Recent Offensive Struggles A Cause For Concern?

Written by Nick Yother on August 3, 2011 – 9:59 am

The Atlanta Braves have had some woes in the offensive category over the past 11 games that have many Braves fans feeling a little antsy. Yes, a good formula for making the playoffs is not losing 6 of the last 11. What is worse is that the team we are trying to catch has been 8-3 over the same stretch and the Arizona Diamondbacks are nipping at the Braves in the Wild Card race by winning 8 of their last 11. So the recent outcry of Braves fans is certainly understandable and my goal in this post is help ease the pain and look at the bright side of things.

The Braves are only averaging just over 3 runs a game in the last 10 games; that’s not enough to win you many ball games. What I have seen though is that it’s not due to a lack of hits and opportunities. In the last 4 games alone the braves are 2-2 but are averaging 11 hits a game and only 3 runs a game. If the Braves can continue to hit like they are now the runs will eventually show up.

This team is struggling, yes. This team is not playing up to their ability level, yes I agree. My only argument is that when any team loses their 3 and 4 hitters at the same time they are going to struggle. This is simply a time where the team is going to have to grind it out and do their best to put some wins on the board. All teams go through times like this in the course of a 162-game season. The Braves are about to go on a tear and they are going to get hot at the right time. I truly believe it. We just have to hope the other teams around us struggle a bit as well.

Braves fans, don’t sweat too much. We may be feeling the heat in more ways than just the insanely hot weather. This is not a team who is going to roll over and die. Look for this team to be fighting until the very last game….where we win the World Series.


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What Did The Braves Really Do At The Deadline?

Written by Nick Yother on July 31, 2011 – 10:20 pm

Just as quick as the trade deadline approached, it has now passed and the Braves made a splash with the acquisition of Michael Bourn. As you look at the deal, the Braves got a star centerfielder, gold glove defender, and a legitimate leadoff hitter without having to give up any of our “untouchable prospects.” Bourne is probably one of the best if not THE best leadoff guy in the league with speed that helped him lead the league in stolen bases the last 2 years and OBP% which sits around .350. It’s not only the numbers that makes Bourn such a good acquisition. Everything around the league says that he is a hard working/ class act type guy who will provide leadership and outstanding baseball talents.

This will add much needed depth to the lineup which I see looking like this (when or if ever healthy):

1. Michael Bourn
2. Martin Prado
3. Brian McCann
4. Chipper Jones
5. Freddie Freeman
6. Dan Uggla
7. Jason Heyward
8. Alex Gonzalez

This lineup becomes one of the best in baseball and I believe will perform like it. If Bourn comes in and does what he always has, he will set the table very well for the rest of the lineup. Fredi Gonzalez won’t even be able to mess up this lineup. I know it’s a couple weeks until we see what this ball club can really do but the bright side is that Brian McCann is getting some much needed rest that will help us down the stretch run.  This trade upgrades our team more than Carlos Beltran and HunterPence upgraded their respected teams.

But what else can this trade do for the team?

The Braves have really constructed this team very well. Everyone knows how talented our starting players are from the position players to the pitching staff but what most non-avid Braves fans will miss is how deep this team really is. All year this team has battled injury and struggles to only be picked up by many unsung heroes like David Ross, Eric Hinske, and Brooks Conrad. These guys are really what makes this team so dangerous. You know every time you see one of these guys walk up to the plate they are going to give you a great at bat. Like Bourn, their value goes past the on field statistics. Eric Hinske and David Ross are definite veteran guys who lead their team. From what you read, they are always there to encourage and uplift the team even in the faces of a hard loss. The depth of this team is extremely important to its success. The acquisition of Bourn makes this ball club deeper as well with Nate McLouth becoming the 4th OF.

A couple more trade thoughts.

Current reports seem to indicate as well that Frank Wren still wants to make the ball club even deeper with a right-handed bat to come off the bench or turn into a platoon partner. The challenge will be getting someone of quality now through the waiver wire. This really is the missing piece to the bench as the Braves woes vs. LHP is so dreadful having a guy who can come off the bench and put a spark into the lineup from time to time would be a big boost.

It seems the Braves don’t have the urgency to really go after a relief pitcher for the stretch run which obviously shows their confidence in Anthony Vavaro to hold down the fort until Peter Moylan can return from the disabled list and Arodys Vizcaino to prove if he is ready for the show.


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Making The Braves Better – Trade Targets

Written by Thomas on July 13, 2011 – 10:24 am

Heading into the Phillies series before the All-Star break, the Braves boasted the third-best winning percentage in baseball and were on pace to win ninety-six games. Obviously, the team constituted as such has a very good chance to make the playoffs; coolstandings.com calculates those odds at 77.5%. So while the front office could justify sitting pat at the fast approaching trade deadline, the Braves certainly have enough pitching depth to exchange some for a centerfielder or shortstop if they find the right deal. The following is a list of players that have either been connected to trade rumors already or make sense for the Braves to target.

Carlos Quentin/ Juan Pierre

Both Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe and Mark Bowman from Braves.com recently reported that the White Sox have been scouting Braves pitching and may look to exchange a bat for a major league ready pitcher. Cafardo mentioned Quentin as a possible match for Atlanta, but Bowman stated that the Braves are unlikely to target a corner outfielder. Assuming the team has no plans to send Chipper Jones to the DL upon Martin Prado’s return, then Quentin is not a match. With Prado and Heyward locked in at the corners, the Braves would only be able to upgrade in the outfield with a centerfielder. Bowman’s mention of Sox outfielder Juan Pierre as a possible target warrants projectile vomiting from anyone that cares about the Braves. Not only is Pierre a horrible hitter (.287 wOBA in 385 PA this season), but he cannot and has not played centerfield since 2009. God willing, the front office has no interest in either of these players, and these rumors are simply the result of unintelligent/lazy journalism.

Michael Bourn

Bourn should be the Braves’ primary trade target, and he appears to be obtainable. Not only do the Astros have the worst record in baseball this season, but their next taste of playoff contention appears to be many years down the road. Therefore, they should look to trade Bourn, who has one year left of arbitration, for someone that can help them win beyond 2012. From the Braves’ standpoint, Bourn would certainly provide them a significant upgrade in centerfield over Schafer or McLouth. Over the last two and a half seasons the Astros leadoff man has combined to produce 12.9 WAR by getting on base at a .348 clip, playing excellent defense, and being one of the best base runners in the game. If these two teams discuss a deal, it will likely center around Mike Minor or Brandon Beachy heading to Houston. In all likelihood the 2012 Braves’s rotation will not have room for both of these pitchers, so it makes sense to trade one in order to make this and next year’s team better.

J.J. Hardy

Hardy has reportedly been in contract extension talks with the Orioles, but if the two sides cannot reach a deal then Baltimore will look to trade their shortstop in the middle of his career year. He currently boasts a line of .289/.348/.520 this season and has always been a solid if not plus defender. Hardy would unquestionably provide an upgrade over the free swinging Alex Gonzalez by adding a little pop and patience to our lineup without sacrificing anything defensively. If extension talks fall through, the Braves should be first in line to kick the tires on Hardy and at least see what the Orioles are asking for him.


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Looking into the Crystal Ball: Predictions for the Rest of the Year

Written by Caleb on June 23, 2011 – 12:06 pm

The season is 46% completed, so it is well past time to start making predictions on the finishing order of the National League. The previous statement is completely sarcastic (still need to find that sarcasm font), however I do think a significant amount of the season has been played, enough so that we should, by now, have a clearer picture of how teams will continue to play and how the season should finish. Using the Pythagoren W-L formula from Baseball-Reference, I am going to predict how the final season standings will look. As a note, current Pythagorean W-L records are within 2 games of actual wins and losses through the games on June 21, except for the Giants who statistically “should” have four less wins and the Astros who “should” have three more wins. With the calculations this close to the actual records, I feel confident the formula will provide a reasonably accurate prediction. As with all predictions, mine will probably be wrong. If the Braves go on a tear and win the NL East, I will happily eat crow.

Let’s start with the NL West.

Wins Losses
ARI 85 77
COL 84 78
SFG 77 85
LAD 73 89
SDP 71 91

The results are not entirely surprising. Arizona has been playing the best baseball of those five teams recently. San Francisco’s loss of Buster Posey will dramatically affect their offensive output and, more than likely, their pitching output. Colorado seems to always hang around and be in contention towards the end of the year and the prediction parallels that statement. With just one run separating the two, it is a toss-up on which team wins the division.

Wins Losses
CIN 87 75
STL 85 77
MIL 84 78
PIT 77 85
CHC 66 96
HOU 65 97

The NL Central is the closest race with three teams separated by three games. It will be interesting to see how the Cardinals respond the next six to eight weeks without Albert Pujols. With Pujols having a sub-par year, I believe the Cardinals can stay within striking distance until he returns. This is especially true if Lance Berkman can continue to provide some power.

