When I see the Braves at the top of the NL East standings, I feel like the Hulk trying to control himself. Must… Not… Get… Carried away… Basically I want to run through the streets screaming about how the Braves are the greatest team in the world. With the way the team is performing on both sides of the ball, I can’t help but feel really optimistic. Of course, it’s way too early to be celebrating.
But instead of just blabbering on about how fantastic our league-leading offense is, or how well Fredi has utilized the bullpen (weird, right?), I want to take a look at a couple of key players who have been underperforming thus far: Brian McCann and Mike Minor. If you remember my first blog for this season, the twelve bold predictions, then you know that I had high hopes for both of these guys coming into 2012.
McCann: Brian’s tied for the team lead in homeruns with 6, which I expect out of him, but he is thirteenth and eleventh on the team in the categories of BA and OPS. In 30 games, he has just 27 hits. What really bothers me about McCann’s slow start is that I can’t point a finger at a specific problem. His vision seems fine (despite Michael Bourn’s best efforts), he’s getting scheduled days off, and it’s not like opposing pitchers aren’t giving him anything good to hit. There’s no sense in pitching around McCann when he’s followed by Chipper and Heyward. Maybe he’s working out some psychological problems, or there’s a nagging injury that I don’t know about. In any case, I hope he figures it out soon.
And, for the record, I think it’s a good idea to keep him in the five spot, maybe even give him a few games at cleanup. Uggla is an okay cleanup hitter, obviously has incredible power, but he strikes out more than anyone else on the team (42 times so far this year), and I want more contact out of the cleanup man. I don’t see a reason to move McCann out of his comfort zone in the middle of the lineup. I mean, if he’s the biggest hole we have to worry about, we’re in good shape.
Minor: When he takes the mound, I have no idea what to expect. In his two wins, he’s looked like a pretty solid starter, and in almost every other game he’s been beat up so bad that I wonder if opposing batters take his lunch money after the game. So what do the Braves do with Minor? One option is to just keep him in the rotation, let him work out his problems on the bump. That might mean a few tough games for the club, a few games where we need a lot of run support. Or, who knows, maybe he makes a quick turnaround.
Another option is to bring JJ back and give Minor a few starts in the Minors. Honestly, this is probably the worst-case scenario. Mike has already expressed a strong desire to be in the majors and avoid the minor leagues. I don’t think he would respond well to being demoted.
A third option: we could trade him. Even though he’s struggled this season, he’s young, throws hard, isn’t erratic, and has a strong work ethic. I imagine that more than a few teams would bid on him, giving us a chance to acquire a fourth outfielder, someone better than Matt Diaz. Maybe this is the best thing for the club, to unload him while he’s still valuable. It will be interesting to see how Fredi and the front office handle this situation.
Oh, by the way, the Braves are tied for the second best winning percentage in the bigs, and the only team with a higher percentage is the Dodgers, who we beat two out of three games this season. Excuse me. I have to go run through the streets celebrating.