It’s another week, and it’s still a close fight at the top of the NL East, with the Braves having a half-game edge only because they’ve played an extra game. Still, it took a 5-2 week against the Padres and Pirates, in the form of a five-game win streak sandwiched between two losses. With the back end of the rotation starting five times, I guess that’s not a bad record.
This Week’s Stats
This week’s WPA stats:
Biggest plays of the week
- Edgar Renteria tripled off Heath Bell, scoring Kelly Johnson and tying Tuesday’s game at 2 in the 8th inning (+.419).
- Kelly Johnson doubled off David Wells, clearing the bases to give the Braves a 5-2 lead in the 7th inning of Thursday’s game (+.320).
- Andruw Jones hit a 2-run homer off Zach Duke to give the Braves a 2-1 lead in the 6th inning of Friday’s game (+.297).
- Chipper Jones hit a ground-rule double off Cla Meredith to tie Wednesday’s game at 2 in the 7th inning (+.246).
- Scott Thorman hit a 3-run homer off Tony Armas to give the Braves a 3-0 lead in the second inning of Saturday’s blowout win (+.221).
Andruw Jones got back on track from a WPA standpoint, getting a couple of key hits in the Braves’ victories and totaling a team-high +.598. That didn’t help his rate stats for the season, though, because his WPA/LI was only a marginally decent +.098. His .828 OPS could still use some improvement, but hopefully the clutch hits will get him going. At least he’s finally in the black, now sitting at +.485 in WPA and +.189 in WPA/LI.
The Chris Woodward/Edgar Renteria combo added on nearly an entire win, with Woodward surprisingly having a solid week in a couple starts for Renteria, who had the flu. Willie Harris was outstanding yet again, and he passed Brian McCann on the season WPA leaderboard. Brian’s had a rough time lately, but hopefully it’s only because of his injury.
Kelly Johnson actually posted the worst WPA week on the whole team, going 5-for-30. Pete Orr and Craig Wilson again proved to be duds this week, coming in just ahead of McCann and Johnson despite limited playing time.
Jeff Francoeur had a rough week in tighter spots, even though a couple of multi-hit games raised his season line to .310/.365/.503. That’s actually pretty good for a starting corner outfielder, and it’s much more than I expected at the start of the year. He didn’t walk this week, but with only three strikeouts, he’s still showing signs of improved plate discipline. He’s on track for a record turnaround in that department.
Matt Diaz continued his onslaught of singles, so despite his batting average of .306, his lack of plate discipline and power keep him from actually helping the team. Luckily Willie Harris is playing the role of Superman right now, so Diaz hasn’t been necessary. If Harris cools off (which he will at some point), left field will still be a weakness.
Chipper Jones and Scott Thorman were slightly above average this week, while Salty was slightly below average as a fill-in for McCann. On a related note, I dropped Thorman from my fantasy team on the day that he hit two homers, which also happened to be the day that my other fantasy 1B (Ryan Howard) was officially put on the DL. Feel free to disregard whatever fantasy advice I offer from now on, if by some chance you were listening before.
The pitching staff had a very strong week, even after yesterday’s collapse on the part of Anthony Lerew. Villarreal and Paronto were slightly in the red, and Kevin Barry showed why he hadn’t pitched since his May 2 call-up, but everyone else had at least a decent week.
Rafael Soriano paced the rest of the staff as usual, and he overtook Kelly Johnson for the team lead in WPA with his +.413 performance. That’s inflated significantly because of his leverage (pLI of 1.43), but he’s still second on the staff with a +.718 WPA/LI. Tim Hudson threw in a solid, but not outstanding start, and I suppose the same could be said of John Smoltz.
Chuck James recovered from a rough start on Monday to pitch the game of his life on Saturday, going 7 and allowing just a single hit and three walks. Kyle Davies scattered some hits in his only start, turning in a good outing, and Anthony Lerew was up and down in his two tries.
Mike Gonzalez, Tyler Yates, and Pete Moylan combined to throw 11 shutout innings, continuing their recent good work. Fortunately for the pen, Soriano got the whole weekend off, while Gonzalez and Yates were only used Friday.
The Road Ahead
The Braves will need a good start to this week with four games in Washington, because the next two weeks after that will be brutal. They’ll finish their road trip with three in Boston before heading home to face the Mets and Phillies, and then they’ll go back on the road to Milwaukee. Luckily, the pitching matchups look pretty good for the Nationals series:
Mon: Smoltz vs. Jason Bergmann
Tue: Hudson vs. Jerome Williams
Wed: Davies vs. Shawn Hill (really their only decent starter so far)
Thu: James vs. Matt Chico
And here’s what the Red Sox series figures to be:
Fri: Lerew vs. Josh Beckett (Beckett may be hurt – he left in the 4th inning of his last start)
Sat: Smoltz vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka
Sun: Hudson vs. Tim Wakefield
Devern Hansack may start if Beckett isn’t able to go, and he’s not bad, either. It’ll be a tough series, and with AL rules, we’ll get to see who Bobby plans to use as his DH (McCann? Diaz? Wilson/Thorman?). McCann would make the most sense to me, at least if Salty is still up then. Pena could be off the DL by then, so Bobby wouldn’t have deal with the fear of not having a backup catcher and/or losing the DH.
I’ll be happy with 4-3 this week, but 5-2 and two series wins would be great. The Braves have a tough interleague schedule, so this won’t be the only time they face a great team like the Red Sox. The Mets won’t make it easy to keep up, that’s for sure.