All about the Braves and baseball events.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Intemperate Braves And Baseball Thoughts

It's "catch-all" time. There's a lot to talk about, so let's get to it:

  • The trade for Dan Uggla, just as a reminder, breaks down like so:

    2B Dan Uggla: 674 PA, .287/.369/.508, 33 HR, 105 RBI, 130 OPS+, 3.7 WAR

    UT Omar Infante: 506 PA, .321/.359/.416, 8 HR, 47 RBI, 111 OPS+, 2.9 WAR
    LRP Mike Dunn: 19 IP, 15 H, 4/4 R/ER, 17 BB, 27 SO, 1.684 WHIP, 0.4 WAR

    It's the kind of trade that looks so good on one team's side: the Braves get a power bat they so desperately need in exchange for a utility player who had a career year and a rookie reliever who is wild, but has potential.

    Since the trade, Braves GM Frank Wren has tried to work on an extension with Uggla. On the 7th, the talks were said to be encouraging.

    "The early discussions we've had -- really introductory discussions -- have been very pleasant," Wren said. "I think there's a mutual desire for us to keep him long term and for him to stay long term. I think that has come through loud and clear -- both from Terry and from Dan. I think we've made it clear that's what we want to happen."
    Unfortunately, since that time, outfielder Carl Crawford agreed to a monstrous seven-year, $142 million contract with the Red Sox. Before that, Jayson Werth had signed a huge seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals. This might cause some fears that Uggla will demand an extension that's either out of the Braves' budget range or will cripple them down the road when Uggla's skills most likely decline.

    I'm really not sure that Uggla will be able to increase his demands that much. After all, the players that got those huge deals are outfielders with speed, stolen-base ability and decent defense. Uggla provides below average to horrible defense with above-average offense and no speed.

  • At the Winter Meetings, Wren agreed with reliever George Sherrill to a $1.2 million, one-year deal, which includes $200,000 in incentives. The deal won't be official until Sherrill passes a physical. The former closer was downright awful for the Dodgers last season, posting a 1.926 WHIP in 31 1/3 innings. The year seems to be an aberration. If Sherrill makes the team, he'll be the third lefty in the pen, joining Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters.

    I do believe that Sherrill will be fine. At worst, he should be a great LOOGY, something that might appeal to new manager Fredi Gonzalez.

  • Wren is also working to move Kenshin Kawakami. According to MLBTradeRumors, Rob Biertempfel tweets that the Pirates are close to a deal, but the sticking points are how much the Braves will pay of Kawakami's $6.67 million salary and whether or not left-hander Paul Maholm might be included.

    Maholm might be an interesting reclamation project if he's included, but it will be a shame to see Kawakami go. I've defended him a lot over the past couple of years and I do believe that he shouldn't have been stuck with the 1-10 record. In fact, that should be a test case on how wins and losses don't mean too much for some pitchers. If Kawakami does move on to Pittsburgh, all I can say is: Sachiare!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Braves Net Lee From Cubs To Shore Up First Base


1B Derrek Lee (475 PA, .251/.335/.416, 16 HR, 63 R, 56 RBI, 94 OPS+)


RRP Robinson Lopez (A Rome - 92 2/3 IP, 84 H, 51-45 R-ER (4.37 ERA), 43 BB, 70 K, 1.371 WHIP
RRP Tyrelle Harris (A/A+/AA - 49 2/3 IP, 38 H, 17-16 R-ER (2.90 ERA), 22 BB, 60 K, 1.208 WHIP
LRP Jeff Lorick (A/A+ - 52 1/3 IP, 43 H, 25-13 R-ER (2.24 ERA), 21 BB, 43 K, 1.223 WHIP)

With the platoon of Eric Hinske and Troy Glaus not totally cutting it at first base (507 PA, .238/.339/.413, 19 HR, 80 RBI) and with Glaus going on the disabled list, Braves general manager Frank Wren decided to pull out the stops for a waiver claim.

The Braves traded three minor league relievers to the Chicago Cubs for first baseman Derrek Lee and cash. Lee, a 14-year veteran, has battled back problems this season. Still, he has posted a .251/.335/.416 line in 475 PAs with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs, effectively matching the production of Glaus and Hinske.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Old Buddies Become Trade Partners

CF Rick Ankiel (101 PA, .261/.317/.467, 4 HR, 14 R, 15 RBI, 103 OPS+)
RRP Kyle Farnsworth (44 2/3 IP, 40 H, 13-12 R-ER (2.42 ERA), 12 BB, 36 K, 1.164 WHIP)

RRP Jesse Chavez (36 2/3 IP, 40 H, 24 R-ER (5.89 ERA), 12 BB, 29 K, 1.418 WHIP)
CF Gregor Blanco (66 PA, .310/.394/.362, 0 HR, 9 R, 3 RBI, 107 OPS+)
LRP Tim Collins (AA Mississippi - 8 IP, 4 H, 1 R-ER (1.12 ERA), 3 BB, 14 K, 0.875 WHIP)

The Braves have traded outfielder Gregor Blanco, reliever Jesse Chavez and pitching prospect Tim Collins to the Royals for veteran outfielder Rick Ankiel and reliever Kyle Farnsworth.

