The goal for the Atlanta Braves during the offseason was to add some veteran stability to a staff that already included Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz. While their veteran additions turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag, the rotation as a whole struggled in large part due to the up and down season of Julio Teheran.
What were the expectations?
The idea of Teheran as a staff ace probably has sailed but for this Braves team, that was exactly what they were looking for and needed from him. In 2016, Teheran successfully bounced back from an up and down 2015 season by reducing his walk rate while upping his strikeouts. Teheran ended his 2016 tying his career high in fWAR (3.2).
Most projections saw some regression for Teheran but not quite to the extent that they actually occurred.
Many will have forgotten that Teheran allowed just two runs total in his first three starts. The Nationals battered him for seven runs in just four innings on April 19 and that seemed to put the roller coaster in motion.
Teheran recorded a 6.12 ERA in May and a 6.35 mark in June. Most of that damage came via the longball where he allowed 17 over the course of 11 starts. For the season, Teheran allowed a career-worst 31 home runs. In some ways, this should not have been a surprise, as Teheran has been a fly ball pitcher with a somewhat elevated homer rate, and the changes in the league were not conducive to him keeping the ball in the park in 2017.
A lot of those early struggles came at home and had many suggesting that Teheran wasn’t suited to pitch the majority of his games in the Braves new stadium at SunTrust Park. However, his splits normalized somewhat as the season went on.
Teheran allowed 61 earned runs in 93.2 innings at home (17 starts, 5.86 ERA).
He allowed 33 earned runs in 94.2 innings on the road (15 starts, 3.14 ERA).
Teheran’s FIP was nearly a run higher at home at 5.40 versus 4.51 on the road. The gap in his xFIP was not quite as pronounced at 5.15 at home and 4.77 on the road. He allowed 17 home runs at home with 14 coming on the road. Opponents registered a .293 BABIP against Teheran at SunTrust Park but he limited them to a .263 mark on the road.
So yes, Teheran was better on the road than he was at home in 2017 but the gap wasn’t nearly as wide as it was early on in the season. The xFIP further suggests that if the season were to stretch on and on, his home FIP would fall and his road FIP would increase, as the HR/FB rate stabilized.
Teheran was able to avoid setting a new career low in fWAR because he was able to finish the season on a somewhat good note. After some improvement in July, Teheran put together his best stretch of the season over the season’s final two months. He put up a 3.44 ERA over his last 11 starts and allowed three runs or less in eight of those outings. His long ball struggles also normalized as he allowed just five over his last 68 innings. His 1.1 fWAR ties his career low for a single season, but his 2015 season was worse, as he managed 1.1 fWAR in 200 innings, whereas he managed the same mark in 2017 in just 188 frames. (Similarly, his 116 FIP- in 2017 is just a tad better than his 117 FIP- in 2015, indicating that he was worse relative to the league two years ago than he was this year.)
Given the upheaval of the Braves front office, it is a bit uncertain as to what path they may follow during the offseason. Under John Coppolella, the Braves had a stated desire to acquire a young controllable top of the rotation starting pitcher. That might have made Teheran expendable in some regards given the amount of young arms that are progressing through the system. However, since we aren’t sure who will be calling the shots for the Braves at this point, it is unclear whether acquiring a top of the rotation arm is still the goal.
Teheran is under contract through 2019 and has a team option for 2020. He is slated to make just over $8.1 million in 2018. If he is still a Brave come next summer and barring any other acquisitions, Teheran looks like a safe bet to be Atlanta’s Opening Day starter in 2018.