Friday, September 21, 2012

Braves Not 'Medlen' Around

The Atlanta Braves have been known as the team with the best pitching staff over the 1990's and into the 2000's. When you can throw out 3 near lock first ballot Hall of Fame inductees like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and then mix in other ace potential starters like: Denny Neagle, Kevin Millwood, Steve Avery, Charlie Leibrandt, Pete Smith,  Jason Marquis and Jason Schmidt, you quickly see that the Braves have a history of building a championship caliber team from the mound out.  It was a great time to be a Braves fan. 14 straight division titles will do that for you. When you looked on the bench you would see Bobby Cox getting ready to get thrown out of a game and pitching coach Leo Mazzone rocking back and forth watching his pitchers.

Now the Braves are looking at going back to the playoffs, this time likely as the Wild Card team. This is for 2 reasons 1) The Washington Nationals have over achieved and have the best record in baseball and 2) The Braves have been hit with big injuries to key pitchers and yet have managed to secure a spot in the post season.

The Braves have managed to do what the Nationals have botched up from the beginning and that is to have a young stud pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery and managing his arm correctly and not harming their team in the process. Washington has the well known big gun Stephen Strasburg, the Braves have much less known Kris Medlen. The Nats made Strasburg the opening day starter and rode him as the ace until late August when they realized that he was getting close to the max innings they were prepared for him to work so as to not harm him long team. A fine Idea if you are the Houston Astros and have no hope of making the playoffs and shutting him down has no baring on anything, but the Nats were supposed to be good and should have know that using Stephen Strasburg as much as they did they would have to shut him down early or risk breaking there plan and putting the golden arm in a potentially dangerous position. The Braves seemed to take the opposite approach with Kris Medlen. The started him out in the bullpen, managed his outings, pitch counts and innings. In mid season they called on him to join the rotation as the rotation had been pounded with injuries and inconsistent starts.

Since then Medlen has been nothing short of spectacular. Currently (9-1) lost the first two starts of his career in 2009. He hasn't taken a loss in any of his 26 starts since, with the Braves prevailing in the last 21 of those...almost unheard of (The Yankees won 22 consecutive times when Whitey Ford started games from 1950 through 1953). Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams said recently on the Dan Patrick Show that he was the best pitcher in baseball right now. Not bad for a guy who started the year as a reliever.

Had Medlen been in the rotation he would likely be in the running for the Cy Young in the NL but then he also would be over his innings limit like Strasberg the Braves still have Medlen's services.  After losing Brandon Beachy's services after he went under the knife with Tommy John Surgery the braves were in need of a new ace. Ben Sheets went on the DL, Tim Hudson was on and off injured, Tommy Hanson had his struggles and Jair Jurrjens was inconsistent and then on the DL.  The braves managed to work through these injuries and still be in a position for the wild card.  No small feat for sure. Going forward they also have 2 guys to help fill out the depth of the rotation in respect to high end prospects; Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran. Both have a high upside and can hopefully come in and compete for a spot, work out of the pen as they mature or be used to help fill out the roster with the holes via trade that will open up this off season.

Just where would the Braves be have they have a full staff.  If Medlen and Beachy were healthy at the same time and Mike minor continued to pitch the way he has been and mix in Ben Sheets and Tommy Hanson WOW, that is one awesome staff and likely top team in the east.  Unfortunately injuries and baseball are and inevitability and that is why pitching depth is so  key.  Braves fans can only hope this is the second coming of a dominant pitching staff like they have in the mid 1990s.  It is too early to put these guys in the same class as future Hall of Famer's but the potential is there.

Hopefully the one game playoff between the two wild card teams does not come back to bite the Braves.  It can be interesting to see what this group can do. A strong playoff runin Chipper Jones last season would be a fitting end to a magnificent career.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Is there going to be an "I was spectacularly wrong" post too? Because the only thing botched up is Medlen's arm.