With young aces like Matt Harvey and Stephen Strasburg emerging in the NL East, Braves fans are waiting (im)patiently for their budding star to take flight and become one of the prolific young arms in the game. But as it stands now, Julio Teheran’s 7.31 ERA serves as a constant reminder that the 22 year-old needs to mature a bit more before Atlanta can pencil him into the top of the rotation for years to come.
Through three starts this season, Teheran has managed just 16 innings, with only one start lasting more than five innings. What’s even more alarming, perhaps, is the .318 Batting Average Against that hitters have accumulated against him thus far. In all three starts, opposing teams have jumped on Teheran for at least one run in the first inning, and Teheran has managed only seven scoreless innings in the 16 that he has pitched. So where’s the good news, you might ask. Well, there’s more than you might think.
Let’s start with sheer wins. The Braves have won all three games that Teheran has started, including two thrilling 9th inning comebacks against Chicago on April 6th and Washington on April 12th. If nothing else, it can at least be said that Teheran appears to have a little luck on his side. But when you look past the struggling lines that Teheran has put up in each start, there is a bit of a silver lining in terms of his ability to limit the big inning. In his first start of the season, Teheran surrendered three runs in a disappointing 5th inning, but since has limited opponents to two runs or less in any given inning. It doesn’t sound like much, but when your goal is to give your offense a chance to win the game, avoiding big innings is key.
Teheran has a done an outstanding job of limiting teams from opening insurmountable leads, even in instances when he surrenders a handful of runs in the first few innings. A perfect example of this minimizing mindset came in Teheran’s start against the Nationals a few weeks ago. After giving up two runs in both the 1st and 2nd innings of a series opener on the road, it would be easy—or even expected—for a young pitcher to shy away from his game plan in route to an offensive show by the opponent. Teheran, instead, pressed forward and kept the Nationals offense at bay through six innings. By the time the Atlanta offense came alive in the late innings, the game was still very much in hand. It seems like a stretch to deem it a quality start, but for four innings after being pushed against the ropes, Teheran held one of the National League’s best offenses in check and gave the Braves a chance at a win. For now, those small steps forward will do.
There’s no reason to doubt that Teheran will develop into a front-line starter in the next few years. He features an above-average two-seam fastball with a curveball that has the potential to be a steady out pitch. He’s also shown early this season that his mindset is somewhat superior to his physical ability, and that’s saying a lot. Teheran strikes me as a guy that will continue to learn how to approach hitters and will eventually gain success as pitcher with top-notch stuff and a bulldog mentality. But for every frustrating inning or sluggish start that he might make, it is important to remember that he has nothing but time. Think about it, where were you at 22 years old?