His team’s hitting, but Jurrjens isn’t pitching – and he knows it

Jair Jurrjens works to David Wright on Wednesday. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

Jair Jurrjens delivers to David Wright on Wednesday. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

If it’s not one thing, it’s another. There can be no baseball without worry. As the Braves finished a splendid homestand, we offer two findings:

1. The offense, for a change, looks really good.

2. Jair Jurrjens does not.

In taking five of six from the Brewers and Mets, the Braves broke double figures twice. They managed 10-plus runs only six times last season, never after Aug. 12. The influence of new hitting coaches Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher already is apparent. Even when Freddie Freeman couldn’t buy a hit, he was (baseball phrase) grinding out good at-bats, and the culmination came Tuesday night — an 11-pitch AB that yielded an RBI double.

Freeman had two more extra-base hits Wednesday afternoon — a double to right and a homer to left — plus a sacrifice fly. Not to get all Zen on you, but this grinding stuff works. If the Braves keep at it, they’ll hit enough to be a playoff team. Provided they pitch well enough, which might no longer be a given and which brings us to Jurrjens.

The 2011 All-Star has started three games in 2012, and only once has he made it through five innings. Opponents are hitting .362 against him. His ERA is 8.10. He has more walks (nine) than strikeouts (eight). He has yielded five home runs.

On Wednesday he needed 70 pitches over the first three innings. Three batters in the fifth, he was gone. He already had given back one lead and was in danger of surrendering another when manager Fredi Gonzalez pulled him. This meant Jurrjens couldn’t be the winning pitcher on a day his team would score 14 runs. Not a great feeling, eh?

Said Jurrjens: “What do you think?”

Then: “If I had an answer, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I’m trying to find a feel, a release, a confidence. Nothing is going my way right now.”

Yes, it’s early, but seeing Jurrjens look like the world’s most accomplished batting-practice pitcher isn’t a comforting sight. He’s the key man in this rotation. Tommy Hanson looks fine, and there’s no reason to believe Tim Hudson won’t be Tim Hudson when he returns from back rehab. Still, Jurrjens figured to be at worst the Braves’ No. 2 starter, and there’s no real fallback if he fails.

He offered no excuses Wednesday. He’s healthy again: “I feel good. I just don’t see any results.” Gonzalez suggested the rain might have had an effect, but Jurrjens brushed that gift horse aside. “Even if it bothered me, I need to make adjustments. I’m letting my team down right now. I’m overworking the bullpen. I’m not eating innings.”

The Braves have overridden his past two starts by scoring 24 runs. Here Jurrjens smiled, the only one offered by this famously sunny soul in his postgame briefing. “I don’t think I’m going to be able to complain about run support this year.”

The weird part Wednesday was that Jurrjens looked pretty good when he wasn’t looking awful. He went 1-2-3 in the first and fourth innings, but the Mets generated three base runners off him in the second, five in the third and three in the fifth. “I have it one inning, then I don’t have it,” Jurrjens said. “I have it and I lose it.”

Then, with only the slightest prompting, Jurrjens broached a subject of some external debate — his fastball. There are those who believe that because Jurrjens doesn’t throw 98 mph he cannot be considered a real ace. (Braves fans, having seen the Hall of Fame work of Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, should know better.) But after Wednesday’s struggles this craftsman sounded as if he’d begun to doubt his tools.

“A lot of people get on me about how fast I’m throwing,” Jurrjens said. “I need to go back to pitching. But [velocity] is a hot topic every time I pitch. Everyone wants to see how fast I’m throwing, and that gets in your mind.”

Nobody cared how fast Jurrjens did or didn’t throw the first half of last season. He was 12-3 with an ERA of 1.87 at the All-Star break, which makes you a big-time pitcher in any league. But he hurt his knee in August and didn’t pitch in September, and he wasn’t impressive in spring training.

After Friday’s start, Jurrjens felt encouraged. He’d thrown mostly OK, he thought, but was hurt by back-to-back Brewers homers. On Wednesday he could take no such solace. He was bad and he knew it. Deep down he must know that he will never throw as hard as Justin Verlander, but someone who won 50 big-league games by his 26th birthday should also know the radar gun can be wildly overrated.

On a dark Wednesday afternoon, Jurrjens himself pointed to the only way out: He has to go back to pitching. If he does, he’ll be fine. If he doesn’t, his team won’t be.

By Mark Bradley

118 comments Add your comment

david

April 18th, 2012
5:12 pm

first? jair will figure it out.

watched it

April 18th, 2012
5:14 pm

He’ll figure it out..

