All Things Baseball

Braves Streak In Jeopardy Because of Bullpen

The Braves entered this season with 14 consecutive NL East division titles, and while their team didn't look as powerful as the Mets and Phillies, Atlanta was certainly favored to win the NL East for the 15th straight time.  Those that predicted the 15th consecutive division title for the Atlanta Braves quickly saw the likelihood of it happening dwindle over the first part of the season. 

Through Saturday's games, the Atlanta Braves are third in the NL East division, which is currently in the hands of the Mets, who lead the Phillies by 5.5, and Atlanta by 9.  While the Mets and Phillies both seem to have better hitting than the Braves (the Mets have Carlos Degado, Carlos Beltran, and David Wright; the Phillies have Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, and Chase Utley; the Braves have Andruw Jones, Jeff Francoeur, and Edgar Renteria — slight disadvantage for Atlanta in terms of power), the real difference between the teams is their bullpens. 

The Mets bullpen is anchored by Billy Wagner, who has converted 12 of 15 saves, compiling a 2.40era and 37strikeouts.  He is set-up by Duaner Sanchez (4-0, 2.63era, 27K's), Chad Bradford (2-2, 3.43era, 17K's), Pedro Feliciano (1-2, 1.89era, 18K's), Heath Bell (0-0, 3.60era, 10K's), Aaron Heilman (0-1, 3.38era, 28K's), and Darren Oliver (2-0, 2.73era, 26K's). VERY SOLID.

The Phillies bullpen is anchored by Tom Gordon, who has converted 18 of 19 saves, compiling a 1.61era and 37strikeouts.  He is set-up by Arthur Rhodes (0-1, 3.63era, 28K's), Rheal Cormier (2-1, 1.25era, 8K's), Ryan Franklin (1-4, 4.71era, 16K's), Aaron Fultz (1-0, 3.41era, 38K's), Geoff Geary (4-0, 2.94era, 19K's), and Clay Condrey (1-1, 2.45era, 8K's).  PRETTY SOLID

The Braves bullpen had been anchored by Chris Reitsma, but after he converted just 8 of 12 save opportunities and recorded a 7.62era, Reitsma lost the rights to the closer role, on which he'd held a "thin-ice" grasp last season due to the lack of another candidate.  The closer role is now in the hands of Ken Ray, who has converted 4 of the 5 save opportunities he's been presented with.  Setting him up are Macay McBride (1-0, 4.15era, 9K's), Oscar Villareal (7-0, 4.60era, 16K's), Mike Remlinger (2-3, 3.38era, 16K's), Tyler Yates (0-0, 6.23era, 5K's), and Chad Paronto (0-0, 2.93era, 14K's). 

Notice that the Braves relievers are considerably less reliable than those of the Mets and Phillies.  Notice also that the Mets and Phillies have premier closers, with Billy Wagner and Tom Gordon respectively, while the Braves are relying on the unproven but effective Ken Ray.  It has been the bullpen that has led to many Braves defeats this season, and it is the bullpen which has put the Braves in an unfamiliar spot: 9 games out in the division, and 3 games under .500.  For the Braves to turn their season around, the bullpen will need to start pitching better, or GM John Schuerholz will need to start working the phone lines trying to trade for relievers. 

My prediction: the Braves strangle-hold over the NL East will end this season, with the Mets capturing the division.  I think Atlanta's bullpen will step-it-up later on in the year, but it will be too little, too late, to hold off the Mets. 


2 Responses to “Braves Streak In Jeopardy Because of Bullpen”

  1. As a loyal Braves fan, I have to agree that our bullpen is definitely our achilles heel. While I appreciate that you’re still giving us a shot to win the NL East, I’m almost certain that we won’t, unless the Mets and Phillies suddenly get hit with a wave of injuries. The streak, as you said, will likely come to an end, and in 2007, it’ll be back to the drawing board for Bobby Cox.

    Time for the Braves to make their bullpen be the same caliber as the rest of the team; sign a premier closer NOW or at least before next season.

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