Braves Check: June 8, 2009

Eventually, the rain-outs are going to make things hard on the Braves.  They only finished 5 of 6 games last week against the Cubs and Brewers, losing three of them.  The two-game Cubs split saw both games decided in extra innings, but the Brewers were fairly dominating until the late innings on Sunday.  The Cubs game will be made up in the coming weeks during the most treacherous stretch of the Braves season, so they’ll certainly miss the off day.

The Braves are now six games behind the Phillies and three behind the Mets, in third place in the East.  The Mets and Cardinals are tied for the Wild Card lead, so the Braves are also three games back in that race, also trailing the Giants, Cubs, and Reds.

Last Week’s Stats

Normally I start with the hitters, but the Braves apparently don’t have any of those, so I’ll start with pitching.  Yesterday was the long-awaited debut of Tommy Hanson, who did little to assuage my concern about his fly-ball tendencies.  Hanson gave up three homers and six earned runs (could have been 7) over six innings, but he looked about as good as anyone possibly could, given that stat line.

Two of the homers were by Ryan Braun (Mike Cameron hit the other), so it’s hard to fault him too much, but all three were fastballs that caught too much of the plate and were up in the strike zone.  Long-term, I think he’ll be fine.  He showed great command of his breaking pitches and was throwing as hard as 96 (maybe even 97…I can’t remember).  I think Tom Glavine was smiling somewhere, though, watching his replacement serve up a few gopher balls.

Everyone else in the rotation also got a start last week, and they all fared better than Hanson.  Lowe and Vazquez had the best results, allowing two runs each in 7 and 6 innings, respectively.  Kawakami and Jurrjens each allowed four runs in 7-inning starts, although only three were earned for the former.  Except for Kawakami, the staff remains neck-and-neck for the best ERA, and Kenshin has pitched better of late.

The bullpen provided some quality work in close games, and the trio of Soriano, Gonzalez, and Moylan shut out their opponents over 9 2/3 combined innings.  Eric O’Flaherty gave up his first extra-base hits of the year against Milwaukee, but he still only allowed one run in 3 innings.  Bennett and Acosta rounded out the ‘pen with 2 runs in 4 2/3 innings.  Altogether, it was probably the bullpen’s best week of the year.

Notably absent from the bullpen stats this week was Kris Medlen, who should have been available for the Brewers series after starting last Sunday’s game in Arizona.  Medlen didn’t appear all week, save for a few frames of the TV broadcasts.  Hopefully they’re planning to use him in long relief and just haven’t had a good opportunity for him yet.  Otherwise, they need to send him back to Gwinnett and let him show up some more AAA batters.

Buddy Carlyle also deserves a mention, among the inactive relievers, for being diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes (not the adult-onset kind).  Hopefully he can get his diet under control and get back some of the strength and velocity that made him an asset in long relief prior to this season.

Shifting back to the offense, it’s hard to come up with many positive things to say.  Chipper single-handedly (can I say that even though he’s a switch-hitter?) kept the Braves in Sunday’s game long enough for the rest of the team to scratch across the winning runs.  Prado, McCann, and McLouth provided just enough to remain passable (McLouth in only 3 games, of course), and everyone else was pretty bad.   I guess those results were to be expected when your team gets shut out in back-to-back games (after letting some no-name pitcher take a no-no into the 7th earlier in the week).

Jeff Francoeur saved the Braves from losing the Randy Wells game, but he was predictably bad the rest of the week.  Diaz, Anderson, Escobar, and Johnson were even worse.

The Road Ahead

The Pirates (and their battle-worn lineup) will close out the current homestand this week, and then the Braves will head to Baltimore for the weekend to face the O’s much-improved lineup.

These are the probable starters:

Mon: Kawakami vs. Zach Duke
Tue: Lowe vs. Ross “Draft Consultant” Ohlendorf
Wed: Jurrjens vs. Jeff Karstens
Thu: Vazquez vs. Paul Maholm
Fri: Hanson vs. David Hernandez
Sat: Kawakami vs. Rich Hill
Sun: Lowe vs. Brad Bergesen

As a final note, I hope you had the chance to listen to Jon Sciambi’s foray into defensive statistics during yesterday’s game.  Joe Simpson was understandably perplexed, but Sciambi name-dropped UZR (and UZR/150!) in the process of trying to explain how some of the modern defensive metrics work.  If anyone on the broadcast crew realizes that Nate McLouth is overrated defensively, it’s probably him.

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