Where Do We Go From Here? 2012.3 The Starting Rotation (by bledsoe)

There are very few questions for the Braves faithful in terms of the starting pitching. The Braves entered spring training with really only one question: who was going to be the fifth starter? Over the course of the season, tons of questions would arise, and by July what the 2013 rotation would look like was anybody’s guess. The Braves handled these issues with a combination of sagacious moves and plain dumb luck, and as a result, the 2013 rotation is fairly well defined.

  1. Tim Hudson
    Stats: 179 IP, 16-7, 3.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 102 K

    Huddy turned in another ace season. For a full perspective on Hudson’s career, go to the Beloved Founder’s classic, 44 Greatest Atlanta Braves, available as an e-book.

    Ed. note: The e-book is here; the original material is largely available on the blog, here. Revenue from Mac’s Amazon books does not go to me. I’m hoping his family receives it, but I’m not sure where it goes, honestly.

    In an update, Mac rated Hudson as roughly the 17th best Atlanta Brave ever, and that was before the 2012 season. Huddy is now 105-65 as a Brave, trailing only Knucksie, Glavine, Maddux, and Smoltz in wins. He weathered a serious falloff in strikeouts but continued to get people out. While there is still rubber on the tires, his stats show that his skills are in decline: not only did he throw only 102 Ks, his lowest ever for a full season, his ERA and WHIP are starting to swell in relation to his career marks. He’s 37 and under contract for only one more year.

    I imagine that Fredi, imitating his mentor, will give him the ball on Opening Day over Medlen as the Veteran Who Has Earned It. I also imagine that unless he’s willing to take a one year deal (not inconceivable), that it will be his last year as a Brave. Who knows? I wouldn’t put words in the mouth of the Founder of Our Feast, but he’d have to be considered for the top ten all-time with a decent 2013.

  2. Kris Medlen
    Stats: 138 IP, 10-1, 1.57 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 120 K

    There was considerable hot air thrown around about how the Braves’ handling of Medlen (good) versus the Nationals’ handling of Strasburg (bad). There’s a fair amount of 20-20 hindsight there. No one expected the Nats to be in the NLDS; no one knew that they would win 96 games. So the Nats ran Strasburg out there on day one, knowing that they would shut him down after 160-170 innings, expecting to maybe be a couple games over .500, never knowing that they would want him in October. Meanwhile, while Wren et al. are quite willing to take credit for their perspicacity in starting Medlen in the bullpen, thus saving him for September, nobody (and if they say they were, they’re LYING) expected him to be the second coming of Greg Maddux.

    Medlen was the best pitcher in all of baseball for the second half in 2012, bar none; he rewrote the record books when the Braves won 23 consecutive Medlen starts. He was 9-0 after removed to the rotation; to make a long story short, you were sure the Braves were going to get a W when Medlen was on the mound. His turnaround was all the more remarkable considering he had come off of Tommy John surgery. His stats are, well, Mad-Dogian. Prorate his stats to a full season, and they are quite similar to Maddux’s ‘94 and ‘95 seasons, and better than his ’93 season, all three of course Cy Young years.

    Is he THIS good? While I don’t think we can expect 1.57 ERAs every year, I actually think he may be; 138 innings is a pretty good statistical sample. We’ll certainly find out: he’s under team control for a while yet, and either he or Beachy will inherit the No. 1 slot soon. He’s up for arbitration for the first time, and he should be a reasonable number due to his injury. I would think the Braves would want to tie him up for 4-5 years, but they may kick that can down the road a year.

  3. Tommy Hanson
    Stats: 174 IP, 13-10, 4.48 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 161 K

    There have been so many ups and downs with Hanson that it’s difficult to remember that he’s only 26. Tommy’s ERAs since his debut in 2009: 2.89, 3.33, 3.60, 4.48. Starting to see a trend?

    It’s difficult to know if he’s ever going to find peaceful mechanics. His early mechanics were so violent and sudden and so upper bodyish that I felt like a trip to Birmingham was always just a pitch away. This year, it was avowed, he had worked out all the kinks and was ready to bounce back with a new, kinder, gentler motion. Do tell.

    He averaged almost 4.5 runs per game in run support, which helps explain the 13 wins; the Braves scored 6 runs or more in 9 of his wins. He definitely wore down; he had no wins in August and only one in September.

    The Braves have too much hope for, and history with, T-Han to cut him loose, but I am seeing a diminishing future for a guy who once held so much promise. Like I said, he’s 26 and has time to turn it around. But he’s really a No. 5 starter at his current level, not a No. 3. He’s likely to get the Black Spot when Beachy comes back. Indeed, how he pitches may very well determine how fast they rush Brandon back. I can see him being dealt at the deadline for bench help or prospects to someone willing to see if he can repeat his rookie season.

    He’s first time arbitration eligible, and I could see him getting anywhere from a low of 2.5 to as much as 4 million. Arbitration is a crap shoot, which is why the Braves hate it so much.

    Oh, he’s terrible at holding runners on.

  4. Paul Maholm
    (Stats are Season/Braves): 189/68 IP, 13-11/4-5, 3.67/3.54 ERA, 1.22/1.19 WHIP. 140/59 K

    The best deals are often those you don’t make, and missing out on Ryan Dempster was a huge blessing in disguise. Instead we got the crafty Maholm from the Cubs. There were so many heroes in the 2012 season, but he was definitely one of them.

    Is Maholm this good? I dunno – his career stats certainly would suggest that last year was a little fluky: his career WHIP is 1.40, which generally gets you a ticket to Palookaville. And his history includes an epically bad 2010: 9-15 with a 5.10 ERA. Indeed, his career with the Pirates was very much Jekyll and Hyde throughout.

    Nonetheless, at his current level, he’s a very good No. 4 and an outstanding No. 5. He’s signed through 2013 after the Braves picked up his $6.5 million option.

  5. Mike Minor
    Stats: 179 IP, 11-10, 4.12 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 145 K

    Talk about a turnaround. Pre All-star Game: 5-6, 5.97. Post All-star Game: 6-4, 2.16. What a September this guy had: 4-0 with an 0.87 ERA. The guy who was a hair from being sent down in June wound up with the most Quality Starts on the team with 16. (Hudson was second with 15.)

    Pitchers will break your heart, so it’s nice to see a guy struggle and figure it out. The first half Minor is not a major league pitcher. The second half Minor is a No. 2 starter. Again, Minor is under team control for a while, eligible for first time arbitration in 2015.

    The question keeps coming up with several of these guys: is what we saw for real? With Minor, I think the answer is yes. Sometimes it just clicks.

That’s the likely starting five on Opening Day. In a few days, I’ll preview the other candidates for the rotation.

61 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here? 2012.3 The Starting Rotation (by bledsoe)”

  1. JC’d

    Not very exciting, though maybe that signals that they really do believe McCann won’t be more than the 2-4 weeks we’re hearing. It’s probably way to early to tell that and it could just be that they wanted a cheap alternative. Laird can’t really hit (though he’s not atrocious) and seems about average defensively. Not sure if he’s a good game caller anyone know?

  2. The question with Upton is this:
    Is he the fine defender whose career UZR per 150 games is 3.9, whose TotalZone FRAA per 1200 innings is 9?

    Or is he the mediocre one whose career Defensive Runs Saved is -32 and career Plus/Minus is -27, whom baseball-reference says has provided -3.2 WAR of value from defense in his career?

    The fielding stats usually disagree somewhat on magnitude, but they don’t usually disagree on sign. If Upton’s a positive defender, then I like him; if he’s a negative defender, I don’t. Fangraphs people will generally say that UZR is a better stat, measures the data better, than stats like DRS and Plus/Minus.

    One thing to do is to just say they average out: he’s a more or less average defender, whom once system sees as a tick above average and one system sees as a tick below average. That’s unsatisfying because we don’t know what’s causing the discrepancy. But in the absence of other evidence, it’s hard for me to say that he’s definitely an above-average defensive center fielder going forward.

  3. @1

    Last four years, Laird’s teams’ ERAs (1st number w/Laird, 2nd number overall):

    2009 — 4.18 (4.29)
    2010 — 4.11 (4.30)
    2011 — 3.80 (3.74)
    2012 — 3.99 (3.77)

    So he’s gone from slightly better than team to slightly worse. Here are his CS% over the same span:

    2009 — 42%
    2010 — 34%
    2011 — 20%
    2012 — 19%

    Lastly, his age over the same period:

    2009 — 29
    2010 — 30
    2011 — 31
    2012 — 32

    I don’t want him. But this is the world of backup catchers we thought we’d left behind.

  4. Laird has been a backup catcher 2009-11. Did he catch same pitcher? On different teams but ERA has trended down.

  5. I’m excited because BJ stands for Bossman Junior, for crying out loud.

    Also, elite D — yes, I’m a believer — and still-untapped potential.

  6. I tried to find other pictures of animated gifs of Upton doing the barehand thing, but I only found the one, because obviously, that’s the one where it made a difference.

    But I know I saw him go after an ACTUAL homer that way, but he didn’t have a real chance at it anyway, and I saw at least a half dozen times of him fielding basehits barehanded, which since he didn’t muff them, and they were hits anyway, apparently haven’t drawn much internet commentary.

    But it seems like a sign of… something.

  7. My hopes are that Gattis goes to “catching clinic” this winter/spring, comes into Spring destroying baseballs with improved catching defense, wins the starting job out of Spring, and moves to C/LF when McCann comes back, making Laird (if signed) expendable. I’ve forgotten how much I despise most backup catchers and realize the luxury that we’ve had as Braves fans the last 4 years.

  8. As for BJ Upton- I don’t really understand how you can OBP .386 and .383 at age 22/23 (admittedly the league OBP was higher then, and his BABIP was off the charts at 22, still high at 23) and then regress so mightily. Two years seems like way too long for scouting or some easy “the league figured him out” excuse- whatever he had, he lost. He doesn’t have untapped potential- the keg has already been kicked on his potential. Pass.

  9. I’m intrigued by Upton, but also more than a bit leery. Banking on a change of scenery making a difference seems about as advisable as proposing to the person who’s cheating on their spouse with you.

  10. There was a chance the Royals would trade Myers for Teheran in 2011. None whatsoever right now. Considering the year he just had, there are serious questions about the likelihood that Teheran will be able to succeed as a starting pitcher in the majors, let alone as a top-of-the-rotation starter.

    Also, yes, all of the money for David Wright.

  11. @Bethany, “Ross money” like what we were paying him or “Ross money” like what the Sox are paying him?

  12. So a question of how many votes Kimbrel got yesterday came up. He finished fifth with one first-place vote and 41 points total. He finished a large distance behind fourth-place Johnny Cueto and a large distance ahead of sixth-place Matt Cain.

    The finishing order:

    1. Dickey
    2. Kershaw
    3. Gonzalez
    4. Cueto
    5. Kimbrel
    6. Cain
    7. Lohse
    8. Chapman (tie)
    Hamels (tie)

    Also, note that Dickey got 27 of 32 first-place votes, and won by 113 points, so it wasn’t close.

    Here’s the link.

  13. Also, Fredi Gonzalez finished fourth in NL Manager of the Year voting, so you know…do with that information what you will.

  14. I will take no credit for calling the Laird pick-up, pure dumb luck, as you know. How about this motto for replacing Chipper next year: Laird and Span, That’s Who Can!

  15. Looks like there might be a near future plan to solve the Marta problem at the Ted. I have no idea whether something like that would work but I sure would like to see a bit more “outside the stadium” activities/bars/etc. Something like what the NHL Predators have in Nashville would be nice.

