Brandon Beachy's risky approach

Brandon Beachy didn't open the season as Atlanta's ace, but so far he's pitching like one. Daniel Shirey/US Presswire

Quick: Name the starting pitcher with the lowest ERA in the National League this year. Roy Halladay? Cliff Lee? Stephen Strasburg? Clayton Kershaw? Nope. It's Atlanta Braves starter Brandon Beachy.

Entering Sunday, Beachy leads all NL qualified starters with a 1.77 ERA. Even if you adjust for Beachy's home park and league -- an adjusted ERA of 100 is average and, like normal ERA, lower scores are better -- Beachy leads all NL starting pitchers with an ERA- of 47. He's pitched so well that Jayson Stark named him the NL's quarter pole Cy Young.

While Beachy was pretty good last year in his first full season as a starter, his ERA was essentially league average. In 25 starts in 2011 as a 24-year old, Beachy posted a record of 7-3 with a 3.68 ERA, 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings, and fewer than three walks per nine innings. This was certainly a strong debut and suggested that the young right-hander had significant upside. So it's possible that we are simply seeing Beachy take that next step in his evolution as a top-of-the-rotation starter.

The question for Beachy, as with many players putting up stellar numbers entering June, is whether or not this performance is truly sustainable over the long term. It isn't just Beachy's results that are different than last year's, but also his approach. And generally speaking, pitchers who make the kind of adjustment Beachy has (whether on purpose or due to aging) don't tend to have the greatest success during the course of a season. So what's Beachy doing differently?