Nine innings, no runs, one hit, eight strikeouts, one walk. According to ESPN’s Game Score measure, Jurrjens’ start was the fourth best of the season in all of baseball. Jair’s ERA is now 1.89, which is a half a run better than anyone else in the National League. (If you look at defensive-independent ERA, then Jurrjens drops to 16th, right behind Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson.) He came into his start against Texas two weeks ago with an ERA of 2.13 and he has lowered that ERA in each of his last three starts. I keep waiting for regression to the mean and Jair keeps making great starts.
I can keep going with the stats. Jurrjens is first in quality start percentage, fifth in WHIP, and fourth in opponents’ OPS. (If you want to know why the Phillies and Braves have emerged as the two best teams in the NL, look at this list. Their pitchers hold six of the top seven spots in opponents’ OPS.) Jurrjens doesn’t strike many batters out, but the flip side is that he is highly efficient. He’s second in the NL in fewest pitches per inning and tenth in fewest pitches per plate appearance. While Jurrjens is like Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe in that he doesn’t strike or walk a lot of hitters, he isn’t a groundball pitcher, as his groundball to flyball ratio is less than one. Lowe and Hudson are third and fifth in the NL in groundball ratio; Jurrjens is 37th. Jurrjens is, however, very good at avoiding preventing line drives; he is fifth in the NL in lowest line drive percentage. Combine that low line drive rate with Jurrjens’ fofth place showing in lowest homers allowed per nine innings and our lesson should be that Jair is pitching to bad contact. Opponents can put their bats on balls, but not the good parts of their bats.
ESPN’s Dan Braunstein has two interesting notes on Jurrjens’ performance last night:
• Jurrjens kept the ball down, with 63 of his 112 pitches (56.3 percent) tracked down in the zone or below it. Jurrjens got 15 of his outs and six of his eight strikeouts on low pitches. For the season, Jurrjens is 5-0 with a 1.00 ERA in five starts this season when more than 50 percent of his pitches are low.
• Jurrjens took advantage of a generous strike zone. He got 11 called strikes on pitches out of the strike zone, tying his most in a start in the last three seasons. Six of Jurrjens' eight strikeouts came on pitches out of the zone, tying his most in a start in the past three seasons. Five of those strikeouts were on pitches the Orioles chased out of the zone.
The liberal strike zone. Jurrjens got one strikeout of Matt Wieters in the seventh on a called third strike that was a good nine inches outside. Eric Gregg would have been proud of that one.