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!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Is Freddie Freeman worth $20M+ a year?

Freddie Freeman is signed through 2021, this year making around $12M for the 2016 season. His contract is back-loaded for the remaining 5 years to coincide with the opening of SunTrust Park and the subsequent income that such a park provides. But Freddie is currently suffering through his worst season ever in his career, he's had issues with a wrist injury that's never had surgery or been fully explained, and by all media accounts he's never going to volunteer to be a leader on this team. The question we must ask as Braves fan in all fairness is if Freddie Freeman is a $110M+ player going forward over the next 5 years?

Freddie is without a doubt the biggest fan favorite on this team, so I realize when I ask these kinds of questions many of you won't think rationally about the issue. You love Freddie and don't want to hear about the issues. You fully expect that he will bounce back from his downswing this year, and that the writers who bring this up are just ridiculous haters. I totally get that. I'm not here to say Freddie will or won't bounce back. I'm simply asking the question of where he is as a player with the Braves, and what his contract says he should be by comparison to others in the market.

Based on other people's analysis of WAR calculations over at Fangraphs, they would say that in today's market that one point on the WAR scale would be worth about $5-7M a year in contract value. Whether or not you agree with how WAR is calculated can sort of play into this math, I personally think it overrates some defensive statistics, but let's just say that across the board I think the analysis is good to provide a dollar value baseline for looking at contracts. You can find the article here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-cost-of-a-win-in-the-2014-off-season/

Historically let's also look at some of the highest paid first baseman in history. I'll pick names like Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeria, Todd Helton, and Carlos Delgado. These men made ridiculous amounts of money at the time they played, and were considered at the time among the best at their position. I wanted to give you an idea of how they look at a context for the rest of the piece. Here's their numbers according to Baseball Reference:

Albert Pujols - $179M paid, $165M remaining, $344M total. Currently 99.9 WAR w/ 6 seasons left
Ryan Howard - $155M paid, $35M remaining, $190M total. Currently 14.9 WAR, w/ 2 seasons left
Mark Teixeria - $190M paid, $23M remaining, $213M total. Currently 51.8 WAR, w/ 1 season left
Todd Helton - $161M paid, no money remaining as he's retired, 61.2 WAR career
Carlos Delgado - $146M paid, no money remaining as he's retired, 44.3 WAR career

Obviously, all of these guys except for Ryan Howard are in Hall of Fame discussion, with Pujols being an absolute lock. If you looked at them by today's standard of even $5M per WAR, the Pujols career earnings would be a steal, coming out ahead by almost $150M, and that's even if he sucks for the next 6 years. Also by comparison, even if Ryan Howard made $7M per WAR, he'll never come close to what he was paid, as he's short of his career values by almost $85M right now. The rest of these guys all outperformed their contracts, even if they were the highest paid athletes at the time.

It's also a HUGE indication of inflation in contracts because these guys made gigantic money back when they signed these deals. Contracts today are even bigger. By Comparison That's the one of the things I wanted to show you. If you look at the contracts today, total MLB payroll was ~$3.625 billion for the year. Ten years ago in 2006, the total payroll was $2.325 billion. That's an inflation of 56% over the span of a decade.

Another important thing to note with guys like Pujols is timing. He signed most of his huge deal late in his career when he had already produced his best baseball. He was a supreme bargain for years, and now if you took the production for the remainder of his contract, he's a gigantic drag on the team. But over averages, the Cardinals came out WAY ahead on his deal no matter how you slice it up, if you remove the 10-year $10M per year personal services part of his contract he gets when he retires. MLB no longer allows deals like that, and he's the reason why.

Now let's look at the best qualified first basemen from 2011 up to right now. That would encompass all of Freddie Freeman's career except the few ABs he got in 2010, which was almost nothing. Here's a list of the current best in 1B listings by WAR from Fangraphs:

Miguel Cabrera 31.4
Joey Votto 27.2
Paul Goldshmidt 23.6
Adrian Gonzalez 19.3
Edward Encarnacion 17.3
Anthony Rizzo 16.1
Chris Davis 16.0
Carlos Santana 15.7
Freddie Freeman 15.6
Mike Napoli 14.8

Right now Freddie Freeman is 9th on that WAR list by position. He's played 5.5 seasons, and he's at 15.6 WAR, which is about 2.84 WAR per season. Looking at the $5-7M mark he should be worth on average about $14.2M to $19.88M a year depending on highs and lows. He's set to make $20.5M next season and $118.5M total over the next 5 years.

By the current views of his contract (he's making $12M a year and has made $27.6M total at the end of this year) he's a freaking bargain. The question is based on his total contract value of $133.50M until 2021, will he produce enough WAR to provide equal or better value?

With his value at 15.6 WAR right now, if I take an average of $6M a year needed for a per WAR point, Freddie would only need to produce 6.7 WAR over his next 5 seasons to reach the average total career expected for his earnings. But that's not exactly how it looks due to timing right? Because he's due $106.5M over the next 5 years, and to produce under those terms without looking at his prior WAR, Freddie would need to get 17.8 WAR, or almost 3.5 WAR a year. He has only produced 3.5 WAR twice in his career, in 2013-14.

Again, you can see by the timing expectations of when the money actually comes in how fans view the contracts. On the whole for all of the service involved, it may look fine. But when taken on a year by year basis for actual earnings? It may look horrible (like Pujols).

Freddie should also be judged by the contracts of his peers and their performance. After all, the MLB is a pretty small fraternity of players at each position, and the players currently define the contract value not their comparison to players of old. It's simple supply and demand. Take Joey Votto as an example. He's got a contract that's even longer than Freeman's (Joey is due $20M this year and $172M after that for a total of $253M in his career) and since he's older this was his last contract ever.

Freeman will get one more most likely. Looking at Joey's 27.2 WAR, he's already made $163M of his contract before he sets foot on the field today, but he would still have to make 15 WAR more over the rest of his career to make that contract work. Will he do just that? He's 32 and sitting at 0.7 this year on Fangraphs. I'm not sure. I certainly like the odds of Freeman getting to 6.7 WAR over 5 years much better (but fans wouldn't given that's not the production the Braves are hoping for).

The long and short of the question is that yes, I believe Freddie Freeman is worth the contract unless he completely goes into the tank or gets into serious injuries like Ryan Howard. That's what really turned Howard's questionable long term deal into a horrible disaster. But Freeman is only 26 and will still have some earning power ahead of him in 2021 when he's just into his 30s. And in the meantime, I think the Braves will reap some of those rewards from him, as long as he can maintain at least 2.5 average WAR a year pace minimum in my eyes. It all balances out in the end with the money.

GO BRAVES!

Game 2-3: Braves v Padres June 7-8, 2016

Braves and Padres played the last two games of this series in wildly different fashion, and because the Braves won the 3rd and final game of this series, breaking the 12 game losing streak we had in San Diego, I'll focus on that one more than the loss.

Game 2 was your average, run of the mill blown save in the 9th. Vizzy came on in the 9th inning with a 1 run lead, and immediately gave up the tying homer to Derek Norris, before imploding even further with a walk, a wild pitch, and two more hits that eventually plated the winning walk-off run. The Braves pitched well enough in the game to win with Blair only going 4.1 innings and 2 earned runs, but I'm still very concerned about his ability to go deeper into games long-term. He's a young guy and he's already getting gassed in games with 86 pitches? He hasn't pitched well enough to be that fragile, or command that kind of bubble wrap treatment.

Game 3 was the game where the Braves had the lead wire to wire. Julio was great again with 8 innings and 2 earned runs on 2 homers. That's Julio's only problem as I've said before, the homers. Luckily they were both solo shots and the Braves plated 4 runs of their own, courtesy of Freeman, Markakis, d'Arnaud, and Teheran himself. All had great RBI hits in a game where the Braves had a small village stranded on base. How many stranded runners? Try 13, and the Braves had 14 hits and 3 walks. It was insane at one point how they weren't winning by 8 runs, but they went 3-14 with RISP, which is becoming an ever increasing problem with the lineup. They've fallen now to a .236 average with RISP which is 24th in the MLB.

Overall I'm just happy we didn't get skunked on the West Coast, which is a pretty low bar. But that's the bar we walk up to nightly and order shots of sadness from. And occasionally you get a fireball. And you like it. Hell, we're all just looking for a few bright spots right now, so we'll savor Wednesday night for two more days until the Braves take on the Cubs this weekend.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Braves traded Kelly Johnson AGAIN for Akeel Morris

The Braves dealt Kelly Johnson back to the Mets for the second time in the last two years. It was the third time the Braves had Kelly Johnson on the roster since 2009 when they non-tendered him as a free agent. But still, it's humorous to me the Mets came back to the Braves after releasing him in the offseason, and then made another trade for him again.

In return the Braves get Akeel Morris, and you can guess what position he plays. That's right he's another pitcher. We're going to play the roulette game with pitching prospects until one of them pays off. Morris has a 3.46 ERA in AA ball, he's a starting pitcher who is a righty, and he's probably 1-2 more years away from getting a shot in the big leagues at age 23. Maybe sooner with these Braves, who know?

Akeel is out of the Virgin Islands, and he went into the minors at age 17 with the Mets organization, drafted in the 10th round. Around 6'1" almost 200 pounds, he's not too tall, not too heavy, he's just right for a pitcher build in the Braves organization. According to the scouting report he has an over the top delivery with a fastball that can get up to 95 mph, and he pairs that with a changeup that's very good around 80 mph. He's been working on some breaking stuff, but it's nothing special yet, and he probably needs to develop that third pitch fully to be a true starter at the MLB level.

All in all it seems like something for nothing to me. Kelly wasn't part of the long term plan, and we honestly won't miss him in the middle of this toxic dump going on the West Coast swing. So, good luck to Kelly now that he's headed to a contender. I wish him well without wishing the Mets any kind of success. Because I don't like the Mets.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Game 1: Braves v Padres 6/6/16

The Braves lost 7-2, and Perez left the game with some sort of forearm problem. We're 0-4 on the road trip, and I honestly don't see it getting much better until we leave the West coast. I found out today we've lost 11 straight games in San Diego. That seems impossible. San Diego is just as bad if not worse than our team over the last 4 years. Still, apparently that's the stat. Seems fitting.

So what went wrong? The Braves had 9 hits, but only plated 2 runs thanks to YE OLDE RISP hitting at 1-for-8 on the night, and Freddie Freeman went 0-4 with 3 Ks. The starting pitcher, Williams Perez, got roughed up for 6 runs in 4.1 innings before leaving with the soreness (arm not butt), and the bullpen held it together pretty well for only 1 more run in the remainder of the game. But giving up 7 runs to San Diego? Apparently we aren't the only ones, because SD has scored 7+ this season 11 times. That's a lot. By comparison the Braves have scored 7+ runs only 5 times.

Also, fun stat (FUN is subjective and actually means totally laughably awful in this particular usage of the English language, please consult a doctor before using FUN) the Braves are on pace to have 502 runs on the season. That would be almost 50 runs worse than their 1988 season, where the team only won 54 games. Let that sink in like a nice Tabasco sauce to the eyeballs.

What else? Chase d'Arnaud is a lone bright spot lately in that he doesn't suck. Chase is hitting .333 on his limited seasons with an OPS of .838, and that means we finally have an active position player over .800 in OPS on the team (Gordon Beckham is the other one but he's on the DL right now).

Let's hope we fare better tonight against the Padres. Who's pitching? Oh it's Aaron Blair. Ehhhh, you'll need to score 8 tonight fellas. Go get em!

GO BRAVES!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Series Preview: Braves v Padres June 6-8, 2016

The Padres are 23-35
The Braves are 16-40

I could leave it at that, point out 2 of the games start at 10PM Eastern time, and call it a day. Alas, I have my integrity to at least give you the full monty you came here to see in a regular preview. No, not that full monty, you dirty birds. Getcha minds out of the gutter. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Perez v. Friedrich
Game 2 - Blair v. Rea
Game 3 - Teheran v. Pomeranz

I've heard of one of these guys, and that's Pomeranz. I knew next to nothing about them as pitchers (probably like most of you) so I did some look at the scouting reports. Christian Friedrich is a 3 year vet out of Eastern Kentucky university, he's a tall 6'4" lefty that used to pitch for the Rockies. Oddly he was claimed off waivers by the Angels, but sent BACK to the Rockies over an undisclosed medical issue, and the Rockies released him outright. The Padres then picked him up in the offseason on a minor league deal and promoted him to the MLB level in May.

Friedrich has only pitched in 4 games this year, 21.1 innings with a 2.53 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP. The ERA and the WHIP are wildly out of whack, because for that many baserunners you'd expect a guy to get dinged more with runs. But the issue for Friedrich is that he's extremely wild. In those 4 games he already has 14 walks to 15 strikeouts. That kind of ratio is impossible to win with long term. This guy is begging to get lit up at some point, and the only reason he hasn't so far is he's played strugglebus teams like Arizona and Milwaukee. Oh and us next. We're certainly struggling.

Friedrich was a first round pick in 2008, which is kind of shocking because those picks usually pan out well. He hasn't. Elbow issues plagued him in the minors. He's got a low 90s fastball, with a curve and slider combo, in addition to changeup. Right now he's throwing none of them in the zone effectively, but he is managing to get hitters out when he needs to. If I'm scouting the guy, I'm telling my hitters to be extremely patient as this guy is all over the place, and let him make a mistake with a hanging pitch you can golf into next week.

Colin Rea is in his second season for the Padres, with a 4.85 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. He's also a little wild with 23 walks in 55 innings, but he has 39 Ks to go along with it, so the potential for strikeout stuff is there to get him out of innings. However, his last four outings have been pretty awful with a combined 15 earned runs in almost 20 innings. He throws a 91-93 mph fastball with a changeup and cutter combination. He's also pretty tall as well at 6'5", so you'd expect him to have a little more of a power pitching game, but his homer rate has gone way up this year 1.0 per 9 innings, and his walks have been an issue while his strikeouts have decreased. Then again, he's facing Aaron Blair who is ANYTHING but consistent lately, so this game could get ugly in an infinite amount of ways.

Drew Pomeranz is a 5 year vet out of Ole Miss that the Braves oddly only faced once back in 2012. He's easily the Padres best starter with his 2.22 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, and he's ANOTHER tall lefty at 6'5" that can throw hard for strikeouts. It's like the Padres don't want any pitchers under 6'3" on their roster. Geez, you freaking heightists. Anyway Drew's going to live around 92 mph on his fastball which he'll throw about half the time. But the real key for Pomeranz is the use of his curve this year, which he's throwing at at rate of about 40%. That's pretty often for a curveball. And the Braves should definitely be on the looking for that pitch when he's got them in 2-strike counts.

CPA Predictions:

The CPA went 2-1 this weekend and only lost because it thought the Braves would win game 3. Hahaha, no. We got smoked for 12 runs. Can't predict that. Anyway, it's 24-26 on the season and catching back up to .500 ball. Let's get em this weekend.

Game 1 - Padres by 2
Game 2 - Padres by 3
Game 3 - Padres by 1

Yeah the CPA thinks we're getting swept on the road trip. That's cheery news. I won't stay up late enough to watch the ends of these games, so I can hope it goes better, but to be honest I'm just waiting for them to come back home so we can get games at a decent hour again.

GO BRAVES!

Game 2-3: Braves v Dodgers June 4-5, 2016

The Braves got swept this weekend in LA, mostly because they couldn't hit, and in the last game when they did actually hit, they couldn't pitch. The bicycle rolling down the road covered in duck tape analogy has never been more apt. If anything starts working on this team, you can bet something else will break. It's just the way of the world this year in the rebuild, and I'm mostly numb to it. Especially on the west coast where I can barely stay up to watch the games.

Clayton Kershaw went for 6 shutout innings on Saturday, which everyone and their dog knew was coming. In fact, I expected worse, but the LA bullpen helped shut the door on a combined shutout of the Braves. On Sunday, the Braves scored 6 runs, but the pitching was so awful they gave up 12 to the Dodgers and lost. That's the game that leaves me scratching my head, because Wisler is supposed to be better than that, and unfortunately in this case he gave up 8 runs. Ugh, it was awful.

What else can I tell you about this series? Markakis actually had some hits in game 3, when he managed 3 singles and went 2-2 with RISP. Maybe he's showing some signs of life? That would be nice because having him hit under. 160 for the entire month of May was ridiculous. Garcia also had 3 hits and 2 RBIs in the series, so I'm actually pleased with his hitting so far coming back off his stint in AAA. Some random guy on the team named Brandon Snyder had a homer in Game 3, so I'll have to look up who he is like most of you. Also, Chase d'Arnaud has been hitting well on the week, with a couple of doubles. Overall, I'm liking the way several of the guys are performing at the beginning of June.

Then there's Freddie Freeman who continues to be off and on. He's way off on the week with a .174 average, but he does have a homer. Tyler Flowers is hitting .133 on the week. Kelly Johnson is hitting .176, Beckham was hitting .100 before he went on the DL again, and Ender is hitting .077 on the week. JUST AWFUL. Too many people in the lineup hitting sub-Mendoza is absolute poison for this team. And it's not like we're coming back to the East coast next. Nope, we're still out there on horrible West Coast time for San Diego. They are also terrible, but it's not like that matters when the Braves are hitting like they are hitting. We need to get the bats going out west, or it's going to be an 0-6 trip.

GO BRAVES!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Game 1: Braves v Dodgers 6/3/16

The Braves took an early lead last night 2-0, but couldn't hold on down the stretch as the Dodgers caught up and passed them thanks to the long ball. How many long balls? Try four solo shots that gave the Dodgers the 4-2 win. If the Braves could just have kept them in the ballpark they would have been fine. And yet, here we are.

I've isolated one major problem with Julio, even when he's on his game, and he's on his game right now. It's probably the problem you've noticed too. Take a guess? Yep, that's right, it's the home runs. Just check out Julio's HR/9 rate, and it's about 1.2 this year. That means in a 9 inning period, he's giving up an average of 1.2 homers. That's basically a homer per start, and that's pretty bad compared to other pitchers. Right now Julio's given up 10 homers, which ties him for 23rd most in the league with qualified pitchers. Yikes.

That being said, the Braves can't just score 2 runs in the first two innings and then take their foot off the gas. That's hardly ever going to work with this pitching staff, and certainly not against the better opponents in the NL. Atlanta only managed 7 hits in the game, and their RISP rate of 3-7 was pretty good for the game. But we need three things to win. The starters has to have a quality start (Julio ALMOST did with 5.2 innings and 3 earned runs), the bullpen has to do well (they gave up a homer late), and Freddie Freeman has to hit well (we was 0-2 with 2 walks and a run). It just wasn't enough. Not terrible, but not totally what we needed.

