Braves Pitching...It's Back!
Smoltz - IP: 12 - H: 15 - ER: 5 - BB: 5 - SO: 11 - ERA: 3.75, Record: 1-0
What can you say about Smoltz?† He's here every April, pitching consistent and setting an example for the rest of the rotation.† I never worry about Smoltz.†
Hudson - IP: 7 - H: 2 - ER: 1 - BB: 4 - SO: 5 - ERA: 1.29 - Record: 0-0
Hudson finally looked like the A's Hudson we want him to be.† He limited the Phillies to two hits and one run in seven innings last Wednesday.† Without Hampton, I think Hudson really needs to step up and and be a solid leader in the rotation.† I really liked what I saw and can't wait to see what he does tonight!†
James - IP: 5 - H: 6 - ER: 1 - BB: 1 - SO: 5 - ERA: 1.80 - Record: 1-0
I was a big fan of Chuckie at the end of last season.† Although he fell behind quite a few batters in last Thursday's game against the Phillies, he kept†battling back and only gave up one hit in the first four innings.† He struggled in the fifth, but I think he was a good start for his first game of the season.† He'll be a solid part of our rotation.
Redman - IP: 5.2 - H: 9 - ER: 5 - BB: 1 - SO: 2 - ERA: 7.94†- Record: 0-1
His first outing was a little shaky, and I'm not sure how I feel about him yet.† Those who like him say he can do better than he did on Friday when the Mets knocked us around for nine innings.† As you can see, he wasn't really walking anyone (which I like), but the Mets were hitting him.† Given that the Mets offense is powerful, I'll forgive Redman for this one and wait to see what he does in his next start against the bottom-dwelling Nats.
Davies - IP: 6.2 - H: 4 - ER: 2 - BB: 3 - SO: 8†- ERA: 2.70 -†Record 0-0
I'm most excited about Davies performance, and I'm†cautiously optimistic about what he might be able to do for us this year.† He had a career-high 8 strikeouts in Sunday's game, many at key times.† He proved he's going to fight for a spot in this rotation.† If Cormier or Redman falter, I feel confident that Davies can come in and the rotation won't miss a beat.
Yates - IP: 1.2 - H: 4 - ER: 2 - BB: 2 - SO: 1 - ERA: 10.80 - No Record
After giving up some hits and walks with McBride in the eighth inning of Friday's loss to the Mets, Yates also had an error on a potential double play ball hit back at him.† He just looked rattled the whole time.† I've never been a big Yates fan and his efforts so far haven't changed my mind.
McBride - IP: 2 - H: 3 - ER: 2 - BB: 6 - SO: 1 - ERA: 9.00 - Record: 1-0
In a recent AJC article, McBride blamed "bad mechanics and cold weather" for his lofty number of walks.† He walked three of the first four Phillies batters last Thursday.† He walked three more in Friday's game against the Mets and gave up three hits.† While he got the win in the second night of extra innings against the Phillies, it was the product of one good out against Ryan Howard (the only batter he†faced)†and Renteria's subsequent homerun in the 11th inning.† Right now he's being labeled a "situational reliever," which is about all I feel comfortable with at this point.† I think it's too soon to write him off though and hope to see him step up his game soon.
Paronto - IP: 2.1 - H: 1 - ER: 0 - BB: 3 - SO: 2 - ERA: 0.00 - Record: 1 Save in 1 Save Opportunity
Paronto looked great in the 10th on Opening Day against the Phillies.† He came in and threw a near perfect inning to get his first save of the season.† He looked less appealing in last Thursday's outing against the Phillies though.† He and McBride walked five of the first seven batters in the ninth, really scaring me.† Paronto came in and got a much-needed out in Sunday's game though†after two got on base with Davies pitching.† Some nice situational relief.† I think he'll put in some good relief innings this year.
Villarreal - IP: 3.1 - H: 5 - ER: 1 - BB: 0 - SO: 5 - ERA: 2.70 - No Record
I was a huge fan of our getting Villarreal last year after seeing him pitch for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.† I've heard some mumblings that he didn't look so good when he pitched last week, which I assume is because of the five hits he gave up.† I've always liked him as our long reliever though and am interested to see what he does in his next appearance.
Soriano - IP: 3.2 - H: 0 - ER: 0 - BB: 1 - SO: 2 - ERA: 0.00 - Record: 1 Save in 1 Save Opportunity
Soriano is my new favorite Braves reliever.† When he comes in, I let out of a sigh of relief because I know he's going to get the job done.† I feel the same way about Wickman, but I know he'll be gone soon.† Soriano has given up NO hits in his 3.2 innings pitched.† You saw that right, none!† I see great things in our future if we've got Soriano, in this form, for years to come.† Say hello to the future closer of the Atlanta Braves.
Gonzalez - IP: 3.2 - H: 7 - ER: 2 - BB: 4 - SO: 2 - ERA: 4.91 - No Record
So far, I'm very disappointed in Gonzalez.† He's giving up quite far too many hits and walks in his appearances and is just all over the place.† He did far better than this in spring training, so I'm hoping some warm weather blows in and gets him back on track.
Wickman - IP: 4 - H: 3 - ER: 0 - BB: 2 - SO: 4 - ERA: 0.00, Record: 1-0, 3 Saves in 3 Save Opportunities
He may not be as flashy as some of the closers these days, but he gets the job done.† He's not the hardest throwing closer in the league, not even close...but he comes in and slams the door shut each and every time.† If we'd had him all of last season, we'd have been in at least the Wild Card race, if not the division race.
All in all, I think we have a solid rotation and the best bullpen in the NL East.† I've always believed it was our stellar pitching in the 90s that got us into and through the postseason, so I'm confident about where we're going this year.†
By and far, the one area in which the Braves have clearly improved is pitching.† Not only have we managed to get some runs to get Smoltz a win when he pitches well (something we failed at too often last year), but the bullpen has been phenomenal compared to last year.† Let's take a look at each of the starters and relievers that have made appearances so far: