Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Feeling Bullish on the Braves this Morning

Maybe it's the fact that the team clobbered the Astros last night while the Phillies and Mets both lost. Maybe it's the result of me taking a gander at the standings and realizing that the Braves' run differential (+36) is essentially equivalent to that of the Mets (+35) and the Phillies (+42), which means that the 3.5 game differential between the Braves and Mets could be expected to tighten even before the team added Teixeira, Mahay, Dotel, and Ring. (The Braves also have a marginally better run differential than the Dodgers [+31], who currently are currently 1.5 games ahead in the race for the wild card spot.) Maybe it's the euphoria of the Braves importing talent for the first time in years as opposed to developing it on the farm and then trading it away. Maybe it's the color of the sun caught flat and coverin' the crossroads I'm standin' at. Whatever the reason, I feel really good about the Braves this morning. This feeling of excitement could surely fade with a further reminder of the lack of depth in the starting rotation or another Wickmanian collapse, but right now, it's good to be a Braves fan.

A couple other thoughts:

1. Those of you who thought that Kelly Johnson would be second on the team in slugging percentage and tied for third in homers on August 1, please raise your hands. Even with my man-crush, I underestimated the Braves' second baseman. I thought in 2005 that Johnson was underrated in the avalanche of Francoeur excitement and he's shown that to be the case this year. Kelly's slugging and on-base percentages are both .050 higher and he has the same number of homers and extra-base hits in 48 fewer plate appearances. In retrospect, Johnson was miscast as a lead-off hitter; he should be hitting fifth behind Chipper and Teixeira in the new lineup. Bobby is far too loyal to demote Andruw that far down in the lineup and there's nothing wrong with that, but I reserve the right to change my mind if Andruw makes the last out of the season against the Cubs in the playoffs with Johnson on deck.

In case you're wondering, I'm feeling the Braves' and Cubs' destinies intertwining again. Prepare for more stories about how Atlanta fans suck. Speaking of which, contrast the apathetic ratings that the NBA gets in Boston with the fact that Atlanta is one of the strongest markets for the NBA, as measured by TV ratings for markets without teams involved in the playoffs. I'm confused by this disparity, as I always thought that Atlantans were supposed to be provincial and Bostonians were cosmopolitan, but as it turns out, Atlantans watch the NBA regardless of whether our team is involved (maybe years of experience at watching teams other than the Hawks in the playoffs has made us good at that) and Bostonians only watch when their team is involved. I digress.

2. After the acquisition/retention of Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez, and Bob Wickman to give the Braves a potentially dominant trio for the end of games, who thought that the Braves' top reliever in terms of VORP (or most other statistical measures) on August 1 would be Peter Moylan?

3. A few random notes based on a glance at the Expanded Standings:

a. The Braves have the best record in the NL against teams with winning records and are one of only two teams with a winning record against teams with winning records.

b. The Braves have a winning record against all three NL divisions. That 4-11 mark against the AL really stands out like a sore thumb. If the Braves fail to make the playoffs by a game or two, they'll have some very legitimate complaints about their interleague schedule. Then again, there are probably a bunch of teams that will miss the playoffs in the AL who will be able to legitimately claim that they would have been one of the favorites in the NL.

c. If you want an indication as to how tightly bunched the NL is, look at the Pythagorean Wins and Losses. The Cubs are at 59, then there are five teams (including the Braves) at 57 and another at 56. The poseur among the contenders is Arizona, which has a run differential that is indicative of a team far worse than a 59-49 division leader.


Grandy said...

The steady improvement in run differential over the course of the season is certainly reason for hope. At one point we were overperforming based on a miniscule differential. While it might be a touch inflated after last night, it also kind of helps illustrate how the last 10+ days have gone (and all the extra innings 1 run losses of late).

Kelly Johnson or McCann hitting 5th would be fine. Won't happen, alas. What's really tragic is that Kelly might fall down below everyone - Francoeur included. KJ and McCann should hit a combo of 5-6 most likely.

I'm a Realist said...

It seems like Kelly Johnson is going to hit 8th mostly. While I agree that he is good enough to hit 5th, I think 8th may be better for everybody else. He has the best idea of the strike zone of Andruw, Frenchy, and McCann. Your #8 will generally see fewer pitches to hit, meaning you need someone who won't flail away at anything the pitcher throws. KJ is really a good fit there.