Kris Medlen was an afterthought. A bullpen arm or an emergency starter. A Tommy John casualty who, while likely figuring to be part of the back end of the Braves rotation one day, wasn’t supposed to be the ace. Certainly not in the 2012 pennant drive. But here we are.
Medlen extended his scoreless innings streak to 28 and a third innings last night, blanking the Padres for eight efficient innings. It was the 17th straight Medlen start the Braves have won, stretching back to 2010. That’s a bit of a gimmick stat given the time frame, but that’s the most consecutive starts a team has won for a dude since the Cardinals won 17 straight for Chris Carpenter back in 2005.
It’s worth noting, of course, that his recent hot stretch has coincided with starts against some less-than-threatening offenses. Since joining the rotation he’s faced the Marlins, the Astros, the Mets and the Padres twice. He did shut the Nationals out for seven innings, and the Padres offense, while not impressive overall, has been scoring a lot of runs of late, so it’s not nothing.
But you can’t pick your opponent, and obviously the important part of this is that the Braves biggest weakness this year — consistency in the rotation — has been squarely addressed by Medlen’s recent tear.
Also important: he works fast and throws strikes and that’s just aesthetically pleasing. Dear God why don’t more pitchers do that?
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