All about the Braves and baseball events.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Braves Clip Blue Jays, Lowe Decent In Braves Debut

Atlanta continued its winning ways Saturday afternoon, defeating the Blue Jays 6-3 in their third straight spring victory.

Derek Lowe made his spring debut for the Braves and Roy Halladay made his for the Blue Jays. Lowe gave up a run in two innings on five singles, but he also struck out three batters.

The Braves teed off of Blue Jays closer B. J. Ryan in the third. They scored four runs, including a two-run double by Kelly Johnson, in that inning. They added runs in the seventh and ninth innings.

Johnson was 2-3 with a double, a run scored and two RBIs. Matt Diaz had an RBI double and a run in four at-bats. Jordan Schafer was 2-4, with a double, a walk and three runs scored. Yunel Escobar also had two hits.

Francisely Bueno had two scoreless innings of work for the Braves. Vladimir Nunez finished the game with 1 1/3 scoreless innings, coming in after Luis Valdez walked four batters. Blaine Boyer and Rafael Cruz had a scoreless inning each. Emiliano Fruto allowed a run in the sixth.

The Braves play the Phillies Sunday afternoon.

W - Derek Lowe (1-0)
L - B. J. Ryan (0-1)
S - Vladimir Nunez (1)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Kawakami Impresses In Spring Debut, Braves Shut Down Pirates

New Brave Kenshin Kawakami worked on his fastball, cutter and curve against the Pittsburgh Pirates and kept them off the board in two innings. He allowed just a single to Adam LaRoche in two innings. Better still, Atlanta defeated the Bucs 5-2.

Omar Infante opened up the scoring for the game with an RBI double off of Jason Davis. Greg Norton made it 2-0 for the Braves with a solo home run off of Zach Duke. Chipper Jones, who will leave the Braves at the start of March to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, smacked a two-run home run in the fifth inning off of Daniel McCutchen.

Brian McCann, the other Braves representative on Team USA, had a single and two walks. Jeff Francoeur also had two walks. Catcher Alvin Colina, who was obtained as a minor league free agent by the Braves, doubled and scored in the eighth for the final run. Omar Infante and Josh Anderson had doubles.

Kawakami and Buddy Carlyle each had scoreless stints of two innings apiece; Carlyle struck out three batters. Mariano Gomez, Kris Medlen and Todd Redmond all had a scoreless inning of work. Gomez and Medlen struck out two batters each. Anthony Lerew and Kevin Gunderson, who pitched for Richmond and Mississippi last year respectively, both gave up a run in each of their innings.

The Braves play the Blue Jays next.

W - Kenshin Kawakami (1-0)
L - Jason Davis (0-1)
HR - Greg Norton (1)
Chipper Jones (1)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Braves Make First Comeback Of Year, Get Past Astros

The Braves pulled off a comeback Thursday afternoon, defeating the Houston Astros 8-7.

The day didn't start well, though. Jorge Campillo, the Braves starter, was lit up for three runs in the first inning and Tommy Hanson, also making his spring debut, was hit for two runs. One run may have been a consequence of a retaliatory hit-by-pitch; Roy Oswalt had plunked Yunel Escobar with a pitch and Hanson plunked Miguel Tejada on the back in return. However, Hanson still impressed with two strikeouts.

Roy Oswalt struck out the side in the first inning and generally looked good in three innings of work. His only mistake was a two-run shot by backup catcher David Ross. That closed the gap to 3-2. The Astros, though, made it 5-2 after the third and scored two runs off of Braves closer Mike Gonzalez in the fifth to up the score to 7-2.

The Braves struck back in the sixth off of Astros pitcher Sergio Perez, loading the bases with an error, a single and a walk. Brandon Jones, Matt Diaz and Gregor Blanco all had singles to help close the gap. A double play brought in another run.

In the eighth, Freddie Freeman, the top first base prospect in the organization, led off with a solo home run off of Gilbert de la Vara. With one out, Jason Heyward, the top outfield prospect of the Braves, walked. Career minor-leaguer J. C. Boscan, who came in for David Ross, then doubled him home and James Parr completed a two-inning stint for the win.

Brandon Jones had two hits and Jeff Bennett and Boone Logan, who are both vying for bullpen spots, had scoreless innings.

W - James Parr (1-0)
L - Gilbert de la Vara (0-1)
HR - David Ross (1)
Freddie Freeman (1)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spring Opener Not So Bright For Braves

The Atlanta Braves lost their Grapefruit League opener to the Detroit Tigers, 5-4 Wednesday afternoon.

