When the news broke that Jonny Venters was having another Tommy John surgery and would be lost for this year and perhaps most of next, it was met on Twitter with… well, basically a shoulder shrug.
That’s not a knock on Venters, an extremely reliable set-up guy who has been a valuable bullpen piece the last two seasons – I wish him the best in his recovery, because he seems to be a good teammate and a good guy, and because I wouldn’t wish multiple Tommy John surgeries on anyone not named Roger Clemens. It’s just been that kind of season so far. Brian McCann missed the first month. Jason Heyward had emergency appendectomy surgery a couple of weeks ago – those two still haven’t been in the lineup together this season, and it’s the middle of May. Brandon Beachy, who’s actually ahead of schedule from his own Tommy John surgery, will be back in June, probably. Freddie Freeman missed a couple of weeks. And on and on.Why does this matter? Because it’s been easy to write this team off as hot-and-cold, content to let it’s big bats carry it for a week at a time while simultaneously knowing that it can be shut out on any given Wednesday by the Wade Davis’ of the world (with help from Doug Eddings). And that’s true, to an extent – by any metric, this team strikes out an alarmingly high rate and flat-out does not support its starters on a weekly basis, ranking near the bottom in run support per start. At the quarter mark on the season (where did the time go?), I feel like certain aspects of your nature as a baseball team just are what they are after a while.
But with all that being said, it really feels like there’s still no way to assess this team as a whole. SOMEBODY not named Jordan Schafer will have to hit lead-off once the ‘Hey’ part of ‘Up, Up and a Hey’ returns from being out with an intestine; whether it’s B.J. Upton, Andrelton Simmons, Dan Uggla or the pitcher’s spot remains to be seen. Evan Gattis is going to return to spot duty off the bench – will he be as effective going from 25 at-bats a week to 10? Where does Gerald Laird fit into all this? Will the Juan Francisco-Chris Johnson platoon sort itself out?
Also, the road-warrior mentality probably has a little something to do with the struggles. Did you know the Braves have played fewer home games than ANY team in baseball at this point (14)? Pulling off a division lead when you’ve already embarked on two separate 10-day road trips in the season’s first 40 games is impressive even if you have the Mets and Marlins in your division.
Knowing who you are and knowing what your capable of are two distinctly different things when it comes to a baseball team. The Braves are capable of beating the pants off a team one night and looking lost offensively the next – the Arizona series proved that. Maybe – if this team can ever have its projected starters on the field for more than two days without a calamity happening – they’ll figure out how to win on those nights when the offense isn’t causing nightmares for opposing pitchers.
Stat o’ The Week No. 1
A two-fer this week, as I found a few stats that seemed worth sharing. The first is this: No above-.500 team other than the Braves has more than two regulars (which I will define as the top eight (NL) or top nine (AL) on the team in plate appearances) with a strikeout rate of 30 percent or higher; in fact, only the Red Sox, with Mike Napoli and David Ortiz, have two such players. The Braves have three: Uggla, Upton the elder and Francisco.
Stats courtesy Fangraphs.com
What to Read
The aforementioned Beachy is looking at a mid to late June return from TJ surgery. This Mark Bowman piece addresses both Julio Teheran’s desire to remain in the rotation upon his return and Fredi Gonzalez’s potential six-man bullpen once Jason Heyward comes off the disabled list. While Bowman makes a compelling case for Teheran, he doesn’t address the elephant in the room – that is, if Teheran does stay in the rotation upon Beachy’s return, who moves to the bullpen or the minors? It won’t be Hudson, Minor or Maholm, and even though his numbers aren’t sparkling right now, I don’t see Medlen moving out of the rotation either. So it’s either Teheran or no one, it would seem. It’s also possible that Beachy goes to the ‘pen like Medlen did in the beginning of 2012.
If you only watch one game of the Dodgers series, make it…
The Dodgers Hyun-Jin Ryu is supposed to be the real deal – a southpaw Hideo Nomo, if you will. Eager to see what he’s got, and hope that Paul Maholm can bounce back from a rough last few starts (1-2, 5.00 ERA in his last three) on Friday night at the Ted. If you’re going down, do say hello to Austin Peay baseball alum A.J. Ellis, who’s starting behind the plate for the Dodgers and doing a fine job this season.
Stat o’ the Week No. 2
This year’s Braves have already been shut out six times. That compares favorably to the Marlins (seven times) and Astros (four), who are regarded far and wide as the two worst teams in baseball. The Mets and Cubs have COMBINED to be shut out half as many times.
Craig Kimbrel Fact No. 7
Craig Kimbrel’s 100 saves > JFK’s 100 days
About Colby Wilson
Colby Wilson is a free-lance columnist for the Clarksville Sports Network. He enjoys some of the finer things in life, but is at his most content lounging on the couch watching sports. If you like what he wrote, let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org; if you didn’t, keep it to yourself, okay?
Web Site: http://www.clarksvillesportsnetwork
SectionsAtlanta Braves, Baseball, Featured Story, MLB, Sports, St. Louis Cardinals, Vanderbilt University
TopicsA.J. Ellis, American League, Andrelton Simmons, ARIZONA, Atlanta Braves, B.J. Upton, Boston Red Sox, Brandon Beachy, Braves, Brian McCann, Chris Johnson, Craig Kimbrel, Dan Uggla, David Ortiz, Doug Eddings, evan gattis, Freddie Freeman, Fredi Gonzalez, Gerald Laird, Hideo Nomo, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jason Heyward, Jonny Venters, jordan schafer, Juan Francisco, Julio Teheran, Los Angeles Dodgers, Mark Bowman, miami marlins, Mike Napoli, National League, New York Mets, Pqaul Maholm, Roger Clemens, Tommy John surgery, Twitter, Wade Davis