Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

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24 Feb

Rotation Locks: Julio Teheran (1 of 3)

There is so much to say about the rotation. The rotation is the linchpin of everything the Braves have been doing since November 2014. The rotations of the past few seasons have seen the disappointment of Top 100 prospects like Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair, the collapse of Bartolo Colon, the slowed development of Mike Foltynewicz, the inconsistency of Julio Teheran, and the encouraging success of Sean Newcomb, Max Fried, and Luiz Gohara. The rotation is the most variable thing for the 2018 team. The floor is frighteningly low, but the ceiling is higher than any rotation the Braves have had this decade. And while the Opening Day rotation is more impressive than in years past, the unit has the potential to get even better as the year goes along. This segment is on the 3 locks to make the rotation as of now: Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, and Brandon McCarthy.

Julio Teheran

We’ve been talking about Teheran for a long time. He was a #1 prospect, an untouchable in the Justin Upton trade where we traded Randall Delgado instead, and a fixture during a rebuild that saw most anyone valuable traded. He was so valuable that Coppy hinted that he had the same untouchable status as Freddie Freeman. So why are fans so low on someone for whom his previous GM was so high? I don’t know. He has been inconsistent from year to year. In 2014 and 2016, he produced exactly 3.2 fWAR. But in 2015 and 2017, he struggled to identical 1.1 fWAR seasons. At least he’s inconsistently consistent.

There’s been concerns with his velocity, concerns with tipping his pitches, and while those are excellent observations about his struggles, it’s been well-documented that his most recent poor season could be chalked up to the yips caused by the new stadium. At home, he was simply a different pitcher. On the road, he was Julio; he had a 3.14 ERA with solid peripherals. At home, he was just bad. More walks, more hits, more home runs, more hit batsmen, and almost double the runs. It wasn’t necessarily that he just gave up more gopher balls as the narrative has been; he was just completely ineffective. He’s never had those exaggerated of home/road splits, so whatever about Sun Trust Park was not working for him, you’d have to think he’s due for a bounce-back season. He ended the season with a 2.79 ERA in 9 starts, 5 of which were at home, so there are certainly signs of life in this 27 year old.

He’s still signed to a team-friendly contract. He’ll get paid $8M this year, $11M next year, and $12M in 2020. For all of the talk about trading Teheran, this offseason would have been the worst time in his career, and I fear fans may have given up on him. He’s only 10 months older than Mike Foltynewicz, and while it seems like he’s been around forever and hasn’t lived up to the hype, he’s now entering the prime of his career with a contract definitely worth gambling on. He’ll undoubtedly be the Opening Day starter again, and so guys Julio, so may go the rotation.

56 Responses to “Rotation Locks: Julio Teheran (1 of 3)”

  1. 1
    coop Says:

    Keep up the good work, Rob.

  2. 2
    Chief Nocahoma Says:

    Floor: 60 win team rotation
    Ceiling: 85 win team rotation

  3. 3
    timo Says:

    Kyle Wright looked impressive out there today.

  4. 4
    Rob Copenhaver Says:

    Soroka didn’t look half bad either. That 2-2 pitch to Gurriel wasn’t that bad, and it barely got out.

    Poor Jason Hursh…

  5. 5
    Ethan Says:

    Jason “One draft pick ahead of Judge” Hursh

  6. 6
    Ethan Says:

    Just perused the game today. It’s sad how addicted I’ve become to a radar gun to evaluate pitching (wasn’t one today).


    Same old Newcomb; it’s almost like he’ll get behind on a batter sometimes and be like, “eff the work to come back in the count, I’ll just go after the next guy.” That said, the strikeout on Correa was beautiful.

    Carle was more intriguing than I thought given his stats. Probably just a good day, but will pay attention the next time he pitches.

    Ravin was blergh. Big arm (announcers said he hit 96 mph), but it seemed the hitters could pick it up pretty easy, and his control and command were sub-par. He’d get behind and then groove one down the middle. Should’ve had a worse day.

    @ 3 – Agreed. He looks the real deal. Got a swinging strike on a breaking ball in the dirt that was reminiscent of something you’d see from Kimbrel.

