The Atlanta Braves knew what they had with Medlen, and they had the foresight to protect his early in the season. despite being one of their better starters coming into the year, they placed their right hander in the bullpen. The idea was that they could limit his innings early, as he’s in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, hen have him start for the rest of the season. Essentially, they did what the Washington Nationals didn’t do with Stephen Strasburg. Now, the Nats are without one of baseball’s best pitchers, while the Braves and Medlen are gaining momentum toward the finish line – with no worries about the amount of innings Medlen is throwing.
And boy, is he throwing them. In the aftermath of Atlanta’s 3-0 win over Miami on Wednesday night, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was impressed.
“Medlen threw the crap out of the ball,” Guillen said. “We pitched well, but Medlen pitched better. I think this kid is, ‘Wow.’ He put on a show out there.”
He’s been putting on a show all year long, really, but especially so since joining the rotation. The eight shutout frames Medlen turned in on Wednesday lowered his ERA from 1.62 to 1.51. He’s made just ten starts this year, but Medlen has earned a win in eight of them, allowing a total of six earned run. Six. in 80.2 innings of work. That’s a sparkling 0.67 ERA.
In the second half of the season, the new ace of the Braves has worked 82.1 innings and allowed seven earned runs for a 0.77 ERA. That’s just ridiculous.
Though Medlen was good in the bullpen, he wasn’t near this dominant. He struck out just six batters per nine innings out of the bullpen, but since joining the rotation, Medlen has fanned 72 batters in those 70.2 frames.
Certainly, there is a great value in having the ability to eat innings. Medlen has averaged seven innings per start this season, but it’s only ten starts. Guys like R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Johnny Cueto, and Matt Cain have been doing it for their clubs all season long. Surely, relievers like Aroldis Chapman and Medlen’s Atlanta teammate, Craig Kimbrel, have been among the most dominant arms in the game.
Medlen’s case, meanwhile, rests almost entirely on what amounts to a third of a season’s worth of starts. It’s probably not enough to win the award, but Medlen should have three more starts left this season. If he continues to post zeroes, he’s going to get a lot of votes.
As well he should. Because for the past two months, there hasn’t been a better pitcher, in any role, in either league, than Kris Medlen.