The Philadelphia Phillies starting rotation was getting all the headlines, but the Atlanta Braves’ fans tried to tell them that we had a pretty good one as well. To this point in the season, they have probably been the best rotation in baseball.
Jair Jurrjens is back to that great form he had back in 2009 and is my first half Cy Young guy. Tommy Hanson has been great. Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson have put together solid seasons, and Brandon Beachy has been phenomenal.
So now, we’ll take a more in-depth look at the starting rotation, as well as some of the guys that have filled in for injuries.
1. Jair Jurrjens
2011 Stats: 12-3, 1.87 ERA, 110.2 IP, 65 K, 1.07 WHIP
Jurrjens is second in the majors in ERA, just .01 behind Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels. Jurrjens has been the most unhittable pitcher in the National League.
Jurrjens has thrown at least six innings in all but two of his 16 starts. He’s given up three runs or less in 15 of his starts. The only game in which he gave up more than three earned runs was when he gave up four against the New York Mets in mid-June.
If Jurrjens can continue his great pitching in the second half, he may just win his first Cy Young award.
2. Tommy Hanson
2011 Stats: 10-4, 2.44 ERA, 103.1 IP, 109 K, 1.02 WHIP
As you can see from the stats, Hanson has actually been better than Jurrjens in a few statistics. The only one that truly matters is the ERA though, how you get there doesn’t necessarily matter.
This doesn’t take anything away from Hanson though as he has the third best ERA in the NL. When he was coming up through the Braves farm system in 2007 and 2008, people were talking about him as the team’s future ace. So far in his career he has proved them all right. Any team would love to have those stats from its number one, and Hanson is just 24 years old.
3. Tim Hudson
2011 Stats: 8-6, 3.57 ERA, 113.1 IP, 79 K, 1.15 WHIP
Hudson has a string of bad starts earlier in the season that make his stats look worse than he has pitched for the majority of the season.
Still, Hudson has been one of the better pitchers in the National League this year as he is 22nd in the NL in ERA. If he can keep up what he has done his last four starts (six earned runs in 27.1 innings, 1.99 ERA), then the Braves will be in very good shape going forward.
4. Derek Lowe
2011 Stats: 5-7, 4.30 ERA, 113 IP, 81 K, 1.38 WHIP
Lowe has been the worst of the Opening Day starting five for the Braves, but he was right in this range last year before the All Star Break when he had an ERA of 4.35. He turned it around though in the second half, and in particular in September when he went 5-0 with an ERA of 1.17.
I think most fans would take this Lowe to have that September version if it means possibly winning the division late in the season. Even if he’s not the best every time he pitches, you do know what you are going to get from him on most days. The 38-year-old is about as consistent as they come.
5. Brandon Beachy
2011 Stats: 3-1, 3.21 ERA, 67.1 IP, 78 K, 1.08 WHIP
I was one of many people that were surprised to hear that BEachy had beat out Mike Minor for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. So far this year, despite being injured for about a month’s time, Beachy has showed how smart the Braves were to put him in there.
Had he not been injured, Beachy would probably be in the discussion for NL Rookie of the Year, which should be going to closer Craig Kimbrel. Beachy has been electric this year, as his 10.43 strikeouts per nine innings shows.
Beachy hasn’t been afraid to go after any hitter and has been his most dominant against the toughest competition. Beachy, once an undrafted afterthought, has secured his place in the starting rotation for years to come.
Along with the starting rotation, the Braves have gotten great spot starts from Minor and top pitching prospects Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado. That gives the Braves eight guys that they can trust to put out on the mound and keep the team in the game.
Minor gives the Braves their only lefty, which is why many people wanted him in the starting rotation. He’s a solid pitcher that was electric at times in 2010. He has good potential but may end up being trade bait.
Teheran is considered the best pitching prospect in baseball by virtually everybody and Delgado isn’t too far behind him. Both should be focal points of the rotation very soon, Teheran maybe in 2012.