Monday, May 25, 2009

Will the Atlanta Braves be a player in the N.L. East race this year?

Just as Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start to summer, it is also the point when Major League Baseball's regular season is 25 percent complete. For Atlanta Braves' fans, the big question is whether or not the team will challenge for the National League Eastern Division title.

After a bumpy April and early May, the Braves have shown life. On Sunday, they completed a home stand that saw them post a 6-3 record. Before that, the team posted a 7-2 road trip against divisional foes Florida, Philadelphia, and New York. As of this writing, the Braves record is 23-21, and they are two games out of first place.

Their strength is obviously starting pitching. Derek Lowe (6-2, 3.45 ERA) and Jair Jurrjens (4-2, 2.07 ERA) lead the staff, and if they both continue to pitch well, they deserve consideration for the All-Star game. Japanese pitcher Kenshin Kawakami had been a disappointment until his start last Friday. He outlasted Toronto ace Roy Halladay in a beautiful 1-0 win. If he becomes more consistent and a solid fifth starter emerges, they could anchor a run for the divisional title.

The offense is the biggest concern. Entering the season, most conceded the Braves would not be an offensive juggernaut, and that has played out so far. Injuries have not helped the situation. Catcher Brian McCann has spent time on the disabled list. Third baseman Chipper Jones and leftfielder Garrett Anderson have both struggled with injuries that caused them to miss games. To compete for the title, these three must stay healthy.

Maybe my loyalty is getting in the way of my sound judgment, but I think the Braves will be in this until September. The Mets are underachievers, the Phillies look like they are suffering a World Series' hangover, and the Marlins are too streaky.

If the Braves find a way to score four runs a game, they will be playing in October.


Larry J. said...

The Phillies and Mets have more talent. The Braves would have to have a perfect season to win it. How often does that happen?

Joltin' Django said...

You know, I often wonder what kinda shape the Braves'd now be in, if you will, if'n they hadn't "bet the farm" on Mark Teixeira.

Chris said...

Naturally, since I posted this, the Braves have lost four straight.