In praise of JJ was little reaction to the non-tendering of Jair Jurrjens, save for some crowing from the statistically obsessed who always discounted his contributions. JJ deserves better than that.

When the Braves acquired him for Edgar Renteria, I was more optimistic than most (some preferred Nate Robertson, whose career ended in 2010). JJ’s fifth start as a Brave proved me right.

Pitching before 52,495 at Shea that night, JJ endured a horrific third inning that would’ve led most rookies to self-destruct. With 2 outs, the bases loaded and a shrinking strike zone, JJ to walked in three consecutive runs, two of which came on full counts. He responded by retiring the next 10 hitters he faced, leaving after 6 innings en route to his third victory.

JJ was the local nine’s best starter that year, leading the team in wins and innings pitched. The following season he emerged as one of the best starters in the NL, winning 14 with a 2.60 ERA, limiting opposing hitters to a .237 BA. He led the Braves with 215 IP, saving his best in September, going 4-1 with a 1.43 ERA.

After a forgettable 2010 performance JJ rebounded in 2011, ranking among the NL’s elite starters, winning 12 games with a 1.87 ERA in the season’s first half. Stat geeks were unimpressed, citing his 5.3 K/9 ratio. But it was bad knees, not the lack of a blazing fastball, that spelled the end of JJ’s days in Atlanta.

Besides his stout work on the mound, JJ was also a stand-up dude, never complaining after he was demoted to Gwinnett last April. And don’t forget that June 22nd start in Fenway when he defied the skeptics to hold Boston to three hits and one run in 7-1/3 IP.

Alas, it was pretty much all downhill from there, eliciting a chorus of “I told you so’s” from those who measure effectiveness by strikeouts. They may not appreciate JJ, but real Braves fans should.

Here’s hoping he lands on his feet and resumes what has been a very effective big league career.


4 thoughts on “In praise of JJ

  1. Thanks for posting, will always be a fan of his.He signed an autograph for me last year after a game in AAA from his car. I told him I hope he makes it back to the show, all with a smile. Real nice I thought.

  2. He’ll get with a real pitching coach and he’ll straighten it out.

    I’ll always remember that game at Shea. Games like that are prime examples of the things that can’t be measured easily by stats.

  3. That game in Shea was remarkable. He showed is mettle as a pitcher that night. I hope he gets a shot somewhere and gets back to the JJ of old.

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