Archive for August, 2010

98: Fish or Cut Bait: Time for the Braves to Make Up Their Minds

By Gil in Mechanicsville

MECHANICSVILLE, VA – So, here we sit with about six weeks to go in a season that has seen the good, the bad and the ugly from the Atlanta Braves. Early season doldrums returned immediately following the All-star break and as of the this writing we have watched as the once comfortable cushion of 6 games in front of our closest pursuers shrink to two as the Philadelphia Phillies have put on an incredible run of thirteen wins in fifteen games. The scariest part may be they have done it without their best players on the field and a bullpen that rivals some of the worse Atlanta has ever assembled.

And here we thought our old nemesis, the New York Mets, would be our biggest problem. Well, I guess our good friend John Smoltz tagged it right when he dubbed the NL East as the shoots-and-ladders division.  Shame on us for thinking that maybe the Braves would run away with this thing. After all, don’t we still need that “Big Bat” in the middle of the order?

Martin Prado

The loss of Marteen Prado has been muted somewhat by the outstanding play of Omar Infante’ in his place. One wonders how the Braves would fare without Marteen’s prolific bat missing from the

Omar Infante

line-up but Omar has hardly missed a beat.  Dare we guess how the Braves might perform with both Infante and Prado in the lineup together on a regular basis?  While Marteeen appears to have cooled somewhat since the beginning of the final series with the Mets prior to the All-star break, it was not due to a lack of contact but more as a results of the law of averages catching up to him as those line drives he was stroking began to be hit directly at people.

J Heyward (photo: P. Skinner. ajc)

On the up side, maybe Jason Heyward is finally understanding that while hitting the ball the other way is a good skill to have, always hitting to the off field can make you pretty predictable too and cause you to be an easy out in the line up. It is good to see the Braves Rookie of the Year candidate start to hit the ball with authority to right field again.  Sometimes you need to be in scoring position while standing at home plate. That’s not to say we want to see J-Hey swinging for the fences every at bat but he needs to remind opposing pitchers of what he is capable of occasionally to keep them honest.

Chipper Jones may have found his lost stroke again too. After watching him struggle for the first eight weeks of the season, I think we were all wondering if Larry had indeed reached the end of the line. Right now, the Braves truly need for him to step up.   Chipper is capable of carrying this team for extended periods and now would be the perfect time for him to do it.

It’s my opinion that Troy Glaus is the biggest question mark.  His work around the first base bag has been stellar at times and he sure has made some pretty outstanding plays snagging errant throws from the infielders.  Of course, we all know that Troy was not acquired for his

Troy Glaus

potential defensive prowess at first but to add some right handed pop in the middle of the line-up.  We all thought Frank Wren might have made the steal of the century in signing Glaus to a low cost, low risk contract when he lit up the scoreboard in late May and July.  Sadly, as his knees began to show their age and  his bat did the same. The Braves woeful record of failing to hit with men in scoring position can be directly attributed to Glaus’ lack of production.  Since the departure of Texieria , the Braves assembly of hitters has not exactly struck fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers. There  are  so many glaring holes in the lineup that pitchers feel no need to pitch to Chipper Jones or Brian McCann when they know there was an declining Troy Glaus or an out of sync Nate McLouth in the on deck circle.

Chipper & Mac

Still, that brings me back to the Braves most pressing  need, that one big bat in the middle of the order that forces opposing teams to throw to Jones and McCann. Without a guy who can consistently put a three run homer on you if you walk guys like Brian and Chipper, opposing teams will continue to load the bases with apparent impunity. Protection can pay big dividends, just ask the guys who hit ahead of Fielder and Howard.

So, the question remains, will the Braves pull the trigger and make the trade for that final piece, will they call up Freddie Freeman or will they simply stand pat? We are not privy to how much money the Braves have to work with nor do we know if the Braves front office is content to make it to the playoffs or seriously wants to vie for a World Series title in Bobby’s final year.  That said, without that final piece to the matrix,  the Braves may yet find themselves on the outside looking in come October because only four teams from each division are going to the big dance and there are at least eight teams in the running for a date.

Great pitching can carry you a long way but you still need to help them out by scoring more runs than the opposition.  Unlike soccer, baseball games do not finish in O-O ties.

~Gil~

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