Caray: Braves enter rough stretch, thoughts on MLB's Tommy John scourge; more
MAY 16, 2014 3:16p ET
FOXSportsSouth.com checks in with play-by-play announcer Chip Caray to discuss the latest surrounding the Braves.
FOXSPORTSSOUTH.COM: The Braves are in the midst of, arguably, their toughest stretch of the first half of the season, now preparing to face the Cardinals, Brewers, Rockies and Red Sox over the next 14 games. How telling will this period be the Braves?
CC: Obviously you measure yourself against the better teams in baseball and the Braves consider themselves -- and justifiably so -- to one of them.
They're going to face a Cardinals team in their park beginning tonight that's off to a slow start, but is always and incredibly dangerous team.
When they come they're going to see the Brewers, who lead the Cardinals by five games in the division. It's a club that's getting Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez back and remember, we didn't see much of Braun up in Milwaukee.
Then you have the Red Sox and the Marlins, even without Jose Fernandez in that ballpark, where they play great baseball too.
So yeah, this is a very difficult stretch and it's not going to get any easier with Arizona and Colorado on the road for four games in the month of June. This is could be a very, very telling part of the season for the Braves and a very important one since they're playing really good teams and they're going to have to hold their heads above water and try to make some hay.
FSS.COM: The offense, while still near the bottom in runs scored per game, has at least four in three of the past four games. Are we seeing signs of a breakout?
CC: I hope so. I'm not sold yet.
I know hitting coach Greg Walker was quoted in the Atlanta newspaper as saying he's never seen a team swing at so many non-competitive pitches at any level and I think that pretty much sums things up.
The Braves are very aggressive at the plate and I think that aggressiveness is causing them problems. They're being pitches backwards and they want to hit fastballs and they're not getting them and they're still swinging.
One of the keys with the club last year is even when they weren't getting pitched to, they were still drawing walks. They're not doing that nearly as effectively and the line isn't moving.
It's a concern and Greg Walker believes that they're going to get better and hopefully they will. It's the same guys that hit well and won 96 games last year, so there's no reason to think that they can't do that.
When your aggressiveness leads to impatience and that leads to frustration, that's not a good thing and I think we're seeing some of that hopefully ween away from the ball club. But it's got to happen 1-8 and it's go to happen more consistently then three our of four ballgames.
FSS.COM: Fredi Gonzalez has reconsidered the six-man rotation and will keep Alex Wood in the bullpen for the immediate future. Do you see any concerns with yo-yoing him back and forth between reliever and starter? This winter Wood was clear he wanted a defined role.
CC: He got a defined role and that's a major league pitcher.
Look, the bottom line is the Braves have too many starters and two few spots and as a young guy on this ball club, he has a unique ability to -- use your term -- yo-yo back and forth.
Between the starting rotation and the bullpen, the Braves want to limit his innings and keep it around 170 innings and this is a great opportunity to do that, pitching him out of the bullpen.
When and if he's needed in the starting rotation he will be ready and strong for August and September when those games are seen, theoretically, as more important than the ones that are ahead of us now.
Let's look at this analytically. You've got a very young left-hander in Ian Thomas, not a lot of major-league experience down there and kind of a specialist guy learning his way at the big-league level. You've got Luis Avilan, who had one bad outing and has struggled at times with his consistency in the bullpen.
There's a real need down there for the Braves with Alex Wood to have a left-handed guy that can get out the tough left-handed-laden lineups like Washington and Philadelphia and get the tough outs against the Marlins as well.
I don't think Alex has a problem going down to the bullpen and I'm sure everybody would like to start, but it's not his turn right now. If the needs of the team and the needs of the greater good are for Alex to pitch out of the bullpen, they'll be a lot stronger than trying to throw everyone else off-kilter to have a six-man rotation, which, historically, hasn't worked very well in the big leagues.
FSS.COM: Earlier this week, former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone went on Sirius/XM and said he believes we're seeing an eruption in Tommy John surgery because pitchers aren't being allowed to throw enough, citing three surgeries in his 18 years. What do you think is behind it all?
CC: I think we're trying to paint everybody with the same brush. Every pitcher is different and every circumstance in the big leagues is different and their usage is different.
Are young kids throwing too much and playing too much baseball and not enough other sports? Yeah, I think that's probably part of it.
Are high school and college kids getting too many innings and high-stress pitch counts over and over again? Probably.
Are guys coming to the big league and throwing with maximum effort on every pitch, which isn't the way it was done years ago and does that lead to more problems? Probably.
Are pitchers being babied too much? Probably.
Are pitchers not doing enough long toss? Probably.
Or are there guys that are just prone to breaking down and this is just an odd cycle where we're seeing pitchers get six years of pro ball and needing to get the ligament replaced? That's probably part of it too.
I don't think there's any one answer.
I believe that pitch counts in and of themselves are ridiculous. Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, guys that have forgotten more about pitching than I'll ever know always talking about the stress of pitches more than the number and holding up a number of a barometer of when a guy should come out of a game is silly and probably does more harm than good.
But I'm glad baseball is studying it, it's just a shame that guys like Jose Fernandez and Kris Medlen are lost for the season with injury. Their talents are great for the game and they are going to be missed and we hope that when they come back they're going to be bigger and better and strong and, more importantly for the overall game, we'll find out the answer to this vexing problem that has been the scourge of the game for several years.
One other thing, people think the slider is a pitch that is causing a lot of problems. Maybe it is. Maybe it's not. That's something I think that is going to be looked into as well.