    Ricardo Sanchez looked competent (albeit it vs. the B squad), as did Graham. I can see the makings of a decent middle reliever out of the latter.

    McHugh carved up Acuna, but the batspeed was evident. Jackson and Riley looked overmatched, and Ruiz has looked pretty bad through two games. Culbertson didn’t look bad at short, but he’s currently 4th in my rankings amongst Dansby, Ozzie, and Johan. It’s evident Ozzie has a cannon, and I feel it’s almost wasted at second base.

    Johan had a sac fly that I didn’t think he hit very well, but got out there quick, and he still definitely looks the part. Resisting the urge to go overboard, but I’m becoming more and more of a fan.

    Kazmir tomorrow; I can’t think of any outcome that would surprise me.

  7. 7
    timo Says:

    Thanks for the game notes, Ethan.

  8. 8
    blazon Says:

    that can’t be Acuna, surely, we’d both agree?
    but it was
    better we come down to earth now. Likely. Because.

    3 and 12
    what other expectations must we already shelve?
    outscored a factor of four
    how many worthy wobblies should their faults we ignore?

  9. 9
    Rob Copenhaver Says:

    Braves left-hander Luiz Gohara is dealing with a strained groin and is at least a week behind the team’s other pitchers as a result, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. While that won’t do the 21-year-old Gohara any favors in his effort to earn a starting job, fellow southpaw Sean Newcomb could benefit from it. He and another lefty, veteran Scott Kazmir, are the leading candidates to occupy the Braves’ last two rotation spots if Gohara’s not ready to go early in the season, per Mark Bowman of The Braves could get away with using a four-man rotation until April 11, however, Bowman points out. Newcomb, 24, made his major league debut last season and fared nicely, tossing 100 innings of 4.32 ERA/4.19 FIP ball and recording 9.72 K/9. Granted, Newcomb’s impressive strikeout mark came with a troubling walk rate (5.13 BB/9).

    If he was even held back past 4/11, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to let Kazmir make a few starts and see if he has anything. We started the 2015 season 42-42, we ended the 2016 season 45-44, and we started the 2017 season 45-45, and those three periods were either preceded or succeeded by a lack of emphasis on the major league roster. So I hope we’re past the attitude of, “Ahh, hell, let’s just see if we can flip a player,” but I can live with someone as talented as Kazmir having a spot for a short time, if healthy. It’s not like he’s Jhoulys Chasin or Lucas Harrell or something.

  10. 10
    Ethan Says:

    Gohara was called up September 6th last year. If you kept him down until early May, you’d pick up another year of team control.

  11. 11
    Rob Copenhaver Says:

    That’s a year of control they may very well sacrifice a few starts to get.

  12. 12
    Rob Copenhaver Says:

    Dansby hits the first team home run of the spring.

    Acuna DHing and leading off.

    Dustin Peterson getting his second start.

    Thanks for the game notes as well, Ethan.

  13. 13
    timo Says:

    @12 and Sims still sucks.

  14. 14
    Rob Copenhaver Says:

    W/L totals are worthless when you’re throwing 8 pitchers from varying levels of the minors, and the classic example was Friday where Scovolsihetidhcamfnfsh or whatever his name was walked the stadium leading to a loss, but I do think it’s fair to say that if a pitcher is struggling this early in Spring Training, that’s not good. When you watch, the hitters are typically behind, they’re not seeing breaking pitches, and they can’t really lay off bad pitches. Dansby’s home run was just grooved by Scherzer. Really not that impressive. But if you’re getting pounded by hitters, I think you can make a slight observation.

  15. 15
    mikemc Says:

    A number of our pitchers don’t appear to be game ready. It’s like they haven’t thrown from a mound before the game. The opponents appear to be able to throw strikes. Our guys are all over the place.

  16. 16
    timo Says:

    What a catch by Dustin Peterson.

  17. 17
    joel Says:

    The Braves look like the bad news bears today defensively. They can’t catch or throw the ball!

  18. 18
    Rob Copenhaver Says:

    How did Biddle look? Line looked fine.

  19. 19
    Braves14 Says:

    Bowman tweeted that Kazmir’s velocity was lacking today.

  20. 20
    joel Says:

    Biddle loked pretty good. Came in and got out of a jam created by Fried and then cruised through the next inning. Was throwing in the mid 90’s.

  21. 21
    Td Says:

    Luke Jackson with 4 runs in 1/3 of an inning. Not sure if I’ve ever seen an era of 108 before. That’s impressive.

  22. 22
    Chief Nocahoma Says:

    Braves in late season form.

  23. 23
    Braves14 Says:

    Fried and Sims both gave up 2 runs in short outings.

  24. 24
    Rob Copenhaver Says:

    We have a whole Spring Training of Chief considering the performances of the 25th and 26th best pitchers indicative of the quality of the staff. Fun.

  25. 25
    Chief Nocahoma Says:

    I was actually just sort of making a funny. I realize these games and performances generally mean nothing.

  26. 26
    joel Says:

    While I wouldn’t exactly say Jackson pitched well, he also was the victim of a misplayed ball at short by Didder, a misplayed ball in centerfield by Pache, and an airmailed throw to home by Avery in right.

  27. 27
    Ethan Says:

    Notes from the day:

    Kazmir was 86-89. He threw a few cutters 84-86, and a couple changeups in the upper 70’s. I don’t believe I saw any breaking pitches. Velocity increased as the inning progessed. Have trouble believing what I saw today will play in a major league rotation, but it wasn’t disastrous after effectively two years off, and he’s a month to round into form.

    Sims and Fried were both 90-94, and neither could throw anything other than their fastballs for strikes, though it was a tight zone today. I wish they’d just officially move Sims to the bullpen; to his credit, he battled today, but I can’t see him being anything other than a low end #5.

    Biddle looked pretty good. 92-94 with the fastball, and an 11-5 curve in the mid 70’s he was throwing for strikes. He was also throwing something in the mid-80’s. Guess it was a changeup, but it didn’t seem to have much action. He doesn’t have a very long stride to the plate, so he’s standing relatively straight up when he throws, and as such has a pretty high release point.

    Pfiefer seemed just a generic low 90’s lefty reliever, and Jackson only sat around 93 today. As @26 pointed out, the defense did him no favors, but there’s nothing special about a low 90’s righty reliever with a straight fastball.

    McCreery was interesting. Fastball was only 90-91, but the guy is so tall, you can see the potential if he can harness the right downward plane on it. Makes more sense why they protected him anyway.

    Acuna had a loud 400 foot fly out to straight away center the Gnats broadcasters thought would be a homer most places. Riley continues to look lost, but in his defense, he saw a lot of filthy stuff on the black today. Preston Tucker had some hard contact today; as I assume he’ll be the big half of the initial LF platoon, I guess that isn’t a bad thing.

  28. 28
    Rob Copenhaver Says:

    I was able to see Pfiefer and McCreery, and I agree with both. McCreery is tall, athletic, and imposing. Certainly something to build off of.

    It’s nice to see some of these players on a HD TV. I’m used to watching just their highlights on grainy minor league clips on the computer. I really like how both Pache and Acuna have looked in center. They look like they belong up the middle.

  29. 29
    blazon Says:


    E Than
    he can
    his powers of observation
    seemingly indebted to post modern Thracian.

    Thank you.

  30. 30
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    Travis Sawchick over at Fangraphs crunches the numbers to look at how current offensive trends, notably the willingness to trade a K for a better launch angle and more HRs, has impacted the value of defense at various positions. Where Defensive Opportunities Have Declined Most

    Of possible interest here to folks who enjoy rosterbating and placing prospects in various positions in the future, and/or lingering Andrelton Simmons fanboys. And probably Chief will use it to decry defense across the board.

  31. 31
    Game, Blauser Says:

    @30 Executive summary: over the past 11 seasons, defensive chances have declined about 20% for SS/2B and 25% for OF (higher in CF, lower in RF and LF). Interestingly, there has been only a 2-3% decline for 1B and 3B. Up-the-middle defensive positions (SS/2B/CF) see the most defensive action and field a similar number of opportunities every year, but those positions have also had the largest decrease in plays. In 2007, shortstops handled 47% more defensive chances than third basemen; that number had declined to 24% by 2017.

