Friday, December 27, 2013

Atlanta Braves New Years Resolutions

A little early, but I'm going to be travelling on actual New Years Day, as I expect many of you will. So I'll do this on Friday to get the jump on the New Year. Here are the things I think the Braves should resolve to do in 2014.

1 - Be Better in Center: We all know BJ sucked, and he was part of the reason the Braves couldn't get anything going at the back end of the order. Hell, he was so bad it was record-setting. He's a killer to a lineup if he's wrong. That means if the Braves want to have a remote shot at taking the division again next year, they need him to hit over .240 at the least.

2 - Make Better Decisions at the Plate: There are times when a walk is as good as a hit. There are other times when a walk is a situational killer because a guy batting sub-.200 is behind you. If we have two outs, two on, and Jason Heyward at the plate, I want him free-wheeling on the ball when Dan Uggla is behind him. I don't want that walk to make the bases loaded for a bad hitter who doesn't even put the ball in play 50% of the time. You can't play the odds that way and expect to score. Too many times the Braves were swinging when they shouldn't (guys like Simmons jump to mind), and taking when they shouldn't (guys like Justin jump to mind). As a result our RISP was terrible, and that's what making better decisions improves foremost.

3 - Embrace Thievery: Speed was supposed to be one of this team's assets. You know how many bases we stole last year? 64. That was 24th in the Majors. When you struggle with RISP, it helps to get more chances with RISP. I mean even if you're hitting .250 in that category, you'll still score a run if you stretch 4 singles into runners on second with smart base-running.

4 - Stay Healthy: How many injuries can you take to a team before it takes a toll on your performance? How many times did a pitching injury or hitting injury change the whole outlook on a month? The Braves need to take a look at how they approach games, as does the manager. They need to question their conditioning heading into the season if they are constantly coming up with tweaks and problems to almost everyone in the lineup. If there's one thing I can say for Dan Uggla, dude is in shape and doesn't get injured that often.

5 - Minimize the Snowball Effect: The Braves were bad about giving up the big inning that would completely sink the game in 2013. Somehow one run would turn into 4 runs with a lot of walks, errors, and bombs. Example, in game 3 of the playoffs, the Dodgers got two leadoff hits. Then the Braves got a strikeout. At this point, all you need to do is get a ball on the ground or in play. Nope, Teheran walked the bases loaded. Then he gave up a sacrifice. Okay, so the damage was just a run. Get an out and you're out of the inning. Nope, 3 run bomb to Crawford with two outs. Not just with 2 outs, with 2 strikes as well. That's what I mean about the snowball effect, and it happened to the Braves all season. In fact in September, the Braves gave up 9 innings of 3 runs or more. That's just in one month. Those are game-changing innings that more often than not cost you wins down the stretch.

Those things are the resolutions I'd love to see the Braves make in the New Year. Oh, and will somebody adopt Dan Uggla please? Maybe we can put him on one of those ASPCA-type commercials with Sarah McLachlan singing "Eyes of an Angel" and distribute it to all the GMs. For just $35,000 a day, you can give an Uggla clean drinking water, baby Tees, and a good home.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Braves Contract Talks Part 5

Small update, the Braves have signed Beachy to a 1 year deal to beat arbitration, but they won't say how much. My guess is not much. Beachy hasn't been right since he had the Tommy John surgery in 2012, and frankly I don't think the Braves really trust his health now. They want the one year deal to get him on the roster in a prove-it-to-us scenario, but if Beachy can't regain some of his velocity and break on the ball, he's not going to be a long-term answer in the rotation for the Braves.

If you remember last season, Beachy was like the prodigal pitcher that was coming to save us. Except that day never really came. He only started 5 games all season, and he was pretty mediocre in those starts. The WHIP was a solid 1.03, but he was giving up long balls and big hits like crazy. A 4.50 and 5 bombs in just 30 innings isn't going to excite anybody, especially when the fast ball wasn't topping out in the mid-90s. He had a procedure in September to work out whatever the problem was supposedly, but I'm going to have a very close eye on him in spring training to see if he's ready.

Seven players are still left to sign contracts, including Kimbrel and Freeman, so we still have a ways to go on the late year contract talks, and hopefully the Frank Wren wheeling and dealing.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Braves Contract Talks Part 4



The Braves have inked Gavin Floyd to a 1 year deal. A friend and reader texted me asking who the heck Gavin Floyd was. Honestly, I had no idea so I did some digging. The deal for Floyd is a $4M one year deal that pulls him in as a FA out of the White Sox. No wonder I didn't know the guy, he's in the AL, the place where good pitching goes to die. Unless you are named Verlander. Moving on.

The move is obvious, Floyd is meant to take over the seasoned right-handed veteran role that Tim Hudson provided the Braves last season. He's a 30 year old pitcher, a 70-70 record, a kid out of Baltimore, MD, and a 4.48 ERA in the DH league. That's probably akin to a 3.98 ERA in the NL. He's spent 7 years with the White Sox, during that tenure he's been able to rack up 4 seasons of 30+ starts, and one season of 29 starts. Last year he was put on IR with a Tommy John injury, so the Braves will be getting him off of that surgery. He can put up 190+ innings a year when he's healthy, no problem. Also, he's a decent strikeout guy with a 7.1 K/9 ratio. Basically it's a 1-year value play tryout for a guy coming off a surgery with little downside. For $4M plus another $4M in incentives, the Braves are getting a pitcher who is guaranteed to play hard for the extra cash, and a guy that will fit nicely into the 3-4-5 spot of the rotation.

Now, what does this mean for the Ace discussion? In my mind, you know you have 3 solid starters, Medlen, Minor, and Teheran. Now you have Floyd. You want to add Beachy back if he's healthy. That's your 5 right now. If you make a trade for Price, you're going to have to deal one of those guys back, otherwise you've screwed up your rotation. Yes, you want depth, but that's why you have guys like Alex Wood and David Hale in the wings. I think it's still possible, but I'm starting to believe that like the Dan Uggla trade, the mythical Ace trade is just that. A Myth.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Braves Contract Talks Part 3

Short Update: The Braves signed Walden to a 1 year $1.49M contract. That means he is one of the first dominoes to fall on the offers made to about 9 Braves in order to avoid arbitration. This is the guy we got from LA in exchange for Tommy Hanson. Somebody remind me where Tommy Hanson is right now? He didn't get a contract offer? Wonder why. Oh because had a 5.42 ERA and got sent down to Salt Lake AAA? That sucks. For them.

Seriously, any Braves fan could tell you Tommy Hanson can't pitch. Much like we could tell you that Dan Uggla can't hit. The fact we got Walden in a trade for Hanson is nothing short of a miracle. Walden posted 54 Ks in 47 innings, a 1.13 WHIP, and an opposing BAA of .220 on the season. He's the perfect setup man for the 8th when you need a bridge. Get Venters back in the flow, and you've got a Venters-Walden-Kimbrel back end that people feel pretty comfortable about.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Braves Contract Talks Part 2

I'll start this update by saying that Bobby Cox is going to the Hall of Fame, so good for him. It's no shock to anybody since he's one of the most winning managers of all time, and one of the guys that almost every player wanted to play for. I'll give that it's just due when they actually have the ceremony. In the meantime, we have HOT STOVE!

Frank Wren did an interview recently with Mark Bowman to discuss the players the Braves might be looking for in the off season. I'll give you a quick hint, he's not going to talk about getting an Ace. Here's a quote from Frank:

"I don't see, necessarily, a front-line move," Wren said. "I see more support moves, where you are adding a bench bat that can give you power off the bench. Or adding to our bullpen or adding to the depth of our rotation. I see it more likely to make those moves than the big front-line moves."

Ok, so I see this two ways. One, no GM is going to come right out and tell you about his big moves in the offseason. If he's out there saying, "Man we REALLY need an Ace or we're screwed as a franchise," that opens you up to other clubs raising the price, and fans getting pissed when you can't pull off a deal. So, I think ole Franky's sandbagging us. We know he's looking at big-named pitchers. He's also probably looking at a backup left fielder slot, and some pinch hit utility guys we could put in late. But really, this offseason is going to be about two things: Can we unload Dan Uggla and can we sign the big arm?

Right now, the answer on both fronts is no. It's also early. Meanwhile, the Nationals have already been making moves, like picking up Doug Fister for their pitching staff. Does that bother me as a Braves fan? Not really since I think Fister is coming off one good year, while his previous stats tell me that he's usually a 50-50 win guy who can eat innings at a 3.50 ERA. Granted, that's solid, but he's also turning 30 this year, and he's coming off the highest inning total of his career in Detroit. Tim Hudson had an almost identical stats year to Fister back in 2005 when he was 29, then went out and had 13-12 season with a 4.86 ERA at 30. It can happen at that age, and Hudson was 3x the pitcher Fister is.

So the Braves focus now on the Ace, despite Frank's attempts to make you look at the kitty over there. Two names that are popping up are David Price (duh), and Jeff Samardzija (ugh). If we get Jeff, I'm not sure what I'd do, because if you've read this blog much you know I think he's a punk and I really dislike him. Also, Notre Dame football players don't belong on this team. His numbers aren't in the same arena as Price. David's 71-39 with a 3.19 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. He's also 28. Samardzija is 29, is 29-35 (that's mostly the Cubs), has a 4.19 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. Do these guys look similar? They shouldn't, because one is an Ace, and the other is a guy the Cubs would hope to trade for magic beans that solve being a terrible franchise.

