Tagged: Wild Card

With No Margin For Error The Braves Made Many

End of the season articles are always the toughest for me to write. I am an avid sports fan and enjoy watching all of my favorite teams play. However there is something special about the Braves that separate them from the rest, something that makes them special. Perhaps that’s because baseball is special.

Baseball represents so many of things that make life great. Baseball is the change of seasons and the welcoming of spring. Putting away your coats and shovels and getting out your baseball gloves. No more hiding in doors and watching TV, it’s time to get outside and play with your kids or even have some fun for yourself. Feel the sun beating on your skin and the warm air all around you. Get yourself ready for those long summer nights and put behind you those long cold winter months. Everything comes a live in the spring. The days start to get longer and your spirits start to lift a bit.

Then it’s time for baseball. It’s time for your favorite team to take the field again with the hopes that ANYTHING can happen. It gives you a chance to believe that miracles can happen and that underdogs can rise above adversity and any disadvantages that they may be up against.

Baseball like life is all about development. Baseball players aren’t created in a day a month or even a year. They are created over a life time of hard work and dedication. Perhaps trips to the minor leagues and riding buses around small towns just keeping the dream alive. Isn’t that what life is about? Working hard today for a better tomorrow? Starting out small and rising through the ranks of your company and proving yourself worthy. A lot can be taken from the baseball diamond and can be translated into real life situations. Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce our way. Sometimes people make bad decisions and errors, some more costly then others. But all of us are working towards some ultimate goal in our lives, just as the Braves players and any players for that matter are working hard to obtain their team and individual goals.

The one game playoff is no different. The Braves were sadly given one chance after a full years worth of hard work to prove that they were worthy of a spot in the next round. But how many people out there have worked hard for a year or many years to get ONE SHOT at a job interview. Whether you get this particular job could come down to just one interview. And in that interview you know that they can’t get to know the real you in just 30 or 60 minutes. They can’t possibly understand all you’ve been through or the years of hard work that have gotten you this far. And just like the Braves who played 162 games to get to where they were, people don’t realize how good of a team they really were. We won 94 games this year just 5 more wins ALL SEASON and we could have won the division. They can’t judge us as a failed team because of one bad game but some will try. The format isn’t fair but sadly that’s the way that it is for right now at least.

In terms of the one game playoff recap or highlights I’m sure all of you have seen it a million times as have I. So there won’t be any point in me beating a dead horse here but I will point out a few things that I felt were game changers.

 

David Ross Home Run: This is exactly what the Braves needed. They needed to strike first and strike early. With Kris Medlen on the mound I thought that it would only take 3-4 runs to win this game and that was with a little margin for error. Medlen has been lights out all year so I felt very good about things. The Braves record is much stronger when they score first vs when their opponent scores first. The only issue with this was that I felt as if the team as they have done all season, will sit on a lead thinking it can last the entire game. I thought their could have been more urgency to score runs in the following innings.

Play Small Ball: In the bottom of the 3rd the Braves just received a shut down inning from Medlen after giving him the lead. Now at this point the emphasis needs to be on taking on more runs one at a time. Michael Bourn leads off the inning with a single which was a fantastic start. Now with Molina behind the plate and Loshe very strong at holding runners close to the bag it was nearly impossible for Fredi to send Bourn in that situation. I wouldn’t have either. What I would have done is had Prado lay down a bunt. He handles the bat extremely well and could have gotten Bourn to 2nd base with only 1 out and the middle of the order coming up. Bourn scores easily on any single and with Heyward and Chipper due up I’ll take my chances. Not to mention it would have caused Loshe to throw more “stress” pitches that inning. Fredi showed signs of bunting as he gave Prado the signal once to lay one down but took it off after the ball was fouled off. However with 1 strike I would have left it on. Then we’re a single away from making it 3-0. Build the lead slow and steady but take advantage of your opportunities. This was almost guaranteed to be a low scoring game of under 5 runs for both clubs if there hadn’t been mental mistakes.

