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Jair Jurrjens' Struggles: Do We Really Care?

Here is Mark Bradley on Jair Jurrjens' poor start to the season:

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.

I heard Steak Shapiro make the same point this morning, something along the lines of "who else is going to be our #2 starter?" Leaving aside the fact that putting pitchers into numbered boxes is a waste of time - if you're going to throw 200 innings for the Braves this year, then I care about how well you pitch, regardless of whether you are a #2 starter - I really don't feel this concern.

If there is one thing that the Braves have this year, it's pitching depth. If Jurrjens were to get stuck on 285 and miss the next five months, then the Braves could replace him with Tim Hudson, who is rounding into shape at AAA and is close to a return. The Braves do not face a pressing need to move current #5 starter Randall Delgado out of the rotation because he has pitched reasonably well in his first two starts, most notably because he has been striking out opponents at a much better rate than he was last year. (Caveat: in addition to a small sample size, we are talking about starts against the Astros and Mets, who are prospectively two of the worst teams in the NL.)

If the Braves were to move Delgado out of the rotation, then they would be able to choose from Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran as replacements. Medlen is valuable in his current role of acting as a bridge between the starters and O'Ventbrel (and I would be terrified that Fredi would put Livan Hernandez into that role if Medlen became a starter), but he can be an effective starter. Teheran did not look great in spring training, but he is a major prospect and is off to a pretty good start at Gwinnett (again, subject to sample size caveats). In short, the Braves have seven potential starters even if Jurrjens doesn't pitch another inning this year.

In fact, our big concern should be that the Braves will act too slowly with Jurrjens and let him continue to make bad, bullpen-taxing starts when they have other viable options. If Freddie Freeman or Michael Bourn were performing poorly, then the Braves would be in real trouble because they do not have other options. That concern does not exist with their starting pitchers, even one who took a sub-2 ERA into the All Star Break last year.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.