It hurt just typing the title.
If you’ve been living under a few rocks, you might not know about the Braves’ recent struggles. They don’t look to be catching a break this weekend. The A’s are far and away the best team in the majors this year, racking up 73 wins so far. The only other teams with 70 or more wins? Los Angeles.. es? For the sake of confusion, the Dodgers and Mike Trout. I mean, the Angels (for the Moneyball points, those teams hold the number 1 and number 6 spots in largest payroll, respectively, while Oakland has the 6th smallest, according to this Opening day list by Peter Gammons ).
This A’s team is probably my favorite team in recent history: not just because they are insanely good, but for the reasons that they are insanely good. Their offense in recent history has been anywhere from “ok” to “good enough I guess”, but in 2014… it’s largely the same. Most anyone who has read any of my series previews knows how much I love a good defensive 3rd baseman, but especially one can hit. Josh Donaldson is that man. After exploding onto the scene in 2013 with an incredible 7.7 fWAR season, Donaldson has continued his success despite a bit of bad luck (his BABIP is only 20 points higher than his actual average) and even increased his power, while keeping up the tremendous glove work. He is the heart of the A’s offensive attack, and is the hitter the Braves staff should fear the most this weekend. Around Donaldson is a cast of ups and downs. Brandon Moss has continued his late blossom with 23 homers and an .822 OPS, while Coco Crisp has come back down from his power explosion of 2013 into more or less what you’d expect from Coco Crisp. The catching tandem of John Jaso and Derek Norris has worked wonders for the A’s, both contributing significantly on both sides of the ball. Eric Sogard continues to Eric Sogard while Jed Lowrie has fallen far from his recent strong play, making the middle infield exclusively a defensive threat this season.
Oakland are known for their pitching, and after some gutsy and very un-Oakland like moves, I don’t know how anyone manages to win against them. Their bullpen is the very definition of the word elite. Hard to believe they have maintained that pedigree with 3 months of employing Jim Johnson. But the Johnsonless Oakland bullpen – consisting of recently activated former Braves lefty Eric O’Flaherty, lefty specialist Luke Gregerson, Ryan Cook, and closer Sean Doolittle among others, is every bit as good as the Braves’.
The pitching matchups don’t exactly play to the Braves’ favor either, although they get a little break in facing Jason Hammel tonight. It’s especially comforting that Alex Wood is starting tonight as well. I honestly had no idea the A’s were still letting him start, and they shouldn’t, as he has an astronomical 1.828 WHIP, walking 5 men per 9 while giving up 11.5 hits per 9. But this is something the Braves can hopefully use to their advantage, because Jon Lester is in the middle of the best year of his career, and Sonny Gray has been phenomenal.
No doubt this is one of the hardest tests for the Braves at one of the worst times, and I hate to say it doesn’t look too good.
7:35 PM EST, Friday, August 15th
7:10 PM EST, Saturday, August 16th
8:05 PM EST, Sunday, August 17th
Tags: Atlanta Braves