Why did the Braves Go So Loe?

Why did the Braves Go So Loe?

It’s difficult enough to follow day games.  Work, family, school, General Hospital.  I mean…add baseball to that and it seems almost impossible to pay attention.  Of course, if you saw the pitcher matchup for today’s game against the Mets, you might have said “why bother?”  Maybe you would have added some expletives.  Feel free.

Atlanta sent Kameron Loe to the bump to face the Mets because they hate their fans.  No, not really.  On the hating part because the Braves most certainly started Loe today.  Their reasoning was less about their fans’ feelings and more about making a sensible choice for a game.  The twitterverse was less than thrilled.  One Braves group I am part of ran the gamut of making puns out of Loe’s name (which I am very much in favor of) to WTF? to one fan in particular claiming that the Braves would rue the day they sent Loe out there.

The common theme was an inability to understand why the Braves started Loe in the first place.  So, allow me to attempt to explain my thoughts on this decision because when you enter with an open mind, it’s a perfectly excusable decision…though hardly inspiring.

The Braves have, for a few weeks now, been looking for a way to rest some of their younger arms.  Plan A was simply activate Paul Maholm off the DL and that would allow the Braves to skip a starter each turn through the rotation.  It was an interesting idea because I’ve never heard of a team attempting such an approach.  That plan was quickly scrapped when Brandon Beachy lost his velocity and went to the DL.  Maholm simply replaced him in the rotation.  Plan B was for Freddy Garcia to play the role in Maholm’s absence.  But that plan was subsequently scrapped as soon as Garcia was promoted following the September 1st because Alex Wood struggled badly on Sunday.  That unfortunate forced Garcia to throw 4.2 innings.

The following day, the Braves made the decision to go to Plan C, codenamed Operation Loe-Down Dirty Shame.  Loe had last pitched on Friday, which put him on regular rest to make a spot start for Wednesday.  However, there was no room on the 40-man roster for Loe as he had been designated for assignment in July.  The day before he was to be promoted, the Braves transferred Ramiro Pena to the 60-day DL to allow them to purchase Garcia’s contract.  They followed a similar approach on Monday, transferring Tim Hudson to the 60-day DL.  In general, teams avoid the 60-day DL unless they absolutely need the room.  The reason, I believe, is tied into how teams have to add players back to the 40-man roster if they want to protect them for the Rule 5 draft so why force the extra move, which could be harder to make in the offseason if you are already at 40.

The move gave them the room, but the question remained…why aim so Loe?  Let’s look at the 40-man roster.  Before Loe’s activation, the Braves had ten starters on their 40-man roster.  Five form the normal five-man rotation.  Hudson and Beachy make seven.  Garcia would be the eighth, but he had just thrown nearly five innings three days before.  That leaves two starters – David Hale and Aaron Northcraft.  Why not go with either one of them?  Hale would have been a fine option.  The Gwinnett pitcher has struggled with missing bats this season, but he’s still somewhat a prospect.  However, he just pitched two days ago.  Northcraft was passed over for a pair of reasons.  Notably, he pitched Saturday so he would have been on short rest.  Additionally, the Mississippi Braves are in the playoffs and the big-league team would like to let them have the chance to compete for a league crown.

So, if not Hale or Northcraft, why did Loe get chosen over a different Gwinnett starter.  Well, some Gwinnett starters were in a similar position as Hale.  They would have had to pitch on short rest.  Omar Poveda is an exception.  The almost 26 year-old has been a decent addition to Gwinnett staff this season after signing as a minor league free agent.  However, Loe has been just as good or better at Gwinnett lately and has major league experience.

At the end of the day, sure the Braves could have gone with a better starter.  They could have kept Hale from pitching on Monday night, knowing that they were going to skip Teheran on Wednesday.  However, here’s where just being the better option isn’t the only thing the team considers.  The Braves have no vested interest in Loe.  If they run his arm into the ground – so be it.  They don’t care about his options or service time.  He means nothing to the Braves and that’s just fine.  Atlanta is giving him an opportunity to help secure employment in 2014 so Loe is happy to have a shot.  Sometimes, the better option isn’t always to go with the better player.  Other conditions should be considered.

Loe sucked.  He got bombed.  The Braves may go with a different pitcher or Garcia next time they try to skip a young starter.  But that doesn’t mean they made the wrong decision on Wednesday.

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