Thursday, December 17, 2015

Chipper Jones rejoins the Braves

News came down today that Chipper Jones is going to be rejoining the Atlanta Braves Organization as a special assistant to baseball operations. Whatever the heck that means. I'm hoping it means drinking more beers in the booth while he shoots the breeze with Chip and Joe. But in all likelihood it means he can help with finding talent and recruiting free agents to play in Atlanta once we spend some money.

Still just think about it, Chipper, Chip, and Joe as a weekly regular feature on broadcasts. It would be appointment TV just to see what went haywire with Chipper's stories. Add in Tom Glavine and John Smoltz to make it a 5-man booth and I'd never want to watch anything else.

In fact, just dump Chip and Joe, and let Tom, John, and Chipper handle the broadcasts. We'd all enjoy it just as much.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Bye Bye Bethancourt

Last night the Braves pulled off another key move to me, which is getting rid of a guy I was tired of hearing about for so many years. Christian Bethancourt, in the minds of many as a potential catcher of the future, but always in my mind as a guy who couldn't hit, was traded to the Padres for a pitcher named Casey Kelly and a very young catcher named Ricardo Rodriguez.

I honestly don't care that we got anything back, because I was more than prepared to release Bethancourt to greener pastures elsewhere. But the fact we got anything other than a bag of balls for this guy is pretty huge to me. But again, I'm not crazy enough to believe that the Padres gave us anything they actually believe will work for our crappy hitting catching prospect. I've said it before, but this is the redneck swap meet trade. Two rednecks show up, and the other one honestly believes he can repair the other guy's busted crap.

So who is Casey Kelly? He's a 26 year old righty with 40 innings in the majors and a 6.69 ERA after 8 starts. Are you excited yet? Do you have the warm feeling in the pit of your stomach? Exactly, of course you don't. This guy is the broken outboard motor we got in exchange for our fridge that hasn't run right in 2 years. And Kelly's never been really good at the minor league level either, with an ERA of around 4.50 at AA ball or better. His WHIP is over 1.35, which isn't great, and he gets raked with hits rather than giving up a bunch of walks. Simply put, the guy doesn't miss bats and will need a lot of help before he's truly MLB ready. Plus, he's not young. Can the Braves fix that? I doubt it, but I also doubt the Padres can fix Bethancourt.

Oh and don't worry about Ricardo Rodriguez for now. He's too young and too raw to even consider playing for years. He's all of 17 years old, and until he can drink you'll probably never see him if he even pans out at all.

Basically we're gonna get our team of guys out on a dock with a cooler full of Natty Ice, some Skynyrd on the radio, and we're gonna see if we can't fix that Kelly outboard motor.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Braves trade Shelby Miller: What did we get?

So if you were waiting on Shelby Miller to get traded during Winter Meetings? Congratulations! It finally happened. Shelby is going to the Diamondbacks in exchange for OF Ender Inciarte, pitching prospect Aaron Blair, and SS prospect Dansby Swanson.

If you've heard anything from the pundits so far on the trade, it's pretty universal that we fleeced the Diamondbacks. Which I find hilarious because two of these pieces are prospects we have no idea about yet. However, never let it be said that in today's hot take society we can't immediately approve it as trade of the decade or crap all over it right after it happens. Because that makes sense. (Not really)

I have no idea if this is a great trade because I'm not dumb enough to tell you anything about how prospects will perform at the MLB level. I'm sure there were tons of Bethancourt lovers out there, but I was never one. Now look what's happening with that kid. We're trying to better deal him out of town so we don't get scooped on the 40 man rosters in the Rule 5 draft. That's the nature of prospects. What looked like a franchise building option 4 years ago is this year's horse on the way to the glue factory.

So what part DO we know? Ender Inciarte is a 25 year old OF from Venezuela, and he's a utility outfielder who can play all three positions. Is he a great hitter? Maybe. He's a good hitter from what I've been able to gather. He doesn't have a ton of power, but he can hit for average (.292), and he's fast, averaging about 20 SBs a year so far. His OPS is rather meh at .716, but for the guy we want as a potential top of the order guy, he can fill that spot well. Am I over the moon about the move from this regard? Not really. Now the WAR guys will flip out about his defense, but I've made my statement on that over and over again. In today's baseball I need to know you're an offensive answer in the outfield first. The defensive side to me is gravy unless he's a full time CF. Then it's a big plus. And I'm thinking Ender will be the CF answer on this team (hopefully).

What else did we get? How about 23 year old righty starter Aaron Blair? A nice prospect from the Arizona AAA squad who will probably see MLB action in 2016. He had a 2.92 ERA between AA and AAA last season. Per the scouting report from the Diamondbacks, Blair is a big strong guy with a fastball in the low to mid 90s, and a sinking action on the ball. Blair has a lot of strikeout possibility due to his size and velocity, plus if he can continue to get better action on the ball he'll really get some guys to roll over for double plays and ground outs.

Also the Braves got Dansby Swanson, the overall #1 pick from 2015. This is the part that has the pundits freaking out about how lopsided the trade could be. It's so very rare that you see a team part with a #1 overall pick in the draft, and unlike football these pan out very well at a very high rate. Swanson is a 21 year old out of Vanderbilt who plays SS and slugged .482 in A ball with limited plate appearances. The excitement is that prior #1 over draft picks have been guys like Carlos Correa, Gerritt Cole, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and David Price. If Swanson can pan out like those guys? You're looking a franchise changing player. Which is why it's so odd to me that the Diamondbacks let him go. I'm wondering if they know something we don't know, or if they just needed pitching so badly they were willing to quite literally bet the farm on it.

So yes, on paper with the upside potential the trade looks great. However, we're still probably 4 years away from knowing if this was a great idea. Don't let anybody fool you into thinking otherwise. But if you believe the hype, this is a great step in the right direction for the Braves rebuild.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Winter Meetings Start Today!

Will your favorite player be traded? JUST KIDDING THEY LIKELY ALREADY HAVE!

It's Winter Meetings this week from the 7th to the 10th, and that means all the MLB bigwigs gather in Nashville, TN to discuss the various fates of their franchises. This is the time of year when many big deals get done, or at the very least the groundwork gets laid for the hottest of the hot stove moves.

The Braves are likely players in the free agent market in addition to taking on more trade responsibility, and Shelby Miller's name will likely come up over and over again. Why? Because outside of Freddie Freeman, he's the only real asset we have left on the Braves.

So stay tuned. If you see any big moves, I'll be here ready to give my two cents on how they affect the team. Warm your hands, it's hot stove time!


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Braves buy a lotto ticket with Gordon Beckham

I graduated from Georgia in 2003 and I watched Gordon Beckham play on the UGA Baseball Team that went to the College World Series in 2006. I remember heading back to Athens in the winter to watch those kids hit because they could crush the ball, and Beckham was one of the best.

But after he was drafted and made it to the show in 2009, Gordon's career as a hitter has been in steady decline. He started as a 22 year old slugger with an .808 OPS and a robust 14 homers in his rookie season. Last year he barely scratched out 237 plate appearances with an OPS of .607 and an average of .209. By comparison Melvin Upton had about as many appearances and hit .259 with a .757 OPS last year. And he sucks.

I have absolutely no idea what the Braves plan to do with Gordon because on paper he shouldn't be playing in the major leagues right now. Which means there's only one thing I think the Braves are thinking: he's a lottery ticket. Like many long-shot bets, you pay a little bit of money and you hope to get a big return. But you're not pissed off when it doesn't pan out 99% of the time because you didn't really invest much to begin with. That's Gordon Beckham at age 28, making $1.5M on a one-year show-me deal.

This could be a complete waste of time, other than the fact that Beckham can play 2B and 3B with average defensive ability. He's never going to WOW you at either position, but he's good enough to not spike himself out there, or have the ball go through his legs often. However, there is something to be said for a change of scenery. When Gordon had the chance to play in LA for a brief period in 2014, he hit much better than in Chicago. Granted, it's an extremely small sample size, but the Braves are signing him for a year. They WANT an extremely small sample size to pan out, or for him to be a bench player asset.

Either way, it's a dollar to win the Powerball. Sometimes that happens and you get a guy like AJ Pierzynski who hits 144 OPS points higher than his prior year average. And sometimes you get a guy who strikes out 50 times and carries a .180 average through the first half of the season. Most of the time it's closer to the latter than the former. But in today's market? It's a decent enough gamble to see a good player come back to Georgia and see if the home-cooking doesn't agree with him.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Jim Johnson is a key Braves signing (whether we like it or not)

If I told you that a 33-year old reliever was going to be a key part of the Braves success in 2016, you'd probably laugh. Then you'd ask, "What KIND of success in 2016? Don't you know we're selling off this payroll for peanuts so we can support the Cobb County Braves stadium?" Well, that kind of thinking makes you a jerk, sir, and I won't tolerate it.

I refuse to believe that the Braves are simply hanging up their cleats 2 years before debuting a new stadium and less than 6 months after trading away everything they had for magic beans...I mean pitching in the minors. Yes, I'm as grumpy as you are, but the Jim Johnson signing gives me a bit of hope that the Braves are addressing one of their biggest problems in 2015, and they are doing in a cost-effective manner that fits with the rebuild.

For those of you that don't remember, the beginning of 2015 for the Braves was actually pretty good. The Braves were actually winning games. I know, it's shocking but true. And a big part of the Braves winning games was that the pitching staff wasn't constantly imploding every time we made a call to the bullpen. Who was a big part of that success? Jim Johnson.

Johnson was typically a setup guy in the early part of the year while Jason Grilli was the closer. This at least provided a nice back end for the Braves in the 8th and 9th innings, and that will be the same in 2016 when Grilli returns from injury. If you look at Johnson's appearances in the first half of the season, he pitched in 49 games, and the Braves went 34-15 in games he pitched. Obviously, there are other factors in play, but it's important to note that Johnson had 20 Holds and 9 saves in those appearances. He was a very key player in the Braves bullpen that held on to key leads.

The most important part of your bullpen is your 8th and 9th inning guys, since you would hope that a starter can get you 6 innings, and you have a slew of guys to provide a 7th inning bridge. But nailing down that 8th inning setup man and 9th inning closer can really give your team the piece of mind they need with a lead, and it puts a bug in your opponents ear that they HAVE to score before the 8th or the game is over.

Jim Johnson only costs the Braves $2.5M in 2016, and Jason Grilli will only cost $3.5M. For $6M you may have shored up a huge problem for the Braves in the later half of the year. How bad was it? In the second half of the season after Jim was traded and Grilli went down with injury a few days later, the Braves bullpen had an ERA of 5.03. That's terrible in the same way that getting stung to death by bees while getting eaten by a shark is terrible. It's dead last terrible.

But Grilli and Johnson together in the first half? They had a 2.94 and 2.25 set of ERA's respectively. If they can get remotely close to that in 2016 and you provide a decent 7th inning bridge? The Braves bullpen could be back in business. Now we just have to score some runs.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Braves need to decide on Mike Minor

The deadline for tendering contract offers to arbitration eligible players is approaching on December 2nd, and that means the Braves are in a bit of a pickle with pitcher Mike Minor. The AJC recently featured an article here on the subject:

My take is very simple, I wouldn't tender an offer to him. Under no circumstances am I making any offers to a guy who can't even throw off  a mound before his THIRD arbitration hearing, when I've had numerous chances to offer him a real contract before. The Braves obviously don't trust him. He's been hurt over and over, and he's only had one great season when you look at 2013. The rest of the time? He's a replacable player on average.

So with that in mind, and I've never been shy about my disdain for pundits who kept telling me Mike was some great piece in the Braves arsenal, I'd get rid of him. Finally. Cut the cord and end this so we can start anew with the multitude of pitchers we have in the minor leagues. I don't need to pay Mike Minor close to $5M to MAYBE pitch. What I need is a guy who is actually healthy now and we know will eat some innings in this throwaway season of 2016, with the hopes of a possible upside. Minor's not that guy.

We're also getting close to winter meetings, so stay tuned! It should be an interesting offseason as we head into December.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Is Shelby Miller on the Trading Block?

I feel like I'm doing more writing in the offseason than I did in the regular season. After all, rumors are more fun than concrete losses. Anyway, is Shelby Miller on the trading block? Yes and no. From what I gather the Braves are not actively shopping Shelby in the same way they were shopping Simmons as an example. For Simmons, they were looking at refilling the pitching ranks and getting value for a guy that they saw as a declining offensive asset.

Shelby is another story. He's an extremely valuable starter, and as such the Braves were only extending offers with extremely valuable position players. That's why AJ Pollack's name from the Diamondbacks came up. However, the Dbacks don't want to part with Pollack so the deal didn't go anywhere. That hasn't stopped other teams from asking.

So is Shelby a tradable asset? Sure, in the sense that anybody else is tradable. But the Braves are restocking pitching so while he's not as untouchable as Freddie Freeman, he's certainly not going to go cheap or for prospects either. He's affordable and effective, and he does the one thing the Braves need most right now: Pitch well and pitch deep into games. Now, if they find him some run support that would probably have won an extra 10 games at least last season.

Miller started 33 games last year with 205 innings pitched, a 3.02 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, and a .238 opp batting average. That's awesome, and yet he only had 6 wins all season. I'm not crazy enough to tell you wins matter like the really old school crowd. I wish they did, because in the prior days of baseball we didn't get this specialized, people weren't blowing their arms out left and right, and guys actually pitched complete games regularly. Wins mattered a bit more back then. Now? They are completely useless. If people reference wins, I just move on with the conversation.

So what players would make sense in a Shelby deal? The names you'd likely hear would seem to be untouchable on the other side. I'd make the deal for a guy like Buster Posey as an example, but I doubt the Giants want to trade him. What about a guy like Todd Frazier to play 3B and a prospect? That's the kind of deal I would expect. It would have to be highly prized talent to part with one of the better pitchers in the league right now.

But at the end of the day, I think the Braves recognize his value, and I think other teams would be too leery of trading an everyday player for a pitcher to make the value match up.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Coppolella Needs to Man up or Shut up

As I mentioned before in my article about trading Freddie Freeman, and why it was stupid, the Braves came out today and said specifically that they aren't trading Freddie Freeman. Here's the piece by USA Today:

To quote that piece, here's John Coppolella:
I cannot make it any more clear: We are not trading Freddie Freeman. We are not. I'd give my right arm before we trade Freddie Freeman. It is not happening.
I'm not sure how he could be more clear, but also in that same piece he tells fans that he's not running for office.
I know it’s hard for our fans, but I’m not running for office. We are doing what I believe is what’s best in for the long-term interest of the Braves. I’ll trust our scouts and analytics. I’m getting so tired of this. If guys want to take shots, or (degrade) us, fine. But let’s let it play out for a few years before we start branding our pitchforks and torches. I feel in my heart this is the best for the Braves.

The quotes are from a frustrated man who is getting tired of the fans and media questioning his methods. They are also the quotes of a younger GM who is not really prepared to deal with the backlash that comes with making tough decisions.

Newsflash to Coppy, you're in one of the most high-profile positions in the South. You are the GM of the one team that seems to unite states that typically hate each other over football, but rally together en masse under your banner. And you expect the trades where you dump salary and well-known well-loved players to be what? Met with applause? A hearty slap on the back and a high-five? Get real. You made the tough calls, and you get the credit if you're right. But you also get to own the decisions when you screw up, and in many cases that's what got your predecessor Frank Wren fired. You're supposed to be the mature individual in the organization, not the whiny child wondering why people are being so mean to you.

In short, man up. Own your decisions and stop worrying about what the media asks or the fans say. If you think it's the best for the organization, you patiently say that for months and months until people are so sick of the rote answers they stop asking. You DON'T feed them petulant crap lines about being tired of people taking shots or that you're not a politician. Be the leader that past GMs have been. Stand there, answer the questions, and cut the crap.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Trading Freddie Freeman makes no sense

There's a lot of rumors swirling about Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran. I won't get into the Julio piece because I think other teams watched Julio struggle last season and trading him now would be stupid for simply one reason: his value is too low to bother with it. The Braves want to stockpile pitching so dumping a lower-value guy makes little sense.

But the Freddie trade idea? That makes even less sense than the Julio trade. Freddie Freeman is coming off a wrist injury, so you can understand why the Braves get nervous about having him on the books for the next 6 years at $118M. Wrists and hand injuries are some of the worst that baseball players can get at a position, because it keeps you sidelined while you are otherwise 100% healthy. It's maddening, and it hurts on every swing. However, even in over 200 less plate appearances last season, Freddie still posted 18 homers, slugged .471, and had 56 walks. His OPS was over .840, which is great for a slugger in this league now, and puts him among the best hitters in the game. IF he had the chance to play all 162 games, I think his numbers would have been even better than his 2013 campaign, the best of his career so far.

The Braves have no potential offensive firepower except at a couple of positions. Freddie is one of them. There's nothing they can get for Freddie offensively that would make sense to trade him, which only leaves the idea of trading him for a front-line Ace starter. Under no circumstances do I see the Braves trading Freddie Freeman for prospects only. Mainly because he's not like Simmons, who is the defensive mastermind but an offensive dud. In this day and age, teams pay for 2 things: Offense production, and top-line pitching. Freddie is one of those, and to get value he would have to be traded for the other.

But why in the world would the Braves trade for pitching and subsequently take the only feared stick out of their lineup? You can have all the pitching in the world, but if you can't score, you're doomed. Reference 2014 for the Braves. That team was 5th overall in ERA, and hovered around #1 in the majors for a long time. If you are in the top 10 in ERA in the majors, you're more likely to make the playoffs than not, but the Braves were part of 4 teams in 2014 that didn't make the playoffs in that top ten of ERA. The Braves, the Padres, the Mets, and the Mariners. Why? 29th, 30th, 22nd, and 19th in runs respectively. They couldn't score at all. And the Braves got WORSE this year in scoring.

So no, I wouldn't trade Freeman for pitching. I wouldn't even trade him for another 3 offensive players of better than average talent. Because it just doesn't make sense to do it that way right now. Freddie is one of the few actual ANSWERS this team has, and trading that away from magic beans would be a blow to the fanbase and the ticket holders. Because there's only one reason to trade Freddie for prospects, and that's to shed his $118M salary. If the Braves do that, they are spitting in the face of their supporters. Shedding payroll with the face of the Franchise would be like the Marlins trading Giancarlo Stanton for magic beans. That's something the Marlins do because they are a terribly run franchise with a madman miser for an owner.

It's not something the Braves do right after John Schuerholz just promised the fans we'd never see a season like 2015 again.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Braves trade Andrelton Simmons

Yes, I know. We have the sads that Simba will be leaving the Braves for two LA Angels prospects and Erick Aybar who will take over the SS role. The prospects are Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis who are reported the top two pitchers in the Angels system. Now, if you're looking for huge splash return for Simba? You didn't get that and you're pissed. If you're looking for a solid GM move that likely helps the WOEFUL pitching staff last year? You got a lot of help there.

Here's the thing. I loved watching Simmons play defense. He was the best defensive SS I've seen since I saw Ozzie Smith. But the problem that you will all remember if you take off the rose-colored glasses is that Simmons just couldn't provide much help hitting the ball. His OPS over the last two years was .617 and .660, and if you don't know that's freaking awful. Now, most SS's don't hit the ball well, so average offense is expected, but Simmons is probably mid-tier at best in the MLB when it comes to production.

Now, Aybar who will be replacing him isn't much better offensively, and he's slightly older, and he's nowhere near as spectacular with the glove. Obviously, he's a worse player than Simmons or they wouldn't have tossed in top prospects with the trade. Aybar is a lesser player, but he's a passable SS with good enough defense and he hasn't been any worse with the bat than Simmons. So, in my mind you're losing Simmons defense highlight reel, but it's a wash in the offensive department and you're getting more pitching for the future.

What about the pitchers? Sean Newcomb is a 22 year old 6'5" left-handed pitcher out of Massachusetts. He's a big boy who pitched his way into AA ball in the span of 2 years. The Scouting report on Newcomb is that he has a great fastball that starts in the low 90s and can get up to the high 90s on effort pitches. He has good stamina and can maintain velocity well as he goes later into games. Solid mechanics, and he's 245 pounds with apparently some ability to continue to add weight and strength to his game. That could be huge to have a power pitching lefty in the Braves arsenal.

Chris Ellis is a 23 year old 6'4" righty out of Alabama. Another tall guy with a gun. Like Newcomb he's got the 90s fastball velocity, but he lacks the control. That's something that Roger will have to work on with Ellis if he gets up to the majors quickly, but he's also playing in just AA ball right now. They'll both have to spend some time at AAA Gwinnett before they really get a chance to see time at the MLB level. I'm not sure we'll see them in 2016 at the last year of the Ted, but I'm certain we will see at least one of them in 2017 in the new ballpark, if not both.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Braves resign AJ Pierzynski

Small update tonight on the offseason front. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Braves signed AJ Pierzynski to a 1 year deal worth $3M. $1M of that will be in a signing bonus, $2M in salary, and $1M more incentives which I can only assume are based on amount of games played in the season.

Last season at the age of 38, AJ managed to play as the primary starting catcher in 113 games, with 407 ABs, 24 doubles, 9 homers, and 49 RBIs. He was one of the better sluggers on the team with a .430 slugging percentage, and he was the top hitter on the team in terms of batting average with a .300 average on the season.

In fact, AJ actually had a better year than catchers like Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero, and Jonathon Lucroy. And Lucroy is a guy I think the Braves are targeting as a possibility in the offseason. The fact AJ was doing all this at the age of 38 in the NL where he has to actually play the position? That's insane.

I think it's a great bargain for the Braves, regardless of his production going into next season. At the very least, the Braves need a veteran catcher to work with the staff. No, I don't expect him to slug .400+ and .700+ OPS at age 39. I think there will be some falloff. But in today's market of big money contracts going to very average talent, spending $3M on a solid catcher that can improve young pitching and teach them the progressions? That's big value for this team.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In Memory of Tommy Hanson

I didn't know Tommy Hanson any more than running into him once in an elevator after a Braves game. I was wearing my Braves jersey and hat still, as I'd dropped a friend and sat in traffic forever. It was 2 hours after the game was over, and I think he was shocked to see anybody still in gear at my building, where he lived at the time.

I didn't recognize him at all when he walked on in all his 6 foot plus lanky red-headed form, in street clothes with 2 Budweiser tallboys in a grocery bag filled with ice. Mostly, I don't recognize any sports figures out of uniform because I'm just not that in tune with what they would look like as normal people, and not people I see on the TV all the time.

He took a look at me, and asked me how I was doing. I said fine, and that I was happy the Braves won that night. He wasn't pitching at the time. Then I remarked how pissed off I was about the Phillies continuing to win and spoiling our fun. This was 2011 so we were destined to finish in 2nd place behind those hot Phillies who won over 100 games.

He laughed heartily at my Phillies comment, and said, "Man I feel that." I thought he was a nice guy and I left the elevator wishing him a good night. It was 10 steps to my apartment when everything clicked. That I'd just commented on hating the Phillies with Tommy Hanson. I laughed to myself and went to bed, wishing I'd had something cooler to say.

That was my lone experience with the man, and he's gone today. I'm sad for that because he was such a promising young talent that obviously had some demons that got in the way. No young talent should be snuffed out before their 30th birthday, but whatever happened in Tommy's life whether it was self-inflicted or just a medical problem, I wish he had continued to get a chance to follow his dream of pitching in the majors. I worry about his family not only having lost one son, but his brother as well earlier in the decade.

While it's just a stupid one story about a chance meeting in the elevator, I felt today would be the day to post it. I remember Tommy today, and I hope he's found happiness and peace wherever he is now, and that his family can recover from their pain and wounds someday without falling into despair.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Braves Offseason Schedule

Several people have already asked me what the offseason will look like for the Braves, so I figured I'd make a short post for people to let them know what the calendar looks like.

November 6th is the qualifying offer deadline for free agents, but the Braves don't have anyone that qualifies this season for that number. Instead, the Braves free agents will be AJ Pierzynski, Peter Moylan, Ross Detwiler, and Edwin Jackson. I expect they will make an offer to AJ, and maybe Moylan. I'm not sure on Jackson or Detwiler.

On November 7th, Free agents can sign with any team as the negotiation period is over.

November 9th starts the 3 days GM meetings where talks get going on players. You'll see some media reports come out about thoughts on moves but very little actual action.

November 20th, you'll see the teams set their 40 man rosters for the Rule 5 draft. The Rule 5 draft is a way during the winter meetings for other teams to go after prospects that have been stockpiled in another organizations minor league system. The downside to doing this is that you have to play the drafted guy on your 25 man MLB roster for the entire season, and you can't option or demote him. So, it's a gamble if you want to make a minor league move. However, guys like Jose Bautista and Jason Grilli were both Rule 5 picks. So it does have some upside.

More on the rule 5 draft here:

December 7-10 is Winter Meetings. That's where you will start seeing the big moves if any. Many trades and signings will happen during this period of time, so that's when you want to be updating your Twitter feed if you care. I expect the Braves to be VERY active this year as they shore up their new roster and their expanded payroll.

January 15th, players and teams file arbitration figures. Braves only have one big arbitration player, and that's Shelby Miller, who will likely beat the hell out of the Braves no matter what he asks. So I expect the Braves to make an offer rather than go that route, and see if they can't work out a longer term deal. They also have Mike Minor who won at arbitration last season, but I'm unsure if they will even give Mike an offer to play next season and keep him on the team given his injuries. If they do, he'll have to go to arbitration again.

February is arbitration hearings.

And I'll keep you updated as we go along with analysis and payroll figures once we're past winter meetings. Enjoy the holidays!

If you want all the dates and details you can find them here:


Monday, October 5, 2015

Braves, This time it's really over

The Braves finished the season with a bang, and finally got Shelby Miller his first win since May. It became the running joke of the season that Shelby was never going to get another win, and finally they broke the streak on the very last day. And Two-Bit the Drill also won the Tool race that day thanks to some help from race-fixer AJ Pierzynski.

I thought with my last entry for the season I'd take a look back at my bold predictions from the beginning of the season to see how dumb I was. Or smart! Maybe both. Let's take a look

  1. Freddie Freeman will have more walks this year than he's ever had in his career - WRONG! Ok so the thought process here was that Freddie would lack protection and that he would get pitched around a ton due to Chris Johnson struggling. While that was true to a degree, Freddie also played the fewest games he's ever played in a season, and he was injured even when he was in the game, so this never happened. He finished with 56 walks, his career high is 90. Way off. Dumb prediction.
  2. The Braves offense will be better than 29th in the league - WRONG! They finished dead last. Why? Because Pre-All Star break the Braves were 22nd in the league and looking fine, then they traded away the team. I think this one deserves half a point, because I don't believe they would have finished dead last without absolutely fire-selling the entire roster. Still, wrong is wrong.
  3. This Braves team will strike out much less - CORRECT! Only 1107 K's on this season, almost 1350 K's in 2014. But you know what? It didn't lead to any more runs because the Braves quit trying to win mid-season yet again. The funny thing was, we finished with the exact same number of runs as last year, 573. That says a lot about last year given how much of an offensive dumpster fire this was after all the trades.
  4. Christian Bethancourt will struggle offensively - CORRECT! This was damn easy for me because I never thought C-Beth could hit well. He was so bad that he got demoted and AJ Pierzynski ended up becoming our full time catcher, and probably the MVP of the season.
  5. Chris Johnson will bounce back, and hit over .280 on the season - WRONG! Chris Johnson did his over .280 with his new club the Indians before getting hurt, but he never played enough to crest the .255 mark on the season. Again, this one was ruined by injury and the fact the Braves refused to let him be and every-day starter. Which was still dumb in my mind, even if the trade made sense.
  6. Eric Stults will be a surprise starter - WRONG! Who the hell was Eric Stults? Oh yeah some jerk we cut before we even got halfway through this mess. Next prediction diphead.
  7. The Braves bullpen will be an early problem for the first time in a long time - CORRECT! And more than an early problem, they were a mid-way problem, a late problem, and a current problem going into the offseason. I could see the bullpen would struggle, but I had no idea that it would NEVER get corrected all season, and that it would still concern me in winter meetings.
  8. The Braves will sign Fredi Gonzalez to an extension mid-year - CORRECT! They made the move mid-year just as I expected on July 17th to extend Fredi for another year. And why? Because the Braves love consistency as they head into the new building. Frankly, this one was probably the easiest to predict knowing how much they love him, even if the fans hate his guts.
  9. I think the Braves will be leading the division at the All-Star break - WRONG! The Braves were 42-47 at the break and in 3rd place, 6 wins behind the Nationals who were leading at that time. But the Mets would end up taking the whole thing.
  10. The Braves will win 88 games and get the Wild Card - WRONG! I'd love to blame this one on the booze, but I gave that up in 2010. In reality, I think the Braves if they'd gone for it at 42-42 probably could have won 80+ games. But they didn't. And this looks stupid now. Turns out all the nay-sayers were right, and we barely scraped by with 67 wins. I was only off by like 21 wins. Pretty close, give or take
So all in all, my predictions were way too optimistic or outright wrong. But that's what I expect when I do them at the beginning of the season, and I could never expect what happened in terms of the total team shakeup. Guys like BJ, Chris Johnson, Alex Wood, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis? All gone. Instead we're welcoming the likes of Hector Olivera, Daniel Castro, Adonis Garcia, Shelby Miller, AJ Pierzynski, Mike Folynewicz, Jace Peterson, Nick Markakis, Cameron Maybin, and Michael Bourn.

This 2015 will be a year that you think you'll never talk about, but you will. It will be a mark of your fanhood and pride. It will be the story you tell those young 20-something kids 20 years from now when the Braves are winning division after division again, that you stuck it out in 2015 when they almost lost 100 games. And they'll roll their eyes at you and go on texting their friends with their eyeballs on their new-fangled brain implants while the cars self-drive them to the game. Those whipper-snappers and their technology.

So buck up Braves fans. It's not all over. It's just over for this year. And I think we can all thank God for that.


Monday, August 31, 2015

The White Flag is Waving

Braves fans, constant readers, I want to thank you for sticking with the blog and this team for this long. It's been a fun ride until after the All-Star break. Then it's just been a slow-boat to Hell populated by demons poking you in the butt. I talked to my friend about what's been happening and he informed me that through no fault of my own, the blog has taken a turn towards being just tough to read. I can't blame him for feeling that way either.

This Braves team is now completely unwatchable. This is the worst baseball team I've ever witnessed up close, and I followed the Braves in the 80s. This team lost a series against the Yankees this last weekend, and they lost it combined 38-11. That 38 runs is the most ever given up in a 3-game series since the Braves have moved to Atlanta. There's literally nothing more I can say about it than in the last 50 years, we've never witnessed anything this horrible.

So with that in mind I'm transitioning entirely to football. I'm creating a new blog for SEC football soon that I think you will like, and I'll be sure to pimp that out to all my fans. But as far as the Braves go, I'm not willing to put up with any more of this. It's one thing to rebuild, it's another thing entirely to sell the entire fanbase down the river with unwatchable crap that sets records from the 1960s.

What makes matters worse, the Ted looks like they are getting ready to abandon it. The food service was terrible this year at games, the facilities look like they aren't getting any more maintenance, and in general it felt more run-down than it had in the past. I used to like to go to Turner Field for the game-day experience. Now I feel like I'm being nickel and dimed to death over extra jalapenos on my nachos. No joke, they wanted to charge me $2 on a $7 nacho for extra jalapenos. The staff looks lazily around and barely even seems to give a damn about taking my order. This isn't the Braves way, and this isn't in some small section of the upper deck. This is behind home plate 101.

I hope we can forget about this season quickly and that we're not just setting ourselves up for more pain in 2016. I hope they can find some bullpen help and get this young pitching staff coached up. I hope we get a manager who speaks in more than just platitudes and can manage a bullpen when we move to the new stadium. I have a lot of hopes. But until those hopes come true, I'm not going to be bludgeoned with terrible baseball and players that look like they've quit.

We didn't give up on this Braves team, they gave up on us. That's the most disappointing part.

I'll do a full season wrap-up after the last game, and go over how my early season predictions went. Until then?

GO (2017) BRAVES!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

This was an actual Braves inning this week

It's not often that the Braves pull something that drops my jaw in a horrifying way. This week they did just that. Here's what happened in the 7th inning against the Rockies on Tuesday.

Simmons walked.
Bourn walked. Simmons went to second.
Ciriaco grounded into a double play, but went to first.
Markakis walked, Ciriaco went to second.
A wild pitch moves the runners to second and third.
Nick Swish walks to load the bases.
The Rockies change pitchers to face Freddie Freeman.
Freeman strikes out to end the inning.

Now, that may not sound like much, but think about this. The Braves had 4 walks and a wild pitch, and managed to score ZERO runs. With two runners on and no outs, thinking of all the possible permutations of the way that could actually happen, the double play through third is the only way it could happen. You had to have a double play, and you had to have it happen when there wasn't a runner on third. A normal double play going to second and first while the runner advanced to third? Nope, doesn't work because he scores on the wild pitch. If you just go out by out, the runners eventually advances home on the four walks, regardless of the wild pitch.

No, it had to happen that way. Having a double play that went through third base was it. Otherwise, a runner scores SOMEHOW. But no, not with this team. They find ways to achieve the seemingly improbable and make it possible. Because that's the "Braves Way" in 2015. That and we've won one game in the last 10. Yep we're 1-9 right now. The odds that this team wins even 70 games are really tanking fast.

So in the hopes we pull this thing together at home, we have the Yankees this weekend. If nothing else I want to ruin those Yankee's weekend.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Braves set record from 1968, Fredi stinks at Bullpen Mgmt

The title says it all. The Braves lost a 4-game series in Chicago for the first time since 1968. I just wanted to remind people that the Braves are setting records that haven't been broken in almost 50 years. It reminds me of when the Florida Gators lost at home to Vanderbilt a couple years back, and that hadn't happened since World War II. But at least the Gators had the good sense to fire their head coach. The Braves don't seem to do anything but tell us that this manager has a handle on everything.

I'm not going to lambast Fredi Gonzalez for many things, because honestly the manager has little control over many things, but his bullpen management has been a disaster. There are few good answers, and when there aren't many good answers it falls on the pitching coach to improve guys, and the manager to put those struggling relievers in the best positions. Instead, Fredi is focusing WAY too much on R/L matchups (or not enough at the right times) and not taking into account that the bullpen guys need time to figure it out on the mound. Then, inexplicably he gives extra batters to guys that are obviously struggling and the game comes unraveled. Allow me to explain.

In game 2 against the Padres, Wisler has a 2-run game going through 5 innings. He has 85 pitches in the books and although he's laboring, he's still getting outs and keeping the Braves in the game. Instead of letting him go in the 6th, Fredi goes to the bullpen. Any time the Braves put the bullpen in play for more than 3 innings, I can almost guarantee the odds of losing rise to 90% or worse. Aardsma comes in and gets shelled. Detwiler come in after him gets shelled. And what was once a 2-0 managable deficit in the 6th ballooned to a 7-0 laugher in just one inning.

In game 3 against the Padres, Julio Teheran has been dealing. He has only given up 1 run on 4 hits through 6 innings, and he's struck out 7. The Braves are tied 1-1 because the offense is terrible. But because for some reason when a pitcher gets close to 100 pitches, he has to come out now. So who does Freddie go to? A rookie who has literally 6 innings pitched in the majors. In a tie game on the road. Are you freaking serious? Of course as luck would have it, BJ Upton gets a hit off him immediately. That alone should tell you the kid doesn't have it today. Does Fredi take him out? Noooooooo, he leaves him in there for not one, not two, not three, but SIX batters as the Padres manage to score two more runs to make it 3-1. Moylan eventually relieved him and got the final out. Hint, you don't put a brand new rookie on the mound in a tie game scenario. That's stupid.

I won't fault Fredi for starters getting destroyed, so Folty getting ripped in Game 1 against the Cubs, and Wisler getting shelled in 3 innings has nothing to do with management. Even Shelby Miller's curse can't seem to fall on Fredi because nothing will help Miller win a game it seems.

What I will fault him on is Game 3. By some small miracle with Williams Perez on the mound, the Braves manage some stellar offense. They scored 7 runs in this game, and they had a 7-3 lead going to the bottom of the 5th. Perez had looked nothing short of awful all game, giving up a couple of no-doubt homers on a ton of pitches, so we had to know that this was going to be his last inning regardless.

The Cubs managed to ding Perez for two more runs on a double after he's gotten two outs. Does Fredi get him? No. So Perez gives up another two out double and now it's 7-6 before Fredi finally gets Moylan to put out the fire. And he does. So with it 7-6 does Fredi allow Moylan to go back out there? No, he goes to, you guessed it, MARKSBERRY AGAIN! And the kid gives up a dinger to tie the game 7-7. The time to put in Marksberry isn't in freaking close games! You don't let young kids who were in single-A ball suddenly jump into high leverage MLB situations. That's why you have guys like Edwin Jackson and Peter Moylan for matchups.

So Jackson comes in and puts out the fire. For some reason he lets Jackson go another inning, but not Moylan, and Jackson gives up back to back homers. Note, this was against the bottom half of the lineup, and Miguel Montero who hit the first homer is a lefty. Jackson is a RH guy. The time for LH Marksberry was then if you believed you HAD to use him to get a lefty out. I'm fine with using the kid as a lefty specialist to get lefty hitters. But he'd already burned Marksberry down in the earlier innings to face a RH-RH-and Switch. It makes no sense. There's no real logic here. Just madness.

Anyway, just watch how Fredi manages the bullpen like he's pulling names out of a hat. Also if the Braves are in a key situation, I don't want to see someone pitching that's been called up this season unless it's the last thing we have. And we just released Aardsma who was one of the other few guys with some experience on this team. We're just making bad situations worse. We should have released Detwiler. He's terrible. But he's a lefty so he'll probably play here forever and suck the life out of me.

At this point I'm only watching home games because that seems to be the place where the Braves actually win, despite the bullpen shenanigans.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Why are the Atlanta Braves so bad on the road?

Well, it finally happened. I no longer want to watch this Braves team when they head out on the road. If you're watching, and judging by the TV numbers you aren't, the Braves have the worst road record by losses in baseball at 44, tied with the Phillies. Even worse, the entire NL East has a losing record on the road and the best of those is 8 games under .500 when they leave their home confines.

I expected better than this mess, and we all would have seen better if the Braves hadn't given up mid-season and traded away everyone. I get really frustrated as I'm watching a Mets team who is frankly terrible everywhere except New York, and they are likely going to win a terrible division over a tanking Washington Nationals team. There's no reason the Braves couldn't have competed in this division and won it if they actually rolled the dice now instead of stocking the farm system for a possible future that may never come to pass. Rational people will disagree, but offense wasn't the problem with the pieces we had. The issue was we were unwilling to improve the biggest problem on the team, which was the bullpen. We may not even fix it next season when the team is a year from the new stadium. This bothers me as a fan.

I don't expect to win every year. I really don't. I understand the need for a rebuild. But there's aspects to this rebuild that don't make sense to me, and one of them is the need for bullpen arms and decent hitting. The Braves have offloaded both in these trades, and gotten back a slew of unproven minor league "talent" that may or may not have any impact at the MLB level. This shows up in numerous ways, but the most obvious is road record.

Having a losing road record in baseball is common. Of the 30 teams in baseball, exactly 7 have a winning road record right now. That's about 24%. So, losing on the road and making up your wins at home is indeed the norm. It's one of the reasons that baseball has a huge home field advantage. Here's an article with some data that breaks down home field advantage in baseball over the last 5 years:

The basic conclusion of that article is that home teams are winning almost 54% of the games. To most people that sounds small, but an advantage like that over 5 years equals almost 900 wins. Divided out by teams that's an advantage of nearly 6 wins per team per season that they get because they are playing at home.

So going into this season, if we take into account that an average team will win only 46% of their road games, it stands to reason that the Braves would have a losing record on the road. Here's the problem, the Braves winning percentage on the road is only 33%. That 13% below the average is worth almost 9 wins, which if you move 9 from the loss column and put them in the win column for the Braves, guess what? The Braves would be 62-59, 3.5 games back of the Mets and ahead of the Nationals for the Division title race. And we'd probably all feel better about ourselves and the team.

But the problem is the pitching for the Braves on the road is awful, a 4.57 staff ERA that's 24th in the league. You can't win games when you are giving up 4-5 runs every time you leave Atlanta. It just won't work. Compare that to the Braves team that last made the playoffs in 2013, whose road record was 40-41. That team won 96 games and had a staff ERA on the road of 3.68, which was almost a full run better than now. That's our difference, plain and simple. Scoring or not scoring, when your pitchers cross that 4.50 barrier on the road, it's a recipe for disaster. The current teams worse than that are Minnesota, Boston, Detroit, Seattle, Colorado, and Philly. Guess how many games back those teams are in their divisions? 13.5, 12.5, 14, 9.5, 17.5, and 17.5 games back. The Braves are 11.5 back. You can't win with that kind of pitching on the road. Nobody can.

So I am firmly in the camp that this organization sold us fans down the river, and I have no idea when the fast moving currents are going to stop. I'm looking at a team that obviously has no answers this season, and I'm wondering if they'll have answers in 2017, let along 2016. We've been stockpiling pitching, but somebody has to man up in the bullpen, and somebody else has to start slugging the ball besides Freddie Freeman and old AJ Pierzynski. But if you can't at least put up a fight on the road, you aren't even going to be relevant by August. Just like we see now.

Keep an eye on that minor league talent we have now and the young arms we got in these trades. In the immortal words of Star Wars, "You're our only hope!"

Make sure to click an ad this week if you haven't already since it supports the blog, and hopefully this team can make things more watchable when we head back home against the Yankees.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Cameron Maybin is a Freaking Sorcerer with RISP

For those of you that missed it, Cameron Maybin jacked his first walk-off homer last night to win the series against the DBacks, and bail out an offense that yet again left Shelby Miller hanging like a side of a beef in a meat locker. I debated with one of my friends what award we should give Shelby for getting absolutely no help from the offense. Perhaps the AT&T Award since his support is absolutely wretched.

Anyway, Cameron Maybin hits well in key spots. People in the stats world don't believe in clutch players since they say everything evens out. I agree that things even out, but I also believe in the temporary psychology of clutch. Anybody that's ever played a sport knows what it's like to have intense pressure, and have certain players you can rely on to perform in those spots. Cameron Maybin is one of those players who has risen up in big spots this season. Here's why:

Total 2015: .277 avg with .397 slugging, 9 homers, 51 RBIs
2015 RISP: .380 avg with .500 slugging, 1 homer, 42 RBIs
2015 RISP, 2 outs: .361 avg with .528 slugging, 0 homers, 14 RBs

The dude is really coming out of his shoes this season when he's getting RISP chances. What's crazy is that for the last 3 years going into this season? He was terrible in those same scenarios. He's riding what the stat-heads would call an outlier in his career. And I would actually agree with them on that count. Nobody hits almost 100 points better on their average with RISP long term. It's a complete anomaly.

So why does it matter to recognize that fact? Because at some point, Cameron is going to come back down to earth when the Braves likely decide it's time to resign him or not. And what you need to remember when that time comes is that Cameron is a career .250 hitter. Day to day he's going to struggle to be part of the Braves long term play when 2017 hits. In essence, as much as I like the guy, he's likely not someone who will be a Braves player for several years to come.

But the good news is that we get him through 2016, and possibly 2017 with a club option. If he continues to stay hot he might have some major trade value in the offseason for some more hitting help on the team or heaven help us more bullpen options. Remember the lesson of Chris Johnson. If you think it's an outlier, you sell high. Always sell high.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

How Bad is the Braves Bullpen?

Short update since it's been a while since I wrote something. I watched the games against Tampa Bay and the two games against Arizona so far. Considering we lost 3 of those, and 2 of them we lost because the pitching imploded, I was very unimpressed with our staff. I can understand why John Hart wanted to get as many pitching prospects as we can, because this team can't pitch consistently. That's the hard truth. The even harder truth is that outside of maybe a handful of guys I'm not sure anybody on the staff is really MLB ready.

So how bad is the bullpen that keeps blowing games for the Braves? Right now the Braves relievers have a 4.20 ERA which puts them 24th in the league. But where does that rank for Braves teams in the past? The only bullpen that has been worse by ERA than this one in recent history was the 2008 Atlanta Braves pen that finished with a 4.25 ERA in 21st place in the majors. In terms of rank, no bullpen since 2000 has finished worse than 24th in the league.

Do you remember the 2008 Braves? Oddly they have a ton in common with this current team. They only won 72 games all season, and they finished in 4th place in the division. Here's who was pitching on that ill-fated team. The starters were Jair Jurrjens, Jorge Campillo, Tim Hudson, Jo-Jo Reyes, Charlie Morton, and a very old Mike Hampton and Tom Glavine. John Smoltz also pitched for like, two seconds on that team. The relievers were Jeff Bennett, Blaine Boyer, Buddy Carlyle, Will Ohman, Manny Acosta, Juan Tavarez, Mike Gonzalez, Vladimer Nunez, Royce Ring, Chris Resop, and Rafael Soriano.

That team was awful. The only upsides to that squad were Brian McCann, Chipper Jones, and Martin Prado were all in the starting lineup. That was the year we traded away Mark Teixeira to the Angels. Nothing went right in 2008, and it was the worst year in terms of wins we'd had since the turn of the millennium. And we may beat that this year. That's how bad this bullpen is, it reminds me of the 2008 team that lost 90 games. Oh, and the worst team in recent memory was the 1990 Braves that only won 65 games. With 46 games left and 52 wins in the books, I don't see this Braves team being that bad, but they will have to win more than 1 out of every 4 games the rest of the way, and that's what they lost in the last 4 games I watched.

So how bad is this Braves bullpen? It's likely the worst we've seen in 15 years at least. Which is saying something. Because if I have to go back much further than that, we're getting dangerously close to the 1980s Braves. And that's nothing we want to remember or see again.


Monday, August 10, 2015

What is a realistic goal for this Braves team?

If we're looking at simple math, the Braves currently have a .455 winning percentage as we stand today. That means on a 162 game season, the Braves would have 73-74 wins, which is pretty much exactly what Vegas had them projected to be at the beginning of the season. I believe the exact number was 73.5 which is uncanny. Those casinos aren't build by people winning a ton of money.

But is that winning percentage indicative of how the Braves are playing with all the trades and changes they've made? I don't think so. I'm going to use the Alex Wood trade as the dividing line because at that point in time, the Braves were essentially waving the white flag. They've since moved Chris Johnson for Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, so the team has improved from the very poor hitting club they were before. However, Freddie is banged up again, so we're likely not going to see him for a while either.

On July 30th, the Alex Wood traded happened. It's been about 11 days since then, and we've played 10 games. The Braves are 5-5 in that stretch, a .500 record. Let's assume that without any other changes, that's what the Braves are for the rest of the year, a .500 ball team. With 50 games left, they would finish with 76 wins instead of 73-74. So really, being just average isn't a huge bump.

But what if my goal is winning 81 games? That's a .500 record on the season. Why would I want to get there? A few reasons. One, I think it provides the team a big boost that they maintained a "winning" record even with all the craziness going on in this year. Two, it validates that John Hart is taking this rebuild in the right direction, and that the younger pitching is started to hold its own. Three, it's fun to spit in the eye of all those analysts who said the Braves would have 90+ losses this year and a non-functional offense.

What's it going to take to get to 81 wins? A 30-20 record. Or a .600 winning percentage. It's damn near impossible, but remember that the Braves schedule for the rest of the August only has 2 really tough teams on it, the Yankees and the Cubs. If the Braves can finish the month 12-7, I think they are in a really good position to finish strong. Now, for that to happen they are going to have to score more runs, and the bullpen is going to have to stop giving it away late.

As for the scoring, the Braves are 5th in total runs scored in the month of August so far, which is way up from the horrific scoring month they had in July when they finished dead last. It's quite the turnaround. The bullpen is still a question mark. The Braves dumped Avilan in a trade (thank heavens), and the bullpen now has names like Ross Detwiler, Andrew McKirahan, Jake Brigham, Matt Marksberry, Ryan Kelly, Arodys Vizcaino, and David Aardsma. And I can see things improving for guys like Aardsma (who had two really bad games), and Vizcaino and Marksberry. I need to see more out of Detwiler, Brigham, Kelly, and McKirahan, and I suspect we will.

