Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pirates @ Braves: Game 1 Recap

Well folks, since I'm on vacation I bring this recap to you live from the Big Chief Hospitality Lounge at Jazzfest in New Orleans. Braves did two things I'm really excited about last night. First, they won game one of the series 6-1. Second, Medlen went out there, got a 3 inning save, and got himself a hit! Talk about an all-star day for the flat-brimmed reliever! If we could teach him how to wear a hat, imagine what he could be capable of in the big leagues? So, he's batting 1.000 on the year. Stay hot Medlen! Better yet, don't hit again.

Bourn, Prado, and Chip all had a multi-hit game. Freeman, Uggs, and Pastornicky also came through with hits during last night's affair. The key to the game from my point of view was the ability to get to the Pirates bullpen, which is god-awful. AJ was good, but he wasn't good enough to walk out after six innings with a lead, and that meant Tony Watson came out on the mound with the gas can and oily rags in the seventh. The Braves took pleasure in lighting him up to crack the game wide open.

It's not often that you can leave 9 guys on base as a team and make me happy. Somehow, we managed that. Against a team with a real offense? We probably get our heads kicked in before the closer comes in to shut us down in the ninth. Luckily we are playing the Pirates. BMac had a rough game at the plate and in the injury department since he had to leave with some sort of ribcage strain. Knowing the kind of stress that catchers have to put on their bodies, I think we should be safe playing Rossy for the rest of this series and resting him up. It's a big luxury that we have on the team when your #2 catcher is as strong defensively behind the plate as his counterpart. Maybe better, but if I meet BMac in person I wouldn't say that.

Once again, the key to the game was two-out RBIs. Both Prado and Pastornicky came up early with big two out RBIs that gave us the lead. Those had to be demoralizing for a guy like Burnett who knew he wasn't going to get much run support. The key to breaking the game open in the 7th was our patience at the plate. Both Freddy and Rossy walked after a Marteeeeeen single to load the bases up, and the rest was an offensive explosion by Uggla and Chipper.

In my mind, the MVP can be only one person. That's right, Chipper Jones! The Old Gray Mare himself! 2/4 with 2 RBIs, and he's batting .300 on the year at age 40. Can you really argue that 40 is the new 20? No, but if we gave him some new knees, I'd let him go out there and hit for another 20 seasons. Hell, his knowledge of hitting and attitude in the clubhouse alone is enough to help these young guns learn a thing or two about a solid plate approach. You're seeing a Hall of Famer put together a hell of a going away present for the fans, folks. Enjoy it while you can.

Go Braves!


Friday, April 27, 2012

Pirates @ Braves Preview

Well folks I am live from New Orleans at Jazzfest on vacation so this won't be a typical preview since aim doing it on an iPad while listening to Zebra rock out the main stage. So I will preview the series in a very simple rundown. Typing on an iPad sucks. Game 1: Burnett v Hanson Game 2: Bedard v Delgado Game 3: Correia v Hudson Game 4: McDonald v Minor Game one is a wash since Burnett has only pitched one game this season against the Cards and he melted faces. I know for a fact after his time in New York he isn't that good. Beyond just going out there and keeping the train rolling at home, there isn't a lot data to glean one way or the other. Bedard is a different story. Assuming Delgado can avoid the disaster inning, we have three guys that really hit him Bedard well. Bmac, Freddy, and Hinske all can take him to task, and I expect Hinske to get a rare start in the game. Pray that the young Delgado can put together a full 6. McDonald and Correia are both pitching way over their heads right now. Their early ERAs near 2.00 don't mesh with their career ERAs near 4.00. Good news is that we have plenty of history crushing the ball against them. Expect Prado, Uggs, and Mac to have a good time working them over. Overall, the pirates are losing because they can't score on the road. If we play solid and put up three to four a game before we get to the pen? Game over. We can take three games from these guys, and I worry most about the game tonight. Go out there and work over Aj! Go Braves! Go Jazzfest!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Braves @ Dodgers: Game 3 Recap

Pic courtesy of Washington Post

Let me open the door into the mind of my own madness. It's 12:40 in the AM. The Braves have managed to post only 4 hits all game going to the 9th inning down by a run. I am exhausted after three straight nights of staying up for these games. Things look bleak. In desperate need of a rally, I grab my red foam tomahawk I got during the last playoff series against the Giants at the Ted. I don my lucky Braves hat. I then commence to rally chop by myself in my study as Prado comes up to bat. We needed it! Martin flies out, so I immediately switch from my right hand to my left hand for the chop. Right hand wasn't working! Must change! Then, like a lone snowball that trundles down a snow covered hill, the rally begins...

Those are the moments I live for with Braves baseball. Is it absolutely crazy? You bet your ass it's crazy. I don't care! We needed all the positive vibes we could get in the wee hours of the morning. Five straight hits in a row later, we were leading the game 4-2, and Kimbrel came in to shut the door on the Dodgers. What could have been a 1-2 series suddenly became 2-1, and a 5-2 road trip out West. Those kind of road trips define the regular season for great teams, even if it is only April.

The MVP of this game is without a doubt Dan Uggla. I expected him to come up big, and he did. He gave us a 1-0 lead in the fourth with an RBI single that knocked in Freddy Freeman. Then, in the ninth with the game on the line, and down two strikes, he went the other way on a bloop single to tie it up. He was 2/3 on the night with 2 RBIs, a run, and a walk. Without his production, the game would never have been close. Freeman gets the honorable mention nod for going 2/4 with 2 runs scored. Beachy also gets a nod for going 6.1 innings with only 2 earned runs, even when he was in some major jams. Venters and Kimbrel only had a ho-hum 5 strikeouts in 2 scoreless innings. Those guys make it look simple.

Now for the Stat of the Series! This series stat was...2-OUT RBIS! In our two wins, both Dan Uggla and Martin Prado had huge 2-out RBIs that helped us win those games. Nothing is more clutch for our team and more demoralizing for the opposition than plating runs when a pitcher looks like he is going to wriggle off the hook. It's something we didn't see enough of last season, and it really shows a mental toughness to hang with an AB even when the chips are down.

I can't be the only fan out there who is excited we are coming home. These late nights are hell on the fans when we play on the West Coast. Luckily we only do it twice a season. We head into a four game series against the Pirates at home, a team that's 3-6 right now on the road. Last year, we had the epic late inning game where umpire Jerry Meals decided that we should win. What will happen this year? I wouldn't mind taking 3/4 of from these guys. Let's make it happen!

Go Braves!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Braves @ Dodgers: Game 2 Recap

Finally, a comeback win! Also, in a celebration of his own birthday, the Old Gray Mare decided to take the Dodgers deep one more time. I will be completely honest about this game. After the fourth inning, when we were down by two runs and had only one hit, I was about ready to call it quits. That's when Chipper turned this whole thing around with a solo shot to deep right. He's a 40 year old sparkplug. It may not fire every single time you crank it up, but give it a little rest and that motor will run.

MVP of the game has to go to Marteeeeeeeeeen for his clutch hitting. A sacrifice grounder in the 5th tied the game, and a clutch triple in the 9th with two outs gave us the win. Tyler Pastornicky gets an honorable mention for being the only guy to have multiple hits during the game. Pastornicky went 3 for 3 with a walk, and he scored a run. Normally it would go to him, but Prado was clutch, and clutch is everything in life.

