Archive for the 'Braves Pitching' Category

#168: The Worst May Be Behind us

Gil
Mechanicsville, VA

August 7, 2017

The gauntlet faced by the Braves in July turned out to be about as expected although the culprit was an unlikely one. No surprise the Cubs swept the Braves at STP, well, maybe a little surprise but the Braves had just reached the mythical .500 mark and seemed poised to make a run. Then pifft… Swept 3 games by the resurgent Cubbies and off to the left coast, a place where the hopes and dreams of Braves teams of the recent past have gone to wilt and die. Surprise again, the Braves took the first two games and looked like a third win in four games was possible but alas, the Dodgers remembered who they were and beat back the Bravos’ charge. The Braves lost 2 of three to the 2nd place Diamondbacks but it was on to Philadelphia and the woeful Phillies. Alas a trip which had promise was smashed by a Phillies four game sweep. Now the Braves found themselves in a pretty deep hole, any real hope of making the playoffs were pretty much done in at that point.

The Braves have since returned home to face the Dodgers who inexplicably seem only to have problems beating the Braves. Yes, the Braves only one on game out of three in the recent home stand against the best team in the National League this season but they had a chance to take the season series. The Braves just finished a week-end series with the Fish taking two of three before faltering Sunday 4-1. The good news is, the Braves are playing .500 ball this month and with the trade deadline behind them, appear more focused on what is ahead of them instead of behind them.

Connor Kok-Wy Joe

Jamie Garcia was traded to the Indians for a young minor league pitcher and Sean Rodriguez was traded to the Pirates for a former first round pick Connor Joe who is playing A ball. It was a good move for the Braves who have cleared about $12 million from their payroll with the trades of Garcia and S-Rod. who by the way hit the game winning homerun for the Buccos in the 12th inning his first game back with his old team. Well, Godspeed to him.

Lucas Sims

Meanwhile, the Braves sent struggling Dansby Swanson down to Triple A Gwinnett to find himself again. He had been struggling mightily at the plate and it was carrying over to the shortstop position. The Braves called up young right hander Lucas Sims and mighty-mite Ozzie Albies to play second base. While Sims is 0-2, he has shown promise and does not appear to be over matched. Albies is not exactly hitting the cover off the ball but he looks like he belongs and it is only a matter of time before he breaks out.

Brandon Phillips

In a related move, Brandon Phillips has been moved to third base and frankly, he looks like Brooks Robinson over there. Making diving plays and displaying a much stronger arm than I knew he possessed.

In addition, Matt Adams has been slotted to play left field at least until Matt Kemp returns. Kemp is currently out with a bad hamstring and I would not be surprised to see him out until late August. Meanwhile, Freddie Freeman has moved back to first base where he belongs. He did what he could to try and make the team better and did not embarrass himself at the hot corner but his best position is at first and it makes the overall defense better.

Max Fried

So, what to expect? Look for more youngsters to be given a chance to show what they can do as players are traded and snuffled around, especially the bullpen. A somewhat surprising move was made Saturday when the Braves promoted young lefty Max Fried from Double A Mississippi and placed him in the pen. He has yet to make an appearance but it will happen soon. Don’t expect The-Answer-to-Everything, Ronald Acuna to play for the Big Braves this season however, the Braves are playing the long game with him and while he almost certainly will make the show in 2018, the Braves will try to protect many of their promising young players from the Rule 5 draft and don’t want to add Acuna to their 40 man roster before they have to.

 

 

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#167: Trust The Gut

 

Vox O’Reason

 

As of today, here are the moves my gut says will happen over the next 18 days, in the order of how certain I feel they’ll happen…

 

 

Albies

Ozzie Albans

brandonphillips

Brandon Phillips

 

Brandon Phillips will be traded and Ozzie will be promoted. This one is almost a lock. Ozzie Albies is ready and Brandon’s contract is very friendly. This one is a no-brainer.

 

 

 

 

MattAdams

Matt Adams

 

Matt Adams will be traded. First, his breakout early season here put him on the radar, but he has come back to earth a bit recently. The time is right now. He’s controllable for a couple of years and has a team friendly contract, making him easier to move.

johancarmarga

Johan Carmarga

 

 

 

Johan Camargo has emerged as a real answer at 3B, where our franchise cornerstone 1B is currently residing like a square peg in a round hole. Adams will be traded and Freddie Freeman will rightfully return to 1B while Johan assumes the primary duties at 3B. All will be right with the world. Sean Rodriguez will then join the team as the super-sub he was intended to be and play all over the field.

 

JaimeGarciaAtlantaBravesPhotoDayTgyo2L19499l

Jaime Garcia

Jaime Garcia will be traded. He won’t bring back what we hoped he might a month ago, but we’ll get something, and we’ll like it.

 

Hard to say what the corresponding pitching move might be.

KrisMedlin

Kris Medlin

 

Not sure Kris Medlen is ready, but he seems a possibility. Lucas Sims is also a possibility. Of course, Coppy trading for his elusive “ace” is also a possibility, although a remote one. Regardless, Garcia will be moved since he was only intended as a half season bridge anyway.

 

Those moves I feel fairly strongly about. Here are some I think could happen, but I’m not as certain…

 

 

Jason Motte

Jason Motte

JimJohnson

Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson could be traded. His value is not very high at the moment, but he happens to be a bullpen arm at a time when bullpen arms are in high demand. If Arodys Vizcaino was healthy, I’d see him as a stronger trade candidate, but since he’s not, JimmyJohn is the guy. Jason Motte is also a possibility here, although a lesser one.

 

 

 

MattKemp

Matt Kemp

 

Nick Markakis could be traded. Up until very recently I felt the team would keep him through at least the middle of next season. But the fact that Ronald Acuna just got bumped to AAA tells me that the Johns feel The Answer To Everything could contribute very soon. I think that truncates Nick’s timeline. I do not think Matt Kemp will be traded. He just fits here for the time being, both on the field and in the clubhouse.

 

AnthonRecker

Anthony Recker

 

 

One of Kurt Suzuki or Tyler Flowers could be moved. I don’t feel really strongly about this one, but the demand for catching could make it happen if the right offer came across Coppy’s desk. It could also be hastened if Coppy receives a decent catching prospect in any of the above mentioned deals. The Flowers/Suzuki tandem has been very good, but Anthony Recker proved last year he can be a capable backup if called upon.

 

That’s it for me. That’s all my gut tells me. Then again, I could just be hungry.

VOR

 

#165: So, It Begins Again…

Gil

by Gil ‘N Mechanicsville

With 1/3 of the 2017 season now solidly in the rear-view mirror, it is probably an appropriate time to look at the Braves season, where it is, where its been and where it is likely to end up. For the first two months, a supposed strength of the Brave failed to materialize, that being pitching.  I know, no one thought a staff made up of a pair of AARP prospects and a rookie was going the lead the league in ERA but neither did anyone realistically think they would be this bad.

RADickey

Richard Allen Dickey   age 42

To be fair, R.A. Dicky is about what was expected, some good games, some bad games and some that were rained out.  Bartolo Colon and Julio Teheran however have been horrible. Unless you have a team that can routinely put a couple of touchdowns on the board, there is little hope for a W to be put up, they just have not pitched anywhere near expectations.

Bartolo+Colon+Atlanta+Braves+Photo+Day+Px85fmtaLGDl

Bartolo Colon  age 44

Bartolo may have an excuse that he simply is feeling his age; Julio, for whatever reason, has just not had it. He has developed a habit of giving up gopher balls at an alarming rate. It is as if he has caught what ever contagion afflicting the since-demoted Arron Blair and Matt Wisler and served up baseballs like they were on a Tee. Opposing hitters have fattened up their batting averages to an alarming degree when facing Braves’ pitchers.

JaimeGarciaAtlantaBravesPhotoDayTgyo2L19499l

Jaime Garcia age 30

We’ve gotten some decent pitching from Jaime Garcia, a new and unexpected addition to the lineup.  With a new addition to the DL, some of the new Minor League pitchers will be making their appearances in the Big Show.

The first will be Sean Newcomb who was acquired from the Angels as part of the deal which sent Andrelton Simmons to the left coast. Sean is a big left-hander who, like most young fire-balling hurlers, has had his troubles maintaining consistency with the strike zone. Perhaps he will get lucky and have an ump with a wide zone behind the dish when he is pitching.

         Kris Medlin                 age 31

If he can stay healthy, old favorite Kris Medlen looks to be on a path which should return him to the big leagues by July. Kris continues to build arm and shoulder strength after two Tommy John surgeries and a shoulder repair. He has altered his mechanics so as to lessen the stress on his shoulder. The rest of the young phenoms toiling away in high A and double A will likely not show up in an Atlanta uniform until the 2018 and 2019 seasons and beyond.

Freddie Freeman
age 27

Matt Adams
age 28

As far as offense, the injury to Freddie Freeman’s wrist was an awful set back to the hopes and dreams of the 2017 Braves. While the Braves front office pulled off quite a coup in dealing for Matt Adams, he is still not Freddie Freeman. Upon Freeman’s return in August, the Braves will determine how best to use Adams’ considerable talent.

Dansby Swanson
age 23

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments could be the shaky play of rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson. Oh well, he will get past it. He perhaps is simply the victim of too high expectations after a fast start last September. It is a lot of pressure to put on a rookie to be the face of the franchise, just ask Jeff Francoeur. The current offense has shown glimpses of solid play and impressive offense but for now, we best just watch as this team goes thru its growing pains.

#164: Fodder for Food.. or maybe just fodder…

 

by Vox O’Reason

 

 

This team is really, really hard to figure out. I still believe they are a team capable of a .500 season except they aren’t playing like it consistently… and I think that’s the key. So why aren’t they?

This is my amateur assessment after the Braves fell to 11-18, almost 1/4 way into the season:

One, I never make any wholesale judgments on any team until Memorial Day… never. Just too many weather-related outcomes and uneven schedules this early in the year. Heck, it seems as if the Braves have played half their games vs. the Mets. That said, you can make some targeted observations.

Two, the Braves veteran starters, brought in for the sole purpose of providing innings and stability, have provided neither innings nor stability. The bullpen has already been overused and we’re only in the first week of May. Is it because we’ve played multiple series against both NYM and WAS, the top 2 HR hitting teams in the league? Or maybe they are the top 2 HR hitting teams because they’ve played multiple series against the Braves..? Doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that the starting pitching has been too inconsistent, and that includes Julio and Folty. Something has to give, and soon. No offense perform consistently when they are constantly trying to dig out of a hole every stinking night. So how do you get the starters on track? I suppose if I knew that, I’d be employed by a MLB team somewhere.

Three, the bullpen, which can have its bad moments, actually has turned in some pretty good outings. Heck, yesterday they gave us 7 innings of 1 hit ball until the fateful 14th. But when you have to trot a guy out there 3 nights in a row, you have

Collmenter

to expect trouble. Also, if you take away just Wisler’s stats alone, the overall numbers improve dramatically. JimmyJohn, Viz, JoRam have all been dominant at times. Sam Freeman thus far has been effective. But when you expose Motte, Kroll and EOF too often, you’re gonna get burned. And you never know if you’re gonna get the good Collmenter or the bad Collmenter. Ever. The inconsistency of our starters has overexposed the pen. Period. Improve the rotation and you automatically improve the bullpen. That part is simple.

Four, as I mentioned earlier, if you stop giving up an early lead every game, the offense can work more effectively. When I look at the lineup, it’s absolutely a lineup capable of pushing a team to a .500 record or better. Thanks to Adonis’ late revival, the top of the lineup is actually pretty good. Our catching tandem even leads the league in OBP at the position. No comments are needed for Dansby. Our eyes all work perfectly. I’ll only add my agreement with Gil that the kid is getting no help from the umps. That called strike 3 he took in the 11th inning yesterday was shoulder high. That’s just salt in the gaping wound. Heck, it made me feel uncomfortable and I’m not feeling his pressure. Overall, these guys are capable. They’re just being betrayed by the pitching.

Five, the bench is still not constructed well. Lane Adams has been a good addition, and Jace has been better than expected. Whichever of our catching tandem is not starting has respectively held his own as a PH. But here’s where it drops off the cliff. We’re already

Bonifacio

running a short bench, and we’ve got Emilio Bonifacio still taking up a spot. Why? He’s not contributing anything. Might as well add a 9th reliever. (If I’m in charge, he’s released immediately and Johan Camargo is added.) The absence of a good bench is exemplified by our 1-3 record in extra innings? Heck, we were forced to PH Julio in yesterday’s tilt. What greater example needs be shown? If you’re gonna run a short bench, you better make darn sure the 4 guys you have are of ML quality. I only count 3 on our bench. That’s a huge problem. We had the potential winning run on 3B in the 9th, 10th, and 11th innings yesterday, but nobody could drive them in. Good teams have a guy that can come off the bench and get it done at least once out of 3 times. We don’t.

Six, the manager is still the same guy that was a breath of fresh air in 2016. I don’t think he is a factor here. You could have Sparky Anderson in the dugout with this team and they still would have us all pulling our collective hair out. It’s simply not possible to put a puzzle together when you don’t have all the pieces.

Finally, you add all that up and you get 11-18. Want to get back to .500? Find more quality starts from the rotation and find a real bench replacement for Boni. They might not contend for a WC, but they sure as heck won’t be as frustrating as this current group.

 

 

#163: Warm Weather & The Braves Heat Up

Gil
Mechanicsville, VA

 

After a pretty ragged start to the season which saw the Braves boot the ball around like they were auditioning for a spot with the Atlanta United FC. Needless to say, no one secured a spot on the football club for fear of a rash of own goals occurring. While the Braves were in most of their early games, unforced errors led to a 1-6 record.

 

Along with a split of a two game set in Miami, the Braves returned to the Atlanta suburbs and their new home of Sun Trust Park. Warm weather and timely hitting as well as fundamentally sound defense the Los Bravos have chopped their way to a modest 5 game win streak. Perhaps most encouragingly it has been done in the absence of Matt Kemp while he rested a cranky hamstring.

The braves still face a pretty tough road as they continue to seek answers at several key positions. Adonis Garcia continues to man the third base position and it is likely he will be one of the first to be jettisoned when a suitable alternative is procured. Perhaps his best role would be as a right handed pinch hitter off the bench but after having future hall of fame player Chipper Jones play there, the drop off is noticeable. Even Martin Prado was solid as a super sub manning the position.

 

The Braves bullpen has found the sweet spot too with Rameirez, Vizcaino and Johnson closing games but these guys cannot pitch every night. It would be nice to see Braves starters going deep into games instead of coming out after 5 or 6 innings.

 

Ramirez, Viscaino, Johnson

Ian Krol still seems to have some problems being consistent in the strike zone and causes me to have some angst when his number is called to come in from the bull pen.What we don’t want to see is Snit fall in love with the same three guys every night to the point they lose their effectiveness or their arms fall off by August.

So, as the gNats blow into town, the first real test of the young season might well be upon us. Swatting the gNats could go a long way in showing this team and baseball they are pretty far along on the road to respectability.

161:Countdown to Spring

Gil

by Gil Elliott

chsbrownst2

In just about a month, baseball’s spring training begins. More than the return of the swallows to Capistrano or the first Robin appearing at your feeders, it is the true harbinger of the return of warm weather and the renewal of life in North America. No longer will we have to rely on reports from the far flung reaches of the world to stay abreast of the Braves hopefuls nor need translations from Spanish to English the progress of players in various winter leagues.

Spring ballpark errors.

We will again be able to watch some meaningful baseball with the World Baseball Classic scheduled to make its return this year. We will also hold our collective breaths as we hope and pray none of our players are injured in what is essentially a glorified exhibition series. The WBC is a step above spring training games where there will not be anyone getting in their cardio by running the outfield during the game.

EPSON MFP image

charlie-brown-the-rosterSo, we anxiously await the arrival of pitchers and catchers and shortly thereafter the rest of the more than 200 players who will participate in the Braves organization when they return to Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Most of the this season’s major league roster is already set but there are always question marks. The Braves’ outfield is set other than the fourth outfielder as well as most of the infield but last minute trades or heaven forbid, injuries.

chsbrownpitcher

Second and third base still appear the slots most likely to be the ones targeted for upgrades. The anticipated arrival of yet another Curacao product, Ozzie Albies, is eagerly awaited by the denizens of Braves’ Country who have followed the young phenom for years. The signing of three veteran pitchers to anchor the starting staff signals that the Braves want their bevy of young pitching prospects to develop in a less stressful environment.

chsbrownsnoopyatbatSo, let the games begin. I will concede the floor to football as the NFL winds down and March Madness and the NCAA basketball tourney take center stage. They only mean we are that much closer to our true passion and meaningful baseball returns.

However, we do reserve the right to interrupt the other lesser sports should Coppy & Co make additional moves!

gil2

#160: Comers and Goers

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil ‘N Mechanicsville
December 8, 2016

The 2016 Winter meetings have come to a close and the big trades appear to be Chris Sale to the Red Sox and Adam Eaton to the Nationals. Chapman signing with the Yankees and Andrew McCutchen staying in Pittsburg, at least for now. Other moves have taken place too but I will talk about those later, the main thrust of our interest is still the Braves. So, let’s focus on them.

Bartolo Colon

Bartolo Colon

The Braves had previously signed two free agent pitchers to one year deals. R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon. Both are bonafide members of the Geritol set and with the addition of Jamie Garcia, the Bravos have exponentially increase the age and experience in their starting rotation. Dickey, late of the Toronto Blue Jays signed a one year contract with a one year option for 2018. The knuckleballer should still be able to supply innings and the hope is he won’t wear out Tyler Flowers behind the plate. I am reminded of the line attributed to our old favorite Bob Uecker. When he was asked about how he caught Phil Niekro’s knuckleball he replied, “It’s simple, I just wait for it to stop rolling and pick it up.”

Robert Allen Dickey

Robert Allen Dickey

Dickey is 41 years old but it is not like he has to rely upon a 96 mph fastball to get guys out. His bread and butter has always been his ability to make a baseball do things a baseball is not want to do. Now, a knuckleball is not one which translate well to TV in it’s movement. It is however one where it is anyone’s guess where it will be when it gets to the plate. It is not as if a knuckleball is impossible to hit, it is just tough to hit well. As for a batter being able to time the pitch, he still has a decent fastball to keep opposing hitters honest. Don’t be surprise if a pitcher like Josh Collmenter doesn’t pick Dickey’s brain a tries to learn the pitch. It should be interesting when Dickey meets with Braves legend Phil Niekro this spring.

The second off season signing of note is the ageless Bartolo Colon. Another graybeard, Colon, who has outlasted Turner Field in longevity, can still get batters out with a variety of pitches. His “fastball” tops out around 88 mph but it is everything but straight. Movement and location, the two holy grails of the craft have been mastered by a guy who for all appearances is having more fun than any reasonable person should be expected to have. The impression he gives is a guy who is truly comfortable in his ample skin. For sure, he is entertaining and he has a wealth of experience and knowledge he can pass along to the next generation of pitchers in the Braves stable.

Jamie Garcia

Jamie Garcia

The final piece it the Braves’ new look rotation is Jamie Garcia. The lefty is another veteran. He was acquired from the St Louis Cardinals for rookies Chris Ellis, who I profiled in my previous lead. Also included in the trade package was prospect Luke Dykstra and right handed pitcher John Gant. Gant was acquired from the Mets, along with Rod Whalen for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. While Gant had some value, the Braves felt his ceiling was well below much of the talent currently in the pipeline.

Garcia had a bit of a down year in 2016 with the Red Birds but he did pitch over 171 innings last season. John Coppoletta was clearly looking for pitchers who could routinely pitch into the 7th inning as opposed to the 4 and 5 inning efforts put forth by several of the Braves young arms last season. The Braves revolving door should not have to swing quite so frequently in 2017. While fans should not expect the trio of new starters to log many 1 hit shutouts in 2017, they should be expected to deliver many solid quality starts. Perhaps with an improved offense, the Braves pitchers can focus on delivering innings and not worry about who is warming up in the pen and trying to be too fine in their pitches.

For sure, many of the young prospects will have a wide choice of peers from whom to choose as a mentor.

 

gil2

156: The Home Stretch & The Braves Heat Up

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

by Gil ‘N Mechanicsville

So here we are, the final month of the season. A point in the past where we have seen the Braves totally collapse and limp into the postseason. No such worries this year, the Braves lost this season in April with a 5 wins, 18 loss record. May and June were hardly any better going 10-18 and 12-16 respectfully, so yes, it was over early for los Bravos. In fact, until August 31st, the Braves appeared to have a stranglehold on having the first overall pick in the 2017 draft.

All that seems to have turned around though with a good, not great record, but relative to the rest of the season, a very good August. 13-15 for the month is not going to win many championships but considering the state of the Braves pitching staff, it was a pretty spectacular month. Two things seem to have the greatest impact on the turnaround for the home boys in Atlanta: (1) Matt Kemp and (2) resurgence in the young pitchers.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp, no longer the All-star caliber player he was in LA is still head and shoulders above anyone else the Braves have had playing left field in years. He was traded for a guy who was a huge disappointment for all concerned with both the Dodgers and Braves. The Dodgers did at least recover some of their investment but the Braves basically ate about 30MM dollars. A guy who was so toxic, the Padres dropped him before he could get on a plane and fly to San Diego. Of course Olivera will have to console himself with the 62 million dollars he is signed for. A fellow can live pretty well in the Dominican Republic with that kind of scratch.

Matt Kemp was a salary dump for the Padres, plain and simple. All I can say is it must have been a pretty miserable marriage for the offensively challenged Padres to want him off their roster. Kemp showed up in Atlanta about 30 pounds overweight and somewhat out of shape but he has made a big difference for Freddie Freeman in particular and the Braves in general. No longer fleet afoot, he still can drive in runs and has played a decent left field. In the final game with San Diego, he actually laid out for a sinking line drive. He came up just short and the ball rolled to the wall for a triple but hey, up by 7 runs at the time, it was gutsy and I’m sure the effort was not lost on his teammates.

This team might be well out of it but they are not playing like it. The final month of the season is upon us and the Braves can only play the role of spoilers. They will again be playing a majority of NL East rivals. While the Nationals have pretty much wrapped up the division, the Mets and the Marlins are both clawing for a wild card berth. The Braves are playing for a modicum of respect and several are playing for a spot on next season’s roster.

It should be interesting as to who will make up the roster when the Braves take the field in their new ballpark next April. Truthfully, I only see two spots on the roster as being givens: Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson;  everyone else is on the bubble as far as I can tell. It should be an interesting offseason for the Braves.

gil2

153: Two Down, Four to Go

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil in
Mechanicsville, VA

 

As we head into June, we have seen a slight up tic in Braves win/loss percentage.  Currently, the Bravos are in a head to head race with the Twins for the privilege of having the overall first pick in the 2017 Draft. At this point, I don’t think it will make that much difference in the broad scheme of things as far as the immediate direction the team is headed in. The baseball draft is really all about the future. While I don’t have the answer at my immediate disposal, from observations made over a lifetime, it is my opinion that those players who are drafted and make it to the big leagues often take four years or more before they become truly productive.

The Braves helped speed up the process by trading for so many good prospects last season but they are still a ways away. I suspect the emphasis will continue to be pitching for the Braves because they are just so fragile it seems. Hopefully, the Braves will also find the next David Justice or Jermaine Dye, too.  I hope the Braves have learned their lesson with Cuban players. Sure, guys like Cespedes are out there but so are players like Mike Trout. You just have to be lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time.

Perhaps the biggest failing of Frank Wren was the loss of so many seasoned and talented scouts to other organizations. I’m not talking about guys who advanced up the ladder but personnel who took lateral moves.   What we were left with were people who left the cupboard bare of talent.

In any give draft, I think a team is extremely lucky to get two players who actually make it to the big leagues. Not just on the team that drafted them but any big league team. There are so many pitfalls facing players on their way to the Show, the probability of making the right choice is akin to hitting all five numbers plus the powerball number in the lottery.

So, keep watching and praying the Braves hit the lottery this summer. As we watch the progress of kids like Kolby Allard and Austin Riley as they mature, I hope the Braves brass are watching the progress of nearly 2000 other kids who were drafted last season. We know the Braves’ needs, so do twenty-nine other teams in major league baseball. All are looking to pick each other’s pocket but trades should not be about who got the best of the trade but long term it should be how a trade helped each team meet their goal.

MLB.com 2016 Top Prospects

153insert

Gil2

# 145: And Now, The Rebuilding Is Official

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil In Mechanicsville

Up until about 6PM CDT Friday night, folks in Braves Country still held out hope the Braves might stage a remarkable turn of events and sneak into the play-offs with an improbable cast of characters. After all, they were only 6 games back in both the division and the second wild card. Stranger things have happened, really… Did anyone really expect the Braves to be this close going into August? Alas, with the exportation of Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe to NL East rival Mets, the Braves front office officially signaled to the world that the season is done. Trading two guys who have done much to add some life to a very anemic offense  for yet another pair of pitching prospects pretty much has signaled they are throwing in the towel for 2015.

Now, to be fair, it was not really a surprise for this trade to occur. The pundits and speculators have been signalling for weeks the Braves were in sell mode. The absence of Freddie Freeman from the line up has not helped either. Again, a failure to score runs can lead to a lot of losses, no matter how good your pitching is. To be honest, the Braves defense has had a bit of “Bad News Bears” quality to it. I have seen many times where sharpness with the glove has added a bit of pop to a player’s bat. Giving other teams extra outs, even bad ones, can often lead to long innings, many extra pitches and losses and lots of unearned runs.

