Could increased velocity mean success for Teheran?

Knox Bardeen
March 29, 2019 - 2:23 pm
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran

© Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Categories: 

Maybe the city of Atlanta should wait before tossing Julio Teheran out with yesterday's trash.

Not only was Braves Nation mortified that Teheran was forced to start for the team on Opening Day, but many don't even feel that the 28-year-old Colombian – who just made his sixth Opening Day start for Atlanta – deserves to be in the rotation.

Why?

There’s a bevy of young arms in the Braves’ farm system, many ready for their shot at the bigs. But mostly, fans are down on Teheran, who’s really only had one bad season (2017) since becoming a full-time starter. Expectations of Teheran repeating 2014 or 2016 have soured th4e fan base. Recency bias is in full effect.

Maybe, there’s reason to believe, however, that Teheran can bounce back a little. There’s little faith he’ll get back to his glory days (Wow, it sounds like we’re talking about a 65-year-old retiree, not someone who hasn’t sniffed his 30th birthday yet.), but could 2019 look anything close to three seasons ago?

Before you laugh and scream that his small, one-game sample size ERA sits at 5.40 and Teheran gave up a first-inning bomb, take a look at some data.

One of the more important traits for a pitcher to have is velocity. Teheran averaged 92.8 MPH on his fastball in 2013 and that number sat above 92 MPH through 2015 and dipped to a manageable 91.7 MPH in 2016.

But, for the last two seasons Teheran posted a 91.4 MPH average fastball (2017) and last season slowed to a pedestrian 89.9 MPH.

Hitters started belting Teheran’s pitches harder in 2018 and his walk rate rose as he attempted to avoid bats.

Thursday’s start for Teheran was a bit different than data from his last two seasons. Instead of the 89.9 MPH he averaged with his fastball, he threw harder.

Teheran hurled 33 fastballs in a losing effort to the Phillies. His average velocity was 91.3 MPH. He maxed out at 93.7 MPH. That’s a 14 percent increase in fastball velocity.

Another statistical anomaly… 36 percent of Teheran’s pitches on Thursday were sliders. Last year he only averaged sliders on a little fewer than 22 percent of his pitches. He threw his slider much more on Opening Day than he ever had during his career, on average. And he saw success with it.

Four of Teheran’s seven strikeouts came on sliders, including two on 3-2 counts and one 2-2 count. He was definitively using it as his “out pitch.”

More velocity, more sliders… could that recipe equal 2019 success for Teheran?