Penny-Pinching May Cost Braves Playoff Berth

Jonathan CooperContributor ISeptember 30, 2009

ATLANTA - AUGUST 22:  Starting pitcher Tommy Hanson #48 of the Atlanta Braves pitches to the Florida Marlins on August 22, 2009 at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Despite an amazing month of September, it appears the Braves will miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. In a course of a 162-game season, you can always find one game that slipped away or that you should have won. But for these Braves, it may be a financial move that had nothing to do with baseball that proves to be the difference. Despite being the top prospect in the system, the Braves did not call up Tommy Hanson until June so he would be locked up for an additional year before arbitration eligible. Before we get into the numbers and how this cost the Braves a postseason berth, let me share a few thoughts. First, Hanson was such a prized prospect that the Braves would not trade for San Diego ace Jake Peavy. So we knew this kid was going to be special. If he's that special, wouldn't you sign him to a long-term deal early in his career anyways? The Braves did that with Brian McCann (but not with Jeff Francoeur, which turned out to be a very good decision). Second, with the exception of this financial decision, almost every move the Braves made turned into gold this year - dumping Francouer, not signing Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and trading for Javier Vasquez, Nate McClouth and Adam LaRoche. So I give all the credit to Frank Wren, but everyone knows this was about money, not baseball. 

But back to Tommy Hanson. The rookie has posted an 11-4 record and the Braves are 12-8 when Hanson takes the mound. What happened in April and May? The Braves shuffled Jo Jo Reyes and Kris Medlen and the team went 3-5 in those eight games (including some of the best offensive performances of the year). So is it fair to say that having Hanson pitch those eight games may have at least added one or two more wins?  But let's take it one step further. Reyes and Medlen were skipped several times during those first two months as the fifth starter. Kenshin Kawakami, the team's fourth starter, lost six of his first nine starts and posted an ERA of just under 5.00. If Hanson starts the season with the Braves, it would have been Kawakami who was skipped three or four times in favor of Hanson. 

I know it's dangerous to make assumptions like this, but it's hard to not look at the facts and conclude an extra 10-12 starts by Tommy Hanson would not have at least added three to four wins. I guess the future savings outweighs any postseason revenue that may have been created. But don't worry Braves fans. We get to do it all again next season when top prospect Jason Heyward will be in the same situation. We will find out what's more important - delivering a postseason berth in Bobby Cox's final season or saving some time before having to pay a player his market value.