With Hudson back, should Lowe go to bullpen?

Is this the look you want from a guy in a comeback or what? (AP photo)

Is this the look you want from a guy in a comeback or what? (AP photo)

Nearly 13 months after having his right elbow rebuilt, Tim Hudson did enough Tuesday night to make the Braves think, “He might be worth a $12 million option next season after all.” He might have even done enough to have them believing he should start the rest of the season. He gave them hope.

What should the Braves do now that Tim Hudson is back?

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But this is what the Braves should not be thinking about: a six-man rotation.

This whole concept of rotating six starters has been floated ever since Hudson started throwing serious rehab innings in the minor leagues. But there are two possible flaws with the idea:

♦ 1.) Having everybody pitch on five days rest seems risky because pitchers aren’t used to the extra time between starts, and conceivably it could mess up their timing.

♦ 2.) A six-man rotation means fewer starts for the pitchers the Braves really  want on the mound more often right now — namely Tommy Hanson.

Check out the numbers below. I’ve compiled how Braves starters have pitched since Aug. 1. As you can see, the five have been stacked in order of ERA, not salary. Otherwise, Derek Lowe wouldn’t be at the bottom. His 5.08 earned run average and .356 opponents’ batting average obliterates the next closest starter, Jair Jurrjens (3.65, .292).

Here’s the question: Would the Braves send Lowe to the bullpen during a playoff chase after giving him a $60 million contract?

Hudson was off for more than a year and he started after a three-hour rain delay in Florida. He went 5 2/3 innings and allowed only two first-inning runs and six hits. He struck out five and walked three (two coming in the sixth when he ran out of gas). Bottom line: You want to see him again.

But at what price? I’m putting up a poll. Vote and weigh in. While you’re thinking of your answer, here are the numbers since Aug. 1.

Pitcher   GS  Rec.  ERA   QS IP    H   R  ER   HR BB SO  Avg.

Kawakami  6   2-2   2.87  5  37.2  39  12  12  2  7  22  .267

Hanson    5   4-1   2.93  4  27.2  24  9   9   3  6  32  .235

Vazquez   5   3-2   3.03  3  35.2  30  12  12  5  7  34  .229

Jurrjens  6   1-2   3.65  4  37    42  17  15  5  13 29  .292

Lowe      6   3-1   5.08  3  33.2  48  21  19  2  9  17  .356

215 comments Add your comment

Toots

September 2nd, 2009
1:20 am

Lowe to the bullpen. Huddy & KK stay in rotation.
That is all. Tawk amongst yerselves.

Whopper Dawg

September 2nd, 2009
1:23 am

Somebody has to go, can’t go with 6, and if Lowe is the logical candidate, then it should be him. But really, who cares the Dawgs are kicking it on Saturday.

I may be first, but I don’t care. Saint Simons, to hell with you.

Dick Johnson

September 2nd, 2009
1:23 am

I’m thinkin’ put him in again in place of Lowe’s next start and see what he has. Lowe still has the ability to pitch really well and he will certainly be a part of next year’s rotation… but Hudson can dominate if he is himself again. What a great problem to have!

Coach (2010 or Bust)

September 2nd, 2009
1:30 am

Personally, I don’t think there’s a correct answer to the question of who should be sent to the bullpen. Our current starting five of Lowe, Jurrjens, Vazquez, Kawakami and Hanson have all pitched well enough to stay in the rotation. However, Huddy needs to pitch if the Braves are to evaluate him properly.

That said, I was in favor of trading Vazquez before the July 31st deadline because I did and still believe we have little chance of making the playoffs. He’s the odd man out anyway after the season is over. Frank Wren should have traded Gonzalez too. He’s unlikely to stay with the Braves as Soriano is the closer and Gonzo want’s the same job.

I’m happy that Tim Hudson pitched well and I hope he keeps it up. Wren and Cox have some decisions to make, now and after the season is over. I just hope they make the right ones.