Frank, you have one job. Go get David Price. Give up whatever you have to short of Simmons and Freeman. They want Heyward? Take him. They want Gattis? Take him. They want BJ back and a public apology? You bet. I would literally sell almost anybody on this team to get him, and yes, I include Craig Kimbrel in that. Some of you are like NOT CRAIG ARE YOU CRAZY? No, I'm not. Not only is the closer position statistically the most overrated in baseball (you're going to win 90%+ of the games you lead by a run or more regardless of the pitcher), but Craig is also one of those guys that redlines his arm constantly. I think he's ripe for Tommyjohn at some point in the near future. Don't think it can happen? Look at the two relief guys in Venters and O'Flaherty. Look at Beachy. Look at a guy like Strasburg on the other side. Guys that try to pump up the high heat in today's game, and have done it since they were in high school, are bound to face the knife at some point in their careers now. Also, would I trade a closer for an ace starter? Yeah, considering my closer is going to pitch maybe 70 innings a year, while my Ace is probably going 200+.

Remember guys, the trading philosophy should be to make trades when guys are at the absolute highest point of their value. That's why nobody wants Dan Uggla, and people would want a guy like Craig Kimbrel. You need to leverage whatever assets you have while you can, because I don't think Craig is going to pump out 50 save seasons over and over. Even Rivera only did that twice, and that was playing for the Yankees. So, I hope you can see the point, and that this isn't me trying to get Craig out of town. I love Craig, I think he's a great guy, but I can show you imperically how our closer isn't as important as our starter when it comes to succeeding in the post-season. If he's part of a package to get the key starter, we shouldn't freak out about it.

Let's get us an Ace!

GO BRAVES!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Braves Attendance Metrics

The Braves 2,548,679 in paid attendance in 2013. This is about 125,000 more people than the prior year of 2012, and the highest in Turner Field since 2007. Why is that important for the Braves? Because as we've seen in prior years, the contracts and payroll are highly tied to the gate. Who likes charts? I LIKE CHARTS! Here we go.


Now if you look at those two charts, you can see how there is a correlation between the payroll and attendance. The exception is the Phillies, whose payroll has exploded due to a series of bad overpriced contracts, and now they are floundering while trying to unload some liabilities in their 30s. Meanwhile, you can see that the Braves are pretty even keel. It's no accident that since 2007, the Braves payroll has stayed relatively consistent while the other teams have gone through some wild swings. You can certainly see how the Nationals became more competitive in that period as their payroll began to rise, leading to them winning a division. You can also see the Mets taking a nosedive in payroll and at the gate due to the Bernie Madoff stuff. You can also see the exact point where Marlins suckered their fans into a new stadium for a year, and then subsequently sold off the team. Because their owner deserves to be dealing art in Hell.

So what's the point of this? Well if you look at when the Braves had a payroll over $100M in 2008, that just happened to follow the best attendance year the Braves have had in a decade in 2007. You can watch as attendance feell in 2008, so did payroll in 2009. They are very closely tied for the Braves because our TV contract never changes, but the attendance numbers can drive team expenses. That means you may see an uptick in payroll for the Braves in 2014. How much exactly? Well we're pretty close to the 2008 attendance numbers, and they are looking to take on possibly an Ace contract, so you could see as much as $95M in payroll in 2014. Will Frank Wren do that? I hope so!

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Braves Contract Talks Part 1

Yesterday the Braves made several contract offers to avoid arbitration. This is important, because if you know the Braves, the one thing that the club doesn't do is go to arbitration. In fact, if you push for it as a player on the Braves, you can expect to find yourself another job when that period is up. The Braves aren't quite clipping coupons as a franchise, but they certainly aren't buying at Whole Foods. If the Braves were shopping for clothes, they'd be at Ross or TJ Maxx. Not at Goodwill but also not at Joseph A Bank. In essence, they have to be very careful with money, which makes the Dan Uggla and BJ contracts that much more devestating.

Three players did not get offers, which means their time in Atlanta is likely up. Christian Martinez is the obvious one, and I don't think anybody will be sorry to see him go. He spent most of 2012 on the DL with some sort of bizarre shoulder injury and never recovered. The other two are Paul Janish and Elliot Johnson. Paul may be a fielding whiz, but he couldn't hit his way out of a paper bag. Elliot really found his stride here in Atlanta after struggling in KC, but he's still a career .218 hitting second baseman no matter how you slice it. We have a full stock of those already. The Elliot Johnson move also suggests what I've believed all along, the talks to move Dan Uggla are going nowhere. He's going to be your second baseman when 2014 opens. While we all wish somebody would take the crappy contract off our hands, I think we all need to understand that no GM in baseball is that stupid. Even at 25% of what Dan makes, he's not worth it.

Players that got contract offers to avoid arbitration? That would be Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, Mike Minor, Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden, Chris Johnson, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy and Jordan Schafer. That doesn't mean they took the offers, but the Braves are working on getting them signed before they have to get to the arbitration process. They also signed Ramiro Pena to a one-year contract that will avoid arbitration as well. That means you'll have Dan Uggla, Pena, and Pastornicky as a potential platoon for second base. It also means there wasn't any room for Elliot Johnson. The Braves also signed a one-year deal with Venters, so he will be around for 2014 as well coming off the Tommy John surgery. That's good news for the bullpen.

In the coming weeks, the Braves will work on getting the remaining deals closed so we can keep the young guys happy. Also, Frank Wren will continue to try and make the trade for an Ace if he can. We'll see what the hot stove has in store as we get closer to Christmas. Maybe there will be a fireballing starter under the tree.

GO BRAVES!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Goodbye to Brian McCann

photo courtesy SI.com

Brian accepted a $85M, 5 year deal with the Yankees this weekend. That's hard to stomach for me as a fan, since like every good American baseball fan, I think the Yankees are scum. Still, it's better than him ending up on an NL team like the Phillies or Cubs that we have to play every year.

Like Tim Hudson, Brian McCann spent 9 years with the Braves, and for many fans who started watching the game near the beginning of the millenium, he's likely the only catcher they associate with the team. He's been a mainstay behind the plate for nearly a decade, and in that time he amassed an impressive amount of slugging stats. Brian had 176 homers, 227 doubles, 2 triples (I assume somebody fell down in the outfield on those), 661 RBIs, over 1000 hits, an average of .277 and an OPS of .823 for his Atlanta career. He was an all-star 7 times during that tenure, and he won the Silver Slugger 5 times. In short, he's one of the best catchers if not the most decorated catcher that the Braves have ever had on the team. Relax Javy Lopez fans, he's right there on the list too.

Brian will have the unique distinction of winning a division on the front and back end of his career in Atlanta, with a gap of none in between. During that time, the Braves were mostly a rebuilding effort while the Phillies dominated the NL East. As they approached the 2010 year, the Braves finally made it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2005. However, they lost to the Giants who eventually won the World Series. From that point on, Brian's numbers began to take a dive. There were questions whether the Braves would bring him back in 2013 on his $12M option. But they did, and his 2013 season was marked better than 2012, one of the worst statistical seasons of his career. Brian hit .230 in 2012 with only 20 homers in 439 ABs, but in 2013 even coming off injury for a month, he hit .256 with 20 homers in just 356 ABs.

I'm sorry to see Brian go because of what he's meant to the Braves both on the field and in the clubhouse. However, I was one of those people who questioned bringing him back in 2013 in the first place due to his age and production. Brian will be 30 when this contract takes place until he's 35. From a straight numbers standpoint, catchers begin to lose their ability to hit in their 30s due to all the wear and tear. While that's a problem for an NL team, an AL team like the Yankees could move Brian to DH when he's no longer able to be an everyday battery guy. I think the Yankees are taking a risk with Brian since he's had injury problems and hasn't posted an OPS over .800 since 2011. However, they are the Yankees and they can afford to overpay people with their giant payroll. 

I think we all want to wish Brian good luck in NY, but I can honestly say I won't root for the Yankees if it comes down to them in the world series just because Brian is on the team. It's the Yankees. I can't do it. I won't do it. Still, I hope Brian hits like 40 homers and gives those fans in NY a good show before they get drummed out of the playoffs like the overspending bunch of cheaters they are. Oh and Brian? Punch A-Rod in the face for us when you get the chance, buddy.

We'll miss you Brian.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Goodbye to Tim Hudson



Huddy is leaving us for the West Coast, back to region where he began his career. We'll be losing a pitcher that spent 9 seasons in Atlanta, and anchored a staff that for the most part was very successful in that time. But the Giants are spending like morons and paying a 38 year old pitcher $23M for 2 years, until he's 40. I honestly can't say that makes baseball sense on its face, and the Braves certainly can't afford to unleash the limited wallet on a late 30s starter who might be a #2 or #3 in the rotation.

Still, it sucks to lose a guy who meant that much to both the Braves and the Atlanta community. Tim and his wife were involved in numerous charitable causes across the state, and he was impressive on the field as well. Tim amassed 113 wins, an ERA of 3.56, 9 complete games, 5 shutouts, and a WHIP of 1.24 in his Atlanta career. Those are pretty awesome numbers for a guy who was pitching most of that time in his 30s.

My memories of Tim will include his 7 innings of 1 run ball in the 2010 playoffs against the Giants, right before Kimbrel absolutely blew the game in a rare 9th inning disaster. I'll remember that Tim was the reason the Braves rallied back in 2012 after the 2011 collapse, and he had 16 wins on that season. I'll remember absolutely despairing as Tim snapped his leg at first base this season, just when we thought the rotation was coming together for the playoff run. Mostly I'll remember that there was no better guy to have on the mound at home than Tim. He would absolutely dominate inside Turner Field, and his stats over the last 3 years, 22-9 with a 2.96 ERA at home, speak volumes about his success.

Still, we have to wish Tim farewell, and soon we'll have to do the same with his battery-mate Brian McCann. It's going to be one of the youngest teams in baseball playing in 2014 for the Braves, and the leadership role will have to fall to guys like Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward. After all, the last connections to the 2005 division winning Braves are all gone. It's time to start a new streak.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What Happens to Turner Field?

That's the question I've heard most over the last couple of days since the Braves announced what's going to happen with the move to Cobb County. I can't say I even thought much about it. The lease is up in 2016, and I had expected the Braves to either renovate the entire stadium, or move. Either way, the Ted as we know it wasn't going to be the Ted anymore. Well, we learned recently from Mayor Kassim Reed, that the stadium will be demolished, and replaced with, "one of the largest developments for middle-class people that the city has ever had."

Now, this is a baseball blog, not a blog about city politics and real estate. Sometimes, on rare occasions, those things intersect each other at the corner of Expiring Lease Dr. and New Stadium Blvd. What usually results is a trainwreck of posturing, promises, veiled insults, and outright lies. In this regard, the Atlanta Braves bypassed most of those problems playing out in the press. They achieved that by conducting the deal with Cobb County in iron-clad secrecy. They also made sure to not announce it until after the city elections, because the loss of the Braves to another county would have cost a lot of city officials their jobs in the polls. Not that I care one way or the other about the officials who ignored the stadium problems for years. They had their shot for the last 5 years to do something about the woeful transportation issues around Turner Field, and their solution was to make all the fans tromp through Underground Atlanta to ride a bus. Why? Because the City owns the rights to Underground, and it never gets enough foot traffic. Yeah.

But now, the city is promising to bring in a developer to put together a massive middle-class development on the Turner Field footprint.


That's Turner Field and the surrounding parking lots that could open up to provide space for this proposed development. Now, if you're thinking Atlantic Station, I'd put that out of your mind given what Reed is saying. Atlantic Station's stores and rents are about as far from middle-class as you can get. If the middle class can afford $2,200 a month in rent for a 2 bedroom loft, then I think our country is doing a lot better than I'm hearing on the news. So, it won't be something like that. What I believe they will try to do is create something that would provide apartments and high rise living for people that already work in the downtown and financial districts, but can't or don't want to pay some of the Midtown prices.

The land is certainly there. My concern is who will develop it? Just looking at a site like map.atlantadev.com I don't see a single housing development on the radar that's scheduled below I-20. This would be a major undertaking for a company in an area that a lot of developers are ignoring, and have frankly ignored for years. These people aren't like public officials like Mayor Reed, and they expect to make a tidy profit off whatever they put in the ground. Sometimes, it doesn't make economic sense to put a development in a bad location just because the City of Atlanta wants one there. Real estate still is about location, location, location.

Also, I question how fast these things move. The City of Atlanta isn't exactly know for it's foresight or expediency, as evidenced by Kassim Reed saying that the city had a one billion dollar infrastructure backlog, and that was the reason they couldn't make a deal with the Braves. So for a city that has over a billion in past infrastructure issues, that I can assure you didn't just occur overnight, it now is determined to put even more money into infrastructure developments for a community in the Turner Field area. Also, while Mayor Reed is adamant about this development now, who knows what economic factors the city faces in three years? The pipeline for these projects is in terms of several years themselves, and Mayor Reed will be in the last year of his second term right as the stadium is supposed to be demolished.

In short, I'm not sure I buy what the city is selling right now. It's easy to make promises about grand plans when you just got burned in the press for letting the team relocate. Will the City of Atlanta actually follow through? Given the track record in the past, and the amount of financial woes that may or may not come with the building of the Falcons stadium, I don't think anybody has any idea what will be standing on the Turner Field site in 2020, not even Mayor Reed.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Braves moving in 2017

Per a website opened by the Braves called HomeoftheBraves.com, the Braves will be moving to Cobb County in 2017. The move has apparently been in the works for a while now, and something that was frankly going to come to a head since the Turner Field lease is set to run out soon in 2016. Now that it's confirmed on the new location, I can add my commentary to what I think of the move.

The stadium will be built in the 75N and I285 corridor, right near Cobb Parkway. For those familiar with the area, it will be really close to the same area the Cobb Galleria is in. Why would they decide to put it out here instead of staying downtown? Here's a direct quote from the website:

The reason for moving is simple. The current location has certain issues that are insurmountable and will only become more problematic over the years. These fundamental issues involve how you, our fans, access Turner Field. There is a lack of consistent mass transportation, a lack of sufficient parking and a lack of direct access to interstates. Furthermore, the Braves do not have control over the development of our immediate surroundings.

Our new location will give us the opportunity to develop the surrounding area of the new ballpark, transforming it into a mixed use, 365-day destination and creating an enhanced atmosphere for our fans during Braves games. There also will be significantly increased access to the site, enhanced parking opportunities, and, generally, easier access to and from major roadways with a variety of other transportation options.
Picture courtesy HomeoftheBraves.com

As you can see on the picture, the site is just nestled in the North side of 285 and West side of 75. The Braves are being kind when they say certain issues have come up with Turner Field that are insurmountable. Let me be very clear what they mean by that. We all know that putting a stadium downtown is horrible from a traffic standpoint, and dealing with the city of Atlanta and Fulton County meant you have corrupt people trying to put their hands in your pockets whenever you build something. Ask Arthur Blank how many kickbacks and "neighborhood" payments he's had to make to get that Falcons deal done. There's a reason that budget keeps going up every 6 months, and the thing isn't even on the ground yet.

The Braves have hated their location for a long time, as have the fans. It's in a terrible neighborhood, surrounded by absolutely nothing in terms of restaurants, bars, or any kind of livable space. For the most part, the Braves fan demographic is primarily living in the North part of Atlanta. They did several studies on this in the past and realized how much revenue they were losing because people didn't want to travel from Alpharetta, Sandy Springs, Roswell, Marietta, Dunwoody, and Kennesaw, dealing with the primetime traffic of the 75/85 canyon, and not getting home until midnight after a night game.

While MARTA is a very viable option to a place like Phillips arena, it's never been a good option to the Braves, making fans not only get on a train, but also walk through a wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Underground Atlanta, just for the privilege to get on a bus that takes you to the stadium. Whenever you watched people make this trek through Underground, you could always spot the Braves fans, trying to move as fast as possible and not making eye contact with anyone. Yeah, that's a good plan, make the people dramatically uncomfortable just so they can hop on two forms of mass transit crammed cheek to cheek with the masses. As a result, most people opted to park, just adding to the traffic problem of downtown, and the lack of overall spaces around the stadium. A cottage industry of parking in several ghetto locations will probably be affected, but I don't think the Braves feel sorry about that at all.

The solution is to forget public transit. It doesn't work in our town for lots of reasons, but the main one is that people don't want to wait around for trains and busses with their families, and they like the freedom that driving gives them when coming or going. The solution was a site that offered a ton more parking that was much easier to get to than the small exits to Fulton Street off the 75/85 access roads. Also, it offers a chance for businesses to thrive around the area. Nobody was going to open a restaurant or bar near the current stadium. Up at the new location? There's already a ton of restaurants and hotels, bars and clubs, and shopping areas already in place. Fans want to be able to go to a game early, grab dinner, and walk over to the stadium all within reach. The most successful baseball parks in the country like Boston, Philly, New York, St. Louis, Chicago, all have surrounding cultures nearby the ballpark. They create these neighborhoods that transform on gamedays into wonderful hubs of food and fun. That's what the Braves are gunning for with this move.

Also don't be confused, they want to get closer to their customers. They know who and what kind of people go to Braves games, and this move puts them front and center for their audience on the North Side. It also gets them away from the clutches of the City of Atlanta government, and all the tax/corruption consequences that come with such a deal. 

Photo courtesy HomeoftheBraves.com

See that heat map? The red represents the ticket buyers for the Braves. Note the GIGANTIC swatch of Red that exists to the North of the Perimeter. If there could be any further doubt as to why the Braves wanted out, this spells it out in full color. You have to put your product in the hands our your customers, and not enough of them lived in the Atlanta city limits for that location to make any sense. I'm thrilled by the move as both a fan, and a person who enjoys not being hassled by the seedier elements of downtown Atlanta, the traffic, and the terrible public transport. Plus I enjoy people sticking it to Fulton County, who for years has tried their best to keep their foot on the throat of sports in this town, nevermind the fact that the majority of paying fans don't live there. Kudos to the Braves, Kudos to the front office, and I look forward to seeing my tickets in the new stadium.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Braves Season Recap 2013

It was a great season, despite how it ended. The Braves did something that nobody outside of Georgia expected them to do, and that was win the division. The Nats absolutely fell apart, the Marlins were the joke we all expected them to be, and the Mets continue to try to avoid their creditors. I'm not sure much will change as we go to next season, seeing that the Braves and the Nats have the highest and best chance of competing in a division that's mainly a two horse race until the other teams can spend some money.

What went wrong? That's what everyone seems to want to focus on first, so I'll look at that right off the bat. Well for starters, what went wrong was the health of the team. The bullpen suffered the losses of O'Flaherty and Venters immediately. Then Christian Martinez, Tim Hudson, and Brandon Beachy followed in the wake of season-ending injuries. But that wasn't all. Ramiro Pena suffered an injury just as he was hitting his hot streak, as did Tyler Pastornicky right when he was ready to make a contribution to the squad. It was just a MASH unit of wounded by the time the Braves crossed the finish line, and I'm not even addressing the two times Jason Heyward was out with both appendicitis and a broken jaw.

