Category: MLB

A One Game Playoff Comes Down To One Critical Decision

Happy September Braves fans! I know I haven’t posted as much as of late but I wanted to touch on some things as we approach the post season. Yes it’s September and as a Braves fan I’m talking about the postseason… Sorry that was the pause while I’m sure someone out there was yelling at me for being a jinx or talking too soon.

Our Braves have quietly put together a very good season. As we sit we’re 86-64 a very impressive 22 games over .500. We’re 5.0 games out in the division and 6.5 games up for that coveted Wild Card spot. Although the Cardinals appear to be on their way to a win at the moment so that lead could sit at 6.0 pending today’s action.
Now while we still have a long shot at the division ( don’t laugh) I think it would be wise for Fredi and the coaching staff to prepare for the one game playoff. Now how do you prepare for a 1 game playoff? OK before I get into the specifics of this article I just want to say that a one game playoff goes against EVERYTHING that baseball stands for. Which is longevity. It’s not a sprint it’s a marathon. It’s not about winning 10 games and getting into the post season like the NFL and that’s exactly what Bud Selig has done here. He’s sprinkled a little bit of the NFL onto Major League baseball. Which as I stated before the season even started that I didn’t agree with, I’m not just complaining because my team has the 1st wild card in a strangle hold and I suddenly am afraid of the 1 game playoff. You don’t play 162 games to have a “play in” game essentially unless by some miracle both teams have identical records. Then FINE, I can live with that but as that doesn’t happen very often it’s rarely an issue.

And while I’m not really for the one game playoff the Braves are still likely to be involved. Now I had mentioned earlier on about preparing for a 1 game playoff. Now most would ask “well how would you go about doing that?”. And it starts with making sure you have the RIGHT starting pitcher on the mound. Your starter will set the tone and determine how much pressure there will be on the offense on that given night. This game would play right into Atlanta’s hands if it was a low scoring affair since their offense can be so streaky from one night to another no one wants to see them get behind 4-0 in the 1st inning.

So Fredi Gonzalez is sitting in his office with his feet up on his desk trying to decide who’s going to pitch this crucial game. Because I believe that if  we can get past this game then we are capable of making some serious noise the rest of the way but it’s all about getting there now that this new system is in place. So Fredi has to have 2 guys in mind. Either Tim Hudson who is has been the veteran leader for this staff all year long or the younger but more consistent Kris Medlen. So let’s take a look and as fans try to decide who the best option is.
Tim Hudson:

The playoffs are generally about momentum and what have you done for me lately so let’s see what Tim Hudson has done for the Braves lately.

In his last 10 starts he’s 6-2 with a 3.88 era. So not exactly lights out numbers but decent enough. Only losing 2 of the past 10 decisions gives us a little confidence and the 6 wins is also comforting to a certain degree.

Match ups. The next thing a manger should be looking for is how this pitcher has matched against other teams that are in the playoff race. Looking at stat lines against the Padres or Marlins is fine in terms of momentum but this is a completely different barometer in terms of gauging your starter.

St Louis Cardinals: Tim Hudson has faced the Cardinals ( a likely playoff match up) just once this season. Where he compiled the not so impressive stat line of 5.2 inning, 6 hits and 5 runs. This game was also played at Turner Field the same site as the Wild Card game will be played assuming the Braves hang on.

Philadelphia Phillies: Suddenly the Phillies are right back in this playoff picture and while they would have to leap frog several teams to get that 2nd Wild Card they are still heavily in contention and a team that Hudson has matched up with this year. In 2 starts against the Phillies one at home and one on the road Hudson has another not so impressive stat line. 9.1 innings 15 hits and 11 runs in both starts combined.

Experience: The last thing a manager needs to be aware of before sending a guy to the mound is their experience factor. Some may say that experience is over rated and perhaps in some cases it is but to me the more you do something the less nervous you are about it and the more confidence you have in doing it. So there is always something to be said about experience.

Hudson over his career has gathered up 14 professional seasons and has made over 400 starts in that span.

Another thing to note is some players melt under the bright lights of October. The pressure is on and the atmosphere is much different then the regular season. Hudson has made 9 career post season starts. Posting a 1-3 record with a 3.56era. Not stellar numbers but he has been there before both with the A’s and the Braves.