So, what now? I expect some other moves to be made soon. Jim Johnson, A.J. Perzinski, Cameron Maybin and others may soon be traded to teams still in the hunt. None figured to be long term fixtures in Atlanta anyway as the rebuild towards their goal of putting a winning team in their spanking new stadium in 2017. For those of us who were spoiled by all the success of the Braves from 1991 to 2005, it is a bitter pill to swallow. Not like it has been unknown to fail in Atlanta, look at the past couple of years.

One thing we have all come to understand is nothing is a given in baseball. Sure, good pitching usually beats good hitting but a player and a team with talent still normally beats one with only desire. So, as the team rebuilds, fans need to look at the current situation as a process. Look for the silver lining as young pitchers hone their craft. Speaking from personal experience, the lessons learned from failure were often more deeply entrenched than those learned from success. Sure, even a blind squirrel will find a nut once in a while but you don’t see too many blind squirrels getting fat.

We will need to look at each player through the eyes of a scout rather than the eyes of a fan. It’s okay to be critical in your view but not to criticize, after all, they are human beings. Some will have the talent to stay, some will not. Let’s be realistic in our expectations. not many Chipper Jones or Greg Madduxs come along. That is why only 1% of all the professional major league players are ever inducted into the Hall of Fame. Let’s look at it as an opportunity to build another great dynasty in Atlanta. It is just tough sometimes watching them make the sausage.

Gil2

#136: New faces for 2015 and beyond, Part I

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

by Gil in Mechanicsville, VA

One of the first trades made by new President of Baseball Operations/ General Manager John Hart was to trade Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever/long jumper Jordan Walden to St. Louis for right handed pitcher Shelby Miller and minor league prospect Tyrell Jenkins. While Miller has battled some inconstancy during his two years as a part of the St Louis rotation , he has shown constant improvement and when coupled with young Julio Teheran and Alex Woods, it should form the core of a very good major league rotation.

The 6 ‘ 3” 215 pound Miller hales from Houston Texas. He fills a dire need the Braves have found themselves in for starting pitching. The Braves have a promising starting pitcher who will be under full club control for the next four years. Of course, pitchers may be the most fragile human beings on earth with the difference between long term success and sudden flame out being a few strands of sinew attached between their ulna and humerus.

The 24 year old Miller features a complement of a 94 mph fastball and a plus curveball which he used in combination 98% of the time. After the All-Star break in 2014, he added a sinker into his repertoire with very positive results. The addition of the sinker added a critical third pitch needed by every successful starting pitcher. Miller’s major league history has shown an increase in the number of innings thrown each season as he matures. It is not unreasonable to expect Miller to exceed 200 innings pitched in 2015.

While Miller’s won loss record of 10-9 in 2014 might be somewhat deceiving in his true value, fans should remember that the Braves primary lefty and former number one draft pick, Mike Minor, posted a record of 6-12 last season. So, rather than throw out a bunch of stats, let’s just state that Miller is project to be a top of the order starter for the Braves. We all know it begins with pitching. While it will be tough for the 2015 Braves to compete head to head with the stellar staff assembled by the Washington Nationals and the up and coming flame throwers in New York and Miami, the Braves still have to play those games on the field. We cannot simply write those games off.

 The other addition to the Braves’ roster in the trade was young Tyrell Jenkins. Another lanky Texas native. He has experience some shoulder problems but may have discovered the cause of his problems being related to  taking a very long stride on the mound. Do not expect Jenkins to appear in Atlanta anytime soon and will likely begin 2015 at double A or high A ball but it is expected he will advance quickly as he perfects his change up to go along with his 2 seam and 4 seam fastball. He pitched well this year in the Arizona Fall League against older and more experienced batters. He has been projected by St Louis brain trust as a potential top of the rotation starter.

Gil2

#135: What Should Braves Fans Really Expect in 2015?

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil
Mechanicsville, VA

With the trades of Jason Heyward and Justin Upton this winter, the new Braves President of Baseball Operations/General Manager has sent a message that the future is still in the future. Although the Braves surprised everyone in the baseball world by winning the 2013 NL East pennant sprinting past the Washington Nationals who quite frankly, under performed the first five months of the season. The Nats only became relevant the final month of the 2013 season but it was too little too late and the Braves held on to win the flag.

2014 started off like gang busters for the Braves with a pitching staff that surprised everyone by posting a combined ERA of 1.50 for the month of  April.  Everyone in Braves Country was giddy with the surprise success of this team. Alas, it did not last and when the pitchers began to flag under the unrealistic pressure of maintaining such an other-worldly mark, the offense failed to pick them up. Anyone who knows anything about baseball knows it is not just pitching that wins baseball games, you need to put some runs on the board too.

There is a huge difference in being able to pitch with a three or four run lead than having to worry about one pitch, one mistake, one hanging breaking ball being the difference between being on the winning or losing end of a baseball game. It is often said that it is not just the number of pitches thrown in a game by a pitcher but the amount of high stress pitches thrown. Give a pitcher a five run lead and he can relax a little bit and challenge opposing hitters and not worry about being so fine with his pitches he starts trying to hit the corners with every pitch. Unfortunately for the Braves’ offense, their hitters were not only were fooled by pitches out of the strike zone, they also did not make opposing pitchers pay for their mistakes either.

Other than April of last year, the Braves posted only a .500 or sub .500 record. The worst month was September when they simply folded like a cheap suit after the Nats caught them and then never looked back. Washington finally woke up and realized they were as good as advertised.  They were, however, eliminated by the Giants who were on their way to their third World Series Championship in five years.

So, what do we have to look forward to for 2015?  To begin with, the Braves brain trust has determined they were not going to beat out the Nationals with the talent already assembled by since-departed GM Frank Wren and company. Perhaps the lingering bad taste of having to eat bad contracts to under performing second baseman Dan Uggla and the five year contract of B.J. Upton outweighed the single pennant won in 2013 and the miracle pick up of Arron Harang and Ervin Santana to replace injured Chris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. More telling is beyond Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Aderlton Simmons and Julio Teheran, the Braves scouting department had little to show for their efforts during Frank Wren’s tenure as GM for the club. That and the fact he was running off some of the Braves’s best scouting talent, the total collapse of the Braves in September appear to be the final straw to break the camel’s back. Perhaps the only real surprise was that Freddie Gonzalas remained at the helm of the team as manager.

It appears that Bobby Cox, who himself appeared at odds with since-departed GM Wren and may have even hastened his own retirement, likely saved Freddie’s job. After all, if you don’t have the horses to begin with, it’s hard to win the race.

Now, what do we have to look forward too? Interim GM John Hart and his staff have made the conscious decision that the Braves were faced with three realities:

1: they were not going to get any better with the current team assembled.

2: they desperately needed pitching to stay relevant in 2015.

3: there was no help on the horizon coming from a severely depleted minor league farm system.

There are lots of reasons for the third but the most likely suspect is the robbing of Peter to pay Paul theory. That is, in order to keep corporate owner happy with the bottom line, they cut corners in their minor league system  to stay within a budget set forth by team owner, Liberty Media. That was made even more severe after the negotiation of what appears to be an under valued TV contract. While teams like the Dodgers are reaping billions from their contract, America’s team got pennies on the dollar. After all, the Braves are still rated as the third most popular franchise in America following Ted Turner’s brilliant decision to buy both the team and a little known local UHF station in Atlanta and market them nationally via cable.

Tyrell Deon Jenkins Born: 7/20/1992 in Henderson, TX  Bats/Throws: R/R  HT: 6'4'' WT: 204

Tyrell Deon Jenkins     7/20/1992 Henderson, TX
Bats/Throws: R/R
HT: 6’4” WT: 204

Shelby Charles Miller Atlanta Braves – No. 17 Pitcher Born: October 10, 1990 (age 24) Houston, Texas Bats: RightThrows: Right

Shelby C. Miller (P)
Born: October 10, 1990 
Houston, Texas
Bats/Throws R/R

John the Elder made two trades to address the problem by first trading Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to St. Louis for rising star Shelby Miller and prospect Tyrell Jenkins.

He then traded soon-to-be free agent Justin Upton to the Padres for a bevy of young talent in a minor-league haul, including two former first-round picks:

 

 

 

 

trades

MAX FRIED (P)

age 20, b.  Jan 18, 1994
Ht/Wt: 6’3’/180
Bats/Throws:  Left/L

 

 

JACE RYAN PETERSON

Born: 5/9/1990 in Lake Charles, LA
Bats/Throws: L/R HT: 6’0″ WT: 210
Debut: 4/25/2014 College: McNeese State

 

 

DUSTIN ALLEN PETERSON

Age: 20 (September 10, 1994) in Phoenix, AZ
Bats/Throws: R/R Ht: 6′ 2″ Wt: 180
Draft: Round 2 (2013, SD)

 

 

MALLEX LYDELL SMITH

Born: 5/6/1993 in Tallahassee, FL
Bats/Throws: L/R
HT: 5’9″ WT: 170

 

MANNY BANUELOS

Born: March 13, 1991 (age 23), Gómez Palacio, Durango, Mexico
Height: 5′ 11″
Weight: 198 lbs
Bats: Left-handed

Banuelos is now into his second year of recovery of Tommy John surgery and is expected to vie for the fifth starter’s spot in the rotation.

Alberto Callaspo

Alberto Callaspo

The Braves had already signed journyman second baseman Alberto Callaspo, late of the Athletics as a place holder for Braves prospect Jose Peraza but the acquisition of Jace Peterson from the Friers may have pushed young Peraza down a spot on the depth chart.

A J Pierzynski

A J Pierzynski

The Braves also have inked veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski to serve as the backup/mentor for young Christian Bethancourt at the catcher’s position and allow the Braves to move slugger Evan Gattis to the left field position so his bat can be added to the everyday line up for the Bravos.

Nick Markakis

Nick Markakis

The Braves also signed free agent Nick Markakis of the Orioles to a 4 year $44 million dollar contract to play right field in place of the since traded Jason Heyward. Markakis has a couple of gold gloves to his credit himself and is known to be a contact type hitter. While he is probably better suited to hit second, he will likely be drafted to take Heyward’s spot as the lead off man in the line up given the Braves lack of other likely candidates for that position.

So, as it stands, with the Nationals pretty much standing pat and the Marlins vastly improving their club from last season, the Braves look to fight it out with the Mets for third place in the division ahead of the aging Phillies. Never say never however, after all, the 1991 Braves were picked by one and all to finish last in the National League West then dominated by Dodgers. A lot has to go right for the Braves this season and a few things have to go wrong for the Fish and the Nats but baseball is a game played on the field, not on paper. Now if only Hart and company can figure out some way to either trade the other Upton brother and his over the top contract away so they can have a little financial flexibility or somehow BJ himself take personal responsibility for his poor play and learns how to hit again so as not to be a drag on the club, the 2015 Braves might just have a chance to be more than just a footnote on the way to the 2015 World Series.

Gil2

#133: The Future Is Now

Vox O'Raisins

Vox O’Raisins

 

2015 STARTS NOW

Not feeling very good about our team this morning. Let me clarify… not feeling good about it as a whole. Sure, there are elements and players that I still am glad we have. Freddie, Jason (hopefully for more than just 2015), Simba, most of the pitching staff…

But as a whole, this team was more than just painful, they were embarrassing. At a time when the Braves faced must-win games at home, when they had to show their mettle, they were outscored 27-9 over six games. They were shutout twice. They scored in just 4 innings out of 53. 4 out of 53! They managed just 3 ER off 6 starting pitchers. In all my years of watching baseball, I’ve never seen anything like it. This was beyond collapse. Something has to be standing up to collapse. This team seemed as though they never got off the bench.

I need to qualify that statement. Our pitchers need to sue the rest of the team for non-support. We have a lineup full of dead-beat-batters. Our starters have notched a league leading 108 quality starts through game 156 to date this season. The segment that should have an excuse, that was truly decimated before pitch 1 of game 1, leads MLB in quality starts. Yet, the Braves are heading toward a sub-.500 team for only the 3rd time since 1990.

It’s mind-boggling.Upton-BJ.Wren

Things change over time, and sometimes change quickly. Two weeks ago, I advocated for Frank to be given one more shot to correct his mistakes. As recently as a few days ago, I half-heartedly stood up for Fredi in that he has been dealt a rotten hand. But the series against the Mets revealed more than just the obvious flaws we’ve discussed ad nauseum. Frank assembled a team that lacks certain necessary game elements to be effective, and he allowed the team’s leaders to leave at the same time. His inability to get along with other staff directly led to long-time and highly respected scout Dom Chiti and coveted pitching instructor Dave Wallace leaving for other teams. And it was revealed over the weekend that John Schuerholz is the one that stepped in to the breach and prevented Roger McDowell from departing to the Phillies. This team lost several strong planks and attempted to replace them with Popsicle sticks. The boat is sinking, fellas.

Fredi Gonzalez

Fredi Gonzalez

As for Fredi, yes he was dealt a rotten hand. But he looked totally lost and defeated over this last week as well. He appeared to be grasping at straws. And while he did seem to manage his pitchers better this year, his mis-handling of Even Gattis is just unforgivable to me. And let’s not forget this is the 2nd September in the last 3 that the Braves looked like they were making vacation reservations early.

No, there is much work to be done both on and off the field. We have 2 years left before we open a brand new ballpark and a new era for the team. There is no way that Terry McGuirk and John Schuerholz are going to let this bunch pave the way. This is the offseason for the foundation to be laid. Frank is and Fredi should be gone, along with Walker/Fletcher and Tosca, and likely Dascenzo. I still believe TP and EP should be safe, given their long term ties to the championship days of this team.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves

At least John Schuerholz finally did what had to be done and canned Wren and his right hand man Burse Manno more changes are likely. My money is on John Coppolella, but with the appointment of John Hart as interim GM and the announcement of a blue ribbon search committee consisting of Schuerholtz, Hart and surprisingly Bobby Cox, anything is possible. That said, the new guy will get started with evaluating the team top to bottom.

I would have liked to see TP lead the last 7 games to see what he’s got. I’d would be nice to see if he could rally the troops and get this team to show some pride before heading to the beach or the golf course or the woods. However, perhaps his recent back trouble precluded that. That and Bobby Cox’s support of Fredi Gonzalez.  For better or worse, Bobby still appears to be willing to take a bullet for his guy.

As far as any great hope for 2014, it walked out the door yesterday. The push for 2015 should started today.

~ Raisins ~

 

#132: PO-TEN-TIAL

Vox O'Raisins

by Vox O’Raisins

PO·TEN-TIAL
adjective:  having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future
noun:  
1. latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness
2. physics:  the quantity determining the energy of mass in a gravitational field                                 or of charge in an electric field.

 

The Braves simply do not have the pieces in place to be a championship team, and I have to keep reminding myself that they are very young. What are they missing?

Dizzy Dean

Dizzy Dean

 

 

 

#1.  a rotation leading ace. That’s right, I said it again. It’s much ballyhooed, and much debated, but a champion has an ace to lead the way. Julio has the potential, but an ace doesn’t go into a critical game, get a lead, and wet his pants.  Julio did that yesterday.  Most championship contenders have that tough 1-2 punch, like Kershaw-Greinke or Verlander-Scherzer.. The Braves have… uh, Teheran-Harang?

 

FredMcGriff3

 

 

#2.  a slugger. One might think about Gattis or JUp or Freddie. The NL HR leader as of today is the Fish’ Stanton with 26. The closest Brave is JUp with 19, tied for 7th. The league RBI leader as of today is also Stanton with 74. The closest Brave is JUp with 64, tied for 8th. Both are middle of the road of 15 teams. Not championship caliber.

 

Chipp4

 

 

#3.  a leader. The great teams have a strong character leading the way ala Chipper Jones. The current Braves have a couple of Cali surfers, a couple of guys from a FLA retirement haven, and a handful of dudes who barely speak English. The only 2 guys who show any fire at all are BJ, who vents his K frustrations at umpires, and Chris Johnson, whom I really think may be a little unstable.

 

 

Here’s a curveball for you…

Fredi Gonzalez

Fredi Gonzalez

 

I have vented plenty at Fredi, and I think he has deserved most of that, but to be honest he’s been dealt a pretty rotten hand. And none of us knows how much pressure he gets from above to play certain players. His biggest fault may simply be that he doesn’t handle the press as deftly as Bobby, and therefor makes himself out to look like a doof. He’s had pitchers go down quicker than a Malaysian airliner, multiple black holes in his lineup, and no clear productive hitters on which to hinge any lineups. And somehow, even after a historic roadie to the worst coast, we are still in the hunt in mid-August. I guess he can do something right.

Here’s the 2-edged sword. Things are not likely to improve a whole lot over the off-season. We’re locked in to most of our pieces, and don’t have the financial flexibility to make any significant upgrades. But the flip side is that Julio does have ace-potential. Freddie does have slugger-potential. And any number of our youngsters could step up and become a leader.. potentially. But it’s all potential.  I had a coach in high school who taught me that “potential just means you ain’t done $#!+ yet.” I guess the key word is “yet”.

Will those elements emerge? Maybe. The potential is on the roster. But they ain’t done $#!+ yet…

~ Vox O’Raisins ~

128: And It Begins Again

by Gil Elliott 'Gil from Mechanicsville'

by Gil Elliott
‘Gil from Mechanicsville’

So, here we are again, the annual rite of spring, opening day of Major League Baseball. Okay, so the Dodgers and Diamondbacks got a jump on everyone by going down under in a convoluted scheme by the commissioner to expand the brand of MLB by playing a three day set in Australia. So, the Dodgers are up by 3 and Arizona is mired deep in the cellar of the NL West and everyone else is still busy unpacking and repacking as they prepare for the 2014 season.

However, since this is a Braves site, I won’t waste a lot of time worrying about the other 29 teams in MLB, I am going to focus primarily on this blog’s namesake. So, without further ado, let’s discuss the pluses and minuses of the Braves’ 2014 addition. First the pluses. Location, location, location…. or in baseball speak, the schedule. As opposed to last season when the Braves has one of the toughest schedules to begin the year, this season, Atlanta faces one of the easiest schedules. I’m not saying the Braves will win three out of every four games but at least they should not be mired 10 games behind the Nationals by April 10th. Is that even possible?

Santana3

Santana

The Bravos who are clearly wounded by the double whammy of Kris Medlin and Brandon Beachy going down on successive days to elbow injuries, the Braves went from pitching rich to pitching poor almost over night. At least the braves were fortunate to have Ervin Santana still available for a late spring acquisition. While Santana might never be confused as a Greg Maddux level signing, he certainly may prove to be the guy who saves Christmas for the Bravos this season.

MikeMinor3

Minor

Mike Minor and his “Damn Brother, I don’t Think I would Have Told That” condition/injury which I am sure must have been both painful and embarrassing for him. I think I would have just said I got dropped kicked in the family jewels in a bar fight and been done with it. Anyway, at least it is not an elbow….. He should be back by May and along with off season trade pick-up Gavin Floyd, who is also returning from Tommy John surgery should give the 2014 Braves a much different look as far as their pitching staff goes. After all, a starting staff of Ervin Santana, Mike Minor, Gavin Floyd, Julio Teheran and Alec Wood/Arron Harrang seems infinitely more intimidating, at least on paper, than one of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Arron Harrang and David Hale.

Venters

Venters

Of course, you just never know. Every team is on small tendon away from being on tap to being an also ran. The Braves still have a potentially strong bullpen staff. One which is the main difference between them and 20 or so other major league teams. Not saying there are not so weak links but getting back a strong Jonny Venters for the second half could be a real difference maker.

UgglaDan

Uggla

And think, we have not even begun to talk about the Braves’ offense. That could be the real difference this season for the Bravos. A rejuvenated Dan Uggla appears to be set to finally be the guy Frank Wren traded away play maker Omar Infante for. $13 million dollars a season is not that big a contract these days as far as professional baseball players go but for the Braves, it is a significant chunk of coin. Along with BJ Upton who without question was the biggest disappointment for Atlantan’s since Sherman broke thru the defenses of John B Hood in 1864, Uggla and BJ both appear ready to finally pay off on Wren’s investments.

Douomit

Doumit

Ryan Doumit also looks to be a good off season pick-up for Atlanta. A guy who has power and can play several different positions as well as catch give the Braves some protection against Evan Gattis not being able to live up to last year’s storybook season. I’ll be honest, I think Evan will get off to a bit of a slow start because he has not had the opportunity to get his timing down this spring. Remember, last year Evan won a spot due to his red hot bat which had the benefit of some winter ball to get him going. This year, we learned El Orso Blanco had off season surgery on his left knee. Who knew it was a problem? No one ever mentioned it last season. Still, the Braves will miss BMac but all and all, I think the Braves will be okay at the back stop position.

Freeman

Freeman

Freddie Freeman has been red hot all spring, he looks to be finally become the Super Star a lot of us all thought he would be. Personally, I have thought Fab 5 has been overlooked by a lot of folks as far as his value to the team. A lot of balls are snagged by Freddie that go as throwing errors for the rest of the infield whenever someone else occupies the 3 spot.

 

Heyward

Heyward

Jason Heyward has looked strong this spring and is poised to be the biggest and strongest lead off man in the majors. Put that in with a gold glove defense and I think we will finally see J-Hay begin a string of All-Star appearances. The other brother from a different mother (and father) Justin Upton hopefully will play with a little more fire. He can be really, really good at times but he sure can give appearances of being lackadaisical at times.

Simba keeping up his excellent glove work as well as the improved play of Chris Johnson at third can really benefit the Atlanta pitching staff. While I think it will be really difficult for CJ to repeat his 2013 season as far as his batting average is concerned, Andrelton’s continued maturity at the plate should make up for it. Simmons has surprising power but it is his low OBP which is worrisome.

The Braves have a strong bench with Doumit, Pena, Laird, Schafer and Pasternicky. The one thing the Braves lack is an extra power bat from the left side. Did we ever think that would be the case? After being lefty heavy for so many years?

So, let the games begin! Try not to get too high or too low because as we have seen for so many seasons, things can change in the blink of an eye. Riding high in April, shot down in May…. So true, especially in baseball. 162 games of nail biting and then there are the play offs but first you have to throw out the first pitch.

Gil2

126: Ah, Spring, Renewed Hope

by Gil Elliott

by Gil Elliott

What an odd winter we as fans of the Braves have experienced. It began with the announcement the Braves would be moving into their own house beginning in 2017 to a location 17 miles north of the Ghetto. Away from the site of occupancy they have plied their trade for nearly fifty years now.

I guess when we think about a club making a “big move”, that is not exactly what most fans would let come to mind. Not that I blame the Braves organization for wanting to look at how they can stay relevant. They are saddled with what is considered one of the worse local TV deals in all of professional sports. That’s right, not just baseball but in all pro sports.

Well, if you are handed lemons, it is good to know how to make lemonade and a little lemon zest to get maximum return on your lemons. Maybe even plant a few seeds to grow your own lemon trees, too. Looks like the Braves may have done just that.

Huddy

Huddy

BMcCann

BMac

No big free agent signing occurred this season by the Braves. It was really more of a subtraction than an addition in that respect. Former Braves “Baby Brave” Brian McCann signing long term with Yankees for $85MM and mildly surprising bull dog and former staff ace Tim Hudson bolting to the west coast for a 2 year $23MM deal. I would suspect that is about double what the Braves were willing to risk for a guy who is in decline. I can’t really fault either party for that one. The Braves just did not value Tim that much and BMac’s departure has been long seen by many as a one-trick pony whose future is in a place where he needs to hit only four times a game to be successful.  Big Poppi in Boston has certainly been able to make a living doing just that.

In a real baseball league, everyone has to hit and play the field on a fairly regular basis. So, how do you stay relevant where your competition are getting 2 billion dollar local TV deals? Looks like the Braves have made a good start. They have taken a page out of the government’s play book and put in a bunch of back loaded contracts. Not that I don’t applaud Frank Wren and company for thinking outside the box a bit by locking up the core of their home grown talent that has some pretty significant balloon payments at the end. (Didn’t they outlaw those in the mortgage industry?)  Anyway, if it looks good and gives the Braves some stability in keeping their core players together, all the better.

Jason Heyward

JHey

It looks like a lot of money but the way the contracts are structured, it will be the problem of the next owner and General Manager when 2018 rolls around. The Braves will likely have to pay Heyward if he finally develops into another Freddie Freeman as far as a reliable, everyday player or super star. Other than Robinson Cano, I did not really see player contract escalating this past off season. Heck, in five years, who knows what the dollar will be worth?

So! Where does that leave us? The Braves had a surprisingly good team last year. They really were a .500 hundred team for the most part but they took full advantage of a couple of 14 game winning streaks and the too late surge by a disappointing Nationals team who for all intents and purposes took their pre season press clippings a little too seriously. What was their greatest weakness?  Their bullpen, and all of us have seen that movie before.

So, what to expect this season from the Braves? A lot has to go right for the Braves to repeat as NL East champions:

Evan Gattis

Evan Gattis

– An Evan Gattis who can continue to inspire blue collar guys everywhere by swinging a big bat and tape measure home runs. That and he continues to hold up behind the plate.

