Jullio Teheran: Ace of Braves

What defines an ace? Is it the high strikeout rate? Is it the low ERA or FIP? Is it a dominating WHIP? What is it? There is little debate that Zack GreinkeClayton Kershaw, David Price and Max Scherzer are aces. Jake Arrieta, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Matt Harvey, Sonny Gray, Jacob DeGrom and others performed like aces in 2015, but without a long track record of dominance, can you call them aces?

This brings me to Julio Teheran, who struggled in 2015. His velocity was down, while his ERA, FIP and walk rate were up. He had a bad 2015 campaign and people claim that Teheran is not an ace because of it. Let’s take a look at Teheran’s numbers entering the 2015 season:

ERA

GS

IP

H

ER

HR

BB

SO

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

H9

HR9

BB9

SO9

SO/W

3.03

63

406.2

361

137

44

96

356

121

3.58

1.124

8.0

1.0

2.1

7.9

3.71

Tell me the part where those aren’t ace numbers? Sure the home run rate was high, but the walk rate is exceptional. Some will point to the 3.58 FIP and say that his ERA doesn’t line up with it and that he was fairly lucky. Fair point, but what about Greg Maddux‘s FIP being ranked higher than his career ERA? No, I’m not comparing Teheran to Maddux. That would be foolish. My point is this: Some players outperform their FIP and most of those pitchers have low walk rates and average strikeout rates. That’s fair and it’s fine. It’s why I chose Maddux as my example. The difference between Maddux and Teheran early in their careers is that Teheran enjoyed a little more success that Maddux earlier, but Maddux always kept the ball out of the seats. Let’s look at Teheran’s 2015 numbers:

ERA

GS

IP

H

ER

HR

BB

SO

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

H9

HR9

BB9

SO9

SO/W

4.04

33

200.2

189

90

27

73

171

93

4.40

1.306

8.5

1.2

3.3

7.7

2.34

Notice some big differences? A much higher walk rate and a slight increase in home run and hit rates. That’s where Teheran struggled, which makes me think it was more of an issue with control in 2015. If Teheran can keep the ball in the ballpark a little more, then I think you see a resurgence from the 25-year-old righty in 2016. Teheran, after all, enjoyed an All-Star campaign in 2014 and came in fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year Voting in 2013. The guy was thought to be one of the premiere talents in the game, and yet now, at the age of 25, people wonder if he’ll live up to his potential. What is his potential exactly? To me, in my best examination of what Teheran is, he was an ace in 2014, and #2 starter as a 22-year-old in 2013, and regressed in 2015.

What Went Wrong

So what happened to this guy in 2015? I like to look at peripherals, as they tell a good part of the story. Here’s what they told me: He gave up more hits, more home runs and more walks than he did in 2014, while striking out the same amount. Well thanks, dummy. I could have told you that. My question is why. My theory: Injury mixed with control issues. Take a look at his last six starts of the season.

GS

IP

H

ER

BB

SO

HR

ERA

BF

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

BAbip

Str

StL

StS

GB

LD

6

39

30

7

16

32

3

1.62

159

.213

.293

.326

.619

.255

61%

16%

11%

0.71

26%

Pretty good numbers, right? Let’s go all the way back to the beginning of July

GS

IP

H

ER

BB

SO

HR

ERA

BF

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

BAbip

Str

StL

StS

GB

LD

12

76.1

64

25

24

65

9

2.95

313

.227

.292

.369

.661

.264

64%

17%

11%

0.75

23%

Those numbers are much closer to a 2013 Teheran, that I think everyone would have accepted in a year that watched him have no offense in the second half of the year. The best part about September was his .7 home rate. That, in my opinion is where it starts and ends with Teheran. With his home run rate being around 1.1 already, it demands for him to be nearly perfect with everything else. He wasn’t that last year. I still think he hurt himself at some point last season which led to a decrease in velocity and more walks.

What Should We Expect

I am a firm believer that this Braves team in 2016 will be better than it was in 2015 and I’ll write why in a later post. I think Teheran rebounds in a big way and posts and numbers somewhere along the lines of his 2014 second half numbers, when you factor in the loss of Andrelton Simmons‘ defense.  Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, all pitchers Braves fans should be familiar with, enjoyed less success than Teheran did entering their age 25 seasons and there is reason to think that the best of Teheran is still to come.

So…

The short answer is don’t listen to other people. Heck, you don’t have to listen to me, if you don’t want to. Teheran isn’t as flashy or pitch in a big media market that is going to give him a big name. He’s going to have to outperform many other pitchers in order to get the name “ace” attached to him. Would I trade him? Oh most certainly, yes, but I want a big return for him. Teheran, in my opinion isn’t that far off in performance as Shelby Miller was. He’s under a very team friendly deal and, for that, I would ask a king’s ransom for him. Maybe if Teheran out pitches the rest of baseball this year, you trade him next year, but I don’t know if he will be on the table. If the Braves are ready to contend in 2017, then Teheran will be the ace of a team chasing the playoffs.

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