Thoughts about Jurrjens’ encouraging return
Time will tell whether the Braves will truly be able to rely on Jair Jurrjens for the remainder of the season. But there is no doubt that he produced the most encouraging and surprising start of the season during last night’s 4-1 win over the Red Sox.
Asked for a prediction on Twitter before last night’s start, my first inclination was to say, “It could go either way, but don’t expect something like seven scoreless innings.”
Instead, I provided a more conservative approach by replying, ” If you see velo at 90-91, might be OK. At 88-89, might be a short night.”
Jurrjens was impressive when his fastball sat between 90-91 mph and occasionally hit 92 during the first three innings. Then when his fastball dipped to 88-89 during the remainder of the game, he further impressed with his ability to keep the Red Sox off balance by mixing a heavy dose of changeups with his fastball.
When it was time to wonder if he would falter after the fifth inning, he completed a perfect seven-pitch sixth and then a seven-pitch seventh. For the first time in more than a year, it was apparent that he had the strength necessary to pitch again.
After limiting the Red Sox to three hits (two recorded when he allowed his lone run in the eighth) over 7 2/3 innings, Jurrjens said there is still room to improve. While there are velocity readings that indicate this could be true, there is no doubt that he appears much better than he did before beginning a two-month stint with Triple-A Gwinnett.
According to BrooksBaseball.net, the average velocity of Jurrjens’ four-seam fastball last night was 88.99 mph. That average ranks third among those produced in his five starts this year. But he produced his top average (89.28 mph) while throwing just 50 pitches against the Dodgers on April 23, his final start before being demoted.
Jurrjens’ second-highest average was 89.06, produced while he threw just 81 pitches in his April 13 start against the Brewers. If possible to determine where his average velocity stood at the 50-pitch and 81-pitch marks of last night’s 103-pitch effort, this number would likely back up Brian McCann’s belief that the fastball had more life last night, especially when they were trying to pound left-handed hitters inside.
When Jurrjens was in Gwinnett, the Braves also wanted him to focus on putting some separation between the velocities of his fastball and changeup. Last night there was 6.2 mph difference between the average velocity of his fastball and changeup.
While it has often been said a pitcher should have 7-10 mph separation between their fastball and changeup, coaches and scouts will say it all depends on the arm action. So based on the results Jurrjens realized with his changeup last night, there is not any reason to focus on the difference in velocities last night.
NOTES: In the 15 games played dating back to June 5, Jason Heyward has batted .389 with a .421 on-base percentage and .778 slugging percentage. Arizona’s Aaron Hill (1.277) Toronto’s Jose Bautista (1.267) and Cincinnati’s Joey Votto are the only Major Leaguers with a better OPS than Heyward (1.199) during this stretch.
As the Braves attempt to win a fourth straight game on Saturday, they’ll be challenged by left-hander Franklin Morales who will be making his second start of the season. Right-handed hitters have batted .258 (17-for-66) against him and left-handers .190 (8-for-42). Looking to add a right-handed bat to his lineup, Fredi Gonzalez will use David Ross as his catcher and Brian McCann as his designated hitter.
Read about the seven-inning no-hitter Aaron Northcraft tossed for Class A Advanced Lynchburg last night.