I can only imagine the amount of venom some Braves fans have placed into their posted words this afternoon and evening when learning about the trade. Frank Wren traded for the very same Kyle Farnsworth that single-handedly lost the NLDS for the Braves five years ago?! Has he lost his mind?!

Not quite. In fact, on this trading deadline day, Wren has kept his mind quite sane by not giving up any of Atlanta's prized prospects. In the days leading up to the deadline, worries abounded that Wren would trade any of Freddie Freeman (Baseball America's #32 pre-2010 prospect), Arodys Vizcaino (#69), Mike Minor or Randall Delgado to beef up the Braves' outfield production. That is one way to look at the day's work.

Another way is to compare Rick Ankiel directly to the Braves' previous center field producers before this afternoon's game in Cincinnati:

Nate McLouth - 216 PA, .160/.275/.254, 3 HR, 20 R, 14 RBI
Melky Cabrera - 135 PA, .305/.381/.432, 0 HR, 14 R, 11 RBI
Gregor Blanco - 62 PA, .291/.371/.327, 0 HR, 8 R, 3 RBI

Cabrera's line looks strong because he has been the Braves' latest center fielder. But, the rest of his lines, including .242/.289/.325 (128 PA) as a left fielder and .222/.286/.317 (72 PA) as a right fielder, drag his stats down to .265/.328/.366 before today's game.

That doesn't fully prove my case, but the anecdotal evidence of Cabrera committing a bizarre throwing error in today's game might help the idea that the Braves could do better in center field.

Rick Ankiel, who may be the Braves' starting center fielder for the remainder of the season, spent more than a month on the disabled list with a right quad strain. Once again, the Braves have acquired a player with more home runs than the previous player(s) at the position (Ankiel 4, Braves CFs 3). He is better in the small sample size (11 XBH in 101 PAs to Cabrera's 23 in 346 PAs), so he could improve the Braves in that department if he keeps the same rate.

While some Braves fans still haven't forgiven Farnsworth for surrendering a game-tying home run to Brad Ausmus, the likelihood is that he's not going to get the opportunity to screw something like that up. In 37 games with the Royals, Farnsworth was relied upon heavily, pitching 44 2/3 innings. His ERA (2.42) was mostly helped by pitching more than one inning in eleven appearances (1.29 ERA in 21 innings).

However, out of the 99 relievers that have 200 or more appearances since 2006, Farnsworth has the 19th-worst ERA (4.19) and has given up 37 home runs over that span. Fortunately, he has only allowed two this year. and hasn't given up a home run in nearly two months.

In my opinion, I think Ankiel and Farnsworth can improve the Braves in center field and middle relief at the minimal cost to the club's plans (Tim Collins).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Schultz Gets It Right, But How He Defends It Is Lacking

(First, a little background...)

Kenshin Kawakami's season has taken another ghastly turn.

In two-plus innings Sunday, the Braves' fifth starter gave up three runs on six singles to the Kansas City Royals and left only to see the runners he left on score. With a 5-4 deficit, the Japanese hurler was faced with the prospect of starting the season with ten losses and nary a single win. Fortunately for Kenshin, the Braves pulled out an 8-5 victory over Kansas City, leaving him where he was at the start of the day.

With Braves starter Jair Jurrjens nearing his return from a hamstring injury, the question for fans and pundits is who will be sent to the bullpen to make room for Jurrjens in the rotation? Many, if not all, agree that spot starter Kris Medlen should stay in the rotation and Kawakami should be banished to the pen. AJC sportswriter Jeff Schultz agrees, but how he defends the move is questionable arguing at best.

It's time for the Braves to end the Kawakami experiment

It all starts with the headline. The Braves didn't sign Kawakami just to see if Japanese hurlers succeed in the majors; they thought they had something with him. Kenshin means a lot more than being a Braves starter for a simple fact: he is the first Japanese player to play for them in the major leagues. That alone helped them bring solid set-up man Takashi Saito to Atlanta (1-2, 2.92 ERA, 141 ERA+, 24 2/3 IP, 34 K, .973 WHIP before his injury). It seems that it's easy to lose sight of this fact.

So I stood by Bobby Cox Sunday when he said he didn’t want to talk about any future decisions regarding Kenshin Kawakami, though he added, “He’ll make his next start.” Why? By default. Jair Jurrjens has at least another week of rehab left.

