We’re live from Braves’ miracle watch (day 21)

Javier Vazquez is be pitching for own future, as well as Braves.

Javier Vazquez is be pitching for own future, as well as Braves.

Frank Wren went into the off-season last a year ago knowing he would need to add starting pitching. He will go into the off-season this year realizing he needs to subtract.

One obvious conclusion: “It will probably be a little less stressful this winter,” the Braves general manager said.

Somewhat. But a significant issue has been hanging over the Braves all season, and the core of that issue was on the mound Wednesday night. Javier Vazquez, the same pitcher whose heart and big-game ability was questioned last season by the Chicago White Sox’ turbo-lipped manager, Ozzie Guillen, has been Atlanta’s best starter this season. He went into the Florida game with a 15-9 record and 2.83 ERA (4-0, 1.93 in this improbable September).

There’s also a chance he was starting his final game as a Brave.

“I’m not going to get into our decision-making, and I don’t know, quite frankly, what we’re going to do,” Wren said. “We’ll sit down and look at all of our options. It just depends how we configure our ballclub. At the end of the day, it’s how do we put the best team on the field and what 25 players allow us to do that.”

This topic has been debated ad nauseam. The problem is that the season is about to expire, and we’re no closer to clarity. The Braves have six starting pitchers and one has to go – not just to the bullpen, but to another team. Payroll says this. Logic screams it.

The thought of dealing Vazquez seems ludicrous, even with a poor outing Wednesday. Imagine what the top of the rotation would look like next season with these three starters and their respective ERAs: Vazquez (2.83), Tommy Hanson (2.98) and Jair Jurrjens (2.61). But the only thing we know for certain is Hanson and Jurrjens will be here. We also know Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami probably will be here because they carry bloated contracts that don’t nearly match their production. It’s likely no other team would touch them even in a normal economic climate, let alone amid today’s global budget-shrinkage.

That leaves Vazquez and Tim Hudson. Hudson has a $12 million option for next season. He has looked pretty good since coming off Tommy John surgery, Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to Florida notwithstanding. If you’re the Braves, can you just let him walk?

The answer should be yes. Hudson hasn’t been the dominant top-of-the-rotation starter the Braves hoped for when they acquired him. Now is not the time to assume he’s going to turn into that. If it’s really about keeping the best guys, Vazquez stays and Hudson goes.

Here’s Wren on Hudson at his non-committal best before the game: “He’s come back and he’s shown us that he’s healthy and he’s able to pitch at this level. When we get to the appropriate time, we’ll announce our decision on how we’ll move forward.”

I’m guessing he would’ve given the same answer if I asked, “What do you think? Plums or peaches next week at Kroger?”

It was clear Vazquez did not have his best stuff Wednesday. Through three innings, he had already allowed three runs (though only one earned), five hits, a wild pitch, a hit batter and a ground ball through the legs of Chipper Jones. Then came a two-run homer in the fifth. That said, he has had a career-best season. It’s odd, given the Braves are his fifth team in the past seven seasons, and he was ripped by Guillen late last season for not coming through in the clutch.

Wren obviously disagrees. Consider what Vazquez has done in September and on the road this season:10-2, 2.80. (Strangely, he has struggled on the road.)

“Knowing Javy from afar, and now seeing him up close, I think he’s as solid as a rock,” Wren said. “We thought we were getting a real good starting pitcher. He had a history of durability and going to the post. He’s lived up to it.”

Maybe not Wednesday. But he’s a better option than Hudson.

461 comments Add your comment

P C

September 30th, 2009
5:52 pm

Vasquez needs to stay. End of story.

Geoff Schultz

September 30th, 2009
5:55 pm

Tommy Hudson is a stud.

MSC

September 30th, 2009
6:02 pm

Isn’t it Tommy Hanson?

