Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Holiday Catchup from Memorial Day

I'm not going to recap every game I've missed by going out of town for this weekend, nor will I worry about being off the radar. It was fun, and you know what? The Braves won some games! It was pretty fun to watch baseball over the weekend for once. That made the weekend worth it alone, and the trip with family was just gravy.

From Friday to yesterday, the Braves went 3-1 on the long weekend, and they had a combined 19-14 run differential. The starting pitching was pretty solid with guys like Folty, Blair, and Perez all having 2 run or less games. Teheran got beat up pretty badly by his standards, giving up 3 in 5.1 innings and taking the loss. That's only because Julio has been so good over the last month that we even think of that as a bad outing. If that was Blair, we'd give him a pass.

Gordon Beckham has suddenly come alive this week with 2 homers, 6 RBIs, 7 hits, and 5 runs scored. Gordon was involved in 9 runs of offense for this team on the week, and that's pretty large for a guy who has suddenly emerged from bench platoon to everyday player. Also, Eric Aybar got plunked in the ankle and he's on the DL now. Which, I mean okay. I'm not going to pretend to be upset that he's out of the lineup, but I am sorry that it took an injury to do it. The manager should have just sat him on his own without getting plunked. Still, we're winning games now that Aybar is out. So yeah. Good.

Tyler Flowers also should be playing every day. On the week he's got a .231/.444/.538 slash line, while AJ's is .083/.143/.083 on the week. How is this even a question anymore? AJ should play every 4th day or on days when we switch from day night road trips. He should catch 40 games a year, and nothing more than that as a starter. It's time to move on and let the younger, better hitting catcher play.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased. The team is starting to come together. Suddenly they are pitching well across all the starters, and they are scoring just enough runs to win ballgames. If the offense continues to improve as we sit the bad players, play the hot players, and bring up the younger talent in June? The future is bright!

GO BRAVES!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Series Preview: Braves v Marlins May 27-29, 2016

I won't waste a lot of time with this preview because right now the Braves at home have won 2 games, and since this series is at home, I won't try to give you a ton of hope that they'll figure something out. However, I will give you the small hope the the ONLY team they've beaten 3-0 this year so far is the Marlins (on the road), and they come into the Ted this weekend. Maybe, just MAYBE the Braves have their number.

They'll have to hit though, and that's an issue right now. The Braves scored 16 runs in their last 6 games, which is an average of of 2.67 and is tied for dead last in the league. They horrible part about that is their team ERA is 3.32 in that stretch, so they've been pitching really well. If they could have scored 4 runs a game, they would be flying high. Alas, Freddie Freeman can't seem to find his bat with both hands, Nick Markakis can't either, Eric Aybar is still on this team, Reid Bringac just got DFA'd, and both our catchers are hitting .200 on the week. Blech. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Perez v. Conley
Game 2 - Blair v. Chen
Game 3 - Teheran v. Koehler

Honestly, none of the Marlins pitchers in this series are good. All of them have ERA's over 4.00, all have WHIPs over 1.30, and with the exception of Chen they are all coming off some harsh starts in their last 3 games. The Braves are much better in the starting pitching department with the exception of Blair, who is winless and gave up 9 runs in his last game before being demoted. Perez went Great-Clunker-Great in his last three games, and Julio should have won every time he's pitched except he gets nothing for run support.

Honestly, there's no way the Braves should lose this series on paper if you just look at pitching. But when you look at hitting, the Marlins are averaging 4.29 runs a game this year on the road, while the Braves are averaging 2.86 runs a game at home. That's a BAD split, and it's tough to win anything anywhere when you're averaging less than 3 runs a game of support for your pitching staff. There's only two teams in the majors that have home scoring averages under 3 runs a game, and that's Philadelphia and San Diego.

CPA Predictions:

I mean should I predict any more home wins until we break the curse? Probably not, but we'll see what the numbers say. The CPA went 1-2 this last series, 21-23 on the year.

Game 1 - Miami by 2
Game 2 - Miami by 4
Game 3 - Miami by 1

Clean sweep for the Marlins. Let the misery continue unabated over your holiday. Like I said in the Brewers recap, enjoy your family this weekend and don't let baseball get in the way. It's not that kind of season this year.

GO BRAVES!

Game 3: Braves v Brewers 5/26/16

Wisler didn't have it last night. I was watching until the rain delay in the later innings, but the Braves were already too far behind at that point for me to consider them real threats even when it stopped pouring. Wisler tired his best to keep the ball down in the zone, but he was missing spots, and the ball kept going middle-middle (middle of the plate, middle of zone). When that happens, almost any major league player can crush a middle-middle fastball into the seats. It's a sitting duck in the pitching world.

That's what Ryan Braun did in the 5th. He pasted an easy fastball into the seats, and the Brewers were up 3-2. This came on the heels of the Brewers pitcher getting a 2-RBI knock with 2 outs and the bases loaded. At that point, the guys in the booth were having a discussion on being snake-bit. Like when you play it the right way, and it still comes back to bite you in the butt. Every Braves decision feels that way right now.

What makes it worse is the fact the Braves best hitters are absolutely awful right now. Freddie Freeman actually came out in the press and said, "Right now I suck, there's no getting around it." That's a brutally honest assessment from a Braves player that is used to producing offensively. And now he's suddenly unable to do anything that made him the biggest contract player on the team. Couple that with the other huge contract player Nick Markakis being unable to hit, and you have along with Aybar, 3 non-functional hitters in the Braves lineup on a daily basis.

Tyler Flowers was the only bright spot of the game, hitting a 2-run homer in the 1st inning to knock in Freddie Freeman. Other than that? The Braves didn't score again. The lineup went 0-7 with RISP, and couldn't manage to get a run in later in the game with the bases loaded. Inciarte and Frenchy both had 2 hit nights, but it didn't matter since nobody could get them in. Freddie was 0-3 with RISP. He and Nick went 1-24 on the series.

Braves lost 6-2, and got swept again at home. They have 2 wins in Turner Field and 20 losses. I'd suggest finding better things to do with your Memorial Day weekend than watch this team at home. Like be with family. Or knitting. Or washing your hair.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Game 1-2: Braves v. Brewers May 24-25, 2016

I missed the recap yesterday because I got sidetracked with work and the NFL Demands for the Super Bowl. If you missed that, just catch my Twitter thread @BentheCPA and you can fill in the gaps on all the ridiculous stuff it takes to get a Super Bowl in your town. HINT: the NFL isn't going to pay for anything, including fire and police, and that's just the tip of iceberg.

Anyway, speaking of ridiculous, that's what the Braves home record is right now. 2-19 at home after these two fiascos against a Brewers team that had lost 3 games in a row coming into town. They can burn Turner Field down for all I care. The place has brought nothing but misery since it was built. It's not an accident in my mind that we stopped winning World Series the year it was erected, and it's horrible spectre has dominated the Braves with unchecked misery in the playoffs (or just regular season collapses) since it was converted from the Olympics. Move to Cobb now. Beat the rush.

Why have the Braves lost 2 games in a row against the Brewers? In a word: RISP. The Braves scored 1 run for Julio Teheran in game one, and Julio was outstanding but gave up a handing slider dinger of his own. The bullpen sealed the deal by giving up a second run late in the game. But none of that should matter when the Brewers only scored 2 runs total. The Braves SHOULD be able to overcome that at home. Most teams can overcome that at home. Not when you go 1-7 with RISP though, and your best hitters: Freeman and Markakis go 0-6 with 2 walks.

Freddie and Nick are mired in a terrible slump in May. Nick is hitting .160 on the month with a .496 OPS. That's impossible given how he's played in April at .302 average and a .836 OPS. Freddie in the last two weeks can't find his butt with both hands. In his last 10 games he's hitting .190 (8-44) with just 2 doubles, 2 homers, and 2 walks. Without the two homers coming in one game, he's a complete trainwreck again. Which is troubling because he started the season horribly, picked it up in late April and the beginning of May, and now he's falling apart again. Hitters are streaky, but this is VERY streaky for a guy like Freeman who is normally a gale-force with RISP, but this year is barely a stiff breeze.

Game 2 was even worse with RISP, as the Braves went 0-9 with RISP, and Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis were 0-6. That's unreal. Your two best hitters cannot be that bad with runners on base. Seriously, it's like they both decided it was time to go in the tank in concert, and now the offense is in free-fall. Markakis and Freeman were 0-12 in that game. They are 0-18 in this series. I'm agog.

If Freddie and Nick can't get it going, I have bad news for you. We're screwed in the interim. There's nobody else on this team that can consistently hit, and the Braves are insistent on playing a guy like Aybar that can't produce. They need to turn up the intensity quickly, or it doesn't matter how well we pitch.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Series Preview: Braves v Brewers May 24-26, 2016

Both the Brewers and Braves are playing bad baseball right now, both have 4-6 records in their last 10 games, but the Brewers have lost 3 in a row, whereas the Braves are looking at a 4-6 record and high-fiving themselves for pulling it together. That's where we live now, it's time to own it. It's our cardboard box of crap and it's up to use to hang new curtains in the place. On to the matchups.

Game 1 - Teheran v. Nelson
Game 2 - Foltynewicz v. Guerra
Game 3 - Wisler v. Peralta

A quick rundown of the Braves starters: Julio has been dominating his last 5 starts, giving up only 3 earned runs in almost 33 innings, which is phenomenal. Foltynewicz got crushed in his last start giving up 5 runs to the Pirates in 3 innings, so he needs to bounce back against the struggling Brewers. Wisler had a rough outing against Boston, then bounced back with 4 straight quality starts, 6 earned runs in 30 innings. He and Teheran are the two strongest starters the Braves have right now, and both are going in this series. That should be exciting news.

The Braves offense has improved as well. Over the last week, Chase d'Arnaud is hitting .462 with 2 doubles, Tyler Flowers is hitting .400 with a homer and 2 RBIs, Gordon Beckham is hitting .333 with 3 doubles and 3 RBIs, Jeff Francoeur is hitting .308 with a double and a homer, Mallex is hitting .286 with 2 homers, and Ender Inciarte is hitting .273 with a double and an RBI. That's a lot of good production on the week. In fact, the only guys who had an average week at the plate were Nick Markakis hitting .178 and Freddie Freeman hitting .208, but he had 2 homers and 5 RBIs so he made up for a lot of it with production. Basically, the Braves are heating up on the week with scoring, and as a result there were 15th in runs scored. Which is way up from their season total of dead last.

The Braves face Nelson, Guerra, and Peralta. Jimmy Nelson has been pitching well, but he's off and on with his control. When he's walking people, he gets himself into big trouble. When he's not walking people, he's got very good strikeout stuff and can ruin your day. The problem in Nelson's last two starts was his offense. He pitched two gems, giving up just 2 runs in 15.1 innings, and the Brewers lost them both. That should tell you where they are right now offensively as a ballclub.

Junior Guerra is a rookie making his 5th start in the majors. Here's the hilarious thing, the Brewers have won all 4 of his starts so far. He's unbeaten as a starter in his career. Why? With a 3.96 ERA it's mostly luck honestly. He's given up plenty of runs, but the Brewers decided to hit those days. I guarantee Nelson is wondering what the hell is going on when Guerra gets 5 runs of support in 3 games each. Still, that doesn't mean Guerra is a bad pitcher, but as a 31 year old rookie out of Venezuela, he had plenty of time to make it to the majors at a younger age and didn't. I think the Braves can get after this guy if Folty can hold it together. BIG if there right now.

Wily Peralta is an absolute mess right now. With a 6.99 ERA and a 1.92 WHIP, he has no control over the zone and he's giving up an opp average of .363 this season. The only guy on the Braves team with any real looks at Peralta is Freddie Freeman, who has a homer and a 1.200+ OPS against him. The rest of the team has seen him basically once, or not at all. Now's a great time to face him with Wisler on the mound. If you were comparing trends, Wisler is on the way up, while Peralta is on the way down. However, as one of my followers reminded me, the one tonic that seems to cure the ills of a struggling starter is this Braves team. We can make anybody look like Nolan Ryan for some reason.

CPA Predictions:

0-3 on the Phillies series. What a mess. The CPA is now 20-21, and fallen into a losing record. But not for long. I feel good about these picks this week. Let's check them out.

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

The first game is a coinflip. I hope the Braves can pull it out, but it's dang close. The other two are a pretty good spread, so I think the Braves can take this series at home.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Weekend Recap: Braves v Phillies May 20-22, 2016

The Braves won their first series since playing in Miami on April 15h, over a month ago. That's quite a few trips between series wins. Exactly how many other series did the Braves play between those two winning efforts? Nine. This was the 10th series the Braves played since the Miami win, and the Braves also sport a 3-3 record since changing managers. Dare I pray for a .500 record the rest of the way? It might make this season palatable.

In Game 1, Wisler was his usual dominant self we've come to expect, and I love that he's the best prospect development we have on the mound so far. He looks great out there and went 7 innings giving up 1 run on 5 hits (check the box on a quality start QS from the starter). The Braves absolutely pounded the Phillies offensively with not one, not two, but THREE homers in one game. Your jaw should be on the floor right now. Freddie Freeman had two of the homers (check the box on Freddie being productive), and the bullpen shut things down for the final 2 innings with no runs (check the box on good bullpen). Those three things always lead to Braves wins.

In Game 2, Williams Perez shocked me again by going 6.1 innings throwing a shutout, which really indicates that he owns the Phillies and nobody else right now. I'd love to see him throw well against another team, but I still don't trust him at all. We'll see. Still, he got more than a QS on the night, and the bullpen gave up nothing as well as the Braves shut-out the Phillies. It was a dominant pitching performance because the Braves only scored 2 runs, which was all they needed. The winning run came on an Inciarte double that knocked in Jeff Francoeur. Side note, I love the way Ender Inciarte is playing right now. After a really slow start at the plate he's hitting .269 on the week, and he's been excellent defensively in both center and left. His arm is fantasic and his speed really lets him cover some ground. As Don Sutton said in the broadcast, he's like watching an Andrelton Simmons who plays outfield. High praise from Don.

Game 3 was the clunker as the Braves were forced to pitch Casey Kelly, who isn't that good. Kelly gave up 3 runs in 5 innings, which isn't that horrible, except for the fact that EOF came in on his heels and gave up 2 more runs. With a 5-0 deficit, the Braves were dead in the water for a day game. Fun stat for the Braves (well not so much fun as depressing) the Braves are 3-10 in day games. If the sun is shining, they suck. I think they might be vampires. Somebody check on that.

In your Eric "Boner" Aybar still sucks report: He went 1-5 with an RBI and a walk this weekend. Not as horrible as usual, but he got benched for the day game. I'm not sure he would have been in the difference in that affair. However, let the record show that the Braves lost the only game he didn't start. Perhaps he's some kind of voodoo talisman that we're forced to play in order to win. What a Catch-22. I don't know if I could handle the truth on that one.

Braves win 7-1
Braves win 2-0
Braves lose 5-0

GO BRAVES!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Series Preview: Braves v Phillies May 20-22, 2016

Last time we played the Phillies we won a game. This time I hope to win two games. Baby steps. In the business world you call that incremental progress. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Wisler v Nola
Game 2 - Perez v Morgan
Game 3 - Some Guy v Eickhoff

This series should be called, "Hey Let's Watch Game 1 Because Wisler is Good...and then ignore the rest." Seriously, when the rest of your series is Perez, and some undetermined starter, I'm not really jazzed. MAYBE I'll get jazzed if it's Jenkins. We can make T-shirts that say, "Jazzed for Jenkins." See? That's the best I can come up with now. The Braves have rotted my brain with all the loser-ol. That's the chemical compound of losing.

So Wisler is the bright shining hope of this pitching staff right now, along with Julio. If this were Medieval times, they would be riding white horses and saving Braves Damsels while the evil Bryce Harper continues to hit dingers with his lance and black armor. Wisler's ERA is 3.14 with a 0.99 WHIP, which ain't too shabby for a young guy. He goes against Aaron Nola, who didn't face the Braves last time they played. Nola has a 2.85 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP, so he's doing even better than Wisler. Something will have to give here. Considering the Phillies have won 5 straight Nola starts? I'm going to guess it's the Braves that give. That would fit the recent script.....

Perez got rocked in his last outing, which is in line with the other outings except his strange 8 innning 1-run affair two games ago. Perez isn't good so I don't expect much out of him, other than giving up homers. If his ball isn't moving, he's doomed because he doesn't have strikeout stuff. He goes opposite of Adam Morgan, who has a 6.42 ERA but somehow beat the Braves 3-2 when he pitched against them, and only gave up 1 run in 7 innings. He's been a melting candle on the mound unless he's playing Atlanta, then he's the reincarnation of Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown. But with five fingers. Google it.

The last game is Jerad Eickhoff for the Phillies, and he's the one guy we beat last time. He's terrible. He's got a 1-6 record, which is hilarious mainly for the losses, and his ERA is 4.44 which oddly is better than Morgan, but his record is worse. They obviously don't hit for the Jerad. Hopefully the Braves can continue what they did against Eickhoff last game, and Some Guy can post a quality start to get us the win.

CPA Predictions:

CPA went 2-2 and it's at 20-18 now. I think you know how this will go, but let's see.

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

Yep, same result as last series, the Braves win one and lose 2 on the road. So far the CPA has been very good at predicting the series outcome, but less good at choosing the right games. We'll see if it can shore it up this week.

GO BRAVES!

