The last lock to the rotation, Jair Jurrjens will look to bounce back from a knee injury and sustain the results he showed for much of 2011. While his strikeout rate decreased from 2010, his walk and home run rates also decreased, ending up with similar below-average peripheral stats. However, his ERA ended at 2.96, a full run below his FIP and a run and a half below his SIERA. This is not the first time Jurrjens has drastically outperformed his FIP, but it is not something you can count on season after season.
The only concerning statistical sign from last year is his drop in K rate. After sitting about 1% below average his first three years, he posted a 14.4% K rate, while league average was 18.6%. Carlos explained a lot of the problems with his stuff in his PITCHf/x series. He lost 2 MPH off his fastball, his changeup stayed the same speed, and both his slider and change lost depth. His velocity drop was not due to the knee injury, since he started the year below a 90 MPH average. All of his pitches were whiffed less often last year, especially his changeup. If he does not improve his velocity, he will likely need to ease up on the change to increase its effectiveness. He will never miss many bats, but his rate got dangerously low in 2011.
His walk rate was a career low 7% last year, about 1.5% lower than his career average. However, it looks like the decrease resulted from an increased contact rate instead of better control. His zone percentage was actually down and his first-pitch strike percentage was stagnant, and hitters were a bit less aggressive against him. I really don’t see anything that says he can maintain his walk rate while raising strikeouts. His batted ball profile is very similar to Hanson, inducing just above 40% groundballs. His home run rates have stayed down due to a low HR/FB%. He also has limited opponents’ BABIP over the years, about 15 points below league average. He does not possess any component that attributes to lower BABIPs, so I would expect him to regress towards league average.
I’ll give you a quick refresher on his decline in stuff. Both fastballs declined about 2 MPH along with his slider, but his changeup stayed the same speed. His 4-seamer has only 2 inches of tail and has average life, while his “2-seamer” only tails 3 more inches with not much more sink. His slider is slow and flat, the worst pitch of his repertoire. His changeup is of the straight-change variety, losing depth and only a 6 MPH difference from his fastball last season. Normally the difference is 8-12 MPH, so the pitch does not slow the bat down enough to be effective. He used to throw a cutter which had good life, but scrapped it after poor results in 2010.
Overall, I see Jurrjens as the fourth best starter and possibly worse than Minor or Teheran. His good walk rate does not offset the lack of strikeouts and groundballs, combining for below-average skills. He’s also missed significant time the last two seasons with injuries. I expect about 180-190 innings around a 4.00 ERA, good for 2-3 WAR, manageable but not great.