Braves playoff hopes still alive

Within yesterday’s offday story, I pointed out that based on the developments that occurred during the previous two seasons, you can’t completely rule out the possibility that the Braves could still win the National League East.

At the same time, I provided a couple of recent examples (2007 Rockies and 2004 Astros) to reinforce the belief that the Braves are still very much alive in the National League Wild Card race.   Of course, I wrote that approximately 12 hours before the Rockies completed their 14-inning marathon against the Giants with Ryan Spilborghs’ walk-off grand slam.

While playing golf, fishing or resting tired muscles yesterday, the Braves lost a half-game in both the National League East and Wild Card races.  They now trail the Phillies by seven games and sit 4 games behind the Rockies.  

Having won seven of their last eight and 17 of their past 24, the Rockies aren’t providing any indication that they’re ready to release their stranglehold atop the Wild Card standings.   But at the same time, they’re providing reason to wonder if they may eventually fall out of this equation and catch the NL West-leading Dodgers, who have gone 10-12 this month and seen their lead over the Rockies shrink to three games.

The Dodgers, who owned an eight-game advantage over the Rockies entering this month, have hit .266, compiled a .330 on-base percentage and scored 4.5 runs per game in August.  From a pitching perspective, they’ve posted a 3.23 ERA.  

In the 24 games the Rockies have played since being shut out in consecutive games by the Mets, they’ve hit .274, compiled a .359 on-base percentage and tallied 5.79 runs per game.  During this span, their pitchers have posted a 3.95 ERA.  

While winning 14 of the 21 games they’ve played this month, the Braves have hit .272, reached base at a .348 clip and tallied 5.29 runs per game.   In the process, their pitchers have posted a 3.41 ERA.  

Looking at a larger sample size, the Cliff Lee-aided Phillies (3.04) are the only NL team that has posted a better ERA than the Braves (3.23) since the All-Star break.  With Spilborghs’ walk-off shot, the Rockies (5.30) became the only NL team that has scored more runs per game since the break than the Braves (5.28).   

Yesterday’s offday story also pointed out that the Braves current record of 66-58 matched the ones the Phillies had tallied on the way to winning the NL East both of the past two seasons.  In addition, I’ve since noticed that the 2006 world champion Cardinals also posted this same mark through their first 124 games.  

On the way to winning the Wild Card and advancing to the 2007 World Series, the Rockies possessed a 63-61 record and sat 3 games back in the Wild Card standings.  

Obviously the variables differ from year-to-year and the Braves certainly aren’t guaranteed the luxury the Phillies gained while the Mets collapsed both of the past two Septembers.   But recent history proves that they are still very much alive with the hope they’ve created courtesy of the recent success that they’ve encountered.  

Red-hot Roachy:  When the Braves acquired Mark Teixeira before the 2007 trade deadline, many immediately compared it to the trade that brought a first baseman named Fred McGriff to Atlanta for the final two months of the 1993 season.

While hitting .289 with nine homers, 26 RBIs and a .711 slugging percentage through his first 20 games,  Teixeira provided the similar immediate impact that McGriff did while hitting .364 with seven homers, 15 RBIs and a .753 slugging percentage during his first 20 games in Atlanta.  

When Adam LaRoche was acquired before this year’s trade deadline, there wasn’t any reason to put pressure on him to produce these kinds of outrageous numbers.  But through his first 20 games back as Atlanta’s first baseman, Roachy has hit .406 with seven homers, 16 RBIs and a .739 slugging percentage.  

Based on this success, the Braves will certainly attempt to keep  LaRoche in Atlanta after he hits the free agent market this offseason.  But with Freddie Freeman just a year or two away from reaching the Majors, they aren’t likely to offer him more than a two-year deal.  

Speaking of Freeman, he’s been placed on the seven-day disabled list with a bruised left hand.   During his first 41 games with Double-A Mississippi, the 19-year-old first baseman has hit .248 with two homers and a .650 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).  

For those of you who looked at yesterday’s box score and also noticed that Jason Heyward didn’t play for Mississippi, he simply got a day to rest.   Through his first 43 games at the Double-A level, Heyward has hit .338 with seven homers and a 1.046 OPS.  

These numbers are even more impressive when you account that he’s hit just .162 with one homer and three RBIs in his past 10 games.   The fact that he’s hit .243 with four homers and an .847 OPS this month should simply be a reminder that even the greatest 20-year-old prospects are going to encounter some form of struggles as they make their march toward the big leagues.  

