Kris Medlen: Starter or Reliever?Posted: June 14, 2012
So, Kris Medlen has been officially “stretched out” in Triple-A in preparation for replacing Randall Delgado or Mike Minor in the rotation. Medlen has always been an option for both the rotation and the bullpen. He is equally capable of being a valuable pitcher in both roles. There are valid cases for each role, but there is one thing everyone can agree on, he needs to get back to the big club because he sure ain’t helping the Braves in Triple-A. That is not a knock for sending him down, I agreed with it. But now, the Braves have a tough decision on their hands that must be made soon.
I think they should move Medlen back to the bullpen. Just because they have stretched him out doesn’t mean they need to put him in the rotation now.
Delgado has been a good 5th starter for the Braves. He is basically “what you see is what you get” with an ERA of 4.34 and an almost matching FIP of 4.32 (4.25 xFIP). In 8 of his 12 starts this year he has given up 3 runs or less. He is going to be a part of the Braves future rotation, I think it is important to get work in the Majors. If he was not giving the team a chance to win every time out it would be a different story. Many teams would love to have a pitcher with his potential and stuff as their 5th starter.
I believe Minor was the more likely option to be replaced. As fans know, he had a terrible stretch of performances this year. Some was bad luck, some was bad pitching. He’s been on both ends of the spectrum this year, very good or very bad. Currently he owns a 6.01/5.20/4.54 line which shows there is still room for regression. He has had a couple of lingering problems that caused the rough stretch of outings. His biggest, falling behind in the count. This has been a noticeable problem that gets him into trouble putting hitters in fastball counts. When he has trouble locating, things go south quickly. Another problem he was having was pitching out of the stretch. Wether it was mental or a mechanical problem, this gave him problems and caused a large spike in his LOB%, which has since returned to below career average. Some point to Minor being a lefty as a reason for him to stay. I don’t buy that. Whether a pitcher is righty or lefty ultimately doesn’t matter too much for a starter. Facts are, there are more right-handed hitters and left. All in all, Minor has shown some great signs in his last start which hopefully continues forward.
Medlen can still return to an important role in the bullpen. Another reason I don’t mind him going back is because he was being used in higher leverage situations, like he should have. He was used in the 4th highest leverage situations behind Kimbrel, O’Flaherty and Venters. Being able to give multiple innings as a reliever increases his value. Giving the bullpen back a high-leverage guy like Medlen doesn’t hurt. Venters has struggled and O’Flaherty may be out for a bit with elbow soreness. The rest of the bullpen has been nothing special aside from Kimbrel who has again been outstanding. The expectations have been set astronomically high the past few season with the dominance of the big 3. That is not what we should expect going forward.
Anyways, the simple facts are 1) there are only two spots “open” in the rotation. Excluding Teheran, there are three options. 2) Medlen needs to be pitching with the big club. 3) Medlen is the only one of the three who can convert to the bullpen. Therefore I think that is the call. The decision will and should be made soon and will post an update accordingly.
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UPDATE: (2:30 PM): I just got done making a comment below about the Braves should get Livan out of the pen. The next time I checked my twitter, the Braves feed has announced he has been designated for assignment. As expected, they have recalled Kris Medlen to resume his role in the bullpen. Having two long men in the bullpen is enough, Livan is the worst of the three and he really isn’t needed anymore. It was a decent experiment, but it never panned out to more than what was realistically expected. I love the move, it would have been easier to send Vavaro back down. Give the Braves credit for making the smart move here, not the easy one.