Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Holiday Weekend Recap: 5 games with a Chipper Walkoff

I'm back from vacation. I'm glad I got some time to relax away from baseball and the craziness, but I'm pissed off that the Braves seemed to go on vacation right with me. If Chipper Jones doesn't go deep in Game 3 against the Phillies, we're sitting at a 1-4 mark with 2 games to go against the Rockies. Instead, we're at a rather awful 2-3 over the long weekend, and we're only 5-5 over our last 10. Worse, we've taken our streaky nature to terrifying levels over these games, going from 0 runs scored to 8 runs scored in less than a week. Let's not really worry about the individual games of the weekend, and instead let's focus on the underlying issues with the team heading into the last push of the season. I think fans are rightly concerned, and I'm going to detail why.

In the Phillies series Minor got rocked for 4 runs, Hudson got rocked for 5 runs, and Maholm got rocked for 7 runs. It couldn't have gone worse for our starting pitchers. None of them gave us a chance to win those games, even though we theoretically could have won 2 of them. Kimbrel blew a save in game one, and Chipper saved the day in game three. Here's the thing, Braves went 5-26 with RISP stranding 22 runners in that series. That's batting .193 with RISP. We scored 14 runs in the series with those stats. Do you see the issue? We're streaky because we're completely trying to be a bang or bust long ball team. We hit 5 homers in the Phillies series for a total of 9 of our 14 runs. Guys, we don't have the kind of team to rely on those power numbers. We're 8th in the NL in total homers, and it's generating more than half of our offense right now. We are supposed to be a team built on speed, timely hitting, and good pitching. As of today, we're none of those things, and it shows in the results.

Our win against the Rockies came because Medlen took the mound, the only starter in the rotation who currently has his game working. Hanson went out there yesterday and got completely stranded by the Braves bats, but he still couldn't go 6 innings. I've always questioned his pitch economy, and it comes up time and again. Giving up 2-3 runs in 5 and 2/3 innings doesn't make you a passable starter in my book. Even though the Braves scored 6 runs to win in Medlen's outing, take a look at how they did it. It was still a 2-9 with RISP performance with a run scored on a wild pitch, another run on an error, and another run on a sacfly. After the third inning, the Braves offense completely folded up shop. With the two games against the Rockies combined, the Braves are 2-16 with RISP and 12 runners stranded. That's a .125 average in those situations. It's WORSE than the Phillies series.

Some things need to happen to clean this up. Fredi has made the right choice to move Uggla out of the lineup full time now. That absolutely had to happen, because Uggla's a turnstile out there. Second, we need Andrelton Simmons back yesterday. Janish has defensively held up his end of the bargain, but we need a base hitter in the back end of the lineup to improve our RISP numbers. Third, Freddie Freeman needs to stop swinging for the fences every at bat. He's a great hitter, but he's young, and his clutch average is suffering because he's coming out of his shoes every swing. Nobody would throw him a fastball right now the way he's approaching his ABs. In his last 10 games, Freddie has 9 hits, and 4 homers. He's hitting .270, but he's not adjusting his swing for RISP, and is thus hitting .233 in that category on the season. Lastly, we need somebody besides Medlen to give our team a chance to win. Our starter ERA has exploded to 3.98 on the season, putting us 8th in the NL behind Washington, the Dodgers, the Cardinals, the Reds, the Giants, the Mets, and the Phillies. Notice anything about those teams? Outside of the Marlins, it's everybody in our division and the teams we are competing with to make the playoffs. Our starters absolutely have to be better, or we're screwed.

Two games left with the Rockies, and honestly we need them both. We're 7.5 games out of the division and effectively dead there. It's Wild Card or nothing at this point, not that we ever really thought otherwise after the Nats series. Right now we're 3 games up in the WC race, with the Dodgers, Giants, and Pirates all jockeying for positions. If the NL West continues the way it has, you may see the Dodgers and Giants rough each other up too much to matter in the Wild Card. The Pirates need to continue their death spiral to make me comfortable, because there is nobody behind them worth a damn. The Cardinals are in unless they completely screw up, and I don't think they will. They are the reverse-Braves in September. They just win, and they have a run differential over 100 on the season. Let's close out the Rockies on a happy note, and move on to another hopefully easy series against the terrible Mets.

Go Braves!

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