What's realistic for the Braves to finish? I'm thinking anything between 70-78 wins is reasonable. I'm hoping for 80+ but it's going to take a never-say-die attitude out of these guys, and the Mets/Nats tanking a bit. Will we win the division? Absolutely not, nor the wild card, nor anything of the sort. For that to happen, the Braves would have to win 15 in a row, and that's insanity reserved for the completely delusional. In all liklihood with the Met and Nats beating each other up, the Braves get eliminated from the playoffs by Labor Day.

Mainly what I want to see for the rest of the season is how the young starters and bullpen develop, how Michael Bourn looks in the outfield along with Cameron Maybin, and if the Braves decide to ever bring Christian Bethancourt back this season, or if he's finally banished to AAA until they can unload him in a trade. But mostly I'm looking for fun moments like this weekend when we beat up on the Marlins and I got a replica world series ring!


Friday, August 7, 2015

Braves agree to trade Chris Johnson for Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn

For those of you still watching this team commit sins against the very game of baseball for the rest of the season, and there are a few of you, where this team is going might have crossed your mind. Is this just a bunch of tryouts? Is the team still trying to win games? Are we still making moves? Are we tanking for a draft spot ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers and a guaranteed lotto pick? That last one is an NBA reference, so likely not.

The truth is that this front office is mostly going to use the rest of this season to sort out their pitching, and they really don't care how many runs they score or how many games they win now. This was evidenced by how quickly they pulled out Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons for seemingly minor injuries like abdominals and thumb bruises. If this was a pennant race, I assure you nothing is keeping Freddie Freeman on the sidelines as long as he's been this season. But the Braves (the people that run the Braves and management, not the players) aren't concerned about now. They are concerned with 2 years from now.

You are a smart fan so you already know that. It was hit home for you when the Kelly-Uribe trade happened and pile-driven into your innocent skull with the Wood-Johnson-Salary trade. What you may not know is exactly how they want to function as a team. The players that take the field won't stop trying, so there's no worries there. You will have a team built on enjoyable moments when your expectations are sufficiently lowered. When you expect to win nothing, every win is a treasure and every win is joyful. That's where they are now.

And now this happens. The Braves finally unload Chris Johnson to the Cleveland Indians like the regifted Bread Maker from Old School. And good news! We got back one of my favorite players that I thought the Braves should have never let go, Michael Bourn. We also got Nick Swisher who I think is a colossal skinbag of failure. Swisher has been posting a BJ Upton like slash line of .198/.261/.297 this season, which is even worse than his .208/.278/.331 of 2014. He sucks. I don't want him playing. I'm hoping that's just part of a salary dump and we immediately cut him upon arrival.

However, Michael Bourn went to Cleveland in 2013 as a free agent since his agent thought the Braves offer of $12M a year was paltry, and then when the Braves moved on he signed with Cleveland for, guess what, 13.5M a year. But I can't really begrudge a guy for chasing his money. I can begrudge the Braves for then paying BJ Upton a ton more money than that to play center field, and stink. But that was Frank Wren, and he's gone, and so is his last protege pick Chris Johnson. Braves fans on Twitter will likely rejoice that we unloaded his stupid extension.

The upside to Bourn is that he's a great Center Fielder, but he's seen a falloff in power as he went to Cleveland. During his stint in the AL, Bourn hit for .345 slugging, down from his .381 slugging in Atlanta. I can hope that a return to this division might improve his numbers, and the Braves would have a club option to pick him up for a $12M season in 2016 if they wanted. If not, they can renegotiate a free agent deal or cut him. Either way, it gives the Braves an actual outfielder instead of whatever the hell they are putting in left field at the moment. I'd imagine they would move Maybin over to left and cover center with Bourn.

So that's that for Chris if the deal goes through. Let's hope it does!


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

If you like the blog, just remember...

Quick reminder since I've seen lots of views lately, but very few people taking a second to do click-thrus. If you like the blog and you like the content, I don't ask for much, but I do ask that once a week or so you take a second and visit/click one of the ads you on the site. A simple click once a week takes almost no time, but it does help fund the site and eventually get to the point where I can do some fun stuff. What kind of fun stuff?

  1. Eventually, a podcast. That requires software and equipment and an audience. Your clicks will help that become a reality
  2. A custom logo for the site. I do know a few local artists I could pay to create a cool logo to display on Braves by the Numbers, and eventually...
  3. Some swag gear like T-shirts. Giveaways, trivia, and other things could net you your very own Braves by the Numbers memorabilia! Think of how stylish you'll look!
But this all happens with your help as readers, so remember to take a second and check out the sponsors. It can mean all the difference in supporting an endeavor that basically pays me nothing, but I'd like to defray the costs. If you're one of my email subscribers, just take a second to visit the site and do a quick click. I'd appreciate it.

Thanks again guys and gals!


Monday, August 3, 2015

Who the Heck Is: Adonis Garcia

Full Name: Adonis (Arrieta) Garcia
Age: 30 as of April 2015
Positions: 3B, 2B, OF
Birthplace: Ciego de Avila, Cuba
Throws: Right
Bats: Right
Favorite Cartoon: Teen Titans Go! (if he likes Cartoon Network)

Many of you saw Adonis Garcia hit two homers already at the major league level, and probably wondered where in the heck this guy came from. Allow me to fill in the gaps. Adonis was born in Cuba, and played in Cuba until he defected in 2011. However, he wasn't allowed to join a major league team until 2012 when he entered the Yankees organization. He played there for the last three seasons until 2015 when the Yankees released him. The Braves then signed him and sent him to AAA Gwinnett.

Now, Garcia would probably still be playing in Gwinnett if it weren't for the Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe trades, but the Braves needed someone to fill in at 3B and OF for the duration of the season. So, here comes Adonis. And he came in with a bang. In his 2nd and 3rd starts of the year, he hit home runs off Michael Wacha and Zach Britton. He harvested a couple of home run pelts from two impressive pitchers.

But it's not all sunshine and roses for Adonis. He's only hitting .219 at the MLB level on the season, and he's really struggled against right-handed pitching so far. The good news for him is that in the minors, and so far in the majors, he's basically a replacement level player, which is really all the Braves are looking for on their way to this rebuild. Is that good news? Frankly at this point I can't even tell anymore. This weekend series with the Phillies had me questioning my faith in a lot of things.

Garcia's upside is obviously his power. Those two homers were no accident, he can go opposite field with some serious pop. He also has good enough wheels to stretch out some doubles and even triples, while also swiping a few bags with his speed. The downside to Garcia is his plate discipline. He takes almost no walks and has at least one strikeout a game. He'll have to improve that if he wants to remain an every-day option at either third or left field.

Combined with Hector Olivera, Adonis is another one of John Hart's moves that include older players from Cuba. I don't think that Adonis is anywhere near as talented as Olivera, but it sort of shows that Hart is committed to the idea of expanding his roster even more internationally. We now have 14 players on the 40-man roster who were born outside the USA, up from just 9 players last year. John Hart is casting a much wider net, and I'm hoping it will yield some decent results as he looks beyond just our own national shores.

Is Garcia part of the future plans for the Braves past next season? I seriously doubt it unless he plays out of his mind for the rest of 2015. The Braves aren't going to compete long term if guys like Adonis are a long-term answer. But in a rebuild situation where you need competent, solid players to go out there in the field and possibly hit some long balls? Garcia is a good stop-gap solution.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Braves trade Alex Wood, and No More Recaps/Previews

Braves fans, I've defended this team a ton this season talking about how they were undervalued, and how the skeptics were treating them like they would never score runs, and how they could potentially contend for a winning record. Then, the Freddie Freeman injury happened and that started a chain reaction that led us here. Grilli was injured, the team went into a July offensive slump that is only rivaled by September of 2014, and now we're trading the team away. In essence, we were 1 game away from cresting the hump of a winning record, and then it all went to pieces.

Alex Wood, Jim Johnson, Luis Avilan, Jose Peraza, and Bronson Arroyo were all traded to the Dodgers via a 3-way with the Marlins. Giggity. That's 3 guys from the main roster, one of our top prospects, and a salary dump. And we're not done yet, the deadline is Friday. John Hart could easily move more guys. I joked last night on Twitter that John Hart fired up Game of Thrones, put Flight of the Valkyries on the loudspeaker, and started making phone calls.

The question that most Braves fans have is why? Why trade away Wood when we still have to deal with an obviously struggling Teheran and a Chris Johnson contract only a mother would love. Why is AJ Pierzynski still on the team if he has any value at all? Why would you accept an unproven 30 year old Cuban player who has never been in the majors? WHY NOT BRING MARTIN PRADO BACK?WHY DO YOU HATE US? None of these questions have good answers right now, and the crappier part is they won't have good answers until likely 2 years from now.

I could tell you the details of the trade, but there aren't any. Hector Olivera is a 30 year old Cuban player who has spent his career so far in the minor leagues or in Cuba. Paco Rodriguez is a lefty 24 year old reliever who is going to miss the rest of the season with elbow surgery. And Zachery Bird is a young prospect in the minors who is 20 years old, throws right handed, and hasn't made it past A-Ball yet. The deal is trading for magic beans. I can't tell you a thing about the guys we got because nobody knows, with the exception of Paco, how they will play in the majors. And Paco only has 85 innings in his career. Of those he's got a 2.51 ERA, so it's not that bad for a reliever.

Now why no more previews and recaps? Because honestly, I do this for fun. I enjoy watching the team. I'm a fan just like you. And because I'm a fan, that's likely why you come here to read my stuff instead of just going to Talking Chop or another blog that's obsessed with sabermetrics and trying to convince you they are right and you are stupid. There's thousands of options, and you chose mine, and I love you for it. I love the feedback I get from readers.

But this Braves team we're going to watch in the aftermath of these final trades? This is a spring training team. This is hitting the reboot button mid-season and watching guys who will be playing for roster spots. Under no circumstances are the Braves trying to win anymore. They've completely given up and as such I see no reason to worry about matchups or records or recaps. They don't care about winning the game so why in the world should we agonize about the results game by game?

Instead, I plan on switching gears with the blogs. I'm going to do weekly features on guys like the WHO THE HECK IS THIS ATLANTA BRAVE? More often. I'm going to have more fun as I make fun of the silliness of this team. I'll do the occasional rant. In essence, it will be more free-form, more fun, and more about where the team is heading instead of just recapping where they've been. And I'll toss in some stats too. Should be more interesting reading down the stretch to us getting eliminated. Ugh.

Does that mean I'll stop watching? No, I'm an addict and possibly a masochist. It does mean I'll change HOW I watch though, and I suggest you do the same. For your sanity.

Anyway, on to bigger and better things. Like clearing ground on that new stadium, and the team that will play in it!


Monday, July 27, 2015

Braves lose series to Cardinals, head to Baltimore next

As expected, the Braves lost the series with the Cardinals. If you thought they had a chance at winning that series, you were crazy. The Cardinals are the best team in baseball, and the Braves are struggling to score runs with their best player on the bench. BUT WAIT! FREDDIE CAME BACK! And guess what happened? The day Freddie started, the Braves won their only game of the series. Coincidence? Nope. He's that important to the lineup.

The real disappointment in this series was game 2, when Shelby Miller pitched an absolute shut-out gem, only to have the Braves score absolutely nothing for him. Who has the lowest run support in all the majors? Cory Kluber of Cleveland with 2.52 runs a game. But Shelby is only 6 spots better at 87th in the league with 2.90 runs per game. And most of that came before July. In the month of July, Shelby's getting an average of 1 run per game. That's beyond insane. Cy Young would have trouble winning games with that kind of support.

Next up we have the Orioles for the middle portion of this long road trip. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Wood v. Gausman
Game 2 - Teheran v. Jimenez
Game 3 - Banuelos v. Tillman

Now, if you know me at all, you know I hate interleague. I refuse to do huge breakdowns on interleague matchups unless the pitchers have faced our hitters in NL play before they went to the AL. In that regard, only Ubaldo Jimenez has really faced Braves hitters, so let's look at his successes and failures against Atlanta. Ubaldo faced Atlanta only once in the last 3 years, and it was in a 3-1 loss during 2013. However, he has faced the majority of the Braves lineup in his career, mostly with the Rockies, and he's been tattooed with a 1.000+ OPS. Most of that is Jonny Gomes ripping him a new one with 3 homers. So, I'd play Jonny in that game. Just saying.

As for the Orioles on the whole, the team isn't that great. They are in 3rd in their division, under .500 by a game, and they've lost 6 of their last 10. They are basically the AL version of the Braves right now, with a slightly better record. So as the Braves face this AL doppelganger, what do the Orioles do well? In a word, POWER. They Orioles rip the cover off the ball, and they have 120 homers on the season, which is good for 5th place in the majors. By comparison, the Braves have 59 homers. That's dead last in the majors. So, Braves pitching if you want to win this series? Keep it in the ballpark and you'll be fine.

What do the Orioles do poorly? Starting pitching. Their starters have a 4.24 combined ERA which is 20th in the MLB, while the Braves have a 3.82 ERA that's good enough for 10th. Basically it's strength on strength in this matchup until you get to the bullpens, where Baltimore has a huge advantage. Baltimore is one of the rare teams where you're better off trying to rough up their starter than getting into their pen, which is top 5 in the MLB. So jump on them early boys, you don't want to be trailing late against the Orioles.

CPA Predictions:

The CPA was right about the series going 1-2 for the Braves, but it got the games mixed up because it didn't have Freddie Freeman coming back early. As such it's 1-2 on the picks and 6-3 on the second half.

Game 1 - Braves by 3
Game 2 - Orioles by 2
Game 3 - Braves by 1

The CPA likes the Braves surprising people with a road series win. Beat up on those birds!


Friday, July 24, 2015

Braves beat Dodgers, Travel to St. Louis

I didn't expect the Braves to win the series against a hot Dodgers team, but they really surprised me this week. Coming off a very lackluster finish before the All-Star break, they've come out guns blazing with the bats.

The Braves scored 12 runs in the series on their way to both wins. They could have won the third game if they just came up with a bit more offense, but I imagine for a team that's struggling to score that was asking a lot. Either way, the real hero of the games was Nick Markakis who went 4/7 with 4 runs scored in the two wins. I like the way Nick is swinging the bat right now, plus he got his fist homer of the year in that series. Who could have called that? THAT'S RIGHT ME IN THE LAST BLOG! WHEEEEE!

On to the matchups with the Cardinals:

Game 1 - Banuelos v. Cooney
Game 2 - Miller v. Martinez
Game 3 - Wisler v. Wacha

Instead of breaking down the pitching, I'm going to focus on what the teams do well. Starting with the Cardinals, their main strength is their pitching staff which has a team ERA of 2.68 on the season. That would be the best ERA in the majors across the board. Honestly, they aren't a great offensive team, but when you can pitch like the Cardinals are pitching? It barely matters as long as you can score 3 runs a game. Almost no other team can boast that.

For the Braves, the only thing they are doing well is starting pitching, as they have the 11th best ERA in the MLB. The problem is that Atlanta without Freddie Freeman has been well off their scoring pace, which usually means they can't win games without scoring 4 runs, and the bullpen is still lackluster. And without Freeman they usually aren't. And that's a shame.

So how will the games fare? Well in all three games, it will all be pitchers under the age of 25 facing each other. That will be fun to watch for a guy like me that really loves watching new talent. The Cardinals and the Braves are both in the middle of pitching youth movement, but the Cardinals have the money and power to back up their young guns with a whole myriad of solid hitting stars.

Key Players to Watch:

Kelly Johnson - Assuming he doesn't get traded during the season, Kelly has been raking in the month of July, with a .925 OPS and 3 homers.

AJ Pierzynski - AJ is now hitting .314 on the month with 2 homers, and 4 doubles. How the hell did he get 4 doubles? That's either perfectly placed balls or really bad fielding, because AJ ain't a speedster.

Jason Heyward - It's time. Jason will face the Braves, and even better he'll face Shelby Miller in a perfect trade confrontation. The downside of that? Jason is 2/7 off Shelby with a homer.

CPA Predications:

The CPA is 5-1 on the second half and finally looking decent. Probably because I restarted the counter, and the Braves are playing like a normal baseball team. Let's see what it thinks about the Cards.

Game 1 - Braves by 1
Game 2 - Cardinals by 2
Game 3 - Cardinals by 5

The CPA thinks the Braves lose this one on the road. The problem is really game 3, where Wacha destroys Wisler. I think Wisler will have huge problems with the Cards lineup, while the Braves have had a hard time Wacha who has been amazing at home. But then again, the CPA has been wrong before, maybe they pull this one out. Weirder things have happened if they start to score some runs.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Atlanta Braves drop series to Chicago Cubs, Welcome in Los Dodgers next

The AC guy is here trying to finalize the problems I've been having with this stupid unit for the last month. Man I'm hopeful. We've tried next to everything. Anyway!

Did the Braves win the series? No. Did they compete? Ehhhh, yeah in one game they did. In the other games, no. The worst part of watching this team in July is that they can't score. In fact, the second game of this series was dang near a no-hitter, but only because the official scorer changed an early hit to an error almost 5 innings later. Much to the ire of the entire Braves team. Luckily, AJ broke it up in the 8th so we didn't have to deal with that shame.

Home Julio was good enough to not lose. That's about all I can say with his outing since he gave up 2 runs and didn't even pitch a full 5 innings. But it was enough to keep the game tied and let the Braves coast along until the 8th inning, when unlikely hero Eury Perez won it with a 2-run single, 4-2. The second game was the aforementioned no-hit bid by Jon Lester, where the Braves literally mustered 2 hits in a 4-0 loss. The third game was just as offensively frustrating, but the real kicker was Shelby Miller getting completely screwed over by a Jace Peterson error that should be ended with an out at second base. Instead, all hands were safe and two runs later scored. With a 2-0 deficit, Shelby made a mistake to the Cubs Jorge Soler for a deep bomb to center. And yet, that was his only earned run. Once again, bad defense and no hitter cost Shelby what could have been a win. Instead, the Braves lost 4-1.

Now the Dodgers are in town, and they've been pretty good lately. To the tune of 7-3 in their last 10 games. So the Braves shouldn't expect any easy treatment just because they are at home. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Wisler v. Beachy
Game 2 - Wood. v. Anderson
Game 3 - Teheran v. Bolsinger

The good news is that you'll notice the Braves don't face Greinke or Kershaw. The bad news is that the way we're hitting, who cares who we are facing? The Braves are 24th in runs in July, and averaging 3.13 runs a game this month. The major issue? The Braves ERA in July is 3.63. When you're a half a run a game to the bad in a month, it's not a surprise the Braves record is 7-8 in July. So what do they have to do? Simply put, score 4 runs a game, or give up one run less.

Wisler and Wood are both coming off losses in Colorado, and Teheran is coming off that win against the Cubs. I liked Wisler's start, even though he ended up losing in Colorado, simply because he only allowed 2 runs on 9 runners in 6 innings. He was getting in trouble, but managing to pitch out of it effectively. Wood was the exact opposite as he got into trouble and got shellacked for 7 runs on 12 runners in just under 6 innings. I look for Wood to bounce back at home, but he'll need the run support to do it. Why? Because he hasn't give up less than 4 runs in Turner Field since a game against Boston a month ago. Teheran just needs to improve on what he did in the last win and go deeper into the games. I don't need Julio getting bogged down with pitch counts really early and having to go to a bullpen that even a mother couldn't love.

