Thursday, April 27, 2006

Poking the Braves with a stick

When the Mets get their second crack at the Braves this weekend, they will be in the unfamiliar position of protecting a 5-game lead in the division. Despite scoring more runs than they've allowed, Atlanta is 9-12, which is enough to get me wondering if dethroning them might be even easier than I had expected.

Andruw Jones and Edgar Renteria (who will be back in the lineup against the Mets tomorrow) have hit very well, as has Brian McCann. Even without Chipper, the lineup is very respectable. One possible exception: I don't think enough is being made of just how awful Jeff Francoeur has been this year. When he was hitting .38o or whatever, everyone was talking about how his performance disproved the importance of drawing walks. Perhaps now that pitchers have learned not to throw strikes, the buzz has died down considerably.

As for the pitching staff, I'm a fan of Hudson's, but Smoltz is another player whose age makes a return to form less than bankable. Kyle Davies and John Thomson are both good, but...

-- You know what, I'm changing my thesis mid-post. The Braves probably aren't going to suck. Don't get me wrong, I still don't think they're as good as the Mets, but I was hoping to see a withered husk of a our long-time tormentors. They've got a good deal of offensive talent themselves, and they're rotation is no worse than average. So I'll make a few more points but without an eye towards robbing them of their dignity as a franchise --

Anyway back to how their pitching is not what it once was: The departure of Leo Mazzone is a good explanation for Jorge Sosa suddenly jumping back down the balance sheet from "asset" to "liability." I'm not sure that's actually it, but for whatever reason he's been horrendous.

Separate from the Mazzone effect, more in John Schuerholz's sphere of influence, is the fact that the pitching staff is not exactly awash in talent. In addition to name-brand old reliever Mike Remlinger, the team is carrying a guy named Kenny Ray who is 31 and prior to this season had pitched in 11.1 major league innings (in 1999). Given how few in the ATL bullpen has much of a track record of effectiveness, Joey Devine should be given more of a chance.

I still have a visceral dislike of the Braves which I can only attribute to equal parts Northeastern provincialism and the resentment accrumulated over the course of this embarrassingly one-sided rivalry. "The Team? The Time?" I sure hope so.


Lastings Milledge has taken his game to the next level. He still hasn't shown the ability to hit home runs (1 in 70 AB), which you'd like to see, but he's been doing plenty of everything else. He's hitting .400/.522/.600, walked more than he's struck out, and is 6-8 stealing bases in his first exposure to Triple-A. I still don't think it's at the point where we start cursing Nady for blocking him, but that day could come a lot sooner than I was expecting.


Anonymous said...

Can't believe you rolled on Keith like that.

Doyle said...

I was a little kid when last I was a fan. I reserve the right to later find him to be kind of a douchebag [I'll use "douchebag" in the trenches of the comments section].