Generally it’s a very unusual sight to see your #2 pitcher in your rotation get optioned down to AAA before the first day in May but that’s exactly what happened to Jair Jurrjens. Now I say #2 pitcher loosely as we still need to see how Hudson does in his return which should hopefully be by the end of this month. Fredi Gonzalez has made mention of April 29th or the 30th against Pittsburgh for being Hudson’s return to the rotation. Which as a side note is a nice time to bring him back as the Pirates are severely struggling to score runs right now. Might be a good chance for Hudson to get settled in and have a nice first start.
However the issue at hand isn’t about Tim Hudson. Jair Jurrjens has been a big disappointment to many this season. He’s currently 0-2 with a 9.37era. That just isn’t going to get it done for any team, any where never mind a team that’s trying to contend for a division title. Does all of this surprise me? Honestly, yes and no.
Does the fact that Jurrjens is struggling out of the gate surprise me? Not entirely and it really shouldn’t be a complete shock to anyone else either. This blog is not about throwing a ton of stats at you. However in certain circumstances stats are the best way to prove a point and paint a clear picture. That’s why stats are so coveted around sports.
Jair Jurrjens pitched through the month of Aug and that was as far as he went last year before going on the disabled list for the entire month of Sept. In the month of Aug 2011 he pitched to the tune of a 1-3 record with a 6.17era. That’s really the last memories we have of Jurrjens. He hasn’t pitched into the 7th inning of any game since the Braves played the Pirates on July 27th 2011. So it’s been awhile since we’ve gotten quality innings out of Jair as well.
So from that perspective I can’t say that I’m “shocked” by the results Jurrjens has posted so far this year. It’s pretty much a continuation of where he left off last year. He’s certainly lost some velocity. He’s not hitting his spots. Maybe he doesn’t completely trust that knee of his. It could be a lot of different things.
What does surprise me is that they are optioning him down so soon. Yes he’s gotten hammered and I know fans are all about instant results and don’t have any patience for struggling. But we do have 4 other quality guys in the rotation that are throwing the ball pretty well. Hanson, Beachy and Minor right now are “the big 3” of Atlanta. Delgado is 4 and Jurrjens is 5. If you aren’t happy with Jurrjens being your 5th best starter then by all means option him down, that’s what the Braves did.
By doing this they are taking immediate action which is good but they are also forcing a result. “He who hesitates is lost”, well the Braves certainly didn’t hesitate. This is now a critical part of Jurrjens career. He’s past the “babying” stage that some of the other starters are still in. You treat a 21-24 year old pitcher much differently then you do a 26 year old. However I’ve also heard the term “Braves veteran starter Jair Jurrjens” on numerous high light shows. To me this comment isn’t fair. Jurrjens is in no way shape or form a veteran pitcher. There aren’t many places where a 26 year old starter is considered a veteran but unfortunately for Jair, Atlanta is one of them. When you are 26 and the 2nd oldest pitcher on your staff that puts a little extra pressure on you. The pressure to excel your development. Jurrjens could go somewhere and be the youngest pitcher on a veteran staff. That would create a completely different out look on the situation.
Bottom line is the Braves are a pitching rich organization and with Hudson due back in less then a week there was no reason not to pull Jurrjens out of the rotation. He wasn’t giving them the best chance to win. He wasn’t pitching deep into games. He just over all wasn’t presenting the Braves with a lot of “value”.
Do I think they pulled the plug a little too soon? Yes, I do. I think they should have waited for Hudson to get back to the majors. See if his TRUE veteran presence could have affected Jurrjens in a positive way and also to see how affective he will be. The other guys in the rotation are throwing the ball well like I said, so I don’t think it would have hurt to give Jurrjens a couple of more starts. No, we don’t want a repeat of Derek Lowe but it’s still April.
Another aspect of the transaction that surprised me was how adamant Fredi Gonzalez was about keeping Jurrjens in the rotation. He had said on a few occasions that it wouldn’t be Jurrjens who would be lifted from the rotation when Hudson came back. It was almost certainly going to be Delgado.
If the move down to AAA doesn’t help Jurrjens then the Braves will most likely have to cut ties with the young right hander. He will have little to no trade value at this point and they certainly don’t have any interest in having him pitch through his struggles in the majors.
By: Bob McVinua