Jair Jurrjens: Lucky SOB, the New Matt Cain, or Both?

First, he was an unknown commodity, the kid with the funny name from the same little country as Andruw Jones.

Then he was the guy who got traded, after a sluggish cup of coffee in the big leagues, for Edgar Renteria.

Then he was the so-so peripherals guy, a pitcher who flashed low ERAs but seemed destined for a reckoning, given his lack of swing-and-miss stuff.

Then he was the injuries guy, suffering hamstring and knee injuries and eventually requiring surgery to fix the problem.

Even today, mlbdepthcharts.com lists him as the number-four starter on a second-place team.

Yet recently — in just the past few days, in fact — he’s gone from afterthought in the minds of most, to borderline superstar. Today, the narrative is, “That Halladay guy stinks, let’s start Jair Jurrjens in the All-Star Game instead.”

First, the superficial stuff: Jurrjens leads the National League in wins, winning percentage and ERA (12-3, 1.89). In an Atlanta Braves rotation that was supposed to be anchored by veterans Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe and led long-term by Tommy Hanson, Jurrjens has been arguably better than all of them this season.

Jurrjens has always adept at doing what pitchers are supposedly paid to do: prevent runs. His Koufaxian run this year has dropped his career ERA to 3.24. That would be fourth on Baseball-Reference.com’s active leaderboard (third among starters) if Jurrjens met the 1000-inning minimum.

Of course we know the drill by now. When a starting pitcher sports a career strikeout rate just over 6/9 IP, owns a K/BB rate a tick better than 2/1, and isn’t an exceptional groundball-inducer (44.8% GB), we raise a skeptical eyebrow, and wait for the Regression Fairy to pay a visit.

That type of broad-stroke analysis ignores the possibility of outliers, though. And outliers do exist. Matt Cain‘s 3.42 career ERA is significantly better than his 3.75 career FIP. It’s way, way better than his career 4.27 xFIP. Dave Cameron has waged a quixotic struggle to try and solve the mystery of Giants pitchers and their aberrant home run-to-flyball rates, with Cain the poster boy for this weirdness. Cameron couldn’t find a single, no-doubter of a reason, nor could Giants’ pitching coach, Dave Righetti.

One of the issues I’ve always struggled to understand when it comes to DIPS theory is how to deal with pitchers who induce weak contact. Don’t they exist? They seem to exist. Isn’t it possible that a pitcher could sport merely decent strikeout rates, put the ball in the air a fair bit, and still succeed — assuming he mixes pitches and location well enough and keeps batters off-balance?

It’s possible that Jurrjens is the new Matt Cain. He certainly is in the sense that his ERAs routinely crush his fielding-independent numbers. And he’s taken it to another level this year. His strikeout rate has actually fallen significantly to 5.29/9 IP this year. A corresponding drop in his walk rate to just over two per 9 IP helps a lot. But it doesn’t fully explain the Jurrjens Experience. As Christina Kahrl noted at ESPN.com, Jurrjens hasn’t just limited his home runs allowed; he’s kept extra-base hits in general to a minimum, with an ISO allowed of just .083.

Part of that could certainly be luck or random variance. But it may well be that Jurrjens is one of those pitchers who legitimately creates weak contact, apparently more so this year than ever before. Jonny Venters taught him a two-seam fastball, which Jurrjens has used to great effect (as if we needed another example of Jonny Venters‘ greatness). Jurrjens still isn’t generating as many groundballs as you’d expect a two-seam fastball pitcher to produce. Meanwhile, going away from the four-seamer has netted a nearly two-mile-per-hour drop in his average fastball (which could help explain part of the drop in K rate). The weak-contact theory isn’t reflected in a higher pop-up rate either; at 6.8%, it’s tied for the lowest mark of his career.

The elephant in the room is BABIP — the hand-wave explanation we like to use when a pitcher does great things for hard-to-understand reasons. And yes, at .256, Jurrjens is allowing fewer balls in play to drop than even the league-wide dip in BABIP can fully explain. That’s 44 points lower than Jurrjens’ 2010 figure, though not wildly out of line with his career .278 mark.

So we’re left wondering. This being the start of the SABR convention, we didn’t have time to do extensive HitTracker sleuthing and similar research to pin down exactly what kind of contact Jurrjens is inducing and whether or not it’s sustainable. Hopefully Team Dave Allen can pick up the torch and check it out.

It might be that Jurrjens is a lucky SOB having his day in the sun. But I’m not quite ready to just say that and move on.




Print This Post



Jonah Keri is the author of The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First -- now a National Bestseller! Follow Jonah on Twitter @JonahKeri, and check out his awesome podcast.


118 Responses to “Jair Jurrjens: Lucky SOB, the New Matt Cain, or Both?”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Andrew says:

    Baseball Info Solutions has broken down hit ball data into hard, medium, and soft the past few seasons

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. JM says:

    Now is the time to trade high in your fantasy leagues. Prepare for a cataclysmic fall to earth.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Pat says:

      It should of happened weeks ago, of course he isn’t a true talent sub-2 ERA pitcher but I’m sick of the mindless commentary of every player regressing magically.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • ABravesFan says:

      Cataclysmic? Jurrjens’ FIP and xFIP are not that bad. He would still be an above average SP for fantasy purposes (he is not quite that valuable in fantasy due to the low striekouts).

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • NEPP says:

      I managed to trade him for Cliff Lee straight up…good times.

      +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Antonio Bananas says:

      “cataclysmic”? Really? I mean, beyond the year he was injured, he’s pretty much always seemed like a “smart pitcher” who would have a 2.50-3.00 ERA. He’s young and he really does seem smart.

      I’d be very interested in a study looking at each ball hit. Using FIP, which disregards anything not a K, BB, or HR for a “smart pitcher” is downright stupid.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. My favorite thing about Jonny Venters is everything.

    +47 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • NEPP says:

      If I were a Braves fan, I’d be worried about the amount of usage Venters is getting. He’s on pace for nearly 100 IP out of the BP. Might want to try and save some bullets for October.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Antonio Bananas says:

        I agree. Venters got hit hard a few games in a row, took a series off, and seems back on track. If Atlanta clinches wild card early, I would rest him the last however long they have. A few inning obviously, but I’d definately try not to over use him. He’s not a slider guy though so his arm should be able to handle it more.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Antonio Bananas says:

        Also, I haven’t looked at the numbers, but with his insane GB% I’d guess he uses less pitches per inning. So it may not be as bad as it looks.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • NEPP says:

        Hopefully for him…he’s one hell of a pitcher. I’d just hate to see him get Joe Torre’d out of the BP.

        Sure, as a Phillies fan, it’d be nice to not worry about him but as a fan of the game, I’d hate it.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • mbrady16 says:

      Jonny is undoubtedly really good, but let’s be honest here. Kimbrel is better, even if you forget about saves and other superficial stuff.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Antonio Bananas says:

        REALLY? You think so? I mean, Kimbrel is more fun to watch when he’s one because of his blazing FB with insane movement. However, Kimbrel goes through fits where he’ll walk a guy, K a guy, walk a guy, K a guy, just one little texas leaguer scores a run after that. The only time I’ve seen Venters look like you could score off him was when he was tired after pitching every game.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • mbrady16 says:

        Really? That’s a nice story. Have you taken a look at the Relievers leaderboard on this site lately? You really should. Then tell me who’s better after you’ve done that.

        Not that it matters, as I’m sure the Venters meme will continue regardless of the numbers or logic.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • A says:

        y mad tho

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Joe says:

    It seems that his changeup is playing really well this year as well. Considering the new 2 seamer and that the changeup is the most effective run preventing secondary offering, could this help explain it?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. CircleChange11 says:

    This is simple. He’s one of those cases where he outperforms his FIP big time in odd numbered years, but doesn’t in even numbered years.

    But, in 2009 he outperformed his FIP in a big way. I don;t agree that pitchers tend to “get lucky” for a whole season, over 200 IP, but must be doing something well that we have yet to detect.

    Now, that he’s doing it again, even if for just half a season, I don;t think we can just say “luck”. Even if he regresses so that his end of the season line shows an increase in ERA of a full run, he’s going to outperform his FIP considerably (for the second time).

    We can look at team defense, hit quality, etc although it would probably require us to watch all of his starts (I would if I had the resources).

    When we look at the season stats, it’s HR/FB rate and BABIP. But that doesn’t tell us much, other than “they’re lower than his other years”. The question is “why?”.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Antonio Bananas says:

      I don’t think it’s an even numbered thing. I think he’s just a pitcher who outpeforms his FIP. The “odd year” he was hurt. So basically if Jurrjens is healthy, he’s a damn good cerebral type pitcher.

      Gotta remember too, he’s a Braves. He gets to pick the brains of some of the greatest thinking pitchers of this generation during spring training. Article I read he talked about speaking with Glavine. Seems to have helped.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Blue says:

    He’s an interesting factoid that may be useful in solvnig this mystery. When I was looking at PECOTA projections to find LIMA candidates, JJ didn’t make the cut. When I changed my approach, however, from K/9, K/BB, to HR/9 to K/Batters Faced, BB/Batters Faced, HR/Batters Faced he jumped up significantly in my ratings (not to the top, but a lot).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • RC says:

      Interesting, so his periphrials look good when you use actual DIPS stats (K/PA) instead of non dips stats (K/IP)

      You stumbled on the principle reason FIP is a misleading statistic

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Feeding the Abscess says:

        Jurrjens is striking batters at a 14.7% clip this season.

        He struck out 17.2% of batters last season.

        He actually is striking out far fewer batters this season.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Slee says:

    Every time JJ goes out and gets another win, i wait for the inevitable “Jurrjens is not this good” article from you guys. So because you “didn’t have time to do extensive HitTracker sleuthing”, we are to deduce that simply he is a “Lucky SOB”?

    Well i have another idea. I think JJ is a SMART SOB. Much like a smart Braves pitcher from yesteryear, he is winning because he wants the hitter to hit pitches….just the pitches he wants them to hit. Combine that with an ability to bear down when there are runners on base, and he doesn’t need some overpowering out pitch (which seems to make people uncomfortable with calling him great), because he has a few ways to get you out.

    Now is he going to go 24-6 with a sub 2.00 ERA this year? I doubt it. But I am sick of players getting discounted because they don’t have flashy or overpowering stuff. You can win without striking out a ton of people. You can win with a fairly high WHIP. You can do this not only with luck, but with smarts.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ben says:

      The conclusion was clearly ambiguous. Put your pitchfork back.

      +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • I agree Slee. He is strong mentally and gets hitter’s to hit his pitches. Isn’t that what Maddux did? Just because he doesn’t fit the profile of 7.5 K/9 and a 50%+ GB rate does not mean he cannot be really good. Pitchers that have those peripherals obviously have a better chance at success, just like someone who smokes has a greater chance of lung cancer, but some people who don’t smoke get lung cancer and some people who smoke don’t. You cannot write someone off because of his peripherals because numbers don’t tell the whole story.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • don says:

        Maddux did have a 50%+ GB rate though, and that’s only looking at 2002 onward so it excludes most of his best seasons. Maddux barely outpitched his FIP and without FB rates for most of his career his career xFIP is a meaningless number.

        Of course it’s not news to say a pitcher isn’t as good as Maddux, but I don’t really think it works as a comparison.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Antonio Bananas says:

        What about Glavine. He outpitched his FIP by a LOT in his prime years. Glavine is also the guy Jurrjens talked to in spring training. Glavine also wasn’t afraid to walk guys. He’d rather walk you than give you something to hit because of his pedestrian fastball.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • A guy from PA says:

        From what I’ve heard, Tom Glavine had a HUGE strike zone in his prime, enough that I’ve heard about it. I think it’s been shown if batters swing at and hit pitches that aren’t in the strike zone enough for whatever reason, then the pitcher can outperform peripherals. Soon, I’m waiting for a DIPS metric to take into account pitches hit outside of strike zone to account for this. Combine that with SIERRA.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Antonio Bananas says:

        You trying to use the tired “well Glavine and Maddux got special treatment” crap? Ever think that they worked the umpires into expanding their zones? That’s part of pitching too. Seeing what you can get away with and using it.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • NEPP says:

        They got that zone because both of them consistently hit their spots game after game after game. Great control guys get borderline calls…in other news, water is wet and rocks are hard and Maddux & Glavine were HoF pitchers.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Dave S says:

        One more reason for an “electronic” strike zone. No more nonsense about guys getting borderline calls or not.

        Its not just about the erratic pitchers getting squeezed, the flip side is just as important. The great ones (Maddox, Glavine, Halladay, etc) would never have to justify the “expanded” strike zone stuff.

        A strike is a strike. No need to question it, when its no longer a question.

        And with the spate of mediocre (at best) umpiring recently, you’d think the MLB might wanna get moving on it.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • chuckb says:

      Gee, Ms. Jurrjens, I’m sure Jonah’s sorry for not spending multiple paragraphs gushing about how great your son is, but I think he made it pretty clear that Jurrjens might just be better than his peripherals. If anything, he was very complimentary toward your boy so perhaps you ought to read it again.

      Perhaps this line said it best, “it may well be that Jurrjens is one of those pitchers who legitimately creates weak contact, apparently more so this year than ever before.” So settle down. Take a deep breath. It may be that most of the world has it in for your boy but it doesn’t appear as though Jonah’s one of them.

      +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • mbrady16 says:

      Here we go, player- or team-centric fanatics will show up and decry fangraphs’ lack of praise for their favorites. However, I doubt we’ll see them once JJ falls back to being just another pretty decent pitcher.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • willlinn says:

        what is the delusion? Lee, Halladay, all of those guys have had ERAs over 3, over 3.5! top notch pitchers are clearly not consistently sub 3, 2ub 2.5 pitchers.. JJ has been that good as often as not, and at an age that makes him prodigious.. To be that kind of ace means you do it sometimes, regress to merely above average at sometimes, and then.. at some point in your career.. do it a lot and a long time, like Halladay over the last 5 years

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Temo says:

    As a Braves fan who has watched all of his starts: Sometimes he’s been lucky (his last start vs. the Rockies, for one) and sometimes he’s been good (the start prior was amazing).

    On the whole he’ll probably outperform his FIP by about a 1/2 run per 9. So yes, he’s getting lucky. No, his FIP isn’t an entirely fair description of his talent level.

    His FIP this year is 3.10, I’d say his “true talent” era is maybe 2.65. Still really good, bordering on elite. But not as crazy as his current 1.87 era.

    +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • harpago17 says:

      Completely agree with this comment.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • CircleChange11 says:

      I would consider a true talent ERA of 2.65 to be elite. Especially when Halladay’s true talent ERA (if such a thing exist) is likely right around the same value.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Temo says:

        Well there’s currently 7 MLB pitchers with FIPs lower than that (and one more is close). It’s still only half way through the season, so there’s going to mean a lot more regression to the mean coming.

