Let’s forget about the past two series. One was at Coors Field, which is hell on any team. The other, Great American Ball Park, is small enough that traveling high school baseball teams regularly hit home run after home run while playing there (might be an exaggeration, but not much of one). As of Monday morning, the Braves are six games behind Philadelphia for the NL East lead and only four games ahead of Arizona for the Wild Card lead. It’s an easy time to look at the standings and determine that the Braves do not have a shot at overtaking the Phillies and that there is a good possibility that the Diamondbacks will overtake the Braves for the Wild Card position. However, this is a short-sided thought based on the past seven games at Coors and Great American.
The Braves have a great opportunity to make a decent run over the next three weeks or so. The next four opponents, in order, are the Pirates for four at home, the Marlins for three at home, the Nationals for three away, the Mets for three away, the Marlins for three away and returning home to three-game series with the woeful Cubs. Does this sound like a murderer’s row for the next few weeks? The Pirates, Marlins, Nationals and Mets are all hanging around the .500 mark, while the Cubs would gladly take a .500 record at the moment. The strongest of all of those teams should be the Pirates, but I am not entirely sold on them being a “good” team. Average is more realistic and an average team the Braves should beat two out of three times.
Let’s look at each series. The Braves swept a two-game series with the Pirates in May, so let’s assume they take three of four from the Pirates. Then they take two of three from the Marlins, Nationals, Mets, and Marlins again. Let’s be positive and assume they sweep the Cubs after returning home. So they win fourteen out of the nineteen for one hell of a nineteen game stretch.
The Phillies will face the Giants and Pirates at home, then will head to the Rockies, the Giants, head over to Dodger stadium and finish with the Nationals. The seven games with the Giants will be very tough, Coors Field is always a crap shoot, and the Dodgers have been playing better, as of late.
In those nineteen games, the Phillies should realistically win thirteen or fourteen, similar to the Braves. However, let’s break it down a bit further. The series with the Rockies could go either way, but let’s assume the Phillies win two of three. There are seven games with the Giants, with four of them at San Francisco. The Phillies take two of three in Philadelphia, but only win one out in San Francisco. The Phillies lost two of three from the Pirates in June and let’s assume the Pirates play well against them again, with the Phillies only winning one game. They finish up with the Dodgers and Nationals and win two of three in each series. So in the Phillies’ nineteen games, they only win ten of them.
I know these assumptions are biased, but I believe they are within a realistic realm. If the above games play out as assumed, the Braves will be only two games back with a month and a half of the season left.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume the Braves are three games back after the next nineteen games. It’s quite possible the Braves are healthy, a trade has been made and the offense is clicking. They take four of six from the Phillies meaning they need to pick up two games somewhere. Is this possible? Possible, but improbable nonetheless. Unless the Phillies start to exhibit some weaknesses that they have not shown as of yet.
Being two games behind the Phillies for the NL East lead would mean the Braves are securely in the playoffs as the Wild Card team. Actually making the playoffs is the difficult part. Once the Braves are in, winning the first series becomes a three-man rotation, and I would put their three best against any other team. Assuming everything plays out accordingly, the Phillies and Braves will meet in the NLCS. As it has been repeated lately, these two teams are scarily similar. The match-up would be fun to watch and would probably stretch to six or seven games.
But before I get stuck in the future, let’s just remind ourselves that the Braves have a favorable schedule coming up in the next three weeks and the team is getting healthy. Add into this mix a trade, Dan Uggla continuing his upward trend, and the return of Peter Moylan (hopefully), the last part of the season is going to be very fun to watch.
I know this is biased and not based too heavily in statistics. I just wanted to point out that with a few wins here for the Braves and a few losses there for the Phillies, the NL East is still within reach however unlikely it seems now.
Tags: Florida Marlins, Trade Targets, Wild Card
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Let’s start off by discussing two Braves that fans do not seem pleased with right now. No, I’m talking about Lowe and McDowell. I mean Messrs. Linebrink and Sherrill. Fredi Gonzalez has not used them in the situations they are best suited for (though I really have no idea where Linebrink should be used), but let’s just ignore that for this post. Let’s just look at their performances in whatever situation they happen to be placed.
