ajc.com | Braves | Braves frank about postseason shortcomings
Braves players seem to think that the team’s problem is that they don’t bunt and run like the Marlins do. Huh? Leaving aside that the plodding Yankees — who do almost nothing on offense except walk and hit home runs — are probably going to win the World Series (to be fair, this was written before last night) — the Marlins didn’t beat the Cubs because of their speed, much less bunting. They won because they started hitting singles and doubles all over the place and because Dusty Baker spent games six and seven with his head up his butt. They beat the Giants because other than Bonds and Alfonzo none of the Giants looked like they wanted to be there. And they won both series because their pitching was good enough to keep them in games.
Robert Fick is one of the Braves (ex-Braves?) interviewed, and it’s especially rich coming from him. If the Braves had one major flaw that beat them in the Division Series, it was a lack of lefthanded power. Chipper had only the one good game, but the other lefty masher was supposed to be Fick. Who did nothing. Heck, if Bobby had Julio out there to begin with, the Braves might have won in four.
Smoltz has a few good points, in particular noting the way the Marlins made adjustments against Wood and Prior. If the Braves had done that, they could have won game five. But that’s not a nature of the team problem, that’s managing and coaching. Terry Pendleton did a good job this year, but he should have kicked the hitters — Sheffield in particular — in the butt and got them to stop swinging at everything.
(Thanks to Creg.)
I commented on this elsewhere (Primer and asba-b), but I’ll reiterate here. While I generally agree with some of Smoltz’s stuff – esp regarding not making adjustments – his comments about this being a one dimensional offense are complete,y completely off base. This team led the league in homers, yes. It also led in singles; it led in BA; it was second overall in hits that weren’t homers; it was 4th in doubles; it had the feset strikeouts in the league. So if that’s not also a “put the ball in play” offense, what is?
Btw, anybody listen to the Prospectus radio interview with John rocker this last weekend? I didn’t catch it , but was curious if anybody here did who could share some highlights.
I agree with much of what Smoltz said, except the part that Colin highlighted. We had a damned good offense this year. There may be in-game adjustment problems that we had, but I put our overall numbers up against anyone. Giles and Julio are the kings at going to right. Furcal showed he can put the ball in play, now he just needs to shorten up on his power over the fence and work on hitting gaps in the power alleys and working counts. Why does anyone think that Chipper and Sheff would need to change their approaches at all? (I just worry about Chipper’s conditioning this year.)
I think our offense was great this year, and as much as I regretted coming into the season with Vinnie and Javy soaking up slots in the lineup, they pretty much proved me wrong. Vinnie made for one hell of an 8 hitter.
Our main problem was at first. Fick was fine in the first half, but sucked in the second half and postseason.
But the synergy between Furcal-Giles-Sheff-Chipper at the top of our lineup was hard to beat! Furcal could get on, Marcus could take it to right, and Sheff and Chip could smack ’em home.
Smoltz’s comments about people running off after Game 5 is worth noting. He’s a real Atlanta Brave, which makes me even more mad to see the AJC put him out with that stupid survey like they did.
If the Braves had one major flaw that beat them in the Division Series, it was a lack of lefthanded power.
You might want to take a look at the Marlins lineup. Pierre and Castillo fight it out for the distinction of top lefthanded power threat.
It’s not the lack of lefty power that killed them it’s the fact that thier powerful, put the ball in play offense turned into a bunch of choking hackers in October. Smoltz said some dumb things but he was right on the money when he said that the Braves hitters didn’t make adjustments and wouldn’t hit the ball the other way.
Hey, I didn’t say that they couldn’t have won without any lefty power, and yes, the Marlins have no power at all from the left side. (I think they had six homers lefthanded all year, one by Dontrelle Willis.) But the lack did hurt them far more than not bunting runners over.
Yeah, I don’t think the Braves’ performance in the playoffs can be contributed to a single flaw in the construction of the team. On paper, we had a great shot. What happened was a number of players did not perform up to standards in the postseason, and you can label that however you want. We had worse 5-game stretches in the regular season, it’s just about these games meaning more.
I don’t think Billy Beane is right that the playoffs are a ‘crapshoot’; there is strategy involved and there are ways to win and ways to lose. But you have to have everyone operating at peak capacity. Things have to fall your way. Scrubs have to have a career night or two. It’s just how these things work — you are facing the best, so you need to bring your best, and also have a bit of luck roll your way.
That the Braves didn’t is sad, but it’s just one of those things. It’s funny, after the Red Sox and Cubs’ second-round performances, I don’t hear many talking about the Braves and Oakland choking anymore. I don’t believe Smoltz can talk with authority about the construction of the Braves’ offense, but I do believe when he speaks to people’s attitudes. We’ve been told this offseason will be a clearing house of sorts, so let’s hope that some of the bad attitudes leave and the new faces who come in have better ones.
Terry P should definitely give Andruw Jones (and Fick) a huge kick in the ass. IMO Andruw is one of the most talented but underachieving hitters in baseball. Yeah, he drives in 100+ runs but in how many AB’s? 700+? He also hits like crap with runners in scoring position and never runs out ground balls. I cringe every time he comes up with runners on base. In the playoffs, he could barely make contact and looked completely lost.
Don’t worry about Terry P., Schuerholz will give Fick a huge kick in the ass (out the door) come contract-tendering time.