Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hey look, the worst team in the NL is in town!

To start with, I'm not doing a recap of the two-game series. Here's your mini-recap: We split, and Williams Perez pitched much better than I expected. That's all the time a two-game interleague series deserves. Moving on to better things like a 4-gamer against the worst team in the MLB, the Milwaukee Brewers!

Game 1 - Teheran v. Garza
Game 2 - Wood v. Peralta
Game 3 - Miller v. Fiers
Game 4 - Foltynewicz v. Nelson

Ok, so because I did no recap I'm going deep on this preview. I feel like I haven't gotten to dig into anything for a couple of days. So let's evaluate these matchups starting with Teheran and Garza. Julio is coming off a win in Miami where he gave up 1 run in 5.2 innings. His ERA is at 4.33 and his WHIP is at 1.60 which is still ridiculously high. Julio is basically a rollercoaster right now. His last 4 starts have gone bad-good-bad-good. He needs to even out and avoid a bad start against a bad team in the Brewers. How bad you ask? The Brewers are 15-26 with the worst winning percentage in the NL. However, they are playing .500 ball in their last 10 games, so you can't just look past them. Individually, Julio has handled the Brewers lineup very well, holding them to a team .703 OPS, which is below average. However, Jean Segura stands out as the guy who really rakes Julio with a 4/9 lifetime and a homer. But wait, Segura is on the DL, so Julio won't have to face him. That's a good break. The last time Julio faced the Brewers was on May 20th of 2014, and he threw a complete game shutout. I'd love to see a repeat performance.

Matt Garza for the Brewers has been getting shelled, and his record reflects it. He's 2-5 on the year with a 5.72 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP. Honestly, if both these pitchers pitched to form in this matchup, the game could be 9-8 by the end. I hope that's not the case unless it's the Braves with the 9 on the board. Anyway, Garza is coming off a day against the Mets he'd love to forget where he got lit up for 10 runs. You're reading that right, 10 earned runs in 3.1 innings against the Mets. I guess the manager was just thinking, screw it, we're buried and this is your mess so you eat the innings. He left him in there for 68 pitches of that disaster. I have to think that really hurt Garza's pysche, or at least I'm hoping it did. Even better news is that the Braves have crushed him in the past. Garza faced the Braves twice in 2014 and lost both games. AJ Pierzynski has a .919 OPS off the guy with two homers. Which of course means that Fredi G is going to play Bethancourt because he hasn't played in a while. I'm starting to dislike Bethancourt because I think he's offensively inept. And I want to win games. Prove me wrong, kid!

Game 2 is puts Alex Wood back on the mound after finally getting a win. Alex has an ERA of 3.83 and he's been trending better for the last 3 games, even though he just got his first win since early April. Alex had one start against Milwaukee last year and won easily. This year looking at the Brewers available lineup, I see only one threat to Alex, Carlos Gomez. For those of you that remember, Gomez is the jackass who was talking smack the entire way around the bases after a homer, and that instigated Brian McCann going all NONE SHALL PASS at home plate. Look it up on YouTube, it's surreal. Wood faces Wily Peralta who lost an L in his first name when he came over from the Dominican. I blame customs. Peralta has a 1-5 record, a 4.32 ERA, and a 1.48 WHIP. One thing you'll notice is that most of the Brewers pitchers' stat lines look God-awful. You can't escape unscathed from this trainwreck of a team. Peralta's coming off a 5-run shelling from the Mets as well. The Mets apparently beat the tar out of this club.

What can I say about Shelby Miller that won't seem like I'm just tossing roses in his footsteps? The man is the best pitcher on the team, and I think he's the best pitcher in the NL right now. The stats back it up with his NL leading 1.33 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. Here's the other advantage, Shelby used to be a Cardinal, and he's seen this Brewers lineup a ton. And you know what? HE OWNS THEM. To the tune of a .635 OPS across the lineup. In the last 3 years, Shelby's had 8 starts against the Brewers, 5 wins, no losses, and a 2.20 ERA. <Tosses bouquets at Shelby> Meanwhile, Mike Fiers will oppose Shelby with a record of, you guessed it, 1-4 and a 4.75 ERA. I'll give you a hint, no starter we see from the Brewers has more than 2 wins. The Braves haven't faced Fiers so I honestly have no idea what to expect, other than the fact his ERA says he sucks.

The final game is Folty and Nelson. Mike Foltynewicz got roughed up by Tampa Bay on what I considered to be some pretty good pitches. But they just kept dinking and dunking him to death for 5 earned runs on 8 hits and a walk. The WHIP is still a gigantic concern for me at 1.73, and I honestly can't take any starter seriously as long at that number is above 1.50. Yes, you can put runners on and get away with it, but you're playing Russian roulette every time two guys touch a base in an inning. Mike's obviously never seen the Brewers because he's brand new to the MLB, so this should be interesting to see how he does against a slumping lineup. Jimmy Nelson for the Brewers really dominated Detroit in an unexpected 8 inning 1-run win. That's on the heels of him giving up 17 runs in his last 4 starts. I think that Detroit win is the anomaly, not the norm. He's never seen the Braves before either, so hopefully they can give him a little of what he's used to, a bunch of runs against.

CPA Predictions:

CPA was right that it would be a split, but it got the games backwards. Womp womp, 0-2 on the series. 14-21 now on the picks, and a -11.20 units. We're going to follow this Titanic all the way to the bottom, don't you worry! Never give up, never surrender!

Game 1 - Braves by 2
Game 2 - Braves by 1
Game 3 - Braves by 3
Game 4 - Brewers by 2

CPA thinks we win the series 3 out of 4, and I like that. Normally I say split the series, but this Brewers team is awful. You go for the throat here. You go for the gusto.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sort of Preview for Braves and Tampa

I say sort of because I don't really like doing previews for two game series. I'll say what I always say for a even numbered series. Just split the stupid thing and move on. Also, I despise interleague, so previewing those series is really a pain in the butt. We rarely play each other so the pitching matchups are meaningless, and the teams generally have no rivalries on the other side, plus you probably won't recognize most of the opposing players. Interleague blows.

Now that I'm off my soapbox, here are the matchups.

Game 1 - Foltynewicz v. Ramirez
Game 2 - Perez v. Odorizzi

I mean honestly, if I tossed those names out to Braves fans in April, they'd be like..WHO? So let me just do a simple breakdown instead of full matchups. Folty is pitching decently, and he's 2-0 on the season thanks to some big offensive support. However, his WHIP is enormous at 1.71 and he scares the hell out of me whenever runners get on base. I'd love to feel more comfortable with the kid, but his ERA is over 4.00 and he needs to keep opposing players off the bags before I trust him. Williams Perez is taking over for Eric Stults, and he's basically a 23 year old with exactly 2.1 innings in the majors. I expect him to get ripped to shreds by an AL lineup. Maybe he won't, but I fully expect the Braves to be gigantic underdogs in that game.

The opposing pitchers are Erasmo Ramirez, who the Braves saw once in 2014 and shelled him for 5 runs in 3 innings, and also Jake Odorizzi, whose name sounds like an Italian shoe insole. Feet stink in Naples? Odorizzi! Turns out he's actually a 25 year old whose really good. He has a 2.36 ERA, and the Braves have never seen him before. That bodes ill for us.

CPA Predictions:

Last series the CPA went 2-1 again, so it's catching up! 14-19 now on the season with -8.85 units. We're getting there, so let's see how this two gamer looks.

Game 1 - Braves by 1
Game 2 - Rays by 5

Yeah the CPA thinks we're going to win the first game, and apparently we're sending in the clowns in Game 2. I hope the second part of the machine is wrong. We'll find out.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Braves sweep the Fish, Shelby almost No-No



Are those? THEY ARE! It's the brooms! Remember good brooms? It's been a while. Man what a series! Can you remember a better series this year than this weekend? I can't. Well maybe that other series when we swept the Marlins on the road. Do you realize that the Braves are 6-0 against the Marlins in their ballpark? Apparently hideous lime green makes our hitters go into full Hulk-mode.

Game 1 wasn't really about the pitching, but Julio Teheran did a good job keeping things close for 5.2 innings, giving up only 2 runs on 9 hits. I wasn't that impressed with his outing though, because he allowed so many base runners, and he was always in trouble. No, the real hero of the game was Julio Teheran the HITTER. Julio managed to scorch a ball up the middle in the 2nd inning, scoring both Todd Cunningham and Cameron Maybin. That would give the Braves a 2-1 lead. Then Stanton homered to tie it 2-2. Maybin would double in Cunningham in the 4th to make it 3-2. Then Stanton homered to tie it 3-3. Stanton was trying to ruin everyone's fun. But the Braves offense would not be denied as Cunningham knocked in Markakis in the 8th, and Bethancourt advanced to 1st on a wild pitch that scored another runner in that same inning. Braves would win 5-3.

Game 2 wasn't really about pitching either. Alex Wood did well to allow just 2 runs, this time on 7 hits in 7 innings, but the criticism was the same. Too many base runners for that kind of effort. Especially considering what happened in the 2nd inning. Allow me to set the stage. Simmons led off with a double in the second, and AJ singled him in to take a 1-0 lead. Then Cunningham and Maybin both singled to load the bases. Alex Wood struck out bringing Jace Peterson to the plate. Peterson had no major league homers coming into this game. But in this AB, Jace laced one to right field 416 feet for the grandest of all the homers. Just like that, the Braves were up 5-0, and the Marlins basically folded their tents. Braves went on to win 5-3 because Grilli made us a little nervous with his save.

Game 3 absolutely WAS about pitching. And what a performance it was. Let's get the offensive part out of the way first. The Braves again had a 5-run 2nd inning, but this time they did it on a parade of hits rather than one large shot. 10 batters came to the plate in the Braves 2nd, and with the way Shelby Miller pitched it might as well have been just a one run game. Because Shelby was masterful. So masterful in fact that he was one out away from the first Braves no-hitter since Kent Mercker in 1994. Unfortunately, Justin Bour broke it up with a single to center with 2 outs in the 9th inning. One thing to remember is that the no-no bid could have been over in the 3rd inning as Alverez beat out a throw to first, but the Braves challenged and won a very close call. I still think that was too close to overturn, but we caught a break. Either way, Braves won 6-0 and Shelby went the distance for a complete game shutout.

Three Things I Loved This Series:

  1. Todd Cunningham is raking - How hot is Todd Cunningham? Who the heck is Todd Cunningham? If you don't know, read the article before this one because I told you who he is. What I can tell you about this series is that Todd went 8/12 with a double and an RBI and 4 runs scored. He's batting .667 in the majors. I can't even.
  2. Julio and Alex didn't suck - I was starting to worry, but Julio and Alex both made it through their games. It's a start. They've been so bad at holding leads and eating innings that I'm just looking for baby steps on their way back to their old dominance.
  3. Shelby Miller continues to prove the trade was right - Shelby for Heyward? All day long and twice on Sundays. Better yet, almost no-hitter on Sundays. Heyward's batting .244 with an OPS of .672 on the season. Miller is leading the NL in ERA and WHIP. So, so great.
MVP of the series is a tie between Shelby Miller and Todd Cunnigham. I honestly would have given it to Shelby straight up if he gets the no-no, but since he didn't he and Todd can share with his paltry 8/12 series. I mean come on Todd, you made 4 freaking outs. Be better.

Next up the Braves get Tampa at home for a weird interleague 2-game series. I hate everything about it. I hate interleague, I hate 2-game series, and I especially hate that it happens in the middle of the week when we had an open day on Monday. Just play 3 games MLB. It's how baseball is meant to be played.

GO BRAVES!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Who the Heck is Todd Cunningham?



Recently the Braves called up outfielder Todd Cunningham since Kelly Johnson went on the DL with some sort of abdominal strain. I hadn't really thought about it, but one of my Twitter followers posed the following question on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/TheRadRedhead/status/599395764486479872

And with that question, it made me realize I had to do an article on young Cunningham. So here we go!

Many people may think that yesterday's game winning RBI by Cunningham came in his first MLB game. But that's not the case. Todd actually played 8 games back in 2013 when he was called up to the Atlanta Braves at the age of 24. He was purely there as a pinch hitter role, and he got 2 hits and scored 2 runs in his 2013 campaign. A respectable .250 average. However, when he played against the Marlins Friday, he went 3/4 with 2 runs and an RBI. He outdid his previous MLB records in just one game!

But where did Todd Cunningham come from? Here's the details:

Full Name: Thomas David Cunningham
Hometown: Jacksonville, AL
Age: 26
Drafted: 2010 by the Braves
Bats: Switch
Position: LF
Favorite Food Network Show: Diners, Driveins, and Dives (most likely)

Todd started in the majors at the age of 21 in 2010 with the Rome Braves. He played decently that year with a .260/.341/.338 slash line. At 22 he advance to A+ ball with Gulf Coast League Braves, and he improved his slugging to .353 on the year. At 23 he advanced again to AA Mississippi where he had his breakout year. Todd hit .309 and slugged .403 in 2012 while he was at Mississippi, putting him on the big club's radar, along with many fans.

Next Todd went to AAA Gwinnett, where he struggled a bit at age 23. His OPS fell back to sub-.700 which isn't good enough to make a major league roster. However, that same year he made the MLB club after some injuries to the outfield. But it wasn't long-lived because Todd simply wasn't hitting well at AAA. In 2014, Todd got back to form with a .287/.347/.406 slash. That's the kind of line that gets you a shot in spring training. Todd made some impressions on the club in 2015 spring, hitting .306 during training. That really put him as a front-runner for the Braves MLB team if anything went wrong at the top level. And this last week when Kelly Johnson went on the DL, Todd got his shot.

So, I'm rooting for Cunningham. He's not a huge power hitter, but he can be a very productive hitter. After all, there's room on this team for a professional hitter that can really put the pressure on opposing pitchers. Nick Markakis has proven the value of that slot. Go get them Todd, prove your worth at the top level and you may find yourself as a full-time player in 2016.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Fish again? You bet.

The Marlins are back! Or rather we're back in Florida for the weekend. This series has some great matchups so buckle your safety belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride!

Game 1 - Teheran v. Phelps
Game 2 - Wood v. Latos
Game 3 - Miller v. Koehler

I'll start by saying I hope we see the good Julio in Game one, but if we don't the Braves are going to have some opportunities against David Phelps. David has only recently been promoted to a starting role with the Fish, and he's done an admirable job. In 5 starts he's given up 6 runs across 30 innings. That means as a starter, Phelps has a 1.80 ERA, which is ridiculously good. However, while Phelps has only just started for the Marlins, he's had 3 years of semi-regular starting experience with the Yankees, and his ERA back then was in the low 4.00's. So, he's out over his skis at the moment. Looking at the opponents you can see why. The Phillies, Mets, and Giants all aren't powerhouse offensive squads right now, and are in the bottom third of the league in runs scored. So while Phelps is pitching well currently, he will issue some walks, and he will give up some hits to guys on the team that have seen him before. What we can hope is that Julio keeps the game on point until the Braves can ding Phelps first.

The second game is a battle of two pitchers with terrible luck and bad ERAs. Alex Wood's ERA is now at 4.28 with a WHIP near 1.60, and Mat Latos has an ERA of 4.72 with a WHIP of 1.49. Looking simply at their numbers, this could get ugly really fast. However, Wood hasn't won a game since April 7th, and he's getting steadily worse. Latos on the other hand won a game on May 5th, and he has been steadily improving. The Braves torched Latos if you remember, and handed him his first two losses of the year within about a week of each other. That was then. Now Latos has given up only 5 runs in his last three starts, while Alex has given up 11 in that same time frame in less innings. My hope is that Latos gets gun-shy against a lineup of the Braves that can really rough him up, and Alex can get past the first inning with no damage since he really seems to struggle getting the third out.

The marquee matchup of the series is Shelby Miller against Tom Koehler. Koehler is 1-1 against the Braves this year so far, and he always manages to pitch us tough. The best hitter against Tom is AJ, so I'm really hoping he gets the starting nod with his 2.042 OPS and 2 homers in 8 ABs. The rest of the lineup is basically average, so let AJ put the hurt on him with some people on base. On the flipside Shelby Miller is red hot with a 1.60 ERA and 2 wins against the Marlins already, although he's only technically 1-0 due to a no decision. Given the matchup, I'm thinking Shelby really puts the screws to a Marlins lineup in the rubber game to get the Braves the much needed win.

CPA Predictions:

Last series the CPA went 2-1, missing the final game because the Braves laid an egg. The record is now 12-18 with -9.85 units. We're getting there. Just need to keep winning series. Let's see what we got in this one.

Game 1 - Marlins by 1
Game 2 - Braves by 1
Game 3 - Braves by 2

We need a series win something fierce. Go fry those Fish.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Braves drop another series to Reds

It's a terrible shame, but the Braves got beaten by the Reds to lose yet another series. They've now lost five of their last six, people are beginning to completely panic, and the pitching looks lost. The one thing I didn't expect was the pitching staff to come off the rails. I did expect struggles, but we're beyond struggling. We're staring into a pitching abyss.

Game 1 actually went really well despite how ugly it was to watch. The pitching was actually really good from none other than Shelby Miller. He's the one link in the chain that's holding the whole thing together. Shelby only gave up 1 run on 3 hits in 7 innings, so he did his job and then some. Yet, the Braves were mostly stymied by Miller's counterpart Mike Leake. So with the game a 1-1 tie going to the 9th inning, something had to give. I'm frankly shocked it wasn't us, given our pen. But no! Cincy's pen is actually worse. And Chapman for Cincinnati gave up two singles, a stolen base, and then he threw a wild pitch to allow the runner to score from third. That was the difference. Jim Johnson came on in the 9th to get the save, and the Braves won 2-1.

Game 2 was a one-run heart-breaker. The Braves jumped out early with a 3-2 lead in the 4th inning, thanks to some timely hitting by Nick Markakis and Kelly Johnson. Even though Foltynewicz pitched a great game and deserved a chance to win, Cincy got him for the 3rd run in the 7th inning with two outs because he couldn't escape a sacrifice fly. With the game tied it went back to the bullpens, and this time in the 9th the Braves blinked first. Grilli came on to try to push the game to extras, but instead Pena got a single and Mesoraco doubled to the gap, scoring the pinch runner from first on an Andrelton Simmons bobbled throw. It was unlike Simmons, and it wasn't a true error, but if he makes the throw the runner was going to be out at the plate. Instead, the Reds got the walk-off win.

Game 3 happened while I was at the Hawks game watching them get their big playoff win, so I had to get the recap from skimming my DVR, thus the late recap today. What can I say about this one? Stults was throwing home run batting practice, and the game was over by the third inning. It didn't take me long to form that conclusion. I didn't even need to watch more than the first 45 minutes. Byrd and Frazier both homered for the Reds, they got a couple more runs on sacrifices. 5-0 Reds, and all the fans I'm sure stopped caring. I can tell you one thing for certain, when the Braves are down 4 ore more runs this year? Forget about it. And forget about this game. We got torched by a fresh out of AAA rookie for the Reds who threw a 2-hitter. That's the 2014 Braves I know and hated.

Three Things I Hated:

  1. The Fact a Reds Rookie owned us - That's #1 with a bullet. These are professional hitters, and you can't let a AAA guy hold you to two hits. That's dang embarrassing.
  2. The Fact Stults can't stop giving up homers - It's not just this series, it's all the time. Stults main issue is he can't keep the ball down, and he can't keep it in the park. He's given up 9 homers in 7 games, and just 40 innings. Horrific? You bet.
  3. The Bullpen again? Sure why not - I'm going to continue to hate the bullpen until they stop blowing games. We should have won this series. We didn't because the bullpen couldn't hold game two together, which was really winnable.
The NBI (Needs Big Improvement) Award goes to Eric Stults. Bro, you have to get the ball down or you are headed to the bullpen. I pulled the PitchFX numbers on Stults. They tell a very simple tale. His fastball is getting hammered, and it's mainly because he's leaving it up in the zone. In fact, hitters are slugging his fastball at a .667 clip, whereas last year it was at .495. That's a pretty gigantic jump, and it explains why we're watching so much damage happen on that one pitch. Stults has to get that thing lower in the zone, or diving away from the hitter, or it's going to be curtains for his starting job for the Braves.

Next up? We play the Marlins, who are struggling like we are. Best to get them while they are cold. Like good sushi should be.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Braves play the Reds in Cincinnati

If it seems like the schedule is endlessly repeating itself, that's because it actually is repeating itself. In late April, we played a series against Philly, Washington, and Cincy. Now in the last few series we've played Philly, Washington...and Cincy. WHO AUTHORIZED THIS?

Game 1 - Miller v. Leake
Game 2 - Foltynewicz v. Desclafani
Game 3 - Stults v. Iglesias

Honest to God, the first two games are literally the same matchups that we had from the earlier series about two weeks ago. I don't even really feel the need to recap those because no much has changed. Miller got taken deep a couple of times in the first game and lost, Folty came out with a great debut and won in the second game. This is pretty much just round 2.

So the third game is different, and I'll preview that one. Stults is coming off a very bad lucky outing in Washington where he pitched great for 5 innings, and then everything exploded from the 6th inning on in a barrage of runs. He took the loss and fell to 1-3 on the season, but he wasn't as bad as the record indicates. In fact, I think he's improving, but he just has to keep the ball in the park. That's his only real flaw right now since hitters aren't really stringing together big rallies against him. It's just the long ball. Meanwhile, because the Reds had a Saturday double-header, they have to throw some guy at the Braves to rest their normal rotation. That guy is Raisel Iglesias from Cuba. He's had one start in his career in and he's got a 5.40 ERA. I have no other analysis there. Go rough him up like the other rookies we've seen this season.

CPA Predictions:

Well last series was a disaster because we got swept. This series? No idea. CPA went 1-2 on predictions, and it's now 10-17 and -11.10 units. Blech. Let's see if we can't get this trend turned around shall we?

Game 1 - Braves by 1
Game 2 - Reds by 1
Game 3 - Braves by 1

Go win this series Braves. We need to turn this road trip around.

GO BRAVES!