Dawgmess

September 30th, 2009
6:02 pm

…. and the elder statesman’s stock didn’t go up much last night in the bottom of the ninth ;)

Braves=Believe

September 30th, 2009
6:05 pm

Alright, today i actually feel comfortable about the game lets go out there and get em’. Still dont understand why we have our coldest hitter batting leadoff

midnite

September 30th, 2009
6:09 pm

Jeff why didn’t you tell us we picked up Tommy Hudson? Who did we give up for him? We are definately in the playoffs now.

Alan

September 30th, 2009
6:10 pm

Vasquez one of the few shining lights on the team this season. JJ also. How many games did this team lose from Bobby C staying with his starters for far too long? It’s a shame this guy can’t do something so obvious. All you need to know about Bobby C is one world series in 14 attempts. He is the epitome of futility. So good luck tonight Braves. There’s a reason why the odds makers put your chances at 14% before yesterday’s game. When you get swept by the reds at home, you etched your fate in stone. Tonight will be full of more swinging strikeouts near the eyes by McClouth, Golf swing strikeouts by Lachoke..he sure looks like he wants to hit a 7 iron when he swings. And pop ups by McCann. Better hope Diaz or Prado or someone off the bench delivers cause these batters are pathetic.

Enjoy the offseason chokeaholics.

midnite

September 30th, 2009
6:14 pm

@Alan-”Bitter, party of one, your table is ready”.

Joseph

September 30th, 2009
6:20 pm

vasqy, JJ, tommy, and a 4th pitcher, maybe huddy but only as a 4th pitcher…kami started to pitch well and then after being benched has lost it. medy was a stud in triple AAA……choices choices.

coach k

September 30th, 2009
6:20 pm

Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease start Infante over Mclouth for the last 5 and get him out of here.

Marc from FL

September 30th, 2009
6:21 pm

Last night just sucked cause we had like 5 chances to win it. These Rockies aren’t as good as their record indicates, but the Dodgers are stinking it up right now too, so our chances aren’t looking so good.

Charlie Morton threw a complete game shutout… Good for him I think.

midnite

September 30th, 2009
6:21 pm

Ah, nothing like Fall baseball when your team is still in in the hunt. Cool fresh air, brats on the grill, ice cold beverages, big screen standing by.

Larry

September 30th, 2009
6:23 pm

I doubt we will make the playoffs, but I am ok with that. I am proud of this team and what they have accomplished. Other than Hanson, this is essentially the same group of guys that pissed away games and blew leads all through the 1st half of the season, but they have learned to keep it together and fight until the last out. They have given me high hopes for next season, and for that I am grateful. Enjoy the last few, and LETS GO GET’EM BRAVES

Bring Me the Head of Deforest Kelley

September 30th, 2009
6:26 pm

Hudson’s starts have progressively gotten worse since he’s come off the DL. Meanwhile, Vasquez continues to somehow get even better.

I wasn’t a fan of the Vasquez signing last winter, but I’m glad to admit my would-be mistake, and easily see him as the team’s MVP. While Prado, Escobar, Diaz and LaRoche have all made solid contributions, no one has been as dependable as Vasquez this season every time he’s gone out.

To me, it doesn’t make any sense at all to entertain the idea of re-signing Hudson (with his ERA over 4.00) for $12M next year, while at the same time trading Vasquez (2.80 ERA, and averages 1 more inning per start than Hudson).

Its clear the Braves need more consistent offense if they are to improve next year. But comprimising the starting pitching to get that extra bat by trading Vasquez seems to count on extreme overestimation of the abilities of Lowe, Kawakami and Hudson. Do you think the Braves will be able to sustain a strong late-season run next year with 3/5 of their rotation with ERAs over 4.00? Because that’s where they’re headed if they deal Vasquez.

Also, what kind of bat could the Braves realistically expect in exchange for Vasquez? Would we get someone of legitimately higher caliber than we could hope to sign on the free agent market? And – maybe more importantly – do the Braves really need a top-caliber addition to the offense? Or perhaps just a younger, more-consistent, outfielder with some extra pop? Seems to me like this could be had for the $12M the Braves have on the table for Hudson without having trade Vasquez.

