Braves have opening vs. Nats, but still need to make move

Frank Wren shouldn't let opportunity of this season slip away without a move. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Frank Wren can't let this season's opportunity slip away without a move. (Curtis Compton)

(Second update: 11:35 p.m.)

John Smoltz looks at the Braves and sees what everybody else sees.

“They’ve made some adjustments offensively, but the inconsistency of their starting pitching has them where they are,” he said. “Win six, lose eight. Win five, lose four. They’re stuck in neutral.”

Neutral isn’t necessarily a bad place to be, particularly in the National League East. When baseball’s second half opened Friday, the Braves were only four games behind the Washington Nationals, which is better than being four games behind a team with an actual resume. The Nationals’ franchise last made the playoffs 31 years ago in a whole different language (Montreal).

There’s also this curious matter of Stephen Strasburg. Washington maintains it’s serious about this plan to limit its best starting pitcher (and his surgically repaired arm) to 160 innings. That could be construed as telling Nats fans, “We really, really want to win the division,  but not really,” and/or telling the Braves, “Do you want to win the division? Here, we’ll put the ball on the tee for you.”

Strasburg is only 61 innings from hitting the mandated ceiling. Washington plays 79 games after the All-Star break. In a five-man rotation, that factors to 16 starts for Strasburg in normal circumstances. But at an average of six innings per start, there’s room for only 10 starts before the medical stop sign goes up. So the Nationals would lose six potential starts from their No. 1 starter … in a pennant race … when they have never made the playoffs in Washington.

The Nationals' Stephen Strasburg could be shelved the equivalent of six starts in second half. (AP photo)

The Nationals may shelve pitcher Stephen Strasburg for equivalent of six starts in the second half of the season.

“I don’t buy it,” Tommy Hanson said. “I mean, good for us – we don’t have to face him.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Chipper Jones said.

“I’m sure when they came up with this plan, they didn’t expect to be this good this year,” Smoltz said. “It’s a good problem to have for the future. But right now it’s a PR nightmare.”

The Braves’ return Friday had a nightmarish look. There was a blackout in the second inning, causing a 16-minute delay. Tim

Tim Hudson left in the fifth inning after allowing four runs on eight hits.

Tim Hudson was mediocre, leaving in the fifth inning after allowing four runs on eight hits. (AP photos)

Hudson had his own power outage (four runs, eight hits allowed in four-plus innings). The strange decision to not immediately bring in a shortstop to replace the injured Andrelton Simmons backfired when backup Jack Wilson suffered a dislocated finger in the fourth, forcing Martin Prado to move in from left field and Eric Hinske to come off the bench. (Even if general manager Frank Wren figured he was close to a trade, the one-game risk was nonsensical.)

To open the second half, the Braves didn’t look like a smooth operation. Still, they defeated the New York Mets 7-5, and the big picture is unchanged: They have an opportunity. This should be viewed by management as a go-for-it season. That means make a deal for a starting pitcher and loosen the death grip on the pitching prospects.

The Braves can’t really know what this team will look like next season. Jones is retiring, which leaves a hole in the clubhouse. A number of other big contracts are up. And those perceived great pitching prospects (Mike Minor, Randall Delgado, Julio Teheran) that Wren has refused to let go of? Not so great yet.

“I’d like to see us get a pitcher,” Jones said. “You would be amazed how consistent you play when you’ve got five guys who expect to win every time they walk out there.”

But when asked about trading youth, he added: “The Braves have been very stingy with their young guys, and we saw first-hand what can happen when you mortgage the future for the quick fix in [the Mark] Teixeira [trade]. I don’t see them going all out again.”

They shouldn’t hold back. The main names that are circulating: Milwaukee’s Zack Greinke and the Chicago Cubs’ Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza (4.32 ERA). But Wren said Friday he has had only casual conversations with other clubs, and he still doesn’t have a sense for what clubs will demand in trade.

“Teams haven’t measured the market yet,” he said. “Right now the conversations are, ‘If this guy is available, would you be interested?’”

Does his team need starting pitching?

“We got a starting pitcher in Ben Sheets. We’ll get a chance to see Ben in the next few weeks leading up to the deadline and see what else we need.”

What they need seems pretty obvious, and the Nationals may leave an opening.

