There's something to be said about simply being able to come to work every day, which is exactly what Tim Hudson did for the Atlanta Braves in 2011, and he did it well. In a season where some integral starters were derailed by injury (Jurrjens, Hanson, Beachy), or ineffectiveness (Lowe), Huddy's ability to take the ball and go deep into games proved to be invaluable beyond the measure of just numbers and statistics - he gave Braves fans hope and confidence that a win was possible, every time he took the mound and toed the rubber.
But for the sake of analysis, Tim Hudson made 33 starts, pitching a team-best 215.0 innings in the process, with an ERA of 3.22. His record was 16-10, with the Braves going 18-15 in his starts. Being a groundball pitcher, some of his peripheral stats aren't dazzling, but Huddy did great limiting his walks (2.34 BB/9, 1st), walks and hits (1.14 WHIP, 1st), keeping the ball in the yard (0.59 HR/9, 1st), and induced groundballs to the tune of 56.7%, with 24 GIDPs (1st, 5th in NL).
Brandon Beachy had an outstanding rookie campaign, fanning 169 batters to the tune of an elite 10.74 K/9, and excellent 3.67 K/BB (15th, MLB), despite missing some starts due to an oblique strain. Before the All-Star Break, there were few pitchers better than Jair Jurrjens, but he too eventually succumbed to injuries. And the injury bug plagued Tommy Hanson, as well who was quietly putting together an excellent season in his own right.
Huddy's durability, efficiency and positive results are a testament to his importance to the Atlanta Braves, and for all these reasons, quantifiable or not, is why Tim Hudson is our Most Valuable Starting Pitcher.
Now I know what a lot of you are thinking right this moment: WHY NOT CRAIG KIMBREL??? By no means are we trying to discount the least bit of Craig's probable Rookie of the Year season as the Braves' full-time closer, and MLB's new rookie record holder for saves (46). The 127 strikeouts and the 14.84 K/9 are pure insanity, as were the 1.52 FIP, 1.04 WHIP, and 1.47 SIERA. If there was ever anything that prevented Craig Kimbrel from being our Relief MVP, it's simply his role. It's not his fault he was reserved for strictly save situations or ninth innings at home, and that he rarely pitched with inherited runners, it's simply how he was used.
Jonny Venters on the other hand, wasn't exclusively the eighth inning guy, he was also the "oh sh*t we got trouble on the bases" guy. As close as to a true fireman we're really going to see these days. Several times throughout the year, Venters was brought in to neutralize threats in the seventh inning, and/or pitch multiple innings. Often times, it would be against elite lefty-hitters such as Prince Fielder or Ryan Howard.
Venters' numbers may not be as obscenely gaudy as Kimbrel's, but a 9.82 K/9, 96 strikeouts, 2.78 FIP, 1.09 WHIP, and 2.41 SIERA are pretty darn spectacular, too. His 96 mph lefty-sinker was also adept at generating 11 often-crucial double plays, more than any starter not named Tim Hudson or Derek Lowe. Jonny was also way more economical than Kimbrel was, throwing a total of 1,323 pitches in 88.0 innings, just nine more than Kimbrel, but in eleven more innings.
WPA is the biggest reasoning for Jonny Venters taking the award, since it's a statistic fittingly appropriate for the nature of relief pitching, because it takes into account the leverage and impact of all events; in other words it's a stat that gives a tangible number for just how much a player impacts games. So with that in mind:
Jonny Venters: +4.645 WPA (2nd in NL, 3rd in MLB)
Eric O'Flaherty: +2.825 WPA
Craig Kimbrel: +1.909 WPA
Basically, it says that Jonny Venters dealt with higher leverage situations and handled tougher batters. But more importantly, it says that Jonny Venters is freaking awesome, and is our Relief MVP.
There's not much to say here. There's something to be said about simply being able to come to work every day, sure, but if you're not going to do it well, then you may as well not come. 34 starts in which the Braves went 15-18 (10-8 pre-ASB, 5-11 after), and Lowe was hung with a 9-17 record with an unsightly 5.05 ERA. For the third straight year, his innings total went down, mostly due to ineffectiveness. Hits went up, earned runs up, walks up, FIP up, WHIP career-worst, SIERA up, name the stat, it was probably worse than it was in prior years.
In three years, Lowe's contract has paid him roughly $45 million, the highest paid player on the team, but in terms of win shares and WAR, Derek Lowe's 2.5 WAR in 2011 is right on par with his 2.6 and 2.7 in the first two years of his deal, the dollar conversion says Lowe's earned just $34.1M of what he's been paid. The counting nature of WAR hardly tells the whole story, especially the part where there's still one year left, and most of Braves Country can hardly wait until it's up.
If I may be frank for just a second here, but... How much do you have to suck, for the majority of TC's crew to vote you as the worst reliever
in the world in baseball on the Braves, despite having only pitched just 31 times between May and August?
Initially, I voted Scott Linebrink, but it was brought up that Scott Proctor simply did more damage to the team in 29.1 innings than Linebrink did in 54.1 innings, and that was very much quite true. Proctor was pretty much the human equivalent of a white flag, or for the opposition, a victory cigar, because whenever he appeared in a game for the Braves, it pretty much meant defeat, to the tune of a 12-19 record, with Proctor himself taking the loss in three of them, and blowing two saves in the process.
In roughly 54% of the innings it took Scott Linebrink to notch a 3.64 ERA, allow 22 earned runs, six homers, walk 21 batters, throw up a 4.30 FIP, 1.45 WHIP and 3.73 SIERA, Proctor pretty much blew him away with a 6.44 ERA, allow 21 earned runs, five homers, walk 19, and hemorrhage a 6.06 FIP, 1.70 WHIP and 5.30 SIERA.
But let's not crucify Proctor too much - let's all be thankful for post-Braves, once-again-a-Yankee Scott for serving up the gopher ball to Evan Longoria that he hit out of the park to secure the Rays' playoff berth, and allow the Red Sox to take all of the attention of the Braves' own stumble with their own meltdown. Thanks, Scott Proctor!