We ask again: What has happened to the Braves’ Julio Teheran?

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran works in the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, in Atlanta . (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Julio Teheran in his most recent start. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

There was a time when Julio Teheran becoming the first true No. 1 starter developed by the Atlanta Braves since Tom Glavine/John Smoltz seemed all but a fait accompli. (Greg Maddux arrived as a free agent, you’ll recall.) Today Teheran, who turned 25 in January, seems headed for what-went-wrong status, same as Mike Minor and the late Tommy Hanson.

Difference is, those two hurt their arms. So far as we know, Teheran’s arm is fine. He has just stopped being really good. There was a time when every Teheran turn held the promise of something special. In 2014, three of every four outings yielded a quality start. (At least six innings pitched with fewer than three earned runs.) In this season — and we stipulate that it’s still April — his one quality start in four came Opening Day.

Through four games, his ERA is 5.64. His FIP — stands for “fielding independent pitching,” which essentially measures how well a pitcher produces strikeouts and avoids home runs — is 4.91. His WHIP — walks/hits per inning — is 1.388. His strikeouts-to-walk ratio is 2.13. His average game score — that’s a Bill James concoction that measures dominance, or the lack thereof — is 44.

These were his numbers from 2014, his All-Star season: ERA of 2.89; FIP of 3.49; WHIP of 1.081; SO/W of 3.65 His average game score was 59.

We could write it off as just a bad April, except for this: All of Teheran’s numbers listed above were worse in 2015 than in 2014; all are worse today than last season.

And this above all: His velocity keeps dipping. When he broke into the majors in 2010, Teheran was throwing his four-seam fastball — he didn’t yet have the two-seamer he uses as a sinker — at 96.51 mph. Today his four-seamer, according to the incredibly useful Brooks Baseball, is being delivered at 90.45 mph.

Brooks Baseball’s sobering assessment of Teheran in 2016: “His four-seam fastball has slight arm-side run and has slightly below-average velo. His slider has below-average velo and has less than expected depth. His sinker is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ sinkers, has slight arm-side run and has slightly below-average velo. His change generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ changeups and results in somewhat more fly balls compared to other pitchers’ changeups.”

Here we note: This isn’t some fill-out-the-rotation journeyman. This is a 2014 All-Star, the Braves’ Opening Day starter in each of the past three seasons. This is someone who should be settling into his prime.

As mentioned in this space last season, Teheran’s failure to develop into a year-over-year ace is most troubling for an organization that has banked everything on the development of young pitching. Here’s a guy who seemed to have every pitch you’d want, and he has become just another guy. According to FanGraphs’ WAR, he was the 70th-best starting pitcher in baseball last year. That’s not progress. That’s regression.

Further reading (much of it about Fredi G.):

A drop and a bullpen flop put a stop to the Braves’ winning streak.

Progress! The Braves are giving us moments.

Fredi G. and the four-out save: It’s getting weird, folks.

Fredi is managing as if he wants to be fired.

At 0-7, the Fredi Gonzalez Watch is officially on.

A word to Braves fans: Don’t get discouraged.

Trust the process? The Braves absolutely do.

These Braves weren’t built to win. Good thing, seeing that they’re 0-5.

Reader Comments 0

18 comments
STL_Falcon
STL_Falcon

Mr. Bradley,


Just stop.  Just stop writing about these Braves. I know you need so many "posts," "views," and whatever else, but what is the point anymore?


You wrote a column on a failed attempt by an underachieving pitcher on the worst team in baseball.  I'm scared to know the answer, but is there really nothing else to read/write/think about in Atlanta sports?


This poor animal (the Braves) are dead and gone.  I enjoy your tone and style, but when I can guess everything you are going to say in a post (because really, what else were you going to say about Teheran) your talent is wasted.


Sincerely,

Anyone who ever enjoyed the Braves.

Brandon B. Bell
Brandon B. Bell

Every player on a major-league team thrives off of winning and the success that the other players are having. When we are not winning and none of the players are succeeding then it is harder to find the strength to be the best you can.

Shannon Gaffney
Shannon Gaffney

He's in love with stats. Too much bravado not enough brains. Thinks he can overpower everyone. Gives up 0-2 count hits way too much because he wants the K.

JFitzgerald Myers
JFitzgerald Myers

Nothing has become of him; he has always been average when it comes to pitches that matter.

Richard McGaha
Richard McGaha

He's starting to look like another Jair I hope/think he can still turn it around and become the pitcher the braves and fans think and hope he can be we need to get back to the smoltz glavine Maddux era and the team isn't as bad as I thought they would be hopefully mallex can put things together when he goes back down Freddie needs to get his life together But on the upside Garcia and Castro have been solid and our pitching staff has shown promise with wisler and chacin and some young guys in the pen

Wayne Blaxton
Wayne Blaxton

He's another Jair Jurrjens that can't handle adversity on the mound. At best, he's a 5th place starter on a decent team.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

Maybe it's time to concede that Roger McDowell is overrated (See Jurrgens, Hansen, et al).

RangeRover
RangeRover

@FineousMcDirtyBird

Nonsense!  McDowell is the only outstanding coach on this team.  The reason for the Jurrgens, Hanson and now Teheran failures is simple: All three lost 3-5 MPH off their fastballs in just 2-3 seasons.  3-5 MPH is the difference between a strikeout or opposite field foul ball versus hard line drives up the middle or pulled into the power alley.

I was at Hanson's first major league game at Turner Field win he was hitting 95-97 on the radar.  Just 2 years later he was toping out at 91.  Both Jurrjens and Tehran started out with 93-95 MHP fastballs and can now barely get over 88-89.  That's the issue, not coaching!

The_Shade
The_Shade

Okay, this is my totally unscientific opinion, unhampered by known facts.  I think Teheran and Freeman are suffering from the same thing.  Lack of hope.  Face it, this team is terrible now, and will be terrible again in 2017.  Hopefully not in 2018, but who knows?  The current management has not shown us any on-field results yet, so it's hard to have unwavering confidence.  I am absolutely NOT saying either player is dogging it.  I do not believe that for a minute.  But when you absolutely know deep down that there is no real hope for two or three years to come, it just has to take the edge off, particularly from high quality, top end players.  And when you lose that edge, even subconsciously, you stop being a high end player.  All the technical comments about arm slot and weight shift and bat speed and everything else, they all depend on the player really WANTING to make those changes, really staying focused.  It is hard to remain focused when the question that you keep asking yourself is, "What difference does it make?  By the time baseball is fun again, by the time the outcome matters, by the time we have a chance to play meaningful games in September, I'll be three years older, three years slower, three years of meaningless wear and tear."  Again, I do not think they are doing this on purpose.  But lack of hope can gut you like a fish.  Just my $0.02.  

JakeHumphrey91
JakeHumphrey91

@bengoodfella Both of them are now on Showalter's staff in Baltimore. And Wren wanted to hire him instead of Fredi.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@JakeHumphrey91 @bengoodfella

So again the blame falls back to Fredi, if Wren would have only been able to hire Buck not Fredi , Teheran would be a certified ace.Unfortunately MLB baseball is littered with pitching prospects who had one great season ,and never reached that level again. The Atlanta fans should never forget the years when Cox had 3 HOF starting pitchers in the same rotation,that may never happen again.

JakeHumphrey91
JakeHumphrey91

@bengoodfella Here's what I know as a fact, Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti had done things to "fix" Teheran and it worked.