Friday, March 29, 2019

Braves drop opener, give up 10 runs

Well, that could have gone better. I wish I wasn't right about the bullpen looking awful, but in the first game of the year...well the bullpen looked awful. Granted it's one game, and I'm far from throwing in the towel and giving up on life because we lost 1 of 162. I also know we lost the first game of the year in 2018 and ended up in the playoffs.

That being said, the Phillies showed very quickly what they did to improve this year, and that's on the offensive side of the ball. Yes, in a 10-4 loss there's a lot to unpack, but the main thing I noticed was our pitching did not seem up to the task against the offensive power that the Phillies put together. To make matters worse, the Braves defense had a terrible game and kept giving that good Phillies lineup extra outs.

Julio Teheran went for 5 innings in the game, giving up 3 earned runs. His main issue is yet again giving up homers in the first inning, and then not being able to lock down innings with two outs. Julio gave up a homer to the first batter, Andrew McCutchen (yep that's one of the Phillies off-season signings this year), and immediately put the Braves in a hole 1-0. In the 4rd after we'd tied the game with an Markakis RBI, he managed to get 2 Ks with a runner on third and could have put the inning away with no damage.

Instead he walked a guy, and gave up two singles that scored two runs. Down 3-1, the Braves weren't really in a good spot, but it was still manageable. That is until Shane Carle took the mound in the 6th and proceeded to have a 2 walk, one 3-run homer disaster in his short outing.

At 6-1, the game was effectively over, but the Braves drew it to 6-3 on a Matt Joyce homer. Never heard of Matt Joyce? Me either. Apparently he's a 34 year old mostly AL journeyman guy we picked up from the Giants, who picked him up on a minor league deal after he was released by Cleveland. Dude was in Cleveland and was told politely to leave. That has to hurt. Still nice to see a relative no-name guy smash a homer for his new team.

That 6-3 warm fuzzy ended quickly when Luke Jackson came in for relief in the 7th. Two walks, and a hit later, the bases were juiced for Rhys Hoskins the Phillies cleanup hitter. He proceeded to belt a 380 Grandest of all Slams into the seats and the Braves found themselves down 10-3.

Luke Jackson is not good. He's got over 100 innings of relief and 90 something game appearances and his ERA is around 5.50. I've seen enough of him to know he's not a long term answer in the pen, and yet he's still on this MLB roster. I have no idea what Alex Anthopoulos is thinking with him, but if you want to figure out if he can play in the majors? The answer is no. He's 27 and getting lit up. He's not some young prospect trying to figure it all out. Let's move on and find better options.

But again, it's one game. I'm not going to freak out other than continually pointing out that Julio is bad and Luke Jackson doesn't need to be on this roster. Those things are facts. Fight me.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Braves Roster and Bold Predictions 2019

Alright we're one day away from real baseball. The Braves are headed to Philly to open up the season, and that means we're ready to who will be taking the field for the Braves this year. Here's what we know:

Catchers - Brian McCann and Tyler Flowers
Infield - Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, Josh Donaldson, Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson
Outfield - Ronald Acuna, Charlie Culberson, Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis

So if you're keeping score, you'll see that a grand total of not much changed from 2018 to 2019. We added Donaldson and McCann, we lost Kurt Suzuki and sent Adam Duvall to the minors where he belongs right now. Also we released Ryan Flaherty who had a lot of ABs off the bench in 2018.

Where does that leave us with pitching? Well, according to the Braves depth chart we have seven possible starters right now:

Starters - Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb, Kevin Gausman, Julio Teheran, Brice Wilson, Kyle Wright, and Max Fried.

The reason we have seven guys is that Folty and Gausman are currently injured so the actually starting five won't include them for the opening weekend and subsequent Cubs series.

Bullpen - Vizcaino, Minter, Venters, Sobodka, Biddle, Winkler, Carle, and Jackson.

Obviously when Folty and Gausman come back, Wilson and Wright likely go to the pen. Then we'll see after a month who gets to start games or who is healthy. One thing I know for sure, you can never have enough starters up in the big leagues. They are all made out of balsa wood in my opinion, so if you think you'll have one play the entire season, don't bet on it.

On to the BOLD PREDICTIONS! Let's go

  1. The Bullpen is still a problem - We've got a bunch of young guys who will be taking over positions that were occupied either by cheap older guys, or younger guys who couldn't hack it. I don't expect this to be a strong point for our organization.
  2. The Braves WON'T sign Craig Kimbrel - Craig wants a bunch of money, and we're a day away from the start of the season. I don't think he's coming to town and I don't think the Braves need him honestly. The problem for the bullpen isn't the 9th inning, it's innings 6-8. Doesn't matter if we get to the 9th down 3 runs whether we have Craig or not.
  3. Markakis will be a disaster late and get benched in August - I want Nick to succeed, but we barely wanted him around enough to be a stop-gap cheap option in RF. Nick will be fine for 2 months, and look very good. Then the wheels will come off at the All-Star break. He hit .877 OPS in the first half of 2018, and .701 in the second half. He's 35 years old. He's making $6M and is an easy person to sideline if we're in a playoff run at the end of the year and need a bat. Father time will get him this year.
  4. Max Fried will emerge as a regular starter - Fried has the makings of a guy who has figured things out in spring training, and he'll be competing with his fellow young arms for a real shot at a starting spot this year. I think the 15 innings we saw of him in training with a 2.35 ERA tells me a little, but the fact he had only 5 BBs to 16 Ks tells me a lot more about his control.
  5. Julio Teheran will get released or traded - This is Julio's last year on his deal, and as you well know he's terrible and he will continue to be terrible into this season. Assuming ANYBODY else shows up with a pulse that can keep the ball in the ballpark? They should take his starting spot, and the Braves will have no problem dumping off his small amount of money if they don't need him for a playoff run.
  6. Ronald Acuna will post better numbers than Bryce Harper - Acuna is the real deal, a young future superstar in the making, and if he can stay healthy I think he'll eclipse the numbers posted by Bryce, who will be feeling fat and happy under his new contract in Philly. Think I'm crazy? In 2018 Acuna was better than Bryce in OPS, Slugging, and Average. He also didn't play in about 48 less games. If they both play full seasons, I'm convinced Acuna is the better player right now.
  7. We're going to have issues at catcher - Brian McCann is old. So is Tyler Flowers. Neither guy is exactly in the stage of life where they can swing the bat well, and I'm not sure Tyler Flowers could throw me out if I was stealing second base. His Caught Stealing % last year was 23%, the league average last year was about 28%. I'd be running all day on Flowers, and he's likely to get most of the starts since he's the younger of the two.
  8. Braves Home Record will dramatically improve - In a weird anomaly last year the Braves were an amazing road team and an very mediocre home team. Second year in a new stadium may have taken some of the shine off the home field advantage, but bigger than that I think our lack of power really made SunTrust Park one of the worst home run parks in baseball (it was 27th according to ESPN). The addition of Donaldson, a full year of Acuna, and Freddie Freeman getting protection I think helps that.
  9. Braves will hit 200 or more homers - We hit 175 last year, and for the reasons I listed in #8 I think we'll crest the 200 homer club in 2019
  10. The Braves will win under 90 games - Vegas put the number at 90, and I'm going under. I'm not bullish on this year at all because I don't think we did enough in the off-season to secure a team that can compete with Philly and the Mets in the pitching department. It will be VERY tough to win the division again with a bunch of younger players, and despite signing Donaldson, the Braves spent next to nothing (when they said there WERE going to spend money and basically lied) to improve our playoff positions. When everyone else gets better and we basically stand pat I don't have a lot of confidence we can win the division. However, I do think we can win 86-88 games, which might be enough to get us into a Wild Card position. In 2017, that would have been good enough, in 2018 it wouldn't have been close at all. We'll see how this thing unfolds.
I'm excited about this season, but I'd be lying to you if I didn't feel like the ownership has screwed us over here on having a chance to go for a title. We were promised big things with the opening of the Battery and the new revenues. Right now we're projected to be 21st in opening day payroll at $111M total, which is actually less than the $112M we opened SunTrust park with back in 2017. Go figure. However, that won't stop me from watching, cheering, and hoping we can become one of those lower spending teams that make a run like the Houston Astros.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

2019 Braves Potential Lineup

I listened to an interview on 680 the Fan this morning here in Atlanta, and the Front Row Show had Brian Snitker on to talk about the team. One of the most interesting discussion points was Ronald Acuna, and how impressive he is coming off his rookie season. So impressive, in fact, that Brian Snitker said he's planning to bat him in clean-up spot for opening day.

I tried to remember the last time a Braves player went from his rookie year to batting clean-up for the team. The one that immediately jumped to mind was David Justice, who in 1990 after his rookie year hit in the 4th slot in many of his games (42), but he also batted 5th and 6th quite a bit that year. That may not be the most recent one, but it was certainly the name I though of easily.

The conversation got me thinking. If I'm Brian Snitker, how would I set the lineup today?

