Our Braves have dropped the last two against the rival Phillies, and our offense was stymied by the pitching of Kyle Kendrick, Roy Halladay, and Jamie Moyer. There are some of you who believe the team is in serious jeopardy, even at this early juncture. Sure, it was a rough series, save for some magic in the first game, but take a second to compare this team to where we were at the same time last year.
So Melky Cabrera, Nate McLouth, and Matt Diaz aren't producing yet. Still, Heyward's contributions alone are better than last year's black hole of suck in the OF with FUGA, FYF, and Schafer. I would be highly surprised if at least two of our outfielders don't get things turned around in the next couple of weeks. These guys start getting on, the guys in the middle of our lineup will get better pitches to hit. Either way, it's better than people clamoring for Gregor Blanco last year.
Sure, Troy Glaus hasn't been hitting at a high clip, and has had disappointing results in key situations. But he has hit two fairly momentous moonshots in the late stages of games. This alone puts him miles ahead of last year's five-hole hitter (FUGA) and first baseman (Kotchman). I don't think anyone expected Glaus to hit .350 and get 125 RBIs this season. Once he starts hitting on a more regular basis, McCann's going to get a lot more pitches to hit. He's not going to provide the same sort of protection that Holliday will provide Pujols, but for the price, Glaus will prove to be the much better deal.
When the offense does show up and the Braves are in the lead late, this bullpen puts the hammer down. With the exception of one mistake to Renteria, the Firm of Moylan, Saito, and Wagner has not come close to losing a case. At this time last year, we were wondering whether it would be Soriano or Gonzalez that would blow it or narrowly escape late. This bullpen is looking crazy good so far. The Chavez trade looks better every time he pitches, Medlen and O'Flaherty keep throwing quality innings in big situations, and Venters has been lights out thus far. If a starter got scratched or if there were a rain delay early in the game, that would be Jeff Bennett time last year. Ugh. This year we have Medlen.
Last year, Jo-Jo Reyes was our fifth starter, maybe even fourth over Kawakami. I don't believe I have to say more than that.
If the Braves need a clutch pinch hit, this year we can call on Eric Hinske, who has been raking thus far. Last year, that would be Greg Norton territory. Greg Norton sucks more than any vacuum ever could hope to. We also still have the best backup catcher in the league in David Ross. It is quite a luxury to not lose all production out of the catcher's position when McCann gets his days off. Infante continues to be a quality utility player.
We are definitely not hitting at the rate the players are capable, but it's still better than last year. At this point last year, there was next to no production from 1B, 2B, RF, CF, LF, and P. If it wasn't Yunel Escobar, Brian McCann, or Chipper Jones driving runs on a given night, NO ONE was driving in runs.
The games the 2010 Braves won on Sunday and Tuesday are the games that the 2009 Braves would have lost. Either the bullpen would have given up so many runs in the top of the eighth and ninth to make a comeback impossible, or the trio of Kotchman, FYF, KJ would tap out weakly against the opposing closer to lose in the bottom of the ninth. This team has the never-say-die attitude that winners have. We didn't find this attitude until August last year, but this year they've found it in April.
There's a reason we have high expectations for this team. This is a VERY good team. They aren't hitting as well as they can. The starting pitching hasn't been as sharp as it could have been. We've played a pretty monstrous opening schedule, and have come out with a winning record despite it. Through 15 games last year, the Braves were 7-8, and 9 of those games against the Natinals and the Pirates. Every team will win 60 games, every team will lose 60 games. It's what you do in the other 42 that determines whether or not the season is a success.
So for those of you who are panicking and calling for changes to the lineup: take a moment and be thankful about how improved this team is from last year. Give it some time before you call the season a failure. This team is special, and you don't want to jump off the bandwagon before it even starts, because those of us here at TC will not let you back on later.