Braves’ March: Defense and the long ball
Have you seen Brian McCann lately?
Wow. In case you’re behind on the highlights, McCann belted a PH HR with two outs in the bottom of the ninth today versus the scrappy Houston Astros. On to the 11th inning, where Brian launched a no-doubter to right field that plated him and Eric Hinske to win the game.
I love being a fan of the Braves.
They seem to have the most dramatic victory and losses of the season out of every team. Maybe it’s because I get way into the games, or maybe it’s just the small ball (or today’s long ball) that always keeps you on the edge of your seat. There have been many close games this year, and last year, they led the majors with walk-off HRs and were known for their late-game heroics.
With the stellar pitching (Phillies, who?) and the timely hitting all of a sudden (not great, but timely), the Braves are rolling. But these teams tend to give me more heart attacks than adrenaline highs, and they seem to last through the night. I’ll end up like the manager in Major League and get a heart attack while having the doctor tell me to get away from the game. It won’t happen, but the heart attack might.
Given that, there is one thing different about this year’s team — very different than the past few years. Frank Wren was criticized over the off-season for not making changes and trying to upgrade it.
Yes, the boys are still playing great defense. Stellar even. It’s the kind of defense the Phillies played the past few years that seemingly propelled them to the World Series. If the Braves win the division, they might go on another run, given their minor-league surplus and talent that is boiling over with Major League ready prospects.
Oh yeah, they rank second in HRs (45) in the NL. Usually something they are lacking in, as well.
Teams like this tend to give me heart attacks, though. Braves fans, remember this game?
Yeah, I still remember that shot. Teams like we have now, for some reason, flash this game in my head over and over. And beating these Astros in extra innings makes it even sweeter.
Chipper and Heyward injured? Don’t worry, they still won yesterday. Amazing the way they are playing, huh?
Let’s dive into my top-five concerns:
- Hitting – The team batting average still hovers around .244, which is ninth in the NL.
- Speed – They rank 15th in the NL in triples (4) and come in dead last in stolen bases with 6.
- Bench – Behind Hinske, who’s hitting .371, they don’t have much in reserve.
- Mendoza Warning – Dan Uggla is making this legit. Batting .202. Yeah, read that again folks. Jason Heyward is batting .219 and Freddie Freeman is back down to .226. Oy vey.
- Middle Relief – Not fair to put just the bullpen here. The mega three (Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters, and Craig Kimbrel) are outstanding. It’s the lack of a solidified 6th inning reliever that concerns me.
And the Suicide Watch which keeps getting longer …
- Derek Lowe – When is he going to come back to earth? His flight has to be running out of gas sometime soon.
- Chipper Jones – I probably should put him as a concern, but it seems the injury isn’t really that serious, but let’s be honest here, when is a Chipper Jones’ injury not serious?
- Jason Heyward’s body – When the manager refers to you as a Ferrari that is temperamental, it’s not really that great of a thing.
- Jair Jurrjens’ health – Please leg, don’t pop. Please leg, don’t pop.
- Mendoza Boys – Which one wins?