It came down to the last day, but thanks to a Padres loss the Braves have earned a playoff spot. In the first round they’ll match up with the Giants, whose rotation we profiled on Friday.
1) Tim Hudson CHONE: 3.95 nERA, 3.76 FIP
2010: 2.8 WAR, 4.09 FIP, 3.87 xFIP, 3.89 tERA, 2.83 ERA
For Tim Hudson, 2010 was all about preventing hits on balls in play. His .250 BABIP was the lowest of his career by 11 points — and that previous low came in 2003. He combined this with the highest ground ball rate of his career, 64.1 percent, and the highest strand rate, 81.2 percent. With all that and a low line drive rate, it’s no wonder that he greatly outperformed his component ERAs.
The Braves schedule actually works out well for Hudson. As the Game 1 starter for the Wild Card team, Hudson would make at least one start in each series on the road. In the LDS he’d start Games 1 and 5 on the road. While away from Turner Field he has struck out fewer, walked more, and has given up more home runs. That has led to far worse results and component numbers. But, since he started on Sunday he’ll be out for Game 1, and could sit out Game 2 as well, given the performance of Tommy Hanson.
2) Tommy Hanson CHONE: 3.86 nERA, 3.55 FIP
2010: 4.4 WAR, 3.31 FIP, 4.04 xFIP, 3.23 tERA, 3.33 ERA
Hudson might have produced the best results on the season, but Tommy Hanson has been the Braves’ best pitcher in the second half. He hit a bump in the road during May and June, but since then has been on fire. He’ll likely start Game 2, but could just as easily lead off each series for the Braves.
If there is one concerning factor with Hanson it’s his strikeout rate. In the first half he struck out a batter per inning; in the second half he struck out just 69 in 100.1 innings. Yet his defense turned those additional balls in play into outs at an efficient clip, as evidenced by Hanson’s .233 second half BABIP. He has also avoided walking too many hitters and has kept the ball in the park.
At 24 years old, Hanson just might be the Braves’ best bet in the playoffs.
3) Derek Lowe CHONE: 4.27 nERA, 3.87 FIP
2010: 2.8 WAR, 3.89 FIP, 3.65 xFIP, 4.23 tERA, 4.00 ERA
He hasn’t been the Derek Lowe that the Braves signed after the 2008 season, but the 2010 version was a bit better than the 2009 one. Lowe actually came very close to his career marks in FIP and xFIP, and even his ERA was with in 0.15 of his career average. Compared to last year he struck out more, induced a few more ground balls, and left more runners stranded on base. The Braves might be disappointed, but overall his numbers fell in line with reasonable expectations — especially given his 2009 season.
While the Braves, especially on offense, stumbled through September, Lowe posted his best month of the season. He struck out 8.51 per nine, walked just 0.88 per nine, and allowed only a single home run. He compensated for a .335 BABIP by leaving a staggering 91.8 percent of runners stranded. He’ll need to continue riding that wave into October, and he’ll be the one to kick things off. He hasn’t started since September 29, and will likely be Bobby Cox’s Game 1 starter on Thursday.
4) Jair Jurrjens CHONE: 3.99 nERA, 3.79 FIP
2010: 1.3 WAR, 4.19 FIP, 4.47 xFIP, 4.28 tERA, 4.64 ERA
After two excellent seasons in Atlanta, Jurrjens experienced his worst in 2010. Much of that was due to injury. He got off to a terrible start, but then bounced back. But he has had problems lately, and hasn’t started a game since September 14. There was a chance he’d throw in the bullpen this weekend, but that didn’t happen. It sounds like he might make a Game 4 start, but there are no guarantees. I’m not sure how the Braves can be overly confident in him, given that this is his second leg issue of the year.
5) Brandon Beachy CHONE: N/A
2010: 0.5 WAR, 2.48 FIP, 3.93 xFIP, 3.66 tERA, 3.00 ERA
6) Mike Minor CHONE: 4.21 nERA, 3.94 FIP
2010: 0.6 WAR, 3.77 FIP, 3.86 xFIP, 3.64 tERA, 5.98 ERA
Given the situation, I would think the Braves turn to Lowe in a potential Game 4 before going to Hanson or Hudson in Game 5. If Jurrjens is ready maybe they go there, but I’m not so sure they’d turn to either rookie to start a playoff game.
Minor was the first one up, recalled when Kris Medlen went down with an elbow injury in early Augut. He performed well at first, but a few bad starts did him in. He hasn’t gone longer than five innings since August 22. There’s a chance he works out of the bullpen, though. He did get in a scoreless inning and a third of work on Friday.
Beachy, called up for a start on September 20, pitched well in his three outings, two of which came against Philadelphia. Still, there’s little chance they’d let him start in the postseason. He made it into the sixth inning just once. While his peripherals are good, he won’t keep up his homerless streak. That could bite the Braves in the playoffs. I wouldn’t count him out of the bullpen, but I doubt the Braves start him based on three September appearances.
Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.