Two issues last year prevented the Braves from making a run at a World Series title. We all saw the potential this team had but wondered if they could put it all together and make a serious run at a championship. As the wheels fell off last Sept there were 2 glaring holes in this club. The lack of production from the offense and the inability of our starters to pitch deep into games, causing our bullpen to wear down.
Well currently those two issues have been corrected in grand fashion. The Braves are firing on all cylinders offensively. They’re averaging just about 7.5 runs per game over their last 7 games. Very impressive considering they started out so slow to start the season. They are doing it with a balanced attack. In my opinion the strength of the Braves line up is that it has excellent depth. 1-8 we are as good as any team in the National League.
No we don’t have a “Josh Hamilton”, “Prince Fielder” or “Matt Kemp” type player. I don’t believe anyone in our line up at the moment is capable of hitting 45 home runs and driving in 125 runs. However we don’t need them to. With our depth we can afford to have certain guys heat up and cool down throughout the season and still maintain a balanced attack. When your offense relies on just 1 or 2 guys you can’t afford to have them get injured or slump, your offense will surely slow down. Right now Freeman and Heyward are probably the two hottest hitters in the line up. Freeman hit 2 balls out of the ball park last night and Heyward continued his impressive hitting streak as it reached 9 games. Maybe next week it will be McCann and Uggla carrying the line up. You never know. However I do know this. If your offense is being compared to the Texas Rangers then you are surely doing something right.
The other thing that’s impressed me over this stretch of good play is that our pitchers continue to get deep into games. Last night Fredi called upon Johnny Venters to come into a game in which we had an 8 run lead, just to “get some work” in. When would that ever have happened last season? Never. He was forced to use Venters, Kimbrel and O’Flaherty almost every game. All 3 of them were in the top 10 in Major League Baseball for relief appearances made. That’s a lot of stress on those young arms that so far we are avoiding this season.
Speaking of the bullpen. This is another great strength of the Atlanta Braves. Not only do we have the Big 3 at the back end of the pen to close out games, we also have Kris Medlen and Livan Hernandez to give us multiple innings on multiple days each week if needed. Having those rubber arms in the pen will take a lot of stress off the guys at the back end as the season goes on. Christian Martinez has also been very solid for us this year as well.
It’s still early but you have to feel very good if you’re a Braves fan. Not only is this team built for the future but it’s also built to win right now. A luxury that most teams don’t have. They are either in a win now mode like the Yankees and Phillies. Or in a rebuilding mode like the Royals and Astros.
So I think Braves fans have a lot to look forward to this season and many seasons to come.
By: Bob McVinua