Heading into what figures to be a hurricane-shortened series at Citi Field, I exchanged a few questions with Tony Almeyda of Talking Chop. Thanks, Tony!
You can read my answers at Talking Chop here.
Chris McShane: Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters have been incredible all year, but both pitchers have been used a ton. Is there any concern about either of their arms heading into the playoffs? Also, is there any way Kimbrel doesn't win National League Rookie of the Year?
Tony Almeyda: It’s certainly a priority to limit the innings for both Kimbrel and Venters heading into September. Fortunately, the Braves have good young arms in the minors to help alleviate their workload like Cory Gearrin and Anthony Varvaro among others. The Braves are also expecting Peter Moylan back in time for the playoff push, so any relief for our top relievers will be much appreciated.
As for Kimbrel winning NL Rookie of the Year, if anyone else is going to win it, it’ll be Freddie Freeman. Freddie has contributed some big hits, including a couple of walk-offs, and could make the final tally very close. In the end, I think Kimbrel wins it.
CM: Jason Heyward's had a really tough season. Do you think he's struggling because of the nagging injury we've heard about, or is it more than that?
TA: Last week, Chipper Jones said the problem with Heyward is that he doesn’t have a versatile swing and isn’t hitting the ball to all fields like he did last year. The league has a book on him now; pitchers are jamming him inside and getting him to pull the ball on the ground. He showed signs of breaking out of it, though, hitting an opposite-field grand slam earlier this week. He’s too good a hitter not to make adjustments, but when he does, he’ll be the hitter he was last year.
CM: Fredi Gonzalez seems to make some very curious moves both in making the lineup and in-game situations. Is that definitely the case, and how would you rate his performance as manager so far?
TA: All managers make these kinds of moves on occasion, but it certainly seems like Fredi makes these moves more than others. He’s batted a sub-.300 OBP second in the lineup and has used his best relievers in low leverage situations. However, considering the Braves can taste the playoffs right now despite having suffered injuries to Prado, Heyward and McCann, he’s done a pretty good job.
CM: Of the other contending National League teams, are there any with which you think the Braves would match up particularly well or poorly in the playoffs?
I think the Braves match up best with the Phillies followed very closely by the Brewers. The Braves' top four of Hudson, Jurrjens, Hanson and Lowe match up with the Phillies the best and have the edge against the Brewers and have the best bullpen by far out of the three. Now that the Braves acquired Michael Bourn, I think the Braves have the edge on offense against the Phillies, although the Brewers might have a slight edge on both in that department.
CM: For the first time in a long time, the Mets have several quality arms in their minor league system, giving us some hope for the future. Was there a similar sense in Atlanta when Tommy Hanson and Brandon Beachy were in the minors?
TA: We’re all excited at the prospect of having a young guy like Hanson anchor this pitching staff. We’ve also got Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado waiting in the wings to make an impact in the starting rotation in the very near future. Mike Minor shouldn’t be overlooked, either; he’s pitched well lately and can be a dominating strikeout pitcher. This rotation has the potential to be scary good.
As for Brandon Beachy, he pretty much came out of nowhere. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009 and made his major-league debut just last year. He’s turned out to be a very good find. My favorite comment regarding Beachy came from a Phillies fan at TGP, comparing the Braves finding Beachy to a girl finding a dress in the back of her closet and finding out it looks good on her. The Braves just let him pitch a little bit, and now he’s pitching for a playoff contender.
Thanks again to Tony, and if you'd like to read more about the division-rival Braves, be sure to check out Talking Chop.