Freemanfirstbase

Freeman

– A Fab 5 who continues to be clutch at the plate and keeps saying infield errors with the incredible ability to snare baseballs off the deck and way off the mark at first.

Andrelton

Andrelton Simmons

– A super star shortstop who is beginning to look like the next Ozzie Smith, who shows a bit more maturity at the plate and improves his on base percentage with more walks and line drives and fewer pop ups.

Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson

– The Braves have to hope that the guy who was considered a “throw-in” for fan favorite Marteen Prado continues to amaze with a a hot bat and an improved glove at third.

For the Braves to stay on top, in addition to the above, two of the most disappointing players in Braves history have to at least be among the league average when it comes to hitting. They say strike outs are no worse than any other out. But, with automatic strike outs every at bat, far too often we see the bases loaded with no outs – yet no one scores.

A young pitching staff full of number twos and threes are going to have to step up and stay focused on keeping their team in the game and hope the good guys can hit a three run homer or two and not feel the need to be perfect every game. It is that feeling of continuous pressure which leads to ulcers and gray hair.

Kimbrel

Kimbrel

The Braves secret weapon still has to be their shut-down bull pen. That is the real reason the Braves finished where they did last season. No team outside the Yankees can bludgeon the opposition into the submission every game – and even they found out what it means to have a weak pitching staff.

The Braves may have lost O’Flararty to the A’s this season but they have been without him for quite a while. They still have the best closer in baseball and don’t ever think that the last 3 outs in a baseball game isn’t the hardest to get. The only people who don’t think so are the teams who don’t have that “go-to” kind of guy . Just like having an Ace at the top of the pitching staff who gives your team confidence they can put up a W whenever he takes the mound, having a shut down guy at the end of the game helps everyone on the team try to turn it into a 6 inning game.

SO LET’S GO BRAVES… LET”S REPEAT!!!

125: Hall Of Fame: Destiny Fulfilled

by Gil Elliott 'Gil from Mechanicsville'

by Gil Elliott
‘Gil from Mechanicsville’

This past week, we discovered that two essential parts of the long time Braves’ stellar pitching triumphant were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Greg Maddux, aka Doggie, was without question one of the best pitchers ever to tie up a pair of baseball cleats. Those of us who were blessed with the opportunity to see Maddux pitch both in person or via the once venerable super station TBS remember so many of the gems hurled in under two hours. In an age where the average American League game often extended into four hours, when Greg was scheduled to pitch, you could still watch the game and bet on it being over early enough for you to watch your favorite prime time TV show.

Mad Dog

Mad Dog

I doubt Greg Maddux was the inventor of the strategy of pitching to contact, but he certainly was the master of its implementation. Often asked if he thought he would ever pitch a no hitter, he would reply that he doubted it. It just was not part of his game. Never blessed with the power to blow away hitters, he did possess the mind of a genius when it came to setting up hitters and keeping the ball off the sweet spot of the bat. Barry Bonds referred to him as old dipsy doddle because he never threw anything straight. Watching the game on TV allowed for us was to see the incredible movement on the ball no matter what he pitched. Ball control was his game. Anytime he issued a walk, it was of the intentional verity. The same is said of whenever he hit a batter. While he would profess innocence, everyone in the park knew his control was so fine, it was unfathomable that he could let one slip. He once pitched 51 consecutive innings without issuing a walk. Seldom did he throw more than three pitches to a batter. Of course in his typical self depreciating style, when ask to what he attributed his success, he cited having Rafael Furcal and Andrew Jones behind him certainly helped because he knew when the ball was struck, one of them would catch it.

Glavine

Glavine

The other first ballot Hall of Farmer elected who was a huge part of the Braves’ success was Tom Glavine. Another cerebral kind of guy, his game was also to make you hit his pitch. Often that pitch was a devastating change up. He lived on the outside for so long, the strike zone would became where ever he decided it should be on a particular start. When he found that batters started crowding the plate in anticipation of his extended strike zone, he learned that pitching inside was a winning strategy too.

Glavine likely would have won his 300th game as a Brave were it not for folks pushing the limits of a relationship and Tom calling the Braves’ bluff on an inside straight. I remember Glavine starting one All Star game and giving up six consecutive singles in the first inning, all ground balls. Needless to say, the National League lost that game but it was not until years later we discovered that Glavine was pitching with two cracked ribs in that game. Not that he didn’t execute his game plan, it was just the AL was hitting them where they won’t. That was the thing about Tom Terrific, he showed other pitchers on the team you did not have to be 100% to take your turn on the mound and still be successful. It also proves one can do what he is supposed to do but it still takes 8 other guys on a team to win. Glavine possessed a certain amount of grit, likely accrued from his youth hockey days. He showed others how to play through the pain. A lot of Braves fans never forgave Tom for signing with the Mets in 2003 nor his role as the President of the Baseball Player’s Association when the player’s strike of 1994 derailed the season. Say what you will, I believe it only demonstrated further his abilities as a leader both on and off the field.

Having a Hall of Fame manager to guide them did not hurt the pair either. Bobby Cox, BobbyCoxwho will also sit on the podium along with Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Frank Thomas, managed his teams to success, no matter their make up. Often the Braves were accused of always waiting for the three run homer to win games, seldom stealing bases or other wise employing the running game but Bobby was simply playing with the cards he was dealt. The speedy Furcal would often turn a game into a one nothing affair after legging out a single, stealing second, moving to third on a ground ball hit to second and scoring on a sac fly. Dion Sanders was another speedster employed by Cox but the two things a Bobby Cox team was known for were pitching and solid defense. Having players in the outfield who could “go get it”. Something that often contributed to the Braves pitching staff having the league leading ERA at the end of each season.

Smoltz2aHopefully, in 2015 we will be able to applaud the selection of John Smoltz, the third leg of the trinity of Braves pitching. John was the antithesis of Glavine and Maddux, relying upon power and an overwhelming split-finger pitch as opposed to finesse but that is a topic for discussion on another day.

Leo's Staff

Days of Glory

HOF2014

124: The players may change but the game remains the same.

by Gil Elliott 'Gil from Mechanicsville'

by Gil Elliott
‘Gil from Mechanicsville’

Dizzy Dean

Dizzy Dean

Hit the ball, catch the ball, throw the ball. Time honored axioms of the greatest game on earth. A game which is perfect for the haze of summer for when it is meant to be played. As followers of the game, we are all familiar with names like Cy Young, Dizzy Dean, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial and hundreds more who have graced the green fields of places known as Wrigley. Turner and Ebbets Field. Stadiums as cavernous as the Mistake on the Lake in Cleveland and as intimate as Fenway. Baseball fields which all have their individual quirks and idiosyncrasies but all have the same dimensions of 90 feet between each base and 60 feet 6 inches from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. But, even with these dimensions being the same, every field is unique in the way they play. Some teams let the grass grow long to slow the ball to allow for an infield comprised of slow-footed sluggers or lightning fast if the defense is stellar.

 Cy Young 1892

Cy Young 1892

Every season, one team remains as the winner of the ultimate prize in baseball, to be crowned world champions. Winners of a best of seven play-offs between the final teams left after a 162 game season to qualify for the play-offs and then to outlast the remaining qualifiers for the right to play for the championship. Not surprisingly, it is not always the best team, the highest paid team, the team with the best hitter, the best pitcher but most often, it is the team which is the most clutch, is best able to withstand the pressure of the moment who are victorious. Perhaps unfairly, it is the team which can get hot at the most opportune time who gain the glory.

 Avilan

Avilan

David carpenter3

Carpenter

This past season, we watched as our beloved Braves surprised most everyone in baseball by winning the National League East. Winning 96 games and beating the much ballyhooed Washington Nationals by ten games. They did this despite having their two highest paid players hit well below the infamous Mendoza line. Despite having one of the youngest teams in major league baseball. The Braves defied expectations by having a bullpen without the services of such stalwarts as Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flarety and Christian Martinez.

Ramiro+Pena

Ramiro Pena

Amazingly the emergence of Luis Avilan and a converted catcher by the name of David Carpenter, who by the way was released by Boston Red Sox after being traded from Toronto.

The 2013 Braves won 96 games despite having 20 players spend time on the disabled list at some point during the  season and others that missed significant time due to wear and tear. Amazingly, losing front line pitchers Tim Hudson, Brandon Beachy and Paul Mulholm. Losing the services of gold glove outfielder Jason Heyward not once but twice for what amounted to 1/3 of the season. The untimely loss of super utility guy Ramiro Pena and just about every back up infielder on the 40 man roster. Jordan Schafer, who finally showed flashes of the potential the Braves saw in him when he was drafted by the them in the third round of the 2005 draft. The 2013 Braves won despite having to insert Kansas City Royal cast off Elliot Johnson at second base because Tyler Pastornicky could not make it past one week as the heir apparent at second base after a collision with Jason Heyward in short right field.

Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson

Andrelton Simmons

With Chipper Jones now a memory, Chris Johnson, who will likely never win a gold glove at third base, became a wonderful surprise with a clutch bat and strong arm and a more than adequate replacement for the foreseeable future at third base for the Bravos. All-World Andrelton Simmons who will improve the stats of every Braves pitcher who can induce a ground ball by opposing hitters and will continue to improve at the plate as he accrues acumen with the bat. A first baseman in Freddie Freeman who by all rights should be the starting first baseman for the National League All-star game for the next several years and should garner MVP consideration not only for his prowess with the bat but for the number of errant throws from the other infielders he snares as they pass within the vicinity of his position.

Evan Gattis

Evan Gattis

Everyone’s feel good story of the year, Evan Gattis has become an Atlanta legend in the course of a few short months. Exceeding everyone’s expectations by not only hitting in clutch situations but taking to a new position in left field and showing better than average ability while donning the tools of ignorance. No doubt Brian McCann will be missed when he leaves for a big payday soon but the catcher’s position is not one for which the Braves will have to seek a replacement. Christian Bethancourt, the here-to-fore heir to McCann will have to wait a while longer before he becomes the Braves number one signal caller.

So, who will be the next ex Braves besides McCann this season? Both the Braves and Tim Hudson have indicated they would like to continue their relationship. It may be the bean counters who decide if it continues. Reed Johnson’s Achilles heel may be his Achilles heel. Never counted on to be an everyday guy, he still has value both in the club house and as a right hand pinch hitter. Dan Uggla’s ability to see the light, or anything else for that matter, will be determine if he starts next season in a Braves uniform. I cannot see any other team having value for a guy who cannot make contact no matter what the price. It is not like Dan’s glove is going to keep him line up. No, Dan will either hit this spring or end up being a $13 million dollar albatross around Frank Wren’s neck.

Eric O’Flarerty or Jonny Venters, take your pick. One will stay, one will go. Let’s hope the Braves keep the right one. Personally, I think O’Flarerty would be the safer bet to keep but that does not mean he will. Comes down to where the Braves want to spend their money. BJ Upton will still be in town but methinks that if Frank’s crystal ball had given him any indication of the emergence of Evan Gattis as a right handed power bat this season, the off season signing of Upton would never have happened and 75 million dollars would have gone towards front line starter like Zack Grienke or even extending Brian McCann but that ship has sailed. Let’s all hope that BJ doesn’t become the highest paid pinch runner in the league.

~ Gil~

123: Let the Final Games Begin…

by Gil Elliott 'Gil from Mechanicsville'

by Gil Elliott
‘Gil from Mechanicsville’

Good morning folks….. Well, the time has finally come for the Braves to make the push to go into the play-offs with a big head of momentum.

I think the last thing we Braves fans want to see is the Los Bravos backing into October. I guess this means for me, no more Kameron Loe, no more “B” squad line ups, no more en mass days of rest.

Funny how even with a 14 game lead, how tenuous I feel about the Atlanta team’s chances going into October.

The Braves have a stable of pitchers who are capable of throwing a no hitter on any given night, unfortunately, they are also capable of being bombed out of existence on any given night. Besieged by walks, coupled with tape measure home-runs.

So, what to do? First off, put Philly out of their misery quickly. Then dispatch the Marlins and finally drive a stake thru the heart of the Nationals’ hope for a final wild card spot by taking all three from the gNats.

Right now, the Braves have a big ol’ bulls eye on their backs as far as the rest of the NL East is concerned. Kids trying to win a spot on next year’s roster on their respective teams. Veterans trying to show they are still relevant and teams in general saying we can beat you even if you win the title.

Working against the Braves right now are certain players who don’t feel the need to continue to play all out. We have seen many times in the past that employing the button downed, aloof approach as far as the playoffs has backfired on the Braves.

The one real edge this year’s edition of the Atlanta Braves is they are all relatively young, but still have been hardened by the memories of past failures.

They also have shown the ability to overcome the loss of key players. Despite the

absence of Tim Hudson, Brandon Beachy, Jonny Venters, Christian Martinez, Eric O’Flarety and at times Jorden Walden and others, the Braves have continued to lead the league in wins, ERA, saves and other assorted stats.

Despite the absence at various times their front line catcher, Brian McCann, time spent on the DL by Jordan Schafer, Freedie Freeman, Reed Johnson and now Jason Heyward, the Braves have continued to win.

Finally, despite the lack of production by the Braves’ two highest paid players in BJ Upton and Dan Uggla have still won to the point they lead all of Major League Baseball with the best record.

So Braves fans, as we continue to ride the wave of success the Braves have had this season, it is with great trepidation we await the final games of September and hoped for momentum to go all the way to the World Series.

pitchers(Remember those days?)

~ Gil ~

120: Well, two weeks down, thirty three to go.

by Gil Elliott 'Gil from Mechanicsville'

by Gil Elliott

With the first two weeks of the season behind us the Braves have shone they can play, making use of a lot of tools, while not yet at full strength. The Braves have been resilience being able to plug in their bench. This can work in the short term but the long haul is different, for one thing, it weakens the bench which has happened before. What you do not want to happen is to have to play for extended periods using your number two and three guys. In today’s world, advance scouting is a lot easier with so many games being aired over TV. While nothing can beat eyes-on in-person reports when scouting a team and players, being able to review a pitcher or hitter to determine tendencies is far and away easier when you can repeatedly hit the rewind button.

But back to facts, the Braves have been able to follow the old school baseball philosophy of beating up on the weak teams while playing the good teams at least even. This week, the Braves beat the Marlins, the Houston Astros of the National League, although that is a bit unfair to the Astros, they at least have a plan. Anyway, they have beat the Marlins, the Cubs, have taken on the Nationals and swept them all.

McCann

McCann

Everyone’s favorite bet to play in this year’s World Series is the Nationals but the Braves are in control of their own destiny. Soon, Freddie Freeman will be back and Brian McCann will return with a mission. Maybe the Braves will not be able to afford BMac in the future but there will be a lot of deep pocket American League teams and, perhaps even some in the National League, who will be willing to make sure Brian’s grand children will never want for anything.

Freeman

Freeman

The key, however, is still “good pitching beats good hitting”. Bad pitching is revealed for what it is.

Friday night’s game was a classic for Braves fans. Down early and in danger of being blown out, catcher Gerald Laird walked out to the mound after Teheran gave up the fourth run in just the second inning and calmed the rookie with the words of wisdom to buckle down and keep the team in the game. We had seen this same type of melt down before with Mike Minor when he simply gave up after allowing early runs. The change was dramatic: no more hits, a few quick outs and Teheran showed everyone the promise he holds for the Braves organization.

Teheran

Teheran

While Detwiler mesmerized Atlanta hitters for seven innings, he was relieved be a heretofore reputed strong Washington bullpen. Suddenly the National’s pitchers couldn’t find the strike zone and allowed the Braves to tie the game by the ninth and with the Nats’ newly acquired closer Rafael Soriano unavailable after closing three straight games against the White Sox, Drew Storen gave up a two run homer to the Braves’ latest surprise hero Ramiro Pena in the tenth inning. Craig Kimbrel nailed down the save while facing the heart of the Washington batting order. The net result was a shock to the Washington Nationals and a boost to the mojo of the Braves.

Huddy

Huddy

On Saturday, Atlanta’s newest folk hero crushed a high hard one from Washington’s favorite hurler, Stephen Strasburg, and sent it deep into the left field bleachers. As yet, no one has quite figured out how he caught up with the

Kimbrel

Kimbrel

ball. While it was only a two run homer, Tim Hudson made it stand up and actually out pitched the young phenom. The Braves added an insurance run in the ninth and young Kimbrel slammed the door shut the second straight night.

Maholm

Maholm

It was not until Sunday that the Braves best pitching performance was turned in. Paul Maholm turned a gem, mixing an occasional fastball with an assortment of breaking pitches to keep the Washington hitters off balance. The same could not be said of Gio Gonzalas as the Braves hitters feasted on nearly every mistake he made. It is still early days but the Braves have sent a message they are the real Beast of the East this season.

Beachy

Beachy

There is lots of baseball yet to be played but one wonders how the return of Brando Beachy, Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann will affect this club.

I’m thinking it will make a strong club even stronger. Woo hoo.. I can hardly wait.

~Gil~

119: Up and Runing!

by Gil Elliott'Gil from Mechanicsville'

by Gil Elliott

I doubt anyone outside of the most fervent fan figured a beginning to the Upton Era quite like the one we have seen the first week of the 2013 season. With Justin homering in five if the first six games and his big bother breaking out of his early slump with a huge home run off Carlos Marmol to tie the game Saturday night. While the talking heads fawn over Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, the Diamondbacks’ former first over all pick of the 2007 draft has taken to Atlanta like kudzu on a Georgia highway embankment.

BJ (2) and Justin (8) Upton

BJ (2) and Justin (8) Upton

Yes, the D’Backs did pick up a fairly promising young right hander in Delgado but the early returns on J-Up have been like the price of gasoline futures during the Arab embargo. To be honest, the town of Atlanta has not had so much to be excited about since the premier of Gone With The Wind.  While it is still early days, the brass in Arizona must be wondering what they were thinking when they flipped Justin to the Braves for Marteen Prado.

Evan Gattis

Evan Gattis

Little has gone wrong for the Braves the first week with the flip-flopping of Chris Johnson and Juan Francisco at third and the same behind the plate with Gerald Laird and growing folk legend Evan Gattis. Even with the somewhat disappointing début of phenom Julio Teheran could not overshadow the excitement coming out of The Ted this first week of the 2013 season. Every move being made in the Atlanta dugout appears to be gold because no matter, this bunch of ball players have covered up every mistake made so far. While it is still way early to be crowning any team as the probable winner of this year’s Wold Series. The current team, being led with the heroics of the Justin Upton is certainly making sure they are being included in the conversation.

One has to wonder the effect the return of Brian McCann will have to the team in early May. Can this team get any better? It is a little scary to think about frankly. But, that is a topic to fret over another day. Let’s all ride the wave of euphoria while we can. To be sure, it is a mighty big wave.

~Gil~

115: And in a close play at the plate the Braves are…….

by Gil in Mechanicsville

Coming down the home stretch it looks like it’s going to be a close play at the plate for the Braves.

Kris Medlen

Last year at this time, we were all thinking, the Phillies are going to catch us but we should still make the playoffs, after all, no one has ever not made it with so much cushion.

Mike Minor

Then the doubt set in as two thirds of the starting rotation went down and Prado came up lame at the final turn. Alas, perhaps one of our greatest fears came into being. The only thing that saved the Bravos from being the number one choke story of the year is the Boston Red Sox managed to pull off the same feat.

So, the Braves are again looking squarely in the eyes of making the list of teams who will be

Ben Sheets

playing October baseball but perhaps this season, Atlanta will limp across the finish line ahead of the pack. Certainly, our pitching staff looks to be in better shape and the position players are not nearly as nicked up as last season.

All that said, it will take some good luck to go along with some good fortune and good defense for the 2012 edition of Los Bravos to go deep into the playoffs. Perhaps we should all remember the sage advice given to NASCAR drivers when they are reminded, “to finish first, first you must finish”. Being in a one game crap shoot just for the opportunity to meet a division champion is not the most

Paul Maholm

enviable position but it is certainly a more enviable place to be than perhaps Denver or Kansas City or the twenty two other major league teams who will be calling it quits after game 162 of the schedule. Heck, some of those teams called it quits on July 4th. Just ask the Marlins….

Anyway, adversity builds character and Lord knows the Braves have had a lot of character building done the past five or six seasons. At least the Braves have a solid pitching staff and a very deep and dependable bullpen to go with an offense which has shown it can get as hot as anyone for extended stretches.

I think we can pretty much rely on the likes of Venters, O’Flaherty, Durbin and Kimbrel to come out of the pen and make any game a 6 inning game. If only the Braves can keep Hudson, Sheets, Hanson and Maholm from giving the game away in the first six innings, I like our chances. Okay, maybe not enough to bet the family farm but I would be willing to put up someone else’s farm…..

Gil

114: Big Ben Hits Town, Alarm IS Sounded By The Rest Of The EAST

Mechanicsville, VA

Ben Sheets started for the Atlanta Braves in the final game of a three-day set against the Mets Sunday and showed there can be life after Little League. In true storybook fashion, the big right hander showed he had not forgotten how to pitch in this league. In fact, he might very well be in a league of his own right now with a jumping 90-93mph fastball and a drop off the table curve to go with his cutter.

With a back-end of a rotation previously consisting of Mike Minor and Randle Delgato leaking more runs than a pasta strainer, Ben Sheets showed the same All-Star ability he possessed before having two arm surgeries and being away from the game nearly two years. Six innings of two hit, one walk shutout baseball sprinkled with five strikeouts and a collection of flyballs and pop-ups made for an impressive debut in Atlanta.

For some reason, many Braves fans suddenly feel a measure of invincibility. Of course, as we all know, a team is only as good as their last start but for seven straight starts, they have been mighty good.

Sometimes the addition of a good veteran arm can have a very positive impact on an entire team. It appears this might be the case with Sheets. Of course his next start might be a bit more telling, it’s can be most telling when aging muscles are awaken from a long slumber. That said, Tom Glavin remarked during the telecast that for a veteran, the question is not on if he knows how to pitch, it is if he is physically able to pitch.

113: Another Sunday, More Thoughts…

The only thing about watching a Sunday baseball game is you usually only get to see all the scrubs play…

Looks like McCann is finally breaking out of his doldrums. Now, if only there was someone Uggla could talk with to get him turned around.

Chipper is getting back to where he was before the misplayed one hopper nearly took his leg off. McCann is making good contact. Bourne and Prado are just outstanding right now. Freddi Freeman is learning to play through the pain, Jayson Heyward is getting back to his rookie form and Simmons is really a nice surprise with the bat. That leaves Uggla on the MIA list.

That and having a reliable guy at the back end of the rotation.

Oh, and someone beside Venters to come in and throw gas on the fireman. After all, they are called fireman because they are supposed to be able to douse the flames, not be arsonist..

If Ben Sheets could return to form, that would be the outstanding story of the year, right next to Jair coming back and maybe Moylan being Moylan and being the ground ball artist he once was.

So, who do the Braves release to make room for another bat? I would say Jack Wilson is the 25th guy on the roster right now, closely followed by Hinske and Diaz. I once thought it would be Francisco but the big third baseman appears to be turning the corner a bit. The kid has so much raw power, he fails to realize the wall scraper count just as much as the 450 foot bombs. The only thing a big long loopy swing produces is a whooshing sound as the bat passes over the ball….

Minor or Delgado? Which has been more effective or maybe more correctly, who has been more consistent? One of them will go when Sheets comes up. Both have options, one is a righty who has better velocity, the other is a lefty. Both seem to hit the wall at some point. I think the prevailing thoughts of the many talking heads in baseball is the Braves need to do something to solidify their pitching staff. Adding another reliable and proven starter to the mix is the most likely answer. None of us know what kind of financial constraints Frank Wren is under but expecting to find the winning lottery ticket under your pillow is not likely to happen and makes for a pretty poor business strategy.

The old adage in racing is speed cost money, how fast do you want to go? Well, the same is true in baseball… Yes, sometimes a team finds the “Golden Ticket” but for the most part, to be a consistently winning franchise, you have to be willing to shell out the big bucks, just ask Ted Turner.

110: 2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,500 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

109: Fodder For Brave Thoughts

by Voice of Reason Raisins

Well, with little fanfare, and almost no chatter, the Braves FOT’s (Front Office Types) held their annual organizational meetings last week in their Disney home away from home. Typically, I suppose, it’s not really newsworthy to most, but to news junkies like us, well like me at least, it is on my radar. It’s the time of year where they map out their general plan for the offseason – you know, where they say, “OK, this is what we have, this is what we need to let go, this what we need to bring in, and this is what we have to spend.”

Granted, not generally exciting stuff, but I sure do wish I could sit in on them and voice a few of my own opinions. What would I say? Glad you asked…

Position by position:

Jason Heyward

JHey

* We can start with the certainties. Catcher, 1B, 2B, 3B, CF and RF. They can talk all they want about RF being an open competition. There’s a Greek word for that… baloney. That will be JHey’s for as long as he wears a tomahawk.

Joey Terdoslavich

* What to do in left field? Well, JTerd (Joey Terdoslavich),  currently  a 1B, is tearing up the AFL. He hits for both power and average, and is being strongly considered for a  position change to LF. 1B seems to be  occupied for a while. But he will start 2012 in AA, and isn’t even on the radar for competing for a spot on the 25. We need to acquire a veteran guy who is a proven hitter. Frank’s track record says it won’t be through FA. A trade is a’comin’. What about Martin? Martin Prado is one of the best utility guys in either league. He is just a mediocre everyday outfielder. He would benefit the Braves better back in the super-utility role.

*Bench? Welcome back Martin; see ya Conrad; please rebound Big Hinske; and get a hit, would ya Matty? Rossy is thankfully back, too. We need a backup SS, though. Maybe we address that after we address the starting SS…

Gonzo

* Which brings me to SS. I’ll bet that Gonzo returns on a 1 year deal. He’d probably like a 2 year deal, but I honestly don’t think he’ll get that anywhere, and not from ATL either. Love his glove. His bat could do more, but he wins you games with his D. Pitchers love him.

Kris Medlen

* Even though the bullpen wore down toward season’s end, I think you still have most of it already in place. Gone is Line Drive Linebrink. Gone is Scott Proctor. Gone is George Sherrill. The ineffectiveness of those 3 forced Fredi to go to his horses more often. Peter finally made it back for a few appearances before his shoulder turned to lunch meat. His tenure with the Braves is done. His cost now exceeds his benefit. Look for him to be released. But we welcome back Kris Medlen,

Arodys Vizcaino

and Arodys Vizcaino proved he is a capable MLB pitcher. I won’t be surprised to see Arodys slide into EOF’s 7th inning role, allowing EOF to move around and make the pen a bit more versatile. Jonny and Special K return to their shut down roles. Martinez was very good at times in his long relief role, and I see no reason to believe he won’t return to the same. So 1 spot remains… DLowe?

Anthony Varvaro

God, I hope not. I think Anthony Varvaro earned it, though many think that Cory Gearrin would fit Peter’s old “ground ball specialist” role. I can see that. That will likely be a spring training battle.

Derek Lowe

* DLowe has to go… even if only for the clichéd “bag o’ balls”. The truth is, he still has value, if not $15MM worth. But he is a veteran hurler who can adjust and can still pitch effectively at times. Remember the near no-hitter earlier this season? Yes, that was this season. That said, he has worn out his welcome in Atlanta, and would likely benefit from the proverbial change of scenery. The only real question is how much $$$ are the Braves willing to eat in order to move him? I’ve already beat this mule and won’t rehash it here.

Tim Hudson

* Finally, we must address the rotation. Huddy is the clear #1 ace. Beachy is only getting better, and Minor proved he belongs… and is the only lefty there. Obviously, there are injury

Brandon Beachy

concerns surrounding both JJ and Tommy. That’s too bad. We needed one of those guys as a trade chip this offseason. Can’t do it now, you’d just get pennies back on the dollar. But Julio Teheran has nothing left to prove at AAA, and Delgado established himself in his big league starts as well. Too many starters… it’s a good problem to have.

Mike Minor

Julio Teheran

But if you’re Frank, it’ll give you even more grey hair. There will be more scrutiny over what he does here than anywhere else on the roster. That’s a tough call.

Randall Delgado

If  it were me, I’d take it to spring, prove one of either JJ or Tommy are healthy, and find a team desperate for a starter.

                                                                   That’s where you’ll find your LF.

~VOR~

#108: A Handful Of Questions About The Future

By VOR aka Voice of Raisins/Reason/Reality/Ridiculous/Rose-colored glasses

JEFFERSON, GA (God’s country) – There was a good bit of chatter a few days ago on MLBTR’s chat regarding the Braves, their pitchers and Michael Bourn. All very good questions, and questions we all pretty much ask regularly. So here are a handful of questions for 2012 and beyond:

1. Thumb: Will the Braves trade DLowe in the off season?
2. Index Finger: Will the Braves trade JJ in the off season?
3. Bird Finger: What pitcher goes to make room for Julio Teheran next year?
4. Ring Finger: What will Bourn make in arb?
5. Pinky: Will the Braves try to extend Bourn?

The first three fingers are about pitching. Literally. Those are the fingers used to grip the baseball… but I digress. Those first 3 questions can really be combined, and expanded to include Mike Minor, who must be included in the rotation candidates. No one seems to remember that Minor, like Teheran, has very little left to learn at AAA. He’d already be in the rotation of almost every other major league team. So, what to do? You already have 3 young stud pitchers in Hanson, Jurjjens & Beachy. Huddy is likely a Brave until he retires. He’s the veteran rock that all the youngsters lean on. He’s so entrenched in the community that I can’t see the Braves even entertaining any thoughts of parting with him. Huddy is a lock for next season. So is Beachy. He’s got every quality you want in a pitcher. He’s gritty, smart and cool under pressure. And he can pitch… not throw, pitch. He’s Greg Maddux lite. Following that, you have the 2 star youngsters, Jurjjens and Hanson, and you have the overpaid grizzled veteran DLowe. Obviously, one of those 3 pitchers will not be here next season.

First, let’s address JJ and Tommy. Both are under team control for the near future, and both are represented by Ber’s favorite, Scott Boras. Big Red, though, is under team control for a couple of years more than JJ, who is a FA in 2014. Red doesn’t hit the market until 2016. Plus, he’s the big righty power pitcher that every rotation must have. Tommy’s not going anywhere for a while.

So… for those keeping score, in no particular order, Huddy, Beachy and Hanson are locks for next year’s rotation. And I don’t think I’m going out on too flimsy a limb to say that Teheran/Minor will be the #5 next season. That battle will be fierce, with the loser going back to Gwinnett to be the first guy on Frank’s Rolodex.

So that really leaves one spot for DLowe and JJ in 2012. I know… no real earth shattering revelation here. We can all see that handwriting on the clubhouse wall. The conventional wisdom says that DLowe will finally be tradable with just 1 year left on his onerous contract and that he is the obvious one to go. I say, “Hold on there, Baba-louie! I’ll do the thinnin’ around here!” (Vague reference to Quickdraw McGraw…) The decision between the two is not as cut and dried as some would suggest. Yeah, I know that JJ is an All-Star and was clearly the Braves best starter for the first half of 2011. He was pretty much their best starter the first half of 2010. Problem is, they make us play the second half, too. JJ is a very talented pitcher, no doubt. He’d be the #1 on many teams in both leagues. His value is pretty high. That, to me, makes him the clear choice. His value will never be higher, and he’s gonna have to go after 2012 anyway. Too many studs in the pipeline.

And I’ll even offer one other scenario. I can see the Braves trading JJ during the off season, gaining a nice return while opening a spot for Teheran/Minor, and then dangling DLowe at the 2012 deadline. At that point, he’ll be the veteran rental pitcher that a lot of contending teams will covet going toward the playoff push. That’s likely where they’ll get their best return for him.

You say, “VOR! No way the Braves would have two rookies in next year’s rotation!” Reasonable objection… but again I say, “Hold on there, Baba-louie!” First, Minor has had enough major league starts that he isn’t a true rookie in that sense. Plus, he pitched in last year’s playoff push, and pitched quite well, if you’ll recall. Second, Teheran – whom I think wins the #5 spot – will have half a season under his belt before the aforementioned trade deadline. This is the pros, folks. Go big or go home. After 14 or so starts, is he a true rookie? I say no…

So my final assessment says the Braves will start, in no particular order, Huddy, Beachy, Hanson, Teheran & DLowe/Minor. Formidable, and among the best in baseball.

Now… Bourn. (Transition homage to The Scribe…)

4. Ring Finger: What will Bourn make in arb?
A: A lot.

5. Pinky: Will the Braves try to extend Bourn?
A: No. 2 words: Scott Boras. Boras won’t allow an extension; rather he’ll take him all the way to FA. It’s what Boras does. And Boras wants a lot, like DLowe kind of money. The Braves won’t make that commitment to Bourn. I can’t see it.

So that leads to…

6. Antonio Alfonseca’s 6th Finger: Who is the Braves CF in 2013 and beyond, now that Jordan Schafer is gone?
A: The water gets very murky here…

Schafer was not going to be the Braves long term guy anyway. He had his chance, and couldn’t make the step. As far as the farm system goes, they really like Matt Lipka, a SS who they have talked a lot about converting to CF. He’s a tremendous athlete with a ton of speed. He’s very young though (19), and 2013 will be pushing it for him… really pushing it. By the way, I am not sold on Jose Constanza long term, but I suppose you never know. He was hitting .312 with a .361 OBP for the season in AAA before his call-up, so I suppose he could just be a late bloomer. But we’ve had our Charles Thomas moments before.  I need to see more.  Outside the organization, that’s why you trade JJ.

One thing is for certain. I think we have seen what Frank and Fredi’s vision is for this team. In the post PED era, speed is the difference maker.  Pitching has risen to dominance, and good pitching will always beat good hitting, but speed can beat a good pitcher.  Speed can frustrate a good pitcher. There is no defense for it.

Somewhere, Whitey Herzog is smiling…

~VOR~

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106: Wednesday Morning Folderrol

by: The Voice of  Raisins…

A handful of observations on a Monday morning er, afternoon (it was morning when I started this):

Index finger: I believe that Huddy’s back is probably still barking. That can directly cause his pitches to stay up, which they are. Pitches up are deadly for a sinkerballer.

Middle finger: I am perplexed about this team. They look as though they should have a formidable lineup, yet the lineup is quite anemic. Hard to fault the pitching – which is currently a bit beat up – because they for the most part keep us in the game. But, dang… they have to be a little bit disheartened that they can’t get any run support, don’t ya think?

Ring finger: The most dangerous bat in the lineup right now is easily McCann, who is as consistent as they come. But aside from him, it’s gotta be Hinske, who isn’t even a starter. Sad commentary.

Pinky: I love so many things about Martin Prado. He works harder than anyone else out there, is the epitome of “team player”, and is likely the team “spark plug”. But when you look at his offense, he’s kinda “meh”. He has a flair for getting big hits a big times, but he also makes alot of outs. How many DP’s has he hit into from the 2 hole behind Schafer? A bunch. No doubt he is a very good player and a guy that we depend on. But his overall offense is really pretty average. He was a standout 2B. He would make a good 3B, but in all honesty with too little power. He is an average LF who makes a lot of outs. If Uggla was doing his usual thing, it would balance out. He ain’t, and it doesn’t.

Thumb: What do we do? The rising star can’t stay healthy, and the fading star can’t stay 100% healthy. The bridge star is mired in a horrendous slump. You can’t touch any of those golden spots in any improvement plans. The SS is an All-Star defensively, but wildly inconsistent offensively. The 1B is a young’un with a magic glove who is showing potential, but is not yet giving you the prodigious production you expect from that corner of the IF. But they are both necessary defensively and aren’t going anywhere. LF is manned by a beloved player who isn’t really in the elite of OF, but would cause a PR nightmare if replaced. We’re stuck with him. The regular CF is hurt – again – and makes too much $$$ to jettison. His replacement has potential, but is still unproven. The organization has to see if he is indeed in the future plans. An upgrade is slightly possible there, but not likely. We already have the best C in the NL, and arguably in MLB. Can’t improve there. What do we do? Man am I glad I don’t have “General Manager” on my door…

104: Beachy is just Peachy

Gil in Mechanicsville, VA – Some surprises were had as the Braves prepared to break camp and head north to begin the season for real.  The announcements to opt for performance rather than potential and also choosing a guy in Brandon Beachy who has shown both poise and skill over a guy on whom ten days ago I would have bet heavily, Mike Minor, because the Braves have a much larger investment.

As a number 7 pick in the first round draft in 2010 plus a rather healthy signing bonus with the added benefit of potentially being the only left-handed starter on an otherwise right-handed staff, The Beach just flat out-pitched his competition and won the final spot in the rotation.  I was fortunate to see Brandon pitch early in the spring against the Nationals and he had it going then.  He does not possess an overwhelming fastball but, folks, his change up is truly outstanding and his control is said to be Greg Maddux-like. That is pretty great company to be mentioned with when you are comparing control.

From my vantage point, I was unable to see exactly where the ball was pitched but I did see some really funny swings being taken by the likes of Jason Werth and LaRoache.  It is not as if Beachy is a “strike out” pitcher but I did not see one hard hit ball by the Nationals in his stint on the mound.  With his selection by the Braves as the number five guy in the rotation, I suspect that trend continued in his other games this spring as well.

Other surprised this spring may have been the selection of the diminutive Matt Young as the Braves fourth outfielder and Brandon Hicks as the utility infielder.

Young has proved he can hit for average and, with his speed, he will turn a lot of long singles into doubles.  He also appears to be able to hit in the clutch.  You don’t always need a three run homer to win ballgames.  How many times last year did we see the Braves fail to score after loading the bases with no or only one out?  The kid, and I use that term loosly as he is 28, can also play all three outfield positions and was also used at second base this spring.  He looks to be a gamer.  Every team needs a guy like this on their team if for no other reason than to ambush a pitcher who is looking into the dugout to see where the boppers are.   I guess the real  surprise has been that Young managed to play his way onto the team over Joe Mather who had been touted as the next “Great White Hope” by the Atlanta press.  Though Mather was given plenty of opportunity, he  just appeared to  play poorly while Young simply played better in every opportunity.

Brandon Hicks may have finally reached his potential.  A number three pick by the Braves behind Francouer and McCann, he has always possessed a great glove but his poor hitting has forced the Braves to keep him in AAA.  Bobby Cox has said he was one of the best young shortstops he had seen but it has always been his bat that held him back.  Perhaps the positive in the Braves opting for Hicks as their primary back-up over Diory Hernandez is Hicks’ ability to play third and Brandon appears to have added bulk this off season so a bit more power to be had with the stick.

Diory was also a bit disappointing with the bat this spring but I suspect he will be in Atlanta at some juncture during the season.  I don’t mean to paint that devil on the wall but six months is a long time in baseball and obliques get tweaked and elbows, shoulders and hammys somehow manage to be a problem for everyone at some point.

~Gil~

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99: Flippin’ The Calendar

By Voice of Reason Raisins

Jefferson, GA (i.e. God’s country) – Yeah, I know we’re in the middle of an exciting and tight pennant race here in 2010, but I have 2011 on my mind.  It’s coming whether we have a Championship season or not.

So, here are my top 10 questions for 2011…

Freddie Gonzalez

#1:  Is there any covert agreement in place with Fredi, or are the reports true in that the Braves have given him no indication at all that he’s a candidate to manage here next season? Is Fredi really even the best candidate to replace Bobby? If not, who is? What about the current coaches? Clean house, or keep some/all? Who?

Rockin' Leo

#2: Very much related to #1… Leo has made absolutely no bones about his desire to return to the Braves as pitching coach. He also has indirectly been somewhat critical of how some of the pitchers are handled, and of some of the pitching philosophies being taught. Could we see Leo part 2? Fredi was here with Leo, not Roger…

#3: What about Omar? If Chipper returns, which he seems bent on doing, Martin goes back to 2B. What then of Omar. In my mind, he has established himself as an everyday player and as a top notch leadoff hitter. Where does he play? SS? Would Frank let Gonzo’s option go and make Omar the everyday SS? Maybe he could be our everyday LF. (I contend that Omar’s versatility will give Frank more offseason options than just locking in on one specific position.)

#4: This really isn’t a question, more of an assertion. Frank has to fix CF. Ankiel is a nice defensive guy, but not a starter for a contender. Melky is not an option (maybe a non-tender option, but not a starting option) and Schafer has a long, long road back. This may be Frank’s toughest offseason job next to hiring a manager (which ought to be easier than it appears.) Who’s available?

Nate McLouth

#5: What to do with Nate? He makes too much $$$ to just DFA. Nobody will take his contract from us. What do we do with him? This is a tough one…
#6: Non-tenders:   Diaz? Melky? Both are real possibilities, especially if we have to sit on Nate’s salary. I won’t be surprised to see both non-tendered, and a youngster (read: major league minimum salary player) kept as 4th outfielder. Maybe Brent Clevlen or Matt Young. Maybe Willie Cabrera. (http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?pos=&sid=t431&t=p_pbp&pid=488757 )

#7: And what of KK? He won’t be in the 2011 rotation plans, so can he be traded? I think he really needs to pitch well for us in the next 4 weeks to redeem his value. He only has one year left on his deal, and it isn’t terribly unreasonable in the current inflated salary environment. Did I mention that he really needs to pitch well over the next few weeks?

Jonny Venters

#8: Who closes? Kimbrell? He was the heir apparent early in the season. That is until Venters came from nowhere and impressed everyone, including current door-slammer Wagsy. Wags says Venters has the best stuff on the staff. The whole staff. That’s some pretty stout words. Bobby has never felt really comfortable handing closer duties over to a youngster, but then again Bobby won’t be here, will he?

#9:  Who’s the next star in the pipeline to keep our eye on? It was Hanson for 2009, then

Matt Lipka

Heyward for 2010, and now Freeman seemingly taking over at 1B in 2011. So, who is the next one to watch? Is it just one, or the troika (first on blog?) of Aroydis Vizcaino, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado? We know they’re coming, and we’re all licking our chops over this new wave of talented tossers.  But what about position players? Maybe it’s young SS prospect Matt Lipka. You remember him, right? This year’s top pick… speedster… He had a stellar rookie season in the GCL, and was rewarded with a post-GCL promotion to Danville for their playoff run. He finished his inaugural pro campaign with a slash line of .296/.353/.392 with 34 R, 8 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 22 K, 21/24 SB. You see the last part? 21 steals in 24 attempts. Also, notice he had only 22 K’s in almost 200 AB’s. He’s a few years away, but he looks like a good’un for sure. I’ll be keeping my eyes on him. Did I mention 21 out of 24?

#10: How will the Braves respond after fending off the Phillies, Padres, Reds, and Rays and winning it all in true Hollywood fashion to send HOF’er Bobby Cox into the sunset with his 2nd World Series title? (OK, maybe this part is a bit presumptuous, but it’s my list, so there…)

~Raisins~

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

Leo with Glavine, Avery, Mercker, Maddux & Smoltz

Editor’s Note:  Found this photo and just had to insert it for old times’ sake.

Were they truly that young??

95: Opening Day With The Wildcat

.

by epriseWildcat

ENTERPRISE, AL – The wildcat is home from the most amazing baseball game I’ve ever seen. WOW!!!

The opening ceremony was fantastic. Well… except the fly-by which was mistimed and showed up half way through the national anthem. From my vantage point in section 225 we could not see the planes at all.

Heyward, Rich Addicks AP

Look who is standing respectfully, attentively and quietly. Photo by Rich Addicks, AP

Oh well… that was the about the only thing that went wrong for the Braves. Well… there was D. Lowe’s first inning. Yuk!!! From our vantage point there was no strike zone and there was no sink to his sinker. We’re lucky they only scored three!

As for our young right fielder Mr. Heyward there is no way to describe the excitement he generated with that blast deep into Braves bullpen. The Ted went absolutely crazy. The ball he hit was still rising from my vantage point deep into right field. It was a shot!!! I should also mention how smooth and graceful he is in the outfield. Amazing! This kid will be a fixture for the Braves for many years. The symbolic first pitch from Hank to Jason tells the story perfectly.

Hank & Heyward - ajc photo by Phil Skinner

Good gosh, there were Cub fans everywhere. It would be easy to over estimate their numbers but 15-20 percent wearing Cubs gear is probably pretty close. The obnoxious one in front of me left in the 7th inning. He’d seen enough. Atlanta needs to wake up and get behind this team and fill the seats.

I can remember a lot of speculation this winter about Marian Byrd and picking him up as a big bat. He may swing a pretty big stick but he can’t field a lick. Can’t imagine the Cubs will keep him in center field.

What a great day for Braves fans. For this Braves fan it was a great way to share a day with his son. What a shame they take tomorrow off. This line-up is strong with youth and veterans and the pitching is first rate.

Just a couple more observations of a great opening day for our Braves.

* The stadium staff and security could not be nicer. Very friendly and helpful.

* The stadium looks great! Upgrades to the electronic scoreboards and new graphics abound. The new Coke bottle is really cool. There have been major improvements to the sound effects played during the game. Long overdue! The Ted is a great place to watch a ballgame!!!

* The Chik-fil-A chopping cow appears to be having technical difficulties. He only managed to get into a full chop only once.

* The baritone singer in the tux that sang God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch was awesome! Should be a fixture at every home game. Sure beats Steven Tylers awful rendition during the Yanks-Red Sox game Sunday night. Yuk!

Really looking forward to going back in a couple of weeks.  Hope the weather is as great!

We'll be seeing a lot more of him! ajc photo by Phil Skinner

~epriseWildcat~

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

93: Spring Has Sprung – or soon will!

by Berigan

Well, with snow blanketing much of the US, clearly – it’s time to talk Braves baseball!

So, what do we make of the Braves version 2010?  Wasn’t it weird to have an offseason where the last thing we as fans were looking for was starting pitching?  Too many starters in fact. When did we last have that problem?! 19 hundred and something, at the latest!  Of course if any of the main guys go down, then we are like every other team in baseball, hoping and praying someone at AAA can go 5 innings and only give up 3-4 runs. But, as of now, I am sure everyone will agree that our starting pitching is in very good shape. As good as it was at the start of last season.

Now, the bullpen.  Ahh, yes, the bullpen.  While Gonzo and Soriano are not perfect, my feelings are they are better than Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner.  At least the former are younger!  😉

Takashi Saito has had an ERA under 3 for his 4 seasons in the big leagues.  Very impressive!  But he is also going to be 40 on Valentine’s Day.  He also was in only 56 games last year.  I sure hope one of the translators will make both facts well known to Bobby! 😉

Wagner is a relative spring chicken compared to him as he will turn 39 in July.  62 Games and 62 innings the past two years.  Can he pitch in 3 straight games?? 2 straight??

We know if the 87 games Peter Moylan pitched in last year don’t cause his arm to fall off this spring,  he will be a steady presence, most likely racking up 80 plus appearances again. Kris Medlen should continue to improve on last years work.

Eric O’Flaherty will get the lefties out once again.  Scott Proctor, if he has regained his health, could be a big boost to the bullpen. Bobby has to find someone else to rely on besides Gonzo, and Sori…oh wait…anyway.  He has to find a way to trust someone besides the 2 middle-aged guys.  Just can’t use them like guys 10-12 years younger.

Will Manny Acosta finally get his act together??? Will Chris Resop and his 100 MPH stuff finally come through??? Those guys clearly have great stuff….

Speaking of question marks:  our offense.  (Some of this is going to be ‘no duh, Berigan,’ please bear with me!)

Starting at 1st. Troy Glaus.  Man, if this was 2009, we would be tickled to get him after another 100 RBI season.  But it’s 2010 and in 2009 he hit .172 in just 29 AB’s. The biggest thing going in his favor is he is still fairly young, won’t turn 34 til August.

2nd Base. Toot toot! (me tooting my own horn) I have long been a fan of Martin Prado. It seemed like he would never get his chance to show what he could do as a full time player. Finally got that chance, and showed to everyone he deserves it. Still, he only has 770 AB’s for his career, and some guys the league does figure out. I don’t think he will be one of those though.

SS: Yunel Escobar. He has finally proven himself, offensively and defensively -well, as long as no one is sliding into him!- but what about between the ears?  Didn’t it seem last year that any day he would do just the right thing to get his talented behind traded???  Will he finally mature this year???

3rd base:  Ol Chipper. There was this 37 year old.  He hit  17 HR’s drove in  62 RBI’s and hit .337.  Then he turned 38 and in 404 AB’s hit 14 HR’s drove in  44 RBIs and hit a lousy .255.  A lot of people thought he was washed up.  His manager even was trying to tell him he wasn’t a regular anymore.   He hit .275 at the age of 39, .288 at the age of 40, and at 41, in 505 AB’s he hit 19 HR’s Drove in 82 RBIs, and had a .330 B.A. Unless I have a cystal ball  (I do, but it only sees 30 seconds in the future)  I am not talking about Chipper, but another guy already in the the Hall of Fame.  Stan Musial!

Funny, when Chipper hit .248 at the age of 32, no one thought he was washed up. He hit .264 last year and even he seems convinced he’s about done.  Like the great Joaquin Andujar said, “There is one word in America that says it all, and that one word is, You never know!”

Wait, what am I forgetting on the infield?  Catcher. McCann and David Ross.  If healthy, no worries.  Nuff said.

Left field:  Matt Diaz hit .313 last year!  Seems hard to believe, doesn’t it?!  He was very streaky early, .216 in April, .378 in May, .250 in June.  I think if he didn’t take those terrible swings on pitches low and outside he’d be thought of as a regular, IMO.

Anyway, likely a platoon guy with Melky Cabrera, who last year hit .274, 13 HR, 68 RBIs.  He lost the starting job last spring but won it back when Brett Gardner went on the DL.  So, Cabrera was in 154 games last year, the guy to man center for a team that won 103 games.  Of course, they also traded him.  But both he and Diaz arguably should be starting players, though neither has a whole lot of power. Seems we do have plenty of outfielders though, if you toss in Eric Hinske.

Center field:  Nate McClouth. Did you know he hit 26 HR’s and drove in 94 in 2008?  Do you understand why I think it’s bat poop crazy for him to bat leadoff on a team with little power?  *sigh*  Tilting at windmills.

Right Field:  some kid – what’s his name?  The JHey Kid!  Is he the real deal?  Everyone says he is.  Those short clips I’ve seen on the web show one of the smoothest swings out there – but he is 20.  What can we truly expect from him?

Willie Mays failed at first.  Cal Ripkin was bad at the very beginning, as well. ARod, at the age of 20, hit 36 HRs, drove in 123 and had a .358 BA.  But he also played 65 games in the previous two years in the majors. 

Ken Griffey jr came up at 19, and hit 16 Hr’s drove in 61, and hit .264. Are those realistic numbers for Heyward?  Would we win with those numbers?  Or How about what a 23 year old rookie by the name of Mark McGwire did as a rookie?  49 Homers! Not much pressure, but he should shoot for 50 to break his record!  :mrgreen: Still, wish the Braves had brought JHey up for a cup of coffee, especially if they are counting on him right out of the box.

So, long story longer – who knows what will happen this year?  3rd, 2nd or even 1st place all seem to be valid possibilities.  Which is why we watch the games, right?

PLAY BALL!!

~Ber~

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

92: A Little Seasoned Wood for the Hot Stove

by Voice of  Reason Raisins

JEFFERSON, GA – Some so-called “fans” sure are funny…

Damon

They’ll call for signing Johnny Damon, yet trash the idea of trading for Luke Scott. (Their numbers are almost identical over the

L Scott

last four years.  Scott is significantly younger and cheaper.)

They’ll wail at the signing of Billy Wagner because he’s coming off surgery, and gnash their collective teeth at not retaining Gonzo and Sori, both of whom came off surgeries last season.

They’ll want to lynch Frank Wren over signing Troy Glaus because of his

T Glaus

one shoulder surgery (from which he returned at the end of last season and was activated for the playoffs), yet clamor for Frank to sign Xavier Nady, who is coming off of 2 TJ surgeries and has yet to prove he can even scratch his own back.

They’ll elevate the up and down Javy Vazquez to Cy Youngian heights for winning 15 games (against 10 forgotten losses) and putting up the best stats of his career in 2009. The same fans will crucify the steady Derek Lowe for having one down year in 2009, and winning just 15 games while losing an unacceptable 10. Horrors! 😯

Many refuse to acknowledge that there was anything other than

A Viscaino

Vazquez and Melky Cabrera involved in the trade with the bankrolled Yankees.  And if they do acknowledge that Arodys Vizcaino was there, they ignore his pedigree. At the same time, they’ll absolutely go ballistic at the notion of including either Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado in a trade. Vizcaino is now rated in front of both of those deservedly treasured prospects in some publications.  And these “fans” somehow completely ignore lefty Michael Dunn, who will most likely be an important part of this year’s bullpen.  Oh, yeah… and there is still about $7 million or so to be spent as a net result. Can’t leave that nugget out.

M Dunn

(I, for one, am envisioning a 2013 rotation that includes Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Vizcaino, Teheran and possibly Mike Minor. That will be stout… STOUT.)

You know, we here in Stuffville are a unique bunch. We understand a few things.

First, the roster on January 5 is not the roster on April 5, when the Braves open the 2010 campaign at home against the Cubs.

Second, a GM’s job is not to shoot all of his bullets in pursuit of building for only the current year. He has to have forward vision and build for years down the road while fielding the most competitive team he can for the current season and keeping the franchise viable from a financial standpoint. It is simply the reality of operating in the current economic climate.

Third, and probably most importantly, we all have the good sense to realize that WE are the fans, and THEY are the professionals. That reality is lost on far too many laptop executives. I think fantasy baseball and the proliferation of far too many boutique statistics has warped the view of a lot of nouveau “fans”, who really have no idea how to have loyalty to a team and form a real emotional bond. We are in a “fast food” society that wants drive-thru satisfaction. In my estimation, you can’t truly enjoy the highs if you haven’t endured the lows. Plant the garden. Tend it, feed it, pull a few weeds, let it grow. Harvest the bounty.

But what do I know? I’ve only been a Braves fan since I was 5, when the Braves infield was made up of Clete Boyer, Sonny Jackson, Felix Millan and Orlando Cepeda. I had no idea who they were, but I had their cards and knew they played for my team. I do remember when Earl Williams was ROY in 1971.

And I remember 1973, when the Braves had 3 players with over 40 HR’s – Hank Aaron (40), Darrell Evans (41) and Davey Johnson (43). That same year, Ralph Garr stole 35 bases, and I had a Ralph Garr Road Runner (beep-beep) bicycle license plate proudly hanging from the back of my banana seat. I remember when Hammerin’ Hank broke “the record.” It was a day game. I was in 3rd grade. They announced it in class.

I will never forget any of those things. They are special to me.

Do you know what the common denominator is in all of those seasons from my kidhood? I could not begin to tell you the Win-Loss records of those teams. It didn’t matter; they were the Atlanta Braves. They were MY team. Period.

They still are. Period.

~Raisins~

90: Where’s the Big Bopper?

Where’s the Big Bopper?

by Voice of Reason Raisins

JEFFERSON, GA – Unicorns, Bigfoot, UFO’s, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, free lunch, government intelligence, affordable power hitting outfielder…

It’s gonna take more that a ride on the Polar Express to make me believe.

This years Free Agent crop is headlined by two premier outfielders, Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. Do I really have to go into deep detail as to why the Braves cannot be considered serous contenders in the bidding for either of these two Rolls Royces? I don’t think I do.

Past the luxury models, we can move to the more affordable, practical sedans.

For Left Field, you’ll find names such as Marlon Byrd… uh, Marlon Byrd. That’s about it. C’mon… does Marcus Thames really excite you? How about Joey Gathright? David Delucci? Folks, it ain’t there. Garret Anderson is one of the better names on that list. Really…

OK, what about Center Field? OK, there we can find Mike Cameron. Past that there’s Rick Ankiel, Andruw Jones (ugh), and Corey Patterson. Bleh!

Maybe Right Field. Maybe not. Austin Kearns? Brian Giles? Jermaine Dye? Do you really want Dye in left field? Do you remember some of the misadventures we endured with Anderson? No thanks!

Um, First Base? There you will see Adam LaRoache, Russell Branyan, Nick Johnson and a bunch of scrap. Johnson has a nice OBP, but isn’t a bopper. Branyan? Hmmm… maybe, but he wants two years guaranteed. If I’m doing that, I’m doing it for Adam and keeping him at home. That said, none of those is guaranteeing you 30+ HR’s. Branyan comes close, but there is that back thing…

Bottom line: The Big Bopper isn’t there.

What about the trade market? Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham immediately come to mind, but why would the Nationals trade their core offensive players to their division rival? Answer: they won’t. Not happenin’. Carlos Lee? Contract is too prohibitive. Delmon Young? We just traded our version of Delmon Young to the Mets. Cody Ross? See Dunn and Willingham. Brad Hawpe? Nick Swisher? Not enough power to be a bopper. Maybe Ryan Ludwick? I don’t see St. Louis trading him since Holliday is likely to sign elsewhere. The one guy who might be out there and fits the description is Adrian Gonzalez, but it is not yet determined if he’s actually going to be available, and the Padres would gut the farm system of just about everything leftover after the Tex trade. Uh, no.

Much has been said recently as to the candidacy of Dan Uggla. I’m not buying. First, he’s never logged one inning in the major leagues outside of Second Base. And he didn’t do that particularly well. Why would you take the absolute strength of your team, being pitching, and reduce it with sub-par defense? Answer: you won’t. Also, see Dunn, Willingham and Ross. The Marlins do not particularly want to make the Braves any better, and likewise the Braves do not particularly want to make the Marlins any better. That is what you call “not a match”.

And that is what Frank has to find in the trade market… a match. Who will take our surplus (pitching, KJ) and give us our need (LF, 1B, ‘pen)?

So, what can we take from all of this blather?

There isn’t a Big Bopper out there and available. We probably have a better chance of seeing the real Big Bopper rise up and sing <i>Chantilly Lace</i> as we have of landing a Big Bopper for the lineup.

So, how do we overcome that obstacle? Well, is it really an obstacle?

Three mid-level signings give you a pretty darn good team, in my view. Mike Cameron, as I have said over and over, can be had on a one year deal for around $7MM, plays stellar defense, and will give you 20-25 HR’s and 70-80 RBI. Re-sign Rochey and Gonzo, and you have a team to compete with anyone in the NL.

And we can afford that.

We need to take a step back and realize that after the acquisitions of Nate McClouth and Rochey, we played as well as anybody in the league. And that was with Chipper tanking and Garret Anderson in left field. I’ll take a whole season of both Rochey, an outfield of N8, Cameron and Diaz (and/or JHey, but that’s a separate topic).

Add that to the best starting rotation in the National League, and maybe in either league, and we have a winning team.

The best part? We still have a starter to trade… we still have ammo to fill the gaps.

And we won’t have Greg Norton.

~Raisins~

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

89: 2010 Potential Warms Cold Winter Nights

POTENTIAL FOR 2010 WARMS THOSE COLD WINTER NIGHTS

By ssiscribe

ATLANTA — Nothing chills the heart of a baseball fan more than when the first cold front of the offseason blows through town, sending the garden blooms shivering and the good denizens scrambling for that favorite sweater.

And that’s where we stand on this night along the southern rim of the capital city. On the big TV is a big-time doing: the Yankees and Angels battling in the late innings of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.

For Los Angeles (times two!) and New York and Philadelphia, the here and now sits squarely in focus. Here in Atlanta, and wherever the legions of Braves Nation lay their heads on this chilly October night, 2010 already has arrived, regardless of what the calendar on the wall reports to us.

Winter has arrived, even if we’re told it doesn’t get here until December. It arrived in late September, after a spirited late-season push by the Braves fell a few games short of a miracle ticket to the postseason party.

For all the hub-bub and boost Atlanta’s torrid September surge provided, I couldn’t help but wonder two things:

1.) We don’t deserve to play in October, given how we’d played in April, May and June.

2.) If we hadn’t played the first 74 games of this season six games under .500, I’d be pulling money aside for World Series tickets.

Therein rests the hope as we look ahead to a new season, one that we’re already thinking about and talking about and obsessing about, even as four teams still try to settle the final matters of 2009. What we saw out of the Braves from the moment they were 34-40 to the dying days of September provide plenty of evidence this team is plenty good enough to be plastered on our TV screens — and not just in our consciousness and discussion — come this time next year.

Certainly, there are questions to address, holes to fill. Let’s face it: after a 90-loss season in 2008, the Braves had two offseasons worth of work to do to get this thing straightened out. Give Frank Wren and Co. credit for addressing the most-glaring need first. Not too long after having to rely on Jorge Campillo, Jo-Jo Reyes, James Parr and Buddy Carlyle to fill out a starting rotation, the Braves have a staff that is the envy of the sport.

Heck, they have TOO many starters, if it’s even possible to find oneself in such a scenario.

Now that the rotation is salted away and salved, it’s time to give the lineup the pop it needs to generate enough runs to propel this squad into the playoffs. Moves made along the way, from trading for Nate McLouth to Adam LaRoche’s homecoming to Martin Prado’s ascension to everyday player status, have helped.

Re-sign LaRoche, find one more bat (preferably right-handed in nature), and this team is golden. I really believe that, and no, it’s not the fumes coming from the Hot Stove on this cold winter’s night providing such an intoxicating aroma.

Baseball 2009 is done for me, despite this ALCS contest playing on my TV. Baseball 2010 awaits. Dare I say, with the evidence at my disposal, the Braves have poured a strong foundation.

Add a few bricks to it, and next October will be a lot warmer.

–30–

~Scribe~

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88: Would you believe, we missed it by this much!

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Gil of Mechanicsville

Would you believe, we missed it by this much….

Last week in a post race interview with Nascar racing bad boy Kyle Bush, he was asked if he felt let down by just missing stock car racing version of a play-off by 12 points, just edged out by another team in the final race of the regular season. He was reflective and truthful in his reply when he said it was not the most recent race that was his downfall but rather the accumulation of near misses and questionable moves over the 26 race prelude that cause him to come up short.

I think that could also sum up the Braves season quite well. It was not losing two of three to the Phillies at home last week that have all but ended the Atlanta team’s playoff hopes but many instances where the Braves failed to play up to their potential over the course of a 162 game schedule.

However, the Braves faithful should not lose sight of what has been a remarkable turn-around for a club that was woefully bad last year. Going from a team which lost 90 games in 2008 to one that will likely win that many this year. In a world where everything seems to rely on winning the last game played in a season, the following of the Bravo’s should take heart that the future bodes well for their favorites.

There are a lot fewer holes to fill for next season. Frank Wren and company has done a pretty spectacular job of rebuilding the pitching staff and is a much better place than last year when filling the team’s need for a power bat in the line-up. In fact could be made that if the Braves had been able to field the team they currently have during the entire season, the results would be much different right now as far as the playoffs and likely would be holding off the Phillies for the NL East title.

While it is purely speculation on my part, here are some of the names I doubt you will see on an Atlanta uniform next year:

KJohnson

Kelly Johnson, while he may still ply his trade with another major league team next year, I doubt it will be in Atlanta. Kelly still has potential but the Braves have other options that are far cheaper and have greater ability at his position.
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RafaelSoriano
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Rafael Soriano: While he can be a top shelf closer at times and un-hittable, his price tag will be too high for as far as Atlanta is concerned especially with the emergence of Peter Moylan and Eric O’Flaherty.
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Mike Gonzalez: See above. Rocky will make a great Gonzo1closer for a team that does not over use him. Gee, can you imagine what a pitching coach like Dave Duncan could do with a talent like his? Awesome.
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AndersonG4

Garret Anderson: While he has shown flashes of his greatness at time this year, I doubt he will return for an encore performance. With some pretty good talent in the wings for the Atlanta with Heyward and Scheffer, I think the money paid to him this season will be used elsewhere. Probably to re-sign Adam LaRoche to a two year contract.

.
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Standings as of 9/23/09:

88b
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~Gil~

87: The 2009 Braves – or ….

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Savannah Guy

How We Managed To Lose Games We Should’ve Won.

The most frustrating thing in sports is watching your team lose when you know it is more than capable of winning. Surely all fans feel or think or say that as they seek answers to why their team failed to have a winning season and reach the playoffs. For some, like the Pirates and the Nationals, the answer is simple. For teams like the Braves, the answers are more complex. The Braves have an average payroll, above average rotation and that’ll get you to the post season. Get players that’ll get you some runs and you’re there in October.

The Braves are not going anywhere but home when this season ends. Why did that happen? Is it just “the way the ball bounces”? Is it just “that’s baseball”, or is there something or someone that we can point to and confidently and reasonably say, “that was the one undeniable cause of our losing season”. In sports, that is almost impossible to prove and there are as many opinions as there are fans.

Seeking blame is not a helpful exercise nor is it a fruitful cause, but seeking answers to questions and solutions for problems is worthwhile and helpful, even if the exercise is to satisfy our own curiosity and sense of logic, reason, cause and effect. A few excerpts inspired me from a Mark Bowman, MLB article last night:

Jair Jurgens

Jair Jurrjens

“I don’t even know what to say anymore,” said Jurrjens, who has seen the Braves score two runs or fewer in 14 of his 29 starts. “It’s getting frustrating for us now, especially because of how big these games are for us right now.”

I’m afraid this may be closer to what he wanted to say: I do know what to say after playing with this club… that it’s been frustrating from day one in Atlanta. First chance, I’m out’a here.

“Wells was hard to hit at,” manager Bobby Cox said. “He was wild enough to be effective. He would make some real bad pitches and then make the most Greg Maddux-[like] pitches you could ever imagine.”

Another perspective: Hate to mince words but must differ with the skipper… Wells was actually easy to “hit at”. We hit “at” him all night, trying to impatiently force the situation and pull the ball and wound up swinging at pitches way up and way out of the zone. Wells was “effectively wild” (stunk) but occasionally got one over. We helped him out a great deal by swinging at everything except, uh, the ones across the plate.

This season is a nightmare for the Braves rotation, where one run might lose a game and three runs pretty much assures you of hanging one in the loss column.

I’m not tracking, but it seems like we were on a pretty good roll until Chipper put himself back in. His pinch three run double made him forget all about the slumpfest he’s been in, figured he was invincible, happy days were here again and determined he’d play every game after that. That hasn’t worked out very well for Chipper or the team.

But that’s just one player and I don’t hang this or any season on just one player. Was it untimely injuries to McLouth, Infante, Prado, Church, just as they were playing so well? Was it sticking with French and Kelly so, so incredibly long? Did we overlook Diaz too long? Was it the unwillingness or stubbornness to keep Chipper in, or allow him to camp in the 3 spot so long? Is it having Mac bat cleanup when Rochey would be a better fit? Were we one big bat shy of having a winning team?

Should we have kept Conrad in Atlanta to play second, moving Prado to third to let Chipper have some real time off? Should we be resting Mac more and let Ross contribute?

Was it a bad idea to pitch Gonzo and Soriano with big leads too many times or put them in to pitch too often on consecutive nights when most managers would’ve used others in the pen?

Medlen

Medlen

Did we pitch Moylan way too much, especially with him coming off surgery? Is Lowe done as a starter?  Have we mismanaged Medlen enough yet, jerking him around to the point of throwing him out of synch and robbing him of confidence? Has “loyalty” or “patience” with a struggling Norton hurt the team?  Is Garret done as a position player?

As always, there is not one single reason a team loses and not one single player that causes a team to lose the season. “All of the above”  (and more) would be the only viable and fair answer to so many questions about this 2009 season.

Yet, even with all of the injuries (which all teams have) and slumps (which all teams have), our starting pitching has been excellent. With the exception of Lowe, our rotation is at least as good as any in the game. Cy Young could not have won more games than Jair this year with such pitiful run support.

This season, even with less than stellar offense, with just a little less loyalty and patience and that stubborn old playbook, the Braves could be ahead of the Phillies today. We had a good enough team this year but in my humble opinion they were mismanaged all the way. Bobby didn’t manage bad enough to be tossed out in mid season as some owners do, particularly because of the laurels he rests on, and he didn’t manage so blatantly bad that he lost all benefit of doubt about his current capability.

The Braves were managed just well enough to almost win. Luck had nothing to do with this season like it did last year. Our injuries could have been played through. Rally-killing, automatic-out players that were mired in months long, excruciating slumps could have been lifted. Luck played no role in the 2009 season, unless you consider having a great manager that is (still) on top of his game good luck. A few less injuries to key players would have helped as would the good fortune of landing a big bat, but our bad luck in 2009 was bad managing.

managers1

Maybe we’ll manage to get’em next year.

~SG~


Braves And Stuff - Blogged

86: Are they for real???? Part 1, Pitching

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Berigan

Did you know Ted Simmons was the back up catcher and pinch hitter for the Braves from 1986 to 1988??? Don’t you feel better knowing this important bit of trivia???

Ted Simmons

Ted Simmons


Where was I??? Right, nowhere.

Some of this is painfully obvious, because it was originally a comment on a baseball thread for a jazz forum, that doesn’t know the braves like we know the braves. So there. Now I have updated, and padded the best I can. But I’m not going to kill myself for the mere $1000 Carolina Lady pays me to write these, you know??? :mrgreen: [CL to Ber: Do what?! 😯 ]

Anywho, the Braves, it could be argued, have the best 1-5 starters in all the majors. And Tim Hudson likely on the big league roster on or around Sept. 1st.

Kawakami

Kawakami

Kawakami is basically the 5th starter, (and paid more like a 2nd or 3rd) but when he’s against a big opponent, say Halladay, the Red Sox, or against the Dodgers, he has been huge! Funny, for a Japanese pitcher, I would have expected more consistency, but he needs challenges. I wouldn’t mind a bit IF the braves made the playoffs, for him to start game one. (And I wrote this before murderizing the mutts last night, am I good, or what????)

Derek Lowe

Derek Lowe


Derek Lowe is paid as a number one, but is more of a number 4 (or 5) of late. But his 4.45, while the worst of all the starters, is not horrible. Just horrible for a number one! 😉 It sure seems like his sinker was crisper the first month and a half of the season. I thought fatigue helped sinker pitchers???

Tommy Hanson is technically our 4th or 5th starter. While he has come down to earth a bit of late, a 8-2 record and a 3.05 ERA in your first year is nothing to sneeze at! He has gone at least 5 innings every time out. A rookie of the year candidate for sure. Hanson is simply not pitching like a 22 year old. Check out Maddux, Glavine, or Smoltz’s stats for their first year or two in the majors and see how truly bad they were!

Jair Jurgens

Jair Jurgens

Now for the 2 best starters. Flip a coin. Jair Jurrjens. I still get the feeling he doesn’t get the respect he deserves. A certain baseball writer for the braves didn’t seem to think he was a #1 or 2. He simply gets no run support. 9-8 with a 2.00 ERA. 13-10 last year, with a 3.68 ERA. And he was born in 1986, like Hanson! Hard to think of him as being that young, doesn’t it??? Gee, think the Tigers ever regret handing him over in the Edgar Renteria trade??? Even Lowe said early in the year after he pitched, well we have our best pitcher going tomorrow, talking about Jurrjens. Could have been trying to boost the kids confidence. Could have been just telling it the way it is.

Javier Vazquez

Javier Vazquez

But the guy with the best ERA??? Pitched the most innings??? Who has the 2nd most strikeouts in the NL??? Javier Vazquez! As you all my recall, I was NOT happy about getting him this spring. Career ERA over 4.
Check out his year by year ERA from 2004. 2004- 4.91. 2005(in the NL by the way) 4.42. 2006-4.84. 2007-3.74. 2008-4.67.

We traded Tyler Flowers, a guy that in the spring of 2008 was hitting balls much further than anyone else. We gave him up for some hack, who wilted when called out by his manager to step up his game. Then he pitched in the WC this spring. I figured he was a likely candidate for Tommy John.

Instead, 10-8(should be about 14-4) 2.90 era, 162 innings, 178 strike outs! And a month ago, many braves fans, including me, were all for trading him to get the illusive big bopper. Well, right now…we are glad he is still on the club!

I don’t know if it’s having a manager that actually respects him, or being closer to family in Puerto Rico (Heard that was an issue in Arizona) but he has been gold, and at the age of 33 is having his career year. Go figure.

We all know the bullpen is not perfect. I can’t find any stats for some reason, but I read about a month ago , the bullpen ERA was 13th out of 16 teams in the NL. Kind of surprising. After Gonzo, Soriano, Moylan, and O’Flaherty it’s been a crapshoot most of the year.

Everyone knows Manny Acosta has great stuff, it’s being consistent that has been the issue. And you get the feeling the manager doesn’t have a lot faith in him. But, if the arms are to stay attached to Moylan, Gonzo, and Sori, then Logan, Medlen, and Acosta need to be pitched more, and from time to time in big games.

But with 5 starters that all have above average stuff, and 4 trusted arms in the Bullpen, and a manager that doesn’t know the meaning of the word quit (both literally and figuratively) the braves should stay in it til the last week of the season!

~Berigan~

85: The Braves: Play-offs?

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Gil in Mechanicsville

After much angst, we all find ourselves wondering if this team can actually make the playoffs. 4&1/2 games back with nearly 6 weeks to go; certainly it will make for interesting theater.

Good pitching beats good hitting, an old adage that has proven true for many seasons. With a National League best ERA, the Braves staff is once again leading the team to resurgence. So, what has changed to allow for the sudden optimism in Atlanta’s chances to again visit the post season after what seems to have been forever?  Simple, good pitching combined with timely hitting.

The Braves were on a run when Omar Infante’ suffered an unfortunate

Infante'

Infante'

injury. It seemed to stop the Braves in their tracks just when the seemed poised to make a run. It was not until the insertion of Martin Prado as an everyday player that the Braves have once again regained a winning form. Now, that is not to say that Kelly Johnson was dragging down the team, only to say no one was providing the spark. At the time, the Braves’ entire offense appeared centered around Chipper Jones and Brian McCann. As they went into their inevitable slump, so did the Braves.

Ryan Church

Ryan Church

Fortunately, the much-maligned Frank Wren also recognized the correlation between the two. The trade of hometown hero Jeff Francouer for Ryan Church appears to have helped shake the Bravos out of their doldrums. Coupled with the acquisition of Adam LaRoche for Casey Kotchman has also aided in a resurgence of offense. Additionally, blog whipping boy, Kelly Johnson, appears to have regained his timing as well as his confidence after a stint on the DL and a rehab stay in Gwinnett.

Now it appears Infante’ will be rejoining the club on Tuesday. While Diory Hernandez has a lot of upside, He is still a ways away from being an effective major league player. Infante’ is a much more proven utility man. In addition, two pitchers on the DL should be returning soon. Hudson and Carlyle should help bolster the pitching staff. While Manny Acosta can be effective at times, he is still pretty inconsistent. Perhaps the Nationals could use him in exchange for some of their prospects.

~Gil~

83: Here’s Your (Braves) Rant!!!

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Like many of us long-time Braves fans, our allegiance wasn’t forged since 1991. Oh, no…and oh, dear, for otherwise, our patience would have been sapped long ago. Nope, for me, I harken (poetic, ain’t it!?!) back to the late 60’s/early 70’s, to the insufferable Milo Hamilton and the equally HamiltonMiloinsufferable Brave’s teams. But they were our Braves…and we clung to hope…cause that’s what true fans do. Milo left…we stayed through thick (you have to imagine) and thin(ner)!

The fact is, those earlier times were easier to be fans in the strictest sense. We enjoyed the game for what it was…and feasted on the occasional teaser (1982-83). The only other intrigue, ’69 aside, was Aaron’s chase of the Babe … Garber halting Rose’s streak … Horner jumping straight from college to the Braves, and homering … and Murphy’s exploits. Otherwise it’s pretty slim pickings.

But, we had Ernie, Skip, and Pete to keep us entertained…many times to the point they forgot the game, which was a good thing.

Now, we have reasonably good talent each year, but a Hall of Fame manager acting like there is one book to manage by … and it sucks! How is it we have one of the top three starting rotations in baseball, and a solid relief core, yet have three of the only six MLB pitchers with over 42 appearances this year? Please, someone … explain … pound it through this thick skull, ‘cause it ain’t computin’!

Yesterday was yet another loss squarely on Bobby’s shoulders. The seeds were sown three days ago, with his inane use of the bullpen…yet again. Hey, Bobby! Actions have consequences. The key to managing is not just for today but also for tomorrow! Hello! Anybody home?

I looked on incredulously as he pulled Medlen in the 5th…the 5th…no oneMedlenK out and a four-run lead. One reliever has already gone home with a sore elbow! If he’s gonna yank Medlen, how patient will he be with the relievers?

Typically, he wasn’t. “Boone, go get ‘em.” “Manny, loosen up!” “You too, O’Flaherty!” “Peter, you’re not tired, are ya?” “Hey, ‘New Guy’, go do a Joey Devine for us!”

Give me a freakin’ break! The bullpen is to hold the lead, when it’s time to hold a lead! Not for the manager to panic with a four-run margin…in the 5th inning. Either a player learns to work through some level of adversity – or he never learns. Hey, Medlen…you tried…prob’ly coulda done alright, ya know? As it is, good luck getting any confidence in your current role…but good luck with your new club!

Folks, don’t try to make sense of CoxFarewellthis; it’s why it’s a RANT! If there is any, it’s purely accidental – well, ‘cept for this: Bobby, it’s time to enjoy the sunsets!

~Salty~

79: Wandering Around the Ballpark….

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by FloridaBravesGirl

I haven’t been to Turner Field for a few years… I was happy to see that the big chopping cow is not really that prominent & most unhappy to see that the BBQ no longer bears Skip & Pete’s names. Boo hiss.

Is anything cuter than those Little Leaguers parading around the field?

O Canada was sung beautifully by a member of the Atlanta Opera, followed by a somewhat less-polished Star Spangled Banner by a children’s choir. The entertainment value makes up for the few wince-inducing notes.

I was not aware there was a Kosher Day but the rabbi throwing out the first pitch sure seemed excited. Nice throw, sir.

Why do cheap hot dogs taste so good at the ballpark?

Filled out your All-Star ballots yet? I did a handful.

Why do the Braves hire the DMV photographer to take their player pics? Eek.

A very cool thing the Braves are doing: the Hometown Hero presentation. Every Sun. they introduce a recently returned local soldier on the field. The standing ovation for that gentleman was long & loud.

Do y’all think they have fans blowing the cinnamon-glazed nuts’ aroma into the stands? Mmm.

Even when he’s hurting Chipper still comes up with the big hit.

Woohoo! Diory’s 1st ( & 2nd) ML hit! Hope there’s many more.

A 7-run 7th! Jim, Don & Jake got to give away $$$ on radio.

Mac must have known I was wearing my new #16 shirt. That was worth sitting through a rainout the previous Sun., driving down in the rain & back home in a monsoon.

FBG

BravesAndStuff@hotmai

76: YES! OPENING DAY!!!

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by FloridaBravesGirl

Opening Day! It seemed as if it would never get here. Now the fun begins!

…..And the ❓ questions ❓ .

Does Chipper have another great season in him? Can Lowe be the ace? Can Mac really contend for the MVP (thank you, Mr. Bradley)? Can JJ avoid the sophomore slump? Has Frenchy figured out how to play this game? How will Kawakami adjust? And has Mac learned any Japanese? 🙂 Will Schafer live up to his spring? How long before Hanson gets called up?

Soon the answers will start to come to us. Soon we’ll see our Braves on the field again. We’ll hear Joe crack a joke in that deadpan voice and Boog giggle. We’ll get used to Jim and Don on radio but miss Skip and Pete all the while. Soon we’ll see what this team is made of. I for one see better days ahead… soon!

videotop

~FBG~

BravesAndStuff@hotmail.com

75:Thoughts Out Of Left Field… Sort Of

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Voice of Reason Raisins

JEFFERSON, GA – As each day of this seemingly never-ending extended Spring Training continues to move forward at a pace rivaled only by the traffic on the I-285 perimeter highway around Atlanta at 5:00pm on any given weekday, I have a few random thoughts I’d like to share…

Be forewarned, though… random means random. No telling what may spill forth.

Isn’t it strange how we clamored all winter for Braves news items in anticipation of the coming new season, and have nearly disappeared in mid-Spring? That one’s hard to figure, except that we know what we have now, well sort of. I mean, the team is here, but not really. You can’t even really look at it these games as a barometer of the potential of team’s fortunes for 2009. The WBC has taken players from not just all over our roster, but everyone else’s as well. These games really don’t mean squat.

Our star 3B has been away, then injured. Our star catcher, who needs to be working with an entirely new pitching staff, has not been present either. Our only offseason offensive acquisition, long anticipated I might add, has been injured and out. We don’t know who our CF will be. It’s just been weird.

Yet, the promise of a new season is still here… knocking on the door like a child wanting to come into Mom and Dad’s bedroom at 2:00 in the morning. It’s a mixed blessing. You love them, but are just a tad resistant to their being there.

duhHey… if our knees bent in the other direction, what would chairs look like?

I like Jordan Schafer. I like Josh Anderson, too. I look at both of those kids and see many common qualities. Actually, I see kind of the same player – except Schafer does it just a little better. In my opinion, Jordan Schafer is Josh Anderson, and then some. Schafer will be a star. Anderson will be a… well he’ll be on the roster. He’ll be on somebody’s roster, anyway. It may not be in Atlanta though. I think Jordan Schafer is taking the job and running with it, so to speak.

So Jeff Francoeur went 42 AB’s into spring before taking his first K. I gotta say, he really has made some wholesale changes to his approach at the plate. He better… Jason Heyward wants to play with the big boys in a bad way. Jason Heyward IS a big boy… and a superior talent. Jeff better start thinking about Delta for more than just endorsements.

When flies land on the ceiling, do they fly upside down and stick, or do they fly rightside up and flip at the last second?
duh2

The new pitching staff is really something. Derek Lowe has been all that and a bag of chips. Javy Vazquez has something to prove, and judging by his performance in the evil WBC, he means to prove it. Jair Jurjjens is poised to have a real breakout season. Kenshin Kawakami may have the best pure “stuff” on the staff. TommyH almost makes you wish TommyG was at home in his Barc-O-Lounger. Yet, TommyG is throwing better at this stage of his spring than in many before. Teams are calling and inquiring about Buddy Carlyle, for goodness sake. Good problems to have if you ask me. I want to see it against whole rosters, though, before anointing them as anything.

Yunel, KJ, Kotch… three solid performing consistent youngsters that may fly under a lot of people’s radar, but they will carry this team this year. Mark it, archive it, do whatever you want with it. VOR says that Yunel, KJ and Kotch will all have very solid, very consistent, very classic Braves type years. Bobby Cox will heap his accolades on those three all season long.

My 6-year-old daughter wrote a little storyhmmmm called, “I Ran Out Of Ink.” I started reading it but it was only 2 pages long. I don’t know why she didn’t finish it…

I bet Chipper is wishing he had gotten that contract extension before going to Canada and getting hurt again. He was what, 0 for 10 with 6 K’s, then pulled a muscle? Don’t get me wrong, I love Chipper Jones, and I hope he never puts on another uniform, but it’s gotta be tough for Frank Wren to think about 3 more years of Chipper when he can’t even swing a bat right now. I’m just sayin’…

Speaking of Frank, can we all agree that he had a plan, stuck hard to his blueprint, and by early results, did a pretty darn good job of building this year’s club? The pitching, from starting to relieving, looks rock solid. The infield is going to be outstanding both defensively and offensively. They may not lead the league in homers, but they may lead the league in extra base hits. They may also lead the league in RBI as a collective. Don’t laugh at that one. There will be a lot of RBI opportunities with this lineup. As Gil has many times said, there were a lot of RBI opportunities last season; they just didn’t drive ‘em in. That won’t happen outta this group this year. I’ll take consistent gap-to-gap hitters every day over all-or-nothing bashers.

teethWhat are you really supposed to do with your umbrella when you get to your car? If you take it down real quick and try to get in, you get water all over the place from the umbrella. If you try to get some of the water off before you get in, you get soaked doing it. And where do you put it? Seat? Floorboard? These may sound like trivial questions to some, but if you’ve got people in your passenger seats, this can be a daunting task.

I can’t wait for opening night. Plain and simple… I can’t. This spring has been too weird and too long already. I want to see MY team, all of them, and I want to see games that matter. I want to see jersey numbers under 60. Heck, I even want to hear Don Sutton, and I can’t believe I just typed that.

Thanks for paying attention. Now you know a little of what goes on in my mind. It’s kinda like a BB in a shoebox – it just kinda rattles around until it falls out.

L8r…

~Raisins~

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74: How’s it looking?

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So. What’s going on in baseball?

Manny has his $8.5m condo in Boston up for sale. (That’ll show ’em, Manny!) 🙄

Smoltz is happy is Boston. I wish him well. (shrug)

Junior is 0-9. But, according to sports writers, the fans are ‘energized’. 🙂

The Yankees drama continues. (Their behavior and ‘drama’ remind me of a bunch of junior high school girls)

…..yawn….

What about the Braves?

I really like what I see. They are a ‘get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in’ type team – and I desperately hope Bobby will play them that way!

Look at yesterday’s game against the Yankees as one example:
Hitters got on base, Kotchman hits a 2-run double. Braves lead.
Later, Prado hits a double, Escobar hits a sac fly, Prado scores. Braves win.

The pitching is definitely there, IMHO. (Dear Lord, please don’t let them fall apart again this year!)

Kawakami needs a little more acclimation time, I think, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t wind up impressing us all.

hanson1And speaking of impressing: Hanson. Oh, wow! I want to see him in the regular rotation, but I don’t want it to be too early. Is he really ready? Judging by the comments I read from players, I’d have to say ‘yes’.

Then I read this from Cox about another young pitcher, Kris Medlen:
medlenk“”Medlen is impressive,” Cox said. “Everything that you hear about that kid, you like. He doesn’t walk anybody and he’s got three plus pitches, for me. He’s got a plus fastball, plus changeup and a plus breaking ball, with control. A lot of guys have plus-this and plus-that, but they don’t have control like he’s got.”

Continuing from Mark Bowman:
“Labeled by some as a poor man’s Greg Maddux, Medlen, who might actually look younger than Brent Lillibridge, possesses a fastball that rests between 91-93 mph and a changeup that has caught the attention of the Braves and many scouts from around the league.

Medlen’s stock began to soar after he was placed in Double-A Mississippi’s starting rotation midway through the 2008 season. In the 92 1/3 innings he worked as a starter, Medlen recorded 90 strikeouts and issued 21 walks.

Given a chance to make another solid impression during the Arizona Fall League, Medlen worked 25 innings, registered 25 strikeouts, issued just one walk and held opponents to a .203 batting average.”

gonzo1Moylan & Co in the bullpen look good. Gonzo seems ready and eager to go.

I can’t help but feel good about the pitching staff and the youngsters in the pipeline.

I like the infield. Not spectacular, but more than adequate. Steady. And that can take you places instead of always having to wait for a flash in the sun. Combine steadiness with occasional flashes and we might be pleased with the result.

The outfield. Garret Anderson. BIG, BIG plus! I’m very pleased with him as a person and a player. In centerfield, I think the team has a lot of potential with either of several players. In right? Well, I’m hopeful, I’ll leave it at that. (I read that Wrenn said something to the effect that they see improvement, are pleased with his efforts and feel that JF only needs some more time to finish putting it together’.)

andersongI also think that Garret’s very presence in the outfield will have a positive effect on the other 2 outer positions. For once, ‘veteran presence’ actually means something! There are people who can inspire others to perform at a higher level and I get the impression that GA is one of them.

Mac catching, David Ross backup. We’re secure there. (And a few days ago, I didn’t even know who Ross was! 🙄 Give me time; I’ll get there! 😆 )

Niggling things I don’t like:

~Kawakami doesn’t speak English; I read that during games, his interpreter will not be allowed to accompany Bobby/whoever to the mound. Why??

~The comment was made that Mac needs to be in ST instead of at the WBC so ‘he could learn Japanese.’ Ummm, why doesn’t Kawakami bother learn English if he’s going to play here??

~Chino is still bench coach. Eddie Perez should be in that spot and Chino should be in the bullpen.

OK – what do you think?

~CL~

 

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72: Spring is about to be sprung!

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by Berigan

Well, after being revived from a near death experience, (and some nasty frostbite) Spring is about to return…unless we are about to enter a new ice age. (20 for a low Tuesday night here in the ATL!!!) I’d rather enter another gilded age, but, I don’t have a say in the matter.

Speaking of things I have no say about, your Atlanta Braves! Our Bravos are about to get paid for what many have been doing for weeks if not months already, swinging bats, and throwing the ol’ Horsehide. Or is it cowhide??? Synthetic leather like material, PETA approved???

springtraining
Whatever, the guys are getting ready for the long grind ahead of them. And that’s just spring training, never mind the actual baseball season…..and fingers crossed, post season.

One thing just about every team, save the Padres have in abundance is hope for a good season, and with a few breaks, a real playoff race to be involved in.

Remember last spring??? Me neither, but Salty reminded me in a post a few days back that we had something like 10 potential starters last year at the start of spring.
We all could imagine a rotation of Hudson, Smoltz, Glavine, Hampton, and perhaps that kid Jurrjens (If he outdueled Chucky and Jo-Jo for 5th slot) giving the Mutts and Phillies phits, err, fits. Hmm, lets, see now, which of that group was still starting in September for us???

Do I really need to recap that we lose Smoltz and Hampton, but gained Javy Vasquez, Derek Lowe, and that Japanese guy, who’s name better start rolling off my tongue PDQ??? I guess I do, if I don’t want this lead to be only 3 paragraphs long! 😉

Thats 3 guys, that if their health luck/karma doesn’t do a 180 being acox Brave, should each make 30+ starts, and go 200 + innings, which will really rest the old bullpen in May and June, and make Bobby look like he has gained 30 IQ points, and is no longer in Forrest Gump territory! 😀

A real bopper in Left will make him seem smarter than Einstein! That, and not starting McCann 12 games straight.

Anyhoo, I know we will all be writing about our hopes and dreams for the team in the coming weeks, we will get familiar with, and excited about some of the kids we only know based on their names, and what writers have written about them.

Baseball tonight occasionally does a segment where guys on the panel have to make bold predictions. Who might be a surprise MVP, what team will win the most games the 2nd half of season, etc.

heyward1My bold/crazy predictions are that if we don’t get a real left fielder in spring training, Justin Heyward will have a huge spring, sparking talk of him being the left fielder. Also, Tommy Hanson will be so impressive, and Glavine will hurt his hammy in the second to last start of spring and will go north with the club.

What are everyone else’s Batpoop crazy predictions for the Braves in 2009???

~Berigan~

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71: Ah, Spring! part dux

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by Gil in Mechanicsville

As we approach that magic time when pitchers an catchers report, I thought I would throw (no pun intended) a few more names for the good denizens of our blog to ponder over. Now to be truthful, most of the players mentioned will most likely be spending time in Atlanta on the Gwinnett roster in 2009 but you know, it never hurts to be apprised of the talents waiting in the wings. Uh… another bad pun eh?

toddredmondTodd Redmond, age 23 appeared in 28 games for the Mississippi Braves in 2008 and was named the Southern League pitcher of the year. Todd, a right hander, put up a record of 13-5 with an ERA of 3.52 in 166.1 innings pitched. He gave up 164 hits, 65 earned runs and struck out 133 while walking only 33. Folks, that is better than a 4/1 ratio of strike-outs to walks and indicates pretty good control. He is said to have a low 90s fastball, a slider and a curve but his best pitch is a change. His weakness is his tendency to pitch up in the strike zone. Sounds a bit like a right handed Chuck James but I suspect he is better than that.

Redmond came to the Braves from the Pirates via a trade for Tyler Yates. One thing we have learned is the Pittsburgh organization seems to have a plethora of good young arms at their disposal. Makes one wonder why they can’t seem to climb out of the cellar of the N.L. Central but that is a discussion to be left for another day. Now most folks seem to covet the young stud who can bring it at 95-96 MPH but I remember a guy by the name of Greg Maddux who never possessed great speed but made a pretty good living by knowing how to pitch.

The one thing I like about this kid is he has a knack for winning. Funny how some guys can pitch great but lose games and other guys “just win baby”… I doubt he will be a number one but he projects to be a pretty solid 3 or 4 guy in the line up. That folks is enough for me. Some of you guys in the Atlanta area should make the trek to Gwinnett several times this year because I suspect they are going to have a dynamite pitching staff.

Luiz Valdez – not to be confused with Juan the coffeluisvaldeze guy and not the same Luiz Valdez who pitched in winter ball in the Dominican this year. I discovered that Valdez is Spanish for Doe…. Lots of them are playing baseball too. Anyway, Luiz was another Mississippi Brave last year. More of a relief specialist, he appeared in 55 games, amassing 65.1 innings and notching 28 saves and a record of 4-3. His ERA was a sparking 2.76. In 2008 he gave up 48 hits while surrendering only 3 home runs. His strike-out to walk ration was about 2 to 1 as he struck out 77 and walked 36. Luiz, another product of the Pirates organization, was signed as a minor league free agent in the fall of 2007. Valdez has a 97-98 MPH fastball so we can get an idea of what he brings to the table. A right hander, he projects to be a middle relief guy or possible a set up man. He is still pretty young at only 24, he has a chance to make it to Atlanta in 2009 as a mid-season call up.

cordier1I already mentioned Eric Cordier in an earlier post. He was not invited to the big camp this spring but folks, keep an ear out for that name. I predict he will be in the majors in the next couple of years.

I will leave it to some of you folks who actually live in Atlanta to evaluate some of the up and comers in the Braves organization this year. I regret I will not have the opportunity to actually see  these guys as they make their way up the organizational ladder but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

It is an exciting time to be a Braves fan as good young pitching is on the way. Just be patient and try not to get caught up in the hype. I don’t remember Tom Glavine, John Smoltz or Greg Maddux being phenoms either when they first came up but you can get a gist of what a young player is capable of if you look close enough.

~Gil~

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70: Ah, Spring!

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By Gil In Mechanicsville

Well, almost, I can dream can’t I? Yes, we are only 30 days or so into winter but with global warming I can hope for an early thaw. Besides, pitchers and catchers report for Camp Leo Camp Roger early workouts in only three weeks. On the baseball calendar it must be spring.

Soon the sweet sound of horsehide hitting leather shall be upon us. Can that mean the sound of that same horsehide being stuck by ash will be far behind? I could have said maple I know but perhaps that would be more appropriately described as the crack of the bat… For all you little leaguer, pony league, college and high school types, it will be the “PING”…….but that is another story…

Now, as the all important early camps approach, who can Braves fans expect to show for early work. I thought that rather than talk about the usual suspects, Gonzalas, Acosta, Moylan and the like, I would throw a few new names into the mix. Some guys who have been acquired and may have a chance to show up in Atlanta or Gwinnett in 2009. Now, while many want to know everything there is to know about newcomer Tommy Hanson, I suspect he will get lots of ink from other sources before the end of spring training is done. Many of the fans will want to call him up to the bigs a bit too early. Folks, let the kid learn how to pitch and develop the arm strength needed before clamoring for him to be the next savior of the franchise. Lest we forget other promising rookies who were ruined from over exposure before they were truly ready, let me toss a few names out there. Steve Avery, Mark Fidrych, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Dontrelle Willis, I could go on but I think you get the idea.

The Braves’ former pitching coach, Leo Mazzone was a stickler about conditioning. This was especially true about young pitchers. Now maybe it was good luck and maybe it was an aberration but the facts show that during his tenure with the Braves, they had the fewest arm problems of any staff in baseball.

So who might we see this year for the “non-mandatory” early conditioning camp?

oflahertyEric O’Flaherty is 23 y/o southpaw. He went from being a rising star with a 7-1 record in 2007 out of the pen to a horrible start in 2008 for Seattle when he appeared in but 7 games and had an ERA of 20.25. Eric was sent down to the Seattle minor league system until June of last year where he compiled a 4.96 ERA in 15 appearances. He suffered a back injury in June and did not pitch for the rest of the season.. One must wonder if he was concealing an injury suffered in spring training. It has been known to happen with young players, afraid they will be labeled “fragile”. The Braves are hoping he has fully recovered from whatever ailment he suffered. He was too good a pitcher to pass up as far as the Braves were concern. Time will tell if he can return to pre 2008 form. O’Flaherty was claimed off waivers by the Braves in November of 2008. A good showing in spring training may make Will Ohman expendable.

logan1Boone Logan is another young lefty acquired by Atlanta in the off season. Just 24 y/o, he came over in the Javier Vazquez trade. Boone appeared in 55 games in 2008 accumulating 42.1 innings. He compiled 42 strikeouts and gave up 14 walks last season while compiling an ERA of 5.95. To say he was another young pitcher in Ozzie’s doghouse is an understatement. Apparently he was used as a situational guy ALA Jeff Ridgeway. Again it looks like even though the Braves will not start many left handers, they potentially have a bevy of lefties available out of the pen.

marek3Stephen Marek is another relief specialist acquired last season. He came to the Braves along with Casey Kotchman in the Teixeira trade with the Angels. 28 years old, he might be on the precipice of his career. Perhaps he is just cannon fodder for the minor leagues. After all, They need to fill the rosters so the real prospect have a place to play. That said, perhaps the Braves can once again catch lightning in a bottle. Buddy Carlyle was another pitcher who supposedly had his best years behind him and he worked out pretty well. Marek was assigned to Mississippi last year and pitched this fall in the AFL with Tommy Hanson. Marek helped hold down many leads for the Solar Sox and aided in the team compiling the top record in the league. He is not a big strikeout pitcher, but has managed a career K/BB rate of 2.62 last fall for Mesa, he compiled 12 innings of work, giving up 9 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7. He gave up zero earned runs and had a WHIP of 0.92. In late November he was added to the Braves’ 40 man roster, both protecting him from the Rule 5 draft and placing him in the bullpen mix for 2009.

I will review some more of the prospects in another post.

~Gil~

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68: The Hole In Our Hearts

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Fans KNOW the individual players on their team. They have an ‘emotional investment’ in them, if you will. Just having a warm body in a playing position creates a void in that emotional investment – and fans begin to turn away to find that which is missing. A TEAM has to consist of more than just a collection of people. There has to be a bond, a constant, a glue that holds them all together.

The constants that have been present with the Braves for SO long – TV coverage, Skip, Pete, Smoltz, Chipper and Bobby are disappearing rapidly. I’d bet the ranch that this is Bobby’s last year and, from Chipper’s comments, he’ll leave at the first good offer – especially with Bobby leaving.

The Braves are the Braves in name only.

We hated to see Andruw come apart because we KNEW him. We had watched him grow up.

We hated to see Glavine leave because he was one of US. We felt betrayed.

A part of each of us died when Skip died because we KNEW him and loved him dearly. He was our link to the team, he was their voice, he was our voice.

And Pete’s retirement was almost expected after Skip died. The two just belonged together and one without the other was just ‘wasn’t right.’ He’ll be so badly missed.

Without the TV coverage we had for so long, we feel suddenly cut off from our team with no recourse. Makes it harder to ’stay in touch’ with them. Distance grows.

And Bobby. We love him, we get aggravated with him, but again, he’s always been there, it seems. Few remember the early days BBC – Before Bobby Cox. How unreal will it be for him to be missing from that top step, yelling encouragement, or hobbling out to the mound?

Chipper’s eyes are now wide open. He knows he’ll be playing elsewhere very soon now, especially after Bobby retires. No illusions.

John Smoltz. A true warrior if there ever was one. If Tommy LaSorda bled ‘Dodger Blue’, then surely the Braves Tomahawk beats in John Smoltz’s chest. After all these years and all he’s been through to keep pitching, he is badly disrespected by the current management. Gone in a flurry of bad decisions, severely hurt feelings and ill-will.

Well, at least we had it once and that’s more than many fans can say. The Braves are a 3rd rate team and will most likely stay there. I’m not excited about them anymore. I hope that will change, but I’d be surprised if it does. I don’t like being blind-sided.

~CL~

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67: Smoltz Chose What???

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by Voice of Reason Raisins

JEFFERSON, GA – So, I wake up this morning to news that John Smoltz, the one affectionately referred to in some circles as the Braves’ “Bearded Icon”, is taking his iconic status, packing his bags and heading north. To be specific, he’s going to Boston. He’s going to storied Fenway Park. He’s leaving corporate Turner Field. That’s a tough one to swallow.

Well, after taking a few minutes to digest the bombshell, and giving myself a little time to consider it carefully, I have to conclude that I think that…

… we still don’t have all of the information. Actually, all we have is multiple media reports. I would like to hear the official response from the Braves. I would like to hear from Frank Wren. I would like to hear both sides of this story. I’m hurt, but I am trying to be, well, reasonable about it.

So from where I sit, the information I have at this point is this:

According to Mark Bowman on the MLB.com site, The Red Sox have been aggressively pursuing Smoltz over the past month and it appears they were able to land him with guaranteed $5.5 million contract that includes incentives that could increase his 2009 earnings to $10 million.

According to the Major League source, the incentives offered by the Red Sox were “more attainable” than the ones provided by the Braves.

Multiple sources have said the Braves were offering slightly more than $2 million guaranteed and performance-based incentives that could have increased Smoltz’s earnings to approximately $7 million.

So, if the reports are correct, and we really don’t yet know if they are, then the overall worth of the deal was only $3M or so different, assuming Smoltz could perform. And let’s be truly honest, that is only an assumption.

First, let’s talk about the money aspect, because I’m sure most of you feel the way I did when I first read it. Geez, Frank, give Johnny the dough!. But after thinking about it a little more, The difference in overall money is only $3M. The difference in guaranteed money is about $3.5M. Is it the $3.5M the difference? Is the attainability of the incentives the difference? Does John not believe he can achieve the Braves incentives? If not, that is a concern.

Is this a competitive issue? Does John believe that he has a better chance of going back to the World Series with Boston and therefore felt the need to go? If so, he can go with my best wishes because the Red Sox have a lot better chance of dancing in October than do the Braves. If that is his motivation, then God bless him. Go Sox.

Is this a personality issue? Are there irreparable rifts with the organization going back to the “homeboy upstairs”? Maybe… I doubt it. It didn’t seem to have been an issue in 2008.

All of the above factors focus mostly on Smoltz, but let’s look at Frank Wren for a moment. We know his plan. We know his parameters. We know there is money to spend and we want to see it spent, by golly! We have $40M, right? We haven’t seen it spent and we feel lied to. We feel ripped off. But let’s stop and think. There is already money committed to Javier Vasquez. There is already money spent on maintaining the bench and on acquiring a much-needed back-up catcher. There is already money set aside for raises for existing players. There is already money earmarked for offers extended to Wil Ohman and to Japanese import Kenshin Kawakami. And all of that taken into account, there is still about $25M left to acquire a top of the rotation pitcher and a left fielder with a better resume than Matt Diaz. Do you really want to commit 40% of your remaining budget on a 41 year old pitcher attempting a comeback from major shoulder surgery that might not even be able to contribute until May or later? Or counting just the guaranteed portion, it’s still 20% of the remaining money. It’s enough to forego an offer to Derek Lowe or Oliver Perez or anyone else upwards from Paul Byrd. It’s enough to resign the team to play Blanco/Anderson/Diaz in left field for another season. Frank Wren is going to be crucified in Atlanta in the wake of this staggering event, but the truth is that it is probably the in the best overall team interests to spend the remaining money in a more assured manner. It’s smart to stick to the plan.

John Smoltz has been my favorite Atlanta Brave. This is a personal loss for me, and I know it is a personal loss for many of you as well. But if I am Frank Wren, and I am trying to spend the limited amount of remaining money to field a contending team, I’m keeping my focus on the plan. I’m keeping my focus on the top of the rotation pitcher and the left fielder.

Admit it. We could not – Boston cannot – truly count on Smoltz to perform up to his legend, or even to perform at all. Reports say he’s progressing, but he’s been mostly reclusive, staying away from the media. Where have we seen that before? Oh, yeah… last spring when he covertly worked “his program” on back fields away from the media. That didn’t work out so well. Bobby Cox was quoted as saying John looked “terrific”. What do you expect Bobby to say, “John looked like crap”? I have a lot of concerns as to whether Johnny can perform at a major league level, and I would hope Frank Wren does as well. Boston can afford that risk. Atlanta cannot. Stick to the plan, Frank. Execute the plan, Frank.

Oh, I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth. The blogs and radio shows are already rife with the talk of how the Braves are “cheap” – how the Braves “owe it to Smoltz” to basically give him whatever he wants to keep him here. Who owes who more? I think John Smoltz has the Braves to thank for a lot as well. Folks say, “It’s only two million dollars. He’s earned it!” I say, what if that $2M is the difference between Lowe signing with Atlanta or with New York? I’d rather have it to spend on Lowe. I say Smoltz has already been paid for what he has earned, and the Braves don’t really owe him any more than the opportunity to finish his career in Atlanta, if he desires to do so. The opportunity is there, folks. He desires to leave. Set the emotion aside for a moment and you will recognize this too.

In the end, it is John Smoltz’ decision, and Smoltz’ alone. If he really wanted to finish his career in Atlanta, it would happen. We don’t know, and we may not ever really know the factors that played into his decision to leave. But it was his decision to leave. “Leave” is an action verb, requiring a conscious effort. As for me, I wish him Godspeed and a full recovery and a successful season in Boston, except for June 26-28 when Boston comes to Turner Field.

Guess what… The Green Bay Packers didn’t collapse when Brett Favre, who had a bit of a dramatic off-season, decided to continue his iconic career in New York. In fact, Green Bay had a pretty decent season. Favre started well, but faded late and actually hurt his team over the last part of the season when he looked tired and was less than 100% physically. His play cost the Jets their division title and a spot in the playoffs. Anybody see the parallel?

When it’s time, it’s time. John says it’s time. I root for the team, not the individuals. I’ll root for the Braves and the players who choose to be here. It really is about choice, isn’t it?

~Raisins~

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66: Beneful? Caviar? What will it take?

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by Savannah Guy The Invisible Man

Now, baseball: maybe Frank Wren should start serving the Beneful equivalent to attract game. Seems what he’s putting out there is not attracting much. Hard to get the good critters with burgers when they’re used to steak.

If the Liberty strategy is to save money to get the balance sheet as profitable as possible to sell within a few years and, in the interim, placates the gullible fans with promises, wild goose chases and PR, then their strategy seems to be working pretty well.

If they are in a two or four year rebuilding mode, they should probably just go ahead and announce that. Reasonable and savvy fans would understand it and appreciate it. Judging from the general attitude of some hardcore fans (bloggers) around the county across the river, Liberty has already succeeded with willing or unwitting accomplices in the stewardship of their austerity program.

When fans start managing and hot-stoving to middlin’ budgets and looking for bargain basement prices and opting for Jair Jurrjens as staff ace, then we’re just contributing to mediocrity and wallowing in delusion. Methinks those fans get so caught up in the fantasy/Monopoly money side of baseball that they don’t see what’s actually transpiring in the real world.

Many things need to happen for the Braves to compete in 09.

Thing one: We need to close a deal. I don’t expect the Braves to spend like the Yanks or Bosox, but when there is such a brouhaha over a guy like Furcal… and then even HE turns us down, our bar is not set very high. I’m very pleased that we didn’t get Furcal. Never liked him or his attitude. The Peavy “negotiation” was a debacle. Braves need at least one bonafide ace.

Thing two: Did I say we need an ace? We do. Javier Vazquez is not Lowe and he’s certainly not Sabbathia. Heck, Lowe is not even Lowe any longer. But the Braves have Vazquez. Then, we all love Smoltz and want him to return healthy and able to pitch, but it is a fantasy to think he’ll solve any of our starter lineup issues. It’s a very long shot that he can even pitch through ST. It’s not his elbow this time, it’s the shoulder. Glavine is pretty much the same story, although his arm isn’t quite the problem. But either of our great (old) aces are at best a number four starter on a winning club. We currently have a SP lineup that will wear out our bullpen by the end of May.

Thing three: We seem to be getting caught on the wrong side of the door when it slams on the parity of MLB in this new economic era. With an individual owner that is willing to spend and compete, that door could be kicked open again, but it’ll take big spending. With the trend of Liberty, that door will stay shut until the team sells.

Thing four: The Braves need a big, dependable bat. The LF platoon won’t cut it. We don’t have a cleanup hitter. Kotchman isn’t my idea of the big bopper at first, and we have an outfield filled with question marks when it comes to power and average. We need a threat in the lineup behind Chipper and before McCann. Simple as that.

Personally, I’m of the mindset that the Braves will be in the lower to middle of the pack until the time comes that we can grow youngsters into aces, like in 91, or when Liberty sells to an owner that wants to win. Until then, Braves are still and always my team and I’ll always hope the hope of a sports fan… but my expectations are not for them to be playing ball in postseason.

Fantasizing about Wren and Company putting a championship caliber team together with balance sheet austerity, band-aides, tooth pics, bubble gum and second-tier players is not exciting hot stove material, not practical and not realistic by any stretch of the imagination.

Maybe I’m just jaded. Maybe I’m spoiled. Maybe it seems negative but it’s not. Just seems realistic. Spending time and getting all emotional and rationalizing about trades for mediocre players or has-beens just doesn’t float my boat when by doing so, I still can’t control the outcome. Braves will sign a few players. We’ll see what we have when it’s announced and the ink is dry. Braves will play ball in the spring. We shall see what we have when it’s time for them to suit up.

Until then, unless Wren and Liberty break the trend that’s become painfully apparent, the Braves will be haggling over the castoffs and second stringers and struggling to be in fourth place in the division this year.

~IM~

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65: What a revoltin’ development!

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by Carolina Lady

Stuffville, USA – Well, as Riley would say, “What a revoltin’ development this is!” (If you don’t know who Riley is, Google it.) High hopes and expectations thwarted at every turn, it seems.

Sheets, anyone?
Randy Johnson for one year?
Lowe? I doubt it.
Who else that would be an improvement over what we already have??

What about the outfield?
Pray for Frenchy! We need him to come storming back this year!
Who’s in left?
Center?

About the only positions fairly certain are Chipper at 3rd and McCann behind the plate.

Haven’t heard a peep about Kotchman.

Where’s Ohman? Didn’t the Braves make an offer? What’s up with that?

Will Bobby come back in ’10?
50/50, I think. He’ll hate to walk away from a challenge, but then maybe he’ll just be tired of it. Who will take his place?

We don’t even have the broadcast booth covered for this coming season!

OK – what do you think Wren will do? What will the roster look like at the end of ST? Will Smoltz be successful in his return? Will Glavine give it a go? Who is going to wash the dishes? (Never mind, I know the answer to that one!)

Don’t complain about the lead; it’s all I could come up with in :15! 😆

~CL~

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63: Throwing Caution To The Wind – part IV

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by Gil in Mechanicsville

To conclude my synopsis on the possible Braves bullpen for 2009, I will comment on the best of the rest and perhaps some other possibilities from the Braves system. Again, it is necessary to take all of what I say with a grain of salt because things can change in a hurry. A big trade, a breakthrough spring, an off-season injury can all have a profound affect on how things can shake out.

Let’s start with Manny Acosta. The tall lanky Panamanian can be a showacosta stopper at times and then “bad” Manny will make an appearance and give up five runs before he knows what hit him, or make that who. Acosta, I think, is well suited as a set up man. He still has not developed the killer instinct of a closer but he is just too good to bring in to face one batter. When he is on, he has a 95 mph fastball and devastating slider that brakes sharply away from right-handers. However, like many other young pitchers, he tries to get too cute and aims for the corners. Depending on the umpire’s definition of the strike zone, he is going to either catch guys looking or start walking people. For some reason, he will allow a few bad calls get in his head and the next thing you know, “bad” Manny shows up. Acosta had some injury issues last season which really hampered his development. Hopefully he will be ready coming out of spring training to finally become a fixture for the Braves. He has the potential to be a really valuable and dependable piece of the pitching staff as long as he can realize he really does belong on the major league roster.

bennettjeffJeff Bennett also had a bit of a Jeckle-and-Hyde personality in 2008. He was a shadow of his former self with his new and improved physic last season, he had flashes of brilliance along with just plain awful. Who is the real Jeff Bennett, inquiring minds want to know. I think Jeff was also facing some fatigue issues in 2008. I just could not fathom why Bobby Cox would call on the same guys repeatedly last year. It was like he would forget a guy had pitched 3 innings two nights in a row and then have him come in yet again. Now the last thing a fringe guy like Bennett would do is say he could not go again. No, he is going to suck it up and take the ball and pray the batter will get himself out. It’s my humble opinion the biggest thing missing in the Braves dugout is a guy like Pat Corrales to tell Bobby who is ready and who is not. I’m not sure Chino or Roger really feels comfortable enough in their roles to speak up tell the skipper he is hurting the team’s chance to win. Anyway, Bennett is a ground ball specialist as he has a nasty sinker and is a go to guy when a double play is called for. In addition, he is pretty versatile as he can also be used as a spot starter or long relief guy. He has the tools to be a reliable arm out of the pen; the question is how often should you use him.

Buddy Carlyle, honest folks, you got to love this guy. All those yearsbuddy_carlyle knocking around the minors, getting frequent flyer miles on Greyhound. He persevered and made it back to the bigs in 2007. I told folks when he came up from Richmond, way back when, that they should not expect too much out of the guy. He will never be confused with Tommy Hanson or John Smoltz but he is what he is and he can give you four or five innings of yeoman like baseball and by the time the sixth inning rolls around, you look up at the scoreboard and realize your team is still in the game. If you can just generate a little offense he stands a good chance of getting a win. The thing that puzzled me last year was he would languish for weeks out in the bullpen before Bobby realized he was still on the staff and call him in to pitch. Amazingly, he would get out of a big jam and put up a couple more goose eggs on the scoreboard and just wow the crowd with his resilience. Next thing you know, he is the pet pig and his arm falls off from over use. Now, it may not be fair to accuse Bobby of misusing his pen last year, after all, when your starting five are going three and out, night after night in April and May, it is inevitable that your bullpen is going to implode in August and September. There is a reason bullpen guys are not starters. During the course of their careers some sharp-eyed coach has figured out that some guys just have a marked drop-off in their effectiveness after a certain number of pitches. Some guys can go the distance and some guys are sprinters. It is up to the coaches to put guys in the situations from which they can glean the most success.

ridgeway Jeff Ridgeway, had an up and down year. Used primarily as a short relief, situational guy against lefties, he had some early success but really struggled towards the end of the year. He will be in camp but look for him to be on the bubble in spring training. I would suggest he get an apartment in Gwinnett for 2009 so he can shuttle between AAA and Atlanta without having to leave home.

johnstockman

Phil Stockman, big righty who has battled injuries for the past couple of years. His biggest obstacle will be overcoming the fear of getting hurt yet again. He possesses a good fastball and curve but until he can get himself back in shape, he will be a fixture in Gwinnett.

moylanPhil’s fellow Aussie, Peter Moylan, should be back next year about May. He will start some work in spring training but it will still be too early for him to do any serious work. I look for him to begin the year in Gwinnett if not on the DL until he proves he can once again get major league hitters out. The most telling thing about TJ surgery is not about the inability to throw a fastball but about hurling breaking pitches. It’s when they stop breaking that they end up in the bleachers.

Francisley Bueno and Jorge Julio are likely to be on the team next year unlessfrancisleybueno the Braves sign someone in the off-season. I don’t know who the Braves have in their system that could be called upon next year but the crop of pitchers at Richmond did not look ready for primetime. If the Braves do not trade JoJo, I would expect him to start the year in AAA. The Braves are not going to make him into a reliever. The same goes for Chuck James. Of course lots of things can happen between now and February so keep a sharp eye out for changes.

~Gil~


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62: Uh – Did Somebody Break Wind, part III

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Gil in Mechanicsville

Okay, continuing on with the theme of “Pitching, Pitching, Pitching,” I thought I would toss in my two cents on the 2009 Braves prospects for the bullpen.

Once upon-a-time, the bullpen was a place where you banished hurlers who were either washed up or just not good enough to be a starter. Boy, have times changed. Today, starters go five or six innings or one hundred pitches or their arm falls off, whichever comes first and then the specialists are called upon. A long relief guy, a situational guy for lefties, a ground ball specialist when a double play is needed, a set up guy, the closer and the ever present “why is this guy still on the team because no one ever calls on him” guy.

Just like the real “journalists” do, I will work backwards and start with the closer. You know who that is because he is the fellow who gets most of the press and contrary to popular notion, cannot walk on water but he doesn’t need to because it never rains on his parade.

Closer possibilities for Atlanta in 2009…. (disclaimer: things can change in a hurry due to the need to trade a player for a part you do not already have or doing something stupid like putting their hand in a meat grinder or enjoying the good life a little too much and showing up stoned….)

Mike “Gonzo” Gonzalez, this kid is going to be a great one because he thinks he is suppose to be. (The antithesis of Manny Acosta) After experiencing Tommy John surgery, he made a nice recovery. Not to say there weren’t some dicey moments but just because you comeback, it does not mean you can pitch to the same level you could before you were hurt. Velocity or lack there of appears to be the most telling sign there is something wrong. The up side of all this is Gonzo will be better in 2009. He will be stronger and his fastball should return to it’s 98 mph range. The best side of all this however is the knowledge he may have gained in finding out he does not have to throw it all that hard to get hitters out. Of course I am still waiting for someone to call a balk on him with all that rocking motion.

Actually, I worry more about the Rafael (see, I told you I was hurt) Soriano, I doubt anyone took more heat than Rafael did last year over his on again off again soap opera but mostly about his supposed lack of courage because repeated MRIs failed to show any cause for his loss of speed and recurring pain. After signing a lucrative contract prior to the 2008 season, much was expected of “Mr. Sunshine”. For those of you who believe in the absolute infallibility of the medical profession I have two words, Mark Wohlers. Wohlers was vilified for his seemingly unexplainable loss of control. It was not until the Reds took a flier on him that he decided to allow for an exploratory surgery and discovered he indeed have a serious problem. Soriano had an exploratory performed by Dr. Andrews and a pinched nerved was discovered and corrected. I predict next spring Rafael will again impress the Braves Nation and remind everyone why he was paid closer money.

John Smoltz will be at a crossroads next spring. While his spirit is willing, his body may not be. The surgery performed on his shoulder does not have a track record of affording good results. The main reason is the tissues that comprise the labium are not conducive to surgical repair. It would be great to have thunder and lightning available to come out of the bullpen in 2009 but I would not bet the house on it, even though the a fore mentioned house has decidedly less market value to everyone except the tax assessor. If John does return, I predict it will be late in the spring before he believes he is ready. I would expect it will be much later in the season before he could be effective. As Braves fans we can hope but the obese woman may be warming up in the wings for the curtain call of the bearded icon.

Will Ohman will most certainly be pitching for someone else next season? Not because he was ineffective last season but because the Braves will not want to pay a set up man more than a couple of million a year. Perhaps the Braves will concede the fact a reliable lefty out of the pen is a valuable piece needed if they are to be serious about beating the Phillies and the Mets in their own division next year. I don’t foresee either of those clubs being weaker next year. Sometimes a GM has to bite the bullet and realize the cost of doing business is greater than you want it to be. I don’t see anyone else on the horizon who could fill Will Ohman’s role as effectively whatever the price.

Blaine Boyer is not my favorite Brave. I hope he can change my mind next season. I cannot put my finger on why I have lost faith in the strapping young righty who burst on the scene with such promise with the rest of the baby braves. Perhaps it’s Bobby’s perchance for using a pitcher until his arm falls off and then being surprised at the drop in performance. I had the opportunity observe Blaine on numerous occasions while with the Richmond club and if I could figure him out I would send him a telegram to advise him I was holding his career hostage. Perhaps a change in scenery would help, after all, he has all the tools to be a great reliever. He just has not mastered his Zen.

I will conclude my assessment on the Braves potential 2009 relief corps in part four.

Gil

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61: I Approve This Message

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by Voice of Reason Raisins

Jefferson, GA – Yes, today I stand before you to talk about the issues. No beating around the bush (no pun intended) here. I’ll go straight to the heart of the matter. Let’s get to it, huh?

Economic Policy: The economy is on everyone’s mind right now, especially with the big losses recently felt in the New York markets. Yes, no New York team in the playoffs this year. Surely, though, given the current economy of Major League Baseball, those losses will begin to reverse. No bailout needed here. The pure free market economics of the sport will prove to rise above the critics as the New York teams outspend everyone else this offseason, making it difficult for the Middle Class teams to get ahead. Of course, as the Rays have proven this season, dumping good money after bad is not necessarily the answer. Judicious spending, and wise choices, always are the keys to surviving in the new age economy. We must take this lesson to heart.

National Defense Policy: I believe whole-heartedly in a strong National defense. Of course, you have to win the National League before you can defend it. I believe with a good economic approach, including the aforesaid judicious spending and wise choices, we soon could find ourselves once again defending the National League.

Health Care Policy: This year, a strong Health Care position has become a prominent part of shaping one’s platform. I believe in Health Care for everyone, and fully intend to make sure that the training room is accessible at all times. Dr. James Andrews phone number is, as always, prominently posted on the team bulletin board. Specifically, though, I believe in a more preventative approach. I believe in better offseason training and stretching. I believe that March 1st is too late to start. I believe that elite professional athletes should keep the tools of their trade, their bodies, in shape year round. I believe that, in the case of health related matters, less is more.

Foreign Policy: I believe that we should have a strong foreign policy. Whether it be in Central America, South America, the Dominican Republic, Canada, etc. I, for one, am happy that we are venturing into the Japanese market. We must, however, make sure we operate within the negotiated rules, lest we damage our relationship with our Far East brothers.

Energy Policy: I believe in alternative energy sources, as long as they are approved by Major League Baseball. No PEDs here. We have an abundance of natural energy resources, though, if our players will just take that initiative. Fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, etc. are all excellent fuel choices when used efficiently and wisely.

Homeland Security Policy: We must play better baseball at home. No doubt about it. If you can win 2 out of 3 at home, and split on the road, you will win 95 games and find yourself in the playoffs.

Trade Policy: This is an area of great concern and great discussion this offseason. Obviously, coupled with the Economic issues we face, our Trade Policy has to be one that is not only attractive to our Trade partners, but maintains our own supply integrity as well. The former Trade Czar was masterful in this area.

Education Policy: I believe that no player should be left behind. All players not only should, but must have access to the finest instruction, by qualified instructors. Any instructors deemed unqualified should be summarily dismissed. Unfortunately, Terry Pendleton will return for the 2009 campaign. I am currently huddling with my advisers over this development. Secondly, all players not only should, but must have access to the teams video and tape library, as well as the “book” on pitchers and hitters throughout the league. Our players must engage themselves in proper preparation for whichever new team they encounter. To me, there is no excuse for lack of proper preparation. Those who cannot meet the mark could find themselves expelled. Just ask Jason Marquis.

Immigration Policy: I am all for legal immigration. I believe in extending opportunity to all who seek it legally. To those who come into our country illegally, if you can chuck it 95mph+ or rake like Rod Carew, I’ll find you a good lawyer…and an agent.

Agriculture Policy: This hearkens back to the very fundamentals of developing a strong organization. To build a strong team, there must be a strong farm system in place. This team has a strong farm system, but the new harvest is not yet at hand. Oh, there’ll be a couple of ripe ones to pop up early, but the real bounty is still a couple of years away. Names like, Heyward, Freeman, Hanson, Medlen, Hernandez and Hicks. The future is indeed a bright one, as long as we do not allow the plague of impatience to ravage what could be a bumper crop.

Domestic Affairs Policy: They are wrong. Period. Marriage is sacred, even though a lot of players seem to forget that sometimes on those long road trips. Of course, it’s not like this is the NBA or anything…

View of the Current Administration: The current administration is under a tremendous amount of criticism right now. Even though there are many positive points racked up over the last several years, many seem to lock in and focus on the recent failures, some of which admittedly exist. However, remember that mistakes made in the 9th inning are always magnified more than successes found in the 1st inning, and that the media doesn’t always paint an accurate picture.

I am the Voice of Reason Raisins, and I approve this message.

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60: Winds of Change are in the Air – Part II

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by Gil in Mechanicsville

Continuing with the theme of pitching options for the Braves in 2009, I mentioned in my previous post that several young pitchers currently in the Braves organization could figure prominently in Atlanta’s plans. I’ll begin with a couple who spent time on the big league roster in 2008.

JoJo Reyes, the big young left-hander has all the tools to be a big time front line pitcher. Unfortunately, he does not seem to realize that as of yet. I think his biggest problem is he gives opposing hitters too much credit. Instead of challenging opposing batters, he tries too hard to nibble at the corners and ends up in trouble with guys on base via walks and instead of the occasional solo dinger, he will give up runs in bunches. Perhaps another year in triple A will pay dividends. After all, he is only 22 years old. Still plenty of time to develop into the player the Braves envision he will be.

Charlie Morton, another bright spot for the Brave this year, he has long had the stuff to be a major league pitcher but like many other young players, he was not sure he belonged. Guy Hanson, the pitching coach for the Richmond Braves had worked hard trying to instill the type of mental toughness required for him to be successful in the bigs. A tired arm slowed him down late in the season. After all,  those innings pitched in the Arizona Fall League and in Triple A counted too. He once again looked sharp when used for two innings of relief at the end of the season. I predict he will be one of the last pitchers to be cut at the end of spring training if the Braves make a few trades for a starter or sign a top line free agent. It should be a real dogfight between him and JoJo and Jorge for the final slots on the Braves staff.

