Braves’ Medlen: ‘Just trying to keep riding this wave’

PHILADELPHIA – His name keeps landing in sentences with the likes of Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Whitey Ford and Warren Spahn, and sometimes Braves pitcher  Kris Medlen pauses and thinks about the remarkable roll he’s on, the conspicuous stats, the legends he’s compared to. He doesn’t pause long, because there’s not much time for that now.

When he’s not running in the outfield before batting practice, working out in the clubhouse gym, throwing a side session or going over video or a scouting report, more and more of Medlen’s between-starts time is taken up by interviews. The witty Southern California native handles those as adroitly as he’s handled hitters, and that’s saying plenty.

The numbers are overwhelming: Medlen is 8-0 with a 0.76 ERA in 10 starts since moving from the bullpen to the Braves’ rotation July 31, and he’s posted a .195 opponents’ average with 72 strikeouts and nine walks in 70-2/3 innings in those games.

In his past seven starts, he’s 6-0 with a 0.50 ERA, two complete games, and 56 strikeouts with five walks in 54 innings.

And then there is this: The Braves have won 21 consecutive games started by Medlen, and they could tie a major-league record for the live-ball era (since 192o) with a win Tuesday, when he faces Miami to begin the last regular-season homestand of the Braves’ season and Chipper Jones’ career.

“I’m not worried about the last 10 starts I’ve had,” said Medlen, who pitched eight scoreless innings of four-hit ball against the Marlins on Wednesday, one of four times he’s pitched eight or nine scoreless innings in his past six starts. “They don’t matter anymore. I could go 0 for my next 10. Which would suck. But I realize there are ups and downs.

“I’m on an extreme up right now. It’s really cool. I just look at the numbers and go, what the hell is going on?”

Extreme up, indeed. Few pitchers ever experience such an “up” in their entire careers, much less before they’ve even had 30 major league starts. For all the storied history of Braves pitching, only one pitcher in franchise history has ever had a stretch of 10 games with at least eight wins and a sub-1.00 ERA – Warren Spahn, who went 10-0 with a 0.99 ERA over 10 starts during July through September 1961.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Medlen is the first major leaguer since earned runs became official in 1912 to have a 10-start span with at least eight wins, an ERA of 0.76 or lower, and an average of at least one strikeout per inning.

In the live-ball era, the record for most consecutive wins by a team in one pitcher’s starts is 22, done twice: by the Yankees with Whitey Ford during a span of 1950 and 1953 (he missed the two seasons between for military service), and by the Giants with Carl Hubbell in 1936-1937.

If the Braves win in his Tuesday start, they’re assured of at least a spot in the Oct. 5 Wild Card game. Milwaukee’s 12-2 loss to Washington on Monday left the Brewers tied with Los Angeles for third place in the wild-card standings and reduced the Braves’ magic number to 1 to clinch a postseason berth.

The wild card-leading Braves, nine games ahead of the Brewers and Dodgers with nine to play, need either one Atlanta win or one loss by each of the current third-place teams. As things stand now, the Braves would host St. Louis on Oct. 5.

Medlen has become a big story in baseball in a short time, and with the playoffs approaching, with national media outlets are scrambling to do stories on boyish right-hander. The New York Times planned to have a reporter at Tuesday’s game.

By now, every team surely knows what he features, but it hasn’t mattered. He doesn’t overpower hitters with high-90s heat, but carves them up with an array of fastballs (two- and four-seamers), curveballs and devastating change-ups, all of which he has been able to locate with precision in most of his starts.

“I’m not going to change my approach,” he said. “I pitch effectively to where you can be real aggressive against me or you can be really patient. If I’m around the zone and you’re patient, it helps me out. And if you’re aggressive and the pitch is down in the zone, it helps me too. I don’t know. I think it just comes down to me making some mistakes and guys making me pay for it. I hung a curveball to Bryce Harper and he absolutely smashed it.

“I just try to take it a pitch at a time. I’ve done that the past 10 starts.”

The Braves have won his past 21 starts, while Medlen is unbeaten in 26 starts, going back to his third major league game on May 31, 2009. He is 14-0 with a 2.67 ERA in his past 26 starts, and 14-2 with a 2.86 ERA in 28 career starts.

Medlen also has a 2.92 ERA in 90 career relief appearances, but it could be quite some time before he sees a bullpen role again.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez adjusted his starting rotation a few days ago in order to have Medlen lined up to pitch in the one-game Wild Card playoff Oct. 5 to determine which of two National League wild-card teams advances to a division series. Veteran Tim Hudson would be in line to start the division series opener two days later, should the Braves advance.

“For them to trust me with that game is huge,” said Medlen, who’ll turn 27 on Oct. 7. “I know it’s like a one-game thing, and I’m sure if I get into some trouble it’s going to be a shorter leash than usual. I don’t anticipate that. I’ve got two more starts before that, so I’m really just trying to keep riding this wave, and if and when it gets there, we’ll get there. I’m really not thinking too much about it yet, because it’ll just probably stress me out.”

It’s exceedingly rare for a major league pitcher to come up with anything close to Medlen’s numbers in his first 28 major league starts. Among recent iconic Braves pitchers, Maddux was 8-14 with a 5.39 ERA in his first 28 starts, and John Smoltz was 11-13 with a 3.41 ERA in his first 28. Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez was 12-11 with a 3.87 ERA in his first 28 starts.

However, those pitchers were starters right away, while Medlen spent much of his first three-plus seasons in the bullpen and had the advantage of knowing hitters better and making mistakes in the ‘pen before he became a full-time starter. For that reason, a couple of more appropriate comparisons might be Roy Halladay and Pedro Martinez, who each won multiple Cy Young Awards as starters after working at least some as relievers – in Martinez’s case, a lot — early in their careers.

Martinez was 13-8 with 3.39 ERA in his first 28 starts during the 1992 through 1995 seasons, with 65 relief appearances in that period. In those 28 starts, he allowed 136 hits and 64 earned runs in 170 innings, with 168 strikeouts and 54 walks.

Halladay was 9-10 with a 5.47 ERA in his first 28 starts in 1998-2000, with 19 relief appearances in that period. He allowed 186 hits and 97 earned runs in 159-2/3 innings in those 28 starts, with a whopping 83 walks  and 99 strikeouts.

Medlen has pitched 173 innings in 28 starts while allowing 152 hits and 36 walks with 153 strikeouts.

57 comments Add your comment

flange1

September 24th, 2012
6:19 pm

Great read, DOB, Thanks!

MELDOR

September 24th, 2012
6:24 pm

Keep on the good work medlen! Enjoy the ride/

lee maye

September 24th, 2012
6:27 pm

Let’s keep the Medlen ride going. 7 or 8 more starts would be good.

McCmann_AquaHoss

September 24th, 2012
6:28 pm

medlen for heisman

lee maye

September 24th, 2012
6:28 pm

Minor has also blossomed. Delgado probably would have if given the chance. Teheran on the way. Pitching future looks bright in Atlanta.

Kat

September 24th, 2012
6:29 pm

Thanks David, great piece of Medlen. One of his most endearing qualities is his humbleness and his humor. As Chipper leaves us hopefully Medlen will become one of those guys we can expect to be honest to the media and give great quotes and insight.

Peter

September 24th, 2012
6:35 pm

Write in Kris Medlen for President!

JNick

September 24th, 2012
7:10 pm

“Medlen has pitched 173 innings as a starter while allowing 132 hits and 36 walks in 153 innings.”

Ok…which is it, 173 innings, or 153 innings….? Editing fail.

AZBravoFan

September 24th, 2012
7:10 pm

Yeah, Medlen’s nice and all, but we should be starting Prado in the WC game. That dude can do anything…

Largo

September 24th, 2012
7:30 pm

If Medlen gets his butt kicked these last two starts, will he still start in the wild card playoff?

Chipper's Southern Bell

September 24th, 2012
8:02 pm

What Medlen has is confidence. He believes he can get out anyone

ChipperIsGod

September 24th, 2012
8:11 pm

I don’t think he’s phased by it George_George. He hasn’t been phased by anything since 2009. The guy is a one in a million pitcher with shut down, Maddux like (even more Maddux like than Maddux was at the moment) stuff that is unstoppable. I just hope he can keep it up. I’m sure he can.

I do not want him to lose at all, but I’d rather the streak come to an end during the season, than in the postseason. I don’t think the Mets, nor the Marlins have a shot at Kris. I don’t think anyone else does either. He’s made the Nats look like a bunch of little leaguers through two starts, and has just dominated everyone else. He did look somewhat human in that 11-3 win or whatever it was against the Mets, but he was still effective.

Ride the wave, Kris. Don’t worry about a thing and just keep riding the wave. Can’t wait to see him pitch in person on Sunday. Oh and to see the Braves and some guy named Larry who is supposed to be a big deal in these parts. ;)

space monkey

September 24th, 2012
8:11 pm

He’s smart. He has good stuff. He exploits the weaknesses of the batters. And he misses bats. What’s the mystery.

DaveinNEPA

September 24th, 2012
8:24 pm

Why even try to analyze Medlen’s streak. It’s ongoing…….let’s just ride it while we can. The kid has been absolutely amazing.

And DOB………..I also agree with the OP. The less attention paid to the streak, the less pressure there is on Medlen to keep it going.

bravesgrl4life

September 24th, 2012
8:43 pm

Hope you haven’t jinxed him, DOB.

smoltzie

September 24th, 2012
8:46 pm

I like FG, but just playing the devil’s advocate here. If Medlen has been in the starting rotation all year instead of Delgado/Tehran, we probably would have won the division. Just saying.

Dawgdad (The Original)

September 24th, 2012
8:55 pm

I sure hope when this streak ends, for Kris’ sake, it is his pitching that ends it, not some team need. For example, his second start, the team has locked up the First WC position and the game means nothing but Fredi wants to keep him on schedule, and lets him pitch only three innings, and the bp blows the game. That would stink!

Dawgdad (The Original)

September 24th, 2012
8:59 pm

Homer Hanson has a streak going to, hope it ends soon.

Cracker

September 24th, 2012
9:03 pm

You can’t teach speed, and you can’t teach control. (Well, you can teach mechanics, and that affects control. But you can’t fool around with mechanics too much without screwing a pitcher up completely. If you could, Hanson could be fixed.) Medlen has control. Could he lose it for a spell? Sure; that happens to the best of them. So, to answer one question asked above, if he gets beat up a couple of times, do you still start him? Yes. He also has the knack of confusing hitters. Warren Spahn had it exactly right when he said that hitting is timing, while pitching is upsetting that timing. That’s how Medlen can make good hitters look foolish and strike out so many people without a big fastball. Will hitters catch on? Sure, but it will be some of the punch-and-judy hitters, not the sluggers; and then Medlen will adjust. I see another injury as the only thing that could affect him long-term.

Wrecker

September 24th, 2012
9:09 pm

Medlen’s surgically repaired arm would not have survived the season. They were going to shut him down around 160 innings. At this point, he will hit that mark during the clinching WS game.

the truth...

September 24th, 2012
9:13 pm

Going to the game tomorrow night with seats betwee the dugout and the plate. I’m looking forward to seeing him close up……….hoping to see him make a little more history!

I agree on Delgado suceeding if he getsthe chance. I’m hoping we can move Homer Hanson by 2013 and bring Delgado into that slot…..

Cracker

September 24th, 2012
9:13 pm

You can’t teach speed, and you can’t teach much about control. Medlen has control. He also has the knack of confusing hitters. That’s why all the comparisons to Maddux. Spahn said that hitting is timing, and pitching is disrupting that timing; that’s another thing Medlen has figured out. All that, plus his changup, is why he makes good hitters look bad. (And all that is what Guillen meant when he said that Medlen pitched the [bleep] out of the ball. He sure wasn’t talking about a 97 mph fastball.) So, to answer a question posed earlier, if he gets hammered a time or two, yes, you do keep starting him. Everybody has off days; we saw one in his last start, and he still won. I see another injury as the only thing that could really affect him.

Cracker

September 24th, 2012
9:22 pm

@The truth
Agreed that Delgado has a good chance with some seasoning. He didn’t look any worse than Minor did in his 1st half, and look how he’s figured it out. And think what that could do to next year’s rotation: Medlen, Hudson, Minor, and Beachy (at some point). That’s a pretty impressive top four. Then Maholm, Delgado, and whoever might bloom in Spring training. We’ll need a 4 and a 5 until Beachy comes back, but there’s a good chance for a really good starting five.

David O'Brien

September 24th, 2012
9:44 pm

Hope you haven’t jinxed him, DOB.

we’ve been writing about the guy and his winning streak in detail before, during and after every start. jinxed him? JINXED HIM? So if he loses a game eventually, which he will, will that be because of a jinx? he’d otherwise go unbeaten forever?

jinx? seriously? this isn’t a no-hitter. this is a development on the team. if we ignored it, as if we’re fans trying to help “not jinx” it, we’d have our bosses to answer to for having national media outlets writing about a story we’re not even covering. because of a “jinx.”

oh, my.

Cracker

September 24th, 2012
9:59 pm

David, I sympathize. Too many posters fire off half-baked ideas on trivial subjects. So, now, you’ve jinxed Meds, and I’ve made lots of new enemies.

David O'Brien

September 24th, 2012
10:07 pm

Went back in and cleaned up the numbers at end of story, I had a couple of typos earlier on Halladay and Medlen totals.

Here are those paragraphs from end of story, corrected now:

Pedro Martinez was 13-8 with 3.39 ERA in his first 28 starts during the 1992 through 1995 seasons, with 65 relief appearances in that period. In those 28 starts, he allowed 136 hits and 64 earned runs in 170 innings, with 168 strikeouts and 54 walks.

Roy Halladay was 9-10 with a 5.47 ERA in his first 28 starts in 1998-2000, with 19 relief appearances in that period. He allowed 186 hits and 97 earned runs in 159-2/3 innings in those 28 starts, with a whopping 83 walks and 99 strikeouts.

Medlen has pitched 173 innings in 28 starts while allowing 152 hits and 36 walks with 153 strikeouts.

MattinAtl

September 24th, 2012
10:10 pm

dOB (you should TM that – nice look), you are a great asset to Braves fans. Daily, you do a superb job, then you pull one these – the jobs that will take you away from us.

Cracker

September 24th, 2012
10:18 pm

Isn’t it nice to be able to watch two historic seasons: Chipper’s and Medlen’s. And Hudson keeps doing what he does, Prado is the kind of ballplayer you’d want your kid to be, and Minor has figured it out. Then we have Heyward and Freeman. It’s a shame we might lose the chance to watch them much longer because of that stupid play-in game, in which anything can happen.

bruce

September 24th, 2012
10:33 pm

Kris Medlen is a FIERCE competitor.

bruce

September 24th, 2012
10:34 pm

Thanks Dave Great read

Heisenberg

September 24th, 2012
11:03 pm

“Roy Halladay and Pedro Martinez, who each won multiple Cy Young Awards as starters after working at least some as relievers”
***************

All the more reason that Delgado & Teheran should have been on the roster all year long. Rangers did this with Derek Holland. How has that turned out? Oh well too late for 2012 to lament about that. This just in, Medlen is good. This was quite the topic of debate earlier this year. I was and always have believed he was top of the rotation starter while many others thought he was bullpen or 4th/5th guy. This is not a fluke. All you who thought he was not starter material I say na-na-na-na-na boo-boo-boo you were wrong.

Largo

September 24th, 2012
11:20 pm

When you have a couple of hundred reporters continually stalking you and asking dumb questions like: “Would you rather win or lose” or “how many nohitters will you pitch before you retire” you can’t tell me the pressure doesn’t build…no matter how cool you appear to be.

Longarm

September 24th, 2012
11:33 pm

Medlin does what great pitchers do, he doesn’t fool around. He goes after the batter. He doesn’t try after two strikes to get the batter to swing at bad pitches. ie: Tommy Hanson

Longarm

September 24th, 2012
11:33 pm

Medlin does what great pitchers do, he doesn’t fool around. He goes after the batter. He doesn’t try after two strikes to get the batter to swing at bad pitches. ie: Tommy Hanson

Keith

September 25th, 2012
12:25 am

Not a better starter to CLINCH the playoff berth than the one named Kris!

Excellent opportunity.

Go BRAVES :)

Jim Edwards

September 25th, 2012
2:54 am

Don’t forget Medlin was brought up before Hanson, by a few weeks, due to his lights out starts AT&T Geinnett. I think that makes him arbitration eligible a year before Hanson.

[...] Braves’ Medlen: ‘Just trying to keep riding this wave’ [...]

longtimefan

September 25th, 2012
6:54 am

There is no such thing as “jinxing” someone or something by talking about them or it. How exactly does that work, scientifically speaking? Is that like getting 7 years of bad luck for breaking a mirror? Do some of you guys REALLY believe that nonsense?

Ted Striker

September 25th, 2012
8:01 am

Excellent column, DOB.

I hope I didn’t “jinx” your next one. (ha!)

Tommy Dew

September 25th, 2012
8:36 am

Why is Medlin not being considered for the Cy Young?

Don

September 25th, 2012
8:54 am

Peter – “Write in Medlen for President”.
For the first time in history – you don’t even have to look to see who the opposing candidate is – Anyone would be better than someone who is trying to destroy our nation.

Don

September 25th, 2012
8:55 am

If Fredi could just keep improving, perhaps Fredi might even consider putting him in the starting rotation at the beginning of the season next year.

Don

September 25th, 2012
8:56 am

Sorry, obviously meant to say if “Medlen” could keep improving.

Joey

September 25th, 2012
9:26 am

Good to see Huddy pitch “Medlen-like” Sunday.

If somebody had written that in April, the writer woulda got laughed off the Braves Blog.