Braves=Believe

September 30th, 2009
6:31 pm

If you look at the probable pitchers for the Dodgers

Wolf 3.22 era
Kershaw 2.89 era
Koruda 3.76

Dodgers should take 2, hopefully brewers can take 1. WE STILL GOT A SHOT

sidslid

September 30th, 2009
6:32 pm

Going back to his Oakland days, I never thought of Hudson as a gamer. He would come into the postseason with some 16-6, 3ish ERA and just get hammered in the first round, usually by the Red Sox.

Easy to say now, but when the week started, I thought last night was our one loss and that we would need 6-1 and Colorado at 3-3. Let’s see what happens

Braves=Believe

September 30th, 2009
6:34 pm

lets just get some rhythm back and win

Jeff Schultz

September 30th, 2009
6:34 pm

Sorry guys. Had “Hudson” on the Brave. Hanson’s back on the team. :)

Braves=Believe — Because he has speed and the rest is up to prayer. Question: who would you put as leadoff right now?

Guys — You can go at each other all you want but cut the profanity. I’m going to delete some posts.

midnite

September 30th, 2009
6:35 pm

I hope Braves management will “pull out all the stops” for 2010 with the “Bobby Cox Farewell Tour”. Spend a little more dough and try to win one more title. It would be nice to keep Hudson, but if it comes down to one or the other then JV is the arm to keep.

Bobby Colton

September 30th, 2009
6:36 pm

Alright Jeff! The soothsayer is back and I hoped you dressed appropriately. It’s going to be a cold night at Turner Field!

Bobby Colton

September 30th, 2009
6:37 pm

For leadoff, I would go with Omar Infante or Martin Prado. Nate isn’t cutting it at that spot.

midnite

September 30th, 2009
6:38 pm

Get that bar of Ivory out and start washing out mouths.

midnite

September 30th, 2009
6:44 pm

Shultz, what are you and Knockahoma smoking over there? Pass it around bro.

Toots

September 30th, 2009
6:46 pm

How come the ‘enter your comments’ line doesn’t automatically disappear any more? I miss those days.

Kerfeld

September 30th, 2009
6:49 pm

It’s a no-brainer. Say bye to Hudson.

Bobby Colton

September 30th, 2009
6:49 pm

If the Braves can somehow get the lead down to 1 game by Friday, I’ll go to the game. However, I’m not going to waste money if they are 2, 3, or 4 games out of it come Friday.

Braves=Believe

September 30th, 2009
6:50 pm

Schultz

Rgith now i would put Diaz, with his .400 OBP. You cant have Mclouth leading off when he is cold

NCBravesFan

September 30th, 2009
6:50 pm

Are the Braves dead again? No.

Do they need to win out? Obviously.

Can Colorado lose three out of five? Remains to be seen. Losing one against MIL would be a huge help toward that end.

MightyQuinn

September 30th, 2009
6:51 pm

Just wondering how Bobby Cox can get hammered here for both leaving the starters in too long AND overworking the bullpen? Nothing like bi-polar bloggers!

Max Sizemore

September 30th, 2009
6:53 pm

Find a way to keep all six starters. You can never have too much pitching, as they say. Start Lowe in the bullpen (yes, that’s an expensive slot), but when one of the five goes down with an injury you won’t have to bring someone in. One of the former pitchers on ESPN a few weeks ago (I don’t recall who) said that Hanson, with his delivery, is an elbow injury waiting to happen. This might work well if (when) the Braves don’t re-sign Gonzalez and/or Soriano.

Bobby Colton

September 30th, 2009
6:54 pm

Guys! There is no way in the world Colorado is winning tonight. Milwaukee is mad after last night.

