January 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves, Pitching
I was under the impression that Jair Jurrjens would be traded from the moment the season ended last year — actually, probably even before that. He was starting to get expensive, the team has ample pitchers similar to him in quality, and the farm system could use a real boost in the position player department. Jurrjens or Tommy Hanson looked at least somewhat expendable, with Jurrjens being a bit more so due to his service time and lower upside.
In the end, it seems as though the Braves could either not get a deal that they felt was fair or had worries about Tim Hudson’s, and maybe even Hanson’s, health. With there being no sure bet on the roster to throw 200 innings, it does make sense that the Braves would want to keep Jurrjens around. The likely would have been willing to deal him even with a slightly injured staff, but his own injuries later in the year hurt his trade value. I expect him staying was a combination of both problems, with more weight being on the fact that Hudson’s age and back may lead to disabled list stints throughout 2012.
So now that Jurrjens is staying — it is easier to expect that given the innings incentives he has in his contract — how well will he produce? We looked at ZiPS projections a few weeks back, and noticed how similar they expected Jurrjens to be to Julio Teheran.
Jurrjens: 156 IP, 3.81 ERA, 11-8, 15 HR, 105 K, 51 BB, 103 ERA+
Teheran: 152 IP, 3.85 ERA, 11-9, 13 HR, 121 K, 58 BB, 102 ERA+
As you can see, ZiPS does not have much faith in Jurrjens performing to the same level as last season. The innings total is a product of injuries over the past three seasons, and most projection systems have Jurrjens at a similar number. Below are Jurrjens’ projections along with an average of the projections taken from a number different outlets.
The collective average seems relatively accurate to me. ZiPS is the most bearish of all the projections, and it is also the system I prefer most, while RotoChamp and Bill James are the most favorable toward Jurrjens.
The expectancy for him to throw 200 innings simply is not there, and that will hurt his overall value next season. Jurrjens has been worth an average of 4.4 rWAR in a 162 game season and 202 innings pitched. With his innings expected to be close to 160, an expected rWAR of 3.5 is more likely. In 152 innings last year, Jurrjens totaled 3.8 WAR. When adding eight more innings and expecting a higher ERA, a 3.5 WAR over 160 innings seems reasonable for Jurrjens’ talents.
The forecasts all expect there to be an ERA-FIP split, as has been somewhat common in Jurrjens’ career. I do not know that he has thrown enough innings to say for certain that he is the type of pitcher that will receive better results than his peripherals suggest, but his career ERA of 3.40 and career FIP of 3.88 provide an ample spread that projection systems will expect until it begins to close.
Although a spread is expected, as each system projects, none anticipate last year’s fifth best -1.03 ERA-FIP spread to repeat. So, even if you are of the opinion that Jurrjens is a pitcher that defensive independent pitching stats misjudge, projection systems believe that there was at least some luck in Jair’s favor last year. I can understand expecting Jurrjens to receive better results compared to his FIP, but expecting him to maintain a spread so wide makes much less sense. Simply put, he will have to pitch much better in 2012 if he wants to maintain results that resemble last year’s.
None of the systems expect that to occur. However, a 3.64 ERA is certainly useful. If Jurrjens is able to provide that type of production over 160 innings, that is certainly welcome. Depth will likely be the biggest asset for the Braves’ rotation this year. As I said, no starters are expected to throw 200 innings, with Mike Minor probably being the best bet to reach that mark, so a season similar to Jair’s rookie year — in which he pitched to a 3.68 ERA over 188 innings — will be fine.
While Jurrjens has no definitive plus quality in his arm and no pitch that sticks out, he has shown in his Atlanta tenure that he can be a quality pitcher when healthy. Maintaining his health will be vital for his overall value to the team, but as long as he performs well on the mound the Braves are in good shape to mimic his production if he is forced to the disabled list. The Braves lack the top tier arms that the Phillies and Angels have, but they make up for their lack of upside with extremely impressive depth and quality arms throughout the rotation and minor leagues. Jurrjens is just another pitcher who fits right into that group, not a star but a very useful pitcher in an very respectable rotation.