The 2014 MLB season has completed its first full week of games, and the Atlanta Braves escaped by winning two of three in both of their road series to open the season, taking the back two games against the Milwaukee Brewers and taking the opening two games from division rival Washington Nationals.
One of the most difficult things about being a big baseball fan is not getting too excited or disappointed with early season results (after all, we still have 156 games left to play), and finding the right balance of positives and negatives is of the utmost importance, or else you’ll drive yourself crazy in the first six or seven weeks in the season.
In this (hopefully) weekly segment here at ATL All Day, we will take a look at how the previous week went for the Bravos, and talk about things that have gone right, some things that have gone wrong, and talk about what they mean for the outcome of the season.
What have we learned? Thing 1 – The pitching is fine: I feel like a broken record, but I’ll say it again – yes, the Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy injuries hurt, and there was some justified concern for how their replacements would step up. But, to say or think that the pitching rotation was in shambles was silly from the get go. Julio Teheran and Alex Wood have pitched very well in their first two games (and there’s all the irony in the world with Wood’s first two starts – he gets taken out in a mid-90′s pitch count and everyone jabs at Fredi Gonzalez as to why he was taken out, yet today he gives up the game-winning home run on his 98th pitch), but I don’t think anyone was more impressive to start the year than David Hale against Washington. While he didn’t get the win, he also didn’t allow a run, and went five full impressive innings and striking out four. And, while he did allow seven base runners, none of them crossed the plate – a fine job of limiting any damage in an already playoff-like atmosphere.
The starters aren’t the only ones who should get all the credit. Bullpen newbies Gus Schlosser and Ian Thomas were impressive in their first week of MLB throwing, combining for 3.3 innings, three hits, two walks, four strikeouts and only a single run allowed. Can’t wait to see what these guys do throughout the year, as they have already become favorites of mine.
Finally, we must touch on the early season success of Craig Kimbrel. Already three saves here in 2014, he has allowed opposing batters to have zero success, and has six strikeouts in his nine batters faced. Welcome back, C.K.
What have we learned? Thing 2 – The long ball is here to stay. Not that anyone thought the power was going to leave, but it has made a triumphant return here in 2014. Through the first six games, the Braves have gone yard (or mammo, or yickety) six times, accounting for all but a hand full of their 15 total runs through the first week. Unfortunately, with great power comes great responsibility, and the Braves (outside of Saturday’s 6-2 win) are having trouble manufacturing runs. They have faced some stout pitching to begin the season, and quite frankly, have gotten lucky, and will have to find a way to convert base runners into runs without leaving the yard.
What have we learned? Thing 3 – The Braves have been successful without big bats. Jason Heyward (3-23), B.J Upton (3-25), Justin Upton (4-22) and Dan Uggla (5-23) have started the season less than stellar at the plate. The Uptons have yet to record an RBI and B.J. is the only Brave starter to not cross the plate himself. Dan Uggla has been a pleasant surprise, and while he isn’t getting on base a whole lot (yet), his swing already looks better and is making better contact than he did last year. We knew coming in that Uggla and B.J. would be season-long works in progress, but we frankly aren’t used to seeing Heyward and Justin struggle at the beginning of the season like this. Hopefully, it’s just an early-season funk, and the friendly confines of Turner Field can help the fellas bust out of it.
All in all, there are things to be happy with and things that raise concern after six games, but again, it’s six out of 162. Some things are going to work themselves out and unfortunately, others are going to be season long trends. A 4-2 start is just what the doctor ordered, and frankly what many Braves fans thought would happen, to begin the campaign.
Let’s bring this show back home.