13 ways of looking at Julio Teheran

1. Julio is an ace. Well, he’s OUR ace. Or rather, he’s been the best pitcher on a bad team for four years. Somehow, the first Atlanta Brave to start five straight opening day games is not Maddux, Mahler, or Niekro, but our man Julio, the pride of Cartagena. In his two All-Star seasons, 2014 and 2016, he’s been worth 4-5 WAR, with an ERA 20-30% better than league average. The past two odd-numbered years have been rough, and sure, no one will confuse his stat line for Kershaw’s or Scherzer’s, but he’s been a pitcher to be proud of – a mini-ace, the leader of a mostly awful staff.

2. Julio was never an ace, and is already past an underwhelming prime. Ok, no one thinks of Julio as a true ace. We all know he was bad last year. He allowed a lot of runs to score. He gave up 31 homers in 32 starts. By every metric, he got worse: lower K%, higher BB%, higher HR/FB. Fewer pitches out of the strike zone were chased. More pitches in the strike zone were torched.

Even at his best, though, 8 strikeouts per nine is underwhelming. No one is losing sleep over having to face Julio Teheran the next afternoon. His career FIP is 4.10, and has career ERA eight percent better than league average. That’s fine! Julio is a third starter on a playoff team, and that’s fine.

3. Julio was just unlucky last year. According to this great piece by Sam Miller of ESPN, Statcast’s xwOBA, which estimates the value of each batted ball based on its exit velocity and launch angle, claims that the batted balls against Julio in 2017 should have produced fewer runs than the ones in 2016. A few more fly balls got caught in the wind and went out of the park, and a few more borderline strikes were called balls at inopportune times, and suddenly you find yourself frequently leaving the game in the third inning.

4. Julio is broken. His slider has abandoned him. He never had any overwhelming stuff, and Fangraphs says his four-seamer had the most value early in his career, but the out pitch has always been the slider – not a ton of break, but tight and quick. Words I used to think about while watching Julio throw it: rapier, lightning, dart, scythe. Now it limps over the plate, and it’s mostly curse words that come to mind as another bomb sails into the Chophouse.

5. Julio is an innings-eater. Most of his value comes from his durability. He’s been good for at least 30 starts and 185 innings every year since 2013. Of course, the results of those innings have varied. But look, it’s a long season. Someone’s gotta take the ball every five days.

The Julio Paradox: you can count on having no idea what he’ll give you. He’s absolutely dependable to be totally unpredictable.

6. Julio’s pickoff move is vicious. It is the one aspect of his game that can’t be questioned. He has the best pickoff move in baseball, and the fastest feet.

7. Julio is terrified of Sun Trust Park. We have more than 5 credible starting pitchers. Maneuver the roster such that Julio starts only away games, and let the young bucks take his turns at home. (This is a joke. Please do not yell at me).

It is worth marveling at the splits though: In 17 starts at Sun Trust, Jome Julio gave up 67 total earned runs and a .272 batting average. In 15 away starts, 33 earned runs at .242.

8. We should trade Julio for a bullpen arm. It’s early days, but the lineup features seven exciting hitters and, Julio notwithstanding, there are reasons to be optimistic about the rotation, even after a bit of inevitable regression. Julio could bring back someone to shore up that maddening ‘pen.

9. We should have traded Julio much earlier. I was always opposed to trading him, but Julio would have been one of the most valuable trade assets at the 2016 deadline. During the teardown, the front office decided that Teheran was a piece to build around. Although in hindsight it’s easy to wish they had chosen to keep Alex Wood instead, hanging on to Julio provided a small bright spot in the otherwise dark and hellish expanse of rebuild rotations. Without Julio in 2016, you’re looking at a full season of Joel da la Cruz starts. A full season of Bud Norris. You’re looking at even more Williams Perez, somehow.

10. Julio’s new haircut makes him look like an Eastern European Trance DJ.

11. Julio is injured. He left his last start with back tightness after just 43 pitches. After the game, he said he felt ok and that he thought he could have made it through five innings. But his fastball was sitting around Pablo Sandoval territory, and he wasn’t able to locate the off-speed stuff either.

