Braves Bullpen Dilemma

I – like others- often shake my head at skipper Fredi Gonzales decision making. I don’t understand squeezing with your slowest runner on third and worst bunter at the plate or attempting a hit and run with Freddie Freeman on first and the strikeout king batting. I am however going to put into perspective the decision to bring in Scott Proctor last night against the Phillies.Our bullpen is divided into those that can – Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel – those that mostly will – Cory Gearrin and of late George Sherrill – and those that probably won’t – Scott Linebrink and Scott Proctor.  When he’s used the first three everything else is a roll of the dice. That isn’t all the Skipper’s fault.
Last night he used two of the three musketeers holding Kimbrel back for the coup de gras after we scored. That’s the right thing to do on the road. Choosing Proctor over Gearrin was right as well. Using a rookie side arming right hander against Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez in the launching pad this is Citizens Bank Park means you’re one flat slider away from game over. Lefties get a long look at a guy like Gearrin and Howard in particular doesn’t miss many in that situation. IF it had been Peter Moylan his experience evens the score but with Gearrin the advantage is certainly with the lefty power guys.
George Sherrill should probably have been left in to hit for himself particularly with Howard and Ibanez due and Wilkin Ramirez -who can strike out from the on deck circle – your pinch hitting option. Having said that, if Ramirez runs into one putting us ahead this discussion isn’t happening. The whole thing comes down to a lack of depth on the bench and in the pen. The structure of those pieces is the responsibility of Frank Wren.
While it’s true the manager has input in to those choices, the GM has makes the provides the options he gets to choose from. If that choice is one worn out arm or another equally worn out retread,  it’s no choice at all. In the end it’s the GM’s job to provide the tools to win and the manager’s job to use them wisely. Wren’s reliance on bargain basement fixes for the bench and the pen over his tenure is well known. While the Skipper takes responsibility for in game decisions he can only use what he has available. The experience of Bobby Cox took last year’s hodge-podge of players to the post season. Fredi Gonzalez has this squad is currently in second place at the halfway point and while I would argue that it’s more down to the players than his wise use of them, they are there with him at the helm. Until the GM does something to strengthen the bench and the pen with something other that used up arms and AAA hitters the Skipper’s options won’t get any better.
The two weeks following the All Star break are big ones for the Braves. I expect Chipper to have his surgery because he now admits the status quo isn’t working. Prado will return and hopefully be his superb self at third. As the season gets down to the wire Derek Lowe will feel the spotlight and rise to the big occasion’s he enjoys. Peter Moylan will be back – I hope with some semblance of his dominance – and the rest of the starters will hopefully remain uninjured and at the top of their game. If however we don’t get better in the pen and at the plate in at least two of the the three under performing positions in center, left and at short through trades for high quality players, our trip to and into the post season will continue to rest on rolling the dice and hoping they don’t come up snake eyes.

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Tags: Cory Gearrin Craig Kimbrel Eric O'flaherty Frank Wren Fredi Gonzales George Sherrill Jonny Venters Scott Linebrink Scott Proctor

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