        A lot of high FIPs are gonna fall and a lot of low FIPs are going to rise. If his end-of-year FIP is 3.10, that’s almost enough to be elite right there.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Phantom Stranger says:

      Having also watched all his games this year, and even his whole career, it is hard to articulate why Jair is so successful. He is very smart about pitch sequence and knowing what to throw to each hitter to get them out. Preparation probably plays a role in his success. The big difference this year is he seems to have decided to dial down his fastball to get better control on the corners, at least early in counts. The fastball still occasionally touches 94 or 95, but only when he needs it for a third strike.

      He is not as good as his results this year would indicate, but he has reached a level where he could be a number one ace for certain teams. I would not start him in the All-Star game, that honor should really go to Halladay.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Antonio Bananas says:

        Are we all okay with calling him “borderline elite” at least though? I mean, no one in today’s game is really sub 2.00 good without luck. Not even Halladay. I’d consider sub 2.75 elite. Considering both Jurrjens and Hanson are around that, and both pretty young. I’m an excited Bravos fan.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. harpago17 says:

    “When I changed my approach, however, from K/9, K/BB, to HR/9 to K/Batters Faced, BB/Batters Faced, HR/Batters Faced he jumped up significantly in my ratings (not to the top, but a lot).”

    Wouldn’t that be true of any pitcher with good fortune in BABIP? Since he gets more outs on balls in play, he faces fewer batters per inning, driving those ratios way up compared to pitchers with a more normal BABIP.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Temo says:

      Well, yes and it’s also true for guys with very low BB rates and very high K-rates.

      Fewer walks and more K’s mean it’s harder to increase your K/9, since you face fewer batters.

      It does help to weed out the guys in the middle, and makes them look worse. In fact, I’m pretty sure SIERA is better at describing guys like Johan Santana for this very reason.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Actually, more walks would decrease your ability to increase K/9 because it increases the probability of getting outs on the basepaths. Facing more batters in an inning doesn’t mean more opportunities to get strikeouts if you’re not getting outs. Since in every inning a pitcher can get at most three strikeouts, then things that increase the probability of a strikeout are things that decrease the probability of getting outs a different way. Walks can only increase the probability of getting a different kind of out.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • david says:

        more bb would increase k/9 because high bb numbers typically limit ip.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • A guy from PA says:

        emo juan Uribe, I like the train of thought, but it has a big flawa. A guy pitches a walk, he moves onto the next batter, a guy hits a ball, and the odds of the person getting on base are almost certainly less than 50%. The chance of an out on the basepaths is tiny compared to the chance of the same batter getting out if he puts the bat on the ball. The pitcher then gets another chance to strike out a batter. You are right that a walk can only increase the probability of getting an out another way, but it ignores the fact that THAT PARTICULAR batter’s chances of making an out in a way other than a strikeout just went down significantly.

        Think of a pitcher walking a guy with 2 outs and then striking out the next guy, if the first guy doesn’t walk, but instead puts the bat on the ball, odds are the strikeout doesn’t happen at all.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Herpa says:

    As the gap between Jurrjens XFIP and ERA rises, I assume so does Dave Cameron’s distaste for him.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. A guy from PA says:

    I still don’t understand why K/9 and BB/9 are used by high level analysts when we have K/batter faced and BB/batter faced. I’ve heard before, “it doesn’t really matter, the correlation between the two is so high we just use the easier one to read”, the problem is, that it is on precisely the type of pitcher as Jurrjens, (or Ubaldo’s first half last season), that using the better metric makes the out performance of peripherals seem merely “big” as opposed to enormous.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Temo says:

      They really are almost the same in value though. Read up on SIERA if you want, it’s mostly FIP with K%, BB%, and GB% instead of the usual metrics.

      And yet it’s about as effective as FIP in practice.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • RC says:

        “They really are almost the same in value though”

        No, they absolutely are not.

        Using /9 is the primary reason we end up with pitchers who consistently outperform/underperform their FIPS

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • really says:

        Jurrjens SIERA is worse than his FIP.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Brent says:

    It’s particularly odd because the Braves team defense, according to UZR, has been rather bad this year (although their team BABIP against is really low, so who knows). So in Jurrjens we have a pitcher significantly out pitching his peripherals despite a bad defense behind him, which is really weird.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ben Duronio says:

      Hanson has a really low BABIP as well. Team in general has a very low BABIP despite pretty poor defense.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Richard says:

        To me, that points to the entire staff being of the -weak contact inducing- types. Lowe, Huddy, and of course, Venters are produce retardo amounts of ground balls, Beachy and Hanson just don’t give you anything decent to hit, and Kimbrel’s little 5′ frame has dudes WTF’ing before/during/after his pitches.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Bronn says:

        I think this is closer to a failing in defensive metrics than it has to do with inefficiencies in FIP/Dips methods. Freddie Freeman, for example, looks like a great defensive first baseman when you watch him, but UZR thinks he is the second worst qualified fielder at the position. I’ve never trusted UZR as accurately representing the value of first basemen, but that’s just atrocious.

