A lot has been made over the course of the 2009 season about how the Atlanta Braves and the San Fransisco Giants both need to add a big bat to their line-ups. These thoughts are certainly not misplaced.
Through 90 games for the Braves and 89 games for the Giants they both have shown a propensity for spotty, mediocre hitting. They sport team batting averages of .261 and .262 respectively, good for fifth and sixth in the NL. They are however two of the worst teams when it comes to home runs and slugging percentage.
The offense of the Giants though has been even worse than the Braves. They rank last in walks and 15th in on-base percentage in the NL. They have also scored 20 less runs than the Braves have this season.
Despite the fact that their offense is worse than Atlanta's, the Giants still command a record of nine games over .500 while the Braves have just broken even. How can that be?
One word: Pitching.
While the Braves have had great pitching this season, the Giants pitching has been fantastic. The Giants lead all of baseball in ERA, strikeouts, and earned runs allowed. Their top two starters have combined for a record of 20-4 with an ERA around 2.35.
What we can learn from the Giants though is a lesson Braves fans should remember all to well: Pitching wins championships, not hitting.
Is it possible that while the addition of a power hitter would help, that the best way to help the Braves reach the playoffs is to add depth to the bullpen?
The Giants have the best bullpen ERA in the majors while the Braves rank No. 19. Imagine if the Braves could add one or two solid pitchers to the bullpen. How many more games would they have a chance to win?
The addition of Tim Hudson the Braves staff sometime in August will force someone (most likely Kawakami) to go the bullpen. The Braves could also attempt to trade for a star reliever such as Geroge Sherill.
The addition of these two pitchers would certainly add depth to the bullpen and would result in more security at the end of every Braves' game.
While the addition of a power hitter to the Braves lineup would certainly improve the team, it is not necessarily the answer. If the pitching staff, especially the bullpen, can improve their performance and the Braves can add one or two key pieces, the Braves may just be able to win.