For years, I’ve been down on Julio. The thing that I’ve overlooked in his time with Atlanta is likely the sole reason why Julio is still in a Braves uniform and that is this: Every 5th game, he’s going to pitch. That’s a HUGE need for a team that’s been relying on a plethora of young arms, and Julio’s been there every 5th game for 7 straight years.
Since becoming a regular in the rotation, Teheran has averaged 191 innings from 2013-2019 and has carried a 3.64 ERA, consistently outpitching his FIP by .58 runs per 9. As a fan of the Atlanta Braves, I can admit that I don’t appreciate Julio Teheran enough.
Julio started the year off making most of us angry. In April, he was simply not good. It’s a bit unfair that he was the scapegoat to our frustrations as he once again got the ball on Opening Day. It didn’t go well. Heck, the whole opening series didn’t go well. The first month for Julio was forgettable as he was carrying a 5.35 ERA after 7 starts.
But May flowers brought Julio powers, and, for the most part, Julio put up a string of good starts that lasted nearly the rest of the season. Yes, there was the occasional start where Julio barely got out of the first inning (here’s looking at you, August 15th), but in that stretch from May through September, Julio carried a 3.38 ERA, and mostly gave the team a chance to win, and win they did in 16 of 26 games.
While Julio was valuable in the aspect of being counted on every 5th time through, his inability to pitch late into games is a real problem. This year, he only pitched 7 full innings 3 times and his average per start was 5.1 innings. On the year, the Braves won 19 of 33 games that Julio started in, good for a .576 winning percentage, which is slightly lower than the team’s final winning percentage of .599. So…yes, there is proof that Julio did keep the Braves in games while he was starting, but less than what others were able to provide (I wouldn’t read too much into this).
A Sinking Feeling
Julio had one of the best ranked sinkers in the game this year, according to Fangraphs, and it made up nearly ⅔ of his arsenal. Like many Braves fans, the guys over at Fangraphs don’t really know how it’s been so successful as it “looks” very hittable. The trend that Julio bucked this year is his sinker location, which wasn’t to generate groundballs, rather to generate flyballs specifically against left-handed hitters. This seems to be the MO of Kranitz as he feels that left-handed hitters have a harder time getting to balls up in the zone. It definitely worked for Julio this year as he was better against LHHs over the course of the year for the first time in his career.
The 11 Million Dollar Question
Julio has a 12MM option for the 2020 season with a 1MM buyout. I was near certain that the Braves would pick up that option, but when I started to run the numbers, I found myself 2nd guessing that thought. One of my favorite Braves Bloggers, Tommy Poe, put up this piece regarding Julio’s option and it spells out my feelings on the situation. The money, itself, isn’t that much, but is it wise to invest the money in a player that likely won’t even help the team when it matters most? If the Braves do decide to pick up Teheran’s option, it’ll come at the expense of filling other holes. Add Julio’s 11MM back to the pot (1MM already there as buyout), and there’s likely 40-50MM there to make moves. Remove it, and 29-39MM doesn’t seem like enough to fill 2 needs.
Regardless of what happens with Julio, he’s been a solid pitcher for the Braves when there was barely anything solid surrounding him.