I am posting this before the series preview today, as I have this ready before the preview. The series preview should be up early tomorrow morning. Anyways, to preview the upcoming Miami Marlins-Atlanta Braves two-game series, I had a chat with Fred Owens, the senior staff writer, at Fansided’s Atlanta Braves site, Tomahawktake. If you ever get a chance, head over to the site and read some of the best and most entertaining Braves news on the internet.
Without any further ado, here is a look at the chat that Tom and I had last night, regarding this upcoming series:
Ehsan: The Atlanta Braves offense has been one of the elite offenses early on? What is the cause of this dramatic turnaround from last seasn? Is this something that should continue going forward or do you see the Braves regressing?
Fred: The Braves fired Larry Parrish after last season (though Fredi should have dumped him earlier as everyone was going backwards under him) and replaced them with former White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher was hired for a hybrid role as assistant hitting coach — a new position for the Braves — and advance scout. They’ve clearly undone the damage “swing early everybody” Parrish had done. A second factor is health. While Parrish screwed Jason Heyward up initially, his shoulder injury never allowed him to feel comfortable at the plate. This year he’s able to extend his arms and drive the ball the opposite way; Ask the Cards. Martin Prado is now fully recovered from the staph infection he got in a slide burn on his leg. Staph infections drain the body of it’s reserves so he tired early and wasn’t as strong when he returned. He’s back now. Freddie Freeman’s sophomore slump lasted about 10 days then he returned to his rookie year form and is a fixture in the three slot – Even Chipper Jones says he’ll be there for a long time. Michael Bourn’s killing the ball like he did in Houston the first half of last year. When he’s on he changes the game, much like Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio do for you. Brian McCann is slumping. I think the shift is inside his head a bit, I pity the pitcher that opens the door because Mac’s ready to kick it in. He turned on and just missed a 97mph Aroldis Chapman heater last night. He’s close to back but slumps are hard to predict. Tyler Pastornicky has been a surprise to those who didn’t watch his minor league career. He has always hit and he continues to do so. The 8th spot is not conducive to a big average but he’s had big hits with RISP and his wheels have earned him a couple of infield hits too. The hitters are mostly where they project o be. Bourn will probably regress a bit as the year wears on his and everyone will have slumps but these are good hitters – Well except Dan Uggla who as you know is either hitting extra base knocks or striking out – and over all will continue to produce. Injuries are the issue that changes that of course and Chipper’s presence. Even hitting 6th he changes the lineup and he’s been nails with RISP this year.
Ehsan: A year and a half after the fact, do you still favor the Marlins-Braves swap of Dan Uggla for Omar Infante? Infante has surprisingly been just as productive as Uggla during the span.
Fred: That’s a good question and I alluded to it in the previous answer. The truth is Infante’s year with us was probably a career year for him and we needed right handed thump. I prefer Prado at second – so does he – but apparently Uggla can’t –or won’t – play left field. If he was just a 1 WAR fielder we could survive that. Truthfully he hasn’t yet cost us but his defense – range and throws as you know – is bad enough he wouldn’t play without 30+ and 80 every year. But yep we needed the power bat from the right side and will need another when Chipper goes after this year, so I still favor the trade. The 5 year contract is a different matter but perhaps the a DH position in his future?
Ehsan: What’s been up with the Braves pitching this season? The Braves are currently ranked 21st in ERA, while their division foes, the Marlins, Phillies, and Nationals, all rank in the top 5. Is this something that is correctable for the Braves?
