The Atlanta Braves are just under .500 going into play on April 25, playing below the expectations of the fans in Atlanta. The Braves have done some things to surprise people and not done some things that were expected of them. This is a list of what the Braves have done well, and not so well, through 23 games in the 2011 season.
Returning from a season-ending ACL tear in the 2010 season, no one really knew what to expect from the aging veteran. So far, Chipper has answered the skeptics, posting a .289 average with two HRs and 16 RBIs, the latter of which leads the team. He seems to have picked up about where he left off before the injury, when he was starting to heat up at the plate.
The most highly coveted piece to come to Atlanta this offseason was the All-Star Dan Uggla. However, Uggla has struggled out of the gate, hitting an abysmal .182. Atlanta fans are quickly getting tired of hearing that Uggla is a slow starter, and would like to see the offensive show that was so highly publicized going into the season. Uggla has knocked five of his 16 hits for home runs, however, so the power is there. Uggla will need to find a way to be more productive if he wants to avoid the disgrace of Atlanta fans.
The highly touted rookie first baseman Freddie Freeman was slow out of the gate, but is now starting to show his prowess. In his last seven days (coming into April 25), Freeman has hit .269 with two HRs and five walks.
McLouth has also started to put a dreadful 2010 campaign behind him, batting .247, which is significantly better than his .190 average in 2010. He has also hit .320 in his last seven days with five walks. Time will tell if this trend continues and the Braves see significant production from the two.
If it seems like the Braves have been playing catch-up in many of their games, it’s because they have. Braves’ starters have given up at least one run in 10 of their 23 games this season. Pitchers have had to take too much time “settling in,” and the scoreboard has shown it. In addition to the pitching woes, the bats are generally cold in the first inning, with the Braves only driving in 12 runs in the opening frame this season.
One of the biggest question marks coming into the season was how the Braves would play defense. A sub-par defensive team in 2010, the Braves have made a dramatic shift for the better so far this year. They are currently second in fielding percentage in the National League with a .990 clip. They also have the second-least errors, only committing nine so far this year. They are second to Milwaukee in both categories.
A catalyst to the postseason in 2010 was the production of the Braves’ bench players. This season, bench players, either spot-starting or pinch hitting, are only 13-for-72, a .181 average. Seven of those hits have come from the only productive bench player so far, Eric Hinske. Matt Young, who made his major league debut this season, has disappointed so far and has been sent back to the minor leagues.
Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters have been everything as-advertised. Kimbrel has posted an 0.96 ERA in 9.1 innings of work. Not to be outdone, Venters, setting up for Kimbrel, has been absolutely lights out. He's been shutting down the opposition with an ERA of 0.77 in 11.2 innings, the only run conceded by the defense in an 11-2 victory over the Nationals. Venters has held the opposition to three hits, an .081 average against, and a WHIP of 0.51 and striking out 12. The rest of the bullpen has been solid.