Friday, December 9, 2016

Tyrell Jenkins traded to Rangers for Luke Jackson

Tyrell Jenkins and a little known player named Bradley Feigl were traded to the Texas Rangers yesterday for a reliever by the name of Luke Jackson.

Twitter then exploded in rage.

Jenkins is one of those guys who was really well known on social media for his interactivity, easy demeanor, approachable nature, and generally seen as a good-guy with fans. At no point will most people reference his pitching acumen before his personality, which begs the question: Was this a good trade from a baseball perspective that simply had negative fan reaction? Oh and also don't worry about Feigl in this trade, he's a 25 year old that's still in rookie ball.

Tyrell Jenkins last year had 14 games at the MLB level including 8 starts. That's 52 innings pitched with a disappointing WHIP of 1.69, an ERA of 5.88, and a 33-26 BB/K rate. None of those stats suggest that he was ready to be a full-time MLB pitcher. So I go back a year and look at his AAA stats and see how he projects. In 2015 at AAA, he had a 3.57 ERA in 8 starts, 45.1 innings, a WHIP of 1.39, and a 20-29 BB/K rate. Better yes, but your AAA stats are always better than your MLB stats or you wouldn't get called up. The problem I have with that is the BB/K rate still isn't good and the WHIP at 1.39 is frankly awful for that level. You can't be allowing that many base-runners and expect to have positive outcomes.

Meanwhile, Luke Jackson is a reliever with 15 games of experience relieving in the MLB. That's basically too small of a sample for me to gauge much off of, so frankly I won't. Instead I'll look at his minor league years and see that he's got 128 innings at AAA with a 5.89 ERA, a 1.63 WHIP, and a 78-149 BB/K rate. The downside to all those K's? He's given up 14 homers in those 128 innings, which is a HR/9 of basically 1.0, and that's not a good thing. The great news to this kid? He can touch 100 mph with his fastball which is why he's getting so many K's. So why is he giving up that many homers and hits? Because the fastball doesn't have a ton of movement on it.

So why make the move? Both guys seem to need a ton of work. My thought is the Braves are simply betting on velocity, as much as I hate the idea. They are going to take the kid in Jackson who can throw hard, and they hope they can teach him some movement and control. They are going to get rid of the pitcher in Jenkins who has shown spurts, but can't seem to get enough strikeouts and will never touch the triple digits on the gun.

I don't like the idea of radar gun chasing for prospects, but I also understand the league we live in now. If you're into football, you understand that coaches will recruit the 320 pound guy with some speed who is unpolished rather than the 260 lineman who has incredible footwork because you can't teach that kind size and speed combo. They are building blocks for eventual success and every organization thinks they can out-coach the other organization.

Most of the time I feel that's not true. If you can pitch, you can pitch. Plain and simple. I don't think this move will amount to a whole bunch because even if a guy can touch 100 mph, he can't hit the bull with it (Bull Durham reference, kids), and I'm worried about him giving up dingers at the MLB level. I will reference that number for Jackson since it just 11 innings he gave up 4 homers. That won't do on a Braves team that prides itself in pitching prospect competition.

Meanwhile, the Braves fans lost a fan favorite, so if Tyrell pans out and Jackson doesn't you will absolutely hear it from Braves country. As they should, because frankly I don't like the move from a baseball perspective even though I understand why they did it. That also tells me the philosophy going forward is bigger arms over looking for better command, which could be a recipe for disaster in the bullpen. They better make sure they can reign Jackson in, or this whole exchange will be pointless.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, December 2, 2016

The New MLB CBA: What's in there?

OK so the CBA is long, and nobody really reads the whole thing except for journalists and agents and lawyers with too much time on their hands. So for that kind of thing you come to me and say, "Ben, what the hell is in this thing and should I be pissed off about it?" Well, constant reader, I can give you the answer to those questions here.

First off the CBA runs until 2021 so it's not really that long, but five years has actually become the standard for the last 3 CBAs under MLB. They were actually shorter than that before, with the shortest coming in the infamous 1995-96 agreement that only lasted 2 years. There's very little that really changes in this agreement but I'll go over a few of the key points here with my commentary.

ROSTERS REMAIN AT 25 PLAYERS - This was a key point of discussion where I think the players wanted a 26th man (they says otherwise but they lost so why admit they lost) on the rosters to make up for the daily inter-league crap. Basically you could carry a theoretical free DH on an NL team to adapt for the inter-league play. My solution to that is get rid of the DH completely or implement it MLB wide. I hate the DH but I hate the fact it's not mandated one way or the other in 2016. Make up your freaking minds. Anyway, this stays the same.

THE DISABLED LIST GOES FROM 15 TO 10 DAYS - With this one, a shorter DL supposedly promotes the idea of putting a guy on the list without losing him for 2 weeks, which then opens up a roster spot for somebody else to get MLB time. I can see both sides actually wanting this. From a player side you get more guys at the MLB level. From a team side, I get to place guys on the DL more often and get functional players on my roster without paying a 2 week plus penalty for it. I think you'll see the DL get a LOT more use for pitchers in the coming years (10 Days is basically 2 starts)

NO INTERNATIONAL DRAFT - The owners wanted a draft because drafts are great to keep costs down for teams when you can slot guys out and hold control. International players under the old CBA were part of a confusing bonus pool which is still in effect now, the only difference is the sliding scale isn't as big and there's a harder cap you can't violate. What does this mean for you as a fan? It means I'd expect to see less international bidding as a whole, which sucks if you're not from America as a player. But then again, the MLB doesn't really care because it's an American sport and this is SPECIFICALLY a pro-American rule being put in place, no matter how they sell it for savings.

HIGHER LUXURY TAXES - Did you know the MLB has a luxury tax? No? That's because the Braves have never even gotten close to it for a long time. Right now it's $189M dollars. It goes up to $210M dollars at the end of this deal. At no point will the Braves ever, ever, ever, EVER have to pay that, so you might as well call this the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers tax. Because only those idiot teams would pay it to then lose to the Royals and Cubs. Idiots.

NO MORE LOSS OF 1ST ROUND PICK FOR FREE AGENTS - In the old CBA, you'd lose a first rounder if you made a free agent signing of a player that got a "Qualifying offer" which was essentially an average of 125 top salaries. It's getting replaced by something that's so freaking complicated it makes the tax code look simplistic. Here's the rundown I got from http://www.sbnation.com/2016/12/1/13806488/mlb-new-cba-collective-bargaining-agreement-luxury-tax

  • If a team gets revenue sharing and signs a player who received the qualifying offer, they would lose their third-highest draft pick.
  • Teams that pay into the revenue-sharing pool will lose their second- and fifth-highest picks.
  • Those rich teams would also lose $1 million from their international signing cap.
  • The medium-market teams — the ones who don’t receive or pay revenue-sharing money — would give up their second-highest pick and $500,000 in international money.
  • A team that loses a player who declines the qualifying offer before signing for $50 million or more will get a draft choice between the first and second round.
  • If that player signs for less than $50 million, the pick will be after round B of the competitive-balance round, which is after the second round.
  • Reminder that the Cardinals occasionally get extra picks in the competitive balance round, which is still just the stupidest thing.
  • If a team is over the luxury-tax threshold, they’ll still get a pick for losing a top free agent, but it will be after the fourth round.
That's freaking ridiculous. I think you have to file three TPS reports to figure out which draft pick you're losing. Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.

THE ALL-STAR GAME DOESN'T DETERMINE ANYTHING - Thank God. No really, thank you Lord for somebody having the common freaking sense to realize that Bud Selig completely screwed this up. This move alone almost makes the rest of the CBA fine because we're getting rid of one of the most egregious decisions in all of professional sports, based on one bad PR day when the game ended in a tie. I hate Bud Selig for many reasons but this one was the whipped cream and cherry of my disdain. Now the team with the better record will have home field in the World Series, as it always should have been. The end.

NO MORE TOBACCY FOR YOUNGENS - If you're old and intent on rotting your jaw off and dying like Tony Gwynn did (not a shot at Tony, I miss him badly and wanted people to learn from what he did to himself), then you can chew this disgusting stuff. If you're young, you can't chew it on company time. Frankly I'm proud of the MLB for doing this and also pissed they didn't take it all the way just to force current players to make better decisions.

MORE DAYS IN A SEASON - I think they added like what? Four more days or something? That just means more off-days for guys so I don't really care one way or the other on this one.

MORE DRUG TESTING - Good, because those dopers were still doing it and being dumb about it, also supposedly HGH testing which is good. The Braves typically have never been really involved with this stuff at an organizational level so I think it benefits us to crack down on those guys doing it for Free Agent money like Ryan "I'm a loser" Braun.

EVERY CLUBHOUSE MUST HAVE A CHEF - Yeah supposedly that's in there according to Jeff Passan on twitter which I find hilarious. Also Bartolo Colon is like...SUPER pumped about this idea. Unless the chef is one of those hippy Vegan farm-to-table people, then Bartolo may just eat him.

HIGHER MINIMUM SALARY - Yep, everybody gets a little bit more in the bank just for showing up. The minimum wage before was around 500k a year, I have no idea what it is exactly now, but I can assure you that everyone will still be able to afford their morning Starbucks lattes for the holidays. Rest easy peons.

That's pretty much it. The whole thing is very much a "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" kinda feel to it which makes sense. The MLB is making gobs of money and people decrying it's death are basically stupid. There's no reason to derail this golden train and both sides knew it. So onward and upward gals and fellas! We have a new season to look forward to now that the deal is in place.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Braves sign Sean Rodriguez plus other moves

The Braves moves continue to roll in, and the Braves have signed Sean Rodriguez, the former 1B from the Pirates who managed to famously beat the crap out of a Gatorade cooler when he lost his mind in a game. Well, he's LISTED as a 1B position player, but in reality he's a defensive specialist that can play anywhere in the field. Think of a 32-year old Martin Prado type replacement player that can give guys a day off while providing a sub-par bat.

And let's be honest, Sean-Rod has been a .260 hitter while he was with a Pirates with some unexpected power. In 2016 he hit a career high 18 homers. The year prior he hit 4 homers. His average per 162 games played is around 12 which would be fine for me. I need him to be a gap-to-gap player that gets on base and can play defense anywhere, which I think he can provide for the most part. For $11.5M over 2 years, you need to basically get about 1 WAR a year from a guy like that, and I think Sean will live up to that billing if he hits decently.

Other signings I haven't really covered are lesser moves, but the Braves also acquired a catcher named Tuffy Gosewisch off waivers from the Dbacks, extending the amount of players that Coppy wants to sign with ridiculous or complicated spelling names. Seriously, we're turning into Fraggle Rock over here with some of these players. Is Tuffy any good? Not really, he's a 33 year old catcher that's never played a combined full year in the majors. So until proven otherwise, I'm not really going to worry about him making an impact on my roster.

The Braves also purchased the minor league contracts of Lucas Sims, Max Fried, and Johan Camargo. You do that so you can avoid those guys coming up as options for other teams in the Rule 5 draft. If you don't understand the Rule 5 draft, basically know it's a way for other teams to steal your prospects in your minor leagues if you don't place them on your 40-man roster for the year. That's the simplest way of explaining it. So Sims, Fried, and Camargo are all now on the 40-man roster for 2017.

In the coming weeks, I'd expect some more information on moves for bats. Nothing huge, but the Braves don't really have good answers at 2nd or 3rd right now, and I don't truly trust that Adonis Garcia is a long-term answer. So I wouldn't be shocked if the Braves look for a platoon option at 3rd in one of their deals. Like I said, nothing earth-shattering but it's something I would want to target.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Braves sign R.A. Dickey for 2017

That's right, old Dickey is going to be one of our pitchers in 2017 for the low low price of $7.5M dollars. He's also 42 years old which means he's old enough to be Ozzie Albies' dad if the timing was right. I mean hell, the Cubs called David Ross "Grandpa Rossy" and he was only 39. What are we going to call R.A.? Old Man Dickey? I'm pretty sure 680 the Fan here in Atlanta has that nickname already trademarked.

Is it a good signing? Well, Dickey is a knuckleballer so they don't age like other pitchers. There's no strain on the arm like when you throw a 95mph fastball. As a result, you can be effective well into your 40s. Jamie Moyer pitched until he was 49 years old as an example. But what makes you effective also means that when you mess up it's just a hanging 65 mph pitch over the heart of the plate. That usually gets ripped to shreds.

As much as pitchers hate the term, Dickey is still good to eat innings. He had almost 170 innings in 29 starts last year, and well over 200 innings in his prior 5 years before that each year. Plus he was pitching in the AL for these last 4 years as his ERA inflated. Heading back to NL hitters should help drop him back down a bit, but probably not to the levels he was at with the Mets when he was a 2.73 ERA pitcher. However, a 3.80 ERA starter that can give me 180 innings in this rotation? I think that's worth $7.5M in today's market. I just need Dickey to be about a 1.0 WAR pitcher to get some value off that deal. He's been much more than that every year except for last year.

Also, $7.5M to be "a guy" in this rotation of young kids is fine. We're going to be shuffling pitchers around like crazy as we sort out who can make it in this league besides Julio. Guys in the minors that we traded for will be given a chance in the 2-3-4 slots. Meanwhile Dickey provides you a solid 4-5 at the end of a rotation that you can rely on to keep you in the game and given you 6+ solid innings per start. That's valuable in today's baseball, whereas before you probably would have scoffed.

Overall, I like the idea. Even if it falls apart it's a one year deal with an option, and the Braves can simply cut a check for him to walk away. But I would hope we could get some real pitching out of Dickey especially since he's had more success against NL hitters. It could be one of those under the radar signings like Aaron Harang that really give this club a boost.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Brian Snitker retained as manager for 2017

The Braves announced this morning that they will retain Brian Snitker as the manager of the team for the 2017 season. But not only that, they've hired Ron Washington to be the 3rd base coach for the team. You may remember Ron from his stint as the manager of the Rangers, but he had some personal issues that cost him his job, and the Braves saw fit to give him another opportunity.

The rest of the staff should remain relatively intact, with the exception of Bo Porter who will move from being the third base coach to the front office as a special assistant. Also because the Braves released Roger McDowell from his pitching coach contract, they decided to go with Chuck Hernandez as the pitching coach for the team. The Braves picked up Chuck in 2015 to oversee the minor league pitching operations, so it makes sense they've move him to pitching coach now that those prospects are coming up to the major league level.

Honestly, I love the move. I didn't want Bud Black as my last article indicated, mainly because I thought that Snitker proved he understood the psychology of this team. John Hart admitted openly in the announcement on 680 The Fan in Atlanta that he didn't expect to hire Brian when they gave him essentially a placeholder position in May. The goes to show you how the plans of mice and men work out in real time. Everything I've heard suggests that the players lobbied hard for Snitker, and the front office listened to their young team. And why not? You need a focused team heading into a new building for your big $$$ fans that decided to drop hundreds of thousands of dollars on seats up close.

This also goes to show you how the Braves front office really like to promote from within, and how they love to retain talent even when it gets displaced. Snitker has been in the organization for almost 40 years now, and guys like Eddie Perez, Bo Porter, Kevin Seitzer, get to keep their jobs even after the manager change. That's important because I honestly believe in continuity at the MLB level since the management staffs job is primarily to help keep the players mentally focused more than it is about mechanics (although those still matter, you can't ignore the fundamentals).

Snitker makes sense for this team because I think the players respect him, he's not going to be an expensive hire for the team, and his personality seems to be very calming. He doesn't get too high or low. He's seen this game forever and he's not going to let streaks get to him. He will protect his players and argue calls with umps so his guys don't have to. He knows the game inside and out, and he also seems flexible because this is his first managerial job at the MLB level. Also, he said that he wanted the job, he wasn't reluctant, and he is in my mind a quality human being with a good head on his shoulders.

Hopefully it continues to go well in 2017, and we see the first winning Braves teams we've seen in a long time.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Potential Braves Manager in 2017

By now you've heard two names surface for the managerial job for the Braves when they move to the new ballpark in 2017. On one side you have Brian Snitker, who took over the sinking ship of morale that was the Braves under Fredi Gonzalez. On the other side you have Bud Black, a man who managed the Padres for 8 seasons, played in the league for the Angels, and won 2 world series as a player for two different teams, and won NL Manager of the Year in 2010.

I make no bones about this, I do not want Bud Black as the manager of the Braves. While I'm certainly not in love with Snitker's decision-making, ultimately I believe the manager of a baseball team has one job: manage the psychological and morale issues of his players. That's it. All the other spreadsheet up and down bullpen and lineup decisions don't really have a major effect on an MLB team over 162 games. However, being a good leaders, setting a tone for the team, and giving the players the mental support they need to succeed? That's the non-quantifiable part of true leadership I think matters most in a clubhouse.

Here's an article I reference all the time about how most managers don't matter. It's from your favorite analytic crew over at fivethirtyeight: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/most-managers-are-headed-to-the-hall-of-mediocrity/

People argue with me on this all the time. People that especially think they know the game better through charts think this is crap. They want managers to follow the data and nothing else. But consider this point I saw on Twitter today: In both Wild Card games, two managers made different bullpen decisions and both lost. One manager didn't use his best reliever, stayed with his current guy, and lost to a 3-run homer. The other manager DID use his best reliever, and lost with a 3-run homer. Why? Because players executing plays matter way more in baseball than the statistics when you take into account one play. And one play can be all that matters in the playoffs.

 So why don't I want Bud Black? Mainly because he failed to ever get to the playoffs in 8 years with some pretty good Padres teams by talent, and because he presided over the worst September collapse in Padres history. I lived through that already with Fredi Gonzalez, who presided over the worst September collapse in Braves history. Also, I have a known quantity in Brian Snitker, who has already proven he knows how to motivate, educate, and promote a team that had no business winning 68 games after a 9-29 start under Gonzalez. Think about that. This Braves team went 59-65 after Snitker showed up, and most of that was still before they called up the real talent like Dansby, Mallex, and traded for Kemp.

But even more than not wanting Bud Black because I don't think he's an advantage over Snitker, I don't want him because it would prove to me that the Braves made a back-door deal with Black long before the season was over. If Bud Black gets the job after what Snitker did for the this team, it tells me that he never had a shot at this job, and they picked him to manager specifically because they thought he'd be a nice placeholder who would suck in the position and allow them to let their hand-picked guy ride in on a white horse.

Except that didn't happen. Snitker's team has prospered along with the prospects, and it tells me a lot about Bud Black that if he wasn't willing to step in mid-season and take the slings and arrows along with this team, he's not the right man for the job. I want a manager who can come in for the worst of times in an organization, and get those guys ready to play every day with a mindset of winning. I don't want a guy who sits on the sidelines for a bad season to end so he can come in with a pristine record and a whole new set of players.

Is that completely fair to Bud Black? Probably not. I'm not privy to all the facts and I'm assuming a few things that could be inaccurate. But Black didn't have a job all year, and if they really wanted to make him an offer, he easily could have taken the job mid-season. And if they hire him now, either the front office didn't want that option, or he didn't. Neither would make me happy, especially since these younger guys have gotten used to Snitker and they seem to be playing like one of the best offensive team in the NL at the end of the year. Why would you sacrifice that for the unknown when I think we all know the managerial decision-making (which is probably where Black would have an advantage by experience) really isn't that critical.

Personally, I say give Snitker the job on a year-by-year deal. He's got no other options, and honestly I don't think Bud Black is right for this team. If you don't like Snit after a year, go a different direction, but at least you are sticking with something that was working. Nobody can second guess that. They CAN second guess you switching managers after one of the best offensive months in baseball for the Braves in the long time.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Goodbye Ted, Hello Predictions: Braves 2016 Recap

You won't see me get misty over saying goodbye to Turner Field or this version of the Atlanta Braves in 2016. Some fans get nostalgic over buildings, but I think of the Ted more as a house of horrors than an actual friend we're losing. It was never a true baseball stadium. It was too big, retrofitted, and essentially formless in terms of defining features. The best thing that most people can say about it is that they spent times with family there so they have memories of those times. Which again, those can happen anywhere. It's the family and friends and teams that make those memories, not the building. So I don't weep for the loss of the Ted. Frankly, I've hated its location forever even though I have season tickets.

