As we get you prepared for the Marlins series with division foe Atlanta, we took some time out to talk to Brandon Woodworth from our Atlanta Braves Fansided site Tomahawk Take. We asked him some questions about the Braves and their fast start and got some interesting answers.
MM: The Braves have been playing some great ball to start the season. With a pitching staff decimated by injuries my first question is, how?
Woodworth: Well this certainly isn’t an easy question to answer! I believe this is the benefit to having a very well rounded team. Offensive explosions from Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman aside, every member of the team is getting it done night by night. Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton are still struggling slightly, but both have put up some big games here in the early going, Evan Gattis has contributed to some big games. On any given night, any one of the Braves hitters could step up and get that clutch hit or make that clutch play. Another huge factor has been the dominating starting pitching. While the bullpen has been a little shakier than Atlanta is used to, it helps that Braves starters are averaging north of six innings per start. Teheran and Wood were expected to start strong, but an as advertised Ervin Santana and a ridiculously lucky Aaron Harang are the biggest factors to the Braves early success. And on top of this, Mike Minor has yet to join the rotation, and Gavin Floyd is nearing a return from his Tommy John surgery. As foolish as it sounds, the best may be yet to come for Atlanta.
MM: They have accomplished quite a lot despite a relatively slow start by Jason Heyward, any concern surrounding him?
Woodworth: I personally don’t have any, and most fans shouldn’t either. Heyward is striking out a bit more than we’d like, but he still has a ridiculous walk rate and has been a victim of bad luck early on (currently sporting a .159 BABIP). He’s hitting the ball hard but it does not seem to land very often. A really positive sign is that he seems to be running again. All in all, I’m sure he’ll even out eventually.
MM: The Braves spent a lot of money recently to lock up some players they view as their future. Anyone that they left out or shouldn’t have included?
Woodworth: A lot of people in the industry feel the Craig Kimbrel deal was a mistake, and while I’m inclined to be cautious, I can’t say I agree with them. Kimbrel is, simply put, the best reliever in the game, so trying to keep him in Atlanta for the big move to Cobb County was always going to take a lot of money. I say better now than later. He’s still only 26, so if you sign a reliever to a long term deal, this is the time. I’m a big advocate of holding on to fan favorite players as long as it’s the right time, and now is certainly the right time for Kimbrel. He’s no B.J. Ryan or Brandon League. I would love to see the Braves lock up Heyward to a long term deal, but I feel it was probably out of their reach more than left out. The two year deal was nice, but Heyward and Freeman would be a heck of a duo to bring into the new stadium.
MM: Could you preview the pitchers that the Marlins will face this series?
Woodworth: Julio Teheran has been in cruise control since his rocky Opening Day start. His strikeout totals leave some to be desired, but he’s putting the ball where he wants, and making hitters make contact with the ball the exact way he wants it consistently this year. As long as he keeps limiting the longball, Marlins hitters will probably face a huge challenge. Alex Wood has been every bit as good, but with the strikeouts and the slight tendency to surrender a homer. Wood is a more straightforward and commanding pitcher, pounding the strike zone with more aggression than Teheran. Aaron Harang is having some sort of amazing run here in early 2014. The veteran seems to have improved his velocity in the offseason, and it’s helped him rack up some big strikeout totals. But, he has walked quite a few (12 walks in 25.2 innings), so the Marlins could capitalize on patience. By all accounts, Harang is an anomaly, and there really is no good explanation to why he is doing what he is doing I’m afraid. His is going to be an interesting game to watch.
MM: Any bold predictions for the upcoming series?
Woodworth: I think Alex Wood will outpitch Jose Fernandez, not something I have an easy time saying (I love that guy)!
There you have it. We want to thank Brandon for taking the time to help us get ready for the series that kicks off tonight in Atlanta. Be sure to check out Tomahawk Take for the best information on the Atlanta Braves and keep checking back with us at Marlin Maniac throughout the series!