Atlanta Braves Blog

The Atlanta Braves blog by David O'Brien, baseball writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Wood, along with Teheran, shows he's top-of-rotation starter

 PHILADELPHIA – While a figurative building has collapsed around them, Braves pitchers have been the room left standing, producing more quality starts than any other major league team despite getting run support that’s been almost historically awful.

And to think, it was the pitching – particularly the starting pitching – that had everyone concerned coming out of spring training, after the Braves lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to season-ending elbow injuries in consecutive Grapefruit League games and then lost Gavin Floyd to another elbow injury in his ninth start, just when he was looking like he might be ready to do some big things.

All that pitching guru Roger McDowell’s charges have done is tie the Dodgers for the fifth-best ERA in the  majors (3.39), including a 3.42 starters ERA that also ranks fifth in the majors, just behind Oakland’s starters (3.39) and ahead of playoff teams or contenders including St. Louis (3.46), Seattle (3.54), Kansas City (3.58), the Angels (3.61), Pittsburgh (3.62) and Baltimore (3.62).

“They’ve been good,” said McDowell, the Braves’ modest and understated pitching coach.

When asked if this season has been particularly satisfying for him from the standpoint of his pitchers overcoming adversity and staying strong despite the team’s struggles, McDowell said, “From a satisfaction standpoint, it’s not really personally satisfying when you’re going home at the end of 162 (and not advancing to the postseason).

“But they’ve gone out there every fifth day and competed, and they’ve stayed on an even keel throughout the course of the year and controlled what they can control.”

No Brave this season has had a more impressive and encouraging performance over the course of the season than Alex Wood, who in just his second season in the majors showed he can be a top-of-the-rotation starter and piece the Braves can build around for the future. Despite being bumped from the rotation early in the season when Floyd came off the DL, Wood never complained, even after being sent back down to the minor leagues to get stretched out without any guarantee of when he would return to the majors.

It turned out he was only gone for a couple of minor league starts before being called back due to Floyd’s injury. Wood immediately seized the opportunity and joined Julio Teheran as the Braves’ steadiest starting pitchers – and the two who were most victimized by the team’s dreadful offensive support, though neither every uttered a negative word or complained about the lack of runs.

“Even last  year, we saw maturity beyond his years,” McDowell said of Wood, who was pitching for the University of Georgia just over two years ago. “That’s a testatment, probably, a lot of it to his parents. The way he was raised and the way he continues to compete at such a high level. Throughout his travel ball and the University of Georgia, and here. Along with all of (the starters), they’ve been terrific.”

How bad has Wood’s run support been? Consider this: Out of 110 major league pitchers who’ve logged at least 140 innings this season,  Alex Wood ranks 109th in run support with just 2.75 runs per start, ahead of only the Padres’ Eric Stults (2.58). Teheran's support hasn't been much better, ranking as the fifth-worst support among those 110 pitchers at 3.18 runs per start.

Run support explains how Wood, scheduled to start Sunday’s season finale at Philly, has just an 11-11 record despite having a 2.78 ERA that is tied with the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmerman for 19th-best among those 110 pitchers with at least 140 innings.


The Dodgers’ Zack Greinke is two spots ahead of them in ERA at 2.74, and Greinke’s 1.16 WHIP is higher than Wood’s 1.14. Greinke has a 16-8 record and 4.55 support runs per start.

Eleven starters with 140-plus innings have averaged more than 5.0 support runs per start including Zimmerman (5.03), who has a 13-5 record.

Teheran is 11th in WHIP (1.08) among the 110 with 140 or more innings, and Teheran needed a win in his final start of the season Wednesday to finish over .500 (14-13) in 33 starts.

The Braves’ Aaron Harang is 83rd at 3.59 runs per start, and Mike Minor is 56th at 4.04 support runs per start.

Ervin Santana is the only Braves starter who has said anything publicly about how tough it is pitching with so little run support, making that comment after his start last week. Ironically, he’s the only Braves starter who has received fairly decent run support with an average of 4.23 runs per start, tied for 41st among the 110 major league starters with 140 or more innings.

Friday’s matchup: In the Friday opener of the Braves’ season-ending series at Philadelphia, Santana (14-10, 3.88) faces Jerome Williams (6-7, 4.71), who has pitched a lot better than his record indicates since moving to the starting rotation.

Williams is 5-3 with a 3.67 ERA in 10 starts since moving from the bullpen in late July, and he’s allowed only one (unearned) run and seven hits in 14 2/3 innings over his past two starts. The Phillies have won five of his past seven starts. Before moving to the rotation, he was 1-4 with a 6.04 ERA in 26 relief appearances.

Where he’s been vulnerable: With runners in scoring position, Willams has allowed a .307 average (37-for-101) and .368 OBP.

The only Braves with more than one official at-bat against him are B.J. Upton (0-for-5, two strikeouts) and Ryan Doumit (1-for-5).

Santana is 1-3 with a 6.55 ERA aned .289 opponents’ average in four September starts, allowing 24 hits including three homers, 16 earned runs and nine walks  in 22 innings.

He’s 2-5 with a 4.68 ERA and .282 opponents’ average in his past eight road starts, and the Braves scored one or no runs  while he was  in five of those games.

Santana is 4-1 with a 3.11 ERA in six career starts against the Phillies, including 3-1 with a 3.82 ERA in five this season. He’s won each of his past three starts against them, and the Braves scored 17 runs during his 18 2/3 innings pitched in those three outings.

Against Santana, Ryan Howard is 4-for-15 with two home runs, Marlon Byrd is 6-for-36 with one homer and 12 strikeouts, Jimmy Rollins is 1-for-11 with four strikeouts, and Chase Utley is 2-for-12.

Gattis at Philly: Evan Gattis has five homers and a .920 slugging percentage in 25 career at-bats (seven games) at Citizens Bank Park, including three homers in consecutive games April 14 and April 16. He went 6-f0r-9 in those two games. Gattis has a pair of two-homer games at the Philly ballpark – this season on April 14, and Sept. 8, 2013.

Gattis had only one at-bat in the Braves’ four-game sweep at Philly June 27-29 before leaving with a bulging disk that landed him on the DL. But manager Fredi Gonzalez indicated Gattis would start no more than one game in this series after easing back into things this week following an absence of more than two weeks due to two ailiments -- strep throat and a kidney stone.

• Etc.

The Braves’ 9-7 record against the Phillies this season includes a 6-1 mark at Citizens Bank Park, where the Braves swept a four-game series June 27-29 that included a doubleheader with a makeup game from an  April 15 rainout. It was the Braves’ first four-game sweep in Philly since 1964, and it came less than two weeks after the Phillies swept a three-game series at Turner Field.

We'll close with this classic from the mighty Pixies.

“VELOURIA” by the Pixies

hold my head

we'll trampoline

finally through the roof

on to somewhere near

and far in time


her covering

travelling career

she can really move

oh velveteen!

my velouria, my velouria

even i'll adore you

my velouria

say to me

where have you been

finally through the roof

and how does lemur skin

reflect the sea?

we will wade in the shine of the ever

we will wade in the shine of the ever

we will wade in the tides of the summer

every summer

every summer


my velouria

my velouria


i know she's here

in California

i can see the tears

of shastasheen

my velouria, my velouria

even i'll adore your

my velouria


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About the Author

David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002.