  16. But we’ll be paying him much less than what we would have had to pay for Ross which is what’s relevant.

  17. I would have rather paid more for a quality player, especially considering he’s going to have to be playing a lot while McCann is out. He’ll probably get paid 2-3 million and give us significantly less than we got from Ross while he was here. Point is, we underpaid Ross while he was here and I’d have rather we’d stepped up to the plate.

  18. Yeah, it wasn’t until his replacement was revealed that the loss of Ross started to really sink in.

    :( :( :(

  19. Laird last 2 free agency contracts were both for a million. Tigers did not want him back after going to Series.

  20. So apparently clubs from the NL Central and West are unhappy with the Marlins fire sale since the other NL East teams will get to feast on the Marlins…of course no problem with having 2 100-loss clubs in the Central last year. It’s not the Marlins won’t torture the Braves anyway regardless of who is on their team. There’s a simple solution – do away with the unbalanced schedule or at least reduce the imbalance.

  21. All of this Upton/Laird talk undermines a really good write-up of the starting five by bledsoe.

    Just sayin’.

  22. Excellent starting five write-up. I have 50 cents that says we don’t head North from Florida with that rotation.

  23. Fearless prediction: barring trade of one of them, Randall Delgado will take Hanson’s role as the fifth starter next spring, and Hanson will move to the bullpen where he will try to salvage his career Kerry Wood style.

    If Hanson fails to convert to relief, he’ll be on the Jair Jurrjens road to nowhere.

  24. 44- That’s right, the Braves went 14-4 against Miami, and two of the losses were by one run. They outscored the Fishies 93-39.

  25. Lordy, the Braves are going to get the wrong Upton, aren’t they? Then they’ll talk about how he can bat leadoff because he stole over thirty bases in 2012, and finally he’ll in the aforementioned leadoff spot making outs at a prestigious rate.

  26. I don’t know where else to mention this, so I’ll say it here: Brandon Fields punting to Leodis McKelvin is the second-highest single-season punting average in NFL history punting to the highest single-season punt return average in NFL history.

  27. There is hope in Upton. He will be 28 next year which was the age Andruw started to peak. The key is to limit the duration of the contract to four years maximum.

  28. 49- A .348 OBP is kinda marginal for a leadoff hitter, and considering that he tied for the NL lead in walks to get it that high, I’m not enthusiastic on batting him leadoff. Of course, we’re not exactly overflowing with alternatives here.

    By the way, the Bills and Dolphins offenses completely blow.

  29. I’m confused. Why is Prado’s WAR so high? His OPS is 11th among left fielders and he’s third in WAR. What is WAR valuing so highly that negates the OPS difference? With that in mind, if Prado kept his current production and defensive ability and played third, what would his WAR be?

    The reason I wondered all this was because I tried to look up what Chipper’s, Prado’s, and Bourn’s WARs were (so we know what we had to replace in the total of 3B/LF/CF). That totaled 14. Bossman Junior’s is 2.6 (which must be the result of defensive metrics undervaluing him), Prado’s (I’m assuming) would be around 6 WAR at third, which means that our left fielder would have to be around a 6 WAR player (not going to happen). So, if BJ is really a 2.6 WAR player, then we’re screwed. Denard Span, on the other hand, is WARed up nasty with 4.8, which means we’d need a LF with a WAR of 3.2. Get it done, Wren.

    I’m not a Sabermetric expert, so am I looking at this the right way?

  30. Defensive WAR for outfielders is wonky — it’s best not to hew to those numbers too closely IMO. Prado’s WAR will probably decrease as a 3B — WAR is a relative measure, and he’ll be compared to a tougher crowd of fielders. I think he’s approximately a four-win player.

  31. Prado will still, in all likelihood, be an excellent defensive 3B. And it’s a thinner position, hitting-wise. So he may well remain a 4-5 win player if he hits as he did in 2012.

  32. Oh, Lord, I hadn’t realized the Braves gave Laird two years.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *