A few quick thoughts about Teheran, Bethancourt and Cunningham

The Braves knew they weren’t as good as their 6-1 start might have suggested.  Now they can only hope they are not as bad as their current 4-11 stretch might suggest.

Mike Foltynewicz’s presence will bring some added excitement to tonight’s game against the Reds.  Still, while Foltynewicz is certainly a better option than Trevor Cahill, but the Braves’ hope to get more value from their starting rotation will be more significantly influenced by how Julio Teheran and Alex Wood progress over the next few weeks.

The recent front-of-the-rotation-woes leads us into today’s thoughts:

1) Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell want Teheran to get back to relying on his fastball as consistently as he did the past two seasons.  Per Fangraphs.com, Teheran’s four-seam fastball has accounted for 32 percent of the pitches he has thrown this year, down from the 38.4 percent mark compiled last year.  His two-seam fastball has accounted for 25.8 percent of his pitches, up from 21.9 percent last year.

Overall Teheran has thrown a fastball (2-seamer and 4-seamer) with 57.8 percent of his pitches, down from 60.9 percent in 2014 and 63.8 percent in 2013.  The average velocity of his 4-seamer over the past three season is as follows: 91.1 mph (2015), 91.3 (2014), 92.1 (2015).

Given the small sample sizes provided to record this year’s percentages, there is not much reason to put a lot of stock in these numbers(especially velo) unless the trend continues into the warmer months.  But one number that must improve is Teheran’s 50.4 percent first-strike percentage, down from 60.3 percent in 2014 and 65.4 percent in 2015.

Of course if you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that Teheran produced a season-best 60.7 first-strike percentage when he allowed the Nationals seven runs (three earned) and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings on Tuesday.  And he threw a first-pitch strikes to Jose Lobaton and Denard Span before they surrendering home runs to them during his final two innings that night.

Teheran’s flyball percentage is down from 43.8 percent in 2014 to 34.1 percent this year.  This seems encouraging until you see that his home run/flyball percentage is up from 8.1 percent in 2014 to 21.4 percent this season.  A string of misfortune (influenced by an outing at Toronto’s homer dome) might be to blame for this spike.  But this is something to keep your eye on over the next few starts.

2) After last night’s game, I opined that Shelby Miller might not have surrendered back-to-back homers to begin the seventh inning had he not had to throw 29 pitches during a sixth inning that would have been cleaner had Christitan Bethancourt not dropped the knee-high fastball Miller snuck past Billy Hamilton to begin the frame.  The Braves love Bethancourt’s arm, but they have been discouraged by his glovework behind the plate.

Had John Buck not retired near the end of Spring Training,  I’m pretty certain the Braves would have already sent Bethancourt down to Triple-A Gwinnett.  But because there is not an attractive backup option within the system right now, Bethancourt will continue  serving in the backup role to A.J. Pierzynski, who I’m told has been a stern mentor to the young catcher.

3) Foltynewicz will fill the roster spot created when Chris Johnson was placed on the disabled list with a fractured left hand last night. But the Braves will need to promote a position player on Saturday.  Elmer Reyes is the most likely option if the Braves choose to call up an infielder.  But Kelly Johnson and Phil Gosselin are already present to serve as versatile backup infielders, the Braves seem more likely to promote Todd Cunningham, a sound defender who is capable of being an offensive upgrade over what Eric Young Jr.  and Cameron Maybin have provided in center field.

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