Atlanta’s Embarrassment of Pitching Riches

Tim Hudson made his long awaited return from Tommy John surgery late Monday night. While he showed some rust, he performed OK over all — allowing two earned runs over 5.1 innings with 6 hits allowed and three walks, while striking out five.

Here’s his movement graph. Pitch F/x apparently forgot the scouting report on Huddy, so rather than then taking the time to manually reclassify his pitches, I just broke them down by velocity.


Still a very nice sinker, splitter, cutter and curve for Hudson. He averaged about 89 MPH with his fastball and hit up to 92, so the early returns are encouraging. Thank goodness for Dr. Jobe’s miraculous invention. But now what do the Braves do with their rotation? With Hudson’s return, the Braves now have six good starting pitchers in their rotation, an embarrassment of riches. Something has to give.

Javier Vazquez 181.1 IP – 3.18 ERA – 2.83 FIP – 48.4 RAR – 5.4 WAR
Jair Jurrjens 171 IP – 2.89 ERA – 3.75 FIP – 29.3 RAR – 3.1 WAR
Derek Lowe 164.1 IP – 4.38 ERA – 3.73 FIP – 28.6 RAR – 3 WAR
Thomas Hanson 89.2 IP – 3.15 ERA – 3.98 FIP – 13.1 RAR – 1.4 WAR
Kenshin Kawakami 142.2 IP – 3.97 ERA – 4.30 FIP – 16.3 RAR – 1.7 WAR

The odd man out is reportedly Kenshin Kawakami, who was signed as a free agent from Japan over the winter and has proven to be about what the Braves had hoped: a little better than league average. Teams would be blessed to have him as their 4th starter, he’s now the Braves’ 6th starter, making him the best swing-man in the biz.

So what do the Braves do with this wonderful problem that they have in the offseason? I know the saying goes that you never have too much pitching, but Hudson has a $12M option for next season. While that’s somewhat tempting given the fact that Huddy may now be as good as new, if the Braves decide to pick it up, that would mean they would be allocating $45M to four pitchers in their rotation. Lowe is guaranteed $15M next year. Vasquez, $11.5M. Kawakami, around $7M. With the presence of two terrific cost-controlled options of Thomas Hanson and Jair Jurrjens and the Braves in desperate need of some offense, Hudson is probably headed for free agency this year. Millions of dollars are on the line for Hudson, with just a few starts remaining.

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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

24 Responses to “Atlanta’s Embarrassment of Pitching Riches”

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  1. Joe R says:

    Kawakami for Billy Butler straight up?

    Sounds like a GMDM move to me, a 34 year old 4th starter for a guy with a .295/.349/.473 line at 23.

    Or Mike Moustakas. I should be the Royals GM.

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  2. snapper says:

    Vazquez is in the last year of his contract in 2010. How about trading him for some hitteing?

    Hudson + VG Hitter > Vazquez

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  3. Matt B. says:

    What happened to Lowe’s slider?

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  4. Ron says:

    Hudson is extremely popular in Atlanta, both with the team and the fans. I’m guessing they pick up his option or offer him a team-friendly multi-year extension, then sell high on Vazquez.

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  5. I came in here ready to be unimpressed because the Giants have a pretty good rotation too, but I have to agree that the Braves do have an embarrassment of pitching riches (though with Bumgarner near, the Giants would surpass that I believe, as then we would have 4 young ace level starters, assuming Bumgarner achieves his potential).

    Very nice article. I might even go further on your thoughts and say that they trade both Vazquez and Kawakami, and let Medlen (or is he out for TJS; just know he’s been out since May) and Jose Ortegano battle for the 5th spot. Depends on what they can get for them, but they are both old, so I agree with the idea of selling high on both. And they could always pick up a vet starter on the cheap at some point to be the 5th guy, then he could hold the fort until one of the young guns come up.

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  6. Theo Epstein says:

    There’s no such thing as too much pitching.

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  7. Bill says:

    I say the Braves find a way to get rid of Lowe. Trade him to a team and eat about half of his contract.

    Someone on another website posted an idea of using Lowe to obtain Hardy from the Brewers. Put Hardy at 2B for the Braves and Prado at 1B. That settles their 1B situation for next year. Then field a lineup of

    Matt Diaz LF
    Nate McLouth CF
    Chipper Jones 3B
    McCann C
    Escobar SS
    Ryan Church RF
    Martin Prado 1B
    J.J. Hardy 2B

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    • Chris M. says:

      To acquire Hardy and not play him at short would be foolish unless you have a defensive wizard like Jack Wilson already at the position.

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  8. Alex says:

    I’m pretty sure the Braves have already indicated that they are picking up Hudson’s option.

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  9. Deacon Drake says:

    I doubt Hudson is going to leave home at this point of his career… Expect him to work out an extension and the team to shop Lowe.

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  10. Shush says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the only people who were willing to give up prospects for Vazquez last year — after he very much wore out his welcome in Chicago, much like in Arizona and NYC — were the Braves. Why would the situation be different this year?

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  11. The Nicker says:

    Injuries will occur like every year. The Braves would be smart to start Kawakami in swing next year and keep all 6. That puts them in the best position to win.

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  12. bobo says:

    I’m not suer they need anything offensively except a bit of better luck.

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  13. BX says:

    If I’m the Braves, I pick up Huddy’s option and try to trade Kawakami for prospects. I’d venture to think that KK will be a better option, when factoring in talent, age, projected contract for the FAs, and injury history.

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  14. nick says:

    I don’t want to trade Vazquez, in fact I want the Braves to extend him. He fits in very well in Atlanta and he’s putting up great numbers. Even if this is just a career year, he’s still a 4-5 WAR player every year which is extremely valuable. Plus he would likely be willing to sign for a relatively cheap amount as Atlanta is very close to Puerto Rico, his home. With Heyward filling the hole in RF, Diaz moving to LF, McLouth in CF all year, and hopefully LaRoche at 1B the entire season (extension pending) the offense will be vastly improved. The defense as well. They don’t really need to trade for hitters, the biggest needs are bullpen arms and a top 3B prospect (though I’d prefer to try and land one or two in this upcoming draft)

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  15. Scott says:

    Atlanta is dumb not to pickup the option of Hudson and Vazquez. Since both are roughly equal in salary either could be gone.

    IMHO the Braves should shop around the idea of trading Lowe, he won’t get close to the return Hudson and Vazquez will, but you can lock one of them up for 3 or 4 years, if not both, and both are better pitchers then Lowe when healthy and performing as they should.

    But what will happen is one of them will be traded and it will probably be Vazquez. Though with the starter FA market being weak Hudson may opt to void his option and become a free agent.

    Lots of variables of what could happen.

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  16. Scott says:

    A little bit of proofreading correction, I just realized my first sentence was worded 100% wrong. Wrong tense

    Should be Atlanta would be dumb not to pick up the options of Hudson and Vazquez

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