Category: Sports

Is This The Calm Before The Storm?

The Braves front office has been very tight lipped about what they’ve been up to. Frank Wren is clearly not willing to make any promises that he’s not going to be able to follow through with. That just seems to be his nature as he has already stated that it’s unlike the Braves will make any “major” moves. I’m not sure what Wren would consider to be a major or block buster move but something has to give here.

The Braves were able to unload Derek Lowe much quicker then I anticipated. I had this fear going into the off season that we wouldn’t be able to move a 38 year old pitcher who couldn’t get anyone out just this past season. However as fate would have it, the Indians jumped into the mix and wanted Lowe to fill out the back end of their young rotation. As the saying goes “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Not to add salt to the wound for Derek Lowe or mock him in anyway but he would serve no purpose for the Atlanta Braves. We’ve been there and done that, now it’s time to see what he can do in Cleveland. Perhaps a change of scenery is what he needs. None the less we saved 5 million dollars by completing the deal and unloaded the worst pitcher on the team, talk about killing two birds with one stone.

Wren has also discussed a modest increase in payroll for this season, nothing extreme but maybe somewhere in the neighborhood of several million dollars. Nothing fancy but hey when it comes to payroll I’d rather see it go up then down. On top of all of this Jurrjens and Prado are now on the trade block and I believe that Wren will pull the trigger on either one of those guys if the right offer comes across his desk.

What is going on in Frank Wren’s mind right now? What could he be plotting? Rumors of the Braves being interested in Jimmy Rollins have started to pick up a little bit of steam as of late. The Braves have a need at short stop and what better way to fill it then stick the Phillies short stop right in there? There are of course a few things that would need to be cleared up before this could even be a possibility. Rollins would have to agree to a contract that was 3 years or so. He will be 33 before the start of next season and we don’t need to be giving a short stop at that age a long contract. He will certainly want a fair share of money but he may possibly be willing to take a little bit less to go to a contender.

Yes, Rollins would be a great fit for Atlanta. He could hit in the 2 hole right behind Michael Bourn and give us a dynamic top of the order. Two guys who can get on base and steal bases. Rollins also has a fair amount of pop and some decent gap to gap power as well. His fielding is still top notch and he knows how to win. Could this be a move being set up by Frank Wren? Crazier things have happened.

If we were to obtain Rollins then we would still have a big whole in left field. The Braves outfielders were terrible offensively last year, no one can deny that. So naturally that’s where we want to go in free agency or the trade market. However lets consider this. Bourn played well for Atlanta and having his speed and energy at the top of the order for a full season should make a big difference. He will be comfortable with his surroundings and can go right to work. It’s never easy being dumped into a new environment half way through the season. I’m expecting big things from Michael Bourn in 2012. The other thing to keep in mind is that Jason Heyward SHOULD be a lot better then last season. They are making him a primary focus this off season and hopefully the new hitting coach will get him back into form. Personally I think Heyward’s struggles stemmed from laziness and the inability to make adjustments. He’s not a rookie anymore and pitchers at the major league level have figured him out. If he makes the proper adjustments and he can hit 20-25 home runs and drive in over 70 runs then he will be a very strong 6 or 7 hole hitter for us.

Scoring runs starts with the top of the order. If you have Bourn and Rollins up there as table setters then you will see guys like Uggla and McCann drive in a lot more runs.

Now left field is still an issue. However if Bourn, Heyward, Uggla, Freeman, Rollins, Chipper and McCann are all playing up to their potential then I think you can afford to put a mediocre player in left field. We’re not the New York Yankees thus putting an All-Star at every position is not an option. But if those other 7 guys are producing the way that they should produce then this is going to be a VERY dangerous team.

Trading Prado does mean losing a quality utility man as well as a potential starter. Prado has shown he can play 1B, 2B, 3B and LF without any problem. When your playing the National League you need guys who can cover all parts of the diamond. So losing him would hurt our depth, however if he’s going to want somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 million dollars then we can most likely find a utility guy for maybe 1-2 million thus saving us some cash.

I think Rollins might be the guy the Braves are looking for. Think about this. When was the Braves offense scoring the most runs? It was when we had Bourn and Constanza in the lineup together. 2 spark plugs in the order just caused havoc for opposing teams.

Add Rollins to the mix. Straighten out Heywards swing and rebuild his confidence. Get a full productive season from Uggla.

Every year the Braves need to “improve” the offense. I’m almost tired of hearing it. Frank Wren added Uggla and added Bourn. What more do you want this guy to do? I do think we are missing a piece and I think it might be Jimmy Rollins.

Call me crazy all you want but I think that the combination of getting a good player at a weak position with stealing a good player from a RIVAL team might be enough to push Frank Wren over the edge. This is a chance for the Braves to make a statement.

By: Bob McVinua

 

 

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Wren Is Playing Human Chess

I’ve always been a fan of Frank Wren and the last week has really shown me why. The Braves had a miserable ending to the 2011 season. One that Braves fans would like to put behind them as they look forward to next year. After the final game of one of the biggest collapses in major league baseball history the first thing that I said was that Frank Wren could not bring this same team back again and expect a completely different result. Something was missing in the chemistry that made this team go into a free fall. I’m not saying the 2011 Atlanta Braves were a World Series contender after all of the injuries but there was still no excuse to not make the playoffs.

As we head into the off season I’m not beginning to reconfirm my another initial thought. Everyone who reads my articles knows that I’m always looking for ways to stay up beat and positive. I said that the silver lining in the “great collapse” was that Frank Wren would be FORCED to make moves if he had any hopes of reviving the fan base after what we had to suffer through in the month of Sept. It was absolutely heart breaking and he owes it to the fans to rebuild this team a little bit. Shake things up and make improvements. I think Frank Wren was furious about not making the playoffs last year and is more determined then EVER to make a run at the World Series in 2012. That alone could be more valuable to us fans then the Braves making the playoffs and getting knocked out in the 1st round or the NLCS. Then Wren would have probably kept a lot of the same guys and we would have been spinning tires. The collapse could work in our favor Braves fans, it’s over now and we can move forward.

Speaking of moving forward Frank Wren is already playing “human chess” which is basically what GM’s in major league baseball do for a living. By getting rid of Derek Lowe he did 3 things that were critical. First he saved us 5 million in payroll even after giving the Indians 10 million towards his salary for 2012. Second he got him off of our hands and out of our rotation. Third he satisfied a fan base who was developing a hatred towards Lowe. There was no way he could send him back out there again. This also happened very quickly which surprised me. Lowe is in his late 30’s and coming off of a horrible season. I didn’t think any teams would jump at the chance to obtain him but clearly I was wrong.

Nate McLouth was sadly a disappointment when he came to Atlanta after putting up solid numbers in Pittsburgh. To this day I still believe the pressure got to him a little bit. It’s easier to put up numbers in an environment when no one expects you to win. Look at the Pirates this year. They were above .500 for a few months and everyone was going crazy, that’s not the mark of a winning club. But now is also gone, saving us a lot of payroll. Not only was he not productive but he wasn’t healthy that often either. We needed to bury the hatchet with Nate Mclouth and just part ways with him. Another great move by Wren.

Now several sources have confirmed that the Braves are willing to move Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado. This is where we start to gamble just a little bit. Jurrjens has shown flashes of brilliance and he’s also been booed off the mound from horrible starts. He’s been injured on and off as well. Prado has shown a lot of up side despite his struggles last year. He can also play anywhere on the diamond if needed. That in itself makes him a valuable asset to the Braves organization. Being willing to trade these guys does pose a gamble as they both could continue to develop and we would miss Prado’s versatility for sure. However on the other side of things if these guys struggle next year then their value will drop considerably. Do we trade them now and get max value and save payroll? Or do we hold onto them and hope that they come back strong next season?

Wren seems content to dump payroll. If he’s willing to send Jurrjens who could make up to 5 million dollars after arbitration to Kansas City for a mid level prospect then he seems to be planning for a move of some kind. I realize the Braves said they weren’t looking to make a “major” splash this off season but why else would they be dumping payroll like they are? By saying they “aren’t planning” on it they are covering themselves in case it doesn’t happen. That’s my opinion.

Where should the Braves be looking to spend this new found money?

CJ Wilson: This would be a brilliant move for Frank Wren to pull off. I realize that offense is what lost us the playoff birth but pitching was what put us in front by 8.5 games to begin with. We had an All-Star in Jurrjens the first half of the season and Hanson was a solid starter as well. With both of those guys in question we need to replenish the rotation with a big arm.

CJ Wilson would be a great fit in Atlanta for several reasons.

1) He’s a strong left handed pitcher with great stuff. Hudson right now is the team ace but CJ could certainly rival him for that spot. This gives us a great left/right combo in the rotation. This is a great way to attack teams throughout the regular season and especially the postseason.

2) Wilson is used to pitching in “hitter friendly” Texas and still experiences a lot of success. Imagine how he would do in “pitcher friendly” Atlanta. A stadium that is known to be a tough place to hit. You would think his numbers could only improve.

3) It’s always easier to navigate through a National League line up compared to an American League one. There’s just more pop in the A.L line ups and in the N.L there’s no DH to go through, you have the benefit of pitching to the pitcher’s spot every 3 innings or less. That can be a real help when trying to stop a rally or put up zero’s on the score board.

Short Stop:

If I’m Frank Wren I don’t want to go out and spend money on a short stop unless his name is Jose Reyes. None of the other one’s are really worth it in my opinion. That money would be much better spent on a corner outfielder to replace Prado. I say they put Pastornicky at SS and bat him in the 2 hole. Why not? Continue to add to the youth movement in Atlanta and let him have a chance to prove himself.

He will have a chance to adapt and won’t be relied on fully for a long time. He’ll be in a line up with Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann and Jason Heyward. He will have plenty of good hitters coming up behind him. Michael Bourn the possible long term solution in the lead off spot. This offense would be solidified for a very long time.

By: Bob McVinua

 

Braves Fans Beginning To Panic?

This is a rarity for me as a writer. I never write my blog entries the night before I post them. Yet here I am at 12:20 at night sitting in front of my computer screen writing an article for Chop Talk. It’s a Saturday night and I can’t even think about anything else because of the Braves loss tonight. The point of my articles are to always try and put a positive spin on things when it comes to Braves baseball. You can go anywhere on the internet and read negative articles about everything from sports to politics. But what good does that really do us? When has being negative ever helped any situation?

One of the best quotes I’ve ever read was this: “Life is not about what happens to you but how you react to it”. Your reaction can make bad situation worse or it can make it better. At the end of the day this is just sports and we all know that. But at the same time it’s a passion of ours. We are die hard Atlanta Braves fans and we want what’s best for our team and we get frustrated when things don’t go the way we had hoped.

This is when the team needs us the most. This is when fans need to stand up in adversity and show that they will support their team through thick and thin. I’m sure none of my readers feel this way but I’ve been on several Braves sites tonight and saw tons of comments referencing the Braves missing the playoffs. Saying that this was going to be a horrible choke from the Atlanta Braves. I realize that the Wild Card lead has slipped from 8.5 games down to 5.5 games and I’m well aware of the fact that the Braves aren’t playing great baseball right now.

But at the end of the day they’re 5.5 games up in the Wild Card race with a little over 2 weeks to go in the season. That’s really not a horrible spot to be in. If someone told us that the Braves would be where they are today back in April we all would have been thrilled. Look at all the teams that are completely out of it, which by now is the vast majority of both leagues. Teams like the Orioles, Royals, Pirates, Dodgers, Padres, Cubs, Blue Jays, etc are all out of it. So many other teams are as well.

And it’s not like we’re the only team that’s getting a scare right now. I’m sure Texas isn’t too happy with their lead in the A.L West which has almost completely evaporated. Or how about the big bad Red Sox who hold a smaller Wild Card lead then the Braves. I’m sure that they aren’t feeling so great about themselves either. Were not the only team that’s experiencing a late season slide is all I’m saying.

The Braves have one more game against the Cardinals. Tim Hudson is pitching and right now he’s probably the best guy we have so I’m feeling fairly confident. If we can win tomorrow then we leave St. Louis with a 6.5 game lead in the Wild Card and will only have 15 games left to play. That’s not such a bad deal. It would basically come down to us playing .500 baseball the rest of the way.

The Braves will be opposed by the Marlins and Mets this week, both series will be played at home. I’m sure this team is dying to get back to Atlanta so they can settle in and start playing good baseball again. I’ll say the Braves win 4 of 6 from the Marlins and Mets. Who could argue with that prediction?

The Cardinals will make a trip to Philadelphia at the end of this week for a 4 game set. That could potentially be a 4 game sweep but I’ll predict that Philadelphia will take 3 of 4 which would still help the Braves tremendously. So in that respect I think were in decent shape. We will all have to swallow our pride and root for the Phillies next weekend as it’s in the best interest of the club.

Baseball is a tough game. It’s so different then all the other sports because of the length of the season. In the first half the Braves pitching was so dominant and that almost seems like a different year to me. Jurrjens is hurt and so is Hanson. Lowe is horrible and that leaves a ton of pressure on Tim Hudson to carry this staff. The young guys have pitched well though.

Dan Uggla has turned his season around. Chipper is swinging the bat well. Freeman has emerged into a great player. So many things happen during the course of 162 games. And the thought of having to go through all that and still miss the playoffs is the worst feeling in the world. Baseball fans cheer their team on and get wrapped up in the games EVERY SINGLE night. Football fans deal with it once a week, there’s a huge difference.

I’m going to go on record and say that I firmly believe that the Braves will still make the post season. It’s not a guarantee and I know if they don’t I will be mocked for the entire off season but I’ll take that chance. Baseball is a funny game but the Braves just need to get back into the swing of things. Right now they’re playing a little too loose and their focus just doesn’t seem to be there. I think with the lead at only 5.5 games it will help wake them up a little bit.

Let’s get through tomorrow Braves fans and then head back home. This will all be a decent memory in a few days. Tomorrow’s game does have big implications. It’s the difference between a 3 game sweep and the Cardinals only gaining 1 game in the standings. Hudson needs to come up big and I think he will.

We’ll get through this. I’m just as frustrated as you guys are but deep down I believe things will turn out alright. This team has over come adversity this entire season. This is no different.

By: Bob McVinua

 

Braves Look To Cage Up The Cardinals

Alright. As promised we can get back to the most important topic in baseball, the Atlanta Braves. There’s a big game tonight against the Cardinals on the road in St. Louis. Although both teams are facing a good amount of pressure in this series I’d say that the majority of the pressure rests on the shoulders of the Cardinals. After all, were not chasing them. They are the team that’s 7.5 games out with 18 games left to play. In my opinion the Cardinals need to sweep this series to really challenge the Braves down the stretch and for the Braves I think 2 out of 3 should do the trick. Head to head meetings are where playoff spots are won or lost this late in the season. Yes the Cardinals face an up hill battle the rest of the way but they can certainly make life a lot easier if they could sweep this 3 game set.

For the Braves I think it’s all about taking 2 out of 3 and just making another statement. If this team wins the series then they will have gained 1 full game in the standings and more importantly knocked off 3 more games from their remaining schedule. For the Braves there’s no where to go. They aren’t going to win the division and the wild card team is always guaranteed the 4th seed in the post season and no chance at home field advantage. The Braves are in a spot where they just need to win games and focus on themselves. It doesn’t matter what the Phillies are doing. It doesn’t matter what the D-Backs or Brewers are doing. This team needs tunnel vision right now.

21 year old Randall Delgado will take the mound tonight for the Bravos and were hoping to see some good things from him. In his last start against the Giants he actually carried a no hitter into the late innings so we’ll be hoping for more of the same tonight. The Cardinals line up as a lot more offensive threats in it compared to the slumping Giants line up that Delgado faced last month. So it should certainly be a big test for the very talented young man.

Honestly this is the moment I’ve been anxious about for the past week or so. We need to avoid the sweep which would be a complete disaster. We can’t have a repeat of what happened in Philadelphia. A sweep would bring that 7.5 game lead down to just 4.5 and with 18 games left that could get a little dicey.

I am also noticing that Fredi Gonzalez is falling into a tough spot. One that might be corrected after this series. He’s on the fence between being inĀ  place where he can rest players and prepare for the playoffs and a place where his playoff chances are being threatened. A very difficult place for a manager to be in. A team like the Phillies can start resting some guys and experimenting a little before the playoffs start. A team like the Cardinals knows that it’s all or nothing right now and that they have to do whatever it takes to make the playoffs.

Which spot is Fredi Gonzalez in? I think he’s caught right in the middle. If the Braves were to sweep this serious, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Then the Braves would hold a VERY comfortable 10.5 game lead and could then start to rest some players and figure out their playoff rotation.

