We all knew the change was coming and things would be a little different. Now that one month of the season is winding down I thought back on Fredi Gonzalez’ first month as manager to see what was different about watching the Braves without Bobby Cox. First of all, I don’t hear Fredi from the dugout. That was one of my favorite things about Bobby. If you listened hard enough you could hear him yell out, “COME ON BROOKSY,” or “LETS GO CHIP!” I used to love when the TV broadcast would cut to the dugout to see Bobby fuming after a call didn’t go our way. (Oh, what I would’ve given to have him mic’d up.) I almost took joy in a bad call here and there because the probability of another ejection was that much higher. Bobby protected his players that way and he was everything you expected of a big league skipper.
With Bobby, I always reserved judgment, even when I might have done things different. Now that Fredi has taken over, the managerial moves are easier to second guess. After starting the year with a lineup that many questioned, Fredi changed the order and the bats responded. Since then the lineup debate has calmed down but a new problem has risen up. With the exception of Venters and Kimbrel, the Braves bullpen has me watching these games with way too much anxiety.
If you go back to the Opening Day game, you can see how Fredi intended to use his bullpen. O’Flarehty, Moylan, Venters and Kimbrel came in and pitched 3.1 scoreless innings to preserve the win. Then Moylan goes on the DL and without his sidearm services, Fredi has been forced to get creative out of the bullpen. Creative is the nicest way possible to explain his use of Linebrink and Sherrill. (Just the sight of them warming up has me running for the Rosary beads.) The reports on Moylan’s status are good and he is eligible to come off the DL this weekend but no date has been set and his return will likely be pushed back.
Until the Braves can get Moylan healthy and back in a 7th inning role the rest of the relievers have had to pick it up. Currently O’Flarehty and Venters are on pace to appear in over 75 games. If everyone stays healthy, the bullpen will be a strength for this team going forward but Fredi has to make sure to not over work our top relievers too early in the season. The Braves lack of clutch hitting late in games hasn’t made it any easier on our relievers either. The hitting will come around and I think our starting pitching will only get better as the season goes on. The easy solution to overusing the bullpen is our starting pitching. Consistently going deep into games will ease the workload of the pen while we wait on Moylan. The easier the starters can make it on the bullpen, the easier things will be on Fredi. For years the Braves had a manager that took the pressure off the players. Now it’s time for the players to return the favor.
3 Up, 3 Down
A list of my three favorite and least favorite moments from the last week.
1. Jair Jurrjens
Jair pitches a complete game the day after a 13 inning game. Exactly what we needed.
2. Alex Gonzalez
“Gonzos,” should replace the term “Web Gems” when describing great fielding.
3. Bullpen High Jinks
Was it a coincidence we swept the Giants with cups on hats? Maybe, but it showed me how close this team is.
April is coming to an end and he is still hitting below the Mendoza Line. I’m starting to wish this was his contract year.
2. NL East Standings
We’re heading in the right direction but not where I expected us to be.
3. Lack of Stolen Bases
At the rate we are on there will be several players around the league that will surpass the Braves SB totals for the year. Vinnie wrote a great blog about the topic this week and I demand you read it. Capiche?
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