The Atlanta Braves’ right-handed starter, Julio Teheran, may not be the most entertaining pitcher in their 2017 rotation – that honor may go to Bartolo Colon, or perhaps to R.A. Dickey – but he will probably be the best. At the age of 26, Teheran has already established himself as a borderline ace, and in 2016 he showed signs of taking the next step forward and becoming one of the best pitchers in baseball. His ERA+ since 2013 (when he was just 22 years old), has been 117, 123, 95, and 129. In 2016, his ERA of 3.21 (WHIP of 1.053) was very good, and could easily have been better; before his 15-day disabled list stint in the beginning of August, Teheran had an ERA of just 2.81 and WHIP of 0.965, while in the nine games after his return his ERA was 4.22 and his WHIP was 1.275.
What he throws. Teheran has a fairly standard starter’s repertoire of four-seam fastball (“FF”), two-seam fastball (“FT”, also known as a sinker), changeup (“CH”), slider (“SL”), and curve (“CU”). His four-seam fastball averages about 91.7 mph, with gusts as high as 95.7 mph:
His two-seam fastball is a little slower, averaging 89.9 mph, and has more horizontal, and less vertical, movement than the four-seam. The chart below shows the average horizontal and vertical movement of Teheran’s pitches in 2016, with the size of each dot scaled to the number of that pitch type thrown:
Pitch usage and trends. Teheran’s four-seam fastball (47.5% of pitches) and slider (26.2%) are by far his most common pitches overall, but he changes his repertoire significantly depending on the situation. Left-handed batters see more curves and changeups, which Teheran rarely throws to right-handed batters. When behind in the count, he cuts back on sliders and throws more changeups:
Looking at his repertoire game-by-game over the 2016 season, the effect of the back injury that led to his DL stint (indicated by the vertical line) is easy to see in the sharp drop in his velocity for his four-seam, changeup, and slider in the games before it. Even after he had ostensibly recovered from the injury, it took several games for his velocity to recover. We also can see that his curve usage changed over the season: Teheran started off not using his curve much, then expanded its use in June and July, but cut back on the pitch after returning from the DL in August and September:
Pitch value. Teheran’s most effective pitch (based on total bases yielded per 100 pitches) is his curve, especially to left-handed batters; right-handed batters, who hardly ever see his curve, hit much better against it. The changeup, which is also mainly used against LHB, shows the opposite pattern, with righties hitting very poorly against it. Teheran’s most common pitch, his four-seam fastball, is somewhat better than average overall, but is significantly better against right-handed batters both in terms of TB/100 and balls per 100 pitches:
Pitch location. Teheran has exceptional control, putting up a well above-average BB/9 of 2.0 in 2016 (the MLB average was 3.1). This shows up in his pitch location, with most of his pitches showing fairly tight clusters on or near the edges of the strike zone (the grey polygon in each chart). Teheran has a clear pattern of throwing the four-seam high in the zone and the sinker (two-seam fastball) low in the zone. His slider clusters right on the bottom of the strike zone (inside to left-handed batters, outside to righties) and a sizable number of them slide just below the zone; he nevertheless manages to get an above-average rate of swinging strikes and fouls on the pitch (38.3% swinging/foul for Teheran vs. 32.2% for all sliders):