Thursday, April 27, 2017

Braves finally win, Beat the Mets!

Wow so the long Braves national nightmare is over now that they actually won two games in a row. That's quite the turnaround from losing 6 straight over the last week before they arrived in New York to play the hapless Mets. How bad are the Mets? Well, they've lost 6 in a row, they are 1-9 in their last 10 games, and they are now (thanks to the Braves kicking their behinds) dead last in the NL East. Weren't the Mets supposed to contend for a playoff spot? Welp, too bad because they are 7.5 back of the Nationals, and they play them this weekend. Honestly, the Mets could be double digits back in the division by the end of April. Yikes. Not that I take pleasure in the Mets misfortunes...

HAHAHA, no I totally do take pleasure in their misfortunes, that was a bald-faced lie.

The Braves are 8-12, so it's not like we're a good team either. We're only 4-6 in the last 10, but we're on a two game winning streak heading into a series with Milwaukee. Downside to that series is that the Brewers are the 2nd hottest team in the NL with a 3 game winning streak and a 12-11 record. However, I like our chances against the Brewers and here's why. The Braves are going to see Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson, and Matt Garza as starters. The Braves lineup is hitting OPSs of 1.005, .884, and .620 respectively against those pitchers. I would expect to be very offensively oriented in the first two games, and when the Braves see Garza he'll be going against Folty who has pitched really well. If the Braves can scrape a couple of runs, I don't see why they can't win this series.

The do need to improve a few things of course. First the grounder/fly ball ratio for the Braves is 1.09 which is worst in the majors. Grounders never ever leave the park, and usually aren't a sign of a good AB, so you'll usually find a really high correlation between teams that hit a ton of ground balls, and teams that don't win a ton of games.

Here's the 2016 top grounder teams: Miami, Arizona, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee.

Here's their 2016 win totals: 79, 69, 68, 71, 73. Not a single team went over .500 that topped that list, and not a single team made the playoffs. In fact, in 2016 the Dodgers hit the 9th most grounders and made the playoffs. Everybody 8th or higher was out. And the reason the Dodgers made the playoffs wasn't their offense, they were 14th in the league in runs scored. So you can see how hitting into a ton of grounders long term really kills your offense and your playoff chances.

The other thing the Braves need to improve as a team? They have absolutely no pinch hitting. At some point, GM Coppy is going to have to bring up some young talent to at least try to get a pinch hit, because the Braves are hitting 3/30, which is a .100 average, with only 2 RBIs. Basically the bench is giving you nothing, which is really terrifying because if a regular starter has to sit, you don't really have anybody to drop into a slot. And if you need a key PH with the pitcher coming up, which happens a TON in the NL, you have no good options. I'd like to see another journeyman guy from the minors get a shot in that role rather than Emilio Bonafacio suck on a daily basis.

So that's that. I'll be at a wedding this weekend at the lake, but I'll try to do another Twitter Q&A on Periscope, so if you want to send me your questions for that on Saturday, feel free! Have a great weekend!

GO BRAVES!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

5 minutes of Braves Q&A Week Three

I am trying out a 5 minute Q&A sessions on Twitter so you can follow the link here for the video. Today's questions were on The Prospect Plans and Freddie Freemans lack of RBIs when he hits homers.

Check out @BentheCPA's Tweet: https://twitter.com/BentheCPA/status/855782766713217024?s=01

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Why Dansby Swanson should be batting 8th

Sorry for the delay everyone, I was in Washington DC having fun visiting my girlfriend's family for the first time. And apparently I missed quite the home winning streak. That is until the Nationals came to town and continued their dominance over the Braves. Yeesh. Let's go over what I haven't covered so far.

The Braves had a 2-gamer with a Marlins that they split 1-1, then they came home to their shiny new ballpark and swept the San Diego Padres in a 4-game sweep. They followed that up recently with a 2-loss section against the Nats, the final game still outstanding today. I don't hold high hopes for that one either way. They are 6-8 in the W/L column as of today.

Freddie Freeman is having a career start to the season, batting .440 with .920 slugging and a 1.453 OPS. He's leading MLB in average, and he's tied for 4th in home runs. And yet, with 6 homers to his name in this short season he has exactly 8 RBIs, because nobody in front of him can get on base consistently. Why is that?

Because the top of the order has major issues. Freddie is batting 3rd behind Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson. Brian Snitker is always going to be slow to make changes I believe, because he's an old-school guy like Bobby Cox who wants his players to play through any challenges rather than move them around. I think that mentality needs to go the way of the dodo. In my mind, you look at the season in 16 game chunks. I'm more than willing to give a player 10% of the season to figure something out (that's usually around 2.5 weeks). Then, I'd make a change for the next 10% to see how he responds. It's a marathon of a season, so you don't want to judge a guy on small samples, but moving people around in the order based on production isn't as big of a deal as people make it out to be. And Dansby Swanson has FAR from earned the #2 spot as a birthright when he's still a rookie.

Dansby is currently hitting .131/.159/.197 and his OPS is .355, basically in that small sample he should be batting #8 in the lineup, and not #2. I have no idea why this is taking so long for Snitker to make a change, but eventually he'll have to because Matt Kemp will come back. Inciarte has started to heat up a bit from his bad start, so I have no problem leaving him in the leadoff spot. He's fast, he's good at bunting and making contact, and he's showed some pop with 4 homers already. But I think Brandon Phillips as the veteran is the obvious #2 hitter on the team, not Dansby Swanson. I'd follow him with Freddie, and then Kemp in the cleanup slot when he's back. Here's my ideal lineup right now.

