Fightin Phillies: The Braves started out real well in the first couple of weeks, lately though they have cooled off. Is this team going to turn it around and why have they faltered?
Tomahawk Talk: Well, the Braves did get off a good start as you mentioned. They went 8-5 in their first 13 games including a win over the Phillies in the first game of their three-game series in April. The Phillies came back to win the next two games of that series though and that was the beginning of a nine-game losing streak for the Braves, who finally snapped the losing skid last weekend. They've won four out of five games since then (going into Thursday night's game with the Nationals) however, so hopefully they're in the process of turning things around. Lack of hitting has been the primary problem - they're not hitting with runners in scoring position and they're leaving too many men on base.
FP: Braves manager Bobby Cox said that Albert Pujols was worth $50 million a year after Ryan Howard got his 5 year deal for $125 million, what do you think he meant by this, and do you think that Ryan will live up to this contract?
TT: Well, I know that Bobby thinks that Albert Pujols is by far the best player in major league baseball at this time. Even before he made his recent comments to the media in St. Louis right after the Phillies gave Ryan Howard his new 5-year, $125 million deal, Bobby has said that if A-Rod is worth $27 million per year, then Pujols is worth $50-55 million per year. I don't think Bobby expects Pujols to actually get the $50-55 million per year, but he considers Pujols a much better player than the other two guys and the salary comparison analogy is just his way of pointing that out. As for Ryan living up to that big new contract of his, I think that could go either way. Ryan Howard is a great player, but $125 million over five years is a lot of money to put into one player. We'll have to wait and see how that works out for the Phillies.
FP: Jason Heyward has 8 homeruns so far this season as we do this Q & A, how many HR's do you think he finishes with this year and is he the Rookie of the Year?
TT: Well, Jason is on pace right now to hit 48 homeruns, but I don't think he'll hit quite that many as a rookie. As long as he stays healthy though, I could see him hitting 30-40 homeruns and driving in over 100 runs this season. And if he does put up those kinds of numbers, he'll definitely be the Nl's Rookie of the Year.
FP: What area do you think the Braves need the most improvement in? What area do you think is the strongest part of this year's Braves team?
TT: They have to start hitting a lot better than they have thus far. Martin Prado (.339) and Jason Heyward (.286) are the only regulars that are batting over .250 going into Thursday night's game against the Nationals. The other six starters are all hitting below .250 - and that's not going to get it done. The Braves' bullpen has been the team's biggest strength. Six of the seven Braves' relievers have ERA's of 3.27 or better and five of those guys have ERA's of 2.55 or below.
FP: Nate McLouth started off slow this season for the Braves, is he an everyday player for the Braves? What do the Atlanta fans think about him?
TT: He's still an everyday player for the Braves at this point, Rich, but I don't know how much longer that's going to continue to be the case if Nate doesn't start hitting. I think Atlanta fans are questioning whether Nate McLouth, Melky Cabrera, and/or Matt Diaz are viable everyday outfielders. Jason Heyward is the only Braves' outfielder that is producing and if that doesn't change soon, the Braves are going to have to look into adding a quality outfielder or two.
Thanks very much to Scott Humphries of Tomahawk Talk for doing this interview - check out his Atlanta Braves blog and read much more about the weekend series opponent of the Philadelphia Phillies.