Naylor

April 18th, 2012
5:16 pm

I wish someone had bit on the trade bait over the winter, but everyone else knew better.

Let’s hope he turns it around!

Dano

April 18th, 2012
5:17 pm

BvgNeedsaHaircut

April 18th, 2012
5:25 pm

JJ will be fine, just needs to work some kinks out

stevie zero

April 18th, 2012
5:25 pm

with braves pitching depth and touted prospects, they can survive a JJ disappointment. the real question is will fredi be wise enough to stop trotting him out there when he continues to suck

1eyedJack

April 18th, 2012
5:30 pm

Keep the ball down and get ground balls. He should be, by his own admission, a pitch to contact pitcher. The only other person who feels worse about his performance so far is Scott Boras.

OPEN YOUR EYES

April 18th, 2012
5:30 pm

GOOD GAME BY THE BRAVOS!!!! NOW WE MUST TAKE THIS MOMENTUM TO ARIZONA WHERE THE BALLS REALLY FLY!! IF U KNOW WHAT I MEAN ;)

OPEN YOUR EYES

April 18th, 2012
5:33 pm

UGGLA, FREEMAN, AND FRANCISCO ARE HEATING UP AND J-HEY IS ON AN 8 GAME HITTING STREAK!!!!! FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A LONG TIME THE BRAVES OFFENSE IS TOP-NOTCH IN THE LEAGUE!!!!! ALSO ADD THAT BRIAN MCANN GOT REST AND IS GETTING HOT TOO!!!!

DaveinNEPA

April 18th, 2012
5:34 pm

I would give Jurrjens until Hudson comes off the DL. If he hasn’t figured things out by then I would advocate putting him in the pen and leave Delgado in the rotation. Maybe he could get himself straightened out pitching out of the pen and then maybe, just maybe, he might be fresher come August and September.

cousin vicker

April 18th, 2012
5:35 pm

Funny how velocity is an issue when jurrjens pitches but not Hanson. Hanson’s straight arrow fastball has dropped at least 5 mph since he’s come up to the big leagues. And he isn’t exactly an inning eater either. He is so average, and sometimes I feel like i’m the only one that sees it. Hanson is, at best a 3rd starter.

Michael

April 18th, 2012
5:36 pm

I’d love to hear what McCann’s take on his last two outings – mainly concerned about the decrease in his velocity…hope the knee trouble doesn’t lead to overcompensating shoulder stress and/or future arm trouble. Still, it’s early! Go Braves.! Nice rhythm, let’s go get the Diamondbacks while they’re down…

OPEN YOUR EYES

April 18th, 2012
5:36 pm

FREDI SHOULD GIVE JURRJENS AT LEAST THREE MORE STARTS TO SEE IF HE IS BACK!!! IF HE GETS SMASHED SO MORE IN THOSE GAMES, THEN I SAY SEND HIM TO TRIPLE AAA AND LET KRIS MEDLEN START UNTIL WE GET HUDSON BACK!!!

the truth...

April 18th, 2012
5:40 pm

@Mark

“Jurrjens figured to be at worst the Braves’ No. 2 starter, and there’s no real fallback if he fails”

How about this:
1) Hudson
2) Hanson
3) Minor
4) Beachy
5) Medlin

And that is ignoring Delgado….

Like stevie zero said, the big problem is Fredi’s absurd decisions as juggling the lineup over and over and sending JJ out there when you know he isn’t right.

What Fredi seems to have forgotten is that games LOST in APRIL do matter….he just isn’t a good manager…

DCBravesfan

April 18th, 2012
5:43 pm

Jurrjens performance thus far is concerning, but it shouldn’t necessarily be concerning for the entire team and much less the pitching staff. All of the other starters have looked solid, and with Hudson coming back and Teheran once against tearing up AAA (and, of course, Delgado in the mix), the Braves have plenty of insurance. MB talked about Hanson and Hudson, which is fine, but Beachy and Minor’s last starts were masterful, and there’s no reason to think they won’t keep up the trend.

Jurrjens has earned the right to pitch through some of this, and I think he should, but if its Mid-May and we’re still saying the same things from JJ, I hope Fredi/Frank have the tough business sense to go with someone else and not continue to throw away starts.

Nick

April 18th, 2012
5:45 pm

Minor looks able to take his spot. I’m not worried about JJ though.

GoBravos125

April 18th, 2012
5:50 pm

@the truth…

Medlen is clearly never going back into the rotation, his starting days are over unless alot of injuries take place.