Ender Inciarte - CF
Brandon Phillips - 2B
Freddie Freeman - 1B
Matt Kemp - LF
Nick Markakis - RF
Tyler Flowers - C
Chase d'Arnaud - 3B
Dansby Swanson - SS
Pitcher

Why Chase at third over Adonis Garcia? I don't think Adonis has earned the right to play yet. He's hitting .170 with a .460 OPS and he's started every game. I think it's time to shake that up, because he's not some gold glover 3B we're invested in. He's holding a spot while we're waiting on somebody better. Right now Chase has a .375 average and he's the hotter hand.

Also that lineup balances out your L/R hitters so that you don't have any of your top 5 hitters in a row for reliever easy innings. I think it's logically what Snitker should do, so I'm hoping he comes to that same conclusion if Dansby can't snap out of this funk by the end of the week.

GO BRAVES!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Atlanta Braves Week One Recap

To avoid burnout this year, I'm going to be focusing on the Braves week by week rather than game by game. Why? Because I think this is still a rebuild period so isolating one game at a time will be more frustrating than looking at the positives and negatives of the whole week.

Unfortunately in Week One, the Braves had a record of 1-5 and blew several leads to get there. I can't say I'm upset with the team in general, I'm upset with a lot of different things that went wrong in different ways to lose all those games. Let's take a look at the Good, Bad, and Ugly of Week One.

THE GOOD:
  •  Starting pitching was top 10 in the league. The starters had a combined 2.64 ERA in 6 games across 34.1 innings. Frankly, that's excellent and I can't really demand any more from the starters to help us win games. Except they go exactly zero wins thanks to the rest of the team.
  • Freddie Freeman is raking. Freddie has a 1.085 OPS and he hit 2 homers in the same game this afternoon. The crazy thing is that in the one game the Braves actually won, Freddie went 0-5 with a walk.
  • Nick Markakis is also raking. Nicky Kakes is hitting with a .900+ OPS, two doubles, and a triple. The only thing that's keeping him from the stratosphere is his 9 Ks in one week.  
THE BAD:
  •  The Braves are 10/53 with runners in scoring position. That's a .189 average when a runner is at least on second base or better, and that's around 25th in the majors. It's not a surprise when you're blowing that many chances
  • The Braves have hit into 10 double plays in one week. That's top 3 in the majors in most double plays. That could be ugly, but here's the thing, you have to get a bunch of runners on base in order to hit into double plays. But the Braves did hit into 145 of them last year, which was #3 in the MLB. And they are on pace to do that again.
THE UGLY:
  • The Braves bullpen has a 5.97 ERA through the week. That's bottom 10 in the majors and it's the even worse combined with the next ugly stat.
  • The Braves have committed 7 errors in 6 games. That may be dead last in the majors when the stats all get posted tomorrow, but it's certainly in the bottom two teams if not dead last. What makes it worse is that the errors directly lead to SIX unearned runs. That's an unearned run a game, and that's unacceptable.
  • Brian Snitker is making awful moves. I can forgive a lot of things from a manager, but there's a few things that get my riled up more than anything. One of them is pulling a pitcher who is obviously dealing, and he's under 90 pitches, for a bullpen we all know is questionable. The entire reason the Braves lost the Sunday game against the Pirates is because Snitker yanked Julio Teheran with 87 pitches going into the 8th inning, the pen gave away a 2 run lead, and then eventually lost the game. The pen sucks. Let the starters go deep where we can.
So Week One is pretty much a total bust. Luckily there's like 30 more of these. OK not really but it's dang close because baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. So I'm not going to go bat-blank-crazy over a week, but I'd like to hope we can actually field the ball, catch the ball, and throw the ball next week. Also, for heaven's sake stay out the bullpen or I'm going to start calling it the pigpen.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Braves Opening Day against the Mets

Julio Teheran probably checked the calendar to make sure this was a new year, because that game yesterday probably didn't feel like it. In 2016, Julio barely got any support as he had one of his career best years, but lost game after game to no-decisions due to no offense. Considering the Braves scored a grand total of nothing in game one, I think he's scratching his head yet again this morning.

Three things went really wrong in that game, and those three things added up to one big 6-0 loss to the Mets. Let's recap those 3 things in order of least important to most important.
  1. Tyler Flowers didn't get the tag down on a lazer throw to the plate by Ender Inciarte that would have kept the game tied at 0-0. The reason he didn't get the tag down in time is because he was incorrectly positioned behind the plate instead of in front of it.
  2. The bullpen imploded for 6 runs. In a move that you better get used to as a Braves fan (because I warned you that we haven't solved the issue in my Bold Predictions) Krol, Roe, and EOF all got lit up for 6 earned runs in a single inning, with 4 walks and a wild pitch. They simply couldn't command the ball at all, and that's not great for relievers. You really only have one job as a reliever, and that's throw enough strikes to either get some timely K's or use your defense to get outs behind you. Nothing will ruin a game faster than late inning reliever walks. Case in point.
  3. Matt Kemp was a trainwreck. It's one game so I'm not going to jump on Kemp too hard, but he's absolutely the reason the Braves didn't score in this game, and it's likely the reason that we had to yank Teheran early for the pen. TWICE, Kemp had a runner on third with one out and couldn't even put the ball in play. You can't have strikeouts in those scenarios in a tie game and expect to win. That's just giving runs away. And we gave away at least a 2-0 lead on the Mets that would have changed the complexion of the game.
So that's the end result of game one. Like I said, don't panic over one game, other than the fact the bullpen is still really bad and we're going to need starters to go at least into the 7th inning to have much of a chance. If we're putting in the pen starting in the 6th inning? You can likely turn off the game unless we have a 6 run lead. And maybe not even then. They need to get much better much quicker, or we need to get Coppy to fix the issue with some younger talent by May.

GO BRAVES!