Howard Megdal of Sports On Earth recently spent some time with Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez to discuss all things Andrelton Simmons. Among them is the obvious fact that Simmons is absolutely amazing on defense, proving himself to be one of the most talented players in baseball today. But could he be as good as The Wizard himself, Ozzie Smith? Megdal notes that he may not be far off...
Even a league average offensive career would blow away [Ozzie Smith], and his career OPS+ of 87. So far in 2014, [Simmons has] been better than that, with a 116 OPS+ entering Tuesday night's action. For handy reference, Derek Jeter's career OPS+ is 117. So yes, it's obscenely early -- but you try to come up with a comp for a guy who is Ozzie Smith on defense and Derek Jeter on offense.
Remember back in March when all hope was lost for the Braves because of the fact that their rotation was ravaged with the loss of Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen to Tommy John Surgery? It seems like it was a long time ago, but it was only last month. However, the stellar performances are making most fans forget about those dark days pretty quickly with a start to the season that, according to Mark Bowman even the HOF trio of Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz couldn't deliver.
...The Braves find themselves sitting atop the National League East primarily because of the splendid performance of a rotation that has started this season more impressively than any of the storied Greg Maddux/Tom Glavine/John Smoltz staffs that graced Atlanta during the 1990s.
Our own Tony Almeyda was the man covering the Braves-Marlins series for us here at Talking Chop, and he got to write about a boatload of strikeouts. So many that it broke a National League record for strikeouts in a 3-game regular season series, a record that had stood since 1914!
League Wide News
One of the vital cogs of the 2013 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox made his 2014 debut yesterday, as OF Shane Victorino finally came off of the disabled list after battling a hamstring injury and a flu to top things off. Victorino bounced back from a disappointing 2012 in a major way by hitting .294/.351/.451 with 15 HR, 21 stolen bases, and 119 wRC+ for a fWAR of 5.6, and it's pretty obvious that the currently 10-13 Red Sox are excited to have him back in the 2-slot in their lineup.
Yet another pitcher has fallen victim to elbow ligament issues, and this time it's young Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova. Nova struggled in his 4 starts this season, accumulating an ERA of 8.27 and a FIP of 6.80, and the bad elbow clearly had something to do with it. Nova will undergo the surgery next Tuesday and it will by done by, you guessed it, Dr. James Andrews.
In morbidly hilarious news, Tommy John surgeries have gotten so out of hand this season that the namesake of Tommy John surgery had to say something about it. Yesterday, Tommy John himself came out and said that it was "unreal" that all these pitchers needed Tommy John surgery. So far this season, 21 pitchers in baseball (both minors and majors and thanks to Fangraphs for the link) have gone under the knife for the elbow ligament surgery, which in baseball is basically an epidemic. As you all know, the Braves had 3 pitchers (Beachy, Medlen, and Cory Gearrin) go down in the span of two months, so I think that we're all inclined to agree with Tommy John here.
So as to not end this on a low note while taking about elbow surgeries, here's a video of Desmond Jennings making a fantastic catch during yesterday's Rays-Twins tilt. The Rays may not have won the game, but Jennings won himself a spot on some highlight reels so that's always nice.