*The first goes to Craig Kimbrel, the most dominant closer in the game. How many records have been set with a month to play? And CK ain’t on ‘roids. You’ll note that he broke the rookie saves record set last year by former Braves farmhand Neftali Feliz. Imagine Feliz, O’Flaherty, Venters and Kimbrel in the ‘pen, with support from Petah (due back this weekend) and Arodys.
*Our next bouquet goes to the Phillies rotation. Credit where it’s due — though many of us scoffed at the mere comparison with the great Braves staffs, the Philly starters have delivered — especially Cliff Lee, who, over July and August, joined Walter Johnson (1913) and Bob Gibson (1968) as the only pitchers with at least five wins, no losses, and an ERA below 1.00 in back-to-back months.
August was not as pristine as July, but it was no less remarkable. In July, Lee allowed one run on 21 hits in 42 innings (a 0.21 ERA). Opponents managed to score twice on 23 hits against Lee in 39-2/3 August innings (a 0.45 ERA).
I hate complimenting the Phillies, but as a Braves fan I can’t help but appreciate such outstanding pitching.
If Tommy Hanson is not his old self by the playoffs the Braves aren’t getting by the Phils. Assuming they get that far.
If they do, and somehow prevail, the World Series will bring a less challenging opponent. The Yankees have nothing after Sabathia — Ivan Nova, the Bronx’s version of Dillon Gee, is their second starter The Red Sox have a brittle Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and a third starter, John Lackey, with a 5.94 ERA.
Detroit, Texas or the O.C. Angels may be better bets to get to the Fall Classic. The Tigers have Verlander, Texas has depth and the Angels have probably the best starting three in the AL with Weaver, Haren and Ervin Santana.
But none of those teams, NL or AL, have bullpens that compare with the Braves, which is why I’m still slightly optimistic about an October run.
*The last bouquet goes to FW. We’ve had our problems with the current braintrust but this year he’s pushed all the right buttons. He made the best deal at the trade deadline, didn’t trade D-Lowe (like many of us wanted) and yesterday secured two useful pieces for the bench.
Jack Wilson won’t put them over the top, but if Gonzo gets hurt, you’ll be glad to see him at SS instead of Julio Lugo.