It won’t be long now. The Ted is officially open for business and opening day is just hours away. This is the EXACT same feeling I used to get a day or two before Christmas as a kid. Just doesn’t get any better than opening day for a true baseball fan. With spring training coming to a close, I thought I’d pass along my official Atlanta Braves predictions for 2010.
NOTE: The following predictions assume relatively good health for each and every player. I fully realize that health isn’t something that can be assumed at all, but I won’t attempt to predict who will or will not be healthy.
|1 -||McLouth (CF)||.266||21||63||38||.353||24|
|2 -||Prado (2B)||.302||16||68||42||.357||4|
|3 -||Jones (3B)||.306||22||83||26||.404||4|
|4 -||Glaus (1B)||.263||28||102||30||.361||0|
|5 -||McCann (C)||.306||26||94||41||.376||3|
|6 -||Escobar (SS)||.296||17||75||28||.375||6|
|7 -||Heyward (RF)||.287||24||90||34||.367||15|
|8 -||*Diaz (LF)||.304||16||77||27||.382||12|
*This is provided that M.Diaz receives at least 450 AB’s. He may not reach that total if he is forced to share significant time with M.Cabrera (or potentially even Jordan Schafer later in the year).
NOTE: I’m only projecting only the 5 relievers who are relatively certain to man the bullpen though the entire season.
TEAM ERA: 3.40
Runs Scored: 787
While the individual player predictions above assume a healthy season from that particular player, the projected record and other team predictions take into account a typical degree of wear and tear. Feel free to chime in with your 2 cents and predictions of your own. And let’s get some hardball goin’ y’all!
Tags: 2010 Braves, Bullpen, Lineup, Predictions, Starting Rotaton
Posted in Speculation | 14 Comments »
Earlier this week, we addressed the questions facing the Braves lineup heading into the spring. But what about the pitching? Numerous questions/doubts were raised by fans and observers over the winter regarding the Atlanta rotation and bullpen. So what have we learned over the course of the Spring?
Q. Will Billy Wagner be healthy, and will he resemble the “Wags” of old?
A. I never fully understood this question, since I thought it was largely answered last year, when he struck out 26 batters in 15.2 innings, and posted a 1.72 ERA after his late-season return from the disabled list.
Yes, he had UCL reconstruction (“Tommy John”) surgery, but that was back in 2008, and he was ahead of schedule at every stage in his recovery. More than a year and a half have passed since that surgery, from which there is now a better than 90% FULL recovery rate. All things considered, I cannot explain why his recovery wasn’t obvious to so many after the way he pitched late last year.
But those fans who were nervously observing him this spring should now rest easier. He has thrown the ball quite will, routinely firing fastballs in the mid-90’s. One radar gun reading drew gasps from the spring training crowd when a Wagner heater was clocked at 101 mph.
Q. Is Hudson healthy and ready to regain top-of-rotation form?
A. As with the Billy Wagner question, it has been difficult for me to comprehend the doubts so many have had in Hudson’s ability to perform at a high level in 2010.
Hudson is also more than a year and half removed from TJ surgery, and he looked fantastic after returning for 7 starts at the end of last season, posting a 3.61 ERA in 42 innings. One Major League scout commented at the time that it looked as though Hudson “had never left” (never been injured). The Braves had certainly seen enough to convince them of Hudson’s health and ability when they resigned him to a 3-year deal over the winter. But for those who needed further proof this spring… here ya go:
In 5 spring starts, Hudson is 3-1 with 1.35 ERA. He has also KO’d 17 batters in his 20 innings of pre-season work. His arm feels as good as it ever has, and opposing hitters will tell you his pitches have never been more difficult to square up.
Q. Will Derek Lowe bounce back from a disappointing 2009 season?
A. If his spring performance is any indication, he can and most likely will bounce back with a strong 2010 season. In an effort to correct mechanical flaws that led to an underwhelming ’09 season, Lowe worked with Braves’ Pitching Coach, Roger McDowell, on returning to a windup and delivery he had used to great effect earlier in his career.
The results have been very encouraging. This spring, for the most part, Lowe has been successful in getting opposing hitters to either beat the ball into the ground or swing through it all together. If you remove one start that was severely hampered (and shortened) by a blister, he wrapped up the Grapefruit League season with a 3.42 ERA and fewer hits than innings pitched.
Q. Is Jair Jurrjens shoulder healthy?
A. In a word: Yes. A February MRI revealed no damage in his shoulder, and the prescribed rest seemed to do the trick. Jurrjens has been gaining strength in his shoulder throughout the month of March, and now reportedly no longer feels any pain or discomfort in the shoulder whatsoever. His last outing was his best yet (5 innings, 1 hit, 3 K’s, no runs allowed). He is on track to start game 2 of the regular season on April 7, at home against the Chicago Cubs.
Q. After the bullpen “locks” (Wagner, Saito, Moylan, O’Flaherty), how will the ‘pen shape up?
A. Kris Medlen is quite highly thought of within the Braves organization and is another virtual lock to retain his seat in the Atlanta bullpen.
JoJo Reyes has frustrated Braves officials, who recognize his potential, with his inability to make the most of multiple chances to crack the big league starting rotation. This spring, the powers that be decided to test him in a relief role. It’s a test he’s passed with flying colors, and it appears he’ll open the season as the third lefty in the Atlanta ‘pen.
After landing with the Braves via Tampa Bay in the Rafael Soriano trade, Jesse Chavez has had a rough spring. A VERY rough spring. Having said that, he was quite effective in his two most recent appearances. But more importantly, he has something on his resume that those competing against him for the final bullpen spot do not… big league success. Chavez was quite solid for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 73 relief appearance last year, and that will likely more than atone for his rocky spring.
But don’t forget about Scott Proctor, who the Braves signed to a minor league deal back in November. The former Yankees bullpen workhorse (and former Braves trade target) is wrapping up what has thus far been a very successful rehabilitation from the “Tommy John” surgery he underwent last May. The hard throwing righty will likely supplant one member of the Atlanta ‘pen by the end of April.
PROJECTED BRAVES BULLPEN:
Wagner (LHP – Closer)
Saito (RHP – Setup Man)
Tags: 2010 Braves, Billy Wagner, Bullpen, Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Pitching, Spring Training, Tim Hudson
Posted in Pitching, Speculation | 1 Comment »
Let’s be objective. The Braves, performing as they are now, are not a contending team.
A contending team’s offense can’t go from red-hot to ice-cold.
A contending team’s bullpen can’t blow leads more frequently than they use the restroom. Not to mention 8 run leads.
Sure, we’ve got a decent starting rotation. Sure, Kawakami, Lowe, Jurrjens and Vazquez have performed fairly well so far, but for heavens sake, we started Jo-Jo Reyes against Pittsburgh and expected to win the game?! Sure, our offense started off hot, but they’ve cooled to an exactly middle of the road .265 batting average.
There have been a few side stories that have contributed. Chipper missed some time on his hand (Chipper is always going to sit a little bit). McCann had some weird vision thing come up that has hopefully resolved itself. Tom Glavine busted his shoulder again (who are we kidding: we wanted him to be a reliable pitcher again?)
But a bullpen that blows a 7 run lead? An offense that can’t beat Pittsburgh given a good start? And a team that puts Jo-Jo Reyes on the mound? Seriously? It feels like this season is an extension of last season – where the baseball gods are laughing at us and poking us with sticks. We have to establish some good play before everyone gets in a funk and assumes we’re always going to blow leads – because that will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There are opportunities for us to get into the race. We have to stop blowing leads. The first step to that was getting rid of Blaine Boyer, which we have completed. Now the rest of the bullpen needs to live up to their potential. The offense needs to be more consistent – we win games when Chipper is in the lineup – and having BMac back will help. And people, write your senators and congressmen – it’s time to petition against Jo-Jo Reyes. If we get a law passed that he can’t pitch for the Braves, Frank Wren and Bobby Cox will have no choice but to send him packing. Sure – don’t bring Hanson up yet – let him season for a little bit – but enough with this Jo-Jo the No Show Blo-Blo bit. Let Escobar or Francoeur pitch if we have to.