Now days, Braves fans are probably nodding and saying, yeah, Huddy DID look Medlen-like . . .

Seriously, if Huddy has eliminated the on-bad-inning per start funk he as in, and if we can win the one game playoff, that will give us 3 starters who are on top of their games heading into the division series.

Andy

September 25th, 2012
9:27 am

Medlin was pitching well and fun to watch a couple of years ago before he messed up his arm. I don’t see anything different now — just glad he’s back!

Tumbledown

September 25th, 2012
9:29 am

Sorry if this has been asked and answered before. If the Braves and Cardinals tie, would the Braves get home field advantage given the head to head results? If so, would the magic number for home field essentially be three?

Quack Quack

September 25th, 2012
9:42 am

@longtimefan…No, but they (players) do. What pitcher had to jump over 1st base line, or brush teeth between innings? What ever works. Kris Medlen is smart. As stated by DOB (thanks!!) between starts he studies, videos, scouting reports, and is throwing the ball. He is smart, and he is having a blast playing ball. I think he doesn’t put too much pressure on himself. He is on the mound in the 8th inning dancing,singing, and smiling, having FUN. Yeah, enjoy the ride!

GO BRAVES!!!

DOB fan

September 25th, 2012
10:14 am

David, will you call Maddux and interview him about Medlen? That would be a great read. His take on Medlen and on thriving by outsmarting the hitters would be fascinating.

Ron H

September 25th, 2012
10:19 am

DOB fan, that would be a swell idea. Maddux is one of my fav players of all time. It is a little early to compare Medlen to Maddux, but it would be cool to see what Mad Dog had to say about this streak and how well Medlen has pitched.

[...] Braves’ Medlen: ‘Just trying to keep riding this wave’ [...]

southgabrave

September 25th, 2012
11:26 am

I ,am curious and I know it is premature, but what will the rotation look like next year? I know Medlen, Minor, Hudson, and I am assuming Maholm and Delgado, until Beachy comes back at the end of July. I anticipate a trade of Hanson and JJ is a non-tender.

I also believe with the trades and expiring contracts there is about 30.5 mil coming of the books. Then you have to decide wha to do about McCann and all the raises at arbitration. What is Hudsos contract for next year (his last yr?) Of course that is not counting any of the August additions to payroll. It is just those that counted as pre-trade deadline roster.

We will need to replace Bourn as he probably not be back. If Uggla is not traded, then we will need a CFer and a 3b. Fraancisco strikes out too much and has limited range. If Uggla is traded we will have about 45.5 mil in payroll available. We will then need a LFer, CFer and 3B as I am sure Prado goes to 2B. Reed Johnson, Cunningham and Durango are canidates for LF as well bench players. Thought?

Don

September 25th, 2012
11:37 am

Andy – “Medlen was pitching also pitching great a couple of years ago before he messed up his arm”
EXACTLY
Also remember how great both Hanson and JJ were before their first arm injuries – and Hudson before his arm injury.
Fortunately Medlen has come back – and Hudson to some degree – but not JJ and Hanson.
Wonder what kind of team the Braves would have had if Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine had injured their arms when they were YOUNG under LEO???

Chad Paronto

September 25th, 2012
12:41 pm

I heard he rides chill waves and craves only the boldest of flavors, you guys.

Tumbledown

September 25th, 2012
12:41 pm

When it comes to Medlen, it is just reporting the facts when referencing his incredible streak. There is no jinx no matter what happens in the next couple of weeks.

Going back in time (as I am frought to do), I remember after the Braves were up 2-0 in the 1996 World Series, an opinion piece was written in the AJC comparing the Braves to the great Yankees team of 1927 and basically declaring the series to be over. I got this knot in my stomach thinking about how the Yankees were reading that same article and taking note. John Smoltz even referred to opinion article in his book. While the article obviously had no tangible effect on the 1996 World Series, I just wish it had never been written.

Puma

September 25th, 2012
12:53 pm

SouthGa – I was also thinking about our rotation once Beachy gets back…very exciting to think how could it could be top to bottom. I know Huddy can’t go on forever, but by this time next year we could have Beachy, Meds and then Huddy as our top 3 pitchers, with Huddy being the #3 there. Pretty awesome! (that assumes Beachy comes back effective of course) Even the 4 & 5 spots are pretty good with a combo of Maholm, Hanson, Delgado or Tehran. (Although I think one of those is one in offseason)

[...] and there’s more coming. In case you missed it, here were DOB’s insights yesterday from his off day story, with some pretty priceless stuff from [...]

Carroll Rogers

September 25th, 2012
2:02 pm

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