Medlen should give Braves reason to consider 6-man staff

Kris Medlen has been too good in two starts to put back into the bullpen. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Kris Medlen has been too good in two starts to put back into the bullpen. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

There is this problem with Kris Medlen. He is too good at everything he does.

He can pitch middle relief. He can start. He can come in at any time and rescue a teammate in full mound meltdown mode, or step in as the understudy for one who has been put on the shelf. He is equally adept at both.

It’s sort of like Kenshin Kawakami’s alternate universe.

Here’s the problem (sort of): After pitching his second solid start in a row (one run, five hits, 5 1/3 innings) to lead the Braves to a 6-1 win over Houston, Medlen is setting up a difficult decision for the Braves. What are they going to do with him when Tommy Hanson if eligible to come off the disabled list in a little over a week?

“I’ll walk in there and give my two cents if they ask,” catcher David Ross. “He’s a fun pitcher to catch. He’s so important to our team. He’s throws strikes. He’s not afraid to throw anything I [signal]. You expect him to make every pitch that you call. You expect him to have a game plan that works.”

Not to short change the importance of a strong middle reliever, but that’s a guy I would want starting.

There is one option the Braves should consider, at least in the short term: a six-man rotation.

It’s a little out there, and not something a team would do in the season’s final pennant-chasing weeks (when you want your best pitchers to get as many starts as possible). But it makes sense now, both because of the circumstances of those in the Braves’ rotation and because there is an upcoming stretch of 20 straight games without an off day (beginning Friday in New York).

Now, there are those ruled by “numbers” in baseball who might think this idea is ridiculous.

“Six-man rotation? You sir are a moron. According to Chapter 17, subsection 12, paragraph 2 of the Sabermetrics Guide To Pitching Rotations …”

But consider:

• No. 1 starter Tim Hudson has bone spurs in his ankle. He already has received two cortisone injections. The rest would help.

• Perceived No. 2 starter Ben Sheets has started four games after not pitching in two years. Wear and fatigue could be issues.

• No. 3 Paul Maholm would be taken out of his every-fifth-day rhythm. If you consider that potentially catastrophic, raise your hand. (Anybody?)

• No. 4 Mike Minor has long surpassed his career single-season high with 116 2/3 innings (he threw 82.2 last year). Another off day should be welcomed.

• No. 5a Medlen isn’t going to complain.

• No. 5b Hanson is in no position to complain.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he hadn’t thought of a six-man rotation until it was brought it up.

Then he said, “Yeah, I could see that. Those guys have pitched well enough and they could use a breather. Minor has some issues. Hanson has issues. There’s Huddy’s [ankle]. Sheets — who knows? We could do it. The only downside is we have to go at least one short in the bullpen or with a position player.”

Medlen is enjoying this. He has allowed only two runs in two starts (10 1/3 innings). He was on the bench for Houston’s only run in the sixth (reliever Cory Gearrin allowing the RBI double after Medlen gave up a pair of 0ne-out singles).

The guy has endured being on a yo-yo. The Braves told him before spring training that they wanted to “stretch out” his arm for the potential of starting, but they kept pulling him. Amid rotation problems, the team sent him to Gwinnett in late May, again to strengthen his arm. But by the time Medlen returned, the situation had stabilized.

“It’s not fun to build up your pitch count in the middle of the year,” he said. “But just getting this opportunity is a lot of fun. Obviously we wish Tommy didn’t go on the DL, but by now I think they know who I am and how I pitch and my mentality. I just want to give them someone dependable to give the ball to.”

He has accomplished that. He ranks in the top five on the team in appearances (40), ERA (2.37) and opponents’ batting average (.235). Seems like a tough guy to send back to the bullpen.

By Jeff Schultz

162 comments Add your comment

Gulf Coast

August 5th, 2012
6:38 pm

Gulf Coast

August 5th, 2012
6:38 pm

keep med in the rotation

Birdhair

August 5th, 2012
6:40 pm

Birdhair agrees w/Jeff

Gulf Coast

August 5th, 2012
6:41 pm

Mr. Schultz, you may be on to something here

Mike

August 5th, 2012
6:41 pm

Weaseal

August 5th, 2012
6:41 pm

Six-man rotation? You sir are a moron. According to Chapter 17, subsection 12, paragraph 2 of the Sabermetrics Guide To Pitching Rotations …” still Laughing !!!

Mike

August 5th, 2012
6:41 pm

archie

August 5th, 2012
6:42 pm

Factor in off days, rainouts, etc., and this is a recipe for disaster. Make Hanson earn his way back into the rotation. And before anyone cites his won-loss record, that’s the most misleading, useless “stat” in baseball. He consistently pitches poorly enough to lose, and has been bailed out by the offense repeatedly….an offense in which he makes no contribution by the way.

Ken Stallings

August 5th, 2012
6:43 pm

Don’t know about the six man rotation idea. You have to factor in the effect of the extra day’s rest on the other pitchers in the rotation. Frankly, Hanson has earned a trip to the bullpen and Medlen has earned his place in the rotation. This isn’t charity time! Alternatively, send Hanson to the minors to work on his mechanics, which was supposed to be a prime objective in the off-season. The man’s lack of control (with pitches constantly breaking down the middle of the plate) combined with his horribly slow delivery make him a liability.

There is no way you can rationalize putting Medlen back in the bullpen. It isn’t even a difficult choice, especially considering the wealth of effective bullpen arms already there and with Moylan’s pending return. It is clear Medlen stays in the rotation and then the only question is what to do with Hanson. Hanson’s poor performance is the true source of the “difficult decision.” Hanson’s win-loss record is attributed to getting excellent run support. Frankly, his poor performance and injury history, combined with the suspect mechanics, and his pending free agency, make any trade value questionable. Hanson might just well need to stay in the minors and get set for his outright release at the end of the season.

I love David Ross’s comments. They are perfect. Medlen is successful because he isn’t afraid to throw strikes and let his defense work behind him. Medlen’s control is exceptional and he changes speeds well. The young man is a gifted pitcher and deserves to remain in the starting rotation.

obxdawg

August 5th, 2012
6:48 pm

No brainer—Medlen stays!!!

stevie zero

August 5th, 2012
6:48 pm

ive been SCREAMING it all year, mr shultz. start medlin, for the love of rick mahler

ezekile

August 5th, 2012
6:48 pm

Schultzie, what you are basically saying is there is no logical reason to not have Medlen start. Except that in baseball managers sometimes don’t like to hurt the feelings of the big ego guys. For instance.. why was Uggla hitting 6th today and Ross 7th? Ross is having twice the year of Uggla at the plate so why is Danny boy and his 5-year $62 million hitting ahead of Ross? Fredi afraid to bruise Danny Boy’s ego??

archie

August 5th, 2012
6:52 pm

Dan Uggla wouldn’t bat 6th on my wife’s Sunday slowpitch team.

The Grinch

August 5th, 2012
6:57 pm

Agree with Ken Stallings. Hanson is the weak link.

Chief Knock A Homa

August 5th, 2012
7:01 pm

ezekile – Ross was probably batting behind Uggla because he IS having a better year as you point out… This would be in the hopes of Uggla getting better pitches to look at is best theory…

Birdhair

August 5th, 2012
7:02 pm

Here’s an idea, let Ross catch Hanson? Ross might make Hanson more disciplined, and he will throw out runners

Chief Knock A Homa

August 5th, 2012
7:04 pm

Jeff – I like the idea of the six man rotation… How about this idea though – Put Hanson as a reliever… It would add to the strength of the bullpen for sure… Get six innings out of the starter and then you have Hanson/Venters/O’Flaherty as the go to guys to rotate and then close with Kimbrel of course…

TampaGator

August 5th, 2012
7:07 pm

Sad when the manager gets a potentially great strategy for the stretch run from a reporter….and says he never thought of it before. Are you kidding me? I think the idea crossed the mind of every sensible blogger on the AJC website. But….of course….this is the same guy who could not sleep the night before the Braves faced Doc Holiday….because he thought Chipper was going to see a doctor the next day. Wow.

urban redneck

August 5th, 2012
7:09 pm

mike, you made me chuckle. first is dumb. failing at it is just embarassing.

the six man rotation isn’t as terrible an idea as i originally thought….MB made some valid points above. i would only diagree with 5a-medlen. he wants the ball everyday, not every sixth day. what a winner that boy is. however, i think we should stick with the five man rotation. move big red to the bullpen. go bravos.

TampaGator

August 5th, 2012
7:09 pm

Birdhair….

Pudge Rodriguez in his prime could not through out base stealers if Hanson was pitching. He might have the slowest delivery in the history of the game. But I guess Ross catching him would not hurt.

George Stein

August 5th, 2012
7:11 pm

This isn’t serious, is it?

jharber

August 5th, 2012
7:11 pm

TampaGator, I think you just discovered what i have been saying since Freddi was hired.

