Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Game 2 Recap: Rockies 7/30/13

The Express Oil Change people are cringing today since it's a 2-for-Tuesday special. The Braves scored 11 runs last night and that means they have to pony up a $22 discount on an oil change. Yikes. Good for us, though, and good for the Braves to put a laugher in the books. Especially when you consider the Nats lost to the Tigers last night, extending the division lead to double digits for the first time all season. That's right, the Braves lead by 10 games now on the hapless Nats, and guess what? As I write this, they are losing 10-1 to the Tigers after 6 innings in a day game. They are involved in what some might call a bad spell. Oh and it wasn't some scrub that got smashed for 10 runs. It was Gio Gonzalez. Aye-yay-yay.

So where to start with the Braves offense? Freddie had two homers in the same game. Brian McCann had one too. Justin Upton had two doubles, and Dan Uggla had one as well. Freeman had 4 RBIs, Bmac had 3, Gattis had 2, and Justin and Jason each had one. The Braves as a team went 4-12 with RISP, and they only struck out 8 times. I'm exhausted just describing it. In addition to all the big hits, a young Todd Cunningham made his MLB debut with a pinch hit single in his first ever AB. Good job kid! Defensively, the Braves turned a double play and managed to gun down a guy at the plate with an OF assist. Heyward to Simmons to McCann YER OUT!

Is it possible to have two games back to back with 6 run innings? Well the Braves did it. After Alex Wood got all the offensive support of a runaway snow avalanche, he seemed to settle in. I think I could settle in on the mound with a 5 run lead. Hell, I might at least be able to get a few over the plate. Alex did a lot more than that. He managed to go 7 innings giving up only 3 runs on 6 hits. It was a good day for him since he got his first ever MLB win, but it was not as easy as it looked. At first, he trailed the in the game 3-1 due to a long homer by Arenado that was a no-doubter. That was before the Braves unleashed the 6 run fury. In the end, it looks like the kid just cruised, when it was a game for the first few innings.

Fourteen hits on the day in total, 4 walks, that means you had 18 baserunners. It seems absurd, but we've done it twice in this series so far. Now they've cleared the suspect pitchers, and it's a return to the top of the rotation. Minor steps back on the hill to take on Chatwood. Both guys have been extremely effective in keeping runs down for their respective clubs. I'm not expecting the 11 run onslaught tonight. Let's see what the CPA thinks.

CPA Prediction Game 3: Rockies 5 - Braves 3

The CPA thinks the Rockies get a little revenge in this one. Minor has had a few issues with their lineup, as has Chatwood. However, Chatwood has held a sub-2 ERA on the road, and he's been great in July with a 3-2 record and 3.03 ERA. Minor has been just as sharp with a 2-2 record and a 2.62 ERA. The difference is that no Brave has homered off Chatwood yet, while 2 have homered off Minor. To counter that, the Braves will have to continue to chain together solid hits.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Rockies 7/30/13

And here I thought the games would be lower scoring away from Coors Field. Turns out that taking the Rockies to Turner Field yields equally explosive results, much to the chagrin of Brandon Beachy and Jorge De la Rosa. There's a lot of things we can look at in a game that not only went extra innings, but also scored a combined 17 runs to reach a conclusion. The Braves jumped on a scoring rollercoaster after the first inning. Braves were down 5-0. Then in the 3rd inning they went up 6-5. In the next inning they dropped behind again 7-6. In the 5th inning they took the lead 8-7. Then, in the 9th inning Walden blew the save and it was tied 8-8, before Simmons knocked in Dan Uggla to win the game in the 10th, 9-8 Braves. Whew. That's a lot of lead changes in a big scoring effort.

Much was made about Beachy's return to the rotation. I hate to say it, but it was much ado about nothing. Beachy was rusty, as you should expect given his first game back in the majors, but he couldn't locate at all. As a result, the Rockies belted him all over the field for 7 runs. I don't care if you're brand new on your first day to the MLB, that's not a good start. We can't really put a qualifier on it. Those 7 runs happened in 3.2 innings, resulting in an ERA of 17.18. Now that won't last, but it still serves as a poignant reminder of how far off kilter Beachy was yesterday. This is why when everyone was screaming to get him back into the rotation and dumping a regular starter, I was scratching my head. You simply aren't going to get the Beachy you knew from 2012 right away. You can hope to see him back in 2014, but for now Beachy isn't going to be a top tier answer in this rotation. He's a 4th or 5th guy who you hope won't bury the game in the first 4 innings. With what happened yesterday for him on the mound, the game should have been over. Except...

The Braves went off at the plate. I mean just completely exploded in the 3rd inning. Any inning where the pitcher makes two outs? That's going to be a good inning. The key to the inning was an absolutely atrocious error by the Rockies third baseman with the bases loaded and one out. Gattis rapped into what could have been a double play, or at the very least an out at the plate on a force. However, Nolan Arenado for the Rockies just booted the ball. It wasn't a bad hop, it wasn't a hard play, he simply took his eye off of it. That kept the line moving, making the score 2-5. That's when Chris Johnson happened. He belted a 2 run double, then Uggla sacrificed Gattis in, and Simmons cleared CJ with a double of his own. Before you knew it, the Braves had the lead. That's how fast things turned around. It went from, "man this isn't going to be fun to watch" to "wow we got ourselves a ballgame" in the span of a half-inning.

You know how I feel about RISP hitting. This game was another fine example of how you can win games situationally. The Braves went a whopping 5-10 with RISP, and not a single homer. It can be done, and frankly it should be done that way when you're hitting well. The all-or-nothing approach has never appealed to me. Homers are great as an equalizer, but your bread and butter should be on the basepaths and moving runners. Take away a few of the 11 strikeouts yesterday, and the Braves could have won the game by 5 runs. Those Ks were luckily localized in the top half of the lineup. Even Joey Tradebait Terdoslavich stepped up with a 2/3 day. I'm sure Frank Wren is grinning ear to ear as this little showcase is playing out a lot better than the Juan Francisco "bag of donuts" trade parade. Also, another bright spot has been the defense, and they haven't surrendered an error in 4 games. I think that's a record for us this season. A lot of it has to do with Simmons and his quick double play hands over the last series and yesterday. He's been a defensive machine.

The CPA (54-35) picked the winner yesterday, although it was WAY off on the total score. Today it has a bit more data to work with.

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 7 - Rockies 4

The CPA likes a higher score in this game. Why not? The Braves have roughed up Nicasio in the few times they've seen him, and they love batting at Turner Field. After an 8 run day, a 7 run day seems plausible. Get out there and score some runs!

GO BRAVES!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Series Preview: Rockies

The Rockies don't play well on the road. The Braves play exceptionally well at home. I like that combination. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Beachy (0-0) v. De la Rosa (10-5)
Game 2 - Wood (0-2) v. Nicasio (6-4)
Game 3 - Minor (10-5) v. Chatwood (7-3)
Game 4 - Teheran (7-5) v. Player to be named later

Oh look, Beachy's back! Since he's pitched absolutely no games this season, it should be interesting to see how he reacts to the Colorado lineup. The hitters on Colorado, while less talented on the road, still pack some major pop. De la Rosa has pitched extremely well for a Rockies team not known for pitching, holding a sub-3.00 ERA, and a 4-4 road record. Here's the thing to remember about DLR though, he walks a ton of people. If you're a patient hitter you can get several walks to set up big innings. As for Beachy? Stay healthy and run slow on the bases. As Bobby would say, "EASY! EASY!"

Wood might be the only real choice the Braves have to fill in the back in spot, but that doesn't mean it's a great choice. his last game against the Mets was a disaster. However, the lineup wasn't exactly going to bail him out, and the bullpen laid an egg that cost them the loss. I like Wood, and I think his delivery is good for confusing hitters. What I don't like is that when he pitches, we typically wave the white flag lineup out there. Give him a good set of players to back him up on Tuesday, and let's see what happens against Nicasio. Juan Nicasio isn't a good pitcher. He's a 4.91 ERA with a .283 BAA on the road. A few Braves like Freddie, Heyward, and CJ have a .500 average in a small sample off Juan. I like our chances if Wood pitches with the full deck.

Minor can't be much better than he was against the Cardinals, but his 6 earned runs in the last 4 games speak for themselves. He's pitching out of his mind right now, win or lose. He'll face off Tyler Chatwood, also with 6 earned runs in his last 4 games, and HE'S pitching out of his mind. Two completely crazy pitchers are about to take the mound, and it's going to be interest to watch. I honestly don't know what to expect, other than a solid duel. Both pitchers have been better lately, but historically they have issues with the opposing lineup. This one comes across as a type of game where the first team to score 3 runs might take it.

I can't really preview a game where I don't know who's going to pitch yet, but I do know Teheran is on fire right now. The Braves will look to rely on him shutting down the Rockies at home, and possibly earn his team high 5th shutout in Turner Field.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 5 - Rockies 3

The CPA isn't drawing off a lot of data here on Beachy, but it feels pretty good about the Braves chances to score runs at home.

GO BRAVES!

Weekend Recap: Cardinals Series



Wait, are those the brooms? In this series? Wow, what an effort by the Braves this weekend to really cool off one of the best teams in baseball. The friendly confines of Turner Field have really helped our lineup step up and be counted amongst the best home field advantages in all of baseball. There are a few things I want to highlight about this series. First, Fredi G finally woke up after game one and moved Simmons out of the leadoff spot. This is the best thing for everyone, including Simmons. Heyward shifted over into the leadoff spot for games 2 and 3, and he went 2/7 with 2 walks and 2 RBIs. That's much more productive than what Simmons can do, simply because of the walks. The second thing was watching Chris Johnson absolutely rip the ball for 3 days straight. CJ went an unheard of 7/10 on the series with several RBIs and runs scored. He was almost a one man wrecking crew at the plate, setting the table for several guys to come through with RISP hits. Third, how absurdly good was the pitching? Minor only gives up 1 run, Teheran pitches a shutout, and Medlen only gives up 2 runs. Add to that 7 runs of bullpen work without a single run. That's just an outstanding group effort.

All those things culminated in the Braves outscoring the Cardinals 11-3 on the series. That's an old-fashioned buttwhooping, no matter how you look at it. The good news is that the Braves ticked another series off the calendar, continued their good home work, and maintained an 8.5 game lead over the Nationals with 57 games to play. The bad news is that some will want to make more of this sweep than it actually indicates. This team is good at home, and we knew that already. This team has done well against good teams at home, and we knew that too. What we do is use this as some sort of bizarre "yardstick" on how well the Braves can do in the playoffs. That's a different animal and even the best of coaches and managers will tell you, the playoffs are a crapshoot. The best team doesn't always win. The hottest team with the luckiest bounces usually does win it all. And you can't know who's hot and/or lucky until you get to the last few weeks. This was a good win in July.

Game 1 was the one I expected to come unravelled, and Mike Minor absolutely proved me wrong. In prior outings with the Cardinals, he had been absolutely shelled. However, in this particular game, he managed to get through 7 innings with only 4 hits and a single earned run. The run came off a Molina homer in the 2nd that gave the Cardinals the lead. Old Mike Minor would have flipped out and self-destructed. New Mike Minor looked cooly back at the umpire and asked for a new ball. Then he went on to shut down the rest of the Cardinals lineup. The Braves quickly rallied around him with the help of a CJ single that plated McCann, and then Minor helped himself by knocking in Uggla. Heyward also added some icing to the cake with a 411 foot solo smash to center, and Joey Terdo had an RISP base knock to make it 4-1. I think it's important to note that we brought in Terdo in a lot of odd situations where I wouldn't normally expect to see a rookie pinch-hitting. My gut says that we're featuring him as trade bait. Something to keep an eye on down to the trade deadline.

Game 2 was boring. Both pitchers were featuring their best stuff, which was fine, but these are two of the supposed best offensive talents in all of the NL. For 8 innings, we essentially watched to dueling drivers trade paint in a race. Nobody could get anything going at the plate, and the Cardinals only managed 2 hits total. TWO HITS. Has that ever happened to them before? The Cardinals had been shut out only 4 times prior, and this was the second lowest hit total for them all season (the Pirates 1 hit them in a 5-0 win in April. I honestly couldn't believe what I was watching as the game kept going back and forth with not even a single baserunner. In 7 innings, only 2 guys got to third base on either team. Frankly, that's not much fun to watch as a fan, especially when it's YOUR team that shows signs of breaking out before they hit into double plays. Simmons hit into 2 double plays that killed rallies before he finally made right by smacking the game-winning double to left center that scored Freeman and McCann. To say the game was boring was because it happened to be a two way street from the pitchers. Just assessing Julio Teheran's performance alone, he was masterful. The kid is really coming into his own and living up the potential I saw in him coming out of spring training. He's a more savvy pitcher now who can get the key strikeout when he needs help. That's huge for controlling damage, and it was huge in keeping the damage low and batters off balance all Saturday long in Game 2.

Game 3 was just fun to watch. When you're sitting on 2 wins already, I dub these the "gravy games" because winning would be just that. Atlanta put on a show offensively, slugging 12 hits, 5 runs, a double, a homer, and they went 4-7 with RISP. Makes you feel tingly all over doesn't it? Medlen got a lead, then did his typical Medlen "oh boy" inning where the Cardinals tied it, and then the Braves bats lifted him up. Also, how about Kimbrel getting 3 saves in a row off these guys? K-Crab came in there in Game 3 and mowed everybody down on 8 pitches. Yikes! I'd hate to be one of the pitiful souls that has to face off against that man when there's more than a run on the line. He just goes for the throat when there's a bigger margin. This game was also about some terrific defense by the Braves. Simmons helped in 3 awesome double plays, and Freddie Freeman made a spectacular falling over the dugout railing grab in foul ground to end an inning. The whole team really picked a good time to start making big plays in all facets of the game.

What's not to love? 3 days of great baseball and 3 wins in a row! Now the Braves welcome Colorado to town for 4 games, and the Rockies hold a rather ho-hum 20-29 away record. Colorado slugs .390 on the road compared to .450 at home in that launching pad, so I think the Braves statistically have less to fear from the long ball than they would in the Rockies. Series preview is next.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Series Preview: Cardinals

Settle in folks, I have some things to say about this matchup. Do you believe in foreshadowing in the regular season? If you do, this is likely a series you circled on your calendar in late June. This is the kind of series that will define the Braves chances for many people at we get ready to turn the page to August. Many so-called "fans" are waiting for the Braves to fail in this 3 game set, just so they can take to the message boards and scream, "SEE! WE HAVE PROBLEMS AND CAN'T BEAT THE GOOD TEAMS IN THE PLAYOFFS! DOOOOOOOOOM!" Other fans are waiting to see if the Braves will be able to pitch at all against one of the best hitting lineups in the league, just so they know if it's time to panic. Those of us (like myself) who have a hilarious grasp of the absurd know this: It's just 3 games. That's it. We're not playing in the playoffs right now. We're not at the end of the season fighting for a division slot. We're not going to be eliminated if we lose 2 of 3 at home. It's just 3 games against a good team. If we lose them all, we'll still be 5 games up at worst. If we win them all, we haven't gained a single advantage in the playoffs yet. My advice is simple: Don't hang too much on one series at the end of July. On to the pitching matchups.

Game 1 - Minor (9-5) v. Wainwright (13-5)
Game 2 - Teheran (7-5) v. Kelly (1-3)
Game 3 - Medlen (6-10) v. Miller (10-6)

The best pitching matchup by record is without a doubt in the first game. However, the historical numbers don't necessarily reflect that. Adam Wainwright hasn't lost a decision since June 23rd. Minor hasn't lost a decision since...well his last game, but that really wasn't his fault. The Braves scored all of one run. Mike's ERA has been a solid 2.96 in the month of June, but his record is only .500 in those starts. Wainwright has been very sharp at home, but in July he's managed to give up 4 earned runs in consecutive road starts at the Cubs and Angels. Mike's biggest problem at home is the long ball. Wainwright's biggest problem on the road is hitters making contact. The Cardinals starter is at his best when he's fanning the order. With a Braves lineup that loves to whiff, it could be tough for them to establish much leverage on the tough righty. Minor has faced the Cardinals for 2 starts in the past 2 years, and he got lit up. They went for a combined 15 hits, 10 runs in 9.2 total innings. That's an ERA of over 9.00 for Minor against the Cards. Wainwright has faced the Braves 3 times with an ERA of 5.40 and 2 wins. They Cardinals beat the Braves in his outings because they simply outscored his mistakes. There's no reason to believe this game will be close. I think one team grabs control while the other team makes some meaningless dents in a laugher.

If you're looking for an advantage for the Braves, it's in Game 2. Why? Because it's two pitchers going in the match that have never faced the opposing lineup. In the case of Teheran, he's been better at home than Kelly has been on the road. It will be a battle to see who blinks first, since none of the hitters have any idea what they will see at the plate. Typically, that favors the home team, and I believe this is going to be no different. The Cardinals haven't been good on the road in July, going 1-2 against the Angels, and 2-2 in a 4 gamer against the hapless Cubs. Like the Braves, the Cardinals prefer their home turf. Given the location of the game, and the time of day, the crowd should be pretty amped up for a great game.

The final match will be contrasting pitchers Medlen and Miller likely competing for the series win in my mind. Medlen has been awful during July, and that's being charitable. Before, we could just blame the run support issues, but he's also posted a 7.40 ERA on the month. He went through a similar slump in late April before finally snapping the skid with a 7 inning, 1 run performance at home against the Dodgers. I'm hoping for something similar in this spot. Shelby Miller is a 22 year old strikeout artist that likes to throw a lot of pitches. As a result, he works corners and doesn't go very deep in games. However, the Braves have never seen him before. Ugh. Anybody want to take odds on what that means? My guess is a lot of strikeouts and head-shaking. I don't really like this matchup much, but I've been shocked before when the bright lights of the ESPN night game shine on the Braves.

The CPA Predicted the Mets victory over the Braves in the give-up-game, so it moves to 51-34 on the year. Since this is a weekend series, I'll line up all the predictions at once. Here we go:

CPA Prediction Game 1: Cardinals 9 - Braves 2
CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 4 - Cardinals 3
CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 5 - Cardinals 3

The CPA thinks Minor gets his teeth kicked in for Game 1. The number spreads for Minor against this lineup are atrocious, so it's hard to argue. However, given the numbers at home against right handed starters, the CPA actually likes the Braves in the final two games. The Braves pen right now is almost a full run better than the Cardinals, so you like your chances if it becomes a battle of relievers. Younger pitchers also means more room for the lineups to make a difference, and if Teheran and Medlen can hold their own, the Braves have a good shot at winning the series on paper. Now, they just need to go win it on the field.

GO BRAVES!

Game 4 Recap: Mets 7/25/13

Yesterday was one of those rare games when the Braves scored first, hit a homer, and didn't win the ball game. That was entirely due to pitching, but we expected that. Alex Wood isn't ready for prime-time yet, but he's been pulled out of the oven half-baked. Now, sometimes people can rally in the big leagues and really stun you as a pitcher. However, it's rare, and I don't think Alex with his funky delivery is going to stun many people. He's got to work on a third pitch, since right now all he really has is a functional fastball and change. He's getting a curve going, or some sort of slider, but it's not quite there. Until then, MLB hitters can tee off on his regular stuff unless he really dominates with command and change of speeds. He didn't do that yesterday and it cost him 4 runs.

We also saw another new guy, Kameron Loe. Now, if you were just listening on the radio you heard that Loe (pronounced LOW) was on the mound, and you probably had a terrifying flashback to Derek Lowe like I did. That flashback was only reinforced by the fact that Loe exploded for 3 runs on top of Wood's 4. Let's be fair though, the Braves waved the white flag at the beginning of this game. They were pitching two AAA guys in a row, putting in Laird to catch, and gave Heyward the day off. This was the prototypical give-up-game. Now, we almost won the thing because the Mets pitching wasn't a lot better, but in the end it's hard to outscore 7 runs against.

Not that the offense was firing on all cylinders. If your name is Freddie Freeman, you had a good day. If it wasn't, meh. Uggla continued to make me scratch my head with a moonshot that scored 2, including Freeman. Freddie went 2/3 with 2 runs scored, a walk, and a homer. The Johnson boys had a hit each. The rest of the lineup drew The Bagel. That's a big zero in the hits department. You don't want to get Bagelled. The only concern I have about yesterday is watching Justin Upton. What I feared the most going into the All-Star break was that injuries would cause setbacks. Justin unfortunately is falling into that trap. He's been completely lost for the last 5 games, going 1-21 at the plate. The good news is that he's making contact, but he's late on almost everything. He's getting beat on inside fastballs because the bat is slow, and that's the exact pitch he would have crushed into the stands in April. It's something he has to get back up to speed, which he showed signs of doing before the break. In fact, leading up to the injury in July, he was 15-47 on the month. That's a .319 average where he also racked up 8 RBIs. Now? It's fairly obvious he's laboring. Only time can make that right, and luckily we have an 8 game spread in the division.

Who do we play next? Hmmm. Oh right it's the best team record in baseball, the Cardinals! Sarcastic hooray! Bad luck that we drew these guys right on the heels of a devastating injury AND a road trip. We'll see how the Braves react to getting back home, because the Cardinals are frankly terrifying at the plate. There's nobody who scores more runs in the NL, and only two teams score more in the AL (Boston and Detroit). The Cardinals have won 4 in a row, and 7 of their last 10. They are also 13-5 in July. However, the Braves have had a knack for cooling off good teams inside Turner Field. They swept the Dodgers at home, they swept Pittsburgh at home, they swept Arizona at home, and they split a 4 gamer with the Reds. It's a tough place to play, but the Cardinals will be the hardest opponent thus far. A possible playoff matchup, some might say? I'll discuss in the series preview later this afternoon.

GO BRAVES!


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Game 3 Recap: Mets 7/24/13

Yesterday's win came at a high price. Tim Hudson looks like he'll be done for the season with a fractured ankle that happened while he was covering first base. At first, I thought he'd been spiked by the runner, but as I saw the replay I realized it was much, much worse. So there you have it, we're down one veteran for sure, and right now we have another veteran sitting on the DL in our rotation. Things just got weird. We have 3 starters that are solid in Minor, Teheran, and Medlen. Now we've added Alex Wood to pitch tonight. There's hopes we can add Beachy back or make a trade. I personally don't think they will do that. I don't believe the Braves will mortgage the future on this season, mainly because if I'm in the front office, I'm not confident enough in the team I have at the plate being able to support a star Ace. I'm also confident that people were ready to send Hudson to the bricks list of the bullpen before this happened. Frank Wren isn't going to panic when he's sitting on an 8 game lead in the standings. He'll assess what we have in the minors, assess the market, and make a move. However, if you're expecting a big name trade? I don't think that's coming because it doesn't make strategic sense to replace what we lost (an 8-7 starter with a 3.97 ERA).

The game itself was an 8-2 shellacking of the Mets. Gattis, Uggla, and Simmons all tallied homers for 6 RBIs. That series of homers in the 2nd and 5th inning essentially iced the game. The Mets weren't coming back from that. Uggla had a rare good day where he went 2/4 with the big homer that was actually meaningful. Gattis and Simmons also had a multi-hit day. The Braves scored 8 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks, going 2-4 with RISP. The fielders also helped out Hudson by turning 3 double plays in the game. Tim went 7.2 innings before his injury giving up only 4 hits. He was tagged with 2 runs after the fact because Avilan came in and couldn't retire the inherited runners. I don't really blame Avilan for that either, because it would be almost impossible to focus after seeing your teammate get carted off the baseball field. This isn't football, that doesn't happen often at all.

So, it's a dark day for Braves fans. I recommend sending your Tweets of support to the Braves and Tim Hudson's family letting him know you're thinking about him. He'll need that support in the weeks to come as he recovers from surgury. The Braves face off against the Mets one more time today at noon, with Alex Wood taking the mound against Zack Wheeler. The CPA accurately predicted a Braves win last night in a high scoring game, what will happen in the day anchor game?

CPA Prediction Game 4: Mets 3 - Braves 1

Wheeler dominated the Braves last time he faced them as a starter. He's had a good winning streak going all through July, and he faces off against a Braves lineup that just wants to get out of town. Alex Wood has almost no data against the Mets lineup, but he's yet to pitch more than 4 innings in a single game this season. That may put pressure on the pen if he can't go a little deeper. The Braves can solve a lot of that if they continue to go long.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Game 2 Recap: Mets 7/23/13

Kris Medlen imploded in the 6th inning after the Braves had squandered numerous opportunities. I like to think he had just simply had enough of their offensive ineptitude. His arm knew the game was going nowhere and just decided to go home. The loss itself sends the yo-yo fans into a tizzy because OH NOES WE LOST A GAME WE CAN'T HIT WE CAN'T WIN IN THE PLAYOFFS WAAAAAAAAAAH! Please. I'm getting tired of that attitude. First, you don't know what's going to happen in the playoffs because it's over 2 months away. The entire roster could get bird flu and be quarantined. You just don't know. Second, how many road series have you watched at this point? Is there any indication in almost a hundred games that this team is going to have a winning road trip? No? Then stop crying. We're 7 games up in the standings and we've never been winning on the road since April. Let it go. Everything will work out if you continue to dominate at home and tick days off the calendar.

As for the game itself, it was your vintage prepackaged "Braves Strand Runners Model-12A with Kung-Fu Grip." I've seen this game 20+ times so far at least. I'm done letting it bother me. In the immortal words of Denny Green, "They are who we thought they were." These Braves strike out a ton, they don't make good contact when they have to with runners on at times, and they are wildly inconsistent game to game. Live with it. Love the highs and ride out the lows. Here's the damage: The Braves got 7 hits, 3 walks, and only a single run. They went a paltry 1-8 with RISP. Justin and Freddie went 0-8 in the middle of the lineup. Dan Uggla got 2 hits, and was the only guy to have a multi-hit game. That's what drives you bananas about Uggla, his hits come in times when you don't need them. However, the moment he comes up with runners on base? EL FOLDO! He's now .141 with RISP, and .125 with RISP and 2 outs. He's a black hole of clutch hitting.

Simmons in the leadoff spot continues to take the wrong approach. I don't mind that he hit a home run, but that's not his role in the game. He's supposed to be shortening up and getting on base by any means necessary. As a result, when he had a chance with runners on in the second inning, he flew out to left on the 2nd pitch swinging. He's swinging for the fences like he's a cleanup hitter, and we have him sitting at leadoff with one of the worst on-base numbers on the team. Seriously, and I'm not making this up at all, you would rather have Dan Uggla in the leadoff spot than Simmons. He's got a better on-base, and he's only stolen 4 less bases. That's how bad Simmons is in that position. For a guy that has good speed, he should be focusing on beating out bunts, grounders, and taking balls the other way. Instead he's completely pull happy trying to ambush the first pitch into the stands. It's frustrating to watch because he does it regardless of the situation on the basepaths. I want him out of that slot.

Medlen blew up in the 6th, and it really didn't matter. That Braves were only going to score a single run, so the game wasn't decided by the pitching. Medlen did an admirable job of holding the Mets to one run through half the game, and he was rewarded with a solo home run on the first batter and nothing more. Thanks guys. Kris is going to develop a complex about his run support soon. He'll have to check into a clinic where they show him videos of the Braves getting hits until he can stop waking up in the night screaming. Can you imagine having to pitch a game where you know for a certainty that if you give up a run you're likely getting a no-decision at best? Awful. The one good thing I can take away from this game is that he didn't give up any runs in the first two innings, and that was a major problem of his prior starts. If he can get past that, and the Braves can stop treating him like the red-headed stepchild of run help, then maybe he can get on track. Otherwise, maybe this is just the baseball gods evening out things from last season's overwhelming success. They are generously cruel like that.

The CPA was wrong last night, so it looks tonight at a game where Hudson is pitching. Without even running the numbers, I can bet it's going to predict there will be some runs, since both these pitchers have struggled lately. Let's see.

CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 6 - Mets 4

The game goes high scoring according to the CPA, no shock there. Both pitchers have bad splits at the location, but Hudson has done a better job historically against the Mets lineup than Hefner. If the Braves want to split the series, this is the best chance because it's a hot throwing Wheeler vs our rookie Wood in a day game anchor on Thursday.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Mets 7/22/13

You can admit it if you turned off the game after the Braves were getting no-hit through 6 innings, and then stranded the bases loaded with no runs. It's okay to admit you gave up, because a lot of people did. The good news was the Braves kept plugging along, and they came back to win the game in the most crazy of circumstances. In the 9th inning, down by one, Brian McCann got things started with a single. Then Gattis singled. After Uggla moved on with a fielders choice, a passed ball advanced the runners to 2nd and 3rd. Chris Johnson hit a slow roller that scored the tying run, and Reed Johnson hit a base hit that plated the winning run. The Johnson boys, living it up in Citi Field! But it was far from over. Craig Kimbrel got himself in big trouble with the rain pouring down. He couldn't get a grip on the ball. After striking out Davis, he plunked Buck, struck out Lagares, walked Quintanilla, and there were runners 1st and 2nd with 2 outs. That's when Justin Turner came to the plate and smashed a tailing shot into left center. With Jason Heyward bolting like a gazelle at full speed, he laid out just in time to make the diving catch, and the Braves won the game. Everyone watching went berzerk. The announcers couldn't believe he got to that ball, Turner couldn't believe, and Craig looked like he'd just been pulled out of shark infested waters.

What can I say about this game statistically? Not really a ton considering we didn't accumulate a ton of stats. From a hitting standpoint, we deserved to lose until the 9th. Through 8 innings, the Braves had 3 hits total. In the 9th they plated 2 runs off 3 hits, and finished the game with a 2-6 RISP night (Magic Number!). Gattis gets a nod for being the only player with a multi-hit game. From a pitching standpoint, we couldn't be a lot better. Teheran battled for 6 innings with only one earned run. The bullpen went 3 innings with only a single hit surrendered. That's the kind of dominant stuff that gives a team a chance in the 9th inning to rally. Remember this if you tuned out early, you can't walk away from a 2 run game or less with this team. They rally too often. The bats can wake up at any moment.

The Braves went from hapless to happy in the span of one inning. You have to love that with this team. They don't give up, even when people on Twitter have decided they are sunk. The CPA (49-33) predicted a win, and it was rewarded. What about game 2?

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 3 - Mets 2

This is another close game where the CPA believes the Mets strike first, but their bullpen can't hold things together. Torres is a new starter, so it's unlikely he goes longer than 5-6 innings, and that leaves ample time for the Mets pen to set fire to the field.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Series Preview: Mets in NY

The Mets have won 7 of their last 10. Sounds impressive doesn't it? They swept SF, took a game from the Pirates, and won two against the Phillies with a kicker win off the Brewers. The only winning team in that mix was the Pirates, and they lost the series. I'm not impressed. They roughed up bad teams on an easy part of the schedule. But who cares? Since when has another team's record meant anything in a Braves road game? From top to bottom we can win or lose against anybody. Nothing is sacred. No cow is left untouched. On to the matchups:

Game 1 - Gee (7-7) v. Teheran (7-5)
Game 2 - Torres (0-1) v. Medlen (6-9)
Game 3 - Hefner (4-7) v. Hudson (7-7)
Game 4 - Wheeler (3-1) v. Maholm (9-9)

I'd say of the games that look the most winnable on paper, Game 1 stands out. Teheran gave up only a single run to the Mets in his only outing against them, but the Braves lost the game 2-4 because the pen couldn't keep it together. The biggest problem for Teheran was Lucas Duda, who just happens to be on the DL. That opens up the lineup for Teheran to work his magic. Dillon Gee doesn't like facing the Braves, and I hope Heyward can get in this game, because he's been brutal to Gee in the past. With an 8-19 mark against Gee, Heyward joins CJ as the two guys who have .400+ averages against the righty. This meets the 2 of the 3 marks I like to see in a road game. Maholm and Hudson aren't pitching, and the Braves are facing a guy they've seen before. Toss in an early homer, and the Braves are in business.

Hey look it's Carlos Torres, a converted bullpen guy making a start because Shaun Marcum is out for the season. That's good news right? Maybe. We've at least had a few ABs against Torres as a team. The bad news is that none of them were very good. With a 3/22 (.136) average for the lineup, none of the Braves have a single RBI. Yeah. Well, at the very least it can't get a lot worse unless we're no-hit. I'll just get the no-hitter jinx out of the way early by saying no-hitter now. Medlen holds a similarly low BAA of .208 against the Mets. This game could come down to the first run, because both pitchers have great records against the other team. If that's the case, I'm nervous for Medlen, because he doesn't get out of the first two innings very well. In fact, he has a 5.68 ERA in those innings combined. Better score in the top of the first, Braves.

Hudson against Hefner. No, not Hugh. I think that would be a much more fun game to watch though. We could have the Playmate of the Year toss out the first pitch. Maybe replace bat boys with bat bunnies? See Mets? I just raised your attendance. If you're gonna get out of this Madoff hole, you gotta get creative. Instead it's Jeremy Hefner. Freeman, McCann, and Uggla have smacked him around like he owed them money. Those big hitters combined hold a .474 average with 2 homers by Freddie. I want to see them show up large because Huddy is on the mound. Shockingly, despite the fact Hudson has a 5.00+ road ERA, he's won his last 2 road games in a row. 19 total runs of support might have something to do with that. Just guessing there. He better give those big 3 hitter a big pep-talk before the game, because he'll need the help to sop up damage.

Game 4 is a day game I may not even bother turning on. This has white flag written all over it if Maholm actually starts. I'm hoping he doesn't. Wheeler has faced the Braves in only 19 ABs, and they were all terrible for the Braves hitters. Maholm has faced the Mets for 117 ABs, and a .282 average. Couple that with the fact that Maholm hasn't won a road game since June 23rd, over a month ago, and I really hope he goes on the DL for his wrist. I'd feel more comfortable with Alex Wood in this scenario. That's saying something. What's even more terrifying is Wheeler hasn't lost in July with an ERA of 2.16. Do you want comfort in the fact we might win the game? You've come to the wrong place. This is a blog of brutal statistical truth. I don't candy asses here. As with anything, they don't play the game on paper, but we can't sugar coat the fact that Maholm has become one of our worst road liabilities, and our record in anchor day games of road trips is less than stellar (2-4).

So there you have it. The CPA went 1-2 over the weekend because while it predicted the 1-2 Braves record, it got the order wrong. Such is life. What about Game 1 of the Mets?

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 3 - Mets 2

If Duda was in this game, the stats would look different. But he's not. And that's an advantage to the Braves against Gee. A large one. Get after that elusive early homer for the Braves, and our victory is all but assured.

GO BRAVES!

Weekend Recap: White Sox Series July 19-21

If anybody is shocked that the Braves lost a series to the White Sox, you haven't been paying attention. The Braves aren't good on the road, regardless of the opponent. Anybody expecting winning road trips by looking at the other team will be sadly mistaken. That's not how this works. The Braves win when they hit, and they hit randomly on the road. Three things usually have to be in play for the Braves to win on the road: 1 - Maholm or Hudson can't be pitching, 2 - The Braves can't be facing a pitcher they have limited or no experience against, and 3 - They need to score first or have a big homer in the first 5 innings. Two out of those three usually means the Braves have a shot. One means it's dicey at best. None? Good luck.

If you can feel the panic tightening around you neck like a hangman's noose, it's time for a reality check. Look around the league. You know who won in the division this weekend? NOBODY. That's the point. Another weekend falls off the calendar, the and Braves knock off another road series without losing ground. In fact, they actually gained a game on the Nats who got swept. Two games shy of 100, and the Braves are still in first. That's what matters from this weekend.

The Braves won game 1, and then headed straight into a two game losing skid at full speed. Even with Hudson on the mound in the first match, the Braves still managed to get a large early homer that set the tone, followed by another one in the 5th to take game. Simmons had the first, McCann the second. With the offense set up by the bomb, the pitching only had to hold on for dear life. Hudson barely did that, but he did manage not to completely screw up in a road game, giving up only 4 runs after the Braves had sunk five into the score sheet. That, my friends, qualified him for a the rare road win. Note that in Game 1, 9 hits plated 6 runs. That's important to note, because the homers were the difference. Fate would not be so kind in the anchor game.

Game 2. I'd be lying if I said the Braves didn't play well. They did play well. The offense plated another 6 runs on 10 hits. It was a great offensive performance. HOWEVER, the game broke rule 1 of road wins. Maholm was pitching. Spotted a 4 run lead, Maholm had no business losing this game. That is until he tossed up a gopher ball to Rios that resulted in a grand salami. At 7 runs in 3 innings, he conjured memories of the time I wanted to punch Mike Minor in the face for similar outings. Will he turn it around like Minor? Maybe, because a lot of what happened could fall on a wrist injury that Maholm is having evaluated today. We'll see what happens to him in the rotation, but if the injury is enough to case the kind of issues we saw on Saturday, the Braves will have no qualms about shitting Paul down.

Game 3 had another 9 hits, but only 1 run to show for it. The downside of playing all 3 catchers in the lineup at the same time is that you have catchers on the basepaths in key positions. That means that when players get hits with RISP, a catch is going to have a hard time scoring from second. As a result, the Braves lost a game where they went 3-8 with RISP, and only scored a single run. Unfortunately, this game broke rules 2 and 3 of road wins. The Braves didn't score first or get a big homer, and they were facing a pitcher they hadn't seen. Minor pitched well, but didn't get anything to show for it when the Braves stranded a bases loaded, nobody out, scenario in the second inning with nary a run. At that point, I declared the game a loss as a blatant overreaction that proved prophetic. Replace Maholm with Minor in Game 2, and you have 2 wins in this series. Frustrating, but true.

The best performers of this series? McCann's 3 run homer in the first match was the game winner. Justin went 4-12 on the weekend for a .333 average and two runs scored in the first game. Freeman went 3-7 in the two games he played including a 2 run homer, so I think his thumb is fine. Who forgot to get off the plane ride? Reed Johnson went 1-8 including getting robbed of a homer that would have given the Braves lead. Uggla went 1-10 on the weekend with an early homer in Game 2 that was totally wasted by Maholm's pitching. However, he went 0-3 with RISP, and that made a huge difference in Game 2 and 3. Things could have been worse. We could have had BJ in the lineup. We lost a series where we scored 14 runs as a team. That's on the pitching, and it's 100% on Maholm that we didn't win 2 of 3. 

Now, the Braves get ready to play a 4 gamer road series with the Mets. The good news? Teheran and Medlen lead the way against a team that they had owned so far. The bad news? It's a road series, of course. Weren't you listening? I thought we did all of those at the beginning of the year. Wasn't the back half supposed to be all home games and back rubs? I didn't get mine. This is crap. Anyway, series preview up next.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Series Preview: White Sox

The White Sox are a bad team. However, the Braves are playing them on the road, so that hasn't really mattered much. What has mattered is the Braves schizophrenic hitting the ball once they leave Georgia. Today they begin the series against a team that has absolute zero shot at the postseason. You hope that in these road stretches the opposing teams that are already eliminated simply wave the white flag and fold up shop. One way you can make sure of that is to take early leads. You hear that Braves? TAKE EARLY LEADS! How long has it been since the Braves had an early lead for more than a half inning? July 6th against the Phillies when they won 13-4. That's the last time. Man. We need to fix that as a team. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Hudson (6-7) v. Danks (2-6)
Game 2 - Maholm (9-8) v. Peavy (6-4)
Game 3 - Minor (9-4) v. Quintana (4-2)

I'll go ahead and say I hate the Game 1 matchup. Hudson has been drilled by the White Sox hitters in the past to the tune of a .333 average in 96 ABs. This is no small sample size, a couple of guys really tee off on him. Dunn and Keppinger can absolutely ruin the Braves day if Huddy can't get the ball down, and judging by his run totals in the last 5 games, that's a serious concern. The win/loss difference is that Huddy has been the recipient of some favorable run scoring by the Braves, which was a nice change of pace from the majority of June. John Danks has destroyed this lineup in the past. In 45 ABs, they are batting a .178 average with a solo shot by BJ Upton, and he's on the DL. Freeman and Simmons have never seen Danks, and neither has CJ, however I'm concerned that Freeman won't play this series at all. Still, it can't be worse that what Danks has done to McCann, Justin, and Heyward lifetime. It's a mismatch on paper and I don't like it at all.

Maholm has been awful lately. There's no hiding it. A 6.97 ERA in his last two games, with two losses. In 4 of his last 6 starts, he gave up 4 earned runs. Even worse, he had no control against the Marlins in his last outing and he walked 5 guys. There's a reason that people are whispering about his removal from the rotation, and it's because he's been unable to perform in July thus far. He needs this win and he knows it. Luckily for him and us, he holds down the White Sox lineup very well at a .247 average, with only Keppinger as the main problem. The Braves will have to watch out for him all weekend. Peavy will be coming off the DL in time to face the Braves, so it's hard to gauge how he reacts. Historical trends tell you that he will struggle with Justin and McCann, but they also tell you that his home splits are remarkably more dominant than the road. His home ERA clocks in at 1.88 in 4 games, and he's never lost a decision. This one could be another mismatch if Maholm isn't really on his game, or if McCann and Justin can't rough up Peavy.

Minor is our best shot at a win in the stats column. Minor is coming off two wins where he went 13 innings with only 3 earned runs. He's coming off the break hot, and he hopes to keep the ball rolling against a lineup he's mostly never seen. The one guy he's had trouble with, say it with me, KEPPINGER. See what I mean? We should just bean the guy and move on with the order. Minor is actually one of the few guys we have that's better on the road. 6-1 record, 2.50 ERA, he seems to lock it in and keep the ball moving. I can't think of a better guy to pitch in an anchor game. Quintana is a guy the Braves have never faced (NGGGGGGH my heart), so we all know what comes with that territory by now. I really really REALLY hope that the lineup can hit him, but lord knows at this point. I can't even honestly tell you who will play in this game since it's a day game and we have injuries. Just go make it happen and Minor will do the rest.

