Shots from the nosebleeds - Braves vs. Brewers 4/13/12
Coming off the series win at Houston, the Braves were looking to get back to .500 during the first home series of 2012 against the Milwaukee Brewers. The atmosphere at the game Friday night was outstanding (once, you know, the stadium finally filled up sometime around the third inning). Jurrjens had some struggles on the mound, but the offense came alive (against a lefty!) and powered the Braves to victory in a 10-8 slugfest.
Saturday’s game was not quite as loud. Mike Minor became the first Braves starter to record an out after the fifth inning, and ended up pitching 7.1 great innings. There was some excitement at the end when Craig Kimbrel managed to load the bases with one out, but back-to-back strikeouts locked up the 2-1 victory for the Braves.
On Sunday, Brandon Beachy followed up Minor’s outing with a nice showing of his own. And in Chipper’s first home game of the season, he provided the spark with a three run home run. In Chad Durbin news, he was finally used properly, coming in with a six run lead in the ninth inning. He promptly gave up three runs, making the game a lot closer than it should have been.
The Braves look to get some payback against the Mets starting tonight at Turner Field before heading out west to face the Diamondbacks and Dodgers.
The Braves took two out of three from the Astros in their park, and, once again, all is right in the world.
I don’t want to focus too much on the first game because what happened on the field that led to the loss was probably somewhat flukey. It’s unreasonable to expect Juan Francisco to kick the ball around like he did this game in future performances. It’s also unreasonable to believe that in-game management can contribute directly to a great number of wins and/or losses throughout the season. But this game is a perfect example of Fredi Gonzalez setting the team up for failure, and the team living up to those expectations.
Let’s forget about the errors, because errors are going to happen, and Beachy shouldn’t have walked Schafer with two out in the inning. Fredi’s bullpen management after Beachy came out of the game, though, was infuriating. This is not the time to use Livan Hernandez or Chad Durbin, but our worst fears about those acquisitions came true. Down 4-3, that game is still within reach.
Game 2 was the Chipper show, and it’s good to see that he was ready to go. Tyler Pastornicky got his first career home run in this game, and was rewarded by being benched in game 3 of the series. The last game was entertaining, to say the least. Back-to-back squeezes, bunts being taken off with two strikes and replaced with hit-and-runs, Fredi being Fredi. But it didn’t matter because Delgado had a great outing and Heyward had a big day at the plate. On to Atlanta for the home opener against the Brewers. Check back here over the weekend for some photos from the nosebleeds.
The Braves lost three games. They count the same as any other three games they’ll play for the rest of the season. It likely won’t be the only three-game losing streak of the season. Anything beyond that is meaningless, and trying to make predictions or assumptions based on this series is futile.
Also, Jose Constanza. Fredi Gonzalez should be fined every time he puts this guy into the game.
Rank: #2 in the Majors, #1 in the NL
These rankings only include projections for the pitchers expected to get the bulk of the high-leverage innings this year. With both Craig Kimbrel and Eric O’Flaherty performing at hard-to-match levels last season, it’s reasonable that that list of Yankee pitchers would come in ahead of the Braves group. It’s also reasonable to believe that this Braves group will blow that Yankees group out of the water. When you account for overall depth of the bullpen, the Braves look even better, if that’s possible.
Rank: #18 in the Majors, #8 in the NL
Before you start screaming, remember, these rankings are based on projections. Of the five pitchers likely to be in the starting rotation in 2012, one is starting the year on the DL, three of them spent time on the DL in 2011, and the fifth is basically a rookie. Since Hudson will miss the first month or so, another rookie will be in the rotation the first time through unless the Braves decide to go with Kris Medlen, who missed almost all of last season after Tommy John surgery.
Now, if everyone stays healthy, if Tim Hudson comes back strong, and if the rotation performs like they did for the majority of last year, the Braves will have one of the top staffs in the NL and will compete for the postseason by default. I don’t think that expectation is too farfetched, but, unfortunately, neither would another injury plagued season for one or more of these guys.
Rank: #22 in the Majors, #13 in the NL
Fans of #MVPrado aren’t going to like this, but it’s accurate. The truth is, Martin Prado’s bat doesn’t bring much value to left field, and his defense out there is only average. He’ll also be playing anywhere from 30-60 games (or more, but hopefully not) at third base, which means some combination of Matt Diaz, Eric Hinske and Jose Constanza will be out in left, further bringing down the overall value of that position. Prado is a solid player, and this low rank doesn’t figure to hurt the team. It’s simply a matter of circumstance.
Rank: #6 in the Majors, #4 in the NL
Jason Heyward’s 2011 was forgettable. An injured shoulder slowed him down at the plate for nearly the whole season, but when he was healthy in April and September, Heyward posted slashes of .263/.354/.525 and .258/.375/.364. Ok, so his power was all but gone by the end of the year, but he was the only Brave getting on base during the September collapse. The projections favor Heyward for 2012, and if his approach at the plate is more like it was in 2010, the numbers will get a nice bump to go along with his plus defense.