A week or so ago, Ryan asked what we thought the Braves’ primary needs will be at the trade deadline. In yesterday’s game, they scored 5 runs in the top of the first. For the game they had sixteen hits—and five of those were home runs (TDA, RAJ, Riley, and Olson twice). For the month of June, the team has averaged about seven runs per game. I don’t think hitters will be on the shopping list.
Since the Braves are in Cincinnati, it occurred to me to compare this Braves’ lineup to the Big Red Machine of the mid-seventies. That team had four Hall of Famers (if you count Rose) and four other all star caliber players in the regular lineup. Looking just at OPS+ up and down the lineup, the production of this Braves team so far this year is not far off from those teams.
Back to yesterday’s game: despite all that offense, the Reds topped the Braves 11-10. After jumping to that early five run lead, the pitchers gave up eleven runs in the 2nd through 6th innings. Still, the Hammers scored three in the eighth to pull within a run, only to fall short with the tying run on base in the ninth. The Braves actually outhit the Reds 16-9 on the game, but Braves’ pitchers surrendered four dingers themselves, along with 6 BB and 3 HBP. That many free passes in a kiddie size ball park like the one in Cincy is not advisable. Look at this line for McHugh: in one inning of work, he allowed two hits with no walks and two strikeouts. But he gave up four earned runs! That’s what hitting a couple of batters can lead to in this video game stadium.
So to the extent AA is in the market next month, he will be shopping in the arms aisle. Commenters here and elsewhere rag on our bullpen. And there have certainly been some failures. But yesterday Yates and Jimenez both held the Reds scoreless. They are both rounding into form. Minter is back, and Anderson remains solid. Iglesias has his moments, but he is fine.
Although it wouldn’t hurt to add a reliever or two, the greater need is starting pitching. Our young Rembrandt (we need to use Snowshine’s nickname for Smith-Sawver—see Balaam and the Ass – Wikipedia) got roughed up for the first time. Remember it was only his third big league start. Shoot, since he only started pitching about three years ago, the total number of starts in his life is probably smaller than the number of stolen bases Ronald will get this year.
Elder appears to be for real, and Strider is back on track. Morton is a fine fourth or fifth starter—and a terrific mentor. If Fried comes back strong next month, and if Michael Soroka is ready (and his last three starts in AAA signal that may be the case), it’s an excellent five man rotation. But counting on all of that is a bit dicey. Counting on rookies like AJ S-S and Jared Shuster is an even bigger risk. I’ve got confidence that both of those guys can be solid big league pitchers. But I’d much rather not have to count on either come October.
Speaking of Jared Shuster, he must face this potent Reds’ lineup this afternoon in the Great American Bandbox. I could hardly sleep last night imagining the prospect; I can’t imagine how he must feel about it. But with this Braves offensive juggernaut behind him, I still like our chances. The Reds counter with Graham Ashcraft, whose ERA is 6.78 and WHIP is 1.62. Hold them to four in five innings, Jared, and the Braves should be fine.
This recap will do double duty as the game thread for today’s 4:10 start.