Ahh…spring is in the air. I can see my lawn for the first time in 3 months, I stopped watching college basketball for 96 hours straight. That must mean it’s baseball season. Yes, my Atlanta Braves are back in action and after only one week, I’m bringing back my Good, Bad and Ugly entry for one week only, just because I can.
Disclaimer – I’m going to pretend that the Braves didn’t lose to the Padres 17-2 yesterday. At least in the first section (The Good) anyway. The Ugly might mention that particular game.
Braves Pitching - The Braves pitching staff has been pretty solid all year. Sure there are some flaws, like Derek Lowe’s two wins (don’t know how that happened) and walk total and Billy Wagner’s meatball to Renteria in SF. But otherwise, the starters have been solid for the most part, even with a few losses in good starts. The bullpen started the season with 11-plus innings of shutout baseball. There’s a lot to be optimistic about here.
Jason Heyward – Even with a meager .269 BA after a week, Heyward’s power is proving vital to the Braves lineup. Sure, he had a few games with a lot of strikeouts, but don’t confuse that with “Jeff Francoeur Syndrome” (inability to take the 1st pitch). Heyward’s shown off his great plate discipline numerous times already this season and should continue to contribute in the Braves lineup.
Martin Prado – He’s the only Braves regular hitting over .300 (McCann is at .300) with a staggering .519 BA, a .594 OBP with 6 R, 1 RBI, 4 BB and 4 K’s. He’s producing out of the 2-hole right now, but if the Braves can’t solve their lead-off problem soon (we’ll address that in a second), Bobby Cox could think about putting Prado or Heyward at the top spot.
Eric Hinske – Effectively replaced Greg Norton as the backup 1B / 5th OF / PH role. Currently has the 2nd highest BA on the Braves (.333, 2-for-5). With Troy Glaus’ bat relatively quiet right now, Bobby Cox might also have to think about giving Hinske more regular time either at first or the outfield.
Braves Outfield / Leadoff Spot
Don’t count Heyward in this category. The leadoff duo of Nate McLouth (.118 BA) and Melky Cabrera (.103 BA) has been completely ineffective so far. Matt Diaz hasn’t done anything spectacular either, but he’s hitting out of the 8-hole for the most part. If the Braves want to be a better offensive team, the leadoff guy has got to get on.
Troy Glaus’ Bat
Forget Troy’s defense for the first week , which has probably been pretty good, I’ve only seen one game. But if he is going to hit clean-up in this line up, just with the lead-off guys, he must produce and soon.
Chipper Jones' Health
Yes, Chipper is down once again with minor injury, giving playing time to Prado at 3rd and Omar Infante at 2nd. Chipper needs to anchor the middle of this lineup and do everthing, get on base, score and drive in runs. But he can't do it if he can't stay on the field. He says if he can't produce, he'll retire at the end of this season and he's heading down that road so far.
Kris Medlen’s Innings
I love Kris Medlen. He’s a work horse in the bullpen since he’s a converted started turned long man for Bobby Cox. But already he’s made 3 appearances for a total of 5 innings (Peter Moylan has 4 for 4 innings). To be fair, Cox’s bullpen is very balanced so far this season, but if you’re going to have Medlen make a spot start at any time this season, Cox is going to have to rely on other guys in the bullpen, who are just as effective. Well, except for one…
I don’t know why he’s on the team. Cox only used him yesterday in the blowout against SD and he was completely ineffective as he has been pretty much his entire major league career. Even if he’s holding a spot for Scott Proctor, why waive Manny Acosta and keep Reyes? I don’t get it.
Well, that’s my thoughts on the Braves so far through one week. I like the fact that they’re getting one of their West Coast trips out of the way earlier. They haven’t played any divisional opponents yet, so that 3-4 record isn’t that big of a deal. IF the offense ever gets its act together, this could be a very dominant team.