Apr 19, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Ervin Santana (30) pitches against the New York Mets during the fourth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Just How Crazy-Good is This Pitching Right Now?


There’s a whole lot to like about the start that this pitching rotation is going through right now.  Let’s take a quick look at a few yardsticks to measure this by:

 

Aaron Harang (34). Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Comparing to History

We have one week to go in April, but I checked on the first full month of play for all Braves’ rotations back to 1990 to see how these starters compare.  Here is the list of ALL starting pitchers (there’s 19 of them) with at least 10 innings thrown and an ERA of 2.00 or less in April over the past 25 seasons:

2006 John Thomson (0.76)
> 2014 Aaron Harang (0.85)
> 2014 Ervin Santana (0.86)
2002 Tom Glavine (0.89)
2012 Brandon Beachy (1.05)
1998 Tom Glavine (1.06)*
1994 Greg Maddux (1.12)*
1997 Greg Maddux (1.13)
2011 Jair Jurrjens (1.23)
2007 Tim Hudson (1.40)
1999 John Smoltz (1.51)
> 2014 Alex Wood (1.54)
1997 Tom Glavine (1.64)
2005 Mike Hampton (1.67)
2009 Jair Jurrjens (1.72)
> 2014 Julio Teheran (1.80)
2000 Tom Glavine (1.80)
1991 Pete Smith (1.91)
2008 John Smoltz (2.00)

* – Cy Young award winners in those years.

The 1997 Braves’ team featured two:  Glavine and Maddux.  Several years had none under 2.00.  At the moment, this year features four players on this list!

 

Julio Teheran (49) throws to first. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Comparing to the League

Starters’ ERA as a team.  Yes, of course, the Braves staff is #1.  Actually, it’s a ridiculous margin.  Right now the staff ERA is 1.50.  If you increased that by 50%, they would still be in 1st place ahead of the Cardinals (2.27).  In fact, if Santana were to go out on Friday and get shelled for 10 earned runs, the team ERA would still be #1.

David Hale is kind of the forgotten man in the rotation – he’s the #5 guy and is probably heading to Gwinnett once Mike Minor is cleared to rejoin the major league club.  Yet, Hale’s ERA is 2.93.  By itself, that number would rank 7th in the majors among team ERA.

 

Comparing to Individuals

It’s shocking, I know, but one pitcher has indeed out-performed the Braves:  that’s the Blue Jays’ Mark Buehrle.  His ERA is 0.64.  Among Qualified Starters, here’s the ranks for Atlanta pitchers:

  • Harang:  2nd
  • Santana: 3rd
  • Wood: 12th
  • Teheran: 16th
  • Hale would be 48th if he had enough innings to ‘qualify’:  still in the top half of the 105 qualifiers.

 

Alex Wood. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Quality Comparisons

There’s a (frankly watered-down) stat called the “Quality Start”.  It requires a pitcher to go at least six innings and yield 3 or fewer earned runs.  I’ll skip over my own biases against that and point out that the Braves’ pitchers – in 21 opportunities – have scored 18 Quality Starts.  Why ‘only’ 18?  Because three of them were pulled before getting in the requisite 6 innings (Hale twice, Wood once).  None of the starters has yet given up more than 3 earned runs.

Five pitchers in the majors have 5 QS.  Atlanta has 2 of them (Harang, Teheran). No other team has more than 1.  Milwaukee has 17 total – they are in second place on the Team Quality Starts list.

This final crazy stat has been tweeted out from various sources:

Aaron Harang is now the first pitcher since 1997 (Pedro Martinez) to open a season with at least five 6+ inning starts while yielding 1 run or less (Mark Buehrle, by the way:  4 starts so far; 5.1 innings in one of those; 2 earned runs total).

 

David Hale (57). Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Enjoy it While it Lasts

No, this pace cannot continue – this is historically good performance… from all of these guys.  Aaron Harang is stranding runners 23% better than last year and 16% better than over his career.  Then again, he’s locating pitches like Greg Maddux did.  Santana is amplifying the work he did last year – and is likewise stranding runners 20% better than in 2013.

But do enjoy it.  The word I heard this morning (via Bill Shanks) is that Gavin Floyd will likely be the next bullpen arm brought in.

Why?

Because right now, he can’t possibly out-pitch the staff the Braves have cobbled together, that’s why.

 

 

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Tags: Atlanta Braves Pitching Rotation

  • fireboss

    I see that Ben Lindbergh over at BP concludes that after crunching numbers and looking at mechanics Harang hasn’t really made any changes and won’t keep this up all season. In further news water is wet. No one with half a baseball brain needs numbers to make that deduction. The article does however give insight into the Braves “what if” analysis and planning going back to last September. The didn’t need him in the off season but when they suddenly needed a warm body scouts has already told them that “Harang was throwing the ball very well. His velocity was good, his
    downhill plane was good, and that there were circumstances involving
    young pitchers out of options in Cleveland that would probably prevent
    him from making that team.”
    So with I suspect a heads up from someone in the Indians camp that Harang would be released that day the Braves cut Garcia and had a man standing there with a contract when it happened. This is at least in result an improvement over the early years of this front office team.

