The Braves’ postseason rotation: Does Lowe get a start?

This is premature. But we geniuses were talking about it last night  in the press box, and I figured one or two of you might be having a similar conversation. So here goes: What’s the rotation if the Braves make the playoffs?

The obvious answer: Javier Vazquez in Game 1 because he has been the Braves’ best pitcher this season; Jair Jurrjens in Game 2 because he has been the second-best, and Tommy Hanson in Game 3 because he has been to this team what Steve Avery was to the 1991 aggregation. And then Bobby Cox would have to face the question all managers must tackle in postseason — a three-man rotation or a four-man?

And I’m thinking Cox will choose the latter. When he has had a big-time fourth starter in postseasons past, he hasn’t skipped him. Only when the Braves’ rotation was short a man did Cox deploy a starting pitcher on three days’ rest. And the Braves do have a high-salaried starting pitcher who has won clinching games in both the League Championship Series and the World Series itself, and it isn’t as if that pitcher hasn’t won a game this season. Indeed, Derek Lowe has won 15.

But there’s a catch. Lowe stands fourth among National League starters in wins — actually, he’s tied with four other men, Vazquez among them — but he’s only 67th in ERA. Opponents are hitting .299 against him, which ranks next-to-last (ahead of only Livan Hernandez, the human batting tee) among all NL qualifiers. Lowe has won almost in spite of himself, which isn’t exactly an advertisement for a playoff start.

Should Derek Lowe get a playoff start?

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But — yes, another “but” — there’s another consideration. Vazquez has one career postseason victory and has had the reputation, which he’s overcoming weekly, of not being a big-game pitcher. Jurrjens and Hanson have never been in the playoffs. Tim Hudson is coming off arm surgery and has won only once in nine postseason starts to boot.

Say what you will about Lowe as a Brave, but he started and won Game 7 in Yankee Stadium in 2004 and worked seven scoreless innings for the  Red Sox in the Series clicncher against St. Louis. And that, we need note, came at a time when fatalistic New Englanders fully expected something to go wrong. (Because, up until then, something always had.)

I’m not saying give Lowe a Game 1 start because he won two big games five years ago for another club. But I’m saying he deserves a start if his latest club plays beyond the 162nd game. He’s still a decent pitcher. He has, after all, won 15 games.

Oh, and one thing more: As the rotation sets up now, Vazquez would start a one-game playoff against Colorado on Monday if a 163rd game is necessary. Since he’s scheduled to work Wednesday night against Florida, that would be his regular turn. But if Vazquez starts a playoff game and the Braves win it, that would surely leave Jurrjens to work Game 1 in Dodger Stadium, wouldn’t it?

OK, one final final thing: The Dodgers’ rotation would include some combination of Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Randy Wolf , Jon Garland, Hiroki Kuroda and possibly Vincente Padilla. Would you take that group over the Braves’ starters? Didn’t think you would.

94 comments Add your comment

Dennis

September 29th, 2009
2:20 pm

Lowe would have to get his game right to start. But to have Hudson and Lowe..we would be dangerous. Looking forward to the next six games!

Karma Police

September 29th, 2009
2:20 pm

I agree, Mark. I would give Lowe a start. But I am much more worried about Tim Hudson tonight.

NY BRAVES FAN

September 29th, 2009
2:21 pm

As much as I realize and know that Lowe has not been a typical # 1 this year, It is without a doubt in my mind that he should be and wil be starting in a brave playoff rotation. At this point I can’t predict if he will be the number 1 or the number 4 because assuming if the braves get in I am not sure how the roatation would stack up. I would bet though that Bobby would give him the ball in Game 1 if he could knowing his experience in post season.

cricket

September 29th, 2009
2:25 pm

JV for one-game playoff, JJJ game 1 followed by TH and DL. Hudson and KK long men in BP.

Ugaman

September 29th, 2009
2:27 pm

I hate to say it, but I think Bobby would probably start Lowe in game 1. He always puts a lot of emphasis on vets with playoff experience. I think it should be Vasquez, JJ, Hanson and then Hudson, with Lowe coming out of the Bullpen. IMHO, he’s the only starter who know what it’s like to pitch late in the game with the game on the line, and it would be nice to have him back there with Sori and Gonzo, considering how unstable they can be at the end of the game. I also hope Bobby has a short leash with Gonzo, as he almost always walks someone because his mechanics are so poor when falling off the mound. I just don’t trust him when there’s a great deal of pressure and you need a pitch in the right location. Either way, I’m just stoked that we are still talking about the Bravos with 6 games left in the season! They have really pulled it together and will be dangerous if they make it to the postseason. I promise you that noone wants to go up against our rotation in the playoffs! Just ask St. Louis.

Smack

September 29th, 2009
2:48 pm

The fact is we signed him to be the ace of the staff. To get our money’s worth, he would have to be one of the first two to start in the playoffs right? WRONG! As the second half has shaped up, this is and should continue to be thought of as Tommy Hanson’s staff. He is the dominating pitcher that often glows in the spotlight of October (i.e. the Junior Smoltz). Lowe has been brilliant in the playoffs as a reliever in the past and should be thought of as the emergency option out of the pen should we start to slip early in a game come the division series.

jayvee

September 29th, 2009
2:49 pm

Not sure what would transpire if the Braves make the playoff or playoffs. I’m more concerned about whether or how they’ll resign Vazquez after this season ends.

Benjamin

September 29th, 2009
2:52 pm

D-Lowe is my fourth starter if I’m Bobby Cox. Vaz, Jair, and Hanson all have outperformed hm during this run, but he does have experience pitching in big games, though he was nationally known before 2004 as the possessor of the “Derek Lowe Face,” which wasn’t exactly a complimentary tone struck by The Sports Guy.

Honestly, if we get to the playoffs, I think we’re completely the team to beat… if Derek Lowe is your fourth starter in this league, you’ve got an advantage.

You Distort, We Deride

September 29th, 2009
2:54 pm

6th. Or 7th. Who started this crap anyway?

GO BRAVES!

September 29th, 2009
3:02 pm

Herschel Talker

September 29th, 2009
3:03 pm

Should he get a start? No. Vazquez, Jurrjens, and Hanson are all better.

Will he get a start? Of course. Because Booby Cox is always looking for new ways to bring his loyalty to new extremes, so why not do such and create a new October meltdown at the same time. It it’s Booby’s modus operandi, so it is what it is. Sadly, we all know where this rotation decision is heading.

Brian

September 29th, 2009
3:04 pm

One thing not mentioned yet is the fact that the Braves may want to be careful with Tommy Hanson. He’s already pitched more than he’s ever pitched in his life this year. The innings are starting to add up. I wonder if the Braves would consider putting him in the bullpen for the playoffs.

To answer the question at hand, I would be very, very surprised if Derek Lowe was not in the Braves’ playoff rotation. It’s better for the Braves to be in the situation of deciding which starter not to start than some playoff teams who are scrambling around to find guys to start for them.

XXXVII

September 29th, 2009
3:07 pm

Smack’s right, the fact that Lowe was signed to be the ace don’t mean jack. Right now, Lowe is the 5th best starter on the team. But maybe he’ll kick it up notch if the Braves make the playoffs.

Mark Bradley

September 29th, 2009
3:08 pm

I don’t think the Braves will mind giving Hanson a few extra innings in October. All bets are off in that month.

Country Boy

September 29th, 2009
3:08 pm

This blog is WAY to optimistic. Haven’t you been watching the Braves this year??

Jt

September 29th, 2009
3:09 pm

Was talking with a friend of mine yesterday about it and we both would have the same 3 starters as you, Mark. My concern is the Bobby Cox loyalty and the past performance factors- two traits that I think sometimes hurts the Braves. Cox is well aware of how DLowe has performed in big games in the past. I am just not sure that it is significant now. He is really the weak link in the rotation at this time. And DLowe started the year as the number one starter, so I am afraid that he will rely on him for that role. But, if the Braves make it to the playoffs, it will go down to the last game of the season and will have to rely for the most part on how their rotation falls- there will be little room for adjustments. As far as Hanson is concerned, I don’t think it affects him one way or the other the largeness of the game. He seems to just go out there and pitch regardless.

Mark Bradley

September 29th, 2009
3:09 pm

No, I haven’t watched them. How they’ve been doing?

Joey

September 29th, 2009
3:09 pm

Mark, you know Lowe would get the game 1 start, for the same reason Chipper stayed in the 3rd batting spot all season, even when batting 150 for a couple of months. Don’t go to thinking Bobby’s gonna change….

Brian

September 29th, 2009
3:16 pm

I just know Cox haters on here have been complaining for years that he started Glavine and Maddux in Game 1 even though they had a big-game John Smoltz available. Now it’s the opposite. They’re already complaining, and Bobby hasn’t even done anything yet.

GO DAWGS

September 29th, 2009
3:20 pm

D-Lowe should be 4th man in four man rotation IF Braves make playoffs.They got a pretty good shot with the way starting pitching is going. Go Braves !!

Herschel Talker

September 29th, 2009
3:20 pm

Brian:

When you’ve seen the same movie over and over, you know how the ending will be. Do you think Booby is going to change his loyalty card at this point, after 20 years? Get a clue, dude.

Brian

September 29th, 2009
3:22 pm

Question, Herschel: Did you support Cox starting Greg Maddux in series openers after great regular season work, or John Smoltz and his big-game playoffs reputation?

I’ll be you sided with whatever Cox didn’t do.

Mark Bradley

September 29th, 2009
3:26 pm

Actually, Cox tried to pick his Game 1 starter according to the year the pitcher was having. (Provided he had time to set his rotation, which was the case most years.) Glavine started Game 1 against the Pirates in 1991 and Game 1 against the Giants in 2002. Smoltz started Game 1 against the Pirates in 1992. Maddux started Game 1 against the Rockies in 1995, Game 1 against the Astros in 1997 and 1999 and 2001 and Game 1 against the Cardinals in 2000. Smoltz started Game 1 against the Dodgers in 1996 and Game 1 against the Cubs in 1998. Avery started Game 1 against the Phillies in 1993.

Herschel Talker

September 29th, 2009
3:29 pm

Brian:

It’s a fair question. What I do know is that Maddux did not get consistently lit up the second half of that season. So even though I would have gone with Smoltz for sure, starting Maddux was somewhat defensible. Lowe has been very much a tomato can the whole second half. There is no excuse for putting this guy in the rotation. Unless you have blinding loyalty.

Ron E.

September 29th, 2009
3:33 pm

I think you have to set up the rotation based on how the pitchers have pitched this year. You can’t go off what was done 4 or 5 years ago or even last year because Lowe hasn’t been as good this year as he was then and Vasquez has been much better than he ever was before. Throw the small sample size of what Javy did in the past out the window. He’s been great the last 3 weeks when every game has been in effect a playoff game for the Braves. Plus there is the fact that Lowe has pitched out off the bullpen in the past. I’d go with a starting four of Vasquez, Jurrjens, Hanson, and Hudson. Now I’m sure that’s not what Bobby would do. He’d probably send Hanson to the pen and start Lowe because of Lowe’s veteranness.

Brian

September 29th, 2009
3:38 pm

Derek Lowe combined against the Phillies and Dodgers this year: 3-0, 2.25 ERA in five starts. (He didn’t pitch against St. Louis)

Mark Bradley

September 29th, 2009
3:38 pm

I don’t think Hanson will go to the bullpen.

Mike B

September 29th, 2009
3:40 pm

I just hope we get there

Herschel Talker

September 29th, 2009
3:43 pm

Brian:

Below are Derek Lowe’s second half stats. Does this man deserve to start in the postseason over Vazquez, JJ, and Hanson? Please forgive me if the formatting does not come out right.

DATE OPP RESULT IP H R ER HR BB SO PIT ERA*
27-Sep @WAS W 6-3 6 7 3 3 3 2 3 92 4.55
21-Sep @NYM W 11-3 5 6 3 3 1 0 5 69 4.55
16-Sep NYM W 6-5 2 5 3 2 0 2 2 44 4.53
10-Sep @HOU W 9-7 5.2 9 5 5 1 2 5 101 4.48
4-Sep CIN L 3-1 7 7 3 3 1 2 5 97 4.36
Monthly Totals 25.2 34 17 16 6 8 20 403 5.61
29-Aug @PHI W 9-1 5.2 8 1 1 1 0 5 112 4.38
23-Aug FLA W 7-5 5 9 5 3 0 1 3 67 4.48
18-Aug @NYM L 9-4 3.2 11 8 8 0 0 0 82 4.45
12-Aug WAS W 6-2 7 7 2 2 0 4 5 101 4.08
6-Aug @LAD L 5-4 6.1 8 2 2 0 2 2 103 4.15
1-Aug LAD W 4-3 6 5 3 3 1 2 2 85 4.22
Monthly Totals 33.2 48 21 19 2 9 17 550 5.08
26-Jul @MIL W 10-2 6 9 2 2 1 0 3 94 4.2
21-Jul SF W 8-1 6 7 1 1 0 1 4 92 4.26
16-Jul NYM W 5-3 6 5 3 3 0 3 2 112 4.4
10-Jul @COL W 4-1 6 4 1 1 1 1 5 88 4.39

Go Braves!

September 29th, 2009
3:44 pm

Brian

September 29th, 2009
3:47 pm

Since June 30, the Braves are 13-4 in games started by Derek Lowe, 12-3 in games started by Vazquez, 7-8 in games started by Hanson, 10-7 in games started by Jurrjens, 3-2 in games started by Hudson, and 6-5 in games started by Kawakami.

And that’s during his “terrible” second half.

Brian

September 29th, 2009
3:49 pm

Herschel, in the games you posted, Lowe was 8-2 with a 4.54 ERA. He was 7-7 with a 4.56 ERA in the games he pitched prior to July 10.

Kelly Johnson Fan Club

September 29th, 2009
3:49 pm

I think in the NLDS the Braves start JAVIER VAZQUEZ in game 1, JAIR JURRJENS in game 2, and TOMMY HANSON in game 3. After that, if you need a 4th starter, I think you use TIM HUDSON the first time around. If he gets it done, you use those four in the NLCS. If not, you consider using DEREK LOWE or KENSHIN KAWAKAMI. Although I love the idea of having another arm in the bullpen Bobby can trust ala KENSHIN KAWAKAMI.

Reality

September 29th, 2009
3:50 pm

There will be no postseason starts for any Braves pitcher as a playoff birth by any given player’s team is required before that pitcher can be designated as a starter.

David

September 29th, 2009
3:50 pm

The Braves will likely struggle for runs in the postseason (assuming they get there) and they need the starting pitchers that can dominate. I haven’t seen Lowe dominate a game since May. He’s worked some magic posting quality starts lately, despite a complete lack of command of the lower part of the strikezone and too many hanging sliders. Huddy, on the other hand, has looked pretty sharp and has been pitching to contact very effectively since his return. That said, I’ll take Huddy in game 4.

Jim Mora Sr.

September 29th, 2009
3:51 pm

PLAYOFFS???!!! PPPPPPLAYOFFS??!!

jack bull

September 29th, 2009
3:54 pm

lets just get there, then we’ll talk about it…but it would be a nice little problem to have..(and you have to look at who you’re playing, IMO, like Brian said, Lowe has done good against the Dodgers this year,he does know them pretty well)

Huddy just needs to get thru the first inning tonite, he seems to settle down after that. and i hope to see the guys having a little fun out there, don’t be so tense..just me, i guess. have fun.. see ya at the game. front row club level….

David

September 29th, 2009
3:55 pm

If the Braves get to the postseason, I don’t think you have to worry about starting pitching. If they keep using Moylan, Gonzo and Soriano every day, there won’t be any relievers left to finish the games. What happened to Medlen? I know he choked a couple of games against the Fish in that last skid, I don’t remember seeing much of him since. The Bravos need a few “not-so-close” games this week.

jack bull

September 29th, 2009
4:00 pm

KK is not a very good relief pitcher, he walks waaaay to many hitters…only use him in long relief situations…lets hope Diaz shows up tonite, when he goes 0-fer, we seem to struggle.

Josh Johnson hitting cleanup for the fish tonite?? heck, he could, especially against the braves….

Nativebird

September 29th, 2009
4:16 pm

Braves? are the Braves still playing?

jimmy

September 29th, 2009
4:19 pm

i agree with karma police i’m more worried about hudson tonight

Go Braves!

September 29th, 2009
4:21 pm

G-Dog

September 29th, 2009
4:26 pm

Believe, people, BELIEVE!!!

I BELIEVE!!

September 29th, 2009
4:30 pm

GO BRAVES!! WE CAN DO IT, YES WE MCCANN!!

Ragnar Danneskjöld

September 29th, 2009
4:35 pm

Agree with Bradley’s 1-2-3, but my 4 would be Kawakami also a pretty good big game pitcher – as the most effective pitcher after June 1, then Hudson, then Lowe.

CM

September 29th, 2009
4:37 pm

Hudson’s pitched a hell of a lot better than Lowe. And Lowe’s come out of the bullpen before and been successful.

Jerry

September 29th, 2009
4:38 pm

Karma Police
“I agree, Mark. I would give Lowe a start. But I am much more worried about Tim Hudson tonight.”

I agree with Karma on both points. But Lowe does stand out when you look at the ERA. But Bobby usually plays the veterans.

Would you like to take this into the postseason?

Javier Vazquez, RHP (15-9, 2.83)
Jair Jurrjens, RHP (14-10, 2.61)
Tommy Hanson, RHP (11-4, 2.98)
Derek Lowe, RHP (15-9, 4.55)
Tim Hudson, RHP (2-1, 3.56)

R Soriano RHP 2.97
M Gonzalez LHP 2.49
P Moylan RHP 2.66
E O’Flaherty LHP 3.19

The Braves MUST find some way to make Vazquez a Brave for a few more years. Vazquez 213.1 IP with another start. Jurrjens 207.0 IP with another start. This is the stuff dreams are made of.

timthebrave

September 29th, 2009
4:40 pm

You don’t worry about innings in late september and october. The time to worry about innings is over the summer. Hanson for sure would get a start.

Kelly Johnson Fan Club

September 29th, 2009
4:44 pm

At this point, though, I think you probably just wait and see how everyone’s last 1-2 starts shakes out. Then you have a bit of a better idea about where each pitcher is. Does anyone have a dead arm? Is Lowe effective again? Is everyone healthy? Can Hudson locate his pitches? All of these questions need one more start to evaluate.

atlantasports

September 29th, 2009
4:47 pm

Enter your comments here
Don’t worry about starting Lowe if the Braves make it to the post season. With our brilliant manager Bobby Cox he would watch him closely and would pull him if he gave up 8 or more runs. Bobby is the best at losing a game in the majors. The only reason he won the division so many times is because he was fortunate enough to have an owner that would consistently be in the top 3 or 4 teams only to have Cox mismanage in the playoffs.