It can’t be this easy. Can it?
The Atlanta Braves continued their red-hot start to the 2013 season with a shutout victory over the lowly Miami Marlins. And though most of the media attention thus far has been given to the offense, it was pitcher Paul Maholm who led the way on Monday night.
Maholm, now 2-0, pitched seven solid innings of one-hit ball, striking out seven batters along the way, as the Braves improved to 6-1 on the season. The 30-year-old left-hander has yet to give up a run this year.
Although Justin Upton (who hit his sixth home run in seven games) and the rest of the offense have been grabbing the majority of the headlines, the Braves’ pitching staff should not be ignored.
As a group, the five-man rotation of Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Maholm, Mike Minor, and rookie phenom Julio Teheran rank up there with the best in the game. Though the team doesn’t have a dominant ace like Clayton Kershaw or Justin Verlander, they are still very good from one through five. And that’s the very reason why the one-game playoff instituted by MLB last season is a horrible idea.
The Braves have a rotation that is built to win a series, and that’s how the game of baseball is played for the entire sixth-month season. The one-game playoff, although very exciting, rewards teams with a dominant top-of-the-line starter rather than a consistent staff, which is a necessity for 162 games. A team like Atlanta, with an all-around strong rotation, is at a disadvantage in such a format. Look no further than last season, when they were ousted from postseason play having never been able to send Hudson, Minor, or Tommy Hanson to the mound.
So I guess the answer then is to win the division; and that’s something that is well within the Braves’ reach—especially after the way opening week has played out.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)