Tagged: Playoff

Braves Unique Strength Could Be Enough

When I look at this Atlanta Braves team I don not see a dominant pitching staff. Sure the pitching was great in the first half but those days appear to be over right now. Unless the pitching rebounds in a big way then I don’t see the starters leading us to a World Series. In fact who will be in the Braves rotation come the postseason? Does anyone really know? As a writer there is no way I can predict a rotation with any real confidence.

In my opinion Lowe can’t be put into that rotation. He got hit hard against Philadelphia and St. Louis. If we were to get matched up with a team like the Brewers, imagine what they would do to Lowe’s hanging sinker? Braun and Fielder would have a field day. Balls would be flying all over Miller Park as the Braves would probably find themselves down 5-0 in the 1st inning.

However does Fredi Gonzalez have the guts to not start Lowe? It’s easy for me to sit here and say Lowe shouldn’t start but at the end of the day Lowe is Fredi’s veteran and best post season pitcher. If Fredi were to start one of the young guys in his place would he be afraid of the backlash if they were to falter? Oh I can see it now. “Why didn’t you start Lowe”. “Why would you put a 20 year old out there”. But when you look at the numbers Lowe isn’t our guy. Teheran pitched extremely well in New York and Delgado pitched a great game in St. Louis. In my opinion Delgado out pitched Lowe and Hudson in that Cardinals series.

You need to have one veteran in there. I would say that with full confidence. Hudson will be the game 1 starter. I don’t see any real advantage of putting a rookie out there for Game 1. Too much pressure and they would all be well suited pitching in games 2, 3 and 4 in my opinion.

Could we see Hudson, Beachy and Delgado? Or What what about Hudson, Beachy, Delgado and Teheran? I’ve entertained the idea of the Braves going with a 4 man rotation even in the first round which does happen from time to time. The Giants used a 4 man rotation against the Braves last postseason. Why couldn’t the Braves roll with 4 guys in this year’s rotation? I think it could work.

If the Braves don’t really have a strong 1-2 punch then wouldn’t it be better to show the opposing team 4 very different pitchers? Then they could still have their veteran “ace” Tim Hudson pitch Game 5 on full rest. It’s just a thought.

The Braves offense is nothing that strikes fear in the opposing team’s clubhouse. But they do have some weapons and a very deep line up. When Heyward is hitting 8th that shows the depth of this team. We have 8 very capable hitters, while most teams have 1 or 2 super star hitters that we really don’t have. Mac and Uggla are very dangerous but neither one of them have proven to be a 35 home run and 100rbi producers. I don’t believe that the offense alone will carry us to a World Series. However I think that it’s good enough to get the job done. This is a team that really needs to strike first and I think we’ll be able to put some early runs on the board with Michael Bourn at the top of the order. He always finds ways to create runs.

So what is the Braves unique strength? The depth of  that bullpen is so unique and such a powerful strength. Some people might say a bullpen can’t win you a World Series but I say why not? It’s not just a great closer. It’s not even just a great 8th-9th combo. When Peter Moylan is healthy and affective the sky is the limit for this bullpen. So far he’s looked pretty decent and he still has 2 more weeks to get back into form.

With Moylan, O’Flaherty, Venters and Kimbrel the Braves have the ability to shorten the game down to 5 innings! And in the playoffs you will use these guys every chance you get, you leave nothing on the table in the postseason. We essentially need our starter to give us 5 innings and only allow 2-3 runs. That’s not such a tall order in my opinion as I feel it’s very doable.

Think about how this affects the other team. Most clubs fear a single closer who can shut them down 9 out of 10 times. They worry that they can’t be behind when the 9th inning comes around. Can you imagine how teams would feel if they knew they couldn’t be behind when the SIXTH inning comes around. That’s an enormous amount of pressure for an opposing offense and their coaching staff.

Maybe they try to be a little too aggressive. Or maybe they make mistakes on the mound trying to do too much. This bullpen is the biggest strength the Braves have. Yes it’s a very unique one if you ask me. What other team in baseball has 4 outstanding relievers who can potentially shorten the game until the 6th inning. Not many. I can’t think of one actually.

Although most would say they’d prefer the Yankees outstanding offense or the Phillies 4 aces, I’m more then happy with the Braves lock down pen. I think we take it for granted because it’s at our disposal. Just like Yankee fans take for granted that they have guys like Cano, Tex and Granderson in their line up. When we get to see it every night were not always impressed with it. But imagine the shoe being on the other foot.

The Braves are playing game 7 on the road and are down 4-1 in the 6th inning knowing that Moylan, O’Flaherty, Venters and Kimbrel are waiting in the opposing bullpen. How would we feel now? Think about it.

By: Bob McVinua