New York, NY – As the calendar turns from April to May, the “small sample size” warnings start to drift away. Statistics start to take on a bigger meaning, and for some Atlanta Braves, are beginning to look at lot more normal. For Freddie Freeman, the first ten days of the 2016 season were a nightmare. Freeman started 2-for-25 at the plate and was having trouble catching up to opposing pitchers fastballs. In years past, Freeman thrived on the hard stuff, which is why he’s seen less fastballs over the last two seasons. But, after a two hit night on Tuesday in a 3-0 Braves win, Freeman is now hitting .317 with a .386 OBP in the 16 games since. In addition, Freeman has posted a .435 average over the first six games of the trip that has taken the team to Boston, Chicago and now New York.
Another young Brave that’s starting to heat up is Mallex Smith, who hit his first Big League home run on Tuesday night, an opposite field shot off Matt Harvey. Smith has found himself in a less familiar spot in the batting order, starting four games in the ninth spot. However, with a pair of hits on Tuesday, Smith is hitting .533 with three doubles, a homer and three RBI hitting behind the pitcher. It’s an interesting dynamic Smith brings to the table, essentially giving Fredi Gonzalez a second leadoff hitter, and he’s thrived in that role to this point.
Finally, keep an eye on the Atlanta starting rotation. Over the last five games, Braves starters have posted a 2.05 ERA, and that does count Folty’s 4 earned in three-and-two-thirds on Monday. Julio Teheran has said more than a few times that the “old Julio is back” and based on what we’ve seen of late, it’s hard to argue against that statement. Matt Wisler has looked sharp, coming off an outing where he held the red-hot Mets to just one hit over eight innings, and didn’t allow a runner to advance past first base. A rotation that features young righties like Teheran, Wisler and Blair should get fans excited for the potential this group could produce in the near future. And, don’t give up on Foltynewicz just yet. His stuff is electric and he still has the opportunity to be a very talented starter in this league. Mix in veteran Jhoulys Chacin, and this rotation is starting to put things together. While I still think we could see Tyrell Jenkins at some point this season, the strides we’ve seen from guys like Wisler and Blair have been extremely encouraging.
Kevin McAlpin covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinMcAlpin