August 25, 2009

Charles Darwin Has a Point

The Braves have a shot at the playoffs.  There are 6 weeks left in the season and the Braves sit 4 back in the Wild Card race. That’s right—the Wild Card is the Braves most viable path to get in the playoffs. The way Philly is playing, it doesn’t look like anyone, Braves or otherwise, can catch them (barring a Mets-like collapse). That said—the Braves are coming off a 5-2 week, and more importantly, a series win against the Marlins.

Before I get too deep into the playoff talk, let me take you back a few days to the Braves (and my) latest visit to the Mets’ new home. I wasn’t planning on seeing any more games at Citi Field (I didn’t call it Shea this time). Of course, I can’t help myself, so I went the frugal route and got three tickets for $8.99. They weren’t bad seats…well the view wasn’t bad.  The proximity to actual professional baseball players…not too close. I had aisle seats so that was nice, but the surrounding fans resembled the bottom of Darwin’s Chart.

Thank God I wasn’t there for that mess of a game Tuesday when Derek Lowe looked more like Derek Lilliquist on the mound. I did get to see something nice during game 2 of the series…as Ty Cobb and Cap Anson were catching snowflakes on their tongues in hell, Garret Anderson was running hard down the first baseline! I couldn’t believe my eyes! He was unable to play more than an inning after that due to a sore back/hip, no doubt suffered exerting actual effort. I guess it’s like starting a car after sitting in a garage for 5 years—needs to warm up a little before driving on the highway.

Johan Santana did not look like his normal self on Thursday. Although 7 IP 3 ER 9 H is a great line for most pitchers in the league, anytime the Braves can hit Johan like that is a moral victory—especially when Kenshin Kawakami pitches the way he did. Granted, he faced a Triple-A caliber lineup, but still threw well with 7IP 1ER 7H 5K. Despite all the message boards and blogs calling for Kawakami to ride the pine when Tim Hudson returns, Dos K has been very effective his last 4 starts—allowing 3 earned runs or less against teams like the Phillies and the Dodgers. Not too shabby!

The highlight of the night began the top of the 8th inning—the stadium was quiet when all of a sudden…like a thunderclap from above…Metalica’s Enter Sandman blasted over the PA. I thought it strange to hear Mariano Rivera entering the Yankee game 10 miles away, but then Citi Field exploded with applause…the song was playing at Citi! The cheering was as loud as I have heard this year at Shea…err…Citi Field. I looked toward the mound—not Jesse Orosco tossing his glove in the air—nope, Billy Wagner jogging in from the bullpen. The song began AGAIN after Wagner completed a 1-2-3 inning. Well, I guess you cling to what you can

So, what are the braves going to do when Tim Hudson returns next week? He could really shore up the back-end of the Braves bullpen. He could also be a dynamite 5th starter. Who then, would then sit out of the rotation? How about a 6-man starting rotation? It may sound crazy, but I believe it’s the best way to go. It would give Tim Hudson an extra day’s rest coming-off Tommy John Surgery. Kenshin Kawakami was used to pitching on extended rest in Japan so an extra day off could help him. Tommy Hanson has never thrown more than 138 IP in his professional career so it could ease his workload. Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens and Javier Vasquez have been workhorses this season…a little rest heading down the stretch would only help them.

If the Braves are going to make a real run at the playoff, they NEED to be healthy. Nate McLouth, Martin Prado Ryan Church and yes, Garret Anderson MUST heal ASAP. Omar Infante has filled in great at 2B, but Prado carried this team for a month while Chipper and McCann were slumping—unfortunately Chipper hasn’t broken it yet. The Braves need Prado to be their spark plug. And Garret, I take back that comment I made about Reid Gorecki last month.

Lastly, if, and it’s a big IF, the Braves can stay healthy I like their chances. They have a solid rotation, their bullpen (especially Peter Moylan) have been much better the second half of the year and their starting lineup and bench are solid…except for one guy. I hate to say this, but Greg Norton is killing us. Norton is batting .145 AVG 6 RBI for the year. That is comparable to the Braves’ starting pitchers.

Javier Vazquez .160 AVG 2 RBI

Derek Lowe .190 AVG 1 RBI

Jair Jurrjens .140 AVG 4 RBI

Tommy Hanson .077 AVG 1 RBI

Kenshin Kawakami .114 AVG 0RBI

Also, take into account the fact these guys are bunting part of the time. I know Norton isn’t getting the at-bats he may need to stay sharp, but this is his job. He’s not a starter, he is a pinch-hitter. His main problem is getting around on fastballs. This tells me he just isn’t going to cut it. I’d like to see Brooks Conrad called back up from AAA Gwinnett to take his place. But that’s just me.

Let me know what you think. What should the Braves do with Hudson and Norton?

Until next time…Go Braves!



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