    It’s not entirely clear what is causing the diverging trends in defensive opportunities (first and third basemen vs. everyone else) here, but is probably partially resultant from increased defensive shifts as well as changes in hitting philosophy (attempting to hit pulled flyballs likely results in a lot of grounders rolled over to 3B).

    I assume Nolan Arenado’s agent is going to save this article when his client comes up for free agency negotiations.

  32. 32
    Chief Nocahoma Says:

    @30 Oh, you mean there is science to yield credence to the fact that teams believe that defense matters less than it use to? No way! /s

  33. 33
    td Says:

    Good article. Thanks for sharing. To me it seems pretty balanced – not saying that defense doesn’t matter, but it is slightly less important overall. I don’t quite understand why there are so many fewer opportunities in LF and RF. It seems like players are trying to pull the ball more or hit it down the line when they don’t strike out. It seems like the many balls that don’t result in hrs would result in flyouts to left or right.

  34. 34
    blazon Says:

    Mintner AJ
    someone has been heard to say
    will be the closer mid season
    AJ himself surprised at this delay for which he sees no reason.

  35. 35
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    Swings to pull hard have four potential outcomes that would reduce fly ball outs to right and left field: HRs (what they’re trying to do), K’s (increases with big HR launch swings), pop-ups to 3B (just-missed HR’s that go up the pipe, and are thus a foul or pop out to 3B rather than LF), and roll-over grounders.

  36. 36
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    Technically it’s statistics, not science.

  37. 37
    Jay Says:

    Question for those more knowledgeable regarding WAR: to the extent that defensive value already depends on the plays you make with the chances you get, isn’t the disparity of balls in play to different positions already baked in? If anything, it would have a minimal affect on the positional adjustments, which are not huge to begin with, right?

  38. 38
    krussell Says:

    I believe positional adjustments come from an old and relatively small sample size study done for players that switch positions during the season. There’s been much written about the validity of these adjustments, and I think the conclusion is that there has to be a better way.

  39. 39
    Rob Copenhaver Says:

    I didn’t have the benefit of reading the entire article, so I settled for the excellent summary from Game, Blauser. Theoretical discussions aside, it does tell me that an outfield of Acuna/Ender/Yelich would have been a little superfluous. And even an Acuna/Ender outfield could also become superfluous because the opportunity cost of two CFs may show up in a deficiency elsewhere on the roster (and a significant disparity if you gave up a huge prospect haul for Yelich). But it also tells me that it still holds true that someone who can’t make the routine play at any position is still very much exposed, and now even moreso at 3B/1B. So you still realistically can’t carry a Kemp on the roster, salary aside, and even if he OPS+es 126 like he did in 2016 if he has 2017 defense. But it also might point to a more legitimate improvement defensively from Adonis to Camargo than originally perceived.

    I think the “defense is significantly overrated to the point where it doesn’t matter anywhere close to offense” still have to acknowledge that you need at least replacement level if not league average level defense at every position on the roster, and there have been multiple points in the rebuild where that hasn’t happened and that has really hurt the pitching development. The big takeaway from the 1990 to 1991 team is that they shored up the defense significantly. And you can make the argument we’ve done the same from 2017 to 2018.

  40. 40
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    1990-91 has virtually nothing in common with today’s general game environment. I think the primary takeaway from the Fangraphs article is if Austin Riley mashes the ball but is a mediocre defender, you play him in LF when there’s a ground baller on the mound for you, and at 3B when there’s a fly baller on the mound.

  41. 41
    cliff Says:


    No, the positional adjustments took much more work. Maybe initially, the process you described was involved. But a “back check” conforms to the adjustments as used. There is some chance the changes in the game are eating at this on the margins and I am not sure how tight the fit is now, but it is still close. As to “how the game changes”, in Honus Wagner’s day, his relatively poor defense at second was not considered nearly as significant as it would have at 3B. There were many bunts and quite a few trying to get base hits.

    The back check is to take all offensive contributions for players playing each position and see how much they vary from other positions. If you assume that in the long run managers and front offices will get an optimization on the field (or at least are just as likely to de-optimize in either direction) the midpoint tells you where the offense has to increase to make up for less defensive expectation and difficulty.

