Hello again faithful Braves Blast readers.
As we begin this week I think it’s important for us to take a look back at the past 4 games our Atlanta Braves have played. The four game series, which I’ve never been a fan of a four game series – just seems one too long, against the Arizona Diamondbacks was one that Braves Country can be happy about. Our boys went 3 – 1 against a pretty good team out west. Yes, they were a little banged up – but a win is a win and it doesn’t matter who you face.
There was so much to cover that just blew my mind. For starters, no pun intended, our starting rotation was amazing. A big knock against the Braves at the start of the year was the lack of innings the starters were accruing. The bullpen’s taxation from 2011 can be attributed to the lack of managerial savvy of Fredi and also the large number of games where starters didn’t go past 5 innings. That simply causes a great bullpen to get tired and sputter come the end of August and all of September. That concern was something Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Tommy Hanson decided alleviate. Going 8, 7.3, and 7, respectively, the ‘pen wasn’t relied on too much. This was exactly what our staff needed. Young guys to step up and push each other. Brandon Beachy said in the post game interview after his start in game two, that he wanted to go out and try to match what Mike Minor did. I’m sure Tommy Hanson didn’t want to feel left out, so he went out, and after giving up a run in the first and second, managed to sit down 13 Diamondbacks in a row before Venters and Kimbrel struck out each of their sides.
It also helped that the bats continued the streak they’ve been on. There isn’t much need to bring in your 7th, 8th and 9th inning men when you score an average of 9 runs a game during the 5-game winning streak the Braves were on. Our second 5-game winning streak in 15 games for those of you keeping score.
Michael Bourn and Freddie Freeman have been on fire this past week. They were, to simply put it, great. Bourn was on base all the time it seemed. His batting average for the last week was .464/.531/.536, 7 runs scored and 5 stolen bases. That’s just creating havoc for opposing pitchers. His OPS was 1.067. For a guy with barely any power, that’s outrageous.
The more impressive part of our offense was our young first baseman, Freddie Freeman. His slash line against the D-backs was .467/.500/.1.067. The boy went on a tear out west. He spoke about it in an interview after game two, that he really loves playing in front of his family and friends. Freeman is a So Cal native and he had a strong contingent of Freeman faithful make the approx. 3-4 hour drive to see their native son put a wallop on the D-backs pitching staff. He put a home run in the pool out in right center and went opposite field to push one into the left field seats. An interesting note was that the damage done was all while Freddie occupied the 3-hole in the line up. He did this even when Chipper was in the game for the 2nd and 3rd of the series.
As long as Freeman is contributing with his bat and continues to play great defense, I have no problem with him hitting in the usual spot reserved for the almost 40 year old Chipper Jones.
Starting tonight, our Braves take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. Hopefully the Braves can continue their dominance at the plate and take advantage of the fact that the Dodgers two best starters, Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, will not be pitching against us.
As always dear reader, pray for pitching, be proud of the tomahawk chop and if you need a smile, just remember when Sid slid.
Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Brandon Beachy, Freddie Freeman, Michael Bourn, Mike Minor, Tommy Hanson
Posted in Game Analysis, General | No Comments »
Sometimes I dwell for a good while on figuring out what to write about for BravesBlast. I read around the Internet, other blogs, talk to sports friends, and any other method that might spark an idea. Today, however, I decided on a new idea; I’m going to look through the search terms that landed people at BravesBlast in the first place and address ones that I know we haven’t really covered in the past. So who knows what we’ll come up with, but I can go ahead and promise that I don’t have much for whoever got here by searching for “half blood prince hermoine boyfriend”. With that being said, let’s get started:
Braves 2011 25 man roster – This made me realize that I hadn’t updated the roster yet from last season. The 25-man roster has been decided and can be found at http://www.bravesblast.com/roster/ throughout the season.
Atlanta Braves 5th Pitcher – After a battle in Spring Training between Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy, the 5th spot in the rotation was awarded to Beachy. In 5 preseason appearances, Beachy pitched 16 innings, striking out 16 and posting an ERA of 1.13. He also failed to give up a run in any of his final 4 appearances. Minor was no slouch in Spring Training however, posting a 0.90 ERA and I would expect him to be a quick callup should there be any injury issues in the rotation.
