
He's steady, he's durable, he can dominate a game, he can go the distance, he's undaunted by his surroundings, and he can step up big in the clutch.
Is there anyone else who could possibly stake a claim for the top spot in the Braves rotation?