The Braves’ timing is impeccable. They just finished the 5-1 road trip that they really needed to have 2 weeks ago to stay in the playoff race. In reality, the Braves still need a miracle if they’re going to reach the playoffs. They’re 6.5 games out of the wild card with three teams ahead of them and 7.5 out (3rd place) in the division.
Most Braves fans have understandably moved on to football for the year. I might be able to say the same if the Vols hadn’t lost to UCLA as a precursor to this week’s inevitable beatdown in Gainesville. You might say that’s given me a second wind to keep up the Braves analysis.
Last Week’s Stats
Chipper Jones continues to struggle (.188/.316/.188 this week), but at least the other purported offensive stars woke up to carry the offense. Nate McLouth posted a .519 wOBA to bring his season mark to .361, which isn’t bad. Hopefully he can get his legs healthy and be a solid contributor on the basepaths as well. He didn’t attempt a steal this week despite a number of chances.
Brian McCann got back on track somewhat with a .381/.409/.524 batting line, albeit with no home runs. Adam LaRoche and Yunel Escobar also had good weeks among the usual high-performance suspects. Matt Diaz had a good short week; he appears to be back in a sort of part-time role with McLouth now in the lineup every day. He’s still killing balls in play at .392, leading to a .381 wOBA that makes him look like a solid corner outfielder.
Prado, Chipper, Anderson, and Ryan Church were on the negative side of the ledger. Prado has seen his batting line fall to .291/.342/.429, which is more in line with what we would have expected coming into the season. He may have to beat Kelly Johnson out for the second base job again next year.
Chipper’s wOBA is down to .357, more than 50 points lower than any year since 2004, which was the first year he really started missing time for injuries. As Chris pointed out last time, a lot of his struggles are tied to a poor BABIP, which suggests he’ll be back strong next year (at least as strong as he can be at 37).
On the mound, the Braves got excellent starts from their two young stars, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, who now are the ERA leaders on the starting staff despite an outstanding two-start week from Javier Vazquez. Jurrjens doesn’t seem to be tiring like he was at this point last year, in his first full big-league season, and Hanson also seems as strong as ever. His component ratios keep improving with each start after he got off to a rough start in terms of his K/BB ratio. Tim Hudson had a relatively poor start, although he homered, and we also got another show from the Derek Lowe Amazing High-Wire Act.
Rafael Soriano had another poor week, although his numbers look strong for the year. The rest of the bullpen was solid, and Mike Gonzalez (despite allowing a run) now has the lowest ERA on the team. There’s no way the Braves bring back both Gonzalez and Soriano (both will be free agents), and it’s possible they’ll let both of them go and use someone else as a closer. As good as he’s been this year, it would be tough to rely on Soriano with his injury history, so I get the feeling he’ll probably command more money than he’s worth.
The Road Ahead
It doesn’t really matter who the Braves play any more. After an off-day today, they’ll be at home against the Mets and Phillies with a chance to possibly affect the Phillies’ playoff seed.