Behind Enemy Lines: Talking shop with Talking Chop

Rob Carr

Bennett Hipp of Talking Chop answered some questions about the Atlanta Braves for us prior to this weekend's interleague series.

Worst. Headline. Ever.

In preparation for this weekend's interleague series with the Atlanta Braves, we spoke with Bennett Hipp, a.k.a. SCrebel10, of Talking Chop about the Braves' hot start. I answered a few questions for them as well.

1. Expectations had to be pretty high among the Braves’ fanbase after the club traded for outfielder Justin Upton and signed his brother B.J. as a free agent, but did anyone expect the team to start off as hot as they did?

I think coming into the season, with the acquisitions of the Upton brothers, fans expected this team to be really good. General consensus seemed to be that this was a team capable of winning 90-95 games, but no, I don't think anyone expected them to come out of the gate as well as they have. Very rarely do teams play on the field like they're supposed to on paper, but the Braves really have. We knew they were going to pitch it (although not quite at level), hit a lot of homers, and strikeout a lot. That's exactly what they've done.

2. Everyone is talking about the Braves’ offense so far, but the pitching staff has been downright ridiculous. Who has been the biggest surprise? Is there anyone that hasn’t performed up to expectations so far? Is it even fair for you guys to be able to add Brandon Beachy to the rotation when he returns from Tommy John surgery?

The surprise has to be left-hander Paul Maholm, who will start the series opener on Friday. He was really good after coming over from the Cubs in July, and has taken that to a different level this season. After adding a cutter in 2011, Maholm has added a slow curveball that gives him yet another option to throw at hitters.

In terms of underachieving Julio Teheran got off to a rocky start during his first three starts of the season, but bounced back with a really encouraging start Tuesday night at Coors Field of all places. If he can build off of that start and continue progressing, it'll allow the Braves to bring Brandon Beachy back as slowly as they'd like to. Atlanta doesn't have a ton of rotational depth at the moment, so getting Beachy back will be a huge boost.

3. For the first time in forever, the Braves needed a new third baseman to start the season. Has manager Fredi Gonzalez decided between Chris Johnson and Juan Francisco yet, or are they still in some semblance of a platoon?

Johnson has gotten off to a really good, albeit partially BABIP fueled, start. While he's been impressive, it looks like Atlanta will continue to go with the platoon over at the hot corner, which I think is the right move. "Fat Juan" has crushed right-handed pitching, hitting all four of his homers and posting a 165 wRC+ against them. Expect that platoon to continue going forward.

4. Opinions of former Tiger and current Brave Gerald Laird on our site range from "excellent backup catcher" to horrible words that would make a truck driver blush. With the emergence of Evan Gattis and Brian McCann’s return from injury looming, is there a place for Laird on the roster?

He's has struggled defensively behind the plate this season, as he's just looked awkward receiving pitches sometimes. Laird's been very productive offensively however, walking at a 10% rate and posting a 125 wRC+. Gattis has been in a slump at the plate lately, but assuming he makes adjustments to pitchers pitching him away with off-speed stuff, I'd imagine Laird would be the odd man out when McCann returns.

5. What does it feel like to have a young, promising shortstop with an incredible glove? Seriously, we have no idea.

It really is a great feeling. We all know how great Simmons is defensively, and yet every couple of games, he'll make a play that'll just make everyone sit there and say "wow, how in the world did he do that?" Simmons is even more valuable to a team like Atlanta due to the fact that the Braves have poor defenders around him with Uggla and the Johnson/Francisco combo. Having Simmons there in the middle is a huge help to the infield defense, and he's one of those guys you'd pay just to watch him play in the field.

Once again, thanks to Bennett for answering our questions. Be sure to check out Talking Chop for all things Braves this season, and don't be surprised if we hear from them again come October.

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