As for Fredi Gonzalez’ decisions, I agree, terrible. Something messed JJ up halfway through last year, I dont think he will ever be the same again. Trade for a SS that can actually field the position & hit at leeast .240-.250

Delgado should remain in the rotation no matter what, I see Beachy, Minor, & Delgado as being the new era of Maddux Glavine & Smoltz + Hanson. Not as a matter of control & poise, b/c there are few pitchers that will ever equal up to Greg Maddux & Tom Glavine in those regards, but in regards to dominance on the hill.

Jim Hertel

April 18th, 2012
5:55 pm

I agree completely with cousin vicker. Right now, neither of these Borass clients look good and Hanson has been overrated from the get go.

T-Bone

April 18th, 2012
6:00 pm

GoBravos125 — Beachy, Minor, & Delgado as the new era of Maddux, Glavine, & Smoltx???? You can’t be serious. They may be serviceable, above average, innings-eaters, even good, but please . . . first-ballot HOFers they are not.

T-Bone

April 18th, 2012
6:03 pm

The question is whether to let JJ work it out here or in Gwinnett.

OPEN YOUR EYES

April 18th, 2012
6:07 pm

HANSON IS DEF. NOT A TOP-TIER PITCHER AND WE ALL NOT THAT!!!!!! HE IS AN ABOVE AVERAGE PITCHER AT BEST AND HE HAS SOME REALLY GOOD OUTINGS AT TIMES!!!! BUT OVERALL HIS PITCHES ARE NOT THAT DOMINATING AND HE IS ALMOST ABOUT TO REACH HIS CEILING IN TERMS OF POTENTIAL!!!! THE ONLY REASON WE A LOT OF BRAVES FANS THINK HE IS GOOD IS BECAUSE THE FOX SPORT-SOUTH ANNOUNCERS JOE SIMPSON AND CHIP BOOST HIM UP SO HIGH THAT IT MAKES EVERYBODY’S EXPECTATIONS OF HIM GO THROUGH THE ROOF!!!!!

BUT ME PERSONALLY HE IS NEVER GONNA BE AN ACE!!!!

keepinitreal

April 18th, 2012
6:08 pm

I think Bradley overstates Jurrjens’ importance to the Braves here. It was a mild surprise, with the Braves’ surplus of starters, that JJ wasn’t traded in the offseason. I think Wren was hoping he’d return to his ‘09 and first half of ‘11 form, but I don’t think he for one second expected it. Essentially, whatever Jurrjens can give the Braves is gravy. If he continues to get rocked on a consistent basis, the Braves have other very viable options they can turn to.

Mikey

April 18th, 2012
6:09 pm

Great on the mark intelligent post from our DCfan! JJ an all-star last year, with a lifetime record of 50-34, career ERA 3.45 incredible k/w ratio will make the adjustments he needs to get him back to where he was before his injury.

bob

April 18th, 2012
6:09 pm

I love the fact that the team is hitting and winning.

My concern (and it goes back to last year as well) is that the pitch count is high. It is becoming more and more the norm that the starters are throwing around 20 pitches an inning and being kept in the ballgame for 100+ pitches.

Yesterday, for example, the starter threw over 100 pitches and the relievers combined for another 50 pitches for a total or around 160 pitches.

My sense is that the the pitching coach has an aggressive go at them approach. Such can lead to a high pitch count.

Perhaps, we (as fans) were spoiled by the 90 pitch complete games thrown by Maddox.

Let us hope that the arms of the starters do not have their arms drop by August.

OPEN YOUR EYES

April 18th, 2012
6:10 pm

NOW TIMMMY HUDSON ON THE OTHER HAND IS AN ACE!!!!! HE CARRIED US THROUGH THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON LAST YEAR AND HE WILL HELP THE BRAVES WIN A LOT OF GAMES!!!!

Tdawg

April 18th, 2012
6:17 pm

As much as it pains me Jim Hertel, I have to agree with you and cousin vicker. Hanson will throw a great game every now and then and then the next 2 or 3 games he leaves you asking yourself. What do the Braves see in this guy? He and Jurrjens has the same problem. No fast ball what so ever and neither one of them is well known enough for the umps to get the strike off the plate. Most times they look like over paid batting practice pitchers. I actually thought that Jair would turn out to be the ace of the staff. Now I wonder why he is even still on the staff. He has stunk up the place sense the all star game last season. I say put the young guns in and see what happens. No way in hedes they could be any worse and they are a lot cheaper. That should go over well with the big wigs.

joe

April 18th, 2012
6:18 pm

these idiots that say he will be fine have their heads in the sand. he throws 89 in the middle of the plate with no movement. the only place that works is high school….

Brownie

April 18th, 2012
6:19 pm

Lots of typical overreacting as usual on this blog. T-Bone, you are correct…..the 3 youngun’s are not yet Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz-like….but they will be pretty good.

A couple of you suggest that FG should have already given up on JJ…..IT’S APRIL!!!! You are the same folks who were calling for FG’s and Wren’s head when they opened up with 4 L’s. Now they’ve won 7 of 8….gotta find something else to complain about.

Now, having unloaded that…..I do think JJ is a shadow of what he was, and am not sure he will get it completely back. His leg injuries have affected his confidence, his arm, and release point. But even in the off-season, I felt he would be traded, no later than this summer’s deadline. He’s a Boras client, and SB will trot out his PAST performances and demand huge money (and some other pitcher-starved team will hand it over). So, the Braves won’t keep him anyway you slice it – might as well trade him to get SOMETHING in return.

however, if he doesn’t pick it up soon, the Braves won’t get more than cotton candy and a foam finger for him. But they won’t be able to send him to AAA and retain any trade value – he’s gotta get better up here.

Finally, regarding Hanson…..injuries, changed his funky delivery to a still-funky delivery – more injuries and inconsistency on the way. NOW you know why Wren wouldn’t part with any of his top young pitching prospects to get some second rate “big bat” for the outfield.Time to trade him too likely.

Huddy will be lights out when he returns, Beachy, Minor, Delgado, Teheran, Gilmartin – good group to choose from for next year.

Tony C.

April 18th, 2012
6:33 pm

@the truth :I kind of like the way Fredi tweaked the lineup until he got production…and the double switch to take Crazytrain out and get Francisco in, didn’t look so bad last night.

Tom

April 18th, 2012
6:34 pm

JJ pitching performance last year was the same as Lowe, but he was far more lucky. Time to stop using ERA or even worse pitcher wins to look at pitcher performance. FIP tells us so much more.

Tom

April 18th, 2012
6:35 pm

Also Brownie is probably going to be wrong about Hudson being lights out. Horrid infield defense is going to be very hard for Huddy to overcome. He can be solid but thinking a GB pitcher is going to be great with a terrible infield defense behind him is just silly.

Ron Roberts

April 18th, 2012
6:35 pm

He’ll be fine; he’s had sweltering hot streaks, and a few games, here and there, where he looks useless. He always comes back to form, though; plus he’s having to deal with the psychological worries over his knee. It was drizzly, today, too. We won; we’ve hit good his last two starts. No better time to keep trotting him out there to let him figure it out. He’s smart. He will.

No Fastball

April 18th, 2012
6:38 pm

Agree with cousinvicker. Tommy and JJ are both struggling with fastball and there is just not enough difference in velocity of pitches to keep hitters honest. JJ also gets the ball up in the zone way too much. He seems to have good movement on pitches but he has to keep it down in the zone. Hard to believe that these guys are now the weak links in the rotation after last year’s first half performances. Durbin needs to go NOW.

J-MAN

April 18th, 2012
6:44 pm

Bradley, you do know that Jurrjens is expendable. We have 5 good pitchers when Hudson comes back. Delgado has the most wins on the team, Beechy, and Minor are pitching great and Hanson is consistant. So when Hudson comes back Jurrjens isnt needed. Also we have Medlin, Livan Hernandez and Julio Teheran that could pitch better than Jurrjens. I think Jurrjens needs to go on the DL and then be traded

J-MAN

April 18th, 2012
6:45 pm

Also JJ used to throw 94 but he now rarely will throw over 88

Brownie

April 18th, 2012
6:50 pm

Tom, the Braves have committed 11 errors in 12 games – you’re right, that’s not good at all. However, take away Francisco’s meltdown (3 in one game) and Chipper’s weak throw off the wrong foot (or would that be knee?), and only Uggla has struggled a bit with the E’s. Also consider that Juan is brand new here (and hasn’t played much elsewhere) and Tyler P is really young and hasn’t played with Uggla much…..I believe you’ll see vast improvement – Pendleton will see to it.

My comment about Huddy has more to do with his back being healthy. I also have a bad L5S1 disk, and the pain many days is really bad – don’t know how he could’ve pitched with it. IF he really is healthy now, I do think he’ll be really strong this year.

