Category: Gwinnett Braves

Is a Chief Needed For The Braves Young Rotation

Freddy Garcia, nicknamed the “chief” has recently been called up from the minor leagues to add some relief to the Atlanta bullpen. At first I was very skeptical of the move and didn’t really see it as being anymore then an inexpensive way to eat up innings down the stretch while the team sits on a large division lead. Then when Garcia began to see minor league action and couldn’t seem to get anyone out I became even more convinced that this deal wouldn’t amount to anything.

Well we all know how quickly things can change in Major League Baseball and today’s zeros can become tomorrow’s hero’s in the blink of an eye. Frank Wren obtained Freddy Garcia from the Orioles in exchange for an undisclosed amount of cash considerations. Which to all baseball fans means a throw away guy that the Orioles had absolutely no interest in keeping. So while Wren made a quiet move that’s of no risk to the ball club what so ever he may have accidentally or purposely stumbled across something that could push the Braves over the top come October.

I’m no stranger to being called crazy, insane, out of my mind or even much worse things when it comes to my bold baseball predictions and confidence in my own knowledge of both the Braves and other Major League teams. So I expect this to be no different what so ever and I’m prepared to take any backlash that comes my way for making such a bold statement.

Freddy Garcia has an outside chance if not better of making the Braves playoff rotation. OK, you can sit down now and catch your breath…. You’re not dreaming and there’s no need to reread that previous line another 10x because I can assure you that you’ve read it correctly.

For the divisional round of the playoffs which the Braves are basically already locked into as they’ll get to avoid the Wild Card 1 game playoff this year (thank goodness) they can skate by with a 3 man rotation which most would suspect to be some combination of Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Kris Medlen. Now combined those 3 guys have made 1 career playoff start.

Now when you get to the National League Championship Series which yes, I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself here but assuming the Braves can advance through the Divisional Round they likely have to expand their rotation from 3 arms to 4 as that is very standard procedure. I believe the 2009 Yankees attempted to go with a 3 man rotation but I think that it puts a lot of strain on them and as you get deeper into the playoffs you run out of fresh arms.

So with all that assumed and even the possibility of a 4 man rotation in the Divisional Round does exist, who would be the Braves 4th starter? Would Fredi Gonzalez feel comfortable putting Alex Wood out there who is extremely inexperienced into a playoff scenario? Or he could go Paul Maholm? But again Maholm hasn’t proven by any stretch to be a solid starter since his scoreless innings streak at the very beginning of the season surpassed 20 innings.

Tim Hudson would have been the natural choice but he’s obviously injured. Who else could fill that void?

How about Freddy Garcia? Why not? He’s a veteran arm who has post season experience. To date he’s pitched in 4 American League Division Series, 3 American League Championship Series and has made 1 World Series start as well.

Garcia’s post season stats are not off the charts but he’s 6-3 with a 3.28era and has won some big games. Most notably he pitched Game 4 of the 2005 World Series for the Chicago White Sox and gave them an effort that was nothing short of impressive. Garcia threw 7 scoreless innings against the Houston Astros in a series clinching win for the White Sox. He allowed just 4 hits in that outing and struck out 7 batters.

Since being called up to the Major Leagues he’s pitched 7.1 innings, allowed 4 hits and struck out 4. Opponents are hitting just .167 against him thus far. Now of course this is a very small sample size but for what it’s worth it’s the most recent one that we have and all signs have been good thus far.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has shown a lot of interest and intent on allowing Teheran and Minor to occasionally skip starts in order to keep their innings down and their arms fresh. Why not give Freddy Garcia an opportunity to show what he can do in a spot start situation?

I think there is something to be said about post season experience. The lights shine brighter in October and the pressure mounts to levels that young pitchers have never even come close to experiencing. Wouldn’t it be nice to give the ball to a veteran guy who’s been there before and proven he can get the job done? I think a guy like Garcia could also prove beneficial off the field as well, as he can act as a mentor type figure to guys like Teheran and Minor who have never made a post season start in their young careers.

And if you’re still looking for another reason why the Braves should consider Garcia?

Well how about this? He’s the only player on the Braves active roster who’s won a World Series ring with the exception of Gerald Laird who won one in 2011 as a back up to Molina in St. Louis.

By: Bob McVinua







JJ Heads To AAA

Generally it’s a very unusual sight to see your #2 pitcher in your rotation get optioned down to AAA before the first day in May but that’s exactly what happened to Jair Jurrjens. Now I say #2 pitcher loosely as we still need to see how Hudson does in his return which should hopefully be by the end of this month. Fredi Gonzalez has made mention of April 29th or the 30th against Pittsburgh for being Hudson’s return to the rotation. Which as a side note is a nice time to bring him back as the Pirates are severely struggling to score runs right now. Might be a good chance for Hudson to get settled in and have a nice first start.

However the issue at hand isn’t about Tim Hudson. Jair Jurrjens has been a big disappointment to many this season. He’s currently 0-2 with a 9.37era. That just isn’t going to get it done for any team, any where never mind a team that’s trying to contend for a division title. Does all of this surprise me? Honestly, yes and no.

