Posted: 2:11 pm Friday, April 25th, 2014

Braves starting pitchers having historically good month 

By David O'Brien

 

You might look at all the eye-popping stats that Braves starting pitchers are producing – particularly a 1.50 ERA through 21 games — and say to yourself or to the person seated next to you at the bar or on the couch, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this. And chances are, you’d be correct.

This is approaching historic-level excellence, folks. With five games left in April, Braves starters have a chance to join the 1968 Cleveland Indians as the only team since at least 1950 to post a starters ERA of 1.50 or better in any month with at least 20 games. Think about that.

No one has been more instrumental in the Braves' early season pitching success than late-spring signee Aaron Harang.

No one has been more instrumental in the Braves’ early season pitching success than late-spring signee Aaron Harang.

All those terrific, all-time-great Braves starting rotations never did it. Nor did the great Dodgers and Orioles. Not a 1.50 ERA. Not for a full month.

Now it could be done by a Braves team that had to scramble just to fill out the rotation during spring training after losing planned No. 1 starter Kris Medlen and top-four starter Brandon Beachy to season-ending elbow injuries, and also losing Mike Minor for what’s turned out to be the first month due to early spring shoulder tendinitis. That’s three of the top four returning starters, not to mention veteran Tim Hudson, who left as a free agent.

And yet, Braves pitchers enter Friday with four of the top nine National League starters’ ERAs, including the league’s top two: Aaron Harang (0.85) and Ervin Santana (0.86), who were signed on March 24 and March 12, respectively. Alex Wood (1.54) is eight and Julio Teheran (1.80) is ninth.

If you didn’t see this coming, you’re not alone. Even some of the most astute pitching minds have been caught off-guard.

“I’m going to be honest with you,” said Hall of Famer pitcher and Braves broadcaster Don Sutton. “Just looking at experience and lack of track record, I thought that they had put together a staff that was going to tread water until everybody (got healthy). I can’t say I’m surprised, because I’ve seen good things out of everybody that’s gone out there. I’m just really pleased. I’m pleased for Aaron Harang. I like it for anybody that knows he’s on the back half of his career but has a chance to shine.”

To repeat, the Braves have a chance to do something – a 1.50 ERA or better for a full month — that’s only been done once since 1950, by the ’68 Indians, who had a 1.36 ERA (and 19-8 record) from starters in 30 May games.

Luis Tiant went 21-9 with a 1.60 ERA and 264 strikeouts in 258 1/3 innings for that Cleveland crew, and Sam McDowell had a 1.81 ERA and 283 strikeouts in 269 innings over 38 games (37 starts). But the Indians didn’t have much offensively and finished third in the AL at 89-75.

The only other team since 1950 to post a 1.50-or-better ERA in any month regardless of number of games was the 1976 Brewers, who had a 1.44 starters ERA in April. But they only played 12 games. So we’ll toss that aside.

I went to the Baseball Reference play index today, pumped in the numbers and qualifiers for a couple of different studies, then sifted through the reports that it produced to come up with that stat above about the ’68 Indians, and one other stat that might be equally impressive, given the various period that is encompasses.

And that is this: It’s been exactly 100 years since a Braves team had a starters ERA for an entire month (minimum 20 starts) as good as or better than 1.50. The 1914 Boston Braves starters had a 16-5 record and 1.46 ERA in 26 August starts.

The 1916 Braves also had a 1.60 ERA in 23 June starts. And that’s the only other Braves team in a century to have below a 1.75 ERA starters ERA in any month with at least 20 starts. There’s at least a real good chance these Braves will at least be the third in that group.

By the way, that 1914 Braves team went 94-59 and swept the Philadelphia Athletics in a four-game World Series. Thos Braves played their home games at South End Grounds III and a new stadium called Fenway Park.

Their best pitcher was Bill James – no, not that Bill James – who went 26-7 with a 1.90 ERA in 46 games (37 starts) and 332 1/3 innings. James had 156 strikeouts but walked 118. Also Dick Rudoph was 26-10 with a 2.35 ERA in 336 1/3 innings and 42 games (36 starts). Those two pitchers started 73 of the team’s 153 games.

And now the Braves are getting historic-level production from a patchwork rotation led by a 35-year-old (Harang) on his sixth team in five years, a former AL All-Star (Santana) who’s in his first NL season and missed much of spring training after multi-year contract offers he anticipated didn’t materialize, and a pair of talented 23-year-olds, Teheran and Wood, plus a rookie (David Hale) who pitched in two major league games before this season.

“There’s nothing I like more in baseball than young pitchers,” said Sutton, who had pitched more than 660 innings and collected 540 strikeouts and 34 wins in three seasons with the Dodgers before he turned 24. “So … am I a little surprised? Yes. But I couldn’t be happier. It’s one of those things, I wouldn’t have bet on it happening, but dang, I’m glad it is.”