Dr. No

April 18th, 2012
6:52 pm

Confidence, my man. The number one thing every man needs to succeed.

least of the east

April 18th, 2012
7:13 pm

if he has options left, JJ should be sent to AAA. if not, they should make up something (like others do) and put him on the 15 day DL.

with a $5 mill salary after arbit., he may even clear waivers at this point

whatever the Reds offerred for him was too much-even though Wren thought it was too little.

Teheran is now pitching well at AAA and can be recalled if needed.

also, Durbin and Hernandez have to go. the Wren experiment has failed -as expected.

"Chef" Tim Dix

April 18th, 2012
7:20 pm

Funny how we’re all looking for the next 3 Aces and the bad news is they’re only a winning lottery ticket away. How rare their greatness was!

ChrisfromSacramento, Ca

April 18th, 2012
7:34 pm

Get rid of him and the soft pusss balls he is throwing up there. When Huddy gets back is there any real doubt JJ is better than Delgadoor Teheran.

Young power arms that go at least five innings. JJ has no confidence and his pouts on the mound. Blaming the mound, umpire or anyone else but himself.

The young man is lost and throwing mid to upper 80s down the middle with no movement is not good. I guess Adam Jones was not good enough to trade for. JJ was just to vauable of a soft toss batting practice pitcher.

ChrisfromSacramento,Ca

April 18th, 2012
7:45 pm

I cant stand idiots who say ” he’s earned the right to figure it out.” Huh, who the hell is Jair Jurjjens.

He is not an ace or number two or even good. Grown men being paid to win games must produce or get the hell out. JJ is done. Smoke and mirrors produced the first half of JJ’s all star year last year.

What the hell has JJ earned. Nothing. He sucks!!!!

Dr. Phil

April 18th, 2012
8:38 pm

At least Fredi took JJ out before the game got out of hand. This is a change.

JNick

April 18th, 2012
8:38 pm

Baltimore didn’t want JJ – they asked for Hanson, Prado +1 prospect for Adam Jones.

JNick

April 18th, 2012
8:39 pm

How is that a change Dr Phil? Fredi is notorious for pulling his pitchers early and overusing his bullpen…

CC

April 18th, 2012
8:43 pm

When SportSouth started lining up directly behind the pitchers mound last year I did not like the perspective at all. It’s a very straight line, uninteresting view on TV. But because of that perspective today I could see why JJ might not last til the All Star break — He has ABSOLUTELY no breaking pitches. If you’re a batter and know that, all you have to do is have good hand/eye coordination and swing exactly where you see the pitch coming in.

It’ll be right where you saw it as your bat meets the ball.

That’s not going to cut it for a season. So — is Jurrjens still hurt enough that he can’t throw with the motion required for something breaking?

Better get it solved soon. When Huddy gets back, someone is moving off the mound. Won’t be Minor, won’t be Beachy.

Jo Bling

April 18th, 2012
8:50 pm

ChrisfromSacramento,Ca you have no idea what you are talking about. Neither do the other fools who suggest sending Jair and his contract to AAA. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

When Jair is at full-strength he is the best pitcher on this team hands down. In fact, at full-strength he’s one of the top five pitchers in the major leagues. If you had paid attention for the last few years you would know that. The problem is that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. The injury last year was devastating and he’s had a rough recovery. It’s going to take some time, but he’ll be back on his game soon. And when he gets it going again, watch out. The JJ critics are just shortsighted idiots. Comments like “What the hell has JJ earned. Nothing. He sucks!!!” sound like they were generated by the brain of an eight-year-old.

JNick

April 18th, 2012
8:57 pm

There’s nothing wrong with sending JJ to AAA for a few starts to get confidence and straighten himself out. He can’t keep taxing the bullpen every 5 days, and counting on the offense to score 10 runs for him. He’s not being perma-banished like Kawakami, just needs to get his head on right, get his mechanics straight, and learn to pitch with the orthopedics and knee brace…salary is a LAME excuse to not send someone to AAA…hell, he’s not even making that much (what, $5 mil?). Didn’t stop Hudson from going to AAA to build back up after an injury…right?

kerryb

April 18th, 2012
8:57 pm

Kris Medlin should be the one starting. He’s good enough to be the third starter.

JNick

April 18th, 2012
8:57 pm

And he’s far from one of the top 5 pitchers in the ML….he’s not even a top 10, and not even the best starter on his own team (that honor goes to Hudson).

Sonny Clusters

April 18th, 2012
8:59 pm

“The knee is the whole basis of who you are [as a player].” It must be his knees.