Game 4: Braves v Pirates 5/19/16

We lost by 6 runs, so I'm going to stick to my two paragraph rule. Folty sucked and was gone after 3 innings having given up 5 runs, 4 earned, 7 hits, and a dinger. The bullpen gave up 3 runs in 6 innings, which HILARIOUSLY ENOUGH IS A QUALITY START! Except it didn't happen for the starters, it happened for the pen, so that's not going to count. Also Flowers had a passed ball and Folty threw a wild pitch, one of which cost us a run. I'm still amazed we can't figure out how to get the ball from the pitcher to the catcher with supreme certainty on a daily basis. It vexes me. I'm terribly vexed.

What else? Uh, we scored 2 runs on 7 hits and went 1-12 with RISP. One for twelve? That's awful. I mean at some point you can fall ass-backwards into a few of those hits and maybe get some runs, but we were down 5-0 by the 3rd so I'm not sure it really mattered one way or the other. At least we didn't commit any errors because Eric Aybar choked on a chicken bone and had to go to the hospital. I'm not sure what ticks me off more about that: the fact he eats with all the grace of a Labrador, or that he was actually in the lineup before his wing fiasco. Either way, his new nickname is Boner. Good job, Boner.

Braves lose 8-2.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Game 3: Braves v Pirates 5/18/16

The Braves have a .500 record now under Brian Snitker because they won the game last night. I'm clinging to that 1-1 record because I don't want to look at the mess that happened under Fredi Gonzalez when this season started. Julio was great as he pitched 7.2 innings of shutout ball, and then Vizzy came in to get the two inning save by getting McCutchen out in the 8th, and then knocking out the Pirates in the 9th despite a solo homer by Kang.

What made this game different? Well for starters, the offense actually scored some runs. That's rare in a Julio Teheran start, since he usually gets jack for support. But in this case you had a homer by Tyler Flowers, an RBI by Freddie Freeman, and an RBI double by Gordon Beckham. My three keys to victory played out in this game: Freddie Freeman was productive with a hit and an RBI, the starting pitcher Julio had a quality start, and the bullpen was good by shutting down any rallies. Get those three things, and the Braves will win almost every time.

Now for the things that drive me crazy. Aybar started again and went 0-4 on the night. He's batting .174 and has gone 0-9 against the Pirates in this series. He's hitting .111 in the past week. He's hitting .141 in all of his road games. Frankly, I wouldn't even let him get on the plane to play on the road. I'm shocked he's still with the team at all, because it's obvious he provides ZERO value over a guy like Castro, Kelly Johnson, or Beckham playing up the middle. And yet, somebody is starting him over these other guys. I have no idea if it's the front office or not, but if it is they have made the completely wrong assessment. It's time to cut bail with Aybar. DFA him and eat the $6M worth of salary that the Braves are on the hook for. You're getting nothing out of watching him flounder out there and he has NEGATIVE trade value.

Braves won 3-1 despite Aybar. I'm a happier person because of that.

GO BRAVES

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Potential Future Braves Managers

I feel like I have to do this because we love to predict who will take over this trainwreck for the long term, so let's list out some of the managerial candidates for the Braves you may or may not hear about this season.
  1. Bud Black - If you haven't heard about the former Padres manager yet, you're probably hiding under  a rock or you've never heard a sports radio show in your life. Because that's the number one guy right now on people's projections list. Is that real? I have no idea, but I do know that Bud never had any real success with the Padres. Most of that is because the Padres front office was terrible. Still, do I want a manager who couldn't make it work down there, especially when our division is just as potentially stacked with competition in the future? I do not.
  2. Mark DeRosa - He's young, he's an MLB Network analyst, and he's just coming off a long career in baseball. He was drafted by the Braves and played for the team for 6 years before spending the majority of his career as a journeyman bouncing around 7 other teams. He's never been a manager, and never been a coach. Yet his name keeps coming up for some reason. I'd give him almost no chance of getting hired unless they are interested in giving somebody completely new a first shot, but one that also has ties to the team.
  3. Chipper Jones - If I have to tell you what Chipper's done, please get off this blog right now. Seriously, get out. I don't even understand how you're a Braves fan if that's the case. Anyway, you know Chipper, you know he likes to beverage in the booth, make statements that piss off the current players, and pick up people on his ATV during bad snow days. Also he was good at baseball and will be in the Hall of Fame soon. And I have zero doubts in my mind that he's too comfortable with his life to put on a uniform everyday and take over this mess.
  4. Terry Pendleton - For those of you millenials who only know Terry as a coach, he actually played for the Braves from 1991-1994, and he missed being part of the championship team in 1995. Then he bounced around until 1998 when he retired and eventually became a Braves coach. He's a top candidate for this job for a lot of reasons. He's unafraid to stir the pot, he will tell somebody exactly what he's thinking when somebody needs to be told, and he's been part of the Braves organization for over 20 years. Plus if hired he would be one of the few minority managers in the league, which is something that's coming under more scrutiny in the last decade as the league shifts demographics.
  5. Ron Gardenhire - He managed for the Twins for years, and got fired in 2014 after winning and losing over 1000 games each. He's basically a .500 guy in the managers seat after 13 years with the Twins, which is probably why they decided to move on. However, the Braves would enjoy having a guy who can take a younger squad and get them back to slightly above .500 on the season after what we've witnessed.
  6. Dave Martinez - His name has come up a good bit, mostly because of his connections to Joe Maddon as his bench coach. That's actually not a bad way to go, because the bench coaches are the hardest working guys on the coaching staff, but without the PR nonsense that goes along with being the actual manager. Dave might be a good fit for a first time manager job after working with Maddon for so long.
  7. Ron Wotus - Again, like Martinez, Wotus is the bench coach under successful manager Bruce Bochy out in San Francisco. I love the idea of hiring a bench coach as a first time gig from a successful franchise rather than sticking with the same old tired "Braves Way" that's led us to exactly 0 playoff series wins since the last one in 2001. Wotus would be another good choice in that regard. He's actually may favorite choice for the job.
  8. Bo Porter - He works with the Braves now after having major difficulties in Houston with that front office staff, but I'm not sure he's a serious candidate after his first tour as a manager went bad quickly.
  9. Eddie Perez - Lots of people would love to give Perez a shot, because he's a catcher and because he knows the Braves well, but I'm not sold that he's a better choice over a more hardline guy like Terry Pendleton, and I'm even less sold on the idea we should continue to hire from within the current staff given how it worked out for the last 6 years.
  10. Insert other crazy name here - Cal Ripkin Jr.? Alex Cora? Ozzie Guillen? Manny Acta? David Ross? You'll hear tons and tons of names as we get closer to the end of the season, and the offseason. The Braves will look for a new manager and it will probably not be a give name with a big spash. If anything, I think they hire from within, or they pick a bench coach from another club they like. I don't think they will go with the manager retread, but I could be wrong
 GO BRAVES!

Game 2: Braves v Pirates 5/17/16

I have good news, and I have bad news. The good news is that the Braves scored their highest run total in a game all season with 9 runs against the Pirates? Great right? We've been waiting so long for a big offensive outburst and we finally got one on Tuesday night. Everyone happy with that? Good, you should be because that's an important thing to remember before I get to the bad news.

The bad news is the Braves gave up 12 runs and lost. Aaron Blair gave up 9 runs in 1.1 innings. That's an unmitigated disaster for a young guy who is trying to feel out his place in the show. A lot of people will now panic about what's happening with young Mr. Blair. That would be stupid and let me tell you why.

Do you remember what happened to Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in his first season with the Braves? It was a shortened season in 1987 where he got 9 starts, and had an ERA of 5.54. Tom gave up 6+ runs in 3 of those games while he was learning the ropes. In May of 1988 he got knocked out twice in a row in the 2nd inning, giving up 5 runs a piece. He gave up 9 runs to the Pirates on May 20, 1988 along with 6 walks. He was all over the place and looked terrible. And I bet fans now would have given up on him, a future hall of famer, because he had an ERA of 7.90 in May.

Aaron Blair is likely not as good as Tom Glavine, but who knows? Maybe he is a potential Hall of Famer in the making? What I do know is that Aaron Blair has pitched in 5 starts in his career, and he's looked good in 1-2 of them. Then really bad in the last 2 starts. But that's why we're featuring him in a down year with nothing to play for, similar to how Tom was brought along in the lost seasons of 1987-88.

Here's what kills me about that game the most, besides the fact that the Braves lost with 9 runs. The Braves had 3 more errors in that mess. And of course AJ had one of them. Oh, and AJ went 0-3 with RISP. Oh, and AJ grounded into a double play. I'm done with him and Aybar, they are sucking chest wounds on this team. Every game I see them play, and God forbid they start in the same game, I can feel the obsessive rage building inside my like I'm the Hulk getting ready to crush a car.

