Friday, May 31, 2013

Series Preview: Changes in Natitude, Changes in Latitude

Well who's that in town? It's Jerk Johnson and his cadre of wall-bashing misfits. I guess life is a little harder when you're Werthless? Too bad for them, I suppose. I don't really feel sorry for anybody in this league, especially the defending division champs getting a bit of a reality check. Newsflash, repeating in the division is tough. The Braves just made it look easy for 14 years. On to the matchups:

Game 1 - Teheran (3-1) v. Strasburg (3-5)
Game 2 - Hudson (4-4) v. Gonzalez (3-3)
Game 3 - Maholm (6-4) v. Karns (0-0)

Game 1 tonight should be interesting. Teheran has been a good luck charm for the Braves, and Strasburg has been a whipping boy every time he's played Atlanta. The Braves have never lost a Teheran home start this season, and his ERA in Turner is a respectable 3.86. Strasburg has already gone 0-2 against Atlanta this season, and he's been struggling on the road all season. People around the league are saying Strasburg is back because he roughed up Philly in his last start. Have you seen Philly? It's like an old folks home with less performance enhancing drugs. I expect Uggla in the lineup since he's crushed Strasburg for an .826 slugging percentage, and I expect Heyward in there since he's hitting .500 in 14 ABs. I don't expect BJ in there because he's been terrible against Strasburg at a 1 for 8 clip, and I wouldn't mind Justin getting a day off either with his 1-11 hitting line. Evan Gattis would be a good choice to play left, put Heyward in RF, and Schafer at center. My ideal lineup? Schafer, Simmons, McCann, Freeman, CJ, Gattis, Heyward, Uggla, Teheran, in that order.

Game 2 will be about two pitching vets trying to find the handle again. There was a chalk outline where Gio Gonzalez was pitching last time he came to Turner Field. Gio's holding a 4.82 road ERA and a WHIP around 1.25. Huddy at home is completely different than the mess on the road. Huddy in his home starts is 3-0 with a 2.97 ERA. We want that Huddy in the second game. The good Huddy. As for hitting Gio, the Braves will probably favor a lineup that includes CJ and Simmons. Both have been hitting .400+ off the lefty. Hudson has to watch out for Ian Desmond, but he likely won't have to face the biggest past problem, which is Werth. That's a big bonus for the Braves.

Game 3 features Maholm who has won his last 3 starts versus some rookie who's pitched 3 games in the majors. Trying to put a preview on this is pretty pointless. Karns is like one of those guys that gives the Braves trouble because we've never seen him before. We have a really bad history against guys like that with high ERAs. For some reason we make them look like world-beaters in the first go around. I'd like to hope it doesn't go that way, but there are no real numbers to base that assumption on either way. What I do know is that Maholm has two games in 2013 against the Nats, and he has a 1.15 ERA. You give him 5 runs? We win.

The CPA is 27-17 on the season, and it predicted the squeeker that wasn't last night. A win's a win though. What about Game 1 of this series?

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 5 - Nats 3

The CPA likes the Braves hitting against Strasburg lifetime, and their overall home record. It also likes that the Nats are on a 2 game road losing streak. Put it all together and you have a good chance of the Braves walking off winners tonight.


Game 2 Recap: Toronto

Oh the mythical, glorious, perfect lineup! If you look at the May 16th post, I went over what the ideal lineup by statistics looks like on this team. I wished I could see it just once, and yesterday we all got that chance. We were rewarded for our wait. The Braves lineup put 11 runs on the board, with only 5 Ks. I love the OBP in that group. I love the contact in that group. I love that it turns the order over and there are no holes that pitchers can work around. I understand we're unlikely to see that lineup again for another couple of weeks. However, the knowledge that Fredi is willing to go to the hot hands when we need it down the stretch is a very good thing. Bobby Cox would have never done this. He would have been starting vets until we had blown our 5 game lead, because he was veterans first always. If you want one good example of why Fredi is a different manager than Bobby, yesterday was it in a nutshell.

So who got hits? Everybody except the pitchers. It was 1974, Hammerin' Hand was hammering dingers, disco was alive, and the Braves were cranking out the hits, baby! Schafer had a double, Freeman had a homer, Reed had a homer, and Pena had 4 RBIs. Little Pena, the engine that could. RA Dickey, former Cy Young winner, went 6 IP with 11 hits, 6 runs, a walk and a blast. Then, we got into the Jays pen. They didn't look like the pen from Wednesday. In 2 innings, the Braves roughed them up for 5 runs. It was a little bit of payback for the awful performance we laid out there mid-week.

Was Minor good? Is 7 innings and 2 earned runs good? No, it's in fact quite great. 103 pitches with a very robust 73 strikes. Minor was firing at guys because he was spotted an early 3 run lead. Some of you may have forgotten what it's like to have a lead after the second inning. It's nice. It's like a warm cinnamon bun made out of runs and sunshine. It gives those starting pitchers the confidence to just say "screw it, try and hit this." That's what you want. You want your starter firing strikes and daring the opposition to come and get him. That's what Minor did, and he was great at it. Even so, the defense made a HUGE mistake last night that could have cost the Braves big. Andrelton Simmons, he of the ridiculous eye-popping plays, booted the most routine double play ball I've seen all season. That kept the inning going, which led to the Jays tying the game at 3 runs. Now, I'm not mad at him, because good grief, the dude's turned some plays out I've never seen at short. However, we can't get lax, and that was a good example of how fast things can unravel if you aren't defensively sound. The Wild Card game should stand as a staunch reminder of that fact.

Let's look at some of my favorite stats in this game. Braves with RISP went 5-12, so I love that. Minor executed a successful sacrifice when he got a bunt down in the 6th, moving runners to second and third. They came around to score on the next Schafer hit. That was huge. The Braves had 16 hits in 38 ABs for a game average of .421 on the night. That's almost unheard of on this team. In fact, I had to go back and see if we've had 16 hits all season. In a cursory look, I didn't see more. That was an amazing peformance.

Series preview of the Nats this weekend is coming up after lunch. With a 5.5 game lead, we really have a chance to stick it to a Nats team that is now playing .500 baseball, lost 6 of their last 10, and suddenly finds themselves with a negative run differential on the season.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Toronto

It took me a while to figure out what to say about this game. I don't really understand how we could come out there and look as bad as we did, but it was a pretty gutless effort on behalf of the team. Not only did we stink at the plate, we kicked the ball around the infield, we misplayed fly balls, we were out of position on several grounders, and we did it all against a cobbled together mess from the Blue Jays pen. They made us look like fools, and if you were booing at that game, I don't really blame you. I was there, and I was just flabbergasted at the lack of focus. Also, the crowd really turned on BJ. Again, I can't blame them. He's literally the worst hitter in the MLB right now. Out of 170 guys with over 140 ABs, he's dead freaking last. #170 out of 170. The Braves have 2 of the 8 guys in that category under the Mendoza line, Uggla and BJ. We're going to add a third of Heyward doesn't improve over some more ABs.

Fans will forgive you in Atlanta if you hustle, if you have a good attitude, and you absolutely don't act like a fool. BJ broke that rule last night. In a moment of frustration he went full prima-donna mode tossing his helmet into the ground in a huge double fisted spike, throwing his bat at the dugout, and sauntering down the entire right field line under a showering of boos, tossing off batting gloves as he went. That kind of stuff doesn't fly at the MLB level, and I'll be really shocked if Fredi puts him back in the lineup after that display tonight. You can't argue every corner strike, you can't act like a child with a tantrum on your home field when you strike out, and you can't show up your team. That's not good sportsmanship, and you and I know for a fact that Bobby Cox wouldn't stand for it. It almost reminded me of the stuff Yunel Escobar used to do when he got mad. There's no pouting in baseball.

Now, I also know that BJ has been very amiable in the clubhouse, that he's working overtime to get right, and that he's not going to be hitting sub .150 for the rest of the season. He's mad, and he's frustrated. However, that wasn't the way to handle it, he knows that, and the club needs to give him a reminder of that today. I think the stress is hurting him at this point, and he needs to take a page from Dan Uggla's book. The fans are mad at Dan at times, but Dan has made a point of being very low key in his struggles, acknowledging the problem, and working very hard at his OBP. You don't see Dan throw tantrums. He'll argue occasionally, but he doesn't get into it on every AB.

The game only had 4 hits, and most of them were Freddie Freeman. Honestly after Freddie got the leadoff triple, and the 6-7-8 Bermuda Triangle of Uggla-Francisco-BJ couldn't even get him in? I should have just left the ballpark. The game was over right then. Nothing else happened for 6 more innings. 0-5 with RISP? Sure. 11 Ks? You better believe it. The only positive I can take away from this game was that after Medlen got hit in the back of his leg on a shot up the middle, the bullpen gave up absolutely nothing for 7 straight innings. What a difference having Walden back makes. I can't tell if it's something Medlen did to tick off the Baseball Gods, but he needs to sacrifice a chicken to Jobu for some hitting support.

The CPA was dead wrong due to the Bermuda Triangle, which if Fredi is merciful we will never see again this season. What about today? Can we pull off the home split with Minor on the hill?

CPA Prediction Game 2:  Braves 4 - Blue Jays 3

The CPA likes a closer game here. Right now, the total metric is favoring the Braves by 30%, so it's not an extremely tight match without respect to the way that Toronto is swinging the bats this week. The whole lineup for the Blue Jays is batting with a .892 OPS in the last 7 days, and that is LARGE. Minor has been a put-out specialist over his last 4 games though, all wins. Dickey has struggled with a 2-3 results record in May, 2-2 on decisions. Also, Dicky is above a 5 in May ERA, and Freddie Freeman (whose having his bobblehead night tonight) hits him at a .500 clip. I think Freddie has a chance to be a hero. Hugs for everyone!


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Series Preview: Toronto 2 games in America

2 games down, 2 games to go. This time the Braves come back from foreign soil to knock the Blue Jays around the friendly confines of Turner Field. Who better to get the benefit of some solid run support than Kris "why don't my hitters love me" Medlen? On to the matchups:

Game 1 - Medlen (1-5) v. Rogers (1-2)
Game 2 - Minor (6-2) v. Dickey (4-6)

Medlen can't catch a break in the first two months of the season. He needs this. We as fans need this. For the love of everything baseball, can we give Medlen 5 runs in the first 5 innings? He's earned it at this point, and the Blue Jays are terrible on the road. Toronto is 8-14 on the away bus, and they are tossing Esmil Rogers, a guy with a career 5.81 ERA, at this power lineup. He's faced the Braves before, and they hit him for .393 average with a 1.229 OPS. Those are batting practice numbers, folks. Meanwhile, Medlen gave up only a single unearned run in his last home start, and his total home ERA is a paltry 2.08 for the season. Medlen's WHIP is a little high at 1.31, but Rogers is way above that with a 1.48. Rogers has also been shelled on the road for a 6.97 ERA, and he's yet to start a game this season. That's right, we're facing a converted reliever in his first start since 2011. Getcha popcorn ready.

