2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Julio Teheran

2019 Statline

10-11, 3.81 ERA, 33 games started, 174.2 innings pitched, 4.3 BB/9, 8.3 K/9, bWAR: 2.4 & fWAR: 1.5


For years, I’ve been down on Julio. The thing that I’ve overlooked in his time with Atlanta is likely the sole reason why Julio is still in a Braves uniform and that is this: Every 5th game, he’s going to pitch. That’s a HUGE need for a team that’s been relying on a plethora of young arms, and Julio’s been there every 5th game for 7 straight years. 

Since becoming a regular in the rotation, Teheran has averaged 191 innings from 2013-2019 and has carried a 3.64 ERA, consistently outpitching his FIP by .58 runs per 9. As a fan of the Atlanta Braves, I can admit that I don’t appreciate Julio Teheran enough.

Twolio Julios


Julio started the year off making most of us angry. In April, he was simply not good.  It’s a bit unfair that he was the scapegoat to our frustrations as he once again got the ball on Opening Day. It didn’t go well. Heck, the whole opening series didn’t go well. The first month for Julio was forgettable as he was carrying a 5.35 ERA after 7 starts.

But May flowers brought Julio powers, and, for the most part, Julio put up a string of good starts that lasted nearly the rest of the season. Yes, there was the occasional start where Julio barely got out of the first inning (here’s looking at you, August 15th), but in that stretch from May through September, Julio carried a 3.38 ERA, and mostly gave the team a chance to win, and win they did in 16 of 26 games.

While Julio was valuable in the aspect of being counted on every 5th time through, his inability to pitch late into games is a real problem. This year, he only pitched 7 full innings 3 times and his average per start was 5.1 innings. On the year, the Braves won 19 of 33 games that Julio started in, good for a .576 winning percentage, which is slightly lower than the team’s final winning percentage of .599. So…yes, there is proof that Julio did keep the Braves in games while he was starting, but less than what others were able to provide (I wouldn’t read too much into this). 

A Sinking Feeling

Julio had one of the best ranked sinkers in the game this year, according to Fangraphs, and it made up nearly ⅔ of his arsenal. Like many Braves fans, the guys over at Fangraphs don’t really know how it’s been so successful as it “looks” very hittable. The trend that Julio bucked this year is his sinker location, which wasn’t to generate groundballs, rather to generate flyballs specifically against left-handed hitters. This seems to be the MO of Kranitz as he feels that left-handed hitters have a harder time getting to balls up in the zone. It definitely worked for Julio this year as he was better against LHHs over the course of the year for the first time in his career. 

The 11 Million Dollar Question

Julio has a 12MM option for the 2020 season with a 1MM buyout. I was near certain that the Braves would pick up that option, but when I started to run the numbers, I found myself 2nd guessing that thought. One of my favorite Braves Bloggers, Tommy Poe, put up this piece regarding Julio’s option and it spells out my feelings on the situation. The money, itself, isn’t that much, but is it wise to invest the money in a player that likely won’t even help the team when it matters most? If the Braves do decide to pick up Teheran’s option, it’ll come at the expense of filling other holes. Add Julio’s 11MM back to the pot (1MM already there as buyout), and there’s likely 40-50MM there to make moves. Remove it, and 29-39MM doesn’t seem like enough to fill 2 needs. 

Regardless of what happens with Julio, he’s been a solid pitcher for the Braves when there was barely anything solid surrounding him. 

Let’s love on Julio a bit.

Thanks for reading.

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37 thoughts on “2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Julio Teheran”

  1. So that becomes the big question…fill a couple of holes and let Julio go, or let him keep us in games but not be useful when it matters in the playoffs. A lot of that question can be answered by how much the org. feels they can replicate him with Newk or one of the other young guys. There is value in what Julio does, but is it enough to not do necessary upgrades? I would upgrade and take our chances with the fifth spot.

  2. Ain’t my money, but I think the Braves probably should and probably will decline the option and then try to bring him back for cheaper. As I’ve written before, Julio isn’t a tremendously different pitcher than, say, Gio Gonzalez, who was available for a song last year. Julio provides rotation stability as a reliable 4th/5th starter, and the market will pay him around that rate — probably somewhere between $5-$8 million a year for a year or two.

    Julio has given the Braves a lot of value, and I’d like to see him remain close by. But he’ll never get paid much.

  3. You can’t really evaluate Teheran in a vacuum. For me, it’s about whether you want to pay Teheran anything, whether it’s declining his option and re-signing him for less or picking it up, but rather how much you want to get out of his rotation spot. Do they want someone to just eat innings, or do you need to use another spot to shoot for an elite pitcher? Do you decline Julio’s and Nick’s options, non-tender Duvall, trade Ender, etc., and consolidate that money into one elite player? If it were me, I’d like to see Atlanta shoot for getting an elite RF or SP, and I don’t think you can do that if you commit $11M to Julio.

  4. As Tommy wrote in his piece, Braves would have 80 million committed to 20ish players before deciding to pick up:

    Teheran’s extra 11MM
    Flowers’s extra 4MM
    Markakis’s extra 4MM

    If those guys get picked up, the payroll, before addressing needs, will be 99MM. If the plan is to hover around 120MM on Opening Day then add from there, that’s not much wiggle room.

    My opinion is they keep Flowers and Markakis and decline Teheran.

  5. Without knowing what Washington, New York, and Philly will do, it boggles my mind that Atlanta could be already deciding to have an Opening Day payroll of $120M. Especially with the amount of arb raises this year and no real dead money coming off the books other than O’Day.

  6. I feel like I’ve seen quite a bit of Flowers and Kakes. There’s a good argument to keep Flowers even despite his decline on both sides of the plate, but after this fall, I’m ready to cut the cord with Kakes and I wouldn’t mind seeing the back of both.

    Julio’s a back-end starter. I think nothing you want to do at the front of the rotation affects whether you would like him to give you 170 relatively inexpensive innings of mediocre ball.

  7. If you can’t add a starter through trade or free agency, then I think you need Julio. Soroka, Folty, and Fried plus two unknowns is a huge risk.

    Otherwise, if you can acquire a starter, I’d dump Teheran and let Newk/Wright/Anderson battle for #5.

    Pitching-tipping aside, the kid Glasnow in TB is really impressive. I’ve been thinking of a front three of Soroka/Glasnow/Fried. It would be nice if the Braves could add a guy like that through a trade.

    I think Flowers is a lock to return, sadly. If you ditch him, you’ve got two holes at catcher to fill.

  8. @7 I feel like Folty and Teheran are connected, in that sense. You’re going into the season with Soroka and Fried, as it sits, as your 2 top pitchers. Then you’re probably keeping a spot open potentially for someone like Kyle Wright or Ian Anderson to step up. So that’s 3. Then you have Folty, who ought not really be trusted in a playoff series. So are you going to then put another pitcher in the rotation in Teheran that you don’t want to start in a playoff series? A lot can change, but Folty has now had 117 games started in the major leagues, and I’m not sure what another 30 starts is going to do to make me trust him as a viable option up to twice in a 7-game series.

    Could be reactionary, but I don’t see the use in Teheran if you continue to not want to use him in a playoff series. And if you don’t trust Folty either, then one of those spots needs to be used to have a potential playoff starter. But Folty is still cheap and just as good of a bet as Teheran to put up a 2-2.5 bWAR season, so I’d ride with Folty over Teheran.

  9. To me, Julio is Wright/Anderson/Wilson insurance, and to some extent he’s also Fried/Soroka insurance. I don’t know that we can count on more than 300 innings from Soroka and Fried. And I certainly don’t count on more than 150 quality innings from Wright/Anderson/Wilson.

    There are so many question marks among the “known” quantities of guys like Fried and Folty, to say nothing of the rookies who haven’t broken through yet, that the near-certainty of Teheran’s innings still seems very valuable to me.

  10. If brought back, it’s to be the 5th starter. 19-14 out of your 5th starter wins you divisions. Pick up the option and if needed, trade mid-year.

  11. While you could take a flyer on a lower cost option and hope to get Julio-like performance, there is value in the certainty of what you are going to get with Julio. He’s a perfectly fine 5th starter, and as AAR states, he’s insurance on the other question marks in the rotation. Sure, he’s most likely not going to be a contributor in the playoffs, but he’s a piece that helps you get there.

  12. He’s a 5th starter that costs 11MM and helps 0 in the postseason, which is the ultimate goal.

    With that being said, I don’t think this is an easy decision.

  13. An interesting stat: Take away the games against the Marlins, and Julio’s ERA rises to 4.62. That’s…interesting.

  14. With competitive balance being where it is, there’s a Miami in every division. Julio probably saw his one or two times more than the average bear, but it’s not like you can just take out Julio’s easiest opponent and not do it for other pitchers.

    It’s like when you say about a running back, “Yeah, he had that 88 yard rush, but if you take that out, he’s at 2.3 yards per carry.” Well, yeah, if you take out the outliers, of course you’re going to end up with a number that’s different from the other players’ numbers.

    Sorry, I’m still salty about people poopoo’ing Florida’s RBs performance against Auburn.

  15. Or you could say take away his final 3 or 4 starts and he probably ends up with a sub 3 ERA.

    It is a tough decision, I wouldnt want to be in AA’s shoes especially if they arent going to raise payroll.

  16. Julio had a 2.4 bWAR season last year. He has a perfectly fine pitcher. There wasn’t any issue on value with him at $11M. Why wouldn’t we accept the option and try to deal him? That’s similar to what Dusty is saying.

    With that said, I wish there were innings per start rankings easily available. Julio has to be towards the very bottom, minimum 30 starts.

  17. @Rob
    It really bothers me when people remove stats to justify keeping a guy around so I can understand your point. However, Teheran faced MIA 5 times, totaling 32 innings, and put up a 0.28 ERA. That is a sample that covers nearly 20% of his innings and he went an average of 6.1 innings per start. That’s a huge statistical anomaly.

  18. Julio is replaceable if you believe that Newcomb can equal his 2018 success as a starter. You also have to believe that either Kyle Wright or Bryse Wilson are ready for the remaining opening that Keuchel is vacating.

    It’s harder to let Flowers go when you look at the market for catchers this winter. It’s hard enough to find one cromulent part time catcher.

    Markakis does need to be declined, though.

  19. @18: You’re right… it was tougher than I thought to make Starting Innings per Start. But I did it.
    Of the 177 pitchers making 10 starts or more, Julio’s 5.3 was 98th. That said, the range is pretty narrow. Verlander was first at 6.6, and only 31 pitchers were 6.0 or more.

  20. Julio is fine for what we expect from him. I think they might try to bring him back yet again. How about we don’t go sign a Julio clone at the deadline next year and pencil him in for playoff starts? I’d rather just give the ball to Julio. He deserves it in a cosmic sense. It’s maybe a bit ironic that Snit of all people is the one telling Julio he’s not quite good enough, given that they both have been plow horses for this org.

    After watching Anibal Sanchez almost throw a no-hitter the other night, I’m coming around to the idea that the whole city is cursed.

  21. Of the 177 pitchers making 10 starts or more, Julio’s 5.3 was 98th. That said, the range is pretty narrow. Verlander was first at 6.6, and only 31 pitchers were 6.0 or more.

    Wow, I’ve beat the drum that innings eaters like Julio Teheran don’t grow on trees, but I wouldn’t have thought he was as good as middle-of-the-road on an innings per start basis. How did you compile the rankings?

    That the range is pretty narrow is not real surprising. The idea of a starting pitcher giving you 6 2/3 innings per start seems too lofty, but getting less than 6 on average across a large sample is almost disappointing. And one inning per game is, based on 2019 innings total, over 2 Luke Jacksons, over 2 Josh Tomlins, 2 1/2 Sean Newcombs, 4 Anthony Swarzaks, or 5 Jerry Blevinses. It’s 2 1/2 times the innings Melancon, Greene, and Martin provided post acquisition. Simply put, it’s really hard replacing that inning difference.

  22. Not only Game 5, but this NLCS continues to humiliate the Braves. The Cardinals don’t even look competitive.

  23. With the new bullpen rules for 2020, you can’t really justify carrying a LOOGY, so Newcomb has tremendous value as a guy who’s tough on lefties and can pitch to multiple batters. SSS, but he looked great in the postseason.

    I’d love for him to work as a starter, but this team needs him in the bullpen.

