Friday, April 29, 2005

Braves Mini-Preview

This weekend is going to provide some fun baseball in Atlanta as the Cardinals and the Braves face off. Looking at the schedule so far, one could argue that this is the first playoff caliber team the Cardinals have faced all year. (Unless, of course, Derek Lee and Neifi Perez can hit around .400 all year long - but I digress.)

Rather than getting too wrapped up in tonight's exciting pitching match-up, I simply wanted to take a quick look at the Braves offense. Atlanta enters play tonight with the 14th best offense, based upon OPS, in the NL. Overall, the team is hitting .243/.310/.385, 695 OPS. Granted, a team featuring Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi as regulars shouldn't be expected to be an offensive powerhouse (this is, after all, 2005, not 1995), one would expect Chipper and Andruw Jones, Marcus Giles, and Rafael Furcal to provide some help offensively. That just hasn't been the case so far.

As of right now, the Atlanta offense only features three hitters - two regulars - with an OPS of 800 or better.

Chipper Jones - .381/.513/.698, 1211 OPS
Wilson Betemit - .231/.444/.538, 983 OPS (13 at-bats)
Marcus Giles - .316/.391/.474, 864 OPS

I'm no expert, but that tells me that Chipper should be avoided like the plague until someone else steps up and proves they can beat you as well.

Against left handed pitching, however - as will be the case tonight with Mulder on the hill - the Braves have fared much better. In limited chances this season vs. southpaws, the Braves are hitting .339/.409/.527, 936 OPS over 112 at-bats. That includes 7 position players with an OPS of 900 or greater.

Wilson Betemit - .500/.600/1.500, 2100 OPS, 4 at-bats
Eddie Perez - .429/.429/.857, 1286 OPS, 7 at-bats
Marcus Giles - .556/.600/.667, 1267 OPS, 9 at-bats
Pete Orr - .500/.750/.500, 1250 OPS, 2 at-bats
Chipper Jones - .444/.545/.667, 1212 OPS, 9 at-bats
Rafael Furcal - .333/.333/.600, 933 OPS, 15 at-bats
Andruw Jones - .308/.286/.615, 901 OPS, 13 at-bats

(No, that's not a typo - Andruw has a lower OBP than AVG. Remember that sacrifice's don't effect batting average, but do affect OBP.)

That's not a lot of at-bats to judge by, but Mulder may have his work cut out for him tonight. Especially considering how dominate Hudson has been so far this year (0.96 ERA).

With that being said - even if the Cardinals do lose tonight, I like their chances of being able to out-score the Braves in the other two games of this series. If Mulder can come up big again tonight, a sweep wouldn't be hard to imagine.

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