It’s becoming more unlikely that Atlanta Braves’ starting pitcher Brandon Beachy will be able to return this season and that is some bad news for their pitching staff. The Braves still sit atop the NL with the best overall ERA in baseball, but their starting ERA is only fifth, below all the other NL teams that will likely compete in October.
Atlanta’s staff has performed exceptionally well this season considering their circumstances. With Tim Hudson leaving the team two months ago with a fractured ankle, the young Braves’ starters have had to step up and carry the team. If they have an ace at all, it would certainly be Mike Minor, who is only in his second full season with the team. Kris Medlen has struggled throughout the season, though he’s improved as of late, and the other two top pitchers for the Braves are rookies Julio Teheran and 22-year-old Alex Wood.
Paul Maholm has spent time on the disabled list this season, which hasn’t helped the Braves out at all, but even a healthy Maholm isn’t a smart choice for playoff starts, as he’s just not very good. As of right now, I’d put him as the No. 5 man for Atlanta; the veteran may have more experience and poise than the rookies, but his stuff just isn’t good enough for October games. He’d be a good lefty arm to have out of the bullpen I suppose, but I’ll be upset if he gets the start come playoff time.
Even though Wood and Teheran have impressed me with their outstanding performances this season, they have little experience and have yet to play in high-tension games. The Braves have dominated the division this season without much pressure, preventing the rookies from having to prove themselves in the clutch. They’ve got the stuff to do it, but will they crumble under the pressure of playoff baseball? Only time will tell.
The point is, Beachy’s return to the staff was going to give the Braves more depth, experience and confidence, but that may be out the window now. If Atlanta expects to compete against the best staffs in baseball, the rookies and the bullpen are going to have to step it up, and I just don’t know if they’ve got it in them.