10. How good is Jair Jurrjens?

Jair Jurrjens had a great season for the Braves in 2009. How good is the right-hander? The Braves Show's Bill Shanks has more.

Very good. Very, very good.

Can we end this article now?

Ok, we'll talk more about the kid who has a chance to get some Cy Young votes this year. Chances are with a little run support Jurrjens would have a much better chance at actually winning.

When you look at Jurrjens' numbers in 2009, they are very impressive. He finished with a 14-10 record, a 2.60 ERA (third best in the National League), 186 hits allowed in 215 innings, 75 walks, and 152 strikeouts.

But Jurrjens got terrible run-support from Atlanta's offense. In his 10 no-decisions, the Braves scored only 26 runs. Jurrjens had eight quality starts in those 10 games.

In Jurrjens' ten games that he took the loss, the Braves scored only 16 runs in those games. Jurrjens had quality starts in six of those games.

So to combine his no-decisions and losses, the Braves scored only 42 runs in those 20 games (2.1 runs per game), and Jurrjens had quality starts in 14 of those games.

The Braves sometimes-anemic offense cost Jurrjens a shot at the Cy Young Award. He pitched well enough to be in consideration, but his 14-10 record will hurt him with the voters.

It does not dampen what people who actually watched Jurrjens' starts feel about the young right-hander, who will turn 24 in January. In two years with the Braves, Jurrjens has gone 27-20 with a 3.10 ERA in 65 starts.

And the best is probably still to come.

If you watched Jurrjens, you know how impressive and how dominating he can be for a young pitcher. It's not very often you find someone this young who has the poise on the mound Jurrjens has when he's pitching. He's in control of just about every game he starts, and the Braves have to feel confident every time he takes the hill.

The improvement Jurrjens made from his first season in Atlanta to his second was substantial. You could simply see how much his confidence has helped him become a very dangerous pitcher. He now has little doubt that he can get big league hitters out, and that's usually part of the challenge of getting young pitchers over the hump.

Jurrjens is under contract for four more years, and the Braves are going to reap the benefit of his young talent. He will combine with Tommy Hanson to give the Braves arguably the best young starting pitching duo in the game.

Jurrjens was probably the Braves best starting pitcher in 2009. It was neck-and-neck with Javier Vazquez for that honor, as both had unbelievable seasons. Vazquez helped Jurrjens a great deal, and the influence from the veterans in the Atlanta rotation will continue to mold Jurrjens into one of the best pitchers in the game.

So the Braves have a good one here in Jair Jurrjens. It was Frank Wren's first big move as general manager when he acquired Jurrjens from Detroit two years ago for Edgar Renteria. If Jurrjens continues his pitching dominance, it might remind many of when another Tigers' prospect was acquired over twenty years ago for a veteran player.

That player was John Smoltz.

And like Smoltz, Jurrjens is on his way to becoming a very special major league pitcher.



Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly baseball column for The Macon Telegraph and is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.


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