By Eno Sarris //
Biggest Surprise: Tim Hudson and Billy Wagner
Both have been good for a long time, but Tim Hudson and Billy Wagner both surpassed expectations this year in their returns from Tommy John surgery. Wags found his old strikeout punch, to the tune of more than 13 strikeouts per nine innings, while Hudson focused more on getting the ground ball (64.7%, best in baseball). Because of their ages (Hudson is 35, Wagner 39), they might not make great keepers – especially with Wagner reportedly retiring – but they put in great work this year.
Biggest Bust: Jair Jurrjens
Jair Jurrjens is the clear bust for the Braves. He was injured for much of the year and could finish the season with only 20 starts, an ERA near 5.00, and the ire of fantasy owners everywhere. The thing is, Jurrjens really put up some of the same fundamental stats in 2010 that he did in 2009. His strikeout, walk and groundball rates were all similar in those two years. Instead, his luck and health went south this year. He’s an interesting bounce-back sleeper candidate late in 2011 drafts.
2011 Keeper Alert: Tommy Hanson
The one clear keeper on this pitching staff is Tommy Hanson. He has a strong three-pitch arsenal, cut his walks from his rookie to sophomore years, and features an above-average strikeout rate for a starter. Still, he showed much better strikeout punch in the minor leagues and could have further upside in 2011. In the bullpen, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel are both interesting young arms, but Venters is much better against lefties than righties, Kimbrel is a little wild, and their veteran competition for the closer’s role next year is still TBD.
2011 Regression Warning: Tim Hudson
Tim Hudson, at 35, showed his best groundball rate of his career. That probably won’t happen again next year, meaning his lower strikeout rate could produce an ERA a run higher next year.