After an excellent spring training, there were plenty of reasons to look forward to in 2009 for the Atlanta Braves.
So far, the biggest surprise of the season has to be the offense. While many thought that the Braves offense could be pretty good without a dominant power hitter, nobody predicted that the team would be leading the NL East in homeruns through the first week.
So far most of the Braves starters have impressed with the bat in 2009.
Chipper Jones and Yunel Escobar are each hitting .400 with one homerun.
Kelly Johnson, Brian McCann and Jordan Schafer are tied for the team lead in homeruns with two, and all three of them are hitting over .300. McCann leads the team in RBI with seven.
Matt Diaz is hitting .286 and has been starting since Garret Anderson went down with an injury. He already has one homerun and four RBI despite only 14 at-bats.
Casey Kotchman is also hitting .286, which is a good sign considering that he struggled once coming over to Atlanta following a trade in 2008.
Omar Infante has four hits in his first eight at-bats, and he should continue to see most of the playing time off the bench as he can play three infield and all three outfield positions.
The only two sour notes on offense are the injury to Garret Anderson (who is only hitting .200) and the low batting average that is still holding back Jeff Francoeur.
Frenchy is hitting just .240 through the first week, but is slugging .520 and has already drawn his first walk of the season. Coming off a game with two triples, Francoeur still shows tremendous promise for 2009.
What a week for the Braves starting pitchers. In the first week, Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vazquez and Kenshin Kawakami allowed only 10 runs in 34 innings while running their record to 4-0.
Lowe was outstanding opening day, shutting down the Phillies for eight innings. In his second start, he allowed one earned run, but only pitched three innings due to a rain delay.
Jurrjens was great against the Phillies in his first start, although he struggled some against the Nationals in his second. His season ERA sits at 2.45 and he is 2-0.
In his Braves debut, Javier Vazquez allowed three runs in six innings. He had a chance to pick up the win before the bullpen melted down.
Kawakami won in his Braves debut, striking out eight over six innings while allowing three earned runs.
The biggest problem with the starting pitching has been walks (Derek Lowe not included). Jurrjens, Vazquez and Kawakami have walked 16 batters in 23 innings, which could be a cause for concern if they don’t bring that number down.
The worst news for Braves starting pitchers was that Tom Glavine experienced shoulder discomfort in a minor league start, and might not make his first start of the season. The Braves have plenty of depth, and the fifth spot will only be needed twice in April, so it shouldn’t be a problem if Glavine is unable to go.
The bullpen has been a problem so far in 2009, especially in the Braves only loss. In the third game of the season, the bullpen gave away a seven run lead to lose 12-11.
While Mike Gonzalez (two saves), Rafael Soriano (0.00 ERA, one save) and Jeff Bennett (0.00 ERA in 3.2 innings) have pitched well, the rest of the bullpen has awful numbers right now.
Walks have been the major source of the problem, and have led to ERAs north of five for Jorge Campillo (5.40), Buddy Carlyle (5.40), Eric O’Flaherty (11.57), Peter Moylan (45.00) and Blaine Boyer (Infinite).
There is still plenty of promise for the bullpen, and Manny Acosta and Boone Logan might get the call if the struggles continue.
Overall, the Braves have to be happy with the first week. This week they will play Florida (5-1) in Atlanta for three games before heading to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates (3-3).
4/14: Chris Volstad (1-0) @ Javier Vazquez (1-0)
4/15: Andrew Miller (0-0) @ Derek Lowe (1-0)
4/16: Anibal Sanchez (0-0) @ Kenshin Kawakami
4/17: Jair Jurrjens (2-0) @ Paul Maholm (1-0)
4/18: Jo-Jo Reyes (0-0) @ Ian Snell (0-2)
4/19: Javier Vazquez (1-0) @ Zach Duke (1-0)