Today the Braves will play their 32 game of the year, marking about 1/5 of the season being over. The season started with a rough 0-4 start that many people felt like the world was over. But since then, the Braves have took off. They’ve went 19-8 over the next 27 games, losing only 1 series during that stretch. They lead the majors in scoring and are tied for 1st place in the NL east with the surprising Nationals. The pitching has been as expected as well.
There have been very few surprises so far this year. If you read my first blog, I said Michael Bourn was going to have a great year with it being a contract year: he’s leading all major leader lead off men and doing a great job setting the table for the rest of the line up. I expected a turn around and a monster year from Jason Heyward and he’s positioning himself to have one. I expected Jair Jurrjens to be out of the rotation, but I expected it to be via trade and not a demotion. He’s been about the only big surprise (although it certainly wasn’t unexpected) on this team. The last pleasant surprise is Chipper Jones. The old man is going out with a bang. When he’s played the Braves are averaging more runs per game, a higher batting average per game, and have a better win percentage. He said he doesn’t want a pity vote all-star selection because it’s his last year, but he’s certainly playing like an all-star right now. He’ll probably get plenty of rest and, as expected, Juan Francisco has provided some pop when he’s filled in as his replacement.
To get back on Jurrjens for a second, it’s going to take him trusting that his knee is completely healed and alright before he’s going to be back to being a quality pitcher. He obviously will never match the way he started the season last year (he was playing out of his mind during that stretch) but he should return to be a decent starter. His problem, when looking at his delivery this year and last year, is that he doesn’t drive off the surgically repaired knee, and it’s causing his command to be off and causing his pitches to have no movement. This is why he’s been getting hammered. I don’t see him being traded now, because no one wants him. He’s ruined any hopes of that. If he doesn’t get back to form, don’t be surprised if he’s non-tendered in the off-season with the large amount of pitching depth the Braves have.
Lastly, to touch on the minors, Sean Gilmartin has had a string of bad luck with his 6 starts, going 0-4, but his numbers have been stellar. He’s just getting no run support. In 38 innings, he’s given up just 15 runs, and has an 18-6 strikeout to walk ratio. His WHIP is at 1.079, which is Roy Halladay territory. Julio Teheran had one bad outing in the minors but has bounced back nicely. He’s pitched 22 innings and has a 1.286 WHIP, with 20-11 strikeout to walk ratio. The walk rate is a bit high but I wouldn’t be too concerned this early in the season. Andrelton Simmons is in AA and is red hot. he’s hitting .320 with 2 triples, 13 RBIs, and 6 stolen bases. If he keeps up these numbers, he’ll be moved up to AAA soon and could be in Atlanta during the September call ups. However, the hottest player in the Braves farm system right now is Evan Gattis, who was recently promoted to AA. Between Class A-Advanced and AA, he’s hit 12 homers and has a .384 batting average. He has a ridiculous 1.295 OPS. He’s been converted to left field from catcher and could be the power bat Atlanta needs next year when Chipper retires and Prado moves to 3rd. Don’t be surprised to see him in the majors soon if he keeps up the numbers he’s been putting up.
To end, this season has been a shocking one for many reasons. No one expected the Nationals to be as good as they have been. They will regress some, with their young pitching not quite ready for the big time. Bryce Harper was called up last week and proving why he’s such a special talent. The Phillies on the other hand, have been plagued with injuries so far. They’re in last place in the NL east, but don’t expect them to stay there all season. I still see the Braves and Phillies battling it out and finished 1-2 in the East. Despite the great start by the Braves, and poor start by the Phillies, I still can’t say which will finish on top. The Braves can’t seem to beat the Phillies for whatever reason. The other obvious story to mention doesn’t really relate to the Braves at all, but Albert Pujols has zero home runs so far this season with the Angels.