Does the fact that Jurrjens is struggling out of the gate surprise me? Not entirely and it really shouldn’t be a complete shock to anyone else either. This blog is not about throwing a ton of stats at you. However in certain circumstances stats are the best way to prove a point and paint a clear picture. That’s why stats are so coveted around sports.

Jair Jurrjens pitched through the month of Aug and that was as far as he went last year before going on the disabled list for the entire month of Sept. In the month of Aug 2011 he pitched to the tune of a 1-3 record with a 6.17era. That’s really the last memories we have of Jurrjens. He hasn’t pitched into the 7th inning of any game since the Braves played the Pirates on July 27th 2011. So it’s been awhile since we’ve gotten quality innings out of Jair as well.

So from that perspective I can’t say that I’m “shocked” by the results Jurrjens has posted so far this year. It’s pretty much a continuation of where he left off last year. He’s certainly lost some velocity. He’s not hitting his spots. Maybe he doesn’t completely trust that knee of his. It could be a lot of different things.

What does surprise me is that they are optioning him down so soon. Yes he’s gotten hammered and I know fans are all about instant results and don’t have any patience for struggling. But we do have 4 other quality guys in the rotation that are throwing the ball pretty well. Hanson, Beachy and Minor right now are “the big 3” of Atlanta. Delgado is 4 and Jurrjens is 5. If you aren’t happy with Jurrjens being your 5th best starter then by all means option him down, that’s what the Braves did.

By doing this they are taking immediate action which is good but they are also forcing a result. “He who hesitates is lost”, well the Braves certainly didn’t hesitate. This is now a critical part of Jurrjens career. He’s past the “babying” stage that some of the other starters are still in. You treat a 21-24 year old pitcher much differently then you do a 26 year old. However I’ve also heard the term “Braves veteran starter Jair Jurrjens” on numerous high light shows. To me this comment isn’t fair. Jurrjens is in no way shape or form a veteran pitcher. There aren’t many places where a 26 year old starter is considered a veteran but unfortunately for Jair, Atlanta is one of them. When you are 26 and the 2nd oldest pitcher on your staff that puts a little extra pressure on you. The pressure to excel your development. Jurrjens could go somewhere and be the youngest pitcher on a veteran staff. That would create a completely different out look on the situation.

Bottom line is the Braves are a pitching rich organization and with Hudson due back in less then a week there was no reason not to pull Jurrjens out of the rotation. He wasn’t giving them the best chance to win. He wasn’t pitching deep into games. He just over all wasn’t presenting the Braves with a lot of “value”.

Do I think they pulled the plug a little too soon? Yes, I do. I think they should have waited for Hudson to get back to the majors. See if his TRUE veteran presence could have affected Jurrjens in a positive way and also to see how affective he will be. The other guys in the rotation are throwing the ball well like I said, so I don’t think it would have hurt to give Jurrjens a couple of more starts. No, we don’t want a repeat of Derek Lowe but it’s still April.

Another aspect of the transaction that surprised me was how adamant Fredi Gonzalez was about keeping Jurrjens in the rotation. He had said on a few occasions that it wouldn’t be Jurrjens who would be lifted from the rotation when Hudson came back. It was almost certainly going to be Delgado.

If the move down to AAA doesn’t help Jurrjens then the Braves will most likely have to cut ties with the young right hander. He will have little to no trade value at this point and they certainly don’t have any interest in having him pitch through his struggles in the majors.

By: Bob McVinua


Today’s Recap

Today was a very “interesting” day for the Atlanta Braves organization. First off the legendary #6 was inducted into the Braves HOF and had his jersey number retired. After the game had started we realized the surprises were just beginning. In the 5th inning, after giving up back to back homeruns to Freeman and Uggla, Carlos Zambrano intentionally threw two inside fastballs to Chipper Jones. After getting ejected and arguing with fans that were making gestures to him, Zambrano decided to go to the lockers and pack up his stuff. His teammates told media that he had decided to retire. Who knows what will happen with this situation, but all i know is that Zambrano’s career is coming to an end soon.

Carlos Zambrano may have thrown his last pitch intentionally at Chipper Jones.

Later in the game, word came in that the great Ernie Johnson Sr. had passed away. This man meant so much to the Atlanta Braves organization and played an enormous role in bringing the Braves to every television in America. The Braves will wear a patch on their uniforms for the rest of this season to commemorate this awesome human being. R.I.P. Ernie…….

R.I.P. Ernie...

The Gwinnett Braves played Pawtucket and Coolray field tonight. They lost 5-3 because of  a 3 run 9th inning by Pawtucket. Brian McCann started his rehab assignment by serving as the team’s DH. He went 1-3 with an RBI single. He will be catching the game tomorrow, hoping to return to Atlanta’s lineup early next week. Julio Teheran continued to impress scouts with his usual performance. He pitched 7 innings giving up only 2 earned runs and striking out 5. Brandon Hicks also played a large role in tonight’s game going 3-5 at the plate.

Tonight the past, present, and future all came together for the Braves and made it a very memorable night.