The Braves Keep On ‘Chopping’ Despite Several Key Injuries

The Braves have been falling by the wayside to injury since the 1st part of the year.  They have lost Venters, O'Flaherty. Hudson and now Heyward for a 2nd time.  If you couple that with lackluster performances from Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, then this team has overachieved to the fullest with the rest of the choppers!

The Braves have been falling by the wayside to injury since the 1st part of the year. They have lost Venters, O’Flaherty. Hudson and now Heyward for a 2nd time. If you couple that with lackluster performances from Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, the injury time on the DL for Brian McCann, Brandon Beachy – and even Evan Gattis, plus the retired Chipper Jones having been departed from the 2012 squad, then this team has overachieved to the fullest with the rest of the choppers!  Atlanta currently owns the best record in the MLB – with a 77 – 50 mark, 14 games clear of the 2nd place Washington Nationals in the NL East. Also, please stop inadvertently injuring our players New York Mets!

By Bob McVinua (Special Guest Braves Writer – visit his website here):

The word “injury” has plagued this 2013 Braves team all season long.

The injury bug didn’t take long to hit as Jonny Venters the teams premier set up man was unable to throw a single pitch this regular season.

Then it was Eric O’Flaherty who was hit with a season ending injury. At this point in time it was about mid May and many were in panic mode over what would become of this feared and revered Atlanta Braves bullpen.

It wouldn’t take too long to find out the answer to that question. After a little mixing and matching Fredi Gonzalez found the right guys to plug into those critical 7th/8th inning roles and they have been nothing short of spectacular.

Jason Heyward Hit In The Face – Not For The Weak Of Heart, You Have Been Warned!

Freddie Freeman returned from a strained oblique on Apr.23rd - missing over a dozen games himself.  In my view, he has launched himself into the NL MVP periphery talk - with a 3 Slash Line of .314/.391/869 - with 14 HRs and 83 RBI.  If he can challenge for the NL Batting crown, club 25 HRs and near 105 RBI, he may receive some votes.  Heyward's injury has left the Braves without a bonafide leadoff hitter yet again.  J-Hey Kid hit .341/.414//994 - with 5 HRs, 15 RBI and 24 Runs Scored through 88 AB and 22 GP.

Freddie Freeman returned from a strained oblique on Apr.23rd – missing over a dozen games himself. In my view, he has launched himself into the NL MVP periphery talk – with a 3 Slash Line of .314/.391/869 – with 14 HRs and 83 RBI. If he can challenge for the NL Batting crown, club 25 HRs and near 105 RBI, he may receive some votes. Heyward’s injury has left the Braves without a bonafide Leadoff hitter yet again. J-Hey Kid hit .341/.414//994 – with 5 HRs, 15 RBI and 24 Runs Scored through 88 AB and 22 GP hitting #1 over the last month.

Luis Avilan has filled a huge role for the Braves this season as he’s been the main lefty to take over for both Venters and O’Flaherty and boy has he not disappointed. Avilan is sporting a very impressive 4-0 record out of the bullpen with a shiny 1.21 ERA.

The Braves have also gotten tremendous contributions from David Carpenter and Jordan Walden as well.

So really the Braves bullpen is a situation where it reshaped itself. Nothing more and nothing less. The faces are different as are the names but the results have remained pretty much the same.

As a Braves fan myself I have absolutely no concerns about this bullpen at all.

Even without the likes of Jonny Venters and  Eric O’Flaherty  they still strike a ton of fear into their opponents and Fredi Gonzalez knows if he can get a lead to the 7th inning the game is pretty much over 9/10 times.

Roughly one month ago the Braves took another enormous blow as they lost their veteran ace Tim Hudson to an ankle injury. Hudson wasn’t just a veteran pitcher with playoff experience and an effective sinker.

Hudson in 49-26 (.653) in his last 3 years - including a 16-7 record last season.  This year, he struggles early, but was rounding into form before that horrific collision at 1st that ended his Eric Young Jr. that ended his season.

