First, apologies again for the lack of posts. I've even had email from a Phillies fan asking whether we've packed up for good, just like the 2007 Atlanta Braves!
In case you were wondering I'm currently living it large in the African continent with irregular internet and email access, especially during the week. Will and Kristi are both on holiday -- though not together as far as I am aware. They should be back soon and normal Chop-n-Change service will be resumed.
So, since the D-backs took two of three last week the Braves have been in a bit of a mini-slump. We lost three on the bounce to the struggling Reds, more due to poor pitching than ineffective hitting. Then last night we beat the resurgent Cardinals 7-2 as Smoltz took the mound. However, the Mets have been on a bit of tear over the same period so now we find ourselves 6 games back, although only a couple of games behind in the wild card, which now seems our best shot of the post season.
Anyway, back to that Phillies fan ... this is what must happen for the Braves to secure a postseason slot
- Center-Field: Andruw Jones has to start hitting like a .300/.400/.600 hitter over the next six weeks. He has been slightly better of late but still has a .219/.330/.430 line, which is indefensible. It will be interesting to see what sort of free agent contract he'll garner this offseason. Before a ball was batted the smart money was on a Soriano type deal. However, as things stand he'll be doing well to clear his current package.
- Top of the rotation: Hudson and Smoltz need to continue to pitch like the aces they are. Huddy is the NL's first 15 game winner and has a 3.07 ERA, which is inside the top 10 in the NL. He looked a little ropey in his last start giving up 3 runs in 7 or so innings. If he can finish the season with an ERA under 3 I'd be very happy. We may be getting ahead of ourselves but the Braves should probably consider trading Hudson at the end of the season -- his value will never be higher. Smoltz continues to amaze. He is fifth in NL ERA with a 3.01 mark and will once more throw over 200 innings. The man is a machine.
- Back of the rotation: We need effective #4 and #5 starters to emerge because at the moment unless Hudson or Smoltz is on the mound the Braves lose -- hey, we even could do with a better #3. Let's face it, #4 will certainly remain Buddy Carlyle even though he is liable to lose every other game (albeit his record is currently a respectable 7-5). The question is who is the fifth starter. Cormier?No. Four man rotation anyone? Actually a two-man rotation might do it.
- The big hitters: Teixiera and Chipper need to keep smacking the ball as they are currently. Tex's line as a Brave is an astonishing .294/.396/.706 while Chipper is batting .335/.419/.594 with 21 long balls. That batting average gives Chipper a good shot at the batting title this year.
- The pen: Soriano needs to step up and be an effective closer. Wickman has finally been given the old heave-ho and Sori is likely to step into his shoes for the remainder of the season. Oh, and that reminds me we need Dotel back too. He has only pitcher 4.3 innings and if that trade is to work for the Braves he needs to contribute.
Another match-up against St. Louis tonight. With Hudson on the mound expect a Braves win, followed by three losses.
Sigh. Go Braves.