The one thing we can say for sure about Julio Teheran is that he'll take the ball. As of Friday morning, he'd started 213 games since opening day 2013. That's the fourth-most of any pitcher, trailing Max Scherzer (216), Jose Quintana (215) and Jon Lester (215). Here, however, are the aggregate FanGraphs WAR totals for those four: Scherzer, 42.8; Quintana, 26.1; Lester, 23.6; Teheran, 13.3.
That separation only hints at the difficulty in categorizing Teheran. He has held a job in a big-league rotation for almost seven seasons. He has twice been an All-Star, and in 2014 and 2016 you could have made the case – I did – he was among baseball’s 10 best pitchers. Last year, however, the Braves didn’t trust him with a playoff start, and there’s no guarantee he’ll get one in what has been a bounce-back year.
Among 38 qualifying National League pitchers, he ranks 12th in ERA at 3.46. He's 30th, however, in Fielding Independent Pitching, and FIP is a major analytic metric. He's 30th in FanGraphs WAR. Depending on your stat of choice, he's above or below average.
Among those 38, Teheran ranks third-worst in walks per nine innings; he’s 25th-best in strikeouts per nine. He’s 28th in WHIP (walks/hits per innings pitched). And yet: He’s 11th in opponents’ batting average. He has walked 62 men, second-most among NL pitchers, and has hit a league-high 11. Still, his left-on-base percentage is 12th-best in the league, and he has stopped giving up home runs. His HR-per-nine percentage is 10th-best.
Why has this been Teheran’s best year since 2016? At a time where everybody is hitting homers, he has stopped supplying them. He’d rather walk a guy, or several guys, than yield a homer. He doesn’t mind pitching with men aboard; heck, he has come to thrive on it. The downside is that’s not eating innings at the same rate. He has averaged 5-1/3 innings this season; in 2016, he averaged 6-1/3.
So: Is Teheran a glass half-empty or half-full? He’s reliable in that he works every fifth day and usually leaves his team in position to win. That’s not nothing. As we leave you to discuss among yourselves, we offer another eye-raising number: As much as we think of Teheran as a grizzled veteran, he’s 28. He’s 8-1/2 months older than Mike Foltynewicz.
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