Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Seven Strikeouts, No Walks

That sums up Jorge Sosa's night in Texas last night. Sosa has borderline electric stuff and has always had high strikeout rates, but the reason why he was available from Tampa for a utility infielder and why Cox and Mazzone didn't trust him even as the rest of the bullpen was imploding was his inability to avoid walks. Last night, he got ahead of just about every hitter and then punched them out once he had the upper hand. David Dellucci is probably still wondering what Sosa was throwing him. And let's not forget that Sosa was pitching to one of the best lineups in baseball in their home stadium, which is an offensive park. It's never a good idea to draw too many conclusions from one start, especially a start that only went five innings, but Sosa's performance was encouraging last night.

As usual, one good Braves performance has me thinking all sorts of optimstic thoughts. If this team can stay in striking distance of the top of the division, then some combination of the following might boost them into another hot July and August:

1. Chipper returns and bolsters a lineup that clearly misses him;

2. Giles and Furcal (especially Furcal) play up to their potential and allow the middle of the order to hit with runners on;

3. Adam LaRoche starts to hit like he did in the second half of last season;

4. Kelly Johnson, Andy Marte, and Ryan Langerhans all follow LaRoche's pattern from last year and hit better and better as they see more major league pitching; and/or

5. Thomson and Hampton return healthy and the Braves again have the best starting rotation in the division.

And now, to bring the room down for a moment, let's consider the implications of Tim Hudson's recent struggles and the rumors that he has oblique problems again. Assuming that this condition will only get worse as he ages, the Braves will face a future where roughly half of their payroll will be consumed by Hudson, Chipper Jones, and Mike Hampton, all of whom are aging, oft-injured, and on the downward slopes of their careers. There's a pleasant thought.

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