We can still get into this year. We can become a contender. There are (most of) the pieces of the puzzle we need to contend this year, but the Braves have seriously got to step it up and start playing to expectations. I was emotionally battered enough last year and I don’t know if I can handle the pattern we appear to be getting ourselves into already this season. Buck up fans – let’s stick behind them and cheer for them louder than ever, because they need it. We can contend for the NL East, but a few little things have to change.
Tags: Brian McCann, Bullpen, Chipper Jones, Contender, Jo-Jo Reyes, Rant, Starting Pitching
Posted in General | 7 Comments »
Today we bring you part two of the 2009 bullpen preview. In case you missed part one yesterday, here it is. We’re looking at the guys duking it out in Spring Training for the last couple of spots in the bullpen this year.
Jeff Bennett was an indispensable part of the Braves’ pitching staff last season, serving in every imaginable role. He started several games, and converted 3 of 4 save opportunities. He pitched in long relief, and was frequently used an inning at a time. And with a hard sinker as his best pitch, he was sometimes called on to pitch to a single hitter in double-play situations. Despite the lack of a predictable role, he performed admirably, finishing the year with a 3.70 ERA (3.12 as a reliever). His solid body of work in 08′, combined with his versatility, may give him an edge in the battle for a spot in the Braves’ bullpen.
Jorge Campillo spent most of last season in Atlanta’s starting rotation, but was outstanding in his 21.2 innings of relief, allowing only 3 earned runs out of the bullpen. He is unlikely to retain his job in the rotation, and will probably find himself battling for a job in the ‘pen’. As with Jeff Bennett, Campillo offers the Braves flexibility. He can pitch in long or short relief, and can be called on to start in a pinch.
Phil Stockman is a fascinating possible addition to the big league club. When healthy, Stockman has dominated minor league hitters over the past few seasons. And I do mean DOMINATED. Since the start of the 2006 season, the 6′ 8″ Australian righty has pitched 109 innings at the A, AA, and AAA levels, posting a 1.57 ERA. Not to mention 126 strikeouts in those 109 innings. Stockman had a cup of coffee with the Atlanta Braves in 2006, and again last season. In 11.1 big league innings, he has recorded 13 strikeouts, and allowed only 1 earned run. The downside… his control can be erratic, and he is injury prone. Stockman is out of options, so the Braves must either add him to the 25-man roster this spring, or trade him. But if he is healthy this spring, his potential may prove too great for the Braves to pass over.
Buddy Carlyle earned a place in Bobby Cox’s heart after his surprise contributions to the team during the 2007 season. The veteran journeyman was very effective in the long-relief role for the Braves, finishing the year with a 3.59 ERA over 62.2 innings of work. Carlyle certainly pitched well enough last year to earn a job in the 09′ bullpen. But with so many options and some tough decisions ahead, I’ll be surprised if Carlyle wears an Atlanta Braves uniform this year.
Eric O’Flaherty will compete with Boone Logan and Jeff Ridgeway for the “situational lefty” position in the Atlanta ‘pen’. He started the 08′ season in that very role for the Seattle Mariners, but was optioned to “AA” just two weeks into the season after a rough start. The Braves claimed him off waivers over the winter after he was dropped from the Mariners’ 40-man roster. Braves officials are hopeful that O’Flaherty, who features a mid-90′s fastball and a biting slider, will respond to a change of scenery and recapture the form that once made him a top-prospect in the Mariners’ organization.
