Remember how the Braves needed to get going? They have

Chipper puts the Braves ahead. He's done that before. (AP photo)

Chipper puts the Braves ahead. He's done that before. (AP photo)

It wasn’t so long ago — 17 days, to be precise — that we noted that the 2012 Atlanta Braves’ window of opportunity mightn’t be as panoramic as that of most teams embarking on a six-month season. The Braves, as we know, were coming off a regrettable September, and they’d started 0-4 against teams slotted to finish last in their respective divisions. To which we said: Yikes.

Today we say: That window has grown so broad that on a clear day you almost can see October.

The Braves have won 12 of 15, taking five consecutive series in the process. They’re tied with St. Louis as having the third-best record in the National League and the fourth-best in baseball. Yes, they’re 2 1/2 games behind Washington, which has caught a flying start, but they’re three games ahead of Philadelphia and four up on Miami. And — get this — they’ve scored the most runs of any NL club.

The team that couldn’t hit is hitting .261, up from last season’s .243. Its on-base percentage is .324, up from the .308 of 2011. Chipper Jones, on whom so much still depends, has played in only 11 games but has 10 RBI’s. Jason Heyward, who hit .227 last season, is batting .303. Dan Uggla, who was hitting .195 eight games ago, is up to .264.

Apart from Jair Jurrjens working his way down to Class AAA, the starting pitching has been just fine. Brandon Beachy has yielded three earned runs in four starts. Tommy Hanson has an ERA of 3.38; Mike Minor’s is 3.42. Randall Delgado has already won twice, and Tim Hudson is due back Sunday. And the bullpen?

The Braves have blown one save in 19 games, that coming when Eric O’Flaherty lost a seventh-inning lead in a game his team would win. Jonny Venters hasn’t allowed an opponent to put the ball in play — forget getting a hit — in his past two outings: Six batters faced, six strikeouts. Craig Kimbrel faced eight men in preserving two narrow leads in Los Angeles: Five struck out.

Granted, the same caveat applies now that the Braves are winning as when they were 0-4: It’s a long season. Stuff can and will happen. But you can’t help but like the way this team shrugged off 0-4 and has been tearing it up ever since. They swept the Brewers, who played in the NLCS last season; took three of four from Arizona, which won the West in 2011, and two of three from the Dodgers, who’d started 7-0 at home.

Maybe my eyes deceive me — they’ve been known to do that — but this looks like a really good team. More to the point, the Braves have already assured themselves of a winning April, and having a good April was a big deal for this bunch.

By Mark Bradley

121 comments Add your comment

Paddy

April 26th, 2012
8:18 am

I believe I will go out and buy a big screen tv now that the window has goten larger!

jim lanham

April 26th, 2012
8:21 am

first?from joliet illinois

dudah

April 26th, 2012
8:23 am

Hanson is now our #4..that says alot…Kimbrel is nasty…Freeman looks like a perennial all-star..love the speed at the top with Bourn..Braves haven’t had this type of blend of power, speed & pitching since 91/92..could be .. could be.. we’ll see

T-Bone

April 26th, 2012
8:23 am

Do I get almost kudos for being almost first?

dean

April 26th, 2012
8:25 am

And nobody got fired! Imagine that.

And just this morning I heard an old Bill Polian quote: “If you listen to the fans you’ll end up sitting with the fans.”

Billy

April 26th, 2012
8:25 am

Consistency is going to be key. We were great at times last year but then we would turn ice cold for a period of time just like the first 4 games this season. We have to avoid the long cold streaks to be successful but I agree, this team looks good.

Old devil

April 26th, 2012
8:26 am

This team may just surprise a lot of folks, me included.

T-Bone

April 26th, 2012
8:30 am

I don’t think we will really know too much about these Braves until they’ve played a series (maybe 2) through the NL East.

But there is a lot to like about this club.

GT

April 26th, 2012
8:30 am

The hitting is much better, we have always had the pitching, though even that is a little better. These young bats are waking up, Heyward is out of his slump, Uggla in not waiting till mid season. Greg Walker up till now is doing a hell of a job.

The front office of the Braves may be the best in baseball. When you see guys like Freeman coming along like they are suppose to, and look at all the homegrown players out there that ended up as good as advertised, it is so rare in sports now days. That is the one constant in all of this.

Larry

April 26th, 2012
8:36 am

Sure like to see the Braves try their best to sign at least two if not all three of Kimbrell, Venters and O’Flaherty, to long term deals. All three will be coming up soon for some pay raises and hopefully we don’t wait until they have all the leverage. Beachy and Minor too!

Big Lou

April 26th, 2012
8:38 am

Great article, Mark!

I really think the batting surge is due to the battling on the plate (example: Prado’s triple the previous games after fighting seven pitches), and playing good ABC baseball. They are still leaving guys on base, but the Dodgers were very lucky on some plays. The Braves could have easily scored 3-4 more runs in that series.