Now for the CPA Predictions for the weekend:

CPA Prediction Game 1: White Sox 5 - Braves 2
CPA Prediction Game 2: White Sox 4 - Braves 1
CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 4 - White Sox 2

The first two games are a consequence of two pitchers who have wretched road records. The CPA won't favor Tim or Paul on the road because their ERAs are horribly inflated, and because their combined decisions record is 6-13. No matter the opponent, no matter the ranking, they've been roughed up by some bad outings away from Turner. The last game is a theory that the Braves will rip up a young kid who struggles with long ball hitters. A bad Philly team clubbed him for 3 runs in his last outing, so you hope we can add to his misery for some homers of our own.

GO BRAVES!


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Second Half: Predictions, Problems, and Playoff Runs

We're about a day from the purported second half the season starting, even though mathematically it's not, so I wanted to take the time to go over a few things we can expect during the playoff chase. Some of this is about the Braves, and some of it is about the NL as a whole, so I'll start with the Braves issues and then branch out into a divison by division prediction of the playoff seeding. Let's check it out.

The Braves in the second half need a few things to go right, and they need to capitalize on the things that have been good for them so far. The first thing they need to keep rolling along is the pitching staff. Right now, the Braves have the second best ERA in the NL, the best bullpen ERA in the NL, and the 3rd fewest walks allowed by any staff. With those kind of numbers, it's hard for any team to really rough us up for a huge run total consistently. However, here's the problem. The Braves in July are 11th in the NL in ERA. The huge falloff this month isn't a good thing. We were limping to the All-Star break anyway, but what has previously been a gigantic strength has suddenly become a liability in July. Suddenly, the Braves have to rely on the bats to get wins, and that has been a hit or miss prospect at best. Pun intended! A 6-7 record in July thus far speaks to how well things go when the pitching isn't tops. That leads to the primary concern. It's hard to win games when your best bats are on the bench. That statement has two meanings. A part of it is related to the recent injuries with the entire outfield and Freeman. The other part is that some of the hottest hitters on this team aren't the starters or moneymakers.

If I asked you who the hottest hitter in July was, who would you guess? Maybe Freeman or CJ? The answer is actually McCann. He's been hitting at a blistering .419 on the month after just crawling through the month of June. I dogged him as bad as anyone, and he's responded with one of his best months to date. Why? Because he's an All-Star. Freeman, Justin, McCann, and CJ all have averages over .300 in July. That's been great, and that's the reason we've won games while the pitching has floundered. However, Heyward is hitting .205, and BJ and Dan are hitting .176. A guy like Reed has been getting more time and hitting .261 with an OBP of .346. Constanza has lit it up for .333 in a small sample size of 2 games. Pastornicky has been hitting .333 in 8 games. At some point, if we actually struggle enough to get within 3 games of the Nationals or Phillies in the standings, we're going to bench some people. That much I can guarantee. However, if we continue to coast along at 5+ games up in the standings on the division, absolutely nothing is going to change. That's a certainty.

Now let's take a look at the divisions. I'll start with the West and move East, much like the jet stream. The NL West is extremely tough to handicap, mainly because nobody seems to want to run away and hide. Here's what we know. Arizona has pretty much held the lead for the majority of the season at this point. The Dodgers have been hard charging after a crappy start. The Padres are completely out of it, and the Giants have one foot out the door. Colorado sits in a weird position where they don't have a good chance, but they also aren't out of it. The reason the Dodgers are charging isn't Puig, it's because their pitching has stopped being a complete nuclear meltdown. In the month of July, the Dodgers have the best ERA in the entire NL as a staff. As a point of reference, in May and June they were 8th, and in April they were 9th. It's a staff that's starting to figure it out, and since they are only 2.5 back of the Dbacks, that has Arizona fans chewing nails. With the two teams basically neck and neck in team OPS, a better pitching staff could be the difference. What should REALLY scare Arizona is they got swept by the Dodgers in Arizona in July. Everything in July is trending the Dodgers way, and Arizona seems to be treading water at best. I think when the dust clears, the Dodgers are sitting on top of that division. Arizona finishes strong and gets a WC slot.

The Central is on fire. Three teams are playing well, pitching well, and filling up the All-Star team with candidates. The Cardinals seem to be the best team of the bunch, mainly because they are the best hitting team in the NL. Period. And it's not close. They have a team OPS of .753 on the season, and second place in the division is Cincy at .722. The Pirates aren't even in the same zip code as those two teams with the bats at .697. However, the Pirates are living and dying with their pitching. Come Hell or high water, the Pirates are either going to shut you down, or they are going to lose, because if the games have more than 4 runs they are toast. In fact, the Pirates are 13-23 when the opposing team scores 4 or more. That's the magic number if you want to beat them. There is no magic number for the Cardinals because they can club you to death. The way I see this going is that the Cards win the division going away, the Pirates fade back to 3rd because they have hitting problems that the pitching can't save, and the Reds move up to 2nd and secure the WC slot. The Pirates question what happened as they miss the WC by a game or two to Arizona, but have their first winning season in forever.

The East is simpler. Braves win, Nats go to pieces, and Philly thinks they have a shot until August when they realize they don't. Philly's pitching is mostly a joke, so they can't contend down the stretch with the problems that aren't going away. Also, they have too many marketable assets at the trade deadline. They've seen a resurgence of good pitching in July, but that still puts them at 11th overall in the NL on the season in ERA. It's too much ground to make up with the hopes that their staff can continue to produce at a 3.00 level. Washington is going the other way. From a solid starting core that's now beginning to show cracks, to their bullpen that is still a large problem, Washington has pitching issues in the second half. An even bigger problem is Detwiler and Haren, who haven't won a decision since May, and Detwiler heading to the DL. Haren hasn't won a game at all since May 9th. Zimmerman and Strasburg exploded in July several times and put their monthly ERAs in the 4.50+ range with Strasburg over 6. Gio Gonzalez is basically the only consistent starter they have on the team coming out of the break right now. That's tough to overcome with a schedule that includes the Dodgers and Pittsburgh, two playoff contenders, right off the bat. I think the Braves win, and nobody gets the Wild Card here.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Weekend Recap: Reds Game 2-4

I have a minor delay in getting the recaps done this weekend. The car needed work and I had dinner plans. As we get closer and closer to the end of the season, I'm going to return to my usual pattern of doing daily updates during the week, and recapping the weekend series as a whole on Mondays. Reason being is that I begin to travel around the place so it's simpler to do it that way. To facilitate that, I'll probably do the CPA for all the games in a series on the Friday before they start in the preview.

By now you know my philosophy on a 4 game series. I always want splits, and the rest is just gravy. In this case, we got the split against a team that's likely a wild card contender. Also, we end the fictional first half the of the season up 6 games on our division competitors. I can't complain about the way we've played overall on the season. I can complain about health in the second half. My main concerns now are twofold. First, can we keep our hot hitters in the lineup and away from the DL? Outside of Dan Uggla and Simmons, I don't think we have a regular starter who hasn't missed some serious time on the DL. Second, due to that shift in the lineup, I'm worried about our good hitters losing a step in their routine, and I'm worried that our bad hitters will lose whatever momentum they've gained in the last month. BJ was showing signs of making contact, and Jason was breaking out of his slump along with Justin. Now? Who knows?

The good signs for the season are that the Nats look awful. I had expected them to charge, but every time they put something good together, they crap out on the road. Sound familiar? Nobody is winning on the road in this division, so Braves fans shouldn't feel like we're losing ground every time we leave Turner Field. It's frustrating to watch for sure, but it's common. Also, look around the league. The NL West is either a bad division or a dogfight depending on your POV. Arizona still holds the lead, fending off the charging Dodgers, but the Padres have completely fallen apart, and the Giants pitching is frankly a disaster. Colorado has an outside shot, but right now it looks like a two horse race with the loser not even getting a wild card bid. The Central is where all the talent lies, in a 3 horse race between the Pirates, Reds, and Cards. If they don't get at least one WC team, I'll be floored. Our division is paltry by comparison with the Phillies and Nats staying 6 games back, and the rest of the division wallowing in despair and trade rumors.

The games this weekend were bizarre. Game 2 was another first inning disaster by Kris Medlen that completely sunk the ship. The Braves couldn't ever recovered from that 3 run deficit early in the game. Game 3 looked like it was about to go off the rails, but Minor escaped from a bases loaded jam in the first, and controlled the damage to 2 runs in the 2nd. Our starters really REALLY need to stop giving up runs in the first two innings. Luckily the Braves managed to get 5 runs in game 3 due to the backups in the outfield showing up large. Then in Game 4, we pulled people out of the stands it seemed to play in the field. I don't even know if I can count that as a legitimate effort, other than the fact it counted in the standings. In essence, after the game 1 win, the Braves went 1-2 with a lot of injury issues.

Constanza in the leadoff spot was the standout player in Game 3. He went 3/4 and 2-2 with RISP. Very solid for a guy who just got called up from the minors. He's been on and off the roster for a while now, but he can't seem to get any regular time. I'm hopeful we can get something for the kid in a trade, because right now he's got zero shot at making the roster full-time. McCann and Uggla added a couple of homers with a Mike Minor 2-RBI double to seal the deal. This was way different than in Game 2, when the Braves couldn't even seem to get people on base. If not for McCann hitting a homer late, it would have looked like a total whitewashing against a pitcher the Braves normally light up. Arroyo pitched around all the damage, and the Braves kept popping the ball up.

Do I really need to recap Game 4? Here's my analysis. We played Gattis at first base, Constanza at left, Reed at center, Terdoslavich at right, and Laird at the plate. With that lineup, we should have just forfeit the game right before the All-Star break. As it was, we played the game, and got stomped into the ground. Teheran had a bad 3rd inning with the home run ball, and the Braves couldn't match the Reds offensive output when they smelled blood in the water.

Now we get a break. A real break. That's good because it's been a grind for a lot of our guys, and we need to get people healthy to make a run down the stretch. If you're into the All-Star game, enjoy the festivities. I honestly probably won't watch Bud Selig's desperate attempt to make it matter, or listen to Chris Berman yell BACKBACKBACKBACKGONE over and over again. I'll enjoy the Steam Summer Sale of gaming, and probably clear out the DVR while cooking ribs. In fact I better got check on those ribs right now. Enjoy the break!

GO BRAVES!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Reds 7/11/13

The Braves like big games on big stages. When there's a big celebration, they get up for it. I like that about this team, because it gives me a lot to reference when I think about October. You want your team to be able to win the games against the best opponents when they matter the most. Almost everything else is irrelevent. Going into this weekend, we all knew the Reds were a likely playoff team that would challenge the Braves with both their pitching staff and hitting. The Braves, and specifically your All-Star Freddie Freeman (take that ESPN!) answered the bell last night.

The Braves went off for 11 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs with a 5-10 RISP. That's an absurd RISP number and I love it. That feeling for me is like a heating pad in a warm quilt with wool socks tucked into those handwarmer things on a 28 degree night. It's awesome. There's nothing more I love in a baseball game than having 5+ hits with RISP. Glorious. The way the Braves played last night was a testament to how this team can play when it capitalizes on chances. Justin had 3 hits, Freddie had 3 hits, Simmons had 2 hits, Heyward had a hit and then Reed replaced him and got a hit. Pretty much the entire top half of the order won the game. Then, you had McCann, Uggla, and BJ went 0-11 with 6Ks. Luckily, Freddie picked up most of the slack. He was responsible for 4 RBIs the day after getting elected to the All-Star game. Did I mention Freddie is an All-Star? ALL-STAR!

Hudson was decent, but not up to his usual form. He had a bad first inning (I wish I got a dollar every time I write that, it happens so often) so that put the Braves in a hole immediately. However, Freddie had a shovel and a plan. Huddy got dinged in the 3rd and the 5th with a couple more runs, mostly because the Braves were throwing the ball all over the place. We had 3 errors in the game and still managed to claim a win. The defense was really embarrassing, but we overcame the errors with good recoveries by Huddy, and even better hitting. Walden also danced around trouble in the 8th, giving up a single run (his first since June), but held on to get the game to Kimbrel. Craig made sure to shut the door, even after giving up a leadoff single. Braves took the game 6-5 when the dust cleared.

The best part of the game was the crowd recognizing Freddie with a standing ovation in his first AB, right before he doubled in to the gap to tie the game. That guy is fantastic. What a pure swing and great talent. He's going to do us proud in that game in NY.

The CPA (47-30) was right again, and it has a bit of a streak going. Can it keep the streak going tonight?

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 7 - Reds 3

The CPA expects some runs tonight, and more importantly it expects another win for the Braves. Arroyo has had major issues both with the Braves lineup AND on the road. Couple those together, and you get multiplier effect on the stats for a hot Braves team. Also, Kris loves pitching at home, and with some support he can get the job done.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Series Preview: Reds in Turner Field

I'm not going to pretend this isn't a big series. It's the last one before the All-Star break, it's against a very good team that will likely make the playoffs, and the Braves are at home for the last time until the 26th of July. We need to at the very least split this thing. Anything less will be an abject failure in both team confidence and in our division standings. In short, we need to win. On to the matchups:

Game 1 - Hudson v. Latos
Game 2 - Medlen v. Arroyo
Game 3 - Minor v. Bailey
Game 4 - Teheran v. Cingrani

Hudson likes facing the Reds. In 63 ABs, the Reds lineup only holds a .224 average against Huddy with a solitary homer by Jay Bruce. Votto and Phillips, the traditional Reds All-Stars, do not hit Tim well at all with slugging averages under .200 combined. If we can keep those two mashers at bay, the Braves chances to win skyrocket. Those chances get even bigger when the Braves face a guy like Latos, whom they rip up for a .302 lineup average with combined slugging of .500 in 96 ABs. In particular, McCann, Justin, Freddie, and CJ feast on this guy. On paper, it's a mismatch in favor the Braves. HOWEVER, Latos has a 2-2 record against the Braves in the last 3 years, and Huddy has only pitched against the Reds once in the last 3 years. It was a win, though. I like the Braves in this one.

Kris Medlen finally saw some support in his last 4 starts, and as a result he went 3-1. He had a bad outing in his last game against Philly where he got into big trouble early on the road. As usual, road games have been a problem for most of our starters this season. However, Kris at home has an ERA of 2.83 with a 3-1 record since the beginning of June. He pitched very well in his lone outing in Cincy this year, but the bullpen botched the game. As a result, he has middle of the road stats against the Reds lineup, but he has some key hitters to avoid. Highest on that list would be Mr. Votto. I don't want him in a position to beat us if there's a base open. Arroyo started strong and has since cooled off with a string of losses and no decisions. He's been Jeckyll and Hyde with his home/away splits, and bad Mr. Hyde shows up on the road. His 5.70 away ERA scares nobody, and .311 average against the Braves lineup strikes fear in even less hitters. Freddie and BMac absolutely own this guy, with CJ a close second. I'd actually give Heyward the day off in this game if we had another option in the outfield, but Reed Johnson doesn't hit him well either. So, we'll likely roll with the regular lineup and hope for the best with RISP.

Game 3 will be a day game with Mike Minor trying to get his first win decision since June 9th. Can you believe that? It's been that long, yes. The Braves have won 2 of his starts in the interim, but never while he was on the mound. Most of that is Mike's fault, though. He had a sequence of bad starts in a row where he gave up 3 to 4 runs in 4 games. Finally he righted the ship against Miami in the 1-1 affair that went 14. He obviously didn't get the win there, but he deserved it. Now we hope he can channel that energy against a Reds lineup that he has absolutely carved up in the past. 45 ABs with a .156 average, 2 homers, 1 double, and an OPS under .600. That's absurd. You take away the homers and he's basically pitching shutout ball. He won his last start against the Reds in May 7-2, facing off against Mike Leake. This time he gets Homer Bailey who has been much tougher. Bailey pitched the no-hitter against the Giants two starts ago, and then promptly came off that with a 4 run flop against the Brewers. Bailey, despite that one shining moment in June, hasn't been sharp since the beginning of the season. In fact, the Reds have only won 3 of his last 10 starts. Some of that is Bailey, some of that is the Reds not hitting. Because he can show these moments of brilliance, the Braves lineup has major issues hitting him. Bailey is a strikeout artist (uh-oh), and we fall prey to that as a team. With 114 on the season, Bailey is in the top 10 in Ks in the NL. Be ready for a pitching war in this game, as it could go either way.

Teheran should have more wins. With the exception of an awful games against the Padres, he's been lights out, and he pulled some very bad luck from a support standpoint earlier in the year. That being said, he's formed a pattern of win-loss-win-loss-win-loss in his last 8 games. To break the streak, he'd have to win in this matchup. He's never faced the Reds, so we have no real idea what will happen, but I usually like the better pitcher vs. a lineup that hasn't seen him before. The Reds toss Cingrani at us who (guess what) the Braves have never seen before. There's no stat advantage in this game because the stats don't exist. That terrifies me as a numbers guy. I HAVE NO NUMBERS. PANIC!

The CPA swept the predictions in the Marlins series, moving to 46-30. What does it think about tonight?

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 5 - Reds 2

Hudson pitches better against the Reds than Latos pitches against the Braves. It's that simple. All the Braves have to do is follow through on their end of the bargain and make contact. The rest is just inevitable stats.

Game Recap 3: Marlins

I'll do a quick recap on this game because you really only need to know one thing. Maholm gave up 4 runs in the first inning. Game over. Yep. That's it. The Braves never overcame that 4 run deficit. What? You want more? Ok fine, since you asked nicely.

The Braves had 6 hits and 9 Ks. They were facing a guy that half the lineup had never seen before, so they of course didn't hit well. This shouldn't shock anybody at this point. It was a road day game against a new pitcher. I'm going to guess we lose 90% of those without looking at the stats. Chris Johnson had a pretty good day with 2 hits, and Dan Uggla actually got a RISP hit for the first time in a while. Too bad it came in a loss.

Maholm was awful. You can't give up 4 runs in the first and hope to win. He didn't even make it out of the 5th inning. To be frank, he's been a disaster on the mound since the end of May. The Braves are 2-5 in that stretch with him starting, and his ERA has moved up near 4.00 on the season. As things currently stand, he's our worst starter over the last month and a half. Hudson used to be a concern, but has since been pitching his butt off with no real support. We need Maholm to get his control together if we want to have our lefty presence work after the all-star break.

There's not really much else to say. The Braves didn't put enough people on base to have a real chance, and the pitching didn't contain the damage well at all. That results in a loss. You have to give credit to Polanco and Stanton who made the Braves pay with 5 RBIs. They are both very solid players on a very very bad ballclub. Every time I watch Stanton play, I think how much his talent gets wasted in that town. I hope very badly he can escape that franchise soon in a trade deal, or at the very least stick it to the Marlins in an arbitration deal.

Next up, a 4 gamer with the red legs inside Turner Field. Series preview up next. Keep that rain away!

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Game 2 Recap: Marlins 7/9/13

What a bizarre game. The Braves established an early lead with a sacrifice fly by BJ to score Freddie Freeman, who doubled to lead off the 2nd inning. In the bottom half, the Marlins immediately took the lead back with a 3 run homer that clanged off the right field foul pole. Then in the next inning, the Braves knocked in two more runs to tie the game, thanks to Brian McCann and Justin Upton. After that, the Marlins knocked in another run to take the lead 4-3 in the bottom half of the 3rd. Then, the Braves tied it at 4-4 in the 5th, took the lead in the 6th, and pushed over some insurance in the 7th. It was a back and forth tug of war in the first half, followed by slow and steady hitting in the later innings.

Meanwhile, the Marlins committed more horrible errors, including a tailor-made double play ball that went right through the shortstop's legs, and the pitcher Alvarez tossing a ball into right field that scored a Braves run. Alvarez had a bad game, and the Braves made him pay several times for missing his spots. He went 6 innings with 8 hits, 5 runs, 4 earned, and 4 walks. On the flipside, Julio Teheran went 7.1 innings with only 7 hits, 4 runs, 1 earned, and 2 walks. A lot of the Marlins runs came on the error by Chris Johnson which lead to the 3 run homer by the fish. It wasn't a great day in the field for either team.

The bats were alive and well if you were an Upton. Justin went 3/5 with 2 doubles and a homer, 3 runs, and 2 RBIs. BJ went 2/3 with a run and an RBI off a sacrifice. A combined 5/8 for the Upton brothers? That's what we all signed up for. With 11 hits and 6 walks, every Braves player got on base, and only Simmons didn't get on base at least twice in the game. Even Julio Teheran got a hit in the game. The Braves didn't do well with RISP, only 2-10, but they did do well in a category that makes up for it. That would be sacrifice flies. Both BJ and McCann hit sacrifices in key situations early in the first 3 innings, and those 2 runs made the difference between winning and losing this game. If you can't get a hit with a runner on, at the very least you can be productive and win games.

