Notes on 755 Hank Aaron Dr

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A lot has happened...

Since I last posted. My bad.

There was an ugly split with the Cubs, where the Braves won the game with a bad start from Kyle Davies, and lost the game that featured what was likely the best start Mark Redman will ever turn in wearing a Braves uniform.

Then there was a weekend series where the Braves took two of three from the Mets. Again, they won a game with a less-than-ideal start (from Smoltz this time, who really seems to tire quickly. I hope he's not pitching through an injury...). The bright spots there were another strong start from Hudson, and the comeback on Sunday. But Chuck James pitched terribly on Saturday...

And then, losing two of three to the Marlins. This time, an absolutely atrocious start from Redman, another bad start for Davies, and yet another strong start from Hudson (wasted because Bobby Cox let Hudson go for the complete game instead of ensuring the win).

So, what are we starting to figure out, now that the season's about a month old?

The starting rotation is full of question marks. Tim Hudson is not one of them. Neither is Mark Redman, for a completely different reason.

The bullpen is strong, overall. It's not perfect, but there's not the bad feeling in the pit of my stomach every time a reliever enters the game that was there at this time last year.

The offense is uneven, to be charitable. Chipper, McCann, and Johnson are all doing well. Francoeur is exceeding any rational expectations. Andruw is not off to a hot start, but that's not unusual. 1B and LF are largely black holes so far.

Expect the Braves to start making some changes in a couple of weeks. Mid- to late-May is the usual timeframe for that.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Who came up with this schedule? Delta?

After a weekend homestand, the Braves traveled to Washington for a two game series, which they split. Then they come back home for two games against the Cubs. Then, back on the road, for over a week. Is it just me, or have the schedules gotten weirder over the past few years? There seem to be a lot more two game series, and a lot more travel.

Anyway, like I said, the Braves split their series with the Nationals. That's frustrating, because the Nats really are not a good team in 2007. (They've made no secret that they're building for the future, and have no expectation of contending this year, and probably not next year either.) I wish I could tell you why they lost on Monday, but I missed the game entirely. And I missed Tuesday night's game as well. Man, I suck as a fan, don't I?

Last night's game does provide more support for my theory that Smoltz just doesn't have the stamina he used to have. He faded badly in the sixth inning. He wasn't helped by his defense (to say the least), but a couple of years ago, John gets out of that kind of problem. (Even today, I think he gets out of it if it's a couple of innings sooner.) But when he gets around 100 pitches, he just doesn't seem to be able to reach back for that "extra" he used to have. It's the difference between being a good pitcher and a great pitcher. And there's no shame in being "just a good pitcher" at 40 years old.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Win one, lose one, postpone one

It's obvious to me that it's a bad sign when the Braves lead a game 8-1. That's twice already this season that they've had an 8-1 lead going into the ninth, and the bullpen's done badly enough that Wickman ended up pitching to finish it off. That's a very bad sign.

Even worse signs: Macay McBride's inability to find the strike zone. Mark Redman's inability to look like even a fifth starter. Ryan Langerhans looking worse as the season progresses - and he looked pretty bad to start with...

Since this is so late, there should be another post for the Nationals series later today...


Friday, April 13, 2007

When is winning a series a disappointment?

Well, obviously, when you miss the opportunity to sweep the Nats, that's when. The first two games went the way they all should have gone, but someone lost the script for Thursday's game.

There are some worrying signs, too. I think at this point John Smoltz needs to be considered to be a 100-pitch maximum pitcher. He really doesn't seem to have enough to go longer than that. Last night, there was no way that he should have pitched the 8th inning, and indeed, it came back to bite the team. Even worse, that inning pushed him not only past 100 pitches, but past 120. We've seen this the past two seasons: the Braves insist that they're going to lighten John's workload earlier in the season so that he's strong at the end, and then the season starts, at which point Smoltz starts throwing 120 pitches every fifth day.

On top of that, Langerhans is making it looks like 2006 is his real performance level. And 2006 was not a particularly good season for Ryan. And Thorman and Wilson aren't exactly lighting things up, either.

On the other hand, so far Jeff Francoeur is showing real signs of progress. He's already got two walks, and even better, seems to be just generally recognizing pitches better. There may be a non-zero chance that he lives up to the hype after all.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Braves 2, Mets 1

After the worst loss in a home opener ever (for the Atlanta Braves, at least), things got better as the weekend went on. I wish I'd seen more of the games, but the holiday weekend kept me away from the TV. (Not that I didn't have a good weekend - it's just that the games tended to be on at the same time as I was visiting with family. So it goes.)

I look at Friday's game as just one of those games. The team is going to lose 60 games or so, minimum, and you can expect that some of those will be blowouts. Big deal.

The starting pitching held up pretty well all weekend, which is a good thing. Smoltz was Smoltz, Davies was good Davies (although it would be nice if he could go more than five innings), and Redman was about what you should expect from him. Which is to say, he looked like a fifth starter.

What was I unhappy about with this weekend's games? Well, on Sunday, when Bobby decided to empty his bench by pinch-hitting for all his platoon guys in the seventh inning, I nearly had to be restrained. Leaving only Pete Orr and Brayan Pena (who's unlikely to be used as a pinch-hitter) on the bench in a one-run game is getting carried away, in my opinion. But it did work out (no thanks to those moves, though), so I'll deal with it. At some point, that sort of thing is going to lead to a loss in extra innings, though.

Next up, the Nationals, who should be swept. (It's already off to a good start...)


Friday, April 06, 2007

That's a nice way to open the season

Real life has been hectic, so I need to apologize to the readership of this blog. All four of you.

"I'm sorry, and I'll try to post more often."

It'll be easier now that the season's actually started. And the Braves got off to a good start, sweeping the Phillies, in Philadelphia no less. Good starting pitching (if this season is to go well, that's going to be incredibly important), just enough offense, and a bullpen that didn't blow anything. (Although they did try to blow the last game.) Brian McCann had quite the opening series, as did Renteria. Thorman and Johnson played pretty well too.

But the really good sign was, as mentioned, the pitching. The starters gave up 3, 1, and 1 runs, respectively. The only downside was that Chuck James needed 92 pitches in five innings, but that's a minor concern unless it becomes the standard. (As the #3 starter, he's got to go six or seven most of the time, in my opinion.)

And the bullpen was even better, until the ninth inning of the third game: no runs in 2 1/3 innings, one run in 4 innings, and then one un in three innings - followed by two in the ninth. Even worse, those two runs scored because Macay McBride and Chad Paronto (who had both pitched well in previous games, including Paronto's first career save) walked five batters between them in 2/3 of an inning. With a six run lead, that's really bad.

In any case, three wins are three wins. And it was against a team a lot of people are picking to win the division, so that's always nice. Next up, the first series at home, against the Mets. featuring Tom Glavine against John Smoltz tomorrow.

(I need to get with byrd and see about doing some sort of preview. Considering that the one I did for BBTF last season was posted about a third of the way through the season, we've got plenty of time.)