Coffee + research = stats?
Atlanta has gone 40-21 since May 1st, going from worst to first in the AL East. So what has changed? I definitely thought the bats needed to come alive after the month of April; the Braves only scored 85 runs and posted a .227 team batting average. In May and June, those numbers did improve, but not across the board, and especially not in any fashion that would lead me to believe that hitting alone has turned things around.
So have they climbed the ladder with defense? Hardly. The Braves currently rank 10th in the NL in Fielding %.
How about pitching? Atlanta always leans on their pitching staff, right? Well, yes and no. Stats:
April: 4.24 ERA, .240 BAA
May: 3.51 ERA, .253 BAA
June: 3.62 ERA, .249 BAA
Not much of a difference when you figure that the April ERA is really inflated by one of those blue moon moments where the Braves allowed 17 runs in one game against the offensive juggernaut known as San Diego.
So where has the turnaround come from? Dare I say luck? I might, if the wheels fall off again this year. But for now I want to highlight the five reasons I think the Braves are in first place.
1. Jonny Venters – The 25 year old lefty has been a big boost to the bullpen since his arrival. He has come in at critical moments, inducing grounders and fanning opposing hitters – all while allowing ZERO homers. He’s only allowed six earned runs in 39 innings of relief. He did blow two save opportunities, but those were in consecutive appearances against Arizona… Maybe they just have his number.
2. Troyson Glayward – the combination of Glaus and Heyward has accounted for 25 HR, 82 R, 101 RBI, and 87 BB. In May alone, they combined for 10 HR and 47 RBI. Currently, one of them is hurt, and the other is in a bit of a slump. Hopefully after the All-Star break Glayward will be back to form, providing much needed power to a team of pinch-hitters and utility men.
3. Kris Medlen – 59 K’s to 14 BB. 10 starts, 7 QS. In his last two starts (against Det & Fla) he pitched 13 innings, gave up 12 hits, allowed 2 runs, two walks, and struck out 10 batters. He’s been a pleasant surprise so far, and he’s probably the best 5th starter out there right now.
4. Bobby Cox and Roger McDowell – these two guys have done an excellent job at making lemonade from lemons. What else can you say? I get irritated with all the lineup changes and situational strategy crap, but when it works out more often than not, I’ve got to give credit where credit’s due.
5. Billy Wagner – I’ll let the closer get the save on my list. Just like when I see him coming to the mound in the 9th inning, all I can say is… It’s a wrap.