Series Preview: Braves Q&A with Marlin Maniac


As we head into the second game of the ongoing Marlins and Braves series, I took some time out to do a quick Q&A about the Braves and their hot start with Chris Logel, co-editor of our Fansided Marlins site, Marlin Maniac, about the ongoing series.

Chris Logel: The Braves have been playing some great ball to start the season. With a pitching staff decimated by injuries my first question is, how?

Brandon Woodworth: Well this certainly isn’t an easy question to answer! I believe this is the benefit to having a very well rounded team. Offensive explosions from Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman aside, every member of the team is getting it done night by night. Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton are still struggling slightly, but both have put up some big games here in the early going, Evan Gattis has contributed to some big games. On any given night, any one of the Braves hitters could step up and get that clutch hit or make that clutch play. Another huge factor has been the dominating starting pitching. While the bullpen has been a little shakier than Atlanta is used to, it helps that Braves starters are averaging north of six innings per start. Teheran and Wood were expected to start strong, but an as advertised Ervin Santana and a ridiculously lucky Aaron Harang are the biggest factors to the Braves early success. And on top of this, Mike Minor has yet to join the rotation, and Gavin Floyd is nearing a return from his Tommy John surgery. As foolish as it sounds, the best may be yet to come for Atlanta.

CL:  They have accomplished quite a lot despite  a relatively slow start by Jason Heyward, any concern surrounding him?

BW:  I personally don’t have any, and most fans shouldn’t either. Heyward is striking out a bit more than we’d like, but he still has a ridiculous walk rate and has been a victim of bad luck early on (currently sporting a .159 BABIP). He’s hitting the ball hard but it does not seem to land very often. A really positive sign is that he seems to be running again. All in all, I’m sure he’ll even out eventually.

CL:  The Braves spent a lot of money recently to lock up some players they view as their future. Anyone that they left out or shouldn’t have included?

BW:  A lot of people in the industry feel the Craig Kimbrel deal was a mistake, and while I’m inclined to be cautious, I can’t say I agree with them. Kimbrel is, simply put, the best reliever in the game, so trying to keep him in Atlanta for the big move to Cobb County was always going to take a lot of money. I say better now than later. He’s still only 26, so if you sign a reliever to a long term deal, this is the time. I’m a big advocate of holding on to fan favorite players as long as it’s the right time, and now is certainly the right time for Kimbrel. He’s no B.J. Ryan or Brandon League. I would love to see the Braves lock up Heyward to a long term deal, but I feel it was probably out of their reach more than left out. The two year deal was nice, but Heyward and Freeman would be a heck of a duo to bring into the new stadium.

CL:  Could you preview the pitchers that the Marlins will face this series?

BW:  Julio Teheran has been in cruise control since his rocky Opening Day start. His strikeout totals leave some to be desired, but he’s putting the ball where he wants, and making hitters make contact with the ball the exact way he wants it consistently this year. As long as he keeps limiting the longball, Marlins hitters will probably face a huge challenge. Alex Wood has been every bit as good, but with the strikeouts and the slight tendency to surrender a homer. Wood is a more straightforward and commanding pitcher, pounding the strike zone with more aggression than Teheran. Aaron Harang is having some sort of amazing run here in early 2014. The veteran seems to have improved his velocity in the offseason, and it’s helped him rack up some big strikeout totals. But, he has walked quite a few (12 walks in 25.2 innings), so the Marlins could capitalize on patience. By all accounts, Harang is an anomaly, and there really is no good explanation to why he is doing what he is doing I’m afraid. His is going to be an interesting game to watch.

CL: Any bold predictions for the upcoming series?

BW:  I think Alex Wood will outpitch Jose Fernandez, not something I have an easy time saying (I love that guy)!

I’d like to thank Chris and everyone at Marlin Maniac for their time and I invite anyone looking for Marlins news to check out their site, and keep checking back with us at Tomahawk Take for all your Braves needs!

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Tags: Atlanta Braves

  • Chris Headrick

    I’m not sure I’d characterize Harang’s success as ‘ridiculously lucky’. I think, as Ryan recently pointed out as well, Aaron is mixing his pitch speeds now, and going to the FB much more than pitches that may have given him injury issues if he had sustained their use. He has learned to adjust for an aging arm, and while his numbers might be considerably higher than most anyone expected, he’s a veteran who knows how to pitch, keep the ball down, and the simple mixing of pitch speeds has worked wonders. Season long sustaining that is a bit more problematic, but I don’t think it’s primarily luck.

    • carpengui

      He’s staying away from the middle of the plate, too: 4 walks per nine is getting up there, but I think that’s indicative of what he’s trying to accomplish. So when you combine pitches with movement and locating to the corners, you’re gonna get a bunch of not-quite-solid-contact swings… and a lower BABIP.

      That said, can Harang sustain that? No… being realistic, if he finished the year with an ERA under 1, then record books would be re-written. But he’s also not throwing like the 4.00-4.50 ERA guy that we expected, either.

  • fireboss

    Don’t think I’d call Jason’s 12.8% walk rate ridiculous, it’s 4% better than the league average but Saltalamachia is at 17.6% so good yes, it’s 29th in mlb but not far off the average. That it’s the best on the Braves says something about the lineup in general. That BB rate of 12.8 is just over half of his K rate 23% which is 62nd in the league and fifth on the team. JUP is at 32.6%. Makes me cringe to see the number. But that’s this team, 21st in walks 5th worst in strikeouts. Jason has to get his stroke back to the shorter one he had last season or we’re in deep trouble once we play some of the better teams. His swing has become so long he’s vulnerable up and in under his hands. He rolls over pitches instead of driving them to opposite way and is really been good only when pitchers make mistakes out away from him and up. he’d done this ever since he came up. His career is a lot like JUP’s, a stud with potential who’s been good in flashes and remarkable in others but never sustained it. Jason may one day be what everyone thinks he already is but Walker and company haven’t managed to get him there yet.