The Mets have been outscoring their opponents by a wider margin, but that hasn’t helped them pull away from the Braves. Both teams are 19-11 (and five games ahead of third-place Florida) after a 4-2 week for Atlanta.
This Week’s Stats
Let’s get right to the FanGraphs summaries:
Here are the WPA stats for just this past week:
And the stats for the season to date:
Biggest plays of the week
Again, 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.
- Andruw Jones hit a walk-off 3-run homer off Antonio Alfonseca to win Monday’s game against the Phillies 5-2 (+.288).
- Scott Thorman singled off Chin-Hui Tsao to tie Sunday’s game at 4 in the 7th (+.235).
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled off Chad Billingsley to give the Braves a 5-4 edge in the 7th inning of Sunday’s win (+.197).
- Edgar Renteria doubled off Chin-Hui Tsao, scoring Kelly Johnson and Willie Harris to get the Braves within one run in Sunday’s game (+.179).
- Brian McCann doubled in 2 runs off Brett Tomko to give the Braves a 2-0 lead in Friday’s 4-0 win (+.177).
Kelly Johnson is still the story of the young season, and another solid .286/.464/.429 week makes his season line .314/.459/.562. He was only the third-best Braves hitter this week in WPA, and only fifth in WPA/LI. The leader for the week was actually prospect-turned-temporary-starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Though he had just eight plate appearances, he was on base half the time and performed well in the clutch to total a +.294 start.
Chalk up more solid weeks for Chipper Jones (.250/.455/.875, +.196), Brian McCann (.455/.538/.636, +.169), and Langerhans replacement Willie Harris (.467/.529/.533, +.168). Francoeur and Renteria managed to tread water, while Thorman and Andruw Jones regressed a bit on their previous progress.
Right now, Andruw is the only everyday starter with negative WPA, but I’m still confident he’ll break out of his slump at some point. Diaz and Wilson are still negative, while Thorman has a full win to his credit at +.504. I like Craig Wilson, and both Wilson and Thorman have distinct left/right splits, but I’d like to see Bobby not pay so much attention to the platoon advantage and get one or the other some regular at-bats. Thorman may not be the future at 1B for Atlanta (hopefully Kala Ka’aihue will be), but it would probably be worthwhile to at least give him a chance against lefties. Wilson can play the outfield and spot-start and still be valuable to the team as a righty pinch hitter.
The pitching staff was also strong this week, with only Mark Redman really having a bad week, per se. His last start accelerated the Braves’ decision to move him to the DL with a case of really bad pitching. He’s clearly throwing BP out there right now, and hopefully he’ll be relegated to mop-up duty when he returns.
Tim Hudson was 0-1 despite two more great starts this week. Smoltz had his best outing of the year in Friday’s win. James and Davies were just average, but that’s a big step for Davies, who is actually quite useful when he’s getting ahead in the count.
Mike Gonzalez led the pack of Atlanta relievers, which is saying something for a group that’s been collectively very, very good. Rafael Soriano was nearly perfect, allowing a single hit in three innings, and Chad Paronto allowed just two walks in three more innings. Tyler Yates was roughed up a bit, while Villarreal and Moylan were merely serviceable. In a bullpen as deep as the Braves’ appears to be right now, that’s about all you can expect. Collectively, the relief corps has performed just slightly above average from a leverage-neutral perspective (+.045 WPA/LI), but thanks to a healthy clutch rating, their total contribution is over four wins above average (+2.036 WPA).
The Road Ahead
All in all, I can’t complain about a 4-2 week against two solid teams, so I won’t. The Braves close out their homestand with four against the Padres (thankfully avoiding Jake Peavy). Then, they’ll travel to Pittsburgh for the weekend on the first leg of another road trip. I think 4-3 would be solid this week, but 5-2 with two series wins would be better. Perhaps next week the Braves will be alone in first place: the Mets face the Giants and the NL-leading Brewers for three games apiece.
Oscar Villarreal has been named the starter in Tuesday’s game, so it appears that he’ll take Redman’s spot for the time being. Theoretically, he would also start Sunday’s game, but that will probably depend on how Tuesday goes. At least the Braves will get to tee off on Justin Germano, since Clay Hensley is hurt.
Chuck James will start today and be the other two-start pitcher this week. Hopefully we’ll see Brian McCann in the lineup again tonight, but it will be hard to sit either him or Salty every day once he’s fully recovered from the finger injury. Unless we see a trade in the next week or so, I would guess that Salty heads back down to Mississippi (or maybe Richmond?) when Pena is able to return from the DL. It’s strange to call up your top prospect in a situation like this one, but I suppose anything’s better than having Corky Miller out there.
Check back next week for another Braves report.