Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Series Preview: Braves v Brewers May 24-26, 2016

Both the Brewers and Braves are playing bad baseball right now, both have 4-6 records in their last 10 games, but the Brewers have lost 3 in a row, whereas the Braves are looking at a 4-6 record and high-fiving themselves for pulling it together. That's where we live now, it's time to own it. It's our cardboard box of crap and it's up to use to hang new curtains in the place. On to the matchups.

Game 1 - Teheran v. Nelson
Game 2 - Foltynewicz v. Guerra
Game 3 - Wisler v. Peralta

A quick rundown of the Braves starters: Julio has been dominating his last 5 starts, giving up only 3 earned runs in almost 33 innings, which is phenomenal. Foltynewicz got crushed in his last start giving up 5 runs to the Pirates in 3 innings, so he needs to bounce back against the struggling Brewers. Wisler had a rough outing against Boston, then bounced back with 4 straight quality starts, 6 earned runs in 30 innings. He and Teheran are the two strongest starters the Braves have right now, and both are going in this series. That should be exciting news.

The Braves offense has improved as well. Over the last week, Chase d'Arnaud is hitting .462 with 2 doubles, Tyler Flowers is hitting .400 with a homer and 2 RBIs, Gordon Beckham is hitting .333 with 3 doubles and 3 RBIs, Jeff Francoeur is hitting .308 with a double and a homer, Mallex is hitting .286 with 2 homers, and Ender Inciarte is hitting .273 with a double and an RBI. That's a lot of good production on the week. In fact, the only guys who had an average week at the plate were Nick Markakis hitting .178 and Freddie Freeman hitting .208, but he had 2 homers and 5 RBIs so he made up for a lot of it with production. Basically, the Braves are heating up on the week with scoring, and as a result there were 15th in runs scored. Which is way up from their season total of dead last.

The Braves face Nelson, Guerra, and Peralta. Jimmy Nelson has been pitching well, but he's off and on with his control. When he's walking people, he gets himself into big trouble. When he's not walking people, he's got very good strikeout stuff and can ruin your day. The problem in Nelson's last two starts was his offense. He pitched two gems, giving up just 2 runs in 15.1 innings, and the Brewers lost them both. That should tell you where they are right now offensively as a ballclub.

Junior Guerra is a rookie making his 5th start in the majors. Here's the hilarious thing, the Brewers have won all 4 of his starts so far. He's unbeaten as a starter in his career. Why? With a 3.96 ERA it's mostly luck honestly. He's given up plenty of runs, but the Brewers decided to hit those days. I guarantee Nelson is wondering what the hell is going on when Guerra gets 5 runs of support in 3 games each. Still, that doesn't mean Guerra is a bad pitcher, but as a 31 year old rookie out of Venezuela, he had plenty of time to make it to the majors at a younger age and didn't. I think the Braves can get after this guy if Folty can hold it together. BIG if there right now.

Wily Peralta is an absolute mess right now. With a 6.99 ERA and a 1.92 WHIP, he has no control over the zone and he's giving up an opp average of .363 this season. The only guy on the Braves team with any real looks at Peralta is Freddie Freeman, who has a homer and a 1.200+ OPS against him. The rest of the team has seen him basically once, or not at all. Now's a great time to face him with Wisler on the mound. If you were comparing trends, Wisler is on the way up, while Peralta is on the way down. However, as one of my followers reminded me, the one tonic that seems to cure the ills of a struggling starter is this Braves team. We can make anybody look like Nolan Ryan for some reason.

CPA Predictions:

0-3 on the Phillies series. What a mess. The CPA is now 20-21, and fallen into a losing record. But not for long. I feel good about these picks this week. Let's check them out.

Game 1 - Braves by 1
Game 2 - Milwaukee by 2
Game 3 - Braves by 2

The first game is a coinflip. I hope the Braves can pull it out, but it's dang close. The other two are a pretty good spread, so I think the Braves can take this series at home.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Weekend Recap: Braves v Phillies May 20-22, 2016

The Braves won their first series since playing in Miami on April 15h, over a month ago. That's quite a few trips between series wins. Exactly how many other series did the Braves play between those two winning efforts? Nine. This was the 10th series the Braves played since the Miami win, and the Braves also sport a 3-3 record since changing managers. Dare I pray for a .500 record the rest of the way? It might make this season palatable.

In Game 1, Wisler was his usual dominant self we've come to expect, and I love that he's the best prospect development we have on the mound so far. He looks great out there and went 7 innings giving up 1 run on 5 hits (check the box on a quality start QS from the starter). The Braves absolutely pounded the Phillies offensively with not one, not two, but THREE homers in one game. Your jaw should be on the floor right now. Freddie Freeman had two of the homers (check the box on Freddie being productive), and the bullpen shut things down for the final 2 innings with no runs (check the box on good bullpen). Those three things always lead to Braves wins.

In Game 2, Williams Perez shocked me again by going 6.1 innings throwing a shutout, which really indicates that he owns the Phillies and nobody else right now. I'd love to see him throw well against another team, but I still don't trust him at all. We'll see. Still, he got more than a QS on the night, and the bullpen gave up nothing as well as the Braves shut-out the Phillies. It was a dominant pitching performance because the Braves only scored 2 runs, which was all they needed. The winning run came on an Inciarte double that knocked in Jeff Francoeur. Side note, I love the way Ender Inciarte is playing right now. After a really slow start at the plate he's hitting .269 on the week, and he's been excellent defensively in both center and left. His arm is fantasic and his speed really lets him cover some ground. As Don Sutton said in the broadcast, he's like watching an Andrelton Simmons who plays outfield. High praise from Don.

Game 3 was the clunker as the Braves were forced to pitch Casey Kelly, who isn't that good. Kelly gave up 3 runs in 5 innings, which isn't that horrible, except for the fact that EOF came in on his heels and gave up 2 more runs. With a 5-0 deficit, the Braves were dead in the water for a day game. Fun stat for the Braves (well not so much fun as depressing) the Braves are 3-10 in day games. If the sun is shining, they suck. I think they might be vampires. Somebody check on that.

In your Eric "Boner" Aybar still sucks report: He went 1-5 with an RBI and a walk this weekend. Not as horrible as usual, but he got benched for the day game. I'm not sure he would have been in the difference in that affair. However, let the record show that the Braves lost the only game he didn't start. Perhaps he's some kind of voodoo talisman that we're forced to play in order to win. What a Catch-22. I don't know if I could handle the truth on that one.

Braves win 7-1
Braves win 2-0
Braves lose 5-0


Friday, May 20, 2016

Series Preview: Braves v Phillies May 20-22, 2016

Last time we played the Phillies we won a game. This time I hope to win two games. Baby steps. In the business world you call that incremental progress. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Wisler v Nola
Game 2 - Perez v Morgan
Game 3 - Some Guy v Eickhoff

This series should be called, "Hey Let's Watch Game 1 Because Wisler is Good...and then ignore the rest." Seriously, when the rest of your series is Perez, and some undetermined starter, I'm not really jazzed. MAYBE I'll get jazzed if it's Jenkins. We can make T-shirts that say, "Jazzed for Jenkins." See? That's the best I can come up with now. The Braves have rotted my brain with all the loser-ol. That's the chemical compound of losing.

So Wisler is the bright shining hope of this pitching staff right now, along with Julio. If this were Medieval times, they would be riding white horses and saving Braves Damsels while the evil Bryce Harper continues to hit dingers with his lance and black armor. Wisler's ERA is 3.14 with a 0.99 WHIP, which ain't too shabby for a young guy. He goes against Aaron Nola, who didn't face the Braves last time they played. Nola has a 2.85 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP, so he's doing even better than Wisler. Something will have to give here. Considering the Phillies have won 5 straight Nola starts? I'm going to guess it's the Braves that give. That would fit the recent script.....

Perez got rocked in his last outing, which is in line with the other outings except his strange 8 innning 1-run affair two games ago. Perez isn't good so I don't expect much out of him, other than giving up homers. If his ball isn't moving, he's doomed because he doesn't have strikeout stuff. He goes opposite of Adam Morgan, who has a 6.42 ERA but somehow beat the Braves 3-2 when he pitched against them, and only gave up 1 run in 7 innings. He's been a melting candle on the mound unless he's playing Atlanta, then he's the reincarnation of Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown. But with five fingers. Google it.

The last game is Jerad Eickhoff for the Phillies, and he's the one guy we beat last time. He's terrible. He's got a 1-6 record, which is hilarious mainly for the losses, and his ERA is 4.44 which oddly is better than Morgan, but his record is worse. They obviously don't hit for the Jerad. Hopefully the Braves can continue what they did against Eickhoff last game, and Some Guy can post a quality start to get us the win.

CPA Predictions:

CPA went 2-2 and it's at 20-18 now. I think you know how this will go, but let's see.

Game 1 - Phillies by 2
Game 2 - Phillies by 3
Game 3 - Braves by 2

Yep, same result as last series, the Braves win one and lose 2 on the road. So far the CPA has been very good at predicting the series outcome, but less good at choosing the right games. We'll see if it can shore it up this week.


Game 4: Braves v Pirates 5/19/16

We lost by 6 runs, so I'm going to stick to my two paragraph rule. Folty sucked and was gone after 3 innings having given up 5 runs, 4 earned, 7 hits, and a dinger. The bullpen gave up 3 runs in 6 innings, which HILARIOUSLY ENOUGH IS A QUALITY START! Except it didn't happen for the starters, it happened for the pen, so that's not going to count. Also Flowers had a passed ball and Folty threw a wild pitch, one of which cost us a run. I'm still amazed we can't figure out how to get the ball from the pitcher to the catcher with supreme certainty on a daily basis. It vexes me. I'm terribly vexed.

What else? Uh, we scored 2 runs on 7 hits and went 1-12 with RISP. One for twelve? That's awful. I mean at some point you can fall ass-backwards into a few of those hits and maybe get some runs, but we were down 5-0 by the 3rd so I'm not sure it really mattered one way or the other. At least we didn't commit any errors because Eric Aybar choked on a chicken bone and had to go to the hospital. I'm not sure what ticks me off more about that: the fact he eats with all the grace of a Labrador, or that he was actually in the lineup before his wing fiasco. Either way, his new nickname is Boner. Good job, Boner.

Braves lose 8-2.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Game 3: Braves v Pirates 5/18/16

The Braves have a .500 record now under Brian Snitker because they won the game last night. I'm clinging to that 1-1 record because I don't want to look at the mess that happened under Fredi Gonzalez when this season started. Julio was great as he pitched 7.2 innings of shutout ball, and then Vizzy came in to get the two inning save by getting McCutchen out in the 8th, and then knocking out the Pirates in the 9th despite a solo homer by Kang.

What made this game different? Well for starters, the offense actually scored some runs. That's rare in a Julio Teheran start, since he usually gets jack for support. But in this case you had a homer by Tyler Flowers, an RBI by Freddie Freeman, and an RBI double by Gordon Beckham. My three keys to victory played out in this game: Freddie Freeman was productive with a hit and an RBI, the starting pitcher Julio had a quality start, and the bullpen was good by shutting down any rallies. Get those three things, and the Braves will win almost every time.

Now for the things that drive me crazy. Aybar started again and went 0-4 on the night. He's batting .174 and has gone 0-9 against the Pirates in this series. He's hitting .111 in the past week. He's hitting .141 in all of his road games. Frankly, I wouldn't even let him get on the plane to play on the road. I'm shocked he's still with the team at all, because it's obvious he provides ZERO value over a guy like Castro, Kelly Johnson, or Beckham playing up the middle. And yet, somebody is starting him over these other guys. I have no idea if it's the front office or not, but if it is they have made the completely wrong assessment. It's time to cut bail with Aybar. DFA him and eat the $6M worth of salary that the Braves are on the hook for. You're getting nothing out of watching him flounder out there and he has NEGATIVE trade value.

Braves won 3-1 despite Aybar. I'm a happier person because of that.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Potential Future Braves Managers

I feel like I have to do this because we love to predict who will take over this trainwreck for the long term, so let's list out some of the managerial candidates for the Braves you may or may not hear about this season.
  1. Bud Black - If you haven't heard about the former Padres manager yet, you're probably hiding under  a rock or you've never heard a sports radio show in your life. Because that's the number one guy right now on people's projections list. Is that real? I have no idea, but I do know that Bud never had any real success with the Padres. Most of that is because the Padres front office was terrible. Still, do I want a manager who couldn't make it work down there, especially when our division is just as potentially stacked with competition in the future? I do not.
  2. Mark DeRosa - He's young, he's an MLB Network analyst, and he's just coming off a long career in baseball. He was drafted by the Braves and played for the team for 6 years before spending the majority of his career as a journeyman bouncing around 7 other teams. He's never been a manager, and never been a coach. Yet his name keeps coming up for some reason. I'd give him almost no chance of getting hired unless they are interested in giving somebody completely new a first shot, but one that also has ties to the team.
  3. Chipper Jones - If I have to tell you what Chipper's done, please get off this blog right now. Seriously, get out. I don't even understand how you're a Braves fan if that's the case. Anyway, you know Chipper, you know he likes to beverage in the booth, make statements that piss off the current players, and pick up people on his ATV during bad snow days. Also he was good at baseball and will be in the Hall of Fame soon. And I have zero doubts in my mind that he's too comfortable with his life to put on a uniform everyday and take over this mess.
  4. Terry Pendleton - For those of you millenials who only know Terry as a coach, he actually played for the Braves from 1991-1994, and he missed being part of the championship team in 1995. Then he bounced around until 1998 when he retired and eventually became a Braves coach. He's a top candidate for this job for a lot of reasons. He's unafraid to stir the pot, he will tell somebody exactly what he's thinking when somebody needs to be told, and he's been part of the Braves organization for over 20 years. Plus if hired he would be one of the few minority managers in the league, which is something that's coming under more scrutiny in the last decade as the league shifts demographics.
  5. Ron Gardenhire - He managed for the Twins for years, and got fired in 2014 after winning and losing over 1000 games each. He's basically a .500 guy in the managers seat after 13 years with the Twins, which is probably why they decided to move on. However, the Braves would enjoy having a guy who can take a younger squad and get them back to slightly above .500 on the season after what we've witnessed.
  6. Dave Martinez - His name has come up a good bit, mostly because of his connections to Joe Maddon as his bench coach. That's actually not a bad way to go, because the bench coaches are the hardest working guys on the coaching staff, but without the PR nonsense that goes along with being the actual manager. Dave might be a good fit for a first time manager job after working with Maddon for so long.
  7. Ron Wotus - Again, like Martinez, Wotus is the bench coach under successful manager Bruce Bochy out in San Francisco. I love the idea of hiring a bench coach as a first time gig from a successful franchise rather than sticking with the same old tired "Braves Way" that's led us to exactly 0 playoff series wins since the last one in 2001. Wotus would be another good choice in that regard. He's actually may favorite choice for the job.
  8. Bo Porter - He works with the Braves now after having major difficulties in Houston with that front office staff, but I'm not sure he's a serious candidate after his first tour as a manager went bad quickly.
  9. Eddie Perez - Lots of people would love to give Perez a shot, because he's a catcher and because he knows the Braves well, but I'm not sold that he's a better choice over a more hardline guy like Terry Pendleton, and I'm even less sold on the idea we should continue to hire from within the current staff given how it worked out for the last 6 years.
  10. Insert other crazy name here - Cal Ripkin Jr.? Alex Cora? Ozzie Guillen? Manny Acta? David Ross? You'll hear tons and tons of names as we get closer to the end of the season, and the offseason. The Braves will look for a new manager and it will probably not be a give name with a big spash. If anything, I think they hire from within, or they pick a bench coach from another club they like. I don't think they will go with the manager retread, but I could be wrong

Game 2: Braves v Pirates 5/17/16

I have good news, and I have bad news. The good news is that the Braves scored their highest run total in a game all season with 9 runs against the Pirates? Great right? We've been waiting so long for a big offensive outburst and we finally got one on Tuesday night. Everyone happy with that? Good, you should be because that's an important thing to remember before I get to the bad news.

The bad news is the Braves gave up 12 runs and lost. Aaron Blair gave up 9 runs in 1.1 innings. That's an unmitigated disaster for a young guy who is trying to feel out his place in the show. A lot of people will now panic about what's happening with young Mr. Blair. That would be stupid and let me tell you why.

Do you remember what happened to Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in his first season with the Braves? It was a shortened season in 1987 where he got 9 starts, and had an ERA of 5.54. Tom gave up 6+ runs in 3 of those games while he was learning the ropes. In May of 1988 he got knocked out twice in a row in the 2nd inning, giving up 5 runs a piece. He gave up 9 runs to the Pirates on May 20, 1988 along with 6 walks. He was all over the place and looked terrible. And I bet fans now would have given up on him, a future hall of famer, because he had an ERA of 7.90 in May.

Aaron Blair is likely not as good as Tom Glavine, but who knows? Maybe he is a potential Hall of Famer in the making? What I do know is that Aaron Blair has pitched in 5 starts in his career, and he's looked good in 1-2 of them. Then really bad in the last 2 starts. But that's why we're featuring him in a down year with nothing to play for, similar to how Tom was brought along in the lost seasons of 1987-88.

Here's what kills me about that game the most, besides the fact that the Braves lost with 9 runs. The Braves had 3 more errors in that mess. And of course AJ had one of them. Oh, and AJ went 0-3 with RISP. Oh, and AJ grounded into a double play. I'm done with him and Aybar, they are sucking chest wounds on this team. Every game I see them play, and God forbid they start in the same game, I can feel the obsessive rage building inside my like I'm the Hulk getting ready to crush a car.

The only positive I can take away from this Pirates series so far is that we've scored 14 runs, and lost 2 games. That won't last. If we continue to produce offensively, the pitching will eventually give us room to win a few of those games. And I can't wait until it all starts coming together.

#StoptheAybar #StoptheAJ