There’s this thing that the Atlanta Braves are doing pretty darn good at right now. If you said swinging the bats, you aren’t incorrect, but as of this morning, the Braves are simply shutting teams down with their pitching. It’s no surprise that the bullpen is shutting teams down, but the starting pitching has been top notch the first two weeks of the season.
With Brandon Beachy sidelined until at least the All-Star break, Braves fans were hoping to just get decent, quality starts out of the rotation, especially the bottom part of it. Outside of Julio Tehran giving up 9 runs in his first two starts, the other 4 guys have been scored on only 9 times total. No team has a lower ERA among their starting pitchers (1.99), with Boston being the closest (2.09). The starting rotation for the Braves also hold the following spots in rankings: 2nd in wins (8), 1st in losses (only 1), T-1 in shut-outs (3), T-1st in earned runs (18), and 1st in batting average against (.209).
But where has the production came from? Where hasn’t it came from is the better question. Julio Tehran and Tim Hudson have been giving up quite a few hits (14 and 13 respectively), but it has been the veteran Hudson that has been able to pitch around his trouble with a 2.50 ERA. Kris Medlen has also kept up his stingy ways of last season, even though he took the tough loss in the opening series. The only thing that glares at me from Kris is the fact that his walk number is really close to his strikeouts. I feel like he is going to figure out the mechanics there, but for the moment he is still getting guys out.
Then there are two guys that have been the anchors of the rotation to this point: Paul Maholm and Mike Minor. I want to say I’m surprised by Maholm being so good but I’d be lying. He ended 2011 with a 3.66 ERA and followed in 2012 with a 3.67, so there’s no reason to really be surprised with his performance so far. Mike Minor though, carrying over from the second half of last season, is throwing it like a seasoned veteran. Atlanta isn’t a notorious home run haven, so he can get away with a 0.64 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio. If he can get that ratio to around 0.75, I believe he could become among the elite pitchers in the National League and would definitely stop giving up so many home runs (26 last season).
So far the pitching has been quite lovely for us. We have had 10 very good starts out of 12, but there eventually will be a few games where the starters lose it. That is when the bats have to step up. So Heyward, Uggla, B.J., and Andrelton, while you guys get started, Huddy, Paul, Kris, Mike, and Julio will still be holding it down.