Kris Medlen:

Now my job is to sell the finer points of each candidate and their possible pitfalls. With the information I give you hopefully you can form your own opinion on who you would like to see start that game and perhaps you already had an opinion long before even reading this. Either way I’ll follow the same structure for Medlen as a I did with Hudson.

Last 10 starts: Mighty Medlen has posted an 8-0 mark with a 0.76era in his past 10 starts. If you’re looking to ride the hot hand and momentum into the post season then there isn’t a better guy to go with then Kris Medlen. If you’re a what have you done for me lately type manager then Medlen will get a good hard look in this spot.

Match ups: I was hoping to touch on some key match ups here in terms of Medlen facing the Wild Card contenders but no such luck. Medlen has been able to avoid them this year and hasn’t made a start against the Dodgers, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates or Phillies this year. However he has made TWO very big starts against the Washington Nationals which will have to serve as our meter in terms of the playoff competition.

Medlen has thrown 14 brilliant innings against Washington this season, allowing 11 hits and only one earned run.

Experience: If you’re looking for a weak spot in Kris Medlen this is it. Medlen has never made a post season start so in terms of facing the pressure the results for Medlen are simply unknown. Now this doesn’t have to be a bad thing, everyone must start their post season career some where.
So there you have it. The 2 most likely candidates to pitch the one game playoff for the Braves. And while the presidential election of 2012 looms nearer the Braves may be having a small election of their own with Fredi getting soul possession of those electoral votes.

I’d love to hear what you guys have to say.

Medlen or Hudson?

Bob McVinua

 

 

 

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Wren’s Difficult Decision

Just 11 days away from the July 31st trade deadline and the Braves are without a doubt trying to make some sort of splash. The debate of whether to get an outfield bat or a starting pitcher is probably swirling around the mind of Frank Wren from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to bed. The issue is there is not a clear cut answer to this debate.

When you look at the stats neither the offense or pitching of the Braves jumps out at you as a major clear cut strength. I’ve broken down what I consider to be 5 of the most important offensive stats and 5 of the most important pitching stats and still could not conclude anything.

Offensive Rankings:

Team Batting Average: 15th best

Runs Scored: 10th best

Total Hits: 16th best

Home Runs: 15th best

On Base Percentage: 12th best

Pitching Rankings:

Team ERA: 14th best

Runs Allowed: 12th best

Batting Average Against: 14th best

Whip: 17th best

Strike Outs: 14th best
So as you can see the stats show a middle of the pack offense and basically a middle of the road pitching staff. So which one would you build upon if you were Frank Wren?

If you want my opinion I’d have to go with pitching. Why? Baseball is a game based upon offensive FAILURE. A good hitter makes an out 700/1000 times. A 30% success rates. And that’s a hitter who is performing at a reasonably high level.

A pitcher on the other hand gets the other side of success. Even facing a good hitter he’s going to be successful in getting him out 700/1000 at bats. For a 70% success rate.

As the weather cools off so do the bats of most major league teams. A lot of play off games played in the cool October air are low scoring affairs that requite good pitching to be successful. The last thing you want to have happen is that you go into a playoff series with a staff that can’t put up enough zero’s. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on your offense to score runs, which only causes them to press more then they normally would.

I think the Braves need to add another quality starter and further deepen this rotation. The old saying is “pitching wins championships” and I think Wren should follow that advice.
Who would you guys like to see the Braves make a trade for? Are you in favor of a trade for a pitcher or would you rather see a productive bat come to town and aid the sometimes struggling Braves offense?
By: Bob McVinua

 

Braves Having Difficulty Finding Balance

In today’s game so much emphasis is put on offense. Fans want to see their teams putting up crooked numbers on the score board as often as possible. Braves fans experienced a major offensive drought to end the 2011 season which lead to what was one of the worst collapses in Major League Baseball history. Time after time the Braves just couldn’t score runs and it made it nearly impossible to win games.

This year seems to be a much different story. Sure there’s been a few games here and there where the team has struggled to find offense but over all we have very little to complain about. The Braves have been one of the more impressive offensive teams this season as you can see where they rank in the following categories.

RUNS: 142 (1st in MLB)

HITS: 250 (3rd in MLB)

HR: 29 (8th in MLB)

RBI: 137 (1st in MLB)

SB: 21 (6th in MLB)

AVG: .267 (5th in MLB)

OBP: .329 (10th in MLB)

SLG: .418 (9th in MLB)

As you can see the Braves rank in the top 10 in pretty much every offensive category. That’s very impressive if you ask me. To be in the top 10 in both HR and SB. To be in the top 10 in AVG and SLG. They have all bases covered with a very balanced offensive attacked.

