Great win for the Braves yesterday over the Mets, wrapping up an opening stretch of the season in which they took four of six from the most talented team in the NL. The Braves are getting great production from the top of their order right now, which is off-setting the lack of production from left field and first base. A few disjointed thoughts on the game and the season so far:
1. I might be dragged kicking and screaming into this "Jeff Francoeur is clutch" school of thought before the end of the year. Yesterday, he came up in a 1-1 game, mired in a typical slump, and promptly stroked a two-run single with a nice piece of hitting, staying back on an inside pitch and driving it up the middle.
2. Three true outcomes update: the Braves lead the NL in homers and only four teams have allowed fewer homers. The Braves have drawn more walks than any team other than the Phillies. On the negative side, only two teams have issued more walks and only one team has struck out more.
3. If you haven't seen Smoltz's play on Glavine's swinging bunt yesterday, you owe it to all that is good in the world to see the highlight. In a nutshell, Glavine hit a dribbler down the third base line. Smoltz sprinted over to the ball, cutting off the lumbering Chipper Jones in the process, and in one motion fielded the ball and threw a strike to first while falling away. That said, Smoltz and Glavine both clearly tired in the middle innings yesterday, most likely because it's early in the season and it was a hot day at Shea. Both were outstanding for about five innings and then came unglued.
4. I heart Kelly Johnson.
5. It would surprise me if the Braves can stay with the Mets all season. You can see what an extra $30M in payroll buys you when you can trot out Shawn Green (whom I'm probably overrating because of his ability to kill the Braves and no one else) and Moises Alou towards the bottom of your order. The Mets are a half-game behind the Braves, but their run differential is significantly better. I'm also a tad concerned about the Braves' bullpen, which has allowed a ton of runners so far this year and has been flirting with disaster. It's time for the Pittsburgh Mike Gonzalez to appear.
5a. It's interesting to me that the Mets and Yankees spend more than anyone else in baseball (as well as that team in Boston) and yet they have questionable pitching. To me, that just illustrates the difficulty in determining that any pitcher is a sure thing. Position players are more durable and their performances are more consistent on a yearly basis. Thus, the Gotham investments in players like Carlos Beltran or Johnny Damon are fairly predictable, but their investments in Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, or...just about every pitcher the Yankees have signed in recent memory are risky. I don't know that there is a solution. Rather, this is another random element that makes baseball unpredictable.
6. And speaking of variant pitching performances, Tim Hudson was unhittable on Friday night. He bears no resemblance to the guy who was so poor last year. The Mets have a terrific lineup and they were reduced to a series of weak dribblers on the infield. I'm just waiting for the oblique injury that ruins everything.