Braves 2, Astros 1 (Wednesday behind Javier Vazquez)
Astros 2, Braves 1 (Thursday behind Tommy Hanson)
Braves 9, Astros 7 (Friday behind Derek Lowe)
Most Valuable Hitter: Nate McLouth, .187 WPA. Keep in mind that WPA total is an aggregate of the entire series, which means our best bat was actually pretty anemic on the series. Brian McCann had one big day, but canceled it out with two bad days to lose out to McLouth. McLouth had four hits in the series, and two of them left the park (a solo shot to provide a critical insurance run in Game 1 and a leadoff jack in Game 3.) He also walked three times. Quality series, Nate.
Most Valuable Pitcher: Tommy Hanson, .579 WPA. Just a stellar effort in Game 2. Absolutely dominated the Astros for eight innings, punching out seven while allowing just five baserunners, none of whom got past second base. It's a crime that Bobby Cox didn't let him finish the game after he threw just 98 pitches through eight...when even the opposing manager says he was glad to see Hanson come out, you know he shoulda stayed in there.
Least Valuable Hitter: Chipper Jones, -.097 WPA. The man is ice cold, no way around it. A hit and two walks in 13 trips isn't what you call Chipper Jones-type production. To further prove that he's one of the classiest guys in professional sports, he tells David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that if he has another mediocre year in 2010, he'll seriously consider hanging up his spikes. I admire that so much: he knows when it's time to go out on a high note, and he refuses to sit around and hamstring the payroll of a team that can ill afford to overpay a non-producing player. That's the attitude that makes him the ultimate face of the Braves' franchise in my mind.
Least Valuable Pitcher: Rafael Soriano, -.696 WPA. Again, no way to sugarcoat it: Soriano pretty much single-handedly spoiled Tommy Hanson's bid for his tenth win. It's becoming fairly plain to see that after Bobby has ridden him into the ground, the man is plum wore out. I think it would be wise to let another team take their chances on Sori this winter: his injury risk has got to be off the charts given his history and his horrific usage pattern this year.
Most Important Play: Miguel Tejada's walk-off two-RBI in the bottom of the ninth in Game 2. It's a series sweep for the Braves if not for Tejada's back-to-the-wall heroics.
Unit of the Series: Starting pitching, .987 WPA. Derek Lowe laid a bit of an egg in Game 3, allowing five runs in 5 2/3 innings, but the offense bailed him out, and his bad showing is easily overshadowed by heroic efforts from Vazquez and Hanson.
EDIT: Just wanted to tack on here a just-in news item from Jon Heyman's Twitter, where he lists the Braves at the head of a list of five teams that might pursue Billy Wagner this winter. This would be a very interesting move for the Braves, for several reasons. First, there's the obvious benefit to signing Wagner (a Type B free agent, for whom we would forfeit no draft picks) as opposed to keeping Soriano or Gonzalez (who would bring two picks as Type A FA's). Also, after the abuse that Mr. Cox has brought down on the heads of Sori and Gonzo, I might definitely look to make them someone else's problem. Beyond that, with Soriano and Gonzalez in the primes of their careers, they'll likely seek multi-year deals, and I'd be surprised to say the least if the Braves gave a three-year deal or more to a closer. Wagner, on the other hand, is likely a candidate for a one-year or one-plus-option, which sounds like more Frank Wren's style. The Braves were reportedly right in the mix when Wagner opted instead to sign with the Mutts. He could be a bargain guy to bring in to close some games.