The year started with Tim Hudson out, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson coming off spring training still trying to find their groove and Randall Delgado as the least bad between him and Julio Teheran this spring. Mike Minor had a chip on his shoulder and started out to prove folks wrong. He did that but has regressed a bit his last three starts. Part of that is our lack of days off, we’re just getting the minimum to start the year more than likely a result of the commissioners’ urgency in adding a wild card. Brandon Beachy continues to improve every outing and Delgado has been horribly unlucky. He went 6 2/3 last night of magnificent baseball and gave up one run when Pastornicky acted like the rookies he is and misplayed the third out of the inning. We just don’t hit when he pitches. In his last 4 starts we’ve scored 2 or less runs but he’s been superb, better than I expected. Hanson is the enigma. I’ll just link you to my post on him http://tomahawktake.com/2012/
Jurrjens is doing okay at Gwinnett but he’s not topping 90 much anymore so when he misses his spots he gets killed and he was missing them badly enough that when Hudson returned we sent him down. I think he and Hanson both have shoulder issues that haven’t been seen yet. After listening to John Smoltz and Al Leiter talk about their labrum issues and reading about Michael Pineda I think it’s safe to say that When the labrum gets a little loose the first thing to go is location. But that may not show up in an an ordinary MRI. But, what do I know? JJ however can pitch at 88 and get away with it when he’s on. Hanson can’t as I wrote. I don’t think Johnny Venters is getting enough work so he was all over the place last night. On the road trip his second game in two days was much better as was Michael O’Flaherty’s. Fredi has finally decided not to use Chad Durbin for more than one batter or in a last out of the pen role. Livan Hernandez has settled nicely into his role and after facing Beachy at 94 Delgado at 93 to see Livan just screws up hitter’s swings entirely. Since we left Colorado we’re pitching to a 3.28 ERA even after allowing the Cards 7 in St Louis. Don’t know if that answered your question
Ehsan: Can you tell us a bit more about Jason Heyward and his revival this season?.
I think I answered that in the first question. Heyward said last year his shoulder injury prevented him from extending his arms with power so he rolled over pitches and the became double plays instead of hits. He’s fit and back in a groove now going to all fields like he did his rookie year when Posey stole his RoY award. He has his issues and he’s not yet and may never be what some expected – Billy Williams reincarnated with speed – but he can be a force.
Ehsan: Which pitching match-up are you looking forward to see this series? Which pitcher/hitter match-up?
I like Mark Buehrle – Mike Minor. Minor could become Buehrle-esque one day. I have always admired Buehrle’s steady approach and rapid pace. Minor does that when he’s on and I have a feeling seeing Buehrle pitch up close will be a learning experience. Glavine can help him and has but they are different pitchers. Besides I like quick, well pitched games – as long as we win of course – and this one should be that in spades. Pitcher/ Hitter is something I don’t really think about. Stanton has been hard on us in the past so seeing him against Venters will be interesting. For that matter seeing Hanley Ramirez against Venters when he’s right will be interesting.
Ehsan: What are your predictions for this series? Who will step up for the Braves, who will take a step back?
The Marlins always give us trouble and good lefties have have had their way with us the last couple of years so I expect the first game to be tight. If Minor bounces back to his form of two weeks ago we could have a 2 hour game 1-0. Of course when I say that they’ll both be gone after 3 and it will be 14-16 or something stupid. I think the former is a better guess. Minor and McCann are the regulars who need to shake off their troubles. I think Minor will be back but probably not dramatically back. McCann’s faced Buehrle three times and is 2 –3 with a double and he loves to see Ricky Nolasco to the tune of a career .340/.360/.787/1.147 with 6 homers, 3 doubles, and 19 RBI’s. So he is a step up candidate.
Ehsan: Bonus Question: How many homers will Giancarlo Stanton hit this series?
Topics: Atlanta Braves, Brandon Beachy, Brian McCann, Chad Durbin, Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla, Emilio Bonifacio, Freddie Freeman, Giancarlo Stanton, Hanley Ramirez, Jair Jurrjens, Jason Heyward, John Smoltz, Jose Reyes, Julio Teheran, Livan Hernandez, Mark Buehrle, Martin Prado, Miami Marlins, Michael Bourn, Michael Pineda, Mike Minor, Omar Infante, Randall Delgado, Ricky Nolasco, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson