With only three weeks to go before the All-Star Game, the only viable Braves options to be the team’s All-Star representative appear to be a starter with a 2-6 record or a closer with seven saves and a 2.33 ERA.
Fortunately, most folks have come to understand that won-lost record is not at all an accurate barometer of a starting pitcher’s performance, and Julio Teheran has pitched well enough to be a legitimate All-Star candidate: Entering Tuesday night’s starter against the Reds, he’s 2-6 with a 2.85 ERA (14th among NL starters) and 1.02 WHIP (ninth).
Teheran’s 2.2 WAR ranks 12th among NL starters, just behind Max Scherzer (8-4, 3.40 ERA) and just ahead of the Padres’ Drew Pomeranz (5-6, 2.44) and the Cubs’ duo of John Lackey (7-2, 2.63) and Jason Hammel (7-2, 2.36).
Lackey and Hammel, like most Cubs pitchers, have enjoyed huge run support, with Hammel’s 6.29 runs per nine innings pitched ranked sixth-best among NL starters and Lackey’s 6.15 coming in at eighth-most in the league.
Teheran? His runs support (2.74 per nine innings pitched) ranks third-worst among NL starters, a little better than teammate Matt Wisler’s second-worst 2.48.
Did we mention that every team must have at least one All-Star? Since don’t vote in the pitchers or reserves, that’s where the Braves’ All-Star will come from. And since no Braves position player has produced All-Star worthy statistics, it’s going to have to be a pitcher picked to represent the team.
The way Teheran has pitched lately, Vizcaino’s two ninth-inning meltdowns in the past week might have been enough to push Teheran into the favorite’s position among Braves candidates, despite just two wins.
Remember last year when it was a big deal that Shelby Miller made the All-Star team despite his won-lost record? Well, Miller was 5-5 with a 2.38 ERA in 18 starts before the break; Teheran is 2-6 with a 2.85 ERA. But again, every team must have an All-Star, and besides, Teheran has pitched like a legit All-Star candidate after a couple of rough back-to-back outings in April in which he gave up 10 runs in 11 innings.
In his past 10 starts, Teheran is 2-4 despite a 1.94 ER and .189 opponents’ average, with 63 strikeouts and 15 walks in 65 innings. Seven of eight homers he’s allowed in that span came in his past four starts, including five homers – all with bases empty – in his past two starts.
Five of eight hits off Teheran in his past two starts have been home runs, all solo shots to account for all five runs he allowed in those two starts at Los Angeles and San Diego. He had 15 strikeouts and three walks in 13 2/3 innings in those two games on the Braves’ last road trip.
The Braves scored two or fewer runs while he was in seven of his past 10 games. The only time they scored more than three runs while he was in a game in that stretch was in his last start Wednesday at San Diego, where Teheran gave up five hits and two homers – on a pair of Wil Myers homers – in eight innings and had eight strikeouts and one walk in a 4-2 win.
Going back to the beginning of September, Teheran is 4-7 with a strong 2.45 ERA and .206 opponents average in 19 starts, with 109 strikeouts and 39 walks in 121 innings. The Braves scored two runs or fewer while he was in the game in 15 of those 19 starts, and went 7-12 in those games.
He’s been significantly better against lefty batters this season than in the past: lefties are hitting .214 (27-for-116) with a .315 OBP and .437 slugging percentage against him, albeit it with only 26 strikeouts and 17 walks. He’s limited righties to .170/.233/.340 slash line and only six walks with 51 strikeouts in 175 at-bats.
Teheran enters Tuesday night’s start against the Reds still winless (0-3) with a 3.18 ERA and .234 opponents’ average/.300 opponents’ OBP in seven home starts, compared to 2-3 with a 2.55 ERA and .170 OA and .230 opponents’ OBP in six road starts.
He’s 2-1 with a 1.78 ERA in four starts against the Reds, including 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and .152 opponents’ average in the past three – 10 hits, no runs allowed in 20 innings, with 14 strikeouts and four walks. And one of those even came at Cincinnati’s cozy Great American Ball Park, aka “Great American Small Park.”
• Vizcaino’s week: The Braves’ closer is 0-2 with an 8.10 ERA and one blown save in two chances over his past four games, and in that span he allowed four hits, three runs, a homer and five walks with four strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.
It was jarring to see from the Braves’ young closer, since we watched him go 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA, .188 opponents’ average and only one blown save in 12 chances over his previous 33 appearances, with 46 strikeouts and nine walks in that span going back to Sept. 15.
All the damage of his current slump, if we can call it a slump, actually came in two games at San Diego June 7 and Monday night against the Reds; in two appearances in-between those outings, Teheran gave up only one walk in two scoreless innings.
But those games against the Padres were certainly not like what we’ve come to expect from Viz. He gave up three hits, two runs, a walk and a homer while recording one out and blowing the save and taking the loss at San Diego, then allowed a hit and three walks (one intentional) Monday and walked in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning to take the loss after entering a tied game.
• Braves face another lefty: Lefty starters are 11-4 ith a 2.11 ERA against the Braves, who face another one Tuesday: the Reds’ Brandon Finnegan (2-4, 3.77 ERA).
Lefty starters have 146 strikeouts and 34 walks in 149 innings against Braves hitters this season.
Finnegan has pitched well outside Cincinnati’s bandbox of a home ballpark. He’s 1-3 in six road starts despite a 3.22 ERA, .202 opponents’ average and only two homers allowed in 36 1/3 innings. In seven home starts he has a 4.22 ERA, .259 OA and eight homers allowed in 40 innings.
All 10 homers off Finnegan have come in 211 at-bats by right-handed hitters, who’ve hit .227 against with a .315 OBP. Lefties have hit him for a higher average (.254) and OBP (.338) but have no homers in 71 at-bats.
Finnegan’s been tough with runners on (.205) and with runners in scoring position (.219), particularly with RISP and two outs (.129, 4-for-31).
Nobody on the Braves’ active roster has faced Finnegan.
• Let's close with this great tune from My Morning Jacket's It Still Moves album, which was just re-released with a second disc of demos and unreleased songs that's terrific.
"GOLDEN" by My Morning Jacket
Watchin' a stretch of road,
Miles of light explode
Driftin' off a thing
I'd never done before
Watchin' a crowd roll in
Out go the lights it begins
A feelin' in my bones
I never felt before...
Mmm...people always told me
That bars are dark and lonely
And talk is often cheap
And filled with air
Sure, sometimes they thrill me
But nothin' could ever chill me
Like the way they make
The time just disappear
Feelin' you are here again
Hot on my skin again.
Feelin' good's a thing
I'd never known before
What does it mean to feel?
Millions of dreams come real
A feelin' in my soul
I'd never felt before...mmmm
And you always told me.
No matter how long it holds me
If it falls apart
Or makes us millonaires
You'll be right here forever
We'll go through this thing together
And on heaven's golden shore
We'll lay our heads