Atlanta Braves Starting Pitching: Best of the 10 for 10’s

In our previous Atlanta Braves 10 for 10’s installments, the knaves and fools, best of the infield, outfield, and relief pitching , we went through and looked at the many “Whipping Boys” and heroes of the Braves over the past decade.

Today we will look at the best Atlanta Braves starting pitchers of the decade. Just a reminder that in determining who’s the best, we followed simple criteria. If there was one player that had a great outlying year that supersedes other players, that player gets the nod. If a player has 1 great year that’s slightly better than another player who sustained success for multiple years, the latter gets the nod. If you disagree, let us know what order you would put them in. It’s almost impossible to pick just 5 with how many starters the Braves have had over the decade, so I’ll include a few honorable mentions as well.

Best of the 2010’s, Atlanta Braves Starting Pitchers, Mike Soroka

Mike Soroka: Our ace, the maple Maddux himself, Mike Soroka. Soroka’s 4.0 fWAR in 2019 was the highest number for a Braves starting pitcher in a single year for the entire decade. While a few came close, none stood above what Soroka accomplished this season. Not to mention, in 2018 his 0.6 fWAR came in just below Julio Teheran for the 6th best SP WAR on the team even though he had 150 less IP. He’s really good.

Best of the 2010’s, Atlanta Braves Starting Pitchers, Mike Foltynewicz

Since breaking into the Braves rotation in 2015, Folty has been a bit inconsistent, but has put up strong numbers. I am putting him at 2 in the rotation because of his breakout 2018 campaign. His 3.8 fWAR in 2018 put him at 2nd of the decade behind Soroka. He was worth 3.2 fWAR in 50 starts for 2016 and 2017 combined, then he finally seemed to pull it back together at the end of 2019. Folty is simply a pitcher full of potential that sometimes loses his mind on the mound. At only 28 years old, Folty has this year and next year with the Braves to prove himself before he is eligible for free agency. We’re all hoping to see the guy we saw in NLDS game 2 come 2020.

But let’s not forget one of the most entertaining things that Folty can do and that is to look absurd swinging a bat.

Best of the 2010’s, Atlanta Braves Starting Pitchers, Julio Teheran

Teheran was consistently above average in his tenure with the Braves. In his 7 full seasons he collected 13.7 fWAR with a 3.67 ERA in 1,360 IP. Julio has been the one constant in the Braves rotation in the 2010’s. While he may not have put up glamorous numbers, the Braves could rely on him giving them 1-3 fWAR every year. Unfortunately heading into the 2020s that isn’t what the Braves need anymore and they had to let Julio head west for a new journey.

Let’s not forget how great Julio was early in his career. Here’s his 2013 highlight reel, the year he finished 5th in ROY voting.

Best of the 2010’s, Atlanta Braves Starting Pitchers, Tim Hudson

Huddy was worth 8 fWAR in his 4 seasons with the Braves this decade. In 2012 he led the staff with 2.9 fWAR and 2013 looked to be heading that way as well, until a gruesome injury ended his tenure with the Braves. You may not want to watch it… I’ll embed the video below. In that 2013 season he had 1.7 fWAR in 21 starts. Extrapolating that over the last 2 months he probably would have finished with around 2.8 fWAR, finishing 2nd in the rotation between Mike Minor (3.4) and Kris Medlen (2.6). In 2010 he threw 228.2 innings and in 2011 he was the only Braves pitcher over 200 innings pitched. Huddy truly anchored this staff for the early part of the decade.

Oh yeah…he could hit, too. Thanks Bryce.

Best of the 2010’s, Atlanta Braves Starting Pitchers, Tommy Hanson

May he rest in peace; I had to include him. I had a picture of him above my bed as a teenager. He looked like a budding star early in his career, then the shoulder tendinitis and decreased velocity started to kick in. The Braves traded him for Jordan Walden after the 2012 season, but his 2010 season of 3.7 fWAR placed 3rd of the decade as he threw 202.2 innings with a 3.33 ERA. He had a strong 2011, 1.2 fWAR with a 3.60 ERA in only 130 IP, but 2012 was a struggle: 0.2 fWAR with a 4.48 ERA in 174.2 IP. After that season he struggled with the Angels and his career kind of fell off before his tragic passing in November 2015.

Here’s Tommy with one of his best outings of his career.

Honorable Mentions

Kris Medlen

In 2012 Medlen had a 1.57 ERA in 138 IP, good for 3.2 fWAR. While he only started 12 games, he made 38 relief appearances and had a stellar year. He was also worth 2.4 fWAR in 2013, a 3.11 ERA in 197 IP. It was sad to see the injury problems Medlen had in his career, as he could’ve been quite a star in the MLB. I was also very fond of his bugs-bunny change-up.  

Mike Minor

In 2013 Minor pitched 204.2 innings with a 3.21 ERA worth 3.4 fWAR. His other 4 seasons with the Braves were just slightly above average. It was a huge blow to the Braves rotation when Minor went down late in the season. Medlen and Brandon Beachy had Tommy John surgeries during Spring Training 2014 and Minor joined them months later. It’s almost shocking that the 2014 Braves had 4 starters throw over 150 innings, 2 of which were over 200 innings, with those three being sidelined.