Hudson in 49-26 (.653) in his last 3 years – including a 16-7 record last season. This year he was 8 – 7, with a 3.97 ERA, while he struggled early, he was rounding into form ( 4 – 0, with a 3.10 ERA in July) before the horrific collision at 1st with Eric Young Jr. of the Mets that ended his season.

He was the leader of that rotation and his positive attitude and outlook affected everyone in ways that went far beyond the game itself.

Many were concerned with how the rotation would fair without Hudson in it and while I’m sure Braves starters would tell you they miss him dearly, they’ve still managed to get the job done.

Since the Hudson injury they’ve been able to put a strangle hold on the N.L East and even went on a run of winning 14 consecutive games.

Alex Wood stepped in and again like the guys in the bullpen has filled a bigger role than any of us could have even imagined. He’s given us quite a few quality start with an era under 3.00.

His deceptive motion has kept hitters off-balance and his fast ball is bordering on electric. But again, someone stepped up and held down the fort.

This is the mark of a winning team and the Braves thus far have proven to have that in their DNA.

This afternoon as the Braves were playing the Mets at Citi Field, Jason Heyward suffered a fractured jaw and will miss 4-6 weeks.

I don’t need to recap the medical report or the play in which it occurred because I’m sure everyone has heard about it and doesn’t need the refresher.

Heyward was really starting to heat as he was hitting .366 over the past 21 games and certainly seemed to have found a home in that lead off spot which had plagued Atlanta for most of the season.

Jason will definitely be missed and this column is not to suggest other wise.

The point I’m trying to push across here is that the Braves have over come so much adversity this season as it is, ranging from player injuries to those who just haven’t played up to expectations.

And with all that said the Braves are still in 1st place by an enormous margin and still on top of that hold the best record in the National League.

With that being said. How do the Braves go about dealing with the Jason Heyward injury? Well here are a few things to think on as we wait to see what Fredi Gonzalez does.

Jordan Schafer:

Jordan Schafer was originally drafted by Atlanta back in 2005.  He was used in a package of players to acquire Michael Bourn in 2011.  1 year later the Braves claimed him off of waivers from Houston  He has played his best stretch of baseball in the MLB

Jordan Schafer was originally drafted by Atlanta back in 2005. He was used in a package of players to acquire Michael Bourn in 2011. 1 year later the Braves claimed him off of waivers from Houston He has played his best stretch of baseball in the MLB.  Schafer, 26, would seem to be the logical solution to bat 1st and play CF.  He has 3 Slashed .280/.379/.842 – with 5 SB and 14 Runs Scored in 21 Games from that very position in the order thus far this campaign.  With Andrelton Simmons having a low OBP, it only seems like a natural selection.

For me he becomes the critical piece in all of this.Schafer has played 67 games for the Braves in which he’s hit .274 with a .364 on base percentage.

He also has scored 25 runs and has stolen 13 bases in 16 attempts.

Jordan Schafer isn’t Jason Heyward but he’s also a far cry from a player who should be buried deep on the bench and forgotten about.

Throughout most of this year ( minus the time he’s spent on the disabled list himself) Schafer has fought for playing time.

This includes the period where both B.J, Upton and Jason Heyward were struggling.

There was a time when Schafer was thought of as the possible solution to our lead off issue until it was eventually resolved by putting Heyward in there, go figure.

Schafer gives us a very solid glove and arm in the outfield, speed on the bases and his plate approach is ideal for that of a lead off hitter. There’s no reason to make any other move then to give him the opportunity to play every day.

This way you can also keep Simmons down in the 8th spot where he feels far more comfortable in comparison to the top of the order where he’s struggled for a better part of the 2013 season.

14 Game Lead:

It’s an eerie feeling for me to even mention this after what happened in 2011 but I can’t help but feel as if the Braves have the division all but wrapped up at this point.

This doesn’t mean that they have nothing to play for or that winning games becomes any less important but if you were to have the choice of being up 1 game or 14 in your division I think all of us would take option # 2.

