It is about the middle of spring training, and this longer spring training caused by WBC is actually making the managers trying to simulate regular-season games now even though there are still about 20 days to go for the opening day.
That means starters get to pitch for five innings of work if pitch count allows and relievers come up in later innings rather than third inning.
The Atlanta Braves is holding a 12-3 record and two more wins over WBC teams and they only lost one game in last couple of games and the only game they lost by one run, they were holding by three tough Cardinals relievers with ERA of 0.00. What does it mean? Are they going to be the team to beat in NL East?
There are some high hopes in the Braves new built rotation and rejuvenated bullpen because of their heavy investment. Now, by the look of it, it has been paying off. Here is the pitching performance so far in this spring training:
W L ERA IP
Derek Lowe 2 0 2.45 11
Jair Jurrijens 0 0 4.65 9.2
Javier Vazquez 2 0 0.96 N/A (WBC)
Kenshin Kawakami 2 1 1.86 9.2
Tommy Hanson 1 0 3.37 10.2
Jojo Reyes 2 0 2.08 13
That is 9-1 record with 2.83 ERA in 54 innings of work, which is terrific in any month of work in regular season. You may argue that some elite players are out in WBC, and the managers will use prospects and bench players to start.
However, most of managers have the habit to start their best player’s available or at least three innings. Therefore, the starters are actually limited to face the best players of other teams. Even though it is spring training, they have performed impressively.
The bullpen has been good as well but they contribute two loses and probably from the two guys, Jeff Ridgway and Jeff Bennett who has ERA 40.30 and 14.55 at moment. There are a few important arms which will contribute to regular season significantly and here is their ERA and IP:
R Soriano 0.00 1
B Carlyle 0.00 4.3
B Boyer 0.00 4.3
E O’Flaherty 2.25 4
B Logan 2.25 4
P Moylan 3.00 3
M Gonzalez 6.74 2.2
They have ERA 1.85 in 24-1/3 innings of work. The bullpen ERA is higher than this but they are the mostly pitchers in make the roster in regular season.
Gonzo’s ERA has been hurt by the two runs he gave up in his one inning of work in the come back win against Astros in the second spring training game but he has been pitching much better since.
Generally, the pitching has been great in this spring, there are some hiccups in the young guys’ outing but it is forgivable for them to try to get the feel for the season. Tommy Hanson has been showing off his stuff even though his ERA is not as terrific but as a starter and long regular season, his ERA should be better.
The veteran guys are great so far and they should perform well in regular season against weaker hitting teams.
You cannot tell if they can be as good against better hitting team but at least they will give you decent outings and innings. Bobby should use Reyes over Hanson if Glavine is not available since he has been pitching really well in this spring and Hanson probably needs some more experience but Hanson won’t stay in AAA for long.
The hitting has been very good considering they are not considering as a really good hitting team. The competition at the leadoff spot has been fierce and it seems one sided to Jordan Schafer, the guy should be ready last year but with his problem, he has been holding back.
If Bobby starts him over Anderson, I think most of the fans should be fine with it since he is a five tools guy.
Below is their performance:
BA HR RBIs AB
B McCann .500 1 3 4
M Diaz .385 1 8 26
Y Escobar .375 0 3 24
C Kotchman .364 1 4 22
O Infante .367 1 6 30
J Schafer .364 1 1 22
J Francoeur .333 0 6 27
B Jones .333 1 6 27
K Johnson .321 0 5 28
M Prado .310 0 5 29
C Jones .286 1 2 7
G Norton .222 2 4 18
J Anderson .200 0 2 30
Now the BA is pretty not a non-factor this early in the season but you can see that the Braves regular starting lineup is hitting pretty well and bench players are terrific except Greg Norton and Josh Anderson but guys like Freddie Freemen, Jayson Heyward and Diory Hernandez can come up anytime if bench seems weak if Chipper or McCann get hurt.
It is good to see Matt Diaz, Casey Kotchman and Jeff Francoeur is hitting very well which is very important for weak hitting, strong pitching Braves team.
Bench and prospects
This is a very strong area for this Braves team. There will be a lot of good arms in the minors this year.
Freddie, Jayson and many other young guys are just as good hitters as some of the starters in this Braves’ team.
That is also one of the main reason the Braves are doing so well in the spring training; in the late innings, manager will switch to prospects and bench players to give them a shot for trial, and the Braves have one of the best players in this area and one or two runs lead in spring training means nothing to this Braves’ team late in the game.
This advantage will almost be gone in regular season, but the bench remains a very strong area for this Braves team. If the bullpen is healthy this season, I think Braves will have a lot of come back win this season as oppose to last season.
There are a lot of underrated players in this team but they have a good hitting line-up and above average speed. In addition, they can have a very good OBP once they have more experiences and by the looks of Diaz and Francoeur, the formal strike-out kings are more patient now.
Chipper will hurt for at least a month, that is predictable (well, he is hurt right now) but he cannot produce the power number anymore anyway so Braves only need to make up his BA number, which is easy to do with Infante and Prado.
The rotation has been terrific in spring and it should be a very good indicator now since Bobby is trying to use for longer innings and they seem able to pitch five innings under the pitch limit. Thus everything is according to Bobby’s plan.
Bullpen looks very good as well; two major arms in Moylan and Soriano look really good. If they are healthy, Braves should have a bullpen at least matching Phillies if not better.
It will be a fun season.