Thursday, April 30, 2015

Braves and Reds: Dear Lord Find Us Pitching

Title says it all. Braves need to stop pitching like they are throwing water balloons at each other. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Miller v. Leake
Game 2 - Somebody (Folty?) v. DeSclafani
Game 3 - Stults v. Marquis
Game 4 - Teheran v. Cueto

That right FOUR GAMES! Wooooo! Let's get to chopping, Shelby. We need you! You're our only functional pitcher at the moment. Braves have won every game so far that Shelby has pitched. Miller is the only guy who has an ERA near 2.00 currently on the roster. He's the Ace right now, plain and simple. And that's not even close to what we thought going into the season, but you do you, Shelby. Keep living the dream. He's facing Mike Leake, a guy who is pitching deep into games, but not pitching well at all. He's giving up 9 runs in 3 starts, but he's also going 7 innings minimum. This is probably due to the fact that Cincinnati's bullpen is the absolute worst in MLB. Cincinnati's bullpen ERA is 5.86. To give you an idea of how bad that is, Atlanta is 28th and we're at 4.52 ERA. Cincy is a greasefire in the pen.

Game two is probably Foltenyvitch (spellcheck?) Foltynewicz apparently. I'll never get that right. Thanks Google. Folty has been pitching great in AAA, and Trevor Cahill who was supposed to start here is pitching like molten hot sewage. So, we're going a different direction. Folty will get the start against Deslafani, who I think is the child of Gwen Stefani and a Tesla. Either way, very Italian. Also, very very good. Deslafani has been lighting up the radar gun and other teams. He has 21 strikeouts in 4 starts, a 1.04 ERA, a 0.77 WHIP, and basically he's the best starter in the NL right now. No joke, he really is. He's ahead of Scherzer, the former CY Young winner in ERA. This matchup is a disaster in the making if we're throwing our AAA guy against their Ace. I have no real hope for this one, but I didn't have hope if Cahill was pitching, so who knows?

Game three will be Saturday and I will be in attendance. And I will be graced with two old farts on the mound. Eric Stults is 35 and steadily improving. Jason Marquis is 36 and also steadily improving. Both guys had terrible starts, so the ERA's are over 4.00 and 5.00 respectively. But given the fact that the bullpens are both awful right now, I expect the managers to leave them both in as long as possible. I have a feeling we're going to see some runs in this one, sooner or later. Or AARP Discounts.

The final game is Teheran, and I've outlined everything I think is wrong with him in the prior article. He goes against Cueto, who is basically the second Ace on the Reds along with the Holla-Back Electric Car child. Again, this is a disaster waiting to happen unless Julio magically turns it around. If not, the Reds hitters aren't missing fastballs down the middle, I assure you. Joey Votto will plant one in the drum in center field. But wait, there's a rub here. Cameron Maybin AND Eric Young Jr both hit Cueto very well. Might we see both in the outfield for the first time? We'll fine out Sunday.

CPA Predictions:

The CPA couldn't predict the Braves giving up 30 runs. I'll just go ahead and say that now. So it got smoked for an 0-2 on the series, and now it's at 7-10 and -6.00 units. Not good. Maybe better this time. Maybe if they pitch. Or if the numbers start to even out at all. We're seeing a ton of historical outliers by the Braves in a bad way.

Game 1 - Braves by 1
Game 2 - Reds by 2
Game 3 - Braves by 2
Game 4 - Reds by 3

So there you go, the CPA likes a split. That honestly wouldn't shock me, and I frankly wouldn't mind that. You always will take a split in 4 game series, and then get greedy if you win the first two. Let's hope that happens.


Braves give up 30 runs in Nats Series

The Braves played terribly against the Nationals. The pitching staff was a giant ball of refuse soaked in moonshine and set ablaze as it rolled unchecked down Hank Aaron Drive. Nothing about the pitching in this series was positive. However, the Braves offense was very positive, and even though the defense gave up 30 runs, they still managed to win a game. Small miracles and Amy Grant songs.

Game 1 was the game we won. The Braves really turned on the offensive jets as they scored eight runs in the match. Kelly Johnson had a huge day as he went 3/4 with 3 RBIs, and a homer. Even Peterson who has been struggled at the plate when 2/2 with a walk. It was all going right for the Braves, except the pitching. That should have been a warning sign. Stults was fine, he went 6.1 innings with 2 runs, which is a quality start. But then the bullpen came in and gave up 2 runs 3 innings. Bad omens.

Game 2 was the one we'll all remember for a long time. Allow me to set the stage. The Braves are facing a young buck fresh out of AAA named AJ Cole. They proceed to demolish poor Mr. Cole to the tune of 9 runs in 2 innings. In essence, they gave him a welcome to the big leagues moment. I kept reminding people on Twitter, feel bad for a guy after you win and the game is over, until then there's no such thing as too many runs. Holy crap was that ever true, because our pitching staff lead by Julio Teheran kept putting on the leadoff man. The Nats whittled down the lead from 8, to 7, to 4, to just 3 runs before finally Fredi yanked Julio. Then Avilan came in and gave up 3 more runs. The Braves scored one of their own, so what was a 9 run lead was down to just 1. But the Braves scored again and made it 12-10 going to the 9th. That's when Dan Uggla came to the plate with two runners on and one out. Instead of rolling out the traditional Dan Uggla double play, he crushed a Grilli fastball into next week, and the Nats won the game 13-12 in a stunner. We got Uggla'd. Trademark that.

Game 3 I barely watched because the Hawks were fighting for their life in the playoffs. But the pitching was just as bad, and the Braves gave up another 13 runs. Lost in the shuffle here was the fact that AJ Pierzynski is hitting like a madman, going 6/11 with 8 RBIs in the series. Oh and Freddie Freeman is back to crushing the ball going 8/13 with 4 runs scored. That kind of crazy hitting should win you games, but alas, the pitching was the clownshoes effort we saw in all three games. Alex Wood gives up 5 runs in 5 innings, then for some reason we bring in Cahill from the bullpen because he's too terrible to be a starter, and he gives up 4 runs in 2 innings. You know what Cahill should be doing? Sipping fruity drinks with hats on an island somewhere in retirement. Because he can't pitch anymore in this country.

We lost so here's 3 things I hated about this series

  1. Throw Dan Uggla a fastball - He can't hit a curve, we've seen it for years. Why you throw him a dead red fastball down the pipe with an 0-2 count and the game on the line? I'll never know. Possibly the most Atlanta Barves moment of the decade.
  2. The pitching in general - You shouldn't give up 30 runs in a week, let alone in a series.
  3. The fact we wasted our big offensive output - The Braves scored 20 runs in this series. That's huge for us. That's really huge. And yet we lost two of the three games because the pitching made me want to vomit.
The NBI goes to the bullpen. All of it. Get it together you goofballs. We have the 28th reliever ERA in baseball now. That won't fly with the kind of team we have on the field. We're not supposed to be bailing you out with offense.

Next up, we face the Reds. How are they doing? Standings say they are also 1 game under .500 with the same record we have. Should be interesting.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What in the World is wrong with Julio Teheran?

Julio Teheran says he's 100% fine. I don't believe him. I don't think Fredi Gonzalez believes him either, since in a recent interview he said he was worried about Julio, too. I'm worried. I think everyone should be worried about the kid. He's not the stalwart veteran that will return to form in a few weeks, even if we think of him that way. He's a 24 year old guy with 2 full years of MLB experience.

Yet here we are. Julio has started 5 games now, and his ERA is 4.67 on the year. In the last three games, he's given up a total of 16 runs, 12 of which were earned. That's pretty awful. The reason fans are upset is because all of this happened right after the weird leg injury that everyone in the organization is denying as an injury against the Mets.

But the facts speak for themselves. Before that happened against the Mets, Julio had pitched 12 innings, giving up one run. After the incident? 15 innings and 19 runs allowed. I mean I'm no scientist, but I can recognize a trend. And the trend says that something happened, because the effect was immediate. Julio couldn't even finish the game in the 7th inning of the Mets game because he gave up 3 runs.

So what's going on? I'll use FanGraphs for something I like that they do, their PitchFx stats. It can give you a glimpse into what is happening with a pitcher if things start to go off the rails. So what does PitchFx show us about Julio? I think you'll find it interesting.

You can find the stats there. Let's start with the fact Julio throws 5 pitches that get tracked: A four-seam fastball (standard), a two-seam fastball, a slider, a changeup, and a curveball. The two fastballs would be the high velocity pitches, and three other pitches are off-speed stuff. So now that we have that sorted out, here's what we know about Julio's pitches last year.

In 2014, Julio threw 60.60% fastballs. So far this season in 2015, he's throwing only 57.85% fastballs. That's 2.75% less of his total pitches, but the key is in the details. He's backed off of his four-seamer, and gone more to the 2-seamer. He's also throwing almost 6% more sliders. That's a huge jump in offspeed stuff, which means he's trending away from the high velocity pitches to more junk. Like he's not comfortable anymore with what was his bread-and-butter pitch, the four-seam fastball.

The data gets worse when you look at opposing hitter's slugging percentage by pitch. In 2014, hitters were slugging .405 off his fastball. In 2015? Hitters are slugging .584 off his fastballs. That's a GIGANTIC jump. The hitters are tattooing his fast pitches, but why? According to the Velocity trackings, it's not a speed thing, since they are averaging about the same speed from 89-91 on average. But the bad news is his change-up isn't working either, since hitters in 2014 were slugging .243 off it, and in 2015 they are slugging a whopping .556 on the same pitch.

So what is happening? Is it movement? At first I thought that was the culprit, but according to these stats, his movement numbers are about the same as last year on all his pitches, with the exception of the slider that's moving more. That would explain why the slider is more effective right now. But the truth of the matter is that when you look at his strike/ball rate on his pitches, he's simply missing with the fastball. About 36.4% of Julio's fastballs have been balls this year, while 32.6% were balls last year. While these percentages may seem small, remember that it's an increase of over 10% in the prior year. And 10% over a season of 1300+ pitches? That's an extra 130 balls. That's 32 more potential walks with just a 10% increase in bad pitches. To put it in perspective.

Simply put, Julio has an issue with fastball command. Something Julio is doing isn't letting him put the fastball where he wants it. Beyond just guessing that his knee is bugging him, it's definitive that Julio isn't throwing his fastball as much, and when he does throw it, it's not going where he wants, and it's getting raked. Missing over the middle is one of the worst things you can do to a major league hitter, and Julio is going that. Hopefully, it's a mechanics issue that Roger McDowell can correct. If it's an injury issue and Julio is being tentative, I'd expect more of a velocity falloff or change in movement. I think honestly it's a combination of things like his grip, his leg, and his mindset if you really want to guess.

The bottom line is the Braves need Julio to get healthy. They need him to find the zone and start putting his pitches where he wants. Because if he can't get right, the rotation gets thinner and thinner as the Braves look for pitching answers.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Braves and Nationals, Battle for the Weekly Trash Heap

The Braves and Nationals face off back in the friendly confines of Turner Field, and between the two teams they have exactly 2 wins in their last 12 games. Who will emerge atop the garbage heap of terrible baseball from the last week?!?! Onward we go to the analysis.

Game 1 - Stults v. Fister
Game 2 - Teheran v. Roark (or some guy)
Game 3 - Wood v. Zimmerman

Eric Stults had a terrible debut for the Braves, but his last game against the Mets was much better even though he lost. Stults went 6 innings and only gave up 1 run in his New York affair, but the Braves couldn't score more than a solitary run of their own. Any other day, he might have gotten the win. The guy to watch out for is Jayson Werth, who is 3/5 off Stults lifetime, but fortunately he's been ice cold so far this season hitting .171 with no homers. Don't give him a reason to warm up. Meanwhile, the Braves have to face off against Doug Fister (giggity) who is coming off his worst game in a long time against St. Louis. Fister got pounded for 4 runs in 6 innings, and hegot a no-decision even though he deserved a loss. Look for Markakis and Callaspo to beat him up though, as they've owned Fister lifetime with a respective .591 and .529 slugging. They could be difference makers in a close game.

Julio Teheran was awful in back to back starts, and he's sporting a 4.64 ERA on the season. That's not the Ace I know. Ever since his leg injury (that wasn't an injury according to everyone in the Braves organization) Julio has stunk. Personally, I think he's either hurt, lost his grip on the ball, or lost confidence in his fastball. Either way, he's wild and he's got to get better. He can't walk the ballpark against Nationals, or eventually somebody will make him pay.  The Nationals would normally pitch Scherzer agains the Braves in this slot, but he's got a thumb injury. That would place Tyler Roark in the mix for the start, but apparently he's not stretched out enough to do the job. So, the Nationals have a choice, pitch Roark or replace him with a call-up from AAA. We'll see what they decide. Until then, I have no idea what will happen.

Alex Wood needs a win. His last three starts have all been Braves losses, and frankly he got screwed in the last one. Alex pitched almost 6 innings of shutout ball, but the Braves couldn't scrape across a single run against the Phillies. That's just pathetic. So, I hope Alex can channel the fury into his next start. The best news is that Anthony Rendon, a player that absolutely owns all three Braves pitchers in this series, isn't going to return from the DL until Thursday. That means Alex won't have to worry about a guy his is hitting 8/13 (or .615) off him lifetime. The Braves need to deal with Jordan Zimmerman, though. He may have a 5.23 ERA right now, but the Braves have never hit him well as a team. In fact, in the last three years Zimmerman has a 2.83 ERA against the Braves, and they've only handed him one recorded loss. That was June 19th, 2014 when the Braves won 3-0, and Gavin Floyd shut him out. Remember Gavin Floyd? Exactly. That was last year and people barely remember he was on the team.

CPA Predictions:

The CPA battled back and went 2-1 in the last series, losing just the first game where it expected a close matchup. The CPA is now 7-8 with -3.65 units.

Game 1 - Nationals by 1 run
Game 2 - No pick, we don't know the pitchers
Game 3 - Braves by 1 run

So it looks like the tossup will be game 2. Whoever wins that game is likely going to win the series. Hopefully it's the Braves!


Braves drop series to Phillies, defense and pitching woeful

Freeman got married, has other things on his mind

Look, it wasn't a good road trip. The Braves lost 2 of 3 against the Phillies, and it was almost entirely due to bad defense and pitching. That's what is so confusing, since defense and pitching is usually one of the hallmarks of the Braves franchise for the last 20 years. Yet, after starting so wonderfully and really firing on all cylinders in the field, the Braves started committing errors. Lots of them. Six in this series alone.

Game one was a pitcher's duel in the most frustrating way possible. For 8 full innings, neither team could score. What made it frustrating was the fact the Braves weren't hitting either. Alex Wood did an admirable job, but still only went 5.2 innings, and I'm starting to question if he will be able to go really deep in games early this year when we need them the most. The Braves only had 2 hits the entire freaking game, and that's not going to get the job done unless they are homers. The team as a whole committed FOUR errors in this game alone, and the last error helped the Phillies score a walk-off run as Freddy Galvis scampered home from third on an infield grounder that Freddie Freeman booted.

Game two looked like it was going to be more of the same as the Braves offense struggled to do anything for six innings. Ryan Howard blasted a homer in the 4th inning to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead, and things looked bleak. But the Braves aren't the kind of team to just go into a shell over a small deficit this year. They struck back in the 7th with a solo homer by Simmons, then Gomes and Kelly Johnson walked with two outs. Needing a two out rally, Chris Johnson came up huge. CJ got a single up the middle to tie the game at 2-2, then EYJ doubled to left to take the lead 3-2. The Braves would tack on 2 more in the 8th to win 5-2, getting Shelby Miller another win (he's 3-0 now).

Game three was another Trevor Cahill disappointment. The Braves came out firing in the game, taking a quick 2-0 lead on a Jace Peterson 2-out RBI single. Then Cahill immediately gave up a 3-run Howard bomb in the bottom half of the first. I was so pissed off. Why? Because A - Howard did this in game two, why in the world are we pitching to him with a base open in game 3, and B - Come on Cahill you finally get a lead, and you do THAT? It's ridiculous. Trevor Cahill is getting paid $5.5M by the Braves to carry the 192nd ERA amongst pitchers in the NL. That's ridiculous. The Braves gave up a key unearned run late thanks to another Freddie Freeman error, and that was the difference since Callaspo hit a solo shot in the 9th. Braves lost 5-4 and lost the series.

I think after last week I'm going to stick with a theme. When the Braves win a series, it's 3 things I liked. When they lose a series it's 3 things I hated. People say hate is a strong word. Well, you don't come to Braves by the Numbers for weaksauce limp-handshake half-opinions. So suck it up buttercup.

Three Things I Hated:

  1. Trevor Cahill's contract - I don't hate Cahill, I hate the money. Because I guarantee you one thing, if it wasn't for the fact that Cahill was making $5.5M this year, his 8.03 ERA butt would be riding the bus in the Mexican Leagues.
  2. Freddie Freeman's disappearing defense - What the hell, Freddie? Seriously? Freeman had 5 errors total last season. He had TWO in this series, and they were both absolutely game-killers. I can have my best player booting the ball around like he's playing for Manchester United. Get it together, Smalls.
  3. Pitchers not going deep - I'm not asking for much. I'm just asking for our starters to give me at least 7+ innings once in a while. Just once a series maybe. Nope, everybody went 6 innings or less in this series, which means the bullpen had ANOTHER 9+ innings of work put on them. The guys are overworked and stressed enough. To their credit, the bullpen gave up no EARNED runs. Freddie. Hint hint.
The NBI (Needs Big Improvement) award goes to Freddie Freeman. Not just for his defense, as I've harped on that enough. You know what Freddie is hitting this season? A .235 average. If he wasn't slugging so well, he'd be a disaster at the plate right now. And you know what I blame it on? He got married in the off-season. I don't care what anybody says, I'd love to see the stats on guys the season after they get married. Makes em soft I tells ya.

Next up, the Braves take on the slumping Nationals back in Turner Field. Braves have lost 5 of 6. The Nationals have lost 5 in a row. Something has to give. Go get em, boys.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Braves try to rebound against the Phillies

The Braves just got swept by the Mets. The Phillies just lost two games to the Marlins combined 15-2. These two titans of the diamond will meet this weekend in Philadelphia to decide the eternal question: Who is playing crappier?!!?

Game 1: Wood v. Harang
Game 2: Miller v. Buchanan
Game 3: Cahill v. Williams

Game one is a doozy because it pits our old flamethrower (sarcasm) Aaron Harang against our young gun Alex Wood. I miss Harang. I miss him even more when the back end of the rotation looks like the back end of a baboon. And I'll take the Harangutan over a baboon any day. Keep an eye on two guys for the Braves in this game: Eric Young Jr, Alberto Callaspo, and Chris Johnson. I would assume all three get the start, because they have all raked Harang in the past to the tune of 1.000+ OPS. On the flip side, I just need Alex Wood to make it through a game without giving up a hit or more an inning. He's been getting clubbed in the last two games, and we've lost both as a result.

Game two looks like a classic battle of HOT vs. NOT. Shelby Miller is red hot with a 1.69 ERA, a 2-0 record, and a WHIP of 1.19. David Buchanan for the Phillies is cold as ice with a 9.22 ERA, an 0-3 record, and an astounding WHIP of 2.27. That's all the analysis you should need. Go win this game. No excuses.

Game three features a rebounding Trevor Cahill versus a medicore Jerome Williams. This could go very very badly for Cahill if he's not settled down from this first two bad starts. Although they have limited ABs against Trevor, the Phillies are hitting him at a .300 clip. Considering that Cahill's mental state may be fragile, if he can get through the first two innings with no damage, this game could unravel fast. Meanwhile, the Braves have hit Williams at a .315 average with Nick Markakis being the obvious standout at .462. This game will be about which starter blinks first. And hoping the Braves bullpen doesn't piddle on the mound this time. Otherwise, newspaper on the nose.

CPA Predictions:

The CPA got roughed up again in the Mets series because it didn't expect the bullpen to give away game two. Game three was just a disaster on all fronts. Anyway it went 1-2 in that series and it's now 5-7 on the season with -4.45 units betting. Ugh. Time for a turnaround.

Game 1 - Braves by 1 run (this one is really close)
Game 2 - Braves by 1 run
Game 3 - Phillies by 2 runs

CPA thinks the Braves win the series. Then again, it thought we would beat the Mets and we got swept instead. The team needs to pitch better if they want to beat anybody, let alone the lowly Phillies.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Braves swept by Mets

That went poorly. I won't belabor the point, because the Braves played like garbage in a lot of ways in this series. But really, the Mets took advantage of some bad bullpen outings by Atlanta. Still, I think our team is going to walk away from this series feeling like they let some games get away. I believe the Braves were squaring up pitches and hitting balls right at guys. If it wasn't for the poor pitching, the Braves would have won the series.

Breaking down the games individually would be fruitless since they were all losses, so I'll go with the quick and dirty version. Braves got annihilated in game one because they couldn't score and gave up a ton of runs, they gave away game two because the bullpen couldn't hold a lead, and they got roughed up late in game three because apparently our guys decided to walk the ballpark.

Instead of things I liked, here's 3 things I hated:

  1. The bullpen - 7 runs in approximately 10 innings. That's what the bullpen gave up in this series. For those of you who like to attach an ERA to it, that's about a 6.30 bullpen ERA over the last 3 games. That won't even get the job done in the California Penal League. We wear caps and sleeves at this level, son!
  2. RISP Hitting - Braves went 3-17 with runners in scoring position, and that's a robust .176 batting average. Somewhere in California, BJ Upton is nodding his head saying, "Yeah that sounds about right." Gonna party like it's 2014. Did I say party? I meant weep silently in my room with Lionel Ritchie on Pandora.
  3. The defense - What went so very well for so long suddenly became a clown car rolling up to the New York Subway. Atlanta committed 3 errors in the series, and I should remind you that they had only committed one all season before this. If they were planning on tripling anything, I would have preferred...triples maybe? That would have been neat.
Since we lost all the games we have no MVP. Instead I'll point out the NBI. That's the Needs Big Improvement. That player is second base. Now, I know what you're thinking, second base is an inanimate object, or a position, not a player. And you'd be right. However, second base for the Braves has basically been non-functional for several years. I actually had to ask Twitter when the last functional everyday second baseman played for this team. They came up with Marcus Giles in 2006. Some tossed out Infante and Prado, but I consider them utility guys who play a lot of 3rd. And I make the rules, so I decide the winner.

The guys attempting to play second base right now are Jace Peterson, Phil Gosselin, and Alberto Callaspo. Mostly Peterson though since he won the job in spring training. Still, I looked up the hitting stats of the person who happened to be playing second base this season. Combined across all games, second base has a .170/.241/.208 slash line. That's horrific. Dan Uggla in 2013 hit better than that, and we paid him to go away and punish our rivals.

The really shocking thing is that Callaspo hits while playing other positions. When he's at second, he has a .182 average. When he's at 3B? He's got a .320 average. Yeah. Second base for the Braves once got a chain letter and threw it in the trash in 2006, and this is the result. A decade of crap at second based. Maybe when the new stadium opens we can bathe second base in a four-leaf clover pesto. Because good lord, it's like watching a horror film out there right now.

Next up, the Braves head to Philadelphia to face a team that's 5-11. Several of the Phillies players wear Life Alert jewelry so somebody can come get them if a slide goes wrong. Should the Braves beat this bunch of millionaire aging clap-trap? You bet they should.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Atlanta Braves take on the New York Mets in the Big Apple

I'm going to do this preview a little differently because we're facing the Mets with a chance to take over the division lead. I'm going to tell you why this series could go really well, then I'm going to tell you why this series could suck. I think this will be fun for me. If it's fun for you, good. If not, just tell me on Twitter and I'll give you your money back. (Because the site is free, hur hur)

Why this series against the Mets could go well:

  • We're not facing DeGrom or Harvey, the Mets two best pitchers by far. Between the two of them, they've started 6 games, and they have 5 wins. Those guys simply don't like to lose, and they can really keep opposing runners off base with their 1.14 and 1.00 respective WHIPs. I love a cool WHIP stat. (PS - Cool whip)
  • The Braves are the only team that's taken a series from the Mets so far. We've got their number where nobody else does, mostly because the rest of NL East so far is sub-par.
  • Dillon Gee is imploding this season so far with a 7.59 ERA, and the Braves handed him his only loss. He's due for #2.
  • The Braves lineup combined has a .800+ OPS against Jonathan Niese, so he's likely shaking in his boots about facing the likes of Jonny Gomes, who is 6/10 lifetime off him with a bomb.
  • Julio Teheran is pitching in Game 3, and the Braves have won all 3 of his starts so far, despite the "issues" in the game in Toronto. And by issues I mean him serving up batting practice covered in maple syrup.
  • Nick Markakis is batting .375 right now with 8 runs scored. His OBP is .479, which is 6th overall in MLB. I don't think any of the Braves have ever done that on this roster, but I could be wrong. What I'm certain of is that BJ Upton never led his little league team in OBP.
  • The Mets are really injured right now. In fact, their DL is already 8 players deep. The Braves need to take advantage of their lack of depth at certain positions. Sweep the leg. No mercy in this dojo.
  • The defense is electric right now for the Braves, and they've turned more double plays than anybody in baseball, while committing the fewest errors. It's been fun to watch. I mean Andrelton Simmons is rivaling Dominique Wilkins as the human highlight reel.
Why this series against the Mets could suck:
  • The Game 1-2 pitchers for the Braves are Trevor Cahill and Eric Stults. With their respective ERAs of 15.43 and 6.30, I'm not exactly confident in the back end of the rotation right now. Understatement of the article so far, I'm actually terrified of the back end, but I won't completely panic unless this series goes off the rails.
  • The Mets haven't lost a game at home yet. Granted, they played Philly and Miami who are terrible, but they have a lot of confidence inside of the confines of Citi-Field. And who wouldn't have confidence there, playing in front of hundreds of fat, surly, New Yorkers who were too stubborn to be Yankee fans?
  • The Braves face Bartolo Colon in one of the games, who just seems to be living a charmed life right now. The man can do no wrong on the mound and he's 3-0 as a result. Plus he can put a hurt on a buffet post-game.
  • Andrew McKirahan was suspended from the Braves, which means they are really short on lefty relievers. That means you hope the starters go deep. However, nothing about Cahill or Stults suggests they CAN go deep in a game right now. That means the bullpen depth will get tested, and a guy like Ian Thomas was called up to fill the gaps.
  • Our center fielders and second basemen are still hitting like crap, even though we got rid of Dan Uggla and BJ/Melvin. It's as if they cut a huge hitting fart in Turner Field and we can't crack a window.
  •  Fredi Gonzalez is still the manager, which means the lineups still won't make a ton of sense. Or the pitching changes. Or hell, much of anything he does short of drawing names from a hat. I'm not a hater of Fredi, I just have no idea what/if he's thinking half the time.
So there you have it. Do I know how this series will go? Absolutely not. Does the CPA? Maybe.

CPA Predictions:

The CPA was dead wrong about the Toronto series and as a result is went 0-3. I blame the fact it was interleague and early in the year. Excuses, excuses, you stupid machine. The CPA traditionally struggles with interleague because they don't face each other heads up that often. Still, it's now 4-5 on the season, and it's down -2.45 units.

Game 1: Mets by 2 runs
Game 2: Braves by 3 runs
Game 3: Braves by 1 run

So the CPA thinks the Braves take the series, and if that's the case they will find themselves 1 game back of the lead in the standings. That would be pretty cool to hand the Mets their second series loss, especially in the Big Apple.


Monday, April 20, 2015

McKirahan's Luck Runs Out, Busted for PED Use

It's a four leafed clover popping pills. Duh.

Short update on an issue you may have heard this morning. Andrew McKirahan, in a move that disgraces Irish-descendant people like myself everywhere, got suspended for using PEDs. Apparently, he's one of the first active Braves players to ever get busted for this, so thanks for nothing you jerk-face.

The really crappy part of this is that McKirahan is a lefty reliever, and those aren't exactly growing on trees down at the local Reliever Supply Store. Normally, we'd just call somebody up out of AAA Gwinett, but the problem is we aren't really flush with major left-handed talent. Our options are Ian Thomas, Brady Feigl, Donny Veal, and Manny Banuelos as the LH's down on the farm.

Here's the issue. Ian Thomas has seen about 16 games in the show last year, and he wasn't all that impressive with a 4.22 ERA, a 1.50 WHIP, and he was responsible for two losses. His K/9 rate (that's strikeouts per nine innings) is really robust, but he also will walk some folks and give up hits. My concern over him is his WHIP, which you can't have as a reliever. Too many baserunners are a deathknell for any reliever, because teams will grind on you late in games.

So while he's an option, I'm not in love with it. Manny Banuelos has been starting games down in Gwinnett, so I'm not sure they would want to bring him up right now as a reliever, especially since the back end of the rotation is suspect. We might need him later on. Feigl has been on the DL until recently, so there's no way he's ready yet. Donnie Veal is an interesting option as he's a journeyman 30 year old reliever by way of the White Sox, but he got rocked in 2014 and hasn't been called up since. I'd be more likely to give him a shot given his experience than Ian, simply because Ian proved he wasn't ready last season, or given many chances in spring.

The truth is that the Braves would love to have other options outside of the organization, because all the lower level options aren't great. My guess is they will be stuck with what they have, since almost nobody trades pitchers this early in the season. I would expect Ian Thomas or Donnie Veal to get the nod. We'll just have to see which one the Braves pick.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Braves win series in Toronto

I honestly didn't expect the Braves to take the series against Toronto, especially since they are one of the most powerful slugging teams in the league. However, when I reflect on what happened in these games, I actually think the Braves could have swept the series if not for some bad luck. Let's take a look at the games.

Julio Teheran was actually terrible in game one, and that's something you almost never see. His fastball was completely off, and as a result several Toronto hitters blasted them into the stratosphere. Julio gave up 5 runs on 4 homers, which is the highest homer total in a single game of his career. But the Braves were not to be deterred by Toronto's offensive onslaught. They chipped away with a full array of singles, doubles, triples, and even some homers of their own to put 8 runs on the board. Nick Markakis had an amazing day as he went 4/4 with 3 runs scored and a walk. They simply couldn't get him out. Braves ended up holding on to an 8-7 win.

The second game is the one I felt the Braves gave away. Alex Wood had a great outing going, and the Braves put 4 early runs on the board. But when the 7th inning rolled around Fredi Gonzalez left Wood in for one batter too many. After giving up a double and a single to make the game 4-1, Wood then gave up a triple and a controversial infield single to make it 4-3. What looked like a close play at first was reviewed by the umps, but the video evidence didn't show enough, so the call of safe was upheld. Even so, the Braves still had the lead going to the 8th, but the bullpen finally let them down. Jim Johnson gave up a huge 2-run homer to Bautista, making it 5-4 Toronto. The game looked over, except Kelly Johnson decided to pull a miracle out of his rear and hit a game-tying homer in the top of the 9th. In extras, Fredi Gonzalez made another tactical error by going to Sugar Ray Marimon, a guy with almost no MLB experience, in a 10th inning tie game. Bear in mind he had could have kept Avilan in the game, but he loves that lefty-righty stuff late. Anyway, Donaldson hit a walk-off homer for the Blue Jays, and the game was over. Fredi later admitted he would consider other options in similar situations. Nice. We could have used that YESTERDAY!

The third game was a Sunday affair in front of a huge crowd in Toronto. Over 44,000 from the attendance reports. And they all got a front row seat to the Braves handing them a butt-whomping. But it was a weird butt-whomping. First, the runs all came in the first 3 innings for the Braves. Second, all the runs came courtesy of really stupid throwing decisions or fielding issues by the Blue Jays. Third, Jonny Gomes had 4 RBIs, which is just crazy since he only had one hit, and it wasn't a grand slam. What happened was the Braves loaded the bases in the first inning, and Gomes hit a rocket over the head of the center fielder to clear the bases. Then, in the third inning after Freddie Freeman walked, Chris Johnson singled to center, Freddie for some weird reason tried to lope his way to third, the throw got away, and Freddie scored while CJ 2.0 moved up to third. A Gomes sacrifice fly brought him in. Give Shelby Miller a 5 run lead early, and he's going to win. And he did, Braves won 5-2.

Three things I liked:

  1. The base running in the third game was fun and crazy. Watching Freddie Freeman go first to third followed by Chris Johnson getting an error assisted triple? That's unlikely to happen again all season. Freddie runs like one of his legs is shorter than the other, and Chris regularly treats his shoes with cement.
  2. The homers! Man there were a ton of homers. The balls just seem to fly out of that stupid ballpark in Toronto. It must be the air or the Canadian exchange rate or something. Either way there were 12 homers combined in the series. That's a bunch even in the AL.
  3. The Double plays! Wow. How many Braves double plays did we turn in this series? SEVEN. There were seven double plays turned by the Braves, and they now lead the major leagues in double plays turned. Not only is that cool fielding, it's also a neat thing to brag about.
MVP of the series is easy. It's Nick Markakis and it's a complete runaway. Like Reagan beating Mondale in 1984 kind of a runaway. Ask your parents, kids. Anyway, Nick was on-base 11/14 times he came to the plate. That's an on-base percentage of .786, which is pretty absurd. Nick is now top 10 in the entire MLB in on-base, out of hundreds of players. Can you even comprehend how different this is from last year when our entire team was a bang-or-bust group of tilting windmills? Well? CAN YOU!?!

The great news is that the Braves carry this winning momentum into a series with the Mets, who inexplicably lead the entire NL with an 10-3 record. If they play their cards right, the Braves will take over that spot after the series is over.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Braves meet the Blue Jays up North

This was my attempt at a Maple Leaf. It's basically a horrible looking cross between a Christmas tree and Weed

The Braves are heading north of the border, eh? Gonna have some poutin and grab a few Molsens while they are oot and and aboot! That's Canadian talk for grabbing beers and fries when you go to the bars. Oh Canada. America's hat.

Anyway, the Braves play Toronto in a 3 game series. Let's check out the matchups:

Game 1: Teheran v. Hutchinson
Game 2: Wood v. Dickey
Game 3: Miller v. Norris

Julio Teheran takes the mound for the third time this season, and he's already sporting a 2-0 record. Julio's got a 1.50 ERA on the season with a 1.25 WHIP, holding opponents to a .238 average with 9 Ks. He's certainly earning the reputation as the team's ace. He's also going to need to be the team's stopper as the Braves are in a two-game skid. Facing him is Drew Hutchinson, a pitcher with two wildly differing starts. In his first game, Drew pitched 6 innings of 3 hit, 1 run baseball. In his second outing, he got knocked around for 7 earned run in 4.1 innings. So, I have no idea which Drew is going to show up. However, I do know that most of these Braves have limited looks at him, except Nick Markakis who has a paltry 5-22 line. We'll need more than that to win in an AL interleague game.

Alex Wood looks to bounce back from his mediocre start against the Mets where he got a no-decision giving up 3 runs in 6.2 innings. Almost nobody on the Blue Jays have ever seen Wood, and those that have don't have any success, to the tune of zero hits in 8 combined ABs. Wood has a really funky motion (I'm being polite there) so I have to believe that guys never seeing him is a big benefit to Alex. On the other side is RA Dickey. That name should be familiar to Braves fans as he used to pitch for the Mets before getting signed by the Blue Jays in 2013. Dickey found something of a Elder Statesman Renaissance of his career with the Mets, but at this point he's a 40 year old pitcher throwing spitters in the AL. That's tough for even young guys. Plenty of the Braves have seen Dickey and guys like Simmons, AJ, Freeman, Markakis, and Kelly Johnson all have over .800 OPS against him. I think this matchup favors the Braves.

The last game is another shot for Shelby Miller to get a win. The Braves are 2-0 in his first two starts, and Shelby currently has a sub-1.00 ERA. He's been everything we wanted and more in the early results. Here's the key for Shelby in this coming game: Don't pitch to Russell Martin. Martin is 5-16 with a double, two homers, 4 RBIs, and 3 walks off Miller lifetime. That's a wrecking ball, and nobody else on the Blue Jays is even close. I'd avoid him at all costs. Daniel Norris is the Jays pitcher, and he's a 21 year old basically rookie with 17 innings of total MLB experience. Notoriously, the Braves have been bad against newbie starters they've never seen. We'll get to see how this season plays out with that situation very early. Will it be better? I have no idea.

CPA Predictions:

The CPA is now 4-2 after going 3-0 on the Marlins series picks. I had hoped it would be wrong, but here we are. If you're betting, the CPA is also +1.8 units on the picks so far. Let's see if it keeps that up!

Game 1 - Toronto by 2
Game 2 - Braves by 1
Game 3 - Toronto by 1

CPA thinks the Braves will drop another series. But it's not as confident about the last game. Maybe we'll see the Braves steal a couple on the road with the DH in effect.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Marlins take final two games of series over Braves

The Braves are now sporting a 6-3 record after a bad home series against the Marlins. Some fans are already in panic, and some analysts are smirking about how the Braves are returning to their expectations. If you're one of those people, please take a moment and cram that stuff up your rear. Rooting against your team because you predicted them to fail, or panicking while both A - your team is above .500, and B - we're not even to Memorial Day is asinine. So calm down.

The truth is that our 4-5 part of the rotation is not great. It likely will get better, or the Braves will make some changes. But they certainly won't make changes with guys that have less than five starts under their belt in the season. You have to allow Roger McDowell time to make his alterations and work with the new starters.

Game 1 was a rain soaked affair that I actually attended. Sort of. I did show up to the game and the immediate 30 minute rain delay. Then I stayed for three innings and the next rain delay. At that point it was past 9PM with 6 innings left and at least a 45 minute delay to go. I left because I have a job. The Braves won anyway thanks to a solid 5 innings of 1 run ball by Shelby Miller, and a 5th inning flurry of offense led by Callaspo and Markakis. Braves took the game 3-2 even though Jason Grilli had some trouble in the ninth nailing down the save after allowing this first earned run of the season.

Game 2 was Trevor Cahill's first outing of the year. It went...poorly. If you can imagine a game of coach pitch, but the dad is slightly drunk and looks like he's about ten years out of his prime? That's pretty close to what happened. It was 4-0 and Cahill had given up 9 baserunners before the third inning was even over, plus he walked in a run. Fredi Gonzalez had to yank him in favor of Sugar Ray Marimon, whom I previewed in my previous Who the Heck Is That Atlanta Braves post. Sugar Ray had a good outing, and went 4 innings giving up only 2 runs. Better than Cahill at least, and Marimon is an MLB rookie. Either way, it just got worse from there on the way to an 8-2 Braves loss.

Game 3 was a day game where Eric Stults got his second start of the year. Considering the lifetime averages of the Marlins against Stults, I was expecting a disaster. I got a mild earthquake. Stults gave up 4 runs in 5 innings, so he was slightly better than Cahill in that he took longer to achieve a crappy result. The Marlins then touched up the bullpen for two more runs, but the game was long decided. The problem with small ball offense is that when you spot a team four runs, you're basically boned. Oh but the Cameron Maybin and Kelly Johnson both randomly hit solo homers in the game, so if you had them in FanDuel you're happy. The rest of us were just mad the Braves lost 6-2.

Here are the three things I liked about the series:

  1. Shelby Miller looks good still. He's a key starter in our rotation along with Teheran and Wood, and we'll need all three of those guys to carry the team while we work out the 4-5 slots.
  2. The Braves rallied in game one even though they were suffering through rain delays. They always kept it close and that's key with a team that will likely get 2-4 runs of offense on average per game.
  3. Sugar Ray Marimon looked good in his first outing as an MLB player. He came into the game with the bases loaded and one out. Then he escaped with no more damage by striking out the next batter and getting a grounder from the second. 
MVP goes to Sugar Ray Marimon for not only his pitching performance by escaping the bases loaded jam in his first ever major league inning. No, no. He also came up in the bottom half of the inning and got his first ever hit. I'm not sure how often a pitcher has ever gotten his first strikeout and his first hit in the same inning, but I bet it's a pretty rare club.

Maybe next time Sugar Ray will be in a game with a chance to win.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Who the Heck is: Sugar Ray Marimon

The second edition of Who the Heck is this Atlanta Braves focuses on our new call-up, Sugar Ray Marimon!

Full Name: Sugar Ray Marimon (no really)
Birthplace: Columbia (the country)
Age: 26
Position: Relief Pitcher
Throws: Right
Favorite Artist: Beyonce (perhaps)

Sugar Ray signed with the Kansas City Royals back in 2007 for $25,000 and played with their organization until the Atlanta Braves made him a minor league deal this year. Sugar Ray is the newest answer to Juan Jaime getting designated for assignment (thank God). He will help round out the right-handed portion of the bullpen with hopefully more control, because honestly it could get a lot worse than what Juan was doing out there.

Why did his mama name him Sugar Ray? I can only guess that she was a huge fan of Sugar Ray Leonard, the famous boxer from the 1970s and 1980s. Or she really liked candy and a guy named Ray. Because honestly, I can't find much on the guy's upbringing back in Columbia. What I can tell you is that he's spent 8 years in the minors before getting called up to the MLB as of today.

In his time with the minor leagues, Sugar Ray steadily improved his ERA, mostly as a starter. At the AAA level, Marimon had a 3.45 ERA in 86 innings with 15 starts. The Braves don't really need another starter, but they do need some help with long relief and a right-handed pitcher that can get a few key strikeouts. Sugar Ray should help them in that regard.

Other than his time in the minors, I could only find one story about Marimon's life growing up. It was this piece in ESPN, which was about a scout going to Columbia to recruit players:
For roughly $25,000, Toomey signed right-handed pitcher Sugar Ray Marimon, who throws 95 mph. Marimon's mother "cried at the signing," Toomey said. "She was losing her baby." For approximately $40,000, Toomey signed second baseman Luis Piterson. The signing was held at the Exito, which is like a Wal-Mart in the United States. Marimon and Piterson have had varied success in the Royals' system; each has a chance to someday play in the big leagues. Toomey visited them, as well as Teheran, in November, "to make sure they're doing OK, see what they need, and are eating right."
This particular scout also recruited Julio Teheran, which I think is cool now that they are on the same team. That piece was from 2011, and honestly, I couldn't find anything else. The guy might as well be in the CIA for how much I know about him growing up. Which if you know anything about baseball recruiting in South or Central America, that does raise some questions. But I won't go into that here.

What I did find is a few scouting reports. Supposedly he has a fastball ranging high 80s to low 90s. He commands it fairly well but not outstanding. It's definitely his go-to pitch in the arsenal. He's used a curve in the past but often has trouble with command of it leaving it in the dirt. His changeup could be his best pitch if he's been working on it enough to use it at the MLB level, but the key will be commanding it and getting the right amount of movement to confuse hitters. Otherwise it's just a slower fastball that a good hitter will deposit in the stands.

So that's Sugar Ray Marimon, one of the cooler named players on the Braves. Hopefully he'll pan out as a great asset to our bullpen, and throw plenty of strikes unlike Juan Jaime.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Braves and Marlins Round 2

Time for a quick preview of the Marlins and the Braves, this time inside Turner Field!

Game 1: Miller v. Latos
Game 2: Cahill v. Koehler
Game 3: Stults v. Haren

Shelby Miller got a no-decision in his first game against the Fish, although the Braves did end up winning in a 2-0 effort. Still, 5 innings of shutout ball was nothing to sneeze at, and I hope Shelby can keep the train rolling against a slumping Marlins lineup. Meanwhile, the Braves absolutely destroyed Mat Latos the first time around, not even allowing him out of the first inning. I'm sure Mat is looking to get some revenge, and the Braves are probably looking for pitches out over the plate.

Trevor Cahill is the Braves starter you haven't seen yet. Over the last three years he's faced the Marlins four times, and he's never recorded a loss to go with 2 wins and a 3.00 ERA. However, the current Marlins lineup hits Cahill really well lifetime, especially Ichiro who is 12/30 off of him. I'd expect to see Ichiro get some playing time in this game given the splits. Koehler is the guy the Braves dinged for two runs in the loss when Shelby Miller was pitching. Koehler didn't pitch badly, he just made one bad pitch to AJ for a homer. The Braves will have to try to get more production against him in order to pull this one out.

The final game features Eric Stults after he looked very average in his opening start. Although the Braves ended up winning, Stults was getting lit up in the zone with several hard hit balls, including two that left the building. He opposes Dan Haren whom the Braves didn't see yet. Haren held Tampa Bay to just one run in 6 innings with his first start, before the Miami bullpen imploded and gave up 8 runs of their own costing him the decision. Haren has owned Atlanta in his last 3 years with a 1.71 ERA in 3 starts, and he's held the lineup to a sub-.600 OPS. This will be a race to the bullpen if the Braves hope to win the game.

The CPA went 1-2 in the first 3 games it picked for the Mets, so let's hope for some better picks in this series!

Game 1: Braves win by 3
Game 2: Braves lose by 1
Game 3: Braves lose by 4

Ugh. The CPA doesn't like this series. That's why it's a soulless machine, and not a fan. Hopefully those numbers are just the results of some early bugs, and the Braves can take the series.


Atlanta Braves take 2 of 3 from the NY Mets

So we're not perfect? So what? I'm not perfect either anymore. I was for a brief time around 1999, but I blew it when I predicted that Y2K would cause the world to end. And yet here we are, world still spinning, my phone still works, and AI is slowly learning how to drive cars by themselves before they all turn on us like all the Terminator movies warned. WE DIDN'T LISTEN!

The Braves did lose a game and we're 5-1 on the season now. So no 162-0 for a team that many "fans" expected to lose 100 games. I know you're crushed. The good news is that we haven't lost a series yet! So let's recap what happened:

In game one, the Braves jumped on the Mets earlier with a lead-off Maybin homer, a Jonny Gomes RBI, and an error by the Mets SS that plated a run. That made it 3-0 Braves for the earlier part of the game. However, in the 4th inning ole David Wright did his best Anti-Chipper routine and jacked a two run homer, followed by a back-to-back shot by Mayberry. With the game tied, it came down to a battle of bullpens late, and the Braves emerged victorious when Goose Gosselin smacked a 2-run single with two-outs. Braves won 5-3.

Game two saw Julio Teheran dominate for six innings of shutout ball while the Braves amassed a 5-0 lead. Then in the 7th it went to pieces as Julio stayed too long in the game and gave up 3 runs. But the bullpen again put out the fire on the way to another 5-3 victory. Freddie, C-Beth, EYJr, Marky-Mark, and Simba all had RBIs in the game.

Game three was the one that got away. Braves got down early on a 2-run shot by Cuddyer, then the Braves tied it on Simmons 2-run triple. But unfortunately, the Braves gave up the lead again when the Round Mound of Downtown Bartolo Colon got his first RBI in 10 years. Yes, the pitcher. Yes, 10 years. If I didn't find the man so hilarious I'd hate him. Jonny Gomes tied the game again at 3-3 with a solo jack. Still, Fredi is gonna be Fredi, and Fredi makes stupid bullpen decisions. The manager brought in Juan "Who wants to walk the ballpark" Jamie to relieve in the 8th, and he gave up 3 walks and a run. Game over. Mets win 4-3.

Things I liked:

  1. Despite Jaime not finding the strike zone, I really liked the bullpen this series. They gave up just the one run, and they've been very effective in dancing out of trouble for the most part.
  2. Simmons went 4/10 with 2 runs and 3 RBIs on the series. That's outstanding hitting for a guy that's known primarily for his glove.
  3. Jonny Gomes had a homer, 3 runs, and 2 RBIs in just two games. He also had the play of the game in my mind for game 3, when he beat out a sure double play, and that opened the door for Simmon's 2-run triple in a two-out rally.
The MVP of the series has to be Simmons. For a guy to really shine like he did going 4/10 with 3 doubles and a triple in 3 games? That's insane. Plus he threw out a runner again from literally left field. He can do it all, and we'll need him to do it all this year.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Who the Heck is: Alberto Callaspo?

I'm starting a new feature weekly where I pick a player from the Braves roster, and I tell you a little bit more about his career. Because honestly, chances are you don't know anything about these guys before they got here. So allow me to tell you a little bit more about our first candidate for "Who the Heck is?" Mr. Alberto Callaspo!

Full Name: Alberto Jose Callaspo
Country of Origin: Venezuela
Age: 32 in a week
Contract: $3M for 2015, FA in 2016
Positions: 2B and 3B
Bats: Switch
Favorite Candy: Snickers (I'm guessing)

Alberto has ten years in the majors, and he started his major league debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006. The Braves picked up Callaspo at the end of 2014 for a one year deal, I'm guessing to shore up their bench in the infield, and perhaps let him compete for a 2B slot. Little did they know that Jace Peterson would emerge in spring training to steal the hearts of Braves Country and have the ladies swooning like he was made out of man-candy.

According to all accounts in spring training, Callaspo showed up covered in bacon drippings. Now a little weight gain doesn't really hurt baseball players that much since Babe Ruth was a complete hog and he managed to hit 700+ homers. However, in today's game that's less power focused and more about a speed concept, I'm pretty sure you could have clocked Alberto with a Twinkee the Kid Sun Dial.

Yet here we are in the regular season, and Callaspo has been pulling his weight (hur hur hur). In 3 games he's 4/7 with a run and an RBI. He took over the opening day 3B slot from Chris Johnson, a move that did not please the normally completely level-headed CJ 2.0 (heavy sarcasm). Despite the slow start in spring, Callaspo has thrived in one series. Whether or not he will continue to produce over 162 game is up for debate. However, if he can provide a platoon and put some pressure on Chris Johnson to shut up and play hard, that's a good thing.

Callaspo's best year in the majors came in 2009 when he was on the Royals. He hit over .300 for batting average with an .813 OPS. That year he had 11 homers and 73 RBIs, both career highs. He's never fully achieved those results in any of the subsequent years since then. Mostly, I'd consider him to be an average as grits players with a .700 OPS for his career, no speed, sub-par power, and below average defensive ability and range. He's an aging player who seems to have found a second gear for the early part of 2015. Still he's also had a ton of experience on different clubs, as he's played for 5 teams now in his career.

I'm not expecting much out of Callaspo other than to provide some platoon depth and the occasional RBI. The odds are that his numbers will even out, and he will return to his normal form over the next couple of months, which is decent at the plate at best. Still, the upside for Callaspo should be better than his 2014 year with Oakland, where he was a complete disaster at the plate. He hit for a .223/.290/.290 slash line, which put him only a couple dozen points ahead of BJ Upton in OPS. That's not good company to keep.

The true test for Callaspo will be how he deals with pinch hitting opportunities, because that's where he's likely to get some scoring chances. Lifetime as a PH he only has a .229 average. That would have to improve some for him to provide some value to the club. But then again, most of these players the Braves traded for are attempting to overcome a bad 2014, or a sub-par aspect of their game, or an injury, or a personal issue in their past. The roster is full weird back-stories like a comic book. Just like Callaspo apparently getting arrested for domestic violence in 2007 but later dropped, or when he was sued for paternity support in 2011 but it turned out the child wasn't his.

"Who the Heck Is" columns will shine a light for better or worse on this Island of Misfit Toys that is the Braves lineup in 2015. Hopefully you'll learn something along the way, and maybe get a better idea about how these guys showed up at camp one day. Either way, we're all going to be happy they put the players names on the backs of the jerseys this season. You can't tell the players without a program.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Braves face off with Mets in home opener series

Meet the Mets, Greet the Mets, step right up and BEAT the Mets! Bring the kiddies, bring the wife, guaranteed to have the time of your life!

Your NL East first place Atlanta Braves (I'm riding this horse until it falls over dead in the south Georgia heat), will take on the New York Mets on Friday-Sunday for their home opening series. And they'll do it with their unique brand of pitching and small ball that won the series against the Marlins. I can't really ask for a better opponent to start with at home or a better draw since we are missing two of the Mets key hurlers, so let's take a look at the projected matchups:

Game 1: Stults v. Niese
Game 2: Teheran v. Gee
Game 3: Wood v. Colon

Game one features Stults as one of the new kids on the block in the Atlanta rotation, and he's enjoyed facing the Mets in the last three years of his career. In that time he's had 3 starts, 2 wins, and an ERA of 1.62 against the Mets. The only guy in the Mets lineup who might give Stults pause is John Mayberry Jr, who is 4/8 off Stults with 3 doubles. The Braves will face Jonathon Niese, who holds a 4-4 W/L mark against the Braves in the last 3 years. Several guys in the lineup enjoy hitting Niese, such as Jonny Gomes going 5/9, Kelly Johnson going 4/11 with 3 walks, and Chris Johnson going 7/21 with 2 doubles. It should be an interesting matchup that favors the Braves if Stults pitches well.

Game two pits the second start of Julio Teheran against Dillon Gee. In his first outing, Teheran posted 6 innings of work with only one run allowed, but he gave up 8 hits and a walk. With a WHIP at 1.50 that's simply too high, and he was bailed out by the bullpen when he got himself in a bases loaded, no out jam. I'd like to see him lower the baserunner totals against the Mets, a team he's unfortunately had average results against in his career. Dillon Gee hasn't started yet, but he's dominated the Braves over the past few years. In 2014, Gee went 2-0 against Atlanta with a 1.98 ERA. The new faces in the lineup also really struggle to hit Gee with only a .205 combined team average. I think this matchup favors the Mets.

The final game, and likely the rubber game of the series will be Alex Wood vs. Bartolo Colon. It's the classical battle of age versus beauty. Or young versus fat if you're feeling uncharitable. Colon beat the Nats 3-1 in his first outing, Wood beat the Marlins 12-2 in his. If you watched Woody pitch though, he was really laboring to get through what was essentially a gimmie win. I want to see Alex try less to pitch for strikeouts, and be aggressive rather than nibbling at corners. He runs his count up too fast the other way. Colon confounded a lot of teams last year on his way to a 15-13 record with the Mets, but he doesn't confuse the Braves. In fact, guys like Freeman have a .600 average off him in 10 ABs, and Jonny Gomes is 7-18 with 2 jacks. I expect Colon to run a lot of junk out there, and the Braves to make him pay. If Wood can settle in, this should be a good one for the Braves.

The CPA (Current Prediction Algorithm is back to predict games. Remember that the CPA works off existing data, so in the month of April it's working off some historical data rather than current year. That means I expect it to get more accurate as things progress. We'll see how that goes. This year I'll be doing winner predictions and by how many runs. Then I'll track the results. Go Go Spreadsheets!

CPA Predictions:

Game 1 - Braves by 2 runs
Game 2 - Mets by 1 run
Game 3 - Braves by 2 runs


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Atlanta Braves sweep away the Fish

Wait, we won? AND WE SWEPT THE SERIES?! I was told by depressed fans, sports talk radio callers, and various national pundits that we would lose 100 games this year. Maybe we still will, but you know what? For this series those haters can lick a big crow-flavored Popsicle. I'm taking my joy where I can find it.

Game one was a nice pitcher's duel by Julio Teheran and Henderson Alvarez. Julio got the benefit of a couple of Braves runs though, while Alvarez just got the lonely one. That's even after the Fish loaded the bases with no outs on Julio, before the bullpen duo of Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson put out the fire. All in all, it was a tight game that ended with Jason Grilli getting his first save of the year, and putting a few minds at ease about his closer position on the team, winning 2-1.

Game two was an old-fashioned butt-kicking contest, and the Marlins entered a one-legged man. That's an old joke, kids. Because one-legged guys...they can't know what, nevermind. Moving on. The Braves won 12-2, and they did it without the benefit of a home run. Now last year, the only way the Braves would have scored 12 runs would be over 6 games and 5 Justin Upton long bombs. Now? It's station to station hitting along with a doubles parade all the way to the plate. Who knew? Small ball, if you can call it that, looks pretty fun.

Game three was a pretty boring affair that sat on a 0-0 tie until the 7th inning when AJ Pierzynski went yard off Tom Koehler. That would plate Freddie Freeman as well, and the Braves had a 2-0 lead. That's all they would need as Jason Grilli shut the door for the second save of the year, and the series sweep.

So in these recaps I'll do three things I really liked, and an MVP of the series. It'll provide some nice analysis and some consistency throughout the season. Away we go!

Things I liked:

  1. Jason Grilli closing - With Craig having been traded literally hours before the game, it could have been a complete disaster with the fanbase if Grilli didn't get that save. Especially since it was a one-run save. But he did a great job, and really showed that his veteran experience could be a big asset in that role.
  2. Speed on the bases - Several times the Braves took advantage of how many speedsters we have on the rosters. Eric Young Jr. scored the winning run in game one on a play at the plate where a slower player would be dead to rights. In the second game EYJr stole a base. Meanwhile, Jace Peterson can run the bases, Simmons can go first to third no problem, and Maybin can put some speed out there as well.
  3. AJ going deep in his first start - AJ may be old, but even old guys can pop off if a pitcher grooves one, and that's what AJ did in the third game to break the 0-0 stalemate.
MVP of the Series: I think it has to be Jason Grilli for his performance in his first two save chances. The fanbase could have been reeling, but Grilli is a big reason why they've already had their binkie and a nap.

So with a sweep, the Braves are really looking to keep momentum going into their home opener with the Mets. Keep the line moving!


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Braves win a game, reopen bandwagon

The Braves won a game! We're leading the NL East! USA! USA! USA!

One of the reasons I like Twitter is that it's totally ridiculous and overtly reactionary. Your opinions can look very stupid literally 30 seconds after you post them during a baseball game. WHY DID FREDI GO TO AVILAN, MORON! One minute later that becomes: YEAH 5-2-3 DOUBLE PLAY OMG BRAVES ARE BACK!

It's like watching a bunch of twelve year olds high on meth driving bumper cars, in 140 characters or less. Which is why I enjoy it but rarely get wrapped up in it. Because really when you get down to it, Twitter is supposed to be about silly fun, not predicting the future, or declaring your massive intelligence. Still, I had some fun with it over the last 24 hours.

The Braves played the first game well, not great. They scored some runs, moved some runners, got some hits and looked very fast on the paths. I'll do a full recap after the series is over. That's all for the best because the Braves are going to need to play proverbial small ball to compete. Combined with solid pitching, that's probably going to be the most key thing about this team's success.

Julio Teheran looked pretty good coming off a spring where he looked pretty bad. Shocking how little that matters, as I covered in my Julio post earlier in the month. Next, we get to see how Alex Wood looks, and frankly I expect him to look pretty good. He had a blistering start last season in the month of April, but the Braves couldn't put two runs on the board. Seriously, he lost two games where he went 8 innings each giving up one run.

But also reflect that the Braves were one pop fly from possibly losing that game. They had to have Avilan put out a bases loaded fire with no outs. They had to have Johnson shut the door. They had to have Grilli get the one-run save. The bullpen that I have questions about looked really solid in their first game, but that's only one test. There will be likely 150+ of those, and if you get into bases-loaded-no-out jams enough, the odds tell you that you will lose those battles.

So just remember, I don't make any value judgments about players on the team until we've played 40 games. Similarly, I don't make many value judgments on the team until Memorial Day, other than my early predictions. It's fun to ride the roller-coaster occasionally, but it's less fun to ride it every day, with every game. You'll go nuts.

Don't go nuts. Leave that to the professionals like me.


Monday, April 6, 2015

The Kimbrel - BJ Upton Trade

So I tune into Twitter yesterday and it was like an Irish wake mixed with mosh-pit. Just a bunch of wailing and raging and not much celebrating about opening day. Look I understand you're pissed off. Kimbrel was a hometown favorite and he was the best closer in baseball. Losing him for many Braves fans is like completely giving up on the season. However, when you let the dust settle, and you look at this trade as a total team and business decision, it's an absolute steal for the Braves. And I'll tell you why.

Let's say you're one of those people who believes the team was going to stink, and that this was a total rebuild. If you're in that camp, what did you expect from Kimbrel? To save maybe 25 games? When you lose your job and you need to rebuild your house, you don't hold on to that Ferrari you have sitting in the garage. You sell it and you start over. You'd be crazy to hold onto that showpiece when your world is crumbling around you.

If you believe like me that this team has a chance to be a playoff contender, then the loss of Kimbrel shouldn't concern you all that much either. Why? Because closers can't win you games. Repeat, simply having a closer in the bullpen CAN'T win you a game. He can finish a game, but having Kimbrel wasn't going to suddenly produce a whole bunch of more offense, and he wasn't going to pitch 6 innings a game. Closers are specialty players, and I can argue that they are highly overrated by fans.

Take the time and read that article about closers. Not only is it well written, but it also exposes some simple things about the end of baseball games. Chiefly, it's that throughout baseball history when a team leads the game going to the 9th inning, they win on average 95% of the time. That's even before baseball closers became a thing, or saves were even tracked. An average guy on an average team is going to win more than most of those games, simply because of the math involved. It's pure odds. A team is going to have to overcome some big odds to win a game late with only three outs.

So just stop with all the histrionics about losing Kimbrel. We can get another guy to close games and we will be fine as a team. What we weren't going to be able to get over was BJ Upton's hideous contract, and the Padres have agreed to eat it all. That's phenomenal. John Hart just convinced the Padres to eat a whole road-kill sandwich by putting some Kimbrel BBQ all over it. Nobody else would have made this deal. The Padres shouldn't have made this deal, and mark my words they will absolutely regret it.

What did the Braves get in return? By all accounts it opens up $53M of salary, which will be huge for this team as they retool the offense and the rotation. What else did they get? Carlos Quentin who they will DFA immediately since he sucks but is less expensive, a major pitching prospect in Matt Wisler, and an outfield prospect in Jordan Paroubeck. The other kick-in was current MLB outfielder Cameron Maybin.

Maybin is an interesting option. He was pretty solid in 2011 and 2012, but then he got paid in 2013 and immediately went into the crapper after getting injured, and then again after he was suspended 25 games for using amphetamines. However, looking at this numbers he has the potential to be a .250/.310/.365 slash line guy that plays some good defense in the outfield. So, who knows? We'll likely need an outfield platoon anyway, and I like having plenty of guys to play the hot hand. The good news is that Maybin is fast and he can swipe bags as a pinch runner late in games off the bench.

The prospects are pretty great too, but the clear prospect winner is Matt Wisler the pitcher. He's a top 50 prospect rated by most services, he's 21 years old, and he's probably going to get another year at AAA to settle into the starter role before getting a call up to the majors. The Braves will need him too, because after this year the rotation is looking pretty thin and I don't think Mike Minor is part of the long term plan.

I'm not telling you to stop being mad that the Braves traded a guy you like. All I'm telling you is that this trade is absolutely in the best interest of the team, and you absolutely will see the benefits of it as the Braves continue to move forward with their long term plan. Plus it gives you a chance to fall in love with some new faces, and possibly find out how much you like this new look Atlanta team.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Bold Predictions for the Atlanta Braves 2015 Season

UPDATE: 4-5-2015 7PM, The Braves traded Kimbrel and BJ about an hour after I posted this, so just remove the parts where I talk about them. Not that I really did other than say I didn't think BJ would play much. Guess what? He won't play at all. I'll address the trade in total in my next post as I digest the money consequences.

It's Easter Sunday, and the Braves start playing real baseball tomorrow. I'm excited! Are you excited? If you're not and you're reading this blog, how did you end up here? Looking for Browns by the Numbers? Are you a filthy Cleveland fan? Google failed you.

Since you're likely a Braves fan if you landed on my blog doorstep, I'm going to assume you're excited. Alternately, I'm going to assume the rest of you are semi-worried this season could be a complete dumpster fire since John Hart traded away 60% of the team.

With those two diametrically opposed viewpoints in mind, it's my job to come up with some predictions for the season. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll call me horrible names in tweets that would make the Easter bunnies sad. Think of the Easter bunnies won't you? So without further ado, here are my predictions in increasing order of how crazy you will likely think I am.

  1. Freddie Freeman will have more walks this year than he's ever had in his career - This one is a bit easy for me to predict because I don't think Freddie will get enough bombers around him to keep pitchers from thinking, "You know what? Nah." I would say he'll hold the team high for IBBs this season. You'd also probably think I'm insane if I told you last year's team leader was BJ Upton with 5 IBBs. But go ahead, look it up.
  2. The Braves offense will be better than 29th in the league - I am not such a dooms-dayer that I believe trading away the batting talent will produce a worse offense than last year in terms of placement. I'm of the opinion that our offense last year was completely doomed due to the bang or bust nature, and we gave up trying to do the the little things completely. I think this team will commit to small ball to create runs rather than swing for the fences all day. Which leads me to my next prediction...
  3. This Braves team will strike out much less - It seems obvious, because it is. I don't think the terrible Upton will play as much, Justin is gone, and Heyward and Gattis are gone. Those four guys combined with 539 Ks last year. Assuming the worst with the new four guys replacing them on 162 game averages, they would still only clock in with 464 Ks. That's 75 less strikeouts or 14% approximately. Will it matter on the runs scored column? I honestly don't care, because it won't frustrate me as much to watch.
  4. Christian Bethancourt will struggle offensively - The Braves have been on this guy for years, and I simply don't buy it with his swing right now. I was hoping they would trade Bethancourt and keep Gattis until the next long-term prospect came long, but they love him. We'll see if the front office is right, but I'm not a fan of C-Beth's swing, and he'll never have any power like Gattis did. For a catcher, that's a problem in my mind.
  5. Chris Johnson will bounce back, and hit over .280 on the season - I think the pressure is off Chris, and I'm upgrading his status while others are writing him off as a one-time flash in the pan. I like CJ 2.0 to rebound in 2015. If you read my earlier piece on CJ, you'd know this was coming. You savvy reader, you.
  6. Eric Stults will be a surprise starter - I think Roger working with the veteran lefty will produce huge dividends. Mid-way through the season, I think the story about the Braves pitching staff will be about how this guy was a late spring decision, and now he's dominating his starts. Getting him out of the offensive cesspool that was San Diego will be good for Stults.
  7. The Braves bullpen will be an early problem for the first time in a long time - I'm not talking about Kimbrel, I'm talking about everyone else. There's been a wholesale changeover in middle relief and I'm not sure it's for the better. I can hope I'm wrong, but I'm betting we're biting our nails in the 6-7-8 stretches of games. It will take a while to round out, and I hope Fredi doesn't screw it up. Either way...
  8. The Braves will sign Fredi Gonzalez to an extension mid-year - I've thought about this for a while. Originally I thought they'd dump Fredi once his deal ran out by the end of this year. However, I think they'll resign him for a couple of reasons. The first is that I think they are running out the clock until the stadium, the second is that...
  9. I think the Braves will be leading the division at the All-Star break - Yes, you now likely think I'm either working for Braves PR or that I'm hearing voices from the family pets. Maybe I am nuts, but I'm looking at a group of rag-tag starters that I think are going to have great seasons. Plus I'm looking a team that's looser than they've ever been, with veteran leaders, and a willingness to do the small things to score runs. Call it a hunch, but I think this Braves team is going to shock people which leads me to my final prediction...

The Braves will win 88 games and get the Wild Card - The over/under in Vegas is 74.5, and analysts everywhere will tell you how this team will finish in the bottom half of baseball. But remember, these same analysts will typically just look at the high payrolls teams every year or the big markets and pick them to win. It's why they have been picking the Dodgers, Nationals, and Cardinals to win every freaking year. Let's see who they picked this year?

CBS picked the Nationals, Cardinals, and Dodgers.
SI picked the Nationals, Cardinals, and Dodgers.
ESPN picked the Nationals, Cardinals, and Dodgers.


It's amazing that they picked all the teams that won the divisions last year! Who would have guessed? I honestly didn't even look those up until I just typed them down, and I still could have predicted it, because national analysts don't actually think. They just parrot out the same crap over and over until they are right.

Baseball isn't that easy. Random things happen. Teams get hot. Pitchers suddenly round out where they hadn't before, and top notch pitchers suddenly have bad seasons. But moreso than anything, baseball analysts put very little value in a team without a ton of sluggers or big-named Aces. And there is a good reason for that because they are playing the odds. We're a society built to love the long ball even after the offense has waned and low-scoring games are more common.

I put my faith in great rotational pitching and solid day-to-day hitting, much like the Royals had last year. KC was 19th in overall team slugging, but they managed to win a lot of games with the 4th best team ERA in the AL. San Francisco wasn't a bomber team, middle of the road in runs and slugging, but their pitching carried them as well with guys like Tim Hudson and Madison Bumgarner. And those were your World Series teams.

So to me, it's not about big names or home runs. It's about a bunch of guys doing their jobs on a day-by-day basis, and having one of the best pitching coaches in the business round out a rotation. It's about putting the ball in play instead of constantly striking out and sucking the air out of the building. It's about being able to get a bunt down instead of waiting for the three-run homer to show up every day. In short, it's about getting back to what made Braves baseball great like in 1991. The Braves had one guy in Ron Gant hit 30+ homers that year. And they still went worst to first because of their great ability to leg out doubles, get on base, get runners in by putting the ball in play, and dominate on the mound with their starting pitching.

That's what I want to see again. That's what I expect in 2015 when others are expecting defeat. Well I can guarantee you one thing, there's not one guy in that clubhouse who thinks they are going to finish below .500 this year.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Julio Teheran gets roughed up, Atlanta Braves fans worry about nothing

Julio don't care.

The Braves lost a spring training game to the Phillies 9-2, and Julio Teheran looked really bad in the outing. Julio's gotten knocked around for 18 runs (16 earned) in 18 innings. His ERA is an 8.00 and he's given up 5 homers. If this were the regular season, those stats would be eye-poppingly bad.

But it's not the regular season, so slow that roll. Julio has usually been very sharp in spring when he was trying to cement himself as a front-line starter. Now? He knows he's the likely Ace of this team, and he's using spring training to work on his arm action. He's notched 15 strikeouts to go along with the 18 runs. He's working through his pitches and he doesn't care if he misses. Also, his head is already about a week down the road in the regular season.

In short, Julio's already mentally checked out of Spring Training, and I can't really blame him. After the first couple of weeks, I think spring training is completely pointless for today's athlete. It's a vestigal event left over from the days when 1940s players would show up for camp fat and get into shape. Now? Million dollar pro players are in shape around the clock. Unless you are C.C. Sabathia stuffing your face with boxes of Captain Crunch to round out your figure.

Constant articles get published every year around this time asking if spring training is too long. Those are stupid. Of course it's too long. It's like asking a person if their vacation was too short. Everyone is going to say yes. Why? Because Spring training as a whole is antiquated, and it exists now only because "it's always been that way," which is an actual defense of something dumb in baseball. It's why we didn't have true instant replay on calls until 2014, despite instant replay having been invented in 1963 almost 50 years prior. By that logic, baseball will let managers call the bullpen on smart phones in 2057. At that point Google will have invented technology that replaces managers with a random number generator and a set of spray charts.

You know why I'm not worried about Julio? Because Doug Fister for the Nationals has a 7.02 spring ERA and has given up 6 homers. Matt Latos has a 7.04 ERA and given up 2 homers. CC Sabathia has an 11.52 ERA in spring right now. These numbers mean absolutely nothing. The pitchers are working on pitches, and they aren't looking at scouting reports. They don't care who is at the plate, they are just thinking about what pitch they need to work on, so they throw it. It's fire and forget baseball.

You know what I like about Julio? He has good command of the plate with some strikeouts, he's not walking a ton of people, and he feels like his arm action is smooth by all reports. It's much ado about nothing. I would get worried if Julio was walking the ballpark. When your starter has problems finding the plate, THAT'S when you get concerned in spring. Not when guys are getting hits.

So relax Braves Country. Julio is gearing up to mow them down in April. Just get him some runs to work with.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What to Expect from Braves by the Numbers in 2015

Showering myself with that Big Blog $$$

So now that I'm back writing on this site, perhaps you're wondering a few things. Why did he come back to the old site? What is he going to do this year? Has he completely lost his marbles? Why in the world is he drawing stick figures like he's in second grade art class?

Good questions, and I appreciate you for fictionally asking them. I enjoy the fictional questions the best. Anyway, I'll let you decide if I've gone completely insane by the end of the season. I have a feeling that if things go south, we'll all want to be committed by September. However, if things go well, we can all point and laugh at all those nasty national analysts like Buster Olney who said we'd finish second to dead last.

First, I came back here to make gobs of money. Nothing brings in the dough like running your own small blog on a corner of the internet. I'm rubbing myself with nickels right now as I write this. Aren't you jealous? (April Fool's)

In all seriousness, these things obviously make next to nothing in terms of real money, but you can help me support my habit by simply clicking one of the ad links once in a while. Every week would be great! Visiting sponsors costs you nothing, and helps me continue to do cool things like buy the supplies for a possible podcast. Or take an art class. We're all winners then!

Why did I come back? Because I'm a blogger. I want to be a blogger. I want to be crazy and irrational and irreverent. I don't take myself to seriously. Many of the people that write about sports want to do it as a real job, and that's cool. They take themselves VERY seriously. If that's the kind of place you want to read about your team, I say fantastic. There should be outlets for that, and you're in luck since there are tons of them. However, there aren't tons of places where you can learn something, laugh, banter, and not feel beaten over the head or made to feel stupid for being a fan.

I'm a fan. You're a fan. Chances are weren't going to be right about some things and wrong about others. To pretend otherwise is silly. My job here is to make bold predictions and make you think if I can. Your job is to leave comments and say you like what I'm doing (that would be great), or to call me a blowhard and an idiot (also fine because you are reading!) Or just click the ads for those sweet sweet nickels.

The MS Paint stuff this year will be on some feature articles and if I'm feeling frisky on a recap or something. Why? Because I think it's funny and I don't take myself too seriously as referenced above. I've leaned over time that if I think something is funny, generally others will too. Where else are you going to get Freddie Freeman being attacked by a dragon? Just here, that's where. Take that ESPN!

I'm going to continue to do recaps, most likely on a series basis rather than a game-by-game basis. Why? Because honestly 162 recaps is exhausting and there are only so many times I can point out that BJ Upton sucks in one month. Call it the BJ effect. Actually don't call it that, that sounds incredibly dirty and/or way more fun. Call it the Uggla effect. That's suitably depressing.

I'm going to continue doing series previews as I can, mostly so I can continue to do the CPA (Current Prediction Algorithm) which will predict the scores of games. I like doing it and it turned out pretty well in 2013. I'd like to see how it fares this year with some tweaks. Maybe we'll make some money on side bets? Who knows?

I'll continue to do features because everyone loves good-hearted analysis with lots of references to abbreviations. OPS, OBP, SLG, IRS, LUV! That's sexy talk right there. Just wrap yourself in a warm blanket of numbers and debates about why sabermetrics people are gigantic nerds while I'm only a huge nerd.

Lastly, I'm kicking around the idea of a podcast. I've never done one, and I'm slowly learning how they work, so with some encouragement and a little funding from the blog I'm going to try and make that happen this summer. If that gets off the ground, you'll hear me in addition to watching me write. That's a Braves by the Numbers double play! Twice the Ben for the same low price of...nothing!

There's also a chance I'll make up T-shirts for Braves by the Numbers as giveaway items, or to sell for people that want to support the blog. That's a long term plan if the reader-base gets big. Who doesn't love a good T-shirt giveaway in a podcast? Again, ad-clicking supports those kinds of endeavors. As it does with most blogs. That's a little insider knowledge to you from me.

So that's the plan, I hope you're on board for a fun season. Win or Lose I'll be here to make fun of Fredi Gonzalez tipping his cap and pitching a lefty to the guy who has 150 homers off lefties in his career. With a manager like this, the material writes itself.

If you like to laugh, keep reading as we go along and hopefully learn something. If you hate fun, grab an abacus and go hang out with the Saber-boys.