Venters looks exhausted. I’ve never seen him with such control problems before and the last thing we want is to have him worn out and in affective for the post season. The bullpen is by far our biggest strength. The ability to shorten games could be the reason we make a run at the World Series. When you play the Atlanta Braves you’re playing a 6 inning game. That’s extremely intimidating and causes teams to press a lot harder in the earlier innings because they are afraid of not having the lead by the middle of the ball game.

By: Bob McVinua

Why 2011 Could End Differently

2010 was a great year for our Atlanta Braves. We had been absent from the playoffs since 2005 and just making the postseason was a great feeling. The expectations this year are very different for this team, at least they are in my opinion. Last year making the playoffs was a victory in itself and we were happy to be back in the mix of competitive ball clubs. This year I’m looking for a World Series to come to Atlanta.

Is this a far fetched dream? Or is it a very possible reality? Lets take a closer look and see how this years team compared to last years playoff squad. I think by the time you get to the end of the article you’ll see that we do have some distinct advantages that were missing last season.

1) Derek Lee played 1st base during last years playoffs. Yes Derek Lee has a great glove over at 1st base and made a great scoop play to save us game 2 in San Fran. Although he had some good moments with the glove, Lee was basically shut down at the plate. Derek Lee had just 2 hits in 16 at bats against the Giants giving him a horrible batting average of .125. He struck out 6 times and didn’t drive in a single run. I’d be willing to take bets that Freddie Freeman can hit over .125 and manage to drive in more then 0 runs at the plate. Derek Lee was brought in to bring some pop to the offense but it really didn’t turn out the way Frank Wren had hoped it would. Freeman gives us a much better chance to win. His bat has a lot more pop in it then Lee’s and I like that he’s a lefty. He’s just one of several guys who can protect McCann in the line up.

2) Brooks Conrad won’t be playing on a regular basis. Injuries hurt the Braves down the stretch and forced them to play Brooks Conrad at crucial points in the game. I know that you can’t blame 1 player for a team’s failed playoff performance but I do put a good portion of blame on Conrad. He had 3 errors in game 3 against the Giants. 1 of those errors was in the 9th inning with 1 out and a chance to help put the Giants away. He botched a ground ball and the flood gates just opened. His error on the pop fly also resulted in a Giants run. Those 2 runs were the difference between a win and a loss.

3) Dan Uggla. People can say what they want about his batting average but frankly I don’t care. I had a big issue with it being under .200 don’t get me wrong we all have standards. However if Uggla can finish with a batting average of .250 or so I’d be fine with that. The guy brings some series pop to this line up and gives McCann the protection that he didn’t have in last years playoffs. Having 2 big bats in the 3 and 4 spots is critical, especially when one is lefty and the other hits from the right side. Uggla has the potential to go yard at any given moment. That scares teams. And it should. Late in the game Uggla could provide a big blast that wins us the game.

4) Michael Bourn. This guy brings an element to this team that we’ve been lacking for way to long. SPEED. This guy can flat out fly. He can score from first with ease on a double in the gap. He can beat out infield hits. He can steal bases. He poses a threat to starting pitchers because they MUST keep an eye on him at all times. With Bourn hitting at the top of the order this offense becomes a lot more dangerous. Runs are tough to come by in the post season and he’s the type of player who can help us manufacture runs in a tight ball game.

5) Chipper and Martin Prado. These guys were both injured during the playoffs last year. I know I mentioned that Brooks Conrad was forced to play everyday because of injuries but this goes beyond Conrad having to play. When these guys are in the line up they provide something special. Chipper has proven that he can still tear the cover off the baseball. Prado is a great number 2 hitter who almost always puts the ball in play. He can get big hits if he needs to and he also has the bat control to just move the run over in a crucial spot.

6) The bullpen. Last years bullpen was decent but this years bullpen is record breaking. O’Flaherty, Venters and Kimbrel are the most feared bullpen trio in the major leagues. All of these guys have era’s under 2.00. How often does that happen? Wagner did a great job for us last year but he was clearly on his way out. This is a new group of guys who have all been with the team since opening day. They know their roles as they have been clearly defined. Last year Kimbrel was forced to come in and close game 3 of the divisional series. It didn’t go his way partially because he wasn’t expecting to be the closer. If Wagner hadn’t gotten hurt then he wouldn’t even have been out there in the first place. Being able to shorten games in the playoffs could be the difference between the Braves going home early or sticking around for a World Series run.