Chuck James is still seeking the true meaning to life, or at the least his long lost ability to throw pitches that are not immediately struck with such force that his head snaps back as he watches the ball sail into the dark of night. If he was a golfer, you could describe his problem as having a case of the yips. A condition that arrives without warning and causes its victim to lose all confidence in his ability to play and makes even a two-foot putt an adventure. Chuck himself has stated he needed to re-learn how to pitch this year. From my observation his mechanics are so out of whack because he continues to try to throw across his body. It is really difficult to consistently throw a pitch to the spot you are aiming when you are changing the release point on every throw. Walks are a nemesis for him and when you combine that with his propensity to give up the long ball, an ERA that resembles the score of an Olympic gymnast is likely. He is still searching for that elusive third pitch that would prevent batters from waiting on his change-up. You can get away with only having two pitches if you also have the control necessary to keep the ball off the sweet spot of the bat but the inability to perform as needed usually results in a short afternoon for the starter and a long afternoon for the bullpen.

Anthony Larew, looked to have turned to corner and had a great future ahead of him with Atlanta. Unfortunately for him, his arrival in Atlanta coincided with a blown out elbow and the need for Tommy John surgery. Bummer…. I am happy to say he returned to the Richmond club late this season and looked good for a guy coming off rehab. he had a couple of shaky starts the first week in August but started to come around after that. I expect he will continue to improve his arm strength and be ready to challenge for the final spot in the rotation for the big Braves. If not, he will be a short cab ride away in Gwinnette and likely be one of the first call ups should the Braves staff revert to 2008 form next year.

Up and coming Tommy Hanson is going to be on a lot of Atlanta Braves fans’ short list next year. I would expect quite a few folks will want to rush him to the big leagues considering his good numbers in Pearl this year. More likely for him will be a year or at least beginning of his Atlanta stay in the yet to be named Gwinnette stadium. I would suggest that he be allowed to learn how to pitch before he is thrown into the lion’s den. After all, a mistake made in the minors is a life lesson not often repeated in the majors. No need to ruin him mentally when he has such a great future. Often folks forget that the quality of the hitting in the minors is much less than the majors. Instead of pitching around a good prospect, a pitcher is faced with a line-up of guys who can put the bat on the ball.

In part III, I will sum up my take on the bullpen prospects for 2009.

~Gil~

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59: The Change We Need, Change We Can Believe In, A Change For The Better… Part I

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By Gil In Mechanicsville…

In this season of political spin, as politicians once again play us for fools and subscribe to the old Lincoln adage that you can fool all of the people some of the time, or at least long enough to get elected, I thought we would turn away from the posturing and one-upmanship for a few moments and talk about something that really means something to us, speculation of how the Braves line-up might look in 2009.

Let’s start with that most critical element of any successful major league franchise, pitching. First let’s assume that the Braves will at least try to bring back some of the reliable arms of the past. Tom Glavin may once again be a part of the starting rotation; the surgery to repair his balky elbow may be a resounding success. We likely won’t know until late march if he can be relied upon for one final hurrah in a Braves uniform but I suspect he would like to make one more attempt at glory.

John Smoltz may be the biggest question mark. The type of shoulder surgery he endured has not been known to have a high degree of success. Only the grit and determination, which he has shown repeatedly during his long career with the Braves, makes him a possibility to be a part of the Braves staff. While he may or may not be able to perform as a starting pitcher in 2009, I doubt he would be willing to serve in a support role in the Braves bullpen and I further doubt he would sign a contract for less than real market value. We will know by next March if we will see John on the field or in the broadcast booth.

Tim Hudson will be a non-factor next year unless the Braves are still in the pennant race in September. It is unlikely he would return to form in less than a year and his spot in the rotation is one of the huge voids that Braves need to filled this winter. We shall see just how good Frank Wren is as a GM if he can duplicate the type of deal his predecessor put together when he brought free agent Greg Maddux to Atlanta.

Jair Jurrjens was a real bright spot for the Braves this year. A true gem, for one so young to become the ace of the staff is too great a burden. Hopefully the Braves will spring for a true front line starter so Jair can continue to progress and mature without over using his arm. Too many innings on a young pitcher has repeatedly been shown to be a precursor to a shorten career.

Mike Hampton… yes, I know, so many feel he has stolen the money paid to him for the last three years but look at it this way, he was hurt while pitching. He worked like a dog to get back to where he can be considered to be a major league pitcher. Well, after watching him for the past few months, I think he has proven himself pretty well. As he becomes stronger and he regains velocity, he is going to once again be a valuable addition to the staff. I have no idea the type of contract he might be offered by the Braves but I do know one thing for certain, he is going to be on someone’s big league roster next year and the Braves will regret it if they do not re-sign him for 2009. He is still fairly young as pitchers go and if you compare him to Glavin and Smoltz, he is a virtual teenager.

Others who have a real chance at making the roster next year…. Jorge Campillo appeared to fade a bit down the stretch this year but for a while he really was a lifeline for the Braves. While he will never be confused as an ace, he was quite serviceable and hopefully he will rest his arm some during the off-season and be ready for action next April. Now while I will admit he is more likely the type of pitcher to be found on the National’s roster than the Braves, he has been much more solid than some of the other experiments Atlanta has tried the past few years. If he can learn to keep his change up down in the zone, he could easily be a 15 game winner for the Braves.

There are some other young hurlers in the Braves organization who have a chance to break through next season, Charlie Morton, JoJo Reyes, Anthony Larew, and Chuck James all have an opportunity to step into a role next year. I will give my prospectus of them as well as other young Braves hurlers in the organization plus the bullpen in my next contribution.

~Gil~

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49: Fact or Fiction??

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By Voice of Reason Raisins

JEFFERSON, GA – I was talking with my 12-year-old son yesterday about this task of putting together a lead topic for the Braves and Stuff blog. He asked me, “What are you gonna write about?” My honest response to him was, “I don’t know. What do you think I should write about?” To this, he gave a couple of minutes thought and asked, “Does it have to be real?” I replied, “No, it does not.” Suddenly, a flurry of ideas for stories began to come forth out of the mouth of this suddenly released creative force. “The President is at the game, and Chipper Jones is batting. His bat breaks and a sharp piece barely misses the President and the Secret Service arrests Chipper and throws him in jail.” Or, “Mark Teixeira is really a spy from another country. He’s gathering intelligence from all over the country while posing as a baseball player.” I reminded him that Tex was from Baltimore, so he quickly said, “OK, it’s Escobar!” Then there was, “Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur discover Area 54 and are held captive 54 miles below ground in an underground bunker.”

Wow… I had unknowingly tapped into an endless resource of creativity all from the perspective of the 12-year-old world. So I thought, how about a little creativity from a middle-aged dad trying desperately to stay connected to a 12-year-old world?

How about: “The Braves break Spring Training with a pitcher who dominated the Grapefruit League. Amazingly, he had not pitched in a Major League game in 2 years, but his spring games were so awesome that the Braves, and the Braves fans, came to rely on him to be an important part of their plans for 2008. In the last 2 years, he had endured knee surgery, elbow surgery and a torn hamstring. He was practically like the Bionic Man. Local sports talk radio suggested he be placed in bubble-wrap prior to his first start. Ha-ha… that’s pretty funny. As the radio hosts signed off from their show on the evening of his first regular season start, they jokingly admitted that it looked like he was going to make it. 15 minutes later, this pitcher tears a pectoral muscle and can’t answer the bell. He has yet to toe the rubber again in a Major League game.” Nah…

I got one: “A future Hall of Fame pitcher enters into the season looking for one more run to the playoffs. He even implores the Braves management to bring back one of his good buddies to make the run with him. He enters into Spring Training, but disappears from sight. He trains by himself on back fields, like a ninja, secretly preparing his new arsenal so that he can unleash his final attacks on an unsuspecting league of batsmen. As the season unfolds, his team leans on him like never before. And he is good; I mean really good. He even reaches a career milestone. You’d never know that his elbow had ever been surgically repaired. You’d never know, in fact we didn’t know, that he had once had an unprecedented procedure to fix a hole in his elbow tendon. He was dominant… for about 5 innings at a time. Then 4. Then, without warning, his shoulder began to ache. It ached badly. It ached so badly that he couldn’t throw between starts… so badly that he couldn’t sleep. It ached. He was shut down, unable to help his reeling teammates – unable to right a listing ship. But he had an idea. “If I can’t throw for 5 innings anymore, maye again lead my troops to victory!” He prepared for his triumphant return to the hails of a loving throng of worshipers. But, alas, it was not to be. His return was not triumphant. And he ached badly. He would not pick up another ball this year, nay maybe never. His own shoulder had betrayed him, and perhaps this mighty warrior shall never again taste the sweetness of victory.” No, I don’t like it…

And then there’s: “The Prodigal Son returns. He returns after many years in the camp of the enemy. Yes, he wore the hated blue and orange, he wore the scripted NY, he fought with the rival. Many things were said of this once revered man. He was accused of having ulterior motives. “No!” he said. “It was just business. Things are not as they appear.” But his former faithful did not believe. But time has a way of healing wounds, and the Prodigal Son wanted to come home. Soon, many began to believe that all was truly not as it had appeared, and his former faithful began to also wish him home. He almost made it, but alas, it was not to be. But wait! A new season dawns and he has returned. Our grizzled veteran has come home to help propel his friends and teammates to another post-season. This man had seen many campaigns, some supremely successful, others not so much. But he could battle. He had never missed any portion of a campaign over his entire Hall of Fame career. He had come home to be a workhorse for a manager that he had loved and admired. But suddenly, the well conditioned workhorse pulled a hammy and found himself inactive for the first time. Yes, even the mighty fall sometimes. But he came back fighting. Ow! His elbow hurts! Dang… He has slightly torn something in his elbow. DL’d again…” No, I don’t like that one either…

Maybe: “Hot young prospect suspended for performance enhancing drugs?!?” Maybe not…

Or: “Replacement center fielder returns from back surgery to perform wonderfully… until he injures his back.” No…

Or: “Hot young pitcher steps funny in dugout and rolls his ankle.” Uh-uh…

I know: “Major free-agent-to-be can’t perform until the calendar says it’s OK.” Still not it…

“Sore armed closer lets manager know when he can pitch.” Crazy…

“Mexican League refugee finds himself an important piece of a Major League rotation.” Never…

“Rival base runner twice tries to implant his head into the shortstop’s thigh.” Funny, but no…

I got it!!! “Stud third baseman bats .400 well into June, but gets knocked outta service when he doinks a ball off the batting cage crossbar into his own eye.” That’s a good one! But it just won’t work…

I think I’ll just go back to “Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur discover Area 54 and are held captive 54 miles below ground in an underground bunker.” It’s more believable.

~Raisins~

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48: An Observation from an Interested Spectator

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By Gil

MECHANICSVILLE, VA – As we approach the magic one third mark of the season, most major league teams take stock of their situation to see where they stand as far as personnel and what is needed going forward. Often times this is the time when teams decide if they are buyers or sellers and if they have a chance to be serious contenders or view the likelihood of being an also ran and begin building for the next season.

The 2008 version of the Atlanta Braves had reason to believe they were a team with which to vie for the National League East and even a possible shot at returning to the World Series. Good pitching depth and a strong offensive line up was in evidence. The Braves only apparent weakness was a lack of bench strength. Funny how the wheels began to fall off even before the start of the season.

John Smoltz began the season on the DL with what we now know as likely a career ending injury. Perhaps we should think back to the night he pitched magnificently against the Astros in the Braves last appearance in the NL playoffs and a shirtless Smoltz revealed a tremendous amount of bleeding around his right shoulder. For him to pitch the past two years has been a testament to his grit but the ravages of time have apparently taken their toll and it seems to many that John has made his last pitch as a major leaguer.

Mike Hampton was never really counted on this year like he was in 2007 but all seemed ready for the stoic lefty to finally justify the $13 million due to him this year. Alas, it was not to be, another freak injury claimed him and who knows if he will ever pitch again effectively although the return of even a mildly capable Mike Hampton could yet salvage the season for the Braves.

Chuck James went down early. Never a pitcher with a large repertoire of baffling pitches to keep opposing batters off balance, his inability to keep pitches down combined with a diminished speed deferential between his fastball and his change up, he began giving up homeruns at an alarming rate. This led to his demotion back to AAA Richmond and a mind set that he has to reinvent himself as a pitcher.

The cause of Tom Glavin’s woes have finally surfaced: a sore elbow. Who else besides me sees this as a deal breaker for a 41 year old pitcher who has been know as an innings eater throughout his career? It also explains the loss of movement on his pitches and to me may be the harbinger of a season to forget for the Bravos.

The loss of Peter Moylan and the limited availability of Soriano have also put a tremendous strain on the Braves’ bullpen. There is a correlation between the effectiveness of a team’s bullpen and the number of innings they are forced to pitch. Manny Acosta is just not capable of pitching everyday and I don’t think any other pitcher on the Braves staff is either.

So, what do you have when 4/5th of your projected starting staff and three of your most effective relievers are out with injuries? A club that more closely resembles the Washington Nationals than one that resembles the Philadelphia Phillies. The Braves cannot afford to slip much further behind the front runners if they expect to have a chance this year but counting on young pitchers like Charlie Morton to come to the rescue may be placing too much of a burden on a young rookie who is only now finding success. Steve Avery comes to mind when making a comparison of expectations by the Braves Nation and the likelihood he will struggle in his début season.


~Gil~

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46: Daily Buzz Special: Braves Hall Of Fame Report.

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by Mr Fly

SAVANNAH, GA – In this special, two-part report, I’ll cover three surefire future Hall of Fame pitching aces, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and also the baseball legend and future Hall of Fame manager, Bobby Cox.

Between hanging with Mad Dog, Glav and Smoltzie when Greg was in town Greg Maddu xrecently… to sitting in on an executive meeting concerning Bobby Cox, it’s been busy. That and, well, its Georgia peach blossom season. Just, uh… got over all the spring orange blossoms in Florida and now, you know… so many blossoms, such little time… but enough about me. Wait, one more thing about me: thanks to a nice gentleman from Mechanicsville, I now have a new press portrait. Thanks Mr. Gil for taking my picture while I was on assignment in Richmond. I gave copies to all my blossom buddies.

The following are two recent unpublished reports from my Braves travels:

Part One:

The Three Amigos Weigh-in On A Reunion.

Logged Tuesday, May 6 – ATLANTA – In this first report, we’re in the Braves Tom Glavine weight room with ‘the boys’. I was invited by Tommy Glavine (my new cheeseburger buddy) to listen in on a conversation with Mad Dog, Glav and Smoltzie. So hold onto your seats… what you’re about to read is a first time, first hand, unedited and uncut documentation of a conversation between three of the top pitchers in the modern era. You just never know what exciting scoops and revelations might come from these rare, multi-Cy Young winning get-togethers when no holds are barred, anything goes… and yours truly had exclusive access. Now, in the weight room, Smoltzie chimes in first:

John SmoltzJOHN: Real good to see you Doggie. So, how do you like San Diego?

GREG: The weather is real nice.

JOHN: No, I mean the Padres.

GREG: The weather is real nice.

JOHN: Right… got it. Better than LA, though, huh? Alyssa Milano

GREG: Ahh… well, miss seeing Alyssa and all. You know…

JOHN: Milano? Sure, but she digs the long ball. Not your style, Dog.

TOMMY: Hey Doggie, have you been to Vigilucci’s?

GREG: What’s that?

TOMMY: The great Steak & Chop House over on Prospect.

GREG: Uh, no.

TOMMY: How about Soleil over on K Street?

GREG: Um, nope.

TOMMY: They’re good restaurants. Me and my little buddy, Mr. Fly, hit those places together when we’re in the area. Some good enchilada-cheeseburgers at the stadium too. Hey Dog, why are you grinning like that? Why are you and Johnny snickering? Ok, what’s up? Did you hang some dirty underwear on my doorknob or something? What gives?

JOHN: Teeheehee.

GREG: Snork…snork…chortle…

TOMMY: Alright dammit… what are you two up to?

MR. FLY: So Doggie, you coming back to the Braves? It’d be cool.

GREG: I’d like to Mr. Fly. We’ll see soon. By the way Tommy, didn’t you get a new set of pearly white choppers up in New York ‘cause’a that sudden stop in that cab and all?

TOMMY: Yes… why? What, is something stuck in my front teeth or…

JOHN: No, they’re fine. Do they chew pretty well Tommy? Hee hee…

GREG: That grill make pretty good headway with the fork and spoon? Yuk yuk yuk…

TOMMY: Yes they fit well and work just fine but what does that have to do with… hey, why are you yukking it up? What’s so damn funny? And why the hell are you guys both staring at my belly with those smirks?

GREG: Lots of good food up there in the Big Apple, there, Tommy?

JOHN: OK, let’s hit the links guys… we’ve got us a tee time.

TOMMY: You guys will never grow up.

Part two:

Braves Management Takes A Chance… Again.

Filed Saturday, May 10 – PITTSBURGH – In this road report, I was invited to sit in on a behind the scenes executive meeting between John Schuerholz, Frank Wren and Bobby Cox. Before you read my report, just know that me and Bobby go way back. We’re pals and all, but I do like to give him a hard time. Wish he’d retire and enjoy the HOF life, work in the executive suite for the Braves, enjoy his wife and grandkids and such. Moving along, this special report begins as Bobby and Frank enter Mr. John’s executive suite at The Gardener Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh:

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Good afternoon gents. Please have a seat. How’s life?

Bobby CoxMR. COX: It was a good game today but we just caught a few bad breaks. I thought Chucky pitched real good but it just didn’t go his way. Frustrating really. Left a few up is all. Pirates were tough. That wet weather made it tough too. Chucky’s coming around. One day soon he’ll be able to go 6 innings again. He’s working on his control right now and he has only two pitches and, oh, he has trouble remembering hitters he’s faced… even from inning to inning, but he’ll come around. Good kid. Hangs a hell’uva good window too. He just got through putting new windows in my day room at the farm. Kid did a nice job. Well, one was crooked and a few were hung too high, but he’s coming around. That one today just got away from Chucky but other than a few he left up, he pitched a good game. Dunno… scratchin’ my head over that game. He went 6, so that’s good. He’ll come around. Pirates played us tough and, boy…

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: You OK, Bobby? All well at home? How’s the wife, the farm, the grandkids?

MR COX: Oh, yeah, sure… fine. Jojo is coming around too. He’s got a few blisters and all, but he’s a good kid. Campillo’s looking good. He’s gonna be a solid pen guy. Good kid. Blisters, but good…

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: That’s fine, Bobby. Glad to hear everything’s OK.

MR. COX: Good kids. We’ll get’em tomorr…

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: That’s fine Bobby. How are you Frank?

MR. WREN: Doing great, John. Thanks. All is well on the home front.

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Good, good. Well now, what do you think we should do about starting pitching, Frank?

MR. WREN: I’d like to send Chuck back to the minors. He sucks.

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Yep. What do you think Bobby?

MR. COX: Good kid. Just a few hanging… pitched good today. He’s my boy. Hangs a good window too. Car detailing, runs the tractor…

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Uh, Frank, you want to lose him right?

MR. WREN: Yes sir. I’d also like to start Campillo. He can pitch.

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Your call Frank. Done and done then. Bobby?

MR. COX: I’m thinking about an extension of my contract.

MR. WREN: Bobby, since I’m new, I’ll let Mr. Schuerholz handle this.

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Bobby, aren’t you about ready to wind it up, take a bow, maybe come upstairs with me, assist with player recruitment, take your place as an all-time Hall of Fame manager and executive with the Braves organization and let someone else take the reins in the dugout? Don’t you miss your family, your farm, your animals and such?

MR. COX: I like to manage. Maybe sign me to another ten-year deal. I like the games. I like to watch. Good kids. Those Pirates matched up pretty well. Chucky’ll come around. Left a few up…

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Hmmm. Well, OK, Bobby, but let’s just do a one-year deal. You OK with that? Frank, are you good with that?

MR. WREN: Well, sir… it’s a bit, um, well… I was thinking that with Bobby’s historic run and everything he might want to slow down a bit. But I’d like it to be your call, Mr. Schuerholz.

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Bobby? What say you? Ready to hang’em up?

MR. COX: Dunno what happened today. Wet mound. Good kid, Chucky. We’ve had a few bad bounces lately. Bats have been quiet, but they’ll come around… it’s only April…

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Uh, Bobby, we’re well into May. But OK, you can have a one-year contract extension.

MR. WREN: Uh, John, in that case, could we talk about a strategic bench coach?

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: I hear you, Frank. We’ll talk later downstairs in the Gardener Lounge. I know it’s a Chance we’re taking here.

MR. COX: I like to watch umpires.

Mr Fly

~by Mr Fly~

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40: Greg Maddux: Best Postseason Starter Ever In His Prime?

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by williamwallace

ATHENS, GA – John Smoltz is rightfully regarded as one of the greatest postseason pitchers in the history of the game. Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, on the other hand, are generally considered postseason disappointments. Overall, for their careers, Smoltz has been superior to Glavine and Maddux in the postseason. Below are their career postseason records:

W

L

ERA

IP

Glavine

14

16

3.42

218

Smoltz

15

4

2.65

207

Maddux

11

14

3.34

194

Maddux and Glavine, however, were actually better postseason starters than Smoltz during the six postseasons in which they were members of the same starting rotation. The applicable period is from 1993 until 1999. Below is a grid with their performance and the average run support they received during those postseasons:

W

L

SV

ERA

WHIP

GS

IP

RS

Glavine

8

5

0

2.48

1.16

18

119.7

4.67

Smoltz

7

4

1

3.12

1.14

17

118.3

4.82

Maddux

10

9

1

2.39

1.11

21

150.7

3.86

Combined

25

18

2

2.64

1.13

56

388.7

4.41

Overall, the Braves were 32-24 when Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine started for the Braves during the postseasons from 1993 until 1999. Below is the overall team record when each started:

W

L

ERA

RS

Glavine

12

6

2.48

4.67

Smoltz

9

8

3.12

4.82

Maddux

11

10

2.39

3.86

Overall

32

24

2.64

4.41

Below is a table of the performance of Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine and the run support given to them in the games the Braves won when they started during those postseasons between 1993 and 1999:

G

IP

ERA

RS

Glavine

12

82.7

1.63

5.92

Smoltz

9

68.6

2.63

7.00

Maddux

11

84.7

1.60

5.36

Overall

32

236

1.91

6.03

Below is their performance and the average performance of the offense during the games the Braves lost when they started during those postseasons:

G

IP

ERA

RS

Glavine

6

37.0

4.38

2.17

Smoltz

8

49.7

3.80

2.38

Maddux

10

66.0

3.41

2.20

Overall

24

152.7

3.77

2.25

Maddux was not only the best postseason pitcher on the Braves during the era of The Big Three but, from the 1995 NLCS until the 1999 World Series, Maddux put together the best consecutive string of 120 or more innings of any postseason pitcher in the history of the game. Below are the postseason pitchers I could find that had the best consecutive string of 120 or more innings in the postseason and the average offensive run support provided them in their postseason starts:

Pitcher

Start

End

G

GS

W

L

IP

ERA

OOPS

RS

Greg Maddux

95NLCS

99WS

19

17

8

8

124

1.89

0.562

2.88

John Smoltz

91NLCSG7

97NLDS

18

18

9

2

125.3

2.01

0.573

4.78

Whitey Ford

50WS

62WSG4

18

18

10

4

124

2.03

0.586

4.50

Tom Glavine

92WS

99NLCS

19

19

9

6

129.7

2.22

0.590

4.37

Curt Schilling

93WS

2007WS

19

19

11

2

133.3

2.23

0.586

4.95

Dave Stewart

81WS

93ALCS

18

16

10

3

120.3

2.24

0.569

4.63

Orel Hershiser

85NLCS

97WSG1

18

17

8

2

121

2.38

0.575

4.35

Jim Palmer

66WS

83WS

17

15

8

3

124.3

2.61

0.640

4.67

Roger Clemens

86ALCSG7

03ALCSG3

22

22

8

5

130

3.05

0.562

3.82

Catfish Hunter

72ALCS

78WS

21

18

9

5

124.3

3.11

0.687

3.50

David Wells

89ALCS

05ALDS

26

16

10

4

120

3.15

0.647

5.44

Mike Mussina

97ALDS

06ALDS

20

19

7

7

121.3

3.19

0.660

3.26

Andy Pettitte

98ALDS

03WS

22

22

11

5

136

3.44

0.736

4.45

Randy Johnson

95ALDS

06ALDS

19

16

7

9

121

3.50

0.664

3.50

Mariano Rivera is currently at 117.3 innings and will jump to the top of this list once he surpasses 120 innings pitched in the postseason. Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Christy Mathewson and a few others had excellent runs that did not amount to 120 innings pitched prior to the dawn of ALCS, NLCS, ALDS and NLDS play. Greg Maddux, however, had the best string of 120 or more consecutive innings ever from a starting pitcher in the postseason.

~WilliamWallace~


Blog Birthdays

ChrisKlob: Feb 4

Raisins: Mar 13

Berigan: Mar 15

Gil: Apr 15

Salty: Apr 22

FloridaBravesGirl: Jul 8

Skip Caray: Aug 12

Miss Josie: Aug 18

Carolina Lady: Oct 7

BravesAndStuff: Dec 5, 2007


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