Y'all know the drill by now. New team, new series, 5 questions!
John Beamer writes for The Hardball Times, among other online locales. He was kind enough to take the time to educate us on his favorite team.
1. The big story of the year in Atlanta seems to be Chipper Jones's amazing start. Tell us about what Chipper has done so far.
A: Yes, Chipper has been massive this year. To be batting over .400 at this time of year takes a special talent. Many predicted that Jones would slide down the age curve (me included) but as years go by he seems to defy age, although he remains prone to picking up an injury.
To be fair he isn't doing anything new this year that he wasn't doing last year. Sure he has made contact more frequently and belted a couple more long balls but it is the same old Chipper -- patience at the plate waiting for the right pitch (actually his ability to read a pitch seems to be better than in previous years but luck is playing a role), and when he gets his smacking it as hard as he physically can.
To be honest we Braves fans are hoping he can finally secure that batting title he deserves. If he continues to hit over .400 for the remainder of the season I'll eat my Internet cable.
Q: The surprise on the other side of the bat has been Jair Jurrjens, who came over in the Renteria trade. Is Jurrjens the real deal? Do you miss Renteria at all?
A: Jurrjens has certainly suprised this year. Coming into the season it wasn't even certain he'd get a spot on the rotation. However, I'd be looking for that sub 3 ERA to slip closer to 4 come the season end. His WHIP is in line with his career mark but the astonishing thing in 2008 is his home run rate. He has only given up one long ball in sixty odd innings -- a phenomenal ratio and one, I don't think, he'll be able to keep up.
As for missing Renteria, not so far! Edgar is having a poor season judging by the way he played at the Ted. Perhaps the AL really is that much harder but I suspect age and luck are catching up with him. Yunel Escobar is doing a nice job for us and is a lot younger and cheaper -- I'd take him every day of the week.
Q: Help us understand your bullpen situation. It appears that a team of surgeons attacked your pen, and now you've got a bunch of guys nobody's ever heard of. (Except Jeff Bennett! We remember Jeff Bennett, though not all that fondly.)
A: You can say that again. It is a blood bath out there - in fact I'm looking down at your next question as I type this. And Jeff Bennett is holding the fort. He has racked up the most innings in relief and doesn't have the world's worst ERA (about 3.60 at the time of writing).
Bobby Cox has always had a flair for building a solid pen from no-hopers and this year doesn't look too different. Jorge Campillo has been simply sensational this year, especially given his previous form for the Mariners.
The weak link remains the closer. Until Soriano and Mike Gonzalez get back we won't have the power at the sharp end of the bullpen. That is part of the reason why we have lost so many close games this year. Manny Acosta is our save leader at 3 -- urgh.
Q: The Braves are 2-12 in one-run games. Some of that must be luck, but when you get too much luck--either good or bad--you have to start wondering whether there's more to it than that, right? Are you worried about the team record in one-run games, or is it just a fluke that will make the division title a little harder to come by?
A: Man ... don't remind me of that stat. If we split those games in line with our pythag record we'd hold a commanding lead in the division.
I firmly believe that the lack of a decent closer plays a role and that has certainly cost us a couple of games. On other occasions the hitters just don't seem to be able to get it done. We can be three runs behind, score two and not get the third -- it is frustrating.
I'm a firm believer that luck should even itself out in the end. I don't expect us to get that record back in the black but I wouldn't be surprised if we go better than .500 on 1-run games hereon in.
Who knows perhaps we'll sneak a couple of close ones from the Brew Crew!
Q: Brewers fans hear a lot about Bobby Cox, since he is Ned Yost's mentor and all. The difference appears to be that Cox is good while Ned is...at least not as good. What do you think makes Cox such a successful manager?
A: Easy question Jeff. There is only one reason why Bobby is so successful and that is people management. He inspires and demands loyalty from everyone: players, front office officials, bat boys .... everyone. He also repays that loyalty.
That's one of the reasons why he has been ejected so often. He goes up to argue to protect his players and stick up for them. Players appreciate it and will always play their socks off for Bobby.
Of course it helps that he is managing (largely) a winning team but when do you ever hear of discontent from the players? Never. From the fans occasional but not the players. In fact that is one reason why some fans don't like him so much. His unswerving loyalty can blind him to obvious decisions such as playing Frenchy game in game out when the kid shows no plate discipline.
Still for all his faults I wouldn't swap him for the world -- there is too much dross out there!