Less than a year ago, Jair Jurrjens was being considered to start the All-Star game over Roy Halladay for the National League, and based on his first half numbers — 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA — he probably should have.
Since then, he’s allowed 44 earned runs in 56.2 innings with an ERA over six. Just in 2012 alone, his ERA is an astronomical 9.37 after four starts.
Jurrjens has dealt with knee problems the past couple of years causing him to miss starts, but the scariest news for the Braves is he says he’s completely healthy, which must mean he’s lost it.
Coming up for the Braves, Jurrjens was masterful using his fastball and change-up combination, which is typical for any pitcher that wants to have success in the majors. He was never a flame thrower, but he has lost some velocity on his fastball. His success came from being able to locate the fastball exceptionally well.
It seems that after injuries and age, the loss in speed on his fastball has caused it to lose some movement as well, meaning he’s not able to control it the way used to. A pitch that he would place on the inside corner is now being left out over the plate at a measly 88 miles per hour.
As is also the case with many pitchers who struggle, he’s hanging his change-up. This used to be his out-pitch that could be thrown down the middle and then snap into the dirt causing batters to swing and miss or roll over. Now, he’s throwing it at the batter’s chest, and it’s hanging out over the plate where any tee-baller could smash it to the fence.
The Braves made the unthinkable decision of demoting a guy who was an All-Star just a year ago to triple-A. I applaud the organization in making the right decision and not sending down a guy in Randall Delgado who deserves to stay in the major league rotation. Often players with experience are given too many chances when they’re clearly having problems.
It also helps that the Braves have Tim Hudson coming back from the disabled list this weekend, but still a gutsy call for the organization. This move could end a career or help re-establish one that seemed to be flourishing not so long ago.
My advice to Jurrjens would be to learn how to locate his fastball with less velocity or continue working on the two-seamer. I think his knees are the reason he’s leaving balls up. If they’re still a problem, he needs to tell somebody or learn how to get the change-up down with a new throwing motion that isn’t as difficult on the knees.
He’s not the only pitcher with recent success in the league who is struggling to find command, and he won’t be the last. He’s still just 26 years old, but he’s already at that time in his young career where he needs to make adjustments if he wants to continue having a career in major league baseball.
I always thought Jurrjens would be an effective pitcher in this league because he didn’t overpower hitters, he used great control and efficiency to get batters out. Those types of pitchers normally last a long time. This isn’t the end for Jurrjens, but it’s definitely the turning point. This stint in the minors will decide his future in baseball and with the Braves, who need a healthy Jurrjens to have a shot to win the World Series.