The Braves was one of the most active team in the offseason by acquiring Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez and Japanese import Kenshin Kawakami, who enjoyed the same level of fame and reputation as Dice-K, the Red Sox star.
They also resigned original Braves stars such as Kelly Johnson, Jeff Francoeur, and Tom Glavine. The season looked bright for the Braves fans even though they still received various comments about weaker hitting and some doubts in the newly acquired pitching.
By midseason, Braves are 43-45, a losing record. I would not say they are desperate in the season in any senses but I am sure the organisation cannot be satisfied with this record after $40 million of investment on the team.
How did they get here?
Sadly to say, most of the predictions are correct in the beginning of the season. Braves turns out to be a weak hitting team struggled to support their pitching. In fact, their pitching is actually better than the most expected but their hitting is not only weak but also inconsistent.
They are capable to pound on low level pitchers but they will struggle against decent arms and let too many mistakes unpunished. The team has been shutout nine times, scoring two runs or less more than 29 times and posted 5-25 records in those games.
The Braves were third in quality starts from starting pitching but most of those starts are wasted due to those weaker hitting.
The starter ERA is 3.77 and they pitched 520 innings, both are top of the NL East, far better than those expert-called "best rotation in NL" Marlins.
The Braves also had real problem for the fifth starter because of Tom Glavine’s injuries and mediocre starts from JoJo Reyes, Kris Medlen until finally, the super rookie Tommy Hanson come up. Those bad starts from the fifth starters had already damaged starter ERA and IP and induced five loses as well.
Braves bullpen are generally solid. The recent struggle caused the bullpen ERA rising quickly but they have done decent job for the most part of the season. The trio of Soriano, Gonzales, and Moylan are very good, especially for Soriano, his stats is ridiculous.
What can the Braves do from here?
There are several concerns to the Braves team. First of all, they have no power and they cannot run. They produced 68 home runs so far in the season, 54 fewer than the Phillies. They have stolen 30 bases, 52 fewer than the Mets.
Mclouth will help on both stats, which is why he is a great add-on, but he is only one man. Secondly, Braves’ best hitters, without considering the recent surge of Martin Prado, are Chipper, McCann, and Escobar.
All of them have been on DL this season; Chipper and Escobar have been on DL more than 10 games. McCann looks healthy now with new glasses working but Escobar will probably go on DL one more time this season and Chipper is never healthy, he just plays through pain day in and day out.
I admire his professionalism but it is not helping the team.
Thirdly, three best relievers on the team is possibly the best trio in NL but all the other guys are mediocre at best. The result is that Bobby had no choice to overuse them because every game is on the line near the all star.
All three of them had bad medical history and Gonzo is already hurt right now and Moylan leads the team with outing does not help with his surgically repaired elbow. Bobby will try to protect Soriano now and it will make Braves bullpen from good to bottom of the league.
I propose three solutions for the problem:
Solution one: trades. The Braves positions are pretty much filled up now. As much as I love all the Braves players, some sacrifices much be made. Guys like Juan Pierre can help braves with speed; guys like Adrian Gonzalez can help with power.
The Braves can choose one side to improve the team but they can also try to drain the farm to get both types of players.
I personally think it is not necessary to get any trades done to improve the chance of winning because Braves really does not need that much of offensive support to win games. However, getting the trades done can definitely help their chance to get in the playoffs.
Solution two: moving the lineup.
Facing the lefties, using the lineup:
Infante (when he comes back and play right field), Prado, Mclouth, Chipper, McCann, Escobar, Diaz, Kotchman, pitcher.
Facing the righties:
Mclouth, Prado, Chipper, McCann, Escobar, GA, Church, Kotchman, pitcher.
Moving the line-up everyday is against Bobby’s philosophy, so it is just a suggestion. Braves have whole bunch of patient hitters now can frustrate opposing pitchers. Play match-ups will further the frustration against good pitching.
Solution three: moving Hanson to the bullpen.
Check this out, in every Hanson outing. He surrendered total one earn runs in all of the first innings and total four earn runs in all of the first three innings. His stuff is unquestionable superior and his pitching stance makes hitters almost impossible to pick up without lots of guess work.
I know he is Braves' future ace but it is also a great opportunity for him to learn about handling emergency situations.
There is just no place to put another pitcher in the rotation if Bobby decides to put Hudson in without any trade happening. Hanson will be great in the pen in my opinion, probably just as good as Soriano plus he must be more durable than any other relievers on the team.
His entrance will help Gonzo and Moylan to prepare their arms and actually help the team because of his striking out ability.
I actually believe the Braves is capable winning the division because the bats and atmosphere is so different now after the Mclouth trade. Ryan Church should be an upgrade over Jeff Francoeur.
Like I said, Braves really does not required too much run supports. Some help in the lineup can make whole lot differences. The month of July is still a very tough month but I have faith in them.
They outpitched guys like Hammels, Zambrano, and Marquis and almost beat Aaron Cook. Those pitchers are not pushovers, but Braves pitching is doing so well that I don't see them slowing down. The Phillies are beating up lesser teams as usual but I don't think they can beat better teams without good pitching upgrades. I see a great second half for the Braves.