With that said, I think we're all excited about how the Braves played in September. I didn't cover it much because I rarely write about this team once we're eliminated until the final recap. But I will say that we saw some signs of potential greatness in this squad late in the year. Offensively, it was one of the strongest months in all of baseball, with the Braves finishing 1st in the NL in runs for September. We saw Freddie Freeman have his best second half of the season of his career, and we say Dansby Swanson make his debut. We saw Ender Inciarte become a possible staple in the outfield and Mallex Smith return from injury. We saw Matt Kemp join the team and change the complexion of the lineup. All in all, we saw a lot of positive things that can give us hope that the future is bright.

Also, the team won 68 games. Last year they won 67 games. For months I've heard whiner fans tell me that John Hart and John Coppollela lied to us, saying the team wouldn't be worse than 2015. Well guess what? It's not. It was one game better, and that makes their statement true. But even more than that, the team as constructed looks like a functional baseball team now with offensive firepower. The best part is the young pitching isn't even really sorted out yet. We were winning games in September with mostly bigtime scoring. If we can train up the young staff to form a killer rotation, this team is playoff bound again.

But let's look back at my bold predictions from the beginning of the season shall we?

1 - The Braves will finish with more than 100 home runs - TRUE! They finished with 122 after an awful start to the season hitting the long ball. The real hero there was Freddie Freeman with a monster 34 on the season and his career high. He hopefully can carry that momentum into next year.

2 - The Bullpen will be better than 2015's greasefire - TRUE! The bullpen finished with a 3.95 ERA on the year, which isn't stellar but still way better than the 2015 finish of 4.69. Blech.

3 - Jason Grilli won't be on the team in the second half of the season - TRUE! Jason Grilli was traded on May 31st to the Pirates. Most of you can barely remember he started with the team, so this one was probably a reminder.

4 - Hector Olivera will lead the team in batting average - FALSE! Way false. He was a disaster, and he wasn't allowed to finish the season with us due to a domestic violence charge and suspense of 82 games. Then we traded him for Matt Kemp who turned out to be awesome. And slightly fat but still awesome. The actual batting average leader for the team with over 200 ABs was Freddie Freeman at .302. However, Dansby Swanson also hit .302 in 129 ABs, so look out!

5 - Defense will be a major problem for this Braves team - TRUE! Man, it was a mess in the first half of the year. Bigtime. Going by defensive ratings on Fangraphs, the Braves finished the year with a -29.6, which puts them 23rd in the league. And that's having improved some in the second half of the year.

6 - Julio Teheran will have his best season so far - TRUE! Julio Teheran finished the year with 188 innings, 30 starts, and a 3.21 ERA. Baseball reference gave his WAR on the year a 4.8 which is the highest total of his career. The key was that his H/9 was the lowest it's ever been, and his BB/9 was the lowest it's ever been as well, while also increasing his K/9 along with it.

7 - Braves will have their first no-hitter since 1994 - FALSE! Not with this pitching staff. We didn't really even get close to this because of the issues with the rotation. Oh well, that was a long shot.

8 - Much fewer shutout losses in 2016 - TRUE! We had 17 shutout losses in 2015. In 2016 the Braves only lost while scoring zero runs 12 times. That's a 29% reduction on shutout losses, and that's a good thing, because those are unwatchable. And when it was over 10% of the games last year, that sucked.

9 - Three All-Stars for the Braves in 2016 - FALSE! We only had one, and it was Julio. We should have had two based on Freddie's total year, but he didn't turn on the jets until the second half so there's no way he was going to win the vote.

10 - The Braves will have the highest team OPS since 2010 - FALSE! The Braves OPS in 2010 was .740 on the season. It was the highest total over those last 5 seasons leading into this year. The Braves finished this 2016 season with a .705 OPS so it wasn't even close. But I'll blame most of that on the fact the team struggled to score at all for about 60% of the season.

And the final prediction, I picked the Braves to win 72 games. Close, but they only won 68. Still, the win total for the team in Vegas was 65, and I was taking the over. And you know what? We won that bet.

SEVEN predictions right, FOUR predictions wrong. And another baseball season behind us. Here's to the new season in SunTrust park in about 5 months, Braves fans. Can't wait.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Braves have won 6 in a row

Don't look now, but the Braves are the hottest team in the National League. A bit late I admit, but let's take a look at second half including the surge after the Braves signed Matt Kemp. The Braves right now are 31-33 since the All Star break, and they look like a completely different club.

Imagine if you will this team suddenly with a huge burst of offense. Now stop imagining and look at the numbers for the month of September. That's right, the Braves are 3rd in the MLB in runs, 2nd in OPS, and 2nd in doubles. They are doing this because Freddie Freeman is hitting .397 on the month with 4 homers, and Matt Kemp is hitting .361 with 7 homers. Oh and Ender Incirate and Dansby Swanson are both hitting .330+ in September, while even Adonis Garcia and Nick Markakis have 3 bombs a piece on the month. It's a power surge!

What does this mean? Well if the Braves were playing the whole year like they played in the second half, the record would be about 79-80 wins. And that would be an improvement on the year. What I'm really hoping for right now is that the Braves win at least 6 more games, they have 68+ wins and they finish with a better record than 2015. You know why?

So every one of those whiners who complain that Coppy and John Hart lied to us can suck it. That's right, suck it. I'm sick of those people who are treating a PR statement before all the pieces even came together as some sort of gospel. What did you expect them to say, "STAY HOME WE DON'T NEED YOUR MONEY WE'RE REBUILDING!" Don't be dumb.

Either way, this team is better than when it started, and it's showing signs of being a powerhouse offense for next season as well. That's exactly what we need to compliment the young pitching we're destined to see in the new ballpark in 2017. And I for one am excited about that prospect. That's a pun kids.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Freddie Freeman hits 30th Home Run

Just a short update since this season is almost over, but I'd like to take a moment to recognize Freddie Freeman hitting the 30+ home run mark, a feat that hasn't been done by any Brave since Dan Uggla in 2011. So you can add that to the list of things Dan Uggla did well at least.

Freddie is on a tear in a season that doesn't matter. He could very well be the Dale Murphy of this generation of Braves. In case you don't know, Dale was a player for the Braves that won two NL MVPs in a decade when the Braves were mostly irrelevant as a team. It was a decade called the 1980s that most of you are only familiar with due to terrible music and bad costume theme parties.

This season, Freddie is hitting with a .296/.393/.558 slash line, a .951 OPS, 30 homers so far, 39 doubles, and only 78 RBIs. His bWAR is 5.5 the second highest in his career since 2013 when he finishes with 100+ RBIS and a .319 batting average. This year is the highest slugging total we've seen out of Freddie ever. It's the highest home run total we've seen out of him ever. It's the highest strikeout total we've seen out of him ever. And like I've said before it's not that strikeouts don't matter (they do), it's that strikeouts don't matter WHEN YOU HAVE MASSIVE SLUGGING NUMBERS.

Ahem, anyway. Freddie good. Season bad. Can't wait to get to the new ballpark.

Enjoy the remaining bobble-head nights and giveaways.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Braves trade Jeff Francoeur

Oh Jeff like Mongo, you just pawn in game of life. That's a Blazing Saddles reference kids, look it up. Actually if you're under 18 don't look it up because that movie is incredibly offensive. Actually, just look it up and don't tell your parents.

Jeff was traded by the Braves in a 3-way (giggity) trade with the Rangers-Braves-Marlins. The Braves get Dylan Moore and Matt Foley in the trade. Anybody that knows Saturday Night Live from the 90s is already making VAN BY THE RIVER jokes about Matt Foley. You're not original with those jokes people. He's probably heard that since he was born, and the worst part is he was probably 1 year old when that skit came out. I feel bad for that kid because he's going to forever be inundated with a bad Chris Farley routine for the rest of his life.

Foley is a catcher, and he's 22, plus he's from the state Massachusetts. He went to school in Rhode Island and now he's in the deep south. He's a 40th round draft pick, and in about 70 plate appearances he's barely above the Mendoza line in mostly rookie ball. This is the lottery ticket of all lottery tickets. Everything on paper tells you that this kid sucks. But MAYBE because he's in the bastion of player development that is the Marlins organization (that IS a joke) he's been underutilized and the Braves system will develop him better. Or he'll just wash out in a yeah. Either way we trade Jeff for him and we weren't using Jeff anyway except for Lefty starter days, which only infuriates me further that we actually care what hand a starter uses for our lineups.

We also got Dylan Moore, a boy from California (WEST SIDE!) that went to school in Cali and Florida. He's a 7th round pick and a combination up the middle infielder. With a much bigger sample size of PAs approaching 800, we have a better handle on what this kid might be. He's an .821 OPS guy in variations of single A ball, which gives you hope he can continue to develop as he moves up. In the California league recently he was hitting .351 which is a good sign for the guy that he's ready to move up to AA next season with the Braves. We don't really need another SS with Dansby occupying that position, but we might need another 2B as a backup if Albies doesn't pan out, or if Dansby craps out, or if they both get hit by a meteor. You can never have enough strong infield talent. Those are solid trade pieces even if he does get blocked.

And don't miss Jeff too much. He's up for FA again at the end of this season, and the Braves might cut him another deal off the scrapheap in spring training again. After all, it worked with Kelly Johnson. Buy those players, renovate their career, add some new paint and new shrubs, and flip that asset for a profit! It's the HGTV approach to baseball.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Braves trade Erick Aybar, Call Up Dansby Swanson

Whatever Jedi Mind Trick our GM Coppy has at his disposal, I'm glad he's using it for good instead of evil. Because nobody could have traded Aybar this season except for Coppolella. The trade with the Detroit Tigers was Erick Aybar for Mike Aviles and a Class A catcher named Mike Scivicque. That's Coppy, you couldn't trade for a guy named John Smith? I'm already breaking my spell check in half with most of the Braves roster these days, and Scivicque isn't helping.

Anyway, Erick Aybar started hitting over the last month, which probably facilitated this trade. I've been wanting to cut him, believing there was no way in Hell the Braves could actually trade one of the worst WAR players in baseball. But even though Erick has the 6th worst WAR in the majors according to Fangraphs, we still managed to trade him for a 35 year old utility player who can't hit this year. My guess is we'll use Aviles as a defensive replacement or matchup PHer in the latter half of the season, or just cut him outright. Aviles only made $2M this year, and most of that has already been paid.

But this move really opens the door for Dansby Swanson to play SS full time, a move that Braves fans have been salivating over for months. They get their wish tonight against the Twins. Hopefully, that means a full ballpark and plenty of cheering fans. That's wishful thinking on my part probably. In all likelihood, most of us will watch Dansby strike out 3 times in his debut as he gets used to MLB pitching. In fact, I'd almost prefer that, since the recent Braves players that went yard in their debut didn't exactly pan out here long-term.

So tune in tonight and take a break from the Olympics for DANSBY SWANSON! Savior of the Braves...maybe!

GO BRAVES!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Chris Ellis: The other half of the Simmons trade

Why do I say the other "half" of the Simmons trade when he was traded for 3 players? Because Erick Aybar doesn't count. Erick Aybar will never count. Only Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis will be the important parts of that trade, because those players are the reasons we made the trade to begin with. The Braves needed younger pitching, and they didn't need the best defensive SS in the game, who would always be a liability with a bat in his hand. If that seems harsh, Simmons is a .668 OPS hitter over 5 years. I await your rebuttal on his hitting.

By now you've likely heard of Sean Newcomb and where he ranks in the Braves system. I trust another blogger like Gondeee who does a great job of this kind of analysis on his own site, and he has Newcomb as the #2 overall mid-season prospect for the Braves this season. He also has Chris Ellis at #22, which is way the hell down the list when you consider there are 12 pitchers ahead of him. That's a lot of pitchers even for the Braves, and several of them have seen MLB time already. You can check Gondeee's list here: http://www.gondeee.com/

But what about Ellis? Why the drop in the order so to speak, and why do we never hear about him in relation to this trade? He's almost like the kick-in player that nobody talks about. Well, for one thing he was drafted in the 50th round in 2011 by the Dodgers, which means that many GMs thought Ellis wasn't very good. So instead of going into the MLB out of high school, Ellis went to college at Ole Miss. In 2014, he came back out into the draft again, and this time he was selected in the 3rd round by the Angels. But then again, what is 47 rounds of difference between friends right? Turns out it was worth about $575,000 since that was his signing bonus. That would be about 10 years of salary for a normal student coming out of college now, so I'd say getting a higher education paid off for young Mr. Ellis.

Coming out of Ole Miss, Ellis was a big 6'5" guy that threw hard in the mid-90s, and had a decent change-up. That was about it. And that's usually good enough to dominate college players because most of them aren't going to go pro. It's an entirely different ballgame when you show up in AA for the first time, as Chris learned. In the Angels organization, Chris did well in A+ ball with a 3.88 ERA in 11 starts, and he got promoted. Things didn't go as well in AA where he posted a 4.85 ERA in 15 games and really struggled with keeping players off the bases. His WHIP ballooned to 1.56 and his hits per 9 innings were 8.9, which if you're giving up a hit an inning you aren't long for baseball.

Those AA number probably soured the Angels on him as a prospect, and that's why he got traded for Simmons. However, when Ellis showed up in AA for the Braves, he suddenly posted great numbers. In that time frame of 2015-2016, he obviously got a better handle on his command and in 13 starts in Mississippi, Ellis had a 2.75 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP. As expected, he was promoted to AAA. And as expected like his last promotion, he's had major struggles with base-runners again. In Ellis' time in Gwinett so far, he's had 10 starts, a 6.64 ERA, a 1.97 WHIP, and 10 H/9. That's even worse than his AA struggles, which explains the hard slide down the rankings to #22 on Gondeee's rankings board.

However, let's remember what happened after 15 starts in AA. Suddenly Ellis started to figure things out, and after this season with some work in the offseason we might see similar results from Ellis in 2017 at AAA. In fact, you can see the improvement starting already. If you pull his last 4 starts, you have 3 games where Ellis gave up a combined 3 runs in 15 innings. Then you have one game where he was shelled for 6 runs in 3 innings on the road. And that's fine for a young guy who is developing, because he's going to have ups and downs. But I like the fact that he's starting to have more good games than bad.

Yes, Ellis is still a little wild. Yes, he's going to have to learn how to turn one bad inning into just one inning instead of a complete meltdown. That's all part of the process when it comes to young arms. But the scouting report doesn't lie on Ellis, and he has a lot of tools you would really want in a starting pitcher. He's tall, he's got a live arm, he's got stamina and can give you innings, and he projects as a good 3-4 starter in a rotation for a relatively cheap price. All those things work in the Braves favor if they are willing to let this guy take some lumps in the latter half of 2017. I think that's when I'd project Ellis to get some time. But also remember that with every promotion, Ellis has gotten rocked. If you see him at the end of 2017 and he's struggling with runners and looks lost, that's just his M.O. at this point. He needs the time to adjust and has come back stronger with every promotion.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Braves trade Hector Olivera for Matt Kemp

Imagine yourself about 4 months ago, with Hector Olivera just starting to serve his 82 game game suspension for domestic abuse, and every Braves fan wondering how in the wide world of sports we were going to get out from under his contract. Most of us assumed it would fall on a legal case of some kind, or outright cutting him from the team. Absolutely NOBODY assumed he would get traded.

Now fast forward to today. Hector Olivera is gone to the Padres for a hot second, and they DFA'd him. Why? They made a deal in exchange for the Braves taking on a toxic contract in Matt Kemp. Yes, I refer to these as the Wall Street Cutting Your Losses trades. When you have assets that are no longer performing, sometimes you just have to walk away from those assets and send them back to the market. So you accept that they aren't going to rebound, and you sell them off to another sucker/investor who is betting on small incremental changes to help themselves.

The Padres wanted one thing out of this trade, they wanted to salvage some part of Kemps $54M remaining salary. The Braves wanted one thing out of this trade, they wanted to get rid of Olivera without DFA'ing him for nothing. Both sides got what they wanted. In the end, we only care about the Braves since this is a Braves blog, and they get Matt Kemp under control for 3 years at approximately $8.5M extra per year.

Now I ask the question, what is that worth? Did we just get a bunch of snake oil in a 31-year old body? If you know anything about me, you know I hate hate hate paying sluggers in their 30s big money to hit homers. Mostly because at some point they stop hitting enough homers to justify their gigantic money-drains on the team. And yet GMs have done it time and again because they never learn. So, with a guy like Kemp, I just have to ask myself if he can produce every year for the remaining 3 years enough to justify essentially a $8.5M contract. If you think of it as a $21.75M contract per year, which it really is, he will NEVER live up to that deal. But we're only concerned with the net expense to the Braves, not the total. That's why the deal works for us.

Right now Matt Kemp is a career .286/.340/.489 hitter. He's hit 228 homers in 11 seasons, and averages about 27 dingers per 162 games. In 2016 so far, he's hit .262/.285/.489 with 23 homers. He's automatically the best home run hitter on the team just by joining the Braves, who have been woeful hitting the long ball. Putting him and Freeman back-to-back in the lineup would provide some immediate protection for Freddie, forcing pitchers to pick their poison if anybody is on base in front of them. That's a good thing for Kemp if he can continue to produce on a slightly reduced pace as he ages.

Hitters that aren't on steroids start to break down around age 32. That's just science. Your body isn't meant to hold up consistently over our 30s unless you're a physical freak. And MLB players are no different. Right now, Kemp is in some form of decline as a hitter, and it will get worse. Kemp is also a defensive nightmare as an outfielder, which takes his WAR levels from respectable to abysmal. You know my feelings on WAR at corner outfield slots though, I don't give a crap about them if you can hit. Kemp can hit. His oWAR levels are 2-4 on average every year, which is all I need. Just don't trip over yourself in left field and we'll work out the rest, Kemp.

What I can't have is a huge dropoff from Kemp offensively, because that's his only value to the team, and the NL doesn't allow a DH. As long at Kemp holds the line at 20+ homers a year, slugs .450+, and keeps the strikeouts below 150 per season to go along with a .300+ on-base percentage? He'll have enough value to the Braves to make this deal worth the time. If he doesn't produce those numbers? It's a bad deal for us, even offloading Olivera, and we'd have been better off just releasing Hector outright. Those are the terms as I see them.

But at minimum the Braves unloaded a team cancer and got back a possible asset in return. I can't fault Coppy for doing that, because it was almost doing the impossible. He traded what some were calling Olivera, "The most untradable player in baseball."

Coppy disagreed. The only untradable player right now in his mind is Julio Teheran. He's said as much time and again.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Braves trade Lucas Harrell for Travis Demeritte

Yes, the Braves magician and GM John "Coppy" Coppolella has swung another deal for an asset the Braves really didn't need, and turned that asset into prospects. We love prospects these days. Braves fans wrap themselves up at night with their Braves prospects sheets that have all the young faces printed on them. Don't you want to sleep with Dansby Swanson on your pillow? I can guarantee you if not, your wife or girlfriend does.

But what did the Braves get? In the first fifteen minutes Twitter was abuzz about the potential of the new prospect from the Rangers named Travis Demeritte. Which is great because I like when the Braves family gets excited in a bad season. After all, we have nothing to look forward to right now except the potential of our minor league players. That's just the hard truth. Still, is the trade worth the buzz it's getting? Did the Rangers really give up a big-time prospect for essentially two mid-year pickup players the Braves didn't even want?

I've heard crazy things about how much of a future 3B player Travis will be for the Braves. Yeah, well that's a little nuts, because Travis has been in some version of A-Ball since 2013, which is a little odd. I have to wonder why a guy who hits 25 homers in a season at an infield slot wouldn't get advanced in the minor league system over almost 300 games. Well, for one thing he got hit with a banned substances suspension in 2015, and that was 80 games. So I immediately throw out his numbers from before that, because he was likely on the needle. Frankly, even after his suspension I have to question if he's still using, because several players have continued to use banned substances even after their first violation. It shows you're careless, and stupid, and you're willing to cheat in the minors to get ahead. I'm not a fan of that at all.

However, I can move past that if he's cleaned up his act, and there's been no more suspension since then. What did happen in 2016, was he again his 25 homers at A-Ball. Which begs the question yet again, why is he still in A-Ball? Many times it's because a player is blocked by upper tier talent, and when I look at the Texas farm system that might be the case in some areas. For example, at the MLB level Beltre and Odor aren't going anywhere at the 2B and 3B slots, and at AAA they have a kid named Joey Gallo playing 3B who is hitting over .900 OPS. So sure, he's unlikely to move up there right now. But why not AA? Why is he stuck down in A ball still?

I have a guess, and that's because the Rangers knew they could likely get some value with a guy boasting HR numbers at the lower leagues, and they didn't want to risk bringing him up to AA where he might struggle and decrease his value for no reason. I don't think they believe the kid has a future in their organization at all, partially due to blocks, partially due to the suspension, and probably even more that he's a slugger with a shocking 125 K's in 378 PA's at A-Ball. Let me tell you something about strikeouts, they don't get better as you see better pitching with ungodly breaking stuff. You have to make some serious adjustments to get rid of those swing-and-miss numbers when they are that high.

So is this trade a complete coup? No, I don't think so, but I do think it's a low risk value move. I think it's a young player with power potential, but he's swinging from his heels in A-Ball and would have to learn how to harness that power more effectively. People will go nuts over the homer numbers, and that's fine. But homers in the California league won't necessarily translate to banging the ball out of the yard against the next two tiers of minor league pitching, let alone the majors. He's a lottery ticket bet for the Braves, which is a fine bet considering they gave up almost nothing of value for Travis. That's the key point. I love the trade for that part of it alone, because it's not like they gave up Simmons for this kid and some pitching. The value trade of the play is completely dependent on Travis' value, but there's little to no downside for the move.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Who is as bad as Erick Aybar?

By now you know that Erick Aybar is terrible and deserves to be publicly flogged in the town square while children throw apples at him. But exactly how bad is Erick Aybar? Is he as bad as a recent Wall Street Journal article declared him "potentially the worst player in a generation"? And why the hell are the Braves still playing him everyday when we have a guy like Dansby Swanson in the minors, begging for some big show time?

I got into this discussion recently with a few of my Twitter followers. Most of them agree that the reason we are trying to play Aybar is to showcase him for a trade. The question is, can the Braves trade the worst player in a generation? Can they even get a bag of balls for the guy? I suppose since they were able to unload BJ Upton, there's always a chance the Braves can move him (although BJ/Melvin suddenly started playing well again so ha-ha front office he just hated it here, not baseball in general).

The other things I've heard related to service time for Dansby, not really having a proven better option at SS (except maybe Castro), and possibly the fact they are tanking for a first place draft pick by finishing dead last. I think if you want to finish last you should play Erick Aybar and act like a nice guy (because nice guys finish last hur hur). If you want to at least win some games, I'd put someone above Aybar's dismal -1.5 WAR on the field. HINT: That's anybody. He's terrible. Anybody would be better than him. Well maybe not ANYBODY, as I'll show you with some quick analysis.

So who is worse than Aybar right now? Prince Fielder and Alexei Ramirez, both with an astounding -1.8 WAR on Fangraphs. Which is funny because Prince is getting paid $24M this year to be the worst player in baseball, a defensive nightmare, and terrible at the only position he can play which is DH in the AL. That makes Aybar look like a gem in comparison. It gets worse when you see the Rangers are on the hook for $24M for another 4 years of Fielder, who is 32. You know what post-steroid power hitters don't do in their mid-30s? Get more powerful. That was reserved for guys riding the needle. In today's game, go look at Albert Pujols numbers when he turned 33 and beyond. That's what you get. MAYBE one good year out of every 4 left.

Alexei Ramirez is 34, playing on a $1M buyout option with the Padres, and sucking. He's worse than Aybar, but he costs much less $$$, which is probably the reason the Padres keep playing him. If there was an option to make a Redneck Swap Meet Trade (I take your junk, you take my junk, we try to fix each other's junk), then I've say Ramirez for Aybar makes sense. They are both SS's who may just need a change of scenary since neither team is going anywhere. Maybe you can get a prospect for Aybar out of San Diego because they've taken dumber trades from us before.

But in reality, there's no market for Aybar. He costs the Braves $6M this year, which means he only has about $2.5M left on the deal, and on top of that he's not signed beyond 2016. So what are you trading exactly? You want to rent Aybar for 2 months for your playoff run other GM's? What GM would be that stupid? If you want to try and fix Aybar, you can get him for next to nothing come December, and sign him to a minor league deal where he can work his way on a roster for a prove-it minimum. You don't pay $2.5M for Aybar's sub-.600 OPS and horrible defense.

Aybar isn't going anywhere until we get the 40-man roster callups, and he may not even leave then. Because I just don't think you have enough answers at SS in case somebody gets hurt for the long haul, and you're paying him already in a lost season. So why not keep playing him and annoying the hell out of me? I'm sure that's what the Braves are thinking. Well they better have a good option for 2017, because the shine will come off that stadium real fast if this team doesn't start looking like a professional baseball club soon.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Is Ender Inciarte a Braves outfielder of the future?

Many people who watched the Braves in this terrible season have fallen in love with a few players. I think one of the primary players is Ender Inciarte, who has been something of a defensive revelation in center field. His speed and ability to make contact effectively have made him a unique asset in the organization that I didn't really expect.

The Braves acquired Ender as part of the famous Shelby Miller deal to the Diamondbacks, along with Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair. If even one of those guys turns out to be a long term answer, that trade is a win. If two guys pan out it's an overwhelming win. The chances that all three pan out is damn near impossible but if that happened it would be one of the biggest one-sided trades in all of MLB history. And that's excluding if Shelby is a good player or not.

Offensively Ender has been pretty bad this season in total. He's hitting with a .599 OPS which is on the wrong side of terrible. He's batting with a .227 average, but almost no power as he's slugging .306 on the year. That slugging number is really the problem. For a center fielder with his speed, I need Ender to be a gap to gap doubles machine, with the ability to steal second or third when he's on base. And make no mistake, these are the lowest slugging numbers of his career, as he was slugging .386 for two seasons in Arizona. I could live with .386 and a .350+ OBP. I can't live with a .306 slugging number.

Ender's strikeout to walk ratio is good right now at 29-20, so he's not giving up a ton of outs at the plate and he has a good eye, which is key because he needs to be on base for his speed to be an asset. That brings up something of his bad luck when it comes to balls in play, because his current BABIP (Batting average on balls in play) is .255 on the year. Now, BABIP only matters for a couple of reasons, when it's absurdly high or low. When it's high, people will warn you that the player is out over his skis, and that he's got to return to normal at some point. When it's low, people will say he's having bad luck and he's not as bad of a hitter as his numbers. An average BABIP usually settles in somewhere between .290-.310 for a season. So by those metrics, Ender is getting screwed and is nowhere near as bad of a hitter as 2016 numbers would tell you, which also makes sense because he's at his lowest OPS in the last 3 years.

So based on what I'm seeing from Ender's career, assuming a normal average on balls in play over time, I think he's about a .270/.325/.380 slash line player offensively, with some room to grow. That would make him a .705 OPS guy, which isn't much to write home about, but there's some other elements to consider about Ender's value to this team. The first is his base stealing ability. He's stolen 48 in his career, and been caught 16 times. If he was an everyday starter, I'd imagine he could steal about 30 bases a year if the Braves made it a priority. That's a couple of ifs, but it's a key point that more steals means more RISP chances for him to score runs. And that's where Ender's value is going to be on this team, not with his slugging, but as a guy who increases his on-base percentage and crosses the plate a lot.

The other value Ender bring is defensive. As you know, I consider defense to be overrated when looking at player value at many positions. Center field is NOT one of those positions. Your up the middle infielders, and center fielder need to be the strongest defensive positions on the field. Your center fielder has to make reads, cover the most ground, and captain the defense in the outfield. Ender can do all that very well. In fact, he's already accumulated a 6.1 dWAR on baseball reference in 2.5 seasons. In fact, if you look at players that have over 1000 innings on Fangraphs over the last 3 years, you'll see that Ender ranks as 8th defensively in CF. Ahead of guys like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Carlos Gomez. That's not bad company.

Overall, we have to look at Ender Inciarte's value to the team related to contracts. He's 25 years old, under control until 2021. He'll hit arbitration next year and the Braves can decide to give him a longer term deal or not. I think they should, because it likely won't be that expensive to hold him. Right now he's making the league minimum essentially. If Ender can improve his batting slightly and hold on to his speed for another 5 years, I'd sign him to that deal. HOWEVER, I would never sign a guy like Ender for a second deal, because his speed is going to slump in his 30s, and he's not a good enough bat as constructed right now to demand that kind of value.

So is Ender Inciarte a longer term piece? I think for the near future it could work. I'd want him to anchor my outfield while guys like Mallex learn how to play in the corners. For what it will cost the Braves and the value they could get back? It makes a lot of sense to me that Ender will be a part of this club in SunTrust Park.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Braves "First Half" of the season in review

Let's be honest, there's no point in recapping or previewing games anymore. I sort of fooled myself into believing that I could keep up with it as we got into the dog days of summer, but I'm constantly traveling on the weekends, really busy with work, and most importantly I'm not that interested in recapping games that involve mostly players I'll never see again after the new stadium opens.

I'm ready for the true rebuild to start now. I don't care about the wins and losses after the break anymore. We've fired the manager in the first half of the season, we're 31-58 which is 22.5 games back in the division, and we have the dead last record in baseball. And let's be honest, very little is likely to change in regards to the standings in the second half of the season. What can change is that I get to see more of guys like Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, Jace Peterson, Ender Inciarte, Sean Newcomb, Aaron Blair, Mike Foltynewicz, Chase d'Arnaud, Matt Wisler, Tyrell Jenkins, Manny Banuelos, Mallex Smith, and Rio Ruiz. I realize that some of those guys are injured, but when I look out on the field every day I see Eric Aybar get a start over a prospect is a day lost in my book.

I can't wait for the full September callups because that's likely when we'll see these guys. But before that, we need to understand where we've come from. So far this season, here are the Braves offensive team stats:

Runs - Last
Hits - 26th
2B - 18th
3B - 15th
HR - Last
AVG - Last
OBP - 28th
SLG - Last

Lots of lasts in there. It explains why we have the worst record in baseball. Now for the pitching stats!

Starter ERA - 15th
Reliever ERA - 20th
Saves - 25th
QS - 17th
BB - 10th
Ks - 18th
Opp Avg - 12th

As you can see, the pitching stats are WAAAAAAAY more positive looking than the offensive stats. The obvious fact is that while the pitching can improve a good bit, it's by no means the main problem of the team. The problem is that the team isn't scoring, that it hasn't been scoring for a long time, and that until the rebuild gets focused on position players instead of pitching prospects we may not get better at scoring in the near future.

I can tell you along the rest of this season, my focus will be articles about the new guys. I plan on doing features on the prospects, the current young kids playing at the MLB level, and almost no focus on the day to day results. Because the day to day doesn't matter this year. If the Braves win 80% of their games for the rest of the season, they'd still end up with less than 90 wins, and likely miss the playoffs. And that's if they had the best turnaround in MLB history. It's not going to happen.

But what will happen is we as fans will learn what we have. And to learn what we have we need to see them at the MLB level taking their lumps. I for one liked Aaron Blair getting knocked around for the first time because he got to see what it was like. Maybe he reacts better the next time. Maybe he doesn't and he's not an answer. But we need to learn if he's an answer and putting him in AAA doesn't teach us anything anymore. Let's get those guys up here and see what they got!

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Holiday Weekend Recap: Braves and Marlins at Fort Bragg

OK so I was at the lake all weekend, and like many of you out there in your parts of the South I was ridiculously hot all day. Man. It was brutal on the field too, as I saw temps were around 110 degrees on the Turner Field grass. That's absurd for Georgia baseball in early July. But you know what they say? A hot dry summer usually means a very cold snowy winter. So look out for snowpocalypse 2016 this year.

I have to be honest about playing the Marlins in this series, for the most part is was incredibly boring. The best game was the first one, which saw the Braves rally back from 3-0 early, only to win on a 4-run flurry in the 6th. Tyler Flowers was the hero of that game as he had not one, not two, but THREE doubles. Freddie Freeman had a triple, Snyder had a triple, Chase had a double, and the Braves team had 19 chances with RISP. They cashed in 6, which was enough for 8 runs, but they easily could have scored 12+ if they were on point. The rest of the games were noncompetitive blowouts for the most part, with the Braves splitting the series wins 2-2.

The pitching was mediocre to bad all weekend. Folty was meh in game one giving up 3 runs in 3 innings. He was coming off injury so I get it, but with all these injuries he needs to get back to long-form in a hurry. Julio Teheran got smoked for 5 runs in 7 innings in game 2, and Wisler gave up 3 runs in 6 innings at Fort Bragg which was a QS in only the statistical sense. The best pitching performance of the weekend was in Game 3, by a guy named Lucas Harrell. Lucas went for 6 innings and only 1 run in his first Braves start of his career. Not too shabby for the journeyman AAA/MLB player with only 63 starts in the show at age 31. He might be a good fill-in since we traded Bud Norris last week to the Dodgers.

The hitting was very up and down in the 4 games. Braves scored 8, 5, 9, and 2 runs respectively, of course looking their worst offensively on national TV at Fort Bragg. I quipped that if the Braves played every game on National TV, we'd probably go 10-152. We just never seem to look good under the bright lights, which is probably why the nation takes such a dim view of Atlanta sports. Every time they are exposed to the product, it sucks.

Still, the highlight of the Fort Bragg game was the location and the service men and women who got to attend with their families. That's a very cool outreach event for the MLB to do after getting stung a year earlier with taking large payments from the DoD to do sponsored hometown hero events. I think they should continue the tradition at a new fort every year on the July 4th weekend, and give other teams a chance to play in front of our military.

Currently we're playing the Phillies, although I didn't get to do a preview since I was on holiday. Needless to say we got crushed in game one, but I expect a bounceback in game 2 with Folty on the mound. We certainly don't need to be losing any series for Philadelphia.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Series Preview: Marlins v Braves June 30 - July 3rd

There's a few interesting things about this Marlins series this holiday weekend. The first thing is that the final game on Sunday will be played in Fort Bragg to celebrate the military. The second thing is that Mike Foltynewicz is supposed to come off the DL on Thursday and pitch. The third thing is that the Braves have beaten up on the Marlins this year so far with a 6-2 record. So it might all add up to a fun weekend at the Ted & Fort. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Folty v. Chen
Game 2 - Teheran v. Nicolino
Game 3 - Norris v. Fernandez
Game 4 - Wisler v. Conley

Braves Record: 26-52 (5th in division) 2 game losing streak
Marlins Record: 41-37 (2nd in division) 3 game losing streak

Braves pitchers key stats:
Folty 3.51 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 8/28 BB/K
Teheran 2.46 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 24/99 BB/K
Norris 4.22 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 28/60 BB/K
Wisler 4.14 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 28/70 BB/K

Marlins pitchers key stats:
Chen 5.00 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 19/72 BB/K
Nicolino 5.17 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 14/27 BB/K
Fernandez 2.28 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 30/138 BB/K
Conley 3.90 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 38/85 BB/K

I would say simply looking at the pitching matchups that the Braves would be favored in two of the games, and underdogs in the last two. That's highly dependent on how Folty pitches since he's coming off the DL in the first game, but Chen for the Marlins hasn't been worth a damn on the mound this year. Neither has Nicolino for that matter, and Julio should be able to blow away the Marlins hitters, with the exceptions of Stanton, Yelich, and Bour. If they can avoid those guys taking them deep, I like the Braves odds in every single one of these games.

CPA Predictions:

The CPA finally went 3-0, 32-37 on the year, but it came at the expense of the Braves getting swept. What does it think about this 4 game series this weekend?

Game 1 - Marlins by 1
Game 2 - Marlins by 1
Game 3 - Marlins by 3
Game 4 - Marlins by 2

Uhhhhhh, yeah the CPA doesn't share my enthusiasm. Possibly because the Braves have been such a disaster at the plate lately, it doesn't give them much credit against this lineup either. Yeesh, if we get 4-game swept by the Fish at home, you'll hear about it on Tuesday. I hope it's wrong.

GO BRAVES

Series Recap: Braves v Indians June 27-29, 2016

It's that time of year when I'm getting deeper into work stuff, and I have less time to write. That's fine, everyone who reads this blog knows I'm always more active in the first three months than the last three months if the Braves are not doing well, and to say they aren't doing well this season is an understatement. So going forward I'll shift back to my regular style of recapping series, preview series, and doing the occasional feature piece if something catches my interest.

The Braves got swept in 3 games in this series against the Indians, and they were honestly only in one game. The second game was close, and they gave it away in the 9th, all the others were horrible offensive disasters followed by Cleveland clubbing the team about the neck and ears. Here's some key stats from this series
  • The Braves were outscored 16-6 in the three games against the Indians
  • The Braves hitters struck out 27 times in the series
  • Braves pitchers gave up 3 homers in the series
  • Freddie Freeman went 3/12 (.250) with two extra base hits
  • Jace Peterson hit 5/11 (.456)
  • Tyler Flowers and Jace Peterson both hit homers in the series, despite the low scores
  • Outside of Freeman, Flowers, and Peterson? The Braves hit 10/58 (.172)
  • The Braves hit 2/20 with RISP (.100)
 So there's that stuff. Most of which adds up to getting your butts kicked. Even worse, John Gant had an abdominal strain so he's on the 15 day DL now. Here's the current Braves disabled list:

Hitters:
Mallex Smith
Gordon Beckham

Pitchers:
Daniel Winkler
Paco Rodriguez
Williams Perez
Eric O'Flaherty
Andrew MiKirahan
John Gant
Mike Foltynewicz (supposedly coming off today)
Jesse Biddle

Just look at all those pitchers on the DL. That's 8 guys of our 40 man roster, which includes guys that are up and down from AAA. It's no wonder we have to shoehorn in starters, because we're a running medic unit out there on the field. Hopefully that improves, and these guys get better, because it's a long enough summer already without losing everybody to injury.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Series Preview: Indians v Braves June 27-29, 2016

I'm back from my week-long vacation, and the Braves went 3-3 while I was gone, so that's pretty good. I'm also not going to recap an entire week because that's silly and pointless. You saw all the games, and it's not worth our time to rehash them this far after the fact. Instead, I'll just dive into the preview of another hated Interleague series. Burn it with fire.

Game 1 - Gant v. Bauer
Game 2 - Wisler v. Kluber
Game 3 - Some Guy v. Salazar

As per usual, I don't waste a whole lot of time recapping interleague games because we hardly ever play each other. So, unless there's something unique about the series, I usually don't bother with a whole lot of stats.

Something unique in this series is Cory Kluber for the Indians. He's a 5 year veteran out of Birmingham, went to college at Stetson, and is a 6'4" righty many of the Braves hitters have seen quite often. Why? Because more than a few of them like AJ, Markakis, Flowers, and Aybar saw the guy while playing on AL teams. The bad news? Even with those extra looks, Kluber still managed a .596 team OPS against the Braves lineup. That's really bad. Even worse is that Kluber carries a 3.59 ERA in the AL, which is highly respectable, a 1.01 WHIP and 103 strikeouts. The Indians only lost 2 of his last 7 starts. Kluber's impressive, and I think there's a solid chance he will eat the Braves hitters alive if they get into bad counts, which sets up his strikeout stuff.

The other factor here is that our rotation in this series is Gant, who has been part of one Braves win this year as a starter, Wisler who is coming off two straight wins but has been extremely erratic, and some guy we haven't announced yet. Not exactly an awe-inspiring rotation going into a series where the Indians scored over 7 runs a game last week. Yeah, they are on a bit of an offensive tear right now.

The Braves have a lot of goodwill built up over this last week when they really competed well and won some games. They played hard with the Mets and the Marlins, who are both struggling. The Indians aren't struggling. They've won 9 games in a row, and this has the potential to be a coming off the rails, disaster kind of series at home if the pitching isn't spot-on.

CPA Predictions:

Amazingly the CPA went 0-6 on the week. I blame the fact that I phoned it in and didn't care since I was headed on vacation. 29-37 on the year now. Yuck.

Game 1 - Indians by 3
Game 2 - Indians by 1
Game 3 - Indians by 1

We'll see, but I'd say the Indians will sweep the Braves at home if they continue their hot play. The CPA agrees. We'll need Gant and Wisler to pitch like Aces to get out of this one unscathed.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Week Preview: I'm on Vacation

Hey all! As I usually do when it gets really hot in June, I take a summer vacation with the family. That means I'll be down in Key West, relaxing pool-side, eating fish, biking around the island, and reading in a hammock while sipping Cuban Coffee in the morning. I'm already more relaxed as I type it out. That means I won't be doing regular recaps this week until I'm back on Monday, so I'll just give you a preview for the week's Braves action.