The Catching tandem of Brian McCann and Evan Gattis have combined for 33 HRs and 94 RBI in  532 AB – and Chris Johnson (and afterthought in the Justin Upton trade, is currently leading 2nd NL – with a .330 Batting Average,

Upton is Slashing .361/.454/1.176 in the lat 21 games - spanning 28 days - with 8 HRs and 17 RBI.  He has slowed down a little in the last few weeks - however he carried the club offensively in the 18 wins out of 20 games stretch.  Upton also clubbed 12 HRs and 19 RBI for April.  A month where they sprinted 12 -1 out of the starting blocks.

Upton is Slashing .361/.454/1.176 in the last 21 games – spanning 28 days – with 8 HRs and 17 RBI. He has slowed down a little in the last few weeks – however he carried the club offensively in the 18 wins out of 20 games stretch. Upton also clubbed 12 HRs and 19 RBI for April. A month where they sprinted 12 -1 out of the starting blocks.

Upton himself has been electric only in the two big stretches of winning baseball (at the beginning of the years 12 – 1 mark, and the most recent 18 – 2 tear, but has been helped by others in between. 

With the Braves holding such a large division lead they can afford some of these set backs as long as Heyward will be back before the end of the season and ready to go for the playoffs.

This is a luxury that most teams do not have and one that deserves to be recognized.

Jason Heyward:

Then there’s Jason Heyward himself. We are all wishing Jason a speedy recovery and hoping that he comes back sooner rather than later. A fractured jaw is no joke and is an extremely painful injury but there is always a silver lining to any situation.

Heyward’s injury is not directly related to his baseball activities and or motions.

What I mean by that is this; his injury isn’t a broken hand, a torn ACL or fractured ankle.

It’s nothing that will stop him from doing baseball related motions or one that will have a grave affect on his ability to play the game once he returns.

His jaw needs to heal for his own safety, comfort and peace of mind but once that occurs I think that an athlete like Heyward will bounce back rather quickly.

He won’t be favoring his hand or limping on a bad ankle and his body should remain strong enough to make a push at the end of the season to be ready for October.

We all look forward to having Jason Heyward back in the line up as soon as possible but until that time comes I believe this Braves team is more then capable of holding down the fort. Every time there’s been an injury, every time someone has struggled the other guys have been there to pick them up. Someone always gets hot at the right time, a pitcher always comes up with a big start and the bench comes through when we need them the most.

We all look forward to having Jason Heyward back in the line up as soon as possible but until that time comes I believe this Braves team is more than capable of holding down the fort. Every time there’s been an injury, every time someone has struggled the other guys have been there to pick them up. Someone always gets hot at the right time, a pitcher always comes up with a big start and the bench comes through when we need them the most.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com or their partners.***

A big thank-you goes out to our ‘ Guest Braves Writer’ Bob McVinua for preparing today’s featured article . Bob loves the Atlanta Braves. He writes a blog covering the team, so check it out. 

Bob is a believer that hard work and dedication will get you anywhere you want to go.  http://braveschoptalk.wordpress.com 

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About chuckbooth3023

I played competitive baseball until 18 years old and had offers to play NCAA Division 1 University Baseball at Liberty University. Post-concussion symptoms from previous football and baseball head injuries forced me to retire by age 19. After two nearly made World Record Attempts in 2008, I set a New World Record by visiting all 30 MLB Parks (from 1st to last pitch) in only 24 Calendar Days in the summer 0f 2009. In April of 2012, I established yet another new GWR by visiting all 30 Parks in only 23 Calendar Days! You can see the full schedule at the page of the www.mlbreports.com/gwr-tracker . In 2015, I watched 224 MLB Games, spanning all 30 MLB Parks in 183 Days. Read about that World Record Journey at https://mlbreports.com/183in2015/229sked2015/

Posted on August 23, 2013, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The Braves Keep On ‘Chopping’ Despite Several Key Injuries.

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