1. Other than being an absolute monster who is a historical anomaly by virtue of being so young and so good, what's the big deal with Jason Heyward?
Jay-Hey wears really cool shades, that has a lot to do with it. Lately in American sports, Football gets the best and biggest athletes. Heyward was kept from football by his parents and kept from all the dings and dents that sport bestows upon its players. Heyward is like Jeff Francoeur, but with actual baseball talent and one-tenth the ego.
Heyward is an amazingly patient hitter, which led to him being fourth in the National League in on-base percentage this year (amazing for a rookie). Sometimes he's too patient, but when he does swing he usually makes contact, hard contact. He's probably our best hitter, though he still has a lot to learn and room to grow.
2. Melky Cabrera has been a huge disappointment this season, as has Nate McClouth. How are the Braves going to align their outfield?
Like the Giants, our collection of barely replacement-level outfielders is quite extensive and hauntingly impressive. McLouth has been hitting better of late (thanks to some minor league time), and he's been playing a lot of left field. Against the right-handers Lincecum and Cain we'll probably see McLouth in left field and Rick Ankiel (yeah, we can have a terrible ex-Royals hitter too!) in center. That would provide the best defense and put two lefties in the lineup. Against Sanchez we'll probably see Melky in center (coughchoke) and Matt Diaz in left. We might see some Eric Hinske, but he's so limited defensively I doubt it. There are no real great options for center and left field.
3. Would you rather have Yunel Escobar or Alex Gonzalez starting at short for this playoff series?
I like Yunel, but he's an amazingly frustrating player. Alex Gonzalez is the proven, boring and steady veteran. Having said that, Gonzo has been in a huge slump lately, and hasn't hit a thing. But he's got playoff experience, and I think that matters in the postseason.
4. Derek Lowe's resurgence in September: sustainable? It's not as if he was particularly lucky with BABIP.
Turns out Lowe sweats like a whore in church when he's on the mound, and in the heat and humidity of the South that's amplified several times over. That extra sweating leads to blisters and problems gripping the ball in the summer, so it's likely no coincidence that as the weather cooled down and the humidity abated Lowe was able to regain his true grip and get better results.
He also made a slight mechanical change by remaining more upright when he throws his pitches. He's got such a tall frame that his new upright motion has produced more downward angle on his pitches, especially his
slider, which was a mostly ineffective pitch before that, and is now becoming an out pitch.
5. Is Cristhian Martinez some sort of Jumble question? Because I think I know the answer. (Wait, that's a waste of a question. Instead, just let me know why your bullpen is so good.)
Two words. Cristhian Martinez. No really, I'm just amazed that his first name is spelled Cristhian. It sound like I'm slurring my words as if I'm drunk when I'm saying his name. That being said, I do drink a lot.
Billy Wagner is obviously the anchor of the bullpen, and he still has a 98 mph fastball. He's been brilliant down the stretch, as have his two heir apparent rookie relievers -- Craig Kimbrel from the right side and Everyday Jonny Venters from the left side. Those guys all throw in the upper 90s and strike people out with ridiculous regularity, even historic regularity.
The rest of the bullpen pitchers are also hard throwers, though illness and injury are keeping our top left-handed setup man and our top right-handed setup man off the roster. Eric O'Flaherty is battling dizziness as a side effect of mono and Takashi Saito is battling elbow tendinitis. That means it will be up to the rookies, along with OMG Kyle Farnsworth and Peter Moylan.
6. Bobby Cox said that Brandon Beachy might start a Game Four if necessary. Are you okay with that?
It will depend on how Lowe feels after game one, but it's really a possibility. It's likely just Cox-speak for Derek Lowe on three-days rest, though. I'm okay with it as long as he's kept on a short leash, and only if the bullpen is well rested so they can pitch the back half of the game. Beachy has been pretty darn good in his three starts, especially considering he had to face the Phillies lineup twice.
7. What does the Bobby Cox retirement mean for this team? As a know-it-all blogger, what do you think of his in-game strategy?
During the regular season Bobby lets his players play. During the postseason Bobby micromanages every pitch of the ballgame. It seems at times he has out-thought himself and has over-managed certain situations, but that could just be because every move in the postseason is over-analyzed by us know-it-all bloggers.