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Braves Mailbag: Bullpen questions, biggest strength and more

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Better late than never but this week’s mailbag is here. Thank you to everyone who sent in questions. I couldn’t get to all of them but will try to include as many of the ones that I passed over for the next one.

Assuming Will Smith will be a shutdown 8th inning and occasional closer, what RP not named Melancon will get the most save attempts?

Lots of bullpen questions this week. Given Brian Snitker’s track record of bullpen decisions I expect to eventually see Will Smith in the traditional closer role at some point provided we have a 2020 season. Still, lets consider that Smith is used in the seventh or eighth innings in high-leverage situations. If it isn’t Melancon in the ninth then I think it would likely be Chris Martin. Shane Greene would be another name in theory as he has plenty of experience in the traditional closer role but I think he would open the season behind Martin in the pecking order.

We always hear how closers are to be treated differently. That they need/prefer to know their role to mentally prepare. However, other relievers are to be ready at a moments notice. I wonder if there is a monetary reason to continue to retain the role of closer. Many games are won or lost from the 6-8 inning. I am curious of everyone’s opinion on whether we will see a specific role of relievers where they are treated like a closer (6th inning guy only, 7th inning guy, 8th inning guy).

There is a monetary component in that saves are sometimes considered in arbitration hearings for relievers. That is why a lot of young relievers want that ninth inning role and those save chances. My feeling is that saves are pretty much a meaningless stat so I would like to see the bullpen deployed in regards to matchups.

The Braves have used a scripted bullpen in the past with Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel. It was effective, but I am not sure that I would pin the success on being cast into specific roles for the seventh and eighth innings.

I think managing the bullpen is one of the hardest things a manager has to do. There are so many moving parts and that is another reason I think you need flexible options.

What is the Braves’ greatest strength going into the season? What’s the biggest unanswered question about the 2020 Braves?

Given the amount of financial resources and attention the team spent on the bullpen this offseason I think it really needs to be a strength. If it struggles then the front office will have opened itself up to a lot of criticism. I think the biggest unanswered question is still the rotation. They brought in Cole Hamels but that is clearly not the move for a top of the rotation type arm that they have talked about adding for the last four or five off-seasons.

The Braves built their rebuild on pitching but only Mike Soroka has really taken that step forward. Max Fried is really close in my opinion as well. Mike Foltynewicz looked the part in 2018 but slid back again last season. Atlanta needs a guy like Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson or Ian Anderson to really take a step forward and have success at the major league level to really solidify that rotation.

While Anthopolous has built a new reputation with the Braves as not wanting to sign free agents to long-term contracts, I still think he could be willing to pull the trigger on a longer contract if that player was young and was super special. That player could definitely be Mookie Betts. With all the money coming off the books next offseason AND with the possibility of either Pache or Waters not panning out in the long-run AND with young/cheap talent at other positions (other than Freeman), do you think Anthopolous could finally pull the long-term-contract trigger?

I like the thought but at this point I just don’t see it. Maybe if the team is able to take the next step and breakthrough with a World Series appearance it would change the thinking. When we hear Anthopoulos talk about being willing to pull the trigger on a young a super special player I think about the extensions given to Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies. My feeling is they are willing to commit long term but would prefer to do so on their terms.

Given that neither have been traded so far, I think that both Cristian Pache and Drew Waters will get their shot to show they belong at the major league level. If one or both don’t pan out then the team will have to pivot but I don’t expect to see them suddenly be competing for the biggest names on the free agent market.

After all the controversy at the conclusion of last season, where do we stand in regards to the tomahawk chop? It’s been around as long as I’ve been alive (I’m 28) and I see it as a revered tradition. I understand it can be a delicate subject, but it could change the culture and overall vibe whenever we return to Truist Park. Just curious what your thoughts were.

Good question and it is one that I don’t really have a good answer for. It does seem that the team has started to move away from it. It will be interesting to see if we see the chop used less frequently or not at all when games do return.

Who does the TC staff think will be the Braves most productive pinch hitter?What Braves’ batter does the TC staff think will have the most drastic lefty-right splits?What Braves’ RP does the TC staff think will have the most holds?What Braves’ RP does the TC staff think will have the most blown saves?

I didn’t have the time to crowd source these among the staff but here are my rapid fire answers.

Best PH - Johan Camargo
Most drastic lefty-right splits - Adam Duvall/Nick Markakis
Most Holds - Chris Martin
Blown Saves - Mark Melancon

Thanks everyone, we will do this again soon.