Julio Teheran may have opened his 2013 season with a rough outing last week, but the kid has a great deal of potential. He's also the only real option the Atlanta Braves have for the rotation until Brandon Beachy returns, as Sean Gilmartin was not overly impressive in the spring before getting sent to the minors.
As Teheran learns to take his plus stuff and become a true pitcher, he can benefit greatly from spending some time with a veteran like Tim Hudson. Hudson has been around for a while, and is one of the final links to the Braves' dynasty that ended eight years ago. This article will point out 10 ways that Teheran can benefit from being around Hudson for a full season.
No one on the Braves' roster has the same type of playoff experience that Tim Hudson has. In addition to making three playoff starts with the Braves, Hudson made six starts and a relief experience with Oakland—with five of those seven appearances coming against Boston and the New York Yankees.
With the Braves expecting to be in a year-long fight with Washington for the NL East and being a favorite to claim a playoff spot as either a division winner or Wild Card, playoff experience can be important down the stretch.
Not only does Teheran lack playoff experience, but he has next to no big league experience over the last two seasons. That makes having a veteran presence in Hudson, who has been through the big games, important for the youngster. Not only did Hudson make those starts in Oakland, but he was the ace of its staff at a young age.
Tim Hudson has been one of the best hitting pitchers in the game during his whole career. That shouldn't surprise anyone since he was considered a top two-way player during his college career at Auburn. It's led to Hudson putting up a .171 average with two homers and 16 doubles in his career—numbers that are very strong for a pitcher.
Those are also numbers that could be even better if Hudson hadn't spent his first six seasons in the American League. That time in the American League didn't just limit his at-bats, but also likely decreased the length of time he spent working on his hitting.
Teheran has started out his big league career by going 1-for-6 at the plate after hitting .171 during his career in the minor leagues. Again, nothing special, but those are solid numbers for a pitcher.
Teheran has shown that he at least has some ability to be a decent hitter for a pitcher. Getting to spend time watching Tim Hudson every day and getting pointers from him could potentially make Teheran a better hitter as soon as this year as there are few pitchers in the game with his background as a hitter.
Hudson has done a good job of limiting line drives in his career. According to Baseball Reference, the major league average of line drives is 20 percent. Hudson has only seen his rate climb above 17 percent one time since 2006, and that was when he gave up 18 percent back in 2009.
Limiting line drives is always a good thing for a pitcher, because line drives mean the batter was able to make strong contact with the baseball and hit it hard. A line drive is capable of falling in for extra bases at any time because the defense doesn't get much time to react, so the fact that Hudson is 3 percent below the league average for his career is huge.
If Teheran is able to limit the line drives against him, it will only help to increase his chances of success at the big league level. It's another reason why Hudson could help to benefit Teheran this season. Hudson knows the secrets of limiting hard contact against him, and time with Teheran could help Teheran limit the hard contact against him as well.
One thing that Teheran hasn't done well during his big league career is making it deeper into starts. During his five career big league starts, Teheran has never gone more than 5.1 innings because of some combination of struggles and high pitch counts.
Over the past three seasons, Hudson has averaged between 6.4 and 6.7 innings per start. Knowing how to attack big league hitters has helped to keep his pitch counts at a manageable level for him to work deeper into games.
The Braves need Teheran to be able to pitch deeper into games than what he has done so far. If he consistently fails to make it six innings in his starts, it will start to take a toll on the bullpen. Picking up a tip or two from Hudson could help Teheran do a better job of attacking hitters without wasting extra pitches.
According to Fangraphs, Hudson threw his curveball for 10.9 percent of his pitches last season. It's a pitch he has been throwing more often the past few seasons, partly due to decreased velocity in his fastball making it less effective. It's helped to keep him a successful pitcher as he continues to get older.
Fangraphs says that Teheran has thrown the curveball 19.1 percent of the time during his big league career. Throwing the curve well is essential for Teheran considering he only has three pitches. It's a solid pitch, but at the same time it can still use a little improvement.
Hudson has done well with the curve out of necessity and any tips he can give Teheran could be what helps him turn the corner for good.
Teheran has come a long way from being a guy who gets by on just his excellent stuff. However at this point in his career, there are some times when he reverts back into a thrower who tries to blow by hitters. This is normal for a 22-year-old, especially one who has the natural stuff that Teheran has.
Hudson is a true pitcher. He doesn't have great stuff at this point in his career, and even at the beginning of his career, he never had the level of stuff that Teheran has. That meant he became a pitcher instead of trying to blow it past a hitter.
Spending time together with a veteran like Hudson could help Teheran as he tries to both improve as a true pitcher and stop trying to just blow his best stuff past hitters from time to time.
Hudson may not blow anyone away, but he's solid in all aspects. This applies to the way he fields his position, something which is important because of his ability to get ground-ball outs. The ability to field his position well helps him limit the damage against him, and it's a trait that many of the top Braves pitchers of the past 20 years have had.
I am not ready to judge Teheran's ability to field his position, but spending time with Hudson will only help him. If Teheran can be a solid fielding pitcher, it could have save him a couple of runs every season. It may not sound like a lot, but if Teheran can save four runs over the course of 180 innings, it would make a 0.20 difference in his ERA.
Something that Hudson does well is force big league hitters to hit the ball on the ground. It helps to limit the home runs hit against him as well as lets the defense behind him do what it should do. In his career, he has nearly doubled the league average for ground-out-to-air-out ratio, according to Baseball Reference.
It would be nice if Hudson can teach Teheran how to make big league hitters put the ball on the ground. Not only would it help limit the damage against him, but it would also help him take advantage of one of the biggest strengths of the team in the defense of shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
Teheran has limited big league experience in his career and struggled badly in the minors last year. Sure he looks like he turned everything around, but people can't forget that he is still only 22 years old. That means no matter how good he may be, there will be the occasional rocky outing—like Friday against the Chicago Cubs.
Hudson is a veteran sitting just two wins shy of 200 in his career after a victory earlier today against the Cubs. He's been through plenty of ups and downs during a big league career which has covered 15 seasons.
It's important for Teheran to have a veteran like Hudson around to help mentor him. A guy like Hudson will do his best to make sure that the kid being considered the future of the rotation never gets too high or too low because of his performance on the mound. In a division with potentially the best team in baseball, this is important.
I already mentioned that Hudson could help Teheran as a hitter, but for a pitcher, bunting is extremely important. That's because if there is a runner on base and less than two outs, most pitchers are looking to bunt to move the runner up since they aren't exactly threats at the plate.
Hudson is a very good hitter, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that he is a great bunter.
During his nine seasons in Atlanta, Hudson has 52 sacrifice bunts, including 14 back in 2006 and a total of 22 over the past three seasons. Hudson is one of the better pitchers in the game at moving the runners up for the next guy.
Teheran has shown some ability in the minors as a hitter, but we don't know much about his ability as a bunter yet. Spending time working with Hudson can only help Teheran. I believe it could be similar to the way young pitchers were with their bunting during the Braves' long run of success from veterans like Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine.