Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Blog News: Radio interview and supporting the blog

For those of you who know Atlanta radio, you probably know John Kincade of 680 the Fan, and his national CBS radio show. John originally suggested the name for the blog, and he encouraged me to get it started. Recently, he invited me to come on his national radio show to do a guest interview about the blog, because he is doing a segment on home-grown blogs and websites. Naturally, I was thrilled and accepted. The spot is supposed to air live this Sunday, May 5th on CBS Sports Radio at 8:55 AM.

I wanted to let people know so they'd have a chance to hear the spot, and because I'm very excited about promoting the blog in a national forum. John has been extremely supportive and I wanted to thank him here as well as on the air on Sunday. You can listen to the John's Sunday show from 6-10AM in Atlanta on 93.7 FM, or you can access it via CBS Sports Radio's live stream off their website.

Also, you may have noticed the adspace on the right side of the blog. One of the ways the blog produces some minor income for myself is through advertising connections. I try to make them unobtrusive to the information on the blog, so if you're looking for a way to support Braves by the Numbers, here's how. Simply click those links, and if you see some of the Braves gear I've posted in the Amazon link, you can purchase it with a percentage going towards maintaining the blog. I'll try to rotate Braves products in that Amazon link for interesting stuff every couple of days, but I figured I'd mention it here. It will be the only time I really discuss it this year.

The biggest way you can help the blog is to tell your neighbors, friends, and any other Braves fans you know. I have appreciated all the support so far, and I wanted to thank all the regular readers who have sent me emails and comments. You keep me motivated to post on a daily basis, and you're the reason the blog has gone from 5 visitors a day to almost 1,500 a month so far. Make sure to tune in this Sunday to hear the interview, and hopefully me not make an idiot out of myself from coast to coast.

GO BRAVES!

Game 1 Recap: Nationals 4/29/13

There's no place like home. It's no shock that the Braves were able to shake off a long road trip with some home cooking, but it was a shock that we won our first game of the season without hitting a dinger. Personally, I take that as a great sign that the Braves are finally learning how to win in different ways. There are times where I think we'll need to grind during the season, especially at home. That's when we want to step back, focus on the kind of small ball and contact that we got used to in our 2012 run, and really dial up the pitching intensity. The game last night was a great example of that mentality.

The RISP numbers last night were 3-9, which is the magic .300+ number you all know I love. We get above that, and I can assure you we'll win many more games than we lose. One odd thing that stands out is the only multi-bagger hit was by the pitcher, Julio Teheran. We basically singled, dinked, and dunked the Nats to death. Also, one of the guys on the watch list, Dan Uggla, went 2/4 while seeing 17 pitches and driving up the count. Schafer was really on point at the top of the lineup, doing something that nobody has done in the leadoff spot so far this season (get on base all 4 plate appearances). Plus he stole two bags. Working counts, making the pitcher worry about you on base, being pesky, and generally making the other team hate your guts. These are the marks of a good leadoff hitter. The words "tough out" should accompany your name. I like the position that Schafer is putting the Braves in if he continues to produce, because we have a giant hole in the lineup with BJ's bat right now. Schafer is a natural CF by position. There's a platoon in the making until BJ gets rescued from whatever Gilligan's Island of Hitting he's stranded on.

The starting pitching wasn't great by Teheran, but it wasn't bad either. I think Julio is learning how to manage failure, which is the mark of a more mature starter. You have to be able to collect yourself if you put two men on the corners with no outs, and get out of the inning with only one run scoring. You have to forget that runner on third is there and focus on what you can control. Julio did that yesterday, and it saved the game for the Braves. Giving up 10 hits and only 2 runs is going to be something of an anomoly this season. You can't expect to put that many guys on and have it work in your favor with defense and buckling down. The percentages eventually burn you. However, it worked THIS time, and that's all we care about as fans. When you win the close games without pitching your best, that's how championship season runs are born.

What hasn't waivered is the bullpen. In a battle of the pens between us and the Nats, we will bury them. Walden looked masterful with 3 Ks in 1.2 innings, EOF made the Nats look silly with 2 Ks in 1 inning, and Kimbrel shut the door with 1 K in the 9th inning save. In a total of 3.2 innings, the Nats didn't touch a base off our pen, and we won the game off of theirs. You get to the 7th against us either tied or down? More times than not, we win and you lose, suckers. Believe that.

The CPA got back to it's winning ways as well last night, bringing it to 11-8 on the season. How does it feel about Huddy's chance at getting his 200th win tonight?

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 5 - Nats 1

The CPA thinks Huddy finally gets that 200th win. The Nats traditionally haven't hit him well with the exception of Werth and Desmond. If Huddy can selectively pitch to those guys, the rest of the lineup for the Nats is struggling right now. Meanwhile, you know that Gonzalez has bad memories of the last time he faced the Braves, and he may try to get too fine against our batters. That means more walks, especially to a guy like Uggla who's been very patient. If I were looking at a player who can have a big day for the Braves, it's Simmons. His RH bat has been tough on Gonzalez in the past.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Series Preview: Nationals #2

This week gives us a 4 game series with the Nats, the second series of the season. This time, we get the Nats at home after sweeping them in their building. I'm sure they'd love to return the favor, but both teams have been struggling in their last 10 games. Let's hit the matchups.

Game 1: Teheran (1-0) v. Strasburg (1-4)
Game 2: Hudson (2-1) v. Gonzalez (2-1)
Game 3: Maholm (3-2) v. Zimmerman (4-1)
Game 4: Medlen (1-3) v. Haren (2-3)

This first game pits a struggling Strasburg versus a confident Teheran. Julio Teheran is confident because the Braves haven't lost with him on the mound yet, and he's received the benefit of 7 runs per game in run support. My grandmother could win for the Braves with seven runs of support, and then make pie for dessert. It's good pie too, chocolate chess pie with a little dollup for whipped cream on top. That stuff will rock your socks. Strasburg, on the other hand, has had nothing but losses since his first start in April. In fact, he's 0-4 with an ERA of 4.06 for that stretch. Strasburg has had major problems with the first inning of games, and much of the damage done against him has happened very early. He's prone to command issues first time through the lineup, and as a result he's put many men on base with mislocated pitches or walks. That means the Braves need to jump on Strasburg from the first pitch and never let up.

Game 2 pits the two most solid home field pitchers on each team against each other. Huddy had his last two games on the road and got roughed up badly. As a result his road ERA is almost 2 runs higher than his home ERA. Huddy's history at home bears that split out even more, as over the last 3 years he's maintained an ERA near 2.80, a 29-14 record, and a sub .230 opposing batting average. Gio Gonzalez certainly dislikes pitching on the road, but he dislikes even more pitching to Atlanta. He got reamed for 7 runs in 5 innings against us in his first series, and he's held a 4.57 ERA against Atlanta over the last 3 seasons. In addition to that, his ERA is over a run higher on the road in the last 3 years, along with opposing batters hitting 27 points higher. The Braves will look to give him even more fits while Huddy looks to settle into cruise control with some home cooking.

Game 3 will be rough. Zimmerman is coming off of a complete game 1 hitter against the Reds, and a 2.00 ERA on the season. In no game has he given up more 3 runs across 5 outings. Twice he's gone the full 9 innings, one at home and one on the road. His 4-1 record is no accident, and he leads the NL in that category. However, he's yet to face the Braves this season. The odd thing about Zimmerman is that his 4-1 record is a departure from a guy who's been 21-21 over the last 3 years. He's way above his head early on in the season, which may mean the Braves can bring him back to the norm. His 4.03 ERA against Atlanta would suggest that's a possibility, given that he's only won 1 of the 4 games he's started against us. Meanwhile, Maholm is coming off his own road disasters in Pitt and Detroit, looking to reestablish his form from the beginning of the month. The upside is that Maholm has held the Nats lineup to under .700 on the OPS, and his ERA at Turner Field is 3.24 in recent years. The bad news is that he's 1-3 against the Nats with a 5.84 ERA in that stretch. I can't say for certain who holds the advantage here, but it's a game of conflicting trends. The key may be who strikes first.

Game 4 features Kris Medlen, who has been about as far from his last season form as possible. Medlen has had major trouble with his command, and that's a huge concern for a guy who doesn't have overpowering speed. Even so, he's posting a 3.26 ERA in spite the shellacking the Tigers laid on him. The truth is that Medlen isn't getting the movement he wants on his fastball right now, and it's tailing back over the plate too much to hitters. That's why he's getting hit hard, and that's what he has to fix to get back on track. It's not something drastic, it's just an adjustment on one of his pitches to get the command he wants. When that happens, he's good to go. Dan Haren for the Nationals is also struggling with command. In 2013, his WHIP is 1.73 with the majority of that coming from hits. He keeps getting knocked around the yard, and knocked out of games before the 6th inning. The exception was his last game against Cincy where he went 6 IP with 2 ER and a homer. He's prone to getting his pitch count up early, and we all know what happens we you get to the Nationals bullpen. It's 21st in the majors for a reason. It blows.

Since I'm back from Hawaii, that means the CPA is back from it's vacation as well. Let's hope a little layoff brings back the good mojo.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 5 - Nats 3

The CPA thinks both of these starters will give up some runs, but that it comes down to a battle of a bullpens in the last 3 innings and the Braves have the edge to win after a bad road trip. Strasburg has trouble keeping the Braves off the basepaths with a .257 average and a 4.17 ERA. All the more reason we should rough him up again.

GO BRAVES!

Series Recap: Tigers

We all know the back end of a road trip is tough, and this series with the Tigers was no exception. You saw a team this weekend look tired and lost. Also, they looked cold because it never seemed to stop raining, snowing, or freezing. With a myriad of lineup changes, the weird injuries, and the fact we helped the Tigers set a franchise record for strikeouts by a starter, you'd think it's time to hit the panic button on this team. It's not. And no, I'm not some pie-in-the-sky optimist as you well know. There's a logical reason we hit the skids on this road trip, and there is a logical reason we'll turn things around this week.

In 2012, when the Braves went on the road, they went 19-18 in the last series of their road trip. They were fairly average in the last series, even though they had a 46-35 road record for the season. They got tired, they got mentally out of games in the last series, and as a result they didn't finish road trips well. Enter 2013, and our current final series road record of 3-3. We went to Washington and swept them, we went to Detroit and got swept. Our current road record is 9-7, which projects to a 45-35 record overall. Look familiar? It should since it's almost exactly like last season. So, the first point is that we've seen this before, and it hasn't been a problem for our overall winning percentage on the road.

The second point is how the Braves react to road trips. In 2012, the Braves record in the first series after a road trip was 26-11. They excel at bouncing back, and they actually had 5 sweeps in 2012 coming off a road trip. That's why I expect the Braves to play well this week. I think they react to suffering some road heartache by taking it out on the Nats with the bats.

Note, I'm not really talking about the actual Detroit series here much, because we all know it was terrible. Here's some lowlights though: we were outscored 25-7, we got swept, we struck out 39 times, we went 4-21 with RISP, our starters gave up 19 runs in 15.2 innings for an ERA around 10.90 combined. Should I continue? We stunk, plain and simple. It was cold, wet, and we didn't want to be there. I think you'll find that any time we get swept this season, the conditions will be similar. It will be late in a road trip, we'll be miserable at the plate and mentally out of it.

You know the good news? We're home. We are 2.5 up over the Nats and we play them this week. The Nats are 4-6 in their last 10 and we're 3-7. We are still tied for most wins in the NL. We still have one of the top 3 run differentials in the NL. Justin Upton has been hitting .333 on the week with 3 homers, Juan has been hitting .333 on the week with one homer, and Chris Johnson has been hitting .313 on the week with two doubles. We are ready to turn the corner this week.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Series Recap: Rockies

Greetings from sunny Hawaii! I figured I would jump on here for a quick recap of the series with the Rockies before dinner. I am happy the bats woke up in time for this series, because it can always get ugly in Coors Field, and no lead is safe. Winning both games of a doubleheader is a big momentum swinger away from the offensive doldrums we faced in Pittsburgh. However, we could not hold of the Rockies in game 3 after Kimbrel finally blew a save. It was bound to happen at some point in the season, but you hate to see it cost the Braves a sweep and Huddy his 200th career win.

Some things I want to highlight from the series: For starters, Justin Upton has not slowed down at all. In fact, he went 5/12 in the series with 2 bombs and 3 RBIs. I think that merits MVP status for this set of games in Colorado. As a bonus, he and Bj had the first set of back to back homers by brothers since the 20s in major league play. The Braves as a whole looked much better with RISP going 6/16 in the last two games. I want that kind of hitting to snowball with this team. Homers do so much more damage when you are putting men on base and knocking them in with clusters of hits. A good inning can become a knockout inning by rolling two to three extra guys through the order when an opposing pitcher is on tilt.

We looked decent as a pitching staff, but I am never going to use numbers from Coors to make any judgements on our pitchers. You just need to weather the storm of that stadium and move on. I think Craig will bounce back quickly from the blown save in his next opportunity. I also think Teheran pitched better in this series than I expected, showing a lot of early growth in this season. However, we will have to be just as sharp if not sharper in Detroit as a staff. That series will test us offensively and defensively as it culminates in a Sunday night showdown on national tv.

Go Braves!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Game 4 Recap: Pirates 4/21/13

Call it a bad series. Call it the Pirate's revenge for Sid's Slide. Call it whatever you like, but the Pirates have had our number for the last few years, even when they had no business beating us. This series had the makings of at least an easy split on paper, but it folded before our eyes when the Braves couldn't move runners.

Remember all those comments about how strikeouts look obvious when you aren't hitting the long ball? Welcome to the series that put them in the forefront of your mind. The Braves struck out 40 times in this series. Let that sink in. The Braves only scored 9 runs, and went 3-23 with RISP. Yeah, in four games. It would have been worse, but we didn't even get a runner into scoring position in one of our games. Short of getting no-hit in game 2, we played some of the most frustrating baseball we've seen all year.

Here's some food for thought. In game 1, the Braves had 10 hits and 8 walks, and they plated 6 runs. In game 4 they had 8 hits and 7 walks, and they plated 2 runs. Why the difference? We had homers in game 1. That's the problem. We're getting people all over the basepaths, but we lack the ability to do the small things that move them over and get them in right now. 15 baserunners should net you more than 2 runs unless you're shooting yourself in the foot. We've become so reliant on the long ball, that we forgot how to win the way you're supposed to win in the NL. Pitchers must execute bunts, batters must make contact on a hit and run, and hitters can't strike out with the bases juiced. You have to put the ball in play to put pressure on a defense. The Braves hit .283 when they make contact. We just can't afford to whiff at key times if we want to win when the big shots come up short. Some good news is that Freddie Freeman is coming back today. We need him to establish some order to this lineup. It's no shock that we've struggled a bit with him out of the lineup.

Next, we head to Colorado, who just happens to be the hottest team in baseball. They also play in the coldest stadium. Colorado is 8-1 at home, tied with Atlanta at 13-5 for the best record in baseball, and they are 8-2 in their last 10 games. They've scored the second most runs in the majors, and that ballpark is a launching pad for home runs. Oh, and as an added bonus, we'll be lucky if the weather gets out of the 30s for these games, AND we may see some snow. Lovely. If I was rooting for anything right now, I'd want every game snowed out, so we can just redo the entire series later in the year.

In about 3 hours, I'm getting on a plane and heading to Hawaii for a week. As such, the blog will be spotty at best while I relax on the beach. I believe you'll be able to survive the Rockies and Tigers series with the following goals. One, the Braves need to capitalize when we get chances. Two, going 3-3 in these 6 games this week would be an good road trip at this point. We just need to weather these literal storms and get back home to fight another day. Finally, the schedule is going to be brutal for a while. There will be times where we could feasibly lose several in a row over the next month, while winning several in a row when the bats heat up.

See you on Sunday when I'm back in town, or in the possible update on Hawaiian time from the biz center.

GO BRAVES!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Game 3 Recap: Pirates 4/20/13

I knew it would happen the moment we lost two games in a row. I wanted to believe we wouldn't overreact as a city, but we always do. What's the first thing I hear on the radio when I wake up this morning? "Which of the Braves 4 hitters that are hitting less than .200 on the season is a sign of something more?" Ugh. RELAX. We lost 2 games because we struck out a bunch and hit balls right at guys. It's not a sign of something more. It's called baseball, and we lost 1-3 last night because we played poorly.

Last night is one of those games I'll point to where strikeouts hurt us. We had the bases loaded in the 2nd inning with nobody out. Then we struck out 3 times and walked once to score only one run. Nobody else could put a bat on the ball. Nobody could move the runners. Nobody could make a sacrifice. That's the danger of strikeouts in those scenarios. Plus, and this is a baseball superstition of mine and several others, leaving the bases loaded is extremely bad mojo. We didn't have another hit for 4 innings. Whether mental, or the fictional gods of momentum punishing you, it's a bad thing to not capitalize on your chances in baseball. Going 0-6 with RISP isn't capitalizing.

Maholm pitched really well, but I believe the lack of production caught up with him as well. A starter can only go so long while mentally dealing with a 1 run lead, because it forces you to think about not making mistakes. If you're Greg Maddux and a Hall of Famer? You can deal. If you're human? It's a concern. If you as a starter believe you can't give up a run, or you'll lose, then you try to get too fine and make perfect pitches. That leads to walks, and that leads to disaster. Case in point, Maholm walked the leadoff guy in both the 5th and 6th innings. In the 5th he wriggled off the hook. In the 6th, he ran out of wriggle room. All it took was that one inning to crush the Braves chances to win. It's not really Maholm's fault either. I think if you watched the game you felt the same thing he did on the mound, that he simply wasn't going to get any more support that day.

Francisco had a really bad day with a size 4 strikeout collar. Heyward struggled but he's making contact for the most part and taking walks when he gets them. Despite the start, his average has been rising over the last 7 days. People don't like the fact that .174 is a rising average, but it is over his sub .100 start. That's what I want to see out of our hitters. Keep making gradual progress week to week until you bust out. Despite Francisco's 4 Ks, he's still batting .333 on the week with two bombs. BJ Upton is batting .261 on the week and overcoming his poor start. Simmons has an OBP of .333, which is what you want on the week for a guy with his speed, even if it's not off hits. So are we panicky? Are we reactionary people who read this blog? I would hope not, but a win today will be the Valium that many others in this city need.

The one guy people ask the most questions about is Heyward. Here's my take: Heyward hit .232 for the first two months of last season. He then went on to hit .293 over June, July, and August, making people look pretty silly for questioning his start. Oh and he hit 18 homers in that stretch. He's starting slower at the beginning of this year than he did at last, but the difference is he's struck out less. He struck out 18 times by this point in 2012, and he's struck out only 12 times in 2013. More balls in play for Heyward, and I know he will break out of this. It's a matter of when.

The CPA is now in the same slump as the Braves offense. It's time to break out today. 10-7 on the season, so let's see where we stand in this afternoon tilt.

CPA Prediction Game 4: Braves 5 - Pirates 2

Sanchez is 0-2 for the Pirates with a 12+ ERA. Justin Upton has rocked him in the past, and he's the guy I'd look to for the damage in this game. Heyward, Francisco and Uggla are out of the lineup, meaning Russ Johnson and Pena are getting a shot, and Gattis goes to first. Let's hope the shakeup leads to a series split. No excuses in this one. Just win, baby!

GO BRAVES!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Game 2 Recap: Pirates 4/19/13

It's a bad thing when the announcers talk more about random ducks roaming the outfield than the actual game. It reminded me of the 80s. Please talk about anything else but the product on the field, because last night that game was wretched. If you watched it all, you probably had a drink in your hand, and you got to witness first-hand what happens to a sinkerball pitcher when his sinker doesn't sink. You could tell that Huddy was in trouble in the first inning when the Pirates were pounding line drives at people. That shouldn't happen to a pitcher known for ground balls. That's why in the second inning they lit him up with liners all over the park. When there's no movement on the sinker, it looks like a big fat duck coming over the middle of the plate. See how I tied it back to the ducks? Moving on.

Once again, when the Braves get shutout, we lose (obviously you have to score to win). We had two hits all day. That's better than zero hits, but only because we didn't want old Wandy Rodriguez to make history against us. That would be silly. You know what the Braves hit with RISP? I don't know either, because we never got a runner into scoring position. Simmons got a hit, and Heyward got a hit. Take your palm, apply it to your face, and then shake your head in disgust. That was yesterday's hitting in a nutshell.

Huddy got lit up for 6 runs in 4 innings on 9 hits. That really ruined the tone of the game. You could feel our lineup's stress trying to get back in the game from the second inning, but we couldn't string anything together. I'm not worried about Huddy at all, but I do think he was probably more focused on studying for his Government test at Auburn than the game yesterday. He made a 92 on that test, so good for him. I'm not making that up, either. Huddy is actually trying to earn his degree at Auburn after all these years. While I like the idea, I'd prefer him not to take tests on gameday. It didn't go well. Plus he was going for his 200th win of his career, so it's possible the pressure got to him. It won't next time. Huddy was one of the best starters in the rotation last year when it came to rallying after a bad start. In 2012, when Hudson lost a game, the Braves never lost his next start all season long. Let's hope that is a positive trend we see for 2013.

Speaking of trends, I've noticed there hasn't been much of a trend in our losses. Besides the fact that they have all been shutouts, they have all been to different starters, in different games of the of the series, and to both LH and RH pitchers. That's a good thing in my mind, because you will have bad days in baseball. What you don't want is for those bad days to become trends, either psychological or actual. Everybody remember the Monday's trend from last year? That's what I'm talking about.

The CPA has had a small slump over the last few games, and it's now 10-6 on predictions. The Braves still have some good pitching matchups left, so let's see how it sees the game tonight.

CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 3 - Pirates 1

The CPA thinks we'll bounce back from getting shutout. The Pirates have lost the next game after their two shutout wins this season. The Braves have won their two following games after shutout losses. Also Maholm hasn't given up a run yet, and the Pirates have been hitting .158 against LH pitching so far this season. The only thing that worries me is that the Pirates have a good lifetime history against Maholm, so we have to hope recent trends pay off more than long-term trends.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Pirates 4/18/13

Somewhere the Arizona GM is curled into the fetal position in his bathtub with a bottle of scotch. Not because he traded away the MLB home run leader right now. He got something in return for that deal with Martin Prado, and there's no way Justin would be performing in Arizona the way he's peforming for the Braves. No, the thing that's keeping the Arizona GM up at night is Chris Johnson. Chris Johnson was just supposed to be a nice utility guy to sweeten the deal. Now CJ's leading the majors in batting average, and he's got 3 doubles, and 2 homers to boot. Thanks D-backs!

CJ had himself a nice game last night. Just 3/4 with a walk, a homer, and 2 RBIs. Ho hum. Some other guys also stepped up, like the Upton bros. BJ had a double and a homer, and Justin had a bash to left that left the yard after sailing 428 feet. Oh yeah, and some guy named Gattis came off the bench for his first PH ever and won the game with a 2 run shot inside the left field foul pole. The only guy in the lineup who didn't get on base last night was Jason Heyward.

Teheran pitched poorly. He's now pitched poorly in all his 3 outings. The upside is that we've also won all those games with great offense. However, I get questions from people about Teheran, and most people are asking if he's going to be a long-term solution in this starter role? The answer in my mind is, maybe. The Braves are winning in his starts, which is the biggest deal. That means that he gets some leeway as a starter since we're outhitting his mistakes. Really the main concern with Juilio right now is his command. He's trying to make perfect pitches to get himself out of trouble, and as a result he gets himself into bad counts. The hitters are teeing off on pitches were they know he has to throw strikes. It's the classic rookie pitcher mistake, and it's the same thing Minor went through in the beginning of last season. I think Teheran is going to be on a similar track as Minor. He's got to learn in the first half how to pitch without fear, and how to ignore the situation and focus on the batter he can control.

The other thing Teheran needs to focus on is his pitching to LH batters. The splits between the sides of the plate are astounding. From the right hand side, batters are hitting .222 with only 1 homer in 36 ABs. From the left hand side? Batters are hitting .433 with 4 bombs and 10 RBIs. Pretty much all of the disasters are coming from lefty sticks. Also, the higher walk totals are coming to lefties. Teheran is losing focus on those batters, and he's falling behind into counts that favor hitters. The most dangerous pitch for Teheran has been a 2-1 count, and he has to throw a strike to not fall further behind. Batters are teeing off on those pitches at a .444 rate. Can it be fixed? Yes. Minor had the same problem in 2010 when he was giving up all his homers to one side of the plate. After the All-Star break, Mike settled in and went from a 5.97 ERA to a 2.16 ERA to finish the season. It can be done, and we have the pitching coaches and support to help.

At the end of the day, there are no ugly wins. A 6-4 victory on a night where our starter didn't have it is just fine with me. The CPA predicted a loss, and accurately predicted the Pirates with 4 runs. However, it's having trouble with the Braves home run production, and as such, it was wrong again. At least it's the good kind of wrong. It's now 10-5 on the season with a possible game tonight unless it's rained out. Time for another prediction.

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 4 - Pirates 1

If this gets played. I think the Braves hold a large advantage with Huddy on the mound. He just needs to get through the first couple of innings to get rolling, and if he does, it's lights out for a Pirates lineup that doesn't hit him well historically. The good news is I think the radar shows things clearing by gametime, so keep your fingers crossed that we stay dry.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Series Preview: Pirates

It's time for a 4 game series in some ugly weather. Who's up for it? I hope the Braves are, because I checked the Pitt forecast, and it looks bad. Tonight is supposed to have 18mph winds. Tomorrow it's supposed to rain heavily and have 22mph winds. I doubt we'll get that game in. Saturday will be in the 40s with, you guessed it, 15mph winds. Sunday might not be terrible but chilly.

Game 1: Teheran (0-0) v. Locke (1-1)
Game 2: Hudson (2-0) v. Rodriguez (1-0)
Game 3: Maholm (3-0) v. McDonald (1-2)
Game 4: Medlen (1-1) v. Sanchez (0-2)

Tonight's game with Teheran facing Locke features two guys who have less than 2 years in the league. Locke had a decent outing against Cincy, but got shelled by the Dodgers. Teheran's been shelled twice by the Nats and Cubs, but he escaped both times. Both have ERA's over 4.00, both have career ERA's over 5.00, and just for good measure, the winds are supposed to be blowing in from right field off the river. Meaning that almost nothing is going into the stands into the teeth of a 20 mph breeze. It sets up well for the pitchers, and means the hitters will have string things together to get some runs.

Game 2 will have Huddy going against veteran Wandy Rodriguez. I honestly don't think this game will get played if the weather holds up, but nonetheless I'll give a quick breakdown. Huddy owns the Pirates roster. The whole team is batting under .200 against him, slugging for less than .260, and they have no homers in 117 ABs. The Braves crush Wandy with both Uptons slugging over .500, Jason Heyward going 4/8, Laird going 4/7, and the entire team batting over .250 against him. We should win that matchup if it goes.

Maholm and McDonald in the third game are two guys going in different directions. Maholm is firing on all cylindars with no earned runs in 3 starts. McDonald has a 5.27 ERA with two losses, and an 8 run disaster in his last game where he only went 1.2 innings before getting yanked against the Cards. Francisco, Uggla, J Up, and Heyward all have .300 or better averages off McDonald. Guys like Simmons, BJ, and Gattis haven't seen him. There's potential for us to make this game very very ugly for the Pirates and very very fun for us if Maholm holds form. There's only one guy Maholm has to avoid. Clint Barmes, who's mired in a .111 slump right now, absolutely owns Maholm lifetime. He's 15/34 with 3 doubles, a triple, 2 homers, 4 walks, and an OPS over 1.250 in all ABs against Maholm. Don't pitch to that guy and we're fine.

Medlen is sporting a 1.42 ERA and an unfortunate 1-1 record with spotty support. Jonathan Sanchez is an outright greasefire. He has a 12.96 ERA, is 0-2, and was blasted by the Diamondbacks for 9 runs in 3.1 innings in his last game. I'm just going to go ahead and say we have absolutely no excuses in this game. This is about as close to a complete mismatch, must-win, as you are going to have on a road trip. We just need to make it happen.

The Pirates have been hitting well over the last 7 days, with an OPS around .820 for the week and 5 homers. The Braves are hitting similarly over the last 7 days with an OPS also around .820 with 12 homers. I think these matchups come down to pitching, and we have a large advantage in 3 of the 4 matchups.

The CPA let us down yesterday, since it accurately predicted the 1 run for the Royals, but the Braves didn't score any of the 4 it wanted. That brings the season total to 10-4, with a look at a young set of pitchers today. Let's see what it thinks.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Pirates 4 - Braves 2.

This isn't one of the matchups in pitching that favors the Braves. Locke may have a higher ERA, but his worst game was on the road. He pitched a 1.80 ERA at home, and the weather is going to favor him tonight. The Braves won't be able to rely on the long ball if the wind is coming off the river, and we haven't shown an ability to score in the traditional sense with RISP consistently. In fact, we're only hitting .234 with RISP, which puts us 12th in the NL. Not good for a team that's second in the league in slugging. You can see the disparity in those stats. Our timely hitting hasn't arrived yet, and we may need it tonight.

GO BRAVES!

Game 2 Recap: Royals 4/17/13

Well the Braves are now undefeated when they score a run. Yesterday they didn't, so we lost. It was a perfect storm of bad play, coupled with an umpire who had an early flight and wanted to get out of town. Doug Eddings had a generous strike zone, and it just so happened that the Braves couldn't make enough decent contact to make up for it. Do I blame Doug? Not really. That happens in games. He's well known along with a guy like CB Bucknor for calling very few walks. You have to adjust as a hitter and get over it. We didn't.

I don't like to dwell on losses in recaps unless there is something we can learn from the loss. In this particular case, I don't think we can really learn much of anything. This is very similar to the loss against the Phillies where we got shut out in the cold. You could just tell that nobody wanted to be there, and everyone was thinking about their trips out of town. As a result, only one run came home all game long. Both pitchers were great, with Minor surrendering the one run to Jeff Francoeur in the 4th on a single with two runners. Minor was 17/22 first pitch strikes, Wade Davis was only 13/25. The Braves just couldn't string together hits. That's going to be a problem for this team when the long ball isn't working.

Overall, it's one loss. We were going to lose at some point. We will lose again. If you win 100 games, you lose 62 at some point. I don't really take anything away from this at all, and I look much more forward to the 4 game series against the Pirates to get a feel for how the teams reacts. So, we move on with 12-2 record and the best team in baseball. Do yourself a favor and don't listen to the media freakouts when we lose. You'll stay saner.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Royals 4/16/13

So you can throw 100 mph? Think you can make it in the show? Justin Upton can change your mind real quick. I don't care how fast you can throw, he can turn on a fastball and make you look like a fool. And he wasn't alone last night. Jason Heyward, Juan Francisco, and Dan Uggla all joined in on the boomstick party. We had 5 homers in one game. It was a launching pad last night, and the Braves hitters were lifting off in the late innings to win 6-3.

When you add up all the footage on the homers from last night, the Braves hit the ball over a quarter mile into the stands. The longest one was Francisco's to deep center at 421, but Justin's was 420 and probably would have gone further without clunking the top walkway deck of the outfield stands. Remember in the preview when I said the Royals don't hit many homers and have to string together hits to score? The Braves don't. At all. The Braves can string together jacks to win. For most of the game, we didn't hit well, but we did pitch well. Medlen only gave up one earned run in 7 innings with no walks. He deserved more than just a no decision, but unfortunately the defense was a diaster last night. We had 3 errors in the game, one by Uggla (of course), one by Gattis, and one by Francisco. If you asked me, "Ben who has the most errors in the MLB?" You'd be thinking it was Uggla right? Well, no. It's actually Ruben Tejada of the Mets with 6 errors. Dan only has 4 errors, but that does tie him with Ryan Zimmerman. That's the guy at 3rd for the Nationals who can't make a simple throw.

The Braves now have a 12-1 record with a +42 run differential. That leads the majors in both categories. We're one win away from tying the best start in franchise history of 13-1, set by the 1994 Braves. We're also 4.5 games up on the Nationals, who lost their last outing to the (heh) Marlins. The Braves lead the MLB with 25 home runs. We are 3rd in the MLB in overall slugging. Our pitching staff has the best ERA in baseball, and they are #1 in the MLB in opposing batting average. We lead a lot of categories on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, and it's translating to wins. Also, we're only 9 Ks above the league average while also being 2 BBs above the league average. That means we're not striking out at nearly the rates we've been concerned about in the regular season, not are we grounding into double plays (we're tied for 5th fewest DPs on the season). The batting has been economical, as well as productive in bursts. We're taking out walks when we can get them, and we're cashing them in. As a result, we're top 10 in OBP, which is a key category for a power team. The more you can put on base, the bigger the impact when you can rip one out of the ballpark.

The CPA was right again last night, moving to a 10-3 record. Let's see who it likes in game 2. Will we tie our record from 1994?

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 4 - Royals 1

Time to make some history. Let's get a 2 game sweep and get back on the road trip.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Series Preview: KC Royals

Welcome to Inter-league play. It will be going on constantly throughout the regular season due to the Astros moving to the AL. The means starting tonight we have a pair of home games with the Royals. Considering that A - it's Tuesday/Wednesday for the series, B - spring break is over, and C - 95% of Braves fans can't name a single Royals player of the top of their head, I expect these games to be pretty lightly attended. If we show up in droves, that would be a pleasant way to support the streak.

Game 1: Medlen v. Guthrie
Game 2: Minor v. Davis

Medlen had a much better outing in Miami than he did against Philly. Then again, that was Miami, the little engine that went off the rails. I'm not quite sure if Medlen has found his groove like Huddy, Minor, or Maholm. However, he does look like he's improving with every start. I'd look for this to be another. Also, he gets to throw against Jeff Franceour (he's on the Royals? Yes, he is), who I expect will get mildly booed by the home town fans. We have bad memories of life before Heyward. Jeff's name is now synonymous with wild potential that failed miserably in an Atlanta uniform. Medlen goes against Guthrie, a career 4.27 ERA guy who is pitching better early in the season at 3.55 ERA. Guthrie is undefeated in his two starts, facing the Twins and the White Sox. That sounds impressive until you realize the Twins and White Sox have fewer COMBINED wins than the Braves. We are undoubtedly the best team he's faced thus far, and the Twins touched him up for 4 earned runs in his last outing. I think we can do even more damage against the righty. Plus he's never faced Justin Upton or Evan Gattis before. Giddyup.

Game 2 has the Royals throwing Wade Davis, another righty, at our lineup. He has also not lost on the season, and he's also posting a rather high ERA early at 3.95 in two games. Philly roughed him up for 4 runs, but the Royals put 13 on their defense, so it didn't matter. The Twins didn't get anything but he only went 5 innings. In 2 starts, he's never gone further than 5 IP, which means we may be able to get to the Royals pen early. Good thing or bad thing? Not really a great thing. The KC bullpen actually has a lower ERA than their starters. I think we should be hacking against these guys. We don't do ourselves many favors by trying to extend the game. Minor is undefeated in his last 2 games with 2 wins and a 0.69 ERA. He's dealing right now, and we'll need it against a KC lineup that's +11 in run differential with a 7-5 record that is tied for the AL Central lead with Detroit. The key will be that Minor is a lefty, and KC only has 2 homers off lefties this season. That limits a lot of their damage because KC needs to string together hits to score runs. Minor's WHIP is a very low 0.85 currently. Advantage Minor.

The CPA has been doing well with win predictions, but it reversed the blowouts in the Nats series. Game 2 was the close game it thought would be wide open, and Game 3 was the blowout it thought would be close. At the end of the game, a win's a win, and it's 9-3 on the season.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 5 - Royals 2

The CPA likes Medlen against a Royals lineup with an overall sub .700 OPS against RH pitching. Also, it likes the fact that the Braves offense is averaging about 6 runs over their last five games, while the Royals are only averaging about 3.5 in their last 5. Let's keep the streak going.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Game 3 Recap: Nationals 4/14/13 TRIPLE SWEEP

I needed a bigger broom for a triple sweep. Especially against the Nats. WE'RE INDUSTRIAL SIZED NOW! So, in our wildest dreams about this team, we couldn't have predicted the Braves would pull off a streak like this at the beginning of the season. And yet, here we are, with a chance to take it ever further against the Royals at home. What can you say about a team like the Braves with timely hitting and the league's best pitching? Maybe the same thing we're all thinking about now. Division winners and possibly more.

Game 3 gave Washington a Nattitude adjustment (thanks for that one Jim Powell). From the first pitch, you had a feeling that the Braves were going to put the wood to the Nats. BJ came up there and laced pitch one for a double to help end his slump. In fact, he went 3/5 in the game. Also, CJ went 4/5 with 2 RBIs. That kid is a blazing inferno at the plate. He's now batting over .400 on the season, and slugging .514. Justin gets a homer, Simmons gets a homer, BJ gets a double, Gattis gets a double, and Heyward gets a double. It was a 9-0 crushing beatdown of the Nats. I guess Jayson Werth isn't as cocky as he was before. He was quoted as saying that the Phillies, not the Braves, were the bigger threat to the Nats this season. "Yeah, the Braves got the Upton brothers," Werth said. "But they lost [Martin] Prado and Chipper." Very good Mr. Werth. You can add and subtract. See if you can add up how many runs you lost by in this last series.

Was the pitching good? Only if you think Maholm going 7.2 innings with no runs and only 4 hits was "good." Personally, I think he has to go 9 innings for a shutout before we give him any kudos. I mean not allowing a run in 3 games is alright, but we expect more Paul. Much more. Toss a perfect game and we'll talk. Ok, maybe I'm not totally serious. He was pretty outstanding. Plus, Avilan and Gearrin racked up another set of scoreless innings. How did Gonzalez do? I guess we ruined his day with 5 innings, 7 runs, 7 hits, 3 walks, and 2 homers. Tough luck, Gio. Maybe you should quit talking to yourself like a lunatic on the mound.

So who is the MVP of the series. That's a tough call. So many people did so much right in this set of games. I think I'm going to have to go with Ramiro Pena. His homer and bunt to help win game one was enormous, and then he follows it up in game 2 with a 2/3 day with a walk. The dude is now batting .412 on the season with a slugging percentage of .647, and he's a backup. So kudos to you, Mr. Pena. I hope to see more great things from you off the bench as the season goes on.

Tuesday we face the Royals at home. I'll have a series preview up tomorrow on my off-day from work. The best news is that today is the 15th. No more taxes, no more books, no more client's dirty looks. Freedom. FREEEEEEEDOOOOOM!

GO BRAVES!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Game 2 Recap: Nationals 4/13/13

I don't think the Natitudes like us coming in their building and winning the series. They'll like it even less if we bring out the brooms. Game 2 was all about the Braves pitching. Really, really good pitching. Huddy went 7 inning with 4 hits, 1 run, and no walks. A solo shot was the only damage the Nats would inflict on him. Then, our bullpen came in to close out the game. It's almost becoming automatic that if you can get the game to the 8th and 9th with a lead? We own you.

The Braves were better with our RISP chances in this game, going 3-9 with a couple of 2-out RBIs notched by Gattis' long ball. If not for Uggla getting cut down at the plate on a Harper outfield assist, the Braves could have broken the game open early. As such, we had to rely on the quality arms to carry our 3 runs. Turns out that's exactly what they did.

Some other things that caught my eye in the game. Justin stole a couple of bases to put pressure on the Nats battery. Pena continued his hot hitting streak by going 2/3 with a walk. Huddy stepped up at the plate by going 2/3 during his start. He's now hitting over .400 as a pitcher. He's raking! Kimbrel got his 6th save of the year, and is now tied for the saves lead in the MLB. We have some amazing players putting up some amazing numbers. Our pitching staff has the best ERA in the majors. We're not even hitting on all cylindars yet. That's the thing that should scare the pants off every other team in the league.

So the Braves win, Huddy goes to 2-0, and Strasburg goes to 1-2. I like that. The CPA liked it too, despite the fact the Braves didn't blow them out. The CPA moves to 8-3 on the season. Let's see if we can get the sweep.

CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 3 - Nats 2

The Nats have hit Maholm well in the past, but Maholm has been firing on all cylindars in his first couple of games, plus the bullpen has been spot on. Gonzalez has been great as well, but he has only averaged 5 innings and change in his starts. That means if we can keep things close, and get to the Nats pen again, we can win a tight one.

GO BRAVES!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Nationals 4/12/13

We had it all the way. Ok, maybe not. That was probably one of the more entertaining comebacks I've seen since Brooks Conrad jacked a grando over the fence to beat the Reds. The best part was how it happened, by a complete meltdown of the Nats bullpen. We knew that in a bullpen battle, the Braves have the supreme advantage over the Nats, but what we didn't know was exactly how wild the Nats relievers can get under pressure.

The stage was set by Julio Teheran getting roughed up in the first two innings for a 0-4 deficit. Now, I'm not going to say the kid didn't make a few bad pitches, but for the most part he didn't pitch poorly. The problem in the first two innings was his inability to throw first pitch strikes to key batters, falling behind in counts, and then getting caught making a bad pitch. Also an error by CJ (Chris Johnson) in the first didn't help. After 2 innings though, Julio settled in and didn't allow a hit for the rest of his outing. That would prove very important.

Fast forward to the 7th inning, still down 0-4. CJ decides to make up for his early error by taking Detwiler yard. That makes the game 1-4, but it also did something more important. It broke up Detwiler's shutout. He was only at 90 pitches after the 7th concluded, and he could have come back in for the 8th. However, now that the Braves had knocked one off of him, the Nats manager decided to go to his struggling pen in the 8th.

Mistake.

With 2 outs, and Tyler Clippard appearing to cruise, the wheels came off. Heyward walks, J Up singles, Gattis walks, and BJ walks. Suddenly it's 2-4 with the bases loaded. Dan Uggla then smashes one to center we all thought was gone off the bat. Unfortunately the wind caught it, and the inning was over. At that point, we could have said it's not our day and given up. That was our chance. Enter Drew Storen in the 9th. CJ comes up again with a leadoff single. Pena then lays down one of the sweetest bunts you're likely to see all season. If you can find a replay of it, please watch it, because it's the baseball equivilant of catching an entire team with their pants down. Perfect move, and a perfect execution. Blake DeWitt, the guy nobody remembered was on the team, laid down the sacrifice bunt to get both guys over. We're in full-on small ball at this point. Heyward walks. The bases are juiced again...and Justin Upton is coming to the plate.

Something very small but very key happened in Justin's AB. Upton on the first pitch popped up to the foul ground first base side. That ball should have stayed in play, but the same wind that knocked Dan's long bomb to center down, moved that ball into the crowd. The wind taketh, and the wind giveth another chance. Justin didn't waste it. A slapper to third that caught Zimmerman in a do or die throw ended up costing the Nats dearly. Zimmerman tossed it into right field, two runs came home, and we were tied. Who likes free baseball? We like free baseball!

Extra innings is advantage Braves, because our pen rocks. EOF comes in and just takes down 3 Nats in order. Ho-hum, baby. Then, in the top of the 10th, it was time for an unlikely hero. After Uggla walked, and CJ and BJ made outs, short Ramiro Pena, layer of great bunts, sauntered to the plate. On a 1-0 count, Craig Stammen tossed him an inside fast ball above the knees, and Pena dropped the barrel on it. It was a no doubter homer to RF. Cheers went up everywhere in Braves Country. Cheers went up in Pena's native Mexico. The fans actually at the Nats home game started to do the chop IN THEIR BUILDING. How's that for Natitude, you wanna-be Expos?

Oh and to finish things in the 10th for good measure, we give them the K-Crab. Kimbrel dealt Bryce Harper a little taste of what real pitching looks like. Turns out Bryce doesn't like it much, since he struck out swinging. Also, I'd like to take a moment to say that whatever Tom Brady-esque nonsense that Harper is trying to cultivate on the top of his head? It looks like a mop is attacking his skull. 3 up, 3 down. Braves win. It was a great finish to a game that looked dire after a couple of innings.

The CPA looked right with it's 2-5 loss prediction yesterday until the 9th inning. I'm happy it was wrong, and it goes to 7-3 on the season. Let's see what it thinks about today's big matchup on FOX.

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 7 - Nats 3

The CPA really likes the Braves in this game. Most of our hitters have had great success against Strasburg, which isn't the norm for the league. Also, the bats are hot right now, and the momentum is on our side. It could be a Braves blowout if we jump on them early. Uggla has been especially successful, so look for him to provide some key ABs in the matchup. Also, if we work pitch counts and get Strasburg out of the game in the 6th, we get to see that sweet, sweet Nats pen again.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Series Preview: The Nationals

It's the early season series we've all been waiting for. That's so odd, considering the fact that 3 years ago, the Nats were essentially the dregs of the division. Now? It's us and them on a quest for the ultimate prize.

Game 1: Teheran v. Detwiler
Game 2: Hudson v. Strasburg
Game 3: Maholm v. Gonzalez

The first matchup is arguably the most one-sided, and not in our favor. Detwiler only allow one unearned run in 6 innings against the extremely hot Reds, while Teheran struggled to get off the hook with a no-decision against the dreadful Cubs. In terms of first starts, it's a clear advantage for Detwiler. In terms of career history, Detwiler has had a lot of success against our lineup, but most of it has been against players that won't be starting for the Braves tonight. He's dominated Freeman and McCann, but they are on the DL. The worst situation is Dan Uggla, who's never had a hit off Detwiler in 10 ABs. However, Heyward, Reed Johnson, Simmons, and BJ have had prior success in limited ABs. I would look for Reed to get a start in this game somewhere, if Fredi G wants a guy that has a .500 average in 12 ABs off him. Teheran has never faced the Nats, so I have some advice for him. Pitch better than you did against the Cubs. Go back to your spring training thoughts and keep it out of the middle of the plate.

Game 2 is the national highlight game. Huddy and Strasburg head-to-head on FOX Saturday baseball. A win here would set the national lovefest into full bloom. A loss would mean head shaking and questions amongst the media analysts. In reality, none of that is warranted since it's one series of 6, and we're in April, but people love to pump up this as MOST IMPORTANT SERIES SO FAR. Then, we all remember there's 150 games left, and we calm the heck down. Huddy is older, so he has a lot of history against the Nats, and that history is really solid for the most part. In 248 combined ABs, Huddy has given up a total of 5 homers. More than half of those were to (guess who) Jason "Beardo" Werth. If there's a guy in that lineup who will absolutely murder our chances of a win, it's him. Otherwise, the entire Nats lineup slugs less than .350 against Huddy. That's paltry. On the flipside, Strasburg is coming off a horrible outing against the Reds, where he got roughed up for 6 runs in 5.1 innings. Despite racking up Ks, Strasburg has trouble with a few guys in our lineup. Dan Uggla has ripped him apart in the past with an 8/17, 2 doubles, 2 bombs, 8 RBIs, and 3 walks. Heyward has also taken him to the shed with 7/12 with a double and 2 walks. The rest of the guys have 5 ABs or less experience. I think this matchup is more one-sided to the Braves than the analysts might believe at first glance.

Game 3 is a complete tossup in my mind. Maholm hasn't given up a run in 2 games, and his WHIP is under 1.00 for the season. Gonzalez has given up 1 run in 2 starts, and his WHIP is under 1.00 for the season. Something has to give in this matchup. It's a lefty on lefty war. In terms of history, the edge goes to Gonzalez. In 61 ABs, the Braves only have a .197 average. Against the Nats, Maholm has trouble with Beardo Werth, Zimmerman, and Ian Desmond. The thing is, Maholm's been pitching over his head for the first two games, and you don't know if this is the matchup where he comes back to earth. Gio has never faced a back to back lineup of this caliber. Both are due to give up some runs, and it may be a contest of who blinks first in the day.

Several conversations on the radio revolve around Brian McCann coming back, and what will happen to Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird. In my mind, we'll keep them both in the lineup. I think we'll dump one of the other PHers we keep in the lineup but rarely use, in favor of the power of Gattis. I also think we'll keep Laird as a backup, and because he's a journeyman hitter. We're carrying some backup guys on the roster like Blake Dewitt, who I don't think will hang around. We also have to consider sending down Pena when McCann comes back as well. In essence, I think we'll carry the 3 catchers unless Gattis really cools off.

Also, what does the CPA think about tonight's game? Let's find out.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Nats 5 - Braves 2

The CPA doesn't like our history against Detwiler, nor does it like Teheran's first start. The advantage the Braves have is in the bullpen over the Nats, but the Nats have been crushing right handed pitching for a combined OPS of .888 on the year. It doesn't set up well for us to have our rookie who struggled against the Cubs trying to get right against a veteran division winning team.

Let's hope the CPA isn't right this time.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Game 3 Recap: Miami 4/10/13 DOUBLE SWEEP


MORE BROOMS! Everybody likes brooms! You get a broom, you get a broom! Everyone gets a broom! Sweeps for all!

Yes, I'm losing my mind. It's almost deadline for taxes and I've gone off the deep end. As a result, today's writeup is late, and it will be short and sweet. I'll put in more on the offday to discuss our preview of the Nats series, and what will happen when BMac returns to the lineup.

In short, we won huge. Gattis put one in the pool at the Clevelander. Francisco hit one that was so gone it bounced off the upper deck. The Fish are terrible and we gutted them with 8 runs, 13 hits, and 5 walks in our 8-0 shutout win. Simmons, Gattis, Uggla, Francisco, C Johnson, and Schafer all had hits. In fact, Schafer had 4 hits in the game and 2 runs scored. The dude was en fuego, despite the fact that he looks perpetually high on dope.

What else can you say? We came, we saw, we conquered the Miami area. We're now in rare start territory on par with the 1994 Braves. They went 13-1 for the best start in a season ever. We just need to sweep the Nats to keep the streak going. Sounds easy, right?

The Braves finally went 3-10 with RISP, which is a .300 number I like. Huzzah! Minor also gave up no runs even though he had 6 baserunners. Gearrin and Varvaro helped shut the door. Do we have the best pitching staff in baseball? Statistically, with a 1.89 ERA, we in fact ARE the best pitching staff in the MLB. And people want to talk about the long ball? This pitching is just as worthy of conversation. Then again, even Maddux knows that chicks dig the long ball.

More tomorrow. Until then, I am buried in estimated payments, deductions, and client calls.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Game 2 Recap: Miami 4/9/13

It's funny, that game last night didn't feel like a pretty win. In fact, it felt like we were struggling at times to get people out, and we were struggling to get the little things done at the plate. The numbers don't really bear that out for our pitching, but they certainly give us something to think about with our hitting. Sometimes the tone of a game, and the actual numbers are wildly different. I think this was one of those games.

First, the pitching. Medlen was very good, but an error by BJ on a fly ball that hit the heel of his glove cost Medlen a shutout. Early on, you could see that Kris was laboring a bit to find the zone, and he walked a couple of batters as a result. His first pitch strike numbers, which are normally very high, was an average 14/26 for the game. O'Flaherty came into the game in the 8th, and he was just bad. Not a disaster since we plated another run in the top half for some cushion, but we needed it with EOF giving up a hit, two walks, and a run with no Ks. Small slipup by the bullpen, but it wasn't fatal. Kimbrel was iffy to start with a leadoff walk, but the Fish are terrible and bunt popped into a double play somehow. I've never seen that before in a pressure 9th inning situation. This Miami team sullies the good name of Dumpster Fire.

The hitting. Well, we won. For the majority of the lineup, that's pretty much the positive to take away from last night. Gattis and Simmons were great, going a combined 5/8 with the 3 runs scored. The rest of the team only had 3 hits. BJ went 0/4 with 2 Ks, Francisco went 0/4 with 1 K, Chris Johnson went 0/4 with 3 Ks. The Braves had the benefit of Gattis cracking a 2 run bomb in the first inning, and Justin Upton blasting a double to center that would have left most ballparks.  The good news is with Gattis and Simmons ripping on the ball, we're protecting Justin Upton well. The bad news is BJ Upton has been a disaster in this series so far. He's 0-9 against Miami with a bad error. I think he needs a day off. This stuff is in his head, and like Heyward he needs a reset of the mechanism.

Nobody should panic about anything with hitters, or pitchers, or frankly anybody yet. The lunatic fringe will often try to think game-to-game about baseball, but baseball doesn't work that way. Wrap your head around this, folks. Baseball is about 20 game stretches. In the first 20 games, you see how people are doing. In the next 20 games, you evaluate the first quarter of the season and make some small adjustments to the lineup. In the next 20 games, you can move/bench a guy that's not performing. From that point on, everybody will go from slumps and streaks, and you have to ride them out in 20 game blocks. When the Braves reach the first 20 games played, we can start to raise some initial questions about our hitters. Also we're 7-1, and somehow I hear bad news on the radio about this team. It's absurd.

The CPA is now 6-2 on predictions this season, and it's a logical tie to the fact the Braves are winning games against easier opponents. That makes the algorithm a lot easier. Tonight we have a chance to sweep the Fish. Let's see what the CPA thinks.

CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 2 - Marlins 1

The CPA believes another sweep is imminent. The only really dangerous hitter in the lineup for Minor is Giancarlo Stanton, in terms of producing runs. However, don't expect Minor to just sail through this game. He's going to have to deal with some baserunners. The CPA predicts a lower scoring game with two pitchers that had great first outings of the year going tonight, but the Braves had the edge with their power and bullpen.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Marlins 4/8/13

Good thing we have Justin Upton. Otherwise, we could have been in Miami for 18 innings waiting for somebody else to score. It was not a pretty offensive effort on either side, but our 2 runs was enough to deal with a Marlins lineup getting zilched. Maholm was completely on his game with a 1 hitter in 7 innings. Kimbrel was completely off his game with a walk and a hit to put the game in doubt, but he rallied to get the final out, and his 3rd save as a consequence. I'd like to see better control of the zone next time.

The Braves went 0-7 with RISP, a fact I continue to cringe at every time I see it. Luckily Justin Upton decided to become a one man wrecking crew, going 4 for 4 with a double, a homer, and 2 runs scored. In Jeopardy, the response to "This was the Braves offense last night," is "What was Justin Upton." The man is slugging 1.192 on the season right now. That's not even real. That's like some fictional entity coming down to earth and hitting a baseball. He is the God of War come to flesh and poised to lash out with thunderbolts into the stands. Hear his name and quake, mortals! Drive pitchers before you, and hear the lamentations of their women!

Let's take a quick look at where some of the other players stand on the season. Gattis is batting .333 with an OPS over .900, Francisco is batting .300, Chris Johnson is batting .357, Laird is batting .400, and Pena is batting .273 in limited action. Sounds awesome right? There's some guys I'm not talking about. Uggla is batting .174, Simmons is batting .143, BJ is batting .120, and Heyward is batting .083. Honestly, Teheran and Hudson are only one hit behind Heyward on the season. This fact has been completely overshadowed by the fact we're winning games. That cures a lot of ills, and those averages would make anybody ill.

Luckily our pitching has been lights out. No starter except Teheran has an ERA over 4.00 right now, and the bullpen as a whole has a 1.64 ERA on the season. Our bullpen is 2nd best in the majors right now in ERA, behind only the Dodgers who haven't given up a single run in 5 games. That kind of pitching keeps you in games, especially when opposing teams are actually AFRAID to get to your bullpen. I love the fact that they'd rather take their chances with a guy like Tim Hudson than deal with Varvaro, Avilan, Kimbrel, Gearrin, O'Flaherty, or Walden. The only reason we have an ERA over 1 is because Cristhian Martinez had to do some mop up duty.

The CPA moves to 5-2 on the season with another Braves win last night, although it was overboard on the amount of runs scored. Turns out the massive fan support in Miami didn't translate to offense. Insert snicker here.

CPA Prediction Game 2:  Braves 4 - Marlins 1

The CPA notes that while Medlen didn't pitch well in the cold, he has solid career marks against most of the Marlin lineup. The exception is Stanton, and Solano. Avoid them, and we should be fine. Also, look for Heyward to snap out of his slump against LeBlanc tonight. He's feasted on him in the past.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Series Preview: The Stinky Fish

I really shouldn't have to break down how this series features two teams trending in different directions. The Braves are 5-1, the Marlins are 1-5. Atlanta has a run differential of +15, the Marlins have one of -13. The Braves sold out their home opener with standing room only. The Marlins are suing their season ticket holders. In short, the Marlins stink.

Game 1: Maholm v. Slowey
Game 2: Medlen v. LeBlanc
Game 3: Minor v. Sanabia

It's the 3 M-igos in the rotation (somebody trademark that for me please), versus whatever the Marlins have in storage. In game one, you have the right-handed Slowey versus the lefty Maholm. This is probably the best matchup of the series. Slowey did pretty well in his start against the Nationals, only giving up 1 runs in 5 innings. The problem was that the Marlins didn't score any runs, and the bullpen gave up 2 more to go with it. Slowey has never faced the majority of Braves batters, except for Heyward and BJ. In those 6 combined ABs, both of them have 4 hits including a double and a homer. The rest of the lineup should be licking their chops. Maholm fired off a 5.2 inning shutout against the Phillies in his first outing. My only concern with him in this start is the Marlins outfield, all of whom have posted strong numbers against Maholm in the past. In fact, the Marlins outfield is a combined 9/26 with a double and 2 triples against Maholm lifetime. I'd look to avoid giving them something to hit if they come with with RISP. The good news is that nobody in the Marlins lineup has a homer off of Maholm, so he can limit the damage there.

Game 2 has Medlen coming off his mediocre Philly loss in the cold versus LeBlanc who got touched up for 3 runs in 5 innings against the Nats. LeBlanc doesn't like to see Jason Heyward roll into town. Jason owns this guy with a .444 average, .889 slugging, and a 1.389 OPS. The only downside is Freddie won't be in the lineup, and he has similar numbers against LeBlanc. Then again, LeBlanc has also given up homers to BJ and Uggs as well. There are opportunities for runs here. Most of the Fish don't fare well against Medlen. However, there are two exceptions. Placido Polanco may be old, but he doesn't miss Medlen's pitches. He's 4/5 lifetime off the kid. Also, Donovan Solano has crushed Medlen for 4/7 with two bombs and 3 RBIs. We really REALLY want to avoid leaving anything over the plate against him. Otherwise? Just win baby.

Game 3 is Minor going against Sanabia, a guy I've never heard of. Sanabia actually pitched really well against the Mets with 6 innings of shutout ball. Minor did 7.1 innings of 1 run ball. Nobody really has any action against Sanabia except Heyward. Guess what? He's 4/8 against him. I also wouldn't use pitching stats against the Mets to benchmark Sanabia's talent. Then again, the guy didn't pitch at all in 2012 in the majors. He might be good, he might get murdered by our lineup. We just don't have the data on him yet. We do have data on Minor, and the only guy he needs to watch out for is Stanton. Giancarlo has taken him yard twice in 6 ABs. I think we should pitch around him. This one is going to be really hard to project, so we should probably just win the first two and play with house money.

The CPA is now 4-2 with the sweep over the Cubs. We're getting some more solid 2013 data as the season continues. Let's see what it says about game one:

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 6 - Marlins 2. The CPA likes the Braves ability to work Slowey out of the game in the 5th or 6th, and get to the bullpen of the Marlins which is an unmitigated disaster. The total reverse is true of our team. The bullpen has been on fire, and we should get 6 solid innings out of Minor with 2 runs or less if he has command of the zone.

GO BRAVES!

Game 3 Recap: Cubs 4/7/13 SWEEP

What's that? You want the brooms? I gotcha brooms right here!


SWEEP SWEEP Cubbies. The Braves took care of a whining Jeff Samardzija with a 5-1 win on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I had a closeup and personal seat in my season tickets, and it was a glorious thing to behold. Also, Turner Field has a new deal where they give you a free refill when you buy a collectors cup, so my season ticket Coke for $5 actually becomes two Cokes. I was pleased with that. Add in some nachos and I'm pretty much good to go to watch the Braves dominate. Extra peppers. I like em spicy.

Huddy got his first win of the year with a great pitching performance. He spotted the Cubs his usual first inning run (I wish he would stop that), and then shut them down from that point forward. In fact, Huddy went 6.2 innings giving up only 3 hits and a single run, striking out 7. The Braves forced the Cubs starter into 5.2 innings of four run ball with 4 walks and 13 Ks. That's right. It's a 5-1 win with 16 Ks. We went 2-7 with RISP and won again. We scored a run on a wild pitch error, 2 runs on a Pena single to right, and another run on a Hudon single. Plus Dan Uggla had a gravy homer for good measure. Pretty much all the damage was done in the 6th inning, when we took advantage of Samardzija losing his command.

Attendance for the series was no joke. 45,800 for Sunday's game, 38,498 for Saturday, and 33,443 for Friday. That's well over 115,000 for the weekend, and those are the numbers we should be posting as fans for this team. It gives the Braves the edge they need late in the game when the fans get involved. I can credit some of Samardzija's loss of control on the fans getting in his head in the 6th. The hecklers were out in force.

So who gets the series MVP? I think this time it goes to BJ Upton. He exploded out of his mini-slump in the Saturday game by going 2/4 with a walk and the game tying homer in the 9th. Then on Sunday in the leadoff spot he was on base 3 times with a hit and 2 walks. It's good to see him getting a feel for the plate again, and it's great to see him step in with a high OBP in the leadoff spot. Could that be a position for him in the future? I think it might. He's shown good plate discipline that Simmons really hasn't developed yet, and that's what you really want in your leadoff guy. You want someone who will always work counts, take their walks, get on base by any means necessary, and also act as a pesky out.

Next up we head to Miami to face the Fish. Hey, and it's their home opener. We'll be playing in front of hundreds of fans! What's that stench? Oh it's the Fish and their 1-5 record.

GO BRAVES!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Game 2 Recap: Cubs 4/6/13 aka WALKOFF!

This game had all the makings of a "fold up the card table and head home" kind of outcome. The Braves gave up the lead early, tied it early, and then gave up a huge lead in the middle. Teheran wasn't sharp at all, looking completely different from his spring training form. He gave up 8 hits, 5 runs, and 2 homers in only 5 innings. Simply put, he was throwing too many strikes in the heart of the plate, and the Cubs were punishing him for it. However, the bullpen started bailing water in the 6th, and to their credit they never gave up a single run after Teheran departed the game. That would prove especially valuable when the Cubs loaded the bases in the 8th with no outs, but the bullpen combo of Varvaro and Gearrin shut them down with no damage.

There's an old superstition in baseball that talks about loading the bases with no outs. The theory goes that if you load the bases and get absolutely nothing, the opposing team in the next half inning goes on a big rally. Is it really true? I can say for a fact it certainly inspires a momentum swing to the other dugout, but a big inning may not occur every time a team fails to score with the sacks packed. HOWEVER, in this case it absolutely happened. In the bottom of the 8th, after the Cubs stranded their 3 runners, the Braves went on a tear. Justin Upton doubled, Freddie singled to score him, Dan singled, Laird walked, and Pena (with the bases loaded and one out) made the Cubs pay with a 2 run single. So, in the 8th alone, the Braves plated 3 runs to draw within one run of a tie.

Enter Carlos Marmol, the closer that wasn't. With BJ up first in the 9th, mired in an early 0-16 slump, Braves fans were about to get a small slice of magic. On a 3-1 count, Marmol had to throw a strike to keep the leadoff runner off first. BJ was ready. Bossman Jr crushed that on a no-doubter over 420 feet to center field to tie the game. Fans go out of their minds! His second hit as a Brave was a game tying bomb in the 9th! But were the Uptons done? No, no. Justin comes up after a Heyward pop fly, and gets into an early 1-2 hole against Marmol. However, Marmol made a huge mistake. He threw a strike to Justin when he had a pitch to waste. 419 feet later over the center field fence, the Braves laid claim to a 6-5 win, and left the Cubs thinking, "What just happened?" The Uptons just happened.

Did we hit well enough to win that game? In the end, yes. We had 12 hits, with 6 coming in the last inning and a third. Justin Upton had 2 bombs, and he holds the current MLB lead for homers at 5. He also had a double in his 3/5, 2 RBI day. In fact, most of the lineup had hits except for Heyward. It's just that we weren't stringing them together in the first 7 innings. The Braves RISP was 2-7, which explains a lot about our early struggles. What matters in this case is that we recovered late from our bad start. Also, give a ton of credit to the bullpen for continually holding things close when the game looked dire. If that lead get to six or seven? We had no shot.

The CPA escapes with another win by walkoff, going to 3-2 on the season. Let's see what it thinks about today's tough pitching matchup:

CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 4 - Cubs 3

The CPA likes our chances for the sweep as long as we can work counts off Samardzjia and get to the Cubs bullpen, which has shown a lot of weaknesses. Huddy needs a good bounce back game, so look for him to pitch to contact and roll over the Cubs batters. Great conditions today, and it should be a good day for baseball.

GO BRAVES!


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Cubs 4/5/13

Nobody should be shocked that we won last night against one of the Cubs worst starters. In fact, the only shock should be that we didn't win by more, given all of our base runners. Feldman is terrible for the Cubs, and he's not long for the MLB world. Minor was dazzling, with only a solo homer as a minor(heh) blemish. There was a lot to love about this game, and there was a lot that left you scratching your head. It wasn't just a one-sided affair, even if the scoreboard looked that way at the end with the 4-1 win.

I believe this team thrives off first inning action. It didn't look like we were going to see any of that action in this game until Justin Upton took an inside fast ball at the knees, and drilled it over left center on a rope. Seriously, the ball looked like a long line drive that barely cleared the fences. For a second, nobody was quite sure it was going to get out, and then it was gone. 1-0 Braves, and the fans could sense it was going to be a good night. Justin also got another chance in the 3rd inning when we had Simmons on 3rd and one out. J-Up's sac-fly plated our second run before the Cubs could figure out Minor.

Speaking of Minor, I doubt he's pitched much better than last night, and that's a great sign. He's obviously taken the momentum from last season and this spring, and he's changed his attitude towards pitching. Before, Minor was always in trouble with one big inning snowballing on him. In the 5th, he gave up a solo shot to Scott Hairston to make the game 2-1 Braves, and then immediately gave up a base hit to Castillo with no outs. At that point, the old Mike Minor would have melted down, given up 4 runs, and have to be pulled out of the game. The new Mike Minor completely forgot about the last two pitches, and threw a strike to Lillibridge that he rolled over into a twin killing. It's exactly the kind of growth you want to see out of a young starter. He looked completely unintimidated out there, and his control was amazing. So amazing, that he didn't walk a single batter and struck out 7 in 7 innings. I love to see that.

It's not all sunshine and roses despite the win, although the weather was a lot better than Thursday's meteorological disaster. I will continue to harp on the fact that this team has been prone to leaving people on base, and not converting our RISP yet. The bombs are there, but the regular hits that can open up a game haven't really shown up consistently. They will in time (I hope), but going 1-7 with RISP and stranding 9 base runners is never a good thing, win or lose. That's what we did in this game. That's why we weren't winning 8-1 in the 6th inning. The difference in scores can mean you don't use your closer, you don't put in your normal bullpen guys, and maybe you let your starter go even longer in the game. Minor was only at 86 pitches when he was pulled. Blowouts can give some guys some rest that can make a difference late in the season. That being said, Kimbrel looked like he was out for blood when he rushed up a few 98 mph fastballs in the ninth. Completely unhittable for his 2nd save.

Most surreal moment of the game? Chipper Jones and the broadcast boys going back and forth over Chipper's bobblehead being called "Vintage" now that he's retired, and then an old Dale Murphy commercial where Dale was pimping Braves merchandize while reading from a teleprompter in the 80s. You can already tell they are going to have a lot of fun at Chip's expense during the year, and the old grey mare isn't going to take it lying down on his Twitter account.

The CPA is now 2-2 with last night's win. Tonight we have a much anticipated start by Teheran against the Cubs. Let's see what the numbers say:

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 5 - Cubs 2

The CPA believes Villanueva may have trouble against the lineup tonight, since many guys like Freeman and the Uptons have gotten a hold of him in limited ABs. Tonight would be the night for BJ to break out of the slump.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Series Preview: Cubs

The Cubs are 2-1 coming off their series against the awful Pirates. The Braves are 2-1 coming off their series against the Phillies. Clash of the Titans early! Not really, but we hope it will be a good series...for the Braves.

Game 1 - Feldman v. Minor
Game 2 - Teheran v. Villanueva
Game 3 - Samardzija v. Hudson

The first matchup pits the Cubs 30 year old 6'7" righty against the Braves 25 year old 6'4" lefty. Both have career ERAs over 4.00, and both have been known to put people on base. Minor has actually fared pretty well against the current Cubs lineup, holding them to a .236 team average with only one homer. Feldman has never faced the Braves in his career, other than the Uptons (Justin sports a .400 average off him in 5 ABs). Despite the fact that both pitchers have some experience in the league, neither guy has a lot of experience against the other team. Minor faced the Cubs once in 2012, with a 7-3 win. He also faced them in 2011 on the road and came out with a 5-4 win. As you can see, he gave up some runs, but we managed to get him off the hook with some big offense. With this lineup, that's even more likely. Feldman spent most of career with the Rangers before getting sent out to pasture with the Cubs. His ERA skyrocketed to over 5.00 last year in 21 starts, which helped prompt his exit. In fact, his overall record in 2012 was 6-11, and that was on a Rangers team that won 93 games. Six wins in 21 starts on a team that had a +101 season run differential means you stink. We should take this guy to the woodshed.

Game 2 gives everyone in Braves country their first glimpse of Teheran if they weren't watching in spring training. The 22 year old righty Teheran has almost no experience at the MLB level, having only started 4 games. His spring was ridiculously impressive with a 1.04 ERA in 6 starts, 35 Ks, and 9 walks. He commanded the zone well and held opposing batters to a .082 average. We all want to see if that translates to the big screen. The 29 year old righty Villanueva has 7 year of experience, and a very mediocre 4.26 ERA to show for it. The thing to note about Villanueva is that he's a strikeout artist. Let that soak in a bit with our lineup. In fact, Villanueva chalked up 122 Ks last season with the Toronto Blue Jays in 125 innings. He doesn't walk a lot of people either, so the plan is to knock him around. That was pretty easy last year since he gave up 23 homers in his 16 starts. He's a bang or bust pitcher against our bang or bust lineup. Something will have to give, and I'm hoping it's him.

The anchor game features one of the guys I absolutely despise in the majors, Jeff Samardzija. Not only does he have two strikes on him for being a long-haired freak out of Notre Dame, but he's also a complete jerk who enjoys throwing at batters. Oh and he's also pretty good, and he generally frustrates the heck out of our batters. In fact, the entire team only hits a combined .185 off the guy, and Jeff is coming off an 8 inning shutout of the Pirates with 9 Ks. Meanwhile, Hudson barely got out of trouble with a no-decision in his first tilt against the Phillies, and he has a 6.23 ERA for his 4.1 innings of work. Taken at face value, including their spring training numbers, these are two pitchers that have been trending in different directions. Huddy is trying to find his zone early, and Jeff is ringing people up at will.

That's the matchups, on to the CPA. The CPA has a lackluster 1-2 start on the season, mostly because the Braves refused to hit last night. We can see how things even out against the Cubs.

CPA Game 1 Prediction: Braves 6 - Cubs 3.

The CPA expects an explosion of offense by the Braves in this matchup. Feldman has been struggling since last season, and he hasn't won against any team except the Royals since July 29th. Let's go rough him up.

GO BRAVES!

Game 3 Recap: Phillies 4/5/13

This is how the other half lives. We are going to see the best of times and the worst of times with this offense. It's hard as a fan not to get too high when we're clearing fences, or too low when we're air conditioning the stadium, but that's what you have to expect in 2013. Last night's 0-2 loss with only 2 hits shouldn't be used an any kind of status point on the team, though. For one, Cliff Lee pretty much dominated us, and has dominated us for most of his career. Runs were going to be tight, and the Braves couldn't knock him out of the game. For the other part, it was colder than a Siberian toilet seat last night. Plus it was misting rain on top of the 40 degree weather. I seriously doubt we'll play in those conditions again at home. It honestly looked like nobody at the plate wanted to be there last night.

Medlen wasn't sharp. He hasn't been sharp in spring. He scuffled, he missed the zone, and he gave up 2 early runs that made the difference in the game. He only made it through 5 innings on 92 pitches with 4 walks and 6 hits. That's a WHIP of 2.00, which is frankly terrible. If not for the weather keeping a few long shots in the ballpark, it would have been much worse, much faster. The good news is that Medlen is throwing first pitch strikes 17/25 batters he faced, so he's not getting behind in counts to everyone. He's just trying to get too fine in a bad weather game, which isn't really a good idea. I think he's settling in even without his best stuff, and he gave us a chance to win the game by shutting down the Phillies from the 3rd inning.