Ed-Covington

September 2nd, 2009
1:31 am

Timing of Hudson’s return has been awful. If Bravos had known for sure about his arm they could have traded some pitching for some hitting. As it is, I don’t know if I want Lowe coming in from the pen in a critical situation late. When he has started and been bad, the team has had a few innings to recover. If he comes in in the 7th or later and is bad, not so much time left. I’d rather see Medlin in long relief and Moylan and Gonzo in set-up.
How can you have too much pitching? This is how!
Maybe if Lowe doesn’t have to pace himself he can be strong for a couple of innings out of the pen. Didn’t he pitch in relief before the post season in Boston? A real puzzler!
Guess it’s a good thing, but it would have been much easier to move Lowe’s or KK’s contract during a pennant race than it will be during the off-season.
Happy for Huddy!! Wish him the best.

Bill Heller

September 2nd, 2009
1:33 am

If Wren can admit he made a mistake by giving Lowe $60,000,000 then he’ll send him to the bullpen. If not we’ll see Kawakami in late relief, at least he’s another legitimate set-up guy.

Ed-Covington

September 2nd, 2009
1:40 am

Why does everyone want to trade Vasquez?
Also. I can’t really see any of the other starters going to the pen; and I agree that a 6-man rotation probably wouldn’t work. However, KK and Hanson have pitched more than they ever have. Maybe not go to a strict 6-man rotation, just use Huddy to give some tired arms an extra day’s rest occasionally. That should still give Huddy 5-6 starts in September. McDowell and BC know more about the strength and condition of the arms on the staff than we do, and are certainly better qualified to make any decision than I am.

matt r

September 2nd, 2009
1:50 am

I’m not sure I buy (1) since every time there is a day off it inserts an extra day of rest. The Braves (and most teams I’m pretty sure) don’t skip the 5th starter like they could when that day off comes up.

Maybe we could try dual starters since Huddy is in rehab mode… let him pitch the first 3 innings and then bring in KK??

Coach (2010 or Bust)

September 2nd, 2009
2:24 am

Ed, nobody wants to trade Vazquez, least of all me. I hate trading quality starting pitching.

It’s simply a numbers game. We have six starters and somebody has to go. Hanson and Jurrjens are untouchable. Lowe has the big four year contract which is an obstacle for most teams, and Lowe’s age could become an issue in the future. Trading Kawakami is foolish, he’s the first Japanese player in a Braves uniform and we would run the risk of offending an entire country, not to mention slamming the door shut on an entire baseball market. Hudson is an Ace, period. TJ surgery or not, he’s far to valuable and his stock just went way up.

Leaving Javier Vazquez. Yes, he’s having an outstanding season. But Vazquez is highly unlikely to repeat the same performance next year based on past seasons. His age, contract and current performance make’s Vazquez an ideal trade candidate. Selling high is the logical choice as six starting pitchers won’t work, even though it’s a nice problem to have.

Mitch C

September 2nd, 2009
2:34 am

I would send KK to the bullpen.

Yes, Lowe has struggled some in recent weeks, except for his good outing in Philly on Saturday night, but it seems odd to send a guy who has been our “ace” starter all season to the bullpen, in the middle of a wild card chase.

Also, I would absolutely love to keep Hudson after the season, but, unless the Braves are preparing to spend an extra 12 million that we dont know they have, doesnt keeping Hudson mean we will have to trade either Vaquez or Lowe? Javy makes 11 mil, and Lowe 15 mil. Hudson would certainly get 10 to 12 mil or more, maybe for multiple years, from either the Braves, or someone else.

I’m thrilled for Huddy that he pitched so well after such a long layoff, but I would not want to be Frank Wren this offseason, to have to decide which of our good pitchers to give up.

Mitch

fox

September 2nd, 2009
3:38 am

hi folks, Loew to the bullpen.

Eric C.

September 2nd, 2009
5:15 am

Those numbers flat out say that Lowe must go to the pen and logic says send him to the pen. However, there is an old axiom in baseball that dates back to the late 1800s – a healthy player with a $60,000,000 contract cannot be sent into relative obscurity. So I’d be suprised if Lowe goes to long relief…but stranger things have happened. If not Lowe, I could see Kawakami being a good middle reliever.

"Chef" Tim Dix

September 2nd, 2009
5:23 am

I would take it day by day to see if weather remains an issue as it was in Hansons last start. Also, lets not forget Huddy’s pitched one meaningful game since his return.