Cincinnati has played well, and if the Cardinals do struggle without Pujols, I can easily see this team stringing together a few series wins and pulling away from Cardinals and Brewers.

I do not see Milwaukee competing with those two for the rest of the year, but with an injury here or there to Cincinnati and Milwaukee finally healthy, there is a slight possibility for the Brewers to test the Reds to the end of the season.

Wins Losses
PHI 100 62
ATL 91 71
WSN 83 79
NYM 78 84
FLA 71 91

The NL East appears to be the easiest to predict. A majority of analysts predicted that the Phillies and the Braves would finish first and second. I’m surprised at how easily the Braves will win the wild card race. I was expecting it to come down to the wire (which I’m sure it will), even in the formula. A four-win lead is not something I am even willing to predict now.

The Phillies have played exceedingly well considering the injuries they have had to endure. I have no reason to doubt their ability to play at this high of a level throughout the rest of the season. Their offense should continue to play at a high-level and of course their pitching staff should still be un-hittable.

However, I am dubious of the Braves continuing as they are. The pitching will continue to be excellent, of that I have very little doubt. What about the offense though? Even as awful as the offense has been, the Braves are still predicted to win 91 games. Thank you pitching staff. What happens if Uggla starts hitting .250 and his home run total trends towards thirty for the year? Heyward is predicted to return to last year’s form at some point this year and Prado should be ready to contribute as soon as the infection is knocked out. What does this offense look like in a few weeks with a healthy lineup and an effective Uggla?  Is the team still on pace for 91 wins or is it on pace for 95?

The four playoff teams will consist of NL East winner Philadelphia, NL Central winner Cincinnati,  NL West winner Arizona, and the wild card winner, Atlanta. The Phillies will face off against the Diamondbacks with the Braves will face the Reds. The NLCS will have the Phillies and Braves squaring off. I am too biased to make and actual prediction on that game, so I’ll just leave it at that.

What do you think? Will the offense turn around? Will the Phillies continue to dominate? With nice games remaining with the Phillies, what do you think the Braves’ record will be against them for the remainder of the season?


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There Are No Words…

Written by Jonathan on October 12, 2010 – 12:11 am

Thanks Bobby


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A Look Back on Game-1 & the Airtight Case for Instant Replay

Written by Kent on October 8, 2010 – 5:08 pm

In his latest “Fried Baseball” audio blog, Kent Covington reviews game 1 of the NLDS and makes an airtight case for expanded instant replay in Major League Baseball. Throw in your 2 cents in the comments section below.

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NLDS Game 1 Recap

Written by Thomas on October 8, 2010 – 9:21 am

When the Braves failed to get Omar Infante home after a leadoff double in the first, they lost the best scoring chance they would have all night. Tim Lincecum was nothing short of spectacular and was aided by the Braves’ lineup swinging at terrible pitches all game. “The Freak” used his fastball to get ahead in counts then went to his slider/changeup for the kill and recorded fourteen strikeouts en route to a complete game shutout.

Unfortunately, Lincecum’s masterpiece will overshadow the gutsy performance turned in by Derek Lowe. In 5.1 innings pitched Lowe recorded nine groundball outs to just one fly ball while striking out six. The only run he surrendered was aided by what turned out to be a devastating blown call. Replays showed that Buster Posey was clearly tagged out while attempting to steal second base in the fourth inning, but the second base umpire called him safe (TBS announcer Bob Brenly suggested he was out of position). Later that inning former Marlin Cody Ross hit a grounder that went right under Omar Infante’s glove scoring Posey from second. It would be the only run either team scored all night.

From a managerial standpoint, Bobby utilized the bullpen brilliantly. He relieved Derek Lowe in the sixth with Johnny Venters who came in and immediately got the double play ball that was needed. Bobby also went righty (Moylan), lefty (Dunn), righty (Kimbrel) in the eight inning in order to try and keep the deficit at one run.

To be fair this game happened like it was supposed to on paper. Our injury plagued lineup simply isn’t very good, and it was going up against one of the game’s best tonight. However, that is no excuse for our hitters’ collective lack of patience at the plate. Derrek Lee and Brian McCann, two of our offensive veterans, both struck out swinging on pitches that would have been ball four in the first inning. Likewise, Heyward did the same thing in the ninth inning on a pitch that wasn’t even close. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone, with the exception of Infante, did a lot of swinging and missing tonight.

Tonight’s game is about as must win as it gets. Hanson will need to follow in Lowe’s footsteps if we have any chance to steal a win, because I am not expecting much out of our lineup, especially against Cain.


