Sunday, April 12, 2009

Week One of 26: Outfielders who Can Hit!

I have this ambitious idea of writing a blurb about the Braves every week of the season. I have serious doubts that I'll continue the project when football starts to dominate my mind in August (or, who am I kidding, June), but one week into the season and with the local baseball collective at 5-1, it seems like a good idea.

(One note: all the nice things I'm about to say need to be prefaced by the fact that 50% of the Braves' games to date have been against the woeful Nationals.)

1. The Braves' starting rotation is six for six in terms of keeping the team in the game. The starting pitching was better in Philly than it was in Atlanta, which is odd because in Philly, the pitchers were going against a good lineup in a hitters park, whereas in Atlanta, the pitchers were going against a mediocre lineup in a neutral park. Two starts into his Braves career, Derek Lowe looks outstanding. I've always wanted a sinkerballer like Kevin Brown or Brandon Webb and now we have a version of that beast. It helps that the infield defense is excellent.

2. Speaking of defense, because this is the year that defense became mainstream, I'll be keeping tabs on the Braves' performance in that area. Going into play today, the team was seventh in park-adjusted defensive efficiency. My lying eyes tell me that Jeff Francoeur's defensive regression last year has bled into 2009, as he missed catchable fly balls on Sunday and Friday nights.

2a. The Braves' pitchers have allowed exactly two home runs through six games. That's an excellent start. Now, about the 27 walks...

3. What the hell is wrong with the Washington Nationals? This franchise moved from Montreal because they apparently could not compete because of limited local revenue, but they have regressed each year in Washington. You would have thought that a franchise noted for producing and then exporting top talent would thrive in a new, large market that generates the sort of cash that can allow the team to keep talent. Is the explanation any more complicated than "Jim Bowden is an idiot?" Is Peter Angelos nefariously killing this team? The Nats are an example that economics are not destiny, as they have gotten worse in a better market.

4. The outfield accounted for four homers this week, leaving them a mere 23 from equalling last year's paltry totals. Other than the fact that he's striking out about 30% of the time, Jordan Schafer has been excellent. Garret Anderson is off to a slow start, as one might expect for a player in a new league, but his platoon partner Matt Diaz is back to his old ways of destroying left-handed pitching. Francouer remains an out-machine.

5. Kudos to Bobby for not leaving any of the starters in very long in the first week of the season. We're all a little antsy about the bullpen, but the response should not be to leave the starters in for 120 pitches in April.

6. A sign that we shouldn't take the first week of the season too seriously: your current division leaders are Toronto, Detroit, Seattle, Florida/Atlanta, St. Louis, and San Diego.


Caelus said...

Thanks for the Braves talk. This baseball (Braves and Mariners especially) fan appreciates any news and/or opinions you can offer.

And let's keep our fingers crossed as far as Francoeur and the middle bullpen is concerned. They seem to be the weak link so far and there is plenty of room for improvement. Cannot beat that starting pitching though.

Ryno said...

Michael - did you get to see much of Kawakami pitch on Saturday?

I was pretty impressed by his movement and the way he changed his approach to hitters the 2nd time he faced them. Too many walks though.