Note to Bobby Cox: This Isn't the 1990s
Get with the times, Bobby Cox.
Yeah, your managerial style (relying on your pitchers to keep you in every game until your offense scores a couple of runs) was successful from 1990-2005. But things change.
You can't rely on your pitchers to keep you in every game anymore. You only have one truly effective starting pitcher who is healthy (at least) most of the time in Tim Hudson. John Smoltz is on the eve of retirement, and as a result he can't stay healthy. He can't even handle a closing role right now because his shoulder is in such terrible shape.
I know that you had Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Steve Avery, and Smoltz at your disposal in years gone by. But here's a news flash: you don't have a rotation full of All-Star caliber players anymore, and you can't manage like you do.
You have two aspiring pitchers in your rotation to complement Hudson: Jair Jurrjens and Jorge Campillo. But they're both merely mildly effective, inexperienced players, despite the fact that both pitchers' stuff is excellent.
However, they—among some of your other good young major league pitchers—could develop into 15-20-win guys within a few years.
The other reason for your lack of success recently is your lineup's ineffectiveness. Brian McCann and Chipper Jones are your only truly strong hitters who understand how to approach each at-bat and can put solid wood on the ball when they get the chance.
No matter how good your rotation is, if your offense can't score you won't win.
Getting a hit is rare enough, even good players only get a hit in a third of their plate appearances. But you make the odds even worse. You force your team to get multiple hits in a row to get close to scoring a run.
You refuse to steal bases and manufacture runs.
If you're a Braves fan, think how often you've seen Atlanta score in an inning like this: leadoff hitter (seventh hitter in lineup) singles. Next batter works the count, and the runner steals second. The batter draws a walk. First and second, no men out.
The pitcher (same-league game) lays down a perfect bunt, and the runners each advance one base. One out. The next hitter lines a single to the shallow outfield. Both runners score, one out. I bet you're thinking, "I've never seen an inning like that." Me neither.
Imagine how many double plays you could escape if you sent your runners more often. And more importantly, think how much easier it would be to score runs. These are a few changes you could make that would have the team winning more:
1. Manufacture more runs. If a fast runner gets on base, send him! Test the opposing catcher early. Call more hit-and-runs. You have several players with the speed necessary to steal. Try to manage players who aren't pitchers.
2. Plan for the long run. This means that if the Braves aren't in the race at the end of the year and you have some young players who need major-league experience, play them. Also continue the development of your young major league pitchers. That way, if you're somehow still around past 2009, you'll have the tools to manage the Braves you want.
Bobby Cox either needs to make one or both of the above changes for the Braves to be good again.
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