With Tim Hudson ready to return in a few days, the Braves had to choose a starter to demote. Somewhat surprisingly, Jair Jurrjens is the one sent to Gwinnett. Performance wise, this is the obvious choice, and I think it shows some good decision-making by the front office, not taking the easy way out, sending down the rookie Randall Delgado. Hopefully, Jurrjens is successful in AAA and can rejoin the rotation before the end of the year.
The first possible explanation is that his knee is still not healthy. While pitching with a knee brace and customized orthotics in his shoes is not ideal, the picture above shows that he is able to get some push off his back knee. He’s always been a “stay tall” pitcher, so that knee isn’t as important to him as it would be for someone like Hudson. JJ has claimed he’s been virtually 100% healthy, but if his velocity comes up a bit in Gwinnett, it is likely he was hiding the pain.
It is possible that his stuff is not major-league quality. Both his slider and changeup have lost velocity and depth, a horrible combination for any pitcher. His two-seamer is really just like his four-seamer with 3-4 extra inches of tail. Pitchers with below-average stuff generally need to induce a fair amount of groundballs to be successful. Since Jurrjens’ stuff does not naturally lead to them, he needs his location to be great, which has not been the case so far.
When a pitcher can’t miss bats, avoid walks, or keep the ball in the park, things get ugly fast. Jurrjens has never been great at any of those skills except maybe keeping the ball in the park. Regression was expected after such a good/lucky start last year, but no one could have seen this coming. A 9.37 ERA, 7.77 FIP, and 5.88 SIERA show no silver lining anywhere, so there’s no reason to bring him back up to Atlanta until both his results and peripherals are good again.