What else went wrong? Two of our highest price guys, BJ Upton and Dan Uggla, both finished the season with averages well below .200, and with strikeout totals well above 150. It's the two single worst performances by any two baseball players on the same team that I've ever seen without injury. What made it that much worse was the fact they were under contract for a combined $25.5 million. If they weren't, they would have been cut. They weren't the only issue though. The Braves struggled mightily with RISP all year long, and certain players just never picked up the pace in time to make a difference. Two of the other guys in that regard were Andrelton Simmons and Brian McCann. Simmons only had a .206 average with RISP, and BMac only managed a .227 with 34 RBIs. The McCann one is the most disappointing, because there were so many runs we left on the table with him at the plate in the post-season. He covered a lot of sins with his power, but his situational hitting simply wasn't up to par this season.

What went right? Chris Johnson is probably the most obvious choice. He was a kick-in on the Justin Upton trade, and he turned into a guy that was chasing the NL batting title down the stretch. What a pickup by Wren in that trade. Just don't look at the BJ trade with it. Freddie Freeman also was very right. I don't think I'll ever forget the All-Star voting battle of Braves Country versus ESPN trying to cram Puig down our collective throats. Freeman won that battle, but I guess ESPN won the war when the Dodgers knocked us out of the playoffs. Still, Freddie deserved every accolade as he finished with a .319 average, 109 RBIs, and 27 homers. What a season by our first baseman. The Justin Upton trade was also right for the most part. He carried this team for two months this season, and had hot streaks that saw him put a total of 27 homers on the board for the team lead. While he finished with a respectable .263 average and a robust .800+ OPS, I think we all looked at it with sad reflection, because we know he was capable of so much more. I think while Justin was streaky, he can continue to improve his game as he heads into next season with a little more consistency at the plate.

The pitching went very right for the majority of the season. They lead the league in ERA, and they wildly outperformed expectations even in the face of massive injuries to the rotation. I can't think of another team that could weather that storm and still manage to carry a team that was supposed to be known for hitting, but somehow slumped for 10 games at a time at the plate. The pitching, especially guys in the bullpen like Avilan, Carpenter, Varvaro, and Walden, kept the games on lockdown late in the year. It's a shame that disappeared in the playoffs down the stretch. However, one thing that didn't waiver was Craig Kimbrel, and if I'm looking at the best pitching story for 2013, it's him. Craig finished with 50 saves, a feat only touched by 11 relievers now in MLB history. The amazing part was that he finished with a paltry 1.21 ERA while doing it, and 4 wins to boot. He is and will continue to be the most feared part of the Braves pitching staff, until the Braves find that mythical starting Ace.

What moments will we always remember about this season? I'll always remember Jason Heyward laying out for that impossible catch to save the game against the Mets in the 9th. I'll always remember Evan Gattis tomahawking a neck-level fastball from Strasburg into the deep seats. I'll always remember Brian McCann meeting Carlos Gomez halfway up the third base line after the classless Gomez wouldn't stop cursing Maholm as he rounded the bases. I'll always remember the Freddie Freeman All-Star Twitter War. I'll always remember the questionable feeling in my gut when we had a runner on second and BJ and Dan were due up at the plate. I'll also always remember the time that Justin and BJ went deep back-to-back that proves they can get it done.

Mostly I'll remember the journey of this season, even as it drew to a close and we sort of knew we were too banged up and had too many hitting issues to get far. I'll remember the comments from all of you on and off the blog, and how you inspired me to hang with it every game. I'll remember the good times as we head into winter and wait for next year's team to come together.

See you in 2014.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

NLDS Game 4 Recap

Well, it's all over. The Braves couldn't get past the Dodgers, and that's how the season will come to a close. I said back when we were fighting for the home field that I didn't believe the Braves took it seriously enough, and that if they caught the Dodgers early it was a likely loss. Turns out that's true. I'm not sure knowing what we know now about the Pirates that it would have been any better, however. Frankly, this team wasn't the team we thought they would be coming into the season, either by injury or under-performance.

Brian McCann, Justin Upton, and Freddie Freeman were mostly marginalized in this series. BMac in particular didn't even get a hit all series. He's on the way out, and I think he may have mentally folded under the pressure of trying to put one more outing together. David Carpenter folded again by giving up big home runs, and the last one to Uribe was the coffin nail. Freddy Garcia kept the game together for as long as he could, but the Braves simply wouldn't capitalize. They stranded 8 runners in the game, and they only had seven hits compared to 12 Ks. Every "strikeouts don't matter" guy that was screaming that in the beginning of the season needs to bookmark this team, and then shut up. They matter. They may not be the difference in the regular season, but you CANNOT win with a strikeout heavy team in the playoffs against Ace pitching.

I'll do a season recap on Friday after I've had some time to let the wounds heal, and let the season digest a bit. However, I'm not ashamed of this team. I'm proud of these young guys taking it this far after all the problems they've faced, all the injuries they witnessed, and having about $30M hit under the Mendoza line all year. This was a team that had no right to win a division, and it did. It also has a huge upside going into the next year, although probably one catch lighter. In the meantime, let's take a few days, let the salves work their wonders on our broken sports hearts, and look toward the weekend.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, October 7, 2013

NLDS Game 4 Preview Update

The Dodgers are pitching Kershaw now over Nolasco. They aren't screwing aournd. We can disregard the previous CPA Prediction.

Here's the updated version with Kershaw facing Garcia. The stats no longer favor us at all.

CPA Prediction NLDS Game 4: Dodgers 4 - Braves 1

There's a lot to overcome here. You were going to have to beat Kershaw at some point anyway, so I'm happy in the sense we get to try on short rest. I'm not happy it's out in LA where Kershaw is going to have all the support in stadium. To be the best you've got to beat the best, though.

GO BRAVES!

NLDS Game 3 Recap and Game 4 Preview

What can you say when you get your teeth kicked in? At least that isn't the last game we get to play. Teheran didn't have it from the get-go, and the Braves pitching was truly awful all night. Teheran gave up 6, Wood gave up 4 with the help of some errors (Atlanta had 2 of those), and Walden gave up 3. When you managed to give up 13 runs in a playoff game, I'm going to say that absolutely nothing you do at the plate is going to matter. And it didn't. The Braves scored 6, which should have been more than enough to win this thing, but as it turned out that number didn't even match half the Dodgers run production. So much for good pitching and the long ball. The Braves didn't have much of either so far this series.

The top end of the Braves order has been great. Gattis, Freeman, Justin, and Heyward are all hitting very well here at the end of the year. Gattis is 5-10, CJ is 4-12 with 4 RBIs, Freeman is 4-12, and Heyward is 3-13 with 4 RBIs. Simmons also has a couple of hits and an RBI to his name. Everyone else? They stink so far. Justin is a mediocre 2-11 with 2 runs scored, Elliot Johnson and Brian McCann both have no hits in a combined 19 ABs. The Braves in Game 3 went 3-11 with RISP. Not terrible, but not optimal either. The Dodgers on the other hand went 7-15 with RISP. That alone should tell you how the game went. When the situational hitting battle is that one-sided, your pitching staff is to blame.

We can't dwell on that game if the Braves hope to pull this series out of the fire one more time and bring it back to Atlanta. In a highly controversial move, Fredi Gonzalez has decided to pitch Freddy Garcia instead of electing to put Medlen back in the rotation on short rest. I can understand the decision for a couple of reasons. Medlen was already awful in his first start on full rest, and it's unlikely he's going to be any better on the short rest version. Also, Medlen isn't a strikeout guy anyway, so there isn't a huge advantage from one contact pitcher to another except for mentality. I think the manager is gambling that his veteran playoff experienced starter is going to know how to battle with runners on base. That's what's really killed the Braves. It's not the simple mistakes, it's how those mistakes have absolutely snowballed until they buried this team under an avalanche of hits. Here's another idea. STOP PITCHING TO HANLEY RAMIREZ!

So here's the rundown on the matchup: Garcia had a 1.65 ERA in September with the Braves, and a record of 1-2. The record was bad because the Braves scored nothing for him twice in that month. September wasn't exactly the highlight of the Braves offensive prowess. On the other side you have Ricky Nolasco, a Marlins castoff the Braves have tons of experience against. In September, Nolasco got lit up for a 6.66 ERA with a 2-2 record. The Braves lineup has smashed him for an almost .300 team average in the past, with special highlights by Heyward and McCann since they both have OPS numbers over 1.000 against Nolasco in 80+ ABs. The matchup looks good from that standpoint, and you know the Dodgers wouldn't be pitching Nolasco if they were in an elimination scenario. The Braves will just have to capitalize on their chances and hope Garcia gives them some old-man-magic.

The CPA predicted the Dodgers would win last night, but it was way off on the total of runs. Today it looks at the elimination game.

CPA Prediction NLDS Game 4: Braves 5 - Dodgers 3

The CPA likes the Braves to extend this thing just a little longer. Hopefully they can get some guys on base early and cut down on all the silly errors in the field. That will go a long way in keeping the lineup mentally in the game. Also, since they have so much experience off Nolasco, they can use that to their advantage up and down the lineup. Also, you hope that Nolasco is just the tonic Brian McCann needs to get off the shnide and go deep.

GO BRAVES!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

NLDS Game 2 Recap and Game 3 Preview

The atmosphere for the must-win game at the Ted on Friday night was electric. From the opening of the game when the Dodgers scored first, you could sense a small amount of despair start to set in. However, with the RISP hit by Simmons to tie the game in the 2nd, everyone bounced back quickly, and the chop was in full effect. By the time the Braves took the lead in the 4th, you could sense the tide turning, and by the 7th when the lead extended to 4-1, the place was in full on euphoria. However, Carpenter gave up the two run shot to the Dodgers to make it 4-3 in the 8th, and the fans were on pins and needles. Only one run? Why can't we make this easy?!?! But Kimbrel came in late in the 8th to put out the fire, and although he walked some guys in the 9th, the Braves got their must-win in the bag.

The game wasn't a seesaw affair on the scoreboard, but that doesn't mean it was easy on anyone's nerves as the Braves played with razor thin margins for the 9 inning run. The key for the Braves in this game was going 3-9 with RISP, with hits from Simmons, CJ, and a huge 2 out hit by Heyward after the Dodgers foolishly walked Reed to get to him. Why teams keep doing that, I don't know. We saw Davy Johnson walk to get to Freddie several times in the regular season while playing the percentages. You know what? Sometimes you don't need the percentages when you know it's Heyward and the game is on the line. Besides maybe Freddie there's nobody else I want in that slot.

With only 6 hits, it's frankly amazing the Braves scored 4 runs, but they converted the chances they missed in the first game. That's going to be the difference in all the playoff matchups, especially with the Braves headed to face Ryu in Game 3 on the road. He'll be opposed by Teheran, making his first playoff appearance. Both guys pitched in the regular season with ERAs in the low 3's, and they both have the same regular season record at 14-8. The difference is that the Braves have had about 44 ABs against Ryu, but the Dodgers have never seen Teheran. As you know, that's typically a big advantage to the pitcher in any singular game.

One thing to note is that both Freddie and Simmons have taken advantage of Ryu in their appearances, but the rest of the lineup has really struggled. As a result, in two games Ryu has 2 no-decisions against the Braves with a robust 2.13 ERA. The rest of the lineup will really have to step up since I don't think the Dodgers will allow Freddie or Simmons to best them after what happened in Game 2. Teheran just needs to continue doing what he was doing in September, which was winning ballgames by any means necessary. It wasn't always pretty, but Teheran was able to wriggle off the hook most times without giving up too much damage. One thing he has to watch out for is the big inning. Those will sink you in the playoffs. It's all about managing baserunners now, and he has to stay mentally focused if he gives up walks or singles so they don't stretch into doubles and first to third situations.

The CPA has been wrong twice. Once we were sad about, the last one we were happy about. I think what we're learning is that a lot of what mattered in the regular season goes out the window in the playoffs. Still, let's see what it thinks.

CPA Prediction NLDS Game 3: Dodgers 3 - Braves 1

The Braves haven't fared well on the road this season, as we well know. Most of what the CPA is using in this case is Teheran's road ERA, since he has no stats against the Dodgers in his career. In terms of favorable matchups, simply because this is a road the metric favors the Dodgers. What the Braves need to do is take the same approach they did against Greinke and make the most of their chances. Maybe mix in a homer. We haven't seen one of those on our side yet.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, October 4, 2013

NLDS Game 1 Recap and Game 2 Preview

Well, that was awful. Nobody will be impressed with a game where the Braves make several mental mistakes and only get 5 hits. Medlen was a total disaster on the mound with 9 hits and 5 runs in 4 innings, and even though the bullpen held on admirably for 5 more innings the game was already over. What's the one thing I kept hammering all year long? RISP. And what did the Braves do in that game? 1-8 with RISP. That's not going to cut it, especially when the Dodgers went 3-10 with RISP. They got the magic number, we didn't, and that's a loss 6-1. Luckily, it's not a one game series.

I thought the strikeouts weren't going to be an issue, but I was wrong. They were a huge issue. In fact, the Braves struck out 15 times, which is the most in well over a month. Add in the fact that not a single Brave had an extra base hit, and you can see what happened at the plate was just as bad as what happened on the mound. Nothing went right, and the result was inevitable.

The good news is we don't have long to dwell on it. There's another game tonight and another chance to pull even in this series before it heads back to LA. Make no mistake, if we lose this game the series is effectively done. The Braves aren't the kind of team who can rally from an 0-2 deficit to win 3 straight with 2 on the road. So they are going to have to dig deep to get themselves out of the funk they were in on the field yesterday.

The second game features a matchup between Mike Minor and Zach Greinke. Minor has been sliding a bit on his numbers since the beginning of September, and the Braves haven't won a single one of his starts in over a month. His ERA is 3.94 in September, obviously higher than his overall ERA at 3.21 on the season. However, the home ERA has surprisingly been worse than his road ERA with 3.62 and a 6-5 record. On paper, Minor doesn't look like the guy you want out there right now. But we just lost a game with the hottest hand we had on the team on paper. Sometimes, it simply doesn't matter what you've done in the past month. Sometimes, it's all about how one guy pitches in one game. That's what we're hoping for with Minor, because he has those games in him. He pitched several of them earlier in the year.

Greinke has also been worse in the final month than he was during the season. That's all relative though, since he didn't lose a game in August, and the Dodgers have lost two of his starts in September. For the most part, Greinke is still ridiculously tough with his final month 1.75 ERA, and he's averaging a K per inning. The last time Greinke gave up more than two runs was in July against the Reds. I want to make something very clear. Either Minor comes out dealing, or this won't be much of a game. The Braves are very unlikely to touch up Greinke for a big rally, and they will need to have clutch situational hitting when the chances arise. If the Dodgers jump out to a lead again? It's big trouble in the Ted.

The good news is that Justin, BMac, Elliot, and Heyward all have much better historical batting numbers off Greinke than they do off Kershaw. Also, Greinke hasn't faced a true playoff team since Cincinnati on September 7th, and he lost. Minor faced off against St. Louis in late August and won. So, it's not all doom and gloom statistically. The Braves just have to put lumber on the ball and make the Dodgers play the field. Another double digit strikeout day won't work.

So the CPA was wrong last night, and it wasn't close. What about tonight? Can the Braves salvage a game at home?

CPA Prediction NLDS Game 2: Dodgers 5 - Braves 2

The CPA doesn't favor the Braves at all with this matchup. I can't really blame it, the numbers don't look good. However, it was wrong last night, and it could be wrong again tonight. I hope it is, because the Braves can turn this thing around easily with a lead and some homers. We'll need it to keep this series going.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

NLDS Game 1 Prevew

I've decided to preview each game because it's so huge, and because things can change quickly in the course of a series. Starters can change, injuries can happen, people can get benched. This playoff series is like baseball in a pressure cooker. All patience and waiting are gone, and all that matters now are quick results. If you can't perform, you sit. That's what Dan Uggla found out yesterday. I'm not shocked or displeased. I'm only shocked that BJ actually made the roster. If he didn't, we would have had the two most expensive benchwarmers other than the Yankees. Oh wait, they didn't make the playoffs. Hur-hur.

The matchup is simple. It's their best guy versus our best guy lately. I say that because while Kershaw has been good wire to wire, Medlen has slumped, rallied, slumped, and rallied again. In September, Medlen went 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA. Kershaw in September was 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA. Oddly, that was Kershaw's worst month in terms of ERA since June. If anything, you could say that Medlen has been pitching better baseball in the last month of the year. But does that matter? None of the teams Medlen faced were playoff bound, while one of the teams (the Reds) that Kershaw faced made the post-season (although only for one game in the Reds case). Even so, the Dodgers lost that game and Kershaw got a ND. When I look at Kershaw's record since August, I'm not that impressed. He's made his hay against a lot of garbage teams with probably his best win against the Tampa Bay Rays. However, when he faced the Cardinals? He got dinged for 6 hits, 2 runs, and a loss in just 6 innings. He's not invincible by any means, although he is a very good strikeout artist. But does that even matter with the current Braves lineup? I would say probably not as much as it used to. The Braves lead the NL in overall Ks with 1384 on the season, but since the changes to the roster made in September, the Braves were only 4th in NL Ks. And that's even including an awful section of hitting where they were without Jason Heyward in the lineup.

So what are the long and short term matchups with the starters versus the Dodgers? Historically, Medlen has been fantastic against the Dodgers lineup, holding them to a .217 average with a .598 OPS and only a single homer. Those are fantastic numbers for any starter, and they are buoyed by the fact Kris has started 2 games in 2013 against the Dodgers with 13.2 IP and no earned runs. That's right, he's shut out the Dodgers both times this regular season. In fact, in Kris' entire career, his only decisions against the Dodgers are wins. The Braves have lost some of those games due to poor hitting, but Kris has kept them in the game. That's what we need tonight.

On Kershaw's side, he hasn't faced a lot of the Braves hitters for more than a couple of ABs. Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Elliot Johnson, and Evan Gattis don't have any true record against Kershaw. However, he's absolutely dominated hitters like Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Chris Johnson. Considering that those guys are three of your top hitters, you'll need them to beat the odds in order to get on base, and set up guys like Brian, Gattis, and Freddie as your RISP hitters. Over the prior three years to this season, Kershaw faced the Braves 3 times and never got a decision with a 3.22 ERA. Also, Kershaw is a lefty, and Justin, Jason, Gattis, Freeman, and CJ have been feasting on lefties all year. You hope they can bust one off Kershaw to rattle him, and the crowd gets the chop going so loud that he can't think straight.

In the week leading up to this game, the Braves are hitting .263 while the Dodgers were only hitting .236, and the Braves have outscored the Dodgers 27 runs to 20. If there was a hotter hitting team going into this game it's the Braves, and on top of that they have the home field advantage that has meant so much during the season. Let's see how the CPA sees this game going.

CPA Prediction NLDS Game 1: Braves 3 - Dodgers 2

The CPA thinks you'll see a lot of good pitching tonight, but they will make some mistakes and the Braves can capitalize with their power. Also, the Braves bullpen is much better than the Dodgers, so if it becomes a battle of the pens, that's advantage to the home team.