Double Play Ball: This is the one that hurt the most. Beltran leads off the 4th inning with a single which is the Cardinals first hit of the ball game. Now here comes the middle of their order so Medlen must be in trouble right? Well not exactly. He gets a tailor made double play ball hit right at Chipper. Beltran still has some speed but he’s no where near the runner he once was and Holliday is an extremely slow runner coming out of the box and on top of that he is battling hip and back issues. Chipper just need to get the ball to second in a timely manner and Uggla would have had plenty of time to get Holliday at first. But instead Chipper throws the ball into right field allowing Beltran to go to 3rd. Now this play changes the entire dynamic of the inning. Medlen could take the mound with 2 outs and no one on if that double play is turned correctly. However now it’s 1st and 3rd with 0 outs. And with the way Medlen was pitching prior to and after that 4th inning you could clearly tell it was the error that shook him up. He wasn’t the same that inning because in his mind he should have been out of trouble. Yes as a pitcher you need to bear down but at the same time you expect your top ranked defense to make those kinds of plays behind you.

Why Are You Bunting: This was perhaps the biggest shocker to me.  In the bottom of the 4th inning the Braves had a chance to respond to the Cardinals and tie up this ball game. Simmons comes up with 1st and 3rd with 1 out. Now Simmons is a pretty good hitter in his own right so I wouldn’t have been shocked to see him lace a ball up the middle and keep the train moving. Or at least he could have hit a Sac Fly to tie up the game. But instead he lays down a safety squeeze per Fredi’s request and ends up being out at 1st base on an interference call. So now Medlen has to come up and try to drive in the run from 3rd with 2 outs. Not a good situation. The dynamic of the game would have changed again if the Braves had tied it up. The Cardinals took the lead but would have surrendered it right back the very next half inning. Mentally that makes a huge difference. Playing a tied game where you know one run could give you the lead vs needing one to tie. Now if Fredi was worried about Freeman’s ability to score on a fly ball then would a safety squeeze be any better? Probably not considering Simmons would have to push that ball in the perfect spot to allow Freeman to get home from 3rd. If Loshe fields that ball cleanly there’s no way that Freeman makes it home safely.

More Sloppy Play: You’ll notice how I skipped right over the Holliday home run. That was one run on one mistake from Medlen. That home run was not one of the bigger game changers for me although it did extend the Cardinals lead to 2. What bothered me far more then that home run was the sloppy play in the top of the 7th. Uggla makes a critical error to allow Freese to reach 1st safely and then advance on the poor throw. Now this was bad by Uggla on two accounts. First off he booted a pretty routine ground ball that allowed the lead off man to reach in the first place which never should have happened but then on top of making the initial error he threw the ball away. I mean that throw wasn’t even close. He should have just stuck that ball in his back pocket. Then the Cardinals would have had to decide if they wanted to bunt the runner over to 2nd or not which is slightly different then bunting him to 3rd as it would still take a base hit to score him. Once Freese was bunted over to 3rd base Fredi brought in Chad Durbin which proved to be the right call as Kozma hit the ball hard and right at Simmons who was playing in. Another chance for the Braves to cut off that run and Simmons like Uggla threw the ball away.

In Field Fly Rule: Perhaps they should call it the outfield fly rule in this case. This play was extremely aggravating to me and I can’t lay it to rest until I vent my feelings on here. I won’t go on a long rant but I think this call was horrible. I don’t care what the rule book says the point of the infield fly rule is to protect the base runners. In this case the base runners did not need protection as there was NO WAY Kozma was going to intentionally drop that ball to try and gun down the lead runner. Even if he threw out Uggla at 3rd which is very doubtful the Braves would have had 1st and 2nd with 2 outs, the same as if he had caught the ball. So there was NO NEED to call an in field fly there as it only hurt the base runners rather then protecting them. Did this call lose us the game? My answer is I don’t know. The bases would have been loaded with McCann coming to bat and only one out. Everything plays differently with the bases loaded. McCann would not have walked like he did. Motte knew he could pitch around McCann with a 3 run lead and he had a base open to do so. McCann would have gotten at least 1 or 2 good pitches to hit and he could have hit a home run or he could have grounded into a double play. Either way we’ll never know and I think that’s what is bothering most Braves fans. Personally I would have rather had Zozma just catch the ball, end of story.

2013: As you guys know the blog doesn’t stop just because it’s the end of the season. I’ll cover the winter meetings, trades and free agent signings as well. If you guys have any other ideas of topics you’d like to see covered please let me know and I’d be happy to accommodate as many of you as possible.

My next post will be done soon and it will cover some ideas that I have on how we can improve next years Braves team and some of the moves that I feel will and should be made.

Thanks to everyone who has read my blog over the course of the season. And lets not forget, Baseball is like a good friend that moves away each winter but is guaranteed to return at the first sight of spring.

By: Bob McVinua

” A man has to have goals- for a day, for a life time- and that was mine, to have people say there goes Ted Williams the greatest hitter who ever lived” – Ted Williams

 

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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

 

 

 

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

 

It All Comes Down To This

They safe life comes down to just a few defining moments and this is one of them for the Atlanta Braves. These last 3 games are not just about the 2011 season. These last 3 games can create or erase a possible legacy that could haunt the Braves franchise for years to come. Being up 10.5 games at the end of Aug and not making the postseason could go down as one of the biggest late season collapses of all time. People still talk about the 2007 Mets and other teams that failed to make the postseason after possessing such a large lead in the standings so late in the season.

You don’t want to become a catch phrase or a locker room joke. “Don’t pull an Atlanta Braves collapse”. This season could be referenced in the poorest context for years to come. If we were to make the postseason and get swept in the first round none of this would even matter. No one talks about teams that have gotten swept in the playoffs, that happens all the time. However teams with 10.5 game leads usually don’t cough them up and fail to make the postseason.

If you had asked me a month ago if we would be in this situation, I would have said no way. Now here’s the thing. Yes I did  think the Braves were a good ball club and they seemed to be taking care of business on a nightly basis. I had the utmost confidence in this ball club. However my other reason for being so confident was the teams that were chasing us didn’t seem to have much life left in them. The Cardinals were struggling and at one point like I mentioned fell 10.5 back. I thought that was the breaking point for them. When we took 3/4 from the Giants at Turner Field I could feel their momentum start to disappear. Their offense was just horrible and they were putting far too much pressure on that pitching staff. So I honestly looked at the standings and said even if the Braves struggle some down the stretch, who could possibly catch them?

And that’s why you PLAY THE GAMES. No one saw the Cardinals getting that HOT down the stretch and I didn’t think the Braves would play so poorly down the stretch either. The two combined have left me absolutely stunned. I saw this team as a lock for the Wild Card and actually thought we were a likely contender to play in the NLCS contenders.

Over the month of September so much has changed. The “collapse”, as bad as it looks in the standings could have EASILY been avoided. Let’s take a closer look at some of the Braves September highlights. The first time I really looked at things this closely I wasn’t sure if I felt better or worse.

The Braves have gone 9-15 in the month of Sept.

The Braves have lost 6 games this month by ONE run

The collapse really began when the Braves were swept by Philadelphia

Just a few days later we were swept by the Cardinals

Craig Kimbrel blew two crucial saves this month. One against the Cardinals and one against the Marlins

Johnny Venters coughed up an 8th inning lead against the Mets in what would prove to be a crucial loss

An additional two losses came in defeats where the Braves lost the game by just TWO runs.

