September 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
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Down the Stretch
The Braves took care of business with a 3-0 win on Wednesday, giving them the series win over the Marlins.
With the win, the Braves are 12-6 in September, the most notable stretch, of course, being the three-game sweep over the Nationals. Washington split a doubleheader with the Dodgers on Wednesday to remain five games ahead of the Braves in the NL East. Over the same month, the Nationals are 10-7.
As has been the case for much of the second half, the rest of the Braves schedule is favorable. After several close games over the past week, the bullpen could use a day off, which they will get today and at the end of the current series with the Phillies. They will use the second off day to travel home to host the Marlins and Mets in their final homestand of the regular season. We all know how the Braves have played those two teams lately.
And the final series is on the road against the Pirates, who have faded terribly in the second half to the tune of 26 wins and 37 losses, including just four wins this month.
If you read this blog, I probably don’t have to tell you anything can happen over a single game, series, month or even season. But the talent level of the teams remaining on Atlanta’s schedule is less than stellar, and over the course of a season that tends to show eventually. It has done so for each of these teams, and the Braves should reap the benefits on the way to a playoff berth. It doesn’t hurt that their chances of making the playoffs right now are 99.9%.
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs writes on five tough roster calls this offseason, including Tim Hudson’s $9 million team option, for ESPN Insider. While fastball velocity is important, Cameron takes it a bit too far in saying it’s a concern when he “bottomed out” at a two mile-per-hour difference over the span of two months.
Hudson’s velocity has dropped slightly this year, but his contact rates haven’t changed, and he isn’t benefiting from BABIP any more than usual. He’s also allowing fewer home runs than his career average, and his FIP is right in line with his career norm.
Will Hudson decline? Of course. He’s 37 years old. But to throw up red flags based on a slight drop in velocity and swinging strike rate for a pitcher who relies on completely different factors to succeed isn’t how you go about determining his decline.
Braves.com recap for Wednesday’s win.
AJC quotes following Wednesday’s win. Chipper Jones: “We made an adjustment against Josh. He gets so many swings and misses on that back-foot slider, down and in to lefties. You didn’t see a lot of swings on those. I know he got a couple, but not near what he’s got in the past against us.”
“You could tell by the swings we were taking in the first three innings that we were getting in predictable counts and getting pitches we wanted to hit, and putting them in play.”
From Braves.com notes, Fredi Gonzalez is pondering his No. 1 starter for the playoffs. It will come down to either Kris Medlen or Tim Hudson, with Medlen currently lined up to make the start in the wild card game. The Braves have two off days surrounding this weekend to tinker with that, however. But as far as traditional “best starter on the mound in the biggest game” goes, I would say Medlen at this point.
Also in notes, the Braves could get Andrelton Simmons back this weekend with an outside chance of starting Friday. Paul Janish was sent back to Atlanta for evaluation on his shoulder and won’t know his fate until later today or tomorrow.
John Sickels of Minor League Ball has a report on Edward Salcedo. “The potential saving grace for Salcedo is age: he’s only 21. The Braves have assigned him to the Arizona Fall League, and it will be extremely interesting to see how he handles it. Based on what he’s done so far in pro ball, his transition to Double-A next year isn’t likely to be a smooth one. Expectations need to be tempered until Salcedo proves he has the skills to make his tools meaningful.”