Boone Logan was “the other guy” acquired by the Braves in the deal that brought Javier Vazquez to Atlanta. MLB’s Mark Bowman recently reported that the Braves are “excited about Logan’s potential”. He added that the 24-year-old left-handed reliever “posted a 5.95 ERA in 55 inconsistent appearances this past season. In his first 36 appearances [last] season, Logan posted a 1.95 ERA and limited opponents to a .223 batting average.” However, he struggled over his next 12 appearances, and lost his job on the big league roster.
Jeff Ridgway was one of two players the Braves acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Willy Ayabar prior to last season. After 10 productive outings with the Braves last year (3.72 ERA), the lefty earned a chance to compete for a big league bullpen job this spring.
STRENGTHS: Assuming reasonably good health, the Braves bullpen essentially has three dominant closers (Gonzalez, Soriano, Moylan) at their disposal. I’m not sure any other team in baseball can say the same. They also have two other young relievers (Acosta, Boyer) with “closer’s stuff”, and tremendous overall depth. A more durable starting rotation will further add to the strength of this bullpen by removing the undue burden placed on it last season.
WEAKNESSES: While everyone appears healthy, the Braves will be dependent upon three surgically repaired arms at the end of their bullpen. Also, the departure of Ohman leaves Atlanta without a proven left-handed middle-reliever.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: If healthy, it is not hyperbole to say the Braves could have the best bullpen in baseball. And if Boyer & Acosta take a step forward, along with good health, this could be the best bullpen in either league by a significant margin.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Please see 2008.
So with that in mind, who do you see taking the final couple of spots in the bullpen this year and what roles will they best serve?
Tags: Boone Logan, Buddy Carlyle, Bullpen, Eric O'Flaherty, Jeff Bennett, Jeff Ridgway, Jorge Campillo, Phil Stockman
Posted in General | 2 Comments »
We apparently didn’t scare Kent off last time around so he’s back with more content for us. Once again, you can follow Kent on Twitter @FriedBasballATL.
After the addition of three quality starters, the new look Atlanta starting rotation has been the hot topic of conversation among Braves fans. But with as much depth as they now have in their rotation, the bullpen appears to be even deeper. With a number of Braves hurlers already in Orlando, we take a look at the relief corps the Braves are likely to carry to Atlanta roughly 6 weeks from today. We start this two-part series by looking at the definites and the probables for this year’s bullpen.
DEFINITE (barring injuries/setbacks): Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, Peter Moylan
PROBABLE: Blaine Boyer, Manny Acosta
POSSIBLE: Jorge Campillo, Jeff Bennett, Buddy Carlyle, Phil Stockman, Eric O’Flaherty, Boone Logan, Jeff Ridgway
Mike Gonzalez has quietly become one of the game’s elite closers, carrying a (then major league best) 39 consecutive saves streak into last season after returning from “Tommy John” surgery. The lefty fire-baller featured a mid-to-upper 90′s heater while closing for the Pirates. Since his arrival in Atlanta two years ago, however, his arm that was never entirely healthy or rested, and his fastball topped out at about 93 mph. Despite diminished velocity, “Gonzo” has been effective, with a 3.38 ERA as a Brave, converting 16 of 18 save opportunities.
After his first full off-season since beginning his rehabilitation in 2007, his arm is now 100%, and Gonzalez says he’s “fired up” about the opportunity to finally show Atlanta his very best. With health no longer a concern, look for a big season from the Braves’ closer.
Rafael Soriano, when healthy, is among the best late-inning relievers in baseball. Since his move to the bullpen at that start of his sophomore season in 2003, Soriano has a career ERA of 2.53, with more strikeouts than innings pitched. In a word: Dominant.
Soriano began experiencing pain in his pitching elbow last spring which eventually cost him most of the 2008 season. Fortunately, the cause of the pain was not a structural issue within his elbow. Soriano underwent surgery last fall to reposition a nerve that was apparently the cause of the discomfort. MLB’s Mark Bowman recently reported that, “all indications are that Soriano is healthy”. That’s excellent news for Braves fans.