Medlen’s turnaround:
  While Brian McCann provided the necessary offense, Sunday afternoon’s game against the Marlins couldn’t have been won without the two scoreless innings provided by Kris Medlen.  His effort negated the fact that Derek Lowe was forced to exit after five innings and just 67 pitches   —  a combined product of ineffective mound work and a short bench.
 
In his 13 appearances since the All-Star break, Medlen has worked 19 1/3 innings, posted a 0.93 ERA and limited opponents to a .197 batting average and .250 on-base percentage.
 
This obviously isn’t the same kid who was a nervous wreck when he arrived in the Majors in May.  Much more relaxed, Medlen has proven to be a funny dude in the clubhouse and a talented pitcher, who is going to continue to have chances to provide major impacts as the Braves continue to march into the heat of the postseason races.

27 Comments

Medlen needs to be traded or in the Braves 2010 rotation. Kid has got a nice future and he should be starting on a regular basis…

We are 8 games back in the lost column. The games back is a result of the number of games played and not a good indicator of the standings. I also like Medlin and hope he is around long term. Bobby and Roger have done a great job of getting him in games and building his confidence after his first start.

Now if the Braves would just cut ties with Norton and pick up some minor league bats during roster expansion, they will make all the best decisions they can possibly make.

It’s noble of you to want to save the Braves some money by cutting Norton a week from the roster expansion which will make it unnecessary to do so. Thankfully, the Braves have a whole lot more class than that, and we all know they are just going to release Norton in the off season at this point.

wwag.. i’m trying to figure out what that comment meant.

Rother: Ask Smoltz and Glavine about the level of class exhibited when the Braves are in a playoff race.

Mark… Does this mean you are walking back your earlier theory that the wild card will not come from the NL East?

Are you referring to the Braves not signing either of them recently or not signing them before the season?

My reference (recommendation) to cutting Norton has absolutely nothing to do with money, but everything to do with his crappy play. I don’t get it. I’m trying to be open minded. He must be some guy to have in the club house or on the bench, to want to keep him around.

His lifetime stats are 217, .265, 237, .255, .244, .267, .220, .263, .174, .296, .243, .262, .438 (18at bats), .246 for batting average.

this season has been hideous. His bat is not nearly good enough for an opposing manager to even care about his switch hitting in the late innings. I’m confused why he was kept so long. I don’t think it’s as much class as it is a bad decision.

I agree Norton should have not been brought back after his rehab. However at this point it would be a classless move to dump him.

Again, the Smoltz deal/fiasco was orchestrated by JOHN SMOLTZ, not Frank Wren. He was calling the bluffs and putting on the squeeze, not the other way around. Activating Glavine would have cost the Braves a minimum of 3 or 4 games in the standings. Hanson is currently 7 games over .500, the team is 8 games over. Glavine had nothing in his rehab starts. They didn’t score, but he had nothing from all accounts in the organization. We ate the JoJo losses, we ate the Medlen losses, to also eat the Glavine losses would have been a ridiculously bad move that would probably have cost the Braves any chance they have at the playoffs..

To make the wild card the Braves have to play .500 with the Phillies, cardinals and Marlins. + Win at least 16 of the 21 games they have against below .500 teams.

longballhitter.. remember that those numbers are for a situational hitter. Hitting off the bench is one of the most difficult things to do consistently. Last year he was the best in the business in the NL. This year he has nothing. But I would still rather see him hitting off the bench than say, Ried Gorecki. That is if he was ONLY coming off the bench.
When all is said and done, I don’t think that any team will be able to beat the Cardinals. Man did they make some good moves down the stretch.

Oh and as an addendum to that comment.. I was surprised (and not excited) to see Norton come back when he came off of the DL.

I would’ve rather traded a few hypothetical hits for some real speed on the bases via Brian Barton.

Clubhouse Notes: Prado and Anderson back in the lineup tonight, Church expects to return tomorrow and McLouth felt good running with about 75 percent effort today. He will likely begin a rehab assignment this week…Heyward actually missed yesterday’s game with a bruised heel. He and Freeman received good medical reports today…The Braves will wait until Jordan Schafer has an MRI tomorrow before determining if he needs surgery on his left wrist.