Minor and Dickey should be an absolute war. Minor has never pitched better in his career, and Dickey has given guys like McCann, Uggla, and Justin absolute fits in the past. The question is which set of hitters with some success can crack the early dam? Bonafacio is the most dangerous guy against Minor, with a .375 average in 16 ABs with a bomb. Freddie Freeman can hurt Dickey the most with his .500 average in 18 ABs and 4 RBIs. In a battle of current history, it's all Minor with a 0.93 WHIP and 2.47 ERA. Dickey has had some explosion games drive up his ERA over 4, but the WHIP is still hovering around 1.30 even with the problems. The difference is that Dickey has been much better on the road than at home, which speaks to how the knuckleball fares in a smaller park.

I like the Braves to win both of these games, but the first should be a statement win for Kris. Let's see what the CPA thinks of Game 1

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 7 - Blue Jays 3

The CPA thinks it's another high scoring type of game. Both teams are hot at the plate, and both pitchers have had issues getting out of innings with a clean sheet. The difference is that the Braves are fielding an actual starter, while the Blue Jays are playing a stop-gap guy. Let's see some Braves hitters put a few in the outfield seats tonight.


Game 2 Recap: Toronto

A win is a win, and it may not have been pretty, but the Braves walked away from Toronto with a winning road trip. That's huge for a team that's been struggling with bullpen injuries, low averages from key players, and some starter concerns of late. However, Maholm rallied back from blowing an early 3-0 lead, and the Braves bats never got stopped talking from the first inning to the last.

Maholm didn't have a good day. Then again, I think it's tough to have a good day in Toronto as a starting pitcher. That ballpark is going to give up runs with the DH, the short fences, and odd bounces on a quick infield. Maholm gave up 5 runs on 10 hits in just over 100 pitches. He wasn't walking people, but it's an AL game. If you are used to NL games, it can be a little ridiculous watching teams score a combined 25 runs in 2 games. However, that's what life is like with the DH in play if you don't have a Cy Young candidate on the mound. Also, there has been a flurry of scoring in inter-league play all over the place.

If your name wasn't Reed Johnson, Jason Heyward or Dan Uggla, you had a good hitting day yesterday. If your name is Brian McCann or Evan Gattis, you're ripping the cover off the ball right now. Gattis and McCann combined for 3 total homers, all solo shots. Freeman, Simmons, and Schafer all had multi-hit days, going 8/15 with 4 runs scored. Add all those up, and you get 7 runs for the Braves, and that was enough to top the 6 from the Blue Jays. The Braves lineup abused Brandon Morrow, and chased him after only 2 innings from his start. After that, it was a battle of the bullpens to see who would blink. Guess what? For all the crap people give the Braves bullpen, they held up well in this game. In 4 innings, they gave up a combined 2 hits and 1 run. Compare to the Toronto bullpen who gave up 8 hits and 3 runs. Our solid pen work made the difference in the game, especially by Luis Avilan who went 1.2 IP after Varvaro got into trouble.

Interesting note, Jordan Schafer replaced BJ Upton for these two games in Toronto. In Jordan's last 10 games played, he's accumulated 7 hits, 5 walks, and scored 7 runs. That's about the same stats that BJ Upton has accumulated in 15 games. In that time period, Jordan's been doing in 2 games what it takes BJ 3 to complete. In May, BJ's on-base percentage is .250, while Jordan's is .383 for the month. There's a reason that Fredi is already starting to platoon BJ. He's doing it in the hopes that BJ snaps out of this struggle, but he's also doing it because Jordan Schafer has become a completely different player from the selfish pothead we knew from prior years. Jordan's now a player who's hitting to all parts of the field, taking his walks, using his speed, and doing whatever he can to get to 1st base. It's EXACTLY the leadoff hitter the Braves need, and unfortunately he's behind a guy who can't make contact right now in the depth chart.

Series preview for the 2 against the Blue Jays will be up later today. We took the split on the road, let's take the rest at home!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Toronto

That was ugly. I don't blame you if you turned off the game in the 6th inning and never came back. It didn't get any better down the stretch. Freddie Freeman and Evan Gattis showed up to play in the great white North. The rest of the team apparently didn't get off the plane. Freeman and Gattis went 5/8 combined with 2 RBIs, a double, and a homer by Evan. The rest of the team had 3 hits and 1 RBI, and that was by Simmons. Guys like Reed, Justin, BMac, and Schafer all went hitless against a pitcher with a WHIP over 1.40 on the season. You can't have that from your big hitters and hope to win. The Braves went 1-5 with RISP, and in that close ballpark that's not going to be enough. Playing in Toronto is similar to playing in Colorado. There will be runs, there will be blood, and you need to get out in front of it early if you want to win.

Speaking of blood, Tim Hudson started metaphorically bleeding in the 2nd inning, and it never stopped. He got lit up for 8 hits, 6 runs, 2 homers, and 2 walks. He's completely unable to keep the ball down on the road, and Toronto is not the place where you want to struggle with elevated command. Balls will leave that ballpark on a whim. Meanwhile, Buehrle went 6 innings, only 5 hits and 1 runs. It's not like he was amazingly sharp, but the Braves kept rolling over pitches to the infield. Buehrle had a 10-2 ground/fly ball ratio on the day. That's supposed to be what we see out of Hudson, but he had a 7-9 ground/fly ratio. When a sinkerballer is giving up more fly balls than ground outs? Yeah, you don't have to stay at a Holiday Inn Express to know that's terrible.

The positive thing I take away from this is Gattis. He's continuing to punish pitchers with his compact swing and simple adjustments in the box. He moved up in the batters box on Buehrle to take the breaking ball out of the equation, and he got a double and infield single off the guy. Then, on his last AB he planted one 413 feet into the right field stands. He's now slugging .612 on the season, and that's the best slugging percentage on the team from anybody with 100+ ABs. Justin is in second with .563, BMac is third at .519. These 3 guys should be in the lineup right now in every single game, without question. They give you the best chance to win.

The CPA (26-15) accurately predicted that Toronto would win that game, but will the Braves get a split in Game 2? Can Maholm help rebound the team with a day game tilt north of the border?

CPA Prediction Game 2: Toronto 5 - Braves 3

The CPA doesn't like the Braves on the road much. It especially doesn't like them in the last series of a road trip. The Braves are 4-6 in the final series of each trip heading into this game, and they are 1-2 in the final game of the trip this season so far. Add in the fact that Maholm has been roughed up on the road, and his split to RH hitters is a .274 average with with an OBP over .340? The numbers favor Toronto by a good margin, and the Jays are hitting a blistering .299 average as a team in the last week. Too bad the Braves caught them at a hot peak. Maholm will need to work the corners and keep the ball in the park to turn the tide.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Series Preview: Toronto, 2 games in Canada

Ohhhhhhh Caaannnnnaaaaddaaaaaaaaaa. We have to head up there for 2 games, then they come to Atlanta for 2 games. I'll present them differently as two different series, because the Braves home/road splits demand it. THEY DEMAND IT! Who am I to argue? I think in this kind of series, a 1-1 win split on the road is a good goal. On to the matchups.

Game 1: Hudson (4-3) v. Buehrle (1-3)
Game 2: Maholm (6-4) v. Morrow (2-3)

Well, it's Hudson on the road again. At this point, I'd almost be shocked if he pitched well away from Turner Field rather than the reverse. I don't know why, but he seems completely incapable of keeping the ball down in opposing parks. There's an easy way to tell if Hudson is going wrong early in a game. Look at how the hitters are making contact. Are they hitting sharp liners? Are they hitting fly balls in the first 2 innings? If that's the case, either disaster has already struck, or it's waiting in the wings with some pliers and a blowtorch. The saving grace in this matchup is that Buehrle (whose name could flunk an Indian kid in the national spelling bee) is all over the place. His last game against TB was a 7 inning 2 run win. His prior game against the Yankees was a 5 run explosion. His last 4 games have been bad-good-bad-good. The Braves are hoping for bad next.

Maholm has won two games in a row, both in the confines of Turner Field. It will be interesting to see if that pitching translates up north. Paul doesn't have a whole lot of middle gears in his outings. He's either flying along at top speed, or he's stalled out early and getting shelled. 3 of the last 4 have been top speed games and his ERA has settled at 3.38. Morrow for the Blue Jays has only been winning games because the team is scoring big runs. If Toronto scores less than 6 runs? They lost Morrow's start. As such, the Braves have to really concentrate more on their defense in this game than getting into a slugging contest. With a 5.50 ERA, Morrow can be had early on in the game. Toronto's bullpen is very middle of the road, so they aren't going to be able to bail out an already sinking ship if the Braves jump all over them.

The CPA lost along with the Braves last night with the bullpen failure, but will the Braves rebound with Hudson on the mound?

CPA Prediction Game 1: Blue Jays 6 - Braves 5

The CPA favors the Blue Jays slightly due to the home field advantage, and the fact the DH is going to be in play. Hudson's bad road ERA of 7.36 is the worst on the team, so he's been pretty awful when he leaves the city. Both of these pitchers are better than their ERA's, though. Anything could happen in a game with some pretty tightly matched lineups based on their home/road splits.


Game 3 Recap: Mets

Well the Braves didn't get the sweep, and the cracks in the bullpen finally showed up. It was a matter of time before we saw the effects of only running 6 guys back there, two of which are untested rookies. You don't have the same flexibility you do when a guy normally gets in trouble. There's no way in a standard scenario that Gearrin would continue to pitch after he had issues with 3 straight batters. However, Fredi had no options left besides going to Rasmus, which isn't really an option at all. We need to get some more depth back in the pen if we want to continue winning close games down to the wire. Otherwise, we'll burn through our assets too quickly and be stuck late in series.

Still, can I really be upset about finally losing a game after winning 8 straight? Absolutely not. It was bound to happen that we would struggle with a certain pitcher eventually, and it just so happened that it was Marcum. Sean Marcum shut down the Braves for the majority of the game. In fact, the only real mistake he made was to Dan Uggla in the 7th, and that gave the Braves the 2-1 lead. Otherwise, a line of only 4 hits and no walks with 12 Ks? That should be enough to get any pitcher into the win column. But this is the Mets, and they don't support any of their starters. Teheran pitched admirably, if not wildly as well, but he couldn't continue to go deep into games after his last outing of 8.1 innings. Fredi had to pull the plug a little early, and send in the drained pen. That was the difference in the ballgame. It's also a indictment of the Mets that it took that long to close out a Braves team that had nothing going on at all that day.

The Braves didn't get a single walk. That's likely not going to work out in our favor when it comes to our offensive production, because the straight batting averages across the lineup aren't high enough to put people on base consistently. As a result, the Braves only had 5 baserunners, 4 of the starters went hitless, and BJ went 0/3 with 3 Ks. It's Memorial Day as of today, and it's time to take a serious look at our lineup. This is the point where you have to make some longer-term decisions about who to put in the forefront and who to platoon or sit down more often. We'll need to get guys like Walden and Ayala back from the DL to replace Rasmus and Carpenter in the pen. We'll also need to make a decision about Beachy when he gets back of where he fits into the pitching staff. My guess right now is that they will treat him like Medlen off his injury, and he will spend the rest of 2013 in the pen.

Other things to consider: is it time to look at moving Gerald Laird? I think he's a movable contract at $1.5M for a guy that's a legit catcher. Several teams could be interested in adding some depth at that position, and I believe you have a good mix right now with McCann and Gattis. Add into the fact that Bethancourt and Gattis could be your catching tandem of the future, and I think there's very little place for Laird on this team. The Braves might be well served to deal him for another bullpen arm, which is something we'll probably need more of down the stretch than a 3rd catcher who's played 7 games so far in May. It's a use it or lose it situation with Laird, and Evan Gattis is forcing the hand of the front brass to make a decision.

Oh and then there's our hitters. Uggla, despite the low average, is producing offensively with a higher OBP and slugging over .400. The point with Dan right now is that he may not get a lot of hits, but the balls he does hit go for extras, and he takes his walks. That's fine with me at this point. I don't need a guy like him really forcing the issue on every AB. I need a guy who's going to have a .750 OPS or more at the end of the season. Then, there's BJ. The most talked about Brave short of Evan Gattis. Not only is he the worst player on the team right now, without question, he's also one of the worst players in the MLB. I thought I'd seen signs of him getting it right, but he keeps making the same mistakes in games that he's correcting in the batting cage. It's not carrying over at all. It's going to take drastic measures with him if this goes into June, and it may require a trip down to AAA just so he can get his work in practice to translate against real pitching. I think by June 15th, the Braves are going to be forced to make a call.

This is how bad it's gotten with BJ: He's 82nd out of all OF's in the NL, regardless of ABs. There are only 91 of those in the entire league. He's 168th in OPS in the NL out of 176 possible players. Guys that are worse? Shockingly, 3 of them are Nats. Danny Espinosa, Tyler Moore, and Roger Bernadina are all really struggling at the plate. All 3 of those guys are batting .147 combined in 278 ABs. Take heed Braves fans, our closest competition has even bigger problems in many areas than we do. That doesn't mean we can ignore BJ's issues though. It's getting to the point where him "working through" the issues won't be enough. That will depend highly on the Braves record, and if the Nats start to close the gap.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Game 1 & 2 Recap: Mets

We had an interesting Saturday. The Mets game that was delayed late Friday night due to rain was pushed into Saturday. The Braves won that game 7-5. Then, the Mike Minor took the mound for the Braves in game 2, and they won that game 6-0 in a solid shutout. It was almost like watching a double header, but more compacted. The important thing was that the Braves won a series in one day, and they are set to take another sweep tonight on national TV.

Game 1 was frustrating because the Braves were forced to play in a downpour in the 8th inning after taking the lead 5-3. Of course, Evan Gattis was part of that, as he's been part of every major comeback. Medlen had pitched well, but even with a 2-0 lead, he still couldn't hold off the Mets from taking the lead back at 3-2 in the 5th. That's when Dan Uggla came up big and tied the game in the 7th with a homer. By the 8th, the Braves were pressing and putting people on base. With 2 outs and bases load, Gattis was called upon to pinch hit in a tough situation. And again, he capitalized on that opportunity with a little flare single off the end of the bat, scoring 2 runs. However, with the rain coming down, the umpires refused to call the game until the Mets had a chance to finish the bottom of the 8th. So, with Varvaro unable to hold onto the ball, people standing in puddles on the field, and wind/rain beating down on the mound, the Mets pushed 2 across the plate in the bottom half to tie the game at 5. At that point, the umps called it until Saturday.

Saturday at 6PM: The Braves and Mets play the 9th with no damage and send it to extras. Uggla came up big again in the 10th with his RBI single, and BJ put in a sacrifice that made the score 7-5. The Mets threatened in the bottom half, Tejada couldn't get a bunt down, and a Craig Kimbrel induced a double play to end the game. So with Game 1 in the books, the broadcast immediately went to FOX, where the Braves could start Game 2 at 7:30.

Enter Mike Minor. Mike was a man on a mission, and he mowed down the Mets lineup. Mike gets the rare game MVP for his performance last night. He pitched 7.1 innings with a season high 10 Ks, only 3 hits, 2 walks, and he went 2/4 at the plate with an early 2 run homer. He completely dominated the Mets on both sides of the plate. The Braves hitters were great early in the order, with 7 hits in the 1-4 spots, along with 4 RBIs. The 5-7 guys went 0/12. Then Mike Minor and CJ went 4/8 with 2 RBIs. We still have problems getting the whole order going, but as long as we're up 6-0, who cares? Also, we got to see a rare David Carpenter appearance, since he usually enters the game when it's mop up duty. He's the Braves human victory cigar.

So, we've seen pretty much what we expected thus far: a really bad Mets team and a high-scoring Braves team. The CPA was right about game 1, although it never expected the rain to play that much of a part in the scoring. Game 2 didn't get picked due to the delay. Let's see what it thinks about Game 3.

CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 6 - Mets 3

Teheran is always prone to giving up a few runs, but the Braves have more than proven they will score big for him in his starts. Keep your eye on BJ Upton in this game. He's had really good ABs against Marcum, and he may be able to knock a couple hits around in this matchup.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Series Preview: Mets Part 2

The Mets are still awful. Even better for the Braves, they don't have to face Matt Harvey since he pitched in the last series. Local radio in NY is calling this Mets team a glorified AAA squad that should be swept at home by the Braves. That's probably crazy, because the Braves haven't been that awesome on the road, but it doesn't speak well to the team the Mets have. On to the matchups.

Game 1: Medlen (1-5) v. Hefner (0-5)
Game 2: Minor (5-2) v. Gee (2-5)
Game 3: Teheran (3-1) v. Marcum (0-5)

One look at the Mets starter's records should let you know how things are going for them. Medlen and Hefner have both been plagued by bad starts. Medlen, however, is still holding a 3.02 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. His problem is that he's in the top 5 pitchers in baseball with the lowest run support. Dude's getting nothing. All the runs in Medlen's starts are coming late in the game. In terms of Hefner, the Mets haven't won a single start of his. At all. As in the Mets are 0-9 when he takes the mound. I don't understand how he's still pitching in the majors. Hefner has a home ERA of 3.52, which isn't terrible, but he's rarely going longer than 6 innings. The Mets bullpen? Think about a giant ball of garbage that's snowballing downhill. That's a pretty good comparison to their pen.

Minor is the Braves best starter right now, without question. The Braves are 3-0 in Minor's last 3 starts, with a road ERA near 3.00 and a .237 opposing average. Dillon Gee has struggled on the road, but his home ERA is much better at 2.35 in 4 starts. Gee's won 3 of his last 4 games, but two of them were against the Cubs and Marlins. The Braves are about 10x better than either of those teams. Add in the fact that the Braves hitters have messed Gee up in the past. Heyward and CJ are batting over .500 against Gee in 14 combined ABs. Justin is batting .250 with a bomb. The guy I think should start in this game is Gattis over McCann. For some reason Bmac struggled with Gee at a .214 clip in 14 tries. I think Gattis would be the bigger pop.

Game 3 could be the biggest blowout in favor of the Braves. At least on paper. Marcum is 0-5, but the Mets got lucky with his start in Atlanta when Kimbrel blew the late save, and the Mets won in extras. That's their only win all season with Marcum on the mound. He's been nothing short of awful on the road, and even worse at home. His 7.98 home ERA is one of the worst in the majors. Teheran has only lost one game all season, and the Braves have won the rest either with him getting the decision or late in the game. He's the anti-Marcum, getting stronger as the season goes along. His WHIP, which was ridiculously high beginning of May, has been slowly coming down to a respectable 1.35 level. BJ, Simmons, Schafer, Laird, and Francisco all have .300+ averages off Marcum. I'd like to see some lineup shuffling to get the hot hands in the game on national TV

The CPA (25-14) is ready for some more winning. Are the Braves? Is this another sweep on paper? I think my gut says it's a series win, but not a sweep. What's the CPA think about game 1?

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 5 - Mets 2

The Braves are crushing Hefner when they've seen him, and we're also hitting RH pitching well as a team. The Mets have struggled with Medlen, and only Ike Davis has a home run off him in his career. The Braves desperately need to score runs for Kris, because they've let him down time and again in that department. The Mets are ripe for the picking.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Game 3 Recap: Twins 5/22/13 DOUBLE SWEEP

Two sweeps! Perfect homestand! These are the phrases I like yelling out randomly in the hallway at my office. It's past tax season, so you have to wake up the other CPA's occasionally with outbursts. How did the Braves manage to win this game in a complete laugher with the give-up-lineup? Well, they don't really give up. They just hit rockets all over the ballpark. That's a good way to give your lefty starter some much needed run support, and Maholm ran with it to go 7.1 innings with only 1 unearned run. That helped out the much beleaguered bullpen.

Oh, and perhaps you've heard of this man Evan Gattis? He only went deep again for the grandest of all home runs. In the 4th inning, with the bases juiced, El Oso Blanco went yardo to break the game wide open at 8-0. The best part was it came on the heels of BJ Upton also going deep in the same inning. Everyone seems to have forgotten that since Gattis fever is sweeping Braves Country. It's like Bieber fever with less ridiculous hair. With 10 hits, 5 walks, and only 4 Ks, the Braves looked like a team that really controlled the plate. That's exactly the type of game you want to see out of the Braves, regardless of the run totals. If you say we've got 15 baserunners and we only struck out less than 5 times? Odds are I'm going to say we won that game. Add in the fact that the Braves went 3-10 with RISP? What's that? Oh it's my magic number. Thanks for showing up buddy, have some punch and pie.

