Today’s Topic: State of the Atlanta Braves (or how they continue to dig a hole at the beginning of the season and other various reflections on the Braves’ season thus far by Braves BG)
Mood Music: Rope by Foo Fighters
We are twenty games into the season (about 1/8 the way through) and the Braves stand at a measly 8-12. To put things in perspective, they are currently fourth in the division, ahead of only the Mets. It’s early; good teams are still trying to figure things out (see the Boston Red Sox). It’s just a little bit tiring to see them constantly dig themselves into a hole where for the next 140 games they are going to scratch and claw to try to get even with the Phillies, whom are already five games ahead.
As I’m sure we can all agree the struggles have been on the offensive side of the ball. It’s the same scenario as last year. The Braves blew good start after good start from their pitching staff by putting up 2 runs or less of offense. They will get hot at some point and go on a scoring explosion, but it will soon be forgotten when the offensive woes return. The offense is more explosive, and top to bottom, more dynamic than anything they put on the field last year. It’s time to put all of the excuses behind and start producing some runs.
Some things to put in perspective here (these are all in relation to the NL, 16 teams): 1) The Braves have scored the fourth least runs through 20 games. 2) The Braves have the fourth most Home Runs. 3) The Braves have the third worst batting average (.230) 4) The Braves have the fourth best team ERA (ahead of Philadelphia). 5) The Braves have the second best bullpen ERA.
Now the point isn’t to throw a bunch of skewed facts out there to make you believe what I’m saying. It’s more to show you that they aren’t terrible. Sure the offense isn’t good, but the pitching has been as expected. They have done enough not to be fourth in their division. So what is the problem?
I’m sure there are a litter of fingers to be pointed: Uggla isn’t hitting, Hanson can’t pitch, Fredi can’t manage, Larry Parrish (new hitting coach) isn’t worth a lick, Glen Hubbard shouldn’t have been fired, etc. Whatever the reason or whomever we want to blame, we have to step back and remind ourselves, it’s still early. The season is young, the Braves are slow starters and eventually they will start putting together some wins. It’s too early to start worrying about Philly and how many games they win and are up. They will slump. It’s inevitable. Their offense without Utley and Werth will struggle at some point. Unlike the Braves, they are hitting above expectations.
At the beginning of the year, if I would have told you Chipper would be healthy, McLouth would hit .75 points higher than he did last year and Freddie Freeman wouldn’t be the weak link in the lineup, you probably would have thought the Braves would be undefeated. Throw in the fact that Kimbrell was 4 for 4 on saves (until a few days ago) and we all would be feeling pretty good about the squad. I’m saying don’t lose hope here Braves fans.
I hate trying to liken the Braves situation to the Red Sox, but I can’t help but draw some comparisons. By all accounts, the Red Sox were the preseason favorite to finish first in AL East and win the World Series. They had too much talent, a good bullpen and above average starters. This same world beater team is currently tied for last place in the American League. I don’t for a second believe that is where they will finish. Maybe on a smaller scale (as I don’t think the Braves are as talented), but the Braves have too much talent and too solid of a pitching staff to sustain continual losses. The hitting has not been great, but it’s been sporadic. They can’t seem to piece together any type of consistent hitting. I think once we start getting some consecutive hitting out of the lineup, you will see more runs scored and ultimately more wins.
Things I’ve liked seeing so far:
I like the lineup. I like the lefty, righty lineup that has been put together. I like that we’ve seen some decent power from the entire lineup (1 through 8). Where this has faltered some is that the home runs have been all solo shots because no has gotten on base ahead of the power guys. I like the Venters/Kimbrell combination at the end of the game. I think Venters might be one of the best setup men I’ve seen in the NL this year. And I’ve been surprised by the power of Kimbrell. He has two pitches and he is going to throw them at you. I know he blew a save the other day, but before the season started I accepted the fact that he would blow a few saves over the course of the year. He is a 22 year old closer for the first time. It will take some time before he is as dominant as Wagner or Rivera (who blew a save a few nights ago as well).
As for the other rookie, Freddie Freeman started off slow, but has slowly come into his own. He’s still only batting .250, but he has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games. He is starting to show some confidence at the plate. I think he has put some of the fears aside that he will not be a disappointment this year. I don’t think, however, we will see him have Heyward like numbers from last year, but I don’t think anyone is expecting that. As for the manager, I like Fredi. I like his ability to keep some of the Bobby Cox mentality. Whether some of you want to say it’s to a fault, I understand. I think it’s just a huge part of who the Braves are. I’m willing to give Fredi Gonzalez some time before I start getting overly critical of his managing skills. Despite his familiarity with the Braves, he is still trying to figure out how he wants to manage the lineup. This may take some time as we are all seeing. I have faith that he will figure it out.
I’ll save all of the negatives for the next post if the Braves continue on this slide and all of the sunshine pumping I just did was a waste. I hope it doesn’t get to that point.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on the season so far, and Bish please share some stories from your time with the “Thanks Bobby” crowd this year — BRAVES BG
Thanks to Braves BG for the post…..hopefully I’ll have something for you all soon…it’s only been about a half year.
“i’m pulling for you now”