Posted: 9:11 am Thursday, April 24th, 2014

The Braves’ rotation has been nothing but quality 

By Mark Bradley

The Cy Young frontrunner -- Aaron Harang. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Cy Young frontrunner — Aaron Harang. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The 2013 Atlanta Braves led the National League — and were second in baseball, trailing Detroit — with 102 quality starts. At the rate the 2014 Braves are going, they’ll finish with 139 quality starts. And here we pause to restate the oft-restated: These Braves lost two starting pitchers to Tommy John surgery in spring and have yet to deploy Mike Minor or Gavin Floyd, two starters who are rehabbing in the minors.

The Braves have played 21 games. Eighteen of them — that’s the highest total in baseball, not surprisingly — have yielded a quality start, which is defined as at least six innings from a starting pitcher with three or fewer earned runs. But the Braves’ starters have been so dominant as to render a Quality Start an Easy A.

Aaron Harang hasn’t yet been touched for two earned runs in any of his five starts. Ervin Santana hasn’t yielded more one earned run in any of his three. Julio Teheran hasn’t yielded more than two earned runs in any of his five. Alex Wood has yielded a total of six earned runs in five starts. Those four have produced 17 quality starts in 18 tries, the only exception coming April 12 when Wood was lifted after five innings against the Nationals when holding a 5-1 lead.

Even David Hale, the fifth starter who has taken three well-spaced turns, has generated one quality start and hasn’t yielded more than three earned runs in any of his appearances. If you’re looking for an insane number, right there it is: The Braves have played 21 games, and not once has a starting pitcher surrendered more than three runs.

With that sort of pitching, the wonder isn’t that the Braves are 14-7. The wonder is that they’re ONLY 14-7. Then we note that they’ve been shut out four times already and have lost a fifth game 2-1 and a sixth 4-3 in extra innings. Another fun stat: When the Braves score at all, they’re 14-3.

And to think: This has all been done by a rotation thought to be so weakened that Frank Wren had to run out and sign Santana on March 12 and Harang, who’d just been cut by Cleveland, on March 24. The best anybody could have hoped was that this bunch could hold the line until Minor and Floyd got healthy, but these five pitchers have somehow become the best rotation in baseball. (Question for another day: If Hale sits to make room for Minor, who sits to make space for Floyd? Wood? Surely not.)

And here we note that the Braves’ best move of the offseason, even above the signings of Santana and Harang and the re-signings of four members of the prized young core, might well have been keeping pitching coach Roger McDowell from leaving for the Phillies. He’s the best in the business. He’s so far the best in the business that nobody is in second place.

28 comments
dawg4u
dawg4u

This is shaping up to be one one of the best starting staffs ever. I know it's early but to have given up 53 runs as a team in 21 games is crazy, off the charts good. My concern is our offense despite the recent heroics in the clutch of Evan Gattis. He has been superb so far but it seems we are a team that gets shut down by the opponents pitching almost as often as we shut down other teams. If we can get our bats going more consistently then we may be just about unbeatable.

HopelessinAtlanta
HopelessinAtlanta

It would be stunningly depressing for a pitcher (Floyd) to gain a starting position because of contract incentives - Baseball then truly becomes business first and a sport second - sad.

Flacons_go_2-14
Flacons_go_2-14

U R Rite but the big problem still exits. Barves still relaying on the log ball 2 much. Struggla is the worse 1 when all he need is a base hit he keep swiggin 4 the fence. This hapen ever game and ever tine at bat. Time 4 the looing managar 2 sit him down and repalce him on the rooster

Polskidawg
Polskidawg

The Harangantan has been amazing - and that's a huge understatement. Good for him and the Braves. However, realism forces one to ask, "How much longer before he returns to the guy who couldn't hold a job the last few years?"


I think long-term Hale will outperform Aaron in 2014 and he be firm in his hold with a rotation spot. I completely agree on McDowell.

LarvellBlanks
LarvellBlanks

"[Floyd] probably gets Wood's starting job with Wood to the pen. If Floyd flourishes, great!. If not Wood replaces him & the Braves can defend their move to his agent & the Players Association."


