The Braves went 3-3 this week, losing the Monday-Wednesday series at Florida 1-2 but winning two of three in Colorado over the weekend. This puts them at 15-8, a half-game back of the Mets.
This Week’s Stats
First, we have the links to FanGraphs’ excellent game summaries and graphs:
And the WPA stats, first for the week alone:
And then for the year so far:
Biggest plays of the week
Just a note: These are the biggest positive WPA plays for the Braves, so they may not be the highest-impact plays overall, since they don’t include the bad ones.
- Brayan Pena reached on Garrett Atkins’error, allowing Jeff Francoeur to score and advancing Scott Thorman to second in yesterday’s 9-7 loss at Colorado (+.208)
- Bob Wickman struck out Josh Willingham with a 3-2 lead and the bases loaded in the 9th inning of Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to Florida (+.203)
- Scott Thorman hit a ground-rule double off Brian Fuentes to lead off the 10th inning in yesterday’s loss (+.170).
- Chipper Jones hit a 2-run single off Jason Hirsh in the third inning of Saturday’s game to tie it at 2 (+.169). The Braves would go on to win, 6-2.
- Andruw Jones hit a 3-run homer off Ryan Speier in the sixth inning of Friday’s 9-7 win, giving the Braves a 6-1 lead at the time.
The Braves shipped off Langerhans after another dismal week, effectively giving Matt Diaz the left field job for now. I’m not convinced of Diaz’ long-term viability either, as a player whose contribution is mostly dependent on a high batting average, but allowing him to play full-time would be an improvement. Willie Harris will probably get some of those at-bats as well.
Kelly Johnson had another outstanding week, with a line of .400/.556/.750, raising his line for the season to .321/.457/.595, which is excellent by pretty much any standard. That .457 on-base percentage is particularly outrageous, and it’s everything you could ask for from a leadoff hitter who plays a middle infield position (where defense is also a premium). He’s contributed over three whole wins so far (+1.625), and over two wins once you factor out his clutch rating (+1.155). Kelly has also passed Chipper Jones for the highest OPS on the team, just north of 1.000.
The balance of power among the hitters is really phenomenal, and aside from Johnson taking the lead, it seems to change every day. Renteria had another outstanding week, taking over the #2 spot among hitters in WPA. Thorman launched himself into third place with a half-week of outstanding .467/.500/.733 hitting. He shouldn’t be far away from taking some of Craig Wilson’s at-bats at first base, but Bobby loves his platoons, and it might take more than Thorman’s current .292/.340/.563 line for the season to overcome that.
Brian McCann has dropped to fourth on the team in WPA after a rough 2-for-17 week. Francoeur jumped up right behind him with a .444/.464/.815 week. He’s tied for the league lead with 25 RBI. Chipper dropped all the way to sixth, even though he didn’t really have a bad week, just an anti-clutch week. Andruw jumped into the positive numbers with another solid week. Langerhans’ Braves career ended with a -.678 WPA for the season and a -.178 week.
Pete Moylan, of all people, led the Braves pitching staff in both WPA and WPA/LI this week, throwing 6.3 innings of shutout ball in some difficult situations. Incredibly, he’s right behind Hudson and Soriano as the team’s best pitchers so far. Tyler Yates was right behind him for cleaning up some of Bob Wickman’s messes, which I’ll get to shortly. Soriano settled down for a good week, and Gonzalez came back from his injury to post a positive WPA week.
Hudson and Smoltz both had positive starts, and Hudson’s was outstanding until the ninth inning debacle on Wednesday. James was basically average in his start, but Redman and Davies had very poor outings, making it clear that the Braves could use a little starting pitching help soon.
Then, we have Wickman. He entered the season as the Braves’ closer, but it seemed pretty clear that he was perhaps the third-best reliever on the team, despite his hot start. A couple of meltdowns later, he’s at -.427 in WPA for the season. He basically lost 2.5 games this week from a win probability standpoint, with his -1.267 coming in as the Braves’ worst player-week so far. In fairness to him, his WPA/LI was a more palatable -.364, but when you figure that he only recorded 8 outs, even that’s not very good. Let’s not overreact, but let’s also not continue the delusion that he’s an ace reliever.
It’s actually not a bad thing that Bobby only uses him in the ninth, since that’s often not the highest-leverage point in the game, but when he manages to make games closer or lose them in the ninth, forcing Bobby to bring in Tyler Yates of all people, that’s a cause for concern. Let’s hope he rights the ship this week. Otherwise, Rafael Soriano may start getting the call in save situations.
The Road Ahead
The Braves return home for the week, starting today with the first of three against the Phillies. Then, they have another Thursday off day before hosting the Dodgers over the weekend. Six more games, and I’m hoping for a winning week to keep pace with the Mets.