GO BRAVES!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Wild Card Game Preview: Reds v. Pirates

I figured I'd go over the Wild Card game, even though we aren't in the actual game or will face the opponent. The reason is that this team could come out hot, and in many cases the Wild Card winner has gone on to the NLCS if not the World Series. Plus, I'm bored having nothing else to discuss. So, let's take a look at the matchup:

Wild Card Pitching Matchup - Johnny Cueto (5-2) v. Francisco Liriano (16-8)

Now, right off the bat you may notice that Cueto doesn't even have 10 decisions this year. That's because he was sidelined with an injury for the majority of the season. In fact, Cueto has only pitched two games since he left with that injury in June. I'm frankly shocked they went with this decision on the Reds, because while Johnny dominated the two games he pitched, they were against the Mets and the Astros. Those are cellar dweller rosters with nothing to play for. He's about to put everything on the line against a team that hasn't seen the playoffs in two decades. Were it me, I would have gone with Mike Leake, who was 3-0 against the Pirates in 4 starts with a 3.28 ERA. However, I can understand why they went with Cueto since he was 1-0 against the Pirates in 2 starts with a 0.74 ERA. Still, that was literally months ago. Who knows if he can find that same gear with only two starts under his belt. It's a huge gamble in my mind.

On the Pirates side, there was no doubt who they were going to pitch. Francisco Liriano has been nothing short of electric this season with his 16-8 record, a 3.22 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.22. Liriano's biggest asset this year is that he's kept the ball in the park. Considering that the game is being played in Pittsburgh instead of Great American Smallpark, that's a huge advantage for the Pirates. Curiously, Liriano has a .193 BAA versus the Reds, but his record is 0-3 in 4 starts. Why? Because in those 3 losses he got a combined 4 runs of support. That's the essence of the problem with the Pirates. Their pitching is carrying them, but their scoring is abysmal, especially with RISP.

The Reds are the Pirates aren't playing amazing baseball in the month of September. While teams in the AL race were going 21-6 or 17-12, the Reds and the Pirates have been a rather average 15-12 and 14-12. The Reds are actually on a 5 game losing streak to end the season, and they've lost 6 of their last 10 while the Pirates have won 7 of their last 10. The Pirates actually swept the Reds to end the year. However, none of that matters now. It all comes down to one game because Bud Selig is a big fat cancer on the game of baseball and decided this was a wonderful idea. If I start thinking about the All-Star game deciding home field again I may throw something. Moving on.

The CPA normally doesn't do non-Braves games, but I'll let it out of the box to predict the winner of the Wild Card game. Let's see what it thinks.

CPA Predication Wild Card Game: Pirates 4 - Reds 3

The CPA thinks this game might be tied late, but that home field advantage and the Pirates bullpen pushes this into their favor. The Reds have the advantage in starters, but they have been hitting a paltry .577 OPS as a lineup over the last week, and only .701 in the month of September. Everything about the Reds has been trending the wrong direction, so unless they can flip the switch quickly, they may find themselves eliminated.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, September 30, 2013

NL Playoff Matchups: A Short Preview

Well we all know where we stand now. The Braves fought hard but came up a game short of the home field advantage, and as a result they draw the Dodgers in the first round NLDS. I can't say I'm thrilled about that, as you may well know from all my comments about how they aren't the best matchup for us. However, we don't have a choice now and we have to play the hand we were dealt. It does raise a questionable point should anything go wrong that the Braves didn't play their hardest down the stretch with the best lineup in the game. Hopefully, we never have to discuss that when we win the World Series.

The Braves will face off against the Dodgers, with Games 1&2 in Atlanta, 3&4 in LA, and then a decider Game 5 in Atlanta if necessary. The first two games will be on Thursday and Friday of this week. The two games in LA will be Sunday and Monday. The Game 5 would be on Wednesday if they need it. The schedule sets up for the Braves to control the series from the onset, but they can't really afford to drop any of the home games. Why? Because if they do, the series may never come back to Atlanta. That's why it's so important to win Game 1 since it sets the tone for the series, and right now it looks like Kris Medlen will be that tone-setter. He'll likely face off against Clayton Kershaw. More to come on that and the timing of the games as we approach Wednesday.

The Cardinals will face the winner of the Pirates/Reds one game playoff on Tuesday. Their schedule follows the same pattern as the Braves on the same days, with the Cardinals holding home field advantage over the wild card winner. Honestly, I think the Cardinals are rooting for the Reds, since the Pirates actually hold a 10-9 winning season record against St. Louis this year, while the Reds only have a paltry 8-11 record. Also, the Cardinals have roughed up the Reds for an ERA over 5.00, while they haven't hit the Pirates as well with an ERA of 3.94. In the end, I don't think it really matters too much who they get, but I'm rooting for the Pirates selfishly. Why? Because I want the Braves to beat the Dodgers, the Pirates to beat the Cardinals, and that sets up a rematch of Pirates v. Braves in the NLCS. Can you imagine the hype? Braves country would be rapt with anticipation. The Pirates would be trying to exorcise 20 years of demons. The announcers would be playing Sid Bream's slide on a rotating wheel. Glorious!

After the game on Tuesday I'll preview the matchup, since we'll have times and starters defined by the clubs. In the meantime, enjoy the AL play in game tonight, and the Wild Card games tomorrow. We have a week of great baseball and this is just the beginning.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Final Week: Just one weekend left

Yes, the Braves pulled back to even with the Cardinals last night in a 7-1 win over the hapless Phillies and the sacrificial lamb of a pitcher they tossed out there. From pitch #1 when Jason Heyward went deep, you knew that kid Cloyd was in trouble. I don't waste tears on the Phillies though. We have bigger problems to worry about heading into the playoffs with competition that seems to be firing on all cylinders late in the year.

Today I take a look at the last of the possible playoff teams heading into the weekend, The Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are an odd team in that they don't do many things spectacularly, but they do everything really well. They score a lot of runs (3rd NL), but they do it with a rather mediocre batting average (8th NL). They hit some homers (5th NL), but their overall slugging is in the bottom half of the league (9th NL). Their pitching has a solid ERA (4th NL), but they actually lead the league in both strikeouts and BAA.

For a team like the Braves that last bit bothers me the most. The Reds pitchers have been able to strike out a ton of hitters, and they don't give up a ton of hits. The upside is that in matches against Atlanta, the Braves have roughed up the Cincy pitchers for a 5.00 ERA and a 4-3 record favoring the good guys. Of all the teams the Braves could face in the playoff first round, these pitching matchups seem to favor the Braves the most, since the Reds have the worst ERA against the Braves of any playoff team. That hasn't exactly equalled a blowout on the scoreboard, but over 7 games it could be a series win. Pittsburgh is a close 2nd in that stat, which is why whoever wins the wild card game would be a good opponent for the Braves. However, that only happens if we get home field advantage over the Cardinals.

The Reds have 4 key players that are the most dangerous on their team. Bronson Arroyo, who is one of the few pitchers on their staff that has contained the Braves with a 1-1 record and a 3.75 ERA against the Braves lineup. Shin-Soo Choo, who has absolutely destroyed the Braves pitching with a .393 average in 28 ABs, 3 homers, and a double. Zach Cozart with an OPS of 1.000 in 30 ABs against the Braves. And lastly, Brandon Phillips who has managed 9 RBIs in just 27 ABs versus Atlanta. Any of these guys can take over a game and really ruin the Braves day. It's all about negating their influence if the Braves draw them in the first round, and making the rest of the pitching staff and lineup for the Reds step up.

With 3 games left, we've now covered the possiblities. You have the knowledge of what these other teams bring to the table and how they fare against our Braves. Now, it's on the Braves players to keep hitting and maintain pace with the Cardinals so we can stay in the top spot for the best position. This weekend could very well be an enormous factor that we all look back on in October win or lose. Let's hope we all remember it fondly as we hoist a big trophy.

Monday I'll do the preview for the playoffs, and we'll all know where we stand. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend baseball and football, and cheer on the Braves.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Final Week: 4 Games to go

The Braves were shut out last night, and they are a half game behind the Cards with a game to play today. Win the game and they are tied with the breaker. Lose the game, and they drop back in the home field advantage race to second. I could go into the absolute crazy that was the Carlos Gomez thing with BMac, but if you watch ESPN you've already been beaten to death with that coverage. Honestly, Gomez is a fool, I'm glad nobody got hurt, and we can all move on with our lives. The Braves have better things to do than the Brewers in October. Suck on that.

But I'm almost positive they don't care. They absolutely should, but I don't think they do. You know how I know that? Because Jason Heyward got the scheduled day off last night. Jason Heyward, one of the few guys we know for a fact makes the offense go, and has been sidelined with an injury for weeks, got a day off. That's absurd. If you cared about home field, the lineup would have Jason, Gattis/Schafer, Justin, Freddie, Simmons, Elliot, CJ, and BMac in there every single night. If it doesn't, then the Braves don't care, because that's the likely lineup you'll see in the playoffs.

Today in our playoff focus, I look at the Pirates, the team that nobody expected. The Pirates have their first winning season since the famous 1992 season where the Braves ruined their dreams. How fitting would it be to face off against the Pirates again in the NLCS? If things shape up the way they are now, that's actually a likely possibility. The Pirates share a lot in common with the Braves this year. They've survived on great pitching, and their RISP hitting has been totally abysmal. In fact, the Pirates are 14th in the NL in RISP average as a team, meaning they are only slightly better than the Cubs, and actually worse than the Marlins. So how in the world are they winning games? It ain't by scoring a ton of runs, because they are actually 9th in runs scored this year in the NL, which is dead last amongst playoff teams. Nope, they've done it with the 2nd best ERA in the league, behind only Atlanta.

The Pirates have 4 starters they can select with a sub-3.50 ERA and 2 that average a strikeout every inning this season. They are second in the NL in BAA with opponents hitting a paltry .239 this season. However, since the All-Star break the Pirates have fallen away from the pack and that BAA has risen to .256, while the ERA has increased to 3.59. The difference is that they had to face a schedule loaded with tougher divisional opponents, and that has worn down some of those ridiculous staff numbers from the beginning of the season. Still, they command second place in the NL Central for a reason ahead of the Reds, they have dominated at home, and won more than .500 on the road. Though of all the teams going into the playoffs, the Pirates have the lowest run differential.

Nobody is giving the Pirates much of a chance. They are 4-6 in their last ten, three normally solid starters on their pitching staff suddenly have 5.00+ ERA's in September, and their OPS in the final month is in the bottom 5 in the league. Then again, the same can be said for Atlanta's OPS, so it would be foolish not to take either team seriously. With the kind of pitching the Pirates can command at a moment's notice, and the players like McCutchen, Alvarez, and Martin who can turn the game around with the long ball, this Pirates team is going to be the dark horse contender if they make it out of the Wild Card game.

And if they do, hopefully the Braves are waiting with home field advantage.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Final Week: 5 Games to go

The Braves beat the Brewers in walk-off fashion 3-2 last night, and they cling to a slim lead in the NL home field race with 93 wins. It might take 97 or 98 at this rate with the Cardinals playing lights out baseball, so the Braves will need to stay sharp for the rubber game of the Brewers series tonight, and Maholm is going to be pitching this game for his potential shot at the playoff roster. Maholm at home is a different guy than road Maholm, so I think that would be taken into account when Fredi G pencils in his 4th starter.

To continue the series on possible playoff team matchups, I'm looking today at the Dodgers. The Dodgers are one of the few playoff teams that went through a horrible start at the beginning of the season before turning on the afterburners about mid-way through. It helped that Arizona absolutely fell apart down the stretch too. The Dodgers home and road splits are basically even. They really don't care where they play, because they can win anywhere with their pitching staff. Make no mistake, this Dodgers team is pitching first, hitting second.

If you looked at pitching after the all star break, nobody is better than the Dodgers. Not even the Braves who are a distant 2nd in ERA. The Dodgers have 3 of the best starters in baseball with Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Zach Grienke. If you look at their games after the break, Grienke and Kershaw have ERAs under 2.00, and Ryu is under 3.00. That's unmatched on any staff. In a 5 game series, they can be absolutely devestating, which is one of the main reasons you'd rather face them in a longer series where you have home field advantage. Otherwise, they could just sweep you out of the building in 3 games and call it a day with their shutdown starters. Even more terrifying for a Braves team that has contact problems at times, those three pitchers have struck out a combined 515 batters this season. Yikes.

However, despite the great pitching, the Dodgers aren't exactly studs at the plate. In fact, they are middle of the pack in runs scored in the NL, and the 4th lowest scoring playoff team ahead of Pittsburgh. So why are they able to pull out games? Because they have timely hitting. Their RISP hitting is 5th in the NL, and they have the 3rd highest OBP in the NL. They put guys on and they get them over and in. It's the basic philosophy of the old Braves teams. Throw your best starters out there and manufacture runs with small ball. They do that in spades, and are tied for the league lead in sacrifice flies. If they can get a runner to third with one out, he's coming home. That's how the Dodgers have been winning games.

The key to stopping them? Don't let runners get in scoring position. The Dodgers are good singles hitters, but they are average in doubles, and below average in homers. They can get hits, but they don't really punish you with a deep ball. That gives pitchers an advantage because they can fire pitches is in the zone without much fear of a moon shot. That means you can be aggressive with these guys, especially early in the inning. As a result, the Braves have pitched them that way, and they have a 5-2 record against the Dodgers with a 1.88 ERA, best in the NL. The matchup favors our pitchers against their hitting.

But the downside is that the Braves haven't faced Kershaw, and the one time they faced Grienke, they got blown apart with a 7 inning, four hit shutout. That doesn't bode well for the possible pitcher's duel you might face against these guys, because if it comes down to grinding out the one RISP hit, the Braves aren't high in that category. What they'd need is that one long bomb to take down these LA starters, and put the fear of God into them with our power bats. We'd need a guy like Gattis staring them down late in the game grinding sawdust out of the bat ready to tomahawk a fastball at the neck into left field.

And that's what I'm waiting for. 5 more days to go before the season's over. Stay healthy and keep winning.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Final Week: 6 games to go

The Braves played the Brewers last night and lost, so we're tied with the Cardinals for first place in the NL right now, holding the tiebreaker. What's important is that the regular season is 6 days from completion, and we as fans need to be looking ahead to that finish.

What I'm going to be doing is taking a look at the other playoff teams over the next few days instead of just recapping the games left. Why? Because honestly, as much as I want us to take home field advantage, I'm getting the feeling the Braves as an organization don't really care. They don't seem to be putting the best team on the field, and they look satisfied to play wherever. I think that's stupid, but they look like they are putting an emphasis on rest, rather than fighting to the finish. Time will tell if that's the right call or not, but when Freddie Freeman is on the bench? Your best RISP hitter? That tells me you don't care.

I'll start by looking at the team that just tied us, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals hold the top spot in the NL in run differential. They have the most runs scored in the NL. They have the most doubles in the NL. They strike out the second fewest times in the league. They make contact, and they have the highest on-base percentage in the NL. This is a team that has no easy outs. From the outside looking in, the Cardinals are the odds on favorite to win the league and go to the world series if you looked only at their offense.

However, their pitching isn't nearly as strong. Their starter ERA is a 3.51, tied with the Pirates for 3rd amongst the playoff contenders. Their bullpen ERA is also at a 3.54, but that's way down the list of 10th in the NL, and 4th amongst playoff teams. Comparatively, the Braves are 1st still in that category. The Cardinals have one terrifying pitcher, Adam Wainwright. He's posted a 3.01 ERA with a whopping 214 Ks this year. Now, against a whiff-happy lineup, I'd say Wainwright is going to dominate. My guess though is that our whiffers are only going to be whiffing the scent of pine as they ride the bench. The Braves lineup would consist of contact if we were to face Wainwright, and still the numbers are terrible. Guys like Simmons are Justin haven't had a single hit off him in double digit ABs. So, I hate that matchup against pretty much anybody. The rest of their starters are gettable in my mind. Lance Lynn is nothing special, and Shelby Miller is a 22 year old rookie starter. Now, he's a really GOOD rookie starter with a 3.12 ERA, but he's still young, and that matters in the playoffs.

The real focus of the Cardinals is that they never let up at the plate. They press on every AB, and they don't give up many easy outs. A walk starts a rally with that team. You have to be spot on as a pitcher when you face them, because they can destroy you with a bad inning. The Braves aren't that different in that they can kill you with a blast, but the Cardinals can also double you to death. However, in games against the Cardinals this year, nobody pitched better against them in the NL than the Braves. With a 2.85 team ERA, the Braves were one of the few teams that slowed down the Cardinals onslaught, and that can't be said of the other playoff teams. In fact, the only one who would be close is the Dodgers with a 3.05 team ERA against the Cardinals. The Red Birds would much prefer to face a team like Cincinnati, with their 5.05 ERA.

Five starting hitters in the Cardinals lineup are hitting over .350 with RISP on the season. The Braves have one. Five starting hitters on the Cardinals are hitting .298 or better on the season. The Braves have two. Seven starters on the Cardinals have an OPS over .700. The Braves have six. Here's the key though, at home the Cardinals have an OPS of .737, and the Braves have an OPS of .752. However, in away games the Cardinals OPS is .728, and the Braves OPS is .694. That means the Cardinals only suffer a 9 point dropoff on the road in production, while the Braves suffer 58 points. That's a HUGE difference, and exactly why the Braves should be fighting to the finish so they don't lose home field.

We'll see if they can keep it up tonight with Garcia facing the Brewer's Thornburg. However, Chris Johnson, another one of our best hitters, is taking the night off. I don't think they get it. If the Braves lose home field, they may end up totally regretting it in October. Along with the rest of us.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Weekend Recap: BRAVES CLINCH!

The Braves are your 2013 NL East Champions! Party time! Confetti and champagne all around! It's been 8 years since the Braves have claimed the top spot in the division, and they finally wrapped it up on Sunday by beating the Cubs and having the Nats lose to the lowly Marlins.


There's our boy Freddie getting doused with a frosty beverage in front of the logo. Nice work on the goggles guys, they do nothing! I won't bother really going into the finer points of the Cubs series because honestly, who cares now that we won? The race is over, and we're on top of the division. Now it's just about getting the gravy of home field advantage. There was some good and some bad and some ugly in this series with the Cubs, and I'll recap them all here:

The GOOD: Duh, we won the division. Oh, and we won two out of three in the series. Also, Freeman and CJ went on an unholy tear through the Cubs in these three games, notching a combined 10 hits, 7 RBIs, 3 homers, and a double. Those guys are going to be your go-to hitters in the playoffs, make no mistake. You need the rest of the lineup to step up around them, but I don't think there can be any doubt that if you need a clutch hit, you want Freddie or CJ in the box.

The BAD: The bullpen wasn't good at all. We're used to them being so good all season long, but in this series they gave up 4 runs in 3 games out of the pen. That's not acceptable for a team getting ready to start it's true first playoff series in a few years. Part of this is injury, part is fatigue, and part is simply bad timing. However, they need to lock it up and get the job done when the lights get brightest in October.

The UGLY: Dan Uggla got 6 ABs in the series and went 0-6 with 4 Ks. BJ got 4 ABs and went 0-4 with 3 Ks. They can't play in the playoffs, period. I don't want to see either of them get a single game. As far as I'm concerned, they are officially on the DL and unable to perform. Nobody wants them there, nobody needs them there, and from this point forward Elliot Johnson is your starting 2nd baseman, and Jason Heyward is your starting CF with a possibility to slot in Schafer if you don't want to play Gattis in left. Done. End of story. We're out of patience and they are out of time. Better luck next year, Dan and BJ, get out your pom-poms because you are cheerleading in the dugout from now on.

