Atlanta Braves Early Season Analysis

Richard NiehContributor IApril 17, 2009

ATLANTA - APRIL 12: Outfielder Jordan Schafer #24 of the Atlanta Braves bats against the Washington Nationals April 12, 2009 at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

It is the second week in the season and Braves are doing pretty well before they were sadly beaten by the Marlins. It is a unexpected result but it is not as shocking as everyone thinks.

In the series, the Braves were outplayed by the young Marlins in every way, but I don’t see Marlins to continue this trend for the whole season. Dan Uggla for example, I don’t believe he can have that kind of perfect performance hitting with RISP.

However, there is no doubt that Braves has their problem and they can be easily spotted with some observation.

Bullpen Disaster


First of all, there are still some bright spot in the 'pen. It is just the bad is overshadowing the good and for the bullpen management, it is so important that everyone needs to contribute and do it as a team. Braves relievers have some very extreme numbers.

The good (Name/ERA/SO/walk/IP)

Rafael Soriano/0.00/5/2/5

Jeff Bennett/2.25/3/2/4

The bad

Buddy Carlyle/4.15/4/2/4.1

Mike Gonzalez/4.50/6/2/4

Eric O’Flaherty/8.10/1/3/3.1

Jorge Campillo/3.86/2/3/2.1

The ugly

Peter Moylan/20.25/6/4/2.2

Blaine Boyer/40.50/2/3/1.1

I am a fan of Jeff Bennet, he may not look anything special but he is a guy just work hard and tries his best no matter what position he is in. I noticed that he actually improved his velocity and got strong in the winter and his stuff is probably the best in that miserable bullpen of the Braves.

I expect Bobby is going to use his more and more. Soriano is getting better with his velocity but it is still not at mid 90s yet but he is not afraid to challenge hitters and more often than not, he will win the battle.

Buddy Carlyle is actually pitching ok for his last a few outings. He is just as reliable as Soriano that you can expect he will try to throw strikes and he seems knowing what he is doing whilst Bennett seems lost a little sometimes.

Buddy does not possess an outstanding weapon to get players out so he can get knock around a little bit. Gonzo is not very stable at moment but you know he can strike people out. Some fans already choose Soriano over Gonzo but I believe Gonzo will get better when the season goes on.

Now for the really bad part, I hold a high hope for Campillo for him to shine in the pen as a long man. Clearly he was not at his 100 percent and his command is off. Now he is on the DL, which is pretty bad.

Eric O’Flaherty is the only lefty specialist in the Braves’ 'pen but he is very inconsistent. When he is in trouble, he just seems lost and emotional, just like JoJo Reyes.

Peter Moylan is the one person that should make the Braves 'pen from Mediocre to a very good 'pen but what he does is just getting hit and walking in runs. It is clearly he does not have his stuff two years ago and seems so vulnerable throwing his high 80s fastball in the zone.

He still has his movement but he is not commanding it close enough to the zone for hitters to swing at them just like Barry Zito. I hope he can turn it around but it does not seem possible anytime soon.

Blaine Boyer was just a big part of last year’s bullpen but 40+ ERA this season? He has a great arm but just like Bobby said, you cannot catch the ball if you are walking people. He has absolute no command of his pitches and his velocity is down too because he does not dare to throw hard to make his command worse.

My advice is that he is going to walk people anyway, why not just throw as hard as he can and just pound the strike zone no matter what. Maybe he can find something and bring his confidence back. Sometimes the best thing to solve the problem is to make it simple.

Durable rotation…or not?


After Derek Lowe showing off in the opening night, none of the Braves starting pitchers pitched over six innings. What Derek did at opening night was to pitch to contact and get ground balls after ground balls. After that, the Braves rotation is getting a lot of strike outs (43 strike outs before yesterday) but walking 24 people.

I am not complaining about the strike outs but those strike outs and talks can only lead one result, high pitch counts. It is very obvious in the Marlins series.

Marlins pitchers use their stuff to make Braves hitters hit bad strikes/balls to pop-ups (they are mainly fly out pitchers), that is partly Braves’ hitters fault but I need to give Marlins hitters some credits to execute that.

Braves starters achieved 24 strike outs in the series. Results? Swept by Marlins. First of all, 24 strikeouts accompanied with nine walks and half of those walks scored. In addition, their stuff is just not good enough to get strike outs and it leads to long at bats and couple mistakes got hit really hard.

I personally feel they should throw more strikes to make hitters hit in play rather than border line pitches to get strike outs.

Lost in the field


Braves made nine errors in nine games, average one error a game. The infielders had five errors, which were considered one of the best infield defenses in the league. Some of the errors are made by the bench players but Kelly John already had two errors so early in the season.

They need to cut down those errors because they are not going to score too many runs so they need their pitchers to perform. Pitchers cannot perform up to the standards if you keep asking them to get extra outs.  

Good enough offense to support their pitching


I think the offense of this Braves team is already doing better than a lot of people think.

However, they can easily pitch to with a plus stuff like Marlins did. They were really great at RISP, especially Jeff Francoeur. He still swing and miss some high fastball and outside breaking balls but he only did it very few times and only on the pitches count with one strike or less, which is fine.

He also fights good pitches off a lot more than last year. I think he will have a very good year when he shows more power number. There are some holes in the line-up but I believe they will do better. Some concerns in Chipper’s health but I think the rest of line-up will prepare for that.

They did not do much to Marlins’ rotation because they were not patient enough but Marlins have arguably the best rotation in NL and I don’t believe their line-up can do so well the whole season. Braves will do better in the future against them.

The biggest concern though is Jordan Schafer. He had a great start of the season but now he is too excited and over swinging pitches.He has average power to hit 20 homers but he should be Braves’ future leadoff man, he should try to get on base and hit line drives.

Just like Ryan Langerhans before, he seems vulnerable to high inside fastball and low outside change-ups. He had 11 strike outs that lead the team by far and a lot of those strike outs are swinging strike outs which mean he got fooled by those braking pitches.

He needs to do some more work with hitting coach and learn how to fight those pitches off. He is one of the most talented players on the team with his power and speed. I hope he can improve when the season move on.

Final thoughts


In conclusion, I know a lot of fans are upset about Marlins series and Braves getting swept but there are very few series that a team can outplay the opponents like that. Braves did try hard to win those games but Marlins were just too good.

Again, just like Phillies have a slow start, Braves has a good enough team to win some of those tough games. The real concern is the bullpen that is destroying their confidence but Soriano, Bennett is doing well and Gonzo will be better for sure.

Therefore, so far into the season, it is still a positive sign. Now the real objective is to not losing games to Pirates, Reds and Nationals.


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