That’s far from a detailed breakdown of the Braves final month but it does show that things haven’t completely gotten away from them. When I first looked at these stats I wasn’t sure if I felt good about things because it showed that the Braves were still fairly competitive this month despite losing a lot of games. Or did it make me feel even worse because this team had so many opportunities to close this thing out. Our season could have been lost on 2 outs. The last out in St. Louis and the last out in Florida where Kimbrel got 2 outs on both teams in both games and we couldn’t close them out. We get those 2 outs and we have a 3 game lead going into the final series. No one would be worried or panicked at all. We win one game or the Cardinals lose one game and we’re in. Simple as that.

This may be one of my last positive spins of the season so I know you guys want to hear it. This may be getting old but it still holds true at least for right now. We are the team being CHASED, not doing the chasing. Tomorrow worse case scenario is that we’re tied. Still not chasing.

If we win 2 out of 3 from the Phillies and the Cardinals win 2 out of 3 from the Astros then WE are the team going to the playoffs. They need a little bit of luck and we control our own destiny. They have to play one game better then us in the final series of the season JUST to force a one game playoff. Yes, it’s in St. Louis but we would still have a shot to win that game. No one can put someone as a 100% chance to win or lose in a single game that could go either way. NFL style.

Another thing to consider is this. What will each of the 2 opponents bring to the table. The Astros are a team that’s been out of it since like May and have absolutely nothing to play for. Are they motivated to try and play spoiler or are they ready to get their golf clubs and head home for the winter? It could go either way. I suspect they will come out and play because a lot of guys on the roster are fighting for spots on next year’s team. Not to mention the Cardinals are a division opponent which always adds some incentive.

The Phillies are another team with nothing to play for and that’s a very difficult thing to do. They have struggled badly over the past week or so and who’s to say that won’t continue tonight? Maybe they come out a little flat tonight and the Braves jump all over them? It’s not like the Braves haven’t beaten Cliff Lee before and it’s not like the Braves haven’t beaten this same Phillies team earlier in the season when both clubs were hungry for wins.

In my opinion I have to put my money on the hungry dog. I believe that the hungry dog will fight harder for a meal then a dog that’s well taken care of. When your backs against the wall then people see what you’re really made out of. The Braves have been playing postseason like games for the past week if not more. If they do make it to the postseason the stressful atmosphere shouldn’t bother them too much.

If I was forced to make a prediction I would say that both the Cardinals and the Braves BOTH win 2 out of 3, leaving the Braves to claim the Wild Card. I have a feeling that the Astros will put up enough fight this series to grab one game from the Cardinals. And that win might come tonight with Wandy on the mound, it’s probably  their best shot.

The Phillies will probably pack it in for the final game, I’ve heard they will be going with a “bullpen mix” for the final game and the Braves will throw Tim Hudson. So I think we will win game 3 of this series and either game 1 or 2. I think that will be enough to clinch a Wild Card spot.

By: Bob McVinua

 

 

 

Braves Wild Card Lead Down To 2.5

I’m not a professional sports writer, never claimed to be. I’m just a fan like everyone who is probably reading this blog right now. I was searching for a more upbeat title for this post but just couldn’t come up with one. Although I always try to take a positive spin on things, I can’t deny the facts. The Braves saw their Wild Card lead slip to 2.5 games at the same time as they watched Infante’s 2 run blast sail over the left field fence.

Those games always feel like a punch in the gut. I don’t know about you guys but I would have rather lost that game 4-1 then the Marlins walking off on us. I’m sure Kimbrel feels terrible and that he wishes he could have that pitch back. Sadly he can’t and the Braves can’t redo the 9th inning. Games like that so often come back to haunt a team during the stretch run. Battling for a playoff spot you can’t afford to lose any games, never mind having your closer blow a lead with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th.

Now here’s what you guys have been waiting for I’m sure. The positive spin that I have now become well known for by your reactions on Twitter. I get daily messages from Braves fans asking me what I think, knowing that they are hoping for a positive response. Keep them coming, I enjoy getting them. If you don’t like my positive approach then I’m not sure what to tell you. I’ll never apologize for having an upbeat attitude. Negativity has never gotten anyone anywhere. Life is all about your mindset and how you perceive things. Life isn’t about what happens to you, it’s about how you react to them. You can’t control if your tire goes flat on the highway or if your coworker calls out sick and leaves you with double the work. You can however choose to take a positive approach. Getting all mad and bent out of shape is only going to make the situation worse. If you calmly assess the situation, quite often you will realize it’s not as bad as it appears. I’ve never been one to “panic”, it’s just not in my nature. If the Braves do finish off this collapse I will be devastated. I’ll be the first to admit it and I will take it as hard if not harder then anyone else. Don’t mistake my positive attitude for not caring cause that’s not the case at all. I want this team to win so badly, just like all of you guys do. Tomahawk Nation, were all on the same side here. We may have different takes on this situation but at the end of the day we all want nothing more then to see the Braves win a World Series. I was 8 years old the last time they won a world championship and I feel they are long over due.

So let’s start in with some positive outlooks here. If we dig deep enough I’m sure we can find a reason to keep our heads held high as we go down the stretch run. Here’s what I’ll lead off with.

Anyone who played on last years Braves team is no stranger to the situation were in. Last year we were only 1.0 game up on the San Diego Padres. That’s it. So if anything were in a slightly better spot then last year, not by much but a little bit. And hey, everyone game counts right? Chipper and Prado I believe were both injured at this point last year and that was a huge hit to our team. We stumbled down the stretch but still managed to make it into the postseason. Yes it was an early exit but we lost to the World Series champions and gave them a better fight then anyone else in my opinion. The Braves clinched the Wild Card on the very last day of the season and almost had to go into a 1 game sudden death playoff if the Padres had managed to pull one out in San Fran. Weren’t we worried then? I’m sure we were but we often forget our past concerns when we KNOW that the scenario turned out alright.

Where does the .5 game go? I think this is a HUGE factor that not many people are addressing. That half game will either turn into a full game advantage for the Bravos or it will even out the standings. Which one will it be? Well we will certainly find out on Thursday when the Braves have an off day and the Cardinals battle the Mets.  A Cardinals loss on Thurs could be big for Atlanta if it helps bump us up a full game in the standings, don’t over look the Mets, as they took care of business against Atlanta on the road this past weekend.

The Cardinals have no more off days the rest of the season. The Braves will have the benefit of one on Thursday. Absolute worse case scenario I’m laying out is this. The Braves loss the next two games in Florida. The Cardinals win the next two games against the Mets plus the extra game on Thursday. So were saying the Braves loss 2 straight and the Cardinals win 3 straight. Now were DEAD EVEN with 6 games to play and it’s anyone’s race.

Best case scenario is the Cardinals cool off and lose 3 straight, the Braves win the last 2 games in Florida and then the lead goes up to 5.0 games with 6 to play and the race is over. See how quickly things could turn in our favor? The Braves need to win the next 2 ball games. And the Mets just need to win 1 of the 3 against St. Louis. That puts us up 3.0 games with 6 to play. That’s what I think will happen. It’s a middle of the road scenario so I’m not being super outrageously optimistic guys. I’m admitting the Cardinals will most likely take 2 of 3 from the Mets and I do think we’ll bounce back and win the next 2 against the Fish. That’s exactly what happened when they came to Atlanta.

I can’t see anyone sitting there and saying that the Braves are done when they are up 2.5 games. That to me makes no sense, if you’re saying it out of frustration then that’s fine. Everyone needs to vent from time to time. I’m not saying no one should ever get nervous and panic about their team, I’m not exactly thrilled with how tonight ended either but level heads will prevail and we have to realize were still in a good spot.

Do you know how many other teams would DIE to be up 2.5 games right now, playing meaningful Sept baseball? A lot. Don’t you think the Cubs, Pirates, Royals, Rockies, Padres, Orioles, Mariners, Twins etc would all like to be where we are right now? They wouldn’t be complaining about a 2.5 game lead, they’d be jumping for joy because they aren’t completely out of it. Imagine how frustrating it would be if we were 15 games out right now, playing meaningless games the last week and half? What fun would that be? At least were relevant and we have LIFE!

