Let’s ignore the recent absences from the lineup of Brian McCann, Chipper Jones, and Freddie Freeman, the Braves pitching is the heart of the problem of the Braves’ most recent eight-game losing streak. The problem has now spread past Mike Minor into pretty much every guy in the rotation and even in the bullpen. Minor, the worst offender, has allowed at least 4 runs in every start since April 24th (his last quality start) and has gone no more than 6.1 IP. Tim Hudson, the ace of the rotation, is coming off of his worst start of the year against Washington after stringing three really good starts together. Even the two best pitchers all season, Tommy Hanson and Brandon Beachy, have gotten hurt by whatever ails this starting rotation. Beachy only went 5 innings against Washington where he allowed 3 runs (though only 1 was earned) in his worst start since his first start of the year against Houston. Hanson, on the other hand, got smacked around by St. Louis on Monday giving up 6 ER in just 3.1 innings. Even the sure-armed “Everyday” Jonny Venters from last season has struggled a little, allowing 5 runs in his last 5.2 innings pitched.
What has been the problem for the Braves pitchers? The long-ball. In the Braves’ recent struggles, the starters have allowed 18 home runs, including 12 allowed by Mike Minor alone. When one pitcher struggles, you send him down and let him recoup (see Jair Jurrjens). The question for the Braves now is: Who to blame? Obviously when all of your best pitchers are struggling, you have to look at the pitching coach. Personally, I haven’t been a fan of Roger McDowell since Atlanta hired him. I think now is the time to look in another direction at pitching coach, and I think that the Braves have had two great candidates in Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. Oh yeah, and I hear that Leo Mazzone fellow isn’t up to much these days either. Regardless, the Braves are going to have to do something to fix their pitching dilemma, and they can’t send all of their guys down, so someone is going to have to step up.
When it was first announced that Roy Oswalt was auditioning for some teams a few weeks ago, the Braves were listed as one of the teams interested. Since then, there has been no activity whatsoever on the Oswalt front however, which is a little surprising considering Oswalt’s willingness to play in Atlanta and the Braves need for starters. It appears that the Dodgers are the only team to make an offer on him (as of Monday) and the Rangers are the front-runner to sign him if the dollar figures make sense. The one thing we do know is that Oswalt will not be coming to Atlanta, or at least it really doesn’t look like it.
Before I begin: no, there have been absolutely no talks between the Braves and Red Sox about Youk, and no the Braves have not expressed any interest in the veteran corner infielder. This is merely speculation. Now, the Braves seemed set at first and third with a long list of guys including Freddie Freeman, Chipper Jones, Eric Hinske, and Juan Francisco. However, with the injuries to Freeman and Chipper, they may no longer be satisfied at this position. The part that makes Youkilis particularly interesting is his price tag. It appears as if the Sox will make Youkilis very available in the last year of his contract with the rise of Will Middlebrooks at third base. The Sox challenge now is coming up with a defensively and offensively valid lineup, which is hard when you either have to play Youkilis at third or Adrian Gonzalez in right. The Braves also have what the Red Sox need: pitching. Do I think this trade will happen? No, not even a little, but I think it’s an interesting idea IF the Braves can first solve their pitching dilemma.
Minor League Update
Jair Jurrjens – AAA Gwinett:
There are two ways you can look at Jurrjens’ progression in the minors thus far: 1) In two of Jurrjens’ last four starts, he has gone a combined 15 innings while allowing just 2 runs, or 2) In two of Jurrens’ last four starts, he has gone just 9 innings while allowing 16 runs. Jurrjens has shown spots of brilliance, but overall, the thought in the organization is that he still has some work to do before he rejoins the major league club. The most troubling stat for Jurrjens right now is that he has just 21 Ks in almost 40 IP. If he’s not striking out minor leaguers, then he’s not going to do it against major leaguers.
Julio Teheran – AAA Gwinett:
Based on stats alone, Braves fans should be crying to see Teheran in the rotation over Minor with a 4-2 record with a 2.98 ERA and 37 Ks in 45 IP. However, Teheran has been inconsistent so far this season and has only thrown three quality starts in 9 outings. Furthermore, Teheran has not shown longevity, averaging barely over 5 innings per start while going fewer than 5 innings five times. Teheran is by no means a bust, but he still needs some work before he’s ready to face Major League hitters every five days
Evan Gattis and Christian Bethancourt – AA Mississippi:
These two catching prospects are making some Braves’ fans wonder if the Braves will hold onto McCann after his contract expires next season. Gattis started off the season lighting up A-ball pitching with a .385 average and 9 homers in 21 games, which earned him a spot on the AA roster. Though Gattis is not putting up quite those numbers, he is hitting a respectable .274 with 4 home runs in 16 games in Mississippi thus far. At 25 years of age, many are wondering how much longer until Gattis is able to cross into the Majors. The real prospect to watch, however, is Bethancourt, who is presumably the starter in waiting if the Braves choose to part with McCann. Bethancourt, who is not really known for his bat, is hitting .298, though all but two of his hits are singles and he has no home runs. His defense is something to marvel at, however, and it is only a matter of time before this kid is on the major league roster.
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