By Jeff Schultz

364 comments Add your comment

RKCola

July 13th, 2012
7:45 pm

RKCola

July 13th, 2012
7:46 pm

Yes, victory is mine…Go Braves

Jeff Schultz

July 13th, 2012
7:48 pm

RKCola — would you like the certificate, the small stuffed teddy bear or the big eraser as your “First” prize?

RKCola

July 13th, 2012
7:50 pm

Haven’t seen the new Wahlberg movie but that teddy bear looks funny. I guess I’ll take that. Thanks for the bloggage, Jeff. Stay dry out there.

Sonny Clusters

July 13th, 2012
7:57 pm

Welcome back, Jeff! Some stuff happened while you was away but we didn’t read about it since you didn’t write about it. Can you tell if Dan Uggla is popping up or striking out tonight?

Jeff Schultz

July 13th, 2012
7:57 pm

Consecutive walks to load the bases and Dan Uggla swings on the first pitch? Oy.

Jeff Schultz

July 13th, 2012
7:58 pm

Sonny — you be a prophet.

Adam

July 13th, 2012
8:00 pm

I want to like Dan Uggla…I do. But gosh he is infuriating.

Sonny Clusters

July 13th, 2012
8:02 pm

Uggla is not the sharpest crayon in the box. He would be deer-ish if we didn’t already have one on the team. It sure is good to have Jack Wilson in there considering McCann’s bat is missing tonight. We think this is the start of the second half and we was hoping they’d start with everything clicking.

SOS Braves

July 13th, 2012
8:03 pm

Jack Wilson is absolutely worthless. But it seems that Uggla is too. However, Uggla has potential and Wilson doesnt.

Jeff Schultz

July 13th, 2012
8:03 pm

Jack Wilson has an excuse — he’s a 79-year-old backup shortstop.

G

July 13th, 2012
8:04 pm

Where is McCaan?

Jeff Schultz

July 13th, 2012
8:04 pm

By the way, the Mets’ Chris Young didn’t walk a batter in his previous 2 starts. He walked 3 in the first inning.

Loosing Managar = Loosing Record

July 13th, 2012
8:10 pm

It dont mater what Wren do unless he get rids of the loosing managar.

Loosing Managar = Loosing Record

July 13th, 2012
8:11 pm

Why is there only comercials on now?

Chris

July 13th, 2012
8:11 pm

What’s up at game??????
TV went to commercial with only 2 out in top 2nd??

Chris

July 13th, 2012
8:12 pm

And GameChannel on MLB website shows no pitches being thrown

TGT

July 13th, 2012
8:12 pm

What the heck is going on with Peachtree TV?! It cut out in the middle of the top of the 2nd and is running nothing but commercials!!!

Loosing Managar = Loosing Record

July 13th, 2012
8:13 pm

Realy its back 2 back Big Bang and Sienfiled comercials

Sonny Clusters

July 13th, 2012
8:13 pm

This would be a good time to hit the press box buffet while the lights are out. Fill your pockets with cheese and rolls.

Jeff

July 13th, 2012
8:13 pm

Power outage at the stadium…chillax

Chris

July 13th, 2012
8:14 pm

Since it went out on TV, MLB shows NOTHING going on…
Streaker???

Loosing Managar = Loosing Record

July 13th, 2012
8:15 pm

They dont want us 2 see how much sux the Braces R ! LOLOL

Chris

July 13th, 2012
8:15 pm

Liberty won’t even pay power bill

Loosing Managar = Loosing Record

July 13th, 2012
8:17 pm

What is chilax?

Sonny Clusters

July 13th, 2012
8:17 pm

Uggla can probably bat in the dark and it won’t make much difference.

Jsine

July 13th, 2012
8:17 pm

McCann became a Daddy today at 2PM! So…that’s where he is! With his wife and newborn son! Congrats to Jim. Someone explain to me why Uggla is still playing…every game? He must have something on Freddie…really. Geez…he’s so bad …even the power went off in disgust!!!

Loosing Managar = Loosing Record

July 13th, 2012
8:20 pm

Meet the Browns? Someone poke my eyes out.

Jeff Schultz

July 13th, 2012
8:20 pm

Sorry. Lost wireless — because we lost POWER! Officially a blackout at stadium at 8:07. Still going, Somehow there’s power to video board and they’re showing the Nationals and Marlins game. This is the first time I’ve been in a power outage in a stadium since a World Series game at Candlestick Park. There was an earthquake that night. This is better.