I love satire.  Especially when delivered with a straight face.

LarvellBlanks
LarvellBlanks

"and have yet to deploy ... Gavin Floyd"


It is my fervent hope that no one is seriously entertaining the idea that Gavin Floyd will be deployed.

Bogey
Bogey

Great point was made earlier about the Braves offensive offense.  Right now half their line-up is almost an automatic out. This is putting too much pressure on Freeman, J UP, Johnson, Gattis and Simmons.  I think we're seeing just about what we'll get from Uggla this year, and BJ is probably going to play a little better.  The real key for this team, and he's always been the catalyst, is Heyward.  GOT to move him out of the leadoff...our first 2 guys have a sub .250 OBP.


J-Hey keeps messing with his hand position - now he's got them too far away from his body with the bat pointed towards the plate!  Ever remember any hitter being productive with that set-up?  Way too much movement just to get is bat into a hitting position. 


The Braves only bought out his 2 yrs of arbitration and didn't go long-term, primarly because Heyward wants to be paid on his potential, and the Braves want to pay him on his production so far with expectations of improvement.  Big gap there, and Heyward hasn't shown enough to get that done.  His salary this year is $4.8m ($700K lower than the likely arb settlement), but goes up over $8m next year. 


IF he doesn't start to put up #'s he'll be traded in the off-season, and MAYBE before the trade deadline.  Although assuming the Braves continue to play well that would be gutsy on Wren's part.

Bogey
Bogey

VinceVanGo - I understand your thought process, but I will disagree with you on Floyd.  Wood is pitching too well to screw around with him right now.  He'll be on an innings limit this year anyway, so he'll continue to take the bump every 5 days until right after the all-star break, and then might get moved to the pen.  But don't be surprised if we see him take the ball again as the season winds down to give the others a break - might even get a playoff start!

Bogey
Bogey

The unthinkable has occurred!!!  NO negative blogs so far!!


Roger Mac has never gotten sufficient credit for his leadership - remember Schuerholz left Wren an absolute bare cupboard when he "promoted himself" to team president.  There was NO pitching talent (Chuck James, Charlie What's His Name....).


Obviously, this incredible staff ERA will not continue.....if it miraculously does, then it will hands down be considered the greatest pitching staff EVER!


Don't worry about Gavin Floyd - put him in the pen.  Coming off TJ, he's happy to be getting paid to pitch a partial season.  He'll get his starts.  Unless Harang has found the magic pitching formula, he'll have some very bad starts (check his career ERA).


Enjoy it while it's happening folks!!

VinceVanGo
VinceVanGo

For those of you who say keep Floyd in AAA as insurance, it's not going to happen. He signed an incentive laden contract & his agent & the Players Association will be pushing Frank Wren very hard to get him up & pitching as a starter, that's where his incentive money lies. He probably gets Wood's starting job with Wood to the pen. If Floyd flourishes, great!. If not Wood replaces him & the Braves can defend their move to his agent & the Players Association. Did you think that baseball wasn't being run & controlled by the Money Changers?  

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

So far, the starting pitching has been better than expected, the bullpen a bit shakier than expected, and the offense about as productive and inconsistent as expected. Starting pitching depth is a plus and will likely be needed. They have a AAA club for a reason.

Repeat prediction: Braves will 100+ games this year. This is a solid young but veteran team that can still get better this year.

Wilbo
Wilbo

Enjoy it while you can, but be prepared for a serious letdown.


iamlistening
iamlistening

I know this is off point but I have a question in regards to the Yankees pitcher being caught using pine tar. After a pitch is made and hits the catchers mitt, is there residue on the ball? I only ask this question because I am curious as to whether McCann knew the guy was using pine tar. I want to say I doubt it but then I think back to the previous game when it was apparent to everyone that he had a substance on his hand.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

There is no way that anyone can ever come close to giving Roger McDowell the credit he truly deserves. Every year the pitching has gotten better. 


