Predicting Atlanta Braves' Starting Rotation for the Playoffs
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While nobody in the organization will admit to falling into the trap of looking ahead, the Braves are essentially a lock for the 2013 postseason (99.9% chance of making playoffs according to ESPN).
The main ingredients for a successful postseason include pitching, defense and timely hitting.
On the mound, the Braves have had one of the best staffs all season and currently lead the National League with a 3.20 team ERA.
The pieces are there for a good playoff rotation, and it's up to manager Fredi Gonzalez to place them appropriately.
Here's the first look at what the Braves' starting rotation should be for the postseason.
1. Mike Minor
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Mike Minor has built on the success he had to finish the 2012 season and parlayed that into a successful 2013 campaign.
The 25-year-old has transformed into one of the better young, left-handed pitchers in the National League while being the Braves most consistent starter all season.
Minor has already posted career highs this season in wins (13) and strikeouts (162) and looks poised to set career marks in ERA and WHIP (currently 3.06 and 1.05).
There is no real glaring weakness in Minor's numbers this season.
He has been effective against both right- and left-handed hitters (.231/.214 opponent batting average) while having a 3.17 ERA in night games and 2.86 ERA in day games.
Meanwhile, he has posted similar first and second half numbers.
His ERA at home (3.64) is surprisingly more than a run higher than his away ERA (2.42), which Gonzalez could factor into his decision.
However, Minor has been the overall most consistent starter and should get the call in the first postseason game.
2. Julio Teheran
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Julio Teheran entered the 2013 season as the No. 5 starter and question mark on the Braves' staff.
Now, he looks like the favorite to be the No. 2 starter as the playoffs near.
Among starters, his 3.05 ERA leads the team, and his 154 strikeouts and 8.26 K/9 ratio are second.
The Braves recently skipped Teheran's start to limit stress on the 22-year-old's arm, and he followed that with a shaky start to his outing on Tuesday before settling in for the win.
Look for him to regain his rhythm on the mound over the course of the last few weeks of the season to position himself as the No. 2 pitcher.
3. Kris Medlen
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It was not that long ago the Braves were tinkering with the idea of moving Kris Medlen to the bullpen, and many fans felt this was the right move.
However, Medlen stayed in the rotation and has showed signs of the post-All-Star break tear he demonstrated in 2012.
A string of good outings has helped lower his ERA from 3.85 on August 2 to 3.46, while his 13 wins are now tied with Minor for the most on the team.
Medlen also ranks second on the team with 171.1 innings pitched as well as a 2.10 BB/9.
The 27-year-old could make a push for the No. 2 starter due to his recent trend upward as well as his playoff experience from last season.
For now, he sits as the No. 3 starter.
4. Alex Wood
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Alex Wood has struggled in his past two outings but still gives the Braves the best chance to win in the playoffs.
In August, Wood was simply dominant.
The 22-year-old rookie posted a 2-0 record with a 0.90 ERA along with 28 strikeouts for the month.
Wood brings that strikeout capability to the mound (team-leading 8.94 K/9 ratio).
The value of getting a swing and miss in the playoffs is huge. Recording strikeouts limits the potential of a "cheap" hit or defensive miscue.
Are there some risks in letting Wood start in the postseason? Sure.
But the upside outweighs the negatives, and he would give the Braves the best chance to win.