Thursday, May 28, 2015

Braves in San Fran for 4 Games

The Braves don't have to travel far on this part of the road trip. They are just moving from LA to San Francisco for 4 games with the Giants. How does that look for us? Well the Giants have won 8 of their last 10, so we're catching them at just the wrong time. I know in four-gamers I always say you should try to split, but that might be ambitious. I'm shooting for weathering a storm. My goal here is not to get swept, and everything else is gravy.

Game 1 - Miller v. Heston
Game 2 - Foltynewicz v. Hudson
Game 3 - Perez v. Lincecum
Game 4 - Teheran v. Bumgarner

Shelby Miller dominates all that he surveys. But this will be his toughest test, as San Francisco is swinging a bunch of red-hot bats. How red-hot? Try 3rd in the MLB in runs over the last week with 51. The Braves scored 23 in that same stretch. That's less than half for you math majors out there. BUT they were playing the terrible Brewers and Rockies. So, with SF surging, how will Shelby fare? Based on prior years, probably fine. He's faced the Giants twice in the last three years and won both with a 1.46 ERA. Since his current ERA is about 1.50, that's pretty good news for me. Meanwhile, the Braves take on Chris Heston, a 27 year old righty with a 4.33 ERA, and only one year of experience prior to this one. The Braves have never seen Heston, so based on our previous rookie encounters that should be to our advantage. But if Shelby is right? You may get one or two hits max. We've seen it.

Mike Foltynewicz had a great start in his last game, getting his third win and going for almost 8 innings with one earned run. I'm looking for him to build off that start and really begin to establish a mound presence. He's got the stuff to be really nasty, he just has to have full command of the arsenal when facing good hitters like the Giants. His advantage will be that nobody on the Giants has seen him before. On the other side, Tim Hudson is really struggling for the Giants. We haven't seen Huddy since he left Atlanta, so expect some tears from Braves Country during this game. Good news for the Braves is that Huddy's ERA in May has been 6.00, and with the exception of one game against the Dodgers, he was giving up 3+ runs a start. I wouldn't mind a good duel between these two where the Giants pen gives away the game late and gives Huddy a no-decision. My guess is that Nick Markakis will have a good game since he's danced with Huddy to the tune of 4-of-5 in the box.

Williams Perez gets his third start after going 11 innings with only 2 earned runs in his first 2 starts. If he can put three in a row together, he'll officially be doing better than Julio Teheran, which is a shot at Julio more than anything. The key for Perez will be keeping the hits down, as he got himself in a ton of trouble in the game against the Dodgers, even though he was able to dance out of a couple bases-loaded jams. Tim Lincecum has been awful since 2012 with an ERA averaging in the top 4's. Yet, this year Tim looks like the Big Time Timmy Jim of old. With a 5-2 record and a 2.45 ERA to go with a 1.25 WHIP, Tim is a problem for the Braves hitters. Why? Because the only guy on the team with more than 2 ABs that's hitting better than .250 against him is Juan Uribe. That's not a good sign, especially since Perez hasn't been getting tons of run support anyway. We'd need another grinder affair where somebody gets lucky off Tim to get a win here. Or the Braves can confuse everyone again and score 6 off him. They've been doing that quite a bit. I'm looking for Uribe to help out in this game.

The final game has the potential of outright disaster. Madison Bumgarner has only lost one game since mid-April. Julio Teheran has given up a combined 14 runs in 2 of his last 4 starts, and 2 runs in the other 2 starts. Madison is steady as a rock, Julio is all-or-nothing. If good Julio shows up, this could be interesting since guys like Peterson, Gomes, Uribe, and CJ 2.0 all hit MadBum well. If bad Julio shows up, the team could be down by 5 before the 3rd inning. The key to this game will be all Julio all the time.

CPA Predictions:

I should just call this section, Hey the Braves make my predictions look stupid! The machine went 0-3 in the last series, and down another -3.75 units, bringing us to 16-25 with -13.90 units. Enough bad news, more picks!

Game 1: Braves by 1
Game 2: Braves by 1
Game 3: Giants by 2
Game 4: Giants by 2

The machine likes a split. I'll take that. But then again the machine has been all over the place, so who knows! We had a good thing going until LA, so maybe SF is the tonic it needs to right the ship.

GO BRAVES!

Braves escape sweep by Dodgers

The Braves confuse me sometimes. In this series against the Dodgers, they got beat by one of the Dodgers average pitchers, got beat by the Dodgers Ace even though he was struggling all season, and then beat the best pitcher by ERA on the Dodgers staff this year. You can tell by the CPA that this team is almost impossible to predict. And that's funny because the CPA when compared to other teams in MLB works pretty well.

Game one was the game the bullpen let get away. Again. Want a common theme as a Braves fan this year? It's that you're sitting on pins and needles choking down whatever calming concoction you need to wait out the 6-7-8 innings of this team's pitching staff. If the starter happens to go longer, maybe you need a little less tonic. But in this game Williams Perez could only go 6 innings on 106 pitches, giving the Braves a chance to win with a 2-1 lead. Avilan couldn't hold it, though. Luis walked two batters to load the bases, and gave up a sacrifice grounded with 2 outs to tie the game. That was the small problem. The big problem was Nick Masset, who gave up not one, not two, but THREE homers in one inning to lose the game. Braves dropped it 6-3.

Game two the Braves had no shot. Kershaw was absolutely dealing, and the Dodgers could have scored just a solitary run and that would have been enough. They scored 8 runs just to make us look silly. As good as Kershaw was with his 7 innings, 4 hits, 10 Ks, and no runs, Julio Teheran was the opposite. Julio only managed 4.1 innings giving up a whopping 10 hits, 8 runs, and 3 walks. That's the bad Julio part of the TEHERAN ROLLERCOASTER EXPERIENCE 2015. It's like watching the Hawks in the playoffs. I never know who is showing up on the mound that day. Braves got smoked 8-0.

Now Game three was the game I thought we had no chance. Greinke was 5-1 with a sub-2.00 ERA. He hadn't lost a game to the Braves since the playoffs in 2013. What were the odds that the Braves could muster a victory here? Well, they were 1.65 to 1 underdogs according to Vegas, meaning a $100 bet would return $165. That's really stout for a single baseball game if you're unaware. Still, the Braves jumped on Greinke early in the first inning, and although they loaded the bases and didn't score, they drove his pitch count way up. Cameron Maybin jumped on Greinke in the 3rd inning with a monster 425 foot homer to center, but the Dodgers struck back in the 4th with a dinky infield single to score a runner from third. With the game tied 1-1, Greinke could only go 6 innings due to his pitch count, and for once the other team's bullpen blew it. With two outs and two on in the 8th, Nick Markakis was the hero as he stroked a ground rule double to left, scoring both runners. Even with a solo homer in the 9th, the Dodgers couldn't overcome the 2-run deficit, and the Braves won 3-2. Tip your cap to Alex Wood as well for keeping the game in check, and getting in line for the win.

Since we lost the series I'll just do THREE THINGS (which are neutral):

  1. Cameron Maybin looks good - Nobody jinx it, but Maybin is really coming on as an asset for the team, and he's on pace for one of the best seasons of his life. Maybin went 3/10 on the series with 2 runs and a homer. Plus he's slugging .435 on the season.
  2. Clayton Kershaw is still awesome - When that dude is on, get out of the way. I don't care what else happens, if Kershaw decides to dominate that day, you lose. He proved it in Game 2.
  3. Teheran isn't the Ace - Not even close. It's all Shelby Miller now. Teheran is pitching at best as a #3 guy in the rotation. At best. In reality on a winning team he'd probably be a 4 guy the way he's unable to replicate consistent starts.
Honorable mention for the MVP (since we lost and there is no MVP) is Nick Markakis. That ground rule double in the last game was the difference in the Braves getting swept. Nick is quietly hitting .312 on the season and making all the idiots who questioned his $12M a year contract look dumb. Without him, I can honestly say the Braves would be 6 games below .500 right now at the least.

Next up, the schedule gets no easier with 4 games in San Francisco. That means more late nights for Braves Country. Pound that coffee.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Callaspo-Uribe Trade Analysis - Five W's

Callaspo is gone, Uribe is here, and a bunch of other pieces traded around in the process. What does it all mean? What is the possible impact of such a move? Why did the trade even happen in the first place? I'll take a look at the Who-What-When-Where-Why of this trade in this trade breakdown.

WHO:

The Braves send Alberto Callaspo, Eric Stults, Ian Thomas, and Juan Jaime to the Dodgers
The Dodgers send Juan Uribe and Chris Withrow to the Braves

WHAT:

That's what most Braves fans said when they heard about this move.

WHEN:

Yesterday evening after Callaspo stopped blocking the trade. Originally, he said no and the trade was going nowhere, but he had a change of heart apparently when the Braves sat him down and explained he was going to get DFA'd if he didn't take the deal. I'm guessing on that last part.

WHERE:

Sunny LA. Where everyone is a star. And where the weather gods apparently have decided to smite the residents with a lack of rain until they sacrifice Kim Kardashian to their sunshiny blood-lust.

WHY:

That's the million dollar question. Literally. Let's get the money part out of the way. Callaspo is making $3M this year, Stults is making $2M, and Thomas & Jaime will make about half a million. That totals out around $6M in total salaries. Juan Uribe is making $6.5M, and Withrow makes around half a million as well. That's $7M in the deal. Basically a swap of $1M in payroll in favor of the Dodgers.

Now as far as pieces, let's look at the top ends of the trade, Callaspo and Uribe. Callaspo has a .206/.293/.252 slash line, which is frankly BJ Upton levels of crap. Actually that's not fair to BJ as he was never that low in OPS to finish the season. Uribe has .247/.287/.309 slash line that's not a whole lot better. The main difference is that he's more expensive than Callaspo and the Dodgers probably don't believe he has any upside left at 36, while Callaspo is only 32.

That being said, Callaspo was horrible in 2014, and for some reason the Braves took a chance on him. He showed up fat to camp, hit very well, and took Chris Johnson's starting job. Then over the season he reverted to fat, doughy form. I have no confidence in Callaspo turning it around, and I wouldn't be shocked if the Dodgers immediately cut him. I think this is a pure salary dump for them on Uribe, and they are only moderately interested in the Thomas and Jaime as part of the deal if they can ever control their stuff.

Uribe is ancient, so I'm imagining he's the backup 3B option behind Chris Johnson. If they play Uribe every day instead of Chris when he comes back from injury, that's a clear signal to me that the Braves hate Chris and would rather watch him starve to death in the dugout than play him on the field. And I have no idea why that's the case. Chris is a slightly above average hitter with some pretty below average defense. Uribe is a below average hitter with passably average defense. I'd want the better hitter in Chris out there at 3B every day, but the Braves didn't even start him this year, and it's very obvious they've been trying to trade him since last year. However, his contract is absurd thanks to Frank Wren making stupid extensions while twirling his fictional mustache. But that's dead money while he's on the team if you just ride him on the pine. I want my assets playing if they have anything to give me, and I think CJ 2.0 does have something left.

But what did the Braves get Withrow? Well it's another guy coming off TJ surgery in 2014, so we're stockpiling those guys. I want to change the Braves minor league logo to the MASH logo. If Withrow can return before year end, he'll offer a late year option out of the pen as a righty set-up man. And lord knows we need the bullpen help. The Dodgers get Stults who loves to give up homers, and Ian Thomas who is a lefty they can use for ballast in case the team hits an iceberg.

All in all, this trade makes very little sense, like two rednecks wandering up with a pile of junk in the middle of a South Georgia flea market, and one guy trading his broken TV for that guys broken outboard motor. That happens all the time down here if you don't know, because every redneck believes he can fix that other jerk's garbage. And every GM believes he can fix that other guy's struggling reliever.

In the end this trade will be much ado about nothing unless Uribe starts pounding the ball like he did in 2013 when he had 12 homers and 22 doubles. But the intangible of this trade is that Uribe is supposedly a really great clubhouse guy and teammate, which the Braves are really pushing this year. And you can understand why when last year's group of young guns had supposedly one of the worst clubhouse atmospheres ever according to insiders. That's the last thing you want on a team that's trying to build for the future.

So take heart, Braves fans. You might be getting a really cool dude out of this trade, you didn't give up much, and we all might get to see how much the Braves hate Chris Johnson. It's a win-win-win.

GO BRAVES!


Monday, May 25, 2015

Quick Preview: Braves & Dodgers West Coast

It's the holiday so I'll be brief, the Braves are embarking on their most difficult road trip of the season. If we emerge from this 10-game jaunt with a 4-6 record or better? I can live with that. You may say, man Ben you're aiming really low. I'm really not. Check out the matchups.

Game 1 - Perez v. Anderson
Game 2 - Teheran v. Kershaw
Game 3 - Wood v. Greinke

Yeah, we get Kershaw and Greinke. Two guys who are notorious for dominating the Braves. Greinke has a 0.60 ERA against the Braves in the last 3 years, while Kershaw has a 1.00 ERA in the same time frame. Have they pitched a ton of games against us? Not really. Have they won all of them? Yes. However, Kershaw hasn't been himself this season so maybe there's a chance. I'm not thrilled about those latter two games. Hopefully, Wood actually starts this time unless he's feeling poopy again.

I'll say that I actually like the Perez v. Anderson matchup. One thing to note is that the Dodgers aren't scoring well right now. They've only scored 8 runs over the last week, and they've gone 2-4 in that stretch. Their pitching is phenomenal but the hitting is meh at the moment. They've never seen Perez, and only a few of our guys have seen Anderson. With unfamiliarity, perhaps that means we can catch a break. Or it means that we're going to be jetlagged like crazy and Perez has some jitters since he's only started one game in the majors. Either way, it's going to be fun to watch.

CPA Predictions:

Quick note, I'm tossing out the prediction where Stults replaced Wood. If that had been the matchup, the CPA would have noted a loss, but instead I'm just removing the pick. Before you judge me, that's exactly what Vegas does to bets when there are last minute starting pitching changes. They No Action the bet, I'm No Actioning that pick

So the CPA went 2-1 on that series with the one pick tossed. We're 16-22 now on the season with -10.15 units. On to the picks!

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

Inexplicably, the CPA likes the Braves in this series. Maybe it knows something I don't. Hopefully it does. We need to keep the momentum going.

GO BRAVES!

Braves take 3 of 4 from Brewers



My goal going into this series with the Brewers was for the Braves to crush a bad ballclub with a bad record. The Braves did that and probably would have gotten a sweep of the series if Alex Wood didn't somehow come down with the stomach flu in his start, forcing Eric Stults aka - the home run machine to take the hill.

Game 1 was really odd. Julio Teheran continued to press on with another good start going 7 innings and only giving up 1 run on 2 hits. Thing was, the Braves were tied with the Brewers going into the 7th inning, 1-1. You wouldn't know that by the final score, because Atlanta ended up winning the game 10-1. How you ask? Because the 7th inning was one of the weirdest innings I've seen out of the Braves this year, in a good way. Gomes and Callaspo both singled against Garza, and Simmons bunted into a FC at second. When C-Beth came up with a big single, it made the game 2-1 and the Brewers were forced to bring in Will Smith from the pen. No, not the rapper, the relief pitcher.

Things got odd after Smith hit Ciriaco with a pitch, putting two runners on base. As he was pitching to Jace Peterson, Fredi Gonzalez noticed a very obvious smear of gel-like liquid on Smith's forearm. He brought it to the attention of the umpire Jim Joyce. Joyce then went out to the mound to check it, found out it was an illegal sticky substance, and ejected Smith. The Brewers dugout lost their minds, as did Smith. He was yelling obscenities at the Braves all the way back to the locker-room. My response? Hey, you're the one who cheated, why are you mad? Anyway, from that point, the Brewers came unglued. Peterson singled to score Simmons. Maybin singled to score C-Beth and Ciriaco. Freeman singled to score Peterson. Markakis doubled to score Maybin. Gomes reached on a throwing error to score Freeman. When the dust finally cleared, the Braves batted around in the order, and they scored 7 runs. It was a crazy win.

