Thursday, June 16, 2011

Braves Status Report: 70 Games (39-31)

Wow. The week started off great with three wins in a row against the Astros in Houston (that seems like years ago already), shifted towards an awful week with a series-ending loss against the 'Stros and two losses against the Mets in Atlanta and ended on a high, confusing, crazy, fill-in-the-blank note with the 10 inning walk-off balk (yes, you ready that correctly) on Thursday. That roller coaster performance gave the Braves a 4-3 week. The week's seven games included both tremendous and poor pitching, both solid and abysmal hitting and inconsistent defense. The team had plenty of power (11 12 HR in 7 games) but still struggled to score consistently.

The week saw much news on the injury front, as well. Jason Heyward returned from the DL, while Brandon Beachy and Nate McLouth started rehab assignments at Gwinnett. Martin Prado was placed on the DL with a staph infection and is expected to miss 2-3 weeks. Freddie Freeman tweaked an oblique and missed a couple games before returning on Thursday. Tommy Hanson's suffering from tendonitis in his right shoulder and will miss his next start. Chipper Jones was also pulled late in Thursday's game after straining his adductor muscle. What's an adductor muscle, you ask? Look it up here, I certainly had to. I'm just ready for the team to be healthy again.

The Phillies simply continue to win, now sitting 5 games in front the Braves in the NL East. Atlanta dives into interleague play on Friday with back-to-back three-game series against the Rangers and Blue Jays, respectively. I'm heading down to Atlanta on Monday and will be there for the entire Toronto series, so I hope to have plenty of gameday photos for everyone's viewing pleasure. In the interim, here are the 'cheers' and 'jeers' over the past week (7 games)...


Tommy Hanson - The big right-hander continues to put together a stellar season. In his one start this past week, Hanson struck out 14 Astros, the highest total by a pitcher in a Braves uniform since John Smoltz tallied 15 in 2005. And the rest of his line that night was just as impressive. 7 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 2 BB and the win. At 8-4 with a 2.48 ERA on the season, Hanson's looking more and more likely to earn his first ever All-Star nod. As mentioned, Hanson will be held back from his scheduled start on Friday, due to right shoulder tendonitis (super-prospect Randall Delgado will start in his place). Hopefully it's just a one-start issue.

Chipper Jones - The 39-year-old put up a strong week, with a focus on driving in runs. Chipper went 9-23 for the week with two doubles and two home runs, while adding in 3 walks. His 8 RBI over the past week included a 5 RBI performance against the Mets on Thursday, matching his career high. His season RBI total now sits a 40. Not bad for an 18-year veteran.

Jordan Schafer - The speedy CF continued to play solid defense while adding a handful of hits through the first 6 games of the week. But as Nate McLouth began a rehab assignment at Gwinnett on Thursday, Schafer's bat came alive. His outstanding 5-6 performance that night allowed him to finish 10-30 for the week. 9 of those hits were singles, so there's very little power, but if he can get on base then he's doing his job.

Honorable Mention: Matt Young (6-19, 2B); Brooks Conrad (3-5, 2B, HR, 2 RBI); David Ross (3-6, 2B, RBI)


Joe Mather - Mather is basically a poor man's Jeff Francoeur. That's a pretty bad thing, considering the Braves got rid of Frenchy. His 1-11, 0 XBH, 4 K line over the past 7 games represents his third consecutive awful week. Mather's put up a 3-29 (.103) June so far. That's kinda not very good. Unfortunately, with Martin Prado and Nate McLouth on the DL, we're almost sure to see him in the line-up when the Braves are facing a lefty starter.

Brandon Hicks - Brandon should feel pretty lucky that he's still with the Braves big league club. After putting up an empty 0-9, 4 K performance over the past week, likely the only thing that kept him from doing worse was playing time. He was billed as a strong fielder at SS, but his play there has been shaky at best (though I guess being compared to Alex Gonzalez would be tough for anyone). I was a bit surprised Matt Young was sent down to Gwinnett instead of Hicks when Heyward came off the DL on Wednesday. Obviously Heyward is a LHB outfielder (same as Young), but I don't really see a need for two back-up shortstops, especially one who's playing so poorly. Gotta figure Hicks is back to Triple A when Nate McLouth returns.

Derek Lowe - Lowe's up and down season continues. A week after taking a no-hitter into the 7th inning for the second time this season, Lowe was blitzed by the Astros on Monday as the Braves attempted the four-game sweep. He pitched from behind in the count too often and left the ball up. He exited after 5.1 IP, surrendering 5 ER on 8 H and 3 BB while striking out just 2. The Braves offense just isn't potent enough (or, at all) to survive too many starts like that.

Dishonorable Mention: Freddie Freeman (5-22, 2 XBH, 10 K); Eric Hinske (3-21, 9 K); Jair Jurrjens (1 L, 5.1 IP, 4 ER, 8 H, 3 K, 5 BB); Dan Uggla (6-28, 9 K)

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