Archive for May, 2014

129: Fast Approaching 60 Days

Gil

Gil in Mechanicsville

It is said that the first 1/3 of the season is the time a ball club is evaluated as to it’s needs and strong points. Certainly, no club is really out of it at the beginning of June and no club has won anything at that point either. So many things can happen between June first and September 30th to completely change the final outcome of a season. The loss of a front line starter, or a vital bullpen guy, your best hitter suffering some freak injury no one could have foreseen or predicted. On the other hand, a club can get hot. That prospect finally getting a shot and giving a lagging team a lift. So many variables including the difficulty of a schedule and even the inexplicable moves by a manager or the ineptitude of an umpire can come into play.

All that said, let’s take a look at some of the surprises and some things not so surprising for the Braves so far. I’ll make my final predictions on September 29th…. As a note to the reader, I did not post a lot of stats for each player referenced, just know that they are all pretty darn good.

Aaron Harang

Aaron Harang

Biggest surprise so far? Absolutely has to be the stellar performance of the starting staff. League leading in ERA and runs allowed. This after both the projected one and two starters went down in spring training to elbow injuries within 24 hours of each other. Aaron Harang, while he appears to have come back to earth and his most recent starts, was a huge pick up by the Braves. Harang is another scrap heap reclamation by Frank Wren and even if he falls flat in July, he has served admirably while the walking wounded heal.

Ervin Santana

Ervin Santana

 

Ervin Santana has been another good signing for the Braves. His last two outings have been a bit shaky but I think he has found himself. After all, he missed most of spring training and this is about the point when the lack of early work shows up.

 

JulioTeheran

Julio Teheran

The Braves future ace has arrived. Julio Teheran is showing everyone why the Braves refused to part with him under any circumstances. Other than one bump in the road in San Francisco when he was unable to find grip on the ball, he will discover the hidden pine tar trick soon, he has pitched like a front of the rotation guy. Not bad for a kid who has not yet reached his 24th birthday. The scary thing is he can get even better. Maturity allows a player to become a pitcher instead of a thrower. I hope he saw Lyle Overbay induce a weak pop up on a 69 mph fastball…. Just keep it out of the middle of the plate.

Mike Minor

Mike Minor

 

Mike Minor has returned and is pitching like the guy who came of age last year. Sure, he will give up a homer here and there but as long as he stays focused, he should serve well as the number three guy in the rotation behind Teheran and Santana. Gavin Floyd has yet to get a decision but that is not his fault. he is pitching a lot better than I expected for a guy one year removed from Tommy John.

 

 

David Hale

David Hale

Alex Wood

Alex Wood

The best part may be the Braves two aces in the hole so to speak, Alex Wood and David Hale. Both have been moved to the bullpen with the arrival of Floyd and Minor but it bodes well for the Braves to have two outstanding young hurlers available if needed. Meanwhile, they have done a wonderful job coming out of the pen. Hale has yet to give up a run and Alex Wood is getting the wins denied him as a starter.

While we are on the subject of the bullpen, let’s look at some nice surprises there too.

 

Ian Thomas

Ian Thomas

Ian Thomas, late of the independent leagues, has become a reliable lefty who has been given more responsibility of late. The slider he has added to his repertoire has given him another pitch to give hitter something to think about. He has a decent fastball and a big looping curve but the addition of his slider has made him money coming out of the pen.

David Carpenter

David Carpenter

 

David Carpenter continues to impress. Often mistaken for Craig Kimbrel, he has a nasty fastball but it is his slider that often gets him in trouble. Still, he has become the primary eight inning set up guy for Kimbrel.

 

Anthony Valvaro and Luis Avilan appear to have benefited from more rest or better said, less use with the emergence of Thomas, Wood and Hale. Often now they have become better used as situation pitchers rather than coming in to pitch a complete half inning.

Jordan Walden

Jordan Walden

Jordan Walden is perhaps the only question mark right now. Not because of his poor pitching but more because of his being prone to injuring his hamstrings. He has such a violent delivery, added stress makes him susceptible to spending time on the DL. The good thing is the Braves have so much depth in their pen, they can afford for him to heal rather than rushing him back. The Angels certainly must have mixed emotions about their trade with the Braves which saw Tommy Hansen go to the left coast with Jordan coming east. Personally, I think Frank Wren and company picked the Angles’ pockets.

 

That, I think, sums it up for the first part of the season, as of this posting the Braves are in first place in the NL East by three runs of the surprising Marlins. Good pitching is important and if the Braves could find a little bit of the magic they had last season at the plate, this team could run off a couple of 10 game winning streaks which will insulate them from their occasional funks.

Gil2



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