I believe the Braves have lost 7 games in the loss column since Sept 1st. That was a quick calculation on my part so don’t quote me on that and please correct me if I’m off. I’m not sure where that fits in as far as biggest collapses in MLB history. Maybe it’s a top 10 but I don’t think it’s quite as bad as the 2007 Mets. I’m from the North East don’t forget so I experienced the Mets 2007 collapse first hand. All the media coverage and all of the fans who were just in agony over it. I don’t want that to be us and hopefully we can avoid it all together. If we get into the post season this will all be forgotten. It won’t even matter and no one will mention it.

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. I’m a firm believer in that. If the Braves don’t get “killed” at the end of the season, they might be better off because of these struggling times. They know what it’s like to fight for it and have to battle down the stretch. Teams like the Phillies who are clearly on cruise control right now are developing a passive attitude. You can’t turn your intensity on and off, Braves fans know that. It has to be there all the time. Phillies might not be able to turn it on during the playoffs, we saw last year how the Giants wanted it more then they did. Braves need to show how badly they want.

New season starts tomorrow. Braves have 8 games left to play. Let’s go 5-3 down the stretch. Force the Cardinals to play mistake free baseball the rest of the way with no off days.

By: Bob McVinua

 

Time Is The Braves MVP Right Now

The most dangerous thing in the Braves clubhouse right now is not Brian McCann. It’s not Dan Uggla and it’s not Chipper Jones. The most dangerous thing in the Braves clubhouse is TIME.. Right now I almost feel as if I’m watching a very long version of an NBA game. One team is down only 10pts but there’s only 3 minutes left in the game. Pressure is mounting.

That’s the situation that the Braves have put the St. Louis Cardinals in. With only 13 games left on their schedule (12 remaining for Atlanta) the Cardinals are going to have to play near perfect baseball to make up the 4.5 game deficit. Now I’m not saying 4.5 games is an insurmountable deficit by any means but time is running out, it’s not the middle of July here.

The Cardinals take there hopes and dreams of making the playoffs on the road this weekend as they visit Philadelphia. One interesting thing to note; the Phillies have TBD for all 3 starters in this series. I wonder why that is? Are they planning on taking their foot off the gas just a little bit? Will they throw young guys to get them some late season experience since they are already a lock for the playoffs?

If this is the case then it would not be a good thing for Atlanta. I was hoping that Philadelphia wouldn’t ease up quite yet and that they would really take it to the Cardinals as if the series meant something at least. This may or may not be the case, if Philadelphia eases up then the Cardinals might have a chance to at least split the series. Not something the Braves wanted to here.

Atlanta of course will be going full strength as they inch closer to their magic number. They will throw Lowe, Hudson and Beachy at the Mets this weekend hoping for another 2/3 series victory.

The Braves don’t have to play perfectly down the stretch but they can’t falter to the point where they are getting swept in multiple series. They need to win baseball games and just cross days off the calender. I think the last series with Florida was a big one for this club. They saw 3 games get crossed off the schedule and although they didn’t gain any separation from the red birds, they also didn’t lose any ground and at this point in the season, it’s just as good.

The Braves control the shot clock right now. Just play smart down the stretch. Win at least half the games and they are a lock for the playoffs. Mets always play the Braves tough but I’m confident they can win 2/3 which will be more then enough.

With any luck the Braves will have gained at LEAST 1 full game in  the N.L Wild Card Standings by Monday morning. Then we can reevaluate the situation from there.

Where are all those people who said the Braves would choke and miss the playoffs? Are they still around? Just curious.

Never panic too fast, that’s the lesson we can learn from this. The Braves won 2 big games against the Fish and are now sitting pretty in the N.L Wild Card.

By: Bob McVinua

 

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