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.