        There’s other examples-it seems like it’s been unnecessarily harsh on Nate McLouth as a centerfielder (though extremely generous as a left fielder). It has perhaps judged Dan Uggla unfairly as well, who hasn’t been spectacular, but has been fairly average-occasionally making great plays, occasionally not looking so great. I think I’m coming to the conclusion that the subjective elements of UZR, namely the video scouts, are subject to different types of confirmation bias. It seems weird that three Braves starters who are dependent on defense have been very successful, on the whole, with a defense behind them that rates as among the worst.

        My viewing experience is, of course, limited, so I can’t speak to the levels of competition, but I wonder how well the defensive metrics are actually doing in this regard.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • bduronio says:

        Not sure I buy that. Don’t see McLouth or Freeman as anything but average defenders at best.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • A says:

        Bronn, you’re forgetting one of the more important aspects that UZR accounts for and that your eyes may deceive you on: range. Freeman looks great stretching for balls and gloving hard hit grounders but he is a slow and awkward runner with little lateral mobility.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. chriti04 says:

    One of the things that might explain his low BABIP (both this year and over his career) is that his O-Contact% has been higher than league average each and every year of his career.

    Presumably if batters are making contact on pitches out of the zone more frequently, they will generate weaker contact.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. UmYeah says:

    Given his average GB% and low HR/FB, it would seem that he is inducing weak FB’s to stay in the park. But then I, personally, would assume that he would induce more IFFB’s, yet his IFFB% is only 6.8%. Obviously batted ball data is all subject to the interpretation of the original scorer, but still it seems weird that most of his success is due to inducing a good amount of FB’s that a) dont fall for hits, b) dont leave the park, and c) are out of the infield. Additionally, he has a pretty high LD% at 21.5%, yet only 5 of the LD’s hit off him have gone for extra bases (all doubles). So most of the LD’s he’s given up have been (basically) right at people so that theyre either caught or singles, or they’re relatively weak line drives that may have been mis-categorized. Some of this is probably his home ballpark, but I feel like it’s more of a case of hitter’s not adjusting to him so far this year as he’s obviously altered his pitching repertoire. He’s probably not due for the meteoric collapse that some are predicting but he’ll probably end the year at ~2.75 ERA and maybe ~3.00 for the foreseeable future (after this year). He’s still a good pitcher, and has been better this year than in years past, but there’s no way his true-talent-ERA is sub-2.00 or even sub-2.75 imo.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • willlinn says:

      no way huh?? he was a rookie of the year candidate, he threw a 2.6 in his only complete non rookie season, and in the next he is throwing under 2.00… how the F can you say no way? Maybe you’re just bitter..

      i love it though

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. anonymous says:

    I know this doesn’t answer the question but I think it’s something to consider each and every time you evaluate a player with saber-metrics: Your FIP is based on correlation. It means that historically, there has been a great deal of outliers that FIP cannot explain. This is true with basically every stat created by Bill James and every successor. After this reminder we should also consider that stats are only as good as the variable inputs AND the sample size (not JUST the sample size as many on FG believe). The “true” formula for predicting talent would have 100% (or nearly 100%) correlation with production (likely a complicated or impossible to establish formula).

    I believe @BLUE has the best possibility mentioned to explain JJ in that we are looking at the wrong ratios. More than likely, FIP overrates and underrates certain variables (why its not perfectly correlated). A closer look at the ratios he describes using batters faced may also help explain the lead in wins as well (since less batters faced per inning means more innings pitched which leads to more decisions; and he’s pitching well as is so more decisions is more wins). In the end, I think more work (research) should have been done before the writing of this article instead of leaving this at an already drawn conclusion of “he’s lucky”.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Matt Cain says:

    Speaking of me, I remember reading Dave Cameron in the off season while in between breaks of re-watching the world series dvd’s that I was absolutely, no doubt about, finally going to regress to my “true talent lvel”, my FIP and xFIP.

    Well, gee, look at this.

    ERA: 3.22

    FIP: 2.90

    xFIP: 3.49

    Not surprisingly, fangraphs has declined to comment on this

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Richard says:

      You must not have read those articles very well.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Matt Cain says:

        Think I did, Richard. “Matt Cain as an example of beating the spread”.

        I was winning the Lottery for 1,000+ innings, is what I was told.

        Now what exactly happened here?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. bradleyjah says:

    This is an interesting debate, and I’d love to see the additional HitTracker number. I was just having this discussion with an office-mate, and I’m really torn on JJ. While all the numbers tell me that he is not this good and will regress significantly, as a long-time Braves fan, it’s a tough call. Subjectively, I’ve seen him pitch lights out most of this year (minus this recent lucky COL start) and very well pre-2010, and on the whole, he’s always exhibited the Glavine-like ability to get out of jams or get weak hits and key times. Unfortunately, as the author notes, there’s no great way or absolute way (like Ks) to measure this (and perhaps is part of the reason for the overvaluation of the K these days).

