Braves Report Card - Part II: Starting Pitching

In Part II of his Braves 2003 Report Card, Andrew Bare takes a look at the Braves biggest trouble spot: Their starting pitching. Read on for his thoughts on Ortiz, Hampton, Ramirez, Reynolds and Maddux.

A note on the grading: Players are graded only on their performance this season, not on their prospects for future performance, not on their performance against pre-season expectations, or any other standards. Players are graded purely on major league results.

Starting Pitchers

Russ Ortiz
212 1/3 IP, 3.81 ERA, 177 hits, 149 Ks, 102 BBs, 17 HRs:

Won 21 games and only lost seven, which is pretty neat for Ortiz, but doesn't really mean anything important. He was solid; a perfectly acceptable number two starter pushed into a role as the team's Game 1 starter in the playoffs. He did what he always did: Threw a lot of innings, did a decent job preventing the opposing team from scoring and proved hard to hit. Still walked way too many hitters (4.3 BB/9), without the benefit of a lot of strikeouts. (6.3 K/9) Overrated a bit due to the wins, and not a good bet for future excellence, but still a solid pitcher who won't cost the Braves too much money.
Grade: B

Mike Hampton
190 IP, 3.84 ERA, 186 hits, 110 Ks, 78 BBs, 14 HRs:

A lazy person could have copy-and-pasted the Russ Ortiz comment into the Mike Hampton slot with only a little tweaking. Struck out fewer men than Ortiz and walked fewer, but they had similar (good) homerun ratios and both proved hard to hit. It is a testament to Hampton's work ethic and Leo Mazzone's Gandalf instincts that the lefty could put up an ERA below four after the two years he had in Colorado. His contract is going to become real burdensome real quickly, and his peripheral numbers just scream "DANGER, DANGER WILL ROBINSON", but for the purpose of a report card, there's a lot here to like.
Grade: B

Horacio Ramirez
182 IP, 4.00 ERA, 181 hits, 100 Ks, 72 BBs, 21 HRs: Not enough strikeouts, too many walks. Good to see my macro is working. Ramirez is a weird case when it comes to statistical analysis. (Oh, the emails I'll get after that remark) On the one hand, 23 year old lefties with good stuff and some major league success are pretty valuable commodities. But then there are those hideous peripheral numbers, and those tend to be the best indicators of future performance. Ramirez presents a challenge for John Schuerholtz, as Ramirez' youth and low cost will make him extremely desirable for other teams in trade talks. In fact, a rumored deal for Javier Vasquez on July 31st was shot down because of Omar Minaya's insistence on including Ramirez in the trade. In a similar situation last off-season, Schuerholtz traded Moss, another young lefty with good stuff and spotty control, for Ortiz.
Grade: B

Shane Reynolds
167 IP, 5.43 ERA, 191 hits, 94 strikeouts, 59 walks, 20 HRs:

Possessed the previous three pitchers inability to register Ks without their annoying ability to consistently get people out. Won two more games than he lost, which caused the entire organization to puff out their chests and proclaim how nifty it was that they found this diamond that Houston so carelessly threw away. It was bunk, and Bobby Cox knew that, as evidenced by Reynold's absence from the postseason roster. Reynolds' gallant display of camaraderie with his fellow union members by helping them reach their incentive clauses was inspirational, but watching Jason Marquis post a 5.43 ERA would have been a lot more fun.
Grade: D

Greg Maddux
218 IP, 3.96 ERA, 225 hits, 124 Ks, 33 BBs, 24 HRs:

Maddux led the Braves in innings pitched, but he somehow manages to get portrayed as the staff wimp, based largely on his 81.5 pitches per game. If he actually knows how to get out of an inning with less than 14 pitches, maybe we should celebrate that, as opposed to praising Hampton or Ortiz for their uncanny ability to use the absolute maximum number of pitches to get out of an inning. Maddux basically had the exact same year as the rest of the Braves' top 4, with an ERA around 4, and a good number of innings pitched. At least he managed to be fairly unique in how in got there, allowing precious few walks for about the 7,895th straight year.
Grade: B

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