The problem was we only had 2 hits. TWO. And Dan Ooooogla got one of those two. Irony. This is the other side of the strikeout debate, and it's not just the K's. It's the lack of plate discipline in those Ks. We didn't work counts. We didn't get any walks. We struck out 10 times. Lee managed just over 100 pitches in 8 innings while Medlen had 92 in 5 innings. We have to do better than that at working up a starter's counts in order to get the soft meaty underbelly of the opposing bullpen. This illustrates the concern I have about the mentality of our lineup when things don't go well in the early innings offensively. In the first three innings, the first time through the lineup we saw 56 pitches. In the next 3 innings we saw 37. We get impatient trying to catch up, and we start swinging for the bleachers. Plus we were probably cold. Either way, it's a bad strategy.

Now it's time for the MVP of the series. In this series, that was obviously Freddie Freeman. Across 3 games, Freddie managed 3 singles, a double, a homer, a walk, and 6 RBIs. He slugged for .900 with an OPS over 1.44 on the series. That's ridiculous, especially if you consider that it all came in two games. He can flash the leather at first, and crack it over the fences in right. Look for even more offense out of him against the Cubs.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Game 2 Recap: Phillies 4/3/13

Even Gattis aka Osso Blanco announced his presence with authoritah last night. On a evening where the rain fell as constantly as the weather in a Dickens novel, the Braves still managed to put several balls in the seats, the foremost of them being Gattis' shot while his father was getting interviewed about him. The script played out nicely for the broadcast. That was a nice gesture to the fans who stuck it out in the rather awful conditions. Roy Halladay certainly didn't enjoy getting cold and wet, so he gave up after 3.1 innings. Sorry Doc, but you look like a racehorse with a broken leg out there, and the Philly fans are waiting patiently with their rifles to put you out to pasture for good.

Conversely, Maholm pitched in and out of trouble like he was dodging raindrops. 97 pitches in 5.2 innings with 66 strikes. He was hitting his spots, and the home plate ump was giving the corners. Maholm may have given up 6 hits and a walk, but he was able to rely on the 6 Ks and a timely GIDP by Kratz to get him out of a jam with no damage. I'll take his 5 and 2/3 with no runs any day of the week. The bullpen looked good except for Martinez, but he's never going to be brought in on anything but big leads or big deficits. He's supposed to be our innings eater in the middle so we don't blow the big arms. He didn't even do that right this time giving up 2 runs in 0.1 innings with 3 hits. Avilan had to come in to put out the flames in 8 pitches. I really like that kid and look for more from him in the future. I think he has a solid spot in the 7th or 8th if we want him there. Varvaro was also dazzling in his 2 innings at the end of the game, giving up no baserunners at all. He's become a favorite of mine since spring training. Right now a setup of Avilan, Varvarro, and Kimbrel would be a good 7-8-9 in my mind. We'll see how that pans out.

We had 9 runs in the game, 5 of which come off the bomb squad. We also went 2-7 with RISP, left 6 on base, and struck out 16 times. Proponents of the theory that strikeouts don't matter in baseball will point to this game and say SEE, WE TOLD YOU. Those of us who believe it catches up with you say, let me know how you feel when the long ball doesn't show up early in a game. Truth is, I think the whole argument is stupid since we all agree strikeouts are a bad outcome (and we're debating HOW bad), but Sabermetrics people are becoming like a small cult who will chase you with torches for questioning their logic. We all know that no amount of history can predict the future in baseball (despite me using the CPA to predict scores), and that today's hitters aren't the same as the ones even 5 years ago. However, you can expect several people who read the Baseball Prospectus as if it was written by the Apostle Paul to get pissed off and demand blood for suggesting that strikeouts are bad. I suggest you throw apples at them in the street. Also Nate Silver smells like elderberries.

Braves are 2-0 right now, and it's all coming off power. What I want to see is that kind of power translate to the stands. There is one thing we can all agree on, and that is the Braves payroll has been extremely handcuffed over the last few years. Almost all of that can be attributed to the gate revenue. With this product on the field, we can hope to see a surge in the seats, which means we can suddenly go from a $84M a year payroll to maybe $95M. That's a huge difference in terms of winning in October, because no team has won the World Series with a payroll of less than $95M since the Cardinals in 2006.

As for the CPA, it's now 1-1 in predicting wins. It had the Braves winning by 2 last night, but they blasted off to win by 7. What does it think about tonight? Will we even get the game in with this weather? If we do, here's the prediction:

CPA Prediction Game 3 (if played): Braves 3 - Phillies 2.

The CPA expects a lower scoring game with two of the better pitchers out there, and also the elements will be terrible. Runs could be at a premium, so we can hope that Medlen returns to his true form after a shakey spring.

GO BRAVES!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Off Day Roundup

We didn't have a game yesterday, so here's the recap on all the news that happened yesterday surrounding the Braves and the NL East.

Venters doesn't have to have surgery. Yet. He does have to have an injection that will keep him sidelined for a month, minimum. The injection is a platelet-rich plasma shot that will supposedly help in the healing process. I'll go a little in depth on what that means so you can feel smarter that your friends when they ask about Venters.

Platelet-rich plasma shots, or PRP shots, are a concentrated version of blood plasma (the yellow compound of the blood that holds the red cells in suspension). Normally you see the plasma by putting blood in a centrifuge and spinning it with an anticoagulant. These shots contain more platelets, which are a natural source of growth factors in the human body, as well as help clotting in the blood. These shots use those platelets to stimulate the healing of soft tissue and bone inside Venters' elbow. However, we have no actually large scale clinical trials that prove this therapy works. In short, Andrews is trying this method because he believes it's a better option than undergoing another surgery, but there is absolutely no guarantee that this treatment will fix Venters up after a month. Keep that in mind. Feel smarter? Thanks SCIENCE!

In other news, Johan Santana underwent shoulder surgery, so we won't see him again for the Mets this year, and possibly ever again. The injury is career-threatening. The Marlins managed only 3 hits in a 2-0 shutout on Monday against the Nationals, because the Marlins aren't a baseball team anymore. They are the insane side project of an art collecting megalomaniac who sues his own ticket holders. Don't be shocked if you see sharks with FREAKIN LAZERS on their heads in those outfield aquariums at that lime green home field miasma of misery.

Bryce "Clown question" Harper went deep twice in their game, which means you can get on the train of hating his guts early this year. I know I have. If somebody puts a fastball in his ribs every game, maybe it'll teach him that this isn't the California Penal League. The Mets won a game, which means NYC hasn't decided the season is over yet. Give it a week. However, they toss Matt Harvey tonight, and he's never won at...whatever they are calling that stadium now. Ponzi Yard is my guess.

That's the roundup.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Phillies series: Game 1 Recap 4/1/13

Bombs away. Chicks are diggin the long ball again at the Ted, and so are the fans all over Braves Country. We had not one, not two, but THREE jacks off Cole Hamels to cap off our 7-5 win yesterday. That kind of day brings the fans out in droves on sports talk radio, the forums, and hopefully at the ballpark the rest of this week. In fact, the only time last season that Cole Hamels gave up 3 homers was to the SF Giants, and they went on to win the World Series. Food for thought.

Our offense was electric. 10 hits, 3 homers, 7 runs, 3 doubles, 3 walks, and 8 Ks. However, the offense was mostly off the moonshot. The Braves only went 2-8 with RISP, and they left 5 on base. Bear in mind that while the dingers bring fans out of their seats, they are usually very sporadic. Sometimes you get 3 in a game, and sometimes you go 3 games without one. We also need to be able to generate some key hits when guys are on base to really take advantage of the power and speed in our lineup.

Chase Utley did his best to try to ruin the opening day. In fact he was a double short of hitting for the cycle. Without him, the Phillies would have quietly gone into the good night. Instead, the Phillies went 3-10 with RISP and managed to plate 5 runs, which wasn't enough for the win, even with Hamels going. The difference was Durbin coming into the game in the 6th (as a Philly this time), and proceeding to walk Uggla, give up a double to Chris Johnson, and then a single to Laird that eventually plated both guys. If Durbin doesn't come into the game and give up 2 runs on no outs, who knows? Those little things make the difference.

Let's make sure we understand what went on here. Our offense saved our ass. It didn't look that way live, but that was the case. Huddy didn't even get 5 innings and gave up 3 runs with 6 hits. His ERA in that game was a 6.23, and that's not a good outing. He got a no-decision because of it. Avilan came in to get the win with 1.2 innings of fantastic shutout work, so I'm proud of what he did on the mound. Eric O'Flaherty started the bleeding again by giving up a triple to Utley before inducing Howard into a grounder to score him. Walden came into the game and gave up a double to Mayberry before advancing him to third on a WP. Then Kratz got a single, scoring Mayberry, and advanced to second on a WP. We were 1 swing away from a tie game at that point in the 8th. We sort of limped to the finish in the bullpen with the exception of Avilan and Kimbrel. The middle part of the bullpen is something to keep an eye on for me. It's not set yet, and I'm not sure what to think about it.

You have to take the good with the bad in every game and hope the good carries the day. In this case, it did, and we won game one. I love watching our guys go yard. I also won't pretend that our pitching didn't make me cringe at times. It's going to take some mental adjustments from what we're used to with this team scraping together runs and hoping for good outings by the pitching staff.

Several people had questions about the CPA and its prediction the Phillies would win. Let me tell you a little more about what it does. For starters, the CPA is completely independent of what I think about the game's outcome. I'm biased and would predict nothing but wins. Right now, the CPA is basing a lot of it's numbers on last year's stats, and the current year projections. We have little to no data on the regular season since it just started. As things continue, the CPA will adjust to the more recent data until the 2012 data has completely rolled off the books. What it's set up to do is give you an idea of an average score from each team given the location, pitchers, lineups, career matchup history, recent successes, overall run production, and any relevent trends. In the first couple of weeks, it may be hilariously wrong, because it will have a hard time predicting how big plays affect the game. Example, homers. If you look at yesterday's prediction of 4-3 Phillies, it didn't predict the 3 HR breakout performance of the Braves. Remove that and the lone Utley homer from the equation, and suddenly a 7-5 Braves win becomes a 3-4 Braves loss. At the very least, it should give you an idea of the general outcome in a game, and how an average matchup would play out. If I could accurately predict the outcome of every game to the run, I would live in Vegas. Unfortunately I don't possess the sports almanac from Back to the Future.

With that in mind, let's see what the CPA thinks about tomorrow:

Braves 5 - Phillies 3.

The CPA seems to think Halladay is on a slide, and that Maholm's numbers at home are stronger than his road numbers. Also, not many batters in the Phillies lineup have faced Maholm, which usually gives an advantage to the pitcher over the hitter. The swing runs here will be on guys like Brown, Nix, Revere, and Simmons all whom have no history against these starters. Overall, the CPA thinks the Braves will win this game.

GO BRAVES!