The chart below complies a few stats of these two relievers.
Sherrill’s most damaging issue (he has plenty of other issue, just not as damaging, yet) is his walk rate. His BB/9 is the nice round figure of 6. If he can limit the walks, he is serviceable reliever for an out here or there, especially when Gonzalez needs an out against a left-hander. His WAR of 0.1 makes him, more or less, a replacement-level player. His contract is small, and if Fredi continues to use him as a left-handed specialist, there should not be any issues.
On the other hand, there is Scott Linebrink (as I write this, Linebrink just allowed a run in the eighth inning of the first game on Wednesday). When Linebrink pitches a ball anywhere near the plate, the ball usually slams against the outfield wall or, even better, just flies over it. He has an astounding HR/FB rate of 14.3%. With a FB% of 48.3%, the runs will start to pile up. That’s not even noting a BABIP (batting average of balls in play, this excludes home runs) of over one hundred percentage points above average at .407. So, a word of advice to opposing hitters, just try to put the bat on the ball. The probability of a hit is greatly in your favor in comparison to other pitchers.
Odds and Ends:
As of close of business on Tuesday, the Braves were 15-15. According to the Pythagorean winning percentage, with the Braves averaging 4.1 runs per game versus allowing 3.3, their record should be 18-12. That record looks quite a bit better than sitting at .500. Obviously, the Braves have experienced some bad luck in one way or another, especially with balls in play. Atlanta’s BABIP is a lovely .263. One would expect the number to regress towards the MLB average of .300 and push the run differential further apart, assuming pitching and defense remain static.
Comparatively, the Phillies have been lucky by one game. With their 4.5 runs scored versus 3.3 allowed, their record should be sitting at 18-10 and not 19-9. The Marlins have the smallest run differential between the three with 4.6 to 3.9 and should be sitting at 16-12, according to the formula. The Phillies BABIP is .299 and Marlins is .296, effectively the average. Assuming luck evens out, one should expect the Braves to grab some wins and the Phillies and Marlins to lose a few thus pulling the top three closer to the predicted finishing order of Phillies, Braves, and Marlins.
One final note on the top three in the NL East. The Braves have faced 9 teams with records above .500 while the Phillies have only played 5. Surprisingly, the Marlins have played 10 teams with .500 or better records and have gone 6-4 against them.
Thanks to FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference for the hours of my life those sites consume. Also for the stats. FanGraphs has an excellent glossary for the Saber stats I use. And of course, if you have any questions about them, just let me know.
Tags: BABIP, Florida Marlins, George Sherrill, Philadelphia Phillies, Scott Linebrink
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The Braves’ Billy Wagner had been almost automatic recently. In his last 25 innings pitched before last night, he posted a 0.36 ERA, and a .108 opponents average. But those last 25 innings didn’t help him last night.
The Braves took the lead in the bottom of the third last night, with four straight hits – including a two-run single by Chipper Jones and a two-run homer by Brian McCann. Tommy Hanson had surrendered two runs before that, and pitched into the seventh. The Braves took a 4-2 lead into the top of the ninth.
And then Wagner let one get away from him. He’s not a machine – but we’ll forgive a blown save here and there because of just how damn good he’s been. Kris Medlen took the loss in extras – the seventh pitcher the Braves sent to the mound last night. He’ll make his next start, I hear, and just skip a throwing session today.
We’ll drop a game here and there, and it’s not the end of the world. The goal here has always been to win series. We can do that tonight – we’re sending Huddy to the mound and he always puts us in position to win. Brush it off and go back out tonight and do what you do, boys – win.
Tags: Billy Wagner, Blown Save, Florida Marlins
Posted in Game Analysis | 4 Comments »
In his latest “Fried Baseball” audio blog, Kent Covington discusses recent developments that suggest the Braves have serious interest in Cody Ross of the Florida Marlins. Throw in your 2 cents in the comments area below… or leave a message with your questions or comments for a future commentary at 888-669-5368 (ext.701.)
Tags: Cody Ross, Florida Marlins, Fried Baseball, Trade Deadline, Trade Rumors
Posted in Speculation | 1 Comment »
The Atlanta Braves have 3 series remaining until the All-Star break. That’s 9 games left to make one last first half statement to the rest of the league. Why are these games so important? They’re all against teams in the NL East. We kick off tonight for 3 games against the Marlins and then head to Philadelphia and New York for 3 games each against the Phillies and the Mets.
In the last 16 series, the Braves are 13-1-2 and currently sit with a 46-33 record on the season. The Marlins series won’t be an easy one however as we’re catching the dominant portion of the Florida pitching staff. On the bright side, however, the Braves are sending some top performers to the mound as well in the series. Tonight Josh Johnson (8-3, 1.83) faces off against Kris Medlen (5-1 (4-0 as a starter), 3.15). Kris’s first start as an official member of the starting rotation, now that Kenshin Kawakami has taken a role in the bullpen, will have to be a good one. Hopefully the offense can help him out and get Johnson, who is tied with Ubaldo Jiminez for the best ERA in MLB, out of the game before the 7th.
Saturday’s matchup will be Anibal Sanchez (7-4, 3.18) against Tommy Hanson (7-5, 4.50). Hanson has struggled as of late, getting knocked around pretty solidly in a few of his recent outings. Roger McDowell is confident Hanson will spring back, but all eyes will be on him to see if he can get back to dominant form. If not, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see Kawakami on for him in long relief. The final game of the series will bring Ricky Nolasco (7-6, 4.84) in to face off against Tim Hudson (8-3, 2.37). On paper, this game favors the Braves as Hudson has been unstoppable lately and Nolasco likes to give up the long ball (19 in 16 outings this season), but he has won his last two. Anything can happen.
I’m looking for the Braves to continue their dominance at Turner Field this weekend (their 28-9 home record is the best in MLB) and take care of business with the Marlins. I’ll be happy with 3 more series victories heading into the All-Star break which would give us a record of at least 52-36 before the break, but why stop there? I’ll settle for a sweep or two.
Tags: All-Star Break, Florida Marlins, Kris Medlen, Starting Pitching
Posted in General, Series Previews | No Comments »
The Florida Marlins have fired Fredi Gonzalez.
In related news, Fredi Gonzalez has moved from “high on the list and unavailable” to “high on the list and available” on the list of potential 2011 Atlanta Braves managers. Before managing the Marlins, Gonzalez was third base coach for the Braves.
Fredi Gonzalez lives in Marietta, Georgia with his family. He’s won more games than any other Marlins manager but you can’t blame him for his 276-279 record with the Fish as their upper management has proven over and over again that they’re absolutely insane and incapable of running a good team for more than a year or two. He’s a prime candidate for the Braves’ manager position in 2011 because of his familiarity with the Braves’ system and managerial experience. We’ll see what happens, but I’d anticipate Fredi at least hearing from the Braves’ brass here in the next few days, weeks and months.
Tags: Florida Marlins, Fredi Gonzalez, Next Braves Manager, Replace Bobby Cox
Posted in General | 3 Comments »
Here’s the deal. Jeff Schultz of the AJC wrote earliera bout how the Braves haven’t made a move and yet all the contenders are making deals. Right now the Marlins – one of the only other contending teams that has yet to make a move – is reported to have offered a minor league pitcher for first baseman Nick Johnson.
The Braves need to move. They need a bat. Standing pat will, mark my words, leave us at home and out of the playoffs. Pitching alone wins – but not enough for the Braves – as far back as we are and as upgraded as the contenders look to be – we need a bat to augment our pitching staff.
Here’s the deal: Braves trade for Nick Johnson. Offer Jo-Jo Reyes. Kris Medlen. Hell, give ‘em Casey Kotchman. Johnson plays for a few months, propels the Braves to the postseason, and splits in free agency (bound to happen). Braves play Barbaro Canizares and Martin Prado at 1B next season, give youth their chance to shine, and bring up Freddie Freeman either late next year or the 2011 season. That’s the plan to get to Freeman, who is one of the Braves’ top prospects.
But we want to win. We’re so close. We just need to win a LOT really FAST. And we need a bat to do it.
Nick Johnson is the man. Let’s rent a first base slugger for a few months. Let’s do it. I want to play postseason ball in Atlanta again. With a staff like this, we’re hard to beat in the postseason, but we have to get there first.
Tags: Casey Kotchman, Florida Marlins, Jo-Jo Reyes, Kris Medlen, Nick Johnson
Posted in General | 3 Comments »
After two rough beatings by the Marlins, the Braves are looking for Kenshin Kawakami to steer them past the potential sweep in today’s afternoon game to end the homestand. Kawakami took the win in his first outing of the season behind a 3-run, 4-hit performance where he struck out 8 in 6 innings of work. Hopefully that was the confidence booster he needed after a rough outing in the exhibition game at Turner Field before the season kicked off.
The Braves will have to produce runs without Chipper Jones and Brian McCann in the lineup today. Chipper is still nursing the bruised thumb that was reaggravated during Tuesday’s game. Omar Infante will take the start at third. David Ross will be filling in for Brian McCann. Ross was activated off of the disabled list and took the place of Clint Sammons on the roster, who was sent back to AAA Gwinnett.
After two rough games, the Braves are looking to avoid the sweep and get out of town on a high note to kick off the road trip. Stick with us for in-game updates.
Nunez on to pitch for the Marlins.
- Ross singles.
- Brian McCann pops out. Double play. 2 out.
- Johnson grounds out. 3 out.
Final: 6-2 Marlins
Jorge Campillo on to pitch for the Braves.
- Gload triples to center.
- Bonifacio strikes out. 1 out.
- Amezaga singles. Gload scores. 6-2 Marlins.
- Amezaga thrown out trying to steal second. 2 out.
- Ramirez flies out to second. 3 out.
Nunez on to pitch for the Marlins.
- Kotchman lines out to first. 1 out.
- Francoeur strikes out swinging. 2 out.
- Schafer strikes out…..again. 3 out.
- Cantu strikes out. 1 out.
- Uggla singles to left.
- Hermida strikes out looking. 2 out.
- Ross singles to center. Uggla to center.
- Paulino grounds into a force out. 3 out.
Calero on to pitch for the Marlins.
- Infante pops out to right. 1 out.
- Prado flies out to left. 2 out.
Meyer on to pitch.
- Anderson flies out to center. 3 out.
Jeff Bennett in to pitch.
- Bonifacio grounds out to third. 1 out.
- Amezaga grounds out to second. 2 out.
- Ramirez flies out to right. 3 out.
Good to see a 1-2-3 from the bullpen.
- Ross flies out to right. 1 out.
- Norton flies out to right. 2 out.
- Johnson grounds out first. 3 out.
- Uggla walks.
- Hermida triples to center. Uggla scores. 4-2 Marlins.
- Ross sac fly to center. Schafer’s throw off-line. 1 out. 5-2 Marlins.
- Paulino grounds out to third. 2 out.
- Sanchez grounds out to second. 3 out.
At 109 pitches and the pitcher spot up in the inning, I’d say Kawakami’s done.
- Infante flies out to center. 1 out.
- Escobar grounds out to short. 2 out.
- Anderson doubles to right.
- Kotchman singles.
- Francoeur doubles to center. Anderson scores. 3-2 Marlins.
- Schafer strikes out. 3 out.
Jordan needs to get all the check swings under control.
- Amezaga strikes out. 1 out.
- Ramirez strikes out. 2 out.
- Cantu strikes out. 3 out.
Great inning for Kawakami. 7 Ks on the day.
- Ross grounds out to third. 1 out.
- Kawakami singles.
- Johnson grounds into a fielder’s choice. 2 out.
- Johnson thrown out trying to steal second. 3 out.
- Ross singles past short.
- Paulino strikes out. 1 out.
