Teheran’s struggles point to a greater Braves issue

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran delivers to the Boston Red Sox in the first inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran delivers to the Boston Red Sox in the first inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Julio Teheran used to be great. What the heck happened? (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Another splendid young Atlanta Braves pitcher is looking rather less splendid. Julio Teheran’s ERA has surged to 5.07. Over his first two full big-league seasons, his ERA was 3.03. In 63 starts in 2013 and 2014, he had two games in which he yielded six or more earned runs; in his past eight starts, he has yielded six-plus earned runs three times.

Fredi Gonzalez told reporters after Tuesday’s loss in Boston that Teheran isn’t injured, that his velocity is fine. (It’s actually down from 2013, but it has ticked up in recent games.) That can only mean the issue is mechanics, and that falls to Roger McDowell to correct.

Here’s the thing, though: For as much credit as this pitching coach has received for building consistently excellent staffs — this year being an exception — McDowell isn’t known as a mechanical engineer, if you will. He’s the best in the business at identifying hitters’ weaknesses; he’s seen as less skilled with delivery issues.

He would also appear to be better with seasoned pitchers than with young ones. Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson rose to All-Star status (or nearly All-Star status) under McDowell; within two years, they were gone from the organization. Neither has thrown a big-league pitch for any team this season. Jurrjens is with Colorado’s Class AAA affiliate; Hanson signed with the Giants as a minor-league free agent last month. Neither has turned 30.

Now something similar seems to be happening with Teheran. He was an All-Star last season at 23. Today he’s pitching himself out of a rotation he was supposed to anchor. The under-new-management Braves have bet everything on the care and feeding of young pitching. Under McDowell, who has been in place since 2006, this organization has yet to take a promising pitcher and render him a year-upon-year ace.

Reader Comments 0

72 comments
Redfin
Redfin

.......Just a thought, but could be beneficial if Smoltz and Mazone came in for a few guest sessions of "Head and Mechanical" adjustments.

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

Funny how Fredi can toss Julio to the wolves but wont do the same with his bullpen.

Stingshuh?
Stingshuh?

As Freddie Mercury said........."Under pressure"

BobbyDawg
BobbyDawg

I don't blame any of Teheran's shortcomings on McDowell. It's a known fact that those who work the hardest to keep their game sharp are the best athletes.

Pocaroba
Pocaroba

It is a concern that this organization can't seem to get it's big time prospects over the hump. Hanson, Jurjens, even Heyward were huge names coming out of minor leagues. Other than one or two years of good play not one of them shined like expected. Now we have Bethancourt looking to possibly repeat this trend. Maybe there is something wrong with player development. 

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

Oh wait...what else happened? Oh, thats right, he got a fat contract. Time for Easy St, baby. The Losersville M.O.

patriotdog
patriotdog

Re read the article. Typical Bradley.

Jurjens and Hanson are this generations' Pete Smith and Steve Avery. Good, really good, then gone. It happens.

patriotdog
patriotdog

It's always been interesting watching Fredi manage his staff. Maybe Roger Mc manages the staff. Either way, it's

funny how they baby the starters, 100 pitch limit deep into the season for a guy that's three or four years into his career. Then they find a reliever that does a good job, O'Flaherty, Venters, etc....and pitch them four or five times a week. I know you play a hot hand, but not at the expense of grinding the hot hand into hamburger.

Can't argue with R Mcs success, but sure can argue with the number of TJ surgeries on his watch.

patriotdog
patriotdog

bases loaded, 3-1 count two out and Ciriaco swings? I know, they're leading and Ciriaco has a three hit night, but

the Sox pitcher had already walked in a run. Think, man!

MackJones66
MackJones66

Bring back Leo. No, I'm not kidding.

ShootinTheHooch
ShootinTheHooch

When Tehran is going good, he's tough, but when things head south, he doesn't seem to limit the damage. Makes me think his problem is between the ears much like a young John Smoltz. I see a similar fire in Tehran that Smoltz had. The Braves had to employ a sports psychologist to get Smoltzie's head right.


In '91, Smoltz was 2-11 at the break when he started seeing Dr. Jack Llewellyn. There was nothing wrong physically nor mechanically. After the break and some head help, he went 12-2 with two wins in the NCS and a 1.26 ERA in the Series.


Sometimes, when pitchers have problems, it may not be physical nor mechanical. Smotzie's HOF career proved that! As Yogi once said, "Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical."

GWJ0525
GWJ0525

I am not ready to give up on Teheran yet. Yes he is in a bad patch right now, but lets see if he can work his way out of it, and if he does it will likely make the rest of his career much better. I have seen pitchers that have gone through similar bad stretches, although some never seem to come out. Lets hope Tehran can before we give up on him.

GT71
GT71

Total BS column.

Tehran was never a 1st class pitcher and with his head, wont be.


A paid writer must sling words out, but really....


Of course, this is the AJC - bottoms of barrels: editorials, news coverage, sports.  And we should not forget - the WORST media internet site to be found.

monty1
monty1

The whole McDowell blame is crap.

bpersfirst
bpersfirst

I agree -- Bradley is on his newest witch hunt. Hoe is McDowell responsible for knee and shoulder injuries to pitchers. We all want better sports teams, but Bradley uses his column to choose his own personal scapegoats.

monty1
monty1

Must not of heard FG comments after the game. Can't pitch down the middle. What the Braves pitchers seem to lack is control. We got to see 2 of the best ever with control pitch and we got spoiled. Glavine and Maddux. Tehran is out of sync with his mechanics a bit, like when a hitter's timing gets off. You go thru spells. It's a long season and the trick is to recover for a period of time before you have another spell and in the end, if you're worth a toot, your baseball card will look pretty good when  the season is over.  But getting back to control Leo Mazzone makes it simple. Control your fastball and control the outside corner knee high. Hard to get hit hard consistently if you're doing that.

58Supersports
58Supersports

Agree Mark, Super good report.  You forgot to say all the Tommy John surgeries under McDowell watch . 


TEB1
TEB1

@58Supersports Right on cue, someone blames the arm problems on McDowell...Amazing!! I would like to know how a pitching coach causes arm problems?

SeanLB
SeanLB

The problem here is that there hasn't BEEN a year-upon-year ace type talent during McDowell's tenure to develop.


He's done a fine job.  Shelby Miller is the best pitching prospect we've had here (starting pitcher) in quite some time.  And so far, he's pitching like one.  Let's see how that goes before trying to blame a lack of true ace talent on a pitching coach that has consistently produced solid arms for a franchise that hasn't had a consistent offense in years.  C'mon Bradley...

TEB1
TEB1

You can always tell who Bradley likes or in this case dislikes. Quite a stretch to blame this on McDowell and his supposedly lack of knowledge on mechanics.And, it would stand to reason that if Hanson & Jurjjens achieved success under McDowell, and have never returned to that kind of success, them maybe McDowell knows what the hell he's doing. Next thing you know McDowell will be blamed for all the arm problems in the organization..

khd713
khd713

Unbelievable that Bradley tries to blame McDowell for the later failings of two pitchers, Hanson and Jurrjens, who both did very well while in Atlanta under his tutelage (Hanson had his ups and downs, but Jurrjens was excellent). Both of them got hurt and were shipped out. Duh! Why do sports writers and commentators just completely overlook the impact of injuries? 


I heard a guy on the radio the other day talking about Sam Baker, and he said, "The best part about this is that the Falcons' brass and Dimitroff have had to publicly admit that they were WRONG about Sam Baker!" Uh, no they were not wrong. When he was healthy, Baker was an excellent left tackle (that they tried to force into a right tackle), and the Falcons won 13 games in both seasons when he was healthy. You can't say whether a draft pick is going to blow out his knee. You can't know that ahead of time. It doesn't make Dimitroff and the Falcons brass wrong for drafting him, just like it's not McDowell's fault that Hanson and Jurrjens couldn't pitch anymore after they got hurt. 


The bottom line here is that Teheran is hurt and as far as we know it's not McDowell's fault. Velocity doesn't tell you everything. Maybe he'll get better; more likely he'll need surgery. 

khd713
khd713

@ImaNitwit @khd713 I'm just guessing, based on vast experience coaching and watching pitchers over the years. Ironically, Hanson was the same way. Everyone spent two years wondering what was wrong with him. At first his velocity was down. Then it wasn't. Then he finally went in for surgery. Happens all the time, over and over, and the same will be true for Teheran. I'd be willing to put a C-note on it. Pitchers don't just forget how to pitch, and if they've got good stuff then they will continue to get guys out. When they start getting rocked every time out, then something is wrong, and it's almost always an elbow or a shoulder.

BravesFanForever
BravesFanForever

@khd713 @ImaNitwit Agreed. I think this is more of a physical problem. It's one thing to have a few poor outings but it's a whole other thing for a supposed good pitcher to suddenly lose velocity and control through 1/3 of the season (of course loss in velocity can cause control issues since it can cause a pitcher to nibble). Could be an undetected tear in a muscle or perhaps one in a ligament that is just enough to cause a drop in a couple of mph and that my friends can be the difference between an average pitcher and a good one. Most pitchers really have to be at the top of their game all the time. If they lose even a bit it could mean the difference between being in the rotation and getting booted.

midwaycva41
midwaycva41

I have noticed what seems to be a lot more arm injuries since Leo left than occurred while he was with the team.

khd713
khd713

@midwaycva41 There are a lot more now in general because pitchers today throw a lot harder than they used to. Leo's philosophy is throw more often with less exertion, and overall it worked, but it wasn't perfect (see Avery, Smoltz, Wohlers, Ligtenberg, et. al.). Today, pitchers throw much harder, and because they are pampered by the organizations paying them millions, they pitch less often between starts. That's a recipe for injury.

Digitalsapien
Digitalsapien

@khd713 @midwaycva41 News flash - pitchers today don't throw "a lot harder". That is a complete and utter fabrication. Also, the effects of year-long youth leagues that are ever-gaining in popularity is well chronicled. Essentially, you have 22 year old pitchers that have 30 year old arms trying to carry the workload of 22 year old pitchers. Thus, by the time they hit 26 or 28 years old, the arm is ready for TJ. This effect is well chronicled, so don't come on here spouting off your ignorant conjecture. Thanks.

