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Braves Season in Review: Starting Pitchers

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This is going to be a little bit of good news and a lot of...well, less than good news

MLB: San Diego Padres at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

So...about the starting pitching for the Atlanta Braves in 2016...

...it wasn’t great.

However, that little pearl of wisdom is unlikely to satisfy both you fine readers as well as the powers that be (please don’t hit me, Kris). So first, let us go over how the starting rotation ranked against the rest of the league in 2016.

fWAR: 4.8 - 29th in the league

ERA: 4.87 - 28th in the league

BABIP against - .282 - 3rd in the league

BB/9 - 2.98 - 12th in the league

K/9 - 6.99 - 27th in the league

FIP - 4.71 - 26th in the league

Other than the BABIP against numbers (which can partially be attributed to having a couple fly ball pitchers on the staff and, in a not unrelated way, Ender Inciarte and Mallex Smith know how to play some defense), this is not exactly what you want to see from your staff, but that isn’t to say there were some high points.

Julio Teheran was far and away the Braves’ best pitcher in 2016, posting a 3.2 WAR and giving the Braves hope every 5th game even in the darkest times of the season when wins where extremely scarce. If you will notice, the entire rotation posted a WAR of 4.8 on the season so the good news beyond Teheran is pretty slim, but not nonexistent.

Mike Foltynewicz posted a 1.3 WAR in 22 starts and showed a lot of promise throughout the season, although he did mix a few starts in that were less than good and his issues with the long ball, while diminished, popped up from time to time. He will get a really solid look in 2017 in the rotation and could be a mainstay if he keeps the ball down, throws strikes, and can utilize his impressive stuff.

As for the rest of the rotation that finished the season with a positive WAR (8 pitchers total), three of them (Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, and Jhoulys Chacin) did not finish the season with the team, none of them finished with a WAR higher than 0.6, and only one of them made more than 11 starts on the season (Wisler). In short, of the 16 pitchers to make starts for the Braves in 2016, 10 of them finished with a positive fWAR.

As for those with a negative sign in front of them, none posted a worse fWAR than Tyrell Jenkins with -0.8. With just 8 starts, there are a couple of ways of looking at that number. First is that the sample size is so small that have a rough start to his career is indicative of nothing. The other is that with a FIP that is a full run worse than his ERA and other tough peripherals that have long been questions with Tyrell, that this may very well be who he is and may be best suited for the bullpen where his stuff could play up.

Aaron Blair was second worst of the team with -0.6 WAR in 15 starts. Blair had some rough outings to be sure, but after struggling with some mechanical issues and a minor knee injury finished the year with a strong start which will hopefully portend improvement in 2017.

In closing, 2016 was not a great year for most of the starting pitchers for the Atlanta Braves. While many showed glimpses and stretches of promise, really only Julio Teheran fits the bill as a pitcher that the Braves can send out with real confidence. Whether through development in the offseason, trade, or witchcraft, its clear that the Braves are right in that they will need to improve the starting rotation if they are going to have any chance of being competitive next season.