The Braves cannot assume he’ll be ready to go every 5 days…yet.

BTW, Hanson is THE ace.

NCBravesFan

September 2nd, 2009
6:42 am

The bottom line is, no matter who goes to the pen, Hudson has to start the rest of the year. The Braves have made it clear that while they’d like to make the postseason this year, their first priority is building for 2010 and beyond. They have a big decision looming with Hudson in the off-season, and so they need to know what he’s capable of doing.

All that said, I vote Kawakami to the pen for two reasons …

1. Lowe has a history of being a big game pitcher, and I don’t think that should be ignored in middle of a pennant race.
2. Lowe historically has done his best work in September and in the playoffs.

It’s a tough call either way, but I think you go with a guy who has a track record.

Brian in Villa Rica

September 2nd, 2009
7:01 am

It is possible that nothing needs to be done (yet). Sitting at three games out in the wild card if we slip again it simply won’t matter. I believe the Braves have an idea as to how many innings that they want Tommy and Jair to pitch this year. Younger pitchers who make huge jumps in innings pitched at this level seem to be injury risks as they are monitored and capped at every level coming up from Junior high through the minors. The Braves need to see Hudson more before committing to the option year. The Braves will spot start Hudson giving each starter a rest during a time that many pitchers need the rest. Bobby is famous for handling things in this manner.

If they catch the Rockies then Lowe will go the pen for the playoffs. If they don’t then the Braves will in all likelihood pick up the option for Hudson and trade Vasquez. He makes the most sense. They would prefer to trade Lowe but nobody would take his contract. Kawakami could be traded but wouldn’t bring the salary relief in 2010 that Vasquez would and wouldn’t get the bat that is needed.

JohnKrukisMyDaddy

September 2nd, 2009
7:30 am

Soraino is really starting to scare me as a closer. Perhaps Gonzo should be the closer… or Lowe?

Angus

September 2nd, 2009
8:00 am

Maybe the next 6 games is an audition.

We have 5 games left of a 13 games in 13 days stretch. I’d have to think BC will not send Huddy back out there in 5 days on a legit 5 day rest (usually there’s an off day). So we could see the usual 5 for the next 5 and then Huddy for the sixth.

Whoever stinks it up gets the hook out of the rotation?

mike

September 2nd, 2009
8:04 am

i think Kawakami or Lowe will go to the bullpen. If i had to guess probably Lowe. But that being said, i believe that if this happens Lowe would still get spot starts as i doubt Hudson is at full strength. Having watched Lowe his entire career i don’t see him having issue with this if this is truly the best thing for the team. Next year, i definitely see a possibility of Vasquez being traded for one simple reason: Third Base. Chipper is fading and fading fast, yet if you scan our minor league teams who can replace him? One option would be to move Escobar to third–he’s got a cannon–but then we take an elite SS move him and have a hole. So Vasquez moving is probably a foregone conclusion as the price for him will be high and we can get a replacement for Chipper sooner rather than later. Another reason for a vasquez trade is the emergence of Medlin. He has really settled in the bullpen and showed he’s got great stuff. I see next years rotation being Hanson, Medlin, KK, Jurjeins and Lowe. Very formidable. With call up of Jason Heyward and possibly Freddie Freeman. that makes for a very bombastic and formidable team.

Perhaps the most interesting to watch besides which pitcher goes is what the braves do with Jordan Schafer? Is he still the centerfielder of the future? Or do we trade him, and go forth with a Heyward, Diaz and Mclouth outfield? Lots of questions, but thankfully we have lots of talent

Bama Aaron

September 2nd, 2009
8:45 am

Maybe they should be co-starters. Huddy doesn’t (and probably won’t) have the stamina to pitch much more than 5 innings. So just pitch him 5 and bring Lowe in to pitch the 6-8 since all you tend to get out of him lately is 3 good innings before he falls apart.
That being said I think the Braves should cut their losses and admit they made a $60mil mistake and try to let Lowe go. His sinker doesn’t consistently sink anymore and that makes him worthless IMO.

