Braves can’t sit Medlen, need to go with six-man rotation (UPDATED)

Kris Medlen gave up one run on five hits in 6 1/3 innings at New York on Saturday. (AP photo)

Kris Medlen gave up one run on five hits in 6 1/3 innings at New York on Saturday. (AP photo)

(UPDATE: The Braves have made the move: Manager Fredi Gonzalez announced Monday night that the team will use a six-man rotation until the next off day on Aug. 30. Obviously, I agree. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have written the following earlier . . .)

(Also, here’s a link to a video blog on the subject)

Tommy Hanson wasn’t happy when the Braves told him the other day to go to Gwinnett for a rehab start, and it’s easy to understand why. As much as the Braves may have legitimate concerns about his back and general health and want to be cautious before activating him off the disabled list, there are two underlying issues here:

Kris Medlen has just been too good since being elevated to a starter to send him back to the bullpen (2-0 with a 1.62 ERA in three starts).

– Manager Fredi Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell logically want to stall a little before making a decision on whether to go with a six-man rotation, at least during this stretch of 19 straight games without an off day (Monday night’s game against San Diego will be Game 4 in the stretch).

What should Braves do for now?

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I’ll reiterate now what I wrote and spoke to Gonzalez about last week: When Hanson comes back — and he’s eligible to be activated Wednesday — the Braves should go with a six-man rotation for a couple of weeks.

Gonzalez’s concern is understandable: Carrying an extra starter means going one short on the bench and in the bullpen. But the reason the Braves have won 14 of their last 18 and are 24-9 since July 5 largely is because their starting pitching has stabilized. It’s not something to be messed with now, especially since the Washington Nationals have shown no signs of fading yet in the National League East.

Chances are that over the next two weeks the five best starters will emerge. If Hanson continues to struggle or Medlen takes a step back, the decision is easy. It’s also worth watching Ben Sheets, who could start to wear down after so many consecutive starts following two years off. Sheets is coming off his worst of six starts Sunday in New York: 5 runs (4 earned), 8 hits and a home run in six innings.

The Braves are 3-0 in Medlen’s starts. In fact, they’re 16-1 in his starts since 2010 (Medlen is 7-0 when he got the decision). That’s not something the Braves should be messing with right now.

Agree or disagree? The cyber-venting lines are open.

By Jeff Schultz

126 comments Add your comment

P-Man

August 13th, 2012
10:13 am

P-Man

August 13th, 2012
10:15 am

No way you can sit Medlen now, or send him to the bullpen. Hanson looks ready… Tough decision…

Sonny Jackson

August 13th, 2012
10:16 am

Don’t try to fix something that’s not broken… or broken yet anyway…

Richard

August 13th, 2012
10:17 am

Agreed. I think a six man rotation is acceptable for a couple of weeks. Then you can make your pick between Hanson, Medlen, Minor, and Sheets to move to the bullpen.

bruce

August 13th, 2012
10:22 am

Kris Medlen = FIERCE COMPETITOR

CG

August 13th, 2012
10:23 am

I think the 6 man rotation is the best short term answer during this stretch of Games. Medlen certainly has a lot of moxy, one of my favorites to watch. However I hope Hanson is back to form, b/c there is nothing more dominant in post season baseball than a power pitcher pounding the zone.

Clemson Brad

August 13th, 2012
10:24 am

Completely agree…

either 5 man rotation with Medlen or 6 man rotation.

No way can you take Medlen out of rotation with his numbers.

CSP

August 13th, 2012
10:25 am

bruce

August 13th, 2012
10:25 am

Keeping Medlen in the rotation give Freddi the option of skipping a start which he might do with Sheets if his next start is not strong, does’t Ben need to go through the “dead arm” phase of spring training?

Abnerish

August 13th, 2012
10:27 am

Depends on how the extra day off may negatively impact all of the pitchers. Baseball players (and athletes in general) are creatures of habit. If the pitchers are on board with it, I’d say yes. But if they are worried about messing up their rhythm, you could actually cause more harm than good by affecting ALL of the starting pitchers in order to allow 1 pitcher to start. Tough call. I can see both sides of the argument.

Brownie

August 13th, 2012
10:34 am

Abnerish, great point, and conventional wisdom tells you keeping starters on their normal 5 day schedule is the right thing to do. However, this situation may call for a little creativity/pitching outside of the box.

It’s been a long, very hot, summer, and other than Medlin none of the starters are pitching their best. One extra day off to recuperate may just help all of them over the rest of this month. Then you’ve got the September call-ups, and the flexibility that gives you.

In this case, I vote they go with the 6 man rotation. If it causes problems, you change back – this is not a permanent move.

JoshTown

August 13th, 2012
10:34 am

Medlen is the man. Whoever helps us the most in the rotation deserves to be there. We’ve still got some long guys in the pen.

Jon

August 13th, 2012
10:35 am

So do you not proofread your editorial before posting it? So many errors…unacceptable.

“the Braves should with a six-man rotation for a couple of weeks.”
“5 runs (4 earned), 8 eights and a home run in six innings.”

Heisenberg

August 13th, 2012
10:38 am

The 6 man rotation makes a whole lot of sense with 1 less bullpen arm. Worse case scenario would be using a starter for an inning or 2 on his sideline throwing day. And do not forget rosters expand in 19 days. Then there will be lots of bullpen and/or bench help.

@Jon

August 13th, 2012
10:39 am

Jeff will refund all your money for your dissatisfaction….

VinnyD

August 13th, 2012
10:48 am

How many starting pitchers would you consider a “hoss” right now? Someone you can rely on to give you 200+ innings for years. Hudson is battling issues, Sheets could lose his arm any day now. Minor has never pitched a lot of innings. Hanson looks bad with less velocity and a slower delivery. Maholm may be the most guaranteed thing we have and he has a very high career era. Medlen is one of my favorite to watch pitch. Works pretty fast and goes after hitters. Keep it 6 gives you the option to skip a start with a few banged up and tired arms.

Ryder

August 13th, 2012
10:50 am

Heisenberg nailed it with that comment. Since we are in August the Braves can use this opportunity to decide which pitcher needs to go to the bullpen during the stretch run in September. Also, it helps prevent wearing down Sheets since he is still getting into the groove of things. Slowly bring back Hanson only makes him stronger the closer we get to the end of the year.

LawDawg

August 13th, 2012
10:51 am

Ummm…I’d recommend a quick proofread on this article.

“the Braves should with a”

“8 eights”

Ted Striker

August 13th, 2012
10:51 am

Jeff — I firmly believe that YOU created the genesis of this idea with Fredi.

On the idea itself…if a six man rotation is effective, you don’t need as much middle. The loss of a middle guy is overblown if the 6 works better than the 5.

Will the 6 rotation be awesome? I dunno. But try it. Make a change if needed. But if it works, rock on baby.

p.s. The temptation in baseball (versus football) is to say what you’re going to do before you do it.

You ever hear Bilichick say “Nope. Brady definitely ain’t starting this week because that achilles injury just isn’t healed up enough yet.”

Ryan

August 13th, 2012
10:52 am

If Medlen, continues his current performance and Gonzales chooses to sit him, Frank Wren should fire Gonzales immediately.

Bravothusiast

August 13th, 2012
10:53 am

I want Medlen, Huddy and Maholm pitching as often as possible right now… We need whoever is going to give us the best chance to win! Tommy needs to be the longman until he can regain his velocity.

mocam

August 13th, 2012
10:53 am

put minor in the bullpen, those who are least among the six shall be given days off through assigning him as a relief pitcher

Bravothusiast

August 13th, 2012
11:00 am

Jurrjens’ average FB velocity decline:
2007 – 92.6
2008 – 91.9
2009 – 91.2
2010 – 91.1
2011 – 89.1
2012 – 88.6

Hanson’s average FB velocity decline:
2010 – 92.7
2011 – 91.2
2012 – 89.8

Just sayin…

DaddyK

August 13th, 2012
11:01 am

Hanson bad attitude makes him prime for trading. Man up Tommy and play your role or another team will be your future. Go with 6 man rotation.