    Regardless, I think one thing that gets lost in the whole “JJ came from nowhere” buzz of late is that JJ was a really good pitcher in 2009 and had a very good (for a rookie) rookie year in 2008 (but not in line with his 2009 or 2011). Moreover, right now, his career stats are almost perfectly split between him either being a really good pitcher (2009 and 2011) and an average pitcher (2008 rookie year and 2010). Not sure which side I fall on, but I’m beginning to think more and more that 2009/11 JJ is the real JJ.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. Cecil Fielder Jr. says:

    Ugh, the Tigers.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. Ben Duronio says:

    An 84.1% strand rate is not sustainable. Neither is his BABIP. Neither is his HR/FB. Even so, the regression should see him pitch to roughly a 3.00 ERA the rest of the season, which is very good.

    People do not “have it out” for Jurrjens. He’s an interesting case. This is the second time he is on pace for an elite-level ERA with peripherals that suggests it should be higher.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Brad says:

      Not to be argumentative or anything, but isn’t this the exact point of this article to question these types of broad “not sustainable” statements and point out possible reasons and examples (Cain) to consider before making these types of statements? While I don’t believe JJ will have a sub-2 ERA, I do think the assumption that he’ll pitch a near 4 ERA (to get to the 3.00 ERA you suggest) due to “regression” or “unsustainability” is a weak argument and misses the article’s entire point. Care to elaborate?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ben Duronio says:

      Then why doesn’t he pitch from the stretch all the time? And what is he doing differently this year compared to every other year? It isn’t sustainable.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jo says:

        I have no idea why he doesn’t pitch from the stretch probably comfort and habit. As for what he is doing differently in terms of stranding runners, not a damn thing. He has always maintained a very good strand rate 2008 – 71%, 2009 – 79.4%, 2010 (bad year for him) – 69.3%. Doesn’t seem that far fetched of an idea to me that he pitches better from the stretch. His baa with runners on base is always insane.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jason says:

        That’s a good question, and I don’t know if this is the answer, or part of it, but maybe his concentration/performance level is elevated when the stakes get high and men are on base to a greater degree than opposing batters’ concentration/performance levels are elevated in these situations?…or rather, “his ‘A’-game has a higher peak than other players ‘A’-games do”?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. CircleChange11 says:

    Even with Regression, he still has over 1/2 a season of outstanding “in the bank”.

    Regression does not state or imply that he will pitch terribly in the second half to compensate for his wonderful first half.

    Regression states that a player’s performance will tend to move to his career norm.

    So, Outstanding 1st half + career norm 2nd half = great 2011 season.

    Again, regression does not state that his second half ERA will be 5.67 in order to balance out the 1.87. With the first half he’s had, he’s already en route to a better than career norm season.

    The tough part is that he’s had great 2009 and 2011 and just good 2008 and 2010 seasons, so knowing where his true talent is … is more complicated.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Brad says:

      Well said…much better than I said above.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Blue says:

      “Regression states that a player’s performance will tend to move to his career norm.”

      Yes, but we also have to remember that the “career norm” INCLUDES the last half season of data–in other words it is much, much better now then it was in April. That’s Bayes’ Rule–the chance he will, say, post a 2.50 ERA for his next 15 starts now higher than his chance was at the beginning of the year.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Antonio Bananas says:

      Not really though. 2008 was his rookie year and 2010 he was battling injuries. So to me it’s more likely he’s 2009/2011 Jair. Or at least closer to that side. Not saying he’s 2.00 good. Just that he’s likely “very good”. He’s young and smart. Young and smart guys get smarter. Guys who are young with “stuff” get worse or don’t pan out. Like his former franchise-mate Andrew Miller who is sabermetrically more talented.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. Bill says:

    Even if you give these guys full credit for limiting HRs, they’re still both mediocre. I guess Matt Cain fans are big proponents of ERA now?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Antonio Bananas says:

      their job is to keep runs off the board. Not satisfy the qualifications that lead to a good FIP, which is a stupid stat because it penalizes contact pitchers and loves K pitchers.

      Pitcher 1 Ks 10 in 6 innings, and gives up 2 runs. He’s out after 120 pitches.

      Pitcher 2 Ks 4 in 7 innings, gives up 1 run. He’s better. Less time for the bullpen (lesser) pitchers to blow it and he gave his team a better chance to win. I don’t give two shits out FIP because it’d say “well pitcher 2 was lucky”. That sounds like “well that big ball in the sky must be a God because we can’t think of any other thing it could be.” Pitchers like caine and Jurrjens can be explained if you just look past FIP (which credits what they do well as “luck” and puts a ton of emphasis on their weaker points).

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. RC says:

    “One of the issues I’ve always struggled to understand when it comes to DIPS theory is how to deal with pitchers who induce weak contact”

    Why are we talking DIPS theory, and using FIP, and xFIP, both of which are not DIPS stats?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Bill says:

      Um, yes they are. It’s not DIPS™ or whatever, but you can’t be that obtuse.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • RC says:

        DIPS = Defense Independent Pitching Stats

        FIP uses 4 components: HR, BB, SO, and IP. Innings Pitched is defense dependant, therefore FIP is defense dependant.

