Hello again everyone from cloudy Michigan, where the weather is changing every five minutes or so. At least it hit 60 degrees today. Oh joy!
But, moving on to more joyful things, the Braves travel to Philadelphia for a three game set starting tonight. To prepare for the series, Justin Klugh, the lead writer for our sister site That Balls Outta Here, and I have exchanged a list of six questions for each other about events with each team. As you’ll see, Justin is quite the “snark-master”. I, of course, was exceedingly polite in my exchanges about his POS team :). Enjoy!
1. What’s the deal with the timing on Chase Utley’s return? We’ve heard everything from one week to one year!I saw Chase running on TV the other day and I was prepared to use that image to fuel my…well, let’s be honest, my life…for the next few weeks. But the stories are swirling now that Chase is already on his way to Florida for some preliminary work before the rehab starts begin–and then they showed more even video of him running.
I’m no doctor, but “running,” if I recall from my junior high gym coach’s screams, heavily involves the knees. People are saying before the end of May.
2. What’s the long-term plan on the closer? Surely you can’t expect the current system to work this well all season; if you do, there will be a lot of teams, including yours, rethinking their spending on the bullpen!Ha ha, you Braves and your “plans.”
The plan for the closers’ role will be what its always been in recent years: Ryan Madson filling in for an injured Brad Lidge. Madson is the future of that position anyway, and he’s lights out, and he’s great. I like that there’s a portion of this team that’s giving a small youth movement the chance to succeed–Antonio Bastardo has been money, Vance Worley filled in more than adequately, and Michael Stutes throws 1-2-3 innings like he doesn’t even realize he’s left the minors.
3. You guys have a few hitting issues of your own to address. There is a lot of speculation that Raul Ibanez no longer has the bat speed he once did. What do you think his prognosis is, and what’s the fallback plan?Raul Ibanez during the last series: 8-for-12, 3 2B, 2 HR (one went 430+ feet), 5 RBI
Fallback plan: Dom Brown’s moving through farm system rehab starts like a shark. Dude’s hungry. Dude’s real hungry. But his development can’t be abbreviated, so thankfully, Raul bought us some time. John Mayberry has been a great fourth outfielder for us as well. That’s what people keep saying, anyway. What lets a guy transcend to playing a position that is actually permitted on the field is beyond me.
4. How do you think the overall bullpen stacks up to others in the division, especially given the injury situation?Saw a stat today–our bullpen ERA is 4th in baseball? Or something? I should really double-check this stuff.
As long as Charlie Manuel is equipped with a crossbow to keep Kyle Kendrick and Danys Baez away from the ball, my worries have subsided a bit, especially since David Herndon was shipped out to Lehigh Valley or a Siberian back alley or wherever they thought he deserved to go. Our depth isn’t tremendous out there, but I think combined with our rotation we can keep up with you guys and the Marlins. Now, if a situation arises where the starters’ arms are tired and we need to rest on these twentysomethings who sit in the outfield for most of the game, I’ll probably make this noise a lot: “Hhheehhheffffmmm?”
5. What are your options for starting pitching in the event of injury (or should I say further injury)?Vance Worley.
I don’t know how serious the Phillies would consider putting Kyle Kendrick back out there. I would hate every second of it. So would everyone else. So would Kyle.
Outside of that, options are based on how quickly we can soak the stadium in gasoline.
6. With the injuries you have encountered it seems amazing to me that the Phillies have been able to put up the record you have. There has to be more to it than just a stellar rotation. Only a small amount appears to be luck, as the team is only one win better than the Pythagorean (expected) calculation (the Braves are 4 games below Pythagorean, a big portion of which I attribute to our manager, but you didn’t ask that question!). Anyway, to what do you attribute the success, other than the rotation?Yes, I would describe the Phillies as “amazing” as well.
We’ve had a knack for doing just enough to win. The run-splosion of the beginning of the year faded, and has returned only in periodic one-game increments. Or when we play the Nationals. We have the capability to be heavily offensive, but not for as prolonged periods of time as in, say, 2007 or 2008.
