In a featured post for MLB.com, Anthony Castrovince takes note of what everybody who has looked at the Braves with an analytical eye has noticed: That the Braves starting rotation has basically beaten all odds to be as wildly successful as they've been. In fact, not even the Braves' legendary rotations of old that included Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz have gotten off to as good of a start as this crew has, as the Braves rotation currently has an ERA of 1.57. From the article:
...According to the Elias Sports Bureau, you have to go all the way back, oddly, to the 1976 Brewers to find an opening statement this strong. The Brew Crew that year rode Jim Slaton, Bill Travers and Jim Colborn to an April ERA of 1.44 -- all with Hammerin' Hank Aaron looking on at the outset of his final season.
Now it's the Associated Press' turn to gush over the unlikely success of the Braves' "patchwork" rotation. Charles Odum of the AP notes that with Mike Minor coming back, Fredi Gonzalez now has an embarrassment of riches for starting pitching, and will have a very tough choice to make once Mike Minor returns. Also, to show how amazing this start has been:
Remember when we were all expressing concern when Freddy Garcia was cut after a solid Spring and was immediately replaced by a guy who didn't make Cleveland's roster? Well, that certainly feels like a long time ago, and Aaron Harang continues to truly defy all logic with his absolutely torrid start to the 2014 campaign. Bowman notes that it is extremely unrealistic to believe that this fortunate run will continue, but with Harang's confidence as high as it is, there's no reason to believe that his production would crater, either.
Prominent baseball writer Keith Law recently unveiled his Top 25 Under 25 list for the 2014 season, and there were 4 Braves on it, and most of them were near the top. Andrelton Simmons was #4, Freddie Freeman was #8, Jason Heyward was #11, and Julio Teheran was #15. 2 infielders, an outfielder, and a pitcher. That is an extremely solid foundation, and one that will be around in Atlanta for a long time.
Dave O'Brien's blog for the AJC is centered around the sustainability of the Braves' hot start to the season, especially the pitchers. While DOB is not the first to admit that the Braves starters probably can't keep it up, he does note that the batters can sustain their pace and improve as well, and the same goes for the bullpen too. DOB paints a very rosy picture for Braves fans in the article:
Enjoy it, Braves fans. Once again, your team was picked by almost everyone to finish behind the Nationals, and so far the Braves again lead them and have a heavy advantage in the head-to-head matchups.
League Wide News
A week after being admonished by his manager for lack of hustle, Bryce Harper tried to make up for it by trying to stretch a double into a triple and capping it off with a head-first slide into 3rd base. The slide got him 3rd base, but it also cost him the next 2 months of the season, as Harper ended up tearing a ligament in his left thumb. The injury will keep him out until July. It's another big injury blow for the Washington Nationals, and this certainly will not help them in their quest to achieve the lofty goals that the team had for this season.
Ryan Braun is currently hitting .318/.361/.591 with 6 HRs, 3 stolen bases, and 160 wRC+. That is pretty good, and he's played a huge role in the Milwaukee Brewers' amazing start to 2014, as they currently hold the best record in baseball at 18-6. Unfortunately, things may begin to slow down for Braun a bit, as he's been diagnosed with a strained oblique. He was initially diagnosed with an intercostal strain, but an MRI revealed the other, more nefarious injury. Oblique strains are very tricky injuries, so a return date for the mercurial outfielder hasn't been determined yet.
The headline above is the question that our friends at Beyond The Box Score attempted to answer yesterday, and as they do on a regular basis, they have a few tables, charts, and lots of numbers for you to digest as they attempt to answer that question. The bottom line, though, is that a hot start definitely helps things, which means that the Braves are in a very good position right now.
Last season, Baltimore Orioles outfielder David Lough plied his trade with the Kansas City Royals. This season, despite the fact that the Royals were winning this game quite handily, Lough got a bit of revenge on his old club by making an absolutely amazing diving catch. Seriously, watch this: