May 1, 2012 at 11:33 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
The Phillies Come to Town
The Braves’ 9-3 loss to the Pirates on Monday was a disappointing finish to an otherwise excellent April. The Braves finished the month at 14-9, only losing one series in the month and winning five.
After a month of play, the Braves are third in baseball in offensive fWAR at 5.7. Their team wOBA of .323 is ninth in MLB, compared to last season’s total of .304, which ranked 23rd in baseball.
Atlanta is looking to continue its success into another month as it hosts the Phillies for three games to begin May. Game time for today is 7:10 on SportSouth and MLB Network. Brandon Beachy faces Cole Hamels.
Braves lineup: Michael Bourn (CF), Martin Prado (LF), Freddie Freeman (1B), Brian McCann (C), Dan Uggla (2B), Matt Diaz (RF), Juan Francisco (3B), Tyler Pastornicky (SS), Brandon Beachy (P).
Phillies lineup: Jimmy Rollins (S, SS), Placido Polanco (R, 3B), Shane Victorino (S, CF), Hunter Pence (R, RF), Ty Wigginton (R, 1B), Laynce Nix (L, LF), Carlos Ruiz (R, C), Freddy Galvis (S, 2B), Cole Hamels (L, P).
Update (6:30p): Jason Heyward remains out and is now looking at possibly Thursday as a return date. Chipper Jones is sitting tonight but no reason has been given. The lineup was posted later than usual, so some last-minute decision making could have caused this.
Cole Hamels owns a 29.4 K% and 2.9 BB% through 26.1 innings, so I could probably end there and you would know how his season is going. He has a 2.73 ERA and 2.27 xFIP, tying a career high with a 13.6% swinging strike percentage. He’s throwing a few more cutters and changeups while dropping his curveball some, to the point where it’s just a fourth offering to change eye levels. His change remains the nasty pitch, receiving a whiff/swing rate of 61.54%, which is outrageous. He’s inducing a solid number of ground balls off the cutter at 57.14%, while his straight four-seamer remains the pitch to take advantage of if possible. In his last three starts, Hamels has allowed five runs in 21 innings with 21 strikeouts and five walks.
Jason Heyward hopes to return by Wednesday from a sore right oblique. We should see an update on this before the day is over.
Per Bowman’s notes, he has more information on Evan Gattis’ promotion to Double-A. Christian Bethancourt suffered a strained right hamstring on Sunday, so Gattis will catch until Bethancourt returns in a week or so, if all goes as planned. When Bethancourt returns, Gattis is expected to shift to the outfield for the majority of the time.
AJC quotes following Monday’s loss. Fredi Gonzalez on Jason Heyward: “Right now I’ll probably give him [today] off. If it’s getting better with just a little time and therapy, I think one more day will be that much better.”
Update (3:15p): Troy Renck of the Denver Post is of the opinion that the Braves would be on Roy Oswalt’s short list of destinations if he signs this season. This is purely Renck’s opinion based on Oswalt’s home location in Mississippi. With the Braves’ confidence in Jair Jurrjens at an all-time low, and the team relying on rookies at the back end of the rotation in a contending year, I don’t think it’s quite as insane to assume the front office will at least ask what the price tag is. But I think it remains a very long shot.
Update (3:30p): David O’Brien has his latest blog post up previewing the series with the Phillies.
Around the NL East
Buster Olney’s blog post today is headlined by the Marlins’ struggles in April (Insider required).
Stephania Bell of ESPN writes on the updates of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, as well as the Nationals’ bullpen injury woes.
Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes on Jim Thome’s pinch-hit struggles this year.
Update (3:00p): Mike Axisa of FanGraphs looks at Giancarlo Stanton’s lack of power so far this season and whether it should be attributed to his knee issue or the park.
Update (3:00p): Eno Sarris of FanGraphs profiles Lucas Duda for fantasy purposes.