I would like to give most of the credit here to Placido Polanco, the only Phillie who would deserve a starting All-Star spot. Ryan Howard may have a shit ton of RBI, but Polly… as we’ve been echoing in the blogosphere for over a month, “…all he does it hit.” And he does it without getting K’d five times in one game, RYAN.
1. Can you even begin to guess what has happened inside Roger McDowell’s brain?
There has been serious discussion over the years whether or not McDowell even has a brain. The consensus seems to be that he has a brain, but that there are a number of wires and screws loose. There must have been a short-circuit. Seriously, though, there is no excuse for his behavior. He shamed the organization.
2. A sports radio host in Macon, GA recently wrote of the Braves’ recent off-the-field tomfoolery, “Other teams might have trouble once in a while, but the Braves just don’t.” This struck me as a tad naive, as any organization can have tensions or issues under the surface that manage not to bleed onto the surface. I wouldn’t pleased to find out that during the offseason Shane Victorino gets his adrenalin kicks by hijacking 16-wheelers at 190 mph, a la Fast and the Furious, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised. My point is, do the Braves really see themselves as “above” human weakness? If so, why was McDowell merely suspended for two weeks and not fired?
First, you must consider the source. Bill Shanks truly does seem himself as something of the “tribal knowledge” or conscience of the organization. His book “Scouts Honor” is a must-read if you really want to understand him (a lot of effort for marginal benefit ).
No team is above this kind of thing; even Bobby Cox and Chipper Jones have had their moments. The Braves do pride themselves on “class”, though I’m not too sure if this isn’t really a case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder, especially when you factor in things like how the Braves have dealt with their aging superstars under Frank Wren’s stewardship. Having said all that, there’s not a lot of precedent for punishment under this circumstance. Look for McDowell to have a short leash, though.
3. How tickled pink would Georgians be if Tom Glavine bought the Thrashers? Or are they not even aware they have a hockey team? Let me rephrase. Or are they not even aware of hockey?
The Atlanta area has had a love/hate relationship with hockey dating back to the 1970’s. The love seems to last about as long as the newness lasts. My guess is that hockey fans win would love to see Glavine in charge, hoping for another Ted Turner. The other 99% of Georgians won’t care.
4. So, Chipper. He just surpassed Mickey Mantle for most RBI by a switch-hitter. My question is, when’s he going away?
Chipper is here to stay, in my opinion. And why not? His numbers are strong, especially compared to other third basemen. And he’s even hit into bad luck thus far. He’s under contract through next year. He’s having fun and being productive. I hope he signs an extension!
5. What do the Braves plan to do to address their abysmal running game? Or was acuqiring Jeff Fiorentino from the Orioles their plan? If so, it was terrible.
Well, the short answer is they won’t try to run so much :-(. Seriously, they can’t even steal at a 50% success rate as is! Since there’s no way to teach speed, they’ll concentrate on OBP and homers to generate offense. And this team has a lot more power than last year. The only other option would be to move McLouth back to the number two hole as they aren’t going to steal much in front of the pitcher and he’s the only real stolen base option on the roster, Fredi won’t have the guts to try that given how much better McLouth’s hit in the eight spot (which I think is coincidental, not causal).
6. I’ve read rumors that the Braves 4-0 start to May is evident of a legendary “turnaround.” Yeah, but what if it’s not?
What if the sun doesn’t rise tomorrow? You can’t plan for everything. I truly think this is a turnaround. It has been a monumental accomplishment to play .500 ball with a team batting average of .225 and an OBP under .300, especially with no speed. If the Braves duplicate last year’s numbers on BA and OBP and keep up this year’s HR pace, they will win a lot of games. And if they don’t, the club has more starting pitching depth than any franchise in baseball. Julio Tehran, now in AAA, is underrated as the third best prospect in the game. They have two other quality starters in AAA, Kawakami in AA, and a bunch of other talented arms throughout the system. If the Yankees continue to need pitching, they’ll eventually meet the Braves trade requirements, whatever they might be.