Wren increases optimism with in-season shopping spree

Braves general manager Frank Wren had plenty of reason to feel proud as he exited Turner Field late Wednesday night.  Over the course of the previous 12 hours, he had completed his shopping list with the acquisitions of Matt Diaz and backup infielder Jack Wilson.

While these obviously weren’t earth-shattering deals, they were the kind of August trades that can prove profitable down the stretch and in October.  With Diaz he gained right-handed hitter who balances a left-handed heavy outfield mix.  With Wilson, he gained a high-character veteran infielder who certainly stands as a better option than Julio Lugo.

As the Braves exited June and prepared for the July 31 Trade Deadline, their shopping list included a right-handed hitting outfielder, a right-handed reliever and a middle infielder.    As July progressed, they determined that they could not afford to remain patient with Jordan Schafer and overlook that this year’s team desperately needed a centerfielder/leadoff hitter.

Wren gained the centerfielder/leadoff hitter with Michael Bourn and proved correct in his assessment that Arodys Vizcaino would serve as the extra right-handed reliever his bullpen needed.    Then of course he completed his in-season shopping with Wednesday’s additions.

Over the course of the past month, Wren has made his team much stronger without having to part ways with any of his top pitching prospects  — Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Mike Minor and Vizcaino.

Of course when Wren said he wasn’t parting ways with any of these arms, he didn’t know the Braves would enter Aug. 31 with reason to legitimately wonder if  their postseason rotation would consist of Tim Hudson, Brandon Beachy and either Minor/Teheran or Delgado.

Seriously if you were sitting at home projecting the rotation at any point yesterday (after watching Jair Jurrjens Tuesday night), you had to seriously mention Minor/Teheran or Delgado as potential candidates without chuckling.  Then of course Derek Lowe went out and pitched well enough last night to give you hope that he might repeat last year’s remarkable late-season turnaround.

Jurrjens has five more starts to attempt to right himself by either proving he’s healthy or allowing himself to trust that he can push off the rubber without having to worry about his right knee.   Yesterday’s post focused on his drop in velocity.

Before last night’s game, a National League scout who had last seen Jurrjens in early July said, “He doesn’t even look like the same guy.”

Instead of using a variety of different numbers, it’s easy to sum up Jurrjens’ decline by simply saying he is not getting away with mistakes and escaping jams like he did through the first half.  There’s certainly a chance he could turn things around.  But right now, he would have to be considered questionable at best to earn a spot in the playoff rotation.

Along with hitting the first legitimate homer of his life (click here for video proof), Lowe limited the Nationals to one run and three hits over six innings.   The only run he allowed came when his only pitch of the seventh inning was hit over the right-centerfield wall by Mike Morse.

Lowe has been good in four of his past five starts and he has limited opponents to a .172 batting average while posting a 1.50 ERA in his past three starts.    Suddenly it looks like he is primed to make a late-season run similar to the ones he enjoyed in 2008 and again last year.

Before going 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA in his final five starts last year, Lowe entered September with a  4.53 ERA.  This year he enters with a 4.52 ERA.

If the Braves needed to form their playoff rotation right now, it would likely consist of Hudson, Brandon Beachy and Lowe.   But as we saw last year, a lot can change in the season’s final month.

At this time last year, Lowe was battling right elbow discomfort and there was reason to wonder if he would pitch again.  As for Beachy, well we’re still a couple weeks away from the anniversary of the day when many of you likely heard his name for the first time.

 

16 Comments

Good assessment. Unfortunately, I don’t think Jurrjens is done ‘regressing.’ All the stats that looked good after the first half were superficial. All the advanced metrics suggested JJ was due for a serious correction. Internet SABR nerds were calling for this months ago. I read the articles then (on Fangraphs, etc.), I understood most of it, I’m not suprised by it now and I think there’s more to come.

As for Lowe, I think he’s been a sort of anti-Jurrjens. His superficial stats look bad, but the underlying advanced metrics all suggested he was pitching better than the results. I’ll look for more performances like last night’s from him.

I think JJ should probably be left out of the postseason rotation. Who knows what Fredi’s planning though. Wild card!

Prado is 2-for-26 (.077) with 1 double, 1 RBI, .172 OBP, .115 slugging in past 7 games(from DOB Twitter).

I think the infection really took it out of Martin, He should get a few more forced days off to rest, especially with call ups coming.

At least we have Matty as a nice substitute.

That stretch by Freddie was RIDICULOUS!!!!

Triple for JayHey – I would really like to see him string together a few good games.

Kimbrel is in the game. Unfortunately, it’s his THIRD straight game because he was put in during that freaking 9-2 loss on Tuesday. Still bothers me.

Fortunately… CK is a beast.

He had gone 7 days before that without pitching, which is not good for a reliever. Especially a closer. He needed the work.

He can throw in the ‘pen if he needs to keep his arm loose and work on keeping his conrol. Who cares. No need to put him in the game where he has to put forth maximum effort…

Disagree with Bravo on this one.Especially when he prolly has pitched in more games than he ever did in his life. Give the kid a break. Obviously the 7 day break didn’t rust any of his hinges, he looked as good the last 3 outings as I have ever seen him.

I was at the last game of the year last year against the phils. It was a hell of a game, and the last 2 nights I was at the games as well. Very few in the stands but both times kimbrel entered the game it had an electric kind of effect. He didn’t get in any trouble to test it but I swear he has ice water in his veins. Superstar closer in the making.

Ask any reliever. Especially a closer. Too much time off is a bad thing. Throwing in a bullpen does not have the effect that throwing in a game has. You need to face live hitters. Kimbrel was probably begging to go out because he new rust was beginning to build up. I was fine with him getting work.
Shifting gears: I am ashamed that I don’t know this yet – but what’s with the “I love you” sign language by Chipper after his hr’s? I had the volume turned down on the game last night but it looked like they were talking about it because the other players have started doing it when he hits one too. Is it to one of his kids or something? He always looks to the same place.

Alright I’ll get on the phone and call one up now…how many MLB relievers have you talked to? I’m sure you have a large sample of relievers that you’ve asked this very question to. :P

Kimbrel now has a lifetime 15.5 K/9. This kid is legit.

He better finish in the top 4 in Cy voting. I say top 4 because Halladay or Kershaw will win it with Cliff Lee being 3rd.

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