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