Excellent point to start. If Cox had come out and said that Kawakami was going to be demoted to the bullpen before he made his next start, Kenshin would have that hanging over his head while he's trying to hold off a Tigers team that's in contention in the AL Central.

And then I stood by Kenshin Kawakami as he deflected no criticism (a commendable character trait of his) and said of possibly losing his starting job: “I haven’t thought about that much. But being a starter, I’m not really doing my job right now, so I’m ready for anything that is coming.”

Again, no complaints. Kawakami readily accepts blame for things that go wrong, which is a trait that stems from Japan's corporate business-like culture. It's an honorable trait, but Kawakami's taking blame for his performance doesn't totally shield him from criticism, much like what's next:

Kawakami is baseball’s only $23 million fifth starter.

I'm not sure why Schultz dragged Kawakami's contract into this debate. It just shows the Braves tied up a few bucks into their rotation. Derek Lowe has a $60 million, four-year contract that was criticized from the start. Tim Hudson signed a three-year extension at $9 million per year just a couple of months after returning off Tommy John surgery which was questioned by some at the time. Only three starters (Tommy Hanson, Jurrjens and Medlen) are making less than $1 million this season.

If anything, Schultz should be blasting Lowe with a statement like that; there were times last year and now that Lowe was pitching worse than Kawakami.

He also has the distinction of being 0-9 for a first-place team.

That's not a particularly damning statement, as there are poor starters on first-place teams in general. The first-place Cardinals have had to deal with Kyle Lohse underperforming (9 GS, 1-4, 5.89 ERA, 1.711 WHIP), Texas has to attempt to contend with the inconsistencies of Rich Harden (13 GS, 3-3, 5.68 ERA, 1.677 WHIP) and Scott Feldman (14 GS, 5-6, 5.16 ERA, 1.566 WHIP), and there is Javier Vazquez's second go-round with the Yankees which included a demotion to the bullpen for a brief time (13 G, 6-6, 5.01 ERA, 1.286 WHIP).

Of course, when a pitcher is the only Braves pitcher in history to start the season with nine losses and no wins, he can't get away with much.

Only three other pitchers in the majors have lost as many games: Houston’s Wandy Rodriguez (3-10), Cleveland’s David Huff (2-9) and former Brave, now of Pittsburgh, Charlie Morton (1-9).

The Indians are in last place. The Pirates are in last place. The Astros are one-half game ahead of the Pirates. See where I’m going with this?

Unless you're implying that first-place teams aren't "supposed" to trot out players with nine or ten losses and few wins, I don't see where you're going with that statement. We can be better served by comparing all these pitchers' seasons in more detail:

Rodriguez - 14 GS - 6 QS, 3-10 (4-10 team)
75 1/3 IP
95 H
59 R, 51 ER (8)
34 BB
52 SO
6.09 ERA
1.712 WHIP
11.3 H/9
4.1 BB/9
6.2 SO/9
3.10 R/27

Huff - 13 GS - 4 QS, 2-9 (3-10 team)
70 IP
88 H
53 R, 47 ER (6)
30 BB
34 SO
6.04 ERA
1.686 WHIP
11.3 H/9
3.9 BB/9
4.4 SO/9
3.83 R/27

Morton - 10 GS - 4 QS, 1-9 (1-9 team)
43 1/3 IP
66 H
52 R, 45 ER (7)
16 BB
35 SO
9.35 ERA
1.892 WHIP
13.7 H/9
3.3 BB/9
7.3 SO/9
1.72 R/27

Kawakami - 14 GS - 6 QS, 0-9 (4-10 team)
75 1/3 IP
85 H
47 R, 40 ER (7)
25 BB
51 SO
4.78 ERA
1.460 WHIP
10.2 H/9
3.0 BB/9
6.1 SO/9
3.51 R/27

Now we see some more similarities: a high amount of hits, walks and unearned runs allowed, relatively few strikeouts, high WHIPs and ERAs, poor quality start ratios and extremely low run support. Kawakami is the best of these pitchers and has the highest amount of no-decisions because the Braves are a better team than the Astros, Pirates or Indians. However, that doesn't do much to salvage Kawakami's record.

It would be best to take this route, but Schultz tries to go it a different way:

Yes, Kawakami has received little run support in some starts but that hasn’t really been the case of late. He was handed a 4-0 lead Sunday against Kansas City and promptly doused it with gasoline and lit a match to it. He also committed his third error in his last two starts.

There's no question that start was the worst of Kawakami's major league career. Errors aren't necessarily bad if you can make pitches and limit the damage. At this point, it appears that Kawakami isn't very capable of doing that. That being said...