Afternoon games are a blessing and a curse. It's nice to sit in the office and listen to the Braves winning on your radio, like a bunch of 1940s kids that somehow have access to the internet. The downside is when you get home that night, you have no Braves. This is sad. It's a tradeoff, but I don't think I like it as much as the 7PM regular Braves security blanket. A win's a win, though, so I won't complain if we get them even at 9AM. Although I was forced to flip back and forth between the Yankees/Orioles game and the NBA playoffs with the Heat/Pacers. I was not pleased.

What I really wanted when this road trip began was to gain some ground. The Braves had an easier home schedule with some obvious series wins on it, and the Nats were heading into some tough territory on the West coast. I was thinking maybe 1-2 games max. Instead, the Braves go on a tear, Washington drops 4 of 6, and we find ourselves 4.5 games up in the standings. For those of you saying, "Ben! It's too early to scoreboard watch!!!" It's never too early for two things in sports: Thinking about football season, and scoreboard watching a pennant race. It's great. Hop on board the summer roller-coaster! HOP ON!

The Braves get an off day before they head on another road trip. This one will be short at least. This weekend will be 3 days in NY against the Mets, followed by 2 days in Toronto against the Jays. Then, in a weird quirk of the schedule, the Braves come home to play 2 days against the Jays in Atlanta. Why they didn't want to just do 4 games in either place, I have no idea. The good news is that both of those clubs don't even have 20 wins yet on the season. They are in dire shape, and the Braves need to make sure they don't get up off the mat. I'm looking forward to a Memorial Day weekend of winning baseball!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Game 2 Matchup: Twins 5/21/13

The Rolling Stones routinely opined that they can't get no satisfaction. Perhaps they'd like to borrow a little Gattisfaction? There's plenty to go around here in Braves Country. Evan Gattis has become something that stepped out of folklore and into a batter's box. He's 10 feet tall, swings a 2x4, consumes pitchers with fireballs from his eyes, and lightning bolts from his arse. At the very least, he's ridiculously clutch in a pinch hit situation. With the game looking all but lost last night in the bottom of the 9th, Gattis had other plans. Two outs, down by one, and El Oso Blanco hits a bomb 412 feet into the left field stands to tie the game. I'd love to tell you the crowd went wild, and what few were still left did, but the weekday crowd was decimated by an hour and a half rain delay. Those that stuck around got a rare treat.

Even Evan's great homer could only tie the game. The Braves needed more, and time was of the essence. In case you haven't noticed recently, the bullpen is essentially running on fumes. Fredi has been managing injuries, elbow tears, and general awfulness of select bullpen guys from the very start of the season. If the game went a few innings beyond the 10th, the Braves were going to be sending Simmons out there to pitch (he was drafted as a pitcher). Luckily, with two outs, Jason Heyward roped one to left center in the bottom of the 10th. Then, the Twins made a cripplingly stupid decision. They walked Justin Upton to get to Freddie Freeman.

Now, if you're looking at the straight stats or headlines: 1 - You know Justin is our best slugger, 2 - Justin is a righty against a lefty on the mound, and 3 - Justin is a 6 year veteran of clutch situations. That means you'd want to pitch to a lefty on lefty matchup in Freddie Freeman and the less experienced hitter, right? NOPE! If Braves by the Numbers taught you anything about RISP, Freddie Freeman is the best on the team. He's hitting .469 for heaven's sake. Justin was only hitting .179 with RISP. Freddie Freeman against lefty pitchers? He's hitting .300 on the season with 3 doubles and a bomb. It was a gigantic error on the Twins part, and they can hang that on the manager not knowing the situation. He played the percentages not knowing that Freddie Freeman doesn't play by those rules.

With the crowd chanting, "Freddie! Freddie! Freddie!" Freeman hit nothing more than a low nubber off the end of the bat to right center. Was it pretty? No. Was it a good AB? Well he took him to full and looked for an off-speed pitch. It was really lucky that he even made contact. But in the box score? PURE GOLD BABY! Freddie dumps it into the outfield, Heyward streaks around home, and the Braves pull off another unlikely comeback win. Should we have even been in that situation? Not a chance, but the rain played havoc with everything. A freak monsoon hit the field and messed up the rotations, making it a bullpen game for the most part. That's not a good thing since the Braves pen is short, and the Twins pen is better than their starters combined.

The other big star of the night that goes largely undiscussed with all the drama, was Brian McCann. BMac went 3/4 with 2 RBIs and a big homer that gave the Braves the lead in the 4th. Also it gave Braves fans money off their tires with the 4th inning homer promotion. Go get your tires if you need them! Also, in case you didn't notice, BJ Upton strung together 2 hits as well. Then he struck out twice, so it's not like he's killing it yet, but the guy isn't completely freewheeling anymore. I need more action on the ball before I can say he's heating up again, but my math skills tell me that something > nothing. Science fact.

The pitching was average. Hudson was all over the place early, but he got things together after the rain delay to pitch 5 innings with 2 runs. It's not good enough for him, but the rain wouldn't allow him to get any rhythm going. The pen was fine except for Avilan who just didn't have it. He was all over the zone, he was walking people, and he ended up getting pegged for 2 runs because Gearrin couldn't put out his fire. In combination, those two guys almost cost the Braves the game. Does that mean anything? No, it was a bad situation where the pen was supposed to go long, and we're overworking the heck out of these guys until we can get some arms off the DL. We really need the starters to go longer, and I think Hudson would have gone 7 if not for the rain. He was only 81 pitches deep in the 5th.

The CPA (24-14) was right about another win (barely), but it was way off about the shutout. Hudson wasn't really sharp, plus did I mention it rained? All analysis goes out the window when it rains. Ken Cook would agree with me on that one. Do we dream of another sweep? A double sweep?

CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 3 - Twins 2

The CPA thinks the Braves can sweep, but what was supposed to be a drubbing has gone to a minor advantage at home. Reason? Fredi is tossing the give-up-lineup into the mix. McCann hits .300 off Worley, Justin is ripping off homers, both guys have been clutch, and NEITHER is playing today. Ugh. I understand the night/day turnaround, but we're going to have to work for what should have been an easy sweep. Hopefully CJ, Schafer, Gattis and Pena can pick up the slack.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Twins 5/20/13

Dan Uggla flexed the guns last night, and his 3 run bomb set the early tone for the Braves 5-1 victory. Also, Julio Teheran pitched his best game of the season, coming up just short of a complete game shutout. Almost every hitter touched a base, except for Gerald Laird. We can forgive him though, because he was calling a great game behind the plate. Justin and Francisco both had 2 hit days, Uggla had the early jack, Freeman singled in a run, and Simmons had a base hit and a sac-fly in the game. The RISP was only 2-7, so it fell just shy of the magic number, but the results don't lie. Wins are wins, and some come by the long ball.

It was nice for the Braves to jump out to a lead for once. You know the last time the Braves had the first run in the game? May 7th against the Reds, and we lost the game 5-4. Yeah, it's been almost two weeks of playing from behind. I'll pass on that, thank you very much. I prefer jumping out to a 4 run lead immediately, especially if it's Teheran or Hudson on the mound. They don't give those up. I'm sure Maholm is sitting in the dugout thinking, GUYS I LIKE RUNS TOO! In his 4 losses, he's had a grand total of 2 runs of support. Perhaps Teheran can get Maholm hitting, because Julio's batting at a .313 clip. It helps when you can score your own runs. In fact, Julio had the highest batting average in the entire lineup last night. How often do you see that in the NL? Answer: not much.

So why were the Braves successful against the Twins in this game? Simply put, they jumped on Correia early in favorable counts. Freeman's RBI came on a 2-1 count with runners on. Uggla's homer came on a 1-0 count with 2 men on. Other than Justin, everyone was keying on Correia's first 2-4 pitches instead of grinding him down. That was important, because as I discussed in the preview, the starters for the Twins are the weakness on their team, not the bullpen. That was exhibited last night as Correia gave up all 5 runs in 4 innings, and the Twins bullpen gave up only just 1 hit in 4 innings of work. You don't want to be trailing the Twins past the 6th inning. Things will not go well for teams that don't jump on the early stuff.

So Teheran went 8.1 innings with only 1 run given up, and that came on a meaningless homer in the 9th. The kid was just out of gas, but he looked good all game. He really took to heart the veteran starter mentality of pounding the strike zone when you have a lead. In his 123 pitches, 80 of them were for strikes. That's a hell of an average, and certainly meant that he wasn't going to give away many free passes. The main thing that can kill you as a starter with a sizable lead is walking people. Teheran didn't fall into that trap, and he got a solid ovation from both the fans and the dugout as he left the game with a huge smile.

The CPA was only 1 run off the score last night, so it moves to 23-14. How does it feel about Hudson's chances back in Turner Field?

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 7 - Twins 0

The CPA is predicting a shutout. The Twins, those that have seen Hudson anyway, have been hitting .107 against him. On the home turf, Hudson is undefeated. Meanwhile, Pelfrey had been destroyed in the past by Bmac, Uggs, and Justin. Five starters on the Braves have OPS of 1.000+ against Pelfrey. The CPA is essentially predicting a public horsewhipping of the Twins on paper. Now, I know from experience that things don't usually play out that way, especially if the numbers are THIS bad. However, it's a good indicator that we have a large mismatch on our hands if (large IF) Hudson can be the guy we've seen so far at home, lock in on his sinker, and pitch angry.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Series Preview: Twins

Get ready for some more home baseball, AND TWINNNNNS! Anybody remember that beer commercial? Good times. On to the matchups.

Game 1: Teheran (2-1) v. Correia (4-3)
Game 2: Hudson (4-3) v. Pelfrey (3-4)
Game 3: Maholm (5-4) v. Worley (1-4)

With the exception of Correia, most of the starting pitchers for the Twins are having an awful season. That's what makes this first game so important, because it sets the table for a series win if you can get past their de-facto Ace. This matchup pits youth versus experience with rookie Teheran and Correia the 10 year veteran. That veteran presence may not matter much against this Braves lineup though, since 5 of our starters are hitting a combined .300+ average against him with 2 bombs and 10 doubles. Correia's road ERA is 5.00+, while Teheran was very comfortable at home in his 2 run last start against the Nationals. It's a tough matchup because Teheran can get squirrelly with his high WHIP, but you have to rely on the offense to produce for you in this kind of game.

Hudson is a completely different pitcher at home. With a 2.84 ERA and a .183 opposing average, it's no shock that the Braves are unbeaten in Turner Field when Tim starts. That's what makes his road statistics such a departure from the Hudson we know and love. However, now that he's on friendly ground, I expect him to drop a few sinkers off the table while the Twins hitters struggle. He faces Mike Pelfrey, who should sound familiar to a lot of you. Pelfrey used to be a Mets starter before he signed to the Twins after Tommy John surgery. His road games have been nothing short of a dumpster fire, with a 7.43 ERA in 3 starts. Now against tough teams, I'd at least say he got roughed up by good hitters. While that's true of a team like Detroit, he also got ripped apart by KC and the Marlins. Anybody that gives up 5 runs to the fish had a bad day. If our lineup gets going, we can show him an early exit. Get four runs to Huddy and you know what happens.

