Legit playoff teams would not panic in this situation

Since Chipper Jones lost Emilio Bonafacio’s chopper in the lights and Omar Infante followed with his two-out walk off homer against Craig Kimbrel last night, the most popular word among Braves fans seems to be “panic.”

Many fans have asked, “when should we start to panic?”  I jokingly responded to one fan’s Tweet by Tweeting, “No reason to procrastinate.”

But in all honesty, if you have already hit the panic button you’ve essentially admitted that you do not believe the Braves can compete with the Phillies, Brewers and D-backs once the postseason arrives.

Legitimate playoff teams certainly should not panic when afforded the opportunity to protect a 2 1/2-game lead in the National League Wild Card standings while  playing five of its final eight games against the Marlins and Nationals.

With this being said, the Braves have looked nothing like a playoff contender while losing 12 of their past 18 games.    They have batted .197 with runners in scoring position during this span and Brian McCann has gone just 2-for-16  since halting his post-DL slump with a big two-hit game in last Tuesday’s win over the Marlins.

Of the 12 losses suffered by the Braves this month, seven have been pinned on its proud bullpen.  In five of these seven losses, the Braves have blown a lead after the sixth inning.  Arodys Vizcaino started the trend during a Sept. 2 game against the Dodgers.

Unfortunately for the Braves,  Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel are responsible for blowing four of the five late leads squandered this month.   Before it happened  over the past 48 hours, there was no reason to believe they could blow late leads on consecutive days.

But now that Venters blew Sunday’s one-run lead with two outs in the eighth and Kimbrel squandered last night’s lead after having Bonafacio down 0-2 with two outs in the ninth, it’s impossible to overlook their workload.

Venters leads the Majors with 82 appearances and Kimbrel ranks second with 77 appearances.   Venters’ 85 innings rank third among Major League relievers.   Kimbrel ranks seventh with 75 1/3 innings.

Jose Valverde, John Axford and Carlos Marmol are the only other Major League relievers with at least 20 save opportunities who have recorded at least 70 appearances.

While Venters’ sinker might be better when he is a little fatigued, Kimbrel might have shown some signs of fatigue the past two days.  He certainly looked strong while recording three strikeouts in Saturday’s perfect ninth inning.  But while allowing the second and third homers of his career over the past two days, the rookie closer has proven to be human.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has attempted to lessen the physical stress placed on both Kimbrel and Venters.  But the makeup of his club and the twists and turns of this season have prevented him from putting much of a dent in their workloads.

The Braves have played 54 one-run games and a Major League high 25 extra inning games.  These are just a couple simple factors that have added to the workloads realized by Venters and Kimbrel.

A lot of the blame has to be placed on the starting rotation’s inability to work deep into the game.  With Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson sidelined by injuries, this has proven to be even more of a problem since the All-Star break.

The Braves have seen their starting pitchers complete at least seven innings in 38 of their first 154 games (25 percent) and in 12 of the 62 (19 percent) games played since the All-Star break.

The Braves have seen their starting pitchers complete at least eight innings just eight times this season and just twice since the All-Star break.

Tim Hudson has accounted for nine of the 12 instances when the Braves have seen a starting pitcher work at least seven innings since the All-Star break.

In other words four out of every five days over the past couple months, there has been  a good chance the bullpen was going to do have to do some heavy lifting.

As the Braves prepare to play their final eight games of the season, they can only hope that their bullpen has enough bullets left to continue proving to be the asset that it has been over the past six months.

If the Braves do not make the playoffs this year, there is no doubt that Monday’s  ninth inning will haunt them and their fans for a while.

But one inning or more specifically a sequence of two batters can not solely determine the fate of a team that entered September with an 8 1/2-game lead in the National League Wild Card race.

12 Comments

It was only a matter of time before the bullpen hit the wall. And there’s no rest in sight for the weary.

I don’t care if we get there crawling over the finish line… once we’re there, records don’t matter. Don’t choke in October.

This would not be nearly as much a problem if we had won at least one of the three games against the Cardinals.

Alan. Welcome to the blog. You get the reward for most obvious statement ever made on this thread. Ever. Way to make your mark.

Call it panic, call it what you want. The 2011 Atlanta Braves now have a new name.
The Bad News Braves. After playing so well all year we see now that they are only
contenders that can not finish. The way the last two weeks have gone, it leave no doubt The bad News Braves are not ready for any playoffs and their performance on the field shows it. They don’t even play like a good minor league team now.

That was sooo clever how you did that.

If we would have traded Jurrjens, we could have had Randall Delgado throwing 5 inning games all year! I told you guise!

Whew, been away too long.

Tonight’s win was needed, as we kept Venters and Kimbrel in the fridge. If they’re battling fatigue, as I read elsewhere, rest ‘em up. Also gives us a chance to see which relievers we can take to the NLDS.

Regarding Derek Lowe – at what point do the buzzwords “veteran presence”, and “experience” lose their relevance? In my opinion, it happens when rookie pitchers consistently outpitch said veteran in a playoff race.
Derek Lowe: ERA – 4.94, Record – 9W 14L, AVG. Against – .284, WHIP 1.52
Rookie Starters: ERA – 3.6, Record – 14W 6L, AVG. Against – .253, WHIP 1.35

Derek Lowe has no business pitching tonight or in the playoffs, and the only reason he is is because of the $15million.

Totally agree bravo…. if this whole “sinkerballers are better when they’re tired” nonsense is true, then he should be throwing a heck of a lot more… not every fifth, because that thing is up in the zone and flat and his slider is like a freaking frisbee right now…. Maybe the Mets can help us out a little tonight, becuase we are in trouble on the mound in Miami.

Bravo’s post was spot on. Veteran presence and experience do not matter for the experienced horse who consistently finishes in the back of the pack. Delgado’s locker here in Miami is about three away from Lowe’s. As we were talking to the kid last night, Lowe was in my line of vision. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was looking at the kid and thinking, “why can’t I have one of those outings.”

Lowe’s frustration has been clearly visible throughout the week. He threw yet another pen yesterday with the hope of fine tuning some slight mechanical tweaks. We’ll see if the vet is capable of turning it around tonight.

If he has a bad outing tonight, Lowe will definitely not be in the playoff rotation. Maybe he can rekindle some of that old closer magic and pitch well in relief for us in the postseason.

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