Scott B

September 2nd, 2009
8:50 am

If I’m not mistaken, Lowe was used, on occasion, in relief during his stay in Boston. I believe that he, like any starter, would prefer to remain in the rotation but I think he’s a team guy and would swallow his pride if asked to go to the pen. Having too many quality starters is a problem I’m sure any manager wouldn’t mind having. Whatever Bobby and McDowell decide to to about this dilemma, I’m sure that it will work out. Lowe’s a hardenend veteran, and he’s proud. However, I think if the situation warrants it, he will be a professional about it, put the team first, and not complain a bit.

Brian

September 2nd, 2009
8:54 am

No way…Lowe is much more valuable as a starter than as a reliever. Of course, almost all starters are more valuable than relievers. But especially someone like Lowe, who you can usually count on to give you six or seven innings every time out there. Be careful not to ignore his long-term track record just because of the last month or so. I’m not so much against a six-man rotation. I’m not so sure the following statement is all that accurate:

“♦ 2.) A six-man rotation means fewer starts for the pitchers the Braves really want on the mound more often right now — namely Tommy Hanson.”

I think we would like to try to limit Hanson’s innings, not push him. Kawakami could use more rest, too.

But if we have to have a five-man rotation, Kawakami’s the odd man out. There is a very solid argument that KK has pitched better than Lowe this year, but Lowe still has him beat in WAR according to fangraphs (3.0 to 1.7), mainly because of the innings he churns out. Based on track records, I would project Lowe to be better the last month of the season. Players always tend to regress to the mean. Plus, KK could probably use the rest.

Joel Bagby

September 2nd, 2009
8:59 am

With Hudson back, should Lowe go to bullpen? Wow that was a silly question.

Decatur 4 Life

September 2nd, 2009
9:00 am

I think its ridiculous to even consider putting Lowe in the bullpen. You can’t tell me you would rather have Kawakami starting down the stretch than Lowe, a proven starter for a number of years. We don’t know what Kawakami is going to do when the game is on the line, he’s the only one in the rotation I hate to see pitching. Too much of a crap shot, sometimes he’s fine and most of the time he’s not. We all know our offensive woes the past few years, we can’t afford to have a starting pitcher that gives up a lot runs.

Brian

September 2nd, 2009
9:03 am

On the subject of trading Vazquez, I really think if Braves fans want to see the them add a “big bopper” this off-season, the only way they can do it is by trading Vazquez. As awesome as Vazquez has been, it’s just the smart thing to do. Use the depth we have at SP to improve areas that need it. And remember what I said about regressing to the mean? Vazquez will do it too. You’ve got to sell high on him.

Gene

September 2nd, 2009
9:06 am

I will let Cox decide. The good thing is, the Braves are not giving up like they did early in the season. They have a real chance at the wild card if Chipper starts hitting.

Don

September 2nd, 2009
9:11 am

It doesn’t matter, with Bobby Cox managing, the Braves are not going to win the Wild Card. With their pitching and good management they should already be leading not only the Wildcard but also the Division. How many games difference would it have made if Cox had used Prado much sooner when obvious, used Diaz sooner, benched Fracoeur when it was obvious, not kept Schafer up, not continued to use a couple of terrible relief pitchers in first half, used Infante sooner, not kept Chipper in 3rd place in the order during prolonged slump, moved other hitters up and down in batting order when hot/cold, not misused the bullpen etc. This is to say nothing of his game after game blunders in within game strategy — And above all his complete failure to teach/emphasize/demand working the count/ being selective/ making the opposign pitcher throw a lot of pitches – which have multiple benefits and failure to do so almost guarantees inconsistant run production. His incompetence is so obvious in so many different ways– Is it a prequisited for employment by the AJC that a writer must not be critical of Bobby Cox?

TLHBrave

September 2nd, 2009
9:21 am

Lowe was an excellent closer. There’s no reason he can’t pitch in relief and be effective in giving Soriano, Gonzales, Moylan, and O’Flaherty a breather. Even if we make the playoffs, the main arms in the pen are going to be so taxed as to be useless. We have no idea how Kawakami might perform as a reliever, but we have a good idea about Lowe. It’s clearly a chance for him to take one for the team and move to the ‘pen for the playoff run.

Herschel Talker

September 2nd, 2009
9:24 am

Don at 9:11 said everything that needs to be said. Anyone who disagree with what he wrote simply isn’t paying attention.

