Jair Jurrjens, just one of the Atlanta Braves' great young arms, gained his fifth win of the 2011 season when Atlanta defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 5-3 Saturday afternoon. His record now stands at 5-0, and at 25 years old, Jurrjens is making his case to be considered one of the best pitchers in the National League.
After an injury-riddled 2010 season that saw him post a 4.64 ERA with a record of 7-6, Jurrjens is currently pitching better than he did in 2009. In that season Jurrjens posted a record of 14-10 with an astounding ERA of 2.60, and this was at the age of 23.
After battling with a right oblique strain to start the season, Jurrjens has won five of his six starts (his five wins tie for best in the NL) and has an ERA of 1.66 (second best in the NL). His current WHIP is 0.99 (tied for fourth best), which is on pace to be a career best.
He has been incredibly consistent during his time back. He's thrown at least six innings in every start and has only given up more than two runs just once.
Jurrjens main key to success so far has been a sinker that he just started throwing this year. He learned the sinker from Jonny Venters, the Atlanta Braves setup pitcher and one of the best relievers in baseball.
The sinker has been important because Jurrjens is not a strikeout pitcher, averaging only 5.4 K/9 IP. His overall control has also been very good as he has only walked seven batters in his first 43.1 innings.
Is Jurrjens a top-10 pitcher in the NL?
Jurrjens has also thrown a strike on 65.1 percent of his pitches for the season—ranking him among the league leaders.
Can he keep up his early success?
Signs point to yes, with a little fall back to be expected.
His current opponent BABIP is .278 while his career BABIP is .283. That shouldn't fluctuate too much over the course of the year, and is a great sign that he should continue to have success. His walk rate (1.45 BB/9) is more than cut in half from his career average (3.11). His current line drive percentage (18.3%) is also slightly lower than his career average (19.2%).
He's also averaging 1.55 ground balls per fly ball, this is something that is worth keeping note of since his career average is just 1.29. This could in part be because of his sinker, however, as his strike out rate is also down (5.4 this year, 6.31 for his career).
Most other stats are right on par with what he has done over the his career, so all signs currently point to Jurrjens keeping up the pace that he is currently on. He is without question currently pitching like one of the best in the game, and from what I've seen and data that I've collected, I don't see him falling too far if he does at all. Jurrjens is simply pitching phenomenally, and if this continues, you can expect a lot of wins in the future.
Also check out this article by Daria Del Colliano, who also does a good job of looking at JJ's early success.