Miami:
Game 1 - Norris v. Fernandez
Game 2 - Wisler v. Conley

NY Mets:
Game 3 - Gant v. Harvey
Game 4 - Blair v. Matz
Game 5 - Teheran v. deGrom
Game 6 - Norris v. Colon

Miami record: 37-33 coming off 1 loss
NY Mets record: 36-32 coming off 3 losses (to us, hahaha!)

The Miami series is interesting because it's a two-gamer and because the Braves are 5-1 against Miami this year, and coming off a 5 game winning streak. It's the perfect time to meet up with the Marlins who can't seem to figure us out. However, we open with Fernandez, whom the Braves have managed to avoid so far this season. Jose Fernandez has a 2.57 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and he's generally dominant with his strikeouts at 118 this season. He'll be tough to get past, but if we can the Braves have had success against Conley.

The Mets series will be about revenge. The Mets got embarrassed by the Braves in NY, and I expect they'll want some payback in Turner Field. However, we once again miss the Mets best starter in Noah Syndergaard, so that could play to our advantage. The Braves beat Harvey, Matz, and deGrom all in a row in NY, and the odds of beating all of them again aren't great. They are good pitchers for a reason. Also, the Braves face Bartolo Colon who they absolutely struggle against for no apparent reason at all. We'll see if the hot bats continue this week, because last week they were the great equalizer in terms of winning.

What a week at the plate we had over the last 7 days. Freddie Freeman hit .538 on the week with 4 doubles, a triple, and 2 homers. Adonis Garcia hit .467, Eric Aybar hit .400, and we had 4 other guys hitting over .250 in the lineup. That's gangbusters for this bunch of sad bats. Now, can they transfer some of that hot streak into this week? It's been an up and down year, so I guess we'll find out.

CPA Predictions:

The CPA is 29-31 on the year, and picking 6 games in a row likely will lead to some really strange picks in the system since it changes on a week to week basis, but oh well. Let's see what we've got.

Game 1 - Marlins by 2
Game 2 - Braves by 1
Game 3 - Mets by 1
Game 4 - Braves by 2
Game 5 - Braves by 1
Game 6 - Mets by 1

The CPA is predicting 3-3 on this week, which honestly I'd be fine with given how we've played leading up to this point. If the Braves could finish at the All-Star break with over 30 wins, I'd consider that a win. We'd be setting ourselves up to maybe have a stronger second half and possibly not lose 100 games. MAYBE! It's unlikely but I'm holding out hope.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Weekend Recap: Braves v. Mets June 17-19, 2016

The Mets had the second best pitching staff in baseball coming into this weekend, and the second worst set of hitters in the league. That's an odd duality, but it explains why they have yet to pull away from the pack in the NL East, mostly due to their offensive woes, which were on full display against the Braves as Atlanta swept away New York in shocking fashion.

Game 1 was the true shocker as John Gant (who I constantly want to call Ron Gant), had almost 7 full innings of 2 hit baseball, giving up just one run. The Braves offense exploded for 5 runs, going 5-14 with RISP, and 4 doubles. Freddie Freeman was on a tear all weekend, and he went 3/5 in the game with an RBI as the bullpen shut the door with no runs scored. All three components were there, Freddie good, starter good, bullpen good. Braves win 5-1.

Game 2 was the nailbiter comeback, possibly the comeback of the season so far for the Braves. Aaron Blair actually pitched for 6 innings, which was his deepest outing yet, but he still gave up 3 runs in the first 4 innings, and the Braves found themselves in a 3-0 deficit without a lot to look forward to. However, one thing I can say about this team that actually is true, and not a bunch of PR smokescreen, they will finish games and never give up. The Braves rallied with single runs in the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th inning to take a 4-3 lead, with the key run coming on an Ender Inciarte baserunning clinic. Ender was on second and took third on a tag because the right fielder was lollygagging the throw into second. Then, when the ball barely got away from the catcher on a wild pitch in the next AB, Ender swiped home with a really aggressive move from third base. It electrified the bench and the fans all over Twitter. Braves won 4-3.

Game 3 was your basic, ole fashioned whooping. Julio had the best game of his career as he put his foot on the Mets neck and never let up except for a single hit. That's right, Julio was just a solitary hit different than a perfect game. He walked nobody. Nobody on the Mets even made it to second base all game. Cue the middle school dance jokes. But Julio usually gets no support from the offense, and he got some in spades yesterday. Freddie Freeman went 4/5, Markakis had his 2nd homer of the year, and Julio himself had two sacrifices. Plus the Braves scored two runs on Mets pitcher errors, which made it even sweeter. You could see the entire Mets fanbase melt down on Twitter after the sweep by the worst team in baseball. You could rim margarita glasses with the salt coming out of New York. Braves won 6-0

Next up the Braves have a day off before a 2-gamer in Miami. They have a 5 game winning streak going, and they've played well against Miami, so I'd like to see them extend it. I'll be leaving for vacation on Tuesday evening, so you'll have to do without me blogging much until next week. I'm sure you'll manage. It's the summer and the team is riding high. Enjoy it while it lasts.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Game 3: Reds v. Braves 6/16/16

The Braves won 7-2, and they've won 2 in a row at home. It's a small miracle! And we're on a winning stree...eak? I'd forgotten how to say that. It feels weird on the tongue. Or the keyboard really. Either way we've won a couple in a row and we looked competent on offense with RISP in this game. Plus Freddie Freeman is RAKING.

Three things for victory, Freddie Freeman producing - 3/4 with 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored, so that's a check. Quality starting pitching - Wisler went 6.2 innings with 2 earned runs, so that's a check. Solid bullpen - the pen went 2.1 innings with no runs, so that's a check. Add up all three, and that's how the Braves won. But it wasn't just Freddie producing, as Jace Peterson and Nick Markakis combined for 4 RBIs as well, and the team went 5/8 with RISP. It was a mirror image of the offensive RISP woes we saw in the first three games.

Freddie Freeman has emerged from his slump and totally overshadowed what I normally would have discussed in this recap, and that's another great outing from Wisler. However, Freddie in the last seven days is hitting .379 with 3 bombs, 2 doubles, and a triple. YEESH. His OPS on the week is a staggering 1.252, which is amazing given that in the month of May, Freddie's OPS was .741. He's busting out of this slump, firing on all cylinders.

Next up, the Braves face the Mets in NY. That should be an interesting series given how the Mets have one of the best pitching staffs in the land, but one of the worst offenses in the MLB. I'll preview this afternoon.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Freddie Goes for the Cycle!

The Braves won last night 9-8 in 13 innings, and that wasn't the biggest story of the evening. No, the biggest deal was that Freddie Freeman ended up hitting for the cycle (a single, double, triple, and homer all in one game). That's the first cycle for the Braves since Mark Kotsay in 2008. Now, some of you may ask, how rare is the cycle? I'll tell you after a quick recap of the game.

Bud Norris was the starter for the Braves and had a decent day giving up 3 runs in 5 innings. It was about as average a start for the Braves as we get this year, and that's fine if the Braves can hit the ball. They did. The Braves were up 5-3 with Bud exited the game, but not for long. Casey Kelly came in for relief and immediately blew the lead by allowing 3 runs to score in the top of the 6th. Freddie Freeman's homer actually came in the bottom half of the 6th to tie the game 6-6. And then nobody scored for another 7 innings until the 13th, then the Reds took an 8-6 lead in the top half. It looked over, but the Braves stormed back with 3 runs in the bottom half to win the game. Chase d'Arnaud had the walk-off single to win it.

Now with that out of the way, let's talk about baseball cycles. The Braves have had only 7 cycles including this one in their franchise history, which dates back to 1876. That's an average of about one every 20 years. So yeah, you saw something extremely rare happen this season for the Braves. Freddie is also the first player to hit for the cycle in 2016. There were 4 players that did it in 2015, only 1 player in 2014, and 3 players in 2013. The last player to hit for the cycle for the Braves was Mark Kotsay in 2008.

What you may not know is that before Mark Kotsay did it, it was Albert Hall for the Braves back in 1987. Freddie Freeman, Kotsay, and Hall are the only players to hit for the cycle while the Braves have been in Atlanta. Four players did it for the Braves franchise back in the Boston days, when the team was known as the Boston Beaneaters, and the Boston Doves. Herman Long, Duff Cooley, Johnny Bates, and Bill Collins were the old-timers that hit for the cycle way back when, from the years 1896-1910. And from 1910-1987? Nada. That's a long drought.

Anyway, Braves won, Freddie made history, and the game lasted almost 5.5 hours well into the wee hours of the morning. I went to bed like many of you and woke up to history. Not a bad feeling for a team that's really crapped out on the first two games of the series.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Game 2: Reds v Braves 6/14/16


The Braves were down 3-1 in the bottom of the 9th, with the bases loaded and nobody out. And they didn't score a run. They lost 3-1. So I drew this picture as my recap. THE END.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Game 1: Reds v Braves 6/13/16

Losing stinks. Losing by 11 stinks, and losing by 1 stinks. But losing the way the Braves lost last night was the kind of kick in the balls that's only reserved for Draymond Green. That's an NBA Finals joke, look it up. Anyway, the Braves lost the game yesterday by a score of 9-8, and it happened because Vizcaino walked in the losing run with the bases loaded. It was bad in a way that only the Braves can be this year, setting new lows as we trundle along on this magical misery tour.

On the offensive side there were several positives, so I'll start there. Freddie Freeman went 3/5 with 3 RBIs and a homer. Adonis Garcia went 2/5 with 2 RBIs, a double, and a homer. Even Eric Aybar had a double in the game and an RBI. Mallex Smith had a hit, 2 walks, and 2 runs scored, PLUS 2 stolen bases. There was so much good offensive baseball here that surely the Braves could have pulled out of victory on even a mediocre pitching night.

We didn't get mediocre, we got dreadful. As I said on Twitter last night, I've campaigned over and over again how Aaron Blair needs to learn at the highest level and take his lumps as he goes along. But this was the Reds, the absolute worst road team in baseball, and he got lit up for 6 earned in 5 innings. I don't really think there's anything more he can learn here right now if he's getting demolished by Cincinnati. The only team worse to get demolished by is frankly...THE BRAVES, and he can't pitch against himself. So I think he has to go down to AAA and sort out his mechanics before he gets a second chance up here in August or September.

