With almost a third of the season already done, Julio Teheran of the Atlanta Braves has not been pitching like his former self thus far.
While win-loss records are a big part of a pitcher’s image, earned run averages should be the go-to stat for any pitcher, starter or reliever. Many pitchers are sometimes on bad teams, especially most of the pitchers the Braves have thrown out on the mound since 2013. They haven’t had a winning record since 2013, nor have they hit the 80-win mark since their division-winning season in 2013.
Even on bad teams for most of his career, 2016 was the first season Teheran posted a losing record as a starter with Atlanta. While 2014 was the best season of his short career, 2016 was nothing to sweep under the rug. While he was only 7-10, he posted a 3.21 ERA and struck out 167 batters, all while pitching for a 68-win team. It was also his fourth straight season of hitting 30 starts, a mark he has made every season as a starter in Atlanta.
So what’s going on with Teheran this season, on a better team than Atlanta has put out on the field in past years? Could it be he’s trying to learn and use a new pitch? On his newly thrown slider, Teheran has this to say, via AJC.com:
"“I did it once a couple of years ago at Turner Field. It’s kind of different. Kind of gets you more in game mode. That’s what we were working on, like, game speed. We didn’t want to throw a simulated game, but just kind of get that bullpen more like game-speed, making more pitches being aggressive instead of just throwing like it’s a bullpen.”"
New pitch or not, through 10 games started this season, Teheran is 3-4 with a 4.88 ERA. In 132.2 fewer innings pitched so far this season, Teheran has given up almost half of the earned runs he gave up last season (67 last season compared to 30 this season). He is on pace for the fewest amount of strikeouts of his career (42 K through 55.1 IP), and on pace for the most amount of walks of his career (25 BB).
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He has also given up one more hit than innings pitched so far this season (56 H). The most hits he ever gave up in a season were 189 in 2015, though that was in 200.2 innings pitched.
While it is still early in the season, Teheran is a good enough pitcher to find his stride and turn this into a good season for himself. He hasn’t been awful to any degree, but compared to his past work, he has been very below-average this season.
While he is on pace to hit the 30-start mark again this season, he has roughly 20 more starts this season to get back on track. The one telling sign is that his control has not been the same as past seasons, with his strikeout numbers too low and his walk numbers too high. Then again, who is to say he’ll get back on the right track with the Braves this season?
While he’s only 26 and the ace of the staff, he has been the only reliable pitcher the Braves have put out there for the last couple of seasons. If the season goes sour yet again for Atlanta, could they part ways with him? While this season has been uncharacteristic, he’s still a young pitcher who has posted good numbers for a bad team. If he doesn’t turn into Shelby Miller, he should be good.