His velocity has been down all year, with the fastball a full three mph below his previous average of 92. Did Julio take night classes from Anibal Sanchez at the Bartolo Colon School of Crafty Veteran Junkballing? Did he just get weaker over the winter? How long can he get away with throwing a 79-mph slider? What gives?

11. Julio won’t be a bargain for much longer. For the past three years, his contract has been a bargain at an average annual value of $3.3M, or $1.25M per win above replacement. That’s value by anyone’s standard, and a big part of why he would have fetched a good return in a trade. It’s unlikely that he will be worth the $11 million he is owed next year. The Braves have the option of paying him $12M in 2020, or letting him walk. He’s only 27, just three years older than Newcomb and Fried. Most of his story is likely still unwritten. But with the talent coming up the pipe, I wouldn’t bet on seeing him after 2019.

12. Julio will be part of the next Braves playoff rotation. As long as we make the playoffs this year.

13. Julio is unknowable. Through the first 30 innings of this year, his results are mostly just as disastrous as they were last year, if not more so. He’s getting more strikeouts per nine, but walking nearly 13% of batters, and the home run rate – somehow – is even higher than last year, when it was the 8th-worst in baseball.

Still, for a deranged optimist like me, there is some reason for hope. Before exiting early on Friday, he had gone 6 innings and allowed two runs or fewer in three straight starts. And… well, look. That’s about all I’ve got. But he’s only 27, and just two years removed from a 5-WAR season.

If you squint, you can see Julio’s career as Jake Peavy or Matt Cain. If you squint a little less, you see a guy who has consistently gotten better results than his peripherals suggest, and who is now giving up homers on 16% of his fly balls. I don’t see much reason for optimism, but I also don’t see much of a reason for the quick, recent decline.

So was Julio ever any good? I have no idea.

79 thoughts on “13 ways of looking at Julio Teheran”

  1. First off, really want to give a huge thank you to everyone who has been posting on the site. The recappers and posters have really been fantastic, and I know our site is full of readers that appreciate the content flowing in on a daily basis. I even like Sam’s.

    The only one of the thirteen we can know definitively about Julio is #10.

    And krussell, there’s more than a decent chance.

  2. That was an awesome post.

    Can we trade Julio for Josh Hader? I can’t imagine the latter can maintain anything even approaching his current pace, but I sure would like to watch him try in a Braves uniform. For the season he’s recorded 54 outs, 39 of them by K.

  3. Great work, Sean Q. I still hold out some hope for Julio, but I’m afraid that’s not very realistic at this point.
    I saw the Natspos play in their park tonight. (Happened to be in DC). Small, desultory crowd. Even though they won a close game, there was no energy or enthusiasm in the stadium at all.

  4. I really hope he turns it around. Julio has been one of the few bright spots during the dark ages and deserves to play for a winner again.

    I’ll be sad if we’re watching him pitch for the Royals in 2020.

  5. Chase Whitley optioned to Gwinnett. No corresponding move yet, but some scuttlebutt says it might be Soroka coming up.

  6. We all had huge expectation on Julio and the Braves babied him through minor league. Too bad that he is not as good as expected but he is useful nonetheless. I agree we should have traded Julio much earlier, but i disagree that we should have kept Wood.

    Wood is not built for durability and he has proven that. We were correct to trade him but we traded him for the wrong target.

  7. I’ve become very attached to Julio. As you mentioned, kc, we have followed him and rooted for him for a long time. I hope he turns it around and the past starts have been more promising. But I guess at this point, he is what he is.

  8. Guys, c’mon, he hasn’t been injured much in his career. If he really has a back/muscle injury, give him a break. I recall the last non-injured game he pitched was pretty awesome and it was at home. He may be turning a corner on the whole STP thing. Considering his road stats last year, I think we ought to consider him in a potentially better light. I think he’s earned another month to show if he’s really turned the corner back to the “good” Julio. He’s never gonna be Nolan Ryan but he is at least a solid innings eater (5) with the proven potential to be a mid-to-top rotation pitcher (2) and he does often bail himself out with the great pickoff move (6). I love watching the tv analysts fall all over themselves claiming it’s a balk every time.

    By the way, I was really pissed watching the Phillies announcers (MLB Network game) trash talk AJ Minter. Granted he was having a hard time with the strike zone but they acted like he was a lunchmeat pitcher who didn’t have any value at all. Never seen people trash talk the opponents like that before.

  9. BTW, Braves up to 80 wins in Fangraphs’ standings predictions. Getting much closer to being predicted to be a playoff team. Beating up on the Shmets should get us to a .500 prediction. If we could just get away from the walks, the whole pitching staff would grade out so much better.

  10. I mean, in the end, aren’t we all unknowable? Like, I mean, we all die alone, man.

  11. @10

    Projections that now approach eighty
    definitive? hardly nor weighty
    take not into account
    momentums that mount
    approaching a hundred and sate we.

  12. Show me another baseball blog with Wallace Stevens-inspired posts. Just show me. Outstanding. And the stuff on Julio is good, too.

  13. @7 kc

    I don’t believe of all the hundreds of comments there have been on the Alex Wood trade there has been quite one like this to quantify the degree of harm it has done us and the where and why.

    The bum arm we knew. The wrong target, yuk.

  14. @ 13

    We are strong on Coleridge and Larkin here. And the only source of original baseball Clerihews anywhere.
    Yah da de da da!

  15. So, I’ve been looking at the numbers so far, and I think Dansbo may actually out-perform Corey Seager this year. I’m serious!

  16. @15, and Stevenson

    Teheran’s Requiem

    Under the wide and starry sky,
    Call the ‘pen, and let me sigh.
    Glad did I pitch, and glad goodbye.
    (So far I’ve been worth every mil.)

    This be the verse you grave for me:
    Here he falters for all to see
    Slow is the slider, slow as can be,
    When Julio’s Jome on the hill.

  17. Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
    The maker’s rage to order words of the sea,
    Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
    And of ourselves and of our origins,
    In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

    “The Idea of Order at Key West”
    —Wallace Stevens

  18. I’d like to see what Julio can do as he transforms into a junk-baller. He gets good movement the slower he throws.

  19. The bum arm we knew.

    I felt a sense of accomplishment for not letting @7 trigger me. But I can only take so much.

    That bum arm generated 3 WAR in 150 IP for less than $3 million last year. That’s better than…everyone on our team. If Alex Wood were still a Brave, we would be fringe wildcard contenders right now, nevermind avoiding the ripple effects of that awful trade.

  20. @18/19

    Edward..the cavalry has arrived, magnifico.

    Remy…I didn’t know this, thank you.

    We must keep our standard flying so any other upstarts elsewhere know their place

  21. I admire Julio’s ability to adjust. Whether it sustains is another thing, but he’s definitely doing the best without plus velocity, and that says something.

    I like Julio quite a bit, but #11 is true that he may not be much of a bargain much longer. But if he can get back to a 3 WAR pitcher, obviously he most certainly will be.

  22. @21 Agreed. Durability aside, Alex Wood has consistently been better than anyone we’ve had in our recent rotations. I wanted to throw a hissy fit when he was traded.

  23. If we had gotten back the third baseman of the future, we wouldn’t miss Wood. We didn’t trade Wood for Teheran, so I don’t see the sense in comparing the two. We got bad value back. And we’re missing it bad right now.

  24. Hey. Did you guys know that no one involved in trading Wood was still in the organization?

  25. Adrian Beltre has just recently gotten into the discussion of the Hall of Fame because he’s piled up a bunch of numbers in the latter half of his career. But even at his age-34 season, he had 2,426 hits, and he’s experienced the inevitable slow down himself. Kakes would have to get about 200 hits a year until he’s 39, or about 150 until he’s 41. He’s only averaged 171 for his entire career, and his peak has long been over. If he found a way to keep getting a full-time corner OF gig, played 155 games, and got 150 hits and a .750 OPS until his body literally withered away, then he’d be a pretty unique player in history.

  26. I’m not convinced that we couldn’t find someone for league minimum that could at least match Teheran’s stats in the current and going forward.

    And I’m not kidding.

  27. The biggest problem for Markakis being able to find a full-time playing gig is that he has very little power, and he has had very little power for a decade. Unless you’re Ichiro, and unless you’re hitting over .300 (which Neck hasn’t done since his third season in the majors, when he posted career highs in SLG and WAR), there isn’t a lot of room in a lineup for a late-30s corner outfielder who struggles to post a .130 ISO.

