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.