The most frustrating part? The Dodgers only had 5 hits. And 4 of them were homers. Any other day, I think if you hold a team to 5 hits, you've got a chance to win. But 80% of your hits can't be homers. That's like, impossible man. How did they even do that? I went to sleep after Julio gave up the first one because I just figured it wasn't going to be a no-hitter (which he had to the 4th inning) and I had to move the next day. I'm actually typing this as the movers get stuff out of the house. Georgia Pack and Load, folks. They do it all, boxed it all up, and sent it to storage for me. I touched nothing after I picked up the trash and personal papers I had around the house. So they get a small plug here. And they sponsor stuff on 680 the Fan if you're a listener like I am.

Okay, so tonight is Kershaw and...yeah it's Bud Norris. I'll likely watch 2 innings to see how much blood gets spilled and call it a night again. I hate west coast start times. I have church and stuff.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Series Preview: Braves v Dodgers June 3-5, 2016

I hate the West Coast swings where the games start at 10PM. The only upside to this weekend is that it's the weekend, so I can stay up a little later to watch. When it's on a weekday, I don't even bother anymore. Because I'm old and I like sleep. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Teheran v. Maeda
Game 2 - Foltynewicz v. Kershaw
Game 3 - Wisler v. Kazmir

We're far enough into the season for you to realize as fans that this is the strongest part of our rotation going this week. If I could name 3 guys I'd carry into a playoff 5 game series (AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH, no not this season) it would be Julio, Folty, and Wisler. And yet, they face the top 3 starters in the Dodgers rotation, including the #1 overall pitcher in all the land.

Kenta Maeda is a first year MLB rookie from Japan at 28 years old, who pitched over 1,500 innings there, and subsequently came over to the Dodgers this season when they lost Greinke to Arizona in free agency. The Dodgers also needed a RH pitcher to round out a lefty heavy starting rotation. Maeda has three pitches according to scouting reports: a fastball in the low 90s with some decent movement, a slider that he uses to ring up batters, and apparently he worked on a change-up but I'm not sure how much he's throwing it. Maeda has a 3.00 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP so far in the season, and his command is probably his strongest asset as a pitcher. His BB/K rate is 17/51, which is very favorable for a rookie. Interestingly, he's much better on the road than at home, where he sports an ERA over 4.00, so maybe the Braves catching him in Chavez Ravine is a boon.

If I need to give you a scouting report on Kershaw, you either hate baseball outside the Braves, never turn on ESPN, or you go to bed before 8PM during the week. Nonetheless, he's the number one pitcher in baseball by far this season. He's a dominant lefty with 3 complete game shutouts, one loss on the season in 11 starts, an ERA of 1.65, a WHIP of 0.65, 105 strikeouts in 86 innings, and only 5 walks. He's given up 4 homers all year, and his opposing average is a paltry .169. He's only got one more walk than homers. He's also a unicorn that shoots lightning from his eyes, and firebolts from his arse.

Scott Kazmir is by far the worst pitcher the Braves will see this weekend, but that's not saying much. With a 4.38 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, and a BB/K rate of 23/66, Kazmir's main problem seems to be his command. He'll walk as many as 7 in a game this year, so you can give this guy just enough rope and he might hang himself out there. The downside is that in his 11 year career, not many guys on the Braves have seen him, and he's a lefty which seems to give many of our hitters issues. The upside is that Nick Markakis RAKES against this guy at a .423 average in 26 ABs, with 2 homers. The other downside is that Nick sucks right now. So who knows?

CPA Predictions:

I didn't pick the SF series because I was out of town when that started. So the CPA is...22-25 this year. Yeah, not great. Let's see what we got for this series on the road.

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

At least it's not a sweep.

GO BRAVES!

Game 3-4: Braves v Pirates June 1-2, 2016

These two games were like A Tale of Two Cities. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I was in the stadium on Wednesday night for the best of times when the Braves came back to win in the 11th inning on a Freddie Freeman walk off homer. I listend on the radio for the worst of times as the Braves lost 6-0 on a one inning onslaught of walks and homers that knocked Aaron Blair out of the game, including a Madison Bumgarner home run. Yeah, the pitcher.