        Its that simple. FIP is not a DIPS stat.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. Mike says:

    2010 was a lost year. When he did pitch, he was pitching hurt.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  24. CircleChange11 says:

    @ Blue

    In addition to that, his most recent performances might be weighted greater, playing even more into his favor.

    His “career norm” is getting better.

    For exaple, when viewing “regression” with Bautista, you’re better off not counting pre-August 2009 or anything before.

    I don’t recall JJ being an unknown. I remember it being a “rich get richer” type of thing for Atlanta when they acquired him. The team with good young arms added another one. Atlanta is one of those org’s that just always seems to have pitching and adds another young arm to the mix annually. In terms of the NL, they are a model franchise.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  25. CircleChange11 says:

    Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but the question to me is what JJ will show up in 2012?

    Is his alternating performance just a case of regression or does he prepare differently in the offseason depending on whether he had a great/decent previous season?

    It goes without saying that a pitcher with a 1.87 ERA will regress.

    JJ would be a GREAT candidate for the FG Q & A. Let’s hear from him in regards to his experience.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Antonio Bananas says:

      If he gets hurt the odd year trend with continue. If not I can see a low 3s high 2s year. He’s still young and they have a great pen that’s also young. I know this is fangraphs where “lol emotions don’t exist” but knowing you have a great pen behind you likely makes life easier for a SP. Cliff Lee got left in a game to give up 3 Hrs in the 8th I believe it was because he doesn’t have Venters and Kimbrel backing him up. Jurrjens can get taken out in the 6th if his pitch count is up. Which may be something else explaining his ridiculously low ERA. He’s not left in too long.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Antonio Bananas says:

        After 6*

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Dave S says:

        Cliff Lee gets left in the game because he’s Cliff Lee…

        also, he had pitched 3 consecutive complete game shutouts prior to that game… and had given up 1 run in 15 innings in the 2 games before that.

        0.21 ERA

        If Lee gives up a couple HRs after doing that… I’m not pulling him either… I don’t care if Cy Young is in the bullpen.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  26. zhongklo says:

    surprise web: == www jordanforworld com====

    very good web,believe you will love it.

    FREE SHIPPING,accept pyapal

    discount including evisu jeans,watches shirts,bags,hat and the decorations and so on

    trust me!

    Opportunity knocks but once

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  27. jGreen says:

    What do you guys think of the nickname “The Surrjen”? I’ve been trying to push that on my friends, maybe get it started on the internet somehow. I won’t put it to vote, just, if you like “The Surrjen,” start using it in conversations both real and internety.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  28. Chris says:

    As a Tiger fan, who hates that we traded this great pitcher away. Did anyone of you consider that, your stats are not the end all be all…The fact that some people are on here defending their stats against Glavine and Maddux by saying they got great calls from the umps. Seriously, you belive in your religion of “superstats” so much that you would minimize the hall of fame career of two great pitchers during the “steroid era” Maddux was a machine and anybody who thinks he was a product of anything more then command,smarts, and movement is a fool…who needs to stop studying stats and watch a baseball game. Jair doesn’t allow runs, if a bunch of geeks in a room could figure out why some guys get people out and others don’t….then they would be the best GM’s in baseball. ERA explains how many runs a guy gives up, that is all that is important…all these others numbers are nonsense, It’s a team game and certain guys will get more run support and other guys will get better defense. It’s called baseball and anybody who thinks leading the NL in ERA is “Lucky” ought to go out and try to get one Major league hitter out and then come back and write that the guy is lucky.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Justin says:

      Chris,

      If ERA is all that is important, then I would want the best tools for knowing what a pitcher’s ERA will be in the future right? Well FIP and xFIP are better predictors of ERA than ERA is. ERA tells us that Jurrjens has experienced very good results this year. FIP and xFIP tell us that we can expect him not to do quite as well going forward, although we can still expect him to be very good.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Antonio Bananas says:

        No, FIP and xFIP are one tool that maybe tell us. Someone run a correlation study with FIP on contact pitchers. I bet it’s not very high. There is probably a stat you either don’t know or hasn’t been invented that would judge jurrjens better.

        I would really like someone to look at all the balls hit off Jurrjens this year. Using FIP is just stupid. I’m boggeled that a group of supposedly smart people use a stat that basically denies Jurrjens of what he’s good at and judges him on what he’s not the best at.

        It’d be like judging a Lambo based on it’s towing capacity instead of it’s 0-60 time.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Kevin says:

      And we don’t get dates.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  29. CircleChange11 says:

    @Antonio

    The even-odd year comment was primarily a joke. Sometimes when guys are looking at stat trends/skills, they will group a player’s stats in odd/even year groups to avoid looking at early/late career stats.

