All about the Braves and baseball events.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Braves shut out punchless Yellow Jackets

In the 20-year tradition, the Braves still remain the top baseball team in the state of Georgia.

Atlanta defeated the punchless Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets by pitching them to death, shutting them out on two singles, winning 5-0.

The Braves got on the board with a Ryan Langerhans homer leading off the third and just expanded the lead from there. Five different Braves had one RBI each.

With pitching, the Braves got two shutout innings from promising lefty Matt Harrison, spot starter Kevin Barry and prospect Jose Ascanio. The three combined for 10 strikeouts.

W - Kevin Barry
L - Jared Hyatt
HR - Ryan Langerhans

Three Stars:
LF Ryan Langerhans - 1-1, HR, BB, R, RBI
P Kevin Barry - 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K
P Matt Harrison - 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lou Burdette Passes Away

The former Braves hurler passed away Tuesday morning, losing his battle with lung cancer. He was 80 years old.

Burdette pitched for the Braves from 1951 to 1963. He is probably best known for his 3 complete games in the 1957 World Series, joining Christy Mathewson as the only other player to accomplish this feat. He also served as the Braves pitching coach in 1972 and 1973.

He will be missed. May he rest in peace.

(Note: The article is incorrect in saying that Burdette led the league in strikeouts three years in a row. He did lead the league in hits allowed three years in a row and led the league three times in K/9 ratio in the space of four years. Maybe they meant that.)

EDIT: I didn't read that his preferred spelling was "Lou" instead of "Lew". Changed to reflect that.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The State of the Braves pitchers, Feb. 2

John Smoltz - The ol' reliable rock of the pitching staff. It's amazing that he's still pitching as well as he is. I hope it lasts as long as possible. Smoltz turns 40 in May and I'm sure the injury questions will pop up again with him, just like they do every other season. He'll pitch like he did last year, and maybe there will be a few little injuries, like last season.
Mike Hampton - The last time he stepped on a mound in the regular season was in August of 2005. So after a year and a half of relative inaction, can Hampton contribute even an average season for the Braves? That's about what I expect, which would be a step up from all the other people who filled in the fourth and fifth starter slots after Horacio Ramirez and John Thomson went down with injuries.
Tim Hudson - Even a bigger question mark than Hampton, and he started 35 games last season. What was the cause? He gave up a lot of home runs, but not many more than he gave up in Oakland at worst. Was he trying to pitch through an injury? Was this just a fluke bad year? I sure hope so. The Braves Wild Card chances hinge on that, at least.
Chuck James - Chuck allowed a chunk of runs for someone who won 11 games, but he should be fine in his second season as a starter. The Braves are going to need him as well. I think him being a flyball pitcher is a bit valid: he allowed 20 homers in half the innings that it took Hudson to allow 25 dingers.
Kyle Davies - Hampered with injuries most of last season and inconsistent otherwise, let's hope that a full off-season of recovery can help him be the pitcher that he could be and what the Braves really need out of the back end of their staff. I can't say much more than that because I don't have much good things to go on. ;)

Oscar Villarreal - Nicknamed "Vulture" on Braves Journal because of his penchant for getting wins off of others, a lot. He was the signature long reliever of the team in 2006 and did a decent job there. He'll do a decent job there again. Also, the Braves won three of his four starts.
Macay McBride - The upside here is that he rarely allowed more than two runs in any sitting. Since he had experience in 2006, he may do better next season.
Tyler Yates - His middle name is Kali. That's all you need to know. Oh, how does he pitch? Ahem, well. He's not that great: he allowed two or more runs six times in 56 games with Atlanta, which ballooned his ERA. However, he seems to have a lively fastball, so that's why Bobby Cox is keeping him on the squad.
Blaine Boyer - One of the early injuries that decimated the Braves bullpen, Boyer will be looking to earn one of the four bullpen spots up for grabs. Yes, I said "four". Why? Well...
Mike Gonzalez - Obtained from Pittsburgh, Gonzalez has a cannon for a left arm, probably one of the best fireballing left-handed leaders in all of baseball. His stats show it as well. However, he has had a history of some elbow trouble and never pitched more than 54 innings in a season. But he may not have to. :)
Rafael Soriano - Imported from Seattle, Soriano is another fireballer that will probably share setup duties with Gonzalez, which creates a strong young combination. I would guess that he is part of the only trade in baseball history that involved two players who got beaned with a line drive in the same year.
Bob Wickman - He was the Braves' savior, stepping right into the closer's role after being traded to Atlanta and blowing just one save, converting 10 others. He'll be a dependable closer because he does know how to pitch in the closer's role. Kind of like Trevor Hoffman or at worst, Doug Jones. :)

The bullpen, the Achilles heel of the 2006 Braves, is much improved. The starters are about at the same situation they were last year. However, if the offense holds up, these Braves could be Wild Card contenders. :D
State of the Braves batters, Feb. 1

Starting Lineup
2B Kelly Johnson - The organization seems poised to hand over the second base job to Johnson, who started his career as an infielder. No one exactly knows how he'll respond after playing very little over the last two seasons. What is encouraging is that since Glenn Hubbard, former Atlanta second sacker and current first base coach, helped Marcus Giles improve his fielding, he can do the same for Johnson.

SS Edgar Renteria - Pretty dependable batter, but has the range of a statue. Mac Thomson at Braves Journal believes that Renteria's fielding is one of the prime reasons that Tim Hudson failed at pitching so badly in 2006, since he is a groundball pitcher and Renteria can only get to balls hit right at him. I'm inclined to agree with that.

3B Chipper Jones - The best third baseman with Scott Rolen and Alex Rodriguez when he's healthy, thanks to his prolific batting. One negative is that he has the range of a statue as well, giving the Braves the worst left side defense in baseball. The other negative? His feet and legs are still giving him problems. If he's on the field, he'll perform. If he's not, he needs to make sure he gets better!

CF Andruw Jones - This is most definitely Andruw's last season in Atlanta. I do believe that Andruw wants to finish his career in Atlanta, but I also think that the almighty dollar will talk louder. Alfonso Soriano makes $18 million a year thanks to his new contract. Vernon Wells makes $17 million a year thanks to his new extension. How much do you want to bet that Andruw's going to get $19-$20 million a year in his new contract? The Braves won't be able to afford that. I've enjoyed the ride, I have no qualms with him leaving if he does because that's the state of baseball today: where people rarely take what the team can give them to stay.

C Brian McCann - Who's the best catcher in the National League? This guy. In just his second year. That's freaky. He's not perfect: he is as slow as a snail on the bases and could be prone to ankle injuries again. But he projects to be a wonderful batter.

RF Jeff Francoeur - All right... calm down. Keep perspective... he is just 23. And he has 43 home runs in his short career, which is nice. But I still believe in these two things:

1. He needs to cut down on his first-pitch swings. He seems to make an uncanny amount of outs that way.
2. He needs to be develop a better batting eye so he can get a few more walks.

He does those things and he'll be a great hitter and realize his potential.

LF Matt Diaz - Unquestionably, he can hit. Credit could go to his corrective lens, but he is talented. The strange thing about him is that his fielding statistics are deceptive. He has a wonderful range factor, but in real life, he reads balls poorly. He needs to start full time; the Braves need his bat in the lineup.

1B Scott Thorman - With the trade of Adam LaRoche to Pittsburgh, Thorman is thrust into the first base slot. He is the seventh best Braves prospect, according to Baseball America, and his minor league career has been compared to that of Adam LaRoche's. But I don't think he's ready for a full-time first base job. He hasn't proven to me that he can hit consistently enough to do that.

2B/3B Willy Aybar - Obtained from the Dodgers at the trade deadline last season, Aybar was once thought of to be the next candidate for the second base job, because it was assumed that Marcus Giles would be traded. Giles did leave, but it seems that Aybar has done something to make the "supersub" tag stick on him. He's going to be a back-up for Chipper Jones at third base. He'll get some starts there once Chipper goes down with an inevitable injury.

OF/1B Craig Wilson - Signed to help boost the bench, he's going to get some playing time in left field and first base. It was said that Thorman is going to start first base by himself, but that's bogus.

OF Ryan Langerhans - This could possibly be Langerhans' last time to make good for the Braves. He's 27 and his slugging dipped from 2005. It's quite possible that he could go the way of Mark DeRosa if he doesn't improve in a platoon role with Wilson or Diaz.

C Brayan Pena - He'll most likely be the backup catcher, because he has the most major league experience out of any of the other candidates. It's that simple.

UT Chris Woodward - He's a very versatile fielder and that's the reason why he'll make the club. Beyond that, he has practically lost his ability to bat effectively.

All-around, the offense is relatively intact, and if everyone does what they're capable of, the 2007 Braves should have no trouble equaling the offensive prowess of last year's club.