One of the things I really liked about the game I saw Wednesday night was how the pretty solid defense. Yes, I said solid defense and the Braves in the same sentence. Feel free to take your jaw off the floor. Sure we had an error, but even Adonis Garcia was making some pretty awesome diving plays and throws, which shows me that he learned in AAA he can't just be a bat at the MLB level. You have to have a glove too. Plus the Braves scored the tying run on a wild pitch in the 9th by the Giants, so we took advantage of their mistakes for once.

The day game was a whitewash so I don't need to really cover it much. Nothing happened except for one inning. Here's how it went for the Giants in the 5th inning. Walk, homer, Walk, homer, hit by pitch, homer, and Blair gets yanked. That was the entirety of the offense for the game. If you watched it, and judging by attendance you didn't, the game had about 10 minutes of action surrounded by 2 hours and 40 minutes of nothing.

Back to the winning game, I can honestly say it was the most fun I'd had in the TED in a long time. It looked hopeless early as the Braves went down 2-0 on a Belt homer, but they rallied it back to 2-1, then lost ground to 4-1, and I expected it would be another big loss. However, Mallex Smith came up with the hit of the game, a 6th inning RBI triple that COULD have been an inside the park homer if Bo Porter had sent him to the plate. He would later score anyway on a sacrifice, making it 4-3. The tie came on the wild pitch in the 9th, the win on the Freeman homer in the 11th.

But lost in the shuffle was the great hitting by Chase d'Arnaud in a PH scenario, going 2-3 with a run scored. And even bigger than that was the bullpen giving the Braves 5.1 innings of shutout baseball. That was the difference in keeping the game within striking distance for the 9th inning luck, and just getting blown out. The bullpen was phenomenal in this series going 15.1 innings and only giving up 2 earned runs. That's the kind of bullpen we'll need later on in the rebuild to be successful. If the starters can get this stuff together, and the hitters can score 4+ a game (BIG IF) then the Braves could actually start winning this year. I can dream.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Game 2: Braves v Pirates 5/31/16

Yeah I debated if I even wanted to cover this game on the recap. So I'll just say this with little fanfare. The Braves got one hit. Yes, one hit. Now it's possible in some strange version of baseball that you can win a game with one hit. The last time that happened was when the A's beat the Rays 3-2 with one hit, mostly due to walks and errors. It's happened 5 times this decade. The rest of the time you lose. So you've learned something. Get more than one hit to win 99.9% of the time.

Wisler was good. He got punished in the 8th inning because he'd only given up one run, and he was allowed to keep pitching, but he was yanked with 2 runners on, and the stupid bullpen allowed both of those runners to score. So Wisler went from a possible 1-run outing to a 7 inning, 3 run outing. Still a Quality Start by the statistics, but hardly what Wisler was hoping for. However, with the way the Braves were hitting, the one run he gave up was enough to earn the loss. Because the run support around here sucks. How bad does it suck? Let's look at the run support stats for the starter on this team.

172 pitchers have pitched 20 innings or more so far this season here's how the Braves pitchers rank:

168th - Julio Teheran 2.18 runs per game
164th - Matt Wisler 2.50 runs per game
145th - Mike Foltynewicz 3.00 runs per game
121st - Bud Norris 3.60 runs per game
96th - Jhoulys Chacin 4.00 runs per game (we traded him)
92nd - Aaron Blair 4.17 runs per game
34th - Williams Perez 5.29 runs per game

Blair and Perez are getting the most run support on the team. You know how many wins they have? 2 wins, both by Perez. Blair has ZERO. That goes to show you how badly Blair has been pitching, because the Braves are only 1-5 in his starts despite averaging 4.17 runs of support for the kid. If Julio and Wisler had that kind of support, the Braves would have 7 more wins mostly likely. Which would be a heck of a lot better than the win total we have now of 15 total.

Get these good pitcher some more runs. Anything under 3.50 a game is freaking paltry.

GO BRAVES!