In this Blast from the Past series, I will profile some former Braves player with compelling careers and stories. We start with former Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens.
Jair Jurrjens at age 25 looked like an ace in the making as he played in his first All-Star Game in 2011. Frankly, Jurrjens should have started that All-Star Game and likely would have if his name were more recognizable. At the All-Star Break that season, the Curacao native led the National League with a 1.87 ERA over 110.2 innings, and he was only two weeks removed from what would have been a no-hitter if it weren’t for a seeing-eye grounder by Adam Jones.
The hot start to the 2011 season was no fluke for Jurrjens, though. He finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2008. He followed that campaign with a 2009 season in which he posted a 2.60 ERA (good enough for 5th in the majors that season) over 215 innings and a 6.5 bWAR.
From 2008 to 2009 in his rookie and sophomore seasons, Jurrjens ranked 9th in ERA in all of baseball. While he did not strike out enough batters to please some of his peripheral stats, he was among the best in baseball at suppressing runs while still in his early 20´s.
Jurrjens’ 2010 season was mired by injuries to both his shoulder and knee. However, he bounced back resiliently to make his first (and only) All-Star appearance in 2011. At that point, Jurrjens seemed that he would be a fixture in the front part the Braves’ rotation for years to come.
However, things started to unravel after that All-Star Game appearance. A knee injury in the second half of the 2011 season limited Jurrjens to 41.1 innings while posting a 5.88 ERA. He battled a groin injury to begin the 2012 season and was optioned to Triple-A after four poor starts. While he was given another opportunity in the majors in 2012, the results still weren’t there. Jurrjens ended the 2012 season with a 6.89 ERA over 48.1 innings and would never don a Braves uniform again, as he was non-tendered that offseason. In a span of 16 months, Jurrjens went from pitching in an All-Star Game to being non-tendered.
Unfortunately, things never got back on track after Jurrjens’ time with the Braves. He played at various levels for the Rockies, Orioles, Reds, Tigers, and Dodgers organizations but only pitched 16.2 innings in the big leagues after 2012. He played in China, the Dominican Republic, and represented Netherlands in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. However, he has not pitched in the major leagues since 2014.
Jair Jurrjens’ early vs. late career
|2007-2011||21-25||115||702.1||3.40||3.88||.705||Finished 3rd in ROY in 2008, All-Star in 2011|
|2012-2014||26-28||13||65||7.20||5.76||1.000||Played for 3 teams, pitched more than 10 innings in only one season|
So what went wrong? Jurrjens was always a finesse pitcher. His fastball sat in the low 90’s, and he relied heavily on his offspeed pitches. As the injuries took their toll, a casual observer could tell that Jurrjens never regained the touch that he had early in his career.
While it would be easy to lament the sudden downfall of a rising star, Jurrjens’ attitude on the mound belied that view. He was always quick to flash a smile and seemed to love every second that he was playing the game.
So what is Jurrjens doing now? Still just 34 years old, Jurrjens is still playing the game that he loves. In an exchange of messages last week, he told me that he will be playing in the Mexican League whenever it commences and is hoping to play in the Olympics and World Baseball Classic. Perhaps more than anything, though, Jurrjens said he hopes to get his “mojo back.” Don’t we all.