Series Preview #3: Talking Braves With Talking Chop

4-3 (2nd place, NL Central)
2-4 (4th place, NL East)

GAME 1: April 13, 2012 @ 6:35 p.m. CDT
(TV: FS-Wisconsin and MLB Network; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

GAME 2
: April 14, 2012 @ 6:10 p.m. CDT
(TV: FS-Wisconsin and MLB Network; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

GAME 3: April 15, 2012 @ 12:35 p.m. CDT
(TV: FS-Wisconsin; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

Turner Field Atlanta, Georgia

SBN Coverage: Brewers vs Braves coverage

A View from the Other Dugout: Talking Chop

Game 1 Randy Wolf (0-1, 5.40) vs. Jair Jurrjens (0-1, 6.23)
vs. Braves (0-0, ---) vs. Brewers (0-0, ---)
Game 2 Shaun Marcum (1-0, 4.50) vs. Mike Minor (0-1, 10.80)
vs. Braves (0-0, ---) vs. Brewers (0-0, ---)
Game 3 Chris Narveson (1-0, 3.60) vs. Brandon Beachy (0-1, 1.80)
vs. Braves (0-0, ---) vs. Brewers (0-0, ---)

As the Brewers and Braves prepare for tonight's home opener at Turner Field, I traded a handful of questions with moorebraves of Talking Chop about our respective teams. You can see my responses to his questions here, although as I mentioned in the Mug avoiding doing so will probably be better for your blood pressure.

BCB: As of Wednesday the Braves were batting just .194 as a team this season and only had one regular (Tyler Pastornicky) with an OBP over .300. Is this just a small sample size issue, or is this team going to struggle to score all season?

TC: I would like to blame it all on small sample size, but there is for sure some concern that the Braves offense could struggle at times this season. The Braves aren't going to blow teams away with offense night after night and will need to rely on solid pitching. Jason Heyward hit a bomb the other night and has worked hard on his swing during the offseason. I think that we can expect that he will greatly improve upon a "disappointing" sophomore campaign. Freddie Freeman could very well build upon a great rookie season as well. Leadoff hitter, Michael Bourn started off spring training hot and has cooled off since, but I don't doubt that he finishes the season with an OBP at or around .350. The easy answer here would be "a little bit of both."

Follow the jump for more.

BCB: Speaking of Pastornicky, this is going to be most Brewer fans' first chance to see him. What can you tell us about the Braves' new shortstop?

TC: Pastornicky came into Spring Training as the overwhelming favorite to win the starting shortstop spot. It took all spring for him to ultimately secure the roster spot, though. He started off slowly, while the defensive wizard with a cannon arm, Andrelton Simmons, showed some promise. I was honestly rooting for Simmons for a while during the spring because I have an irrational bias towards stellar defensive shortstops. In reality, Pastornicky has proved himself to be a solid all around player throughout each minor league level and deserved the spot. He has already experienced some growing pains in the field, but I feel like he will get comfortable soon enough. That being said, I don't really expect him to hit anywhere but 8th in the lineup, though.

BCB: Jair Jurrjens (scheduled to start Friday) missed some time last year with a knee issue and appears to be off to a rough start this spring. What's his status look like at this point?

TC: I think JJ is a big key to the success of the Braves this year. If you weren't aware, he spent the offseason on the trading block. I'd like to think the spring training issues were just working out kinks from the nagging knee injury. He apparently felt a lot more comfortable during his last spring training start, and finally felt full strength. However, his first start wasn't exactly stellar during his start against the Mets. I don't think it's realistic to think that he will be throwing a 1.85 ERA the entire season as he was before the All-Star Break last year, but if he stays healthy, the Braves chances of making the playoffs are much higher. As a Braves fan, I'm confident that our young prospects (see: Teheran, Delgado) have it in them to win some games should anything happen to our rotation, but the consistent presence of a more experienced JJ should be a major help.

BCB: The Braves bullpen drew a lot of attention for their effectiveness in 2012, but also their heavy usage. What are your thoughts on this group and Fredi Gonzalez's bullpen strategies?

TC: I, like most every other Braves fan, complain and moan about Fredi's bullpen management. It was terrible last year. No denying that, but if things had turned out differently and we had gotten the wild card, people would complain less. That being said, you can't send three guys out for more relief innings than essentially anyone else in the league. I think that all members of O'Ventbrel (O'Flaherty, Venters, and Kimbrel) were in the top 10, if not 5, of innings pitched in relief. These guys are all dynamite relievers, so it is easy to see why Fredi would do so, however irreseponsibly. Getting Kris Medlen back from Tommy John surgery should do absolute wonders. Also, the additions of Livan Hernandez and Chad Durbin, should eat up some innings for the big three at the back end of the ‘pen. While the Braves were quiet through most of the offseason, these acquisitions showed that Braves GM, Frank Wren, may not have been too pleased with the bullpen management last year either.

BCB: What's your take on the NL East race? Is this Braves team good enough to unseat the Phillies?

TC: Honestly, the NL East is more open than it has been in several years. The Nats have long given the Braves trouble as a bad team. Meanwhile, they are only improving (hence, more trouble for the Bravos). The Marlins have added two big pieces in Reyes, and Buehrle, but despite these improvements, we will need to wait and see how it comes together for them on the field. The Phillies would still have to be the favorite as you referenced, but they are all a year older and will spend some time without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley (yet again). My belief is that the Phillies may be easier to catch this year, but that there is a lot more legitimate competition with the Miami and Washington ball clubs. Therefore, simply with the addition of a wild card spot, the Braves have a better chance of making the playoffs. However, I do believe that they have narrowed the gap between the Phillies and themselves and you could see an exciting race in September.

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