After beating bottom feeders, Braves can get serious now

Jason Heyward's first-inning homer, his 10th of the season, gave the Braves a 1-0 lead Saturday night. (AP photo)

Jason Heyward's first-inning homer, his 10th of the season, gave the Braves a 1-0 lead Saturday night. (AP photo)

There is an old adage in baseball that the standings don’t mean anything until after Memorial Day. I’m not sure how this got started.

My guess is, back in the early 1900s, there was a manager whose team started the season 2-27 despite an inflated payroll of $172.50 and rather than answer questions about why his team stunk, he screamed at a sportswriter: “I don’t know! Ask me in June!”

So here we are – in the middle of Memorial Day weekend and almost in June. Do we start paying attention to where the Braves stand now? Yes. But less because of the calendar than the upcoming schedule.

The Braves defeated Pittsburgh again Saturday night, 6-3 at Turner Field. Jason Heyward hit a home run, Troy Glaus and Martin Prado had two-run doubles and Chipper Jones stole a base (and then got up!).

But there was a sense of inevitability before it even started. The Braves are now 16-4 against the six worst teams in the National League: Pirates, Florida, Chicago, Milwaukee, Arizona, Houston. At 27-22 overall, that of course makes them 11-18 against not the six worst teams in the National League.

Contrasting results like that can say something about a team’s postseason worthiness. But if you believe it’s too early to draw such conclusions, well, here’s some good news: There’s a potential sledgehammer around the corner.

After finishing this weekend series against the Pirates on Sunday, the Braves play 13 of their next 17 games against Philadelphia (three-time defending National League champions), Tampa Bay (best record in baseball), Minnesota (A.L. Central leaders) and Los Angeles (contending for N.L. West lead).

“We’re going to get a lot of teams that are playing well and leading their division. We’re going to get to see what we’re made of,” Chipper Jones said. “We’re going to see what needs to be fixed. Usually when you play the really good teams, your deficiencies come to the forefront.”

It’s actually remarkable the Braves are in the position they’re in. They’re a mere 1 ½ games behind Philadelphia in the East, despite some moon-size craters in the lineup (biggest holes: Yunel Escobar and Nate McLouth are each hitting .188), two starting winless pitchers (Kenshin Kawakami and Jair Jurrjens, who’s on the disabled list) and a nine-game losing streak in April.

Jones again: “If you had told me we’d be going into June with no wins from those two guys [Jurrjens and Kawakami], I would’ve said we’d probably be 10 games out. And if you had told me we had a nine-game losing steak and me and [Brian McCann] were hitting at or below .250 and didn’t have 20 runs batted in, I would’ve said we’re bringing up last place.”

Bobby Cox’s decision to slide Martin Prado and Jason Heyward up to the top two spots in the lineup. (The Braves have scored 60 runs in the past 10 games). There’s also a belief in the clubhouse that the early struggles were at least partly because they faced several of the league’s premier pitchers. As Jones put it, “We faced five guys who are going to finish in the top five in the Cy Young voting while other teams were getting fat on last-place teams. Now we’re starting to bottom feed a little bit.”

Prado, the team’s best player this season, along with Heyward, “We can’t change anything just because we’re playing Philadelphia or somebody. All we can do is keep playing the way we’re playing and see what happens. We know we have a big challenge coming up. But if we do all the things we’ve been doing, we’ll be fine.”

General manager Frank Wren believes the team’s 11-18 record against the non-six worst teams is “skewed” because those are the teams the Braves were playing early when they were struggling, though he added: “If we’re going to have a good season, we’re going to have to play well against those teams, and I think we will.”

We’ll soon find out just how “skewed” the numbers are.

Earlier posts

90 comments Add your comment

efuzz

May 29th, 2010
11:09 pm

I am cautiously optimisitc, but the next two weeks will tell the truth about the Braves.

efuzz

May 29th, 2010
11:10 pm

and I could not care less about being first here.

Hoops Dawg

May 29th, 2010
11:14 pm

No comments yet! Maybe I’m the only guy around that dosen’t have a life.

ReddJonn68

May 29th, 2010
11:32 pm

Jeff you are watching history being made! Please write accordingly, J-Hey Kid is the next Will-Ie Amaze. I’m just sayin !

Matt

May 29th, 2010
11:37 pm

Phillies won three NL championships in a row???

Jamaaliver

May 29th, 2010
11:44 pm

The way thiings are coming together, it’s turning out to be a very special year for Bobby Cox’s last season on the bench.

TheAntiMe

May 29th, 2010
11:45 pm

Goodbye Frenchy, hello Heyward! Change, is good.

ReddJonn68

May 29th, 2010
11:52 pm

correction will-he amaze !!!!

uga

May 29th, 2010
11:54 pm

One of the Braves’ biggest issues from 2007 through 2009 was the inability to dominate N.L. bottomfeaders. So it’s refreshing to see them taking care of business of teams like the Pirates. I’m beginning to believe they’re in this thing for the long haul.

stevie zero

May 30th, 2010
12:05 am

when does potential get superceded by results? escobar hasnt hit all year. infante needs to be in there. mclouth tries to pull everything and is as close to a sure out as anyone in mlb. melky and hinske should be starting every game right now. gabba gabba hey!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by TDC, Jeff Schultz. Jeff Schultz said: After beating bottom feeders, Braves can get serious now http://bit.ly/cU5KJ3 [...]

Mitchell

May 30th, 2010
12:41 am

The fact that we simply couldn’t put away teams like the Pirates and Reds and Padres and Nationals, etc. is one of the biggest reasons we failed to reach the playoffs last year.

Wait did I say “couldn’t put away”? That’s funny cause we actually couldn’t even compete with them. It was pathetic and frankly it’s been a problem for the Braves over the last four years. Well of course the ‘06 and ‘08 teams couldn’t compete with bug spray.

Ba dum bum…

If they had anything to show for the games they’ve played against the top teams in the NL to this point it would be that much better but beating up on the Pirates and others is worth taking note of.

That’s all part of being a complete team. We’re definitely getting there.

We’ve won the series but tomorrow, as I see, it is a big game. One we gotta win. They seriously need to get some freakin’ runs for KK and hope that he can come through as well. Can’t believe the damn Marlins. They were supposed to help a brother out. They suck.

Man, I hate half games. Let’s hope it’s down to .5 by the end of the day tomorrow.

whippersnapper

May 30th, 2010
12:41 am

Submit you all star ballots now for the Braves. Martin Prado is leading the NL in hits. He and Heyward should be a lock. Vote them in.

JTH

May 30th, 2010
12:49 am

Why does Comcast advertise Star Wars ep.III when they’re actually showing ep.IV? Don’t get me wrong, I prefer the originals over the new ones, I just asking for my channel guide not to lead me on.

SD Dawg

May 30th, 2010
12:51 am

No way this team makes the playoffs with the current line up. They can compete, but ultimately, you cannot have Jones, McCann, McClouth and Escobar hitting the way they are and make the playoffs.

BigD

May 30th, 2010
1:02 am

Maybe Mr. Schultz should check out the Phills schedule they are 11-6 against the bottom feeders. If you add Wash. they’re 15-8. If you hope to have a winning season you have to beat all the teams on your schedule not just the good ones. Stop being so negative. The Braves are playing well so enjoy the nice run we are on and lets see what happens. Go Braves

Dr. Warren

May 30th, 2010
1:09 am

Better to beat the bottom feeders than be a bottom feeder.

Heath

May 30th, 2010
1:11 am

efuzz is my hero. And he even correctly said “could not” instead of “could!”

BigD

May 30th, 2010
1:19 am

Reds in 1st place in the Central Braves 2-0
Padres in 1st place in the West Braves 2-1

Mr. Schultz do you count them as bottom feeders ?

BigD

May 30th, 2010
1:20 am

Good comment Dr. Warren

J-Hey

May 30th, 2010
2:00 am

Wild and crazy baseball year: perfect games and no-hitters. Pads and Reds are in the first and the Marlins are in this statement, “The Braves are now 16-4 against the six worst teams in the National League: Pirates, Florida, Chicago, Milwaukee, Arizona, Houston.”

Houston- yeah. Pirates-yeah, Milwaukee/Arizona- 5th and 4th in runs scored (only the Rays/Reds/BoSox/Jays/Yanks have scored more runs), and the Cubs/Marlins are usually only a few games out of first around this time

crazy year indeed

JMAYNE

May 30th, 2010
2:51 am

Its obvious that the Braves have been playing mostly teams in the bottom of their divisions. But the way there playing translates against the better teams. They are scoring 5.75 runs a game in may. Braves are plaing some nice baseball and its refreshing to see. Vote J-Hey and Prado for ASG. Hell vote chipper and McLouth as long as we dont have to see 6 freaking phillies in the lineup.

JBDRS

May 30th, 2010
4:05 am

So, Heyward is currently fourth in the majors in OBP at .422 and he is sixth in slugging at .589 and fourth in OPS, which is OBP + Slugging, at 1.011. He has 151 career at-bats, so in the history of MLB he is currently 7th all-time in OPS just ahead of Hornsby, with a minimum of 151 at-bats..

Rank Player (age) On-Base Plus Slugging Bats
1. Babe Ruth+ 1.1636 L
2. Ted Williams+ 1.1155 L
3. Lou Gehrig+ 1.0798 L
4. Barry Bonds 1.0512 L
5. Albert Pujols (30) 1.0507 R
6. Jimmie Foxx+ 1.0376 R
7. Hank Greenberg+ 1.0169 R
8. Rogers Hornsby+ 1.0103 R
9. Manny Ramirez (38) 1.0005 R
10. Todd Helton (36) .9878

JBDRS

May 30th, 2010
4:06 am

Obviously, I meant to say 8th.

But Mark Bradley said

May 30th, 2010
4:19 am

“This, sad to say, isn’t a very good team. It has some pitchers but too few hitters. As constituted, these Braves aren’t going to win anything”

JBDRS

May 30th, 2010
4:32 am

Anyone who believes what Bark Madley says is doomed to repeat it.

Shawn

May 30th, 2010
4:46 am

Can someone fill out the lineup card for todays game while Bobby Cox is sleeping. We dont need a repeat of last Sunday……

JBDRS

May 30th, 2010
5:00 am

Nate Mclouth CF
Martin Prado 2B
Jason Heyward RF
Troy Glaus 1B
Chipper Jones 3B
Brian McCann C
Yunel Escobar SS
Melky Cabrera LF
Kensihin Kawakami P

this is assuming McLouth is due to turn it around, and I would like to see Diaz replace Melky when he is healthy and return to form, and Lord please help Yunel.

vicktorious

May 30th, 2010
5:03 am

all good teams are bottom feeders, because they need to beat them. you compare worst 5 teams to the rest as what i can only assume you mean to be a good figure, and usually you may be right, however the braves are wierd. If you break it down into sets of 3 ranks it looks like this.
vs top 3 teams in NL = 6-5
vs 4-7 (braves are 6) = 1-5
Vs 8-10 = 4-7
vs 11-13 = 7-2
vs 14-16 = 9-2

teams ranked 4-10 account for a record of 5-12 while against the top 3 teams, we own a winning record and really have only struggled against the phillies. If you look at the games against the top 2 teams in the league, the braves own a record of 4-1. For some reason the braves struggle with the teams that are good, but not best. So to say that the braves are only bottom feeding wouldn’t be quite true. They have top and bottom fed, it’s the middle areas that they need to work on.

I pick my nose

May 30th, 2010
5:30 am

the Braves are fine…stop hating…

Let's Go

May 30th, 2010
6:50 am

Jeff, thank you so much for your weekly Braves bashing article. It is a blessing that our hometown team has such talented writers like you and Mark Bradley to make sure the fans don’t get too caught up in their success because that would be a shame for people to enjoy watching the Braves this summer.

