Braves Check: April 7, 2008

After a rough 1-3 start against the Nats and Pirates, two supposedly poor teams, the Braves pulled it together over the weekend against the Mets and finished the week at 3-3. They’re currently tied atop the NL East with the Marlins. This week, they’ll try to add to the Rockies’ rough start with a four-game series in Colorado, and then they’ll head back to the Nationals’ new park over the weekend for three.

Hopefully you’re ready for a week with the FSN/SS crew of Sciambi and Simpson, because every game but Wednesday’s (which is on FSN) will be on Sport South. As an HD cable subscriber, that means I’ll get to see all of the games in standard-def, even though both networks have an HD feed. I know there are plenty of Braves fans outside the FSN South/Sport South viewing area, though, so I’ll try to keep the complaining to a minimum.

The Week’s Stats

A side note before I continue:

This year for my Braves Check posts, I think I’ll forgo linking you to the FanGraphs results for individual games, but that’s the best place to see what happened, if you ask me. MLB’s enhanced gameday coverage is nice during the game, too, if you can’t watch it on TV (or even if you do). Instead, I’ll post the week’s stats (which will be coming later, since I’m still figuring out how I want to display them), recap what happened, and then make a few observations. I’ll also post the Win Probability plays of the week for both the Braves and their opponents, rather than just the Braves.

Season stats will be on a separate page, which I will point out when I get it up and running.


  • The story of the week for the Braves has to be the bullpen, which made a staggering 29 appearances in the first six games. Part of that was Bobby Cox’s doing, and part of it was the result of a Jason Bay dropped fly ball, a separate extra-inning game, and the late scratch of Mike Hampton.
  • Personally, I would like to see Bobby depart from the Tony La Russa school of bullpen deployment and stretch out his relief corps with some longer outings. The Braves basically have two LOOGYs, and because Cox has been fairly strict about whom he lets Ohman and Ring face, we end up with ridiculous situations like Resop playing left field for one batter against the Pirates. The only reason the Braves are close to one inning per relief appearance (29 appearances and 25.3 innings) is because of some necessary long-relief stints in the first week. The end result of this madness will inevitably more prospect-for-reliever trades like the ones that netted Octavio Dotel and Ron Mahay last year, plus late-season call-ups of not-yet-ready prospects like Acosta.
  • Tim Hudson has posted the only two “quality starts” of the season by my definition, which is 6+ innings and a positive WPA. To me, that’s a good baseline, even though it’s totally arbitrary. So far, the starting pitching has been solid, but Hudson has been the only starter to last six innings. Soriano is the current WPA leader for the team, but Hudson has been the most effective pitcher in total. Smoltz was more effective on a per-batter basis yesterday, though.
  • Even though he’s allowed a couple of runs in the early going, Blaine Boyer has been the team’s most effective reliever in terms of leverage-neutral WPA (WPA/LI), and he’s third on the pitching staff behind Hudson and Smoltz. It’s tough to get a good read on Bobby’s hierarchy of righty relievers thus far (behind Soriano and Moylan, at least), but Boyer is making an early case for the #3 spot.
  • Chris Resop is the hardest-throwing pitcher in the major leagues right now, which would be great if his fastball had any kind of break on it.
  • Despite his struggles in the field, Martin Prado did a decent enough job replacing Kelly Johnson’s bat in the lineup for a week, and he is the temporary leader in batting WPA with +.262. That’s totally unsustainable over the course of the season, but it’s worth pointing out, I guess. A .286/.444/.500 line from a utility infielder is enough to keep him around even if he boots a ball every now and then. Of course, there’s probably no reason to have TWO solid-hitting/no-fielding utility infielders, and Ruben Gotay has at least played a handful of games at shortstop in the majors in the past few seasons.
  • Matt Diaz has been the best lineup regular in WPA/LI per plate appearance (pWPA/LI), but nobody’s been really great or really bad. Chipper Jones and Yunel Escobar have looked good. McCann would look worse in WPA if not for Jason Bay’s gift, but his line of .300/.348/.550 is great. In general, the offense seems to be piling up runs quite nicely. Even Mark Kotsay is hitting, which is great news for this year’s overall outlook.
  • Jeff Francoeur has been your anti-clutch player of the year so far, costing the Braves 1% of a win in negative clutch alone each time he steps to the plate. Like all stats at this point in the year, take that with a ridiculously-small-sample-size grain of salt. Better yet, just ignore it entirely.

This week is a full seven-game slate, so the Braves will either be over- or under-.500 by next Monday. I’d like to see at least a split in Colorado and a series win in Washington, but additional wins are always nice.


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