Due to tropical storm Irene, the Braves are having their own little mini break. I thought it would be a good time to revisit my first blog article back in mid-June where I addressed my concerns heading into the season and what my concerns were at that point.
At the beginning of the season, my worries were:
1) Chipper’s health–This will continue to be an issue until the season ends. I think overall Chipper has done a really good job. Due to others’ injuries (Heyward and Prado), he played through alot of pain with his knee then used the all-star break to have surgery on that knee. He returned fairly quickly and has been effective (.279 avg,13 HR,58 RBIs). I think Fredi has done a good job getting him some off days. Chipper makes our lineup so much better; I don’t care what other empty-headed Braves fans say.
2) Will McClouth hit? I guess the answer to that was “No”, but the Braves’ front office took care of that problem by acquiring Michael Bourn. McClouth was hitting .228 when he went on the DL for sports hernia surgery. Now we have a real lead off hitter in Bourn, something we really haven’t had since Furcal. Bourn is hitting .302, has 160 hits(!), and 47 stolen bases(!!). I’ve crossed this off of my list of concerns.
3) Will Freddie Freeman be able to handle the ups and downs of being our starting 1st baseman as a rookie? Well, let’s see: 18 HR, 64 RBIs, 137 hits, .291 avg., I would say he’s doing just fine! He started the season striking out alot but he has cut way down on that. He is constantly saving his teammates from making errors with his slick fielding at first base. He is a front runner to be rookie of the year. No longer a concern.
4) Will Craig Kimbrel be an effective closer (especially with regard to walks)? Kimbrel started slow, blowing 5 saves in his first 23 chances. There was talk of giving the closer job to Jonny Venters. Kimbrel got his act together and hasn’t blown a save since June 7th. He now has 40 saves to go with his 1.70 ERA. In 63.2 innings, he has 103 strikeouts and only 25 walks. He is the other front runner to be rookie of the year. My only concern is how he will respond when he does eventually blow another save. I think he will be fine.
My other two concerns in mid-June were:
1) Will Jason Heyward stay healthy and hit for avg/power? Okay, this one is still a major concern. Heyward is hitting .220 with 13 HR and 36 RBIs. He tends to strikeout or ground out to second. It almost looks like he has a “hole” in his swing because he is always swinging just under the ball. I assume he grounds out to second so much because he’s trying to pull balls that he should be taking to left field. If Jose Constanza continues to play as well as he has, Heyward’s role may diminish and he may not get enough at-bats to pull himself out of his funk. We’ll see. If Constanza starts to go south, we’ll need Heyward to return to form.
2) Will Dan Uggla ever hit? I’m not worried about Dan anymore. He’s got 114 hits, 30 HR, and 67 RBIs. Yes, his average is only .232 but that is because he was so god awful for two full months while hitting .170. He may not be able to get his average to .260 by season’s end but he is hitting and contributing as originally expected now. Not a concern.
So, besides Chipper’s health and Jason’s hitting, what are my concerns now?
1) Starting pitching! I know that sounds strange considering that’s been our strength all year. But Tommy Hanson is on the DL with a small tear in his rotator cuff. As of now, the Braves say no surgery will be required but who knows? How long will he be on the DL and then how long will it take for him to return to form? This is a big unknown. Brandon Beachy could fill his spot in the playoffs but he is a rookie and has trouble getting beyond the 5th or 6th inning. Jair Jurrjens has not been anywhere near as effective as he was in the first half. He has struggled with a knee problem. We’ll see if he can put that behind him and return to his first half form. We definitely need him to. Derek Lowe has also been struggling. He’s like the little girl with a curl on her forehead–when he is good he is very,very good but when he is bad he is horrid. We need him to be good. I’m not so worried about Tim Hudson–he’s been solid. Mike Minor has been okay as a filler for Hanson but I can’t see him starting a game in the playoffs. Hopefully, Hanson will get healthy and Jurrjens and Lowe will get their act together. When they are all going good, we are as tough a team as there is out there.