I got into a debate with one of the guys who follows me on Twitter today, it actually turned into a multitude of voices offering their thoughts, about the validity of calling Jair Jurrjens an “ace.” Obviously Twitter is a poor place to debate that, no one can make a valid argument when you are looking at a limit of 140 characters, but it got me to thinking about the question which prompted this piece.
Jair Jurrjens was a wonderful fantasy piece last year as he posted a 2.60 ERA, the third best mark in the NL, on his way to 14 victories in 215 innings for the Braves. If your definition of an “ace” is an innings eater who wins game, I can accept the position that he was an ace last year. However, if you are claiming he is an ace because of his skill set or because of his future outlook, I’m afraid the outlook is much bleaker.
Even with his success last year there are plenty of reasons to be dubious about the potential for a repeat this season (and I’m not even referring to the health questions about his shoulder which introduce the proverbial wrench to the proceedings).
(1) Jurrjens struck out 6.36 batters per nine innings. The major league average last season was 6.99. Clearly, his rate was unimpressive.
(2) Jurrjens did produce a slightly better than average walk rate last season at 3.14 per nine, the average in the bigs was 3.46, but because of the poor strikeout total his K/BB mark of 2.03 was only one hundredth better than the league average of 2.02.
(3) Ground ball pitchers like Jurrjens can still be mighty effective at the above levels, but the problem is he lost a lot of those grounders last year as batters turned them into flyballs. After a 51.5 percent GB-rate in 2008, that number dropped all the way to 42.9 percent last season. As a result his terrific 1.94 G/F rate of ’08 fell to almost exactly the league average at 1.10 which puts his future performance in question.
A low strikeout mark, a middling K/BB rate, and a barely average G/F certainly doesn’t scream out third in the league in ERA now does it?
Furthermore, here are another couple of notes of worry.
(4) Jurrjens posted a left on base percentage mark of 79.4 percent. The big league average is usually right around 70 percent, and that 79.4 percent mark last year with fifth in baseball. Logic would dictate a regression in 2010, probably much closer to his 71 percent mark from 2008 than last year’s near 80 percent rate. For some context, only eight guys posted a mark of 79 percent last year, only four did it in 2008 and no one pulled off the feat in 2007 (min. 162 IP).
(5) Jurrjens didn’t record nearly as strong a number in a myriad of ERA related measures that he did with his raw ERA. Just take a look.
His ERC ERA was 3.04.
His FIP ERA was 3.68 (actually higher than his 3.59 mark in 2008 that led to a raw ERA of 3.68).
His DIPS ERA was 3.82.
What those three measures clearly point out is that Jurrjens was pretty lucky to post a sub 3.00 ERA last season.
Is Jurrjens an “ace”? I don’t think he will ever be an ace in the bigs or in the fantasy game. He simply doesn’t dominate hitters, and the failure for him to produce positive growth in a myriad of measure last year despite his ERA certainly throws into question whether or not he will ever be able to take the next step. Don’t get me wrong, Jurrjens is a fine pitcher, one that the Braves, and his fantasy owners, certainly will be happy with – that is if they expect his ERA to be 3.60 and not 2.60. Don’t be surprised if Jurrjens fails to repeat his ratios from last season even if he pitches a lot of innings and wins a lot of games for the Braves in 2010.
By Ray Flowers