Sutton heard skeptics all winter insist that the Braves lacked a true No. 1 starter. That irked him.

“Doesn’t (this) shoot in the foot everybody all winter saying, ‘We’ve got to go look for an ace, we’ve got to go look for an ace’? You may have him in your own camp. CC Sabathia didn’t wake up one morning and say, I’m an ace. You earn that right, and how do you get that?  Through opportunity. You might have a ton of aces. That’s why I don’t like the profiling crap about he’s a No. 1, he’s a No. 2, he’s a No. 3.

“If you’re going to win you better have a No. 1 out there every night, and that’s what’s happening.”

Braves starters have allowed two or fewer earned runs in 20 of 21 games this season, and only three in the other game. That’s a staggering statistic.

Atlanta starters have a majors-best .204 opponents’ average and have allowed a majors-low seven home runs.

“They’ve stayed out of the middle of the strike zone,” Sutton said. “They’ve changed speeds. Pitched ahead in the count. And thrown strikes with something on the ball. That’s a formula for beating anybody. I think what you’re seeing here from the guys who came up through the organization is the great teaching in the system.”

Including what they get after they arrive in the big leagues, from pitching coach Roger McDowell. Sutton thinks he’s still underrated.

“People have been writing about what a great job Roger has done,” Sutton said. “But I don’t think enough has been written about what a great job he’s done, blending personalities and talent. And I don’t think he’s one of those guys – you see it a lot – who starts putting limitations on guys. I’ve never heard him or Fredi (Gonzalez) put limitations on guys. ‘Go get ‘em.’ For most guys who can pitch, that’s all you want to hear.

“You create an environment where you support them, help them remember what they did when they did it well, and say, ‘Go get ‘em, guys.’”

  • More on the pitching: The Braves are 9-3 with a 1.90 ERA in their past 12 games before Friday’s series opener against the Reds, including 11 games with three or fewer runs allowed in that span of a dozen games. They have a 1.17 ERA in their past eight games, allowing one or no earned runs in six of them.

This weekend series pits the two teams with the majors’ lowest opponents’ batting averages, the Braves (.204) and Reds (.205), and the lowest opponents’ OPS, the Braves (.525) well ahead of the second-ranked Reds (.620).

Sunday’s series finale features Teheran against Johnny Cueto, who is fourth in the league in ERA (1.38) and first in the majors in opponents’ average (.140), one spot ahead of Harang (.143). Santana is sixth in the NL in opponents’ average at .178, a couple of spots ahead of Miami’s Jose Fernandez (.195).

  • Friday’s matchup: It’s Santana against Homer Bailey, each of whom has a no-hitter on his resume.

Ervin Santana takes the NL's second-best ERA into Friday's start against the Reds.

Ervin Santana takes the NL’s second-best ERA into Friday’s start against the Reds.

Santana has allowed one or no runs in each of his first three starts for the Braves, and has 24 strikeouts with four walks in 21 innings. This will be his first-ever start against Cincinnati, and the only Reds with more than four at-bats against him are Jack Hannahan (3-for-19) and Ramon Santiago (1-for-7).

Bailey pitched six shutout innings at Wrigley Field in his last start, after giving up at least four earned runs in each of his first three starts, including six homers in 14-1/3 innings over that span. He’s 2-1 with a 3.94 ERA in five career starts against the Braves, including 0-1 with a 6.55 ERA in two last season.

Ryan Doumit is 8-for-16 with a homer against Bailey, but other Braves haven’t fared nearly as well. Those with more than five at-bats against him include Chris Johnson (1-for-12), Dan Uggla (3-for-18), Jason Heyward (2-for-9) and Freddie Freeman (2-for-11).

• Etc.

 Evan Gattis and Justin Upton share the team leads with two homers and five RBIs in close-and-late situations. Worst on the team in those situations might come as a surprise: Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward, each at 2-for-20. Heyward has 11 strikeouts, two walks, no extra-base hits and no RBIs in those situations, while Freeman has a homer and two RBIs.

  Despite his recent dry eyes-related slump, Freeman is still fourth in the NL with a 1.038 OPS, behind the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki and Charlie Blackmon and Philly’s Chase Utley. Freeman leads the Braves with a .412 average (7-for-17) with runners in scoring position, and next are Dan Uggla is next at .333 (5-for-15) and Gattis at .333 (3-for-9).

The only other Brave with more than three RISP hits is Justin Upton, who is 4-for-21 (.190) with five walks and 12 strikeouts in those situations.

Justin Upton leads the Braves with three homers with runners on base, although he is just 9-for-40 with six walks and 20 strikeouts in those situaitons. Gattis has a team-best .333 average (8-for-24) with runners on, with two doubles and two homers.