Brian

September 2nd, 2009
9:25 am

Don, you really should set up you own blog if you really want to be heard. Of course, it would get boring having the same entry every day, but I’m sure it would make you feel even more important!

Hooter Girl

September 2nd, 2009
9:26 am

Don, you are dead on.

Gov Clinton Tyree

September 2nd, 2009
9:26 am

It’s a hell of a tough question and a good problem to have. We try and fit ‘em all in for September, give Kawakami and Hanson a blow while bringing in Hudson.

In the playoffs, I’m not sure what you do. This season would tell us you want Kawakami pitching big games. Lowe has a sterling big game resume. I want Jurrjens, Hudson and Vazquez to go…and certainly, Hanson needs to take a turn. What to do?

Next year, I’d be interested to see if Kawakami could close. We own him, he’s $7m, Gonzo and Soriano are likely to be similarly priced, and he’s great the first time through a lineup.

Big Braves Fan

September 2nd, 2009
9:28 am

Tim Hudson should be used in middle relief for the rest of the season which should help the Braves from innings 4 through eight. Everyone knows Tim Hudson probably can’t pitch every night but it gives the braves a luxury of a good right handed pitcher to pitch in certain situations to get good right hand hitters out without burning Peter Moylan and Rafael Soriano out.

Sonny Clumps

September 2nd, 2009
9:34 am

Jeff, we was talking about moving Lowe or Kawakami to the pen. We think Kawakami done an ok job as starter but we believe he is best suited for the bull pen. It is sad that we started allowing Kawakami and Lowe to become the joke of the team and they was meant for the bullpen.

bvillebaron

September 2nd, 2009
9:34 am

I don’t know about Lowe to the bullpen, but I hope to god the Braves bring Hudson back next year and beyond.

Hillbilly Deluxe

September 2nd, 2009
9:36 am

No way would I go to a 6 man rotation. With off days, you’ll wind up with starters going once a week. Lowe is the weak link at this point, so off to long relief. I never would have given him $60 million but that horse has already left the barn.

London Calling

September 2nd, 2009
9:38 am

So Don…

“used Prado much sooner” … of course, he had a groin injury and couldn’t play every day
“used Diaz” … who stunk playing every day last year, and who people were moaning about a month ago saying he wasn’t an every day player
“benched Francoeur” … who is doing fine every day for the Mets. He wasn’t that bad.
“not kept Schafer up” … he was up for what, 6 weeks? You dorks would have thrown him under the bus after his first strikeout.
“not used a couple of terrible relief pitchers” .. of course, he also gets ripped for repeatedly using the good relief pitchers.
“used Infante sooner” … he was used as soon as he came of the DL – he had a broken hand!
“not kept Chipper in 3rd place” … that’s right, dump a first ballot HOFer because of a slump of a few weeks.
“moved hitters up and down the order” … not clear what you’re complaining about. Is that he does move players or that he doesn’t? I’ve seen him ripped for both.
“not misused the bullpen” … is he supposed to use the good pitchers all the time, or use the other pitchers occasionally? You’re not clear.
“game after game blunders” … you mean reasonable decisions that every manager makes which don’t work. Give me ONE example of a clear blunder.
“complete failure blah blah blah” … one of the most stupid comlaints made (alongside the rubbish about a lack of effort and urgency) in baseball is “swinging at the first pitch”. You want to start every at-bat 0-1?

You can go onto any blog, for any team, and see the same hate against any manager.

Don

September 2nd, 2009
9:43 am

It is difficult to understand how management (or for that matter the Atlanta Writers) can look at all the obvious things that Bobby Cox has done and failed to do during the season and not feel that he needs to be replaced.

Alan

September 2nd, 2009
9:48 am

Who’s worth letting go? We need a BIG bat from a struggling team. We have pitchers (and Greg Norton) to use as bait!!

Sammy Kershaw

September 2nd, 2009
9:52 am

Shultz, your a f’in idiot.

Michael

September 2nd, 2009
9:55 am

It needs to be a modified 6 man rotation. KK needs extra rest whenever possible and it sure as heck wouldn’t hurt any of the other guys. With Medlen’s emergence the bullpen is just fine. Quit worrying about saving arms – that time is past. Besides, both Gonzalez and Soriano are free agents anyway so its not like we are protecting an investment.

Zach

September 2nd, 2009
10:02 am

give kk a start off and see what happens from there

lazydawg

September 2nd, 2009
10:03 am

Jeff you have lost your mind. Lowe has a proven track record when he is needed to produce and I’m sure we need him in the rotation if we make the playoffs.

jasonntn

September 2nd, 2009
10:05 am

I think they should go with a 6 man rotation. KK has been better on long rest all season. Hanson could probably use the extra rest as well. Medlin would probably starting for most MLB teams. It’s actually a wonderful problem to have. Hopefully the Rockies and Giants will drop enough games for the Braves to finally sneak back into October.

Nativebird

September 2nd, 2009
10:08 am

If Wren would have done what any other decent GM in the league would have done by now and use this OVER ABUNDANCE of pitching to obtain a big right handed RBI producer, we wouldn’t be talking about this right now, and we most definitely wouldn’t be PRAYING for other teams to lose for a shot at WC race, we’d most likely be leading it.

Don

September 2nd, 2009
10:09 am

London Calling, your defense of Cox is interesting. Wonder how you defend his continuing to use Norton; but his use of Norton is no different from many of the other decisions he makes or fails to make. The point relating to Schafer was the decision to keep him up when he had not even learned to consistant contact in the minors. Prado, Diaz and Infante were not used when they were able to play. No one said bench Chipper, but you do not keep a player in a prolonged slump in the 3rd spot in the batting order. There was continued use of a couple of relief pitchers in the first half who were completely ineffective. Cox has never taught/emphasized/demanded working the count and being selective which is essentil if you are going to have consistant run production. Over the years, he has almost always mismanaged the bullpen. What does Francouer’s play with the Mets have to do with his performance with the Braves? It took Cox a season and a half to decide to get him out of the Braves lineup. In so many situations of in game strategy moves, Cox does exactly what the opposing manager would like to see him do.

Novice Ned

September 2nd, 2009
10:09 am

What I found distressing in those stats was that the pitchers are working 6 or fewer innings since August, despite stellar ERAs (by all but Lowe). I say go with the 6-man rotation now that rosters are expanded. Chances are, Lowe, Hansen and Jurrjens can maintain close to their normal schedule and Kawakami (only because of his arm fatigue issues) and Hudson (only because he is still gaining arm strength and conditioning) can be sprinkled in as appropriate.

Firearm

September 2nd, 2009
10:14 am

My opinion as an outsider: rotate the last two spots in the rotation between Hudson, Hanson, and Kenshin. This time around, give Kenshin a start off, then maybe Tommy next time around. In the meantime, use the odd man out whenever one of the other starters implode, or for innings 6-8.

Space Monkey

September 2nd, 2009
10:14 am

The six-man rotation makes the most sense. So what if we don’t make the playoffs this year. We have no chance of going beyond the first round anyway. We have no speed on this team and in the post season you have to have the ability to manufacture runs. Our best play is to protect our young arms for next year when Heyward is called and hopefully a fast leadoff hitter joins this lineup through free agency. We need a Rollins or a Reyes. This could be a very potent team next year. But this year even if we took the Wild Card we wouldn’t make it past the first round. Better to protect Jurrjens and Hanson. Go to six men.

Huddy's Ligament

September 2nd, 2009
10:17 am

Will anybody be surprised if Chipper comes up with a mystery ailment real soon?

bravessince85

September 2nd, 2009
10:17 am

The answer is no. This is a good problem to have, but the logical choice would be Kenshin Kawakami. Not because he is a bad pitcher, because he’s been very good. The reason why I say move him to the bullpen is because of the lack of run support that he gets. He would be best fitted to come in to hold a decent lead instead of waiting on the team to score. Like I said, it’s a good problem to have and at this time of season, still in the wild card race, I don’t think anybody will have a problem going to the pen with a month left.

And remember, this is only one game. I like Hudson as good as the next guy, but he will have a bad outing and then we’ll be having this discussion again. I would let Hudson be a spot starter. Every time from now on through the rotation, pick and choose who needs the extra day of rest and go from there.