Welp, that’s all folks. A heart breaker of a loss, just a crushing heart breaker.
Power outage: The Braves offense was built around power hitters, plain and simple. That’s why the Uptons were brought in, that’s why Dan Uggla was acquired and signed, that’s what the team’s offensive roster decisions have been about for the past couple of years. And that’s what was missing from this series. Atlanta was out-homered 7-to-1 by the Dodgers, with the most crushing longball being the last one. The Braves bats didn’t show up (and Uggla wasn’t even invited).
A strategy not built for short series: The Braves have not won a postseason series since 2001 — a streak of 7 series losses in a row, all of which were 5-game series plus 1 Wild Card. At some point it has to be said that the Braves are not being built with a short series in mind. Granted there was a ton of bad luck involved in some of those losses, but the Braves have been absent a shutdown ace pitcher that can dominate a short series like the Dodgers ace was able to do. I believe it was Skip Caray, who said years ago after one of the Braves early playoff exits, that the team “was built for the marathon, and not the sprint” — meaning the team is built to win a division (a rare accomplishment for most teams), but not built to win the short series.
The power in the lineup the Braves added was supposed to help correct this flaw, and while that did not perform up to the levels expected it may still be a valid part of the puzzle. But it is only part of the puzzle; the other half being a “true ace” who can be called on as Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz were throughout the 90s to deliver shutdown performances. The loss of Tim Hudson late in the season could be seen as a loss of the guy the Braves were counting on to be their ace in a short series. But now the Braves either have to go out and acquire a true ace and hope that is the final piece of the puzzle, or they have to hope that one (or more) of the young pitchers already in the organization develops into that kind of ace.
The latter is what I believe the strategy of the organization will be. Acquiring an ace pitcher is not only a risky gamble but also an expensive one. (Even Tim Hudson wasn’t ace-like for much of his time in Atlanta.) The Braves are currently not flush with tradable talent or wads of cash to spend on one player. Clayton Kershaw is an ace now, but there was a time when he was getting lit up in the postseason. He’s gained the experience of those defeats and now he’s the juggernaut which every team must pass when they face the Dodgers…
Patience: In an effort to find a silver lining in this series we must keep in mind that all of the Braves young pitchers got their feet wet in the postseason. They all experienced the pressure and how unforgiving every mistake can be. Now all that should be needed is the patience and experience of more pressure-packed situations to help Medlen, Minor, Teheran, and Wood hone the skills they need to be successful in October…
Click: Then all we have to worry about is everything clicking at the same time — strong pitching with strong hitting. All of that is such a roll of the dice in a short series. Still, it’s better/easier with experience.
Tuesday morning quarterbacking: Use Craig Kimbrel in the 8th? That’s a popular question right now. Throwing a breaking ball in a fastball count with the game on the line? We could all sit here and question and question every decision — every decision amplified in a close game in the postseason. I am NOT going to get into all of those decisions. Some of the questionable sabermetric decisions actually worked out, and on the whole I like the way Fredi Gonzalez navigated his team through the postseason. Yes, I have and could question some of his moves, but for the most part he did a good job of pulling the levers… his team just didn’t execute on the field.
AFL: The Arizona Fall League starts today, with many of the Braves young stars participating in the premier off-season prospect showcase. Second baseman Tommy La Stella is the hitter to watch, he will be joined by Kyle Kubitza, Elmer Reyes, and Robby Hefflinger. On the mound I’ll be watching a trio of hard-throwing right-handed relievers, all of whom could compete for a job in spring training: John Cornely, Juan Jaime, and Shae Simmons. They are joined by starting pitcher Aaron Northcraft. I’ll be keeping up with their progress this off-season here on the blog, so make sure to stop by for updates on our prospects as well as more of my ideas for this Braves team.
We got beat this year… but Just Keep Faith.