Further — and this is where all of those, “Oh, stop picking on him, meanie; don’t you know the Braves don’t score for him?” arguments fall apart — Kawakami’s ERA is 4.78.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. There is a glaring counter-example for that statement: Derek Lowe. Lowe's ERA is 4.77, but he's getting 5.79 runs per 27 outs of support. Lowe owes his 9-5 record (10-5 team) partly to that. If Kawakami had Lowe's run support, there's no doubt in my mind he'd have a similar record or one close to .500. The poor run support is a significant culprit.

Once again, because some of his defenders ignore this number: 4.78. That is the worst ERA on the staff among active pitchers, save reliever Jesse Chavez (7.33), who doesn’t really count.

I haven't ignored it, but you seem to be ignoring Lowe, whose ERA is .01 higher than Kawakami's, and he doesn't get this kind of criticism because he has the most wins on the staff combined with a high run support.

Kawakami also is yielding the most hits per nine innings (10.2), has allowed the most home runs (nine) and, it follows, the highest slugging percentage (.478).

See, things like this are where you should have been going all along! Lets compare Derek's stats to Kenshin's and see how they match up:

Lowe - 15 GS - 7 QS, 9-5 (10-5 team)
88 2/3 IP
89 H
49 R, 47 ER
37 BB
51 SO
4.77 ERA
1.421 WHIP
5.79 R/27
9.0 H/9
3.8 BB/9
5.2 SO/9
5.79 R/27

Lowe has a similar resume to Kawakami and has given up just two less home runs (seven), but he has a 9-5 record. Why? Run support, pure and simple.

Stop the madness.

Is it just me or does that statement not have enough feeling to it. It needs an exclamation point. Or two. Like this: Stop the madness!!

If Jurrjens is cleared following his next start at Gwinnett, this should be an easy decision for Cox: Keep Kris Medlen (3-0, 3.67 as a starter) in the rotation and put Kawakami in the bullpen.

Yes, exactly. Let's look at Medlen's starting record too:

Medlen - 8 GS - 5 QS
3-0 (7-1 team)
49 IP
49 H
22 R, 20 ER (2)
9 BB
32 SO
3.67 ERA
1.184 WHIP
9.0 H/9
1.7 BB/9
5.9 SO/9
4.89 R/27

Very impressive so far. I think Kris has the talent to keep that kind of a record going.

Granted, middle relief is not what general manager Frank Wren projected when he gave Kawakami a contract for over $7 million per year.

I don't think it's what anyone thought would happen. I thought that Kawakami would at least be a fourth starter when he came over here to Major League Baseball. I figured he'd have his struggles, and he did have them last year. But this year is just a whole 'nother league in struggling. It's rather unfortunate and kind of sad. You have to feel bad for the guy, even if you're trying to toss him out with the bathwater.

But Kawakami has shown an ability to strike people out. So maybe there’s something to salvage from this.

Think of it as salvaging the rear bumper after a front-end collision.

A car wreck of a season. Not quite a train wreck, but I suppose it'll suffice.

I can pretty much guess which way sentiment is going on this. I’ve got a poll up also. Let me hear ya.

You heard me here, Jeff!

The poll's choices are as follows:

What should the Braves do with Kenshin Kawakami?
  • Keep him as a starter
  • Put him in the bullpen
  • Sit him on the curb with a sign that reads "Owner will pay $7 million for you to haul away"
At 12:08 AM, EST on June 22nd, I voted "Put him in the bullpen".

60% (1,686) who voted said put him in the bullpen. 36% (1,020) said release him and eat the cost. 4% (92) said to keep him as a starter.

I don't agree with eating Kawakami's money and releasing him. With the way the money is being doled out in Atlanta, you can't just throw it away to a guy who isn't playing for you anymore; you have to get something out of him. Kawakami's better than this and he knows it. He can probably regroup in the bullpen and salvage something out of this year.

It is the correct move to put Kawakami in the bullpen because of his struggles. However, we can blame lack of run support as a reason for his struggles, despite the argument that Jeff Schultz provides.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Kawakami Hopes Not To Get Snakebit Again

Haadorakku is a Japanese word which means precisely what it sounds like: hard luck. Braves pitcher Kenshin Kawakami has had more than enough of that this season.

Expected to improve going into his second season as a major league pitcher, Kawakami has seemed to regress instead, sporting an 0-8 record with a 4.91 ERA (37 runs, 34 earned) and 1.380 WHIP in 62 1/3 innings pitched.

Those statistics, however, don't tell the whole story. An amount of factors caused the Braves' first Japanese pitcher become the first hurler to sport a winless, eight-loss record in 85 years. The Braves pitcher who first did it, spot starter Wilfred "Rosy" Ryan, didn't lose his eighth game until August.

The first, and probably most important factor, is run support. Kawakami's support out of the current Braves' starters is the worst on the team:

Hudson - 12 GS, 6.08 R/27 (6-1)
Lowe - 13 GS, 5.95 R/27 (8-5)
Hanson - 12 GS, 5.72 R/27 (6-3)
Medlen - 6 GS, 4.42 R/27 (3-1)
Kawakami - 11 GS, 3.25 R/27 (0-8)

In parentheses are their won-loss records.

It's not a coincidence that Derek Lowe has eight victories despite having similar statistics to Kawakami.

Lowe - 13 GS, 5.04 ERA, 75 IP, 77 H, 44 R, 42 ER, 32 BB, 44 SO, 80 ERA+, 1.453 WHIP
Kawakami - 11 GS, 4.91 ERA, 62 IP, 68 H, 37 R, 34 ER, 18 BB, 36 SO, 82 ERA+, 1.380 WHIP

Lowe has had four cheap wins (win with four or more earned runs allowed) and one tough loss (loss with quality start). Kawakami has had no cheap wins (naturally) and three tough losses. The Braves are 8-5 when Lowe starts and 3-8 when Kawakami starts.

The hardest Kawakami non-win to take was a start against Cincinnati. Kawakami shut out the Reds on five hits and one walk in six innings despite pitching with a blister and a strained back. However, Takashi Saito coughed up three runs in the eighth and Billy Wagner blew his second save of the year by giving up a pinch-hit solo homer to rookie Chris Heisey. The Braves eventually won in the bottom of the inning.

Kawakami's eighth loss charged to him really wasn't his fault. He gave up two runs in each of the first two innings against the Dodgers, but the Braves tied up the game at four in the top of the seventh, breaking through against Clayton Kershaw and Hong-Chih Kuo. In the bottom of the inning, Kawakami struck out leadoff hitter Matt Kemp. Then, Andre Ethier hit a ground-rule double. After intentionally walking Manny Ramirez, Kawakami was relieved by left-hander Eric O'Flaherty. Eric's first pitch was hit by James Loney for an RBI single. The Dodgers took the game by the 5-4 score from that single. Because it was Kawakami's runner that scored from second base, he was charged with the run and the loss that followed.

Now, entering his twelfth start against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Kawakami will hope to avoid uncharted territory in Braves history by getting his first win of the season.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Playing Catch-Up With Box Score Links Whlie Braves Head To Florida (Plus A Commentary On The Miracle On Hank Aaron Drive)








The Miracle On Hank Aaron Drive, of course, is the Braves' improbable ninth-inning comeback against the Cincinnati Reds last Thursday. I'd like to introduce a stat to some of you readers (any readers at all!) called Win Probability Added. This calculation attempts to track the probability of a player's actions contributing to his team's goal of victory.

At the start of the game, both teams essentially have an equal chance to win, so their WPAs are 50% each. Each play tilts the WPA in favor of the team it benefits.

By the end of the top of the second inning, the Reds had increased their WPA from 50% to 94% thanks to eight runs off of starter Tommy Hanson. The WPA didn't dip much in the Braves' favor throughout the entire game and by the bottom of the ninth inning, the Reds had a WPA of 100%, meaning they were essentially certain to win the game.

Note that it's not an absolute certainty; the statistic is most likely rounded off. But it was logical to believe that the Reds would be winning the game. But as long as there is one out for a team, they can conceivably do anything.

Mike Lincoln pitching for Reds
Play 1 - Troy Glaus singles to left (CIN -0%, 99%; ATL +0%, 1%) <- that's proof the numbers are rounded off.
Play 2 - Eric Hinske singles to right, Glaus to second (CIN -1%, 98%; ATL +1%, 2%)
Play 3 - Yunel Escobar singles to short, Cabrera drops ball, Glaus to third, Hinske to second (CIN -2%, 96%; ATL +2%, 4%)
Play 4 - Nate McLouth singles to right, Glaus scores, Hinske scores, Escobar to third (CIN -6%, 90%; ATL +6%, 10%)
Nick Masset pitching for Reds
Play 5 - David Ross walks, McLouth to second (CIN -8%, 82%; ATL +8%, 18%)
Play 6 - Martin Prado grounds to Miguel Cairo at third, Cairo can't get ball out of his glove, Escobar scores, McLouth to third, Ross to second, Prado to first (CIN -14%, 68%; ATL +14%, 32%)
Arthur Rhodes pitching for Reds
Play 7 - Jason Heyward strikes out swinging (CIN +12%, 80%; ATL -12%, 20%)
Francisco Cordero pitching for Reds
Play 8 - Brooks Conrad hits a grand slam to left (CIN -80%, 0%; ATL +80%, 100%)

We don't need the calculations to tell us that Conrad's slam was the most important play of the game, but when you see what it took to get to that point, it makes the stat interesting. The strikeout of Heyward was significant because it essentially negated the previous error (a -2% swing in two plays for the Reds) and set Cincinnati up for a game-ending double play.

The five most significant plays in the game, according to WPA, were:

1. Brooks Conrad's 9th inning grand slam (80%)
2. Joey Votto's 2nd inning grand slam (24%)
3. Miguel Cairo's 9th inning bases-loaded error (14%)
4. Jason Heyward's 9th inning strikeout (12%)
5. Miguel Cairo's 2nd inning bases-loaded single that gave the Reds their first run (10%)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Braves Sweep Brew Crew To Finish Road Trip; Take Two of Three From Snakes

Call it lazy if you must, but I need to play a little catch-up.




Each of these games were eerily similar:

  • Each game featured good starting pitching on both sides.

  • All three games featured just enough offense to give Atlanta the lead by the time Ken Macha brought in his relievers.

  • Milwaukee's bullpen was pounded for a bunch of runs in all three games.


    The Braves came back from a 4-0 deficit to tie the game with a Brian McCann solo homer in the seventh and Nate McLouth's three-run shot in the eighth. Nate's home run prevented Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami from losing his seventh game in seven starts. Arizona took the lead off of Billy Wagner in a non-save situation, but Atlanta won the game with a bases-loaded single by Martin Prado.


    Tommy Hanson was smacked around in the fifth inning for four of the face runs he allowed, but he went seven innings. Arizona hung a five-spot on mop-up reliever Jesse Chavez, including a solo home run by Kelly Johnson, his 11th Rodrigo Lopez went eight for the D-Backs, who got to avoid using their terrible bullpen for most of the game.


    The Braves delivered their own smackdown on the Diamondbacks by peppering them with four home runs, two by Martin Prado and one each for Eric Hinske and Troy Glaus. The Braves had 14 hits in total, four by Prado and three by Glaus. Tim Hudson pitched eight innings of three-hit ball, allowing just one run.

    Sunday, May 09, 2010

    Braves Fight, But Phillies Have More Fight In Series Win


    Although the Braves gave their much-maligned fifth starter some needed support, Kenshin Kawkami couldn't hold down the power of the Phillies lineup as he was hit for three solo home runs in Atlanta's 5-3 loss.

    The Phillies teed off of Kawakami almost immediately. After Omar Infante just missed a leaping catch off of the bat of Placido Polanco, giving him a single, Chase Utley doubled into the right field corner. Bobby Cox chose to intentionally walk Ryan Howard to set up a double play, but Jayson Werth was hit by the second pitch of the at-bat, forcing in a run. Raul Ibanez then followed with a soft liner to right that Melky Cabrera caught. However, he took the ball out of his glove and didn't attempt a throw, allowing Utley to score.

    The Phillies added solo home runs in the third and fourth innings, the first a line drive shot over the left field wall by Polanco. The second shot was by Jayson Werth, the 100th of his career. After Raul Ibanez lined a double to the right field wall, Kawakami got the next two batters out to stem the tide.

    The Braves finally broke through in the fifth inning off of Phillies starter Cole Hamels. After stranding runners on first and second in the third and fourth innings, Atlanta drove in three for their rare successes on the road. Kawakami led off the inning with a walk and Infante and Martin Prado singled to load the bases. Cabrera, who was just 5-28 with runners in scoring position on the year, hit a hard grounded to second that Utley couldn't control, allowing one run to score. Troy Glaus followed with another single, driving in two runs and close the lead to one run. Brian McCann struck out and Matt Diaz grounded to first, moving the runners up. Brooks Conrad, making his first start of the year, walked to load the bases, but Nate McLouth grounded out to end the inning.

    Kawakami stayed in the game and pitched into the seventh inning, giving most of the bullpen a needed rest. Unfortunately, he coughed up a solo home run to Shane Victorino and was relieved after striking out Polanco. Eric O'Flaherty came into the game, got Utley to fly out to right and stayed in the game in the ninth inning, striking out Howard, getting Werth to ground out and Ibanez to pop out behind home plate.

    The Braves had been retired 10 straight times after Conrad walked in the fifth inning mostly by relievers Chad Durbin and Jose Contreras. In the top of the ninth, Brad Lidge came on to record his first save of the season. Pinch-hitter Eric Hinske tattooed a dead-red fastball to center field that Victorino was able to grab at the warning track thanks to the win. Omar Infante, who had three hits in the game, followed with a huge drive to left that was also knocked down by the wind, allowing Ibanez to catch. it. Prado ended the game with a comebacker to the pitcher.

    It was mentioned during the broadcast that Kawakami is the first Braves pitcher to start 0-6 on the season since Pascual Perez in 1985. Unfortunately, Perez accumulated that record in 11 starts, while Kawakami has extended his franchise record of six losses in his first six starts.