Jamaaliver

August 5th, 2012
7:11 pm

Methinks this is a good problem to have this time of year…

abby normal

August 5th, 2012
7:18 pm

What the hell…..why not go six man?? What’s to lose really?

eastbound and down

August 5th, 2012
7:19 pm

god, i am glad u are just a hack for the AJC and not a GM and/or manager. isn’t it time for your vacation, yet?

TampaGator

August 5th, 2012
7:21 pm

What if you go with a 5 man rotation with Hudson, Sheets, Minor, Maholm, Medlen…..and Hanson pitches every 7th day as the 6th man drop in to give rest to each pitcher during the stretch run. You would use the above 5 starters and then drop Hanson in every 7th day……he gets plenty of rest between starts. The other 5 get regular turns….with a one day break every time Hanson pitches on the 7th day. Worth a try…..and you can just put Hanson in the bullpen in between his starts to work an inning or two if needed.

William

August 5th, 2012
7:23 pm

Brilliant idea, Mr. Schultz. I’m glad some of the “hack” bloggers don’t work for the newspaper or the baseball club.

TampaGator

August 5th, 2012
7:24 pm

eastbound….

What was the purpose of your post……certainly not to add anything of sensible value to the discussion.

TampaGator

August 5th, 2012
7:26 pm

William…

Not a novel idea…just to let you know…..managers have used 6 man rotations some in the past to give rest to their starters. I don’t have the stats to evaluate the results. The main reason you don’t do it is because he hurts the depth of your bullpen……

William

August 5th, 2012
7:28 pm

TampaGator: My understanding of the word novel is something NEW. I didn’t say novel. And duh….I know managers have used this in the past. You don’t have to convince me, Gator. I’m not the manager. I like Schultz’s idea…that’s my OPINION….can’t you just leave it at that?

TampaGator

August 5th, 2012
7:30 pm

jharber…..

But you do not need to be brilliant to be a good regualr season manager…..see…one….Bobby Cox. Not a man who was good at strategy….expecially in the playoffs and WS. He probably personally cost the Braves at least two more world titles because of his lack of strategic thinking skills. But the Braves won a lot of division titles….if only one world championship….under his guidance. Gonzalez seems to be a mold creation of Bobby Cox….and I guess the reason they hired him. Hopefully, Gonzalez will go against the mold and strategically manage during the playoffs if the Braves get there….big if at this point.

Birdhair

August 5th, 2012
7:36 pm

Tampa, point made, but just having ross back there is cause for pause for runners. Maybe I am way off base but just from outside perspective I just think Ross might help Hanson stay more mentally focused. McCann and Medlen could probably mesh very well. Let Ross continue to catch Huddy. Just throwing an idea out there no pun intended.

Lastly, I really do think FG has done a commendable job this season. Although he isn’t well spoken, is easy fooled by twitter messages, and has a frequent eater pass at golden corral, he’s done well. Only big issues are playing francisco at any point, even ph, and staying with struggla too long. I think fredi learned a lot from last season’s collapse. Well, I guess we will find out for 100% sure in Sept

TampaGator

August 5th, 2012
7:37 pm

William…..

Wow….a little sensitive are you? Jeezzz…….

1. I didn’t say you said…novel…..I said it.
2. I didn’t say you didn’t know managers have used it in the past. I just made the statement that they have.
3. I was not trying to convince you of anything. I was just posting my thoughts.
4. I didn’t say you were the manager.
5. I didn’t day you didn’t like Schultz….my post had nothing to do with you and him.

…….it is getting harder and harder on these sites just to have a normal posting conversation with people. Jeeeezzzzzzzz….ma………

BravesWin

August 5th, 2012
7:40 pm

Couldn’t agree more, JS…nothing wrong with a 6-man, and it gives the option of throwing one, or even two, of the six into a spot relief situation.

Birdhair

August 5th, 2012
7:40 pm

Tampa, I 100% agree with you on your assessment of cox and hopefulness of FG in the postseason, IF we make it that far. Remember cox’s sunday lineups? It was almost like he was conceding the game. At least FG doesnt play Jack Wilson and Juan Francisco in the same lineup or some BS. At least he doesnt intentionally do that unless he has no other options.

Cox cost us at least 2 additional world series titles, and arguably more. How do you choke so many times in the postseason? That’s another long article, but wanted to acknowledge Tampa’s solid post.