BravesFanForever
BravesFanForever

@Mike @khd713 @midwaycva41 It was only the greatest pitchers who threw really hard consistently throughout a game. Now the emphasis is for nearly every pitcher to throw like a reliever. Throw hard, go as long as you can, and let the bullpen take over. It used to be that pitchers would pace themselves because they knew they had to make it to the 7th or 8th inning at least or perhaps even go all 9 if you go back in history far enough. Complete games were common. How many complete games do you see nowadays? Clearly there *** IS *** an emphasis on hard fastballs. It is really undeniable. There are FAR MORE pitchers today who throw very hard compared to the 70s or 80s. There were way more Charlie Liebrandt and Rick Mahler pitchers way back when who relied on control, guile, and guts. Look at it this way... If you as a pitcher knew that you were going to be pulled midway through the game, wouldn't you throw a bit harder ? It may be the difference between preserving your arm and blowing it out.

DamonH
DamonH

time to Kimbrel him while he's still got SOME value ... the worse he gets, the worse the return becomes

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

Teheran got paid and now can't be fixed. Another Frank Wren gem

Beau1500
Beau1500

Since when do we believe anything that comes out of FG's mouth?  Says here Teheran is hurt.

flange1
flange1

EEEHHH,


Tommy Hanson injured his shoulder and was never the same. McDowell had nothing to do with that, his mechanics are/were/always have been bizarre at best.


JJJ had knee and foot trouble that diminished his ability to keep his velocity up. Again, those were his mechanics before and are still the same.


While it looks to me like JT's arm slot is lower than it was last year, his pitches seem to me to be flatter and batters are teeing off on them.


Changing mechanics for a pitcher is a very tough thing to accomplish and some CAN'T ever make the change and still be effective.


Not sure that McDowell deserves heat for any of hess 3 pitchers.

Beau1500
Beau1500

@flange1 His arm slot is very noticeably lower this year which indicates to me that it hurts to throw the ball from the proper angle.

redweather
redweather

You might be right about McDowell.  


However, I like A. J. and the wealth of veteran experience he brings, but hasn't most of his catching and game calling been done in the American League?  Another thing to consider is that most power arms take a few years to find their groove, usually because of their location and control.  Teheran looks like he's trying to rely less on heat than he has in the past.  That might be because his knee hurts, and then it might be because he's been told that he needs to expand his repetoire.  

i'm swiss
i'm swiss

 "Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson rose to All-Star status (or nearly All-Star status) under McDowell; within two years, they were gone from the organization. Neither has thrown a big-league pitch for any team this season."


How is this ^ an indictment of McDowell, since apparently no one else has been able to get these guys back on track, either?

NormanWhite
NormanWhite

I don't know, maybe they should get the number of the shrink that Smoltz had to go see...or did all you folks forget about that? 

TomGaff
TomGaff

Look Teheran got screwed on Boston's high school field. 315 ft down LF to the wall is ridiculous for a MLB stadium? The 1st hitter off the LF wall was an easy out in any other park. Thought he did well until later in the game. I think he is just going thru one of those "bad luck" type things!

ImaNitwit
ImaNitwit

@TomGaff  Gotta agree with ya. If not for bad luck and some bad calls, Tehran would be a 10 game winner.

Dan'stheman
Dan'stheman

Why Don't they bring in a different guy to work on mechanics with the pitchers, but keep Mcdowell and use him to find hitters weaknesses and to give the pitchers a way to approach teams?  They do this with hitting coaches, why not with pitching coaches.

Beau1500
Beau1500

@Dan'stheman That answer is much too simple and common sense.  I seriously doubt if there is a scarcity in pitching coaches.


BravesFanForever
BravesFanForever

@Dan'stheman I agree. The team does have a large number of coaches but you get the feeling that they tend to rely on one man's opinion in running the staff. It would be good to have more coaches on somewhat the same level to work on different things. Pitch selection / identifying hitters weaknesses vs mechanics does seem like two very different "departments". Obviously they would all work together and share opinions to create a better pitcher.

Birdhair
Birdhair

What is this article supposed to mean? Braves need to fire Roger McDowell because one young pitcher is struggling? You condemn McDowell over one player when your boy clown (wren) blew hundreds of millions of dollars on garbage players and you still back him today? The problem with Teheran is that he does need some personal attention from a pitching guy like Dom chiti whom your boy clown ran off.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Hmmm, I'm not really buying into the McDowell thing. It doesn't take a genius to watch tape and he wouldn't be where he is if he didn't understand pitching mechanics.


I'm also not buying the reports nothing physical is wrong with Teheran. He has not been the same since he tweaked his knee. Line up the before and after tapes and let's have a look.

slydawg
slydawg

I think the point is, Mcdowell may not be a "teaching basics and fundamentals" type of coach. One analogy is great players who almost never become great coaches because they believe anyone can do "this or that" with hard work. Could you imagine Phil Jackson or Pat Riley coaching the Charlotte Hornets as opposed to the Golden State Warriors? Larry Brown would be effective with either any team.