Shelby Miller

Miller only pitched for the Braves in 2015, but he held a 3.02 ERA in 205.1 IP worth 3.7 fWAR. A strong campaign good enough to garner the Braves Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair in a trade after the season.

Alex Wood

I still wish we had never made the Hector Olivera trade. In just three seasons with the Braves, Wood was worth 6.2 fWAR as a starter (55 starts). He’s had his fair share of injury concerns, but he took off with the Dodgers in 2017 and 2018 and made us all regret what myself and many others have coined “the worst trade of the rebuild,” as it certainly didn’t help the Braves!

Thanks for reading our 10 for 10’s piece on Atlanta Braves Starting Pitchers. If you enjoyed this piece, take a look back at Mike Soroka’s 2019 Player Review.

Long Live Braves Journal!

Author: Matt P

Hello, I’m Matt Pocza! I am a 3rd year finance student at the University of Florida and I love the Atlanta Braves. I’ve played baseball my entire life, and I am a submarine pitcher for the club team at Florida. I also enjoy scuba diving, football and business. Follow me on twitter @braves_rumors!

25 thoughts on “Atlanta Braves Starting Pitching: Best of the 10 for 10’s”

  1. When Hanson was young and good, he was the brightest hope on the horizon for a woeful Braves team, with all the expectations that followed — just like Acuna a few years later. Here’s what I wrote on the blog then.

    JC’ed from the last thread:

    Another way to think of it is this:

    The Dodgers took Verdugo, a 3-win player, and Pederson, a 3-win player, and Maeda, a 3-win player, and turned them into Betts, a 7-win player.

    But it’s a lot easier to find and replace a 3-win player than it is to obtain a 7-win player. Indeed, they got rid of Pederson because they barely had enough at-bats for him as it was. (I essentially think of him as their Ryan Klesko, and I’m including him here because it’s clear that the Joc trade was chain-linked to the Betts trade.)

    Even if they don’t win the World Series this year, I don’t think that makes the trade a washout – they dealt from strength to get the literal second-best player in the sport for a full year, and no one they got rid of is someone irreplaceable. That’s the definition of acceptable risk.

  2. HOWEVER, Furcal rule is in effect as the trade is currently being held up due to medicals, and it sounds like it could change a bit. (The Sox don’t think Graterol from Minnesota can hold up as a starter.) So the Pederson trade is being held up too, as it depends on the Betts trade and, well… we’ll see.

  3. I’m not sure what people are saying about LA’s rotation. Kershaw, Buehler, Price, and Urias/Wood looks pretty tough 1-4. I can’t see a place in the roster except for maybe the bullpen where Atlanta has the advantage.

  4. With that said, I think Atlanta has the muscle to win the East, but I think another big deadline move is going to be necessary to catch the Dodgers. This will be an exciting season to see if a team like the Braves, spending about $60M less than LA, can put a team up there that can match them. I agree with Alex; LA already had an incredible team and added a huge, huge piece to put them over the top.

    Was listening to the pod last night, and you guys got me excited about seeing Touki out of the pen. I definitely think his future is not as a starter, at least this year, so we need to see him in the pen.

  5. @1: you were always a wordsmith, AAR. Great ode to an athlete dying young. Unfulfilled promise is ever tragic, and great potential is a burden. What a beautifully told sad story.

  6. Can anyone with an active BP subscription confirm Mark Bradley’s reporting that Markakis ranks #774 among position players in the newly released PECOTA rankings? Doing the math, there are at most 14 active position players per team, plus maybe 3-4 on the DL, so somewhere in the low 500s total among the 30 teams. Then add to that number a complete starting eight from the minor leagues of each franchise (not that it would literally work out that way, but you get the drift). And then, below all of them, according to PECOTA…Neck.

  7. @7 that’s Braves cleanup hitter Nick Markakis to you! But in all seriousness, I don’t see how he could possibly be that low.

  8. other decade Starting Pitcher seasons of note:
    according to BRef:
    2011 Jair Jurrjens 3.2 WAR in 152 IP
    2012 Brandon Beachy 2.0 WAR in only 81 IP!
    2018 Anibal Sanchez 3.0 WAR in 136 IP

  9. @10 I wanted to include Beachy, just couldn’t bring myself to do it. The track record wasn’t long enough and even though that 2012 season was great, it was a small sample size. Same with Sanchez, he was only here for a year. Jurrjens wasn’t very good the rest of the years and fangraphs wasn’t even very high on that 2012 year. He could’ve been an honorable mention, but he just felt very meh to me.

  10. Love the Mookie trade. I’ve always felt the 90’s Braves should have made a big move after the 96 series. Instead, they turned Dye, Justice, and Grissom into one year of Lofton, 37 worthless years of Keith Lockhart, two years of Michael Tucker.