The only positive I can take away from this Pirates series so far is that we've scored 14 runs, and lost 2 games. That won't last. If we continue to produce offensively, the pitching will eventually give us room to win a few of those games. And I can't wait until it all starts coming together.

#StoptheAybar #StoptheAJ

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fredi Got Fired - Fredi Gonzalez finally gets sacked

Yes, I used the British term for fired because I think sacking someone sounds funny. Are you happy Braves fans? We finally fired Fredi Gonzalez and Brian Snitker will take over as head garbage collector for this team. I mean manager. It's basically a dual title given the current roster.

I'm personally thrilled they finally made the decision. Why? Tons of reasons, but let's go through a few of them shall we?
  1. Fredi was obsessed with L/R matchups - How many times this season and in past seasons did we see Fredi "play the percentages" by sending in EOF or Matt Marksberry because they were left-handed? Against the best hitters in the league with the game on the line? Because it happened way too often for my tastes, and we lost games over it.
  2. Fredi didn't manage the pen well - I'll go for the jugular on this one with the Craig Kimbrel decision in 2013. We all remember sitting there, waiting for Fredi to bring in Craig Kimbrel with the game on the line, but instead leaving David Carpenter in the game to give up the winning home run for the Dodgers, and a loss in the NLDS. But that's just one stupid move. There were moves weekly where Fredi wouldn't use his closer with the best part of the order, or times he'd leave struggling relievers out there forever just to get burned.
  3. Fredi was a terrible second half manager - Do you know what Fredi's record was in September over his career? It was 56-75 since 2011. That's in the most important month of the year, often in playoff runs, with several players at the time who were All-Stars in the years up to 2015. Only in 2012 did Fredi's Braves have a winning record in September, and they had one of the worst collapses in franchise history when they lost the wild card to the Cardinals in 2011.
  4. Many players didn't produce offensively under Fredi - In fact, many players got much, much worse. Is that all his fault? Of course not, but it's stupid that guys like Jason Heyward, BJ Upton, Brian McCann, Nate McClouth, Andrelton Simmmons, Chris Johnson, etc. had maybe one or none good years under Fredi, and the rest of their years were better either after they left or before Fredi showed up. His style coupled with the front office rosters didn't mesh to create great hitters.
  5. Fredi wasn't a PR guy in the media - Listening to Fredi give post-game interviews, you'd practically go insane with how many times he'd tip his cap, or say the team that just lost 8-0 was really playing good baseball, or other inane crap that made no sense. He never called it like it was, and he never seemed to have the fire that many people want out of a manager when things go wrong, or his guys are getting abused by bad umpiring decisions. As a result, many fans never liked him. Then again, after Bobby he was going to be doomed to fail.
There's obviously more than that, but it's enough for me to list right now. I've done my fair share of complaining about Fredi over the years, so if you've read the blog none of this is new to you. I don't hold him accountable for everything, especially individual performances. But when there are trends that happen year to year and nothing changes, you have to look at the leadership of the organization. The Braves removed Frank Wren when that went wrong, and there was no reason to keep Fredi Gonzalez after that decision was made. It probably would have been kinder to fire him then, rather than stringing him along this far. That's the only part of this I blame on the front office.

Going forward, I want one thing out of Brian Snitker when he takes over. PLAY THE YOUNG GUYS. If I have to put up with much more of Eric Aybar, I'm going to scream.

GO BRAVES!

Game 1: Braves v Pirates 5/16/16

Well, I gave out a stat yesterday that the Braves had gone 7-0 in games where they scored 5+ runs, and I said that was my key to victory. I said this on Twitter of course, and I got hammered this morning since they scored 5 runs against Pittsburgh yesterday and lost. What I didn't expect was Williams Perez to give up 6 runs in his outing, and he was awful. Back to the scrapheap Perez!

Perez was awful, Ogando was awful. The pitching in general was awful. The hitting for once was actually pretty good. Everybody got a hit except Aybar and Perez. Why are we still playing Aybar? WHY? STOP THE MADNESS NOW!

The real killer in this game was the 2-12 with RISP, which was bailed out a little by the fact the Braves had two homers in one game, which might be a sign of the apocalypse. This team has little to no power, but suddenly when the power showed up for a game, the pitching gave up 8 runs. It's like that old 1993 Toyota Camry you're holding the bumper on with duck tape, and when the radio is on the AC goes out. One thing succeeds, something else breaks. That's this year's Braves.

Congrats to Frenchy and Kelly Johnson on the homers. That's a cool thing for both of those guys, and they are already cementing themselves as a few of the veterans that may get to stick around in this year's rebuild. Maybe. I'm not sure how it goes long term, but I think there's a bench spot there for both guys and their ability to platoon at several positions.

I'm pretty sure we're not going to see Perez for much longer, either. Tyrell Jenkins is almost ready, and he'll get the call up very soon. I won't be shocked if Perez gets sent down after this week since his fluke performance in the game before this one was obviously, well, a fluke.

Braves lose 8-5.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Series Preview: Braves v Pirates May 16-19, 2016

Four nights in Pittsburgh. It's a trip only a Steeler could love. Let's hope the Braves can at least earn a split on the series heading into the weekend. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Perez v. Niese
Game 2 - Blair v. Nicasio
Game 3 - Teheran v. Liriano
Game 4 - Foltynewicz v. Locke

Williams Perez is back in the rotation. For now. The second he screws it up, he'll probably get demoted to whatever log that Bud Norris is sitting on, but if he can go back to back on his prior performance? Who knows what will happen? Perez went 8 innings giving up 1 earned run on 85 pitches against Philly last week. But that was Philly. These are the 2nd place Pirates in the NL Central. And the Pirates can hit since they are 6th in scoring in the NL.

Against Williams Perez, goes long time Met Jonathon Niese. You may remember Niese from such games as last years 4 meetings where he went 3-1 against the Braves and only gave up 4 runs in 23.1 innings. It's a freaking miracle the Braves even won a single game in that stretch, and it was all due to the Mets bullpen. Still, when you look at Niese's career splits against the Braves lineup, a few things stand out. First, Jeff Francoeur owns him with a 4-11, 4 RBIs, and 3 walks plus Kelly Johnson also has the same 4-11 with 3 walks, sans the RBIs. Second, the only guy with a homer against Niese in 106 combined ABs is Freddie Freeman with 2. Third, Niese has a 5.64 ERA on the season which is well above his normal career 3.97, so I expect him to return to form in this game.

Aaron Blair is getting plenty of hard knocks in his early career at the MLB level, which should surprise nobody. He looks good, but his 4.05 ERA isn't good enough to put him in a winning position very often just yet. I'm looking for him to bounce back from a horrible outing against the Phillies where he was knocked out in the 4th inning with 4 runs surrendered and 77 pitches. I think he's trying way too hard to nibble at the edges when he should be focused on making hitters produce poor contact. From what I can see Blair isn't much of a strikeout pitcher, but he can't afford to screw around and walk people either.

Juan Nicasio faces Blair in game 2, and he's been knocked around in his last 2 games, giving up 4 runs in each outing. Since both he and Blair are looking for better results in this next matchup, you'd have to give the edge to Nicasio, who has done a good job of containing Braves hitters not named Freddie Freeman. If you are named Freddie Freeman, you have 4 homers in 12 ABs against Nicasio which seems impossible. If the Pirates pitch to Freddie at all in this game, they are morons. There's pitching scared, and then there's just looking at the numbers and realizing only one guy in this lineup is a true threat.

Julio Teheran has apparently decided he wants to be good again, and I love that. I'm still wary it will all go to pieces, because I've seen it depart from Julio as quickly as it arrives, but I'm going to ride the wave in the interim and hope they can score him some freaking runs. Do you know how bad Julio's run support is right now? It's 2.13 runs a game, which is 102nd in the MLB amongst qualified pitchers, 2nd to dead last. Apparently before Shelby Miller was traded, he passed the torch of getting absolutely no runs to Julio for the year.

Francisco Liriano goes opposite of Julio for Game 3, and I hate this guy as a Braves fan. He's a lefty who honestly isn't that good overall, with a 4.00 career ERA and a 4.99 ERA this season, but we make him look like Cy Young most of the time we play him. The team OPS against Liriano right now is .510, and the team average is .197. That's...horrific. The last time we beat Liriano was August 19th, 2014 in a 11-3 Shellacking of the Pirates, and Liriano gave up 9 runs. Other than that? He's owned us. With the way Julio's been getting run support, I wouldn't be shocked if this was a 2-1 loss, because it would be a fitting way to piss me off.

The last game is Folty v. Jeff Locke, which should be interesting for a couple of reasons. First, Folty is coming off the best start of his career with an 8 inning shutout win. Second, Locke is really struggling this season and coming off a 6 run beatdown against the Cubs. You've got two guys trending in different directions, and something has to give. Luckily for us, the Pirates have never seen Folty pitch before. Unluckily for us, the Braves have seen Locke before and they are 0-5 since 2013. The last time the Braves beat him was Oct 1, 2012. Soooo, better now than never.

CPA Predictions:

Once again, the CPA was right that the Braves would only win one game on the series, and it got that game wrong. That hurts because it's the double whammy of loss, so it went 1-2 on the weekend, and it's drawing ever closer to .500 at 18-16. Let's turn the tide on mediocrity.

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

Braves may take a game in this series, and the CPA thinks it's the last game. I don't disagree, but I worry about the record against Locke. Let's hope they pull off one more to go along with it.

GO BRAVES!

Weekend Recap: Braves v Royals May 13-15, 2016

I was in Dallas over the weekend so I missed most of these games except for following them on the phone. I did get to see the last game go into extra innings on Sunday, and well, you know the rest on that one. It's too bad, because we did have a chance to take a series for the first time since Miami. But alas, the offense on this team is miss or miss. Get it? Like hit or miss but they don't hit? I slay me. Let's do a Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on this thing:

THE GOOD:

Pitching. Specifically starting pitching.

Teheran gave up 1 earned run in 7 innings, on 108 pitches with 3 walks and 5 Ks.
Folty gave up 0 runs in 8 innings on 103 pitches, 7 hits, and 4 Ks.
Wisler gave up 2 runs in 7.1 innings on 116 pitches, 8 hits and 7 Ks.

That's pretty dang good. I'd say that 22.1 innings of 3 earned runs should be enough to win a series. Oh but the Braves only scored 3 runs in 2 of the games. So that's a problem. Oh and the bullpen gave up 5 runs too. But still, the offense was the biggest issue. I'll cover that more in...

THE BAD:

The offense was bad. 8 runs in 3 games really isn't going to win you much unless you compile most of them in one game. That's what the Braves did, they scored 5 runs in game 2, leading to a 5-0 victory as Folty was dealing. Still, the Braves only went 6-24 (.250) with RISP, which is pretty average considering the amount of chances they had. You'd like to see them capitalize more often since they can't really hit homers other than Freddie Freeman.

THE UGLY:

Nick Markakis was the DH for the team and went 1-12 on the series. That's completely out of the norm for a guy like Nick who is usually one of the best hitters on the squad. But not this weekend, and it was a problem for games 1 and 3 especially. We need Nick to set the table at the top, and while he had a couple of walks in game 2, he was mostly outmatched at the plate this weekend.

Braves lost 5-1 in Game 1
Braves won 5-0 in Game 2
Braves lost 4-2 in 13 innings in Game 3

GO BRAVES!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Series Preview: Braves v Royals May 13-15, 2016

Hated interleague. How much I still loathe you. Mostly because I have nothing real to say about how these teams play each other because they never really play each other. And yet, we're going to have to play with a DH this weekend, another thing I hate, because it's in an AL park.

I can forgive the interleague stuff with Boston because it's an old stomping ground of the franchise. It makes sense, and that's why we do it yearly. What do I have for the Royals? They won the World Series last year, so there's that. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Teheran v. Volquez
Game 2 - Foltynewicz v. Gee
Game 3 - Wisler v. Duffy

I'll focus on Volquez and Gee because you've seen them before when they played for the Reds and the Mets respectively. Their time on the Royals has been relatively brief. In the case of Volquez he's sporting a 3.89 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP which is plain as unsalted grits in the NL, but probably just fine in the AL. The Braves hitters have fared really well against him in the past with a .304 team average and a .881 team OPS. Specifically, I'd look for Tyler Flowers to get the start at catcher since he's 5-10 off Volquez, and I'd expect Nick and Frenchy to have good days since they've both homered off him in limited ABs.

Dillon Gee is the definition of a coin flip against the Braves usually. In the last 3 years he was 3-3 with 3 NDs and a 4+ ERA. Some days he had it, some days he didn't. He's kept Freeman in check for the most part with a sub-.800 OPS in 37 ABs, but Nick Markakis has his number going 5/9 with a double and 2 RBIs. If both of them can get going at the same time, it will be a hard day for Gee. If he can keep both of them at bay, the Braves will lose badly.

Of our three guys going, Wisler and Julio look the sharpest, and Folty is still trying to figure things out with his command. The one I'm most worried about mentally is Julio, as he's only been part of 1 Braves win when he's taken the mound. Some were his fault, most of them were due to a lack of offense. Julio's given up 5 runs in his last 4 games and the Braves are 1-3 in that stretch. That's beyond ridiculous to the level of being this year's version of Shelby Miller.

CPA Predictions:

The CPA was right that the Braves would only win one game. It just got the game wrong. So it went 1-2 on the predictions and sits 17-14 on the season. I would take 17-14 right now from the Braves and walk away happy.

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

Same predictions as last series, it thinks the Braves win the first game and lose the rest. We'll see how it goes this weekend. I'll be in Dallas for vacation so no recaps until Monday when I'll do a full recap of the series. Until then, I'll be eating Mexican food and checking my Twitter feed.

GO BRAVES!

Game 3: Braves v Phillies 5/12/16

Well the Braves tied the game late, but then extra innings kicked in and the Braves went through the already thin ice they were skating on. You want to know a pretty horrifying stat? No? Well too bad, because if you're not into terrible stats you're watching the Braves in the wrong season this year. The Braves are 0-5 in extra innings games at home. They are 2-0 in extra innings games on the road. Go figure.

The problem in this game was the pitching. Aaron Blair had a rough outing, giving up 4 runs in 3.2 innings, but only 3 were earned. Then the bullpen gave up 4 more runs eventually, including extras. So that's that. It really doesn't matter how much the Braves hit when the pitching staff gives up 7, because the Braves have scored 8 runs exactly once this season in 33 games. So, very unlikely.

Gordon Beckham was the big winner of the night with his bases cleared 3 RBI double, and then coming home to tie the game on a Frenchy base knock. He's been much better coming off his DL stint, and he's completely turned around the defensive woes that really had me wondering if he would be on this team in May. I'll fully admit I was wrong about him now, he's been one of the better bench/vets we have on the team along with Kelly Johnson.

But 4 runs wasn't enough, and that's a shame. This team almost had it's second winning streak ever. Too bad, so sad, on to the next series. And what a series of games it will be. The Braves head on a 10 game road trip starting with KC, going to 4 in Pittsburgh, and ending with Philly again. Hopefully they can keep their heads above water for at least 4 of those games.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Game 2: Braves v Phillies 5/11/16

We won? WE WON! WE WON A HOME GAME! Finally we have two wins inside Turner Field and we can put to bed the curse that held us in check inside our "friendly" confines. And of course, I missed the whole thing when it was live. I was on a date, and it was going well, so I came home in time to see the Braves close out the final inning. Then I watched the replay.

Williams Perez looked good. I'm floored. He shouldn't be functional since we traded away Chacin to the Angels, forcing him to fly in from Rochester, NY where he was with the Gwinnett team, in order to make the key start. Maybe we should fly him in on short time for every start, because that obviously worked.

My rules for Braves success are simple, but I'll add on one more. The first two are that Freddie Freeman has to be productive (check, he had a homer, 3 hits, and 2 runs scored), and the bullpen has to be good (check, they only needed Vizzy in the 9th to shut it down). I'll add another rule. If the Braves get a quality start from the starter (3 runs or less in 6 IP), then we will win 95% of the games when we get all three of those things. And we got all of that last night.

Perez really didn't look like the Perez I've seen before. He was economical with his pitches, throwing strikes, pitching to contact, and had only 4 Ks with no walks. His control looked good, and the Phillies couldn't really do anything with what he threw. In fact, they only had two total hits off him for one run. Granted, one of them was a Ryan Howard homer because we can't have a series against Atlanta where Ryan Howard DOESN'T homer (geez). But the rest of the time he was straight dealing (and getting lucky, let's be fair), not allowing another player to touch second base.

It shouldn't shock anybody that the pitching for the Braves, especially the starting pitching, is coming together as the season rolls on. The more young studs we bring up, the more confidence I have in this team's ability to compete and win. That's why the early rebuild is so frustrating, because we're waiting on guys like Aybar, Frenchy, Kelly, Beckham, AJ, etc. to get out of the way for the younger talent. But, that's not the way the front office operates, and in the meantime we're waiting on both service time restrictions and AAA seasoning.

Aybar continued his streak of having meaningless hits late in games, as he plated an RBI in the 8th when the team was already up 4-1. Good job Aybar. Please continue to boost your fake stats so we can get you above the Mendoza line and pretend you have some sort of trade value to a dumb West coast team. Hi Padres and Arizona, I totally don't mean you guys, yall are smart as whips! Because you shouldn't still be playing over a guy like Castro, or Albies, or Dansby. Give me somebody young that really wants to compete at that SS position. #NomoreAybar

Kelly Johnson was the other hero of the game with 2 hits, and his first RBI was the first score of the game giving the Braves the lead. Kelly is quietly putting together a great month going 6-17 hitting (.353) with 2 doubles, 2 runs, and an RBI. He's doing all that while playing a platoon bench role, which is impressive. Personally, of all the guys that are old vets in the way, he's the one I'd keep. The rest of them can get traded, or do community service on the highway for all I care. I want to see the AAA guys. Did I mention that. I think I did.

Braves win 5-1, that's the 2nd win in Turner Field this year.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Game 1: Braves v Phillies 5/10/16

I hate that we lost this game for Wisler. He did exactly what he was supposed to do as a starter. He went 8 innings and only gave up 3 runs. That's enough for most teams to have a shot to win a game. It's a quality start by the statistics. And frankly, he only gave up 2 runs through 7 innings, and the Braves had ample time to get a lead.

But these Braves can't hit. The team had 6 hits, 2 runs, and by some miracle Freddie hit another homer. We're at EIGHT homers now, everybody rejoice. Except we lost 3-2. This is one of those rare games where the pitching was good, the bullpen was good, Freddie Freeman was good, and we still lost. Mostly because except for Freddie and Ender Inciarte who combined for 4 of the 6 hits, and the 2 runs scored, the rest of the team was useless.

Markakis, 0-3 with a walk
Flowers, 0-4
Frenchy, 0-4
Beckham, 0-2 with a walk
d'Arnaud, 1-3
Aybar 0-3

Kelly Johnson had a PH that gave the Braves a shot in the 9th after Freddie hit his solo homer, but alas nobody could get him in. Meanwhile Wisler watched another good pitching performance go by the wayside. He's very talented and the future looks bright for him on the mound, so that's what I really care about right now over the win/loss column. But I'm also not going to pretend that watching this team lose like that night after night is fun. Especially when they are at home.

Stop playing Aybar. Stop it now. He's awful. I'm going to say it every game he plays until they finally bench his sorry butt.

Braves lose 3-2

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Series Preview: Braves v Phillies May 10-12, 2016

Hey, you're still reading! Good for you on not completely falling into the total pit of despair this team crams us into weekly with a woeful smile. I fully expect at some point many of you will simply give up around mid-June and stop caring. And that's fine when the team is spinning its wheels in a rebuild. But in the meantime I'll try to stay entertaining as we wallow in self-pity together. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Wisler v. Morgan
Game 2 - Chacin v. Eickhoff
Game 3 - Blair v. Velasquez

Let's cover what we know about the Braves starters so far. Wisler is coming off probably the best pitching performance on the road that I've seen out of a Braves pitcher in years. He pitched a 1-hitter against the Mets in NYC and got the win. But he was nowhere near that good in his other starts. In 3 of his other 4 games he gave up 12 total runs, and his last outing before the 1-hitter was a 5 run buttkicking in Boston. So, the question for me is: Can the Kid perform back-to-back?

Chacin is the wild card for the Braves that I keep expecting to be traded or moved, but he has to establish some sort of value for that to happen. After an 8 run disaster in NYC, that value is currently low. He needs to rebound with this start and show he can get a quality start (6 innings, 3 runs or less) or he's going to be looking for other employment. Aaron Blair will not have to worry about such things, as he's brand new and learning his way. So far, Blair hasn't pitched in a win yet, but it's not for a lack of trying. His worst outing was a 3 run affair against the Mets, his best was a 2-hitter against the Cubs where he got zero support. If they can actually HIT for Blair, he's good enough to give you a win.

But the Braves aren't facing the funny Phillies of years past with bloated contracts and no real functional talent. No, they are also rebuilding, and that effort has so far succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Can it last? No. The Phillies are 18-14 and winning 1-run margin games at a clip of 10-3, which just won't last. They aren't that good. By comparison the Braves have only been in 7 games with a margin of a run, and they've lost 5. That's because for the other 18 losses, they got nailed to a wall. So even though the Phillies are out over their skis, they are still keeping a lot of games close enough to have a chance. The Braves aren't.

Adam Morgan has one year of experience under his belt in the majors, and so far I'm not all that impressed with the young lefty. His main problem is he gives up an absolutely absurd amount of home runs. Which is a major problem if you walk guys, or if you're facing a power team. Guess what the Braves aren't? A power team. They are just the right kind of tonic for a kid with a 4.63 career ERA and a 1.56 WHIP on the season. If Morgan keeps it in the ballpark, and judging by the lineup he will, then he's trouble. Why? Because the Braves are hitting lefty pitchers at a .214/.273/.256 slash line. Which would be dead last in the majors.

Jerad Eickhoff is basically another rookie who has 14 starts under his belt, and a 6.00+ ERA when he leaves home. AT 6'4" and 247 pounds, he's a big kid who can rack up a ton of strikeouts, and he's got pretty good command with a 1.16 WHIP. What I like about Eickhoff is he improved his command from his days in the minors, he's got good velocity that can get up into the low-90s, and he's really improved his slider/curve combo. His change-up is still rather blah, and if he leaves it up in the zone, it's leaving the ballpark in a hurry. He's exactly the kind of pitcher the Braves usually struggle against with the K's the and breaking stuff, so I'm interested to see if they can put some pressure on Eickhoff on the basepaths.

Vince Velasquez has 13 career starts, and he's third defacto rookie the Braves see in this series. He's also the best of the three pitchers across the board so far. A 2.17 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 44 Ks in just 6 games. He's given up only 3 homers, and has an opp avg of .188. He's a stud in the making, and his scouting report says he's got a 95 mph fastball that he pairs with a devastating changeup and a decent curve. His major problem has been injuries as he had Tommy John in 2011, and he's suffered various strains though out his minor league career. However, now that he's healthy and in the show, the Phillies have an incredible starter on their hands.

CPA Predictions:

The CPA predicted that the Braves would win the series, and they got swept. So yeah that was way off. 16-12 now on the season, and I'm not sure it likes this series at all. Let's find out.

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

OK so we might win a game. We're setting the bar low here. Let's just hop over it and finally win a SECOND home game. Geez.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Game 2-3: Braves v Dbacks May 7-8, 2016

This team is wearing down my will already y'all. I completely skipped the third game of this series because it was a day game, and I was going on a 9-mile hike with my family and enjoying the weather. And you know what? I'm not sorry I made that decision. There's better things to do with your life on a weekend afternoon than watch this team. I'll suffer with them at night when there's little else to do, but during a nice day? You're doing yourself a disservice if you sit and watch the Braves. It's the sad reality.

So where are we now? Oh yeah, we lost Game 2, the game I said was a must-win. You know why I said that? Because if we lost the game, I'd give up all hope of this roster doing anything entertaining for the rest of its (hopefully) short construction. Mentally, I think we can all check out on this version of the Braves until they bring up Ozzie Albies, Rio Ruiz, Dansby Swanson, and Tyrell Jenkins to play with Mallex, Chase, Folty, Blair, Wisler, Julio, Freddie, Nicky, and whatever catcher we deem doesn't suck that day.

Thinking I'm being overdramatic? Oh, but allow me to elaborate with some stats!

- Bartolo Colon hit a homer this weekend. He's a 43 year old fat pitcher. He now has more homers than Markakis, AJ, Flowers, Frenchy, Kelly, Jace Peterson, Aybar, Castro, Beckham, and Inciarte.

- The Braves are now the only team in MLB that has zero triples on the year. ZERO. In fact, they've given up a triple to an opposing pitcher this weekend, so opposing pitchers have more triples than the Braves.

- If the Braves current winning percentage held through the season, and the other teams played as they are playing in the division, they would be eliminated from the playoffs in mid-August. With 1.5 months left of baseball to play.

- BJ Upton's OPS, which is .691 on the year and not good at all, would be 3rd on this team among players with 50+ ABS.

- The Braves have exactly 5 players out of their 25 man roster with positive bWAR. Chase, Folty, Freeman, Markakis, and Mallex. They have 10 players with negative bWAR. The other 10 are essentially 0.0 replacement level players.

- The Braves have the second highest ground ball percentage in the majors at 49%. This is only behind the Marlins. And ground balls never leave the ballpark.

- It's been over 100 years since a team started 1-15 at home to begin a season. If anything, the TED is a cursed graveyard, sucking the souls out of all their fans to feed its nihilistic rage at being abandoned before it was old enough to drink legally.

I could go on, but I won't. Mostly because you get the point. Until the Braves call up the young guys to give us something positive to watch as we struggle, and until they finally dump the lame-duck manager that nobody in the clubhouse is playing for right now, this team is not worth watching. Period. I never thought we would get to this point, but it's the new reality of baseball under this total teardown.

Braves lose 4-2
Braves lose 5-3 in 11 innings and get swept at home again.

