The Atlanta Braves return home this week could be described as little...
Happy Kris Medlen Day, Braves Fans, But Are You Nervous Yet?
With 2011 still painfully fresh in their minds, and in an eerily similar position in the standings, the 2012 Atlanta Braves have to be at least a little nervous about the playoff push over the next three weeks.. I know it took a historic collapse and one of the most dramatic nights in baseball history to see last season’s Wild Card lead finally disappear, but the 2012 standings look very similar:
2011: 85-64, 4.5 games up on the Cardinals, and 6.5 up on the Giants.
2012: 81-63, 5 games up on the Cardinals and 7 up on the Dodgers.
Even some of the same story lines are there: Jair Jurrjens has been all but nonexistent in the second half, Tommy Hanson is clearly not the pitcher he was as a rookie, and Brian McCann is struggling to produce at the level we’ve come to expect. Even speedy, lick-my-bat-after-a-foul-ball Jose Constanza is making a 2012 cameo. Meanwhile the Cardinals are sitting there with the second best run differential in the NL (after those Nationals) and the Braves are relying a bit too heavily on Kris Medlen.
Fredi Gonzalez said he has learned from last year and knows not to stick with guys who aren’t producing, but the evidence has been sketchy. We’ve seen Dan Uggla “lose his starting spot” but then less than a week later start the next five games. I ask how that is any different than what Jason Heyward went through a season ago? Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, and Craig Kimbrel have seen fewer innings than a year ago and it has undoubtedly helped O’Flaherty and Kimbrel stay more fresh, but Venters has looked lost at times. Fredi did pencil in Diamondbacks castoff Lyle Overbay for a start at first base, that shook things up a little.
I’m not a huge Fredi fan, especially considering how he seems to pull “rest days” nearly every day of the year, but 2012 is shaping up to be strangely different than 2011. You wanna know the one difference?
We get to watch Kris Medlen pitch. I won’t go so far as to say Kris Medlen has saved or will save the 2012 Atlanta Braves season, but he’s the main reason why they still have at least a 5 game lead for the first Wild Card spot. Consider that as a starter he has a 0.81 ERA in over 55 innings with opponents slugging just .249 off of him. In his last outing, he threw 6 innings and gave up 2 earned runs and it was by far his worst start of the year. He’s garnered Greg Maddux comparisons and has been a joy to watch. He may be 26, but his young face makes him look like a high schooler enjoying every minute of it.
Braves fans, you have every reason to be nervous considering the parallels to 2011. But today is Kris Medlen Day which should make your worries and memories melt away.