Peter Moylan was the only pleasant surprise of the 2007 season. Over 80 appearances, Molyan limited opposing hitters to a .208 average, and allowed only 16 earned runs for a 1.80 ERA. It was the third best ERA in all of baseball, and it was the first sub-2.00 ERA to come out of the Atlanta bullpen over a full season since John Smoltz did it in 2003.
Moylan’s stuff is outstanding, but what makes him truly remarkable is that he fires his mid 90′s fastball, baffling changeup, and hard-biting slider with a submarine delivery. Many submarine/sidearm pitchers develop a deceptive pitching motion to compensate for a lack of overwhelming natural ability. Not so in Moylan’s case. His stuff, coupled with a submarine delivery, seems almost unfair.
After experiencing elbow pain last spring, he made it only 2 weeks into the season before joining the expansive disabled list. He underwent “Tommy John” surgery shortly thereafter. Moylan is reportedly ahead of schedule with his rehabilitation, and could be ready for action on opening day. Like Soriano, if healthy, Moylan is one of the best late-inning relievers in the game.
Blaine Boyer has been described by scouts, coaches, and teammates as a talented young pitcher with “closer’s stuff”. Boyer features a heater that pops the mitt in the mid-to-upper 90′s, and a (at times) knee-buckling 12-6 curveball. Boyer was thrust into a key late-inning role after Peter Moylan and Rafael Soriano were lost to injuries, and he responded well to the challenge. Through the end of June, Boyer posted a very solid 3.63 ERA. However, after notching nearly 45 innings by the half-way point of the season, he appeared to “hit a wall”, and struggled throughout the second half.
John Smoltz is a big Blaine Boyer believer. He has raved about Boyer’s potential, and spent most of the winter training with him. And “Smoltzy” isn’t the only one ready to buy stock in the 6′ 3″ right-hander. Everyone within the Braves organization seems to think highly of Boyer. And he was rumored to be one of the pieces the Padres wanted in a potential Jake Peavy trade. With the depth of Atlanta’s bullpen this year, Boyer should benefit from less pressure and a reduced work load.
Manny Acosta is another hard-throwing young righty believed to have closer potential. Through 67 Major League games (2007, 2008), Acosta is owner of an outstanding 3.17 early career ERA. Like Boyer, Acosta features a fastball that rests in the mid 90′s. He struggles at times with his control, but if Manny can continue to develop his command of the strike zone, he could play a play a much larger role for the Braves in the near future. Either way, Acosta has already established himself as a valuable member of the Atlanta ‘pen’.
So there’s a quick look at what you can most likely expect to see as a large part of the Braves’ bullpen on opening day. Barring any unforseen circumstances and injuries, the bullpen has depth and is ready to get to work in the 2009 season. Are you happy with who we have? Wish things looked a little different? Look for the second half of the bullpen preview where we look into the people fighting for the last couple of spots in the bullpen to come tomorrow.
Tags: Blaine Boyer, Bullpen, Manny Acosta, Mike Gonzalez, Peter Moylan, Preview, Rafael Soriano
Posted in General | 4 Comments »
Today’s article is from a new guest writer, Kent Covington. We’re working on convincing Kent to write for us more often, so make him feel welcome. In the meantime, you can follow Kent on Twitter @FriedBasballATL. And while you’re at it, follow BravesBlast too @BravesBlast.
For the past two years, the Braves have reported to their spring training facilities at Disney’s Wide World of Sports with the hope and belief that their bullpen would be among the game’s best. And for the past two years, their hopes have been shattered. Prior to the start of the 2007 season, the Braves acquired one of the game’s elite setup men, Rafael Soriano, from Seattle, and a filthy (in a good way) young closer in the person of Mike Gonzalez, from the Pirates. Along with Bob Wickman, who was brilliant in Atlanta after a mid-season trade in 2006, the Braves were thought to have a bullpen trio capable of shortening any game to a 6-inning contest.
But before long, Atlanta’s bullpen plans began to skid off the runway. Mike Gonzalez’s season was cut short less than two months after opening day, as he was forced to go under the knife for “Tommy John” surgery. What’s more, Bob Wickman was unable to duplicate his 2006 success, and was eventually released by the Braves.
Not everything went awry in the ’07 bullpen. Soriano was as good as advertised and the emergence of Peter Moylan (1.80 ERA in 80 appearances) was certainly a pleasant surprise. Nevertheless, injuries to key relievers left the Braves with a shell of the dominant bullpen they planned to throw at opponents.
Fast forward to Spring 2008. The Braves had re-inked Soriano to a two-year deal over the winter and anticipated a bullpen headed by Soriano and Moylan. The two hard throwing relievers had combined for an ERA of 2.44 over 150 innings the previous season. And as soon as Mike Gonzalez returned to action, they thought they would have no fewer than three dominant relievers, as they had planned the year before. But the baseball gods again revealed other plans.
Soriano and Moylan both began complaining of elbow discomfort in spring training. Moylan made it less than two weeks into the season before being disabled (eventually undergoing “Tommy John” surgery). Soriano was forced out of action just one week from opening day. He would spend the remainder of the season on and off the disabled list (mostly on).
Mike Gonzalez’s successful comeback was a bright spot in what was otherwise the Braves’ most forgettable season in almost 20 years. But once again, the bullpen never possessed the kind of depth they were counting on.
Which brings us to 2009.
The calendar has flipped on a year that the Braves undoubtedly couldn’t put behind them quickly enough. And as pitchers and catchers prepare to report (except for those tied up with the damned World Baseball Classic – a topic for another day), the Braves once more hope to feature a bullpen capable of being baseball’s best.
If healthy, Atlanta may finally have their lights-out late-inning trio. And their relief talent runs deeper than what they have at the back of the ‘pen’. Much deeper. Next week we’ll break down the Braves’ bullpen, and explore what kind of relief they will have in ’09. That is, if they can avoid Murphy (no, not old #3 – the other Murphy… the one with that law).
So where does that leave us? Is the injury bug behind us and ready to let the bullpen actually prove their ability in pitching? Are there some unanswered holes in the bullpen? All I know is that I’m ready to put 2008 behind us and see what 2009 brings.
Tags: Bullpen, Mike Gonzalez, Peter Moylan, Rafael Soriano
Posted in General | 16 Comments »
The Braves made a move yesterday to avoid arbitration for the 2009 season with Mike Gonzalez by signing him to a one-year, $3.45 million contract. The Braves are looking for Gonzalez to serve as the closer for the 2009 season, filling a position that has lacked consistency and stability over the past few years. Last season alone, Soriano, Smoltz, Gonzalez and a host of other fill-ins took their shots at the role. While Gonzalez isn’t the true definition of a power closer, a constant figure in the position will prove well for the Braves.
After returning from Tommy John surgery in the middle of the 2008 season, Gonzalez had 14 saves in 16 opportunities while striking out 44 in his 33.2 innings pitched. Of a little concern however is the 6 home runs that he issued in that work as well. His 4.28 ERA last season isn’t exactly what you want to see out of a closer and hopefully this season he can get back around and under his career average of 2.62.
While returning from surgery last season, Gonzalez struggled to find the full strength in his arm at times, but is hoping to regain the consistency in his arm through his work this offseason and the upcoming preseason. He has always been a strikeout pitcher, with a 1.16 K per inning average and could prove to be a great asset down the stretch should the Braves continue to find themselves in the onslaught of one- and two-run games they did last season.
This leaves Casey Kotchman, Kelly Johnson and Jeff Francoeur as the only three remaining arbitration-eligible players. I’m hoping Gonzalez can pitch a consistent and injury-free season to help keep the bullpen on track. It seems that the Braves develop injury issues at the closer position every season and the pen slowly degrades from there. So are you happy to see Gonzalez locked in for the season to fill the closer role? Who takes the reins should he develop any injuries throughout the season?