For once in your pathetic little life couldn’t you just write something positive for a change?

Senator Blutarski

May 30th, 2010
6:53 am

Omar Infante needs more at-bats at shortstop and/or centerfield.

Bill

May 30th, 2010
7:15 am

These guys are a fruad.The Phillies will put them in their place.

81-81.

Bill is a dummy

May 30th, 2010
8:19 am

Fraud, maybe?

Dawgdad (The Original)

May 30th, 2010
8:26 am

Senator: you are correct, the lineup would certainly look better with Omar in centerfield, especially against left handers. Haven’t seen him there very much, but when he played the position in years past, I never saw him miss anything he could get to.

efuzz

May 30th, 2010
8:35 am

Heath – Thank you sir. Glad you noticed the grammar.

Glaus-is-half-full-kind-of-guy

May 30th, 2010
8:39 am

When the Braves had good teams they beat the bottom feeders. Good teams do that. They had a nine game losing streak – kind of like the stretch that Philly went through of three straight shutouts. I don’t know if this team will win the NL East or even beat the Phils next week, but unlike some I am giving them a chance. They have done well in May against Major league teams. Any idea how they did against those teams last year? They are also winning on the road, unlike the Hawks.

Glaus-is-half-full-kind-of-guy

May 30th, 2010
8:43 am

Fraud?? Do you know what that word means? Fraud defined: deceit, trickery, sharp practice, or breach of confidence, perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage
Right – good word, wrong place to use it dummy.

ScoutDawg

May 30th, 2010
8:51 am

You know what, the last few years in the regular season we have owned the Phillies and the Mets while dropping crucial games against teams like the Nats and the Pirates. To see us winning the games we are supposed to gives me hope that indeed this season may turn out different than the last few did.

Jeff Schultz isnt a sportswriter or a journalist

May 30th, 2010
8:56 am

Mark Bradley provides excellent insights pro and con on Atlanta and Georgia teams. All we get from Schultz is negative commentary and no insights. All winners do well against bottomfeeders see BigD and vicktorious statistics. Schultz also doesnt answer criticisms professionally in the manner Bradley does. Atlanta deserves better than Schultz.

Ross

May 30th, 2010
9:06 am

Wow, we’re the hottest team in baseball and JS makes a bummer out of it. I’m going to hang myself now.

Glaus-is-half-full-kind-of-guy

May 30th, 2010
9:09 am

Ross, you are so right. Not just the hottest team in BB, but one of the best if not the best in May. That’s a significant stretch.

TommyJack

May 30th, 2010
9:11 am

Whatever became of Don Sutton?

Glaus-is-half-full-kind-of-guy

May 30th, 2010
9:24 am

I think he died, but his hair is still growing someplace. I actually thought he was calling games for the Nats last year?

mick

May 30th, 2010
9:32 am

still think we need a nother starter, like roy o.

Ithanox

May 30th, 2010
9:34 am

What about “Bobby Cox’s decision to slide Martin Prado and Jason Heyward up to the top two spots in the lineup”? May we have a verb?

fieldofdreams

May 30th, 2010
9:48 am

If Prado and Heyward continue to get on base the Braves will be fine and dandy.

Dawg'88

May 30th, 2010
9:58 am

Uh….let me see.

When you’re only 1 1/2 games back approaching July, you are already contending. Nuff….said!

Dawg'88

May 30th, 2010
9:59 am

Hmmm….meant June above^^^

Dr. Phil

May 30th, 2010
10:03 am

This is a strange team. The Braves can’t hope for playoffs with starting players hitting below .200. In spite of their talent, the Phillies had their own problems last week. I wouldn’t consider Florida and Washington bottom feeders, and if I recall a few weeks ago, the Dodgers were playing as badly as the Braves. If Chipper, Escobar, and Mclouth start hitting, the Braves may have a chance, providing Chipper’s thumb and big toe hold up.