Atlanta Braves: How Jair Jurrjens and the Pitching Staff Are Winning Games

Will BrownContributor IJune 9, 2011

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JUNE 09: Jair Jurrjens  # 49 of the Atlanta Braves pitches against the Florida Marlins at Sun Life Stadium on June 9, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

Jair Jurrjens threw seven masterful innings (again) for the Braves Wednesday, giving up only six hits and two runs while striking out two as the Braves swept the Florida Marlins.

Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters both threw scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth respectively in the Braves 3-2 win.

It was just another great pitching performance for the Braves. Since May 1st, they have only had 11 games in which they have given up at least five runs. That means that in the last 35 games, the Braves have held their opponents to under five runs roughly 69 percent of the time.

Not too shabby. You should win a ton of those.

At the time of this writing, the Braves are first in the majors in ERA (2.99), WHIP (1.15) and batting average against (.227). They are also fourth in the league in quality starts with 39.

Of the team's Opening Day starting rotation, only Tim Hudson has an ERA above 4.00 (4.14), while Jurrjens (1.82) and Tommy Hanson (2.59) are both under 3.00.

Brandon Beachy, the team's biggest surprise before becoming injured, was posting an ERA of 3.45 through his first eight starts. Derek Lowe has also stayed steady, posing an ERA of 3.73 to this point.

Then you have the bullpen. Venters (0.47) and O'Flaherty (1.52) are both putting up ERAs under 2.00, while another surprise in George Sherrill is keeping his ERA well under 3.00 (2.35).

Electrifying closer Craig Kimbrel has had some roadblocks along the way but is posting an ERA of 3.19 with K/9 ratio of 13.65. Kimbrel also has the record for saves before the All-Star break for a rookie with 18. Christian Martinez has also stepped up as a very quality reliever with an ERA of 3.10.


The problem has been the offense though, and the Braves are pretty luck to be above .500 to be quite frank. Again, at the time of this writing, they rank 24th in runs scored (234, or 3.7 runs per game), 24th in batting average (.241), 24th in on-base percentage (.309) and 20th in slugging percentage (.381).

So basically, our offense is ranked in the bottom third in every statistical category. I couldn't fathom how bad it would be if we didn't have Brian McCann (.304/.373/.473), Martin Prado (.277/.324/.438), Freddie Freeman (.271/.339/.411) and of course Chipper Jones (.252/.350/.414).

It would be ugly to say the least.

I know that I am beating a dead horse for those of you that have seen some of my comments or articles, but the offense simply can't be this bad all year, can it?

Dan Uggla, the big offseason move, has a BABIP of just .186 while his career average was nearly .300 coming into the season. Jason Heyward was hitting just .217 before going on the disabled list for having inflammation in his shoulder, though he did hit seven home runs.

Those are two extremely key players to this team, and neither has made quite the impact we wanted. Uggla has had some bad luck to go along with his poor approach and hopefully once Heyward comes back off the DL, he will be hitting at more of the clip that we saw in 2010 when he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting.

Yet because of the pitching, the Braves currently stand at 35-28 and are just two games out of the division (thanks in part to the Phillies' offense not being much better).

With that in mind, keep up the optimism Braves' fans. With this pitching, we will stay in the race.

If we happen to find some offense along the way, we may just win the thing.