The Braves are making moves, but the key concern remains

Did someone say Kris Medlen needs to stretch out his arm? (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Did someone say Kris Medlen needs to stretch out his arm? (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

You can’t say the Braves aren’t trying. They’ve summoned Jose Constanza and plugged him into the lineup — batting him ninth, for some reason — and they’ve sent Kris Medlen to Gwinnett to brush up on his long-form techniques, and now they’ve demoted Tyler Pastornicky and promoted Andrelton Simmons. And they have, it must be noted, fashioned a two-game winning streak after going more than a week between victories. That said …

All this motion won’t yield the desired results unless the starting pitching gets better. I know I’m belaboring the point, but in baseball starting pitching is the one point that cannot be belabored.

The Braves just completed a six-game homestand; only once in the six games did a starting pitcher last even six innings, and that came on a night when Tim Hudson yielded seven earned runs in 6 2/3 innings against Washington. Last night Hudson couldn’t hold a five-run lead and was gone after 5 2/3, having been touched for five earned runs. And he’s generally considered the best the Braves have.

The Braves’ starting pitchers have compiled an ERA of 4.47, which is second-worst (leading only Colorado) in the National League. Their total of 20 quality starts — a minimum of six innings worked with three earned runs or fewer — is also second-worst, and it’s noteworthy that the teams ranking 1, 2 and 3 in quality starts are fellow NL Easters Philadelphia, Miami and Washington.

And where the Braves go next? To Washington for three games, then to Miami for three. Then comes a 15-game stretch against the American League East, the best of baseball’s six divisions. Kris Medlen better stretch out his arm in a hurry.

By Mark Bradley

173 comments Add your comment

GTanner

May 31st, 2012
8:52 am

GTanner

May 31st, 2012
8:53 am

Actually, I was going to read the four-team playoff article, but even before the page loaded, I sensed a new post. Weird. Now, I’ll read both of them.

GTanner

May 31st, 2012
8:55 am

Isn’t it past time to see if Leo wants to come back as pitching coach. I’m tired of the trend of short, bad starts, something that wasn’t a hallmark of Leo’s previous tutelage.

Mark Bradley

May 31st, 2012
8:56 am

Kudos, GTanner.

ChopAttack

May 31st, 2012
8:57 am

5 earned runs for Hudson last night… not 7. Still a bad night.

Karl Hungus

May 31st, 2012
8:59 am

How is the AL East better than the NL East?

Karl Hungus

May 31st, 2012
9:00 am

The hallmark of Leo’s previous tutelage was Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz. Perspective.

Benjamin

May 31st, 2012
9:02 am

Atlanta will be fine.

SC

May 31st, 2012
9:03 am

Something is wrong when you start to think, maybe Durbin should come in instead of Johnny V. Runners on, I just knew a hit up the middle was coming last night.

Quagmire

May 31st, 2012
9:03 am

Moe

May 31st, 2012
9:04 am

Why send Pastornicky down to the minors rather than Jack Wilson?

Dawgz4Life

May 31st, 2012
9:05 am

“only once in the six games did a starting pitching last even six games”

“The Braves’ starting pitchers have compiled an ERA of 4.47, which is second-worst (leading [trailing] only Colorado) in the National League.”

Wake up Mark!! And wake the Braves up while you are at it…………..

Go Braves!!

don

May 31st, 2012
9:10 am

I stand with GTanner

Dawg Fud

May 31st, 2012
9:11 am

Was at the game last night. Could not agree more with your comments, Mark.

ChopAttack

May 31st, 2012
9:11 am

Hudson allowed 5 earned runs, not 7. Still not good.

Sam

May 31st, 2012
9:14 am

Shoulda got off their wallet and signed Roy Oswalt. A veteran pitcher woulda been nice…even if he hasn’t pitched in awhile.

thom

May 31st, 2012
9:19 am

Go Dawgs! Love Coach Richt! http://www.wedgeorgia.com

bali

May 31st, 2012
9:19 am

do not really understand sending pastornicky to the minors…maybe a trade is on the horizon..think the pitching situation will get better..cannot believe more has not been said concerning an all star pitcher being sent to the minors and really has not done any better….what is the deal there…young gun pitching staff looked good on paper but unfortunately the national league east is not paper think the braves are really missing veteran pitching…one in cleveland the other at triple a

PiersonBrave

May 31st, 2012
9:20 am

Three Hall of Fame worthy pitchers will give ANY pitching coach a higher level of gloss on his resume. How did he work out in Baltimore?
No, Leo is done as a Brave pitching coach. Loved the rock but he had some real high quality gems to hang his hat on.

