What Has Gone Wrong with Julio Teheran this Season?

At the beginning of the season, we pondered whether Julio Teheran was going to be able to retain his number one starter status (he is a 2-time all star, after all), or would he regress to a 2nd or 3rd starter? As it turns out, it may have fallen even farther. Of the 70 pitchers who have pitched at least 109 innings (the number of games the Braves have played), Julio is ranked 59th in ERA. He has pitched like a 5th starter. Why has this happened?

First, let’s look at some of his stats per 9 innings.

All of these are “bad” stats (lower is better), except for the light blue “strikeouts per 9 innings” number. All of them have moved in the wrong direction, all of them the worst of Julio’s career since he became a full-time starter in 2013. We mentioned in the post at the beginning of the season his fastball velocity. Here are the numbers, according to his fangraphs page.

That’s not good.  It’s only a little under 2 mph difference, but a sub 92 mph fastball is a problem for many pitchers.  It means the batters have slightly more time, and there is that much less difference between his fastball and change-up.  He’s also serving up home runs at a crazy-high rate (he’s tied for 64th among those 70 pitchers with 109 innings pitched).

Given his loss in velocity and strikeout rate, he will have to start pitching to location to get more awkward swings to produce outs.  Since his walks and home runs are way up, that doesn’t seem to have happened.  At this point, he’s a 4th-5th starter, and will have to improve mightily to get back to his salary expectations.  His current WAR on Baseball-Reference is 0.0 on their version of WAR, and -0.5 on the Fangraphs version.  We’ll have to see if he can turn things around this season, but it doesn’t look good so far.

 

Season Preview – Julio Teheran

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.

TeheranAnnualPitchingStats

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.

TeheranPerNineStats

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:

TeheranUsageRates

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?

TeheranAnnualVelocity

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:

TeheranAvaerageAgainst

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.