Archive for the 'National League' 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.

 

 

Advertisements

#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.

162: New Season, New Faces

Gil

by Gil ‘N Mechanicsville

One of the great things about spring training is all the new faces we see and read about as management attempts to put together a product which will be able to win ball games and possibly be the best of the thirty major league teams.

Sure, we know about the regulars, Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis and Ender Inciarte.

2017

It is not as if we don’t want to know about the stars, we do want to know they are healthy and are in great shape as well as if their bat is slowing down or have lost a step. It is reassuring to know all is well with the core of the team. After all, we have seen the rug pulled out from under the team on several occasions in the interest of getting better.

It is the new guys that create the most interest for me. Funny how there always seems to be a name or two we have hardly ever heard of who suddenly arrives on the scene to create a buzz.

2017b

Acuna – Albies – Newcomb

We were all exposed to the exploits Ronald Acuna this winter. The suddenly not so secret ‘secret weapon’ signed as an international free agent. We have followed with interest several of the prospects acquired thru trades as well as in free agent drafts, Names like Mataio and Albies and Newcomb who some folks believe should already be logging major league time. For some reason, they have a difficult time grasping the fact that few prospects ever reach the major leagues. Even fewer live up to the hype promoted by various front office types who try to gin up the interest in their respective clubs.

dansby

Dansby Swanson

This season we are looking forward to watching possible rookie of the year Dansby Swanson. To date, he has not disappointed. Maybe not the best at any one skill but a heck of a five tool guy who is really good at just about everything he does.

The brandonphillipsaddition of Brandon Phillips to man the second base position was a real positive move on John Cappelletti’s part. BP may not be the player he once was but he is no slouch and is an improvement over Jace Peterson as the Braves await the arrival of Ozzie Albies on the scene. Not to disrespect Jace but he will be much more valuable to the team as a super sub than he is as a regular. He has delivered on more than one occasion but he has also had long stretches of failure to make consistent contact.

This season, unlike the last two years, the lineup is pretty well set. Three of the four infield

rioruiz

Ruiz

positions will be manned by All-Star calibre players. Third base has 32 year old Adonis Garcia penciled in to start but several names have popped up as

johancarmarga

Johan

possible challengers to man the hot corner. Rio Ruiz has long been touted as a candidate but of late Johan Carmargo’s name has been mentioned. The unexpected loss of Sean Rodriguez following an off season traffic accident did yield Brandon Phillips for at least part of the year and has altered the expected plans to platoon Jace Peterson and Adonis.

 

Even so, it is still very early and there is no telling who might suddenly appear on the scene either via trade or promotion. I just would not assume or take for granted anything if I were listed on the Braves 2017 roster.

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

#159: Arizona Farm League Prospects: Update Part II

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil
Mechanicsville, VA

My last update profiled three of the six Braves prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League. This edition will provide some insight to those omitted last week.

Chris Ellis

Chris Ellis

First is right handed pitcher Chris Ellis. Chris is a 24 year old, 6’5″, 205 lbs, who was drafted in the third round (88th overall) by the LAX Angels in 2014. He was part of the return package for Andrelton Simmons which also netted Sean Newcomb and Erick Aybar. Ellis spent the better part of last season as part of the Gwinnett staff pitching after beginning the season in double A Mississippi. His record of 8 wins and 2 losses earned him a promotion to Triple A where he found the sledding a bit tougher. After promotion to the IL, his record sagged a bit to 3-7 with an ERA of 7.04 in 14 games and 62-2/3rds innings.

So far in the AFL, he continues to struggle with the strike zone with 11 walks and 10 strikeouts while giving up 15 hits and 14 runs, 11 earned after only 4 games and 12 innings pitched. Not exactly the kind of numbers one would hope to see from a top tier prospect. Perhaps he is tired, maybe he has an ailment he is not revealing or maybe he is trying to prefect a new pitch but whatever, it does not look good for the young righty from Mississippi. I think he is still growing into his body. Until he is able to command his pitches better, he will remain a prospect and not see the major leagues.

Evan Phillips

Evan Phillips

Next up is Evan Phillips, 6’2″, 215 lbs, a 22 year old right handed reliever who played college ball at UNC-Wilmington, NC. Drafted in the 17th round by the Braves, Phillips is one of those rare gems every scout dreams of and every GM looks brilliant for finding them and then taking them at a low cost low risk high reward situation. Phillips has shined at every stop in his professional career. While he has not put up the eye popping numbers of Jared Miller, a Diamondback prize, he was chosen as the Braves lone representative for the AFL All-star game. So far, he continues to record outs while pitching in a relief role. To date, he has appeared in six games, hurling 7.2 innings with 10 Ks and 5 walks. Aside from his first appearance, he has been solid in relief for the Salt River Rafters. While he has given up three earned runs, he has a .143 BA against so far in the AFL.

Evan is currently listed as the Braves #99 prospect but I suspect that number will rise as he continues to progress in the Braves system. His good work in Arizona will likely earn him an invite to the Braves’ spring training camp with the big boys to continue evaluate his potential against top flight hitters. Phillips works with a three-pitch mix, featuring a fastball in the 91-94 range, touching as high as 96. He also features a hard slider and a hard curve as his third pitch, both in the mid-80s in velocity. The knock on Phillips has been his lack of control but since moving to being used strictly as a reliever, his control has improved. Don’t be surprised to see his name linked in one of the many trade rumors we are likely to hear about this winter.

Kade Scivicque

Kade Scivicque

Lastly, in this trio, is cajun catching prospect Kade Scivicque (pronounced Siv-EEK) 6’0″, 225 lbs.  Kade was acquired from the Detroit Tigers organization in exchange for Erick Aybar at the trade deadline. The 23 year old native of Baton Rouge, LA, was a lightly scouted player out of LSU, taken 340th overall by the Tigers in 2016. He was not highly touted but his coaches all praised his leadership skills. He has been a little slow to develop his offense but has shown flashes of late in getting the bat on the ball. He is considered a “project” and potentially a backup candidate for the major leagues but then, you never know when a guy will finally have the lights turned on and he will “get it”. After the disappointment the Braves experienced with Bethancourt who we all heard was the next Johnny Bench, the Braves could use some over-achievers at the backstop position. I expect he will begin the 2017 season at Pearl Mississippi but if his bat continues to heat up, he could find himself at Triple A a couple of seasons ahead of schedule. He is currently batting a respectable .317 for the Rafters but it is a truly small sample size.

Next time I will preview the current Braves plying their trade in the other winter leagues.

gil2

#158: Arizona Farm League Prospects Update

 

Gil

by Gil in Mechanicsville, VA

The Braves sent their allotment of six players to the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League this month.   The league consist of six teams which are stocked by the 30 major league teams. It was conceived by the major league teams so they would have a way to monitor the progress of their young prospects without them having to leave the country. It also allowed the parent clubs to have tighter control on their prospects playing time as well as their diet and health.

Teams also wanted a winter ball league which would be convenient for both the players and for talent evaluaters. Their games are played in the Spring Training stadiums used by the Giants, Mariners, Padres, Cubs, A’s, Royals, Rangers, D-backs and Rockies. All of these stadiums are within 15 minutes of each other and the climate is conducive to late season baseball.

In all, 180 players are selected to play in the league with each major league holding a position draft to select the players who will play for each team. The players in the Arizona Fall League are good. The 2014 All-Star Game in Minneapolis featured 36 AFL alums. Nearly 60 percent of all AFL players make a Major League roster, with an incredible 212 All-Stars, 12 MVPs, four Cy Young Award Winners, three World Series MVPs, 66 Silver Sluggers, 58 Golden Gloves, and 25 Rookies of the Year.

dustin-allen-petersonFirst up is Dustin Allen Peterson, a 22 year old outfielder who was acquired from the San Diego Padres for outfielder Justin Upton. Peterson is currently playing left field for the Rafters. Drafted in the second round (50th overall) by the Fathers, he hales from Gilbert, Arizona, so he gets to visit his parents this fall.

Currently ranked as the 18th best prospect in a loaded Atlanta farm system, he batted .282 with 88 RBI and an OPS of .774.  Peterson hit 12 home runs but struck out 100 times in 578 plate appearances. While in the Padres farm system, he played 3rd base but the Braves moved him to the outfield after he was traded and in 2016, he started 5 games in center field and 125 games in left. Evidently, the Braves feel his best path to the show is as a right handed power hitter.

He is still a couple of years away from the big leagues and his fortunes will be tied to his ability or inability to make consistent contact with the ball. While the prevailing Sabermetric wisdom is that strike-outs don’t matter, you still need to hit at least .250 if you are going to play in the major leagues. Currently he is batting .308 in 26 at bats with a double, a triple and 4 strikeouts. I know, that is a very small sample size so take away what you will. He has shown some speed on the base paths but he is 6’2″ and 210 pounds. He still has some growing to do.

travis-demeritte

Next is Travis Demeritte, a former Texas farmhand who was the number one pick (30th overall) for the Rangers in 2013. Travis was acquired from Texas in exchange for right-hander Lucas Harrell and lefty reliever Dario Alvarez. Harrell you might remember was signed off the scrap heap by Atlanta and rehabilitated by the Braves. He actually pitched well for the Rangers before breaking down after two games. Sort of reminds me of the used car that lasts until just after the 30 day warranty expires, but I digress. Travis Demeritte does come with a bit of baggage, serving an 80 game suspension in 2015 for testing positive for a banned substance.

Demeritte is projected as a second baseman and has a bit more power than the prototypical second sacker. The Georgia native out of Winder-Barrow High School has shown the ability to put the ball out of the park but says his goal in the AFL is to make more consistent contact and work on plate discipline.

The Braves current number 9 prospect was actually added to the Braves contingent to Arizona after 19 year old Ozzie Albies broke a bone in is elbow on the final game of the season at Mississippi. It’s my belief that Travis profiles more as a third baseman and will likely play that position at double A Mississippi in 2017 as well as 2nd as Albies advances to Gwinnett.

dylan-moore-braves

The last of this year’s crop I will profile in this blog is Dylan Moore, a 24 year old shortstop, a California native who played college ball at the University of Central Florida. Dylan has only progressed to advanced A ball at Carolina until September 8th when he was assigned to Mississippi this season. Originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 7th round of the 2015 draft. He is a bit old to still be considered a top prospect but he is still an interesting case. The Braves evidently have seen some potential in him. Currently he is hitting .368 with two home runs for Salt River. He came to the Braves as part of a three way trade with the Florida Marlins which saw Jeff Francoeur moved to the Fish. Officially, he was acquired for “other cash considerations” specifically International slots going to the Rangers.

Dylan is listed as a shortstop and will likely start the 2017 season as the starting SS for Mississippi but he has also logged time at both second and first base. I suspect he will not be a starting shortstop in Atlanta with phenom Dansby Swanson blocking him but you just never know what the future could hold. After all, one of these guys could be converted to catcher…

gil2

#157: And it’s done…. Bring on 2017

 

Gil       Gil in Mechanicsville, VA

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Atlanta Braves

Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The lights have finally been turned off at Turner Field but not before the 2016 Atlanta Braves team put a final exclamation point on their wayward 2016 season. Yes, the Braves lost a total of 93 games this season but it is the trajectory of the team which gives hope for the future.

Perhaps we should take just a bit more stock in spring training games as a precursor as to what can be expected of a team’s fortune for the upcoming season. No, I don’t mean a winning record in the respective Grapefruit and Cactus leagues guarantees a World Series berth but it sure has portended the abysmal seasons for the Braves the last two years.

This year’s version of the team lost game after game in Florida and that same losing attitude prevailed for two months, dooming the team of any chance of having a respectable record. The Braves began the season on a pace to lose 116 games. Of course no one really expected Fredi Gonzalez to win a World Series with the collection of misfits he had been saddle with but the team took on a persona of losing. Everyone expected them to lose so lose they did. Even on TV, this team exuded defeat. They were simply playing out the string and it was only April.

When Fredi was released and Brian Snitker was promoted to take his place, no one really expected a big change, after all, he still had the same bunch of players who were going through the motions. The Braves were still woefully short on pitching, even while trading every retread they had rehabilitated for another young long term minor leaguer. Add the fact that Eric Aybar made fans pine for the since traded Andrelton Simmons with Aybar’s deer in the headlights attitude at both the plate and afield. It made fans wonder what John Coppoletta was smoking when he traded away Simba to the Angles.

But something changed, not all at once but the team played a little harder and with more moxie. Youngsters like Mallex Smith brought a spark and Freddie Freeman snapped out of his funk. Ender Inciarte came back from a stint on the DL and the team started playing teams tough. They were still losing but they were playing better and they were in most games right to the end.

The Braves were still playing mix and match with their starting staff and the bullpen had a shuttle service going between the Ted and Cool Ray. Sixteen different pitchers started games for the Braves this season. The bullpen was a disaster in search of a train wreck.

Matt Kemp2

Matt Kemp

But things slowly but surely began to change. Matt Kemp was acquired from the Padres in exchange for persona non grata, Hector Olivera. No one in baseball really gave the trade much notice. The Padres were reducing their liability by sending Kemp off to the East coast. The saber-metric crowd gave a huge ho-hum to the deal as Kemp was thought to be an overpaid has been. Funny how one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. With Kemp in the line-up to protect Freeman, Mr Hugs took off. The entire line up started hitting. The defense was making plays, running into walls, diving for balls, throwing players out at the plate and generally playing like their hair was on fire.

The team started playing like they could not lose. A lot of teams 30 games out of first would just pack it in and make plans for October which did not include baseball but the Braves didn’t. If you did not know the Braves record, you would have thought they were the team playing to be in the play-offs and planned to be in the Fall Classic.

So what do we have to look forward to? The Braves are on the precipice of greatness again. Years when only one spot might be available when spring training begins. Back to the Braves way when one rookie was added to the team to break in slowly to the team loaded with talent. Now talent… Maybe this team is not yet blessed with the same level of talent as some other top tier programs but they do have something else, heart. As it stands now, I can hardly wait for spring training to begin.

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

#155: Four Down, Two To Go

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil in
Mechanicsville, VA

So, the Non-Waiver trade deadline has come and gone and no big news out of Atlanta. John Coppoletta said while some interest was expressed on players like reliever Jim Johnson and outfielders Nick Markakis and Ender Inciarte, no one was willing to meet the Braves’ asking price. Well, I can live with that. Those players will still be available during the hot stove season to teams looking to add pieces. As it was, their was only a small number of teams looking to add pieces for the play-off push and other than Jim Johnson, no one really had a lot of value.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp

This week the Braves did make a trade for a player who perhaps is on the downward side of his career in Matt Kemp but a guy who still shows more power than anyone other than perhaps Freddie Freeman. A lot of teams would not have wanted to add a player like Kemp but for Atlanta, he makes tremendous sense. He is a right handed bat who can protect lefty hitting Freddie Freeman and slot nicely between Freddie and Nick Markakis. While his defensive numbers are not that great, he could still play right field in place of Markakis or left. As far as left fielders go, I doubt his defense rates below that of other players who have been regulated to the off field of baseball.

Oliverez

Oliverez

Perhaps the biggest upside is moving the hugely disappointing Hector Olivera off the Braves payroll. While it has been widely rumored that Olivera will be DFAed by San Diego, it is not official and I suspect the Padres would simply allow him to pass through waivers and then play him in Triple A, or not. It’s no longer the Braves’ concern as to where the Cuban-born exile will play. I guess the real question is if any of the talent evaluators who pushed for the acquisition of Olivera are still on the Braves payroll or can their opinions be trusted?

So, back to what we can look forward to short term. The Braves hope that the addition of Kemp will increase the run production against the lefthanded pitching have had such a problem with this season. While not of the same talent level of a Cespedes, at least he is a bigger power threat than most everyone else who has played in the Atlanta outfield this season. Tyler Flowers is expected to return soon and also add some power to the line up.

I doubt Mallex Smith will return prior to the September call ups. For now, the Braves biggest problem seems to be who will fill the roster as starting pitchers. Coppy flipped Lucas Harrell to the Rangers so look for Gant to fill his spot as soon as he returns to full health. Perhaps Aaron Blair will return after his stint in Triple A. Even “utility” pitcher, Joel De La Cruz could fill in as a five starter. As it is, I expect the Braves will continue to take their lumps. The schedule is filled with the rest of the NL East rivals in the near future. The Marlins are much improved since we saw the last and both they and the Mets will try to use the Braves as a stepping stone to at least a play-off berth. The Nationals are still the class of the division and August and September is when they have normally played their best baseball.

At least perhaps we are not out of spring training for this team.

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

152: One Month Down, Five to Go

Gil

Gil In Mechanicsville

Well, the first month of the 2016 season is behind us and in this year of rebuilding, the Braves have firmly established themselves in their cellar. They say every team has to rebuild at some point, the real trick is to not make it a generational thing like the Pirates did from 1992 to 2014. Everyone knew the Braves would be bad, nobody thought they would be this bad. Of course, the Braves have had a brutal schedule. Other than the Marlins, every team faced so far figured to be in the play-off this year.

EPSON MFP image

Most thought the Braves would fight it out with the Phillies to stay out of the cellar but the Phillies have done better than expected but they have not had as tough a schedule either. That said, they did sweep the Nationals in Washington last week. So far, the Nationals have been the class of the division. The Mets have stumbled a bit out of the gate but they are currently only 1/2 game behind the Nats.

AybarErick

Aybar

The Braves have endured two horrendous losing streaks. The inability to get timely hits coupled with a bullpen that is leakier than the Titanic post iceberg collision. Perhaps most surprising has been a very porous defense. They say every trade should be evaluated long term. That said, Eric Aybar has not made people forget Andrelton Simmons. Until the promising pitchers included in the deal show up, this deal has all the makings of being Len Barkerish on the bad trade scale.

So, what to look forward to? The Braves will begin to rotate some of their promising young pitchers into the rotation. Will that help? Maybe but until they actually find some pitchers who have the ability to hold leads after the sixth inning, they will continue to break the hearts of Atlanta fans everywhere. This is not the first time we have seen poor performance out of the pen, the last time we saw the Braves try secure a bat to make up for the

Schuerholz

Schuerholz

lack of arms in the pen. That resulted with John Schuerholz being demoted upstairs and the Rangers riding the trade to the World Series as they cleaned out all the available talent in the Braves farm system. It was a trade which I think has impeded the Braves ever since.

So, what do we have to look forward to short term?

Incarte

Incarte

Enders Incarte should be back soon.  That should allow Drew Stubbs or Mallex Smith to return to Triple A.  I still believe Albies will make it to the big club this season.  Just as soon as Eric Aybar improves his value and becomes acceptable to some other teams. That and who gets hurt, who stays healthy and who is positioned to make the play-offs.

Now, the biggest surprise might be the trade of Markakis. Not saying it will happen but I would not be surprised if it

Markakis

Markakis

does. Markakis would produce the biggest haul of any player currently on the roster. He has a very affordable contract for a player of his ability and would be a good addition for any team he was added to.

Other possible position player prospects we could see are Dansby Swanson and Rio Ruiz. I think a lot depends on how much the Braves think it would benefit both the club and the players to be promoted. The Braves already know the season is lost. Now it is a matter of how willing they are to bet they can keep their fan base intact for their move to their new stadium in 2017.

 

 

Gil2

#148: Surprisingly, The Grass Appears Just a Little Bit Greener

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil In Mechanicsville

As we get just a little deeper into the hot stove portion of the season, for some reason I am beginning to feel a little more optimistic about the direction the Braves are taking. Not Worlds Series optimistic mind you but .500 plus season optimistic. After all, the Mets have their very good pitching staff back, the Nationals have a new manager who might well at least get a talented team to perform up to their abilities and a Marlins team which should be better just because they are a better team than they showed last season too.

The Phillies are also on the path to rebuild but they still outplayed the Braves last year even with a very substandard pitching staff. No, the Braves look better even with the loss of a very promising young pitcher named Shelby Miller and possible the best defensive shortstop, nay, best defensive player in all baseball in Andrelton Simmons. The latter whom was worth the price of admission just to see him pull off one amazing play after another. Despite the presence of both of these talented youngsters in the line up, the Braves still managed to lose 96 games last season.

Not that such an inglorious fate could not await the 2016 club, it just feels to me the Braves have turned the corner and they did it in record time. It is a model the Marlins have employed repeatedly in the past but without great success, after all, prospect are just that, not tried and true sure fire super stars but even the superstars sometimes flame out with an ill times oblique strain or wrist strain. Every pitcher on the roster seems destined for a visit to Dr. Andrews for some “twinge” in the elbow or shoulder. Truth is, we just never know. The only answer seems to be so overstocked with players that you just overwhelm the opposition with depth.

Just like last season’s World Series winner. The did not have a team which finished number one in any category, just good enough overall to outplay the opposition when the chip were down. So, why do I feel more confident about 2016? First the returnees:

Freeman1GilFreddie Freeman.  I think we were all a little surprised when Fab 5 Freddie mentioned that he finally felt comfortable with the treatment his was getting and no longer thought surgery would be necessary…. Crikey, surgery? Braves held that little bit of info close to the vest didn’t they? I think we all recognized Freddie was not the same player after the All-Star game but wrist are like toes and should never be trifled with. It is where a player’s “pop” comes from. Freddie saves a lot of off line balls from his infielders from going into the dugout but it is his power bat which makes him a star.

 

AJ Perzinski, the ageless one. Signed last season to serve as mentor and back up to the since departed Christian Bethancourt, he put up some really good offensive numbers as well as handle a very young pitching staff with acumen. The most hated man in baseball sure became beloved in Atlanta. Now A.J. isn’t exactly Jonathan LuCroy but I think he will do just fine sharing time with recently reaquired Tyler Flowers. Anyone else remember reading about his exploits in the Arizona Fall League as reported bu Dave O’Brien? Weird how quickly time can fly.

 

MarkakisOutfielder Nick Markakis, Nick turned in a pretty solid performance last season and hopefully his power will return after having the off season to tone up. It is amazing how quickly one can lose muscle mass from inactivity. Nick still turned in impressive numbers where ever he was placed in the batting order in 2015. Unfortunately power was not one of them. The loss of Freeman and the lack of power by Markakis allowed opposing pitchers to play fast and loose with the Braves batting order.

 

TeheranJulio Teheran. With every game last season, you could see Julio mature as a pitcher. His slider improved greatly and he showed a much greater willingness to challenge hitters inside. Maybe he would not be a number one on a lot of teams but he is growing into the role. I expect a very good season from him in 2016.

 

Aybar

Aybar

Now, new acquisitions: I am torn between two of the newest Braves as having the greatest immediate impact, shortstop Erick Aybar who was part of the package acquired from  LA Angels or outfielder Ender Inciarte, acquired as part of the deal which sent arguably the Braves best pitcher Shelby Miller to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Aybar is a very good shortstop, not Andrelton Simmons good but not a bad bridge to the next great Atlanta shortstop Ozhaino Albies or last seasons number one overall draft pick Dansby Swanson. Albies hails form the island of Curacao as have former Braves icons Andruw Jones and since traded Simmons. It should be interesting to see him battle it out with Swanson for the job. We might see Albies this season in June but Swanson is the same age. The difference is the young man from Curacao has come up thru the minors where as Swanson played college ball for Vandebilt. My advice is for you folks who can see either of these young men play in the minors to go while you can still afford the price of admission. It’s going to be quite a bit pricier to see the play when they make it to the big leagues.

Inciarte

Inciarte

As far as the value of Aybar verses Inciarte, I think Aybar will have the greatest immediate impact but Inciarte will have the longer run with the Braves. A superior centerfielder defensively and fast kid who can get on base, he could be a spark plug for the 2016 club. Depending on the progress the Braves make this season, Aybar may complete the season or be flipped at the trading deadline for yet more pitching. A lot depends on how well one of the two wunderkind develop early in the season.

The questions for the Braves afield remain at second, third and left field. Yep, that is a pretty big hole to have questions about. The Braves are hoping they did not make a huge mistake in trading away lefty Alex Woods for Cuban Hector Olivera. The Braves have been watching Olivera with the idea he could fill the need as a third baseman but have decided to try and move him to left field. The Braves know he has power but keeping him healthy might be a problem. Plan B seems to be fellow Cuban Adonis Garcia. Adonis has surprising power but is somewhat suspect when it comes to defense. We will have to wait and see how the hot corner works out for the Braves in 2016.

Flowers

Flowers

Tyler Flowers was signed as a free agent to share the catching duties with AJ Pierzynski this season.  Tyler still possesses some power but he has become very adept at framing pitches. The Braves had become very disenchanted with their future star Christian Bethancourt when he failed to show the maturity of taking on the responsibilities of a major league catcher and work  and prepare for every game. Catching was never really considered an offensive position so he could have been forgiven for hitting less that .250 but defensively he was a nightmare. Maybe he will find the answer in the dessert

A couple of other honorable mentions should be free agent signees Gordon Beckham who could platoon with  Jace Peterson at second base or even Emilio Bonifacio if he has anything left in the tank. The Braves are also going to need a back up shortstop so don’t count out seeing Daniel Castro back on the Braves bench.

Okay, enough for this round, We will discuss all the pitching probabilities next time.

………….

In Memoriam

Bobby Dews

Bobby Dews

 

 

#147: Hot Stove or Open Pit?

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil 
Mechanicsville, VA

Going back and reading some of the links posted previously, Coppy is finding Braves fans can be a tough crowd. Amazing how someone could supplant Frank Wren as the villain. No matter how well intentioned, folks get antsy when they feel you are more like Jeff Loria than Dan Dombroski.

Losing seasons are part of baseball but salary dumping is never a crowd pleaser. It’s as if the Braves have lost their focus. Changing from being a sports franchise to becoming a real estate developer. Even the most successful shopping mall has to have a couple of good anchor stores.

Unless you are a NASCAR fan, few people root for the corporate sponsor. Even so, I worked for DuPont for 25 years but never was a Jeff Gordon fan… If the Braves think a new stadium will increase the turnstile flow, they need only look at Pittsburg. Great stadium but until they started winning, most fans came disguised as empty seats.

Our old friend, Skip Caray, oft opined, the best promotion was a winning team. The Braves have to be very careful going forward. They risk alienating a whole generation of Braves fans if they are perceived as tanking. If they thought it was tough getting fans back after the baseball strike in ’93, they will find it doubly tough to comeback after losing 100 games for a few years. Add an increase in ticket prices and you could see a downward spiral from which it might be tough to pull out from.

The Braves endeavor to make Sun Trust Stadium a destination but I suspect a lot of folks can find good food or entertainment without the cover charge of $50 per ticket and having to sit through 3 hours of seeing your home team get clobbered each day. The Dodgers seem to draw quite well despite an ancient ballpark. Same could be said of Fenway. Not saying you don’t have to put money into an old park but when you can sit at home where the beer is colder, the seats are wider, the bathroom has no waiting line, and the view of the field is unobstructed, why bother to fight the traffic?

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

#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 ~

#131: And away we go…

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil
Mechanicsville, VA

The proverbial second half of the the Major League baseball season has begun. I say  proverbial because the the real halfway point occurred several weeks ago. As I    hammer away at the keyboard, the Braves are in a virtual tie for first place in the NL  East with the Washington Nationals. Virtual because to date, the Braves are 10  games over .500 with a record of 54-44 while the Nats are also 10 games over .500 at  53-43 with two games in hand over the Braves.

 

Surprisingly, this has come when the Braves have been all over the map as far as their play this season, part great pitching, part timely hitting, they have also have suffered through some abysmal stretches when it comes to making contact with the ball and scoring runs coupled with some leaky defense and erratic relief pitching. For some reason, those last two seem to go hand-in-hand.

 

In the past week, the long awaited departure of Dan Uggla mercifully took place the first day back from the All-Star break. With the remaining balance of approximately $19 million still on the Braves books, Dan will likely now be offered a league minimum contract by a team looking to catch a little lightning in a bottle from the 3-time All-Star. My guess would be Dan’s best bet would be with an American League team looking for a guy who can serve as a DH and not expose him too often to the perils of using him in the field. I still think he could play first base on occasion but that is a thread to be discussed by Dan’s potential suitors.

 

Gattis

Gattis

The Braves look to regain the services of El Orso Blanco on Monday. What the Braves gain in offense, they will lose in the defense so ably displayed by young Christian Bethancourt. The 22-year-old back stop has quickly gained the confidence of the Atlanta Braves pitching staff and looks to be primed to play everyday for somebody in the majors. While Gattis is prized for his prowess with a bat, his glove work has appeared lacking this season. While defense wins championships, you need somebody to get you at least one run and Gattis has shown the ability to deliver when the chips are down.

 

Still, the Braves still are face with some needs, a reliable veteran situational lefty relief pitcher and a power bat for the left side bench. A good lead off man and center fielder would be very beneficial too but perhaps we can flog that dead horse another day.

BJ Upton

BJ Upton

Just as Dan Uggla’s $13m per year contract became Frank Wren’s albatross, I fear Melvin Jr.’s contract is bird of the same feather. Melvin’s defense is suspect at best and his bat hardly justifies his big payday but at least it did not also cost the Braves any of their prized prospects. That would only have made the deal worse. Well, no one forced the Braves into signing BJ, they did it knowing full well his pluses and minuses. I just don’t think they realized his minuses would be so large.

 

 

Phil Gosselin

Phil Gosselin

The Bravos brought up Tyler Pastornicky to fill Dan Uggla’s spot on the roster. Some have wondered why Philip Gosselin was not allowed to remain with Atlanta but because he had already been returned to Triple A, he could not return for 10 days. Time will tell if the Pastor sticks with the big club or swaps places with young Gosselin. One has to wonder why the Braves did not really see the impending release of Uggla sooner. I expect the shuttle will be rather active between Atlanta and the farm clubs until the Braves find the right mix.

 

So, looking forward, what can we expect of this very young squad who became even younger with the release of Uggs. August looks to be the make or break portion of this season’s schedule for Atlanta. Nothing but contenders lined up with the likes of Oakland, Seattle, the Dodgers and Pirates as well as the Braves’ nemesis the Mets. Time will tell if the Braves are still fighting to hold off the pre-season favorite Nats or trying to chase them down in September.

Gil2

#130: Time to pull the plug, Frank….

Gil

Gil in Mechanicsville, VA

The Dan Uggla situation has extended beyond what any reasonable person should have to endure. I think  everyone gets it, Dan is past his prime and the Marlins snookered the Braves into taking a guy who was going to be  way over priced. The Braves should  have seen it for what it was. It is like many other GMs  discovered in the past  when trading the Braves for a  pitcher whom the Bravos had given up on. Said  pitchers hardly ever recovered  after being discarded by the Braves.UgglaSigns

Perhaps it is Frank Wren’s ego which will not allow him to admit he made a mistake. Message to Frank, get over it. If you don’t make a mistake or two, you are not trying hard enough. Okay, Kenshin Kawakami was a huge goof but Bobby Cox was involved in that a little bit. Never sign a pitcher who you have not personally seen in action yourself. Of course Melvin Upton may be on track to equal that blunder in scope. I’ve said it before, Melvin Junior stands to be the Braves’ Jason Bay. At least we all understood when you were forced to sign Derek Lowe for 4 years and $60 million, the Braves needed pitching and the Braves did actually get some value from him.

Get over it Frank, cut the cord and move on. You have to look at the situation as the cost of doing business. Salary is salary, whether you are paying one guy 90% or everyone gets an equal share, at the end of the day, it is what you are paying your team. It is why most teams are loath to give more than a three year contract and players push for huge payouts because it guarantees them a spot on a roster, no matter have miserably they fail.

Dan Uggla

Dan Uggla

So let it be with Dan Uggla, even if he is released tomorrow, it will not be the worse failure or bad trade the Braves have ever had. That distention still belongs to Ted Turner for the Len Barker trade and to Jonathan Schuerholz for when he traded away the farm in 2007 for Mark Texeria. Of course, the Rangers were pretty happy with what they got. It propelled them into the World Series for a couple of years. That said, think about how Billy Bean felt after trading away Tim Hudson for Tommy Tee and two pitching prospects who never panned out.

Uggla

Uggla

Throughout Dan’s exile to the nether world of the far end of the bench, all we have heard is how Dan has stayed professional. Working hard to stay ready and rooting for his teammates despite the fact he has become persona non grata on the 25 man roster. hey, he has done some good things for the team. Perhaps the Braves can restructure his contract so he gets paid $1 million dollars a year for the next 30 or so years in exchange to agreeing to his release. The Braves are going to have to pay him anyway. Dan is not stupid, he is not going to quit or refuse an assignment. After all, if the Braves are willing to play with a 24 man roster, he is willing to also serve for another season and one half.

Not every trade is a bad one, sometimes you get lucky. Chris Johnson is a great example of that. So keep the line moving

Gil2

 

 

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 ~

122: To Be or Not To Be BMac

VOR

by VOR

 

I heard a pretty extensive discussion about Mac just yesterday. Good points were made.Brian McCann

First, this is Mac’s last deal. This is the one that sets him and his offspring up for life. There will be more than one AL team willing to offer Mac six years given their ability to have him DH occasionally now and extensively later. The Braves cannot offer that.

Second, the Braves will most certainly offer him a qualifying deal. In fact they’d be ecstatic if he’d take it. But he won’t. And the Braves will pick up a high draft pick. For all those who scream “you can’t just let him walk at the end of the year for nothing”, the Braves do get something, and it is something of worth. How do the Braves keep it going? By building through the farm system. How do you guarantee success through the draft? You can’t… but you do give yourself a lot better chance of hitting on a top prospect if you have more draftees. Draft picks matter.

Evan Gattis

Evan Gattis

Third, the sad fact is that money does matter. The Braves could afford to give Mac the payday he deserves, but at what cost? If you pay Mac, who do you not pay? Gotta extend JHey. Gotta extend Freeman. Gotta start thinking about Minor. And if you give Mac the years and money he’s gonna get from Texas or Boston or New York, then you end up like he Phillies with aging players eating up your payroll and spending more time on the DL. Utely is still bothered by the knee and half the player he was. Lee’s missing his next start because of his neck. Ruiz has had a couple of stints on the DL this season with his knees. Howard… remember Howard? Highest paid and least seen. Halladay? Well, you get the picture.

Look, I love Mac. He is the soul of this team this year. But I want what’s best for the Braves, not the Brave. How blessed is this team to have Gattis already performing, Laird on the bench and Bethancourt as a prospect? Many teams can’t even start a guy as good as the guy we have in AA. The Braves have been built to sustain success by moving young talent in and moving older talent out. It is the recipe for long term success. And Mac will look good in Ranger blue. :-)

~ Voice of Reason Raisins

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~

116: OUT!!! Now What?

by Gil
Mechanicsville, VA

As we all watched the Braves fall to the Redbirds with a resounding thud in the first ever Wild Card playoff game, many of us were left with a very empty feeling of so much promise left unfulfilled. Everything appeared to be lined up in favor of the Braves. Outstanding pitching staff, rock solid bullpen and some timely hitting albeit somewhat sketchy when it came to getting guys home from scoring position. What we did not expect was a rock-slide defense would suddenly look like the Saturday Tee-ball league.

The net results is an end to a season long before we were really ready for it to stop. Oh well, it is done. Over. Kaput! Time for us to turn to the all important topic of what to do next? The obvious answer is what is needed to build a team who will be playing beyond the first round in 2013. All the while knowing the other teams in their own division will also be stronger next season. Having deep pockets does not always translates into success but it sure does make it easier to rebound from a mistake.

I look at the Braves as needing two major pieces and several minor ones to shore up their bench. First, someone to replace Chipper Jones. That is going to be a tough chore in itself. More likely, the Braves will to acquire several parts in order to make the whole. Hall of Fame type players do not grow on trees but when you look at the Cardinals, you can see how it’s done. Albert Pujols is perhaps one of the top five ball players in either league. St Louis managed very nicely by picking up Carlos Beltran. Beltran does not play the infield but he gives the Cardinals the same type of presence in the line up that Albert did. Far too often people become fixated by position when looking for players. What the Braves really need is a player who can provide a threat to produce RBIs in the middle of the line up and then find a position for him to play.

Martin Prado

So many folks have suggested Martin Prado be moved back into the infield to play third but forget that Freddie Freeman came up as a third baseman and was moved to first because the Braves felt this was an area of greatest need. I think what this gives the Braves is a bit more flexibility when looking for a power hitter in the middle of the batting order. My thoughts are more to whether or not Brian McCann is able to return to form. The absence of his bat was telling this season.

Freeman

Centerfield/leadoff might be a bit more tricky. The Braves have been looking for someone to fill the lead off spot ever since Rafael Furcal left for Los Angeles. Pure speed is not the only criteria needed. Patience to see a lot of pitches and knowing how to get on base is critical. It is a role I see Andrelton Simmons growing into pretty easily. He certainly is wasted batting in the eight hole. Raisins suggestion of trading for Dexter Fowler is an excellent one and if the Braves front office is still taking the advice of the old B&S as we have seen in the past, one which we may see happen this fall.

Simmons

Yes, it would be nice to see Michael Bourn continue to patrol the outfield for the Bravos but Frank Wren is more likely to follow the Florida Marlins model of baseball acquisitions than the one employed by the Yankees. The Braves will make a one year qualifying offer of $12 million necessary to get a compensation pick but Bourn is headed north to either Washington or Philadelphia or west to the Dodgers. It’s been nice having him around but alas, the Braves are just not prepared to overspend for a guy who has shown he can break down over the 162 game season. At least not one who has played in the organization for 19 years.

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

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~

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

107: What a Difference a Trade Can Make

by Berigan

Well, (as Ronald Reagan used to say) the trade deadline is just a few short days away, and not unlike spring training (except for fewer teams involved), most everyone is hoping their team is on the road to the playoffs, and with just one key move, will make it to the playoffs.

But are the Braves just one player away?  The results on the field would say otherwise.  The good news is, unlike many other teams, the bullpen issues could very well be resolved from within.  Perhaps it’s easier said than done but if a couple of raw starters who throw 95-100 (we are told) can make the transition to pitching in the 7th or 8th, it would be good on so many levels:  keeping the innings total down on their young arms;  MLB experience in a pennant race; and not trading away prospects for a guy or two who could leave in the off-season.

So really, all we need is a hitter (or 3).  No problem! Just trade the next Adam Wainwright away and grit your teeth every time he comes to town and beats our Atlanta Braves like a drum. But be sure to trade the uber stud away for a guy who will leave after one year! Enough about the upstairs homeboy’s worst trade next to Tex to the ATL.  Let’s focus on this year.

I know some people here might believe in the WAR stats.  I guess I am just a bit old-fashioned in that I don’t think you can truly put a number on how many games a guy can improve your team. I’m sure if you looked back to the trade of Fred McGriff some stat head would say he brought a WAR of 2 or 3 for those 2 + months. We all know he lit a fire under our offense, one we thought we would get from Teixera as well, but didn’t happen for some reason in 2007.

Quintin

However, the 2011 Braves HAVE to add a bat.  There isn’t a Braves fan alive (or dead) who doesn’t know that.  Who though??? At the time that this short post is being written, there seem to be two big bats available:  Carlos Quentin and Hunter Pence – and a just a notch below is Ryan Ludwick.  (Remind me again, could we have gotten him for Jo-Jo Reyes a few years back, or someone else?)  And really the more I dug into Ludwick’s numbers, his 62 RBI’s are really amazing, as the Padres offense is so putrid they make ours look decent.  I think the next highest RBI guy on the Padres has 35! So, which one would make the biggest difference?

Carlos has the most power, and in a pitcher-friendly park.  Plus Adam Dunn has had a year that no one could imagine, (.160 BA) so his relatively low .BA would likely go up coming over, though it’s been a few years since he’s been in the NL, so it may take a while for him to get back up to speed.  Hunter Pence, who is now a Philly, has less power (at least this year) but having another .300 hitter in the middle of the lineup, with doubles power, would have been huge, IMO. Plus he’s a high energy guy, which would have fit in very nicely here.


Ludwick has a low BA this year  (.238) but is no doubt feeling pressure to perform for a terrible team and, from a hitter’s standpoint, in a terrible  park.  He hit anywhere from .267 to .299 (in 2008)  for the Cards.  So, long story short (okay, a few paragraphs story) the adding of just one of those guys would take pressure off of  Uggla, McCann, Freddie, everyone, and with one more guy clogging the bases, more high stress pitches on the pitchers on the other team.

And while typing this I find out Nate is going on the DL!  Wonderful.  Ok, Coco Crisp and Carlos?   Can Heyward play center?  Or is he too old? 😀

~Berigan~

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

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…

105: Freddi Freeman’s First Full Season Fun

Gil

Mechanicsville, VA –  For a lot of  folks, Freddi Freeman’s early season struggles had some wondering if this rookie was indeed ready for “Prime Time”.  Could the Braves really be so lucky as to pick another one-two punch out of the first year draft in Heyward and Freeman?  Looks like the answer to that question has been answered with a resounding “YES”.

Freddi Freeman

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise has not been his prowess with the bat as he is still adapting to big league pitching but with his nifty glove work around the bag.  At least a dozen or more throws by various infielders have not been recorded as throwing errors but as outs because of his quick reflexes and long stretches for some pretty close tags.

In the next to the last play of  Sunday’s final against the Giants, he almost completed another amazing hook up with Alex Gonzalez that would have resulted in a final out that would have made the “Web Gems” for sure.  The kid has displayed a deft touch that not only gives the Braves’ pitching staff the confidence to pitch to contact but also allows the other infielders to not worry about having to be too fine with their tosses to first.

The Braves have had a revolving door at first base over the past twenty years.  In fact the only real mainstays have been in the pitching corps, at third base with Chipper and in centerfield for the ten years that Andruw Jones occupied the spot. While the Braves have employed some really great first baseman in the past with the likes of Andres Galarraga and Fred McGriff, it has more often than not been the position of necessity filled with players like Sid Bream and Gerald Perry with a few years of Adam LaRoche and Mark Texiera thrown in.

Rather than having a guy around whom you could build a franchise like a young Derrick Lee or Albert Pujols, the Braves filled the slot with the likes of Scott Thorman and Randell Simon or converted past-their-prime third basemen like Troy Glaus and Ken Caminiti.

Freeman has a long way to go before he reaches his full potential as a hitter.  To get anything above .270 from a rookie in his first full season is always a plus but Freddi has shown flashes of what we might come to expect.  He is a big strong player who “gets it” and does not always try to pull every pitch but has enough power to drive the ball the other way and is willing to take what the pitcher is giving him.  For sure, just squaring up on the ball and hitting it hard somewhere appears to be the MO of this kid rather than being pull happy which results in a lot of weak ground balls to the second baseman.

While those majestic, towering big flys into the bullpen can inspire a lot of oohs and ahhs, it was the line shot to left center that made me really sit up and take notice.  That is the sign of a player who is not trying to hit a five-run homer but one who is trying to make solid contact and has enough power to hit them out to all fields.

It is a welcome sight to an old Braves fan like me to see the Braves bring up a homegrown player who is likely to become an everyday fixture on the line-up card.  There are a lot of All-Star first basemen playing in the majors right now if you only consider their bat but very few are the total package of being MVP type players with both the glove and the stick.  It is my most humble opinion that Freddi Freeman is a player with that same potential.  For sure, he is going to be at the top of most every writer’s ROY list by the time he has made the rounds to different cities.

As for hitting, he is yet another young player who “gets it”.  Let’s be honest folks, anything above .270 for a first-year rookie is really gravy.  He has shown power but he also has shown that he understands that he does not have to try to pull everything to right field.  I don’t expect to see any radical infield shifts as we have on players like Brian McCann or Ron Howard of the Phillies.  He will have his share of O-fers this season because he is a contact hitter who is still learning the game but he is only going to get better with the stick.

~Gil~

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

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~

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

103: Observations from 2011 Spring Training

by Gil from Mechanicsville, VA –

Viera, Florida – Greetings all!  While I touched on a few highlights about the game between Atlanta’s split squad and the Nationals in the previous post, I thought I would elaborate on some of my other observations.

First would be the noticeable difference in Nate McLouth.  Honestly,  it is nearly impossible to accurately describe the difference in the player I witnessed last year in camp and the one I  saw Friday.  It is not just the fact that he is hitting the ball the other way.  Where he was not making contact at all last year, he is now striking the ball with authority and without that exaggerated uppercut he has employed in the past.  Being a bit smallish in statue, McLouth is not a prototypical home run hitter to begin with.  He is, however, exactly the kind of guy you would want at the top of your line-up if he can get on base because he has great speed in addition to good base-running smarts.

Having guys like Schafer and McLouth available as table-setters for boppers like Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla and Brian McCann add so many possibilities to the Braves offense.  In addition, having a speed guy on base increases the likelihood of the latter seeing more fastballs and can be a huge distraction for opposing pitchers, increasing the probability of mistakes.  McLouth is also throwing the ball with greater ease.  Though I do not know the reason for the change and the big difference, I can only speculate that perhaps he was hampered by some type of injury last season.

Other players I observed who stood out were Brandon Beachy, Diory Hernandez, Freddi Freeman and Shawn Bowman.

Beachy was peachy.  He had the National hitters off balance during his entire 3 inning stint. He has a lively fastball which is complimented by a plus-change.  National hitters were doing the bunny hop trying to adjust for his change of pace pitches.  The only exception was Ed Merero who guessed right on a fastball and hit a ringing double down the left field line.

Diory Hernandez looked sharp both in the field at short and with the bat.  He is starting to reach the age where the term “prospect” no longer applies and will either make it or not at this juncture. With the trade of Infante’ to the Marlins, he has the perfect opportunity to move into a super-sub role. While he is mainly a shortstop/second base type of player, he has also taken a few turns at third and could play there if called upon.

Diory’s real shortcoming has always been trouble hitting major league pitching. He has shown the ability to hit at every other level he has played so perhaps it is now just his time.  I believe the biggest difference may be in his confidence level.  Spending some time with the big club last season may have allowed him to realize that he belongs at the major league level. While he has pop in his bat, he also has gap-to-gap hitting skills and very good speed.  He is going to stretch a lot of doubles into triples.

On Friday, he and Brooks Conrad turned two double plays against the Nationals.  While not called upon to make any spectacular plays, he made the plays he was supposed to make and that in itself could be a small victory. Kudos to Brooks Conrad, too, by the way.  He made a couple of very nice plays in the field and executed the pivot position at second with authority.

Freddie Freeman plays at a level that belies his young age.  He displays excellent glove work in the field and outstanding baseball sense when it comes to situational hitting.  It is so frustrating to watch many young – or old for that matter – players who possess power but who will always be swinging for the fences regardless of the circumstances of the at-bat.  How many times have we seen players go for the glory only to be struck out because the opposing pitcher knows that a power hitter’s weakness is change of speeds.

While we know that Freeman processes power, he can also hit to all fields and seems content to hit the ball the other way.  It is a lot harder to pitch to a guy who will hit the ball where it is pitched than to a player who is always trying to pull the ball.  One of the most difficult things for a first year player to do is to hit above .250.  It is just the nature of the game for a young guy to adjust to big league pitching because major league pitchers will get the book on you pretty quick if you have a weakness.  Remember Jeff Francoeur?  He would punish any pitcher who threw him a strike until pitchers quickly realized they did not have to throw a strike to get him out.  I’m not saying opposing pitchers won’t strike out Freeman but they are going to have to throw strikes to do it.

One last comment on Shawn Bowman – a young kid who plays third base – who will not likely be playing in Atlanta this season unless things do not go well health-wise for the club.  He is a good looking prospect with a decent glove and is a good hitter.  Again, not a guy who is trying to do too much but appears to know what he is doing in the batter’s box.  He has been a late-inning substitute this spring and I expect he will begin the season playing third-base in Gwinnett. Keep an eye on him though because he will definitely be playing in the big leagues somewhere one day.

~Gil~

A few photos from Gil:

Gil, Staff Reporter, Mayor of Stuffville

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

100: Is It Spring Yet?

by Gil

Mechanicsville, VA – Now that the baseball gods have been sated for another year with a vast array of broken bats, juiced baseballs, torn laburnums and torqued obliques, we can lament yet another year that the Braves failed to win a World Series.  The fact this year’s team may have been the epitome of over achievement, not withstanding.

Of course congratulations are in order for this year’s winner of baseball’s fall classic, the San Francisco Giants.  Who would have thought that the toughest challenge they would face in the post season would have come from our very own Braves?  So the Giants go on to  become the champions of the baseball world and alas, by the grace of God and a defense leakier than a shanty town roof, there goes Atlanta.  Then again, a few timely hits would have helped too.

But that is the past.  Now it’s back to the future, that ever renewing event we call a new season, a fresh start, a new beginning.  No time to stop and let the Giants enjoy their first World Championship in over 50 years.  No, we press on, anxiously awaiting the start of what will surely be the Fredi Gonzales era.  No need to fret that Liberty Media will tightly control the purse strings.  Hasn’t Fredi done more with less?  Can he find success in his adopted home town or will the first five game losing streak be met with shouts from the blogisphere for his immediate dismissal and angst about how he is a Bobby Cox clone?

I say let’s get the old hot stove glowing!   Time for all the fantasy team owners, deep in the bowels of their moms’ basements, to spend countless hours trying to get the jump on their brethren by scouring reams of stats, pounding away at the importance of WHIP, run differential, RBI with two outs and runners in scoring position and of course LSMFT.

And we can all hope Santa will leave  a Big Bopper to play left field under Frank Wren’s Christmas tree while we are at it.

~Gil~

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

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??

98: Fish or Cut Bait: Time for the Braves to Make Up Their Minds

By Gil in Mechanicsville

MECHANICSVILLE, VA – So, here we sit with about six weeks to go in a season that has seen the good, the bad and the ugly from the Atlanta Braves. Early season doldrums returned immediately following the All-star break and as of the this writing we have watched as the once comfortable cushion of 6 games in front of our closest pursuers shrink to two as the Philadelphia Phillies have put on an incredible run of thirteen wins in fifteen games. The scariest part may be they have done it without their best players on the field and a bullpen that rivals some of the worse Atlanta has ever assembled.

And here we thought our old nemesis, the New York Mets, would be our biggest problem. Well, I guess our good friend John Smoltz tagged it right when he dubbed the NL East as the shoots-and-ladders division.  Shame on us for thinking that maybe the Braves would run away with this thing. After all, don’t we still need that “Big Bat” in the middle of the order?

Martin Prado

The loss of Marteen Prado has been muted somewhat by the outstanding play of Omar Infante’ in his place. One wonders how the Braves would fare without Marteen’s prolific bat missing from the

Omar Infante

line-up but Omar has hardly missed a beat.  Dare we guess how the Braves might perform with both Infante and Prado in the lineup together on a regular basis?  While Marteeen appears to have cooled somewhat since the beginning of the final series with the Mets prior to the All-star break, it was not due to a lack of contact but more as a results of the law of averages catching up to him as those line drives he was stroking began to be hit directly at people.

J Heyward (photo: P. Skinner. ajc)

On the up side, maybe Jason Heyward is finally understanding that while hitting the ball the other way is a good skill to have, always hitting to the off field can make you pretty predictable too and cause you to be an easy out in the line up. It is good to see the Braves Rookie of the Year candidate start to hit the ball with authority to right field again.  Sometimes you need to be in scoring position while standing at home plate. That’s not to say we want to see J-Hey swinging for the fences every at bat but he needs to remind opposing pitchers of what he is capable of occasionally to keep them honest.

Chipper Jones may have found his lost stroke again too. After watching him struggle for the first eight weeks of the season, I think we were all wondering if Larry had indeed reached the end of the line. Right now, the Braves truly need for him to step up.   Chipper is capable of carrying this team for extended periods and now would be the perfect time for him to do it.

It’s my opinion that Troy Glaus is the biggest question mark.  His work around the first base bag has been stellar at times and he sure has made some pretty outstanding plays snagging errant throws from the infielders.  Of course, we all know that Troy was not acquired for his

Troy Glaus

potential defensive prowess at first but to add some right handed pop in the middle of the line-up.  We all thought Frank Wren might have made the steal of the century in signing Glaus to a low cost, low risk contract when he lit up the scoreboard in late May and July.  Sadly, as his knees began to show their age and  his bat did the same. The Braves woeful record of failing to hit with men in scoring position can be directly attributed to Glaus’ lack of production.  Since the departure of Texieria , the Braves assembly of hitters has not exactly struck fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers. There  are  so many glaring holes in the lineup that pitchers feel no need to pitch to Chipper Jones or Brian McCann when they know there was an declining Troy Glaus or an out of sync Nate McLouth in the on deck circle.

Chipper & Mac

Still, that brings me back to the Braves most pressing  need, that one big bat in the middle of the order that forces opposing teams to throw to Jones and McCann. Without a guy who can consistently put a three run homer on you if you walk guys like Brian and Chipper, opposing teams will continue to load the bases with apparent impunity. Protection can pay big dividends, just ask the guys who hit ahead of Fielder and Howard.

So, the question remains, will the Braves pull the trigger and make the trade for that final piece, will they call up Freddie Freeman or will they simply stand pat? We are not privy to how much money the Braves have to work with nor do we know if the Braves front office is content to make it to the playoffs or seriously wants to vie for a World Series title in Bobby’s final year.  That said, without that final piece to the matrix,  the Braves may yet find themselves on the outside looking in come October because only four teams from each division are going to the big dance and there are at least eight teams in the running for a date.

Great pitching can carry you a long way but you still need to help them out by scoring more runs than the opposition.  Unlike soccer, baseball games do not finish in O-O ties.

~Gil~

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

97: Frank has some work to do….

By Voice of  Reason Raisins

Jefferson, GA (God’s country) – I am glad Jason Heyward finally admitted that his thumb injuryJason Heyward has been contributing to his offensive woes. Denying it is the first semblance of immaturity I have seen in the kid, especially in light of Jordan Schafer spectacle of 2009. Really… what was Heyward thinking? That he’d lose his Major League job? Please…

I think the injury to HeyHey only underscores the Braves need to pick up an everyday LF. At the moment, we have Omar serving as the RH compliment to Hinske with Brandon Hicks as the backup SS.

I say, “Nay, nay.”

This should not be. Omar is the back up SS/super sub. The key word there is “sub”. He makes this team stronger as a sub, not as a regular. If we had an everyday LF capable of batting in the middle of the lineup, then we could have both Hinske and Omar on our bench, occasionally spelling the regulars and keeping everyone fresh… not to mention coming to the plate in late innings with runners on base instead of Brandon Hicks.  KnowhatImean?

Nate McLouth

The CF situation already stretches this team thin as far as OF goes. My hope is that Nate’s extended time off will allow him to return to vintage form. Or if nothing else, the Braves can see that he will not, and to do something about it. Melky has been hot lately, but do we really want to count on that to continue into October?

Again, I say, “Nay, nay.”

This team would be best constructed with Melky serving as the 4th OF. Do I think that Frank should address 2 OF positions before the trade deadline? Maybe. It’s not job #1, but something will have to be done. — Nate, Schafer… heck, maybe even Blanco. He hasn’t been terrible, you know. He certainly hasn’t been a downgrade from Nate. I don’t care, but consistency has to be found. Melky is not consistency. Melky is a day off. Somebody needs to step up. Else Frank has some tough choices.

My beloved Braves are a 1st place team not by accident, but by pure hard work, desire and talent. Oh, they are talented. They are absolutely talented. They have a good mix of veterans and young players, they have terrific pitching, they have grit and energy… they are a playoff team. But, as currently constructed, they have flaws. Those flaws will become more and more exposed as the season grows longer, and really exposed in any post-season that may occur.

Frank must acquire an everyday LF. Period. CF might take care of itself. Or it might just take alot of prayer, duct tape, bubble gum and grinding until October. But LF has to be addressed.

As we move into September, and all of our games are against the NL East, it’ll essentially feel like a full month of playoffs. It’ll also stress this team like a full month of playoffs. The current roster won’t take those stresses.  It’ll fly apart at the seams like Oprah’s girdle.

I say, “Nay, nay.”

I say Frank should take care of it now. We need a LF. Anybody got the number to Outfielders ‘R’ Us?

~Raisins~

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

96: Your Schizophrenic Atlanta Braves!

by Berigan

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your schizophrenic Atlanta Braves!

Well, what does one make of this team??  After that wondrous opening day win by the score of 16-5, they looked like world beaters. On May 4th, they were 11-14, the only team in the east with a sub .500 record.

At one point this year, they had worst road record in the league (5-14) and a .217 road batting average. If the manager was anyone not named Bobby Cox, he would have been on such a hot seat, he would have to wear asbestos underwear!

We all know they looked like a team that had the life sucked out of them. I don’t know if any team on a losing streak looks quite as helpless as the Braves do. Heck, I’m not tellin’ y’all anything you don’t already know about the Braves on the skids. Or am I?? Nope…don’t think so.

But, what I do know is it’s bad form to start a sentence with a conjunction. Do it all the time though. Plus, gotta pad this out….pretty sure a  blog lead has to be at least 100 words, right??  😉  [Editor’s note: At minimum, Ber!]

On May 23rd, the team was 5-1 in the previous 6 road games, after going 5-14 in first 19. That’s kind of hard for a team to do, but nothing is impossible with the 2010 version of the team! 😛 Over the last 10 games, the Braves are 7-3. In the same span, the Phillies are 4-6, have completely stopped hitting, and only have a 2 1/2 game lead over the Bravos. Now…we all know if there is one certainty in this sport, the Phils will hit. So…can we really compete with that team or are the Braves just a wildcard team??

Imagine if Liberty had been more concerned about keeping Heyward from being a super 2 player and he was being held back like Stephen Strasburg has been for the Nats? We would be in last place and out of the hunt, no doubt about it. Have to give credit where credit is due.

Don’t know if Wren, J.S, etc had to put in a big fight about this, but so very glad we have had the chance to see a future (present?) Superstar in action.

And (oops, conjunction again!) while it looked a few weeks ago that there was no chance of the playoffs this year, right now, we are in the thick of a playoff race and that’s a good thing! 🙂

Is this thing long enough??? Hmmm, what else can I add…Hey, did I mention a list I saw that listed the top 10 switch hitters of all time? Chipper was ranked number 2! Then, I looked down the list, saw no Ted Simmons. Chili Davis was 10th. 1372 RBI’s .274 BA.  Read  in the comments that Ted Simmons was 11th on this writer’s list.  A guy who drove in 1389 RBI’s and had a .285 BA. All the while catching. Sigh….no respect, Simba gets no respect. There, just the perfect length. 😆    [Editor’s note: FYI, Ber, 490 words. 🙂 ]

~Berigan~

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

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~

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

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.
.
.
RafaelSoriano
.
.
.
.
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.
.
.
.
.
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.
.
.
.
.
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.

.
.
.
.

Standings as of 9/23/09:

88b
.
.
.
~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~

84: Buyers or Sellers?

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

We discuss needs/possibilities mostly from a vacuum, looking at our needs and finding possible matches. I’d like to offer a little different perspective…

IF the Phillies add Roy Halladay for their stretch run, I believe the Braves should become sellers and build for next year. Does that make me a quitter? No – it makes me practical. The Braves are struggling just to reach .500, for crying out loud. What justifies any real playoff aspirations? The system, though, is set up to begin providing great pieces possibly as soon as next year. Keith Law believes the Braves are set up better than any other NL team for the next decade. Uh, that’s long time, folks. I don’t have any desire to disrupt that for a failed attempt to make a very iffy run at a playoff spot in ’09 with a very flawed team..

The reality is that the Phillies are MUCH more talented offensively, but lack the front line pitching to push them over the top. Add Halladay to their mix, and the balance tips generously toward the City of Brotherly Shove.

I have no desire to become perpetual rebuilders, but to admit that this year is a stepping-stone to greater success in the near future isn’t bailing on the season, it’s preparing for the next decade. And the real prospects go deeper than the familiar names of Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Cody Johnson and Jordan Schafer. A quick google of pitchers Brett DeVall, Julio Teheran, Cole Rohrbough and Zeke Spruill not to mention J.J. Hoover, Randall Delgado and Jacob Thompson will make even the most negative of fans smile a little. Then there are pitchers Scott Diamond, Eric Cordier, Edgar Osuna, Craig Kimbrel… I could go on…

Now the fielders:  move past OF Heyward and1B Freeman

Heywood&Freeman

and you get 1B Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg (a mouthful to say the least)

Riann

and OF Adam Milligan.

MilliganAdam

Those two are the next wave of Heyward and Freeman. Big time talents.  SS Brett Hicks is disappointing this year, but has impressed every year prior. We already have Martin Prado and Brooks Conrad, who has proven to me that he can be a viable everyday major-leaguer. The only real hole is at 3B. But that is where depth elsewhere bails you out, right? One fact many people overlook is that a minor league system is for two purposes: supply the major league team, and swap excess to fill need.

Think of this lineup:

1. McLouth, LF
2. Escobar, SS
3. Chipper, 3B
4. Heyward, RF
5. McCann, C
6. Freeman, 1B
7. Prado, 2B
8. Schafer, CF
9. pitcher

It’s not that far away, gang. That’s a young lineup aside from Chipper, and the pipeline is still full behind it.

Yep, I want the Braves to succeed every year including this one, but I’m realistic enough to recognize their shortcomings. We sorely need a LF… we sorely need a RF… we sorely need a 1B. We aren’t filling all 3 spots before July 31. Just can’t do it. Anything short of that still leaves a flawed team.

Now 2010… that’s different…

~Raisins~

83: Here’s Your (Braves) Rant!!!

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

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~

81: C’mon, kid!

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

Watched the first two innings last night. A pretty exciting evening it was, but not because of the listless, hapless Braves. About the time the Braves game was called, a powerful storm rolled into Savannah like a freight train with massive lightning, driving pea-sized hail, rain, water spouts and micro-bursts. Pretty exciting stuff. Not so much the Braves.

It’s gotten to the point that Jeff Francoeur is more productive striking out than making contact. If it were not for killing rallies and hitting into double plays he’d get no action at all. Last night’s double-play with the bases loaded was not even a surprise.

As Gil said, it’s not Francoeur’s fault the Braves lost and it’s not Bobby’s fault that French can’t hit. However, Jeff has become the living, breathing metaphor for the entire team, with the exception of Chipper and Mac and our three starting pitchers ….. who are beginning to show their inevitable frustration for the lack of run support. The team looks listless when they take the field. They are a rudderless team. They looked as though they’d rather be somewhere else. Kelly is lost and confused. I’ve never seen this Atlanta team look so bad… ever.

So, what is the problem? Who should take the blame for French taking the field every day? Who is to be blamed for the 250 “slugger” taking a pouting 2-day, truncated stint in Mississippi? Who should answer for 233 hitting (missing) Kelly Johnson being cemented into second base when Prado or someone else could fill the spot?

Who takes the rap for Schafer struggling way too long before finally, appropriately, mercifully being sent back to the minors where he belongs this year? Who is responsible for using Peter Moylan until his TJ-recovering arm falls off? Who is responsible when the entire team goes into a funk and stays in that funk for two months? Who is ultimately responsible when a professional ball club appears listless, lost, confused and befuddled for so long? Who should be called on the carpet?

Who will call those in responsible management positions onto the carpet? With Liberty and the current regime, there will be no response to this miserable, hapless play, other than the usual spin.

For this Braves team, the GM, Cox and his buddies (otherwise known as coaches), there is no accountability for results outside of the accounting department and the dugout where some derrieres rest way too comfortably on their country club, media guarded, bullet-proof, faded and tattered laurels.

BobbyCox
C’mon kid.

~SG~

BravesAndStuff@hotmail.com

80: The Case Against Terry Pendleton

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

Well, that is a strong sounding title for a new lead, blog, whathaveyou, isn’t it???

Yet, I do think anyone who reads here would defend TP both as a former player and as a man. He was a great player, the kind of player we need today – and I bet he will someday make a fine manager.

But, as a hitting coach??? Not so much.

TerryPendleton
He became the hitting coach in November of 2001. Next year, Javy Lopez hit .233, the lowest BA of his Braves career.

In 2001, team B.A. was .260.
In 2002, the team B.A shot all the way up to…. .260.
In 2003, the team average did improve to .284.Marcus Giles, Chipper, Andruw and Garry Sheffield all hit above .300.

Credit to TP, God given skill, or a little help from steroids???

As I mentioned before, can anyone remember a hitter saying Terry really helped them??? Or even complimenting him in general??? Someone that wasn’t Bobby Cox??? It must have happened somewhere, but I sure don’t remember it….
TPandCox

Sports south ran that “David Justice in his own words” a few weeks ago…I guess I always caught the last part, but watched it from the beginning. It was interesting on several levels. One, to see Justice realize he made some mistakes, how he would do things differently now…wishes he knew then what he knows now…Also how hitting coach Clarence Jones told him basically that he could continue to hit 20 homers a year, or start hitting the ball the other way, and how he could hit 40 in a year, which he did in 1993.

Again, the sort of thing I don’t hear mentioned with TP. Does he try to get Frenchy to not only hit the ball the other way, but with power??? Does he or the Batting practice guy throw him dozens of pitches outside to show him if it ain’t a strike, you CANNOT hit it??? He may…I don’t know.

How often do you see him interviewed??? I may have missed it, but you would think a few times a year he would talk about his hitting philosophy, what he always wants guys to remember. In fact, I rarely see any coach ever interviewed! I saw McDowell the other day and it made me think how DOB had even said how he wasn’t a good interview, and after being such a character as a player, how disappointed he was in McDowell the serious coach of few words.

Anyway, back to T.P. A recent article relayed the point of how hurt T.P. was with Frenchy seeking outside help with his hitting. Doesn’t that speak volumes???? Wouldn’t you think the greatest desire of a hitting coach would have, is to see a player be successful??? Especially one you had worked with all year and had no success with??? You can’t get inside someone else’s head, but I would wish the best to a player that I clearly hadn’t been able to help, and if another teacher came along(And TP has to know Rudy Jaramillo is considered the best hitting coach around) and helped him, I’d do my level best to find out what were the keys to the success, and help him stick with that plan.

The Frenchy we saw in Spring training and the first week or so of the season, looked like a new man, a man with a plan..a man with a smooth swing. Now look at him. He has a strange, powerless swing. Stance is more closed up. Even the home run hit the other day looked like total luck, not a good swing at all. Friday night he worked the count full and couldn’t hit a 93 MPH pitch right down the middle. If he was 35, they would say his bat had slowed down.

Does TP ever talk to him about percentages??? Me, I am just a nobody…a just a longtime fan of the game. But it’s plain as nose on your face that when a hitter has a weakness, word gets out, pitchers exploit those weaknesses. It’s not enough to say, don’t swing at balls out of the strike zone. Back that up with some stats. I bet TP could in 5 minutes find out how many pitches were strikes that Jeff gets with 2 strikes. As with Andruw the last few years, wouldn’t you think 80% of 2 strike pitches were outside??? Ok, one in 5 times you will look silly with the bat resting on your shoulder for strike 3, but the other 4 times, you will make the pitchers work. You might get a walk, or a pitch down the middle if the count goes from 1-2 to 3-2.

Hasn’t TP ever watched a Yankees-Red Sox game??? Every time I see them play each other, or other teams in the league, you see guys down 0-2, or 1-2 end up getting walked. Then the next guy works a 3-2 count, and the pitcher, not wanting to walk back to back hitters, will grove a pitch that is a double or a homer. Even a dope like me can recognize patterns in the way the game is played today. What works best today.

TP was a great player, a team leader. An agressive hitter that rarely walked. Probably not the best guy in the world to be a hitting coach. Like any hitter, he must have figured out some things he can pass on to hitters, but it sure doesn’t seem like enough to help those who can’t hit balls low and outside for a double….

After all this pounding on Terry Pendleton, hitting coach, I could still see him making a fine manager. His weaknesses as a hitting coach would be strengths with this team. It needs to be more aggressive on the base paths, to have more guys play with a chip on their shoulders….I think Terry wouldn’t coddle guys that were hitting .200, he’d bench them….

Meanwhile, Bobby is likely to manage the team for at least the next year or two, so I guess we will have Terry to kick around for awhile yet.

~Ber~

BravesAndStuff@hotmail.com

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

78: What do you think??

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 (even tho’ he doesn’t know it! CL 😆 )

OK… even tough I am covered up with work (when the secretary was laid off, I absorbed ALL of her duties) I have to pose this question:

Now that it is Chipper’s elbow, can we at least begin again the discussion about a move across the diamond? He will most likely miss tonight’s game solely because he cannot make a throw from 3B. His bat? Gone… His presence? Gone… No knock on Kotch, who has done everything he is expected to do and then some, but he ain’t Chipper. Is it at least a valid talking point?

This is such a complex issue, though. As you all know, Casey is productive. He hits; he doesn’t strike out; he does all of the little things right; he plays a phenomenal defensive 1B; he does everything you want BUT hit for power. And he isn’t Chipper.

The flip side is… who plays 3B? Omar? He isn’t an everyday guy. Prado? Maybe, but is he Kotchman on the other side? Nice bat, good gap hitter, but not the power you want from a corner IF? There is no clear 3B anywhere in the pipeline. Van Pope? Van Nope. Eric Campbell? Not close. Brooks Conrad is interesting, but he isn’t an “up and comer”. The fact is, the Braves have no long term fill in for a guy who isn’t likely to play more than 130 games, and is getting a bit “long in the tooth”.

I have tons of respect for Chipper Jones. I am not trying to hurry any natural or unnatural process along in any way, shape or form. But at some point reason has to rule over emotion. I think we are there. I think it has to be addressed.
ChipperJones

Raisins

BravesAndStuff@hotmail.com

77: What Happened???

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

by Carolina Lady

❓ What happened ❓

andersong4

Garret Anderson came to Atlanta with the reputation of a solid player who produced good numbers, went about his business professionally. Fans and fellow players alike described him as humble and quiet, a person of excellent quality.

He may be, probably is, just that. But we’ve seen precious little of him from day 1.

Signed Feb 22, he didn’t play until Mar 5. The very next day he came up with an injured calf muscle and was out until the very end of March.

Now it’s a strained left quad and on the DL.

According to MLB.com stats, Anderson has produced over the last ten games:
4/05/09 vs PHI: 4 AB, 1 hit, 0 rbi, .250 avg
4/07/09 vs PHI: 4 AB, 1 hit, 0 rbi, .250 avg
4/08/09 vs PHI: 1 AB, 0 hit, 0 rbi, .222 avg
4/10/09 vs WSH: 1 AB, 0 hit, 0 rbi, .200 avg
4/14/09 vs FLA: 4 AB, 0 hit, 0 rbi,. 143 avg
4/15/09 vs FLA: 1 AB, 0 hit, 0 rbi,. 133 avg
4/16/09 vs FLA: 4 AB, 2 hit, 0 rbi, .222 avg
4/17/09 vs PIT: 1 AB, 0 hit, 0 rbi, .211 avg
4/18/09 vs PIT: 4 AB, 0 hit, 0 rbi, .174 avg
4/19/09 vs PIT: 2 AB, 1 hit, 0 rbi, .200 avg

This just has to be an aberration. Garret is the Angel’s career leader in hits, runs, doubles, RBIs and total bases. That just doesn’t evaporate overnight. Last year he hit .293, 15 homers, and .758 OPS for the Angels.

So, what is it? The switch from AL to NL? Just suddenly developed muscle problems? The Braves’ misfortunes continuing?

I would find it very hard to believe that a person of his long-standing, high-caliber character would develop “Sheffield-like” attitudes and demeanor. Doesn’t fit. I have to believe that he has been beset by some physical difficulties and will eventually live up to our expectations.

I’ll admit to being purely shocked by Bowman’s assessment of him as a left-field manikin and as blank and emotionless in person. No explanations there.

Though something is obviously going on with him, I’m nowhere near ready to disrespect him or give up on him.

What do you think?

~CL~

BravesAndStuff@hotmail.com

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~

BravesAndStuff@hotmail.com

74: How’s it looking?

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

    

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~

 

BravesAndStuff@hotmail.com

73: An Angel in the Outfield

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

Looks like we got ourselves an Angel in the outfield!

andersongarrett1

Garret Joseph Anderson
Born June 30, 1972, Los Angeles
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 225 lb.
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Position: Left Fielder

With Garret Anderson, I really think the Braves are in a much better position to make their presence felt during the season than they would have been with Griffey. Thank goodness, he went back to Seattle!

Garret has accumulated some good-looking numbers in his years with the Angles. According to CBSSportsWire.com:

A three-time All-Star, Anderson had spent his entire career with the Angels and holds several franchise records, including games played (2,013), runs scored (1,024), hits (2,368), doubles (489), total bases (3,743) and RBI (1,292). He ranks second in home runs (272) and career batting average (.296).

Anderson helped the Angels win the World Series in 2002, hitting .300 with two homers and 13 RBI in the postseason. Los Angeles declined to pick up his $14 million option after last season, instead paying a $3 million buyout.

I know next to nothing about Anderson, but this comment posted by someone on another blog says a lot, I think:

I can still remember seeing Garret play as a rookie for the Angels and being in amazement on how talented, humble, and professional this young man was. How was I to know that 15 years later we would be saying the same things about him. Braves fans should be ecstatic. He has so much more left in the tank then Jr and could really make a huge impact on the Braves title hopes for 2009. I have never been a Braves fan but I will be watching their box scores this season and pulling for them strictly based on their acquisition of Anderson. He plays the game the way it was meant to be played. He is one of those few players that would be successful regardless of the time period he played in.

I know the Braves are high on character and it sure sounds good to me!

I truly hope Francoeur can reverse his fortunes of last year – and I think he will. Chipper has given him pretty high marks this spring and he’s usually honest in his comments.

andersonjosh1

Centerfield?  Hmmm.  Anderson? Blanco?  Schafer?

Don’t know about Blanco. I think Schafer will probably be given a little more time in the minors to refine his craft. So that leaves Anderson. (Josh, that is.)

Anderson-Anderson-Francoeur? Not bad. We’ll just have to see how that one comes out of the wash.

Yes? No? Indifferent?

~CL~

BravesAndStuff@hotmail.com

68: The Hole In Our Hearts

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

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~

Home Plate
Text Effects
Blog Birthdays
The Lineup Card
Baseball Videos & Photos