The CPA correctly predicted a Braves win last night. Will it predict the sweep?

CPA Prediction Game 3: Marlins 4 - Braves 1

The CPA doesn't like when the Braves face young pitchers, especially when those pitchers hold an ERA in the 2s. The trend seems to be the Braves struggle to hit, and Maholm has struggled to give up less than 4 runs in his last 4 outings. However, if the Braves can keep the game close, a late long ball might be the ticket to victory.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Marlins 7/8/13

That was long and mostly terrible with a great finish. Sort of like a plane ride to Hawaii. In the end, the Braves won a game they should have won in 9 innings, but it took them 14. The good news was that they won, because it helped take back a game in the standings on the Nats.

The Braves went 4-10 with RISP, most of that happening in the 14th inning. That's a good thing because it made the difference in the game. Justin Upton saved the day with his 2 large hits that drove in 3 RBIs. Uggla went 1-6, Simmons went 0-7, BMac went 0-5, BJ went 0-3 before he got yanked for Reed Johnson who also went 0-3. Again, half the lineup is showing up and the other half just wanders through the tulips hoping for the best on the road. There is usually the consistent 2 players that stink in Dan Uggla and BJ, then you have a random 2 that just can't hit the ball for some reason. In this game is was Simmons and BMac with the combined 0-12.

So we soldiered on as fans for 14 innings of almost perfect pitching by the Marlins pen. At one point, they had sat down 24 hitters in a row. It was nearly a perfect game within a game. The Braves bullpen matched them by only giving up 2 hits in 7.2 innings of shutout baseball. It was a battle to see who blinked first, and that answer was the fish. The whole game was just watching nobody get on base by  the Marlins, followed by the Braves doing nothing. Rinse and repeat. It was horrible TV. If you were watching it, I know for a fact you were doing something else at the time, because nobody could honestly sit and watch that game for entertainment purposes.

Let's hope for a win tonight as well, and perhaps a more entertaining game. The CPA (44-30) picked a win last night, and tonight it has some thoughts on the pitching matchup.

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 6 - Marlins 3

The Braves have seen Alvarez once before and rocked him soundly, with the exception of BJ Upton. Teheran has given up some hits to the Marlins lineup, but he was able to control the damage for the most part, the Braves just didn't score for him in the last outing. This time, the CPA thinks they will.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Series Preview: Marlins

We just played these guys and dropped 2 of 3 in rain-soaked games at home. The weather won't be a factor with the retractable roof down in Miami, so the Marlins will have to play the Braves in ideal conditions. The last time that happened, we swept them. On to the matchups:

Game 1 - Minor (8-4) v. Slowey (3-6)
Game 2 - Teheran (6-4) v. Alvarez (0-0)
Game 3 - Maholm (9-7) v. Turner (2-1)

Minor has lost 3 games in a row, and they've been his fault. The most recent was a loss to Miami where he couldn't keep the ball in the park, and he couldn't keep people off base. He's gone 6 innings in his last 6 games in a row, but he's given up 5 homers in his last 3 games. In addition to that, his WHIP has skyrocketed in that time frame from being well under 1.00 to 1.61 in his last 3 losses. That's a number that will cause you to lose 4 times out of 5, unless your offense is firing off 8 runs a game. The Marlins Kevin Slowey got demolished in his match against the Braves last week when they went off for 11 runs. CJ, BMac, and Justin ripped him to shreds, and after this weekend I know they will be looking for more.

Teheran hasn't lost back to back games in over a month. The bad news is he hasn't won back to back games in over a month either. The good news this time is that he lost his last match against Miami, and he knows how to pitch against their lineup now. The Braves will face off against Henderson Alvarez, who beat them 4-3 in his last start. The Braves now have a better look and a better plan against the pitcher they hadn't seen up to that point. If you remember that game, it was the one where the Braves scored 3 runs in the first inning, and then the weather seemed to dull the bats for the rest of the day. I don't expect that to happen again. In fact, I think they will be able to light him up given a second chance.

Maholm hasn't pitched well over the last month, but the Braves have usually outpaced his ERA with run support. Paul has been the rare beneficiary of almost 4.5 runs a game for the Braves, something very few other pitchers on the team can claim. He doesn't need that many runs if he can negotiate the Marlins rather inept hitting lineup. With a .236 lineup average against Maholm, the Marlins haven't done well off of him lifetime. The downside of this matchup is Jacob Turner, a young kid that only half the lineup saw last year, and he's pitching with a 2.30 ERA on the season thus far. He'll be a tough matchup for a few of the Braves hitters, other than Simmons who didn't seem to have trouble going 2/3 off him in 2012.

The CPA (43-30) looks at the Minor v. Slowey matchup to see if the Braves have an advantage

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 5 - Marlins 4

This could be a back and forth affair if both pitchers can't get the ball down in the zone. Both lineups can rip a high pitch, and both pitchers have been known to hang a few in their last 5 games. The long ball could make the difference in this matchup, and that favors the Braves.

GO BRAVES!

Game 3 Recap: Phillies 7/7/13

The Braves played another terrible road game to finish the series with the Phillies on Sunday. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't good, and it wasn't even close. Kris Medlen continued to shoot himself in the foot in the early innings, and that set the stage for a 7-3 beatdown. I knew the Phillies would be out for blood after a bad day at the office on Saturday, but I expected more from the Braves hitters. Brian McCann is a blazing inferno at the plate, and he went 3/4 in the game after going 4/5 the night before. It's amazing to watch him come out of his June swoon, but not so amazing to watch Dan and BJ do absolutely nothing behind him.

The Braves went 2-13 with RISP. We don't win those games. We had 10 hits, but only strung a few together, and Medlen was forced to knock in the first run himself because BJ and CJ struck out in a row with runners on 2nd and 3rd and nobody out. I hate how uneven this team can be with runners on and nobody out. In scenarios were it should be an obvious run-scoring situation, it almost always seems like BJ or Dan are coming to the plate. There are literally pitchers on our team with better RISP averages than BJ or Dan this season. They are killing this team's chances with their lack of contact or hits in key situations. Also, Justin has completely fallen off the face of the earth. He hit .225 in June, and now he's hitting .222 in July. In fact, in the last six games, half the lineup (BJ, Dan, Justin, Jason) are all batting under .225. You can't have half your team sucking wind like that and hope to win games. As a result we're bleeding out in the standings, up only 4 games with the Nats smelling blood.

You can't panic yet before the All-Star break, but we are going to see what this team is made of in July. Are we the kind of team who rallies and starts to man up at the plate, cut down on strikeouts, and stops all the complaining about ump calls? Or are we the team that goes to pieces and lets the rest of the division come back to the mean? I can't say for sure, because the team is so bipolar on home and road games. The Braves at home are one of the best teams in baseball. The Braves on the road are a completely unpredictable stress typhoon. That makes it even more important for the Braves to win the division so they have home field advantage in the post-season.

Now we head down to Miami for a 3 gamer with the Marlins, a team that was just swept by the Cardinals. Series Preview up next.

GO BRAVES!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Game 1 & 2 Weekend Recap: Phillies

The weekend at the lake turned out to be mostly a rain-soaked affair, but the Braves went to Philly for a couple of games that provided the fireworks we missed. Game 1 was the type of game that all Braves fans really hate deep down. The Braves were down 5-0 before they even got more than a single man to second base in that matchup, and then they got close enough to give the fans hope in the 7th, just before collapsing under a multitude of poorly timed strikeouts and foul outs. Game 2 was anything but poorly timed hitting. In fact, the Braves scored so many runs the game actually became boring. Still I'll take a boring 13-4 laugher over a close loss any day of the week. At least that evens out the series so we have a rubber game today at 1:35.

I don't really think we should focus on game 1 for a couple of reasons. The first is that we intentionally rotated the order in our pitching rotation to give us a bad matchup. With Cliff Lee going, it was almost like the Braves waved the white flag by pitting Maholm against him. Also, the Braves pulled Brian McCann out intentionally, even though he had to play due to Laird disagreeing with Angel Hernandez about calls behind the plate. If you know anything about umps, there are two names you do not want to see in a game, Angel Hernandez and CB Bucknor. Both are horrible and will draw the ire of both fanbases in the same game. Both will ruin analysis because they simply don't call a fair game. Both basically make me disregard anything I see in the game because nobody can really consider it baseball when they ump. It's a bastardization of a game that's only fit to feed the ego of the powers that be in MLB umpiring, and a wonder they haven't been fired several times over for their incompetence. So in that regard, forget about Game 1. The Braves did immediately when it was over.

Game 2 was about everything clicking at once. When it happens, this lineup is unbeatable. Every single player including the pitcher Hudson got a hit. Considering our success in the past off Kendrick, this wasn't a huge shock. It was a much better matchup to have Huddy out there over Maholm, and it made the game a joke after the 5th when Huddy had allowed only a single run. The good news was that after months of getting no run support, Hudson saw the Braves unleash the fury like Mitch from Road Trip. Can I even recap all the offense in an adequate way? Not really, but I'll give it a shot. If you knew only one thing, the fact the Braves went 7-19 (.368) with RISP would be a good indicator of our winning chances. The Braves also hit 3 doubles, a triple, 3 homers, 2 sacrifices, 5 2-out RBIs, and struck out only 4 times on the day. I do get amused when we score these massive run totals with such few strikeouts, because I can hear those sabermetrics guys grinding their teeth waiting for a fight. Let's just say I'll take putting the ball in play over not putting it play and we'll let the chips fall with this lineup. I have a feeling I'll get the results I'm looking for.

Really, it was great to see the Braves lineup take a few shots at the national media who basically give our team absolutely no respect in terms of All-Stars. Nevermind the fact that our team has the 2nd best ERA as a staff in the majors. Nevermind that we have a first baseman who is top 10 in batting average in the NL. Nevermind that we have an 8 game winner with a WHIP of 1.08 in Mike Minor. Nope, we get one guy. As a division leader, the only guy we're sending is Craig Kimbrel. It's frankly nothing but regional politics against our team, and the fact that nobody respects our TV market at all. Why? Well we're owned by a media company that is a direct competitor of ESPN and their partners, including Time Warner Cable, which just happens to carry the Dodgers and Newcorp/FOX, which just happens to own the rights to the Yankees network and Boston who has ties back to ABC through it's chairman Werner. In essence, there is no reason for other networks who have a larger coverage area to promote Atlanta baseball, or its players. And thus, we lose to the self-promotion of a young guy like Puig of the Dodgers, simply because he has a national mouthpiece in ESPN and Time Warner.

Enough of that, though. Let's look at today's match.

CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 3 - Phillies 2

The Braves are hitting the ball well, and the Phillies aren't. Pettibone hasn't seen the Braves before, nor have they seen him by proxy, but this is the right time and place to test the theory of newbie droughts by our lineup. Philly will be looking for blood after getting embarrassed, so Medlen will have to be on his toes. If the Braves can get through the first 3 innings with no damage from Kris, the CPA likes our chances in a tight one.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Game 2 & 3 Recap: Marlins July 3-4 plus Series Preview: Phillies

We lost a series to the Marlins because it rained. The Braves were intent on getting this thing in because they would lose tons of money if the games were cancelled due to rain. However, as we saw in the Mets series, this team doesn't play well in adverse conditions. As a result, the Braves got washed away in the 2 games under stormy skies.

Pitching was honestly the biggest problem. In Game 2 the staff gave up 9 hits, 4 walks, and a homer. In game 3, they gave up 10 hits, 6 walks, and a homer. You can't pitch around that many baserunners all day. The Marlins may have stranded a combined 20 runners in those two games, but they still had enough chances to push across a combined 10 runs. That's not good pitching at all, it it feel for the most part on the starters not having good games. Minor and Teheran both weren't sharp at all. Minor couldn't keep the ball down, and Teheran was going deep into counts over and over again. Neither went more than 6 innings against a team that is supposed to be dreadful at hitting the ball.

The Braves had 10 hits in game 2 and went 2-6 with RISP. That's actually not bad, but it wasn't enough to cover up Minor's mistakes. In Game 3, they went 1-4 with RISP and never got a runner to second base after the first inning's onslaught of 3 runs. When you spot your starter a 3 run lead in the first, and then watch him bleed it away over the next 3 innings, that has to be demoralizing. To be honest, I think the Braves didn't want to play these games. I think they believed (like I did) that there was no way this rain was going to let up, and that they would just call this off for another day. However, the front office wasn't going to allow that to happen on a holiday weekend, and we all suffered for it. I think by now we should know that given the choice between playing a rain-soaked game or delaying it to a better day, we should take the delay if we want to win.

Some good news is that Brian McCann is coming around after a horrible June. Right now he's batting .417 on the week with 2 homers. Chris Johnson is right with him batting .450 on the week, and Freddie Freeman is batting .409. Simmons and Heyward both have .308 averages for the week as well. So how in the world are we not blowing the cover off the ball? Oh right, because we have those rally killing turnstiles Dan Uggla and BJ Upton batting .208 and .188 on the week right there in the 6-7 slots. Who was it that struck out to end the game last night with a runner on? BJ of course.

Now the Braves head up to Philly. They have a 3 gamer over the weekend on the road against a Philly team that's just a game over .500 at home. I'm heading to the lake today at noon, so I'll do a quick preview of the series here instead of the full blown analysis.

Game 1 - Hudson v. Lee: This is likely loss for the Braves the way Cliff Lee pitches, but Justin Upton does have some decent numbers off him. Still, I wouldn't put my money on this one with Huddy's runs support woes.

Game 2 - Maholm v. Kenrick: Maholm has been racking up wins while Kendrick is coming off a mild concussion. This looks to be an advantage for the Braves who have a career .264 off Kendrick as a lineup. However, the Phillies hit .323 lifetime off Maholm. This could get ugly.

Game 3 - Medlen v. Pettibone: Kris has been grinding out wins for the last month without the benefit of his best stuff. Pettibone got his first win in over a month in his last outing against the Pirates. The big difference here? Braves have never seen Pettibone ever. Until proven otherwise, that typically means we lose.

None of the matchups look great for the Braves, I'll be honest. I'd like to take Game 1 and see where we are, but it's going to be a war either way.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Phillies 4 - Braves 1

The CPA thinks Cliff Lee is simply better than most pitchers we're faced, with good reason. He's 9-2 with a WHIP under 1.00 and an ERA of 2.59. He hasn't lost a home game since April. Meanwhile he's facing our tough luck loser Hudson who can't buy a run. We'll need to know Cliff out early by working counts and maybe getting him to hang a few breaking balls.

GO BRAVES

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Marlins 7/2/13

Hits galore! Who needs homers, we can double you do death. Also, we can watch the Marlin self-destruct in the field. How many errors did they have in that game? They only listed 2, but it should have been about 6. The amount of bad fielding and terrible mistakes turned a good win for the Braves into a completely clownshoes laugher by the 7th inning. The Braves plated 11 runs on 16 hits, and went 8-22 with RISP. I was amazed we had that many chances. That's a .364 average with RISP (be still my heart). I love to see that kind of hitting. Love it. That's the kind of station to station production you need to win big games down the stretch. It's also pulling us out of a tailspin we'd had with RISP earlier in the season. Let's check the big board! Yep, Atlanta's moved out of 2nd to dead last in RISP average to 5th to dead last. Moving on up boys! We post a .232 average now on the season. If we can elevate to above a .250 by the end of the year? We will be a force to be reckoned with.

Did Medlen have his best stuff? No, and he admitted as such in a hilarious post-game interview. In fact, he noted that Homer Bailey and he had conflicting stuff that night (Bailey tossed a no-hitter). What mattered was after Kris gave up the 2 run homer in the first, he settled in nicely. We can rely on that as Braves fans. Our starters typically don't just explode all over the place when things go wrong. They do collect themselves and refocus nicely, a trait many hot-headed starters lack. Kris did refocus and went another 5 innings after his first inning problems. He gave up a very high number of hits with 9, but kept the damage to just 3 runs. The bullpen came in to do it's usual stellar work of 3 inning, no-run ball. Alex Wood looked extremely sharp as he went 2 innings giving up only a single baserunner.

I could recap all the hits, but we'd be here all day. BMac, CJ, and Justin really exploded in this game with 3 hits each, including 2 doubles by CJ, a double by BMac, and a triple by Justin. The Braves as a team only struck out 8 times, and only stranded 7 guys. They saw over 160 pitches in that stretch. Many times they were just getting into solid counts and teeing off on the right hitter's pitch. You can usually tell when a team is winning, because the opposing pitcher's are throwing more than 150 pitches. If that's the case, you have a good shot at plating a lot of runs with some timely hits. CJ was especially timely when it looked dire in the 6th tied at 3-3, and the Braves had squandered the bases loaded with nobody out. Chris came to the plate with 2 outs and doubled down the line to break the game open. If he doesn't get that hit, who knows what happens? The game turned on that one AB.

The CPA was right last night with the Braves victory, but it's going to forgo a pick today. The weather is terrible and I honestly don't think they will get the game in. Even if they do, it will be a rain-shortened or delayed affair that tosses most statistical analysis out the window. So, look to the skies and look to the rain delay programming. We'll see if we have baseball tonight.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Series Preview: Marlins

The problem you have when reviewing a team like the Marlins is you have to temper the overwhelming stench of Miami's failures this season. If you look at the team at face value, they are awful. Simply put, there is nothing redeeming about this Marlins team. If it wasn't for the fact they are required by MLB law to put someone on the All-Star team, they would have nobody. Not a single player on that team ranks as a starter at any position on the field. However, the Marlins have been feasting on bottom feeders for the last two weeks. In that stretch, they are 9-4. During that stretch they also played only one team with a winning record (Arizona), and they lost that series. I think they are coming into town quietly confident. They mostly likely won't leave feeling the same way. On to the matchups:

Game 1 - Medlen (5-7) v. Koehler (1-5)
Game 2 - Minor (8-3) v. Nolasco (4-8)
Game 3 - Teheran (6-4) v. Alvarez (0-0)

The first matchup is an expected laugher by Vegas. I've never seen a line this unbalanced in a game. Atlanta is about as heavily favored as they've been all season in this one session. That usually means everything on paper is tilting Atlanta's way. So what is that statistically that's causing such a discrepancy? For starters, Tom Koehler has given up a 6.83 ERA in June. He won a single game in SF on the road (his only road win) because the Giants couldn't muster more than one run. He was beaten by St. Louis (the last winning team he faced) 13-7. He walks a ton of people, and he doesn't strikes out about 1 every 2 innings. Downside, the Braves haven't faced him before. REPEAT, the Braves haven't faced him before. You know my feelings on this. Medlen struggles with 2 hitters on the Marlins lineup, Placido Polanco and Donovan Solano. The good news is that Solano's been on the DL and won't be in this series. That leaves just one guy to worry about, and Kris will likely pitch around him in any danger zones. Also, it should be noted that the Braves are hitting .294 as a team over the last week. They are fiery hot and looking for blood. Add it all together and you get a game that should be a win for Atlanta.

Minor hasn't pitched his best in June, and he's still 8-3 on the season. That's saying something considering the top winner in the NL only has 11 wins. With a 4.20 ERA in June, Minor has looked much better in the early half than the latter. Now the the calendar turns to July, Mike looks to get back on track, and that means keeping the ball in the ballpark. Ten runs in his last 3 starts have caused a couple of Braves losses in a row, with 4 homers in those 2 losses. Minor has been roughed up before by Logan Morrison of the fish, and that's the guy I would keep my eye on if I were Mike, along with Stanton. Both of them can do some long ball damage. On the plus side, so can the Braves. In fact the Braves have hit 12 homers off Ricky Nolasco. The lineup is hitting a combined .305 with an OPS over .900 against the Marlins righty. We LOVE facing this guy. In the last 3 years, the Braves have only lost to Nolasco twice over 11 outings. I like those odds.

Teheran is going to be this year's big story I think. The velocity, control, and mound presence of the young pitcher keeps getting better and better each start, the ERA has been trending toward a number under 3.00, and his WHIP has dropped dramatically over the last month and a half. Teheran hasn't given up an earned run at home since May. Think about that. In 3 full games at home, he's shut out every opponent in his starts. He's had one of the more dominant months inside Turner Field in a long long time. We can only hope that he continues to shine in this series against a team that doesn't hit well. The Marlins have never faced Teheran, so I hope they swing and miss as they get a first hand lesson. The Braves have never seen Henderson Alvarez because he's never pitched in the National League before. He spend two years on the Blue Jays before getting Tommy John. Now he's coming off the DL to make his first season start against the Braves. I have zero idea what to expect. I wouldn't mind a 1-0 win for the Braves at the end of the day though.

The CPA (41-29) racked up a sweep along with the Braves this weekend. How does it feel about the mismatch in Game 1?

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 4 - Marlins 2

 The Braves have all the right pieces in place to take this game over. The only concern is that they don't have any experience against the pitcher on the mound for the Marlins tonight. If they can move past that, they can win handily, because the CPA thinks Medlen can stifle most of the Marlins lineup.

GO BRAVES!