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Breaking Down The NLDS: Braves vs. Giants

Written by Thomas on October 7, 2010 – 3:00 pm

Las Vegas has the Braves as a reasonable underdog (+140) to the Giants, but as Bobby Cox pointed out, we did take four out of seven from them in the regular season. Let’s breakdown the two clubs, position by position, to give us a better idea of who we should expect to come out on top.

(1) Starting Pitching

As good as Derek Lowe was in September, Tim Lincecum matched him by striking out 52 batters in just under 42 innings while posting a 1.94 ERA. He may not have a postseason track record, but neither did Roy Halladay.

Matt Cain has a lower ERA than Tommy Hanson, but fielding independent numbers give the nod to Tommy who has a slightly better K/BB ratio this season. Neither have pitched in the postseason, but Cain got roughed up by the Padres in his last start of the regular season. Hopefully, his failure to perform in a high leverage situation is a sign of things to come.

Sabermetricians might try to argue that Jonathan Sanchez has been better than Tim Hudson this season. Call me a homer, but I’ll take Hudson who has much better control and the ability to keep the ball on the ground.

Verdict: Assuming Derek Lowe continues to pitch like it’s September, neither team has much of an advantage.

(2) Catcher

Surprisingly enough, Buster Posey has been a little better than Brian McCann this season (.368 vs. .361 wOBA). What’s concerning about Brian is how badly he played in September. Posey on the other hand tore it up in the season’s final month producing a .256/.343/.533 line.

Verdict: Call me crazy, but Posey has the hot hand and seems to be playing his best when it matters the most. He is also at least as good, if not better, than B Mac defensively.

(3) First Base

Aubrey Huff has been a pleasant surprise for the Giants this season and had a decent September. Meanwhile, Derrek Lee hasn’t been himself this season but has come on strong in the final two months of the season (.899 OPS since August 1st).

Verdict: Despite Lee having pretty weak postseason numbers, I’ll take him in a heartbeat over Huff.

(4) Second Base

The Giants’ Freddy Sanchez was injured to begin the season and started out slowly upon his return. However, Sanchez finished strong in the final two months of the season and posted an OPS of .865 in September. Our Brooks Conrad is a defensively liability to put it kindly, but has flashed considerable power at the plate all season long.

Verdict: Something tells me Brooks is going to have a couple of big hits in this series, so I’ll say it’s a wash. Let’s hope he can steady his nerves in the field and avoid making a crippling error at the wrong time.

(5) Third Base

Pablo Sandoval has been abysmal this season. He has no plate discipline and hardly any power. While Omar Infante has fallen off a bit in September, he is clearly the better player right now.

Verdict: Hands down Infante

(6) Shortstop

Neither Juan Uribe nor Alex Gonzalez has any plate discipline. Both, however, have considerable power. Unfortunately, Gonzalez has been horrendous at the plate this past month and will need to give Atlanta something in the middle of the order over the course of the series.

Verdict: Gonzalez is a little better defensively, but I would much rather have Uribe’s bat.

(7-9) Outfield

Neither outfield has been very good. Pat Burrell has provided a shot to the arm for the Giants, as has Andres Torres, but anyone else they throw out there is pretty terrible. Likewise, Jason Heyward has carried the Braves outfield with help from Matt Diaz at times, but that’s about it.

Verdict: Both are pretty bad, but I would take ours only because of Jason Heyward. He is the best defensive outfielder on either team, and his patience at the plate should make him a tough out all series long.

(10-11) Bullpen and Bench

Both bullpens have been excellent this season. The Giants’ ranks second in NL ERA while the Braves’ ranks third. Billy Wagner and Brian Wilson are both excellent at the backend as well.

The Braves’ bench was clearly better prior to the injuries of Chipper and Martin Prado but no longer. We are stretched thin in the infield but have plenty of good choices for pinch hitters.

Verdict: Pretty much no advantage gained by either team. One point of concern though is that our great lefty relievers will not be as valuable against the Giants’ right handed heavy lineup.

Overall, neither team has much of an advantage over the other. You could certainly argue that the BRAVES are the favorites, but it seems to be a tossup. Both teams will showcase very good pitching staffs with average to mediocre lineups. Should be a really competitive series.


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Braves “Fried Baseball” NLDS Preview

Written by Kent on October 6, 2010 – 11:18 pm

In his latest “Fried Baseball” audio blog, Kent Covington opines on the Wild Card victory won by the Braves in spite of substantial injuries… and previews the upcoming Divisional Series vs the San Fransisco Giants. Throw in your 2 cents in the comment section below.

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NLDS Game-1 Viewing Party—Open Invitation!

