Fronting the Rotation: Atlanta

Early on this season, about three turns through rotations and about 10% of the way through the season, we have some preliminary indications about some front line duos emerging this season. For now, here is first of a few of them.

Atlanta Braves: Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez.
Vazquez, the pitcher with a reputation of out-pitching his ERA or under-pitching his core stats, depending on how you look at it. Moving to Atlanta, Jazquez has seen his individual pitch results remain stable with previous years to date, though an up tick in ground balls leading.

Interestingly, despite the stable pitch results, Javier Vazquez‘s pitch selection has changed dramatically. Vazquez has cut in half the frequency with which he used his slider from 23% to 11%. That lost 12% has been redistributed roughly equally between his change up and curveball.

Derek Lowe, another newcomer to the Braves rotation, wouldn’t be having a great season if you looked just at his individual pitches. His fastball velocity is down over a mile per hour, a drop consistent in his slider and change up as well. Interestingly enough, Lowe has further decreased the usage of his change up. What once made up 10 to 15% of his pitches is now down to around just 4%.

Lowe is also missing many fewer bats and is missing the strike zone more often as well. His groundball rate is also down as well. So what is fueling a good start for Derek Lowe? Zero home runs allowed so far is a prime motivator. That is certainly not going to hold up, but Lowe’s still great groundball rate should help stave off too harsh of a regression.

With Vazquez and Lowe up front, the starting rotation is a key for the Braves in their hopes to climb back into postseason play.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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It may be a bit early to evaluate Lowe. He’s pitched in some inclement weather. One of his starts was cut short after about three innings by a long rain delay. That could affect his pitch selection. Cooler weather might also account for that one mph loss on his pitches as well.