Atlanta comes to town winners 8 of their last 10 and playing some of their best baseball of the year. The same old players keep coming through for hot-lanta. Brian McCann is just as dangerous as always, despite a deceptively low batting average of .236. Jason Heyward has shaken off his sophomore slump hitting 17 long balls. But, the engine that makes the Braves lineup go is former Phil Michael Bourn. Bourn’s average has dipped to .286, but his 2.5 WAR leads the team and continues to be a menace on the base paths (29 stolen bases). It’s not out of the question to see the Phillies make a push to bring back the speedy outfielder after his contract expires at the end of the year. Coming this fall to theaters, The Bourn Free-Agency.
When We Last Met: The Phillies would love to forget their last meeting with the Braves. They went into Atlanta on the fence of whether to deal or stand pat and make a run. Well we know how that ended. The Phillies were swept out of town, leaving no ambiguity about which direction the team was heading in. If they are playing for pride now, what better way to get revenge than to stifle Atlanta’s hopes of catching Washington.
Series Predictions: 1) Cole Hamels rights the ship and give the Phillies a performance worthy of his new contract.
2) Dominic Brown takes on the added pressure of the inevitable Jason Heyward comparisons and comes back down to earth.
3) Take note Phillies fans, as this is the last chance to see Chipper Jones play in Philadelphia. He’s enjoyed a long successful career that is worthy of the Hall. So lets send him out Philly style with one last chorus of “BOOOOOO”.
Fansided Perspective: Tomahawk Take editor Lee Trocinski graciously put aside our division rivalry and answered the most pressing questions facing the Braves.
1) So the Brave didn’t land Ryan Dempster, but they did get Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson. Was that enough?
Time will tell if it’s enough, but Maholm and Johnson are both significant improvements over the incumbents. Maholm is essentially a league-average pitcher, which is a whole lot better than Jair Jurrjens this year. With Tommy Hanson struggling and now on the DL, Maholm provides the reinforcement that should keep the rotation afloat for the rest of the year. He also gives us a more reliable lefty starter than Mike Minor, though the NL lineups in the playoff hunt seem to be more right-handed heavy.Johnson provides the RH production off the bench that was lost when Matt Diaz got injured. I’d even claim that Johnson is better, since he can play adequate defense in the corners, something Diaz couldn’t do. The main thunder off the bench comes from Eric Hinske and Juan Francisco, both left-handed bats. David Ross is a great option against lefties, but Fredi Gonzalez only uses him as a last resort, even though he’ll pinch-hit McCann at the first opportunity. That’s another topic…
2) One guy that is crucial down the stretch for the Braves is Michael Bourn. Has the team engaged him in contract talks yet?
As standard with most Scott Boras clients, Bourn is being advised to test free agency, so no extension talks are occurring. He has been the best player so far this year for Atlanta, providing above-average offense and tremendous CF defense so far. The most intriguing change this year is his power “surge.” A .135 ISO isn’t exactly ripping the cover off the ball, but it is much higher than his .080-.100 figures he’s posted in his career so far. It looks to be a real change, with 6 of the 8 HR registering at least 400 feet. Jose Reyes got 6/106 with a similar skill set, though he plays a more premium position than Bourn, plus Bourn will be two years older than Reyes when receiving his contract. 5/70 is probably a good mark to expect for Bourn this winter, and the Braves are not likely to be able to pay for that with their lack of attendance and horrible TV contract.
3) Why has Brian McCann simply owned the Phillies? It seems like he hits a homer every time up against us.
That might be payback for his struggles the past two seasons against the Phillies. If you look at the season stats against the Phillies, you’ll notice he’s basically either homered or gotten out. His season has also panned out this way. His HR/FB% is at a career high, his walks have come down for a second straight season, he’s went from a 40 double guy to a 20 double guy, and his BABIP is around .230, well below his .300 career average. It’s possible that some of those doubles turned into homers, but that total should not be cut in half. The walks can be explained some by the presence of Dan Uggla, Jason Heyward, and Freddie Freeman hitting behind him. The constant shifting has seemed to impact McCann more than anyone on the Braves, a big reason for the low BABIP. Seeing a .243 AVG and .309 OBP is a bit discomforting, but the added power, plus the realization of him doing this behind the plate, makes Braves fans feel lucky to have such a consistent force at the hardest position to find production.