- Sanchez grounds into a fielder’s choice. 2 out.
- Bonifacio strikes out. 3 out.
Good to avoid the leadoff single.
- Infante flies out to left. 1 out.
- Escobar flies out to right. 2 out.
- Anderson doubles to right.
- Kotchman walks.
- Francoeur singles past short. Anderson scores. Kotchman to second. 3-1 Marlins.
- Schafer strikes out. 3 out.
At least we’re on the board.
- Amezega grounds out to Kawakami. 1 out.
- Ramirez flies out to right. 2 out.
- Cantu walks.
- Uggla doubles to left. Cantu to third.
- Hermida strikes out swinging. 3 out.
Worked out of a jam there.
- Jeff Francoeur flies out to center. 1 out.
- Jordan Schafer grounds out to first. 2 out.
- David Ross walks.
- Kenshin Kawakami singles to left. Ross to second.
- Johnson pops out to second. 3 out.
Another couple of runners stranded. We need to start crossing the plate with those!
- Jorge Cantu singles past third.
- Dan Uggla grounds to short. KJ bobbles the catch for the double play. Both runners safe.
- Jeremy Hermida flies out to center. Runners stay put. 1 out.
- Cody Ross homers to right. 3-0 Marlins.
- Ronny Paulino walks.
- Anibal Sanchez bunts to first. Paulino to second. 2 out.
- Bonifacio grounds out to first. 3 out.
Those runs are all on KJ, the inning should have been over. Not to mention the many added pitches on Kawakami’s arm.
- Kelly Johnson flies out to center. 1 out.
- Omar Infante lines out to center. 2 out.
- Yunel Escobar singles to left. Steals second.
- Garret Anderson walks.
- Casey Kotchman flies out to left. 3 out.
Stranded a few men, but at least a little spark of offense.
- Emilio Bonifacio strikes out swinging. 1 out.
- Alfredo Amezega flies out to right. 2 out.
- Hanley Ramirez grounds out to third 3 out.
Just the start that Kawakami needed. Good 1-2-3 inning.
Tags: David Ross, Florida Marlins, Kenshin Kawakami
Posted in Game Threads | 3 Comments »
Derek Lowe takes the mound tonight for the Braves as they take on the Florida Marlins and Andrew Miller. They look to bounce back from last night’s 5-1 loss, but they’ll have to do it without Chipper Jones, who is sitting with a thumb injury. We’ll update this live from the game, so check back frequently for updates!
Even though Jonathan and I are going to be at the game tonight, feel free to use the chat room and comment thread to offer your opinions and insight on the game.
Tags: Andrew Miller, Derek Lowe, Florida Marlins
Posted in Game Threads | 1 Comment »
Javier Vazquez struck out 12 last night against the Marlins in six innings of work. He gave up three runs in those six innings and the Braves bullpen surrendured two in the eighth to spot the Marlins a 5 spot. Chris Volstad shut the Braves down and gave up only a solo homer to Kelly Johnson. Braves went down 5-1. Garret Anderson dropped not one but TWO foul balls and was charged with two errors. I’m a bit worried about Anderson – if he can’t catch routine fly balls maybe he needs a little more time to rest his leg. Diaz should play tonight, so that’ll be good for Anderson to take a seat for a game.
Glavine’s MRI came back to reveal an inflamed rotator cuff. And yes, it may be about time to stick a fork in him – he may be done. The Braves are reporting that Glavine is frustrated with the rehab process and is considering retirement. Frankly, if we’re paying him this year, I don’t want him to give up and retire in a couple weeks. I want him to fight back as long as he can. I’m torn on this – I really don’t WANT Glavine back in anything but fully effective as a starter (with his historic first inning woes, I don’t want him in a relief role).
I’m not really sure what I want to happen with Glavine – I don’t want him back unhealthy and I don’t want him stuck in rehab forever – I really wish we just hadn’t signed him when we did. Couldn’t we have spent that money towards Smoltzie? I’m just bitter about the whole thing. Why sign Glav when we don’t know he’ll pitch? I’m not just an armchair GM, I’m a bitter armchair GM. What are your thoughts on the situation?
