Is CY In Our Rotation?
By Fred Owens
[kuhn-sis-tuhnt] constantly adhering to the same pattern, form; See Derek Lowe.
OK I added that last bit myself but in pitching terms it’s absolutely true. While some Braves fans are frequently frustrated with Lowe – probably because the size of his contract – he has been exactly as advertised in the years before coming to Atlanta. Make no mistake; Derek Lowe is a very good pitcher. Though not an ace, he is as dependable, durable and unflappable as they come. He loves the spotlight too, some of his biggest games have been post season appearances. A glance at his record since becoming a full time starter with Boston (after saving 66 as a closer over two seasons) confirms that.
What Lowe does for his team is take the ball every 5 days and give 6+ innings of mostly ground balls; 60% regular season 69% post season. After getting the junk that was floating around in his elbow out last year, his sinker returned to form and he rediscovered his slider. This combination gave opponents fits as he went 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA and a 1.017 WHIP during September and October. Pitching without pain and with the addition of that nasty slider and backed by our improved infield this year he should continue to be . . . well, Derek Lowe. I expect him to go at least 15-10.
Big Redheaded Machine? While his 10-11 record doesn’t reflect it, Tommy Hanson had a very good – at times superb – year in 2010. In 9 starts between July 3 and August 16th gave up 3 runs once, 2 runs twice and threw shutout ball twice. His ERA during that run was 1.71, his WHIP of 0.982 while striking out 47 and walking only 12. Those are Cy Young numbers. But the Braves didn’t score for him and he went only 1-3 in those games. So Hanson, more than any Brave, must be looking forward to a lineup featuring a healthy Prado, Heyward and Chipper backed up by the power of Uggla, McCann and the potential of Freeman. If we can score runs for him this year and the outfield defense play well Hanson could finish the year as a Cy Young candidate. I expect all of that to happen and our Big Red to finish the season 16-8.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Let ask Porter and crew to make Jair Jurrjens locker is fully stocked this year. Following his 13 wins in 08 and 14 in 09 JJ was on the verge of becoming the staff ace he’s cable of becoming. He started slowly in 2010 however, then missed May and most of June with hamstring issues. He seemed to find his stride after returning, going 10-3 in 13 starts with a respectable 3.33 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. He didn’t look like the same pitcher in his next two starts and eventually it was learned he had damaged the cartilage in his left knee. Jurrjens’ talent is unquestioned and he’s learned to pitch instead of throw. I expect a strong comeback year from JJ as he looks to make the move to permanent top of the rotation status. If that happens could easily finish 15-10 or better.
Number 5 is alive. At least I hope that’s the case. Our 5th starter really depends on spring training performance but I expect the left Mike Minor to get the nod of Beachy and assorted others. The reasons aren’t all that complicated; he’s left handed and he’s really very good. Whatever combination or starters fills the 5th spot we need at least .500 production there. Provided our big four get all their starts that would mean something like a 12-12 season. There’s not much to go on here. If Minor/Beachy/Martinez don’t step up we’ll struggle. Since 12-12 is what we need and I’m ever optimistic that the kids can do it, that’s what I’m predicting.
When you check my math you’ll see I’m got our starters with a record of 72-48. That is of course 20 short of the 92 wins I said we’ll need. I’ll talk about how we get those when I cover the bullpen next time.
Now about Cy Young; we have three candidates that could be in the mix when September Rolls around. Choosing now is like picking the Kentucky Derby winner on New Year’s Day; a shot in the dark. But since I have to choose or catch the devil for avoiding the question I’d say that if Hanson stays healthy, avoids slumps and pitches like he did in July and August last year – with some run support of course – he could very well dumbfound the experts and win it this year.