  42. 42
    Chief Nocahoma Says:

    @39, I don’t even believe league average defense is necessary to win. Just don’t be last, or god-awful. That’s good enough.

    Question: Assuming league average pitching for the sake of this argument, If you had the best hitter at every position in the NL but each of those guys was the worst fielder in the NL at their position, how do you think that team would fare? Conversely, if you had the best fielder at every position, but they were the worst qualified hitter how do you think that team would fare?

  43. 43
    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.) Says:

    Impossible to answer that question without more information about league context. If everybody is investing in defense and you’re not, so everybody else has a team of 9 Rafael Belliards who are converting all of their opportunities and you’ve got a team of 9 Pete Incaviglias who couldn’t find their way to the ball if you gave them a week to do it, then the gap between yourn and theirn is going to be far more salient than if teams broadly, en masse, decide that they’re willing to put statues in the field as long as they can hit.

  44. 44
    snowshine Says:

    While I do not believe league average defense at every position is mandatory to contention — Hello 2008-16 Tigers! — I also believe that real problems develop in two situations:

    1) When a defender is so bad that the opposition takes advantage on a regular basis (think about Brian McCann going 1st to 3rd every chance on Juan Pierre’s arm back in the day, or alternately, every game last year where Kemp was in the outfield…

    2) When there are multiple sub-average defenders and you add another. This is a “straw that breaks the camel’s back” argument and my best example is the ’87 Mets, although the 2014 Braves are another good one: we had 2 generational defensive talents on the field and still finished near the back of the league in defensive efficiency. In these instances adding a plus defender seems to carry far more weight than one (cough*Nocahoma*cough) might otherwise believe. I attribute this to the pitching staff being less inclined to nibble.

  45. 45
    Chief Nocahoma Says:

    @44 I agree with you in theory, although what are the odds that any ball hit in play will go to a certain fielder? When I played RF, I had a cannon for an arm (relatively speaking…) but would often go entire games without a ball being hit to me. My point is that I’d take my chances with a hitter who will for sure see 4 times AB versus a fielder who MAY get one chance per game. Sure, a butcher might blow the game if he makes a bad play on that ONE ball, but odds are much better that he will positively affect the game in those 4 ABs.

    I do agree with you that having a bad defense will affect the pitching staff in ways that either cannot be or cannot be easily measured. I’d like to see someone like James or Fangraphs opine on this effect.

  46. 46
    krussell Says:

    My position from the very beginning of the sabr-defense debates has always been that “defense” is pretty much the guy on the mound. I think it’s a rather huge percentage – say 75-80% at least. Quibbling over the remainder is not an efficient way to optimize things. Focus on the part that has the largest contribution. Which is exactly what the Braves are doing, so on that front I can’t complain.

  47. 47
    krussell Says:

    @43, it goes without saying that the team of Pete Incaviglias would go 162-0 against a team of Belliards…

  48. 48
    Chief Nocahoma Says:

    @47 Agreed.

  49. 49
    Braves14 Says:

    Who’s pitching?

  50. 50
    Td Says:

    @47 – I don’t know, I think I would rather have Raffy pitching than Incaviglia. It may be a wash.

  51. 51
    Td Says:

    I haven’t read the MLB article yet, but the headline is terrifying. “Andruw helping Acuna balance fun, focus”. For some reason, having Andruw Jones as your activities coordinator seems to be a dangerous proposition.

  52. 52
    krussell Says:

    Seems like a job for Chief’s OOTP.

  53. 53
    Rob Copenhaver Says:

    My point is that I’d take my chances with a hitter who will for sure see 4 times AB versus a fielder who MAY get one chance per game.

    But you have to adjust for total chances. You’re giving an anecdotal example of one game. But over the course of the season, the LF or RF may see between 275 and 300 chances at that position. So on the whole, you’re going to see about 2 chances per game at those positions. And those two chances have to be handled properly or else it will increase the length of an inning or cost runs like a hitter who gets out and shortens an inning or costs runs. Unless I’m missing something, it goes both ways.

  54. 54
    Stu Says:

    Fun and focus?

    Both of them, count it!

  55. 55
    Rusty S. Says:

    Literally laughing out loud.

  56. 56
    Rob Copenhaver Says:

    New thread.

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