And the hilarious thing is the Braves STILL could have won this game if the bullpen didn't implode. Ryan Weber screwed up the 6th inning with a walk, 3 hits, and 2 earned runs making it 8-7 Reds. But it STILL wasn't over as the Braves tied the game 8-8 going to the 9th inning, and probably could have taken the lead if they didn't screw up a bases loaded situation. That's when Vizzy came out there to close things out, and instead melted down in front of our eyes. THREE walks were the difference.

I can forgive almost anything out of my young pitchers, but I can't forgive losing games on walks. Vizzy has been great this year so he gets the benefit of the doubt, but dammit you can't have that kind of thing happen late in games and expect to win long term. Lock it up with the walks, Braves. You're driving your fans crazy.

GO BRAVES! 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Series Preview: Reds v Braves June 13-16, 2016

What do I hate more than interleague? Even numbered series. Do not like. Do not want. Do not understand why we still do this instead of just playing 3 game series with a day off. I'm okay with everybody taking Mondays or Thursdays off. That's fine. It works. We don't get stupid long streaks that way where everyone is playing for 15 days straight. Everybody should have one day off a week, play 2 series, and always be playing on the weekend. Look, I solved your problems MLB. You're welcome. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Blair v Wright
Game 2 - Teheran v Finnegan
Game 3 - Norris v DeSclafani
Game 4 - Wisler v. Straily

Braves Record: 18-44 with a 2 game losing streak
Cincy Record: 24-39 with a 1 game losing streak

As for the Braves starters, Aaron Blair is starting to worry people. He's got a 7.13 ERA now, and in his last 5 starts he's only gone over 5 innings once. I remember a guy where I used to wonder if he would ever pitch into the 7th inning, and his name was Tommy Hanson. Blair seems to have both mechanical and mental issues that are keeping him from being successful, but he's learning on the job at the MLB level and that's frustrating. His last outing was okay with only 2 earned runs against SD, and Cincinnati is no tougher test so I expect him to be successful.

Julio Teheran has found his stride and seems to have no other issues than run support and solo homers. Julio hasn't given up more than 3 earned runs since 10 games ago on April 14th against the Nationals. Right now, he's mowing down lineups and putting the Braves in a position to win. Bud Norris has oddly found a second gear, and he's acting more like Julio every day. Bud hasn't given up more than a run in any of his games since April 27th against Boston. With Wisler on the skids, these two men make up the best 1-2 punch we have right now, which is hilarious and sort of depressing. Whatever is wrong with Wisler, he needs to fix it against the Reds. They are nowhere near as good as the Dodgers or Cubs, so Matt needs to get his mind right in the final game and get back on the beam.

As for the Reds pitchers here are the stats:

Daniel Wright - 7.20 ERA, 2.00 WHIP
Brandon Finnegan - 3.77 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
Anthony DeSclafani - 1.50 ERA, 1.83 WHIP
Dan Straily - 3.15 ERA, 1.13 WHIP

Several things jump out at me here. First off, in the opening game we're going to have two rookie starters with ERAs over 7.00, so God help us all. That game may be 12-11 or 8-1 at the end, so I have no idea what to expect. The middle games are going to be the best pitching matchups, and I think Finnegan is the harder of the two. I think that because the Braves have never seen Finnegan and his major weakness is homers, which is something the Braves can't do consistently. We've struggled against those types of pitchers all year, and he's a lefty. DeSclafani hasn't pitched but one game this year so don't let the ERA fool you. When the Braves have seen him though, they are hitting .310 off him, so I like our chances there. The Braves are also hitting .375 off Straily, so you would hope they could score some runs at home this series.

CPA Predictions:

CPA Predicted a Cubs sweep, the Braves won a game, so it went 2-1. It's 28-28 on the season now, BOOYAH! Let's see how this goes with a 4-gamer.

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

Yeeeeeeeah, that's not good. I don't want to win just one game at home against the Reds. I want at least two. Go win those two Braves.

GO BRAVES!

Weekend Recap: Cubs v Braves June 10-12, 2016

The Braves won the first game, and the Cubs were so demoralized that they cancelled the rest of the series and went home to Chicago. Or so I'd like to believe. While the Braves did win the first game, which is no small miracle in and of itself, they did play two more games after that this weekend. And the Braves did get demolished in embarrassing fashion in both those games. Which was very expected given the pitching matchups.

Personally, I think the first game really showed me something from Bud Norris, who I had long ago written off as completely useless. For some reason, Bud was throwing 95 mph seeds up at the Cubs hitters, and perhaps they were so shocked they couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. Bud went 7 innings, 4 hits, 1 earned run, and 6 strikeouts as he got the win over the Cubs. And the Braves bats woke up as Adonis Garcia and Tyler Flowers had back-to-back homers to take the lead in the second inning, and never looked back. Even though the Braves went 3-11 with RISP, they still managed to plate 5 runs on the day, and we all took a moment as Braves Country to celebrate our victory over the playoff bound Cubbies.

On Saturday we saw Wisler take the mound, and I think many of us were feeling confident after the prior win, even with Arrieta going for the Cubs. We felt we'd see a good game with two tough pitchers. I don't think anybody really expected a win, but I think we expected a competition. We got neither. The Braves Matt Wisler got lit up again for 5 runs in 4 innings, which is the second horrific outing he's had in a row on the heels of a 8 run disaster against the Dodgers. Welcome to the MLB, kid, these are the kinds of teams you'll see in the playoffs if you ever get there. It's not all sunshine and farts and Miami Marlins games. Needless to say, it would have taken 6 runs to cover Wisler, and the Braves can't do that. They lost 8-2.

Then Sunday happened. It was hot. It was a 1PM start. It was probably one of the worst pitching matchups of the weekend as Jon Lester faced stand-in starter John Gant for the Braves. And Gant held his own for about 4 innings under an onslaught of Cubs hits and runners. He walked 4 and gave up 4 hits, but managed to keep the Braves in the game. It was only 3-1 when he left, and one of those runs was unearned. But Casey Kelly came in for the 6th inning and the wheels exploded off the bandwagon. Kelly gave up 4 runs, and suddenly it was 7-1. Then in the 8th Chris Withrow somehow gave up 6 runs before Snitker pulled him. At that point, I'm guessing Snit just wanted to stop burning relievers and just let the kid hang out there. Withrow only got 1 out. It was a merciless beating. The Braves lost 13-2. No amount of offense would cover that kind of game (we don't have a 14 run game in us this year as constructed I can assure you).

I'd prefer to say that the Braves won a game and I'm happy with that. The subsequent beatdowns took the shine off it though, I won't lie. I'm hopeful for the future. I'm hopeful for these prospects. But man, I can't take a whole bunch more of these kinds of 8+ run shellackings without throwing my hands up and taking a week off from watching this team struggle. Luckily it's getting hot enough to where I don't want to go outside anymore.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Series Preview: Cubs v Braves June 10-12, 2016

Batten down the hatches, hide your women and children, and protect your various valuables. The Cubs are in town and they have been pillaging their way through the NL this year no matter where they go. The Cubs are the best team in baseball right now at 41-17, and the Braves are the worst team in baseball at 17-42. It's like looking in a fun-house mirror. On to the matchups:

Game 1 - Norris v. Hamel
Game 2 - Wisler v. Arrieta
Game 3 - Kelly v. Lester

If you're into pitcher records (which really don't matter much), the three guys the Braves are facing this weekend are a combined 23-5, so that's pretty ominous. I'm personally into team records when a certain starter pitches, and the Cubs are 28-7 there. Jason Hamel has a 2.14 ERA this year and 56 Ks in his 11 starts. But here's the upside for the Braves hitters: they've had great success against Hamel in the past where others have struggled. Frenchy is 4-9 off him, Markakis is 9-19 with a homer, and AJ is 3-10 with a bomb. Freddie Freeman is 5-8 off him with 2 homers. This lineup should be able to hit Hamel, and score some runs, because they have in the past. And with Bud Norris starting, he's been shockingly decent for the most part lately. Norris has only given up 4 runs in his last 17.2 innings of work over 10 games, so maybe he can keep it together against the best hitting lineup in the universe? MAYBE!

Wisler came off the rails in his last outing giving up 8 earned in 4 innings against the Dodgers. After getting wrecked that badly, SURPRISE! Here's the Cubs. I'm hoping he can learn something in this matchup without getting tattooed again. Meanwhile, he's facing Jake Arrieta, who knew to Clayton Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in the game right now. Jake has a 1.80 ERA, 87Ks in 12 games, 26 walks, only given up 3 homers, has an opp avg of .180, a WHIP of 0.96, and he threw a no-hitter in April against the Reds. But yeah, he's just okay we should be able to rough him up at home, because we've been stellar in the TED this year. That's a joke, kids.

The last game features Casey Kelly, the guy we traded Christian Bethancourt for in December, and he'll take the mound with only one other career start this season. In said start, he gave up 3 to the Phillies and lost. But the Braves didn't score at all in that game, so I hardly blame Kelly. He goes against Jon Lester, who you may remember from his multiple years with the Boston Red Sox, during which he won a couple of World Series rings. I bet he's hoping for one more with the Cubs. Lester also has an ERA in the low 2's, a WHIP under 1, 78 Ks in 12 games, and a vicious .610 opp OPS against the Braves. The only guys with any success off Lester are Freemand and AJ, but they haven't exactly been lighting it up lately. To win this game, Casey needs to pull off a Miracle, and Freddie needs to go yard with a few guys on base.

CPA Predictions:

The CPA predicted we'd get swept by the Padres, but the Braves won one of those games, so it went 2-1 on that series and improves to 26-27. Almost back to .500 ball folks. How does it see this weekend?

Game 1 - Cubs by 6
Game 2 - Cubs by 5
Game 3 - Cubs by 4

Yeah the CPA thinks we're going to get murdered on the field. I can't say I blame it, but MAN, those numbers when you pair them off look awful. This is the worse matchup in a regular season game on paper than watching an SEC team play their home cupcake school in Week 1. Yeesh. Score some runs, boys!

GO BRAVES!