Now for the flip side in Game 2. Nothing is worse than a pitcher not making a scheduled start, and the team is forced to scramble. The man they had to put into the position for Alex Wood was Eric Stults, and he was not up to the challenge. If you remember, Stults already lost his starting rotation slot to the likes of Williams Perez and Mike Foltynewicz. My biggest problem with Eric is that he can't keep the ball in the park. Guess what he did in this game? Gave up another 2-run homer to Braun in the 1st inning, and that opened the floodgates. Before you could say BOO, the Brewers had struck a huge blow in the 4th inning, and Stults surrendered 7 runs. So who does Fredi pick to stop the bleeding? Trevor Cahill of course. Yeah. Exactly. Your face should be making the same expression as if somebody cut a huge fart and walked out of the room. Cahill gave up 3 more runs in 1.1 innings. Ian Thomas gave up another run in 2 innings, and the Braves lost 11-0. Let's never speak of it again.

Emotionally, you worry about a carryover when a team gets shelled. But the Braves had no hangover in Game 3. Or at least Shelby Miller didn't. Miller didn't even have his best stuff out there, and it was obvious. But Shelby has an Ace mentality, so even when he's pitching sub-par by his standards, he can still battle with the best of them. Shelby gave up 1 run in the first and 1 run in the fourth, but he walked 2 and gave up 7 hits, so he was limiting the damage. He gave the Braves a chance to get back in the game. And the Braves did emerge with some offense in the 5th inning, courtesy of a hit by none other than Shelby Miller. He can do it all. Miller doubled, then Maybin doubled to score him, and then Freeman doubled to score Maybin. Tied 2-2, the game went to extras. With two men on and two outs, Jace Peterson became the hero with a walk-off single to left center, scoring Callaspo for the game winner. He was showered with praise and infield dirt for his efforts.

Game 4 was Mike Foltynewicz's coming-out party in my mind. This was Folty telling the world he's ready to be a part of this rotation, and even though he's got a lot to learn, he can do it and be successful at the MLB level. Folty tossed a 3-hit, 1 run, gem of a game where he went 7.2 innings and really saved the bullpen after a night of extra innings. The Braves were not sharp offensively at all, so that pitching effort was the key to the game. Nobody scored in the game until the Braves finally broke through in the 6th inning with 2 runs. It happened on a strange bases-loaded dropped liner that could have been a double play, but the Brewers defense hesitated and AJ Pierzynski beat the rap. That scored one run, and Simmons singled after that to score the 2nd. The Brewers would get one back in the 7th on a sac-fly, but Grilli came in for the 9th to get his 13th save and shut the door.

THREE THINGS I LOVED:

  1. Mike Foltynewicz dominating - The kid looked so good, I was actually shocked. He's had issues with giving up too many runners before, but in his outing against the Brewers he only allowed 4 baserunners in almost 8 innings to go with 7 Ks.
  2. Braves RISP hitting - Atlanta went 12-39 in the series with RISP, and that's a .308 average. The Braves RISP hitting average on the year is .296, and that's 3rd in the MLB. Shockingly different from last year.
  3. Jace Peterson game-winner - the kid has been working hard, and it's great to see it finally pay off for him. Maybe he can ride this to a surge of offense.
MVP of the series? Honestly, I'm giving it to Cameron Maybin, an unsung hero of this series. He reached base 7 times against the Brewers, scoring 5 runs, and stealing 2 bases. He was a terror on the basepaths, and he managed to knock in a few runs as well. When you look at the whole, Maybin was involved in 8 of the Braves 15 runs of offense. He was over half. That's why he gets the MVP for the series.

Next up, we go on a long road trip that starts with the hot LA Dodgers. I hope we don't have jet lag.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hey look, the worst team in the NL is in town!

To start with, I'm not doing a recap of the two-game series. Here's your mini-recap: We split, and Williams Perez pitched much better than I expected. That's all the time a two-game interleague series deserves. Moving on to better things like a 4-gamer against the worst team in the MLB, the Milwaukee Brewers!

Game 1 - Teheran v. Garza
Game 2 - Wood v. Peralta
Game 3 - Miller v. Fiers
Game 4 - Foltynewicz v. Nelson

Ok, so because I did no recap I'm going deep on this preview. I feel like I haven't gotten to dig into anything for a couple of days. So let's evaluate these matchups starting with Teheran and Garza. Julio is coming off a win in Miami where he gave up 1 run in 5.2 innings. His ERA is at 4.33 and his WHIP is at 1.60 which is still ridiculously high. Julio is basically a rollercoaster right now. His last 4 starts have gone bad-good-bad-good. He needs to even out and avoid a bad start against a bad team in the Brewers. How bad you ask? The Brewers are 15-26 with the worst winning percentage in the NL. However, they are playing .500 ball in their last 10 games, so you can't just look past them. Individually, Julio has handled the Brewers lineup very well, holding them to a team .703 OPS, which is below average. However, Jean Segura stands out as the guy who really rakes Julio with a 4/9 lifetime and a homer. But wait, Segura is on the DL, so Julio won't have to face him. That's a good break. The last time Julio faced the Brewers was on May 20th of 2014, and he threw a complete game shutout. I'd love to see a repeat performance.

Matt Garza for the Brewers has been getting shelled, and his record reflects it. He's 2-5 on the year with a 5.72 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP. Honestly, if both these pitchers pitched to form in this matchup, the game could be 9-8 by the end. I hope that's not the case unless it's the Braves with the 9 on the board. Anyway, Garza is coming off a day against the Mets he'd love to forget where he got lit up for 10 runs. You're reading that right, 10 earned runs in 3.1 innings against the Mets. I guess the manager was just thinking, screw it, we're buried and this is your mess so you eat the innings. He left him in there for 68 pitches of that disaster. I have to think that really hurt Garza's pysche, or at least I'm hoping it did. Even better news is that the Braves have crushed him in the past. Garza faced the Braves twice in 2014 and lost both games. AJ Pierzynski has a .919 OPS off the guy with two homers. Which of course means that Fredi G is going to play Bethancourt because he hasn't played in a while. I'm starting to dislike Bethancourt because I think he's offensively inept. And I want to win games. Prove me wrong, kid!

Game 2 is puts Alex Wood back on the mound after finally getting a win. Alex has an ERA of 3.83 and he's been trending better for the last 3 games, even though he just got his first win since early April. Alex had one start against Milwaukee last year and won easily. This year looking at the Brewers available lineup, I see only one threat to Alex, Carlos Gomez. For those of you that remember, Gomez is the jackass who was talking smack the entire way around the bases after a homer, and that instigated Brian McCann going all NONE SHALL PASS at home plate. Look it up on YouTube, it's surreal. Wood faces Wily Peralta who lost an L in his first name when he came over from the Dominican. I blame customs. Peralta has a 1-5 record, a 4.32 ERA, and a 1.48 WHIP. One thing you'll notice is that most of the Brewers pitchers' stat lines look God-awful. You can't escape unscathed from this trainwreck of a team. Peralta's coming off a 5-run shelling from the Mets as well. The Mets apparently beat the tar out of this club.

What can I say about Shelby Miller that won't seem like I'm just tossing roses in his footsteps? The man is the best pitcher on the team, and I think he's the best pitcher in the NL right now. The stats back it up with his NL leading 1.33 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. Here's the other advantage, Shelby used to be a Cardinal, and he's seen this Brewers lineup a ton. And you know what? HE OWNS THEM. To the tune of a .635 OPS across the lineup. In the last 3 years, Shelby's had 8 starts against the Brewers, 5 wins, no losses, and a 2.20 ERA. <Tosses bouquets at Shelby> Meanwhile, Mike Fiers will oppose Shelby with a record of, you guessed it, 1-4 and a 4.75 ERA. I'll give you a hint, no starter we see from the Brewers has more than 2 wins. The Braves haven't faced Fiers so I honestly have no idea what to expect, other than the fact his ERA says he sucks.

The final game is Folty and Nelson. Mike Foltynewicz got roughed up by Tampa Bay on what I considered to be some pretty good pitches. But they just kept dinking and dunking him to death for 5 earned runs on 8 hits and a walk. The WHIP is still a gigantic concern for me at 1.73, and I honestly can't take any starter seriously as long at that number is above 1.50. Yes, you can put runners on and get away with it, but you're playing Russian roulette every time two guys touch a base in an inning. Mike's obviously never seen the Brewers because he's brand new to the MLB, so this should be interesting to see how he does against a slumping lineup. Jimmy Nelson for the Brewers really dominated Detroit in an unexpected 8 inning 1-run win. That's on the heels of him giving up 17 runs in his last 4 starts. I think that Detroit win is the anomaly, not the norm. He's never seen the Braves before either, so hopefully they can give him a little of what he's used to, a bunch of runs against.

CPA Predictions:

CPA was right that it would be a split, but it got the games backwards. Womp womp, 0-2 on the series. 14-21 now on the picks, and a -11.20 units. We're going to follow this Titanic all the way to the bottom, don't you worry! Never give up, never surrender!

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

CPA thinks we win the series 3 out of 4, and I like that. Normally I say split the series, but this Brewers team is awful. You go for the throat here. You go for the gusto.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sort of Preview for Braves and Tampa

I say sort of because I don't really like doing previews for two game series. I'll say what I always say for a even numbered series. Just split the stupid thing and move on. Also, I despise interleague, so previewing those series is really a pain in the butt. We rarely play each other so the pitching matchups are meaningless, and the teams generally have no rivalries on the other side, plus you probably won't recognize most of the opposing players. Interleague blows.

Now that I'm off my soapbox, here are the matchups.

Game 1 - Foltynewicz v. Ramirez
Game 2 - Perez v. Odorizzi

I mean honestly, if I tossed those names out to Braves fans in April, they'd be like..WHO? So let me just do a simple breakdown instead of full matchups. Folty is pitching decently, and he's 2-0 on the season thanks to some big offensive support. However, his WHIP is enormous at 1.71 and he scares the hell out of me whenever runners get on base. I'd love to feel more comfortable with the kid, but his ERA is over 4.00 and he needs to keep opposing players off the bags before I trust him. Williams Perez is taking over for Eric Stults, and he's basically a 23 year old with exactly 2.1 innings in the majors. I expect him to get ripped to shreds by an AL lineup. Maybe he won't, but I fully expect the Braves to be gigantic underdogs in that game.

The opposing pitchers are Erasmo Ramirez, who the Braves saw once in 2014 and shelled him for 5 runs in 3 innings, and also Jake Odorizzi, whose name sounds like an Italian shoe insole. Feet stink in Naples? Odorizzi! Turns out he's actually a 25 year old whose really good. He has a 2.36 ERA, and the Braves have never seen him before. That bodes ill for us.

CPA Predictions:

Last series the CPA went 2-1 again, so it's catching up! 14-19 now on the season with -8.85 units. We're getting there, so let's see how this two gamer looks.

Game 1 - Braves by 1
Game 2 - Rays by 5

Yeah the CPA thinks we're going to win the first game, and apparently we're sending in the clowns in Game 2. I hope the second part of the machine is wrong. We'll find out.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Braves sweep the Fish, Shelby almost No-No



Are those? THEY ARE! It's the brooms! Remember good brooms? It's been a while. Man what a series! Can you remember a better series this year than this weekend? I can't. Well maybe that other series when we swept the Marlins on the road. Do you realize that the Braves are 6-0 against the Marlins in their ballpark? Apparently hideous lime green makes our hitters go into full Hulk-mode.

Game 1 wasn't really about the pitching, but Julio Teheran did a good job keeping things close for 5.2 innings, giving up only 2 runs on 9 hits. I wasn't that impressed with his outing though, because he allowed so many base runners, and he was always in trouble. No, the real hero of the game was Julio Teheran the HITTER. Julio managed to scorch a ball up the middle in the 2nd inning, scoring both Todd Cunningham and Cameron Maybin. That would give the Braves a 2-1 lead. Then Stanton homered to tie it 2-2. Maybin would double in Cunningham in the 4th to make it 3-2. Then Stanton homered to tie it 3-3. Stanton was trying to ruin everyone's fun. But the Braves offense would not be denied as Cunningham knocked in Markakis in the 8th, and Bethancourt advanced to 1st on a wild pitch that scored another runner in that same inning. Braves would win 5-3.

Game 2 wasn't really about pitching either. Alex Wood did well to allow just 2 runs, this time on 7 hits in 7 innings, but the criticism was the same. Too many base runners for that kind of effort. Especially considering what happened in the 2nd inning. Allow me to set the stage. Simmons led off with a double in the second, and AJ singled him in to take a 1-0 lead. Then Cunningham and Maybin both singled to load the bases. Alex Wood struck out bringing Jace Peterson to the plate. Peterson had no major league homers coming into this game. But in this AB, Jace laced one to right field 416 feet for the grandest of all the homers. Just like that, the Braves were up 5-0, and the Marlins basically folded their tents. Braves went on to win 5-3 because Grilli made us a little nervous with his save.

Game 3 absolutely WAS about pitching. And what a performance it was. Let's get the offensive part out of the way first. The Braves again had a 5-run 2nd inning, but this time they did it on a parade of hits rather than one large shot. 10 batters came to the plate in the Braves 2nd, and with the way Shelby Miller pitched it might as well have been just a one run game. Because Shelby was masterful. So masterful in fact that he was one out away from the first Braves no-hitter since Kent Mercker in 1994. Unfortunately, Justin Bour broke it up with a single to center with 2 outs in the 9th inning. One thing to remember is that the no-no bid could have been over in the 3rd inning as Alverez beat out a throw to first, but the Braves challenged and won a very close call. I still think that was too close to overturn, but we caught a break. Either way, Braves won 6-0 and Shelby went the distance for a complete game shutout.

Three Things I Loved This Series:

  1. Todd Cunningham is raking - How hot is Todd Cunningham? Who the heck is Todd Cunningham? If you don't know, read the article before this one because I told you who he is. What I can tell you about this series is that Todd went 8/12 with a double and an RBI and 4 runs scored. He's batting .667 in the majors. I can't even.
  2. Julio and Alex didn't suck - I was starting to worry, but Julio and Alex both made it through their games. It's a start. They've been so bad at holding leads and eating innings that I'm just looking for baby steps on their way back to their old dominance.
  3. Shelby Miller continues to prove the trade was right - Shelby for Heyward? All day long and twice on Sundays. Better yet, almost no-hitter on Sundays. Heyward's batting .244 with an OPS of .672 on the season. Miller is leading the NL in ERA and WHIP. So, so great.
MVP of the series is a tie between Shelby Miller and Todd Cunnigham. I honestly would have given it to Shelby straight up if he gets the no-no, but since he didn't he and Todd can share with his paltry 8/12 series. I mean come on Todd, you made 4 freaking outs. Be better.

Next up the Braves get Tampa at home for a weird interleague 2-game series. I hate everything about it. I hate interleague, I hate 2-game series, and I especially hate that it happens in the middle of the week when we had an open day on Monday. Just play 3 games MLB. It's how baseball is meant to be played.

GO BRAVES!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Who the Heck is Todd Cunningham?



Recently the Braves called up outfielder Todd Cunningham since Kelly Johnson went on the DL with some sort of abdominal strain. I hadn't really thought about it, but one of my Twitter followers posed the following question on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/TheRadRedhead/status/599395764486479872

And with that question, it made me realize I had to do an article on young Cunningham. So here we go!