Second-year starter Jair Jurrjens started the game for Atlanta and the Tigers opened with five-year veteran Justin Verlander. Each pitcher went two innings.

The Tigers scored two runs off of Jurrjens and a third off of Jo-Jo Reyes (Reyes also had a two-inning stint). The Braves countered, scoring three runs off of Brandon Lyon in the fifth inning. Hyped Braves prospect Jordan Schafer smacked the first home run of the exhibition season, a seventh-inning solo shot off of Eddie Bonine, who went 12-4 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with Toledo last season.

The Tigers got the last laugh, though. They tied the game in the bottom of the seventh (lefty Eric O'Flaherty was the victim) and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth off of Braves non-roster invitee Juan Perez.

Kelly Johnson had a double for Atlanta and Manny Acosta and Stephen Marek had scoreless innings. Schafer and Josh Anderson each had a stolen base.

W - Fu-Te Ni (1-0)
L - Juan Perez (0-1)
S - Kyle Bloom (1)
HR - Jordan Schafer (1)

The Professional Hitter

Position: Left Fielder
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 6'1'
Weight: 203 lbs.
2009 Age: 31

Matt Diaz, who had posted consecutive seasons of averages over .320 (.327, .338) for Atlanta, was given the starting job last season. However, he didn't hit. A knee injury forced him out for most of last year. He has been in a platoon role his entire Braves career (he has an .869 OPS against lefties in six seasons of major league baseball) and that looks to be the reason he should stick around.

My Outlook: It looks like Garret Anderson is going to get the lion's share of the playing time in left field. If Diaz is to be part of the Braves, it will be in either a platoon role with Anderson.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Victory Lap, Part Deux

Position: Pitcher
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 190 lbs.
2009 Age: 43

The Braves brass (and some Braves fans) got their man; Tom Glavine is going to get a second shot at a victory lap. Last year wasn't unprecedented for the 22-year veteran; his 2-4 record in 13 games was the same record he garnered in 9 games back in 1987, his rookie year.

The soft-tossing control artist suffered a torn flexor tendon in June. After trying to pitch in August, Tom had to shut it down. After surgery to repair that and clear some problems with his shoulder and impressing Bobby Cox in throwing drills (though that's not a particularly hard thing to do), the Braves chose to bring him back with a one-year deal.

BACK TO THE PAST: Not only is Glavine's 2-4 record from last year identical to his rookie season, but his ERA (5.54) is too.

IT TOOK A WHILE: It took Glavine seven starts before he won his first game. That is the longest such period out of any year in his career.

CAN YOU SPARE A RUN?: Including the start against Washington where he didn't record a single out, Glavine had eight starts where he allowed two runs or less. His record in those starts: 1-1.

My Outlook: Before last season, I was hoping that Glavine would be able to win 10 games and keep his ERA in the 4.00-4.50 range. Now, I'm hoping for one of two extremes:

  • Glavine rediscovers some control and has a season that resembles his 2006 or 2007 campiagn.
  • Glavine completely flames out and forces the Braves to do what they should have done in the first place: promote Tommy Hanson.

I don't want Glavine to fail, but at the same time, I want what I think is best for the organization. I do not believe Glavine is the best thing for the organization right now. I would like for him to produce like he is the best thing for the organization, though. If he doesn't, kick him to the curb as soon as possible.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Next Best Thing?

Position: Left Fielder
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 190 lbs.
2009 Age: 37

Unsatisfied with their lot in the outfield and still smarting from being spurned by Ken Griffey, Jr., the Braves signed former Angel Garrett Anderson to a one-year deal.

Anderson is a professional batter at this point in his career. He has never been one to take a free pass (his career high in walks is 38), and he has only struck out more than 90 times in a season two times; therefore, he's a man who puts the ball in play. One may say he's what Juan Pierre would be if he could hit some doubles and homers. I'm spinning that as being a compliment as much as I possibly can.

BABIP TELLS ALL: Anderson's BABIP (batting average with balls in play) the last three seasons:

2006: .308
2007: .306
2008: .314

This means that it's a good bet that Anderson will bat in the high .280s to low .290s for the Braves in 2009 given the same amount of playing time and good health.

GOOD WITH THE GAME ON THE LINE: Anderson's Late & Close stats were exemplary last season, including his walk totals:

102 PA, .371/.441/.528, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 12 BB

About 41% of his walks came in Late & Close situations.

My Outlook: Anderson gives the Braves the veteran outfield bat they coveted, but can he keep up his batting average and remain slump-free in a new organization and league? If he still has something left in the tank, he should. I don't know whether he'll continue to regress in the power department, but I do believe he'll keep his batting average from .280-.295 most of the year.

Braves Land Garret Anderson For Left Field Position

The Atlanta Braves, about four days after Ken Griffey, Jr. opted to return to Seattle, signed free agent Garret Anderson to a one-year deal, reported to be worth $2.5 million.

Anderson will form a platoon in left field with Matt Diaz. He has a contact approach at the plate similar to Josh Anderson's; he only had 29 walks last year, but he hit .295. He seems to have a little power left, but only playing time will show if he's done.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Glavine Returning To Braves

Tom Glavine and the Atlanta Braves have agreed on a one-year contract with a $1 million base salary.

According to Ken Rosenthal of, Glavine's contract is set up so that he makes money for being on the team:

  • Base salary - $1 million
  • One day on the active roster - $1 million
  • Thirty days on the active roster - $1.25 million
  • Ninety days on the active roster - $1.25 million

I'm not fully sure what this indicates. It's possible that Glavine could have to fight Charlie Morton, Jo-Jo Reyes, Jorge Campillo and Tommy Hanson for the fifth spot in the Braves rotation. It's a small possibility though. I'm almost certain that Glavine is going to be handed the spot because he's TOM GLAVINE.

I hope upon hope that Glavine makes the most of his final opportunity with the Braves. I have a hard time believing that he'll even reach 10 wins, though. Best of luck, Tommy. We'll see #47 beside #44 quite soon.

Now Applying For Atlanta LOOGY...

Position: Pitcher
Bats: Right
Throws: Left
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 210 lbs.
2009 Age: 28

Ridgway, obtained in a trade with the Tampa Bay that sent Willy Aybar and Chase Fontaine to the Rays, is in line to compete for a spot in the Braves bullpen.

Braves fans may associate him with the 189.00 ERA (2 ERA+) he posted in 1/3 inning with the Devil Rays in 2007. They may also lament the fact that Aybar became a valuable bench player to the Rays in their march to the AL pennant last season.

Ridgway is an overhand-motion lefty with a deceptive delivery; he hides the ball well against left-handers.

UBER-SUPER-DUPER-EXTREMELY UNLUCKY: Ridgway sported a 5.47 ERA in 52 2/3 innings. However, for his time in Richmond, his FIP was 3.34 and his BABIP was .418. This indicates that Jeff was very unlucky when he pitched. It's a safe bet to assume that his 5.47 ERA is not normal production from him.

KEEPING IT ON THE GROUND: Against left-handers, Ridgway induced ground balls more than 60% of the time.

My Outlook: Ridgway has a battle for the lefty specialist job lined up in spring. He has a very strong chance to beat out Boone Logan and Eric O'Flaherty for the job. If he does get the job, Braves fans will be quick to forget about the LOOGY woes from last year.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Griffey Picks Seattle, Allegedly Upset Over Story

After a hectic five days, Griffey has decided to re-sign with the Seattle Mariners.

He was allegedly upset over a report by David O'Brien and Terrence Moore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that said he told a friend he was going to pick the Braves:

The Braves’ star power is set to rise as Ken Griffey Jr. has decided to play for the Braves, a person close to the veteran outfielder and familiar with the negotiations told the Journal-Constitution.


The Braves and Griffey’s agent denied a deal had been struck, and Wren said the team would have no announcement Tuesday. The Seattle Times later also reported that Griffey had chosen the Braves over the Mariners.
So it's clear that O'Brien and Moore jumped the gun on this story. Whether this swayed Junior's decision to join his former team may never be known. I don't believe that it really influenced his decision that much; it would take a very thin-skinned person to get so upset at a premature story that he'd back out of a deal.

This leaves the Braves essentially with three viable options for the outfield:

  • Sign free agent Garrett Anderson.
  • Trade with the New York Yankees for either Nick Swisher or Xavier Nady.
  • Plug young outfielder Brandon Jones into the lineup to platoon with Matt Diaz.
If the Braves still have a little money to throw around, I'd go with option one because it won't cost any prospects. Option three is a last resort, but it would prove whether or not Brandon Jones is going to develop into a major league player.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Kid Who Is Not So Much A Kid Anymore Talking With Braves

Braves are said to be talking to free agent Ken Griffey, Jr.

Signing him may actually be a good idea.

At this point in his career, Griffey is probably a good drawing card and he would put a few extra butts in the seats in Atlanta. Lord knows that they need as many Braves fans at the park as they can get.

