This week's Status Report post is an abbreviated one with the All-Star break having limited the Braves to just one series. Atlanta dropped that three-game set at Philadelphia one game to two. The good news was Brandon Beachy and Tommy Hanson went toe-to-toe with Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, respectively. The bad news was that the Braves wasted a chance to pick up ground on the division-leading Phillies by getting blitzed 14-1 on Sunday. Spirits picked up Tuesday as the National League topped the American League 5-1 in the All-Star game, earning the senior circuit home field advantage in the World Series. Brian McCann started behind the plate and Jair Jurrjens, Craig Kimbrel, and Jonny Venters made back-to-back-to-back appearances for a combined 2.2 scoreless innings.
All in all, the first half was extremely successful. The Braves went 54-38 and own the fourth-best record in baseball. While they're in second place in their division, they do have a relatively comfortable five game lead in the Wild Care race. All that was done with one of the league's worst-performing offenses and varying injures to a number of Atlanta's starters.
Heading into the final two and a half months of the regular season, the question is whether or not Frank Wren will make a move to improve the team. If so, will he make a big splash in the trade market or will he go the more modest route in hopes that a small tweak will make the difference needed to transform the Braves into a serious World Series-caliber team? A number of the 'Braves Reads' on the left side of this post provide details on specific potential trade targets, but it's clear the team has two main needs. One, a right-handed bat. Whether that's a starting CF type or a fourth outfielder to replace Schafer or McLouth will be dictated by the market. Two, a right-handed set-up type reliever. This RHP would ideally relieve some 7th/8th inning appearances from O'Flaherty and Venters. The news of Kris Medlen's set-back likely increases this already pressing need. A secondary concern would be some sort of back-up/utility infielder. Right now the team is shuffling between Julio Lugo, Brandon Hicks and Diory Hernandez. There's definitely room for improvement there.
Atlanta begins the second half with a three-game home series against the Nationals on Friday, then makes the trip out to Colorado on Monday to start a four-game match-up. While the Braves front office makes and fields potential trade calls over the next few weeks, here are the 'cheers' and 'jeers' from the series against the Phillies...
O'Ventbrel - Atlanta's tremendous trio continues to excel. In a combined five appearances (EOF x2, Venters x2, Kimbrel x1), the group allowed no runs and just one hit over five innings while striking out four and walking one. Kimbrel also earned the save in Saturday's extra-inning affair. Venters and Kimbrel performed just as well on the big stage Tuesday night, throwing a combined one scoreless inning (1 K, 1 BB) in preserving the National League's All-Star game win.
Tommy Hanson - The non All-Star faced Cliff Lee on Saturday, pitching well enough to put the Braves in a position to pick up the 11th inning win. His 7 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 6 K, 1 BB (no-decision) has become relatively standard this season as he's putting up a Cy Young caliber season. His sole run allowed was a homer on a 3-2 pitch, courtesy of a surprisingly pesky Cliff Lee.
Brandon Beachy - The Braves' rookie starter pitched nearly as well as reigning Cy Young winner Roy Halladay on Friday, allowing just two runs over six innings. While he did surrender eight hits, Beachy had great control with six strikeouts against no walks. Beachy picked up a no-decision (his eighth in twelve starts) as Atlanta fell in extra innings.
Honorable Mention: Brian McCann (1-7, HR, 2 RBI); Alex Gonzalez (2-13, game-winning RBI)
Scott Proctor - Why is he still on the team? I almost feel bad because he's a good guy, but geez is he flat out bad at pitching. In two appearances spanning a combined two innings, Proctor coughed up five runs on seven hits (two homers). His extra-inning gopher ball to Raul Ibanez on Friday earned him the loss. Proctor really hasn't pitched well at any point this season and will likely be the first to go should Frank Wren acquire a right-handed reliever this season. Oh, and did you know he also leads the team in FUC Rate?
Cory Gearrin - While Proctor has suffered, a lot of Braves fans have been waiting to see more of Gearrin. Unfortunately, he was absolutely torched in relief work against the Phillies on Sunday. Gearrin allowed six runs on four hits and two walks while recording just one out. The abuse ballooned his ERA to a gaudy 6.61.
Jordan Schafer - I really wish the guy could just get on base. While leading-off each of the three games, Schafer went 1-12 with one strikeout and no walks. He has played plus defense in CF and obviously has speed, so even just a .330-.340 OBA would make him so much more useful. A .286 OBA just won't cut it. Unfortunately, he hasn't done much (at any level) to suggest those numbers will improve.
Dishonorable Mention: Nate McLouth (1-10, 4 K); Jason Heyward (1-12, 2 K)