Many people may think that yesterday's game winning RBI by Cunningham came in his first MLB game. But that's not the case. Todd actually played 8 games back in 2013 when he was called up to the Atlanta Braves at the age of 24. He was purely there as a pinch hitter role, and he got 2 hits and scored 2 runs in his 2013 campaign. A respectable .250 average. However, when he played against the Marlins Friday, he went 3/4 with 2 runs and an RBI. He outdid his previous MLB records in just one game!

But where did Todd Cunningham come from? Here's the details:

Full Name: Thomas David Cunningham
Hometown: Jacksonville, AL
Age: 26
Drafted: 2010 by the Braves
Bats: Switch
Position: LF
Favorite Food Network Show: Diners, Driveins, and Dives (most likely)

Todd started in the majors at the age of 21 in 2010 with the Rome Braves. He played decently that year with a .260/.341/.338 slash line. At 22 he advance to A+ ball with Gulf Coast League Braves, and he improved his slugging to .353 on the year. At 23 he advanced again to AA Mississippi where he had his breakout year. Todd hit .309 and slugged .403 in 2012 while he was at Mississippi, putting him on the big club's radar, along with many fans.

Next Todd went to AAA Gwinnett, where he struggled a bit at age 23. His OPS fell back to sub-.700 which isn't good enough to make a major league roster. However, that same year he made the MLB club after some injuries to the outfield. But it wasn't long-lived because Todd simply wasn't hitting well at AAA. In 2014, Todd got back to form with a .287/.347/.406 slash. That's the kind of line that gets you a shot in spring training. Todd made some impressions on the club in 2015 spring, hitting .306 during training. That really put him as a front-runner for the Braves MLB team if anything went wrong at the top level. And this last week when Kelly Johnson went on the DL, Todd got his shot.

So, I'm rooting for Cunningham. He's not a huge power hitter, but he can be a very productive hitter. After all, there's room on this team for a professional hitter that can really put the pressure on opposing pitchers. Nick Markakis has proven the value of that slot. Go get them Todd, prove your worth at the top level and you may find yourself as a full-time player in 2016.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Fish again? You bet.

The Marlins are back! Or rather we're back in Florida for the weekend. This series has some great matchups so buckle your safety belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride!

Game 1 - Teheran v. Phelps
Game 2 - Wood v. Latos
Game 3 - Miller v. Koehler

I'll start by saying I hope we see the good Julio in Game one, but if we don't the Braves are going to have some opportunities against David Phelps. David has only recently been promoted to a starting role with the Fish, and he's done an admirable job. In 5 starts he's given up 6 runs across 30 innings. That means as a starter, Phelps has a 1.80 ERA, which is ridiculously good. However, while Phelps has only just started for the Marlins, he's had 3 years of semi-regular starting experience with the Yankees, and his ERA back then was in the low 4.00's. So, he's out over his skis at the moment. Looking at the opponents you can see why. The Phillies, Mets, and Giants all aren't powerhouse offensive squads right now, and are in the bottom third of the league in runs scored. So while Phelps is pitching well currently, he will issue some walks, and he will give up some hits to guys on the team that have seen him before. What we can hope is that Julio keeps the game on point until the Braves can ding Phelps first.

The second game is a battle of two pitchers with terrible luck and bad ERAs. Alex Wood's ERA is now at 4.28 with a WHIP near 1.60, and Mat Latos has an ERA of 4.72 with a WHIP of 1.49. Looking simply at their numbers, this could get ugly really fast. However, Wood hasn't won a game since April 7th, and he's getting steadily worse. Latos on the other hand won a game on May 5th, and he has been steadily improving. The Braves torched Latos if you remember, and handed him his first two losses of the year within about a week of each other. That was then. Now Latos has given up only 5 runs in his last three starts, while Alex has given up 11 in that same time frame in less innings. My hope is that Latos gets gun-shy against a lineup of the Braves that can really rough him up, and Alex can get past the first inning with no damage since he really seems to struggle getting the third out.

The marquee matchup of the series is Shelby Miller against Tom Koehler. Koehler is 1-1 against the Braves this year so far, and he always manages to pitch us tough. The best hitter against Tom is AJ, so I'm really hoping he gets the starting nod with his 2.042 OPS and 2 homers in 8 ABs. The rest of the lineup is basically average, so let AJ put the hurt on him with some people on base. On the flipside Shelby Miller is red hot with a 1.60 ERA and 2 wins against the Marlins already, although he's only technically 1-0 due to a no decision. Given the matchup, I'm thinking Shelby really puts the screws to a Marlins lineup in the rubber game to get the Braves the much needed win.

CPA Predictions:

Last series the CPA went 2-1, missing the final game because the Braves laid an egg. The record is now 12-18 with -9.85 units. We're getting there. Just need to keep winning series. Let's see what we got in this one.

Game 1 - Marlins by 1
Game 2 - Braves by 1
Game 3 - Braves by 2

We need a series win something fierce. Go fry those Fish.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Braves drop another series to Reds

It's a terrible shame, but the Braves got beaten by the Reds to lose yet another series. They've now lost five of their last six, people are beginning to completely panic, and the pitching looks lost. The one thing I didn't expect was the pitching staff to come off the rails. I did expect struggles, but we're beyond struggling. We're staring into a pitching abyss.

Game 1 actually went really well despite how ugly it was to watch. The pitching was actually really good from none other than Shelby Miller. He's the one link in the chain that's holding the whole thing together. Shelby only gave up 1 run on 3 hits in 7 innings, so he did his job and then some. Yet, the Braves were mostly stymied by Miller's counterpart Mike Leake. So with the game a 1-1 tie going to the 9th inning, something had to give. I'm frankly shocked it wasn't us, given our pen. But no! Cincy's pen is actually worse. And Chapman for Cincinnati gave up two singles, a stolen base, and then he threw a wild pitch to allow the runner to score from third. That was the difference. Jim Johnson came on in the 9th to get the save, and the Braves won 2-1.

Game 2 was a one-run heart-breaker. The Braves jumped out early with a 3-2 lead in the 4th inning, thanks to some timely hitting by Nick Markakis and Kelly Johnson. Even though Foltynewicz pitched a great game and deserved a chance to win, Cincy got him for the 3rd run in the 7th inning with two outs because he couldn't escape a sacrifice fly. With the game tied it went back to the bullpens, and this time in the 9th the Braves blinked first. Grilli came on to try to push the game to extras, but instead Pena got a single and Mesoraco doubled to the gap, scoring the pinch runner from first on an Andrelton Simmons bobbled throw. It was unlike Simmons, and it wasn't a true error, but if he makes the throw the runner was going to be out at the plate. Instead, the Reds got the walk-off win.

Game 3 happened while I was at the Hawks game watching them get their big playoff win, so I had to get the recap from skimming my DVR, thus the late recap today. What can I say about this one? Stults was throwing home run batting practice, and the game was over by the third inning. It didn't take me long to form that conclusion. I didn't even need to watch more than the first 45 minutes. Byrd and Frazier both homered for the Reds, they got a couple more runs on sacrifices. 5-0 Reds, and all the fans I'm sure stopped caring. I can tell you one thing for certain, when the Braves are down 4 ore more runs this year? Forget about it. And forget about this game. We got torched by a fresh out of AAA rookie for the Reds who threw a 2-hitter. That's the 2014 Braves I know and hated.

Three Things I Hated:

  1. The Fact a Reds Rookie owned us - That's #1 with a bullet. These are professional hitters, and you can't let a AAA guy hold you to two hits. That's dang embarrassing.
  2. The Fact Stults can't stop giving up homers - It's not just this series, it's all the time. Stults main issue is he can't keep the ball down, and he can't keep it in the park. He's given up 9 homers in 7 games, and just 40 innings. Horrific? You bet.
  3. The Bullpen again? Sure why not - I'm going to continue to hate the bullpen until they stop blowing games. We should have won this series. We didn't because the bullpen couldn't hold game two together, which was really winnable.
The NBI (Needs Big Improvement) Award goes to Eric Stults. Bro, you have to get the ball down or you are headed to the bullpen. I pulled the PitchFX numbers on Stults. They tell a very simple tale. His fastball is getting hammered, and it's mainly because he's leaving it up in the zone. In fact, hitters are slugging his fastball at a .667 clip, whereas last year it was at .495. That's a pretty gigantic jump, and it explains why we're watching so much damage happen on that one pitch. Stults has to get that thing lower in the zone, or diving away from the hitter, or it's going to be curtains for his starting job for the Braves.

Next up? We play the Marlins, who are struggling like we are. Best to get them while they are cold. Like good sushi should be.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Braves play the Reds in Cincinnati

If it seems like the schedule is endlessly repeating itself, that's because it actually is repeating itself. In late April, we played a series against Philly, Washington, and Cincy. Now in the last few series we've played Philly, Washington...and Cincy. WHO AUTHORIZED THIS?

Game 1 - Miller v. Leake
Game 2 - Foltynewicz v. Desclafani
Game 3 - Stults v. Iglesias

Honest to God, the first two games are literally the same matchups that we had from the earlier series about two weeks ago. I don't even really feel the need to recap those because no much has changed. Miller got taken deep a couple of times in the first game and lost, Folty came out with a great debut and won in the second game. This is pretty much just round 2.

So the third game is different, and I'll preview that one. Stults is coming off a very bad lucky outing in Washington where he pitched great for 5 innings, and then everything exploded from the 6th inning on in a barrage of runs. He took the loss and fell to 1-3 on the season, but he wasn't as bad as the record indicates. In fact, I think he's improving, but he just has to keep the ball in the park. That's his only real flaw right now since hitters aren't really stringing together big rallies against him. It's just the long ball. Meanwhile, because the Reds had a Saturday double-header, they have to throw some guy at the Braves to rest their normal rotation. That guy is Raisel Iglesias from Cuba. He's had one start in his career in and he's got a 5.40 ERA. I have no other analysis there. Go rough him up like the other rookies we've seen this season.

CPA Predictions:

Well last series was a disaster because we got swept. This series? No idea. CPA went 1-2 on predictions, and it's now 10-17 and -11.10 units. Blech. Let's see if we can't get this trend turned around shall we?

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

Go win this series Braves. We need to turn this road trip around.

GO BRAVES!

Nats Sweep Braves, Harper still annoying



Yeah this series was awful. I'm not going to dwell on it other than to tell you this: It's not discouraging to me at all, other than the bullpen. We gave two games away in the pen. I honestly believed it would be a problem at the beginning of the year, and I also honestly believe it will start to get better. So let's move on to the recaps.

Game 1 Braves were up 2-1, looking good, and then Bryce Harper hammered a 2-run homer off Stults in the 6th inning, and the game was basically over. The bullpen then gave up another 6 runs to the Nats but that was just piling on. When Stults gave up the lead, the game was in hand for the Nats. The Braves looked defeated and lost. Braves lost 9-2.

Game 2 Braves were down 6-1 and again looked lost. But this time they crawled back in the later innings to tie the game at 6-6. However, the bullpen struck again. Bryce Harper ripped a game winning 2-run homer in the bottom of the 9th to win the game for the Nationals 8-6. You sensing a theme here? It's called "Bryce Harper makes you cry." Also Julio was the bad Julio in this one, and we don't want to see that again. 10 hits, 6 earned run, and 2 homers. It wasn't good. He needs to get his act together because even though the Braves were in this one, six runs for the good guys should be an easy win. You know how much run support Julio has gotten? 41 runs in 7 games. He's almost averaging 6 runs a game. And you know how many of those the Braves have won? A 4-3 record. That's pathetic. Braves lost 8-6.

Game 3 Braves were down 3-0 early thanks to Alex Wood not getting the third out in the first inning for a long while, then they rallied back to take the lead 4-3. That came on several hits by Alex Wood himself who went 3/3 hitting the ball and got an RBI. He battled so I can't hold it against him. But what happened? Fredi Gonzalez put the same bullpen guy, Cody Martin, back on the mound again after he gave up the losing homer to Harper the night before. And what happened? Cody Martin gave the game away. At some point you have to realize as a manager that a guy struggles against certain teams. Cody Martin has done very well against everyone else EXCEPT Washington. In fact, if you look at his games that aren't against the Nats, he's gone almost 15 innings giving up 2 runs. Against Washington? He's gone 3 innings giving up 6 runs. Just stop using him against the Nats. PROBLEM SOLVED! Braves lost 5-4.

3 Things I Hated:

  1. The Bullpen - Do I even need to say why? Reference above.
  2. Julio's backslide - He looked great in his start before this. Now? Same crap, different day.
  3. Bryce Harper - I hate his hair, his attitude, and the fact he's really talented for the wrong team.
The NBI (Needs Big Improvement) Award goes to Roger McDowell. When everything in the bullpen is going wrong, and most of the starters are going wrong, I need my pitching coach to get things together. He needs to right this ship and steer it towards the sunrise. Because if we can't do that, this season is going to be completely over by July 4th, and that's a bad bad feeling for everyone. Makes the fireworks a total downer I tells ya.

Next up, Braves take on the Reds. I think we can beat the Reds, simply because they aren't that good. But we didn't beat them last time we played them at home, because right now our pitching isn't that good. So keep scoring offense! Six runs isn't enough!

GO BRAVES!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Atlanta Braves Pitching is a Shakespearean Tragedy



Remember at the beginning of the season when we made all these trades, and everyone was crying about the lack of offense? Remember how people thought we'd lose 100 games because we traded away the entire outfield? Remember when everyone wasn't sure why we paid Nick Markakis, like he was some scrub who couldn't hit? But the pitching wasn't a huge concern.

Those were fun times. What we didn't see coming was this disaster on the mound. The Braves haven't faced a pitching crisis like this in what seems like forever. But man, if you look at the staff right now? It's a complete unmitigated disaster from the starters all the way to the bullpen. Very little is going right for the Braves on the mound, and it all seems to stem from the fact that the starting rotation can't get deep into games. That stresses the bullpen, and things just unravel from there like a cheap knock-off handbag purchased in a Shanghai back alley.

How bad is it? Allow me to explain.

The Braves team ERA right now is 4.44 which puts them 13th in the NL. The only teams behind them are Milwaukee (who fired their manager in the first month of the season, and is already 12.5 games out of their division), and Colorado (who plays in the biggest home run scoring park in the MLB thanks to being so Rocky Mountain High). That's not great company Braves. That's not exactly where we want to be, ever. But it gets so much worse.

The Braves haven't finished the season with a team ERA over 4.40 since 2008. They finished that season 12th in the NL, went 72-90, finished in 4th place, and were 20 games out of the division behind the Phillies. The starters that year were Jorge Campillo, Jair Jurrjens, Tim Hudson, Jojo Reyes, Charlie Morton, Tom Glavine, and Mike Hampton. And not the good version of Glavine, either. That was the end of the road, should have been retired already version of Tommy.

What's even worse than that? THE BRAVES ARE HITTING! We're wasting great offensive efforts by a team that wasn't supposed to be good at offense. But no, Atlanta is scoring 4.43 runs a game. We're basically even with the terrible pitching, which is why errors and unearned runs have been the difference in a sub-.500 record so far. The Braves have a run differential of -8 right now and they are 5 games back in the division. They have to start pitching if they want to get out of this whole. If the team hit like this in 2014, with the pitching we had, we'd have won the division hands-down! That's the infuriating thing.

