The Atlanta Braves push to playoffs: Week two

Braves were glad to see the Phillies leave town. (Getty Images)
Since my preseason and week one posts seemed to go well, I’ve decided to make this a weekly entry that will touch on the top 10 or however many things the Atlanta Braves need to do well to make the playoffs. Every week, I’m revising that list, so if you are a first timer here, navigate below to previous entries.

Preseason Top-10 Atlanta Braves concerns
Week one Atlanta Braves concerns

Here’s last week’s top concerns:

  1. Derek Lowe – Off to a hot start. 1-0 with a 0.77 ERA in his first two games. In 11 innings, he’s only given up one run and has recorded 13 Strikeouts to only five walks. For Derek Lowe, that’s amazing. This must be his contract year.
  2. Concerned Defense – What??? Only one error so far and that’s by Tommy Hanson? This stays on for at least another week, not sure I buy the no errors in five games by the defensive corp.
  3. Brooks Conrad (ahem, Greg Norton) – Hasn’t played much. Only 0-2 with a K at the plate. But during those two at-bats, he still didn’t look like last-year Conrad. If Bobby Cox was coaching, he would have had 10 at-bats already.
  4. Health for Chipper Jones – Chipper is batting .300 with two doubles and no errors. No rumblings through the press that he’s sore. No retirement announcements. One shocking stat for him is his .333 OBP. He usually hovers in the high .400’s. Watching him play the past five games, he’s much more aggressive than the recent years. He’s not drawing as many walks (maybe the pitchers aren’t as scared of him?) but he is swinging more freely and attacking the ball more. Could be a sign of him being comfortable at the plate.
  5. Freddie Freeman – He’s amassed a stunning … one hit in 15 at-bats. He just looks lost some times at the plate. Those that drafted him might want to start browsing for a replacement. Not that he will be replaced, but one that would be more consistent.
  6. Will the closer by committee work? Will Venters or Kimbrel take charge? Jesus, Kimbrel is a beast. This topic is over.
  7. Will Venters or Kimbrel succeed? A lot riding on such young arms. Again, why was I in doubt? Venters is already a veteran.
  8. Is Martin Prado healthy enough to play 162 games in LF? Chipper didn’t transition well from 3B to LF earlier in his career. It takes a toll on the body, because you can be standing around, not in the action for a while, then moving at 100% speed in a split second Prado is going to be fine. But this could be revisited.
  9. Will Alex Gonzalez hit like he did in Toronto or like he did with Atlanta Braves? Still undecided.
  10. Nate McLouth – Is this really Pittsburgh Nate? Still undecided. Had a rough start but shows signs of seeing the ball well.
  11. Can Jair Jurrjens stay healthy?
  12. Will the bullpen be over worked like recent years?

And lets just dive into our next series. After a disapointing two series on which they faced some serious pitching that knocked out the Braves bats (literally), our number one concern has to be hitting. Sitting at 4-6 and facing the 5-4 Florida Marlins tonight, this is an opportunity to examine the concerns of the Atlanta Braves.

  1. Hitting – Hey, Atlanta Braves! Are you going to start hitting anytime soon? According to Mark Bradley, AJC sports writer, the Braves .229 batting average is higher than when they finished April in 2010 with a stunning .227 average. They were 9-14 and Bobby Cox, Chipper Jones, Billy Wagner all were saying they were retiring, which only 2 of them did. It was a miserable time for the Braves. They better start hitting or Liberty Media will sell them. (Wait a minute, wasn’t there already talk about that before the season even started??)
  2. Bullpen Weakness – George Sherrill and Scott Linebrink are weak. Every team knows, of the entire pitching corps, those two are the ones they want to face. They struggled through Spring Training and they haven’t recovered yet. I don’t think we need two mop-up relievers. Isn’t that what Cristhian Martinez was for?
  3. Brooks Conrad (ahem, Greg Norton) – So, you thought I would give the little guy a break since he hasn’t recorded an at-bat in over a week. Nope. He has to battle his way off this list. Unfortunately, if he doesn’t play, then he’ll forever see his name on this.
  4. Freddie Freeman – Still batting .188 through the first 10 games. It’s a small sample but he had a few singles against the Phillies over the weekend. Maybe that’s a sign he’s starting to get more comfortable.
  5. Alex Gonzalez – Is he just a pure .250 hitter? If so, the Braves need the power he provided Toronto last year, not the power he provided the Braves during the final stretch last year.
  6. Nate McLouth – Yeah, he has the same amount of hits the great Jason Heyward has and has a higher average than Dan Uggla, but what happen to this great spring he had? He needs to produce, and we need it now.
  7. Jair Jurrjens – Can you please stay healthy? Mike Minor looked as deflated as possible. Shall we just trade Jurrjens and bring up Julio Teheran?

I took off Derek Lowe (1-2 with a 1.44 ERA, 15K’s through three games. Tough luck loses) as he seems to be pitching well. He’s always on “suicide” watch though. Concerned Defense went out of the window as well. I guess keeping Brooks Conrad on the bench is the key. Chipper Jones‘ health is steady as well, but I might as well put that on “suicide” watch as well.

Chipper Jones appears to be healthy
I also took off the bullpen getting overworked, just because Gonzalez seems to be distributing the ball well so far.

So, I’m only at 7 now. How is that possible after we lost more games and currently cellar dwellers in the NL East? It’s easy. This team isn’t that bad. They play fundamentally well and just ran into some tough pitching early in the season. Hitting is always behind pitching this time of the year and when you face Yovani Gallardo, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels in a week, we’ll any team would lose more than they win.

Suicide Watch

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