It is easy to spot the flaws in a team or player. It is easy to point out the things that aren’t quite ideal with team, areas they could improve or upgrade at the trade deadline. But as the old scouting adage/common sense goes, if you spend all your time focusing on what’s wrong with teams or players, you aren’t going to like many players.
The Atlanta Braves are not without their shortcomings. Their vaunted outfield has been nothing short of a bust, basically producing at the same rate as the Padres outfield except for a lot more money and with much higher expectations.
The Braves defense leaves much to be desired, with the right side of their infield charitably grading out at “statuesque” and the catching corps is more adept at hitting baseballs than catching them. The rotation lacks a frontline ace and it currently trying to contend with losing its spiritual leader for the season after a freak injury.
They strike out too much and rely on the home run almost exclusively.
And yet, for all their faults, the Atlanta Braves have the third best record in the National League and sit atop the East division with a comfortable 8.5 game lead. Perhaps they aren’t so bad after all?
The flawed Braves just completed a three game series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals. Of all teams in baseball, the Cards appear the closest to “perfect.” They have enviable pitching depth, a true ace, above-average players at just about every position. The Cardinals lineup is stocked with homegrown players, forged deep inside their magic foundry; from which line drive-hitting orcs capable of playing multiple positions and pitcherbots throwing 95+ seem to emerge on a daily basis.
Yet the Braves trail the Cardinals by just two games in standings, thanks to their weekend sweep. The Braves pitching held the Cardinals to a mere three runs over the entire three game set.
One series does not make a season but the Braves remain a legitmate threat in the National League. Again, they are not a perfect team, as evidenced by their barely-above .500 record since mid-April. But all the wins count, and the entire season tells the story of a very good team that could be tough to stop.
Even without Tim Hudson, the Braves rotation remains formidable. Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Julio Tehran have all pitched very well for Atlanta, with Brandon Beachy on his way back from injury and rookie Alex Wood hoping to improve after a rough second outing.
The bullpen remains among the best in the league, held down by Craig Kimbrel at the back. Off-season trade acquisition Jordan Walden has pitched very well, solidifying his place as an excellent right-handed setup option to compliment lefites Luis Avilan and Eric O’Flaherty.
Those pitchers throw to two of the best offensive catchers in baseball, with Brian McCann wasting no time in picking up his All Star level play in a walk year while Evan Gattis hits like Chris Davis in Taylor Teagarden playing time. The overall defense is middling but Andrelton Simmons might be the best defender in the game today.
All of which is to say…don’t count out the Braves. That they’ve kept their heads above water (and well above the rest of their poor division) while getting next to nothing from the Uptons and Jason Heyward suggests the best might be still to come for this club. Again, three games doesn’t make a season but for a club destined for the playoffs, short series victories mean everything.
Game Chart of the Weekend
Load the bases with nobody out and you cannot score? Looks like it’s time to dust off the old “Giants baseball: torture” meme.
1-0 games are the new 10-9 games. Walkoff home run slides are the new walkoff home plate leap. Act like you knew.
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) July 29, 2013
The Dodgers struck out 20 times on Sunday afternoon. 20 strikeouts out of 32 total outs. I’m sure they’re really broken up about it. .
Manny Machado, still ridiculous
He might have fallen off the record-setting doubles pace but man oh man, can Manny Machado ever play the living crap out of third base. Who knew?
Wherein Mike Trout Believes His Own Hype
It isn’t a play you see attempted very often. Only the boldest of base runners attempt tagging at first base and advancing on a fly ball hit to center field. So far this season, I (unofficially) count about 21 instances this season of players advancing on the 1000-odd fly balls to second on just such a fly. Over the last two seasons, just six players have been caught trying to swipe an extra base in this fashion.
|2012-05-05||Juan Cruz||PIT||CIN||Ryan Ludwick||ahead 2-1||t7||Fly Ball: (Deep CF); Rolen out at 2B/CF-2B|
|2012-05-17||A.Wainwright||STL||SFG||Buster Posey||ahead 4-3||b5||Fly Ball: (Deep LF-CF); Cabrera out at 2B/CF-2B|
|2013-06-05||Tyler Thornburg||MIL||OAK||Yoenis Cespedes||down 1-6||t8||Fly Ball: (Deep CF); Jaso out at 2B/CF-SS|
|2013-06-23||Randall Delgado||ARI||CIN||Brandon Phillips||down 0-4||t5||Fly Ball: (Deep CF); Votto out at 2B/CF-2B|
|2013-07-22||Ubaldo Jimenez||CLE||SEA||Justin Smoak||ahead 1-0||b2||Fly Ball: (Deep LF-CF); Seager out at 2B/CF-3B-SS|
|2013-07-26||Bartolo Colon||OAK||LAA||Albert Pujols||ahead 4-2||t3||Fly Ball: (Deep CF); Trout out at 2B/CF-2B|
Mike Trout became the sixth on Friday night, attempting to run on Coco Crisp early in the game. Not the worst idea as Crisp’s arm is notoriously weak and Mike Trout is Mike Trout but…whoops.
Of the accidental double plays listed above, Michael Bourn doubling off Kyle Seager is probably my favorite as Bourn only threw as far as the cutoff man yet they still had time to gun down the Mariners third baseman.
Maybe, if you’re Mike Trout, just go ahead and steal the second base off the pitcher next time? He is the most difficult runner to throw out in baseball history, you think he’d go that route rather than taking the risky tack of advancing in this fashion.
Speaking of fashion, Trout’s Angels and Crisp’s A’s sure put on a fashion show Saturday afternoon. The halo on the Angels cap is a subtle touch.
Derek Jeter, seriously?
I mean, honestly…