April 19, 2012 at 8:57 am by Ben Duronio under Player Analysis
In three starts Jair Jurrjens has a 8.10 ERA, 8.62 FIP, and a 0.89 K/BB rate. There are obviously issues with Jair right now, some of it being command and some if it being the actual stuff he has been throwing. He has not been able to locate pitches with any type of consistency, and his velocity is down across the board — even further down than it was last year.
His four-seam velocity over his five years in Atlanta: 91.8, 91.2, 91.3, 89.1, 88.3. His slider has seen a similar drop. While not all drops in velocity are huge negatives, there is a threshold where it makes a pitcher significantly less effective. The sacrifice Jurrjens made last year in his velocity improved his command, but this year he has struggled to throw strikes and command the ball with in the zone.
His home run per fly ball rate won’t be above 20 the whole season and his BABIP probably won’t be above .350, but there is reason to believe that he will not be nearly as effective as he was in his first four seasons in Atlanta. Maybe there is some mechanical issue he and Roger McDowell can work on and fix, but the days of a 3.48 ERA seem to be numbered, from what I can tell.
There is no sense in rehashing whether the Braves should have traded him last summer or this past winter. He is with the Braves now and he has been the biggest concern thus far. He currently has the lowest fWAR of any pitcher in baseball at -0.5. He has been significantly below replacement level so far, and that is true even when his home run rate is regressed as his xFIP is 6.05. If his ERA was through the roof and his peripherals suggested a regression to the mean, I would be less concerned.
I am not surprised with the performance, and I do not see it as injury related. Maybe it is, but there is nothing pointing to that. Losses in velocity come for many reasons, and trying to pinpoint that with the amount of information that any of us have is a silly attempt at guessing. There has been a consistent trend of downard velocity along with downward strikeout rates. He is a contact pitcher, but no contact pitcher will succeed with a strikeout rate under 12 with a walk rate above it.