Here's my thoughts of who to put where, and why.

  1. Ender Inciarte/Ozzie Albies - Of the 4 guys who have some speed, Ender has the best on-base percentage with the lowest slugging. He's not going to be a home run hitter, but he can get to first and possibly stretch that into a double while driving the pitcher crazy on the bags. Ozzie can go here against Left handed pitching, which I'll explain later on.
  2. Josh Donaldson - This is where he wants to hit, and in his last full season he hit 33 homers with .560 slugging. I want him to get as many ABs this year as we can for his $23M
  3. Freddie Freeman - That's his spot, fight him.
  4. Ronald Acuna - He had highest OPS on the team, and he was a rookie last year. I think this is the perfect spot for him to have his 26 homers he hit in a shortened 2018 season to turn into a lot more 2 and 3 run homers.
  5. Nick Markakis/Ozzie Albies - I want a guy who can hit for higher average here, and drive in the runners with possibly 2 outs. Nick is the best contact hitter we have on the team (who also has no speed and thus won't hit lead-off), and his .308 average and 35 RBIs with 2 outs really put a dagger in teams psychologically. When you can score runs instead of ending up with nothing for an inning, that's a big swing in every game. Case in point, the 2018 World Champion Red Sox were TERRORS with 2 outs, and that made a big difference in why they won the title. I've put Ozzie here as well but I'll explain why in the #6 slot
  6. Ozzie Albies/Johan Camargo - Ozzie can go in either the 5-6 slot until he can figure out how to hit Right handed pitching, which is the majority of the ABs he's going to get. His splits there are .696 OPS against RHP, and .905 against LHP, which is a huge difference. Against lefties he will move up in the order. Also, until somebody tells me we're going to have somebody else play 3rd, I'm assuming Camargo gets the job. He's a fine hitter, .800+ OPS last year, and he can play most positions in the field.
  7. Brian McCann/Tyler Flowers - The two catchers will rotate, but I think putting them in the 7th slot makes sense. Tyler is a mediocre hitter at best, but Brian if he can revert to 2017 form before the 2018 injuries is a lot more dangerous with his bat. 
  8. Dansby Swanson - I've seen nothing that says Dansby is getting benched, but this is a make-it-or-break-it year for him. Otherwise, one of the younger upstarts will eventually replace his spot on the infield by either taking it directly, or rotating somebody else like Ozzie or Camargo into SS. 
  9. Pitcher - Because it's still the NL until they force the DH on us.

Thoughts? How would you rank them heading into the season?


EDIT: Left out my commentary on Ozzie, stupid.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Two weeks to Braves opening day

In a weird twist of timing and fate, the Braves get to open up the their 2019 season this year on March 29th and then at home on April 1st against the Cubs. I say weird twist because the Braves got to open up their 2018 season at home on the exact same date, March 29th, last year. You may say, okay so what? Well, in 2017, the Braves didn't even play a home game until April 14th, after 8 regular season road games in a row. In 2016, we opened at home but it was on April 4th.

In fact, except for these last two years, I couldn't remember a time when the MLB season was opening in March. Turns out that this is true, this is the earliest opening day for the MLB ever. And the prior year it was the earliest opening day before that. Why did that happen? Because in 2017, the players union and the MLB agreed to different scheduling, with one more weekend on the front end of the schedule, but 3-4 additional rest days in the middle of the schedule. Riveting stuff!

Now that I've thoroughly bored you with scheduling talk, on to the actual team! The Braves are set to come out of Spring Training with a roster that includes some of your old favorites like Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, and Nick Markakis (mostly because Nick is old, I don't know if he's a favorite of many).

The other old guys to round things out are Tyler Flowers (33), Josh Donaldson (33), Adam Duval (30), and...that's about it unless we're talking about a few pitchers. The rest of the team is a bunch of young guns, and frankly I'm old enough now to be older than every player on the roster. Which is both fun and depressing. I'll spend time in later blogs going through the roster and the players as we get through the week.

As we get closer to opening day, I want to know the answers to a few questions:

  1. Which players, especially pitchers are going to make this roster
  2. Who is going to be at the back end of this rotation and can we dump Julio Teheran please?
  3. Will Ronald Acuna break every record, hit for the cycle, heal the sick, and raise the dead?
The hype is real this year since the Braves won the division last year, and I'll go into detail what that means in the rest of the division as other teams spend dollars and we hold onto pennies like those "owners" in Denver want to make a profit or something. Jerks.

The best news is, we're back! A new season is coming!