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52-game-thread-bring-on-the-reds-and-hopefully-hudsons-velocity | May | 2008 Articles

2008 Archives

5/2 Game Thread: Bring On the Reds (and Hopefully Hudson's Velocity)

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After a horrible 1-4 road trip that saw John Smoltz go on the DL and relinquish his spot in the rotation for the foreseeable future (which I emphatically denied could ever happen), I couldn't be happier for the Braves to be back at home. They should be feeling a bit better-rested, after an off day on Monday and an off day yesterday, and they'll soon be able to enjoy an off day next Monday too. Bobby Cox may have many failings, but he is generally good at getting a team to be able to shake off a loss -- he doesn't put fire in the belly, but he usually can keep his guys on an even keel. But even keels won't matter if we don't have 5 guys to trot out in a starting rotation. So let's look at the state of the staff. This isn't an official depth chart, but I think it's a good way of visualizing who we have. 1) Tim Hudson, a solid #2 starter last year who has had location and velocity issues in each of his last three starts, becomes the #1 starter. With Smoltz's injury, the pressure's on him to stay healthy enough to pitch, but if he continues to have trouble locating the ball and getting his usual velocity, that could be a symptom of a problem we can't afford him to have. Time will tell if we need to keep worrying or if he will be able to be the pitcher he was in 2007. 2) Jair Jurrjens, a guy I stupidly didn't think was ready for prime time, entered the season as our #5 guy, but, after a brilliant April in which he was both our most reliable starter and our healthiest, he's easily our #2 starter. He's been simply terrific, a guy I'll look forward to cheering for years to come, and although he's bound to come to earth a bit, his underlying components suggest that his success so far has not been a complete fluke, with a 6.57 K/9, 2.15 K/BB, and an FIP a half-run lower than his ERA. 3) Tom Glavine, who went on the DL for the first time in his career but came back and gave us a nice 6-inning, 2-run performance, will be an ideal #3 if he can keep defying time, K/BB ratio and other pitching components, and his aging body. His ERA is 2.60 right now, and we all know that won't last. But if he can keep it at 4.00 or under, and give us 170 innings in around 28 starts, he will have been well worth the money. All we can do is keep our fingers crossed. 4) Jeff Bennett, emergency starter extraordinaire, is basically the #4 at this point. He's done everything we could possibly ask of him so far, making three starts (including one when Mike Hampton got injured during warmup tosses) and pitching a fourth de facto start in the game when Glavine came out after 16 pitches. He has a 4.00 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, and no unearned runs allowed. His FIP and BB/9 aren't great, but his starts have come on little to no rest -- his first start came one day after a bullpen appearance; he pitched 4 innings in the Glavine game a day after a bullpen appearance; and his second start came 2 days after a bullpen appearance. In short, he's been abused. If he can get regular rest, he could continue to be an effective back-of-the-rotation starter. 5) Right now, this is probably between Richmond teammates Jo-Jo Reyes and Chuck James. Reyes is pitching better -- 5 starts, 1.17 ERA, 25 K and only 8 BB -- but neither is averaging more than 5 innings a start. Reyes has pitched 23 innings in 5 starts, and Chuck has pitched 10 innings in 2 starts. Even for a 5th starter, that's not great, especially considering that John Smoltz's major rationale for leaving the rotation was that he felt he wouldn't be a useful starter if he could only go 5 innings. Still, assuming they could manage a sub-6.00 ERA, either of them would be better than our #5s from last year, Mark Redman, Kyle Davies, Lance Cormier, Buddy Carlyle, and a younger Jo-Jo Reyes. What else is there? Well, there is Buddy Carlyle lurking in the bullpen, and Charlie Morton's still trying to harness his control: 5 starts, 26 2/3 innings -- averaging slightly more than 5 innings a start, which is nice -- with 23 K and 11 BB. But the team felt that he would need several months in Richmond to be ready for prime time, and considering his occasional control meltdowns, like giving up 5 walks in 4 2/3 innings in his last start, this is clearly a sound idea. Also, as Tim Dierkes spotted on MLB Trade Rumors, it looks like the Braves are heavily scouting the Cardinals, the implication being that we're interested in Anthony Reyes. (According to Jayson Stark, the Cards want "an upper-echelon prospect back, plus 'another piece.'") If anyone ever needed a change of scenery, it's him. John Sickels had him as the Cardinals' #1 prospect in 2005 and 2006, after he tore up the minor leagues (389 K and 76 BB in 356 1/3 IP, only 26 HR, with a 3.23 ERA) . But he's been injured a lot, and not great when healthy: his major league BB/9 and HR/9 are nearly double their minor league marks, and his strikeouts have fallen. Still, his major league K/9 is almost 7, and his K/BB is nearly 2, which ain't bad for the back of the rotation; this guy was supposed to be an ace, after all. Most importantly, after a year in which he lost his first 10 decisions and went 13 starts before he got his first win, then got demoted to the bullpen, he could badly use a shot of confidence and a sign that a team wants him. He's only 26, so he has time. Considering the state of our bullpen, if we could acquire him for cheap, for a few of our underachieving prospects -- Eric Campbell, say, or the probably untradeable Kala Ka'aihue, or the currently blocked Barbaro Canizares -- he might be well worth having. Tonight we'll face Edinson Volquez, who until this year was an underachiever but now is just a force of nature. Hopefully he'll bring out our best, and Adam Dunn will strike out a lot. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

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