Atlanta Braves Second Half Preview: Rotation

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 15, 2010

ATLANTA - JUNE 27:  Tommy Hanson #48 of the Atlanta Braves against the Detroit Tigers at Turner Field on June 27, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

I’ve already analyzed the 52-36 Braves’ hitters, but that’s only half of what makes the team so special. Let’s now look at the pitching staff.


Derek Lowe:

   In the nineteen games that Lowe has started, he has compiled a 9-8 record with a 4.35 ERA. For the supposed number one starter on the strong Braves staff, this does seem somewhat subpar.

   This however is just about what we should expect from Lowe for the rest of the season as well. His FIP and xFIP are slightly lower than his ERA at 4.15 and 4.11 respectively.

   If Lowe can cut down on his walks—he has issued them at a much higher rate than he has throughout his career—and keeps his strikeout level about the same, he should be able to lower his ERA to about 4.00 and continue to be a valuable innings eater for the Braves.


Jair Jurrjens:

   This season has been an enigma for this Braves pitcher. Jurrjens was injured throughout the year and did not perform particularly well before his injury. Yet in his two starts coming off of the disabled list, Jurrjens pitched admirably.

   Because of the small sample size, it is too difficult to pass judgment on Jurrjens at this point in the season. I would guess that we’ll see a season much more like 2008 when he posted 3.68 ERA then one like 2009 when he posted a 2.60. Even in 2009, Jurrjens’ FIP shows that his ERA should have been exactly 3.68.


Tommy Hanson:

  At first glance, Hanson’s season looks disappointing so far. He at 8-5 with a 4.13 ERA, not exactly what baseball aficionados expected from the highly touted young hurler.

  However, once you dig deeper into Hanson’s season, the performance becomes more impressive thus far and offers much hope for the second half of the season.

   Hanson’s FIP stands at a minute 3.16, almost a full run under his current ERA. One reason for this difference is Hanson’s grossly inflated .349 BABIP, the highest such number of all qualified National League starting pitchers.

   This season, Hanson’s walk rate is down, his strikeout rate is up, and his home runs allowed rate is down, all pointed towards much success in the second half. Expect an ERA around 3.25 and boatloads of strikeouts.


Tim Hudson:

   Huddy is in the midst of a remarkable season. So far he is 9-3 with a miniscule 2.30 ERA. He has been the de facto ace of the Braves staff, but unfortunately for the fans, this is bound to get uglier soon.

   Almost all of his underlying stats point towards a dropoff in production soon. Hudson has left 84.9% of men on base so far, the second highest number in the big leagues to Wade LeBlanc. Once this rate normalizes, more runners will start scoring on Hudson.

   His BABIP, at .232, is over 50 points below his career mark so this is only going to go up once he stops getting quite so lucky. The BABIP is also the second lowest in the Major Leagues, surpassed only by the Athletics Trevor Cahill.

   Hudson’s walk rate is also up this season, and his strikeout rate is down, so we should expect his ERA to climb up into the 4’s for the second half, a number that his FIP supports.


Kris Medlen:

   Another young pitcher for the Braves, Medlen has been another great pitcher for his team so far.

   He is 6-1 at the All Star break with a 3.19 ERA. His BABIP shows that he has been slightly lucky but at the same time, Medlen has drastically lowered his walk rate this year.

   If he can keep minimizing the free passes and pitching at the same level that he has thus far, all signs point towards a second half ERA around 3.75. Medlen will be a very useful piece in the Braves rotation, as he has, and will continue, to perform as a top-tier back-of-the-rotation pitcher.