However on the other side of the ball, the pitching staff hasn’t been quite as impressive. As you can see where they rank in some of the more important pitching stats.

ERA: 4.33 (23rd in MLB)

HITS: 253 (29th in MLB)

AVG: .275 (27th in MLB)

WHIP: 1.41 (25th in MLB)

RUNS: 124 (24th in MLB)

So as you can the Braves rank in the bottom 3rd of the league in 5 of the most important pitching stats. Is this cause for concern? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s only May 5th so the pitchers have plenty of time to settle down and get into a grove but right now it appears that it’s the offense that’s carrying this team, not the pitching. A much different story from what we experienced last year.

Below are the current stats for each member of the Braves current rotation and also the stats posted by Jair Jurrjens

Beachy: 2-1 with a 1.38era

Delgado: 2-3 with a 5.14era

Jurrjens: 0-2 with a 9.37era

Hanson: 3-2 with a 3.74era

Hudson: 1-0 with a 6.55era

Minor: 2-2 with a 4.68era

Right now you would have to label Beachy the unofficial “ace” of this staff. With Hudson still coming back from a back injury and Hanson still trying to settle in. Minor has shown flashes of brilliance but has yet to put it together for a string of consecutive starts. Jurrjens struggled so badly that he had to be moved down to AAA where he appears to be getting back on track. Delgado is shaky at best with his 5.14era but every start he puts under his belt should lead to him getting a little bit better.

Now this staff could transform into an elite staff very quickly. Don’t get me wrong. However if the numbers continue to stay in this neighborhood for each starter then you would have to think that Frank Wren will consider making a move at the deadline. All off season we wanted to see a move for a bat and I was no exception. But with the offense ranking in the top 10 in all major offensive categories you have to think that they will be alright going forward, especially with the depth that the line up possesses.

Adding another veteran arm to the rotation could be a good idea. Derek Lowe gave us that presence during the 2010 season where he basically carried the pitching staff for the entire month of Sept. Unfortunately Lowe completely fell apart on us last year and we had to part ways with him but would an experienced arm in the rotation benefit our playoff chances?

Here are some guys we could consider going after. Now keep in mind that Frank Wren won’t likely sell the farm for an elite ace and we won’t be able to obtain a pitcher from another team in the thick of a playoff race unless we give them players who will be of immediate benefit which I also see as an unlikely scenario.

Eric Bedard:

A 33 year old starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Currently pitching to the tune of a 2-4 record but don’t let that deceive you. Bedard has posted an impressive 2.65era thus far and has been the victim of poor run support. His walk to strikeout ratio is also pretty impressive as he’s struck out 37 and has only walked 14. It’s unlikely that the Pirates will be in the playoffs race come July as I expect the Cardinals to pull way out in front by that point. So it’s possible he could be available. He’s also a lefty which would give us a 2nd left hander to compliment Mike Minor.

Ryan Dempster:

I’m staying in the N.L Central as I zoom in on the “ace” of the Chicago Cubs. Dempster is 35 years old so he certainly brings a veteran presence to the mound. He’s 0-1 thus far but like Bedard has been a victim of poor run support. A guy who has posted a 0.95era should have at least one win but that’s just my opinion. This is another guy with an impressive walk/strikeout ratio at 29-9. The Cubs have struggled thus far and I don’t see them having that big of a turn around over the next few months. Would they be willing to trade Dempster for a couple of prospects?

Brandon McCarthy:

Switching over to the A.L now, this is another pitcher that I think could help bolster our rotation down the stretch. McCarthy will turn 29 in July just a few weeks before the trade deadline so he certainly has a better age angle then the other two pitchers I’ve mentioned. McCarthy is 2-3 but still holds an impressive ERA of 2.96. The A’s offense isn’t exactly explosive so he’s isn’t the beneficiary of outstanding run support by any means. Texas appears to be the clear cut favorite to win the A.L West and I doubt the A’s have enough to compete for one of those 2 Wild Card Spots. They have unloaded guys such as Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez for prospects to attempt to rebuild so McCarthy might be the next to go.

Let me know of some other names that you guys think could be of interest to Frank Wren and the Braves. I’d love to hear some feedback.

 

By: Bob McVinua

 

 

Wild Card About To Get Wilder?

Talks have really been heating up in regards to adding an extra wild card team to each league. There seems to be a lot of mixed feelings on this issue and I’d love to get some feedback from my readers to see what you guys think.

Lets take a quick look back on how the baseball playoffs have changed over the years.

Prior to 1969: Perhaps the most cut throat playoff structure. This concept had the team with the best record in the regular season from each league face off in the World Series. Very cut and dry, no margin for error. You had to be the best team in your league or your season went by the wayside.

1969-1993: Things opened up a little bit by separating each league into 2 divisions. These 2 division winners would face off in what would be the National League Championship Series and the American League Championship Series. The winners of each series would obviously be that season’s World Series match up.

1994-Present: The present format has been the most friendly in terms of giving each team the best odds of making the playoffs. 3 divisions were created and a wild card was implemented to make an even 4 teams. Suddenly the amount of playoff teams doubled.

 

Being a baseball fan since I was 7, allowed me to only watch the playoffs from 1994 on. So I have only witnessed postseason baseball with the format that we currently have. So I’d love for some more veteran baseball fans to shed some light on how they felt watching the playoffs expand into what they are today. So my opinion on this matter is slightly bias as I can only relate to having the 8 team playoff system.

It’s now March 1st and teams have already reported to their spring training facilities. What makes spring training so exciting? One word. HOPE. Every team has hope right now. Any one can make the playoffs and anyone could win the World Series. Sure some teams have better odds then others but no one can guarantee anything at this point in time.

In previous playoff structures the chances of your team being able to win the World Series was extremely slim. You would have either had to be the best team in your entire league or the best team in your much larger division. Both appear to have been quite a daunting task. As an Atlanta Braves fan I can’t even imagine the season starting right now and knowing that if the Braves don’t have the best record in the N.L then they will be eliminated at season’s end.

The 8 team playoff structure allows for more teams to make the playoffs which generates more excitement from each fan base. Not only can teams get in by winning their division but they can also sneak in as the Wild Card team. Which gives teams in very difficult divisions an extra chance to get into the post season. The drama of the post season also lasts longer as well. I wouldn’t want the entire season to end and jump right into the World Series. Again I am bias because this is the only playoff structure I’ve ever witnessed. I believe right now we are at a happy medium. Just enough teams make. 8 out of the 30.

Now if the new playoff structure were to get approved we would now allow 10 out of 30 teams to make the post season which is 1/3 of the league. To me it just seems like a little too much. Under the new rules we would have 1 extra wild card in each league and there would be an extra round where the 2 wild card teams from each league would play each other in a 1 game playoff to see who would advance.

Now I’m not one to be negative as you guys know so I will shed some positive light on this. 2 extra teams in the playoffs will give some excitement to more fan bases. But that’s about it. Other then that I really don’t think it does much good at all.

Alright, so you allow an extra team into the playoffs. But it’s only for ONE game. It’s not even like you’re allowing them to play a best of 3 series. It’s not much better then your team losing a one game playoff on the last day of the season. Is it really worth the trouble? I don’t think it is.

Now we have to put this into perspective here. Everything in life is situational. So if my team or your team were to get into that 2nd Wild Card spot then of course we would be excited about it. However what happens when my team or your team is in the 1st wild card spot and you are 6 games ahead of the team who grabs the 2nd spot. Then your team loses in that one game playoff, are you still going to be thrilled with the idea?

To me it just makes a mess of things and allows a possibly mediocre team into the playoffs. The NBA allows 16 teams into the playoffs which is more then half the league. Yes it may be over kill but they do at least allow them to get a 7 game series in. Fans will get to see their team play at LEAST 2 playoff home games. Which I think makes it worth the trouble.

If MLB were to make this a best of 3 series then maybe I’d be a little more open to it. Each team would be guaranteed at least one home game. The team with the better record would get games 1 and if needed game 3 at home. Game 2 would be at the home field of the 2nd wild card team. At least then you would get both fan bases involved in it.

If it were me I would leave things as is. I think that’s it worked out pretty well so far and if it’s not broke don’t fix it.

Sure this new format could have helped the Braves last year when they missed the playoffs by one game. They still would have gotten a playoff birth. However if they were the team who had won the wild card I wouldn’t have been thrilled with them being forced to play a one game playoff.

By: Bob McVinua