Friday, June 21, 2013

So...hey..

I am not so good at keeping a blog active.  Real life got in the way...new house, remodeling our old house and selling it, being an awesome stay-at-home dad...but I would like to get back into this blog and since nobody is reading, this would be a superb way to waste my time.

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I am baffled by Atlanta Braves fans, even though I know I shouldn't be.  Comments I read after losing 3 of 5 to the Mets - disgraceful, pathetic - convince me that people one, don't understand that baseball is a marathon, not a spring, and two, people don't understand that even the weaker major league squads still have a good deal of major league quality players. After every loss, the reaction of many Braves fans is quite fanatical.  Atlanta remains six games ahead of the Nationals, the largest lead of any division leader by two full games.  They have just four fewer wins than the Cardinals, who currently pace the bigs with a 47-26 record. 

And...it should be noted that the Braves have done this despite nearly no offensive production from Andrelton Simmons, Dan Uggla, Jason Heyward, and B.J. Upton.  Or, as it may also be known, HALF OF THE LINEUP!  Batting average is a weak gauge of true offensive performance, but nevertheless, only two hitters are above .250.  And one of those two (Chris Johnson) needs a .407 BABIP to be successful.  Of course, it would not be fair to fail to mention the bench contributions that have significantly boosted the lineup's performance.  Evan Gattis leads the team with 1.9 fWAR while Ramiro Pena has been steady behind the infield's issues (Simmons and Uggla can't hit, Johnson can't field).  Both are on the DL now, though.  Somehow, Tyler Pastornicky and Paul Janish aren't quite the same players.  And we can't forget the surprising contributions of Jordan Schafer.  Once the expected fixture in center field when he came up after an impressive spring training, Schafer quickly fell out of favor and was traded to the Astros.  Things got so bad for him in Houston that they waived him.  Yeah, because Houston has so many amazing talents.  But Schafer has been impressive with Atlanta, walking nearly 14% of the time with a slightly better ISO than Heyward (though that says more about Heyward).  Like Johnson, his BABIP is impossible to continue.  Unlike Johnson, if Schafer continues to walk and hit with a little pop, his other skills (speed, defense) will make him quite valuable.

The youngsters in the rotation have been the most consistent, led by Mike Minor and his tremendous K/9 and K/BB rates.  He will give up some homers because he is a flyball pitcher, but he has staked his claim to the notion of ace of the staff.  Julio Teheran isn't far behind.  He struggled early, but since finding his comfort level, he has been quite solid, rarely walking anyone and improving his K rate to over 7 per nine innings.  Huddy and Maholm provide good groundball guys who have also pitched well. 

The bullpen is a problem.  Contrary to comments by many on the Internet, Craig Kimbrel remains one of the best pitchers in baseball.  Jordan Walden looks like he can handle a high leverage role, but I don't have much confidence in anyone else to get the outs late and close.  I know some call that clutch, but I call it needing outs without giving up baserunners.  Luis Avilan and Cory Gearrin can handle themselves when giving up a baserunner or two isn't that important.  I have zero confidence in them, or Anthony Varvaro, or David Carpenter, or Alex Wood in high leverage situations.  Atlanta will have to make a move here before the deadline.

Overall, you have to assume that the offense will improve because the BABIP's of Heyward (.250), B.J. Upton (.215), and Simmons (.254) seem sure to go up.  The starting staff looks considerable and there's little to indicate that a fall should be expected.  Yet, after every loss, everyone online seems ready to break everything up and start over.  This team...really isn't that bad. 

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I aim to update again at least once this weekend. 

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