It's a dangerous business trying to draw conclusions about a team from the first week. There's a tendency to panic. After all, if Tim Hudson had two bad starts in a row in June, we wouldn't really notice. But two now and he's got an ERA of 12.38. Chipper hasn't hit a homer yet -- but if he goes a week without a homer in August, no one notices. Sample size. Sample size.
So I always ask -- is the first week confirming what we thought before? Is there a reason to expect things to change?
Analysis and a poll below the fold.
1) This is going to be a good offense, with a dynamite 1-4. I love Giles at leadoff and Renteria is looking like he did in his St. Louis prime. He will wear down over a full season -- but an OBP near .350 would be awesome. I'm very very happy I grabbed McCann for all my fantasy teams. Langerhans has started fast but we'll see if he can sustain it. He's young enough and athletic enough to have a big breakthrough this year. But he's had hot weeks before. The bench looks solid.
My biggest concern is 1B. I'm still not sold on the LaRoche-Jordan platoon, despite their great first week. They're not scary. Of course, scaring pitchers could be the job of the guy currently batting #6, which brings me to . .
2) Francoeur. Does anyone remember Andruw Jones' 1998? He finished the first week batting .083/.185/.083. By April 25, he was at .156/.217/.338. Everyone wanted him sent down but Bobby stuck with him. He finished .271/.321/.515 with 31 homers and has never looked back.
Frenchy doesn't look lost at the plate to me. He hasn't drawn a walk, he's striking out once every five times and he's not getting those hard shots he got last year. But he's hitting the ball the other way, getting some good hacks and has started pulling inside pitches again. If he's still hitting like this in May, I'll worry. But for now, let's see if he can adjust to the pitchers having adjusted to him.
3) This is going to be a good defense once again. Chipper has the only iron glove on the field. Renteria, Giles and LaRoche are a great defensive combo (and Betemit a good sub). The young legs in the corners can make up for Andruw's declining range. And that declining range has just moved him down from historic to gold glove caliber. Defense like that can make up for a lot of pitching woes.
Speaking of which . . .
4) I don't want to panic over the starting rotation. I can't remember the last time the Braves went a week with starting pitching this bad -- not one quality start (anyone know?). But the chances of Smoltz AND Hudson AND Davies collapsing is miniscule. I'm eager to see Chuck James step in -- flyball tendencies not withstanding. My biggest concern is Sosa. His peripherals weren't as good as his ERA last year and he could be exposed this year -- even with a good defense.
So let's not fire McDowell just yet.
4) I think the bullpen is going to be good but there isn't a single ace in the pen. Devine needs some work in Richmond; Reitsma is struggling again as closer (and I wrote that before he exploded against the bottom of the Giants' lineup); no one else has that dominating stuff you need. Basically, there's not a scary monster down there and the only one who has that potential -- Devine -- needs another year in AAA.
Anyway, they finished a season-opening road trip near .500. If the starting pitching comes around, we can even take some regression to the mean by the offense and contend. To be honest, my biggest concern right now is the lack of a bullpen ace.