TN Jeff

September 30th, 2009
6:56 pm

The Braves consistently let the fans down at just the moment folks start believing they may be capable of doing something special. Last night was a microcosm of this. They’re dead – Diaz hits a 3 run homer and we fans think, maybe we’re gonna win this. Then give up lead & lose the game when the #3 hitter (who has NO business batting there) strikes out and trumps that later by hitting into a double play.

How do you spell Braves? CHOKE

Jerry

September 30th, 2009
6:58 pm

Some way must be found to keep Vazquez on the team. His innings pitched is worth the salary of a relief pitcher. Same with Jennsen.

So the Braves have 6 starters. Need another 100 rbi man in the lineup.
And McCann needs to be batting 5 or 6 not 4. Need a trade.
Vazquez, Jurrjens & Hanson are untouchable (JJ & TH because of $$).
One of the other 3 gets traded as part of a deal for the 100 rbi guy.

How far is Schaefer from being ready? Is he playing in Arizona Fall?

OldTimer

September 30th, 2009
7:04 pm

Chipper Jones has got to go. He never could hit in the clutch.

Jeff Schultz

September 30th, 2009
7:11 pm

First pitch: 7:10.
Temperature: 71 degrees.
Crowd: 127.

NCBravesFan

September 30th, 2009
7:14 pm

Jeff: I think you may have missed the family of five in Section 127, Row R. :lol:

Chipster

September 30th, 2009
7:15 pm

Hey, give me a break, I strained by Kadipulator tendon taking a dip of snuff…is it huntin’ season yet?

Jeff Schultz

September 30th, 2009
7:15 pm

Bobby — I brought a sweater tonight, thank you very much.

Midnite — I don’t inhale.

Toots — I’ll get right on that. Damn, you’re high maintenance.

Bobby Colton

September 30th, 2009
7:15 pm

Haha! Love the sense of humor Jeff. Braves fans just disgust me. Braves have some of the most affordable seats in baseball. I’d go to more games, but I live 90 minutes from Turner Field. However, I’d go to way more games if I lived in Atlanta.

Jeff Schultz

September 30th, 2009
7:16 pm

NCBravesfans — Oh yeah. No wait. There’s only two there. The other three didn’t use their tickets.

Jeff Schultz

September 30th, 2009
7:18 pm

That was pretty weak by McLouth.

rocknthebeergut (formerly southbeachdietfreak)

September 30th, 2009
7:18 pm

While I can’t understand why these guys couldn’t play this way the whole year, I’m quite proud of the fact they didn’t give up. These guys honestly have the ability to beat anybody in the league (won 3 of 4 in LA, swept the Cards in STL). These are the two best teams in the league! If the season were 170 games, they’d probably be in the playoffs.

Bobby Colton

September 30th, 2009
7:19 pm

Don’t look now, but it’s 1-0 HOU TOP 1STR with Astros still batting.

sidslid

September 30th, 2009
7:21 pm

Nolasco looks sharp

rocknthebeergut (formerly southbeachdietfreak)

September 30th, 2009
7:21 pm

I do think the Braves need to see what they can get for Hudson. He’s still a decent pitcher, but I think the rotation can get along without him.

Bobby Colton

September 30th, 2009
7:23 pm

Prince Fielder is ready in Milwaukee!

Bobby Colton

September 30th, 2009
7:23 pm

Marc from FL

September 30th, 2009
7:24 pm

I miss the seasons, and fall baseball… The Braves need to win out so I’ll have an excuse to take time off work and head to ATL for a couple October games.

Braves=Believe

September 30th, 2009
7:25 pm

Schultz

Speed only matters if you can make contact. have you Seen mclouth in the past week. He looks like an idiot swinging at the ball that is at his eyes. that is literally 1 inch away from his face. That would scare me i wouldnt swing at that.

rocknthebeergut (formerly southbeachdietfreak)

September 30th, 2009
7:25 pm

For awhile I was beginning to wonder if the Braves would catch the Phils’