As for the pitching, you’re dead on. And when Hudson comes back… watch out. You might have three guys(Hudson, Minor, Beachy) with low ERAs. That could be the new Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz combo… well, one can dream, right?

Larry

April 26th, 2012
8:44 am

Big Lou,

Sorry, but there’ll never be another Greg Maddux…ever!

The greatest pure “pitcher” without a dominant or even great fastball in history, I believe.

Mark Bradley

April 26th, 2012
8:46 am

You get almost kudos for almost-firsts, T-Bone.

ChopAttack

April 26th, 2012
8:46 am

This will be the Braves best April since 2007.

Gumbo

April 26th, 2012
8:48 am

I must admit, I was screaming that we needed another bat. So far, they are proving me wrong. Keep it up, Bravos!!

Honest and Frank Discussion

April 26th, 2012
8:48 am

Only someone with as little of a baseball understanding as Mark Bradley would freak out after 4 games and then have to embarrassingly retract after little more than two weeks. The fact is, this isn’t an 0-4 team, and it’s not a 12-3 team. In fact, it’s not a 12-7 team either, although that’s a lot closer to what it is. There’s a reason they play 162 games. The 0-4 start or the 12-3 streak may be meaningful come September, but the Braves can’t be pigeonholed into either.

Mark – stop overreacting to streaks. It’s baseball.

Jabbo

April 26th, 2012
8:52 am

And don’t forget Michael Bourne.

Bill

April 26th, 2012
8:53 am

Fear not.Liberty Media will find a way to screw this up.

Mark in your blog yesterday you gave high praise to the Falcons owner/general manager tandem. Can you say the same about the Braves upper management?

I am not faulting Frank Wren.I simply believe he is operating with one hand tied.

Paul

April 26th, 2012
8:53 am

Freeman should be an All-Star with this season he’s having so far. Also, the NL All-Star first basemen are all gone now, except for Votto.
Howard = hurt, Gonzalez, Pujols and Fielder are all on AL clubs.

DawginLex

April 26th, 2012
8:57 am

Pleasantly surprised and man enough to admit I was wrong.

Without Hudson, the pitching has been very good. The hitting has been clutch and the ninth inning wins all make us smile

Long season but there are positive signs

Tomahawk Holmes

April 26th, 2012
9:02 am

Messi Lives!

April 26th, 2012
9:13 am

Aaahnd regression to the mean starts-now.

Jack in Macon

April 26th, 2012
9:13 am

Now it’s finally time for the Braves to beat the Expos…. Ugh, the Nationals. Go Braves!!

George Stein

April 26th, 2012
9:23 am

I know it can be frustrating to deal with the injuries and moving people around to accommodate them, but it sure seems like Chipper is right back to his old self. With him playing only 1/2 to 2/3 of the games, he is such a force in that lineup. I can only imagine how much he’ll be missed next year.

Chazs

April 26th, 2012
9:24 am

New hitting coaches, 2nd year for Freeman and an healthy Heyward lead to better results. We will see what Hudson brings to the table – but it fun to go to the Ted again.

Big Crimson 75

April 26th, 2012
9:30 am

Great Comeback!!
Well worth staying up late.
Venters & Kimbrel are lights out!!

Game Changer

April 26th, 2012
9:36 am

Braves are a huge surprise to everyone at this early date.

crackbaby

April 26th, 2012
9:37 am

Nice write-up MB.

Beachy and Minor have grown up fast. Still a long way to go but things are looking up.

BTW – That Matt Kemp HR was a serious shot. Second deck of the outfield pavilion. What a poke! Still, Beachy kept it together and held LA to 2 runs.

crackbaby

April 26th, 2012
9:38 am

@ JackinMacon

You seem to be overlooking 4 games against the Pirates this w/e, no?

Tb5300

April 26th, 2012
9:46 am

Go Braves! As a long time benchwarmer when it comes to the Braves as a fan. My seat is starting to get a little hot and I want to cheer and watch more Braves baseball any chance I get. It looks to be a great season starting to open up. Good job!

Braves fan who gets annoyed with Mark Bradley

April 26th, 2012
9:48 am

Mark, you’ve made a career off of bad predictions and here you are again bragging about how the Braves are doing well. It’s the BEGINNING of the season, comrade. There is a lot of baseball left and there are still things that need fixing with this team. The hitting will eventually go cold and pitching will also go cold due to Freddies problem with wearing out pitchers.

Sonny Clusters

April 26th, 2012
9:49 am

Well, we have to tip our cap to Fredi. It may appear that he sits in the dugout and watches things happening around him in wonderment but in reality he is managing at a higher level than that to which we have become accustomed. Fredi may just be smarter than he looks. We know that when the cameras are on him he doesn’t have his finger in his nose and that in itself is an upgrade. Yes, Fredi is the man. We are tipping the Clusters cap.

Braves fan who gets annoyed with Mark Bradley

April 26th, 2012
9:49 am

“They swept the Brewers, who played in the NLCS last season; took three of four from Arizona, which won the West in 2011, and two of three from the Dodgers, who’d started 7-0 at home.”

The Brewers lost Fielder. Braun stopped using the roids.

Arizona? LOL they suck. The Dodgers are good but not great. Their division is pretty bad.

dean

April 26th, 2012
9:55 am

Hey. Annoyed. Is your glass half empty?

Braves fan who gets annoyed with Mark Bradley

April 26th, 2012
9:56 am

“Is your glass half empty?”

Nope, I’ve just seen this many many times before. Last season, for instance.

DePort

April 26th, 2012
10:00 am

You can not tell me that last night did not show us how the Braves would play in a playoff game. It was a close game and late we pulled it out. This shows we have some fight with this team!

Abnerish

April 26th, 2012
10:02 am

Actually they look more like the 95 team to me than the 91 or 92 teams. With Bourn playing Grissom’s role and Freddie playing a young Chipper’s role. PItching’s not as good as the 95 team, but when are we ever going to see 3 future hall-of-famers in their prime in the same rotation? THat was pretty special.

I don’t think that win last night can be overstated. It was a HUGE win against a very good team that had dominated them for 8 innings. I loved the kid-like emotion that was shown in the 9th from Chipper and others. It has to be hard to get that pumped for a weekday game in April on travel day.

reckingball

April 26th, 2012
10:08 am

The Braves have a fairly good team.
go braves.

reckingball

April 26th, 2012
10:09 am

Oh yeah, The Braves Juggernaut keeps rolling!

reckingball

April 26th, 2012
10:12 am

How about a tip of the cap to Chipper Jones?

DawgDad

April 26th, 2012
10:15 am

There are a number of encouraging signs and yet some nagging doubts. Check back on Memorial Day – the May schedule figures to be much tougher.

The Braves are collectively playing hard (focused) and playing a lot smarter than they did last year. They’ve been fun to watch, outside of that openning losing streak. Their performance against lefties has been quite a surprise. Minor and Beachy have surpassed expectations and saved the bullpen. Chipper is playing well, and the addition of Francisco appears to be paying off.

The doubts? Shortstop. The middle-infield defense is sub-par. Will Hudson return to form? JJ? Can they possibly sustain their success against lefties? Will the situational hitting hold up or will they succumb to a rash of strikeouts and double-plays? Chipper’s health. McCann’s health. Will Uggla and Diaz hit enough to protect the left-handed hitters?

The Jury is really out on the Phillies. Would expect them to go back to the market and buy some players, but if their top-shelf pitching is all banged up they might sit on their wallet this year. If the Phillies get healthy and Miami wakes up the East could still be very tough on the Braves.

The rut

April 26th, 2012
10:17 am

Sonny, I love you and I’m not gay! I thought if I saw Bobby Cox with his finger up his nose one more time I would puke.

typical know it all

April 26th, 2012
10:17 am

@ Honest and Frank Discussion

Can’t folks enjoy the streak or is that over your head? It seems like your rooting for failure.

The rut

April 26th, 2012
10:20 am

Back to baseball, I think the only liability on this team has been sent to AAA, except maybe Jack wilson.

typical know it all

April 26th, 2012
10:21 am

It never fails. The negative nancys come out of the woodwork. They wouldn’t be happy if the Braves just won the World Series. I can see the blogs. They got lucky or blah blah team got knocked. etc…

typical know it all

April 26th, 2012
10:23 am

@ Braves fan who gets annoyed with Mark Bradley

Is your life that miserable? Why can’t you just enjoy the streak instead of waiting for a losing streak?

typical know it all

April 26th, 2012
10:23 am

I am drinkng the Kool Aid. It tastes good. My rose colored glasses are pretty too!

Dr. Phil

April 26th, 2012
10:24 am

Vin Scully calls the Dodgers’ games on MLB. He is the last announcer of the radio era who learned to paint pictures with words. Scully trained under Red Barber, probably the best announcer of all time. Vin said long ago that his intention was to talk baseball and remain impartial, unlike the Braves’ announcers who view themselves as comedians, and guys like McCarver and Buck, who work at being opinionated and offensive. Last night, Scully said that Uggla was the Swedish word for owl, and Prado’s mother admonished young Prado to stop picking his nose and play baseball during a pee wee game in Venezuela. That’s great information, that required some research. Scully should open an academy for training announcers in ego control.

Train Wreck Bystander

April 26th, 2012
10:24 am

It has been a most excellent April. Here’s to May, June, July, August, September and OCTOBER following suit.

Braves fan who gets annoyed with Mark Bradley

April 26th, 2012
10:34 am

“Is your life that miserable? Why can’t you just enjoy the streak instead of waiting for a losing streak?”

Little girl, my life is much better than yours.