    With a player like JJ with such few seasons such a thing would not work. I don’t expect him to keep up the alteranating of good/great years unless he really does take a “vacation” after great years.

    I expect him to pretty much have a string of very good years in the near future. IMO, he’s a 4-5 WAR pitcher (using a combination of brWAR and fWAR). He’ll have some years of 3 or 6 WAR based on fluctuations among HR/FB, babip, lob%, IP, etc.

    There may also be something with pitching out of the stretch. One can see the same thing with Wainwright and Nolasco (trouble with runners on).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Antonio Bananas says:

      I may not be pitching off the stress. It may be his style of pitching vs hitters. Some pitchers eat alive overly aggressive hitters. With runners on, maybe hitters are more aggressive, which may play into Jurrjens’ pitching style better. Kinda like how Lee destroyed patient hitters in the playoffs and then the Giants were aggressive and blasted him.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • willlinn says:

        I suspect that JJ is really good at not giving away to batters that he is pitching around them.. I think he has always been willing to put a guy on base with a walk or weak hit to get to make sure he is only throwing meaningful pitches to guys he feels confident getting out.. If he disguises that though, gets more guys out on junk that would otherwise take the walk, he will get more outs, and give less pitches to hit.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  30. CircleChange11 says:

    We also might have to rethink our regression #’s for HR/FB or HR/9. IIRC, good was considered less than 1.0 HR/9. With the current environment, 0.8 might be the new number.

    So, a pitcher with a current 0.4 HR/9 might not regress as much as he may have in previous seasons.

    Also, without Rx, hitters might fade more as the season goes on as compared to previous data (pitchers might too). We’ll have to see how the numbers shake out in the “current era”.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  31. Mac says:

    Jonah was robbed!
    Flip open the Times today, what’s the headline in baseball:

    Jurrjens Is a Big Success, but How?

    I was confused. It was like déjà vu, but it couldn’t be because I was holding print media in my hand. Author Neil Paine wrote an article filled with BABIP and FIPS fueled explanations for the success of Jurrjens. I suppose Keri et. al.should be flattered that a paper as renowned as the NY Times is copping article ideas off of Fangraphs.

    I will say the article was a enjoyable read. Quite a lot of sabermetrics crammed in and fluffed up for general consumption. Paine may be a thief, but he’s a good writer.

    New York Times
    Friday, July 8th, Sports Section
    http://bats.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/07/a-big-winner-but-how/

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  32. papasmurf says:

    I think the only way to truly judge whether a pitcher is “lucky” on balls in play is to watch every single batted ball. To conclude a pitcher is very lucky just because he doesn’t have an astronomical K/BB ratio or high K rate is like saying Aaron Hill is going to rebound because his BABIP was low last year.

    I doubt Jurrjens is going to end the season with a sub 2.50 ERA, but he’s a solid pitcher.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  33. Antonio Bananas says:

    I’m just wondering how Jurrjens has lucked his way through half a season with this low of an ERA. That’d be like your nemesis dying after slipping on a banana peel, winning the lottery, and suddenly being the most attractive human on the planet. Surely with an ERA this low (just like Greinke in reverse) you have to make some assumptions. Jurrjens is at least “very good”. It’s the assumption I’m making.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  34. Kyle says:

    He’s sacrificed a few mph off his fastball and so far it’s worked. He doesn’t walk as many as he used to, and he doesn’t give up homeruns. Much like Cameron used to talk about how much Cliff Lee hates walks, well, Jurrjens seems to hate giving up the big fly.

    He’s much like Glavine in that area, and that’s a good thing. It’s better to walk a guy who seems zoned in on your pitches and get the next guy to ground into a double play then give up a homerun. He’s having a very similar season to Clay Buchholz last year, but Clay always had a better fastball. And if you put Jair in the conference Clay pitches in, his ERA would be somewhat higher and his walk ratio wouldn’t have gone down as much.

    So far I’ve seen Jurrjens pitch around 8 games… 4 of them were impressive, and the other 4 were part luck/part high IQ baseball. When he looks like he might be on the ropes, he’ll induce a grounder for the much needed double play or get a weak fly ball never letting innings get out of hand. And as a few have mentioned, he has a way of getting guys to swing and connect with a pitch a few inches outside the strike zone having them hit a lazy fly ball(he’s rarely hit hard.)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  35. Zain says:

    Contract year. JJ is getting paid 3.25 million this season in his first year of arbitration. He’s pitching well because he’s got the greatest incentive to be good= money. After winning a game earlier this year (not sure which one) but I remember him saying that he’ll be expecting a lot of money in the spring.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  36. zhongkle says:

    surprise web: == www jordanforworld com====

    very good web,believe you will love it.

    FREE SHIPPING,accept pyapal

    discount including evisu jeans,watches shirts,bags,hat and the decorations and so on

    trust me!

    Opportunity knocks but once

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  37. evo34 says:

    “He certainly is in the sense that his ERAs routinely crush his fielding-independent numbers”

    Um, what? Prior to this season, he had beaten his FIP only once (2009) out of three real seasons (100+ IP).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>