Archive for September, 2020

#192: HALFWAY HOME

Vox O’Reason

What do we know?Today as I sit here tapping these keys, the Braves have are on a scheduled off day right after they hit the halfway point of this 2020 pseudo-season, a truncated 60 game sample-sized version not to be confused with the real thing.

Or can it? It’s real enough that at some point a champion will still be crowned. It’s real enough that players are still going out and displaying some might impressive performances on any given night. The question has been raised by Chris, “Can this team really pull this off and win the east?” In a typical season we’d look at 30 games as a still somewhat small sample size. But this season is anything but typical, so we can only draw our conclusions on what we’ve seen already. And based on what I’ve seen, I absolutely believe the Braves can pull this off and win the East.

First, they currently sit (at the time of this writing) at 18-12 and firmly in 1st place in the NL East, 2 games ahead of the Marlins (or a reasonable facsimile of the Marlins) who haven’t actually played a half season yet. The 3rd place Phillies have a bullpen with more leaks than the White House. The 4th place Mets are… well, the Mets, and the last place Nats have yet to find a groove and have lost Steven Strasburg for the season to an office malady.

Let’s look at how we’ve arrived at this point. We lost 2 of our veteran starting pitchers before the season even started when Felix Hernandez opted out due to COVID and Cole Hamels couldn’t get his arm to cooperate. Then our ace Mike Soroka ruptured his Achilles tendon in his 3rd start of the year. The mercurial Mike Foltynewicz couldn’t throw the ball through a wet paper bag and was DFA’d, passed over by the other 29 teams, and assigned to Gwinnett. Young hopeful Kyle Wright couldn’t find the strike zone, and his replacement Touki Toussaint couldn’t find it either. We were left with Max Fried and little else. Did anyone have Robbie Erlin on their dance card this season? Until Ian Anderson tossed 6 innings in his ML debut just yesterday, no other Braves starter had even qualified for a decision. It’s been that scarce.

On the position side of things, Freddie Freeman got a late start as he battled with the new “C-word” during camp, and Nick Markakis was so freaked out over it he opted out of playing altogether. Of course, Nick did return to the team midway through the first half only to be ironically quarantined away from his peers again after being exposed to a C-19 positive person.

Both of our starting catchers were quarantined for the first week or so of the season forcing Snit to go with 2 completely unproven battery mates for his young and ever changing staff. Spark plug Ozzie Albies dealt with wrist soreness late in camp that carried over into the start of the season and had to go on the IL after just 11 games because of it. There is word that he’s still out there somewhere, trying to get back home… like ET, just different. But we’ve not seen hide nor tightly bunned hair of him in quite a while. There is recent word that he’s improving and will be back soon. That’s a good word.

Speaking of balky wrists, our local superstar Ronald Acuña, Jr. has just returned from missing 10 games himself. All in all, if not for Dansby Swanson and Marcell Ozuna, this team might have had very little offensive firepower. But those guys have more than stepped up along with newcomer Travis d’Arnaud, a resurgent Adam Duvall, and the rest of the team to propel us to the point where we now stand.We’re getting very close to having our projected everyday lineup healthy again.

So what’s ahead? Our 2 longest road trips are already over. Of our 30 remaining games, we go to Philadelphia and Boston for a short 6 gamer before coming home for 7. Then we hit the road for 4 in DC, then 3 each in Baltimore and Flushing before coming home for the final 7 game stretch run. Also, we’ve already played our games against the beasts of the AL East, the Yankees and Rays, and we’ve split both series. That’s a big positive because we won’t see the likes of them again unless it’s in the World Series. We also won the Jays series 2-1. The ones left are the sliding Orioles (14-16) and the abysmal Red Sox (10-21). Within our own division, only the young and unknown Marlins have a winning record (14-12) and their schedule is still incomplete. The Phils (12-14) are also short on finishes. The Mets (13-16) and Nats (11-17) complete the list of our 2nd half combatants.

There are still a handful of questions that have to be answered by our own home team. When will Ozzie be back? Will Austin Riley ever hit the ball consistently enough for his power to make a difference? Can Ian Anderson give us a few more starts that are anything close to his debut? Will Cole Hamels be back in time to make a difference? Can our stellar bullpen continue to stymie the opposition or will they be worn down by all the short outings from our rotation? And will Thoppy be able to bring in another pitcher to help provide a few more innings from the starting group? Those are all valid questions that will have to unfold before we can answer them.

But to be honest, I don’t think I need to know that to know this: I absolutely believe the Braves can pull this off and win the East.



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