GO BRAVES!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Game 1: Braves v Dbacks 5/6/16

The Diamondbacks had lost 6 games in a row coming into this series with the Braves. Aaron Blair had a chance to make it 7 games, but his defense really let him down. Garcia dropped a ball in the 2nd inning that led to the first Arizona run, although for some reason he wasn't charged with an error. But there were plenty of other errors to go along with that. Reid Brignac made a throwing error to third that would have gotten Blair out of a jam, but that runner later scored. Basically, Aaron Blair gave up 3 runs, but should have only given up 1 run if not for the defense.

And if Blair only gives up that one run, he probably goes deeper in the game, and Jim Johnson isn't forced to come in for the 6th inning, where he gives up a homer. The Braves in the bottom half of that inning scored 2 runs, so it would have been a Braves lead. And then who knows how the rest of the game unfolds. Basically, I'm pointing out how this was a very winnable game, despite how the final score looks. I'm getting really tired of watching these older players BUTCHER defense when there's no reason to still have them playing on this roster.

We need to see the younger talent now. If they commit errors fine, but the advantage of a veteran core is supposed to be their ability to perform the basic actions of the game. These vets can't defensively, and it's hard to watch.

The bullpen was terrible this game but it didn't matter. Since the Braves only scored 2 runs, the game was effectively over in the 3rd inning when the Dbacks went up by 3 runs. AJ went 0-2 before being ejected for arguing balls and strikes, then replaced by Flowers (duh, Flowers should be starting), and Flowers went on to have one of the 2 RISP hits and RBIs on the game. Aybar had two hits in complete Aybar fashion, singles after the Braves were already behind, with nobody on base. You put a guy on base for Aybar, he's a turnstile.

The Braves had 10 hits, but only 2 runs. Again, that's a power problem. When you can't hit homers and you ground into 2 double plays, you have to get at least 3 singles just to score one run. That's pretty impossible to win with against a Dbacks team that despite their pitching woes, they can rake the ball around the ballpark.

The Fredi Gonzalez firing watch is still on. I have a feeling that if Bud Black was willing to step into this mess he would already be gone. The fact that they haven't made a move yet says to me that Bud won't agree to take over yet, or maybe not until next season. And I can't really blame him. I wouldn't want to step into this mess either, a creation of a front office rebuild and a complete lack of leadership and pride out there by the players and the manager. Defense is not a matter of just skill, it's a matter of work, repetition, and pride. And I question whether some of these guys are willing to put in the work to make it better, or if they just think of themselves as hitters and the rest is secondary. Well guess what? They aren't hitting either, so I at least expect them to be solid in the field.

Next up, it's Julio v a completely lost Shelby Miller. I'm not even kidding about this, it's a must-win for this Braves team. This is the only game they've been favored in for weeks. If they can't beat a pitcher with an 8+ ERA at home with their best veteran starter? Forget it. Fire everybody you can fire on the staff, unload the veteran contracts we're holding, and I don't want to see this roster as it is anymore. Because the games won't get easier than this.

Go out there and prove it today Braves. The fans need it!

GO BRAVES!

GO BRAVES!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Series Preview: Braves v Arizona May 6-8, 2016

We're past the first month of the MLB season, so it's time I start looking at some standings. The Braves are a robust 7-20, and the Arizona Diamondbacks are 12-18. Obviously, it's a clash of the Titans here in Turner field this weekend. I expect attendance to be low, with the variable that the nice weather probably attracts a few people interested in sitting outdoors. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Blair v. Greinke
Game 2 - Teheran v. Miller
Game 3 - Foltynewicz v. Corbin

Obviously the game that stands out is the Game 2 matchup between Julio and Shelby. The shocker of the season has been how awful Shelby Miller pitched in his early outings. He's sporting an 8.97 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP, and an opposing average of .287 so far. That's wretched. Those are worse than or equal to Bud Norris type numbers, and he's about to get cut. I can only imagine this is happening because Shelby is really grinding, trying to prove he was worth the ridiculous trade Arizona made for him. But even if he wins the Cy Young this year, I don't think the trade will ever balance. The Braves fleeced Arizona and now Shelby is mentally a wreck. Julio is coming off his best outing in probably 2-3 years. Given that Shelby is struggling, that's a must-win game for the Braves if there ever was one.

Why have the Diamondbacks struggled? I can tell you right now it has nothing to do with hitting. The Dbacks have 7 hitters with OPS over .800 while the Braves only have...uhhhhhhhhhhh...wait, we have none. WE HAVE NO GUYS OVER .800 IN OPS? Good lord, this season. I'm amazed daily when I look at the statistics on this freakshow.

Back to why the Dbacks have sucked. It's not hitting. It's pitching. Obviously, Shelby has been bad, but it goes way deeper than that. Greinke was 2nd in the Cy Young voting last season, and he won it in 2009. He went to the Diamondbacks on a MASSIVE contract for over $200M. And yet, like Mr. Miller, his early season is a complete disaster. Greinke has a 5.50 ERA, a 1.49 WHIP, and a opp avg of .303 with only 32 Ks in six games. Plus his homers per 9 are way up (1.2) which is an even bigger issue. Then you look at Pat Corbin who is the "best" pitcher you'll see this weekend, and he's at a 4.91 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and .275 opp avg with 2 homers per 9, and almost 3 walks per 9.

Normally I'd be looking at those homer problems and salivating. But the Braves can't hit homers right now, which plays into a struggling pitcher's hands. He can make mistakes and they'll stay in the ballpark. Plus, he's got about 7 sticks behind him to score runs. What looks like an easy game on paper could turn into a slugfest inside the Ted, and the Braves haven't won any slugfests yet. We'll see which Blair shows up, because this is a tough test for the young rookie. Also, can Julio put it at 3 in a row? I'm not sure yet. Folty hasn't proven he belongs yet, so this is another shot for him to showcase his stuff.

CPA Predictions:

The CPA went 2-1 on the Mets series, 15-10 now on the season. Let's see how it thinks this series will go.

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

The CPA thinks the Braves win a series at home. I'm as shocked as you. Maybe with all the tougher teams behind us, it's ready to give the Braves some credit. I hope it's right.

GO BRAVES

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Game 3: Braves v Mets 5/4/2016

May the 4th be with you, because it wasn't with the Braves yesterday. I've made a deal with myself for this season. When the Braves lose by more than 6 runs in a complete whitewash, I'm going to do 2 paragraphs and not rant about it too much. Because we know what we are now. We're a bad team trying to rebuild with a bunch of young talent. I don't really care whose fault it is anymore, I simply want to see the young guys get a shot, and we'll take our lumps along the way.

Chacin gave up 4 homers and 8 runs in the span of 4.2 innings. The bullpen admirably held up for 4.1 innings with no runs, but the damage was done. The Braves only had 3 hits in the game total. No runs. Nick Markakis had to miss the game with a family emergency. Also, the Atlanta Hawks got blown to pieces in a record setting loss to the Cavs, so it was a pretty dark day for Atlanta sports. I'm going to get back to my normal job and pretend that day didn't happen. In the meantime, hug your loved ones, and apologize to your children for letting them be born in this city.

Braves lose 8-0

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Game 2: Braves v Mets 5/3/16

Matt Wisler just did something that hasn't been done in almost a decade. Last night, Wisler pitched 8 innings, 0 earned runs, and gave up just one hit. The last time somebody on the road pitched 8+ innings of 1 hit baseball? That was lefty Chuck James on September 4th, 2006. Guess who it was against? The Mets oddly enough. Time is a wheel.

How good was Wisler? I just told you, he was so good he did something nobody on this team has done in a decade. That's a big deal for a pitching staff that's still trying to find some sort of identity. But with Wisler, Blair, Teheran, and possibly Foltynewicz coming together as some sort of rotation this year, we're really only 1-2 guys away from seeing what the Braves might look like when they open the doors on the 2017 Cobb County project.

Also, Mallex Smith had his first homer! Yes, it was a scratch it over the line barely gone 345 foot shot just inside the left field pole that also didn't actually leave the field. Yes, it took a review to prove it wasn't a triple and actually a homer. BUT IT WAS A HOMER! Strike up the band people we have...counts on fingers...SIX homers now. We're on to the second hand! Light up the beacons of celebration from Jesup to Kennessaw!

I don't want to spoil a win like this with heavy handed analysis. Because in reality it's one win during a season of 162. But with wins so hard to come by, and good starting pitching even rarer, it's nice to see that somebody on the team turned back to the clock to the Braves days of yore. When we were winning division titles and winning games 3-0 with dominating starters manning the hill. When our hitters could hit balls over the fence to win games. When our defense looked like it could track down anything in the outfield.

We're not far away from that coming around again. The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Ok that's actually Lord of the Rings, but it applies here. There's hope in Braves Country again, even with a terrible record. There's a feeling after last night that things might, in fact, be okay soon.