That being said, two things will make or break the Braves in the playoffs this year. I harp on the first one all the time, and that's RISP hitting. We're the worst team that's going to make the playoffs in the NL in that category. The second is starting pitching. We're 4th out of 5 in that category of starter ERA. Let's be real about our chances, a lot of things are going to have to go right for us, and to get those things, we HAVE to be at home. Our home splits are so ridiculously favorable, that to lose home field advantage would be a massive shot to our chances. The Braves can't let up now, no matter what. Get out there and go win those games to take that home field, or a lot of us will start getting very nervous when that first game rolls round.

GO BRAVES!


Friday, September 20, 2013

Series Preview: Cubs Weekend Day Game Extravaganza

Welcome to Chicago, where the players play in the day. Fans are Wrigley have an obsession with day games so get ready for 3 in a row for our Braves. The best news of this series? Jason Heyward is scheduled to get into the lineup and lead off today. Are you jacked? I'm jacked. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Maholm (10-10) v. Baker (0-0)
Game 2 - Medlen (14-12) v. Wood (9-11)
Game 3 - Teheran (12-8) v. Jackson (8-16)

The first game is Maholm on the road. Ugh. I'll preview it anyway. Maholm has been day to day since he pitched on the 8th of September in Philly, a game we lost 2-3. However, he wasn't that bad, or at least not the total greasefire he's been on the road in the past. It's very possible that against a bad team with a full compliment of Braves swinging the bats, he could secure a win. He's facing off against Scott Baker, a guy who has two starts with the Cubs this year after taking a year off from the majors. He's lost both, but didn't factor in the decisions. He's a 7 year vet, but his career ERA is above 4.00, which shows you how desperate the Cubs are for starters. It should be a win if we're hitting and Maholm keeps it in the ballpark.

Medlen has been on fire of late. The Braves have won 4 of his starts in a row, he's been solid on the road, and he's had a September ERA of 1.31. Add into the fact that he's held this Cubs lineup to a .067 BAA, and you have a very strong case that this could be a fun pitching outing to watch on Saturday. Luckily the college games are mostly awful, so you'll get that chance. He'll oppose Travis Wood, a guy who's on a roll of his own. He's 2-1 in his last 4 starts with an ERA of 2.70 in the month of September. For a guy playing on the Cubs, it doesn't get much better than that. Tempered expectations of course. The key to this game will be Justin Upton, the guy who actually has 10 ABs off Wood, which is the most of in the lineup. Justin has had success off the guy going 3/10 with a bomb. If he can tip off the other hitters in the order, this sets up an advantage for the Braves.

Teheran didn't do what I expected in his last outing. In fact, he got lit up by the Padres in a 0-4 loss. I can't really take that one game as a benchmark though, since the Braves didn't score at all, and showed no signs of giving him any support from the jump. However, what I can benchmark is that Teheran has been shaky in his last two road starts, giving up 7 total runs. He needs to make this a good road start so he can gain back some confidence before the playoffs, and the Cubs are a good target. Most of their hitters haven't faced him before, but in the limited ABs of those who have, they are batting .400 off him. Not great. Edwin Jackson goes for the Cubs, but he's been probably their worst pitcher in terms of record. Actually, there's no probably. He is their worst pitcher. Teheran simply needs to get any amount of support from the Braves, and he should have the lead in this game to work with. Look for Freeman, Justin, and BMac to crush Jackson, as they have lifetime averages over .333 with a combined 3 homers.

The CPA predicted the Braves would beat the Nats on Thursday, even when people were panicking. It looks at this weekend to see if the Braves sew this thing up in Chicago.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Cubs 6 - Braves 2
CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 3 - Cubs 1
CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 5 - Cubs 4

The CPA likes the Braves to win 2 of these games and clinch the division in Chicago. The first game will be typical Maholm awfulness, followed by the Braves hitters getting some better looks against two of the Cubs less than stellar starters. Let's take this thing back to Atlanta with a division championship in tow.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Game 3 Recap: Nats

Feel better now? Everyone can breathe a little and relax, we're going to be okay. The Braves won a game and all is right with the world. For a while, it didn't look good. In fact, for about five innings of that game, the Braves had only amassed one hit. However, in the 6th just after CB Bucknor made another one of his famously awful calls to give the Nats the lead, the Braves busted out the bats. Dan Uggla led the charge with his first homer since I think February, and then Justin capped that off with a 2 run shot of his own to take the lead 3-2. This was of course after Fredi G and Wood had already been thrown out of the game by Bucknor for pointing out what a moron he is, and how he should have been fired at the AA level. But I digress.

The Braves win 5-2, the Magic Number is at 2, and the Nats look like they are going from furiously swimming upstream to possibly being swept out to sea. The Braves 2-9 with RISP isn't going to light me on fire with confidence about our hitting, but the clutch homers by Uggla and Justin did. Dan is obviously still trying to make a case that he's not awful and doesn't belong on the bench for the playoffs. I'm not buying yet. Maybe if he goes .300+ over the next 10 games with 5 homers? I might think about it. Otherwise, back of the line, Popeye. We need contact hitters.

Schafer finally showed up big after having what can only be described as a miserable week, as he went 2/4 with a run scored and an RBI. Justin went 2/4 with the aforementioned homer. BMac had a long shot off the center field wall that scored Simmons all the way from first, and Uggla had the leadoff bomb. The Braves didn't have a ton of chances, but they made the most of what they got, leaving only 4 guys on base. The pitching by Wood was superb before the 5th inning when things go away from him, and the calls at the plate were questionable. Then the bullpen who let us down in the first game, came roaring back to go 4 scoreless including a save by young Kimbrel. Craig looked like he was ready to chew nails out there on the mound. If blowing a save is what it took to light a fire under him, I'm happy it came before the playoff rounds.

So now the Braves enjoy a day off before heading to Chicago to face the slumping Cubs. The Cubbies have lost 5 in a row and 7 of their last 10 games. The Braves need to win two games to put this thing away, assuming the Nats don't drop a game to the crappy Marlins. Things are setting up well for that to happen, and for the Braves to enjoy a nice night on the town in Chicago when they clinch the division. Besides doing it at home, there aren't many better places to party in September than the Windy City. Hopefully they get to enjoy it soon.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Game 1 & 2 Recap: Nats

People are starting to panic. I'll say this about what happened yesterday, it was a terrible display of baseball. The Braves are playing like crap right now, and we all know it. The Nationals are playing their best baseball of the season and we know that too. If we were involved in a really tight race that depended on this series in order establish a lead, we'd be totally screwed.

But we're not involved in a close race. The magic number is 4, and there are 11 games left. If we get swept by the Nationals, I don't care. If we get swept by the Cubs and the Nats win out? Then you can start to get nervous. Otherwise, we just need to focus on what we know how to do, and that's making good contact and getting guys in with RISP. One of the reasons we lost this double header is because the Braves went 1-14 across both games with RISP. In fact, they've gone 6-54 with RISP in their last 7 games. That's a .111 average for those of you scoring at home. That's beyond dreadful, pushing the needle into nausea-inducing.

In Game 1 the Braves actually plated some runs, mostly off the homer. Bang or bust, it's what we saw when the first big slump came around in late April and early May. The most shocking part of our RISP slump was that the only guy in this game who has a RISP hit was Dan freaking Uggla. That should tell you something about how the rest of these guys are swinging it. Good for Dan though. Just don't think that means you get a playoff start, buckaroo. Gattis came through with a big 2 run homer late in the game to give the Braves a 4-3 lead, and an error by the Nats made it 5-3. However, Kimbrel was not the save machine we are used to, and he couldn't find the handle on any of his pitches. As a result, he walked 2 guys, gave up a hit and an error on Simmons, and the game was over with the Nats scoring 3 times. Craig only recorded a single out. It was hit worst outing of the year in my mind, and it just happened to come at a time where we could have used the push.

In Game 2, we didn't hit at all. Plain and simple. Garcia got into some trouble, but navigated it well to hold the damage to just a run for his tenure in the game. So the Braves only trailed 1-0 for 7 innings of baseball. Unfortunately, they only had 5 hits all day. Some guys are absolutely dead weight right now at the dish on the week. Here's a few guys that are on milk cartons. Jordan Schafer is hitting .067 in 6 games. BJ Upton is hitting .087 in 12 ABs. Evan Gattis is hitting .103, but he has 2 homers in 7 games. BMac is hitting .133 with a homer in 4 games. Also, Simmons is hitting .227 with only 1 run scored. Right now, Elliot and Chris Johnson, Justin Upton, and Freddie Freeman are carrying this team. If not for them, the Braves wouldn't have even won the 2 games they won.

I hate to say it, but we're the 24th ranked team in average this week in the majors, and that's not going to cut it for a playoff club. It sure as Hell doesn't cut it for a team that wants to win the NL outright. We have to stop hanging our heads and start making good contact. We have to stop chasing early in counts and start working pitchers into favorable situations. We need to slow down and stop pressing. We're the ones in the lead. We're the ones holding the top spot. We don't need to worry or panic, and we certainly don't need to grind it at the plate. That's what I want the attitude to be when we play tonight against the Nats.

The CPA was 1-1 on the double header, and now it looks at the rubber game. Will the Braves snap out of it in time to salvage a game and some of the fan's sanity?

CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 4 - Nats 2

The CPA thinks they will turn it on today. Ohlendorf has struggled with the Braves hitters in the past, and he hasn't faced them this season, nor has he faced Freeman ever in his career. I think Freddie will relish the chance to take a game back from the Nats, and I think the lineup is getting pissed off about all the negative talk. Let's hope they can push some lumber on these fools and take the magic number to 2.

GO BRAVES!