On the Dodgers side, we get to see the return of Brandon Beachy, hometown hero and part-time runway model. Beachy's only have one game in his return this season, and he was pounded by the Brewers for 3 runs in 4 innings on the way to a loss. He'd love nothing more than to stage a triumphant return to the Ted in front of what used to be his home team. Next, is Brett Anderson, a dominant lefty who is flying under the radar for many baseball fans. You know Greinke and Kershaw, but did you know that Anderson has only given up 9 runs in his last 5 starts, and he's good strikeout stuff with 77 on the season, and only 28 walks. Given how the team is hitting lefty's expect Chris Johnson to get a start. Lastly, the Braves get Mike Bolsinger, the hard luck loser of the Dodgers. His 3.04 ERA would be good enough to win in most places, but the Dodgers have lost 4 of his last 6 starts mostly due to bullpen woes. So the key for the Braves will be to get him out of there early.

CPA Predictions:

The second half starts with a bang! The CPA went 3-0 on the picks and now it looks to this series with the Dodgers. What will happen?

Game 1 - Braves by 1
Game 2 - Dodgers by 3
Game 3 - Dodgers by 2

Once again, the CPA thinks the Braves lose the series. They do believe the Braves will get Brandon Beachy in game one, but the rest have the potential to get ugly.

Right or wrong, the Braves just need to get the offense going. So what if Freddie's not here? We need Nicky to step up with his first bomb of the year. And it needs to happen in this series! I'm calling the shot NICK-BOMB AGAINST THE DODGERS!


Friday, July 17, 2015

Atlanta Braves try to rebound against the Chicago Cubs

Well I'm back, and I'm better rested from a week of basically no baseball. But now, I'm ready for the Braves to get things going so I have something functional to watch on TV. You ever try to watch TV in the summer that's not baseball related? It's garbage. And no, I do not want to watch made-up award shows, ridiculous singing competitions, or people being launched into targets. You're bad TV. You're bad and you should be ashamed of yourself. This is why people are going to Netflix in droves.

On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Teheran v. Hendricks
Game 2 - Banuelos v. Lester
Game 3 - Miller v. Arrieta

The first game brings back Home Julio, which is the good Julio as you well know by now. The Braves won 4 of the last 5 Home Julio starts, and they look to make this win number five. That's if they can suffer the loss of Freddie Freeman who is still out for more than 23 games and counting. It's a shame too, because the Braves are facing a pitcher they've never really seen before in Kyle Hendricks, and they could use Freddie's "see-ball-hit-ball" approach that doesn't require a lot of film or study. Still, Hendricks will provide a decent foil for Julio as Kyle's had a few struggles on the road with a 4.24 ERA and a 3-2 record with a .276 opp average. Julio hasn't given up an earned run at home since June 16th against the Padres. If the Braves don't rebound in this matchup, they likely won't all series.

Game two pits newbie Manny Banuelos against Jon Lester, who many of you will remember as a Boston Red Sox player for so many years. Manny is still building his brand so to speak, but I like the foundation he's laid out with only one earned run in 3 appearances. Jon Lester is having a very average year for himself at 31 years old with a 3.58 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP, and a .712 opp OPS. But average Lester is better than most pitchers out there, even if he is making $145M over 6 years. Yes, you read that right. You thought we had tough contracts in Atlanta? Imagine paying $25M for a guy with an ERA in the mid 3's, and a 4-8 record. Yeah. 

The final match features our ill-supported Shelby Miller against the very well-supported Jake Arrieta. The Cubs have scored an average of 5.3 runs a game for Jake over his last 10 starts. The Braves have scored 2.4 runs in Shelby's last 10 starts. So, if you're terrible at math, just know that Jake is getting more than twice the runs a game that Shelby is. That probably explains why Jake has a 10-5 record, and Shelby has a 5-5 record, even though Shelby's ERA is 2.38 and Jake's is 2.66. Have no doubt, these are both incredible pitchers right now, but until the Braves prove they can actually score runs when Shelby pitches? I never believe they'll win one of his games the rest of the season.

Other Notable Players:

- AJ Pierzynski - Keep your eye on AJ in this series, as he's now had some much needed rest, and he's got very positive career numbers off both Lester and Arrieta.

- Andrelton Simmons - Simmons has been awful hitting the ball over his last week of games, with a paltry .176 average and no extra bases. But like AJ, he's had luck against Lester and Arrieta lifetime. If he's going to turn it around, it needs to be now.

- Anthony Rizzo - The Cubs first baseman and All-Star is absolutely murdering baseballs right now. You can let anybody else on the club beat you, but it can't be this guy. If Rizzo has a huge series, it's because Braves pitchers are stupid and gave him melons to hit. And that's bad planning even in melon season.

CPA Predictions:

OK, so the first half was bad. The CPA went 32-42 in the first half games it picked. I'm resetting the counter in the second half because it's my blog and it's my rules. And it makes me feel better. I'll total at the end anyway so don't worry.

Game 1 - Braves by 1
Game 2 - Cubs by 2
Game 3 - Cubs by 2

The CPA likes home Julio, but hates the rest due to the Braves low scoring totals without Freeman in the lineup. He's worth almost 2 runs a game right now if  you just look at total averages with and without him. That's crazy.

Anyway, hopefully the Braves edge out a series win, because a loss will just reinforce the Dark Side trade deadline fire sale. A sweep would be a disaster unlike anything we've seen this season. So pick up your heads, Braves. Play hard and score some runs!


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Going to the Dark Side: The Atlanta Braves All Star Break

Well fans it finally happened. I've given up on our chances to get into the playoffs this season. I know, I know, many of you thought I was nuts anyway, but I honestly liked the way this team was coming together until this series in Colorado. We still have a game left, but we've lost the first three games against a team that's in dead last of their division, on the heels of being unable to sweep two series against teams that were just as bad if not worse. At the very least I thought we should go 7-3 in this stretch. We're probably going to go 6-4 at best, and we lost our best reliever last night to a season ending Achilles injury. Yes, we're 5 games out of the Wild Card and about that out of the division, but at this stage of the year, that's a large gap.

So why have I gone to the dark side after staying so positive for half the season? Here's why:

  1. We lost our closer - Normally, this wouldn't matter if you had a great bullpen, because somebody else could step into the closer role and shut down games. However, this bullpen is awful, to the tune of 27th in the MLB. And those ERA's INCLUDED Jason Grilli with his 2.94 ERA on the year. The rest of the bullpen is averaging well over 4.30 on the year. There's no person in my mind who can step into the role, and that means I have no confidence in the Braves ability to hold leads.
  2. When is Freddie returning? - Better yet, when is he returning at even 80% of himself? Because all I've heard so far is that Freeman wouldn't be back before the All-Star break. But even worse, the team is just "optimistic" he'll be back before August. I'm not sure it will even matter by then if that's even true. I think he could be even longer before getting better and back to full strength.
  3. At best, we're still under .500 at the break - That's not good enough to be in the playoffs. Yes, some teams have been under .500 at the break and made the playoffs. However, since 2012 when the rules changed, only the Dodgers made the playoffs with a .500 record on this date in 2013. And they were actually at .500, they weren't below. The chances the Braves can turn this around to even get a wild card spot would be record setting at the very least.
  4. The schedule gets way rougher - The Braves start the second half with 12 games against the Cubs, Dodgers, Orioles, and Cardinals. All those teams are over .500 with the Orioles being the worst at only one game over. But the Cubs are 6 over, the Dodgers are 11 over, and the Cardinals are freaking 24 over. Going into the break, the Braves were playing teams in last place and barely making it out at a .500 record on the series. Now, they'll be playing first and second place teams with everything to play for.
  5. We can't afford to hold assets - The problems with this team is the youth and the pitching, but we do have assets that work in the field. A guy named Mallex Smith is a fast young outfielder that will coming up very soon, and we have a guy in Cameron Maybin who is really topping out his ceiling at the MLB level. There are teams that may want to buy Maybin at a reasonable price, and the Braves want to dump Chris Johnson's contract ASAP. Combining the two seems logical, and I think the Braves will pull the trigger on that trade if there are any biters during the break. And dumping CJ's contract opens up $17.5M in free agency money we can use for veterans on the staff.
  6. We're a below average team in important categories - Fangraphs ranks the Braves defensively at 18th in baseball, and while being slightly below average isn't normally a problem for teams that can hit and pitch, the Braves don't do either of those exceptionally well. To make the playoffs, a team has to do something well, be it pitching, hitting, or fielding. But the Braves are below average in runs scored, ERA, and now fielding. There's nothing they do well.
  7. We have a -30 run differential - No team makes the playoffs with a negative run differential over an entire season. That's just math. If you have way less runs scored than you gave up, you lost more games than you won.
  8. The stadium is more important than one season to the organization - We all know the Braves were planning on playing for 2017 and the new ballpark anyway. This slide will just confirm to the front office that we are sellers and don't need to worry about 2015 anymore.
  9. Injuries came at the wrong time - It's one thing to have injuries. It's another thing to have injuries to your highest paid and most productive players. No team can survive that for any real length of time.
  10. I think we all just feel it going wrong - It's not something I can quantify, but watching Grilli go down and watching that ball drop in the 9th inning against the Rockies just felt like the end. You can't usually point to one moment in the season when you realized it was over, but I think I can in 2015. And I think that was it.
So that's it for me shaking the pom-poms about this team having a shot at the playoffs. I'm always realistic and will alway adjust to the situation at hand. I'm not afraid to tell you I was wrong, or change my mind on a team like other analysts who will stick to their guns in the face of overwhelming facts. That's not me. But I will say that many of them will crow about how they were right, and that this Braves team never had a chance. That's garbage. They absolutely had a chance until they lost their best players, and the numbers were bearing that out.

We have to switch modes now, and start looking at how this team finishes the season and who has a job in 2016. I want to see some of these young guys get shots at the MLB level, as they do tryouts for who can produce. I want to see if the Braves are committed to Fredi Gonzalez, or if they are going to move in another direction going into the new stadium. I want to see if this team continues to have heart and play with passion even though the chips are likely cashed in.

We'll see. In the meantime, it won't stop me from watching. I'm just hoping it keeps from getting as frustrated now that my expectations have changed.