Atlanta Braves Searching for Answers After Loss to Nationals

Kevin MarkumCorrespondent IApril 21, 2009

ATLANTA - APRIL 12: Infielder Chipper Jones #10 of the Atlanta Braves reacts to a strike against the Washington Nationals April 12, 2009 at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

After starting the season 5-1, the Braves now sit at a below-average record of 6-7.

Everything was going right. The pitching was there. The bullpen wasn't incredibly awful.  The lineup was producing runs.

That's over with now.

I don't think the Braves are in an awful state as far as being one of the worst teams in the league, but if you finish in the middle of the pack, you might as well be at the bottom.

The Braves have the team to win 90-plus ball games and make a run at a World Series championship. But who doesn't in April?

I feel good about our starting pitching staff, I really do. My main concern is how the fifth starter will play out the rest of the way.

If we stick Jo-Jo Reyes there for the rest of the season, it could spell trouble. If the Braves do as expected and bring up top prospect Tommy Hanson, the rotation should be very solid.

I'm also very comfortable with our lineup. Left field is my only concern here. Matt Diaz has struggled at times, but I think he'll do well platooning with Garret Anderson.

Jeff Francoeur is looking to have a great year average-wise, and Chipper is Chipper. Brian McCann should also find his swing once his vision is corrected.

The bullpen...uggh.

I had high hopes for Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, and Peter Moylan to be the pillars of an inexperienced bullpen.

But so far this season, Moylan has been short of great, Gonzalez has saved some games, but always attributes to some bases-loaded drama in the ninth inning, and Soriano hasn't been stellar either.

The Braves need to make a move to improve the bullpen. The thing is they have the pieces to do it. Signing Will Ohman would have been great, but it looks like a trade is the best bet here.

Omar Infante and Miguel Prado could be potential trade targets as they could likely start on many other ball clubs. However, in order to keep that great depth we've had, I'd like to see us keep both of them.

I think we need to look at promoting one of our young minor leaguers, such as Kris Medlen, to come out of the bullpen.

Gorkys Hernandez could be an interesting playing chip in a trade for a reliever. It is obvious that Francoeur has put 2008 behind him, and with all the depth the Braves have in the outfield, trading Hernandez could be a good option.

If the Braves are ever going to make a push for the playoffs, they need at least one guy they can put out there in the seventh or eighth innings to get to Gonzalez in the ninth.

Ohman would have been an important signing this offseason. Do you think if general manager Frank Wren could do it all over again, he'd have focused on Ohman instead of Glavine?

Ultimately, the Braves are probably going to solve the problem internally. Whether it be from progression of the current bullpen, or a promotion from the minors, the Braves will find that guy.

While we are 6-7, there is much baseball left to be played. The Braves are one good winning streak away from climbing over the red hot Florida Marlins for the NL East title.