  24. Yeah, the Cardinals are looking like trash thus far. Speaks really poorly of the Braves that they lost to this bunch.

  25. The Cardinals have scored one run in 24 innings. Jack Flaherty got beat up tonight. The Braves lost to a bad team.

  26. “How did you compile the rankings?”

    From B-Ref, I got all the pitchers who made 10 starts or more in 2019 (including starts and total innings pitched.) I then made a list of all pitchers who pitched in relief and totaled their innings in games in which they pitched in relief. I then match-merged that with the first list by name, subtracted the relief innings from total innings pitched (remembering to convert the .1’s and .2s to .3333 and .6666) and then divided starting innings pitched by starts.

  27. Isn’t Julio the perfect data-oriented decision for our data-oriented FO? 1) What is a WAR worth? 2) Is Julio worth $11M? 3) Will any other team pay $11M to have Julio on their staff?

    1. I thought this value was about $8M but I’m not sure that’s true. That would make Cole worth about $55M per year. The best we can say is that there is a curve and we can use some sort of average value to WAR based upon average players. For someone like Julio. I’m more willing to believe that a WAR is worth about $6M. On that basis, Julio would have to earn 2 WAR to be worth his salary.

    2. AA has always stressed that he’s looking for “value”. What does that mean? I’d say the easiest definition is that a player has to be worth at least about 20%-30% more than he’s paid. JD made $23M and was worth at least $30M so he ended up being a value play. Julio may not be a “value” even if he earned what he made.

    3. This is actually the most important question. If someone else is willing to pay $11M to Julio next year then we should pick up his option. He becomes the perfect insurance for a young developing staff. Pick up the option and see if you can buy or develop five better options then trade him. If no one is willing to pay $11M, then decline his option and sign him to a contract that is more in line with what everyone else thinks he’s worth. If we can’t find five better options by the end of April then he’s a great guy to have on the team.

    I, for one, believe that Julio should have started Game 4. Keuchel could have come in later so that the bullpen didn’t have to pull so many innings (even in the 10th). I think the staff lined up better with Julio given a chance to be “good Julio”. Keuchel gave up 2 in the 1st. Folty gave up 7 in the 1st; Fried 3. Julio could hardly have been worse in either game. Also, if Julio failed or succeeded, this decision might be easier.

  28. I’d like to see them sign O’Day cheap, keep Greene, and trade Melancon for salary relief. Trade some of our pitching for a legitimate closer. Sign Grandal. Sign Donaldson. Keep the cheaper of Joyce/Markakis. Let Flowers go. Give Contreras/Jackson and Pache a chance at platoon/backup roles. Keep Duvall. Let Riley and Camargo get it together at Gwinnett. Sign a mid-tier SP (whoever doesn’t get a QO) or keep Julio (or keep and trade). Give Davidson/Wilson/Wright/Weigel a shot at a rotation spot. Develop anyone not in the rotation as a relief pitcher. Pay arbitration (or settle before) to everyone except Murphy.

  29. I don’t think anyone’s willing to pay Julio $11M. As I said above, I think the likeliest scenario is that the Braves decline the option and then try to sign him for less. Happens all the time.

    Roger, I actually agree a lot with your plan to “Develop anyone not in the rotation as a relief pitcher.” I’ve been really struck, and surprised, by the Braves’ reluctance to do this more. But as we’ve watched the team over the last couple of years, they’ve greatly preferred to keep a pitcher as a starter in Gwinnett than to let him get major league innings and learn how to cope with big league leverage in the pen.

  30. Julio has been with the organization since he was 16, I think. He’s a tremendous competitor. If AA sends him on his way, I guarantee you that at some point during the season, the Braves will sign someone similar to eat innings for about the same money. And then what what was accomplished?

  31. I don’t believe anyone else will pay Julio 11 mil. I also believe there will be other cromulent starters on the FA market who cost less than 11 mil. Identifying those guys isn’t an exact science though. We all kept waiting for Sanchez to turn into a pumpkin during the 2018 season. Pitchers aren’t widgets – there may be a more efficient way to spend that 11 mil but the way we’re spending it isn’t inefficient and we know with as much certainty as anyone can have what we are buying. I’d pick up the option – a bird in the hand does have value.

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