He had an average season last year: .249/.353/.424, 18 HR, 71 RBI, 78 BB, 89 SO, 101 OPS+. That could indicate that he has some production left in the tank. The Braves' best outfielder last season was Greg Norton:

Norton w/Braves, 2008: .246/.361/.427, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 27 R, 31 BB, 40 SO, 108 OPS+

He played 25 games in left, so we can call him an outfielder.

If the Braves end up signing Griffey, I'm not going to be upset. Griffey would only be holding back Brandon Jones and Jordan Schafer, who would spend time in Richmond while Diaz platoons with Griffey. Gregor Blanco or Josh Anderson would man center until the brass deems Schafer ready for the majors.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Braves' Own Juan Pierre (Except With A Few More Ks)

Position: Center Field
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 195 lbs.
2009 Age: 26

Josh Anderson was obtained after the 2007 season by the Braves in a straight up trade for reliever Oscar Villarreal. It's safe to say that the Braves have gotten more value out of that particular trade. However, it doesn't mean much.

Anderson played in center field in 30 games last season, and spent six in left field. He broke into the lineup for good on August 28 after a few games of some starts and coming off the bench. Anderson is another slap-hitter, like Gregor Blanco. Unfortunately, he doesn't have any of his teammate's base-on-balls prowess. He does have much more speed, though, and can create a little havoc on the basepaths. However, he needs to be able to get hits to get on base. If he doesn't change his approach when he's slumping, he won't be on base to create said havoc.

HE IS A BASE SWIPER: In 61 games, Anderson stole 10 bases and was caught only once. The catcher who threw him out? The Nationals' Luke Montz, one of the five receivers to be behind the plate for the team.

BLANCO OR ANDERSON?: They're both slap-hitters. Blanco alledgely has speed. So what's the difference?

Blanco: 519 PA, .251/.366/.309, 14 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 38 RBI, 74 BB, 89 SO, 13-5 SB-CS, 52 R
Anderson: 146 PA, .294/.338/.426, 7 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 8 BB, 33 SO, 10-1 SB-CS, 21 R

Anderson bats better, but Blanco has more patience. It could be that their productions might have equal value given the same playing time. However, if they're the ones playing in the Braves' outfield together, the team is in trouble.

My Outlook: Anderson has the inside track to the starting center field job because of his previous major league experience with the club. However, if he makes the team, he has to keep his production levels up; Jordan Schafer is breathing down his neck. I expect Schafer to replace Anderson at some point in the season. If that happens, it's unclear whether the Braves would demote Anderson or keep him around to be a fourth or fifth outfielder.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Best Walking Slap-Hitter Ever!

Position: Left Fielder
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 170 lbs.
2009 Age: 25

For someone who Bobby inserted into the lineup after Bobby Cox lost faith in Matt Diaz being an everyday player, Blanco didn't do too bad. :) He first emerged as a platoon partner for Diaz. However, he was inserted as the full-time center fielder after Mark Kotsay injured his back. Blanco platooned with Omar Infante after Kotsay returned to the lineup.

Blanco is a bit of an anomaly. He's a slap-hitter with very little power. However, his walk totals make him valuable. This may mean he has a role on the team next year. He's only a mediocre defender and doesn't run the bases well, as evidenced by his weak stolen base totals despite his raw speed.

HE'S GOT SOME PATIENCE: Out of every player in baseball history with an 81 OPS+, Blanco had the most walks (74) since Walt Weiss, who had 79 with Florida in 1993. Blanco is sixth overall on the list.

BIG WALKER: Last season, Blanco was second on the Braves in walks (74). Chipper Jones lead the team with 90 free passes.

BLANCO AND WEISS:: Continuing on the first point, Weiss's 1993 season and Blanco's 2008 season were remarkably similar:

Walt Weiss, 1993: 591 PA, .266/.367/.308, 14 2B, 2 SB, 1 HR, 39 RBI, 79 BB, 73 SO
Gregor Blanco, 2008: 514 PA, .251/.366/.309, 14 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 38 RBI, 74 BB, 99 SO

My Outlook: If the Braves don't trade for Nick Swisher or Xavier Nady, Blanco may have to fight Brandon Jones and Josh Anderson for a spot in the Braves outfield. He does have the most experience, so he does have an edge. If he makes the team, look for him to continue to provide walks and nothing else.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

For The Last Time, It's Spelled With A "Z"!

Position: Pitcher
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 195 lbs.
2009 Age: 32

Vazquez made national news last season, but it wasn't for anything he did on the mound. It was in conjunction with comments made about him by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen:

''He hasn't been," Guillen said Sunday of Vazquez as a big-game pitcher, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "That's the bottom line.''

