Holding a minus-18 run differential and an offense that could do virtually nothing but draw a walk, the Braves’ outlook on 2010 was bleak to say the best.
Fast forward to Memorial Day (May 31), and the Braves are a half-game up on the Phillies with a plus-45 run differential and appear as if they’ve figured out things on the offensive side of the ball.
Led by Jason Heyward (who holds the fourth highest OPS at 1.019 in BASEBALL and best in the NL) who had a .358/.475/.667 May after taking a more aggressive approach at the advice of Bobby Cox, Martin Prado (the NL hit and OBP leader), and Troy Glaus (the NL RBI leader for the month of May), the Braves capped off the month of May with a six-game winning streak to bring their season’s record to 29-22.
The pitching, as was anticipated heading into 2010, was also spectacular during the Braves’ 20-win month as Tim Hudson (4-0 1.59 ERA in the month of May) and company posted a 3.53 team ERA with 192 total strikeouts.
But, with those impressive stats comes the all important question…is this the REAL Atlanta Braves squad?
Well, I can tell you: I don’t think it is.
The pitching seems to be legit, but it’s going to be hard for Troy Glaus and Jason Heyward to replicate the ridiculous averages they posted and for Glaus and Martin Prado to re-create their 20+ RBI months (especially the latter since he has transitioned to the lead-off role) on a month-in and month-out basis.
But, on the same hand, Chipper Jones and Brian McCann are going to do a little more than, respectively, one home run and 10 RBI they posted in May.
For those reasons, I think it’s fair to postulate that the real identity of the Braves lies somewhere between their identity as the team with multiple sub-.200 hitters, as they were known in April, and the team that was, arguably, the best in the National League for the season’s second month.
My gut tells me it’s closer to the latter, though.
This is a team that should be good-to-go for a divisional/Wild Card fight if the right moves are made (i.e. losing McLouth and shuffling the outfield with some sort of call-up or trade…Ty Wigginton/Luke Scott, anyone?) as long as the staff (which should be bolstered by the return of Jair Jurrjens at some point in June) and bullpen hold up.
Now all they have to do to look “real” is get their fifth starter a W (as Kenshin Kawakami sits at 0-7 on the season)…
And now, a good (albeit unrelated) song.
(This post is also featured on SportsLeak.com)