You know things are getting frustrating when you follow the first one-run win of the season with a one-run loss. The Braves did just that this past week, capping off a 6-game homestand sweep with a win over the Padres on Thursday before losing their tenth one-run game of the season to the Pirates on Friday. Almost unbelievably, they’re now 14-4 at home (MLB’s best) and 4-13 on the road (MLB’s worst). Apparently there’s no middle ground with this team.
The Marlins’ current hot streak has put a little more distance between them and the “real” NL East contenders. They now lead the Mets and Phillies by 3 games and the Braves (still in 4th place) by four. They now have to play 29 games in the next 28 days, including a doubleheader today and another next Tuesday, the day after their only off-day during this stretch. It’s not an easy schedule, either. After today’s games against Pittsburgh, they head to Philly, host the A’s, Mets, and D-Backs, travel to Milwaukee and Cincinnati (that would be the easiest week), and then come back home to host the Marlins and Phillies.
This Week’s Stats
Biggest plays of the week:
- Freddy Sanchez singled in the game-winning run off Jeff Bennett in Friday’s 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh (-.363).
- Sanchez doubled in the Pirates’ other two runs in that game in the 7th inning off Tom Glavine (-.330).
- Jeff Francoeur hit an RBI single to tie that game in the 8th inning against Tyler Yates (+.241).
- Yunel Escobar ended the Braves’ threat in the top of the 9th in that game by grounding into a DP against John Grabow (-.222).
- Jason Bay hit a 2-run homer off Chuck James, giving the Pirates a 3-2 lead in Saturday’s loss (-.207).
I’ll explain the manager score (last column in relief) in a bit more detail this week. It’s not really relevant on a weekly basis, but the season stats will be interesting to look at.
If you’ve been checking out the stats via Google Docs (from the Braves WPA page linked on the sidebar), there’s also a reason this week’s stats are labeled with Saturday’s date instead of yesterday’s. Normally I would use Sunday’s date to name that file, but I have to have a unique date for each game because of my spreadsheet system. So, I have to save yesterday’s date for today’s first game in order not to screw it all up.
- A further note about the upcoming schedule: This would seem to be a great time to call up Phil Stockman to ease the bullpen load, since we can anticipate the respective returns of Gonzalez and possibly Smoltz or Soriano toward the end of this grueling stretch. It would also be a good time to actually use Chris Resop occasionally, assuming every game isn’t a close one. If you’re not going to use him, why not go ahead and bring Stockman up anyway?
- While only two of the rotation’s five starts this week met my “quality” benchmark, none of them was actually bad. Jo-Jo Reyes got hurt, Tom Glavine was on the borderline, and Chuck James gave up his runs at the wrong times while not really being that bad overall. It’s hard to complain when 4 out of 5 starts go 6 innings and the one that didn’t was because of an injury.
- There were no exceptional pitching performances to speak of. Including both starters and relievers, everyone finished between -.137 (Jo-Jo) and +.172 (Glavine) in WPA/LI this week.
- For some reason, FanGraphs’ data doesn’t totally line up all the time. It’s off a few thousandths of a point of WPA here and there, and my data doesn’t always total to a perfect +/- .500 for a single-game WPA total. Tom Glavine straddled my quality start line during Friday’s game, and he actually shows up as having positive WPA for the week, while having a perfectly even .000 on the game level. Since the game-level stats drive QS on my spreadsheets, he didn’t qualify for one. Chalk this up as a small data anomaly, and remember that Glavine may or may not have one more quality start than he’s listed as having.
- Kelly Johnson and Jeff Francoeur continued to have a rough time at the plate, combining on a 4-for-29 week with one extra-base hit. They did have five walks, though (and Jeff actually had three of them!), but both finished the week below .500 in OPS.
- On the other end of the spectrum, Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira had solid weeks, both topping +.200 in WPA. McCann is now hitting an All-Star-like .309/.377/.561 and is only being held back in WPA by remarkable unclutchiness thus far. Tex took over the team lead in batting WPA, and his season total is now +.653. Chipper’s still the WPA/LI leader by a wide margin, though.
- Although no single Braves hitter has crossed the -1.000 CP (clutch performance) threshold yet, several everyday players are flirting with it: Escobar (-.744), Chipper (-.795), Francoeur (-.904), and McCann (-.985). That would be almost -2 wins worth of unclutchiness each.
- Greg Norton made quite a splash in his first few games as a Brave, hitting 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs and a walk. It didn’t take much, but he’s fifth on the team in batting WPA for the entire season after just five trips to the plate.
The Road Ahead
We’ve already been over the Braves’ long-term schedule, so here are this week’s probable starters:
Monday (@PIT, Game 1): Jurrjens vs. Zach Duke
Monday (@PIT, Game 2): Hudson vs. John Van Benschoten
Tuesday (@PHI): Reyes vs. Kyle Kendrick
Wednesday: Glavine vs. Brett Myers
Thursday: James vs. TBA
Friday (vs. OAK): Bennett? vs. Dana Eveland
Saturday: Jurrjens vs. Rich Harden
Sunday: Hudson vs. Justin Duchscherer