Julio Teheran seems to be at a crossroads. Is he going to take his game to the next level as he enters his prime (he turned 25 just a few weeks ago), or is he going to level off as a solid 2nd or 3rd starter for the rest of his career? Let’s look at some key data from baseball-reference.com and the pitch data from BrooksBaseball.net. We’ll start with his traditional numbers.
Since be became a starter in 2013, his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) rating has been higher than his ERA, but that’s to be expected for a pitcher with a good defense (we miss you Andrelton!). His WHIP and ERA saw slight upticks, and so it will be interesting to see if he can shrug off the weak start to 2015 we experienced to put together a complete season of excellence. If that upticks causes concern, let’s dig deeper into the reasons why that ERA went up.
As you can see, in 2015 he gave up more home runs per 9 innings, walked significantly more, gave up more hits, and struck out about the same. 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings isn’t going to dominate the league, but giving up nearly 8 hits and 3 walks every 9 innings is not going to get it done. It will be interesting to see what his walk rates are in spring training, to see if he can get back below the 2.5 BB/9 level that he had in 2014.
Teheran seems to have settles into a career as a fastball/slider/sinker pitcher, without the overpowering fastball velocity he had a few years ago, but with a more effective slider. Here’s the usage % for each pitch:
He rarely throws his curve and change anymore, but that’s okay because they’re fairly terrible. His slider has become his 2nd most used pitch. How has his velocity changed?
Everything is down from year to year, with his fastball settling in at a modest 92 mph average. As you can see, the slider has replaced the changeup as his 10mph slower distraction from the fastball. Normally a velocity chart like this would be troubling on a 25 year-old until you consider two things. 1) He only started from 2013 on, so the numbers on the left are very limited time as a reliever. 2) Look to the results as we go forward in his career:
His change-up and curveball have the highest batting average against, but he doesn’t use them much. Meanwhile, his fastball has been better every year as a starter, and his slider is just creeping up to meet the fastball at about a .200 batting average.
What can we look for? I look for a slight bounce-back season for Teheran, with a sub-4 ERA and a better WHIP. If his BB/9 and H/9 continue to go in the wrong direction, the Braves may regret the contract extension they gave him through his age-29 season, but he should continue to be a serviceable starter in any case.