Now, if our hitting coaches were that good!  But, you have to admit, what they have to work with in Uggla and BJU is challenging to say the least.  With Heyward struggling it is hard to expect much from an offense with almost four guaranteed outs, every time through the lineup.

Remarkable3
Remarkable3

What we all have to realize is that Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd are probably NOT going to give us quality starts right away.  They are coming back and they need some time and some patience. 

That said, I don't know who sits when they do.  Does Freddie go to a six man rotation and short change himself a bullpen guy?  You can expect to need some help sooner or later when one of your starters goes down or has severe problems, but where do you put the guys who are ready, willing and able to do it now? 


There is the possibility of trading someone for some hitting, but even if you do that, who do you trade?  Do you trade Santana who will not be here next year?  Do you trade Hale who is currently the worst of five great starters?  Or do you trade Floyd or Minor who haven't yet proven that they are back from their surgeries?  

THIS IS A GREAT PROBLEM TO HAVE!

Mark, What do you think?

GuyOnThisSite
GuyOnThisSite

I can't believe there are people in some of these thread calling for Frank Wren to be fired. I guess they don't like 1st place, would prefer a GM that gets us to the bottom of the division. No matter what happens, some people will never be satisfied. Which is partially why they are following this from their couch instead of a GM's office.

KevinE
KevinE

Anybody who messes much with a rotation that's doing this is an IDIOT.  Minor replacing Hale makes sense - until Minor starts giving up more than 3 runs per start.  And Floyd can find his place in the bullpen.  

ATLBrown
ATLBrown

By the way - love the Santana signing.  He's outstanding and seems like a real likable guy.  My friend who is a L.A. Angels fan informs me his nickname there was 'Voodoo'.

ATLBrown
ATLBrown

At some point, reality will set in a little - they can't keep this level of pitching up all season.  That said, I would not insert Floyd into the mix.  I can't see him replacing Harang or Wood.  Maybe give him a couple starts during a double-header or to give someone rest, hope he does good, and trade him for a serviceable relief pitcher.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

McDowell deserves a Nobel prize. I can barely make a case for sitting hale for minor, so I have no clue how Floyd will get in the rotation.

JChikara
JChikara

Great points MB, and thanks for giving McDowell the credit he deserves. This staff has done well and that speaks to the culture in Atlanta. Getting Minor back will help, and this could give them more time to let Floyd recover should the rotation continue to pitch well. 

goblue86
goblue86

@iamlistening I was listening to some former major league pitchers and hitters talk about this last night.  I doubt McCann said anything.  These guys said almost all pitchers have some kind of pine-tar or something 'tacky' somewhere on them (back of the hat, bill of the hat, belt, etc.) for purposes of being able to GRIP the ball as opposed to DOCTORING the ball.  And they said hitter have NO problem with it because they do not want to get hit.  If you saw how horrible the pitcher was in the first inning, he was practically dangerous.  And it doesn't leave residue, as it is not like a spit-ball where they are trying to put stuff on the ball to alter the path of the ball.  The reason this guy is being called on it, as the Red Sox coach said, is that he is being way too obvious about it.

Remarkable3
Remarkable3

@iamlistening

So, your question seems to be: "Is Brian McCann complicit in this pine tar incident?" 

Right?  

Sadly, the answer would almost have to be, "Yes!" 

kls82883
kls82883

@GuyOnThisSite It's ridiculous. The guy has built more from less better than any GM in professional sports. Yeah, fire the GM that built the third youngest team in baseball in 2013 that subsequently went out and won 96 games.

For all you Fire Freddies/Fire Wren guys out there. I encourage you to do some actual research (GASP- I know, looking up factual info before blubbering off at the outh!  [sacrilidge]) on the historical wining percentage of teams as young as the Braves. It ain't pretty. Yet, here we sit. AJC Blog Geniuses: "FIRE THE COACH! FIRE THE GM!"

MaxSizemore
MaxSizemore

@ATLBrown Floyd was signed as an insurance guy, nothing more. When Minor replaces Hale, Floyd stays in AAA unless there's another injury.

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