  • BJ

    Hello fireboss. Long time. OK. Explain this. We know harang will have some bad outings but he can’t possibly do worse than Floyd. However I hate how experts keep saying that he won’t last, he won’t last. I feel he is pitching different with the braves as they preach location. Do you see him at least pitching at replacement level. I think him winning 12-13 games is possibly. Also one last thing…. Any possible chance that Santana has a decent or good year that the braves would want him back due to med and beachy having arm issues????

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      I’ll take a stab:
      1. Harang has baffled 4 different teams so far – Mia/Wsh/Mil and the Mets twice (better the 2nd time!). I checked the charts: He’s working the outside half of the plate… and beyond… consistently. So far, the advance scouts haven’t been able to help their guys against him. So far, his control is holding out. He’s throwing a lot like Tom Glavine in his prime – with a better fastball. Given a pitcher’s park and decent defense, that’s probably sustainable… not 0.85 ERA sustainable, but maybe around 3.00, which is still better than his history.

      2. Santana: he’s looking for his big payday, and that’s not in the Braves’ future. Both he and Floyd are looking to re-assert their value and cash in. The price for Santana was around 4yrs/$52m. If he can hold a 3.00 ERA, then that price won’t go any lower. He picked the Braves b/c it’s the perfect storm of stadium, league, defense, opposition to maximize his stats.

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      2a. The Braves in 2015. Three more names could be close: Jason Hursh,
      JR Graham and Lucas Sims (more likely 2016). Meds (if tendered) and
      Beachy could take a while longer to return – if at all. 2nd TJ surgeries are tricky at best… odds are that they will never pitch effectively again.

      Right now, I’d anticipate another veteran signing, Teheran, Minor, Wood, and then Hale plus those others fighting for slot #5. But that’s a long way off yet.

    • Ryan Cothran

      Neither Beachy or Medlen are guaranteed contracts next year, and it would be an odd use of money to offer either arbitration. While I think Beachy has pitched his last pitch in Atlanta, Medlen is a fan and clubhouse favorite and will likely be offered an incentive laden deal instead of the arbitration salary, e.g. Gavin Floyd.

      There’s no doubt that Teheran, Minor, and Wood will anchor the ’15 rotation, and likely one of Hale, Graham, or Hursh will compete for the 5th starter position with another starter coming via free agency.

      Looking at cot’s contracts, the Braves have 73.6 million dedicated to 8 players with Chris Johnson, Mike Minor, Jonny Venters, Jordan Walden, Brandon Beachy, Jordan Schafer, Ramiro Pena, and David Carpenter all going to arbitration. Unless there’s a significant trade (and assuming what was mentioned earlier about Beachy and Medlen rings true), the Braves after arbitration will have about an extra 15-18 million on tap for next year bringing the total up to (estimated high) 91.6 million for 15 ballplayers. Now factor in the pre-arb guys: Gattis, Avilan, Varvaro, Wood, Hale, Pastornicky, I. Thomas, and that puts the payroll up to about 95 million for 22-23 players.

      Now if the payroll is like it was this year, the Braves will have significant wiggle room, whether it be to offer Santana a qualified offer, and being ok if he accepts, or making a splash on the FA market, or signing pitchers such as Floyd and Harang who are interested in re-stocking their careers. There will most definitely be options.

  • BJ

    It’s really hard for me to see hursh. Sims and graham really bring considered a spot next year. I don’t even believe the braves will keep hale in the rotation next year. JT MM & AW ARE the three that will fill spots. The braves would hope meds and beachy could fill other two. Which again I don’t see. However I don’t see any trades for a starter either but more of a veteran signing.

    • fireboss

      Hale will have to regress not to get a chance. Graham needs to stay healthy but I think he ends up in the bullpen in any event. Hursh is the the guy likely to be the next thing but it depends on his performances this year. Trades will be hard with a thin minor league crop so I expect veteran signing(s) to be the route. The payroll issue could ease if we could move Uggla. if that happens they could move up market some in the FA group but I don;t expect it.

  • BJ

    Would you guys still strongly consider moving uggla?

    • fireboss

      If I could find a taker I’d move him. He is hitting the ball harder this year but his whiff rate on fastballs continues to climb. Dan has never been a breaking ball hitter – except for hangers of course – his value was in turning on good fastballs from good pitchers and he isn’t doing that anymore. Julien pointed out in his piece on Uggla that he isn’t walking as often. That isn’t because he’s lost his eye, Brooks Baseball shows him very discriminating in the zone. That tells me that pitchers are going right at him, they no longer fear his bat in spite of his homers – on mistakes – in New York. While Pena isn’t ever going to be an everyday player, he will certainly put the ball in play more often and remove some strikeouts from the lineup. The eventual heir is LaStella and while he isn’t a power threat, he too will put the ball in play more often with lots of line drives and that’s always a good thing. He isn’t a gold glove fielder but he’s better than Uggs and improving. I don’t see a realistic trade partner at the moment however so it’s almost moot.