There are questions about the starting rotation. That’s the one thing that is kind of concerning right now. While no one can guarantee that the rotation will be ready to go in full force by Oct, there’s also no one who can guarantee that they won’t be. It’s a wait and see type of situation which I know is unsettling for Braves fans.

Derek Lowe will take the mound tonight in Philadelphia for a big Sept start. This is Lowe’s month to shine and hopefully he will. A solid outing and a Braves victory tonight would make us all feel better about Lowe.

The one thing this rotation does have is depth. Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy are all capable of making a start in the playoffs. I’d prefer to have a healthy Jurrjens or Hanson in there but you can’t complain when you have 6 very talented options to choose from.

The only questions left to be answered are with the rotation. Will Derek Lowe turn things around and return to his usual late season dominance? And will Hanson and/or Jurrjens return to form to help this team make a World Series run. Only time will tell.

By: Bob McVinua

Are The Braves Too Relaxed Right Now?

2011 has been a great year for the Atlanta Braves. They have over come injuries, offensive struggles, pitching struggles and a manager change. With all of this being said the Braves are a very impressive 81-57. They have a 7.5 game lead in the Wild Card with 24 games left to play. You would think that’s a very good spot to be in and I would have to say I agree. Last year the Wild Card race went right down to the wire and it seems as if the Braves are going to avoid the late season drama, right?

A week or so ago I would have said yes. The Braves appeared as if they had the Wild Card in their back pocket. They were playing very good baseball and with time running out in the season it appeared as if no one really had a legit chance of catching them. Now as I sit here at my lap top I’m counting down the days until the season ends. For me the season can’t end soon enough because the Cardinals are just 7.5 games back of the Braves entering play today. They are still very much in this thing and the Giants are holding steady at 8.5 games out. Neither one of these teams are even close to being mathematically eliminated and there’s still plenty of time for an epic collapse on the part of Atlanta.

I’m not one to spread panic and I actually despise bloggers who write articles for the sheer purpose of getting everyone riled up. That’s not what I’m trying to do at all. All I’m saying is this race is NOT in the bag by any means and I’m concerned that the Braves are not taking this as seriously as they should be. I understand that they have a comfortable lead right now and it’s Sept not the middle of July. Time is running out in the season and time is the best friend of the Atlanta Braves right now. The Cardinals might run out of time to catch these Braves but I’m not willing to chance it.

Jurrjens has been struggling as of late. Hanson is on the Disabled List. You never know what you’re going to get from Derek Lowe. He’s shown some signs of improvement but nothing that makes me feel good inside when Fredi hands him the ball. Beachy and Minor have been stellar as of late but how much pressure can we put on these two guys down the stretch? Hudson is the ace of this staff and he continues to give us good outings.

The Dodgers came to town on Friday playing a great brand of baseball. This team might be out of the playoff race but they are still red hot and have absolutely nothing to lose. The Braves coughed up a 5-0 lead on Friday night and lost a heart breaker last night. They are currently behind 3-0 this afternoon with Kershaw on the mound for the Dodgers. A comeback this afternoon is not impossible but appears unlikely as the Braves struggle to hit average lefties never mind Clayton Kershaw.

The upcoming week for this Braves team is HUGE. We have a 3 game set at Philadelphia to start the week. Then they are forced to travel to New York to play a double header because of Hurricane Irene. That sort of throws a monkey wrench into the week because instead of having an off day they are forced to play a double header instead.

Then to close out the week they have a 3 game set in St. Louis against the team that is most likely to catch them in the Wild Card race, if anyone does. Those 3 games against the Cardinals are obviously big games. A sweep in our favor would pretty much put the red birds out of contention. However a sweep in their favor would put them right in the thick of things as the season begins to come to a close.

We also have 3 games at home against Philadelphia that will likely be tough games UNLESS the Phillies decide to rest their starters as they will have nothing to play for. However I’m not counting on that as last year they went full force against us in the final series. There is no love lose between these two teams and I’m sure the Phillies would just love for us to miss the playoffs.

A lot of division games coming up. Outside of the Cardinals series there will be no more games played outside of our division. This means we have to beat teams like the Nationals and Marlins.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the Braves are doing a terrific job and I’d much rather be 7.5 games up in the standings then 7.5 games out like the Cardinals but I’d still like to see a little bit of urgency from this Braves team. It would be absolutely devastating if we missed the playoffs after having such a big lead in the Wild Card so late into the season.

Is anyone else just the least bit concerned? Or is it just me?

By: Bob McVinua

 

 

4 Aces Make A Full Deck, Right?

Sorry guys I know it’s been awhile since I lasted posted. Had to deal with hurricane Irene and her raft. We just got power back today so I’m pretty excited as you can imagine. I didn’t want to waste any time in writing a new post because I came up with a fairly interesting topic, hoping to get a strong debate going.

September starts tomorrow. This of course marks the last month of the regular season. The Braves currently have an 8.5 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. Making the playoffs doesn’t appear to be a huge concern right now with a solid lead in the standings with less then 30 games left to play. What does concern me just a little bit is the starting rotation. If someone said to me 2 months ago that the rotation would be the concern heading into the playoffs I would have laughed at them. At the all-star break my biggest worry was the struggling offense. As Braves fans can remember the struggling offense has been the killer for us in a lot of playoff series in the past 10 years or so.

I still believe that if this team is going to win a World Series then they will have to rely on the starting rotation. One would assume that the rotation would be Hudson, Lowe, Jurrjens and Hanson, right? Well how certain can we be of that right now? Hanson is having some shoulder issues, he should be fine for the playoffs but it’s impossible to tell what kind of shape he’ll be in when he comes back. We have Lowe who is an aging veteran, he’s struggled for most of the season. Jurrjens was our ace for the entire first half but he seems to have some serous control issues as of late. Hudson is the ace RIGHT NOW, as a manager you have to live in the moment and Hudson is the guy I’d put out there right now for a game 1 of the NLDS. Then finally you have Beachy and Minor, two very talented young pitchers who would most likely lack the experience needed to win in the playoffs. Let’s take a closer look.

Tim Hudson: 13-8 with a 3.10era. That doesn’t quite tell the whole story as Hudson has slowly begun to take over this Atlanta Braves pitching staff. This is a game of “what have you done for me lately” and Hudson has been by far the best pitcher since the all-star break. He has the stuff and the experience to be a #1 starter come playoff time. I think Hudson would have to struggle badly down the stretch to get bumped down in the rotation come October.

Jair Jurrjens: He’s my #2 barring that he returns to form, or at least close to it. If Jurrjens comes any where near what he was before the all-star break then he’ll be one of the best #2 starters in the entire playoffs. Despite his recent struggles, he’s still maintaining an era of under 3.00. That’s pretty impressive considering how badly he’s been getting shelled lately. Putting him at #2 takes a little bit of pressure of him as well. Jurrjens is still a young guy and has never pitched in the post season before. Game 2 is stressful but doesn’t compare to game 1.

Tommy Hanson: A great fit for the #3 spot in this rotation. I think Hanson is the guy for the 3rd spot for 2 reasons. One he was able to get a taste of the post season last year. This will not be uncharted territory for him. There’s no way that you can leave this guy out barring his health returns, which I think it will. He can use the rest of the season to get himself back into form, a big advantage due to the fact that the Braves have such a large lead in the playoff race.

Brandon Beachy: No this is NOT a misprint or a typo. I think that Fredi Gonzalez should announce Brandon Beachy as the #4 starter. He wouldn’t even have to pitch in the NLDS and would only make 1 start in the NLCS and World Series. This kid is one of the bright spots in the rotation going forward, why not give him a chance? He’s 7-2 with a respectable 3. 31era. I think he can get the job done. He’s made 20 starts with the big league club this year and he’s proving he can pitch well. I know he lacks experience but I still believe the best arm has to be put out there.

Derek Lowe should not be left off the playoff roster. What’s his biggest issue? He can’t go deep into games. Why not put him in the bullpen? It makes perfect sense. He can come into the game and get big ground ball outs with his sinker or eat up innings if there’s a blow out, saving the other valuable arms in our pen.

The last few weeks of the season will give us a lot of information. Will Hanson come back healthy? Will Jurrjens straighten himself out? Will Hudson continue to pitch well? A lot can change in 4 weeks but right now that’s my playoff rotation for the Braves.

Let me know what your rotation would be.

By: Bob McVinua