    Fill-In Fills Win Colum For Braves; Medlen Spearheads Win


    Making a spot start for the DL'ed Jair Jurrjens, long reliever Kris Medlen pitched 4 1/3 innings of effective work and the bullpen did the rest while the Braves' offense scratched across some rare road runs to carry the team to a 4-1 win over Joe Blanton.

    The Phillies scored first with three singles in the second, with Brian Schneider coming around to score on Shane Victorino's two-out single. Medlen, who had allowed two singles in the first inning, but no runs, would allow four more over 2 1/3 innings where he stranded runners on second and third on the fourth inning. After allowing a one-out single to Placido Polanco in the fourth, Cox brought in Eric O'Flaherty to pitch to Ryan Howard. The lefty specialist got the slugger to ground into a 4-5-3 double play, with Chipper Jones playing shortstop in the shift.

    Joe Blanton, in the meantime, was cruising. He didn't allow a base hit until Medlen collected his first major league base hit in the fifth, a liner that third baseman Greg Dobbs couldn't spear.

    The sixth is where things started to change for Blanton and the Braves. Chipper led off the inning with an infield single to second base. Brian McCann followed with a base hit and Troy Glaus lined out to center field. Eric Hinske, making his first start since the last game of the Cardinals series, got the Braves a tie game with a right field done. Melky Cabrera singled him and McCann home to give the Braves a 3-1 lead. The Braves added a fourth run in the ninth when Glaus singled home Nate McLouth off of Philadelphia reliever Danys Baez.

    The Braves bullpen, six pitchers in total, combined for 5 2/3 innings of hitless baseball. No pitcher allowed any hits. Craig Kimbrel, making his second major league appearance walked two batters in the sixth and Peter Moylan bailed him out with a double play. Moylan walked two batters in the seventh himself, but got two outs and Jonny Venters came on to retire Howard.

    Takashi Saito pitched a perfect eighth, striking out two batter and Billy Wagner had a 1-2-3 inning, finishing the save with Shane Victorino's liner to left that Matt Diaz was able to grab with a diving catch.

    Friday, May 07, 2010

    The Old Dude Strikes: Moyer Superb In Phillies Opening Victory


    Showing that older gentlemen can do anything, much like Julio Franco once did, Jamie Moyer pitched a complete game shutout just one day after Phillies legend Robin Roberts passed away. Philadelphia's offfense gave Moyer his usual support en route to a dominating 7-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

    Derek Lowe, the Braves' starter, kept the Phillies off the board for the first two innings, leaving two men on base both times. However, with one out, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard hit consecutive singles; Howard hit one right past Prado, who was in short right according to the shift. Jayson Werth then followed with a bomb to left field, giving the Phillies a 3-0 lead. The team added four in the fifth with four singles, a walk and another single. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both scored two runs.

    Lowe managed to finish the fifth inning so Cox didn't have to burn a reliever. (I wouldn't say Lowe pitched terribly. The Phillies offense is just that good). Derek allowed 11 hits in an outing for the sixth time in his career and 10 or more hits for the 25th time.

    The Braves had two firsts occur in the later innings: Brandon Hicks batted for the first time in his career as a pinch-hitter for Lowe in the sixth, but he struck out swinging. Then, Craig Kimbrel, the fire-balling closer prospect whom the Braves called up to replace Jair Jurrjens on the roster, made his major league debut in the seventh inning. He gave up a leadoff double to Werth, but struck out Raul Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz. He got shortstop Wilson Valdez to ground out to second to prevent Werth from scoring.

    Kimbrel did exactly what his reputation says: he threw gas (95-97 miles an hour on his fastball) and was very wild (almost threw the ball to the backstop on his first major league pitch and threw a wild pitch during Ruiz's at-bat).

    But the man of the hour was Jamie Moyer. He continued the streak of Phillies starters not allowing an earned run against the Braves (32 innings this season). Moyer allowed his first hit to Troy Glaus to lead off the second inning, but he erased him on the next pitch with a double play grounder. Ross then grounded out on the third pitch of the inning, proving once again that it doesn't usually pay to be hyper-aggressive at the plate. Moyer didn't allow another hit until Glaus singled to lead off the eighth, ending a streak of 17 batters retired in a row. Moyer came up in the ninth inning to bat. He was greeted with a standing ovation and chants of his name. He rewarded that with an 11-pitch battle with reliever Jesse Chavez before flying out into foul territory in left.

    Moyer got the final three outs in the ninth, completing the game and setting a record for the oldest pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout in MLB history. He was the oldest to pitch a shuout against the Braves since Jerry Koosman, who was 41 years, 198 days old, shut out Atlanta on July 8, 1984. Ironically, Koosman was pitching for the Phillies and the team beat the Braves 7-0.