TampaGator

August 5th, 2012
7:43 pm

Birdhair……

Uggla has his best month in August last year….I believe. I think Freddy is just wishing he repeats and continues in September. We all do. One thing thought….I think Uggla brings more to the table than just his bat. His effort and attitude is big for this club….and he has helped Janish make the transition well. Speaking of Janish….was a great trade….and his BA is nearly the same as Uggla’s BA now. But I can hardly wait for Simmons to get back. The Braves really miss him. He was a real spark….and his bat would ease the pain of Uggla’s stuggles a bit.

bruce

August 5th, 2012
7:46 pm

TampaGator

August 5th, 2012
7:47 pm

Birdhair…..

Are you old enough to remember Cox bringing in Charlie Liebrandt to pitch to Kirby Puckett in the WS…..Braves could have won the entire thing in that game seven….but Cox brings in a junk throwing left hander (who had not pitched out of the pen all year) to pitch to one of the best righthanded hitters in the game at the time……I remember yelling the TV when Cox signaled that move….and screamed in disgust a few moments late when Puckett clobbered that game winning HR. That move has to go down in WS history as one of the worst managerial decsions….I will never forget or forgive Cox for that move….and there were plenty of others.

Birdhair

August 5th, 2012
7:47 pm

Agreed again. But you’ve got to get someone else in there for struggla and gradually get him back in there if he produces in the chances that he is given. FG has done the right thing by moving him with OBP dwindling.

Totally agree on simmons. I love this kid. I think he will be a baller for years to come. It appears that he is going to be a decent OBP producer and provide spectacular D. Janish could take Jack Wilson’s spot on the bench!

TampaGator

August 5th, 2012
7:47 pm

I meant to type…..game six. Smotlz pitched in game 7…….

bruce

August 5th, 2012
7:48 pm

Jeff, What does Medlen mean when he says, “It’s not fun to build up your pitch count in the middle of the year,”

I thought starting is what he wants to do, so this is a confusing comment. Thanks.

TampaGator

August 5th, 2012
7:49 pm

Janish better take Wilson’s spot on the bench….although Wilson can play several spots and Janish only SS….I believe. That hurts Janish….and he may be sent to AAA when Simmons returns and Wilson will take his place on the roster.

gcs

August 5th, 2012
7:49 pm

I have no problem with a six man rotation seeing how none of these guys can seem to last more than 5-6 innings.

Speaking of short starts, since when is pitching 5 1/3 innings considered a “solid start”?

bruce

August 5th, 2012
7:49 pm

Medlen = FIERCE Competitor

TampaGator

August 5th, 2012
7:50 pm

Bruce…not Jeff…..but I think he means…….he would prefer to build up his starting strength in spring training.

man and dog

August 5th, 2012
7:51 pm

Stay with who’s hot. And Hanson is not.

TampaGator

August 5th, 2012
7:52 pm

gcs….

When you just came out of the pen and you have a limited pitch count….like probably 80 today…and Medlen had 79….pitched 5 plus innings…allowing only one run. Very solid start for that situation.

Birdhair

August 5th, 2012
7:53 pm

Tampa, yes 28 yrs old and I vividly remember that moment as a young kid lol. I watched every single game and still try to catch most of all them. I grew up near Fulton county stadium and have now purchased my own home nearby. Huge fan.

I’ve also grown to appreciate Schuerholz despite the Tex and Wainwright deals. Sometimes you have to take a chance on a young pitcher and just hope that he doesnt turn into the next adam wainwright type! JD Drew OBP that season was incredible and it certainly helped us reach the playoffs, but Drew was a major question mark and was not under control beyond that 1 season.

I think you are a Wren supporter, correct? I think he’s a bottom tier GM and needs to go. No question. I wish JS hadn’t let this guy take over for him. So I guess now I have soured on JS some for allowing this guy to ruin teams.

TampaGator

August 5th, 2012
7:53 pm

Wish the Braves had taken all three from the Astros at home this weekend…..should have. It might come back on them later on….not doing that. That 3-2 loss last night was tough to swallow as a Braves fan.

TampaGator

August 5th, 2012
7:58 pm

Birdhair….

Being a GM is one of the toughest job in baseball…..off the field. Tougher than being a manager, I think, and one of the reasons Bobby Cox got out of the press box and back in the dugout. Wren….I think his hands are tied a lot by Liberty…..and JS….not so much when he was GM. I think Wren did OK after the Cubs mess up….with Maholm and Johnson……and getting Janish was brilliant I think. But they need to sign Bourn to a deal….if they want to keep winning in the future. Let’s see if Liberty steps up and unties the hands of Wren on that one.