The Phillies series with the Braves could be a course altering moment for the franchise. If they continue their hot streak, Ruben may decide to hold onto his chips and make a run. If they stumble, fan favorites could be shipped out in order to re-tool for next season. The Braves on the other hand are in full buyer mode. They have courted Ryan Dempster, who is taking his sweet time to decide if he wants to be traded. As a 10-5 player, he has the right to veto any trade that he wants. That’s great for Dempster, but it leaves the Braves without the starting pitcher they desperately need. Without Brandon Beachy (tommy john) the Braves staff is pencil thin, so look for the team to find some outside help. And despite a thrilling comeback victory against the Nats a week ago, they still trail the division leader by 5 games. One thing is for certain, Brian McCann is red hot and will continue to torment Phillies pitching in this series. McCann v. Phillies: .346/.391/1.045 with 5Hr, OUCH!
"McCann can't stop pummeling Phillies pitchers" Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
When We Last Met: The Braves brought their brooms to Philly earlier this month. The Phils were shut out in the opener, and looked like they were left for dead by the time Atlanta left town. Brian McCann peppered the right field bleachers throughout the weekend series, and will no doubt be trouble again. Note to Phillies pitchers, GO AFTER THE NEXT GUY!
Series Predictions: 1) Cole Hamels dominates in his first start as a gagillionaire, easing fans worries about the Phillies financial future for an evening.
2) Chooch and the boys continue their streak of quality baseball in Hot-lanta, keeping the fans and management from pushing the button to sell.
3) Chipper Jones defies his age, a-la Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, and continues to pester Phillies pitching. I dont’ think he has any cartilage left in his knees either (*spoiler alert?).
Series Prediction: Lee Trocinski of Tomahawk Take breaks down the Braves by the numbers.
1) Ryan Dempster has been rumored to the Braves for some time now. Is he the answer to their pitching woes or do they ultimately go elsewhere?
It does not look like Dempster is going to ok the deal to Atlanta, but he would have definitely been a help. The Braves are lacking in top-end starting pitching, with Tim Hudson as their de-facto ace, two-start wonder Ben Sheets looking like the #2, and a bunch of struggling pitchers after that. Tommy Hanson will stay in the rotation, but his ERA and FIP has risen to 4.50 and 4.66 respectively. Mike Minor has stayed in the rotation all year, despite a 5.49 ERA and 5.23 FIP. Jair Jurrjens has been a disaster and should probably not throw another major league pitch this year. Randall Delgado has been alright, but he’s started to fade recently. Hanson has the track record to stay in the rotation, but Minor and Jurrjens/Delgado can be replaced by a Dempster-level pitcher and provide a significant difference.
2) Do the Braves have an encore in them after that stunning 9-run comeback against the Nats last week?
The Braves have had a very streaky season, especially on offense. You don’t see 9-run comebacks very often, but it is a solid lineup 1-7 (with Andrelton Simmons injured). Dan Uggla has been horrible the past month or so, while Martin Prado has also struggled quite a bit. Chipper Jones and Brian McCann have been the hottest hitters, with McCann jump-starting this hot stretch in the last series with the Phillies. On the other end of the comeback, the bullpen has been great lately. Jonny Venters just came off the DL after struggling the previous two months, but everyone else has given great innings. Craig Kimbrel has not walked a hitter in over two months, while still striking out 40% of all batters. Eric O’Flaherty, Kris Medlen, and Chad Durbin all have ERAs under 1.50 for July.
3) Who would you like to see the Braves acquire that no one is talking about?
The starting pitching problems and shortstop position have been the most publicized weaknesses, for good reason. During the last couple seasons, the Braves bench has been one of the strongest in the majors, but that is nowhere near the case this year. David Ross has still been great as a backup catcher, but Eric Hinske, Matt Diaz, and Jack Wilson have all provided below-replacement level value this year. Diaz and Wilson are both injured right now, with Tyler Pastornicky and Jose Constanza as their replacements. A RH bat off the bench and a shortstop who doesn’t get the bat knocked out of his hands are less costly options to improve the club, though Paul Janish’s defense may be good enough to bide time before Simmons returns.