ST. PETERSBURG -- Brandon Beachy joined some elite company after his start on Thursday, when he lowered his ERA to a Major League-best 1.33 to become just the third pitcher in Atlanta Braves history to post an ERA under 1.50 through the first eight starts of the season.
Greg Maddux was the last Braves pitcher to do so when he had a 1.13 ERA in 1994, the year he won the third of his four consecutive Cy Young Awards. According to baseball-reference.com, the right-hander affectionately known as "Mad Dog" lowered his ERA to 0.94 two starts later and he kept it below 2.00 the entire season until finishing with a Major League-best 1.56.
Maddux finished that season with a 16-6 record and led the National League with 10 complete games, three shutouts, 25 starts and 202 innings.
Before Maddux, righty Buzz Capra accomplished the feat when he had a remarkable 1.06 ERA after eight starts in 1974. Capra, who was originally selected in the 27th round of the 1969 Draft by the Mets, actually began the season with 10 relief appearances before making his first start of the 1974 campaign on May 19 -- when he tossed six innings against the Padres.
Capra, who was 26 at the time, then tossed five complete games before having a clunker -- three runs in 1 2/3 innings on June 11 against the Mets. The Chicago native went on to finish the season with a 16-8 record, 11 complete games, five shutouts, 217 innings pitched and an overall 2.28 ERA over 39 games (27 starts) to lead the National League. He was selected to the only All-Star Game of his seven-year career and finished ninth in the NL Cy Young Award voting.
While Capra's season was an anomaly, Maddux gives a better picture of what may lie ahead for Beachy.
Maddux, who spent 11 seasons of his 23-year career with the Braves, finished the 1994 campaign with a 0.896 WHIP and allowed just 6.7 hits per outing. Opponents batted just .207 against him and had a .259 slugging percentage and a .502 OPS versus him.
Beachy, who finished last season with a 1.207 WHIP, has compiled a 0.889 WHIP this year and has allowed just 5.7 hits per game. Better yet, opponents are batting just .177 against him and have a .224 slugging percentage and a .456 OPS versus him.
"He knew last year getting into the fifth, sixth inning wasn't good enough," catcher Brian McCann said. "I think that was his No. 1 goal going into the offseason was to get deep into ballgames, and I think [Thursday's outing] showed when he puts a plan together, and puts it in action, how good he really is."