Quick review of the season’s first 10 games and curveballs

So the Braves have a .500 record (5-5) through the first 10 games of this season.  This is a record you certainly would have accepted exactly a week ago facing the reality that they were 0-4 for the first time since 1988.  This is also a record that should not be deemed all too surprising considering where the club stood entering the season.

Sure, there was little reason to predict the Braves would hit just .152 and total eight runs while losing each of the first four games played against the Mets this year.  But it also seems safe to say we might have been short-changing what Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey and Co. are capable of doing.  Having gone through their rotation twice, the Mets do not have a starting pitcher with an ERA higher than 3.09.  <p>

Of course that 3.09 ERA would belong to Mike Pelfrey, the one Mets pitcher the Braves will not see this month.

One of the primary reasons you might have expected the Braves to experience some early struggles coming out of camp centered around the uncertainty surrounding their starting rotation.  The two starters who exited Spring Training with the fewest concerns were Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy, who entered this year with a combined total of 51 Major League starts.

Fortunately for the Braves, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson both provided some reason for encouragement during their most recent starts.  While the results might not indicated improvement, both seemed to be nearing the normalcy they displayed before injuries wrecked them after last year’s All-Star break.

The Braves and Hanson left themselves open to some second guessing when he threw one too many curveballs to Ike Davis last night.  The choice to feed Davis a heavy dose of soft offspeed pitches made sense. That’s what the book calls for and the book had been good to the Braves, who had limited the Mets first baseman to a .184 (14-for-76) batting average before he hit his decisive three-run homer in the sixth inning.

But the choice to throw him seven straight and nine within the 10 pitches he saw from Hanson seems to at least leave some room to debate pitch sequence.   He has thrown Davis 21 pitches this year and 17 of them have been curveballs.

Of course, it should be noted that none of the first 16 curveballs left the infield in fair territory.  Davis entered that sixth-inning plate appearance with two hits in 14 career at-bats against Hanson.

After last night’s game, Davis talked about how the Braves have fed him a plethora of offspeed pitches during his young career.

“The Braves really throw me a lot of off-speed most of the time,” Davis said. “I think in the first series I saw three fastballs in the whole series, so obviously they think I’m a fastball hitter. And I haven’t had great success against them because they’ve thrown pitcher’s pitches with their off-speed pitches.”

Throwing a curve into this discussion, it’s time to look at the encouragement Hanson produced through the first five innings.  He had surrendered just one hit before Ruben Tejada fueled the sixth inning with a one-out double.  It also seemed like his fastball had more life as I mentioned in last night’s game story.

But according to BrooksBaseball.net, the velocity readings were nearly identical to those he had registered in Houston last week.  In his April 10 start against the Astros, the average velocity of his four-seam fastball was 89.89 mph.  Last night’s average was actually a tick lower, 89.78 mph.  His max velocity in both of these games registered at 92.2 mph.

Still there is reason to believe Hanson could continue to gain a little more life on his fastball.  The February concussion prevented him from making his first exhibition start until March 11 and we can’t forget he missed the final two months of last season dealing with a sore shoulder.  It might take a few more weeks for him to regain all of his arm strength.

Heyward of 2010: Before Monday’s game, Freddie Freeman said we’re starting to see the Jason Heyward that he has known dating back to the Minor League days they shared together.   Over the past week, some of you have likely said something like, “Heyward is playing like he did in 2010.”

Well just for fun, let’s compare his current stats with those he possessed at a similar point in 2010:

2010:   .303 (10-for-33) batting average,  .410 OBP  .667 SLG   3 HR   12 RBI, 6 BB, 12 K

2012:  .375 (12-for-32) batting average, .444 OBP .656 SLG    2 HR, 5 RBI   4 BB 7 K

Bo Jackson will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Mets. The former All-Star outfielder and Pro Bowl running back is promoting his upcoming Bo Bikes Bama,  300-mile bike journey that will travel through tornado ravaged communities to raise money for the Alabama Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund.

Bo Jackson will throw out the first pitch to promote his upcoming Bo Bikes Bama:  a 300-mile bike journey that begins on April 24 in Henagar, Alabama and ends April 28 in Tuscaloosa.  Jackson will travel through tornado ravaged communities of Alabama to raise money for the Alabama Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund.  Lance Armstrong and Ken Griffey Jr. are scheduled to help with this charitable effort.

To donate or register to ride with Bo visit www.bobikesbama.com or text “BOBIKES” to 50555 to immediately donate $10 to Bo Bikes Bama.

 

 

2 Comments

“Throwing a curve into this discussion”, really Mark????? Really? thought I was gonna bust a gut. I’m just glad Chad Bono didn’t get into the game tonight, we only had a 6 run lead.

Braves leading the league in runs…Who’da thunk it?

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