The anchor game is about as lopsided as you can get. Worley has no winning decisions on the road, and the Twins haven't won one of his road starts in a month. Maholm has a 1.83 home ERA, and he's only lost one home start because the Braves didn't score a single run. Considering that Worley has an astronomical WHIP of 1.89, the Braves shouldn't have trouble getting on base. Couple in that fact that the Twins are hitting for a sub .700 OPS against lefties, and you have the stage set for what should biggest daytime payoff since the Showcase Showdown. Here's the thing, though. The Twins bullpen is 4th in the AL, so the Braves have to strike hard at the weak starting rotation. Grinding out low scoring games, or getting behind early won't be a recipe for success in this series.

The CPA (22-14) predicted a sweep and got it right, so it looks to see how the Braves compare to the slumping lineup of the Twins. Here's the analysis of game one.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 5 - Twins 2

Teheran hasn't had many games at home, nor has he ever faced the Twins hitters. The Braves have an .879 OPS against Correia in the starting lineup, and they are coming off a 3 game winning streak full of comebacks. I'd say that due to the Twins 5 game losing streak, they aren't as confident. The CPA expects Correia to be gone by the 6th inning, and the Braves to be in a solid lead. We'll see how that plays out.


Game 3 Recap: Dodgers 5/19/13 SWEEP

BROOOOMS! It's been a while, guys. Good to see you. How are the bristles? This series was one of the few times where a sweep on paper turns into a sweep for real. The Braves didn't do it the conventional way, though. All the wins were come-from-behind victories, and most of the action came in the late innings. Game 3 was no different as we watched the Dodgers bullpen continue to drill holes in an already sinking ship. This isn't a good Dodgers team, despite the preseason hype and cash paid for it. The Braves really took advantage of a LA lineup that couldn't put the game away. If the Dodgers get more than 3 hits and 2 runs off of the Braves staff during this game, the Braves probably aren't mentally prepared to make the comeback. However, Minor and the bullpen kept the game in reach, and with this lineup that's all you have to do to set the stage for greatness.

Minor went 6 innings with 2 runs and 9 Ks. He was very sharp with a couple of the usual Minor mistakes. When he put leadoff guys on base, they came around to score. That's pretty much what caused Minor issues in this game. He went into shutdown mode from the 4th inning, and the bullpen picked up the slack to not allow a baserunner until the 9th. Kimbrel is looking like the Kimbrel we known and love. He did walk a guy in the 9th with a favorable count to start the AB, but you can credit the rain for that. He locked in for the next batter and the game was over.

The offense didn't have a lot of success in the first half of these games. Yesterday was no different. They had 3 hits in 5 innings, and only one run to show for it. Magill, a rookie who shouldn't even be in the majors, made them look really silly at the plate. It wasn't until the 8th inning, down 2-1, that the onslaught started. You can credit the bench players for this win, because they made the difference late in the game. It started, as most great rally innings do, with a leadoff runner reaching base. Freeman singled to begin the frame, followed by a Brian McCann walk. After an attempted sacrifice bunt by Simmons that caught the Dodgers D with their pants down, the bases were juiced and nobody was out. Enter Gerald Laird in a pinch hitting scenario. On the first pitch, he ropes one into right center, tying the game. The next batter pits Pena in a 0-2 count before he hits a long sacrifice fly to take the lead. Then CJ comes up clutch with another base hit that makes it 4-2, and Schafer lays down a squeeze sacrifice to score Laird for 5-2. At that point, I'm thinking, "Fredi's crazy, we just squeezed the catcher!" He must have been feeling lucky.

The Braves went 3-9 with RISP, hitting the magic number. They had 7 hits and 6 walks. Shockingly, nobody got a single extra base hit. Everything was sacrifices and station-to-station play. That's the very definition of a small-ball win. After two games in a row of getting wins with the long ball, it's always good to close out the series sweep with a little classic NL action. As a counterpoint, I watched the Sunday night game between the Tiger and Rangers. The thing went for 4 hours, and the final score was 11-8. That's not baseball. That's batting practice with a score. It's not shocking the NL has won 4 of the last 5 world series, because even on the best AL teams the pitching can be a joke. When it comes to the playoffs, it's all about pitching and grinding out RISP. The teams that do that win championships.

Next up, the slumping Twins. I always relish a chance to beat up on the Twins, simply because I'll never forgive them for 1991. Series preview after lunch. Will we get another series win against a team that's lost 5 in a row? We'll find out.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Game 2 Recap: Dodgers 5/18/13

The White Bear strikes again! Evan Gattis has the clutch gene this season, and he cashed in on it last night in the 8th inning. With the Braves down 1-0 going to the bottom half of the 8th, Gattis came to bat after BJ got on base with a rare single. The AB was a thing of beauty. After going 2-2 on the count, Gattis fouled off 3 straight pitches as he started to time up Jansen's fastball. On the 8th pitch, Jansen tried to sneak another one by Evan, and he didn't miss it. Gattis planted that pitch 375 feet into the left field stands for a 2-1 lead. And then, Simmons took advantage by doing the exact same thing back to back. Within a matter of minutes, the Braves were on top 3-1, and cruising to a comeback win after Kimbrel shut the door.

I discussed how the Dodgers pen is a mess in the prior entries, and it was never more obvious than last night. Capuano had shut out the Braves for 7.1 IP, and then the bullpen gave up 3 runs on 2 batters. The only thing that could have made this game better was if Medlen was still in the game for that outburst. Unfortunately, he gets a no decision for his 7 innings of 1 run work, and it wasn't even an earned run. Medlen looked great, and the Braves gave him nothing offensively. For a guy that's been hunting for good luck, he's been skunked a lot by his teammates. Nonetheless, Medlen was in great form on the mound, and he kept the Braves in the game. He held the Dodgers to 2 hits. TWO. And he was about to lose the game until Gattis came up. That's almost criminal.

The Braves were lost at the plate for most of the day. The only guy who had a handle on Capuano was CJ, who went 3/3 on the day. The rest of the lineup? 5 guys didn't touch a base. Medlen got a hit, though. Heyward, Justin, Freeman, McCann, and Uggla went fishing. That says a lot about Capuano's stuff. Gattis was just a late inning pinch hit that turned the tide of the game. It sort of played out like the CPA thought. You had two starters that were much better than their ERAs, and they locked in against two lineups that struggled to make contact. Luckily, the big play went the Braves way, and Fredi's late inning decisions on pinch hitting saved the game.

The CPA wins again (21-14), and we look for that sweep I discussed on paper at the beginning of the series. Can the Braves get it done? What does the CPA think?

CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 6 - Dodgers 4

The CPA thinks there will be runs in this game. Lots of them. The Dodgers have several guys in the lineup who have hit lefty pitching well, while the Braves are facing an rookie with no team photo and a 6+ ERA. Also, we'll get to see a lineup without BJ and Dan in it for once. Will that make a difference? Will that mean more production? We shall see, maybe with some brooms. They need to dodger the raindrops though.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Dodgers 5/17/13

Games get a lot easier when you can hit grand slams. In fact, I'd venture to say that you probably won't lose many games when you hit a grand slam. As such, when Justin Upton came to the plate in the 6th inning, down by two, he just had to remember the immortal words of one Miss Petula Clark. When you're alone and life is making you lonely you can always go...DOWNTOWN.

Late inning rallies haven't come around often for the Braves, but with 6 runs in the 6th and 7th yesterday, that was the offense we needed to blow past the Dodgers. Maholm didn't really pitch well, but 8 runs cover a lot of sins. If you had any questions about who is driving the runs bus, it's the top end of the order. Our 1-5 guys had 6 hits, 6 runs, 7 RBIs, 5 walks, a double, and a grand slam. The 6-8 guys went 0-10. Haves and have-nots. We don't need the entire lineup to get going, but the back end is so bad it's almost a given rally-killer. You are actively hoping that with a 3-1 count someone is swinging rather than taking a walk to get to BJ or Dan.

It was not a pretty game in the field, either. There were 3 errors total, 2 on the Dodgers, 1 on the Braves, and as a result only 2 of Maholm's 4 runs were earned. The reason the Braves won the game is because we roughed up the Dodgers pen. It's a Washington Nationals strategy against this team. Get the starter out before the 6th inning, get into the pen, and go hog-wild. The starter for the Dodgers went 5 IP, gave up 2 runs, and left with the lead. The Dodgers pen gave up 6 runs in 3 innings of work. The only shot to the Braves pen was EOF giving up a solo launch to Van Slyke. Yes, that's Andy's kid, for those of you old enough to remember seeing The Slide live in 1992. I hope you feel old now. I did.

What matters is that the Braves can notch another one in the win column, and start our pursuit of really gaining some ground in this homestand. Washington is playing the awful Padres right now on the road, so you're hoping that SD can steal a game, but I won't hold my breath. After that, the Nats go to SF where I hope they get swept, and then home to play Philly. The Braves have the Dodgers and the Twins, both losing clubs, before facing the Mets on the road (also losers). The scheduling advantage for the next week and change falls to the Braves for once. We need to capitalize on that opportunity.

The CPA goes to 20-14, and looks to see how this odd matchup of Medlen and Capuano will play out in Game 2.

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 3 - Dodgers 2

Both of these pitchers are better than their records and ERA. The CPA thinks both are going to pitch better down the stretch, especially against lineups that struggle with contact. The Braves are 10-5 against lefty starters, while the Dodgers are 6-10 in road games, and 9-15 against teams with winning records. This sets up to be a good game for the Braves, but don't be fooled. It could be a close one unless the bats really heat up in the early innings.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Series Preview: Dodgers

Welcome back Braves. I remember what it was like to watch a home game last month. Maybe we'll get to see some wins, too. Wouldn't that be nice?

Game 1: Maholm (4-4) v. Ryu (4-2)
Game 2: Medlen (1-5) v. Capuano (1-2)
Game 3: Minor (5-2) v. Magill (0-0)

The first tilt brings another lefty on lefty matchup. Also, isn't Ryu a character from the Street Fighter games? That's the first thing that popped into my mind. Anyway, Maholm was nothing short of awful in his last appearance in SF, and Ryu was nothing short of dazzling in his last appearance in against Miami. The thing is, who hasn't dazzled against Miami? It's like patented "get right" juice for pitchers. The more relevant number for me is how Ryu pitched against SF, and he got roughed up just as bad as Maholm. I think these guys are on pretty even footing. You have two lefties with ERAs in the 3s, identical WHIP around 1.20, and guys that have dramatic home/road splits. Paul has held down a sub-2 ERA at home, and close to 5 on the road. That's the same for Ryu. Having that home field advantage should be huge for the Braves in this game.