Ted Striker

August 13th, 2012
11:01 am

btw, you fockers criticizing J. Shultz’s articles/viewpoints/punctuation/lack of hairline

Leave that to me, por favor.

Striker reserves sole and exclusive rights to criticize Jeffrey’s craft, as well as his rather lacking personality. None of thee are permitted to usurp my authority. I will challenge you to a duel if you keep it up.

bulldogbubba

August 13th, 2012
11:05 am

Medlen stays no doubt about it. If you need a pinch hitter use Medlen, Hudson , or Hanson all pretty good hitters. The problem wit most managers they don’t want to think outside the box.Tony LaRussa was different he didn’t mind changing his lineup and he was successful as a manager.

bulldogbubba

August 13th, 2012
11:06 am

What would Clusters do?

DawgDad

August 13th, 2012
11:08 am

I find it hard to believe the Brave management (1) is even considering a six-man rotation, and (2) discussing this in public, which has been evidenced at the GM and Manager level.

There is a roster price to pay for carrying six starters in terms of a shortened bench or bullpen. They don’t appear inclined to pitch any of these guys out of the pen between starts. Think, they could be carrying three catchers enabling Ross or McCann to pinch-hit when they don’t start.

The number of pitchers on the roster and appearing in a game has already expanded to the point of being ridiculous, and its tedious to watch.

Homer the Brave

August 13th, 2012
11:13 am

Sheets’ velocity is slowly creeping down with every start. I don’t think the 2 starts in AAA were enough to stretch him out and prepare him for starting every 5th day. I would send him back down to AAA once Hanson is activated and let gets some more work in. Hudson’s recent struggles are also a concern. Delgado has pitched well since being sent down to AAA. Assuming that Tommy is healthy, a 6-man rotation could consist of Hudson, Hanson, Minor, Medlan, Maholm, and Delgado.

Abnerish

August 13th, 2012
11:28 am

Just saying there are pros and cons to the 6-man rotation. It’s no slam dunk decision. Again, to me, it goes back to the veteran SPs. If they feel they can successfully adjust to an every 6th day schedule, then Fredi should really give it serious consideration. Given that the Braves have all these games without a day off, I think it is more than likely that they will keep 6 in the rotation. And, I guess, if the bullpen gets overly taxed because of a poor start or extra inning game, they can always move Medlen (notice the spelling everyone!!) back to the bullpen.

I.P. Freely

August 13th, 2012
11:34 am

Medlen – He’s a bulldog! He has a competitive nature about him and will not give up on his game plan. To take him out of the rotation would be a mistake. He IS a starting pitcher.

Sheets – Last outing didn’t look so good. Not enough prep time after sitting out for two years? Starting to wear down?

Hanson – Overrated and under performing. Get it together or get a new employer.

Minor – Pitching good as of late. Would be better with some offensive support.

Hudson – Early innings suck!

ga gator

August 13th, 2012
11:38 am

Let it play out. Medlin reminds me of a young Hudson; he is a fighter while Hanson is too inconsistant. If the decision had to be made today I would try to shop Hanson for another bat.

shawn

August 13th, 2012
11:38 am

Hanson should worry about his ERA than being upset going to a rehab assignment. Hanson has not been good in the second half for the last two years. Medlen should be in the rotation, no question asked…

chc4

August 13th, 2012
11:40 am

Hanson doesn’t deserve to be in the rotation. Problem is I can’t see him being an effective reliever. But I would NOT go to a 6 man rotation. Our guys need more than 1 start per week to stay sharp.

RBI

August 13th, 2012
11:41 am

Having Medlen start does not seem to have hurt the bullpen. Hanson is the main guy I am worried about. And, I am starting to worry about Sheets.

Geez Braves.

August 13th, 2012
11:47 am

Go with a 6-man rotation, but if possible set it up so Medlen spells Sheets for a start and some others as well, rather than moving everyone back a day. By the end of the month the 5-starters for September should be apparent. As well as he has done in the rotation, it would be hard to lose Medlen’s role as a stopper in the bullpen for the postseason.

Ted M

August 13th, 2012
11:48 am

I agree Medlen should stay in the rotation. I’m scared this decision is going to be made by Fredi Gonzalez.

msd

August 13th, 2012
11:49 am

Jeff, good thing you are being paid to make the decisions, since you keep telling the team what to do.

Ricky

August 13th, 2012
11:50 am

ITS HANSON WHO SHOULD SIT! He Stinks!

collegedude

August 13th, 2012
11:53 am

Are the editors at AJC on strike or just on vacation? Columnist definitely need someone to proofread for them because they are obviously too good to do it themselves.

GTanner

August 13th, 2012
11:59 am

Phillisux

August 13th, 2012
12:01 pm

Ricky August 13th, 2012 11:50 am ITS HANSON WHO SHOULD SIT! He Stinks!

Hanson is 12-5 – you stink!

P B Orr

August 13th, 2012
12:06 pm

Five man with Minor out. That’s the no-brainer here.

Bravothusiast

August 13th, 2012
12:09 pm

Phillisux – Cliff Lee is 2-7. He must stink, right? You can’t tell a damn thing from a pitcher’s win-loss record. Hanson stinks right now, I don’t care how many games the Braves’ offense has won for him…

urban redneck

August 13th, 2012
12:10 pm

five man with big red in the pen for now. we don’t know what’s going on with holy sheets, so hanson may take his place soon………..after a stint in the pen. go bravos.

billh

August 13th, 2012
12:14 pm

>So do you not proofread your editorial before posting it? So many errors…unacceptable.
“the Braves should with a six-man rotation for a couple of weeks.”
“5 runs (4 earned), 8 eights and a home run in six innings.”<I

I don't think that people – like the person who made that comment – realize how easy it is for even an experienced professional writer to make typos. Unlike in the print newspaper this stuff goes directly online – no editing. No matter how competent a person is mistakes still creep in – that's why, long ago when newspapers were fat and happy, there were so many different sets of eyes on the copy. With your own stuff, a person tends to read right past mistakes. The real miracle to me is – given how the online world works – how few mistakes get through.

Sweet Old Buck

August 13th, 2012
12:19 pm

Six man rotation works, because at the moment we have the pitchers. As well as Sheets has pitched to date, he is not a sure thing. Hanson has been somewhat injury prone. Let’s keep everyone pitching.

ChipperisGod

August 13th, 2012
12:19 pm

Either go six (I agree, Sheets may need an extra day or rest) or five man rotation with Medlen. Send Gearrin or Avilan down, and unfortunately I guess the Pastor would have to be sent down. Or (and I don’t want to do this out of sentimentality), but Hinske may need to be designated.

I think six man may be the best option, but I Hanson better get his stuff back. He’s easily the worst starter right now, and has been battered around by quality opponents, and scrapes by the Marlins.

Let’s take 3 of 4 from San Diego before the toughest stretch of the year comes up.

sidslid

August 13th, 2012
12:21 pm

Hanson will be traded before next year. I think he will be arbitration-eligible, and not worth it.

Disbott3000

August 13th, 2012
12:26 pm

These are good problems to have.

I agree with the 6 man approach for the time being. When the stretch is over, take the one who’s performance is the weakest and move them to the bullpen. Nobody’s guaranteed a starting job, as far as I know, and the best pitchers, no matter who they are, should be taking the ball.