I’m back from the dead this week, I think. I’ve been playing the sick card everywere except at work for over a week now, and it’ s time to get going again. Hopefully I can do a full week of charts, but we’ll start today with the weekly Check.
It’s the first day of June, and the Braves are sitting on a .500 record, good enough for third place in the NL East, behind the Phillies and Mets. Pretty much everyone in the lineup has missed time lately for some kind of injury, except for the big bats in the outfield, which means that the Braves are only scoring runs occasionally.
The Giants pulled off a sweep in the first leg of the Braves’ week-long road trip, but the bats came alive twice in the series at Arizona, so they finished the trip 2-5.
Last Week’s Stats
Brian McCann had the most consistently productive week at the plate, reaching base 13 times in 24 plate appearances. He had six walks, six singles, and one double, and he has been locked in since returning from the DL.
Even though he only played half the week, Yunel Escobar seems to be on track as well. He knocked five hits in three games, and four of them went for extra bases, including a mammoth home run. For a guy who doesn’t hit a ton of homers (or even fly balls), he really puts a charge in one every now and then. The Braves’ pitchers have to appreciate having him back out there at short as well, since Diory Hernandez has a long way to go as a fielder.
As part of Sunday’s piling on, Garret Anderson hit his first homer of the season, and he had a solid week at the plate overall. The Braves desperately need him to hit for some power, especially if Chipper (and now Casey Kotchman) is going to miss more time. Schafer and Francoeur just aren’t getting it done this year, and they both need more than just a day off. Matt Diaz started once for each of them this week, and he’s beating them both by about 200 points of OPS right now, staying around .800 himself.
Let’s shift gears and look at the pitchers. Javier Vazquez and Kris Medlen both struggled through starts in San Francisco before turning in better performances over the weekend in Arizona. Vazquez took a no-decision from his outing on Saturday, but Medlen rode the Braves’ big offensive show to his first career win.
It would have been easy enough for the team to replace him with Tom Glavine if Medlen had another rough start, but he seems to be figuring things out, putting the team in a bit of a predicament when Glavine is ready. Perhaps they could trade a pitcher for a bat? No one likes to give up a good young pitcher, but it would be a shame to see this team keep playing .500 ball because they have too much pitching and too little offense.
The rest of the rotation was just mediocre this week. Jair Jurrjens trudged through a five-inning, five-run start, and Kawakami gave up three over 5 2/3 in his lone appearance. Derek Lowe gave up three earned (five total) in his 7-inning start. Kawakami actually finished with the best May ERA out of the rotation, but Jurrjens, Lowe, and Vazquez were all close behind him, and all four finished with an ERA between 3 and 4.
The bullpen had a fairly typical week, although Soriano and Gonzalez saw less action than usual. That tandem threw five scoreless innings as the Braves lost five of seven.
Jorge Campillo returned from the DL to throw a scoreless frame of his own this week, and Manny Acosta justified his call-up by allowing one run over 3 2/3 innings. Moylan, Bennett, and O’Flaherty were less-than-great, with Moylan probably the most concerning of the three because he can’t throw his breaking ball for a strike.
Buddy Carlyle was a step below everyone else, and he’s on the DL now because he can’t get anyone out. It seems that not being an effective pitcher qualifies as an injury these days, and I guess Campillo can step into his mop-up role and hopefully eat up some innings. If he’s not effective, I guess the AAA starters will have to be on call.
Tommy Hanson Watch
Speaking of AAA starters, the Braves have a pretty good one in Tommy Hanson. He’s probably not coming up until they figure out how to get him in the rotation for good, so it looks like his wait will continue despite two more solid starts this week.
The prized righty allowed 5 hits and 2 walks to Indianapolis on Tuesday, giving up only one run in 7 innings and striking out 9. He didn’t fare quite as well on Sunday at Syracuse, though: 4 runs (3 unearned) in 5 2/3 innings, but he still struck out 8 and didn’t issue a walk.
Those starts pushed his season ERA down to 1.49 (2.17 including all runs), and he’s up to 90 strikeouts in just 66 1/3 innings. He’s allowed only 40 hits and 17 walks, good for a WHIP of 0.85 and a K/BB ratio over 5. His flyball tendencies have contributed to five homers allowed, so that gives him something to work on while he waits for the call.
It’s probably too early to watch his innings pitched total, and I don’t know if the Braves have a set number they’d like to see from him this year. The Dodgers held down Clayton Kershaw’s workload early last year as they broke him into the rotation, and the Rays have managed David Price fairly well, but I doubt the Braves are sticking to a particular total with Hanson. That’s all well and good if he’s becoming more efficient with his pitches, but hopefully they have a plan to manage his work in some way while he’s biding his time in Gwinnett. He certainly won’t be holding back if the Braves are relying on him during a September pennant race in Atlanta.
The Road Ahead
The Braves are back at home for ten games starting tomorrow. They’ll host the Cubs for 3, the Brewers for 3, and the Pirates for 4.
Tue vsCHI: Kawakami vs. Randy Wells
Wed vsCHI: Lowe vs. Ted Lilly
Thu vsCHI: Jurrjens vs. Carlos Zambrano
Fri vsMIL: Vazquez vs. Yovani Gallardo
Sat vsMIL: Medlen vs. Jeff Suppan
Sun vsMIL: Kawakami vs. Manny Parra