Friday, February 19, 2010

Countdown to the DL

"It was a brief nightmare for Braves Nation, but it’s over," writes Atlanta Braves beat writer David O'Brien in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That means the countdown for Jair Jurrjens to land on the disabled list begins in five, four, three.....

I don't mean to be a Moanin' Minnie, but an MRI on Jurrjens's sore pitching shoulder not showing any damage is only slightly better news than Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts was for Democrats. There is a reason Jurrjens is hurting, and while we Braves fans hope Jair is the exception to the rule, that type of pain, like a bad idea from a politician, usually comes back. Sometimes it lands pitchers on the disabled list. Sometimes, they pretend the pain is a Tiger Woods mistress and hide it, thinking they can work through it with no one noticing. That is until your cover is blown and you either get a golf club inserted where golf clubs weren't meant to go or have a season like Brad Lidge in '09.

As Braves' blogger Alex Remington points out, Jurrjens is one of only 24 pitchers in the last 20 years to have a 215-inning season by the time he turned 23 years old:

(Mark Buehrle, Ramon Martinez, and Steve Avery each had more than one.) As you might imagine with any group of precocious young pitchers, the vast majority of them got injured or flamed out by their 30th birthday. Two of them are headed to the Hall of Fame: John Smoltz and Mike Mussina. Several are still in their prime: Buehrle, Javy Vazquez, Felix Hernandez, Matt Cain, the rejuvenated Ryan Dempster. A few are still active but close to ruined by injuries or ineffectiveness: Dontrelle Willis, Ben Sheets, Fausto Carmona, Sidney Ponson, and the perhaps-retired Mark Mulder. Of the rest, a few of them pitched meaningful innings into their 30s: Andy Benes (done by 34), Brad Radke (done by 33), Matt Morris (done by 33),and Livan Hernandez (somehow still around, at 34). The others were all more or less done by the end of their 20s.

Also, why are some folks describing Jurrjens as the best pitcher on the Braves' staff? While he did have the third-best ERA in the National League last year, he did it with only a fair-to-middlin' 6.4 strikeouts per 9 innings, down from 6.6 in '08. No, you don't have to strike out a lot of batters to be successful, but you can't compare Jair to someone like Tom Glavine as I have heard some do. Jair ain't Tom Glavine yet, and I don't remember Glavine ever having a sore arm. Also, in Glavine's breakout Cy Young season in '91, he struck out seven batters per nine innings and finished his career with a respectable 2,607 K's.

I am not wishing injury on anyone, especially one of my Braves. But if Jurrjens ends up on the DL in a few months, I wonder if Mr. O'Brien will revisit the "nightmare" that is supposed to be over? Makes me hope more than ever that John Smoltz is still available for one last run.

Oh, by the way, Tommy Hanson is 23. I'm just saying.

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