Wow. It’s here, the postseason. I’ve been looking forward to this for months; a lot of people have been looking forward to this for months, especially the players…
Roster omissions: The biggest news yesterday for the Braves were the roster omissions for the first round: Dan Uggla, Scott Downs, Paul Maholm, and Anthony Varvaro.
Uggla is an understandable omission, and I discussed yesterday how bad he has been since returning from Lasik eye surgery. Bad enough that Paul Janish is a better option. Since Janish is the only backup infielder it was brought up “what if an injury happens to an infielder?” Teams can replace players because of injury in the middle of a series, but the player being replaced must sit out the next round of playoffs. So if Elliott Johnson were to get injured in Game 1, the Braves could replace him with Uggla for the rest of the series, but Johnson would have to sit out the NLCS.
Maholm is another understandable omission, especially with the way that Freddy Garcia has pitched since joining Atlanta. The Braves are going with the hot hand. Both guys are crafty soft-tossers, so it’s really kind of a pick your poison situation.
Downs and Varvaro are two relievers everyone thought would be on the roster… the omission of Varvaro might the most surprising. Taking a look at their recent work it’s apparent that the Braves must have thought they didn’t have enough left in their arms, or were simply stuck in slumps. Downs has given up hits in 8 of his last 10 appearances, collecting a 15.00 ERA in those 3 innings of work — the tough life of a LOOGY. Varvaro seems to have stumbled into a slump in the last week of the season, giving up multiple hits in his last 3 appearances, including runs in 2 of those outings. There doesn’t seem to be a noticeable drop in Varvaro’s velocity, so the Braves brass must want to leave any semblance of a slumping reliever off the roster.
Roster inclusions: Two of the biggest surprises to make the roster are pitcher David Hale and outfielder Jose Constanza. Hale has pitched incredibly well in two starts since being called up in September, but he’s a guy with exactly 11 innings of Major League experience… and the Braves are going to throw him into the October fire? This is taking “going with the hot hand” to the extreme. The two examples of this I can think of in the past are the Angles including Francisco Rodriguez on their roster in 2002, and the Rays inclusion of David Price on their roster in 2008. The inclusion of those two players worked for those teams, as an unknown pitcher can sometimes creep up on batters. I imagine that the inclusion of Hale was a choice of him over Varvaro as the long man out of the bullpen. It’s a wicked roll of the dice.
Constanza’s inclusion on the roster is somewhat baffling, especially over Dan Uggla. The Braves will presumably start Jason Heyward in center, and therefore have BJ Upton and Jordan Schafer to backup the outfield, in addition to Reed Johnson. The need for another outfielder seems unnecessary. The only other explanation is that they want to use Constanza as a pinch hitter or pinch runner. As the latter this year he has been kind of bad, getting caught in all 3 of his stolen base attempts in the Majors, and only having stolen base success in about two-thirds of his attempts in the minors this year. But here again we’re seeing the “hot hand” choice at work… if you can call 6 at bats (4-for-6) in September a hot hand. Yep, Constanza has only had 6 plate appearances this month! Maybe this is an indication of how far the Braves pinch hitting corps have fallen that he’s the best option for the last bench spot.
Chemistry: One thing the Braves seem to have forgotten is that Dan Uggla, despite his struggles, is a big part of the Braves clubhouse chemistry. His absence from the bench could be noticeable to some of the other Braves players who may rely on him throughout the game. This can be seen in players’ comments yesterday:
“It’s tough, man,” said Braves catcher Brian McCann, whose locker is next to Uggla’s. “Dan’s one of my closest friends on the team. I feel for him. He’s put so much hard work into the season since he’s been here. We all have his back. He’s a great teammate.”
Said Freddie Freeman, another of Uggla’s closest friends on the team: “It’s tough when you battle with someone for six straight months and they’re left off. It’s something we’ve got to deal with, and hopefully he’s going to be with us all the way through.”
Anyway, let’s win with this group of 25. We all know Kris Medlen will bring his bag of tricks and nasty treats tonight… let’s go get ’em!