There are few more reactionary groups of people than baseball fans during the season’s first couple of weeks, when that intoxicating combination of ceaseless optimism and hopeless realism makes fanbases nuttier than Terry Collins trying to figure out the new replay rules.
How you Cubs fans have spent 100 years wrestling with dueling ‘This is The Year!’ and ‘We’re the Cubs, we’re screwed’ thoughts at the same time is beyond me. No wonder you people are crazy.
This isn’t football; six games is nearly half a season in the NFL, but it’s barely a drop in the bucket in baseball terms.
Atlanta Braves (Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Yet in the deep dark recesses of some Twitter users minds, Emilio Bonifacio is finally reaching his potential while some ponder whether Bryce Harper and Yasiel Puig will ever ‘get it’. So it’s a good time of year for crazy people.
Offensively, last year’s Braves squad started out as an unsustainable house of fire, but the case could be made that was much of the problem last season: feast or famine.
No team in the National League struck out more; no team in the National League hit more home runs either. It’s been nice to see that they don’t mind playing some close ones at any rate.
Also, through the first two series, the Braves have scored just 14 runs; they scored 16 in the first two games last season. Less offense perhaps (Justin Upton certainly isn’t living up to the standard he bore last April) but more consistent, fewer strikeouts, better approach.
One thing that’s been almost universally agreed upon is that Dan Uggla is back to being Dan Uggla now.
What that means I’m not sure I’ve figured out yet since he’s still hitting a Belliard-like .217, but the general gist I get from the TV and radio guys is that he’s now able to see properly and is swinging with confidence.
There is a noticeable difference in his batting this season – it seems like he’s hitting the ball hard again, even if it’s just going right at people currently.
Anything that gets Uggla back to the guy that inspired his huge (for three years ago) contract will be a welcome surprise – people spent much of the offseason assuming he’d be released, traded or replaced.
But the most pleasant surprise, bar none, was Aaron Harang’s debut in Milwaukee, when he turned back the clock and twirled a no-hitter against the Brewers for six-plus innings.
Sure, he got it done with smoke and mirrors, relying a little less on his two-seamer and a little more on his slider. But when you’re an aging guy who didn’t have the best stuff to begin with, does it really matter how it gets done?
If the Braves never get anything else of value out of Harang, that was probably worth it. Sorry if that cheapens Freddy Garcia’s contributions.
Speaking of the starters, nobody eliminated themselves from contention for a rotation spot when Minor, Ervin Santana and Gavin Floyd get healthy.
NOBODY has given up more than two earned runs in any start and as impressive as the starters have been, the bullpen may be even better.
Rookie Gus Schlosser and David Carpenter are the only two Atlanta relievers to allow earned runs in the season’s first six games.
That hides a lot of early-season struggles at the plate, like from B.J. Upton (surprise), Justin Upton (actual surprise), Jason Heyward (hitting just .182 on balls in play) and Evan Gattis (when even the fantasy geeks are worried about you, that’s probably a bad sign). That’s half the lineup, by the way.
But it’s early. Heyward is young and talented and seems to like hitting lead-off. At least one Upton is going to be valuable at some point (probably).
‘Ervin Santana, Atlanta Braves starting pitcher’ becomes a reality Wednesday. If even Cubs fans can have a little optimism this time of year, there’s no reason for Braves fans to get too worked up about anything, especially not a 4-2 start.
What to Read
I’m actually not screwing around about Uggla; here, even actual well-respected journalists think he’s doing better.
Stat o’ the Week
It’s early, sample size is small, yada yada yada… however, the Mets (29 percent) and Braves (25.9) are first and second baseball in strikeout rate after the first week of play. It might be a good year to be Stephen Strasburg, Jose Fernandez and Cliff Lee is what I’m saying.
If you only watch one game of the Mets series, make it…
You should probably watch two games of the Mets series: the home opener, pitting Harang – winner of the ‘Who would be the strangest choice to open the Turner Field portion of Atlanta’s 2014 schedule?’ contest over Rick Ankiel and Johnny Sain – against Bartolo Colon, which would probably be a great matchup in 2004 but damned if it isn’t pretty intriguing this year. Oh, and Santana makes his debut Wednesday; even against the AAA-mazin’s, I’m excited to see what $14 million buys.
Old-timey baseball quote of the week
“Son, we’d like to keep you around this season but we’re going to try and win the pennant.” – Casey Stengel
Craig Kimbrel Fact No. 23
Before Barney, before Ted… Robin loved Craig Kimbrel.
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, Columnist, Featured Story, MLB, Professional Teams, Sports, Sports Leagues
TopicsAaron harang, April, Atlanta Braves, B.J. Upton, Bartolo Colon, Braves, Brewers, Bryce Harper, Casey Stengel, Chicago Cubs, Cliff Lee, Colby Wilson, Colby wilson's Braves Report, Craig Kimbrel, Cubs), Dan Uggla, David Carpenter, Emilio Bonifacio, Ervin Santana, evan gattis, football, Freddy Garcia, Gavin Floyd, Gus Schlosser, Jason Heyward, Johnny Sain, Jose Fernandez, Justin Upton, Mets, Mike Minor, Milwaukee, Milwaukee Brewers, National League, NFL, Rasiel Puig, Rick Ankiel, Stephen Strasburg, Terry Collins, Turner Field