Season Grades: Starting Pitchers
RHP John Smoltz---A+
The 38 year old future Hall-of-Famer came out of the bullpen and became a full-time starter for the first time since 1999. He succeeded with flying colors, becoming the ace and workhorse of the staff. He gave the Braves about 230 innings of 144 ERA+ pitching. His only shortcoming was wearing down at the end of the season from overuse because he was so good and the bullpen was so bad. The bullpen and an occasional lack of offense caused him to miss out on 15 wins during a 20 win caliber season. Smoltz has the ability to both overpower and finesse hitters.
RHP Tim Hudson---B minus
The Braves thought they had obtained an ace. Instead, Hudson showed himself as an injury-prone #2 starter during his first season with the Braves; battling lower back problems. He did give the Braves 192 innings of 125 ERA+ pitching, so it was still very good. As he becomes more adjusted to being in the NL, expect a better second season. When he's right, Hudson forces hitters to hit the ball into the ground, and he can overpower hitters as well.
RHP Jorge Sosa---A+
Every year, the Braves have a pitcher come out of seemingly nowhere to become an integral part of the pitching staff. This year, Jorge Sosa was the man. After starting the season as a decent reliever, he joined the rotation after Hudson, Mike Hampton, and John Thomson went down with injuries. He became a stopper and perhaps was the MVP of the pitching staff. His biggest downfall was only being able to go 5 or 6 innings before tiring. Sosa seemed to pitch much better out of the stretch than he did in the windup, as hitters would get on base a lot with the windup. He would bare down with runners on, giving the Braves 134 innings of 172 ERA+ pitching. He doesn't have the best control, but he's very hard to hit. I don't know where Sosa will pitch next year; it could be in the rotation, in the bullpen, or on another team after a trade.
LHP Horacio Ramirez---C+
While 60% of the original 2005 rotation was injured, the left-handed Ramirez stayed healthy and gave the Braves 202 innings of slightly-below average pitching. As a reward for being a workhorse, he would have been the Braves' Game 5 starter in the NLDS had it got that far. The 25 year old has decent control and gets lots of ground balls. His problem was having the worst strikeout rate in the National League. Unless he can figure out how to get hitters to swing and miss occasionally, expect a similar 2006 season from Ramirez. With Ramirez being arbitration eligible and with younger, more talented pitchers coming up, his time as a Brave may be limited after 2006.
RHP John Thomson---D
The veteran right-hander got off to a great start before a freak injury occurred. In San Diego, a tendon partially tore in one of his fingers during a pitch and knocked Thomson out for the next 3 months. San Diego pitcher Adam Eaton had a similar injury, so perhaps it had something to do with the mound. After Thomson returned, he struggled to get back to his previous form. He finally started to pitch consistently well in his last 2 or 3 regular season starts, and had a great relief appearance in the playoffs. He is projected to be the Braves' #3 starter next year after his 2006 option was exercised. Thomson is a good finesse pitcher with a decent strikeout rate. The Braves hope he can give them 200 innings.
RHP Kyle Davies---B
The 21 year old showed flashes of brilliance during an inconsistent rookie campaign. But, he was only 21 years old, and seeing his circumstances is why I gave him a B. In his MLB debut, he perhaps saved the Braves' season with 5 shutout innings leading to a win during a prolonged road trip/slump in May. He has a good strikeout rate, but has bouts of wildness. He probably needs another year at Richmond for seasoning.
LHP Mike Hampton---D
If I was grading Hampton on only his first 2 months, he'd have an A+. He looked like a Cy Young candidate. Then his arm flared up, nobody knew why, and it eventually led to Tommy John surgery. Hampton is out for the 2006 season, but the Braves got some money back from insurance so it is not a total loss. Hampton usually has had some injury problems of some sort, but when he's healthy he's usually good for 175 innings of average pitching.
RHP Roman Colon---C
After a great final month in the 2004 season, the rookie Colon began the season in the bullpen. I don't know what happened, but he was awful. Eventually, he was sent back down to the minors before getting himself straightened out and came back as a starter when everybody was hurt. He gave the Braves some good spot starts before getting sent back down. It made him mad, he mouthed off, and he got himself traded for Kyle Farnsworth.
RHP Seth Greisinger---incomplete
Greisinger came up for an emergency start in June when everyone was hurt. He gave the Braves 5 innings and allowed 2 runs. He was sent back to Triple A, and wasn't needed anymore so he left the organization to go to Japan.
Next up, the bullpen...
Now, here are my 2005 grades for the starting pitchers.