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 »
Taking two out of three from the Nats in D.C. may not sound like much, but the Braves are now just 12-18 in Nationals Park since it opened in 2008. And while winning this series means next to nothing in the grand scheme of an 162 game season, it’s nice to see the “Freddi Era” off to a good start (even if he is batting Jason Heyward, the Prince of Princes and he of the .390 OBP variety, sixth). Here are a few thoughts and impressions from the Braves’ opening weekend:
1) Jason Heyward
It was quite a thrill to see him homer in his first at bat yet again, but what should Braves fans expect out of J-Hey in year two? A significant increase in power will not come until he starts hitting more fly balls, but it’s almost impossible to predict if this will happen in 2011. If he continues to hit grounders at an alarmingly high rate (55% last season, 7th highest in MLB), Jason can still improve by striking out less than he did last season. And if his minor league numbers are any indication, this should happen. So while we may not see an increase in power this season, if Jason puts the ball in play more, it will lead to a higher batting average/OBP in 2011.
2) Tommy Hanson
It was frustrating to watch Hanson struggle in his first start, but there is little reason for concern. His fastball velocity was down (91.1 MPH compared to a career average of 92.5), but the weather was poor and caused a delay before the game even started. Look for him to rebound against Milwaukee on Thursday, and even if he doesn’t, don’t panic.
3) Pitching Depth
The news that Jair Jurrjens will miss his first start and head to the DL shouldn’t be too concerning either; the Braves have more than enough depth to cover him in his absence. Mike Minor will fill in for now, but what if another injury happens? While top prospect Julio Teheran may not be considered part of the Major League ready depth just yet, the front office has announced that he will start the season in Gwinnett. Seems like they are trying to keep him awfully close to Turner Field…..or at least closer than Kenshin Kawakami.
The Braves start a four-game series against the Brewers this afternoon before coming home to the home opening series against the Phillies this weekend.
Tags: Jair Jurrjens, Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson
Posted in General | 1 Comment »
After the hottest of Mays, the Braves were forced to turn their calendars to June (despite consistent urging from Chip Carey) and have seemingly left their past struggles in the month behind. The Braves have gone 17-11 in the month despite having to deal with significant injuries, including the loss of their All-Star center fielder Nate McLouth who in 2008 batted…never mind. All joking aside, here are the reasons why I believe the Braves more than survived June as well as some concerns looking forward.
1) Martin Prado, Troy Glaus, and Kris Medlen
After a ridiculous April in which he reached base over 42% of his plate appearances, Martin Prado came back down to earth in May. At some point during the month Jerome Jurenovich suggested that he should be starting the All-Star game; I almost fell off the couch laughing. Of course at that point Chase Utley was on fire, and I could never have foreseen the power surge Prado has had. While posting an OPS of .947, Prado led all National League second basemen with 14 extra base hits in the month of June. He now boasts the highest OPS amongst all NL second baggers and almost unquestionably deserves to start the All-Star game. With Utley on the DL and Prado leading the majors in hits, this seems very likely.
Troy Glaus has been no slouch either. A couple of weeks ago I wrote that I would rather have a former Brave who sometimes forgets that he is playing baseball while in the field over TG. I no longer feel this way. After being named National League POTM in May, Glaus has continued to swing a hot bat in June. Although his OBP dipped, he still belted 8 doubles and 6 homeruns to tie Prado for the team lead in extra base hits for the month. He also came close to stopping a couple of balls hit to his left (wink wink).
While Tim Hudson’s numbers are spectacular, I would argue Kris Medlen has been better. According to Baseball Prospectus’s SIERA (Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average), which is basically a stat that shows how lucky Ubaldo Jimenez is, Medlen has out performed Huddy and ranks 33rd in the category amongst all Major League pitchers with at least 70 IP. Perhaps more importantly for the Braves, Medlen has been their saving grace in the absence of Jair Jurrjens and will now allow them to move Kenshin Kawakami to the bullpen.
2) J-Hey to the DL and Big Red struggles
On May 30th Jason Heyward’s OPS was 1.017, tops in the National League. Since then Heyward has struggled mightily, posting an OPS of .532 in June while striking out a whopping 32 times. While the Braves and Jason cite his injured left thumb as the reason for his struggles, I doubt this to be the sole reason. As Mark Bowman of MLB.com pointed out in a recent article, Heyward was on fire for the first fifteen games after jamming his thumb which hardly seemed to be bothering him then. While it apparently got worse, it seemingly became an issue only after he started struggling. Hopefully rest will allow Jason to regain his stroke and return to his spectacular form.
While Tommy Hanson has struggled in his past two starts, I see little reason for concern. His K/BB ratio is slightly better than it was a year ago as he is striking out a batter an inning, and his BABIP is a ridiculously high .347. This is simply a product of bad luck and will almost certainly come down. Two bad starts in a row is not a trend, it is merely an aberration. As long as his velocity remains constant (and according to pitch FX it has) there is nothing to worry about.
Despite their success so far this season, the Braves could easily finish third in the NL East. While I think they are still the favorites to win it at this point, anything can happen over the course of the next three months. Hopefully the return of Jurrjens and the recovery of Heyward will be more than enough for the team to distance themselves from the ailing Phillies and overachieving Mets in July.
Tags: Kris Medlen, Martin Prado, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Troy Glaus
Posted in General | 1 Comment »
It seems hardly fitting that today is the first Spring Training game for the Braves. I’m sitting here staring out the window in Atlanta to a very gray day outside and watching my car slowly get covered in snow. I’ve lived in Atlanta for 9 years and it has snowed maybe 3 times since I’ve been here, but I’m pretty sure this is the 5th significant snow this winter. That’s all irrelevant for the most part however.
In a couple of hours, the Braves are scheduled to take the field for their opening Grapefruit League game against the Mets. It’s mid-60s there, slight chance of rain, but nevertheless, it’s time for baseball.
So here’s where we are and what we’ve learned thus far in Spring Training:
Jason Heyward hits bombs. We’ve heard it plenty from every news source covering the Braves (and a number that really aren’t). Parking lots. New nets to protect cars. We get it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pumped to see this kid play, but I’m just ready to see how he handles live pitching. Batting practice is one thing, but I have no doubts that he can bring it at a big league level.
Jair Jurrjens is okay. It’ll be a few days before his pitch counts start to increase again, but all indications are that Jurrjens will be okay in the long run. I’d much rather the training staff takes their time with him and keeps him healthy down the stretch this season.
Derek Lowe is the opening day starter. I’m not terribly sure I agree with this, but it’s a showing of confidence from Bobby Cox so I can accept it. Any situation where Tim Hudson is your number four starter…..I’m okay with it. I’ve heard a little distaste about that fact, but seriously, step back and look at it. If this rotation is healthy, it’s stacked.
The games don’t matter. So maybe we haven’t really learned this one in Spring Training, but it’s just a reminder to everyone that the outcome of Spring Training games isn’t the real thing we should be looking at during this time of year. Keep your eye on individual performances, watch the young guys get the chance to show off a little, and get pumped up for baseball to get started back up at the Ted.
So that’s that, Braves vs. Mets at 1pm today. Tommy Hanson will throw a couple of innings and I’m looking for another big season out of him. What are you looking at in Spring Training? Young guys? Old guys trying to regain form? Either way, it’s time for baseball.
Tags: Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Jason Heyward, Spring Training, Tommy Hanson
Posted in General | 3 Comments »
Tommy Hanson improved his record to 3-0 since being called up to the bigs and the Braves recorded their second shutout in a row tonight against the visiting New York Yankees.
Sparked by a 3-run third inning with a 2-RBI double from Garret Anderson and a solo home run from Brian McCann in the 8th, the Braves shut down the Yankees 4-0, issuing only 4 hits.
The game wasn’t without tense moments however, with Tommy Hanson and Peter Moylan both working out of some jams with runners in scoring position. Let’s hope this is a good sign for the Braves when the Yankees series continues tomorrow and we can put together a much-needed win streak.
Tags: New York Yankees, Tommy Hanson
Posted in Game Analysis | 6 Comments »
When the Braves take the field today at 1:30, Tommy Hanson will take the mound for his first major league start. That’s right, we’ve heard legendary tales of the 6’6″ pitcher’s fastball and curveball, but today we get to see it in person (or on TV).
Hanson is 3-3 at AAA Gwinnett, with a 1.49 ERA, 90 strikeouts, all while holding opponents to an incredible .169 average. His last four starts have just been dazzling – he’s gone 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA, with 33 strikeouts in just over 25 innings.
Opposite Hanson is the Brewers’ Manny Parra, 3-7 with a 6.75 ERA. Hopefully we can provide some offense. Any offense. At all. Let’s give Hanson the run support he deserves.
Tags: Tommy Hanson
Posted in Game Threads | 4 Comments »
Chipper Jones hits third for the Braves. He’s always hit third, and he prefers third. But even Chipper is willing to admit he may get more RBI opportunities with Nate McLouth in front of him. “Bobby wants to do what’s best for the club,” said Chipper, “and if he thinks Nate might get a couple of hits hitting in the third hole because I’m behind him, then so be it.”
Nate’s excited about it too – calling Chipper “one of the greatest switch-hitters of all time.” McLouth has been hitting third for the Pirates this year and will be hopefully more productive than he was in Pittsburgh as he’s surrounded by better players – some decent leadoff talent in Escobar and Johnson (who’s been tearing it up lately), and with Chipper and McCann behind him. We’ll see what happens.
In other news, notice the Braves orchestrated the rain to allow yesterday’s game to be rained out. After making tons of money off ticket sales for Tommy Hanson’s Saturday debut, they hope to cash in on Sunday’s game now as well. Ok, maybe I’m going a little far, but a conspiracy theory never hurt anybody.
Tags: Nate McLouth, Tommy Hanson
Posted in General | 1 Comment »
Tom Glavine was released yesterday by the Braves because Frank Wren and company determined that he wasn’t going to be effective at the big league level. They’re right. It was my opinion when Glavine was signed that once he finished rehabbing, he’d only be a mediocre pitcher. It’s just not needed on a club with all the pitching talent we currently have.
Last year, when Glavine was healthy and started 13 games before he was injured, he was only a shadow of his former self. He only had 5 quality starts – 38% of his starts were considered Quality Starts (> 6 IP, </= 3 RA). His career average is 64%, including last year. We saw him break 100 pitches thrown once out of those 13 appearances. The Braves scored an average of 4.9 runs per game while he was on the mound, and yet he still ended up with a 2-4 record and a 5.54 ERA. The bottom line is he just isn’t as sharp as he used to be. Sure, he’ll pitch alright for someone, but that’s not us. We’ve got Tommy Hanson coming to start Saturday – and if the hype is right, he’s ridiculously sharp.
Yes, it’s definitely surprising and somewhat sad to see the Braves release someone who has such history with the team and with baseball, but this is a baseball move and frankly I don’t feel much connection to Glavine the way I did to Smoltz. It’s just not there, ever since he decided to play traitor and move to the NY Mets for a while. Sure, he’s a great ballplayer and a nice guy, but he had no loyalty for his team and I don’t feel a need to stand up and be emotional about his release when he wasn’t going to provide a boost to the pitching staff.
The bottom line is that with a good starting four, Tommy Hanson ready to come up, and Tim Hudson coming back from surgery later this year, we just had no room for a mediocre, shell-of-his-former-self Tom Glavine. That’s a little sad, but not that sad. Farewell Tommy – thanks for all the good memories and best of luck looking for another job. I hear the Mets could use an arm or two.
Tags: Tom Glavine, Tommy Hanson
Posted in General | 3 Comments »
Tommy Hanson is coming to Atlanta. He’ll make his first start for the Atlanta Braves this Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers. Hanson has been tearing it up in Gwinnett for the AAA ballclub with a 1.50 ERA and 90 strikeouts.
Hanson will take the rotation slot previously held by Kris Medlen – who has been moved to the bullpen. It’s about time for us to see what Hanson can do – he’s the most hyped prospect the Braves have had in years. Frank Wren said it was time to call up Hanson when they determined they’d rather have him starting than Tom Glavine, who was released earlier today.
Looking forward to seeing Hanson? Will he flop or be the real deal?
Tags: Tommy Hanson
Posted in Roster Moves | 1 Comment »
The Braves starting pitching continues to excel this season – and while Frank Wren searches for some more offense to back up the staff, the Braves are not lacking in starting pitching depth.