    Bottom line: unless he keeps up his April triple slash all year, his aging curve will result in him becoming a bench player within the next 18 months.

    Chief @29, we could, but it’s a lot more likely that we wouldn’t. We’d have to give the ball every five days to a wild card Quad-A player, a Williams Perez/Jorge Campillo/Ryan Weber type of guy. Sometimes those guys work out. Most of the time they don’t.

  28. Hey. Did you guys know that no one involved in trading Wood was still in the organization?

    I think that means you can stop trying to defend the signing of Markakis!

  29. @29, 30 I’ve come to my senses regarding Teheran. In spite of how awful he is at times, he gives us 180+ IP. He’s done it every season for the past 5 seasons. He does it while being not that bad. There aren’t a whole lot of guys doing both (180+ IP, not bad, every season). He’s good value for now.

    I don’t know what the future looks like for him, but I’m rooting for the guy. He is still a cornerstone of this team’s efforts to return to the playoffs.

  30. dig the Stevens (and the post)! and a general note of appreciation for this place and the poetry– as a mostly-lurker who will graduate this weekend with an MFA in poetry, it’s heartening to know that if nothing else (as it seems 99.9% likely this won’t lead to a job), I might someday be able to contribute more regularly to an endearingly goofy team-specific sports blog. thanks all for keeping this place going. The Revolutionists Stop for Orangeade!

  31. cph @ #33

    I suspect there are more than a few English majors lurking on this board. Congratulations!

  32. I like Markakis. He has been solid for us.

    Hard to argue with the numbers he has put up this year.

  33. I really enjoy AA’s aggressiveness. Put the best players on the field. That’s what he’s doing.

    The three youngest players in MLB? LOVE it.

    @blazon from last tread. I’m here every day several times but due to the time difference (at least most of the time), I’m always late to the party but love your comments as always.
    This is the best place! Mac would be so proud and as Rob(?) wrote before, wish he could see this team.

  34. I am pumped for the start tonight, but with the off day, why not just skip Julio’s start?

  35. If all we’re talking is a spot start, Soroka is ready for this. He’s probably ready for more.

  36. Thor vs. Thoroka… the lisping Norse god. I knew there was a reason I was going to the game tonight. Unfortunately, I don’t have a divorce attorney to get tickets from, so I had to go the traditional route.

  37. Teheran has a -0.2 WAR in 6 GS, so in the short-term, it’d be hard for Soroka to be worse. I’m not sure if it’s worth it to have the three youngest guys in baseball, but AA doesn’t have the incentive to rush people, I don’t think, so if they like him right now, then here we are.

    You want to see Braves Country go crazy? If 3 SPs hit before the All-Star break — say Folty, Soroka, and Gohara — then The Bank will be packed July through the rest of the year, whenever that may be. I might be going to my first All-Star game since it’s on my birthday, it’s an easy flight to Washington, and… we might have a few guys there, ya know?

  38. I don’t think this is just a spot start, guys. I think Soroka is in the rotation.

  39. I can’t hear anything but Mike Soroka when I listen to that song. Very well done.

  40. DOB thinks this is a spot start and that Anibal will take his spot this weekend. I don’t know how much credibility DOB has anymore, and if Soroka pitches well tonight I doubt that happens. Anibal Sanchez, just picked up off the scrap heap, is not going to block Soroka.

  41. @56 No, he won’t block Soroka, but nothing precludes the Braves from finding a way to squeeze in a 6th starter.

  42. @56

    DOB’s journalistic credibility is something of a question, but on stuff like this you can be pretty certain that, at the very least, this is what the organization wants everyone to think they’re thinking. Is that because they don’t want to imply that somebody currently on the DL is about to be released or are they really gonna give Sanchez a chance to keep his job when he comes off? That’s a good question, but DOB isn’t pulling that opinion completely out of his ass.

    You’ve also got lingering uncertainty with Julio’s next start. It’ll happen, but what happens if his shoulder’s tight again? Probably a trip to the DL, which would open up another spot for the time-being.

  43. If everything goes well and everyone is healthy then I think Anibal would become the long reliever.

    But I think that’s a long shot myself. They may be understating how bad Teheran is hurt and this is awfully quick for Anibal to return from an initially bad looking injury.