So who is the problem? In ascending order from least problematic to biggest problem, I'll order them like this:

  1. Shelby Miller - Not a problem at all. He's the only thing holding this together at the moment.
  2. Brandon Cunniff - good bullpen guy, not an issue right now.
  3. Cody Martin - he's only been a problem against Washington. He's good against everyone else.
  4. Jason Grilli - he's got 9 saves, but he's shown some struggles lately getting last outs.
  5. Mike Foltynewicz - he's young, he's filling in, he's got promise but it's not quite fleshed out
  6. Luis Avilan - he's a little skittish, but he's been solid lately. Makes everyone nervous though.
  7. Jim Johnson - we have no idea if good Jim or bad Jim is showing up
  8. Eric Stults - we didn't expect him to be great, and he's had 3 QS, but not winning a ton
  9. Julio Teheran - the potential is there, but he still isn't placing the ball and he's not winning.
  10. Alex Wood - he's not going deep, he's not winning games, and his WHIP is over 1.60, Alex in my mind is the biggest problem right now, because he's supposed to be better.
We need to fix it. I'm not even sure how, but the mainly I'm just ready for somebody besides Shelby to man up and eat innings even when things go wrong. I don't think we're going to blow anybody's arm off if they pitch 120 pitches instead of 100. But something needs to change, and it needs to change fast.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Braves and Nats in the Nation's Capital


OK so I'm pressed for time today, but I'll make this short and sweet. If the Braves want to get this trip off on the right foot, they need to beat up on the Nationals. And Bryce Harper needs to shut his mouth instead of running it 24/7 every time he remotely starts to hit the ball. Mike Trout, he ain't.

Game 1 - Stults v. Gonzalez
Game 2 - Teheran v. Fister
Game 3 - Wood v. Zimmerman

I'd feel better with game one if it were Miller instead of Stults. I just would. Gonzalez is the kind of pitcher that really has issues with the Braves, and I would hope that means we could rough him up for a few runs. However, Stults is the kind of pitcher that can get dinged for 5 runs, so this might be a high-scoring game where it comes down to bullpens. And if it comes down to pens, the Braves are honestly screwed the way our pen is going right now. To beat Gonzalez, Simmons and Freddie are going to have to stay hot since they've had the best success against him lifetime, with a combined 14 RBIs, 13 runs scored, and 4 homers. If that top of the order can get him, Gio will fold. But Stults then has to be the guy who won the game against Washington at home 8-4.

Teheran v. Fister? Honestly which Julio is showing up? If the good Julio shows up, the Braves had no problem taking care of Fister last time. If the bad Julio shows up? Game goes completely off the rails and the Braves lose badly. That's about all the analysis you need on this one.

Alex Wood hasn't won a game for the Braves in ages. His last win was a month ago on April 7th. Since then it's just been a stream of losses and several short outings for Wood. I don't see why that will change in this series unless he decides to finally cut it loose and listen to Roger. Meanwhile, Zimmerman didn't need to be good against the Braves last time he pitched since the Nationals scored 13 runs. Who was pitching that day? Oh right, Wood. Exactly. I hate this matchup.

CPA Predictions:

The CPA went 2-1 last series, and we missed the sweep by one. I don't have time to catch up on the math this week but I'll run it after the weekend. Here are the picks.

Game 1: Braves by 1
Game 2: Braves by 1
Game 3: Nationals by 4

CPA favors the Braves slightly in all the matchups except Wood. Because his track record is pretty meh to get the win. Maybe he's due? We'll see.

Go Braves!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Braves beat Phillies thanks to big offense

Shave that thing, Folty. Do it now.


The Braves finally won a series! And they've won two in a row. For those of you keeping score at home, that's called a "winning streak." Take note, because they are a rare and elusive bird when you are trying to rebuild your franchise.

Game 1 Alex Wood just pitched really poorly. I seriously blame his outings on the fact that Alex is trying way too hard to place his fastball, and he's overthinking. At some point, you just need to throw the pitch and trust your stuff. Alex gets off kilter and suddenly starts trying to fine-tune everything. If you play golf, it's like trying to aim your shot. Everything just goes wrong when you don't trust your swing, or your pitch. You should see what happens to my golf game when I don't trust my swing. I'll hail somebody's roof with golf balls. That being said, he got dinged 3 times in the first inning with two outs, and the rest of the game might as well have not happened at that point. It was over. Braves lost 5-2.

Game 2 Shelby Miller did the exact opposite of Wood. Everything Miller threw was working. Shelby ended up throwing the first complete game shutout of the season in less than 100 pitches. He was efficient, dynamic, immaculate. I give it a 10, A EFFING 10! Braves offense wasn't too shabby either. Kelly Johnson in an attempt to shrug off Old Father Time continues to hit well. In fact, Kelly had 4 RBIs on 2 hits and a homer in this game. Freddie Freeman went yard as well on a 3/4 night. It was all coming up roses in this 9-0 drubbing off the Phillies.

Game 3 was Mike Foltynewicz's second start, and he pitched well. My main complaint about Folty is the ridiculous molester looking mustache he's rocking right now. Seriously, that thing is heinous, and the fact he's blonde makes it look even more ridiculous. However, despite Folty's mustache and his struggles in this game, he got the kind of powerful offensive support that only Andrelton Simmons can provide. I complained on Twitter that I didn't like Simba hitting in the 2-hole because he grounds into double plays a ton. This opinion is not unfounded, as Simmons does actually lead the majors in grounding into double plays. However, on this particular evening, he decided to cram that opinion right down my loud pie-hole. Simmons went 3/4 with a homer and RBI, and Freddie Freeman followed him with another 3/4 day and 3 RBIs. The Braves would go on to win 7-5, and Folty would get dinged for 4 earned runs, although two of those came after he exited the game courtesy of the crappy bullpen.

Three Things I liked:

1 - Freddie Freeman being all see-ball-hit-ball: Freddie went 7/12 with 6 RBIs in this series. He can hit, folks. He just might make it in this league yet.
2 - Shelby Miller getting a complete game: We absolutely needed that as a team, because the bullpen is a disaster right now. We've been calling for longer outings by the starters, and Miller finally delivered.
3 - Simba's hitting the ball: He's not falling all over creation, he's not letting homers unbalance him, and he's not giving in on his approach. In fact, I heard on the radio today that Fredi G said it's the longest he's ever seen Simba stick with an approach at the plate. Which is frankly terrifying. What the Hell were our coaches doing with him before?

MVP of the series has to be Shelby Miller. The first complete game shutout of the year with less than 100 pitches? That's straight balling, son. He earned it. Now use that power to make Folty shave that thing.

Next up, the Braves face the Nationals in Washington. Take those hot sticks up to DC and pound in some more runs!

GO BRAVES!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Braves and Phillies, this time it's at the Ted

Hey look, the Phillies again. I remember this going very poorly in Philadelphia. I think I blocked out why, but I know Trevor Cahill was involved. And he's not a starter anymore, is he? I didn't think so. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Wood v. Harang
Game 2 - Miller v. Billingsley
Game 3 - Foltynewicz v. Williams

Ok so Alex Wood got a no-decision in Philly against Aaron Harang the first time around because the Braves refused to score a run. Harang went 8 innings against the Braves giving up 2 hits. I would say given Harang's history that a 2-hit shutout again is unlikely, but he's pitching lights out right now. Especially since he just gave up 5 runs to the Cardinals. He can be beaten, and Alex didn't pitch poorly last time. He just threw too many pitches, which is a problem I've had with Wood all season. The good news, if there is any, is that hitters traditionally do better the second time they see a guy in a season. Hopefully that will apply to the Braves in this matchup.

Miller had his first bad outing of the season on Thursday night, but he'll bounce back well against a bad Phillies lineup that he dominated up in Philadelphia for the Braves only win of the series. Chad Billingsley will be coming off the DL for his first game back in 2015. That's good news for the Braves because pitchers coming off injury with very little training often have rust on the mechanism. Plus Mr. Billingsley sounds like he should be a butler rather than a pitcher. More good news is the fact the Braves crushed Billingsley in the past. I would expect Gomes to get a start in this game since he's 6/11 lifetime off Billingsley with a jack. Keep an eye out for Ryan Howard against Shelby though. He's gone 4/7 off Miller with 3 homers in his career. Almost every time he's hit Miller, Howard has left the building. We can't afford that if the Braves hope to win this game.