Tags: Atlanta Braves Bullpen, Bullpen, Closer, Mike Gonzalez
Posted in Roster Moves | 24 Comments »
Back in February, I wrote a post called “5 Keys to 2008 Bullpen Success” and identified five points I thought would be crucial to have a successful bullpen. Let’s see how the bullpen has done compared to those five points.
#1 – Rafael Soriano is lights out as closer.
#2 – Peter Moylan eats up innings – and stays effective.
#3 – Will Ohman fills the left-handed setup role.
#4 – The emergence of an effective long-reliever.
#5 – The healthy return of Blaine Boyer and Mike Gonzalez.
Well, I got three out of five right. Ohman has been great, and Boyer and Gonzalez have been healthy, but Soriano hasn’t seen much time and Moylan is out recovering from Tommy John surgery.
And yet the Braves’ bullpen is one of the best in the NL – we have the third best ERA (3.22) and the best Batting Average Against (or BAA at .224). We’ve also give up the third fewest runs in the NL. Our BAA is second only to the Tampa Bay
This is thanks in no small part to Will Ohman, Blaine Boyer, and Manny Acosta. For the crap we give Bobby for over-using Acosta, Manny is a really good pitcher when he’s not overused. The return of Mike Gonzalez has been crucial to a stable back end of the ‘pen, and we should see that get even stronger as Rafael Soriano nears his return.
As we head into the second half of the season, our bullpen has to continue to impress to give us a chance for our hitting to win us some games. Based on what we’ve seen so far, I’d say we’re in a good spot and on a good track.
Who’s the most indispensable arm in the bullpen so far?
Edit: You just can’t make this stuff up…It seems Mike Hampton tweaked his hamstring after 2 IP in his latest rehab start, you just have to feel for the guy. He gave up one home run, no word on the severity of his injury yet. More details later.
Edit2: He tweaked his groin in the first inning and pitched a second, still no word on the severity, but said his super-surgically repaired arm felt great.
Tags: Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Braves Bullpen, Blaine Boyer, Bullpen, Manny Acosta, Mike Gonzalez, Peter Moylan, Rafael Soriano, Will Ohman
Posted in General | 12 Comments »
After some strong starting pitching from the young guys (last night notwithstanding, although Hudson has always had problems pitching in Texas), the bullpen has finally found some kind of stability. Also, with the addition of Mike Gonzalez, the guys in the bullpen should be able to return to their regular roles. That is, if Gonzalez has returned to closer form, which we may not see until he adjusts to the hitters at this level for the first time in a year.
How are the other guys doing? Well, we’ll start with everyone’s favorite goat, Manny Acosta.
Acosta gave up four runs in his season debut against Pittsburgh, but was extremely stingy after that. In April, Acosta pitched 13 innings in 11 appearances with a 1-1 record, 1.38 ERA, 2 saves, 8 Ks and 10 BBs. Not a good K to walk ratio, but he got the job done. In May, arguably the best month of his career, he went 15 innings in 15 appearances with a 3-1 mark, 1.80 ERA, 1 save, 12 Ks and 1 (yes, just 1) BB. He was even nominated for the Pepsi Rookie of the Month trophy on MLB.com. Of course, with so many appearances, we almost knew and expected a young pitcher like him to start showing some wear…and he did. So far in June, Acosta has allowed 8 ER in 12 innings, good for a 12.0 ERA. The surprising part? Just one strikeout to five walks for the month. Acosta has not been pitching as often as he was in May and that’s a good thing. He has great stuff and is a very valuable late innings guy when he gets the rest he needs.
Blaine Boyer has shown similar trends as well. After a May that saw the young pitcher go 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 15.0 innings with 11 strikeouts and four walks, Boyer has hardly pitched that well in June. While not pitching as low a level as Acosta has, Boyer has allowed four earned in 7.2 innings (seven runs total allowed for the month.
