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2010-season-in-review-kris-medlen | December | 2010 Articles

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2010 Season in Review: Kris Medlen

Written by Joe Lucia on .

The story of Kris Medlen's 2010 is a sad one, and one that the Braves will hopefully learn some lessons from. After finishing 2009 as a reliever, he was slotted for the same role in 2010. He spent all of April in that role before hopping into the rotation when Jair Jurrjens got hurt. Medlen thrived in his new role, turning in quality starts in 6 of his first 7 appearances in the rotation. Around the All-Star Break, Medlen was put back into the bullpen in order to limit his innings. After moving back into the rotation when the Braves needed a fifth starter, Medlen made 3 averageish starts before tearing his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on August 4th. He got Tommy John surgery the next week, and will be out for most of 2011. When he comes back, he'll probably be in the bullpen. With the sudden abundance of starters the Braves have, I think Medlen's final spot for the Braves will be in the pen. He's a good starter, but not a great one. Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado will be great ones.

Anyway, lets crunch some numbers now. Medlen got to nearly the same endpoint in both of his seasons despite taking very different paths to get there. In 2009 as a shutdown reliever, Medlen struck out 9.58 batters per 9, while walking 3.99 batters per 9. As he transitioned to the rotation in 2010, both of those numbers dramatically fell, with the strikeout rate falling to 6.94 per 9, and the walk rate plummeting to a stellar mark of 1.76 per 9. Medlen's homer rate spiked with the move to the rotation though, increasing from 0.67 per 9 up to 1.09 per 9.

When comparing Medlen's stats in the majors to those in the minors, its a tough task. In the minors, Medlen was really only a starter in half of 2008 and for the two months of 2009 he spent in the minors. As a reliever, he was a strikeout ace, striking out 99 in 69 innings in 2006 and 2007. His control was stellar over that time period, walking only 14. Things changed in 2008 when he shifted into the rotation halfway through the season. Because the fantastic minorleaguesplits.com is down until the beginning of the season, I can't break apart his season into reliever and starter...so we'll look at everything together. In his time in the minors during 2008 and 2009, both as a reliever and a starter, Medlen struck out 164 in 158 innings while walking 37, so you can see both rates going in the wrong direction with the switch, but that's something you'd expect to see happen.

I can however, give you awesome splits between starter and reliever for Medlen's major league career.
Starter: 102 1/3 IP, 7.12 K/9, 2.37 BB/9, 1.23 HR/9
Reliever: 73 IP, 9.12 K/9, 2.96 BB/9, 0.49 HR/9

As you'd expect, Medlen strikes out and walks more out of the bullpen, but the major difference lies in his home runs allowed, as he's allowed only 4 homers coming out of the pen. When its all said and done, I'd rather have the line coming out of the pen. Medlen's line as a starter really isn't that great. Its a 4.22 FIP. That's 4th starter material on a team with great starting pitching like the Braves. But the bullpen line? That's a sexy one, a 2.76 FIP and the makings of a stud power pitcher. Now, this argument could be completely for naught if his velocity doesn't come back after the Tommy John, but that's more worrisome than necessary with the high success rate of the surgery in this day and age. I hope the Braves take a long, hard look at everything and make the decision to keep him in the bullpen and not rush him into the rotation. The Braves have a pair of pitchers in Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy who will be more than ready for the 2012 rotation, and would be able to do roughly the same thing that Medlen could do, if not better. Neither has injury concerns either.

The final word? Not having Medlen in 2011 isn't going to kill the Braves, because if he was on the team, he'd likely be in the rotation, and Minor and/or Beachy would continue to rot in either the bullpen or Gwinnett. I think it took something like the injury to smack the brass in the face and make them realize that he should probably be a reliever in the long run.
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