Rob Neyer — MLB – New Braves aren’t necessarily improved

Or maybe they are. Or maybe they’re just about as good as last year? What people forget is that the Braves went 101-59 last year… Rob does mention the improvements of Furcal and Giles, but fails to point out that Giles actually getting to play is an improvement.

And, of course, it’s the Braves offense that’s carrying the load. They’re third in the NL in runs, and if you adjust for the parks probably second to St. Louis (since the Rockies are first). It’s an unusual offense in that it’s a batting average/power based scheme. They’re second (to the Cards again) in average and (to the Reds) in homers. They’re second (still to the Cards) in OPS and slugging, fourth in OBP, but twelfth in walks. On the other hand, they’re not striking out. Only the Cards (again!) and Astros have struck out less.

Do you know what this reminds me of? Last year’s Angels. It took awhile for anyone to believe in them, too. The Braves are putting the ball in play and getting good offense without walks. I’ll probably get kicked out of the sabermetrics club for this, but it’s a lot more fun than watching the damned Yankees draw millions of walks and hit three run homers.

I don’t see why they can’t keep it up. Yes, batting averages are somewhat unstable. But since they’re not striking out and they are hitting the ball hard, and if they can keep htat up, they’ll be in good shape to keep the average up, which will offset the low walk totals. And this is a good “on paper” offense. All three outfielders are former All-Star caliber hitters (and all were hurt some last year), Giles is a player who’s always hit, and Fick/Franco is more than solid as a platoon. If Vinny and Javy don’t suck the offense down and Furcal keeps — if drawing walks like 2000 is too much to ask — hitting the ball hard and hustling, they’ll keep scoring runs. Enough to hold off the Phillies? We’ll see.

4 thoughts on “Rob Neyer —”

  1. Your comments inspired me to do a quick comparison of OPS for those getting the majority of playing time at their positions (numbers are 2002/2003/change):

    C – Javy – 670/808/+138
    1B – Francos/Fick – 825/920/+95 (approx)
    2B – Lockhart/Marcus – 613/982/+369 (!)
    SS – Furcal – 710/854/+144
    3B – Vinny – 616/690/+74
    LF – Chipper – 972/899/-73
    CF – Andruw – 878/894/+16
    RF – Sheff – 916/1084/+168

    Now, obviously that’s not all weighted for playing time. The overall team OPS was 741 in 2002, 805 in 2003. Gotta love that.

    And gotta love the absence of Keith Lockhart.


  2. Neyer’s analysis should have included the fact that almost everyone in the Braves’ lineup had subpar offensive years last year in some way. Last year, we all were saying put in Giles and take away Lockhart. Vinny and Javy still aren’t anything to hoot about, but their production so far has been just a bit better. And Furcal, Andruw, Chipper, and Sheff seem to be hitting up to their collective potential.

    This team on paper was a potentially impressive offensive machine prior to this season, and the “surprise” is just that they’re actually living up to it (so far) rather than just doing enough to barely scrape by, a strategy that seemed to work last year.

  3. I agree with Rob the big issue for this team will be the bullpen. Smoltz is, of course, dominant, but the setup team is still being worked out. Hernandez has looked good recently and Bong pretty good, but I’m not sold on anyone else. Leo is certainly the right man for the job — he not only can help pitchers with control but is able to determine who “has it” and let them pitch.

    I wish Rob had mentioned that the “Free Marcus Giles” web stat-heads look pretty good right now.

  4. In addition to the shaky middle relief, what really bothers me about this team is the bench (nothing new there). Take a look at the hitting stats of the Braves’ reserves some time. Other than Julio Franco, they’re dreadful. When your best backup player is nearly 45, that’s a problem.

    The Braves are certainly a pleasant surprise this year, although I figured they still had a chance to win the NL East this season. But if they don’t add at least two or maybe three bench players who can hit before the playoffs (assuming they don’t collapse before then), they’ve got trouble again.
    Also, a major injury to one of the outfielders or middle infielders and this team is dead.

    Since they picked Julio up off the scrap heap a couple of years, think they could dig up Glenallen Hill or somebody like him to pinch hit a couple of times a week?

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