Sam

May 31st, 2012
9:20 am

By the way, what has happened to Tommy Hanson? I heard on the radio that he was becoming more of a pitcher and not throwing as hard. He was topping out around 97 miles per hour, but now is only throwing 93 tops. Umm…he was actually good when he threw harder! Heard anything about that, Mark?

GTanner

May 31st, 2012
9:21 am

The pitchers we have are not chopped liver, fellow Big Lebowski fan. Wonder what those three would say about how Leo’s methods helped them.

P.T. Barnum

May 31st, 2012
9:23 am

Pastornicky belongs in the minors. He needs more time to become a defensive shortstop,cover 2nd base etc. His arm is fair only. After watching the ss we have had, Pastornicky is minor league. Simmons is better defensively. Sending Wilson to the minors is ridiculous, he was supposed to tutor Pastornicky The braves do need a new pitching coach badly. mcdowell coached pitchers have failed miserably, it’s time for a new one.

Leo

May 31st, 2012
9:24 am

I forget the names, and don’t care to go look ‘em up, but there was always a pitcher or two that had big seasons with the Braves after being picked up off of the scrap heap. Leo was able to get a good season or two out of them. Chris Hammond, a reliever comes to mind. John Burkett, a starter, comes to mind. In both cases, these pitchers resurrected their careers under Leo, then left for big contracts
and never amounted to anything after leaving. Several more whose names I can’t recall. That doesn’t happen anymore. Maybe GTanner is onto something.

Trojan

May 31st, 2012
9:25 am

Does Championship organizations constantly try AA shortstops?

PiersonBrave

May 31st, 2012
9:27 am

Oh, as to why Constanza was batting 9th and not the pitcher would seem to make alot of sense with the speed he has he will be on base for Bourn and Prado to drive in after he squibs one between SS and the Pitcher. Plus, if the 7 hole guy gets on base the pitcher can bunt him over and then you basically have the top of the order to drive him in.
I would think that someone who has been around as long as you, Mark, would understand the dynamics of the philosophy.

Old Coach

May 31st, 2012
9:28 am

@ G Tanner
I sure hope we would have a chance to get Leo back as he has been such a sought after pitching coach since his last job ,what several years ago? Get a clue!!

Robert08

May 31st, 2012
9:33 am

Why not send Wilson down? He cannot hit and has no range whatsoever …

Game Changer

May 31st, 2012
9:33 am

T Hanson needs to be traded asap, he will not ever recover fully from injury caused by poor throwing motion. Still dont think he pitches past all star break and needs to be traded before he is finished.

Much of Atl era is because of terrible defense, alot of balls fall in the outfield that top teams catch. Heyward and Diaz are slower than slow to balls. HORRIBLE to watch. Great play by constanza running down important ball to the corner to end the inning and save runs.

Up the middle is terrible for the Braves, Uggla the Claw and patch em up players at shortstop sure is weak. With Wren at the helm for what 5 years now, Atlanta is weak at pitching, defensively weak at catching, up the middle infield, outfield corners but Constanza may be the answer in left.

Our hitting is terrible displaying 4 players in the top 6 spots who average 1 STRIKEOUT EVERY 4 AT BATS OR MORE.

VABravesFan

May 31st, 2012
9:34 am

They’re just trying to mix things up – what do you expect after losing 8 straight? The season is still early – plenty of time for pitchers to make adjustments, to try other guys in the rotation, or even make a deadline deal for someone like Dempster. They’ve got the pitching depth to be a playoff team – that along with the strength of their offense makes them dangerous. Still believe they’ll finish out the season at the top of the NL East.

norcross jacket

May 31st, 2012
9:39 am

Is there even an attempt at proofreading anymore? Just your job.

Casey

May 31st, 2012
9:46 am

PiersonBrave, you make valid points, but If Constanza bats 8th, gets on, the pitcher can bunt him over and then he scores on anything on the ground to the outfield. And instead of “basically having the top of the order up,” you actually DO have the top of the order up. It is never a good idea to give the pitcher more at-bats than a position player.

DePort

May 31st, 2012
9:47 am

Ill take Simmons defense all day… Rev. Nicky always seemed to have an error in the worst of times! I did like his hitting but a lot of the pitchers problems have been so pretty bad defense by the shortstop.

Nativebird

May 31st, 2012
9:51 am

The “Jack-Wilson-must-have-a-veteran-non-impact-player-with-no-bat-whatsoever-taking-up-a-valuable-roster-spot” experiment is a joke…and is the painfully glaring Wren-Gonazales “wanna-be” move that is hurting this squad un-necessarily. Wanna be GMs and HCs with a need to be perceived as “baseball men” love to acquire wasteful baggage twilighters under the guise of “veteran” presence and leadership for the team. Hogwash. Baseball is for young men with young legs and quicker bats who are, can be, and will be the better players, because they are…well….better players. End this charade.

DePort

May 31st, 2012
9:52 am

Who cares about proofreading? … this isnt a college paper… do people actually speak correct english anymore? Lets get over the “Im more educated” attitudes and just type our thoughts down!

OK

May 31st, 2012
9:53 am

Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. How about defense? Usually when the pitchers give up 4 or 5 runs in a inning an error is made by one of two middle infielders. Wilson or Pastornicky. Lately it’s been Pastornicky. Last night Wilson. He did a horrible job of holding the ball in his glove on a routine tag at second base and couldn’t get to the ball on a couple of up the middle bouncers. Not going to cut it. Alex would have gotten to all of those.

Phil Suckalewski

May 31st, 2012
9:53 am

I think the next move is to bench Jason Heyward, seems he is starting to take breaks in the outfield and boot balls around. Fredi should’ve did what Bobby Cox did and pull him out of the game mid-inning like he did Andrew Jones when he non chalanted a ball in center. It’s not like Heyward is tearing it up at the plate and you don’t want to lose his bat.

dtanner

May 31st, 2012
9:58 am

yes leo looked like a genius with smoltz,glavine and maddux in their prime(i probably would have also)he did’nt look so smart in baltimore remember his staff giving up 30 runs in that game don’t you

Bab Coks

May 31st, 2012
9:58 am

A little off topic, but I just dont know if Heyward is ever going to be the guy we thought he would. Swing is miserable, I’ve never seen a guy have more trouble finding the barrel of the bat. He routinely fouls 90mph fastballs down the middle into the net behind home or down the third base line. Swing is longer than the mississippi river.

space monkey

May 31st, 2012
9:59 am

We now only have one power pitcher: Kimbrel. All the others can barely top 90. Hanson is now a finesse guy. When he has to go to his fastball, he gets killed. In his last game his fastball was 88. That’s 8 miles slower than when he came up to the Majors. Beachy hits about 92. Minor throws around 91 and thinks he can live high in the zone. Venters has lost velocity. Livan Hernandez isn’t good for anything but batting practice. Delgado is about 93. Hudson is Hudson, as long as he gets the low strike, he’s very effective, without it he’s toast. But the question remains what the hell happened to our velocity? Are all these guys, especially Hanson and Venters, injured?

Stank Wren

May 31st, 2012
10:02 am

I’m glad that the Braves are giving Simmons a shot. He beat out Pastornicky hands down in spring training and had the starting job about wrapped up until he got hurt. Maybe Costanza and Simmons will bring some excitment back to this club that is barely showing signs of life.

Our starting pitching was supposed to be a strength this year. We all see how well that has worked out so far……

Bab Coks

May 31st, 2012
10:03 am

Agree with you Space Monkey. WTF? Venters has been mediocre at best and more than his velocity, he is leaving everything up. Hanson has turned into a finesse guy, which is fine but he isnt a number 1 or even 2 like we thought. It leaves the braves with a rotation full of 3’s, 4’s and 5’s. Wish Teheran would mature in a hurry.

Jack in Macon

May 31st, 2012
10:04 am

I agree with you about the pitching.

But why haven’t you or any of the other writers pointed out just how unproductive is Jason Heyward. He is Jeff Francour all over again and the Braves will wait until his trade value is zero. The ball may hit his bat one time per game for a hit and the remaining at-bats he’s usually striking out. He also plays sloppy in the field, missing the cut-off man and not always charging the ball. He doesn’t play the ball off the wall very well either.

The truth is the Braves brought this kid up too soon but they will never admit it. There are plenty of teams out there right now that look at Heyward and say this kid has a lot of raw talent, we can turn him around. Maybe they can but it will not happen with the Braves. I say package Heyward with one of our supposed young guns (questionable) and get a stud to play right field that has already proven himself in the big leagues. Maybe one that has at least 2 more contract years remaining and doesn’t have Scott Boras as an agent.

doc

May 31st, 2012
10:05 am

maybe i buried them too early, in florida in march. however this run will possibly show which team is going to show, contender of late april and early may or pretender of september. i gotta hunch. livan hernandez on a roster is like having twin collins for the hawks, pure filler.

Stank Wren

May 31st, 2012
10:07 am

The Braves never even showed any interest in Oswalt. They didn’t contact his agent or even make any type of offer. Now he has signed a minor league deal with the Rangers. Not saying that he is the answer but a veteran pitcher with a winning history certainly couldn’t have been any worse than some of the garbage that the Braves put out on the mound now. I bet Oswalt could at least last more than 6 innings.

john

May 31st, 2012
10:09 am

Do you not read these back to yourself before publishing? He got TOUCHED FOR 5 RUNS, DID A STARTING PITCHING LAST EVEN 6 GAMES? what the hell man?

Stank Wren

May 31st, 2012
10:12 am

It’s hard to believe that during spring training some folks (myself included) were hammering Frank Wren to make a trade and give up some of our starting pitching becuase we had 7-8 quality “starters” in the organization. The starting rotation is now made up of two #3’s and three #5 starters on most teams.

BooBoo

May 31st, 2012
10:13 am

Pitching ERA is based on the quality of the defense. Infielders that can field ground balls and outfielders who can chase down flyballs, and hit cutoff men, and gun down runners are what makes a hit not lead to an earned run. Last night, Hudson said, “I can’t keep baserunners from scoring.” Baserunners who get on because a shortstop has no range and a weak arm are called “hits.” When a SS-2nd tandem cannot regularly turn a double play (which cannot be assumed) leave men on base for another groundball “hit,” and a fly out run. Starting pitching is not about striking out 27 batters. Ask Greg Maddox. Three pitches per batter keeps a pitcher pitching into the 8th inning. Not 12 pitches to strike out one batter. Hudson is a groundball pitcher, but when he does not have anyone to field groundballs, the scorer says, “hit,” and too many “hits” lead to too many earned runs. Add to that Prado is still a borderline outfielder, and Heyward sometimes seems lost in rightfield, and you have an outfield that lets pops drop for “hits,” whereas the Braves are not getting too many “highlight” defensive plays from outfielders.

DawgDad

May 31st, 2012
10:15 am

Simmons, if he’s as good defensively as advertised, will have a notable impact on the pitching. Pastornicky was as lacking range-wise as any starting shortstop I’ve ever seen in the Major Leagues, and I go back a long way. Uggla is a hole defensively the team is committed to live with, and Jones is a danger (to himself); the pitchers weren’t getting any help up the middle.

Tami

May 31st, 2012
10:16 am

Hey, Mark…I knew what you were going to address before I even read the article. I think the starting pitching is on everyone’s minds. It’s hard to believe that even with Hudson back, we’re still wringing our hands over this. Initially, I didn’t want Braves’ management to take Medlen out of the rotation, but had to admit that he had become a steadying force in middle relief (still…with a few hiccups). Who knew that the team would need that with the kind of SP they had….on paper??!! Now, more than ever, they need him back in the rotation because the other teams are solving our SPs too quickly.

By the way, let me know if you need a Professional Proofreader (as an administrative assistant, that’s pretty much what we are). Here’s what you wrote and the corrections:

The Braves just completed a six-game homestand; only once in the six games did a starting pitching last even six games….

Correction:
The Braves just completed a six-game homestand; only once in the six innings did a starting pitcher last even six games…. LOL…it took me a second to figure out what you were trying to say.

Tami

May 31st, 2012
10:17 am

Hold on….now I have to proof myself. It should be: “…only once in the six games did a starting pitcher last even six innings.” There!