Does Spring Training Matter - Not anymore. The roster has been set, let’s get the season underway. (But yes, it mattered to me at some point in time.)
Canceled Braves Game, Reimbursed? – I seem to get asked this one a few times a season by people, so why not throw an answer out there? While the Braves do not offer refunds for canceled games, valid ticket stubs serve as rain checks that may be exchanged for a ticket of the same price for any remaining regular season game. Braves official policy can be found here.
Atlanta Braves Right-Handed Bench – The Braves have three right-handed hitters on the bench: Backup catcher, David Ross; Infielder, Brandon Hicks; Infielder, Brooks Conrad (Switch-Hitter). Because he’s the only backup catcher on the team, Ross can’t be used as freely to pinch hit, but provides good offense pop for McCann’s rest days behind the plate. Hicks has only had 5 big league at-bats, but batted .297 in Spring Training this season. Conrad hit .250 for the Braves in 2010 and provided a number of clutch hits including a walk-off Grand Slam to cap off a 7-run, 9th-inning comeback against the Reds last May.
So that’s my first trip through the search results. And to those people searching “why the Braves are better than the Phillies”, hopefully we’ll see some answers to that soon enough on the field. Keep searching and feel free to submit any other questions to the BravesBlast Mailbag. The countdown to Opening Day is on!
Tags: Brandon Beachy, Brandon Hicks, Brooks Conrad, David Ross, Fredi Gonzalez, Spring Training
Posted in General | No Comments »
The Atlanta Braves will enter the 2011 season with a number of familiar faces taking the mound on a day-to-day basis. Four of the five rotation spots for the Braves are pretty much locked in (barring injuries during the preseason) before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next Monday. Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens will fill the front four holes in the starting rotation come Opening Day.
While we’ll highlight our front-four later in the preseason, the question becomes, who will fill the final spot of the rotation? Inevitably, we will likely see more than one of these candidates in Atlanta at one point or another throughout the season due to injuries, but hopefully we won’t run into major issues. I’d say there are four candidates for the spot, some with a better chance than others:
Mike Minor – Minor made his MLB debut last August after Kenshin Kawakami was removed from the starting rotation and made 8 starts, putting together a 3-2 record with a 5.98 ERA. After starting 3-0 in his first four starts, he was 0-2 with a 9.37 ERA in the last four. With a fastball consistent around 90 and touching up to 95, Minor will be able to become far more effective as a pitcher if he can perfect his changeup. Minor holds the Braves rookie-record for strikeouts after striking out 12 in 6 innings against the Chicago Cubs last season (former record was 11 by Tommy Hanson).
Brandon Beachy – Beachy made his MLB debut last September after a knee injury sidelined Jair Jurrjens. In his three starts last season, he compiled an 0-2 record, but had an ERA of only 3.00. Beachy led all of the minors last season with a 1.73 ERA before being called up to Atlanta. In 73 innings of AA pitching in 2010, he struck out 100.
Rodrigo Lopez - Lopez was signed by the Braves at the end of January to a minor league contract. Pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, Lopez compiled a 7-16 record and an ERA around 5.00. I don’t know too terribly much about him, but I would put his chance of starting the season anywhere other than the minors as fairly slim.
Kenshin Kawakami – It’s not like we haven’t given him a chance. We even spent time defending him. But finally, it had to end. Everyone knows Kawakami was 1-10 last season with a 5.15 ERA across 18 starts. Sure, he lost on lack of run support a number of times, but when it comes down to it, the Braves just weren’t winning games with him out there. With one year left on his contract, the Braves still owe him about $6.7 million, and will likely have to eat a good bit of that no matter what. Here’s hoping that Frank Wren can find someone to take him off our hands before the season. Either way, I don’t expect to see him on the lineup card in the first week of the season.
With that being said, I think Minor or Beachy are the most likely candidates to fill the role to start the season. I’m not sure which way I’m leaning yet, but those are the options. And who knows, Julio Teheran’s on his way to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. So who would you like to see in Atlanta for the start of the season?
Tags: Brandon Beachy, Kenshin Kawakami, Mike Minor, Rodrigo Lopez, Spring Training, Starting Pitching
Posted in Pitching | 5 Comments »