Tim Hudson looked tired, uncomfortable, and obviously did not have his best stuff last night. Martin Prado is having an abysmal September and it's reflecting in all his offensive numbers, as well as his suffering defense. Brian McCann has resumed his typical September slumping, popping out or striking out while cursing expletives loudly. Jair Jurrjens's legs are an issue, Derrek Lee and Troy Glaus's aches and woes are well documented, and Mike Minor's seemingly hit the rookie wall.
There's a thought that's popped into my head over the last 3-4 Septembers (and sometimes Octobers), that I've more or less ignored as a potential anomaly, because it just doesn't seem like it's happening to anyone else but the Braves. Come September, the Braves just seem to, well run out of gas. But then I read this article over at Peter Hjort's Capitol Avenue Club, and now I can't get these thoughts out of my head. It's like a snowball rolling down the hill, like a spotlight has been shined on the thoughts that I'm beginning to think are the larger problems that I'm hoping the organization will address, sooner, rather than later. Most certainly one of those Why Didn't I Think of That?? moments, here.
Now Hjort focuses mostly on the injuries and concerns over potential for more injury, but I'm simply more gravely concerned over the fatigue factor. Obviously, I'm biased, since 95% of the baseball games I watch are the Atlanta Braves. And certainly no team can avoid the fatigue or late-season injury bugs that eventually get to every team, but based on watching our opponents over the last few Septembers, it just doesn't look like they're half as sluggish as the Braves have capably demonstrated throughout the last ten years.
Sometimes, looking back at numbers, and comparing them to today kind of sucks. At 9-13 for the month of September at the time of writing this, the Braves need to win 6 of their last 8 games in order to not have the first sub .500 September in over a decade. And considering 3 of our last 8 are against the indestructible Phillies, it could be a lofty task. But looking back through the September/October records over the last ten years, the Braves have only eclipsed a .600+ record only twice - in 2002, and 2004. Otherwise, the Braves have roughly hovered around the average of a .528 team in Septembers/Octobers. Typically, rule of thumb, most playoff teams are at least around a .560 team throughout an entire season, so you might able to guess why playing .528 ball in Septembers/Octobers can be detrimental.
Why the mediocre Septembers/Octobers? I simply believe, that the largest culprit, is fatigue. Watching the current team slump through game after game, lifeless and tired and/or hurting has been brutal. Injuries aren't the end of the world, because at least injured players aren't in the game playing sluggish, and can be replaced by a healthy, fresh player. Yes, I understand this opens the debate of "tired Albert Pujols vs. fresh Ross Gload, who would you really want?" but there comes a point where even the fans want their star players to sit down and get a breather. It's bad enough when Joe Simpson prefaces the game by saying how nobody was looking forward to the off-day more than Martin Prado, to understand just how worn down the guy might be. It's bad enough when Chipper Jones talks to the media how he thinks Brian McCann is tired, and analytically explaining that constant swinging under the ball is the result of fatigue. Of course, also it doesn't help to have the marginal talents and play of the McLouths, Cabreras and Gonzalezes shining brighter when the reliable guys are also slumping to bring further light unto these concerns. But who's to say that they're not tired and achy too, and it's only accentuating their inabilities further?
But like Hjort, I'm now firmly in belief that the Atlanta Braves definitely need to make a change - with the medical personnel. The current regime has been in place since 2006, and the cumulative Septembers/Octobers for the Braves since then has been that of an even more mediocre .519 baseball team. I'm not a medical person, so I have no idea at whom on the medical staff isn't doing their job well, or paying attention to the seemingly simple decision that hurting and tired players are just not effective players, but I'm getting a little tired of watching a team play like a bunch of zombies. I'm tired of watching the Braves settle for .500 Septembers/October, when the Phillies seemingly have a .600 September/October every year. The last time the Braves eclipsed .650 ball in September/October was 1999 - when they last went to the World Series.
Some factors can't necessarily be hung on the medical staff. Freak injuries like Chipper Jones and Kris Medlen are aberrations that aren't predictable or necessarily preventable. Mike Minor running out of gas should come as no surprise, considering his rookie status, and inexperience at simply pitching this much. Despite a 40-man roster, it's not the medical staff's fault that the Hinskes, Conrads, Rosses, Freemans and Hernandezes are still being left on the bench to rot. But players constantly being allowed to play through injuries and bog down the team with their fatigue, that's preventable. With ten years worth of records and history indicating that the Braves are more likely to be a .520 team than a .620 team, despite the same staffs throughout the entire year in the last crucial month(s) of the season, something's gotta be thought about.