Written by Kent on October 4, 2010 – 4:17 pm

NLDS GAME-1 VIEWING PARTY:

WHEN: This Thursday, October 7th at 9pm

WHERE: Jocks & Jill’s sports grill at Galleria Mall in Atlanta @ 285 N & I-75. http://www.jocksandjills.com/

ADDRESS: 1 Galleria Pkwy SE, Atlanta, GA 30339… There is an external entrance on the North-Northwest side of the mall, facing 285.

HOW MUCH: Only cost is whatever food/drinks you order.

OTHER INFO:

· You don’t necessarily need to be there at 9pm. Game time is 9:37pm EST. It’s a weeknight, so if you need to leave early, we understand. No one will ridicule you for it. Well… we might ridicule you a little, but hey, it’s a free country!

· We don’t expect a huge crowd, so there should be plenty of room for anyone/everyone. We’d like to know roughly how many are coming, so if you’d like to join us, please email us at the address below and let us know how many people, if any, you’re bringing along. However, if you don’t email ahead of time and just decide at the last minute to join us… no big deal. Come on down!

· If it’s your first time to a Braves viewing party, you may be asked to wear a My Little Pony backpack, in honor of the Braves’ rookie hazing ritual. Just kidding. Maybe.

EMAIL: [email protected]


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Playoff Baseball Comes To Atlanta!!!

Written by Jonathan on October 3, 2010 – 8:28 pm

And the best scenario possible going into the day has happened, folks.  The Braves won, the Padres lost……and the Braves are back in the playoffs!

The Braves will take on the Giants starting Thursday and be in Atlanta for Game 3 on Sunday and Game 4, if we somehow don’t sweep the Giants, on Monday.

Bobby’s not walking off the field for the last time yet!  Today has been a long time coming and the Braves are making one last run for an amazing manager.

Bobby Cox Not Done Yet

Bobby Cox walks off the field after a win to keep the Braves alive on October 3rd, 2010. Photo - Jonathan Torrell


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It All Comes Down To This For Bobby And The Braves

Written by Jonathan on October 3, 2010 – 10:23 am

This isn’t the ideal spot where we, as Braves fans, wanted to be going into the last game of the season.  However, I’ve said all along that it was entirely possible that the result of this season could come down to the final homestand and, in fact, game number 162.

Now I’m not even going to write about the events of the last two games that have landed the Braves in this position because, for one, I was there for all of them and don’t want to think about it any more and, secondly, I’ve read about it endlessly on every website in the world.  But nevertheless, here we are in pretty much a must-win situation.  Let me break down the possibilities for the Braves based on their results today and the Padres results today.

If Atlanta Wins and San Diego Wins there is a three-team tiebreaker for the first time ever.  The Padres and Giants tie for the lead in the NL West and have the same record as the Braves do.  The Padres and Giants will play a one-game playoff to determine the winner of the NL West on Monday.  The loser travels to Atlanta to play a one-game playoff to decide the Wild Card winner on Tuesday.

If Atlanta Wins and San Diego Loses then Atlanta wins the Wild Card and San Diego is eliminated from playoff contention by the Giants.

If Atlanta Loses and San Diego Loses then the Padres come to Atlanta on Monday for a one-game playoff to determine the NL Wild Card winner.

If Atlanta Loses and San Diego Wins then San Diego wins the NL West (tiebreaker head-to-head with San Francisco) and the Giants win the NL Wild Card.  The Braves are eliminated from playoff contention.

So there are the 4 scenarios based on the outcome of two critical games today.  The Braves play first, so once the game is over, all we can do is sit and watch and hope for the best.  If the Braves win, we live to fight at least one more day, so that should be the only task at hand.  In 3 of the 4 possible scenarios, the Braves have another shot, but it’s going to require getting the offense going.

I’m glad we have Hudson on the mound today, even though the prospect of him pitching on three days rest two times in a row is a little scary.  The Phillies are getting their starters ready for the playoffs and pitching Hamels and Oswalt today…..scary, but not impossible.

This is, in fact, the last regular season game in a surely Hall of Fame career for Bobby Cox.  Come on, Braves! It all comes down to this.  Do it for yourselves, do it for the fans, and most importantly….DO IT FOR BOBBY!

Bobby Cox - Tribute Ceremony

Bobby Cox acknowledges the crowd on 10/2 at the Bobby Cox tribute ceremony. Photo - Jonathan Torrell.

We’ll have more pictures from the ceremony up in the next couple of days.  First things first, let’s get our beloved manager to the playoffs.


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