  11. Jermaine Dye for Michael Tucker and Keith Lockhart continues to be one of the bigger head scratchers. Has anyone ever come out to explain why that trade made any sense? I understood the versatility of Lockhart, but at the end of the day you had a young slugger in Dye versus two very blah players in Tucker and Lockhart…

    And yeah, I know the Braves included Jamie Walker in that deal as well.

  12. To be fair, Jermaine Dye wasn’t good in ‘98& ‘99, but ‘99-‘01 was something to behold. With where the team was at the time, they’d have traded him in 2000 as they just couldn’t take the risk of a below average fielder breaking through with the bat.

  13. @12 They did make some big moves in the 90’s, though. McGriff ultimately led to a WS win…… And they made the big FA agent signing AFTER their first WS – some guy named Maddux. They also signed Gallarraga later in the 90s.

  14. I guess it was the last thread where Ryan talked about needing to clear out the excess, which is true, and I sure don’t want to lose any really good value to the waiver wire. But I just don’t see anything so great about trading for one year’s worth of anyone. One year’s worth just for money, ok, but not for a lot of future value. I’d rather be on the Smoltz-end of that trade.

    I wouldn’t mind trading some high level near-ML-ready prospects for similarly ranked hotshots lower down in the minors farther from being Rule 5 eligible.

  15. @7 Markakis was a 0.4 fWAR, 0.8 bWAR player last year in 116 games. Perhaps they are projecting he will not only be worse, but he’ll play less as well, and essentially be a replacement level player next year? I don’t think they’re too far off on that unless his LF defense grades out really well.

  16. @17
    I talked about this exact scenario a few podcasts ago. AA could use the bottlenecking at the top in trades to redistribute talent throughout the system (although I don’t think the system is as weak at the bottom as others might think).

  17. 4 – I think this was mostly directed at my comment so I’ll respond. I wasn’t saying they’re chumps or anything, but I would put the Braves 1-4 even with LAD at this point.

    Soroka vs Kershaw – Push? Maybe slight edge to Soroka at this point in their careers
    Fried vs Buehler – Push? Maybe slight edge to Buehler but I’m pretty high on Fried
    Hamels vs. Price – Push? Maybe slight edge to Hamels (has certainly been better in postseason)
    Wood/Urias vs. Folty/Newk/etc. – Push?

    Honestly both teams have great young starting pitching depth that could change this equation if one or more of May, Gonsolin, Wright, Wilson, Newk, Anderson take the next step.

    Just saying I wouldn’t look at the pitching matchups and shudder facing the Dodgers, and shuddering at pitching matchups has been an October tradition since the early 2000s.

    That lineup tho…

  18. Reaching out to the blog to see if anyone has something they’d like to write about. Email me at cothrjr at gmail if you’ve got an idea.

  19. Dusty, I had heard it not just from you but from people elsewhere, so I wasn’t necessarily directing it at you.

    At first glance, I would have thought you were a little too optimistic about Soroka vs. Kershaw, but if Soroka is remotely as durable as he suggested he might be last year, then I think you’re right on that. To the durability issue, I think I’d be betting on Buehler over Fried for next year. Buehler had 2 complete games last year, pitched 180 innings, and I would think he’s a dominant 200 IP candidate next year, a borderline Cy Young contender. I hope Fried is as dominant as Buehler was last year, and I think he could probably match Buehler’s durability last year, but I just don’t see Fried putting up the 200 IP, 3 ERA, 5 WAR season that I think Buehler puts up this year.

    Agreed that 3 and 4 are pushes with a slight edge to Atlanta. And no one has the upside Mike Foltynewicz has in that tier. Folty righted the ship enough in September of last year enough for me to have a lot of optimism for him this year.

    I would think Urias has the advantage in any 5th starter scenarios. In spots 4 and 5th, LA probably has the higher floor, but I think Atlanta has the higher ceiling.

  20. With Pederson gone, I would think LA’s lineup could (or should?) go something like this:

    Kike/Taylor
    Seager
    Betts
    Bellinger
    Turner
    Muncy
    Pollock (Taylor when Pollock inevitably misses 50 games)
    Catcher

    Compared with:
    Acuna
    Albies
    Freeman
    Ozuna
    Inciarte
    Camargo
    Catcher
    Dansby

    And now you’re really seeing where that $60M extra goes for LA. If Atlanta was remotely close in payroll, you’ve got Donaldson in the middle of that order with Camargo being Chris Taylorian injury insurance. I think our only hope for our lineup to be close to LA’s is if Riley can hit close to how he did when he first game up, pushing Acuna to CF, Inciarte to the bench, Ozuna to RF, and putting Riley in LF. Then if you mirrored Atlanta’s lineup to resemble the structure of LA’s (the more traditional approach), then it would look something like:

    Dansby (in my fantasy Dansby is the .800 OPS guy we want and crave)
    Ozzie
    Freddie
    Acuna
    Riley
    Ozuna
    Camargo
    Catcher

    Then it gets a little closer. But right now, it’s far.

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