April 15, 2013

Unlikely Heroes

Two weeks into the 2013 season the Braves are a one-loss team and riding an eight-game winning streak. Even considering all the high hopes I brought to the table this year, it’s a better start than I dared imagine, thanks in large part to several improbable performances by players far from the spotlight. Here’s a quick look at the guys who have been very pleasant surprises.

Paul Maholm

The current rotation appears concrete, and no hurler has been more impressive than Maholm. In 12.2 innings pitched he’s allowed no earned runs, just seven hits, and only four walks. Granted, seven of those innings were against the Mighty Mighty Marlins, but hey, they are still technically major league baseball players. They even have that one guy—Giancarlo Stanton. He’s really good. So what if their winning percentage is lower than the average IQ? Jokes aside, it will be great to have Maholm around for an entire season. Of course he can’t maintain this pace for the whole year, but he solidifies the middle of the rotation, which in years past has been paper thin.

Chris Johnson

Honestly, I saw Johnson as an insignificant factor in the Upton/Prado trade. His only value appeared to be a mildly interesting competition of mediocrity between him and Francisco at third base. Instead he’s provided more than advertised, racking up 10 hits in 28 at-bats, as well as four runs. He’s played a decent third base and, even better, done a good job of filling in at first while Freeman is on the mend. What a blessing, because Gattis, as terrific as he is, is no first baseman.

Evan Gattis

Hype follows Gattis like a dust cloud on Pig-Pen (Peanuts jokes, anyone?). But his prowess is not all myth, and he’s proved it at this early stage. El Oso Blanco is enjoying his debut to the tune of four homeruns in eight games, including a homer that made the difference in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat of the Nationals.  He’s got more hashtags than Heyward has hits. When McCann returns to the lineup, he better perform, or calls for Gattis will thunder throughout the stadium.

Ramiro Pena

How’s this for a slash line: .412/.444/.647? Way more than I expected from a backup infielder rescued from obscurity in the Yankees organization. He’s effective defensively, able to play short, third, and second when a starter needs the night off. If you didn’t know his name before Friday night, you do now. His yicketty sealed the victory and made all the highlight reels, but what impressed me more was the guile and grit he showed by bunting for a single in the ninth, which allowed him to later score the tying run. He’s no Martin Prado (there is only one), but he appears to have a similar spirit for the game.

I hope some of Atlanta’s high profile players (J-Hey, Bossman Junior) break out of their slumps, but in the meantime it feels great to win with the aid of the sidekicks.

 

 

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