Minor wasn't great, but he settled down nicely after giving up a 2 out bomb in the first inning. What is it with our pitching staff and two out issues? There is something about giving up runs with two outs that makes it so much worse for me as a fan. It's like tripping over your shoelaces at the finish line. Regardless, he only gave up 3 runs, so it was no disaster by any means. Kimbrel continued to dazzle with 3 more Ks in his save, although he did make it interesting by giving up a hit and a walk.

The game featured one of the oddest double plays you are likely to see all season in the 6th inning. Runners were on first and second for the Dodgers, and Matt Kemp was at the plate. He grounds into a tailor made double play ball to Pastornicky. The feed goes to Uggla who tosses a cricket ball over to first. Freddy, who made so many digs in this game I lost count, couldn't pick this horrible toss. The ball gets away, the runner from third scores to tie the game, and Kemp saunters back to first. However, McCann comes running up the line and tells Freddy to tag Kemp. The Braves do, and the first base umpire calls Kemp safe. McCann loses his mind and Fredi G comes rambling out of the dugout. The umpires huddle for a while, and upon further review note that Kemp actually did make a move towards second as he rounded first. They call him out, and the scoring goes as a double play with a throwing error that scores a run on Uggla.

This brings me around to my one complaint about this game. Uggla needs to get his act together in the field. Right now Dan has 5 errors on the season, and he's dead last in the NL amongst second baseman in terms of his fielding percentage. A lot of his errors have ended up costing us runs. Now, Dan's not known for his spectacular defense, but he only had 15 errors last year in 159 games. Putting up a third of those errors in the first 18 games isn't giving me a warm fuzzy feeling. I think he's rushing throws because he knows Special Fred is back there digging out anything and everything, but that has to stop.

On a more positive note, we broke the 3 inning curse. Heads were never down. The mental strength of the team seems to dramatically improve when Chip is in the lineup. Since Beachy and Lilly face off tonight, we're going to need all the mental strength we can get. This game should be about who can manufacture runs better. Both pitchers are neck and neck leading the majors in ERA. The good news is that Lilly is pitching way better than he career 4.14 ERA, so there's room to knock him around. I'm a big believer in the back of the baseball card, or the Leo Mazzone "You are what you are" theory of pitching. So, get out there and mow em down, Beachy. Also, if I'm looking for one guy to step up tonight at the plate, it's Uggla. He's due to punish one of the Dodgers pitchers.

Go Braves!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Braves @ Dodgers: Game 1 Recap


pic courtesy of Washington Post

Jurrjens was optioned to AAA after this game. If you knew nothing else about the loss, other than the fact it was really late and 2-7, that would be enough to tell you it was a horrible start. JJ only went three innings, gave up 9 hits, 5 runs, a walk, and couldn't strike out my grandmother. Although, I'm not sure that's a great benchmark since my grandmother is a depression-era farmer. She's a tough out. Very pesky with a good eye. Makes a mean fried chicken and coconut cake, too. Where was I?

Oh right, we lost. I believe you can adequately describe JJ's failure yesterday by saying he had no movement on any of his pitches. Fastballs were simply coasting across the plate at belt level. Changeups weren't changing. Sliders were hanging. In the third inning, the Dodgers hit two balls so hard I thought for sure they were gone, but the park barely held them. One was so close that Jason Heyward was touching the wall as he caught it. At certain points you could see where Rossy was setting up for the pitch location, and Jurrjens was missing it by more than a foot. It was like a live version of batting practice out there, with about as many fans in attendance as you'd expect. More on that later.

For those who know baseball, you know it's probably not a good thing that Livan Hernandez had to come into the game to clean up the mess. By the top of the 5th inning, the Braves were already down 5-1, and that might as well have been 12-1 given the type of mental momentum in the dugout. One of the issues with our team is that we seem to be tied to the first three innings, good or bad. The stats don't lie. In every single one of our losses, we were tied or losing by the end of the third inning. In all but one of our wins, we were leading after the third inning. The simple conclusion is that if we don't start hot and take the lead, our team hangs their heads and says, "WE'RE NEVER GOING TO WIN!" My advice to fans, if we aren't winning in these late games by the end of the third, you're probably ok going to bed.

The situational hitting wasn't there last night. We had 7 hits, but the only ones that scored runs were Uggla and Rossy's solo homers. As a team we were 0-6 with RISP, and we stranded 8 runners. Considering we were only down by four runs for the majority of the game, any kind of action in those situations would have done wonders in rallying the team. The Dodgers, on the other hand, went 6-11 with RISP. Oh, and did we pitch to Kemp like I said not to? You bet we did! He had two hits and a walk. Eithier behind him had 3 hits. Juan FREAKING Uribe went 4/4 with 3 RBIs! The guy hadn't had a hit in a week prior to that.

So enough about that. We lost, and we'll deal. JJ will go to the minors and work out whatever the hell is wrong with him. I'm going to go on a small tangent here about the Dodgers fans. In case you haven't noticed, Dodger fans, you have a new $2B ownership group, and you're the best team in the National League. Maybe you might want to mobilize that tiny town of 18 million people and put some butts in the seats? That stadium was half-empty last night, and it was painfully obvious. The listed attendance was 26k, and there's no way it was over 20k. For all the crap Atlanta takes about fans not showing up, I don't want to see any stones flying out of glass houses on the West Coast, ok?

Tonight, we have a very winnable matchup between Minor and Harang. Get out there, score some early runs, and let's get this series tied up. My coffee will be brewing for tonight's matchup. Will yours?

Go Braves!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Braves @ Dodgers: Series Preview

I hope you diehards have your finest blend of Starbucks ready for this series, because we all know what a road matchup with the Dodgers entails: 10 PM first pitches, and games that go on into the wee hours of the morning here on the Eastern coast. Am I happy about it? No, and I'm even less pleased that the Dodgers are hotter than a Saharan frying pan. Thems the breaks, though. Here are your matchups!

Game 1: Jurrjens v. Capuano
Game 2: Minor v. Harang
Game 3: Beachy v. Lilly

The JJ v. Capuano matchup is a wash. JJ is iffy right now at best. Capuano is a lefty that hasn't gone very deep in games yet this year, and is prone to giving up a few walks if you are patient. We have been VERY patient lately, and I hope that trend continues in this game. He's sporting a 4.50 ERA, and has been relying on the Dodgers offense to get him some wins. The funny part of this series is that our backup players like Jack Wilson, David Ross, and Matty Diaz have owned Capuano in their careers. Would I be shocked to see a couple of them get the start? Nope.

Minor v. Harang favors us. Minor has given up one earned run in his last two starts. Harang is carrying a 5.40 ERA and hasn't gone longer than 6.1 innings so far this season. He's a righty that gives up a lot of fly ball outs, and our lineup crushes this guy. Bourn is .333 against him with a double and HR. Chipper is batting .400 against him with a cycle. BMac is .550 against him with five doubles and two homers. Uggs is batting .375 against him with four doubles and two homers. We should and can win this game with the bats. This is the one I'm pointing at that favors us the most. The "must-win" of the series.

Beachy v. Lilly sounds like a fruity girl drink you sip near the ocean. Would you like a Beachy Lilly? It comes in mango, strawberry, and passionfruit. But I digress. Beachy is spot on right now. He's the strongest pitcher we have on the staff, and according to my friend Ashleigh he's also the sexiest hurler in our rotation. Due to the fact the rubber match of the series is unlikely to include a beauty contest, we'll probably have find a way to solve Lilly with the bats. That could prove difficult since he's a crafty lefty with a 0.69 ERA. However, that stat can be misleading due to the fact he faced Houston and SD, two of the more woeful offenses in the league. Look for Dan Uggla and Martin Prado to provide some spark against Lilly, as they have enjoyed some success in prior games.

This series has 1-2 written all over it if we're not careful. The pitching will have to be solid to keep the hot Dodgers offense from turning our dream road trip into a nightmare. As per usual, I will point out one guy that the Braves should avoid at all costs. That guy in this series is Matt Kemp. DON'T PITCH TO MATT KEMP. He's batting .450 on the season with 22 RBIs and 9 homers. Take him away, and the Dodgers are basically a bunch of nobodies who are barely scraping together a .240 average. Let's see if we can't give the Dodgers a couple of their first home losses for the year.

Go Braves!

Braves @ Diamondbacks: Games 3&4 Recap

One win, one loss, and a 3-1 series on the road makes me a happy camper. I expected 2-2, and I got a nice bonus win when Tommy Hanson outdueled Saunders for seven innings. Toss in the fact that Venters and Kimbrel were strikeout machines, and that third win really showcased how our pitching staff can solidify a win.

Game 3's MVP was Dan Uggla with his clutch game-winning home run in the 3rd inning. Michael Bourn and Martin Prado provided much needed hitting support in the early part of that game to make the win possible. The rest was all pitching. Tommy went deep into the game, which is something I want more and more out of him as our potential Ace.

Game 4, I don't really want to dwell on it. Let's just say that young starters are usually plagued by the same problem when they get into trouble. They simply try to get too fine and can't get out of it without giving up the game. That's something a veteran pitcher wouldn't do. Delgado refused to pitch to contact against the opposing pitcher with the bases loaded, and it cost us. It's an unforgivable error in my book. I don't care if you throw a meatball up there, you have to get it over the plate in that situation with a pitcher hitting. Unfortunately, the meatball came a batter late, and Parra put it in the seats. Rocking Leo always says that pitching is about managing failure. We didn't manage failure well in Game 4.

Now, for the Stat of the Series! This time, the stat is...STRIKEOUTS! The Braves pitching staff managed to strike out 36 batters in this series. That averages out to one K every inning of every game against Arizona. Couple that with the fact that we only walked 10 batters during the series, and you end up with a quite lovely ratio that would be the envy of any team in the National League. That kind of pitching prowess should really help us in the Dodgers series.

Go Braves!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Braves @ Diamondbacks: Games 1 & 2 Recap

Well, we are already halfway into my expectations for the Braves on this road trip. Two games, and two wins. The rest of the series from this point on is gravy, in my opinion. Just keep everyone healthy for the series against the Dodgers.

The MVP of game one goes to Freddy Freeman. 2 homers, 5 RBIs, and a double. He was a one man wrecking crew in the first game. Mike Minor also went 8 innings with only one earned run on five hits. With 9 Ks during his outing, he gets a strong honorable mention for the MVP of the game.

Game Two had an unlikely MVP. Brandon Beachy threw 7.1 innings with over 110 pitches of shutout ball on only one walk. That's frankly amazing for a 25 year old starter who has now pitched 14 straight innings without giving up an earned run. Folks, and I can't stress this enough, Brandon is LEADING THE MAJORS IN ERA. Let that soak in. There is nobody better in baseball right now than Brandon Beachy. What an awesome accomplishment for this kid early in the season!

The Braves offense continued to amaze in both games. As I expected in my series preview, Freddy Freeman owned Collmenter and that led us to a victory. In game two, the sixth inning was our hot inning that really killed the Snakes. It all started with a simple error that got Chipper Jones on base. Heyward singles, then Pastornicky gets to first on a FC with Heyward out at second. At that point, with runners on the corners, Beachy earned his MVP by bunting home Chip in a squeeze play where the DBacks failed to tag him out. After a Bourn double, a Marteeeeeeeen sac fly, and a Freeman double, the Braves had locked away the game with 4 runs in the sixth inning. That was the dagger.

Were there downsides to these games? I'd really be reaching to say there were. We aren't flawless, obviously. In game one Uggla had a stupid error that cost us a run, but in the larger scheme of things it wasn't a huge deal. In game two, Kimbrel struggled and gave up a run, but that's a closer in a non-save situation. We all know that they don't have the same intensity that you expect from a closer when the game isn't really on the line. Overall, I'd say we executed what we wanted to execute in these two games, and the people that we needed to step up did just that.

Going into the games tonight and tomorrow, I will say I made a mistake in my series preview. I didn't realize that Chris Young was put on the DL the day before we started this road trip. You know what makes it easy not to pitch to Chris Young? When he isn't in the lineup. Nice research there Ben. Might want to check the injury report before you go spouting off on which players can burn you. Where's that bear facepalm...

Go Braves!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Braves @ Diamondbacks: Series Preview

It's a 4 game series with a long distance flight and no travel day. Needless to say I'm not a fan of this scheduling Selig! Where were you on this one? Do the Brewers travel to the the West Coast on no travel day this season? Let me check! Hmm, they actually have to play the Padres in San Diego on Monday after a game in St. Louis on Sunday. You win this round, Selig.

On to the series. Here are your proposed matchups:

Game 1 - Minor v. Collmenter
Game 2 - Beachy v. Cahill
Game 3 - Hanson v. Saunders
Game 4 - Delgado v. Kennedy

I'll start by saying that we are both 7-5 teams who are scoring runs at a pretty solid clip. If you told me we go into Arizona and emerge 2-2, I'm taking it and moving on. I think most fans should feel the same way when your team is looking down the barrel of a quick turnaround road trip, followed by a series against the supremely hot Dodgers.

The Minor v. Collmenter match is a winnable game for us. Collmenter is a 26 year old righty who doesn't have much of history against our lineup. However, Freddy Freeman owns this guy, having gone 3/5 in his ABs against him. The Braves are batting well against righties, having put up 9 Homers in 12 games, and BMac, Bourne, Heyward, and Hinske are all sporting a .280 average in those matchups. Conversely, only Hill, Young, and Montero are performing against lefties right now, with Chris Young being the standout. Key to this game: DON'T PITCH TO YOUNG. He is the David Wright of the Diamondbacks. Do not let him kill you, Minor.

Beachy v. Cahill is a wash. Both are pitching at their peak right now, and somebody has to blink. Beachy holds a 3.30 ERA on the road in 14 starts for his career, and Cahill is a 3.24 ERA pitcher at home. They are both younger, 3 year vets, and right-handed. Really, all this game will come down to is who puts together a hot inning. At the very least I like the odds of our lineup against a righty given the recent success. I think we should take this game with the bats. Are you pitching to Young? No, you are not.

Hanson v. Saunders. Which Tommy shows up? Do we get the Tommy that pitched against the Astros, or the Tommy that pitched against the Mets? If Mets Tommy shows up, I may have better things to do that Saturday than watch the damage. Saunders, on the other hand, has been terrifyingly consistent. He's had two starts, gone seven innings in both of them, and only given up one earned run. ONE RUN. Winning this game would be a steal, or a pitchers duel where Tommy outguns Saunders. I'm not holding my breath, but weirder things have happened. Hey Tommy, that Young guy? No Bueno.

Delgado v. Kennedy. How many times have I said I don't trust Delgado so far? I still don't trust Delgado. He has two starts and two wins, so I should feel awesome about him right? I don't. We scored 15 runs in his two wins, and he kid almost never has a clean inning. He has been able to pitch out of trouble, but I'm not going to annoint him as a stud yet. Kennedy is a strikeout machine and leads his team. That means guys like Uggla and Freeman may struggle against him. He doesn't walk a lot of people, so this is one of the few times were I would tell the hitters to be looking for a fastball first pitch and drive it. The positive note: He got beat by Pittsburgh at home. He's gettable, Young is not. Don't pitch to him! None this series. Throw two at his ribs just to make sure he gets the message on the way out.

As I've said, 2-2 and I'm happy. Let's go out there and make it happen.

Go Braves!

Mets @ Braves: Games 2 & 3 Recap

 pic from USA Today

Wet weather didn't keep the Braves from sending the Mets back to Flushing two games lighter in the standings. If you liked runs, you loved these two games. As frustrated as I was with our hitting approach in game one of the series, I was that much more impressed with our patience at the plate in games 2 and 3.

Game 2 saw nine runs on nine hits, with a home run by Francisco in the 8th. Game 3 was even more explosive, with 14 runs on 16 hits, and 3 HRs by Francisco, Uggla, and Freeman. Our plate discipline knocked Santana out of the game in his shortest outing of his career, 1.1 innings. He had already thrown 55 pitches by the time he got the hook. That's what I meant when I said you have to let the Met's pitching staff hang itself.

Stat of the Series: RISP! The Braves were 12-24 in their two wins with runners in scoring position. For those of you who are terrible at math, that means we were batting .500 when people got on second or third. Such a stat is beyond exceptional when you are playing teams in your division, and will directly lead to victories if you can bat over .300 during the year with RISP.

As per usual, not everything was positive. What you have to remember as a fan is that offensive production in the short run can cover underlying issues. Eventually, teams go into slumps at the plate where they can only score 2 or 3 runs a game, and that's when those mistakes come back to rear their ugly head. The first concern this year is Jurrjens.

Jair hasn't pitched well. His two wins both had double digit run support, and his one loss came when the Braves could only muster two runs. JJ has never pitched more than 5 innings in his first three starts. His ERA is over 8.00, and he gives up 7 hits a start. He is giving up fly balls at an alarming rate, and he's walking almost a batter an inning. Is he hurt? Is he struggling due to some sort of hidden problem? I'm not sure. What I am sure of is that the JJ taking the mound right now isn't the guy we got to know from 2009-2011.

Another thing I'll continue to harp on is the errors. Two more games, two more errors. Our fielding sucks lately, and it's driving me nuts. The most ridiculous part is that if we didn't have an absolute savant at 1B making digs on some of these horrible throws? We could easily have 10 more errors this season. Unless you can absolutely club the ball and score 6+ a game on average, you can't be giving teams extra outs and extra rallies. That's exactly what our errors are doing, and it's not acceptable.

To end on a positive note, we crushed the Mets faces with a hobnail boot. It was glorious. The only thing more glorious would have been for the weather to cooperate, but you can't always get what you want. Mick Jagger taught me that. Tonight we start a West Coast turnaround against the Diamondbacks, who just dropped a game to the Pirates. It shouldn't be too hard for the bats to stay hot in Arizona.

Go Braves!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mets @ Braves: Game 1 Recap




Ike Davis and Jason Bay killed us. That's something nobody saw coming, but here we are. After any loss, especially one where we give up more than 5 runs, I'm not going to get too pissed at our hitters. We got the lead early, and the momentum was in our favor at home. I am going to get pissed at Tommy Hanson for essentially blowing that game. With a 1-0 lead heading to the top of the third, Tommy did 3 things I can't forgive in my starting pitcher. First, he walks the leadoff man. Second, he commits a throwing error that moves him to second. Three, he let the pitcher Gee get a bunt down to move the runner to third. So in the span of an inning, Tommy cost us that run. Nobody got a single hit that inning, but the run came in regardless. Unforgivable!

Moving on to the 6th. Tie game, two on, two outs. Tommy has a 2-2 count and a pitch to burn on Ike Davis, who is batting poorly. What does he do? Grooves a ball that Davis puts 412 feet into the seats. It wasn't close, it wasn't a good location, it wasn't what BMac called, and it buried us. I believe at that juncture I threw my hat at the TV and changed the channel to Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives to cool off for 5 minutes.

We had a chance to get things close in the 7th when Uggla and Heyward both get on base and nobody is out. Hinske, Wilson, and Fransisco can't get the ball out of the infield for the rest of the inning, and we strand both of them. No offense to Wilson, because he did get absolutely robbed by Jason Bay in the outfield when he pulled back a homer, but I don't want to see him out there in favor of Pastornicky. Hinske is also great off the bench, but as an everyday 4 AB guy, he's limited.

Everybody was too agressive at the plate on our end last night. I have no idea why that was, but let's do a quick rundown:

Prado went 0-4 on 14 pitches
Uggla went 1-4 on 11 pitches
Chip went 0-4 on 15 pitches
Bourn went 1-4 on 15 pitches
BMac went 1-4 on 13 pitches

Dillon Gee got to the 7th inning crusing because he didn't have to throw many pitches. We were freewheeling from the first inning. Everyone, that is, except Jason Heyward. I want to point out that Jason was extremely patient at the plate, and guess what? He had two hits, a walk, and saw more pitches than anybody. Hmmmm, funny how that works! Good job, Jason, you get the the MVP of the game.

So, Braves hitters, you best take note of the importance of letting the Mets pitching staff hang itself. I don't want to see a bunch of first pitch swinging grounders tonight against Santana. Coax some counts, shorten up those swings, and let's see a little old-fashioned mechanics at there. For the love of God, can we go a game without an error costing us a run???

By the way, the weather may not play nice tonight, but keep your fingers crossed that we get this one in. I don't want any weird double headers or makeups last in the season.

Go Braves!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Series Preview: Mets @ Braves - REVENGE!


That's right. I want to feast on their tears. Getting swept was painful and put everyone in this town into panic mode. Now it's our chance to inflict some pain, and show those stupid Mets fans (who you know will show up at the Ted) how terrible they really are. Here are your matchups:

Game 1: Gee v. Hanson
Game 2: Santana v. Delgado
Game 3: Dickey v. Jurrjens

Short version: love the first matchup, hate the second, love the third. Slightly longer version: Gee is terrible with a 5 ERA this season, Santana is absolutely filthy right now, and Dickey got lucky against us once. I think Hanson has a good thing going, I still don't trust Delgado yet, and JJ is continually improving along with our offense.

Some keys to victory: For the love of everything holy, PITCH AROUND DAVID WRIGHT! The man is batting over .550 right now. Hell, just throw at him, it'll save time. Also, stay away from Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada. Abuse Ike Davis, Jason Bay, Scott Hairston, and Justin Turner, who are all batting under .250 right now. Also Duda Dooooodaaaaah, is striking out a ton, so you can work him over if you don't leave it out and over the plate. Did I mention to not pitch to Wright? DON'T PITCH TO WRIGHT!

Also, can we shore up the errors, please? That was embarrassing in New York. I couldn't watch that game without the Benny Hill music playing in my head as we tossed it haplessly about the infield. Stop that.

Meet the Mets, greet the Mets, step right up and Beat the Mets!

Go Braves!

Brewers @ Braves: Game 2 & 3 Recap


Braves swept away the Brewers this weekend in a series that will put many minds at ease. The questions of whether or not this offense can produce have been tucked away neatly in their beds, given a night light and some Nyquil, and are now slumbering peacefully in their footy PJs. The home opener and subsequent games were full of Braves fans giving the home team a lusty chop at full throat, and there were more fireworks than what Publix set off on Friday night. But I disgress.

The best thing about these two games had to be the dominate starting pitching by Minor and Beachy. Minor went 7.1 innings with no earned runs, 4 Ks, and only one walk. Beachy went 7 innings with no earned runs, 6 Ks, and 2 walks. Folks, if we get that kind of performance out of our staff this year, we would go 100-62. I'm extremely happy that we broke through the 5 inning wall we seemed to be hitting in our earlier games, and set the house on fire with the long bombs.

I'll break these two games down hitting-wise into the good, the bad, and the ugly as I am prone to do after a weekend of reflection:

The Good - Chipper Jones and Jason Heyward both came up large in these games. Chip came off injury with a huge homer in his first AB, and Jason had 2 hits, 2 runs, an RBI, and a walk in his two games. Bourne also put together a 3 hit day in game three that really cemented the win.

The Bad - Our fielding could be better. We had an error that cost us a run in both games, one from Prado and one from Uggla. We are 22nd in fielding right now in the MLB, and I hate that. Last year we were 4th. I fully expect a solid defensive team out of the Atlanta Braves even when we're not scoring tons of runs, and I think we let the defense slip a little during this series. I hope we can shore that up against the Mets.

The Ugly - It's official. Freddy Freeman is in a slump. He didn't have a single hit in the entire series. Worse, he struck out four times. The kid is batting .120 on the week, and doesn't really have a good handle yet on his swing. He's hitting the ball hard, but I really don't like the way he looks on outside pitches. Opposing hurlers seem to focus on the tailing fastball or changeup away, and he has no answer for it. Part of the issue is when I watch him swing, to my untrained eye, it just looks like he's trying to golf the ball out of the stadium. I would like to see him protect the plate more and try to go the other way if the pitchers insist on working the outside corner against him.

And now for the Stat of the Series! It's a new feature I'm bringing to the blog where I focus on one particular stat that lead to our success (or abject failure). Today that stat is...WALKS. Our starting pitchers only gave up 5 walks during this entire series. That kind of efficient pitching helped us break through the 5 inning barrier and led to these wins. Meanwhile our hitters were very patient at the plate and earning 15 walks for the series. We knocked out their starters early by forcing them to throw more pitches and put pressure on their D on the basepaths.

So, that's the story of the sweep. The Braves need to carry that momentum into tonight against the Mets. I want some revenge, and I know you do too.

Go Braves!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Brewers @ Braves: Game 1 Recap

Does anybody else remember the regular season opener where we couldn't score a run? That was then, this is now, and our bats are hot! 10 runs on 14 hits, 2 HRs, and 6 walks all came together in a slugfest that ended with us on top 10-8. Kimbrel got another save, Brian McCann somehow actually stole a base, and Matty Diaz got his first homer in over 300 ABs. It was a down and up and down and back up again type of game.

Game MVP goes to BMac, who lived up to my expectations with a 4/5 day, a homer, and 4 RBIs. Prado, Bourne, Uggla, Diaz, and Heyward all had hits in the game that helped knock out Randy Wolf after only 4.1 innings and 98 pitches. His ERA took a serious beating as he gave up 8 earned runs while our lineup batted around in the 5th. Dan Uggla gets the Scrapper award for coming up huge in the bottom of the 8th with a broken bat single to win the game. He was 2/3 with RISP, which is a great category for him to be coming up large.

The downside of the game? WHY THE HELL DID WE GIVE UP EIGHT RUNS? Jurrjens was dealing until he got into the 6th and imploded without even getting an out. It's also not often that I say this, but Eric O'Flaherty was a greasefire last night. He proceeded to let the Brewers right back into the game by giving up hit after hit, then got completely bailed out by a double play that basically saved the game. Why? Because Cory Hart took him yard on the next pitch. So, the Fake Irishman was a disaster, and JJ fell apart. Is anybody else getting really concerned about out staff? I can guarantee you one thing, we aren't going to post ten runs at home every single game.

I want to take a moment and point out something about one of our players who is having a rough go of it lately. Freddie Freeman isn't getting a lot of hits right now, and part of that is because he has been striking out too often. If you look at his outs when he makes contact though, he's pounding the ball right now. It's just not falling into the right places or getting out of the park. Today he faces off against Marcum, and I think Freeman has a good chance of getting the better of him. Freddie was a .300 hitter against Right handers last season, and Marcum gave up over a .270 average to lefties in 2011. Freddy has also been working counts, seeing almost 3.9 pitches per plate appearance, and if you get Marcum in a favorable count, he's giving up almost .290 to hitters.

So look for Freddie to get his first base knock against the Brew Crew tonight, and make sure to send good vibes to Minor in the hopes he can get through the sixth inning!

Go Braves!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Series Preview: Brewers @ Braves



Finally, the Braves are going to play at Turner Field. After a poor start and a good finish to the road trip, I'm glad to see our boys take the field inside the comforting confines of the Ted. Here's a rundown on your matchups for the weekend.

Game 1: Wolf v. Jurrjens
Game 2: Marcum v. Minor
Game 3: Narveson v. Beachy

Minor and Jurrjens got roughed up in their first outing, so you would hope they can bounce back quickly against a Brewers lineup that's not hitting well in 7 games. I think Beachy should be able to anchor the series well since he's shown signs of being our second best starter in the absence of Hudson for April. Wolf lost his first start of the year as well with 3 runs on five innings, so it's an even match against JJ in terms of stats. Marcum was able to go a little deeper into his game than Minor, so he got the win on his 4.50, and he has the advantage against our younger hurler. Narveson and Beachy should be a war. Both pitched well, both have low ERAs, but both of them are prone to putting people on base. That game will come down to who is hot at the plate and gets the keys hits.

As I mentioned before the Brewers have been struggling to hit the ball of late. They were crushed 8-0 by the Cubs in their last game, and if you know anything about the Cubs, you know they are NOT a good team. Right now, the Brewers entire infield is batting a combined .172 for the year. In contrast, the platoon of outfielders they have is batting .293 on the season. Shocking nobody, Ryan Braun is leading the team in hits. Somebody might want to check his urine. On no wait, we tried that and apparently Fedex negates chemicals. I'm sure he's clean now. But just in case he's not, let's hope Braves fans get creative out there in left field. Bonus points to you if you get on TV with this sign: "When you absolutely, positively, get off on a technicality? Trust FEDEX."

My plan for winning these games would be to abuse their position players and pitch around their outfield. If we focus our outs primarily on the guys who are struggling, and avoid walking them, we should be in good shape. On our end, we need Chipper, Prado, and Heyward to stay hot, and we need our traditional power hitters to find the groove. McCann and Uggla haven't been seeing the ball well yet as they already have 9 Ks in 42 ABs. Freeman is also in a slump right now and Bourn is a non-factor unless he walks.

If I was expecting two of those guys to get it together against these Brewers pitchers, I'd say look for McCann and Bourn to have a big weekend. Both will be looking to coax counts in their favor, and these pitchers don't make many of their outs on the ground. I'd expect that if Bourn can find a few gaps he'll have a huge series due to his speed, and I have no doubt BMac will have at least one homer during these three games. You can take that to the bank!

This series is ours for the taking. I think we can take 2 of 3, depending on which JJ shows up. Here's looking at a full Turner Field and a great weekend of chopping away the Brewers.

Go Braves!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Braves @ Houston: Game 3 Recap

Congratulations Braves fans, we won our first series! We did it completely backwards from the way I expected, but I'll take stealing a game three from a starter that's never lost to us at home before. These games in Houston were agonizing as a fan. Not only were our two wins hideously long (they both took over 3 hours and fifteen minutes), but we just couldn't stop putting runners on base. Every time I got to feeling comfortable, we'd walk the leadoff man or give up a single to bring Carlos Lee to the plate. It was very edge-of-your-seat stuff.

This game's MVP goes to David Ross. Not only did he have two hits and two RBIs, he also made a specatular snap throw to second to pick off a runner and kill a rally by the Astros. Jason Heyward is a close second, as he finally got off the shnide with a 3/4 day and a HUGE home run late in the game. With 11 hits on the night, almost everyone got in on the hit parade except for Michael Bourne. I like Bourne and people are going to be frustrated with him, but the hits are going to come. Right now, he's just pulling a Dan Uggla disappearing act from last season. He'll be fine.

Underrated player of the game award goes to Martin Prado, who managed to score from first on a bloop single by Chipper. The two OFs ran into each other, then botched a throw back to the infield. To his credit, Marteeeeeeeen never stopped running. He also had a hit and two walks on the night, so he was always pestering the Astros pitching staff. He is going to be a fly in the ointment for many pitchers we face this year, and I love him for it.

We enjoy a day off today so the Braves can finally come home! I'm looking foward to a little home-cooking against the Brewers more than anyone. Let's hope we can keep the hits coming.

Go Braves!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Braves @ Houston: Game 2 Recap

BRAVES WIN! BRAVES WIN! BRAVES WIN!

I'm not really shocked we won that game since the pitching matchup was dramatically in our favor, but it's still nice to get off the shnide and silence the panic. I told my friend Ashleigh that there were no must-win games in April, but this one was about as close as you can get. Luckily, after a lot of mistakes by our pitching staff, we got out of that game with a 6-4 victory.

The highlight of that game had to be the return of Chipper Jones, who started off the night with a smacked single up the middle, and then went yard in his second AB to give us the lead. Also, Houston tried to test him at third right off the bat with a bunt, and Chip said, "Not so fast," as he pulled off his now patented bare-handed scoop'n'toss from the line. Nobody in baseball makes that play better than Chipper Jones.

The Braves managed 6 runs on 11 hits, and everyone got in on the parade. The only guy who got robbed was Freeman, who hit a couple of balls to the deepest part of the ballpark. Even Hanson got a hit, and that guy swings the bat like a blind man with a flyswatter. Uggs and Bourne came off the deck with 3 hits between the two of them, and Bourne managed to swipe second late in the game when we needed some insurance. That turned out to be huge since Houston threatened nearly every inning.

The downside to this game was that the Braves pitching staff put the leadoff man on base in six innings. Against Houston, we barely got away with that. Against a team with a remote chance of competing for the playoffs, that will get us murdered. Kimbrel looked shaky in his first save opportunity by putting two men on with no outs, but he was completely bailed out by Johnson rapping into a horrible double play on a low pitch. Tommy still couldn't make it past the 5th, but he got out of trouble several times with only two runs to his credit. A win is a win, and a save is a save, but that doesn't mean I was ever comfortable watching that game. The good news is that when all is said and done, the O'Flaherty, Venters, Kimbrel connection didn't give up any runs.

I want to give special credit to Tyler Pastornicky, who is seeing the ball really well for a rookie. I didn't know a guy who looks like a baby out there could hit home runs. Just make sure not to do too much in the field and you'll be fine, young gun.

Tonight we face Wandy Rodriguez with Randall Delgado. I have no illusions about this matchup; it's a disaster. I'm glad we got a win last night, because Wandy's record against us is quite good, and I think Delgado needs to spend more time in AAA. So, the hope is that the Braves bats stay hot, and we put a few more 2 run dingers in the seats. Either way, people can put the 1988 references to bed, and take their finger off the panic button. The Braves have found the win column.

Go Braves!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Braves @ Houston: Game 1 Recap



Another game, another bad loss. This one hurt a little more than the Mets series because we started off so well, only to watch it slide away in an 8-3 shellacking. The truth is that we got completely derailed by a series of 3rd inning screwups, and the blame this time falls on our new 3B acquisition Francisco. He just has to own his mistakes, and move on. He'll never make two errors on the same play in his life again.

I'm getting several questions from my friends and family asking me if it's time to panic. The answer, in short, is no. We're probably going to lose 70 games over the course of a season if we make a playoff run. The problem is that you don't like to start poorly, but it happens. Are we the worst team in the National League? Currently, yes we are. Will we be at the end of April? I seriously doubt that. The Mets are 4-0 and the Phillies are 1-3. If that doesn't tell you the entire NL East is upside down right now, I don't know what will. So, there's no need to panic yet. However, if we lose to Houston's worst pitcher with our Ace on the hill, I will dial up my personal panic meter to 6 out of 11. Why eleven? Because my panic meter goes to 11, baby! That's why!

What can we take away from yesterday's game? I'd say the positive is that we started the game very strong at the plate. Pastornicky came through in a two out rally situation with his first RBI of the season, and Beachy managed to help his own cause with a squib shot that nobody could field. Heading to the bottom of the 3rd, we were leading 3-0, Beachy had given up no hits, and the fans were seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

Then, the errors happened. There are two things you absolutely cannot do if you want to win baseball games at the MLB level. You can't put the leadoff man on, and you can't give teams extra outs. We did both during the span of that game. Also, if our starters can't get through the 6th inning all year long, we will never be competitive as a ball club. The worst part about the 3rd inning was that we got out of it tied, but it sucked all the momentum out of the ballpark. I seriously question the mentality of our team when things start to go wrong, because it seems like the entire lineup goes into a funk at the plate.

Case in point, after all the errors in the 3rd, the Braves didn't get another hit in the game until Prado singled in the 8th. That was the only hit in the game for us after we gave up the lead. Everyone on the team just sort of gave up. I'm not saying we quit, but as much as hitting is contagious, NOT hitting is just as viral. And the Braves lineup had a bad case of the ball-blind flu.

Some interesting/depressing stats about the season thus far. In the MLB, Braves are 26th in fielding, 25th in total ERA, dead last in opponent batting average, 26th in offensive scoring, 28th in team batting average, 28th in slugging, and 26th in home runs.

Also, you may see Michael Bourne on milk cartons soon if he doesn't get a hit. He's been missing for a few games now, and his parents are starting to get worried. If you see him around town, please let him know that we are thinking about him and want him to come home safe.

Go Braves!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Series Preview: Braves @ Astros

I wanted to do a quick rundown of what we can expect from the Astros series during the early week. We have 3 night games in a row at 8EDT, so that sits well with me from a TV standpoint.

Matchups:
Game 1 - Beachy v. Happ
Game 2 - Hanson v. Weiland
Game 3 - Delgado v. Rodriguez

The first two matchups seem like the advantage goes to us. Beachy averaged 5.5 innings per start last season with a 3.62 ERA. Happ had about the same amount of innings with a 5+ ERA. If we can't score runs on Happ, we need to seek the help of a voodoo priest.

Hanson was strong in his bid against the Mets, and we didn't score at all. If he's in the remotely similar form, we should murder Weiland. He's a 25 year old doofy looking right who pitched 7 games in the majors with a 7.66 ERA. Let me put this very clearly. WE MUST NOT LOSE THIS GAME. It's essentially Ace v. Some guy we found off the street.

As far as Delgado and Rodriguez, it's our weakest link against their consistent starter. It's a game we are supposed to lose in theory. We might be able to steal one if Delgado is really on that day, but if spring training numbers are any indication, Delgado is a complete greasefire right now. He posted a 7.89 ERA in 21 innings with 28 hits, 12 walks, and 3 home runs. The fact we're favoring him over Medlen is beyond me, but if he goes out there and lays a 6 run egg against Houston? @#$% will hit the fan.

So, in short I have us going 2-1 in the series, winning the first two and losing the last one.

Go Braves!

Recap: Mets Games 2 & 3


pic credit to AL.com

I'll just go ahead and lump these two games together because I don't think they are worth discussing individually. Let's go ahead and bottom line this series. We got swept by the Mets in New York. There are more humiliating places to lose a series, but not many. The problem in these two games was our pitching, and that scares the heck out of me as a fan. I can only hope that our starters get it together a little as we travel to Houston, because we need them to go deeper into games if we hope to win.

I'll break these two games down into my favorite triumvirate: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good - Jason Heyward showed up in these two games. As much as I dog the kid for playing poorly, I owe to him to recognize when he plays well. He had two hits, two walks, and two RBIs on only one strikeout in the two latter games. I'll take that all year long if he can keep it up.

The Bad - Jurjenns and Minor got brutalized by a bad Mets lineup. JJ only with 4.1 innings throwing over 100 pitches. Three runs and three walks in 4 innings is not going to win any games for us. Minor was even worse. 5 innings with over 100 pitches, and 6 runs with 4 walks. We're simply not being economical at all with our starters pitch counts, and that means stress on the bullpen. Want to know why we collapsed last year? Overtaxed bullpen with no hits.

The Ugly - Brian McCann and Dan Uggla only have one hit apiece so far this season. If those guys aren't in the middle of the lineup producing some action on the ball, we're in for a long April. Uggla is trying to see more pitches and has already draw 3 walks, so there's a silver lining there. McCann, on the other hand, has just been a complete non-factor. His one hit was a meaningless solo home run in the last game. Maybe it will jump start him against Houston.

The Ugliest - I'm tossing in one more ugly because we got swept. Yes, I can do that, it's my blog and my rules. The Ugliest part of this whole series was that the Braves left 30 men stranded on base. That's right, we averaged 10 baserunners a game standing there looking woefully back at the plate while our hitters flailed in futility. Of all the trends I want to change, that's the biggest one.

So that's the facts, folks. We did not play like a good baseball team in New York, and the record shows it. Now, we head into Houston, who is coming off two wins in a row against Colorado. Let's hope that night games favor us better than day games.

Go Braves! <chops>

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tyler Pastornicky: Starter or Stop-Gap?




For those of you that followed spring training at all, you probably heard about the competition at SS between Tyler Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons. The fact that there was a race at all for the starting job was due to Pastornicky's lack of hitting production during the spring. Some people in the media world started to panic and Tyler's stock began to drop quickly when he went 2-22 at the plate. There were questions about him arriving too early and assuming too much by taking a low number for his jersey. In other words, it was typical media hand-wringing over nothing.

Yes, he started slow in spring training, but I will point to the stretch in the middle of training when he was getting 3-4 ABs a game. Those are the kind of numbers you will see from him in the regular season. Starting on March 11th through March 25th, Pastornicky hit the ball very well for any player, rookie or otherwise. He had a .343 average, 5 runs scored, 3 RBIs, and only 2 strikeouts.

Now will Tyler hit .343 this season? Absolutely not. He's a rookie, and in all liklihood Freddy G is going to have him hitting in the 7 or 8 spot for most of the season. He will go through the stretches where he will slump. He will have trouble with certain aspects of his swing. He will have to make adjustments. However, I believe it's entirely reasonable that Pastornicky can put up a .260 average this season, and provide some clutch ABs when we need rallies late in the order. Frankly, that's more than we can ask for from a rookie SS, who needs to be primarily focused on learning the position at the top level, and honing the quick turn for double plays.

Is he the starter of the future? I can't say that this early. My gut says he certainly has the skills and quick hands at the plate to make this interesting. Also, he can leg out a triple fairly easily with his speed. I would love to see him swipe a few bases if he's in the 8 hole while the pitching flails around up there. I will say this, though. I have a lot more faith in him playing well this season and producing some key moments than I did during the spring.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mets v. Braves Game 1 Recap

So, does anybody else feel like they just watched Game 163 of last season? Because that's exactly what I felt like when I watched the Braves struggle yet again at the plate. The positive is that I like Tommy's new delivery, and he was pitching a gem before David freaking Wright came by to burn us again. My distate for that man grows along with my respect for him as a player. If there's one guy in the lineup for the Mets that can hurt us, it's him.

Digging deeper, as I am prone to do, where can we see what went wrong? Well, for starters, our leadoff man went 0-4 on the day and didn't touch a base. That's problem #1. Also, our silver slugger catcher didn't have a single hit during the game. That's problem #2. And lastly, I will pick on Heyward who continues to strike out just like he did in spring training. 0-4 with 2 Ks will drive me nuts if we are still seeing that out of him in late April.

There are some things I did like out of our day. Despite the fact that Bourne didn't get a hit, he is working counts like a lead off hitter should. He saw 22 pitches in 4 ABs, with only one strikeout. That's the kind of effort I want out of a #1, and it WILL lead to hits and production if he keeps putting the ball in play like that on long counts. It also goes a long way to knocking out a starter when we force him to get his count up. The second thing I liked is that our young SS hit a triple, had a walk, and was on base in 2 of his 3 plate appearances. For a guy that struggled in spring training, that's a great start to the regular season. If he wasn't batting behind the turnstile that is Heyward, I think he'll be in good shape.

Medlen continues to amaze in long relief, and I'm going to continue pushing hard for him to get the starting nod. Two innings with only one hit? Between him and Venters the bullpen I was never worried about giving up runs in the late game. I was worried about the game ending 1-0, and getting shut out by the freaking Mets.

Next game on Friday we need to improve a few things, obviously. First, let's work on our BB/K rate as a team. At the plate, we struck out 8 times to only 3 walks. I'd prefer a 1-2 rate at worst, a 2-3 rate is ideal. Second, BMac needs to work the count a little more to get some pitches in his favor. I feel he was a bit too aggressive early on and it cost him. Lastly, we need to put the ball in play on pinch hit situations. Both Hinske and Constanza we put out without any action (Hinske a foul out, Constanza a K with RISP).

Luckily, it's one game out of 162, so better luck tomorrow with JJ on the mound facing the knuckleballer RA Dickey. Let's take it to them this weekend. Go Braves!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mets Series Preview

So what can the Braves expect out the Mets during this opening series? The answer is hopefull not a lot. The Mets haven't added much in terms of actual talent, and guys like Reyes, Beltran, and Capuano have left the club for greener pastures. What does that leave in terms of lineup for the Mets? Well you still have David Wright at 3B acting as a thorn in our sides, and Ike Davis at 1B will cause some problems for our pitching staff. Their outfield of Torres, Bay, and Duda scare nobody. Of those three, Duda is the most dangerous with an .852 OPS and 50 RBIs last year in 100 games. Bay couldn't manage over a .250 average last season, and Torres is a reject out of SF that barely got above .220 in 2011.

So in terms of putting up a lot of runs on any team, the Mets aren't going to perform well. They will have to rely on quality pitching that can keep games under 3 runs. My guess is that with Santana, Neise, Pelfrey, Dickey, and Gee. Pelfrey, Neise and Gee all have 4+ ERAs last year, and Santana is coming off surgery. Dickey is the only guy I worry about, and we have him facing off against JJ in the second game. I like that matchup in our favor if JJ can keep the ball down.

Braves are playing most of their games as day games in this series, and BMac, Freeman, and Bourn really feasted in those situations last year, so look for them to get some big hits in this series.

Go Braves!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Braves v. Future Stars Recap


Last night the Braves faced off against an "Farm-Star" collection of talent from all the Brave A squads. The result was a game that over 10,000 fans attended and subsequently enjoyed until they got wet in the seventh inning. Even though the game was a rain shortened affair, the Braves beat the Farm-Stars 4-3, and everyone seemed to enjoy watching Bobby Cox manage the young guns. Personally, I wanted Bobby to get tossed one more time, but I think the rain cost us that opportunity.

There were some positive things to take away from the game before we prepare for the Mets tomorrow. The first is that Dan Uggla is in ridiculous shape, and he clubbed a ball that still hasn't landed yet. The second is that our pro-players hopefully weren't taking their fielding too seriously, because Rossy and Freedman both had some really awful throwing errors. The last thing is that Prado, McCann, and Bourne all look ready to go. I'm extremely encouraged about our lineup from 1-5. That's the positive side.

The negatives from the game were only a couple, but they reinforce some of my concerns heading into the regular season. Jason Heyward went 0-3 with a strikeout and left 2 on base. Cristhian Martinez struggled, giving up a double, single, four pitch walk, and two runs in one inning. I'll come right out and say that I'm going to be hard on both these guys this season for different reasons. I'll be tough on Heyward because he either needs to put up numbers this season or get back in the minors until he can work out his swing. We've replaced a hitting coach because of him. We've put up with an extremely down year where one game of offensive production would have made a world of difference. I'm tired of RF being an easy out in our lineup (dare I say Frenchy?). He needs to change that, and it has to happen this year.

As for Martinez, I take a dim view of getting a DUI as a professional player. You have the resources to get a nice car to take you home, so use it. I felt the same way about Lowe, and I'm not sorry he's gone. Martinez isn't some young, dumb kid, either. He's a 30 year old player. He better perform well, keep his nose clean, and stay out of bars if he plans on getting into his car. Otherwise, the Braves will outright release him.

Some highlight players from the Farm-Stars: Edward Salcedo, a possible 3B prospect, managed to steal two bases and score on a heads-up baserunning play, and Matt Chaffee, a young lefty, struck out the side by retiring McCann, Uggla, and Heyward in the fourth inning.

All in all, it was a positive way to end Spring Training, and I think the fans really enjoyed this experiment. If it were up to me, I'd say they should continue to do it every year, hopefully without the wet weather and hopefully with Bobby Cox insulting the umpire's parentage after a questionable call.

Tomorrow, a preview of the Mets series in NY, and a deeper look into what we can expect from Tyler Pastornicky this season at SS.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Welcome to the 2012 season

Welcome to Braves by the Numbers blog! Feel free to plop down on your Atlanta Braves beanbag chair that I know you all have in your basement. That's right, it's a new Atlanta Braves season, and we're all very anxious to "move forward" as Freddy G so often tells us. Honestly, I can't remember what we are moving forward from. I believe that my memory will not allow me to remember what happened last year in order to save the remaining parts of my sanity. I'm pretty sure we won the division again. Yep, that's exactly what happened. No, I won't look at the standings. Shut up.

Anyway, delusions aside, I've been waiting for this week for well over 2 months now. Spring training is all well and good, and college basketball can provide a nice distraction every now and then. The NBA plain sucks so don't bring that up. However, all the waiting is about to be over, and we're about to throw the first pitch of a new season tomorrow. Except that for some reason the Braves don't play tomorrow, and we already threw the first pitch to the season in Japan for some god awful reason. I'm just going to pretend those Japanese games didn't happen because nobody actually saw them. Really. Nobody. I think the first pitch was at 3AM local, and the game was between two west coast teams that won't make the playoffs, and it wasn't actually on any TV network. Nice kick in the ribs to our Japanese fans there MLB. At least you didn't send over the Orioles.

For those that wonder what this blog is going to be about, I will be using it to provide you, the avid Braves fan, deeper insight on the game through statistics, trends, and the all important eye-test. You see, I watch every game. I'm a CPA by trade, and numbers are my life. It seemed only natural to combine these two efforts into one blogging superpower, so I did just that. The name comes from a suggestion by John Kincade of 680 the fan, since I email both his show and Chuck and Chernoff quite frequently. You would know of my emails there by my name "Ben the CPA."

So when you come here, you can expect two things out of me. On the one hand, I have the coldly rational side of my mind that deals with the stats, and makes predictions and projections based off data. On the other hand you have my completely irrational fandom that wanted to trade Dan Uggla last year because he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, and still dislikes Jason Heyward because he got picked off that one time last season at first base when he was pinch running in a game. I didn't know you could screw up that badly, but he proved me wrong. I'll forgive him if he hits .300 this year.

Here's to a new season, Braves fans! Let's start a new streak of division championships with 2012.

Ben the CPA