There’s some concern buzzing around Tomahawk Nation after last nights game but I think it might be for the wrong reasons. I hate to see my fellow Braves fans in a panic so I usually try to write something that is upbeat and positive. Last nights 9-0 loss to the Phillies was not the way I had hoped the Braves would start this series. Chipper started the series off with a bang by saying how the Braves weren’t afraid of the Phillies and how he thought the Braves were the most likely team to give the Phillies a run for their money come the postseason. Personally I like the approach. Show some confidence and swagger. Your ball club is more then 20 games over .500 and just like the Phillies we also have a playoff birth basically locked up.
What I didn’t like was that Chipper Jones makes those comments and then doesn’t play. He looked extremely upset with his teams performance as he watched from the dugout. The key word being dugout. I understand he’s an older player but this is a big series for his team and I think he should have played in the first game.
The loss to Philadelphia was disappointing to say the least but to be 100% honest with you guys, I don’t see this team winning the N.L East. I think the deficit is just too large to over come this late in the season. However we shouldn’t feel bad about it. All playoff spots lead to the same road. Whether you win the division or the wild card, if you’re in it you can win it. It’s that simple. Sure the road to the World Series will go through Philadelphia but didn’t it go through the same road last year? Yes it did. And the Phillies got left behind on the side of their own road as the Giants continued on to win a world championship.
I think it’s important for this team to win games for the purpose of maintaining their wild card lead and also to build some confidence going into the postseason. However I think the team’s biggest concerns are not in the standings but in the club house.
Mixed news came in yesterday in regards to Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson. It appears that Hanson has the best chance to return in time for the postseason, as they have announced that it’s very likely Jurrjens will miss the entire 1st round of the playoffs. Although Hanson has the best chance of a possible return he’s still looking at another 2 weeks or so.
With only 3 weeks left in the regular season that doesn’t give Hanson a lot of time to return to form. It’s very possible that Hanson will only be able to make one start before the playoffs begin. That doesn’t give Fredi Gonzalez much to go on when he’s forming his playoff rotation.
Right now the offense is pretty much set. Assuming everyone is healthy there are very few question marks of who will play what position and who will hit where in the order. I don’t see Fredi straying too far from the normal line up that he’s put out there that past few weeks. The only thing I’m still not clear about is the OF rotation. Bourn and Prado will be out there everyday as long as Chipper is alright to play. Then you have Diaz, Heyward and Constanza fighting for playing time in RF. Tough call as to who will get the majority of the time out there. Diaz will likely face lefties I would assume as that’s what he was brought in to do.
The rotation is the real issue with so many possible scenarios looming. Hudson is the clear cut ace and #1 starter at this point in time. I don’t think anyone, including Fredi Gonzalez would argue that. But what happens when you drop down to #2 and #3. A 4th starter won’t be necessary for the divisional round but we still need to fill those last two spots.
If Hanson comes back and appears to be in good form I have a feeling that he might be the #2 guy. Then I would assume that Beachy would be put in the #3 spot if he continues to pitch well.
But what if Hanson doesn’t come back. What if both Hanson and Jurrjens are out for the 1st round? Do we dare put Derek Lowe in the #2 spot? Or do we risk putting Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy into the playoff rotation? I think there is a good amount of risk involved with both moves. Having Minor and Beachy in the playoff rotation gives us no experience what so ever.
The Phillies are not who we should be worried about. Catching them would be nice but is extremely unlikely at this point. We need to focus on maintaining that wild card lead and getting our playoff rotation in order. Fredi is going to have to make some tough decisions down the stretch.
The Braves should be more worried about the health of their team then the N.L East standings.
By: Bob McVinua