Hey Braves Journal friends. We have been hard at work loading up some good writers for the offseason and beyond. It’s our focus to stay true to the Braves Journal model by focusing more on building quality writing while maintaining the feel of what Mac established, which is a bar-like atmosphere where people can gather together, hang out, and maybe chat about some baseball.
It’s with great pride that I introduce one of the new writers, Gunner Brown. Gunner has been observing Braves Journal this past month to see if it’s a fit for his writing style. Not only has he found the atmosphere warm, but he’s also felt that he’d be a perfect fit into the Braves Journal family.
Without further ado, here’s Gunner.
Believe it or not, the Braves management is doing everything right heading into October. We all would’ve loved to see Acuña get his 40/40 season or for Freddie Freeman to be in the middle of the order every day raking, but having them as close to 100% as possible for postseason play is the imperative. Those two are both so über talented that I think there will not be much of a hangover from missing a few games over the course of two weeks. Traditionally a 10 day IL stint isn’t enough to need rehab games anyway, so I can’t imagine it will be too difficult for either of them to come back and be productive.
The really nice thing for the team is that they are able to get the guys who are healthy (or about to be healthy, a la the enigma that is Ender Inciarte) at-bats to get going. This is the advantage of clinching with two weeks to go; the score really doesn’t matter to anyone in the dugout. The stats in the box score are what we should all be keeping an eye on. The dismantling of the Royals last night was a prime example of what the team is looking for.
Ozzie Albies, with his 2 walks and 2 RBI’s has officially entered one of his stretches where he just dominates pitchers and turns them into fools for throwing him anything close to the plate. For someone who probably doesn’t inspire fear into hurlers based on his size alone, his bat is doing the talking. Ozzie’s last 16 AB’s: 8 hits, 4 runs, 2 BB’s and only 1 K. If the Bravos get that guy for the second season, their lineup is going to be nasty.
Speaking of nasty, we all know what Josh Donaldson is. Anyone with his swag and mullet-thing on their noggin is bringing something a little dirty to the table. But lately his numbers have been the only thing that have been dirty. Before last night, Josh had only had one hit in the last week, and was hitting just .232 in September. But last night’s 3 double outburst shows that Josh might be turning the corner. It shouldn’t be entirely surprising. JD hadn’t been striking out a bunch, but just wasn’t getting the ball to fall. Here is a stat I bet most of us didn’t know: Of players this season who have more than 100 batted balls in play, JD is now 6th (!) in average exit velocity. Obviously he has hit the ball hard all season, but it is nice to see him hit gaps and not gloves like he did against the Royals.
Perhaps the biggest lightning rod and potential decision for the postseason will be Dansby Swanson. For someone who looked great during his stretch in the two hole earlier, it is still a legitimate question over whether he starts at SS over Hechavarria. The end of the sentence would’ve seemed insane a few months ago, but here we are. Before last night I would have assumed that the team was leaning toward starting Hech, maybe something like 4-1 odds. The signs of concern were there. When Snit batted Dansby in the leadoff hole, I took that to mean that the team was saying we are going to give you every opportunity to figure it out, but right now you aren’t going to help us much. The numbers back that up. Dansby’s last 30 days: .188 average, .316 OBP, .238 SLG (ouch). That is…not going to cut it on a playoff team.
More so than anyone else on the team, these last 3 games will be important to Dansby. He is off to a good start, and more than even the box score from last night, it was the way he hit the ball last night that gave you some hope. Three line drives up the middle, two for base hits and one for a lineout to CF. Also went the other way for a single. I am not ready to say he secured a job of Adeiny, but I think he has a chance now. If Dansby continues to hit over the final weekend in New York, I think the team will give him the benefit of the doubt and start him in the playoffs. But I do think that they will give Hech some at bats just in case Dansby doesn’t look good again. I would imagine we will see at least one game this weekend where Ozzie sits and Adeiny plays 2B.
Not to be outdone, the bullpen showed that “getting right” isn’t just for batters. I think at this point the trade trio (law firm?) of Melancon, Martin, and Greene are all postseason ready. In the last week, those three have combined for 7.2 innings, 0 runs, 0 walks, 10 K’s, and 6 hits. If ever there was an end of game scenario to feel good about, it would be those three right now.
The Luke Jackson/Darren O’Day debate for a postseason roster spot that has been going around the internet the last few days is an interesting and meaningful one. I personally would feel better using either one of them than Julio Teheran in a playoff moment, but I am not sure if the team brass will be able to get away from having a right hander that can go for more than an inning or two. Last night, Darren came in and needed 12 pitches to strike out the only two hitters he faced. Luke Jackson, not to be outdone, followed him by using 18 pitches to strike out all four batters he faced. That is peak bullpen effectiveness. If it truly is down to just one of those two, how they pitch this weekend will probably be the tiebreaker.
As the boys beat up on the Mets over the weekend, the score is really not all that imperative. They are lining everything up and are using this last weekend to assess everything they need to look at. For a sport that is based on finding the largest sample size possible, we have entered the stretch of time where small samples matter more than they probably should. Keep an eye on Dansby Swanson and some of the bullpen arms. Hope for Ender Inciarte to get a few at-bats and look decent, Austin Riley and Adam Duvall to hit some bombs, and for everyone to stay healthy. Freddie Freeman should be back and feeling good, making all of us breathe a little. Maybe we see some signs of positive regression for our catching unit, and all of our starters look crisp and confident.
If you can’t help yourself and want desperately to care about a final score, your eyes should be turned to the Cardinals-Cubs and Brewers-Rockies tilts. Either one of the beer cities of St. Louis or Milwaukee will be coming to Suntrust Park to play a playoff game one week from today. Their scores matter, and you can get some advance scouting in.