I thought the comment was relatively self-explanatory, but my point was that the Braves will do whatever they feel gives them the best chance to win. If in their eyes it meant cutting Greg Norton and bringing up Jason Heyward for example the Braves would absolutely do it. It would be most proper to keep Greg Norton for the rest of the year and I think we will ultimately because I don’t see him as particularly damaging. Pinch hitters have a difficult job and ending the year with a .250 average is not bad (after all if the guy is a .320 hitter, he should probably be in the starting lineup). That being said, my earlier point vivabeta was to guard against the belief that this is purely a business enterprise in that regard. With respect to the players, I didn’t think I’d have to explain it, but both Smoltz and Glavine felt slighted by the Braves and if we were to revisit the emotions of that time (and I’m sure nobody on this blog really wants to) most Braves fans were frustrated with the way both players left. I agree with both business decisions, but “classy” would not be my choice word.

One note (as I have read the subsequent entry by rother). If your point about class was restricted to not cutting Greg Norton before the September callups then I apologize for misunderstanding your point. I agree that would be a pretty d@&k thing to do directly before September callups AND it’s not like we have the deepest bench in the world right now with all of our current injuries.

Last year Norton started about 40 games and got more a more at bats. Hitting the ball is all about timing which is different in batting practice compared to the game. The problem with bringing someone from the minor’s is you don’t know what you will get. We brought up a no field good hitter in Diory Herandez who did just the opposite. Last year we brought up Jo-Jo Reyes and look what we got. While Tommy Hansen has been good his numbers are not what they were in the minor’s. Even Manny Acosta throws 96 mph but you never know if he can find the stike zone.

If we get shut out at home by a team that has 19 wins on the road and by a pitcher who has a 9 ERA his last couple of starts in the middle of a crucial play off race… will we deserve the play offs?

Dang, Schafer needs surgery. Hopefully he’ll fully heal and get ready to play baseball for the Braves at some point in 2010.

Good comeback in the 9th. Truth is, though, it shouldn’t have come to this.

We have such a strong bench. Our primary pinch hitters are KJ and Norton. Geez both of them are flirting with the Mendoza line. The pirates got to Lidge and CO is tied with LA, we HAVE to start winning these games against inferior teams. Have to Have to.

Check that “Norton is flirting with the Mendoza line” heck he slept with her a while ago and she dumped him for a soccer player.

I’ve been following Latos for quite some time and he is the real deal (ace in the making ala Hanson), but the loss still stings. Gotta win the next two.

I was expecting a loss yesterday. I expect a win today, tomorrow, and Friday, a loss on Saturday and a win on Sunday. And thats as far as I got….. http://knoble.mlblogs.com

Another wasted gem for Jurjjens. You’re right PW – that one stings bad. When thinking about the play offs, I have been asking myself this question all morning. “Would the Rockies have won that game last night?” The answer I keep giving is “Yes. Absolutely they would have won that game.” I’m not giving up on the season yet… but those are games that winners win and pretenders lose. The Padres had 19 wins on the road this season before last nights game. If we end up a couple of wins short of the play offs, last night’s game and the double-digit lead we lost when our bullpen imploded the 3rd game of the season are really going to stick out in my mind and leave a bad taste all off season. We need to string together 5 straight!!!

They lost a game they should have won last night. As I watched the game, I was perplexed by one move. Why didn’t Kelly pinch run for GA after GA walked? They could have left reid in the game to fill the outfield spot. I really believe Kelly would have scored on Laroaches hit and I don’t think it would have been close. He has to be at least two to three steps faster then GA and GA looked like he was pretty close. Were they saving Kellly to pinch hit?? With the exception of an occassional walk, KJ has done nothing at the plate. He can run though and should have been used. It was readily apparent that Chipper needs some time off. He is not himself and with Prado back, I would prefer to see Infante, Prado and Church in the line-up for now. They have basically been doing ok without chipper for a week now so let him rest for the Phillies. It is not over yet, but if they fall a game short, last night will sting almost as bad as when the bullpen gave up the 7 run lead agains the phillies. I sitlll believe!!

I thought that KJ would pinch run and first thought that he would have scored. However after seeing the replay from the high third base camera showing the runners I think he would have been out. The ball was not that deep and they got the ball back in quickly. I do think that Nate McLouth would have caught the ball that scored the winning run.

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