Today’s game is actually already underway by the time I’m posting this, but perhaps you need something to read while watching it.
The Braves swept the Mets in four games this week before losing two of three to the D-Backs heading into the conclusion of that series today. That’s a 5-2 week against two good teams, and it’s hard not to be pleased with that. Both their WPA/LI and Pythagorean record show that they’ve been playing better baseball than the rest of the NL East, and it shouldn’t be long before their place in the standings reflects that.
This Week’s Stats
Five biggest plays of the week:
- Eric Byrnes hit a grand slam off Tom Glavine, giving the D-Backs a 6-3 lead in the fifth inning of yesterday’s loss (-.415).
- Jeff Francoeur hit a walk-off 2-run homer against Chad Qualls, giving the Braves a 3-1 victory on Saturday (+.298).
- Jeff Bennett induced an inning-ending double play off the bat of Conor Jackson with the bases loaded in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game (+.238).
- Brian McCann gave the Braves the lead on Wednesday with a 2-run double off Mike Pelfrey with two outs in the third inning (+.215).
- Jeff Bennett allowed a game-tying single to Augie Ojeda in the seventh inning on Saturday (-.190).
- Kelly Johnson moved down in the order and up the Braves’ WPA leaderboard with a huge week, contributing almost a full win above an average player at +.445. His slash line of .429/.458/.619 wasn’t quite as good as Chipper’s, but any player with an OPS over 1.000 is doing pretty well.
- Chipper was right behind him, adding seven points to his lofty batting average, which is now .417. He hit .474 for the week and reached base almost 60% of the time, which is a Bonds-at-his-pumped-up-peak-type figure.
- Brian McCann actually had the week’s best slash line and WPA/LI. He hit over .500 in 19 PAs and is almost OPSing 1.000 for the year now (.337/.399/.598). I doubt there’s a more valuable catcher in the game today than McCann.
- Mark Teixeira showed some signs of life this week, tying for the team lead with nine hits, but he didn’t have much to show for it in the power department, so he finished with the fifth-best WPA at +.117.
- Omar Infante, an injured Yunel Escobar, and Gregor Blanco were close to average in WPA this week, although all three needed a bit of clutch performance to get there. Mark Kotsay had a slightly below average week, and Matt Diaz plunged deeper into his slump, hitting .125/.176/.125. I’d like to suggest giving him every day LF at-bats to get him out of this slump, but I’m not sure what would help at this point. Blanco’s not going to keep up what he started this year, but Diaz has looked terrible.
- Jorge Campillo moved up to fifth on the team in pitching WPA with two very strong starts this week. The Mexican league veteran has been lights-out in every role this season, and the Braves desperately need him to step into Smoltz’s spot in the rotation and remain solid. Had he not gone 0-for-3 at the plate, he would have led the team in WPA despite pitching just four innings because of a blister in Saturday’s start.
- The good version of Tim Hudson returned this week, and Jair Jurrjens had another strong start, but they were the only other starters in the black in WPA. Glavine had a decent start against the Mets before getting shelled yesterday, and Jo-Jo Reyes was similarly bombed by the Diamondbacks on Friday.
- Reyes was the team’s LVP this week with -.396 in WPA, but he’s still looking better than he did last year. He’s been more economical with his pitches (3.67 per batter faced is better than the team average), and that wasn’t just because the D-Backs were jumping on everything on Friday. 63% of his pitches have been strikes. His mistakes are just getting pounded, though.
- The relief corps was hit-or-miss all week, posting a 4.43 ERA overall, but Phil Stockman’s good work masked some inconsistency from the rest of the staff. Manny Acosta didn’t allow an earned run, but he allowed hits to six of the thirteen batters he faced, which is never good. The Braves could use John Smoltz, Mike Gonzalez, and Rafael Soriano back. I think I’d send down Resop, Acosta, and Ohman in that order when those guys return. Resop would have to be DFA’d, but he’s clearly been the team’s worst reliever, so hopefully they’ll give him up. The team seems more likely to send Ring and Stockman down than Acosta and Ohman, though. UPDATE: Immediately after posting this, I read that the team designated Resop and activated Buddy Carlyle from the DL. I’d say Carlyle still goes down first in Resop’s place.
The Road Ahead
It’s an NL Central-themed road trip this week after today’s game against the D-Backs. Here are your probables:
Monday: Jurrjens vs. Brandon Webb
Tuesday: Hudson vs. Dave Bush
Wednesday: Reyes vs. Jeff Suppan
Thursday: Campillo vs. TBA
Friday: Glavine vs. Edinson Volquez
Saturday: Jurrjens vs. Matt Belisle
Sunday: Hudson vs. Aaron Harang
The order of the Reds’ starters may be different because they played an 18-inning game yesterday and used both Belisle and Harang. I guess we’ll have to wait and see about that.
I’ll be out on vacation next week, but I’ll try to have a concise recap of this week’s games if I have good internet access.