  B.J. Upton is 4-for-29 (.138) with runners on base and 1-for-14 (.071) with runners in scoring position.

Eels have a new album out. This is from an older one by him/them. Listen to it by clicking here.

“I LIKE THE WAY THIS IS GOING” by Eels

I like your toothy smile,
it never fails to beguile.
Whichever way the wind is blowing
I like the way this is going.I like the color of your hair,
I think we make a handsome pair.
I can only see my love growing
I like the way this is going

I like to watch TV with you,
there’s really nothing i would rather do.
Then maybe we can go to bed,
get up and do it all again.

I like the way your pants fit,

The Eels, aka Mark Everett

The Eels, aka Mark Everett

how you stand and how you sit,
whatever seeds that you’re sowing,
I like the way this is going.

I don’t care about the past,
none of it was made to last,
it’s not what who you’ve known,
but who you’re knowing,

I like the way this is going
I like the way this is going.

 

 

 

 

1468 comments
abeeeewright
abeeeewright

I think Beej is going to be out on this appeal.

#GetOffMyDamnLawn 

DS1
DS1

Our hitters need to try to throw Cueto off his game.

Bo Graves!

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

• B.J. Upton recorded his 1,000th career hit on Saturday night with an infield single in the first against Reds starter Mike Leake.

Congrats BJ!

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

 Cueto's shutout of Pittsburgh on April 16. Cueto fanned a career-high 12 and also thoroughly impressed Red catcher Brayan Pena in the victory.

"He was mixing that cutter and was unbelievable," Pena said. "He was using both sides of the plate. He was throwing front-door cutters. He was throwing back-door cutters. It made his changeup and sinker even better. He's been pitching very good lately." - mlb.com

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Like to see a little Trevor Bell in this game. He of the 2 Games, .2 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO, 67.50 ERA..

noleee
noleee

gotta go, I got things to see and people to do. TTFN

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

What has me worried is Nolie's too generous 11-3 Reds call. 3 runs vs Johnny Cueto, the CG King! 

What do we want, the World?


CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Cueto worries me more than most.

My prediction is 2-0 Braves, but this thang could very well go to extras, 0-0.

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

"Dazed And Confused"


Been Dazed and Confused for so long it's not true.
Wanted a woman, never bargained for you.
Lots of people talkin', few of them know
Soul of a woman was created below.

You hurt and abuse tellin' all of your lies.
Run around sweet baby, Lord how you hypnotize.
Sweet little baby, I don't know where you've been.
Gonna love you baby, here I come again.

Every day I work so hard, bringin' home my hard earned pay
Try to love you baby, but you push me away.
Don't know where you're goin', only know just where you've been,
Sweet little baby, I want you again.

Been dazed and confused for so long, it's not true.
Wanted a woman, never bargained for you.
Take it easy baby, let them say what they will.
Will your tongue wag so much when I send you the bill?

noleee
noleee

Reds 11 Braves 3

JCBrave
JCBrave

"Nats lose Harper to DL."


YAY!

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

Speaking of Colorado, we just got our tickets for the Rockies series in Hot'lanta next month. 

I'm so excited! I can hardly wait!

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Bravos 2 Communists 0

Teheran, complete-game shutout, maybe flirting with No-No.

VeniceJim
VeniceJim

RJRinColo just started singing on my radio...

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

1.65 SP ERA and three to go for Glory! Next up, another one of our Staff Aces in Julio Teheran sporting a 1.80 ERA and opposed Cueto and his 1.38.

Looks like we got ourselves an old-fashioned duel today. 

Luman is at the game, lucky rascal.  :-)

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

Not that it matters but can someone explain why Mixxo posted Curtis Mayfield singing Freddies Dead???

DOB
DOB moderator

Today's Reds starter Cueto is coming off back-to-back CGs, allowing just 1 run and 6 hits in 18 innings of those wins, both vs. Pittsburgh

DS1
DS1

Ride the wave!

noleee
noleee

@RabbitMaranville1914  

you are right WW, I may have failed in my duty due to thoughtless prediction. 

if so mea culpa along with YWN culpa....

VeniceJim
VeniceJim

Well, on the radio station on my computer...

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@RabbitMaranville1914  

Unless this is the game that ends-up 9-8. lol

Though I'm actually going balls-to-wall with complete-game/shutout predict for Teheran.

noleee
noleee

@RabbitMaranville1914  

Mixxo logic is unexplainable.... and unsustainable

JCBrave
JCBrave

@noleee Celebrating the Nats weakened roster w/ him on DL. Not the injury.

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@VeniceJim  

Does it sound like everybody's high as a kite there? In the Col. radio station, that is.  :-)

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@YourWorstNightmare @RabbitMaranville1914  

There you go, Big Daddy!   :-)

Cueto's prolly shakin in his cleats.