Ho, ho, ho, my Braves Journal friends, the holiday season is approaching. You’re saying you want something for Christmas?
Aren’t you forgetting something?
Santa is very sorry, but Santa already gave you your present on July 31. That was the day that Kris Medlen made his first start for the Braves. Medlen made a total of 12 starts, pitching 83 2/3 innings with a 0.97 ERA, 84 strikeouts and 10 walks, while allowing 57 hits and 9 earned runs. (Santa excluded the stats from the wild card game, because as far as Santa is concerned, that game never happened.)
Those are some very shiny numbers. But just how shiny are they? Take a look at the following rate stats:
Pitcher A: 7.5 inning per start, K/9 of 7.8, BB/9 of 1.0, H/9 of 7.5, and ERA of 1.63
Pitcher B: 7.1 inning per start, K/9 of 9.3, BB/9 of 1.0, H/9 of 6.1, and ERA of 0.92
Pitcher B is Medlen. Pitcher A is Greg Maddux in 1995, his fourth straight Cy Young season and the best season in his career by rWAR. (He had 9.5 WAR that year. Yeah.) So Medlen was that good. For two months, he was as good as Greg Maddux at his prime.
The similarities between the two are beyond the numbers and also their style of pitching. I think Chipper put it the best:
He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to Maddux for the simple fact that he has a devastating changeup. Maddux would kill you with command of his fastball and cutter early in the count and then put you away with his changeup. Medlen is able to make the ball start off the plate and come back on the corner. The one difference is that Maddux could make the ball go both ways on both sides of the plate. Medlen doesn’t have the cutter, but he has a better breaking ball than Maddux did. The approach to getting people out is the same.
Santa loves watching Kris Medlen, and who doesn’t? It’s the same reasons that Santa loved watching Maddux:
- Their deliveries are both very simple and smooth
- They field their position amazingly well
- They pitch fast and aggressively attack the strike zone
- They make hitters look stupid with the unusual frequency of hitters taking a called strike three
(This is so fun to watch. Eight of the thirteen strikeouts came with the hitter taking third strike, and that came against the Natspos. Santa HATES the Natspos. That’s why he gave them a big lump of coal named Jayson Werth.)
With that in mind, what should we be expecting from Medlen in 2013? There is a Bill James projection on FanGraphs, and Santa thinks it sounds pretty reasonable: 14-7, 190 IP, 2.94 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 8.2 K/9, and 1.7 BB/9. Boys and girls, even accounting for regression from his off-the-charts performance last year, Santa gave you a top of the rotation starter.
The development in 2012 of Medlen, along with Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor, allowed the Braves to ship out Tommy Hanson and jettison Jair Jurrjens, instead of hoping for an unlikely rebound season. The development of the trio as well as our great bullpen allows the Braves to focus on offense during this offseason.
Top of rotation starters don’t exactly grow on trees. The Braves have been teased by a seemingly endless group of prospects that didn’t quite pan out for them, like Bruce Chen, Terrell Wade, Odalis Perez, Jason Marquis, Kyle Davies, Chuck James, Charlie Morton, Horacio Ramirez, and Jo-Jo Reyes, and they let go of some like Millwood, Schmidt, Wainwright, Harrison, and Feliz through trades. Santa hopes that Medlen, Beachy, and Minor will anchor the Braves’ starting rotation for many years to come.
Braves fans, you had your Christmas in July. But Santa wishes you a very Happy New Year! Ho ho ho!