The second matchup features two guys who are not living up to their potential this season. Capuano was a 12-12 guy last season with a respectable 3.72 ERA. Medlen was a blistering 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA in last year's shortened start season. Now? You have two guys who've won one game a piece in several starts. Capuano has an ERA at 6.60 with an opposing average of .317 and a WHIP of 1.73 in 5 appearances. That's not just bad, that's how the heck are you still pitching in the majors bad. Medlen at least has an ERA at 3.44, but his WHIP is 1.41 and he's notched 5 losses already on the season in 8 starts. He's gone from a killer to a below average hurler this year. However, in a matchup with two guys that are struggling, I trust Medlen's pitch command a lot more than Capuano, and that's an advantage for the Braves.

The last game features our most consistent pitcher against an untested rookie brought in to replace Greinke on his DL stint. Minor has been the biggest surprise since the latter half of 2012, and he's carried that attitude into 2013 with very solid starts. He's coming off two wins in a row where he only gave up a single run in each game. Magill is so new that he doesn't even have a team photo on ESPN. He's started 3 games, has no decisions, and sports a 6.92 ERA. The Dodgers have lost every game he's started. The Braves have won two of the last three Minor starts, but they haven't supported him well in his home games. In fact, Minor lost a game to KC at home where he gave up just one run, while the Braves got skunked. One would think that if you give Minor a few runs, he can run away with this game.

Very rarely do I see potential for a series sweep on paper, but this series sets up that way. What does the CPA (19-14) think about game 1?

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 6 - Dodgers 2

The CPA believes this is a rout in favor of the Braves. Maholm has been great at home in terms of ERA, and Ryu has been bad on the road against tough opponents. Toss in a bad Dodgers bullpen, a bunch of hitters that aren't hitting home runs on the Dodger lineup? The Braves have a large advantage in this matchup.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Game 3 Recap: Diamondbacks 5/15/13

I hate it when we give games away. The Braves imploded in the 5th inning immediately after we took the lead, because Hudson has been nothing but awful on the road. When we needed the shut down inning, we got socked for 4 runs. That wouldn't have been so bad if the Braves could hit at all with runners on base. We stranded 12 guys yesterday. That's more than the entire lineup left on base during the game, including our pinch hitters. We also went 1-11 with RISP, while the Dbacks went 5-8 on the day. The real killer was Brian McCann, who had been hot coming into this game, going 0-4 with those runners. He had a chance to do some damage every single time he came to the plate, but he came up short each time.

How did that 1-11 look? Here's the rundown.

Brian McCann flies out to right
Simmons flies out to center
Freeman singles for 2 runs
BMac pops out to infield
Schafer fouls out
BMac strikes out
BJ grounds out
Schafer lines out to infield
Simmons lines out to infield
McCann grounds out
BJ grounds out

The middle of the lineup was a disaster. BMac, BJ, and Juan went 1/14 with 7 Ks, 0-6 with RISP. If you get anything clutch out of those guys, we tie the game minimum. That's what's frustrating to watch. It wasn't great that Hudson blew the lead, but it was awful that we weren't up by 6 with the kinds of chances we had against a supremely mediocre starter this season. As usual for the Braves, we lose the last series of a long road trip. It's become a trend for us over the last 3 years, more often than not. I can't wait for them to get home and stop the bleeding.

I'll point out a couple of things about this team over the last week. Reed Johnson went 5/6 with a walk during the week, but he only started in one game. Brian McCann hit .368 on the week with 3 homers, CJ hit .364 with a homer and double, Justin hit .333 with 4 extra base hits, and Pena hit .273 in his 11 tries. Those five guys were pretty much on fire for most of the week. So why in the world did we not have the biggest offensive week of the year? Here's why. Francisco went 2/14 with 9 Ks, Simmons went 3/29 with only one walk, BJ went 2/20 with 7 Ks, and Dan Uggla went 2/21 with 9Ks.

If you were crafting the best lineup for the Braves it would look like this (assuming Heyward is still injured)

C - McCann slugging .630 on the season
1B - Freeman with a .295 average
2B - Pena with a .373 OBP
SS - Simmons because his glove outweighs anything, but he is hitting .241
3B - Chris Johnson hitting .324 on the season
LF - Evan Gattis slugging .514
CF - Schafer with an OBP near .400
RF - Justin Upton with an OPS over 1.000

That's your optimal lineup by numbers, and production with more than 50 ABs on the season. I would love to see it once, although we'll never get it. That would be admitting failure by guys making a combined $26M for this year alone. Also, can you guess the best hitter for the Braves with RISP? That would be Freddie Freeman and his outstanding 12/28. The worst guy with RISP? Dan Uggla is 1/22, and making us all hate seeing him in big situations.

We get a blessed travel day to sit there and think about what happened on the road trip. Maybe by the time we play the Dodgers this weekend, we'll have more happy thoughts. The best part of this road trip is that we never have to go this long on the road again. I think we can all agree that's a good thing.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Game 2 Recap: Diamondbacks 4/14/13

That went pretty much as expected, except Teheran actually pitched pretty well. He has a good reason to complain about the offense. I know he was on the mound in the 6th inning thinking, "We got 10 runs last night guys! Where's the love?" There was no love. Zero love. Not to mention we had a Keystone cops moment in the middle of the game when a chopper that went maybe 80 feet somehow ended up as a double against the Braves defense. Not one, not two, but THREE guys had a shot at the ball, and everyone came up wanting. If that play doesn't hit 5 or better on Friday's Sportscenter Not Top Ten, I'll be shocked. Honestly, if you haven't seen it, find a replay and prepare to apply palm to face.

Corbin is ridiculously good for a rookie, allowing just 3 hits in 7 innings. I think the kid has a very Medlen-esque quality from last season. He doesn't look flappable, he makes quality pitches in tough counts, and he usually doesn't walk people. The anomoly last night was his career high 5 walks against the Braves, but it didn't matter. He always found a way to wriggle off the hook for 7 innings straight, many times courtesy of the twin killing. Speaking of which, if you liked double plays you got your fill last night. Both teams hit into two of them each to knock out the inning. Let's be honest, nobody hit well in this game. The Dbacks went 1-5 with RISP, and the Braves went 0-4 with RISP. The 2 run difference was that one extra hit by Arizona. I can hardly blame Julio for that, given how many times he put out the fires. Plus, the kid hasn't walked a single batter in two games straight. His control is there, but his awesome support from prior games went completely MIA.

BJ didn't play the game since he was plunked in the shoulder the day prior, and that meant Reed Johnson got a rare start in center. He made the most of it with a 2/2 day with a walk and a double. You can almost hear the lunatic fringe screaming for Reed full time. That would be a mistake, because Reed's not an everyday player. He's good in certain scenarios in certain matchups. BJ is a starter when he's right, and he's usually right by the All-Star break. I will fully admit if he's still under .200 by the end of June? We'll platoon him. Have no fear about that. Fredi won't keep an everyday guy out there if he's still a disaster as we get into a pennant race. He's not Bobby Cox, and loyalty to the new guy doesn't replace the team-first dynamic.

The good news is with a win today, the Braves can still win the series, and have a .500 road trip. Mentally, that would be a gigantic lift after the horrible trip to SF. What does the CPA think? It was right yesterday to move to 19-13. Now we look to see about the rubber game with Tim Hudson on the mound.

CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 4 - Diamondbacks 3

Huddy has struggled a lot on the road. However, he's been able to control the Diamondbacks lineup in the past fairly well. The exception is Kubel, who Huddy should pitch around in key situations due to his .300 average and power. On the other side, Kennedy has been struggling everywhere. We can take him deep a few times and this game swings in our favor.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Diamondbacks 5/13/13

That's more like it. Not only was the pitching 5x better than anything we saw in the SF series, but the offense decided to play along as well. There's something key to talk about with this game, and it's how Minor reacted to giving up the lead in the first inning. A solo shot gave the Diamondbacks a 1-0 lead early, and our other starters have usually spiraled out of control from that point. Minor just shrugged it off and pitched 3 straight scoreless innings until the Braves took the lead back in the top of the 5th. The offense took a while to warm up, but when it did it was electric. Do you believe that if we were down 4-0 by the 5th inning, that the huge offensive rally happens? I don't. That mental lift of only being down by 1 run kept everyone in the game. That's what I was talking about in my rant about starting pitching. It's important for them to set the tone in the first 4 innings so we have a chance to get our offense on track, even when it's not busting out of the gate.

Justin Upton wanted to show off. He wanted to be the guy who came back to Arizona and showed them what they traded away. Not only did Justin hit a homer 440 feet to dead solid second deck center field, not only did he get a double and score 2 runs, he also went 4/5 on the day and really opened up the game in the 6th inning to make it 5-1 Braves. He was a man on a mission, and you could tell how pleased he was on the way back to the dugout after the homer, when he said to the team, "I'm back!" Yes, J-Up you are back, and we are happy you are back with us. But he wasn't the only guy who was back. The kick-in portion of the Arizona trade, Chris Johnson, also decided to show his stripes as well. Chris went 3/4 for a 3 RBIs and a homer that gave the Braves the lead in the 5th. Both prior Arizona boys were intent on making their point, and they made it with style. I'm giving both of them a shared game MVP. Congratulations on the epic homecoming party!

Minor deserves a lot of the credit for this win. He was battling with 8 hits and 2 walks in his 6.2 innings, but he only gave up the one solo home run for his effort. A lot of that had to do with great defense. The Braves had not one, but TWO outfield assists to gun down opposing runners at the plate. BJ managed to nail Prado on a sacrifice tag in the 4th from shallow center, and then Gattis-Simmons got Ross trying to turn home from first on a left field double. Both were huge, and the BJ assist in particular really changed the tone of the game. The Dbacks could have widened the lead to 2 if that run scores, had a runner on second, and only one out. Who knows if they stop there? Who knows if the Braves respond in the next inning with the homer if that happens? Games turn on plays like that in the field, and BJ should be applauded that he's not letting his struggles at the plate carry over into his glove.

