When Spring Training started the one thing Braves fans weren’t worried about was the bullpen.
One month into the season, the ‘pen stands as team’s biggest liability. Braves relievers have walked 47 and allowed 14 HR in 97-2/3 IP, good for a 4.88 ERA. They’re already given up more than half as many homers as they did in 2014, when they posted a 3.31 ERA with a lower walk rate.
Things will likely get worse before they get better. Jason Grilli could be highly sought after by teams needing help in the ‘pen, and Jim Johnson — who has been fairly stout outside of one bad stretch — is also likely to draw trade interest. John Hart shouldn’t hesitate to trade either pitcher for prospects, though the aftermath will be Dwayne Henry-Joe Hesketh-Ken Ray-ugly.
The starters haven’t been much better (4.24 ERA, 1.424 WHIP) but you can’t blame Shelby Miller, whose 6th in the majors with a 1.66 ERA and 5th in opponents BA (.178). Miller’s stellar work five days ago had people proclaiming the Braves as the clear winners of the trade that sent Jay Hey to St. Louis, but let’s not jump the gun.
Miller’s shutout came against an abysmal Phils line-up. Pitching in Cincy’s bandbox provides a bigger test, though the Reds offense is struggling, ranking 11th in the NL in BA and 9th in OPS. And Heyward, after a terrible start, has rebounded in May, batting .364, though without much power. (More than Nick Markakis, though, who has 4 XBH in 30 games.)
Here’s the Braves line-up:
Markakis 9, Simmons 6, Freeman 3, KJohnson 7, Callaspo 5, Pierzynski 2, Peterson 4, Maybin 8, Miller 1