Braves win 3-0, rubber game tonight.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Game 1: Braves v Mets 5/2/16

I went to Starbucks in the afternoon, and by the time I walked in the door in the bottom of the first inning, it was 4-0 Mets. Turns out they hit 3 homers off Foltynewicz in the span of four batters. I've contacted my sabermetrics friends and they assure me that's bad.

This was the worst of all scenarios for Folty. He was supposed to replace Bud Norris as the starter in this spot, yet he couldn't even got a full 4 innings, and Bud had to come into the game and replace him. Oh and Bud pitched 2.1 innings of shutout baseball with no hits. It's maddening. I'm not sure if the front office or management team is dumb enough to draw a conclusion from that, but I seriously hope not. Because Bud isn't good and he isn't an answer.

I'm not sure if Folty is an answer, but I'm not drawing conclusions from one game where he got shelled early. What's funny to me is after the 1st inning, nobody did anything offensively until the Braves got a garbage run in the 9th to bust up the shutout. It was one of the most boring games I've seen out of this team in a while. And it came at the hands of 40-something Bartolo Colon and his one fat pitch of doom. I joked that if that guy hasn't had a Golden Corral style chocolate fountain installed in the clubhouse, he needs to renegotiate his contract.

Aybar is still playing all the time which is starting to drive me insane. He's one of the worst hitters in the league, but he managed to get an RBI hit in the 9th when the game was completely out of reach. Way to go, jerk store. Why not try to do that when it matters? That would be nice instead of rolling his sorry .178 average out there every day, for reasons I can't understand.

Also the Braves brought up a bunch of guys for this game: Reid BrigNac, Chase d'Arnaud, and Matt Tuiasosopo. IS IT TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR GUYS NAMED JAKE SMITH? DEAR LORD THE SPELLING! THINK OF THE CHILDREN AND THE BLOGGERS!

They sent down John Gant and Jace Peterson, plus they DFA'd Drew Stubbs. None of that is really going to matter with this team until we stop playing AJ Pierzynski and Eric Aybar on a daily basis. The offense with them in the middle of it is like slapping tar on the wheels of a Ford Fiesta. It's a crappy car anyway, but you just slowed it down to the point of irrelevance.

My only hope and solace is that by the time this team gets back in town, Fredi may get fired, and this long schedule nightmare will be over. We'll finally get some teams that aren't in the top 2 of their divisions. Maybe then we can put some of this unpleasantness behind us and watch the young kids get their shot.

NO MORE AYBAR! PLEASE!

GO BRAVES!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Series Preview: Braves v Mets May 2-4, 2016

I feel like we just played the Mets. Oh, that's because we just played the Mets a week ago at home. Good call scheduling guys at the MLB. Way to shake it up early. Even better when the Mets swept us at the Ted and we looked like idiots.

But today dawns a new day and we're coming off a win in Chicago. Those kind of things can propel us to a possible winning streak! A streak is TWO. We haven't had that in a while. Eleven games really. But who's counting? On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Foltynewicz v. Colon
Game 2 - Wisler v. Harvey
Game 3 - Chacin v. Matz

HOORAY, BUD NORRIS FINALLY GOT DEMOTED! What? I'm happy about that, because he sucked as a starter. He's still on the team for some reason so I'm sure Fredi will find a way to have him crap up the bullpen, but I'll settle for having Folty get the call up. Plus, I had to remember how to spell Foltynewicz, which is always be a fun exercise. Tonight's game is a must-see TV to witness if Folty can bring it, and I'll never miss a chance to watch National Treasure 40-something-year-old Bartolo Colon throw his one pitch and swing his fat bat like he's in 6th grade. The man is awesome, even if he plays for the Mets.

Game 2 is the dog. I don't really trust Wisler yet, and Matt Harvey hasn't lost a home game against the Braves since...man I'll have to look it up. <Shuffles some internet papers.> Yeah, it's August 10th, 2012. Granted, he didn't actually pitch many home games against the Braves in much of that time, so it's not a hugely telling stat, but Harvey is unquestionably better at home than away. This year his ERA is 1.75 points lower at home, and over the last 3 years it was 2.02, a full point better than his away average. Oh and the combined Braves lineup has an OPS of .549 against Harvey sooooo GOOD LUCK Wisler! Don't give up any runs or you lose.

Game 3 might be the rubber game if Folty can pull off a win. Chacin has been solid with the Braves going 2-2 in his starts, and if you consider the fact the team only has 6 wins, that's a fairly impressive percentage. Steven Matz is on an absolute tear right now. He's given up only 2 runs in his last 3 starts, won all three of those games, including an absolute drubbing of Atlanta in that run 8-2. He's terrifying right now, and the pitches he throws give the Braves fits. If they can win this game it will be nothing short of miraculous on the road.

CPA Predictions:

The CPA went 1-1 on the Cubs series since one of the games was rained out. That's 13-9 now on the season. What's the prediction for this week? In the words of Clubber Lang...PAIN!

Game 1 - Mets by 2
Game 2 - Mets by 4
Game 3 - Mets by 4

Yeah, not pretty. But it was wrong on at least one of the games so far each series so maybe they avoid a sweep this time.

GO BRAVES!

Weekend Recap: Braves v Cubs April 29 - May 1, 2016

By some miracle, the Braves dodged a bullet and split this series after the Saturday game was cancelled by rain. That's actually a huge benefit for us, because I guarantee this team will be completely different by the time they have to make up that game post-All-Star break. Preferably with younger, better talent that's been seasoned in the minor leagues.

The Friday game was a mess by the end. Not really at the beginning though, as Aaron Blair looked solid through his 6 innings of starting work. 2 Hits, 3 walks, and 1 run? That's pretty sparkling for a guy facing some of the hottest hitters in the league right now. I don't love the walks, but when the result is good I'm not going to complain. He's a bright spot in the young talent brigade I hope to see more of soon.

But the bullpen happened late in that game, and yadda-yadda-yadda we ended up losing by 5. You may not be able to yadda-yadda sex, but you sure as heck can yadda-yadda five runs. That's right, it was a tie game in the 8th, then suddenly it wasn't. And a grand slam later it REALLY wasn't. Why did all this happen? Because Fredi Gonzalez once again decided to bring in EOF into a game that was tied. Because Fredi used his lefty-lefty logic to pitch EOF against the Cubs Rizzo, the absolute best hitter on their team. And Rizzo of course made them pay with an RBI single. Yadda-yadda, Fredi's not long for this team.

You know what? I've beaten how Fredi mismanages this thing to death, so there's no real point anymore. Ken Rosenthal, who is about as respected a national writer as there is in baseball, came out and flat said that Fredi Gonzalez is a dead man walking. He doesn't even expect Fredi to still be the manager when the Braves come back from the road trip on Friday. I hope he's right, because I think we're all sick and and tired of lame duck lineups and ridiculous bullpen decisions. Frankly, I'm tired of the argument when people want to say Fredi's NOT to blame for certain decisions, but they still believe he's not a good manager. If he's not good, he needs to go and we need to give somebody else their shot.

Game 2 on Sunday was actually much better. Not just because the Braves won, but because Julio Teheran actually had a great back-to-back game, plus it was on the road. Julio was masterful as he went for 7 innings with 2 hits, 0 runs, and 9 Ks. It's probably the best road game I've seen out of him in years. It also gives me hope because mentally I was wondering if Julio could ever find that some stride and dominance he had three years ago. These two games give me that hope, but I'm also aware that Julio is fickle. There could be a 5 run affair waiting around any corner.

The bullpen screwed this game up too, but not enough to cost the Braves a win. The Braves really made the Cubs pay for their error in the 6th as they had the bases loaded and one out, when a tailor made double play ball was hit to the Cubs SS. However, he booted it, a run scored, and all hands were safe. Then the Braves hit into ANOTHER double play, but Garcia avoided the tag long enough to let Markakis score. Basically, the Cubs should have gotten out of the inning still tied, but they were instead down 3-1.

That mattered because Jim Johnson botched the 8th inning, giving up 2 runs, and forcing Fredi to go to Vizcaino early. That move I actually applaud, because the game was on the line there. Fredi should have done it in the 8th inning of the prior game. Vizzy put out the fire in the 8th, but then self-destructed in the 9th when he walked Zobrist, then threw the ball by Freddie on a pickoff move that landed Zobrist on 3rd. A single brought him home and tied the game.

But luckily for the Braves, Markakis can still get make timely contact when the game is on the line. His sacrifice fly in the 10th to bring home Castro won the game. Grilli came in for the save in the 10th and gave up a walk but no hits to shut her down.

Next up? The Mets in New York City. The scheduling department did us ZERO favors early on.

Braves lose 6-1
Braves won 4-3 in extras

GO BRAVES!