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when-do-we-panic | September | 2011 Articles

When Do We Panic?

Written by Joe Lucia on .

The Braves lost 6-3 today. They lost 4-3 on both Friday and Saturday. That once formidable wild card lead is down to 4.5 games over the Cardinals. Getting swept this weekend was pretty much a worst case scenario, and it happened. So, the question remains. The team has lost six out of its last eight games, and eight out of eleven. When do we start getting worried that we won't be a playoff team?

The answer is simple: you should be worried right now. The Braves still have a 95.9% chance of making the playoffs, so the stats are definitely in Atlanta's favor. But momentum? That left the Braves a long time ago. The team is still 21 games above .500, but let's look at their September stats real quick. In September, the Braves have a .698 OPS, good for 12th in the NL. The pitching staff is also 12th in the league with a 4.18 ERA. The pitching is the odd thing to me. The team has had seven starts by rookies in September, and those rookies (Minor, Beachy, Delgado, Teheran) have a 3.31 ERA in those seven starts. That's pretty damn good if you ask me, and the 33:15 strikeout to walk ratio isn't bad either. As for the two veterans currently on staff, Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson...well, they've got a 5.48 ERA in four starts, and a 20:12 strikeout to walk ratio. It's bizarre, that the rookies in the rotation are pitching better than the veterans.

As for the bullpen, the big three is showing signs of exhaustion. Only Eric O'Flaherty remains unscored upon, throwing 5 2/3 scoreless this month with four strikeouts and no walks. Craig Kimbrel allowed a pair of runs in a blown save on Friday, a loss that really stings the team. Jonny Venters looks gassed, just like he did last September, and has allowed three runs in five innings while walking five hitters. Even Arodys Vizcaino had a pair of bad outings this month, but has held the opposition scoreless in his last two appearances. The return of Peter Moylan hasn't gone well, as the veteran has allowed five baserunners in 2 1/3 innings since coming off the DL, while only striking out one hitter.

Going back to the offense for a second, it hasn't been pretty. The oldest member of the team, Chipper Jones, has also ben the most productive. Jones has a 1.001 OPS in 33 September at bats with a pair of homers. Only Dan Uggla with three has more than one home run during the month. Uggla, Freddie Freeman, and Michael Bourn have all been solid during the month, with OPSes over .800. But the rest of the squad has struggled. Jason Heyward has been the best right fielder, with a .707 OPS. Jose Constanza has lost the spark that made him attractive, with just a .471 OPS this month. New acquisition Matt Diaz has four singles in 12 plate appearances without a walk, and has as hollow of a line as you can get. Martin Prado's nightmare season in left field continues, as his OPS in September is a pathetic .484, and he's been dropped in the lineup (though not far enough) as a result. And what about Brian McCann? The slugger who carried the Braves during the beginning of the season when Dan Uggla struggled has a .627 September OPS with 12 strikeouts in 34 at bats. The best thing about McCann's month is his team-leading eight walks.

Should Braves fans really be worried? Honestly, we should. We can point to the fact that the team has 15 games left, six against the Marlins, and three each against the Phillies, Mets, and Nationals. Be thankful that the Braves are 9-3 against Florida, because the team is a combined 22-23 against the other three teams. If the Braves can take four or five outta six from the Marlins, we can all breathe a lot easier. But if those six games are split, or god forbid, the team loses the majority of the final six games, we could all be doing a lot of scoreboard watching down the stretch. 
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