Thursday, April 14, 2011

Braves Status Report: 13 Games (5-8)

The Braves dropped their third consecutive series Thursday, falling to the Marlins 6-5. The team went 2-4 over the past week and are struggling to get on the right track. We've seen a couple strong pitching performances (especially Hanson's on Tuesday), some decent offense and impressive defense, but the Braves haven't been able to do it all consistently. As Atlanta gets ready to welcome the woeful Mets (I could use some gloating ammunition here in Upstate, NY!), let's take a look at the highlights over the last week (April 8th - April 14th).

Who's Hot:

Chipper Jones - The week included some significant milestones for Chipper, including career hit number 2,500 and career RBI number 1,500 (on his first HR of the season, nonetheless), further solidifying his Hall of Fame resume. He also sits just 3 doubles away from 500 and should pick those up over the next week or two. The Braves legend knocked in 7 RBI in 6 games this week while going 7-21 with 3 walks. He's doing his part to keep this offense afloat.

Martin Prado - The Braves lead-off guy also hit over .300 for the week, going 8-26 through 6 games. Prado hasn't walked much and hasn't shown as much power as he did last year, but has rapped out his own share of doubles. Prado needs to continue to set the plate for the Braves offense to be successful.

Freddie Freeman - You might look at Freddie's .214 season average and wonder how exactly he can be considered 'hot.' The rookie first baseman went 6-19 through these 6 games and is now riding a seven-game hitting streak after knocking out just 2 hits through the first 6 games of the season. The streak has included a couple doubles as well as some bullets that unfortunately found fielders' gloves. Freeman has also made plenty of impressive picks at first, looking much more veteran than the back of his baseball card states he is.

Defense - What was a weakness last year and didn't look to be too much better this year, the Braves defense has actually looked superb so far in 2011. Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla (who would have thunk it?!) and Alex Gonzalez in particular have made some dazzling plays with the glove. The Braves 7 errors through 13 games this season rank among the best in the NL.

Who's Not:

Offense - The Braves offense remains on the 'not' list for the second consecutive week. The team hit .220 through the past 6 games and continue to sit at or near the bottom of the league in a number of offensive categories. The 5 home runs are encouraging to see, but the Atlanta offense still managed just 3.2 runs per game. Yes, the team has faced some impressive pitchers (including a dominant Josh Johnson on Wednesday), but these are the same pitchers other teams face and postseason contenders, like the Braves hope to be, still need to be competitive in those games. Pinch-hitters are 0-17 on the season while Braves pitchers are 0-23, including a number of failed sacrifice attempts. Whether it's a line-up change or just some extra work in the cage, the offense must improve soon.

Dan Uggla - Outside of a DEEP solo homer on Thursday, Uggla's bat has been essentially non-existent during the past week. He hit a paltry .087 (2-23) through the past 6 games (and that's including his homer) with just 1 walk and 6 strikeouts. His solid defense has helped make me a bit more patient, but his bat needs to start coming around quick..especially hitting out of the 5 spot. I continue to hear about how Uggla often gets off to slow starts, but his career .239/.313/.440 line in March/April (including 2011) is quite a bit more acceptable than what we've seen so far this season and not a far cry from his .262/.347/.482 overall career line.

Brandon Beachy - After a great first start of the season, Beachy's last two outings have left much to be desired. His 9 ER over 11 IP knocked the Braves out of those two games pretty quickly, he's been much too hittable (14 H) and his vaunted control has been shaky at best (6 BB, including 1 IBB). He didn't do much to help himself with a unsuccessful sacrifice bunt attempt on Thursday, either. It's still extremely early in his major-league career, so hopefully he's just continuing to figure out his approach to major-league hitters (which I hope won't include throwing 0-2 pitches down the middle to good hitters).

George Sherrill and Scott Linebrink - The weak part of the Braves bullpen imploded on April 9th, allowing 4 combined runs to the Phillies in just 1 IP. The two of them settled down a bit over their next couple outings since then, but with a number of impressive arms at Gwinnett waiting for their chance in The Show, there will be a plenty of skeptical eyes watching these two guys closely.

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