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the-good-pitching-as-usual-the-bad-injuries-and-the-ugly-what-defense-2 | June | 2004 Articles

2004 Archives

The Good (Pitching, as usual), The Bad (Injuries!), and The Ugly (What defense?)

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Much has happened in the Braves universe in the last month. Chipper, Furcal, and Drew are all healthy and playing consistently, but Giles, Ramirez, and LaRoche are injured and out of the lineup. Two of our recent losses were the results of absolutely brilliant pitching performances in consecutive games by Ben Sheets (18 strikeouts, 3 hits) and Randy Johnson (perfect game, 13 strikeouts). Despite Johnson's perfection, Sheets was actually more dominant, allowing the Braves to put the ball in play only 11 times, while we managed to get 14 into fair territory against the Big Unit. But enough about losing -- the Braves had fought their way above .500 until losing two straight to Detroit this week, and they head into the weekend series against the White Sox a game under. They have played very well considering our eight regular position players have now missed more than 80 games combined. Our pitching staff had the lowest ERA in the majors for a while, but are now third in MLB and second in the NL behind the Mets and Athletics. Good pitching doesn't cover up bad defense, however, and despite an overall mediocre performance at the plate this season, our defense has certainly been our downfall. Much of it could be blamed on injuries, players playing new positions, or sheer bad luck -- but leading the league in errors is no small crime. The Braves have to clean up their defense or they won't win. Simple as that. While our bats have not been killing the ball, they are starting to wake up. Chipper Jones has two 450-foot blasts in two days, upping his homer total to 8 for the season, while J.D. Drew is among MLB's top offensive outfielders. Andruw Jones needs to work on making contact and sending the ball to right field, but otherwise he has performed well. Elsewhere in the field, Julio Franco and Nick Green have been pleasant surprises, while Mark Derosa and Rafael Furcal have not. Furcal has started to come out of his funk, and if he regains his form, he should be performing like an All-Star throughout the summer. Speaking of All-Stars, what do you think of Johnny Estrada so far? The critics have been telling me for two months that this "hot streak" can't last, and that he'll sink into normalcy soon. But it's been 10 weeks, and he's still batting about .350, he's still leading the team in RBI, he's still leading the world in batting average with runners in scoring position at .522, and he is the most productive catcher in the NL (by OPS) by a significant margin -- if you don't count Mike Piazza, who has now played more games at first base than at catcher, whose OPS (.944) is just barely higher than Estrada's (.935), which is 26th overall in MLB. More to come. Expect my picks for Braves representatives for the All-Star team soon, with my picks for the entire roster to follow. (I apologize for the lack of updates. Important family business has kept me from extensive use of the internet, and I have not had as much time as I would like to devote to reporting on the Braves. I will make time for more frequent updates.)

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