The Blue Jays start a three game weekend series against the Atlanta Braves tonight. The Braves have had a surprisingly fast start to their season, sitting at 6-3. They won their first five games, surprising everyone after spending the winter selling off their veteran players.
I sent Scott Coleman of Talking Chop, SB Nation's Braves blog and he was kind enough to send answers back:
The Braves spent the off-season in sell off mode but they've started the season well. What is the mood like among Braves fans? Any hope that they'll stay competitive?
I'd say most Braves fans are cautiously optimistic that the team won't be completely terrible. The future looks bright and that's always nice. It hasn't been fun seeing guys like Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Craig Kimbrel get traded, but it's for the best given the impressive overhaul of the farm system. I think if *everything* breaks right the Braves could flirt with .500 and ultimately fall a couple games short. If a major injury happens to someone like Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran or Alex Wood, things will get ugly.
What are Braves fans' thoughts about the new ballpark? Is it really needed? Location better or worse for majority of fans?
For an out-of-towner like me, I think it's great. Historically, it will be much easier to access for those who tend to buy tickets. That means more money for the team and hopefully more butts in the seats, something Atlanta has struggled with for years.
I think the reaction from the locals was pretty mixed. There's never been a great love affair with Turner Field -- it's a pretty boring ballpark -- but it's not a dump, either. Was the new stadium necessary? Probably not, but I'm all for an exciting new place to call home.
Can we have a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers the Jays are likely to see?
The Jays will see the Braves' top three, who all just happen to be 24 years old.
Julio Teheran is the team's No. 1 and he works primarily off a low-90s fastball that he controls well. Teheran does a great job limiting walks and has lived up to his prospect hype quite well.
Alex Wood is up second, and while he has a funky start to his delivery, his throwing motion is actually pretty clean. The southpaw is a three-pitch pitcher with a low-to-mid 90s fastball, curveball and change up to keep righties off-balance.
I've only seen two Shelby Miller starts so far (he came over in the Heyward deal). He pounds the strike zone but has had trouble putting batters away. Granted both starts came against a pretty good Marlins lineup, but he got foul-balled to death and hasn't been able to go deep in games. He has shown flashes of being really good, though.
With Craig Kimbrel gone, who gets the closer job? How confident are you in the back end of the bullpen?
Jason Grilli has the first crack at the job and he's done well so far. Jim Johnson, another veteran who had a bad 2014, is currently working the 8th inning and he's been even better. The bullpen has been a huge strength for Atlanta so far; it's probably the most pleasant surprise of the first two weeks. We'll see if it lasts.
I don't know much about your manager, Fredi González, what are his strengths/weaknesses?
He's bad. He plays the hot hand over the good player (he once started Jose Constanza over Jason Heyward for a couple of weeks), he doesn't know how to utilize his bullpen properly, and he seems to always leave the starting pitcher out there for one batter too many.
I guess Fredi has gotten a little better since taking over in 2011, but he's probably out of job unless this team magically contends through the summer. For him to only win one playoff game with the rosters he had in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 is pathetic.
Who is your favorite Brave to watch?
Andrelton Simmons. His defense is stupid; if he can maintain this, he'll go down as one of the greatest ever. His Defensive Runs Saved numbers are baseball porn. At least once a series he'll do something that will make you say "holy shit" out loud. For those who haven't seen much of Simmons, watch this:
Simmons is also fun to watch hit. He gets off balance all the time and flails in the batter's box, but he's done a nice job driving the ball to the gaps so far. New hitting coach Kevin Seitzer (someone you guys know well) seems to be like an ideal match for Simmons.
Anything else we should know about the Braves?
The days (see: 2013 and 2014) of striking out a bunch and waiting for the big homer are gone. When you've got guys like Alberto Callaspo, Chris Johnson, Nick Markakis and rookie Jace Peterson starting most days, you're going to settle for contact while giving up power. Small ball seems to be the 'in' thing right now, and the Braves are going with it. They struck out 22.6% of the time in 2013 and struck out the exact same amount in 2014 (weird, I know.) This year it's down to 18%, which is fifth-best in baseball. It's still early, but offensively, this team is a complete 180 from the last few teams in Atlanta.
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