With the Braves squaring off tonight against the Cardinals on ESPN, the Worldwide Leader made Manny Acta available for an interview with Talking Chop which was conducted earlier today. Here is the transcript of the conversation I had with Manny. We spoke about the loss of Tim Hudson, what the Braves may do at the trade deadline, and his thoughts on Andrelton Simmons's defense, among other things. Join me in saying thanks to Manny for taking time out of his day to speak with me for a bit about the team!
Me: Tim Hudson's injury was the big story last week. How big do you think his loss is to the Braves?
Manny: It is a big loss, not only because of what he does on the mound but as the leader of the team losing him is going to hurt in more ways than one. Thankfully for the team they have a 8.5 game lead so Frank Wren will not have to make any hasty decisions and they can really think about getting someone who fits. He has enough time to find someone he thinks fits and I am sure that is what he has been doing since Hudson got hurt last week. It is a big blow though no question about it.
Me: Do you think they should make a move to fill in for the void of Hudson or do you think they have enough to compete in the playoffs?
Manny: I think the best thing to do would be to pick up someone who has the playoff experience that the younger guys lack. You know, they have Brandon Beachy coming off the disabled list tomorrow which can be a big boost but with him coming back from Tommy John surgery you are not sure what you are going to get from him just yet. Going out and finding another starter is probably the best move right now.
Me: Mike Minor and Julio Teheran combined to allow just one run against the Cardinals in the first two games of this series. On top of that they both have had really good years. Would you be comfortable having those two as your top two starters in the playoffs?
Manny: I think they lack track record and experience that you would want for that kind of a role. They definitely have the stuff and have shown it this year, but neither of them have pitched in the post-season and you want to have at least one of your pitchers with experience in the playoffs. Ideally they are able to find that guy in the next few days.
Me: With an 8.5 game lead heading into the final days of July, the Braves are kind of quietly running away with the division. Do you put more emphasis on the Braves playing well this year or the division being “lackluster”?
Manny: I am not going to take any credit away from what Fredi has done for the Braves and what the team has done all season. They have played consistent baseball and have won despite some guys hitting in the .220’s all season. Guys like Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson have stepped up and really carried them offensively, so even though the rest of the division has not played well, the Braves have played consistent baseball all year just like the Cardinals have and deserve to be on top of the division.
Me: Kris Medlen is starting tonight. He has not been as effective as he was last year. Do you think this is more of the Medlen we should come to expect or last year’s version?
Manny: I think he is definitely a better pitcher than he has shown this year. I do not think we can really expect many guys to pitch as well as he did down the stretch last year, so I think he is somewhere in between. There are only a few kind of pitchers you expect to do what he did last season and I don't think anyone expected him to be that good. So I don't think it's fair to expect that kind of performance from him now, but I do think he is better than he has been this year. He is a guy they need to step up. If he can step up and pitch like he is capable of pitching, especially with Hudson down, the staff can be very well rounded going into October.
Me: Strikeouts have been a big topic in Atlanta this year. At the same time, the Braves also lead the league in walks. Are you okay with having that many strikeouts as long as it comes with walks and power?
Manny: Walks and home runs are great ways to score runs. I am not going to say I like to see guys strike out. You always have a better chance of putting something together if you put the bat on the ball and make the defense make a play, but if you are able to walk and hit for power then you can score consistently. The problem comes when you face big shutdown pitchers who can come in and dominate a team that strikes out that much.
Me: In my opinion, due to his defense, Andrelton Simmons has been the team’s MVP this year. Do you think there is a better defensive shortstop in the league?
Manny: I am not a fan of crowning a player who is so new to the league. I think he has great skills, not only athletically but in his instincts as well. But still, with guys like Andrus and Escobar and Tulowitzki who have been doing a lot of great things for a long time it is hard to say someone is the best with only about a year of major league experience. I do think he is one of the top-5 guys.
Me: The Braves have struggled with the leadoff spot all year. They have toyed around with a few different options but Andrelton Simmons has been the main guy in the spot. Yesterday, Fredi Gonzalez put Heyward in the leadoff spot. What do you think they should do with the leadoff spot?
Manny: The leadoff spot is all about on base percentage. I don’t think they have a very good option because guys like Jason Heyward should be batting more in the middle of the lineup. But you still have to focus on guys with good averages and on base percentages at the top of the lineup. You can’t put a guy in the leadoff spot because he is skinny or looks like a leadoff hitter, he has to get on base. I think Fredi has done a great job all year and if this is who he thinks the best then I agree with him. I think this is a good move.