Jeff Schultz

July 13th, 2012
8:22 pm

Braves just came back onto the field. Some but not all of the lights are back on.

sezWho

July 13th, 2012
8:23 pm

Sonny….Sonny…Sonny….sad but true. But when Ugg gets hot again he will be amazing. As far as fg GOES, I wish he would; far far away.

Loosing Managar = Loosing Record

July 13th, 2012
8:23 pm

Thats one way to not loose 2 nite. Turn the lites off!

Jeff Schultz

July 13th, 2012
8:24 pm

We’re back to baseball. Wimps wouldn’t play in dark. Baseball players are soft. … Anyway, official delay of 16 mins.

sezWho

July 13th, 2012
8:25 pm

It’s LOSE, not LOOSE.

Jeff Schultz

July 13th, 2012
8:25 pm

That Hudson strikeout took about 20 mins.

Sonny Clusters

July 13th, 2012
8:27 pm

Jeff, some people think Fredi manages in the dark. Did you see anything to support that?

Jeff Schultz

July 13th, 2012
8:28 pm

Sonny — Impressive. I thought it would be 5 or 6 comments before somebody took that swing. You’re ahead of the curve as usual.

jerry

July 13th, 2012
8:29 pm

Rule the East? Man, that’s some pretty high cotton!

Alaska Braves Fan

July 13th, 2012
8:31 pm

It’s pretty easy to get frustrated with a guy like Uggla when he’s down. Of course, his record-breaking streak last year was sort of nice, eh? He’s extremely streaky. We all know that. But, when he’s hitting, he’s firecracker hot. Also, whether he’s hitting or not, he’s a 110% guy on the field. He runs hard and he gives up his body to get to grounders. Everyone wants the perfect second baseman who hits .320, never commits an error, and whacks about 30 HR’s per year. All in all, Uggla is pretty good, and when all the other elements of this team are clicking, he plays his part just fine.

It’s a shame to see one of Hudson’s starts interrupted like this. Perhaps he’ll come back into the game; certainly he’ll want to, but the start-and-stop-and-start-again approach is not so very good for starting pitchers, and his effectiveness likely will be affected. I really hate these delays for that reason.

Let’s see what Sheets can do. He was highly effective for a good part of his career, and was dominating when at his best. How might things have been different if the Braves had written off Smoltz because of his serious injuries? Sheets may not work out, but if he does, we’ve struck gold.

ABF

JaxNC Braves Fan

July 13th, 2012
8:32 pm

ABF, nice to see a commenter with some common sense on Uggla.

Quack Quack

July 13th, 2012
8:35 pm

Congratulations Mr. & Mrs. McCann!! I was wondering too.

The reason opportunity is often missed is that it usually comes disguised as hard work.

GO BRAVES!!!

Alaska Braves Fan

July 13th, 2012
8:36 pm

Well, excuuuuuuse ME! Apparently the delay didn’t hurt Hudson’s pitching or his hitting. My MLB broadcast still isn’t working. Jeff: Is that a result of power problems at the stadium, do you think?

ABF

todd grantham

July 13th, 2012
8:36 pm

Jeffrey, tell me the guy next to F Wren in the pic is NOT Jerry Sandusky

Jeff Schultz

July 13th, 2012
8:37 pm

Alaska Braves Fan — Really? Can’t explain MLB feed. All I can tell you is the game is on in front of me.

Alaska Braves Fan

July 13th, 2012
8:37 pm

JaxNC Braves Fan: Thanks! These judgments sometimes are difficult, but the guy does have a sound track record.

ABF

sezWho

July 13th, 2012
8:37 pm

I don’t think fg has what it takes to tell Uggla to sit out a game. Anyone ever seen him get mad, or lay down the law? Ain’t gonna happen.

Jeff Schultz

July 13th, 2012
8:37 pm

By the way, if there’s a blackout in Alaska, and it stays light there for 23 hours a day, does anybody notice the power’s out?

JaxNC Braves Fan

July 13th, 2012
8:39 pm

sezWho, he sat Uggla just before the break.

Alaska Braves Fan

July 13th, 2012
8:39 pm

Jeff: We’ve learned that everything takes three days longer to reach Alaska. At least video doesn’t come by mail anymore. It hasn’t been so very long ago that all TV was two weeks old when we got it.

Please post any dramatic developments!

Thanks!

ABF

todd grantham

July 13th, 2012
8:40 pm

yes, you know the power is out when the air conditioner goes off