Tags: Florida Marlins, Glavine Considering Retirement, Tom Glavine, Tom Glavine Retire
Posted in Game Analysis, Injuries | 3 Comments »
9th Innning: Blaine “couldn’t throw a strike the other night” Boyer in for the Braves. Somehow didn’t give up a run. Last chance for the Bravos. Worried about Chipper’s hand – he seems to have tweaked it again. Nothing doing for the Braves. Fish win 5-1 – they improve to 6-1 on the year and take over first place in the NL East.
8th Inning: Jeff Bennett pitching. Garret Anderson error (dropped foul ball?) led to a baserunner. Went downhill from there. 4 hits and a walk in 1/3 of an inning led to a 5-1 Marlins lead. O’Flaherty in to pitch – instant double play to stop the pain. 5-1 Fish. Schafer led off with a single but of course nobody could put anything together to advance him.
7th Inning: Moylan on to pitch. 3 up, 3 down. Great defense by Kelly Johnson. Francoeur singled but was chopped down in a beautiful double play by the Fish.
6th Inning: Vazquez retires the side to end his outing. 12 strikeouts for Vazquez – solid stuff. Prado doubles in his pinch-hit appearance. Escobar got on base, Chipper sacrificed them to second and third to set it up for McCann. McCann ripped one to first – it was bobbled but McCann was forced out.
5th Inning: Marlins up and down. Braves strand a runner. Norton was in the on-deck circle so we’ll probably see Vazquez for another inning max.
4th Inning: Nothing doing for the Marlins. Kelly Johnson homerun makes it 3-1. Next three batters retired. 3-1 Marlins.
3rd Inning: Marlins knock in two on an Uggla single. A Vazquez wild pitch brought in another run. 3-0 Marlins. Volstad retired the side in order. He’s got a ridiculous breaking ball, by the way.
2nd Inning: Marlins had two on with two out, but unable to do anything. McCann laid down a bunt and just about beat it out (looked like he was safe on the replay) – Bobby came out to argue briefly but stays in the game. Garret Anderson and Jeff Francoeur flew out to end the 2nd. Volstad’s looking good.
1st Inning: Vazquez struck out two and got Hanley Ramirez to fly out to right. Wind is blowing left to right tonight – may be a factor on fly balls hit to right field. Bottom of the first Braves went 1, 2, 3.
When Javier Vazquez takes the mound for the Braves against the Florida Marlins’ Chris Volstad tonight, the Braves hope to walk away with another series win and an early season lead in the NL East. The Marlins are like the Braves – off to a 5-1 start. They have been cruising behind their young pitching staff – the oldest of the bunch of 26 – and Volstad is only 22.
The Braves have been riding behind solid starting pitching and a great offensive start – even if the bullpen has been shaky in an outing or two. The Braves lead the league with a .300 team batting average and a .540 slugging percentage. They’ve spread the offense out among their lineup and are very solid through and through. Javier is looking for his first win of the season as his start was spoiled by a bullpen meltdown that can only be descirbed in two ways (pick one: apocalyptic OR last season-ish). Hopefully the Braves can continue their hot start and roll their way to a 7-2 or 8-1 start – we’ll have to crack the pitching of the fish in order to do so.
What do you see happening tonight? What about the rest of the series? Anyone making it out to the park?
Tags: Florida Marlins
Posted in Game Threads, Series Previews | 2 Comments »
Coming off a strong win last night against the Marlins, the Braves send Charlie Morton (2-2, 5.93 ERA) to the mound against Rick VandenHurk (0-1, 11.81 ERA). Morton won’t have Bobby Cox in the dugout to turn to – Bobby is serving a one game suspension for his actions a couple nights ago that led to his 141st career ejection.
Game starts at 7:10 PM. This is a must-win series, and VandenHurk doesn’t seem like a very intimidating pitcher with his sky-high ERA.
Tags: Florida Marlins
Posted in Game Threads | 68 Comments »