The only guy that has been dependable and consistent all year? Will Ohman, the godsend from the Cubs in the offseason. How the front office was able to pull off the trade for a solid lefty reliever in his prime AND a utility guy that can play solid defense and swing the bat pretty well for a double-AA starter? I’ll never know, so far, I love the trade and can easily say it was as good as the Renteria trade from our standpoint. Ohman is one of two pitchers that aren’t shuttling back and forth between the bigs and triple A to have not allowed an earned run all month (Ohman did allow a run, just not earned against the Angels). Ohman is 3-0 with one save in 29.2 innings pitched. He has 27 strikeouts to just 13 walks in his innings.
The other regular that has yet to allow a run all month is Royce Ring, who after a horrible start, has slowly gotten his ERA back to a solid 3.77 for the season. Ring is 1-1 with 12 strikeouts and just two walks in his 14.1 IP. He’s also gotten a hold of his control better. After allowing seven hits in 5.2 innings in May and four hits in four innings in April, Ring has allowed only two hits in 4.2 appearances that span eight games for June.
So, after last week’s starting pitching miracle, we’ll see if the team can continue it. We are still 11th in the NL in starter’s innings pitched and a good 38.1 innings behind the league leading Phils in that category.
Posted in General | 8 Comments »
The AJC is reporting that John Smoltz said in a text message Wednesday that he doesn’t think he can handle starting for the Braves and plans to return as a reliever.
Here’s the quote:
“I am planning on coming back as a reliever first, and more than likely for the rest of this year.”
Can the Braves’ rotation handle Smoltz being in the ‘pen? Sure, it’ll stabilize things out there, but what becomes of starting pitching? Do we have to just cross our fingers and hope Jo-Jo Reyes can hold it together at a big league level? Who picks up the slack?
Can we take it? What do you think?
Tags: Bullpen, John Smoltz
Posted in Injuries | 11 Comments »
I answered this question from PhilliesFlow.com in our perspective trade a couple days ago, and I wanted to take a moment to elaborate on some decisions the Braves have to make. From the article:
What do you see as the biggest decisions the Braves will make between now and the start of the season?
The fourth and fifth rotation spots are crucial. Having a solid back end of the rotation to compliment the Smoltz/Hudson/Glavine trio is something we need to know can hold their own. Be honest, a Smoltz/Hudson/Glavine/Heatlhy Hampton/Jurrjens or James rotation is about as mean as any out there. If everyone is healthy, it’s not a one-two punch. It’s a one-two-three-four punch. Now, it’ll only work for a year or so, but it could be nasty.
I think the other crucial decision is who will fill out the bullpen. We have more pitchers overall than we did last year and I think the bullpen will be stronger than it was, but we need to get our guys picked out and they need to embrace the roles they’re given. The only other key question to be answered is who will fill out the left field platoon with Matt Diaz. I think we’ll likely see Brandon Jones out there, but Josh Anderson also wants a piece of the platoon. That’ll be interesting to watch.
With Kotsay playing Center, we’re going to see some interesting competition for the left-field slots. Matt Diaz has the inside track on one half of the platoon, but we are going to see Brandon Jones (bats from the left side of the plate) try and take Willie Harris’ slot as the other half of the platoon. Of course, speedster Josh Anderson is a very talented outfielder also ready for the big time. If we throw Jones in the platoon with Diaz, we’re sending a very talented center fielder back to AAA ball. Something has got to give – we have too many outfielders given the positions we need to fill. No matter whether we end up with Anderson or Jones in the outfield, they’ll be a good compliment to Diaz.
What do you think will happen with our outfield situation? Who makes the big league team out of spring training? Will we trade some of them for bullpen help or will we keep them all on hand?
Tags: Atlanta Braves, Brandon Jones, Bullpen, Josh Anderson, Left Field, Mark Kotsay, Matt Diaz
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