Derek Lowe is 6-3 with a 3.49 ERA (8 quality starts), Jair Jurrjens is 5-2 with a beautiful 2.59 ERA (7 quality starts), and Javier Vazquez is doing ok – he has an even 4-4 record with a 3.58 ERA (7 quality starts). Behind that, Kenshin Kawakami appears to be struggling at 3-6 with a 4.73 ERA, but you’d be having trouble too if you only got an average of 1.7 runs scored per game when you were pitching. With such lousy run support, it’s a wonder Kawakami has three wins.
Glavine is ready to come to Atlanta and start. Whether or not he’ll be good, we’ll see. He’s ready though. Kris Medlen had two rough starts but was great in his last start as he struck out nine in six innings of work. He may just have a chance to stick around and prove he has the stuff he needs to excel in the majors. And of course we have Tommy Hanson honing his skills in Gwinnett, waiting to make the 45 minute drive south and show us his stuff. Oh, and Tim Hudson is on track for a return in August or September.
So what happens now? We’ve got Tommy ready to pitch, Medlen to give some playing time to, Hanson to fit in, and 2 pitchers that are doing alright.
I think the odd man out, interestingly enough, is Javier Vazquez. He has a high strikeout rate, but the Braves give him the most run support while he’s on the mound (5.5 runs per game) and yet he’s only 4-4 – and the Braves are only .455 when he gets the ball. To give you an idea of how bad that is, the Braves are .400 with Jo-Jo Reyes starting. Kawakami needs more run support, but with that run support he’ll likely be much better. He could end up being the odd man out too.
Who’s the odd man out? What does our rotation/bullpen look like at the end of the year?
Tags: Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Jo-Jo Reyes, Kenshin Kawakami, Kris Medlen, Tim Hudson, Tom Glavine, Tommy Hanson
Posted in General | 2 Comments »
Tommy Hanson took to the hill for his second start for the Gwinnett Braves last night to try to follow up his 4-1/3 inning, 10 strikeout performance in the season opener. Once again, the 6-foot-6 future phenom looked sharp. Through 5-2/3 innings last night against the Durham Bulls, Hanson produced a three hit, seven strikeout performance while only allowing one earned run, his first of the season.
Unfortunately, that earned run was the difference-maker in the game as the G-Braves offense fell flat and, for the second night in a row, failed to produce a run. Looks like offense struggles run a little deeper than just the big league squad at times. Hanson’s sporting an 0-1 record now, after two solid outings, but Braves fans shouldn’t be concerned. In 10 innings of work this season, the right-hander has struck out 17 and only given up 6 hits with an ERA of 0.90. He’ll be just fine.
Look for Hanson to take the mound for the Gwinnett Braves in their home opener at the new stadium this Friday night against the Norfolk Tides.
Tags: Gwinnett Braves, Tommy Hanson
Posted in Minor Leagues | 3 Comments »
Tom Glavine was scratched from his AA Mississippi start yesterday with shoulder discomfort after just two innings. He was pulled throwing warmup pitches before the third as a precaution. Obviously this sets him back a little bit – but maybe more than originally thought. He’s scheduled to see Dr. James Andrews Tuesday morning in Birmingham, Alabama. Andrews performed the surgery on Glavine’s shoulder in August of last year and is famous for his proficency with sports surgeries.
Glavine was supposed to start for Atlanta on Saturday – but he won’t make it now. So, with their veteran pitcher down with an injury, the Braves have called up young pitching phenom… wait – Jo-Jo Reyes? Really? Yeah, Jo-Jo will come make the start on Saturday. The obvious thing here is that Jo-Jo is a left-hander and the Braves need a left-handed pitcher in their starting rotation. That said, there are a lot of people clamoring for the young and ridiculously talented Tommy Hanson, who struck out 10 of 13 in his first start at AAA Gwinnett.
There are arguments against using Hanson this early in the season – they want to keep him on a regular pitching schedule and get him his innings and a nice routine – they don’t want to start his arbitration clock yet – they want a lefty right now and Jo-Jo has more major league experience (is bad experience really better than no experience?)
What are your thoughts? Debate it. Is Jo-Jo Reyes (referred to affectionately as Blow-Blow by at least one of our staff) really the answer at this time? Should Tommy Hanson be brought up? Or is Jo-Jo the right call and Hanson needs a little more time to season before he’s ready to pitch?
Tags: Dr. James Andrews, Jo-Jo Reyes, Tom Glavine, Tommy Hanson
Posted in General | 6 Comments »