  44. DOB was hilariously misinformed about the timing of the Acuna call-up. My guess is Anibal moves to the pen – I can’t imagine him blocking Soroka.

    Also feels like about the right time for some kind of trade. Let’s get crazy, AA!

  45. I would bet that this is very much an open audition for Soroka. If he forces the Braves to keep him in the rotation, I expect they will. If he struggles, Gwinnett is just a quick rush hour gridlock away.

    Also to Blazon above — you are absolutely right that I haven’t watched enough of the games this year, and maybe if I saw more 2018 Markakis I’d be less skeptical of 2019 and 2020 Markakis.

    But I’ve seen a whole lot of Neck. And I was one of the more positive Braves fans on the internet about his original signing! https://bravesjournal.us/2014/12/04/nick-markakis/ Maybe he’s really figured something out. I just have trouble believing that last month is more predictive than the previous 36 months.

  46. The relationship between Bowman and the new front office is also interesting. I’m not sure if they are keeping him in the dark or if they’re changing their minds. It seems like he was also wrong about Acuna and in his fan inbox just yesterday, he said he thought Soroka would be put in the starting rotation in June.

  47. Fascinating that Soroka is called up
    Just as we are discussing Teheran and his future.
    I happened to there on May 7 2011 when Julio made his ML debut, at age 20. He was the Braves top prospect and something like # 5 in all of baseball. Turns out that was a spot start. He made one other spot start and then came up for good that September.

    It wouldn’t completely surprise me if this is a spot start, just as a chance to give Soroka a taste of the bigs. On the other hand, my strong hunch is that unless he completely bombs Mike is up for good.

    Also reminds me of when they called up Avery on 1990. 20 years old, top prospect in baseball (or close to it). Avery stayed in the rotation that year, but with an ERA over 5. By the next year, though, he was excellent and remained so until shoulder problems got to him.

    One final call up that comes to mind is Hanson in June 2009 (though he was 22 not 20). After some early brilliance, we remember what happened to poor Tommy.

  48. @63 Post-game interview from this past Sunday, Snit said he’d roll with it again tonight. Looks like he’s true to his word.

  49. @63 Based on this tweet from the official Braves account, it looks like they’re going with the new-look lineup again – Ozzie / Acuna / Freeman at the top with Soroka batting #8 and Ender at #9 aka ‘second leadoff’. As far as lineup optimization goes, IMO what we really need is a slugging right-handed 3B to slot in at cleanup… Austin Riley, perhaps Manny Machado?

    @67 Nice work Sam – beat me to the post on the info, and embedded the image too! Can’t win ’em all I guess.

  50. In Alex’s link, there’s this comment that would change my sports life for a few years:

    Nick Markakis

    And Sam nails the future in the next comment. You called it, buddy. Major. Freaking. Goof.

  51. No one has mentioned the elephant in the room…. What does this mean for Gohara? With his injuries and poor conditioning and generally poor performance this year at AAA, did they just give Gohara’s spot to Soroka and then wait to call Gohara back up until later in the year or, heaven forbid, give up on him. You cannot have both Gohara and Soroka in the starting rotation without a major demotion, trade, or injury. Putting Julio on the 10-day DL would not be enough – that is what Sanchez would cover. I said before in another thread that the pitching roster is starting to look very crowded with very few low-end pitchers to option or release. Right now, to keep Soroka and bring Sanchez off the DL, probably Fried would go to AAA. And Sanchez would be the long man. If you want to bring Gohara up then what? Who goes out of the rotation and back to AAA or the bullpen? Especially if Soroka ends up being the best pitcher in the rotation.

  52. I checked and Julio’s debut was in Philadelphia, so I was not there. Funny how memory plays tricks on you. I have believed for several years that I was there at his debut.
    I do well remember watching Avery’s on TV.

  53. @70

    I think it’s way too premature to be worried about a lack of opportunities for our young pitchers. I don’t think there’s truly anyone nailed into this rotation, and AA will easily trade just about anyone to make room for a pitcher who has truly earned it. Sanchez, Teheran, and Newcomb are easily tradeable, and I think Folty and obviously Soroka would be difficult to trade at the present juncture.

  54. Gohara hasn’t exactly lit it up so far. Let him figure it out at Gwinnett. He may not be there for long with Teheran and Anibal being question marks anyway.

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