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.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Who the Heck is ... Manny Banuelos?

So Manny Banuelos will pitch his second game of his MLB career tonight against the Milwaukee Brewers. I thought, what better time to give you some background on our newest starter!

Full Name: Manuel Banuelos
Birthplace: Gomez Placio, Mexico
Age: 24
Throws: Left
Bats: Right
Favorite Food: Whatever his mama cooks (most likely)

Manny was originally signed by the Yankees out of the Mexican leagues back in 2008 when he was all of 17 years old. He stayed in the minor leagues of the Yankees organization for six years while slowly advancing up the ranks. Early on in his career, Manny was known for his overpowering strikeout stuff in the mid-90s to complement a changeup and a curve. In fact, Mariano Rivera once said that Manny Banuelos was the best pitching prospect he had ever seen. High praise from the most dominant closer in the game.

However, in 2012 Banuelos underwent Tommy John surgery, joining ranks with most of the young prospects that the Braves made trades for at the beginning of 2015. When he joined the Braves organization, he spent 15 games down at AAA with a 2.29 ERA, a 6-2 record, and 69 strikeouts in 89 innings. That's really freaking impressive, but it comes with a downside. He was walking people at a clip of 4.1 per 9 innings. That's well below what an average pitcher would put up, which is usually just over 3 walks per 9 IP. So while he had some control issues, he certainly had the stuff to dominate as long as he kept the runners in check.

In his first game at the MLB level with the Braves, you got to see what made Manny great. He went 5.2 innings and struck out 7 batters, allowing only 2 hits, no runs, and importantly no walks. That's ridiculously impressive for an MLB debut, but it's also likely an anomaly that happens when a young pitcher with no real MLB film on him faces a lineup of hitters that have never seen him. The stats will tell you that when Manny gets in trouble he will walk some people, and eventually the hitters will see what makes him tick. What we can hope is that he adjusts back to them quickly, and uses the knowledge of a veteran guy like AJ Pierzynski to create a good gameplan.

All in all, I'm excited to watch a guy like Banuelos pitch, because he has so much upside and really nasty breaking stuff. If he continues to improve at the MLB level, you're looking at a guy with potentially no ceiling. But he has to stay mentally sharp and physically healthy, and that's always been an issue with this newest crop of young pitchers. One can hope that he's learned how to pitch now after his first surgery and will listen to the wisdom that Roger McDowell can provide for all his plus pitches.

I can't wait to see how he pans out. That's part of what makes this new Braves season so exciting.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Phillies recap, Brewers in town to steal our beers

Hey constant readers, I'm running a bit behind on the blog today since I was getting my AC looked at. Fingers crossed that it works this time and I stop sweating. Anyway, we won the series with the Phillies, but we dropped the final game because the Braves offense apparently hates Shelby Miller.

Seriously, they must hate him because they haven't scored for him at all. When is Shelby's last win you might ask? Back in May against the Marlins when he had the almost no-hitter. That was over 45 days ago. That's also insane, because he's pitching at a ridiculous ERA level right now, and he's probably going to be the only All-Star nod for the Braves this season.

But alas, the Braves lost the game in the 10th, even though they had a shot to get a sac-fly to win the game in the bottom of the 9th, and failed. Good news though? Home Julio was as good as expected when he held the Phillies to one run, and Juan Uribe blasted a game-winning homer to take game one by a score of 2-1. The second game was an absolute butt-kicking that rivaled the USA v. Japan Women's world cup match in terms of early scoring. The Braves jumped all over the Phillies for 5 runs in the first two innings, and they went on to win 9-5 even though Alex Wood didn't pitch a great game. How much would Shelby love Alex's runs?

Two things I liked and One I hated:

  1. Braves won the series
  2. Juan Uribe is hitting the ball like crazy, and Jonny Gomes is hitting homers
  3. It sucked that we didn't sweep when Shelby pitched a shutout
MVP of the series? Cameron Maybin went 7-13 with a homer, 2 doubles, 3 runs scored, and 2 RBIs. He's mildly good this season. Mildly. OK he's the hottest thing we have at the plate and we're likely going to try to package him with Chris Johnson so we can unload that albatross of a contract. Don't cry to me when it happens because I told you so beforehand.


Game 1 - Wisler v. Lohse
Game 2 - Banuelos v. Garza
Game 3 - Teheran v. Fiers

The Brewers have won 8 games in a row, and suddenly gone blisteringly hot after having the worst record in baseball. And yet they are STILL 12 games under .500 because they sucked for so long. The Braves have won 5 of their last 7 games, and they are trying to keep momentum rolling until Freddie Freeman comes off the DL. I'll tell you right now though, I'll be shocked if Freddie is 100% ready after the All-Star break. I don't like anything I'm hearing about that injury. He may be playing with some pain for a while.

The first two games give you more of the same young gun approach the Braves are used to with the newbie starters. Hopefully Wisler can continue to roll along with his bend but don't break approach, but he was smoked in his only road game of the season against the Nats. Banuelos has all of one game under his belt, so I have no idea how the heck he will perform on the road. However, I know exactly how Julio will peform on the road, and he's a flaming bacon-grease fire that even baking soda couldn't quench. That's how you put out grease fires for those at home. Don't use water. Just google it, trust me.

For the Brewers, Lohse may have won his last two games, but that's only because the Brewers scored a combined 19 runs for him. His ERA is 6.25 and he's just aching to give up at least 4 runs a start to the opponent if you let him. He'll give up dingers if you let him. The key is to be patient and just pick the pitch that's dead red center, because he can't help himself. He'll throw it eventually. Garza is even worse in that he'll give up 4 runs a start minimum AND he'll walk the ballpark to go with it. Keep patient with him, and he's even more baserunner prone than Lohse. Then there's Fiers. He can pitch, and he's been hot lately. His ERA is 3.83 with a 1.41 WHIP that seems high, but he has excellent strikeout stuff to get him out of jams. The last time he gave up more than 2 runs was June 17th against the Royals. Since then, he's had 3 wins in a row and given up no more than 4 hits a game. With road Julio facing him? That game sets up as a disaster.

CPA Predictions:

CPA went 1-2 because the Phillies won the wrong game. Those jerks. CPA is now 29-42. I don't think it's going to make the playoffs this year. It's probably a seller at the All-Star Break.

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

Braves get the series win, but the final game comes off the rails, and I have to listen to more of why Julio is terrible on the road. We know that already, tell me WHY! Nobody knows why. Just celebrate the fact that the Braves can win this series and tick another one off the calendar towards Freeman's return.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Wait, Braves beat the Nats? Phillies next!

So for you doubters and haters the Braves actually beat the Nationals in the series, not just one game. Don't you feel silly. I've been warning you not to jump off the bandwagon or listen to the so-called experts who are telling you this team is about to shoot itself in the foot. This team has young talent and depth, and the one thing they need is for Freddie Freeman to get healthy and take advantage of a really light schedule up to the AllStar break.

The first game featured another Shelby Miller outing where he got no run support. But he also really blew it early by allowing 4 runs in the first inning. You can't do that with a Braves team that's struggling to score. So that game was a complete mess. Game two turned into the Wisler show as the young kid went 5.1 innings giving up 1 hit and no runs. AJ Pierzynski homered for 2 runs, Uribe went back to back for another, and Wisler helped himself with an RBI. Braves won that one handily. Game 3 had Simmons plate Uribe mid-way through a pitcher's duel beween Scherzer and Banuelos, but the first time MLB starter Banuelos ended up getting the best of Scherzer in the end. In the bottom of the 9th, Cameron Maybin knocked in Ciriaco in a walk-off single to win 2-1 against the former Cy Young winner. HUGE win there.


Game 1 - Teheran v. Morgan
Game 2 - Wood v. Correia
Game 3 - Miller v. Hamels

Remember Road Julio and his crappy exploits? Well this is home Julio, and home Julio shoots lightning bolts from his eyes and firebolts from his arse. At home, Julio has a 4-0 record with a 2.35 ERA and a .173 opponent average. I don't even want to give you his road stats because they give me the sads. He'll face a newbie named Adam Morgan who is a 25 year old guy out of AAA from the Phillies. Oddly, his stats at AAA suck. He's 0-6 with a 4.74 ERA at the lower level, so I have no idea if the Braves will pull their usual "OH CRAP HE'S NEW LET'S BE TERRIBLE" at the plate, or if they'll rock his socks off. Either way, if Julio is on, the Phils are in a world of hurt.

And let's be fair, the Phillies are the worst team in baseball by record. The Braves should destroy this team for a series win minimum. A sweep would be great. In game 2, Alex Wood faces off against Kevin Correia. The Phillies signed Correia on June 5th, presumably because they sent the rest of their starters to the gallows. Correia has pitched 4 games this season, and he's supremely average. 0-2 record with a 3.60 ERA and a huge 1.65 WHIP. With that many runners, the Braves should be able to capitalize. However, Alex Wood has been oddly terrible at home, almost like a reverse Julio. Wood is 0-3 with a 5.00 ERA and a .310 opponents average in Turner Field. Most starters are better inside their friendly confines. Not Alex. He'll need to get that on track against a bad Phillies team.

Game 3 is Shelby Miller against Cole Hamels, the marquee matchup. Shelby has been getting no run support at home, Hamels can't seem to function on the road. Miller is 2-3 at home with a 2.22 ERA and .232 average. Hamels is 3-4 on the road with a 4.13 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. This will be a battle of which guy is defying their splits. Will Shelby ever get some runs? Will Hamels dominate a lineup he's had good luck against? That's why they play the games.

Other Key Players:

Cameron Maybin - if there's one guy who blows up Hamels, it's Maybin with a .938 OPS lifetime against Cole and 4 doubles.

Andrelton Simmons - Simmons has had some very average luck at the plate in terms of power, obviously trying to cut down on the swing and get things in play. I'm loathe to call for it, but in non-RISP situations I'd like for Simmons to try and drive the ball a little more against a bad Phillies staff.

CPA Predictions:

OK I'm at the lakehouse, so I don't have time to run the numbers, but the CPA went 0-3 last series. But the Braves won it, so meh. On to these predictions!

Game 1 - Braves by 2
Game 2 - Phillies by 1
Game 3 - Braves by 1

The CPA likes the matchups except for a struggling home version of Alex Wood. Let's hope the Braves take at least 2 of 3 in this series and set the stage for a solid run to the break!