Ok, so before reading this article keep in mind this is my first. I am the consummate Atlanta fan and I am anxious to hear your thoughts on my baseball moxy (or lack of). Without the brief periods of A-town sports glory, my life simply would not be worth living.
My apologies for getting off subject too quick.
Back to why you are here, our Atlanta Braves
Last night I had a revelation regarding the options Bobby has to create a pitching staff for the ages. A staff filled with the type of pitching that makes it rain rings and one run seem like an impossible deficit to overcome for the rest of the league.
OK, here goes...
That guy we have closing our games...
That's right, I said it first. Lets say good-bye to the ol' Gonzo.
8/11 in save opps just isn't getting done. Anybody heard the number .303? I hadn't until late last night when I was deep into the statistical files of ESPN.com
Why is that number relevant?
That is what lefties are batting against Mike Gonzalez. If lefty, lefty isn't an advantage for your closer, you need help. If the game/series/pennant is on the line and any competent lefty is batting, you should be sweating bullets.
The ninth with a lead should come with confidence and a sure W. The incumbent simply does supply that.
Mike, I like your style, I like your intensity. It's been real and I wish you success.
Just do it in a far-away place, in another uniform, or possibly on the set of Dancing With The Stars
All can see your potential as a ballroom dancer, Mike. We watch you dance every night, until you load 'em up and escape by the skin of your teeth.
I hope I speak for the group when I say choppin' & chantin' isn't fun as a nervous wreck. I'll send you an invoice for the anxiety meds it takes to watch you pitch the ninth with a lead of less than four
For the readers, patience is a virtue. This article is named as it is for a reason and I am making my way slowly, but surely to the solution to said problem
Drum roll please...
And the award of Atlanta's most capable closer option goes to...
Don't worry I have pretty good back-up for this suggestion.
Of 2008's countless DL casualties Rafael Soriano has risen from the ashes with the vengeance of Bruce Willis in another Die Hard sequel and looking every bit the 6.3 million dollar salary he commands. In 24.2 innings this year Soriano has amassed numbers that scream "I am what hitters fear most"
His ERA 1.09. The next lowest on the team? 2.70
Against lefties he checks in a cool .200, good for 1st among A-town relievers and against righties, a frighting team best .130. Translation into non-stat speak, Soriano turns right-handed bats into Jeff Francoeur and left-handed bats into Corky Miller.
Sounds like the 9th inning doesn't exist anymore with this guy on the rubber. Pack it up boys, you don't have a shot to snatch victory from the Braves tonight.
I hope I am starting to make sense here. Just in case, lets recap:
- vs. lefties .303 .200
- vs. righties .179 .130
- ERA 2.88 1.09
- WHIP 1.32 .89
I have a sneaking suspicion that Huddy will be back sooner than anyone within the organization will let on. This allows for a lot of flexibility and dare I say an increase in dominance for the already imposing pitching staff. So another arm returns, it only makes sense to ship one out, right?
We could use another decent southpaw out of the bullpen to replace Mike in the opinion of most reading this article. Their is a guy within the organization that could address this need. Believe me I would cringe as much as you will to hear my suggestion for a second bullpen lefty.
...none other than
...the legend himself...
Believe it or not he is sparkly when it comes to left-handed bats. Turning in an effective .156 thus far in 2009 and a still-better-than-Gonzo .255 for 2008.
But for the sake of history, lets not give Jo-Jo a role with important implications in a play-off run. The pieces of my bullpen all handle lefties effectively enough to live with O'Flaherty as the only southpaw.
I like this possibility for a staff that looks like this come August:
SP Hudson(has offered to pitch out of the 'pen upon return)
SP Hanson/Kawakami (jury is still out on both of these guys for now)
Out the 'Pen
This is a World Series pitching staff. The only road block is what to do with Kawakami if the recent marginal improvements to his control and effectiveness does not continue.
Mr. Campillo's return to the bullpen could have a much greater impact than anyone will notice. His ERA as a reliever last year was an impressive 1.25 in 21.2 innings
He was close to un-hittable as a starter during his first trip through the opposing line-up in 2008. He posted a 1.01 WHIP and 2.78 ERA through his first 9 batters faced.
This would give Atlanta two capable long relievers with Bennett and Hudson/Hanson/Kawakami/Campillo. To put the grandure of this pitching staff in perspective, let us put it in an easy to understand list of benefits resulting from the proposed changes.
- 4 of 5 starting pitchers have the stuff to anchor a staff(Hudson,Lowe,Hanson,Jurrjens)
- Take more pressure off the offense
- Enhance the ability to hold the early lead
- The bullpen will boast a closer that all hitters should fear
- Always have effective long relief available
- Turn the bullpen into a force w/ 5 different pitching styles. Imagine the difficulty for a team to be successful against Campillo's curve and changing speeds, Moylan's arm action and Soriano's fastball in consecutive late innings. Combine that with the overwhelming proven talent the 1-4 starters and Braves fans have a good summer and a scary team in the playoffs
- Allow Hanson to the bullpen temporarily if he struggles as a starter.
- Allow additional trading chip to bring in a big bat
Gonzo would act as a chip in a package most likely including Frenchy and possibly Kelly Johnson. I have no idea who the suitors would be, but Mike definitely has good value to a contender looking for a quality set-up/closer/lefty.
The idea of moving Francoeur and Gonzo, moving Kelly back to the outfield to play right and allowing Omar Infante to play full-time at second and be the lead-off man is a clear upgrade to the roster.
Idealy, Kelly would be shipped out to create room for a power-hitting outfielder.
It could reduce payroll by the 3.5 million of Gonzalez salary and bring in a power bat or a utility infielder to take Infante's bench spot, and (fingers crossed) a young prospect to be heir-apparent to Chipper's corner throne.
Or Gonzalez and Soriano just switch roles. Even without a trade the team can be improved without shedding a single player
Comments and Suggestions are always encouraged.