''What you see is what you get,'' Guillen said of Vazquez. ''Javy is going to be Javy. I just want him to be aggressive, throw the ball over the plate and knock somebody on their [butt]. That's a big three games for us.

''You have to be mean. Go out there and show them we show up to play, show up to kick your guys' [butts]. And believe me, that will take care of itself."

It's one thing to try to use reverse psychology on a pitcher, but it's a questionable tactic to do it in the media. Predictably, Vazquez went out and lost that particular game to the Twins, giving up five runs in four innings of work. Vazquez won't face any psychological games like that in Atlanta.

Vazquez throws an 89-94 mph fastball, a curve, a biting slider, and a circle-change. He likes to nibble the corners a lot; that seems to be a trademark of many Braves pitchers.

HOPEFULLY HE SIGNS WITH ATLANTA OR AN AL TEAM...: Current free agent Bobby Abreu has the most career home runs hit off of Javier Vazquez: nine.

LOTS OF K'S /= A WIN?: Javier Vazquez struck out 9 or 10 batters in seven games last season. His record in those games: 2-5.

ONE OF THE KINGS OF K'S: In his career period of 1999-2008, Vazquez is third in total strikeouts with 1,876 punchouts. Only Pedro Martinez (1,896) and Randy Johnson (2,460) are ahead of him.

My Outlook: I expect Vazquez to do what he does best: eat innings and strike out some people. The wins should come; I think the Braves may have a good offense when the team is set for the season. Plus, moving into a neutral park from a hitter's park should help him a little bit.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Cobra's Ready To Strike

Position: Pitcher
Bats: Right
Throws: Left
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 213 lbs.
2009 Age: 31

The Cobra is ready to pitch a full season now. It will be fully appreciated by the Braves.

Last season, Gonzalez started the year still on the mend from Tommy John surgery. The Braves tried a lot of pitchers at closer, including Peter Moylan, Rafael Soriano, Jeff Bennett and Manny Acosta. Gonzalez finally returned on June 18, pitching a scoreless inning against the Rangers. He continued to serve as the Braves' closer, going 14-16 in save opportunities.

THE STREAK IS OVER: Gonzalez blew the save against Colorado on September 9 thanks to Garrett Atkins. That was Gonzalez's first blown save since June 25, 2004 against Cincinnati. He converted 38 straight save opportunities over four seasons.

LACK OF SAVES, BUT NOT FOR LACK OF TRYING: When Gonzalez converted his fourth save on July 18th, he became the Braves' team leader in that category. No other Brave had more than three saves up to that point.

HOME NOT SWEET HOME OR FUN WITH SMALL SAMPLE SIZES, PART FIVE: In front of the home crowd in 2008, Gonzalez was pounded a few times. He was 0-2 with six saves, but he had a 7.27 ERA in 17 1/3 innings pitched. He allowed 19 hits and 19 total runs. However, he walked just nine and struck out 30 batters.

My Outlook: As long as Gonzalez can pitch, he will be the Braves' closer. They don't have anyone good enough to replace him. Soriano can't do it very well. Maybe Moylan could, but he has very limited experience in the role. I'm looking forward (and hoping) for a full season from Mike. A final note: If the Braves aren't in contention by July, Gonzalez will most likely be traded.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Ganbate, Kawakami-San!

Position: Pitcher
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 198 lbs.
2009 Age: 34

The Braves' first major league Japanese player is a bit of a mystery. No one knows for sure how well he'll do in Major League Baseball. His curve is said to be as good as Roy Oswalt's and he has a fastball that tops out in the low 90s. However, he still needs to adjust to the American baseball, which is larger and not as tightly wound as the Japanese baseball. It could affect the way his pitches break if he doesn't figure it out.

VERY STRONG START: Kawakami won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1998. He finished third in the league in wins (14), second in ERA (2.57), third in strikeouts (124), second in WHIP (1.08) and tied with the league lead in shutouts (3).

HE HAS BEEN WITH A FEW WINNERS: Kawakami helped the Chunichi Dragons to the Central League title in 1999, 2006, and 2007. The Dragons won the Japan Series title in 2007; it was their first such title in 53 years.

NO-NONI KENSHIN: (If you can stomach my attempt at a horrible pun, continue to read. For those of you who don't get it, continue to read as well.) Kawakami tossed a no-hitter on August 1, 2002 against the Yomiuri Giants in Tokyo, striking out 11 batters.

My Outlook: It all depends on whether or not Kawakami adjusts to the American baseball and style of play. If he does, expect him to be an optimal middle-of-the-rotation starter. If he doesn't get used to the American baseball or style of play, he'll become another Kei Igawa. Let's hope it's the former.