The Braves just finished their 44th game, which puts them over a quarter of the way through the season, and you know what that means: that’s right, it’s time to hand out some grades and make some early judgments on how the season is going so far. 

I won’t mention every single player who’s seen action, but I’ll make sure to touch on the main players in the lineup, starting rotation and bullpen.  The starting pitchers are up today, with reports on the bullpen and lineup regulars in the very near future.

Starting Pitchers

Tim Hudson: Hudson has clearly been the premier starter for the Braves so far this year and will definitely be in the running for the Cy Young Award if he keeps this up. He has gone eight innings in each of his last two starts and has really looked sharp all year.  With an ERA (2.09) and WHIP (1.09) in the top ten of qualified National League starters, Hudson has been on the top of his game in 2010.  

First Quarter Grade: A

Tommy Hanson: At first glance, Hanson’s year looks pretty pedestrian – a 3-3 record to go with a 4.18 ERA.  But in reality he has pitched really, really well so far.  After removing one horrible start that is clearly an outlier, Hanson has 56 strikeouts compared to only 13 walks, a 2.88 ERA and has averaged over six innings per start.  He’s only 23 years old and has the look of a top of the rotation starter for years to come.

First Quarter Grade: A-

Kris Medlen: Medlen has filled in very nicely for Jair Jurrgens.  Originally counted on as the spot-starter and long reliever, Medlen has made three starts in May and has acquitted himself nicely in each one.  The Braves are 2-1 in games he’s started and he hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of them.  He hasn’t pitched deep into games, but he’s given the Braves a chance to win each time and he really looks like a keeper for the future.

First Quarter Grade: B

Derek Lowe: Lowe has started ten games this year and has earned a decision each time out (6-4).  Despite the winning record, his numbers really aren’t that good.  Most alarming is the fact that he’s only gone past six innings in one of his ten starts.  His ERA in May (4.82) is nearly a run lower than it was in April (5.79) so maybe he’s getting things turned in the right direction, but short starts and a high ERA are not what the Braves had in mind when Lowe signed a big free agent deal before the 2009 season.

First Quarter Grade: C-

Kenshin Kawakami: We pretty much know what we’re getting from Kawakami at this point – he either goes six innings and let’s in three runs (best case scenario) or he goes four innings and lets in four runs.  He’s not going to go deep into games and he’s not going to overpower hitters with his stuff, but he’s not nearly as bad as his record indicates (0-6).  He too has looked better in May than April but I’m pretty much just grasping for something positive to hold onto with this guy.  All in all, Kawakami is probably better than most fifth starters out there, but it’s appalling that he’s the 4th highest paid player on the roster.

First Quarter Grade: D+

Jair Jurrgens: Jurrgens made five starts before he got shut down with a hamstring injury.  One start was great, two were good and two were god-awful.  This guy has the capability to be an All-Star (215 innings, 2.60 ERA in 2009) and is still only 24 years old so it is imperative that he is fully healed before trying to pitch again.  He’s too good and too valuable to the future of this team to be rushed back before he’s ready.

First Quarter Grade: Inconclusive

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