September 20, 2012

How to Buck a Slump in Two Weeks

Step number one is to play two series against the Marlins. Miami sports the worst record in the NL East and the sixth worst record in baseball. The pitching staff boasts an ERA over four, a WHIP of 1.35. Sorry to offend fish fans (I know a lot of you read my blog), but these two series should be just what our struggling bats need. (We can all agree that Eovaldi’s start on Tuesday was a fluke, right?)

Step two is a little more complicated: rest the slumping batters, but rest them at the right times. Here are the guys I’m thinking about specifically: Michael Bourn, Brian McCann, and Freddie Freeman. Considering the Braves current lead in the wild card race, there should be enough of a cushion in the regular season for each of these guys to get some rest before the big, colossal, humongous, impossible-to-overstate one-game playoff. And each guy would benefit from unique treatment.

Bourn: His current slump is ugly—there’s no better word for it. A stagnant hitter at the leadoff spot can really cripple a team’s offense, which is why it’s more important for Bourn to break the slump than anyone else. Luckily, it’s easier for speedy, contact hitters like Bourn to beat a slump than it is for more power-oriented batters. The reason being that speed can turn infield choppers into singles, or stretch outfield singles into doubles, whereas a slugger has to really find the sweet spot to hit a homerun, or at least the pitcher has to make a mistake. It would be best to rest Bourn very near the end of the season, perhaps once in each of the last two series (assuming the wild card race or NL East race doesn’t go down to the wire).

McCann: Brian almost looked like his old self on Tuesday night, batting two for four and driving in the tying runs in the ninth inning, but that’s not to say that he’s out of the woods. His shoulder injury isn’t something he can beat without significant time off, so he could use as much rest as possible. It won’t do us any good to plug him in the lineup every night if he continues to be a near automatic out. Unfortunately, Ross has chosen the worst time possible to forget how to swing the bat. I suppose it’s flood or draught at the catcher position, and we might have to suffer through a drought for the next couple weeks. If Brian gets enough rest to feel better and be productive in the post-season, the drought will be worth it.

Freeman: It looks like Freddie is on the verge of overcoming a tough September. In the Nationals series, he went 5 for 10 and looked like the top-notch hitter he has the potential to be. Lyle Overbay is available to give Freeman a few days off in the home stretch, but I hope that he gets consistent playing time in the last few series. Younger, inexperienced players sometimes fall out of good habits when they get too much time on the bench. Let Freddie swing his way into October.

If steps one and two don’t work, there’s always step three: extreme superstition and lots of praying.

Let me know what you think in the comments, or shout at me on Twittah @ThomasMDuncan.



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