Another good sign was the bullpen coming in for 2.1 innings of shutout, no-hit work. We need more of the usual from those guys after a week and change of odd explosions. All the Braves pitchers did a great job of killing Dback rallies, leaving Arizona with a 0-6 RISP number. The Braves managed 4-15 with RISP, which is not great, but not terrible either. We can live with that if we score 10 runs. Also, Arizona committed a very uncharacteristic mistake in the field. The team that's #1 in fielding committed an error in the 5th when Prado overthrew the first baseman, pulling him off the bag enough for Gattis to beat the rap. That would prove costly, as a McCann walk and wild pitch put runners at 2nd and 3rd. Dan Uggla made the sacrifice fly that scored Gattis, and then CJ hit the homer that scored the rest. That was the other turning point in the game, and it started with the usually very sure-handed Arizona defensive error.

The CPA was right about it being a high-scoring game, but it was thankfully wrong about the Braves coming up short. Way wrong. While that game was very hard to predict, this one has a much more concrete set of data. Let's see what it thinks.

CPA Prediction Game 2: Dbacks 4 - Braves 2

To date, Corbin has been unbeaten and never given up more than 2 runs, with a 3-1 K/BB ratio and a strong WHIP of 1.06 for the season. Teheran has been unbeaten, mostly because he's received 6 runs of support a game on average. At some point, his 4.84 ERA and even more disturbing 1.53 WHIP has to catch up with him. The CPA thinks that is today in a battle of young guns. It thinks the Braves strikeout numbers will be high against a young kid they've never faced, and Julio will struggle to keep the Dbacks off the bases. I agree that this game is going to be tough, and I do believe Julio will have to keep the ball out of the middle part of the plate, or it gets ugly fast. We'll need those 6 runs if we can get them.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Series Preview: Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks are an odd team. Odd because they are the only team in the MLB with an above .500 record on the road, and a .500 or worse record at home. Odd because we have to face two of our old Atlanta mainstays (Hinske and Prado) from the other side of the field. Odd because their record and run totals look almost exactly like the Atlanta Braves. This is a matchup of very similarly built teams. Both Arizona and Atlanta thrive on the long ball (40+ for both teams on the season). Both have team slugging percentages in the top half of the NL. Both have team ERAs that are better than the league average. The biggest difference between the two clubs is that Arizona is the best defensive team in the field, having the #1 fielding percentage in all of baseball. Atlanta is 14th in fielding, committing 11 more errors than Arizona on the season so far.

Game 1: Minor (4-2) v. Miley (3-1)
Game 2: Teheran (2-0) v. Corbin (5-0)
Game 3: Hudson (4-2) v. Kennedy (1-3)

The first game should be the biggest toss-up. Minor looked great in Cincy with his 7 inning, 1 run performance. That was coming off of two losses against Detroit and the Mets. Wade Miley is coming off a close win against the Dodgers with his 7.2 inning, 2 run performance. That came off the heels of a 4 run drubbing in 5 innings against the lowly Padres. Miley's ERA is at 2.93, but his WHIP is at a rather high 1.35 on the season. Minor's ERA is a similar 2.96, but his WHIP is 0.90 for the year. Barring the Detroit disaster, Minor has yet to give up more than 3 runs in any start. The same can be said of Miley if you remove his bad SD game. These are two guys on a similar track to begin the year, and they are both lefties. In limited ABs (less than 50 by the lineup) Arizona is hitting .323 against Minor, and the Braves are hitting .444 against Miley. It could be a one sided disaster either way, it could be a pitchers duel down to the wire, or both guys could be knocked out by the 5th inning. There's simply no way to know what you'll get with this one.

Game 2 should be much more predictable. An undefeated pitcher is going to lose. That's a guarantee. Neither team has lost a game in either Teheran's or Corbin's starts. However, Corbin has a ridiculously low ERA of 1.75 for the 23 year old kid, while Teheran has been roughed up a few times for a 4.84 ERA. The lineups have never really seen either guy. If there is one game where I'm almost expecting the Braves to struggle, it's this one. I seriously doubt that our lineup can solve a guy they've never seen in the last series of a long road trip. The odds are just not there. Now, we might be shocked, but I wouldn't put money on it. On paper, this looks like a complete mismatch in favor of the Dbacks.

Game 3 pits two struggling vets against each other. Hudson has been struggling on the road with a 6.97 ERA and a 1-2 record. Kennedy has been struggling period with a 4.83 ERA and a WHIP over 1.30. Batters on the road are hitting Hudson for a .321 average. Batters are home are hitting Kennedy for a .280 average. My logic says there will be some hits in this game (durr), and quite a few of them at that. I think the winning team will have to score 5+ to put this one away. I just don't see how we'll get a pitchers duel on our hands unless these guys completely change their approach on the season. The Braves should angle to be patient as Kennedy has already walked 20 guys to his 37 Ks. Hudson has only walked 13 guys to his 35 Ks. The reason Hudson has been so beaten up is his location. Guys have been teeing off on anything up in the zone, but the Diamondbacks lineup has only hit .220 off Huddy lifetime. The Braves hitters have feasted on Kennedy for a .283 average with homers by McCann and BJ. We should take this game if Hudson can reel it back in for the final road game of the trip.

The CPA missed with the Braves prediction yesterday, going to 18-13. Now we look at game 1 to see if we can make sense of this similar matchup.

CPA Game 1 Prediction: Diamondbacks 6 - Braves 5

This is about as close as you can get to the CPA not having a clear winner. The CPA thinks this will be a high scoring slugfest with the Dbacks coming out on top due to home field. I would like to think if we put up 5 runs we'd win, but who knows. The CPA seems to believe that the Dimondbacks are going to rough up Minor with 3 starters that hit lefty pitching at a .900 OPS or better. I have no idea since both these starters are having such similar games, so I hope the calculations are a run off in the other direction.


Game 4 Recap: Giants 5/12/13

Ok before we get into the game, settle in for a minute, because I have a small rant to get off my chest. I'm getting sick of the starting pitching on the road after almost a quarter of the season. We looked like complete idiots out there for the Giants series, and the way we played we should have lost our hold on first place in the East. The only reason we didn't is because the Cubs decided to play well against the Nats. Do you have any idea what our starting ERA is on the road this year? It's 4.63 across all our starters. That means to win a game on the road, we would have to plate 5 runs just to be in the discussion. I'm sorry, but there no team in the NL who can average 5 runs a game, period. The Rockies are the closest, and they average 4.78 runs a game with the help of that ridiculous ballpark. In short, you can't rely on your offense to cover that kind of bad pitching out of your starters if you want to win games. It simply won't matter. The record bears that out, too. When the Braves score 5+ on the road, they are 8-1. When they don't, they are 4-10. I don't like the fact that we have to rely on scoring 5 runs to win games, because that's not going to be common enough down the stretch. The thing is, the bad pitching is coming from our most veteran pitchers. Hudson's road ERA is 6.97, and Maholm's is 4.98 on the season. That's 22 years of combined experience with ERA's in the stratosphere if they hit the road. For Maholm, that's probably never going to get better, because he's had a road ERA of 4.43 for the last 3 years, but for Huddy? He's normally below 4.00 on the road. Right now, him being off has cost us 3 of the 4 road games our Ace has pitched. Then, you get into a guy like Medlen who couldn't win a game against a high school softball team right now, or a guy like Maholm who has given up 8 runs in his May road starts.

This is the Atlanta Braves. We win on defense and pitching, and when pitching leaves town, we lose. I don't care that we have a shiny new offense that can mash for 10 runs on the board, it can also strike out 16 times and fail to put up more than 3 hits. We need our pitching. We need our starters. And they need to get their act together on the road. If they hold the other team to 2 runs and go 6 innings, and they lose? Fine, you can blame the offense. Maholm can make that case against Washington, and Medlen can blame a loss on the bullpen in Cincy. Otherwise, our overall record when the starters go for 6 IP with 2 runs or less? 10-3. That's what we need. Is it unrealistic to have every game? Sure, but it's not unrealistic to expect our two highest paid starters to get their ERA's under 4.50 on the road. It's also not unrealistic to expect our starters to not put us in an immediate 2 run hole in the first two innings. That's not good for anybody's psyche.

Ok, I'm done with that rant. I think they will get better, but man, it's been horrible to watch us struggle against teams I have a good feeling we'd see in the playoffs. The Reds and the Giants aren't going anywhere. Neither are the Tigers for that matter. So let's look at this game 4 against the Giants. What went wrong? Well, Medlen admittedly said in an interview that, "I had nothing out there. I was battling on every pitch." That's not what I want to hear out of a guy in an anchor game on the road. It showed up in his pitches as well. He was elevating and they were leaving the yard. Belt, Sandoval, and Scutaro all had homers, while Crawford and Blanco has RBIs. Medlen gave up 8 hits and 5 walks. That's a pretty obvious indicator that his command was all over the place.

The Braves batters continue to do their best road slumping impression. 1-7 with RISP? Check. Less than 3 hits off the opposing starter? Check. Not making the most of favorable counts? Check. It's a laundry list of things you can expect if the offense doesn't have it going, and none of it has to do with the much-maligned strikeout totals. Even though the Giants only went 2-8 with their RISP chances, they still were able to destroy out starter while the Braves couldn't touch a previously struggling Lincecum. We look like an antidote for opposing pitchers to get healthy. We're streaky and that's the nature of the beast, but it will wear on us all at times. This series was one of those times where it wore on me. A good series against Arizona would repair a lot of that wear and tear. It's also more fun to watch than getting down 5-0 in the first 5 innings. If you can't win on the road, you should at least keep the games interesting. That's the most depressing part of the series when you'd turn on the game a little late and realize you were already down 3-0 in the 3rd inning.

So we move on to Arizona. They've at least lost two in a row, so they aren't red hot right now. That's a plus in our favor. Another one is that if we can win this series, we go 5-5 on the road trip, which salvages a lot of our complaints. We won't have another 10 game road trip all year, so going .500 after getting absolutely dismantled in this series would be huge. Series preview will be up later today.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Game 3 Recap: Giants 5/11/13

The Braves lost 10-1. Maholm had the only RBI. Uggla and CJ struck out every single AB. We went 1-8 with RISP. Maholm gave up 6 runs in only 4.1 innings. The Giants went 7-13 with RISP. Bumgarner had 11 Ks. To date, it's only the second worse loss of the year, simply because the Tigers beat the Braves 10-0 on the road in that last horrible trip. The good news is it's only one game.

I could go into the who and why and where things went wrong, but I won't because it's pretty simple. Maholm doesn't fare well against this lineup. If we faced them in the playoffs, he's lose 4 of every 5 games. It's not a good setup, because they hit lefty pitching so very well. I want people to take note, because these two games were the ones where Fredi Gonzalez left the team to watch his daughter graduate high school. I don't think it's any coincidence we got shellacked in both. People may hate Fredi's decisions at times, but I believe he's a great manager who's presence is sorely noticed when it's not there.

There are a couple of bright spots to take away from this disaster. One, BJ got another hit. I believe he's heating up. He's taking more walks, he's getting deeper into counts, and he's hitting the ball with authority instead of weak popups. He's hitting .200 on the month and rising. Let's hope it continues. The other good thing is that Gattis went 2/4, and was the only hitter with multiple hits on the day. He's showing why he's still needed in this lineup even with the return of McCann. The guy can hit, and we need hitters on off-days and off the bench.

The CPA has this one pretty well measured, although the beatdown was bigger than anticipated. It's now 18-12 on the season, and we'll see what it thinks of our split chances toward in the 4 games series.

CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 5 - Giants 3

The CPA thinks the Braves are going to bounce back in this effort and get Medlen his first win in a while. The Braves hitters like McCann, Schafer, Francisco, and Justin have all had really good days off Timmy Jim in the past. Meanwhile, Medlen has been pitching much better on the road than most of our guys, but he's lacked the support. Today the CPA thinks he'll get some runs to help.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Game 2 Recap: Giants 5/10/13

Big innings cut both ways. While the Braves secured the first game with a huge offensive output in a single inning, the Giants bounced back with one of their own in the second game. The problem with the Giants 6 run 4th inning wasn't homers or a single clutch hit. It was a cavalcade of grounders that found holes, and a couple of early doubles. At it's very core, the Braves bled to death by 1,000 cuts in the 4th inning, and there's no recovering from a 6 run disaster on the road. The Braves end up losing 8-2, in a game that would have been extremely close without that one inning.

Did the Braves hit well? Absolutely not. Nor were we expecting a huge hitting performance against Matt Cain. Still, Brian McCann's 2 run homer was the only offensive output of the day, and 5 of the Braves hitters went without a hit. We got one single man into scoring position for the entire game. It was basically a shutdown performance by Cain with a 2 run mistake to BMac. Meanwhile, the Giants went 6-10 with RISP against the Braves. That's a ridiculous percentage, and it's unlikely they see that kind of production with runners on base for the rest of the month.

At face value, this game was supposed to be a pitchers duel, and it was setting up like that for the first 3 innings. Hudson completely lost it in the 4th when he couldn't seemingly get an out for the first 4 hitters. The good news, if any, was that he was getting a lot of the ground balls he wanted. They were just bouncing by, around, or over people. In some cases they weren't even leaving the infield for hits. It was frustrating to watch, but that's the way baseball can go. You can have a Murphy's Law inning where it completely goes to pieces around you. The thing to remember is that the Braves took advantage of that exact same scenario in Game 1, so you can't get too frustrated by the bounce of the ball. We're split at the moment and heading into a two game day series. That's the way I look at it.

The CPA didn't expect a 6 run outburst, so it went down swinging yesterday (17-12). How about today's matchup of Maholm and Bumgarner?

CPA Game 3 Prediction: Giants 5 - Braves 1

Maholm has really struggled with RH hitters, and his ERA is over 2.5 runs higher on the road. Guess what side the Giants best hitters bat from? The Right. The CPA believes this game will be a tough one to watch. Bumgarner is coming off a loss to Philly, but we only have 2 guys in the lineup with any success against him. Freeman and Justin can make a difference, but they will have to have people on base for that to happen, and guys like Uggla, McCann, and CJ have OBP under .250 against the Giants starter. We'll see what happens, but this may be a game with lots of Ks, and very few runs for the Braves.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Giants 5/9/13

The stadiums on this road trip are obsessed with strikeouts. In Cincy, if the opposing team strikes out 11 times, everyone gets a free pizza. In SF, if the opposing team strikes out 13 times, everyone gets a package of bratwursts. Can you imagine what these fans think when they see the Braves coming to town? We are like the food bank to these people. I could also make an off-color joke about San Francisco fans getting excited about winning free sausage, but you can fill in the blanks on that one. Moving on.

The Braves won 6-3. Yes, I stayed up and watched it. Kimbrel looked just fine getting his 100th save. Also, they actually waited to put up the stupid graphic until AFTER he did it on the broadcast. Apparently they learned their lesson via the angry outpouring of thousands of twitter fans. Or maybe just me screaming at them on my twitter account. The Braves got their six runs in two big innings. Brian McCann started the power hour with a 2 run homer to right field, proving he's ready to face MLB pitching again. In fact, McCann went 3/5 on the day with 3 RBIs. That's a great effort from the returning catcher after a long layoff. The 5th inning featured the biggest Braves rally, where the Braves batted around the order for 4 runs, 2 triples, 2 walks, 3 singles, and a sacrifice. Everyone got a hit in this game except Teheran. No really, everyone. Yes, even BJ with an RBI no less. Yes, I'm just as shocked as you. And, the Braves went 3-10 with RISP. MAGIC NUMBER! Love it!

Julio Teheran struggled early. That seems to be a pattern with all our starters. By the third inning, he'd given up 3 runs to Buster Posey alone, and the Braves were trailing 3-2. That's when he got mad. From that point on, Teheran only gave up 2 hits, and he pitched through the 7th inning. Now, why we can't achieve that kind of dominant pitching from our starters in all the innings? I have no idea. It seems they need to screw around and spot the opposing team a couple of runs before they get serious. Maybe they should try to get serious before the game. Perhaps they should watch a Law and Order SVU marathon before warmups. That'll put you in a serious mood.

The bullpen had no issues getting the game the rest of the way. EOF walked one guy, but gave up no hits in the 8th, and Kimbrel gave up a hit in the 9th but no runs. Everyone seemed to have moved on pretty well from the issues in Cincy, plus you feel a lot more comfortable playing in the ballpark by the bay when it comes to home run distances. Noisy pop flies don't just jump out of SF's house. To their credit, the Giants pen was just as strong, going for 4.2 innings of shutout work. They just couldn't overcome the fact that Vogelsong got shelled in 4.1 innings for 6 runs. He's been off the beam lately, and the Braves took advantage when he went on tilt. That being said, Buster Posey did his best to ruin our day. He went 2/4 with a homer and 3 RBIs. He and McCann were probably having an "Anything you can do, I can do better" conversation across the diamond.

The CPA was right again with a Braves win (17-11). Will Game 2 with Huddy on the mound be another notch in the win column?

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 4 - Giants 3

The CPA likes Huddy's prior record against the Giants with a 1.76 ERA, and his recent successes in his last two games. The fact that his road ERA is high creates the only concern. Meanwhile, Cain has been struggling at home, but has good history against the Braves hitters. Hudson will have to watch out for the three P's of the Giants (Pence, Pagan, and Posey), while Cain will have to fret about McCann, Uggla, and Justin. I think this game could go to extras, but I hope not. It's going to be a late night as it stands.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Series Preview: Giants

Welcome to San Francisco, where the people are odd, the wine is great, and the broadcasts start at ridiculously late hours back here in Atlanta. The middle series of this road trip could prove to be the most exciting with two teams tied for 2nd place in the NL. The Braves have had some playoff history with the Giants when they lost in the first round of the NLDS, the same year the Giants went on to win the World Series in 2010. As such, we always have extra incentive to beat the Giants whenever the opportunity arises.

Game 1: Teheran (1-0) v. Vogelsong (1-2)
Game 2: Hudson (4-1) v. Cain (1-2)
Game 3: Maholm (4-3) v. Bumgarner (3-1)
Game 4: Medlen (1-4) v. Lincecum (2-2)

The matchups look like a playoff series don't they? That was my first thought when writing them down. We'll see how things play out, but I wouldn't be shocked to see the Giants again in the playoffs this year against the Braves. Game 1 pits Teheran and his rookie record against the struggling Vogelsong. Teheran is unbeaten in his 5 starts with a 4.50 road ERA. Vogelsong has given up 12 runs in his last two games with an 8.47 homer ERA. Looks like a simple matchup right? Wrong. The Braves have had issues putting away starters with high ERAs this season. Vogelsong also has a 2.30 ERA against the Braves in his last two starts against us. The two guys who will be key against Vogelsong are Freeman and Justin, both of whom have .300+ averages against the guy.

Game 2 gives us another chance to see Tim Hudson keep his winning ways rolling. Tim has won his last two games in dominant fashion. However, his road games haven't had the same panache as his home starts. In fact, Huddy's road ERA is over 5.00 and his opponents are hitting .288 against him. That means we have yet to see if Tim can carry over the recent successes to his away games. He'll have a good chance against the Giants, since their lineup has a paltry .560 OPS against him lifetime. On the other side, something has been wrong with Matt Cain, but whatever it was got corrected within the last week. From a series of starts where Cain didn't win a single game, he's polished off two victories in a row with one winning decision. Cain's home ERA is a shocking 6.88 in 3 games with a very unusual 2-1 K/BB ratio for him. Cain is much more used to a 3-1 ratio at worst, meaning his command simply wasn't there. The bad news is that nobody on the Braves lineup hits Cain well. This sets up to be a low scoring game that could come down to extras.

Game 3 features two pitchers who are winning when they can get any run support. Maholm is 4-0 in games where the Braves score 2 runs or more. He's 0-3 in the other games. It's hard to win when your team puts a goose egg on the board. Bumgarner's similar magic number is 3 runs. He's 4-0 when the Giants score 3 or more, and 1-2 when they score less. Obviously the key to these types of games is scoring early. Maholm will really have to watch out for Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence with their OPS approaching 1.000. Bumgarner will have to watch out Freeman and Justin, who also have extremely high OPS numbers against him. Justin specifically has a 1.524 OPS against Bumgarner, which is ridiculous.

The final game has two struggling guys trying to find their way in the world. Kris Medlen has looked a lot like Medlen-y (I made that up) than he did in 2012. Lincecum aka The Freaky Franchise has an ERA of 4.75, a pedestrian 2-2 record, and he's given up 5 earned runs apiece in his last two starts. The difference between the two is the Giants have won 5 of Lincecum's starts with solid run support, while Medlen has been getting under 3 runs on average since April 21st. Medlen hasn't faced the Giants before in a starting role, so this will be interesting to see how he adjusts to a very hot and cold lineup. Lincecum has struggled with several hitters on the Braves, including CJ, McCann, and Schafer. Oddly he's dominated our traditional power guys, Freeman and Justin. We may need some love from the B-Squad to win this one.

In a battle of the CPA v. my gut yesterday, my gut and the Braves won. The CPA moves to 16-11 on the season, and we look to see who will emerge in Game 1 of this series as the victor.

Game 1 Prediction: Braves 4 - Giants 2

Vogelsong has been off with his command, the Braves have been extremely patient at the plate lately. Look for the Braves to take their walks in this game, and then try to capitalize on their chances with a couple timely homers. Freddie Freeman is my pick for a guy who could have a big day against Vogelsong in a Braves win.