Folty takes the mound for his second ever start against Jerome Williams, who got the lucky win against the Braves in their last matchup. The Braves just couldn't muster more than 4 runs, and the bullpen gave the game away late. But know this, Jerome's ERA is over 4.00 for a reason, and Folty really pitched well in his first start against a tough opponent. If I'm really looking at a key for this game, it's a guy like Nick Markakis, who has .900+ OPS against Williams, and is hitting really well so far this season. If he can get on base and get some hits to knock him in, I think Markakis could score the winning run in this game.

CPA Predictions:

OK let me say this. The CPA went 0-4, but the bizarre thing is how. The CPA accurately guessed the series would be split. However, it guessed completely wrong on every game. So, time for some tweeks with the historical data. How does that match play out with a full month under our belt? Let's find out. The CPA is 7-14 and -10.65 units now. I hope you haven't lost your house yet.

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

The CPA likes a sweep. I'll just hope that's right, because man, that would be awesome. At the very least I know the Braves will be favored in these games, so they should win the series.

GO BRAVES!

Braves split 4-game series with Reds

I said going into this series that a split in a 4-gamer is always fine with me, and in this case I feel the Braves really played very schizophrenic baseball across all of the matches. But I'll take it. Let's break it down game by game.

Game 1 was Shelby Miller's first loss this season. That's odd because he had been pitching so wonderfully in 2015, and he looked in control through 5 innings of this pitcher's duel. Then, the sixth inning happened. A passed ball by Bethancourt on a strikeout of Billy Hamilton put a runner on first with no outs. A single and a double later, the Reds were up 1-0. Now, that may seem small, but in a game where the Braves were showing literally no signs of scoring, that was a disaster. What followed was an onslaught of home runs in the later innings, culminating in the Red's pitcher Mike Leake hitting one deep. Braves lost 5-1, scoring a meaningless run late well after the game was decided.

Game 2 featured two young bucks on the mound trying to make a name for themselves in the majors. Anthony DeSclafani for the Reds had already pitched 4 games and allowed only 3 runs total. Mike Foltynewicz was making his first start ever in the MLB. You'd figure on paper that Mike would struggle and that the young hurler with the 1.04 ERA for the Reds would dominate a Braves lineup that mustered exactly 4 hits in the last game. But this series was completely backwards, and this game proved it again. DeSclafani gave up 4 runs after Folty gave up 3 early, and the Braves held on to win a squeaker 4-3 thanks to a Kelly Johnson 2-run homer.

Game 3 looked like it set up well for the Braves. Jason Marquis for the Reds had a 5.00+ ERA, and Eric Stults had only given up 3 runs in his last 12 innings of work. Looks good right? Braves were scoring and things were looking up. Wrong. Stults got hammered for 11 hits, 6 runs, and 2 homers in 7 innings, and the bullpen tacked on 2 more bad runs for good measure. The Braves scored 4 of their own thanks to a Cameron Maybin homer and late RBI single, but that wasn't enough. Braves lost 8-4.

Now Game 4 looked bad for the Braves. Julio Teheran had been struggling mightily, giving up 16 runs in his last 3 starts. Johnny Cueto on the other side for the Reds had been dominating, going 8 innings in each of his last 2 starts, and getting two wins. So of course what happens in this screwy series? Teheran comes out and dominates with a 6 inning, 3 hit shutout, and Cueto gets rocked for 9 hits, 5 runs, and the loss in 6 innings. Nothing went as planned as you'll see in the CPA in the next preview. But the Braves ended up winning 5-0, and Kelly Johnson managed another homer in the series, this time in front of his young son who was visiting the game with his little league team. It made Sportscenter and it was adorable.

Two things I liked, and one I hated since this was a split:
  1. I liked Kelly Johnson's power - Kelly only went 3/15 in the series, but he did hit 2 homers. Those were also huge because they gave the Braves the lead at the time. He has 5 homers now on the season and Fredi has been batting him cleanup at times. If you had that prediction coming into the season, please let me know, and we'll head to Vegas immediately.
  2. I liked Julio's turnaround - He seemed to understand that he wasn't throwing his fastball enough, as I detailed in the "What the heck is wrong with Julio?" article I did last week. But the key for him is not only throwing it more, it's the placement. And he placed the ball well all day.
  3. I hated the attendance on Thursday Night - I went to the game and to say it was sparse would be a massive understatement. I understand voting with your wallet, but this is not a bad baseball team to watch. They listed it at 15,000 people, but if it was a head over 6,000 that showed up, I'd be shocked. I'm going again on Tuesday night because this is way more fun that the swing and miss baseball I suffered through last year. I recommend getting on board.
I'll give an MVP for the split simply because it looked dire after the first and third games, and the Braves rallied each time. The MVP goes to Mike Foltynewicz. Not for his first major league win, which was really big. No, it was for the fact that Mike actually knocked in 2 runs on his first every MLB hit in the game. Noticed I didn't mention that in the game 2 recap right? I sandbagged you, I was saving it for this. That's why Folty gets the MVP nod.

Next up, the crappy Phillies come to town. Can we please not blow the series this time? Philly stinks.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Who the Heck is...Mike Foltynewicz?



In today's article, I take a look at new call-up starter Mike Foltynewicz. Besides having a name that's impossible to spell or pronounce (seriously, I can't wait until opposing game-callers try it out), Folty is a pretty good pitcher. Let's look at those stats:

Full Name: Michael Gary Foltynewicz
Age: 23 Born: Sterling, IL
Throws: Right
Position: Starting Pitcher
Twitter: @Folty25 Favorite
Cartoon: Adventure Time (probably)

Folty is part of the Evan Gattis trade to Houston, where we picked him up as a minor league prospect along with Andrew Thurman, and Rio Ruiz. At the AAA level in Houston, Folty had a 7-7 record as a starter with a very meh 5.08 ERA. However, when Folty arrived in the Atlanta Braves system, he's shown marked improvement.

 Mike got roughed up in Spring Training, which probably cost him the chance to start on the team as the 5th guy in the rotation. But here's the thing, he has a great top end fastball, and he can strike out a lot of hitters. His K/9 rate in AAA is 9.6, which is very solid. In Gwinnett, he's sporting a 2.08 ERA and showing that he's got decent command. 10 Walks to 21 Ks is a pretty good ratio, but my concern with Folty is that he's got a 1.246 WHIP to go along with the decent ERA. He's giving up a lot of hits, and he's 0-3 down in Gwinnett.

I'm thinking that Folty will get a rude awakening at the MLB level again this time around. He came up once in Houston as a reliever, and he was roughed up for a 5.00+ ERA. He's been up and down in the minors and at spring training. The question is whether he's developed any off-speed stuff or change of pace pitches to go along with the high heat. Because hitters at the major league level will time up your fastball if it's all you have to offer. Unless you are Mariano Rivera.

My feeling right now is that Folty is pitching above his head in AAA Gwinnett. Which is good because he wouldn't get the call-up if he wasn't. However, it also means that the majority of his stats show a trend of much worse pitching at varying levels. Can we suffer through the growing pains along with the kid? I think this season is the time to do it, although I think the Braves are also impatient about giving people bad start after bad start this early in the season. If they were 10 games under .500 in July? Nobody cares. But it's still early enough that people think the team has a chance, and I'm one of those. I'd hate to see us throw everything away before June and go into try-out mode, 2 games below .500.

However, I'm becoming less sure about the Braves ability to compete because of these types of pitching moves. If we're relying on 23 year old rookies to make sure we keep the rotation together? Things have come off the rails. Still, this is how you ferret out talent. You put it in the crucible of the real deal MLB and you watch the fireworks. Let's hope it's the K fireworks at the Ted, and not the long bombs of the opposition.

 GO BRAVES!