    Tuesday, May 04, 2010

    Rare Road Win Bright Spot In Frustrating Series; Nationals Take Two Of Three


    Have you ever noticed that when a team goes on a losing streak, then wins a couple, then loses another game, people say "they've lost x of their last y" the next day?

    Aside from causing people to break that phrase out again, Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami has become the first Braves pitcher in Atlanta and the first in recorded play-by-play in franchise history, to get a loss in his first five starts of the season as the Braves dropped the first game of their road trip 6-3 to the Washington Nationals.

    Braves leadoff hitter Nate McLouth doubled off of The Immortal of Baseball Livan Hernandez and scored on Troy Glaus's sacrifice fly three batters later. Center fielder Nyjer Morgan made an excellent catch on the fly, which could have easily been a double. The Braves had the bases loaded with one out when the fly occurred and after Jason Heyward's two-out walk, Melky Cabrera grounded out to second to end the threat.

    The lead was short-lived. Kawakami coughed up a one-out solo home run to Josh Willingham. The Nationals used three straight singles to string together another run before Atlanta was able to stem the tide.

    Heyward tied the game with a solo shot to center field off starter Livan Hernandez, his eighth of the season, but that was short-lived as well. Ian Desmond answered with a shot off Kawakami in the fifth to left-center to give the Nationals back the lead. Kenshin got three straight groundouts, but the inning provided to be his last as his spot was up in the top of the sixth. Hernandez continued on into the sixth, recording one out before being lifted for reliever Sean Burnett.

    The situation didn't get much better as Eric O'Flaherty gave up a leadoff home run to Adam Dunn in the sixth. The slugger golfed the low and inside pitch into the second deck in right. Jonny Venters came on in the seventh for the Braves and gave up a run with a one-out walk, ground out and single. Jesse Chavez finished the Braves' pitching line with a run allowed on two singles and a leadoff walk.

    Burnett and Clippard combined for 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief for the Nationals. Veteran Miguel Batistia gave up an RBI single to Brian McCann in the ninth to make the score 6-3, so Jim Riggleman bought in closer Matt Capps to get the garbage 2/3 inning save. He got it by getting Glaus to ground out into a game-ending double play.


    Despite some inconsistencies, an early injury that will cause most Braves fans to consider taking Zanax and a few blown leads, the Braves came out on top Wednesday night, defeating the Washington Nationals 7-6 in ten innings, halting their five-game losing streak against the franchise and an eight-game road losing streak.

    Washington came out swinging against Tommy Hanson, as Nyjer Morgan led off with a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Zimmerman. The Braves were able to take the lead on a two-out, two-run homer in the second inning by Omar Infante. His first of the year off former Braves prospect Luis Atilano put the Braves up 2-1.

    Earlier, though, after the first inning, Jason Heyward was

    The Nationals quickly struck back as Ian Desmond lined a shot over the left field wall, near where Infante hit his bomb, to tie the game. Roger Bernadina then singled and came around to score on Morgan's second double to give the Nats a one-run lead.

    This lead wasn't safe either. Martin Prado smacked a one-out double and Chipper chased him home with a single in the top of the third. Atlanta stretched the lead to two in the fifth on an RBI groundout by Glaus that scored Prado.

    That lead was short-lived too! Adam Kennedy led off the fifth with a single, moved to second on an Adam Dunn walk and scored on Ivan Rodriguez's hit-and-run single. Hanson escaped the inning with no further damage.

    Deprived of another lead, the Braves decided to take another one and see if that one would hold up. Matt Diaz doiubled to lead off the sixth and Omar Infante walked. Hanson failed to bunt them over, but McLouth doubled home Diaz and Prado scored Infante with a ground out.

    Unfortunately, that lead wasn't meant to stay either, to Takashi Saito's chagrin. Ian Desmond reached on a one-out error by Infante in the eighth and moved to third on Roger Bernadina's double. Pinch-hitter Josh Willingham scored both runners with a single to left, blowing the victory for Hanson.

    To the Braves' credit, Kris Medlen held off the Nationals in the ninth with a 1-2-3 inning to send the game into extras. Eric Hinske, who came into the game in the top of the 10th, singled to lead off the frame, was sacrificed to second by Cabrera and scored on Diaz's single to right. Bernadina was later criticized for not appearing to attempt to throw out Diaz at the plate.

    Billy Wagner made the one run hold up with his third save of the year. He allowed a leadoff single to Cristian Guzman, but got Desmond to fly out to right, struck out pinch-hitter Wil Nieves and Willingham to line out to left.


    As if the craziness of the first two games wasn't bad enough, the third game had all kinds of crazy in it. When all was said and done, the Nationals had re-captured the game and the series by a score of 3-2.

    The Password is "pitching", because Scott Olsen and Tim Hudson had more than enough to go around. The two pitchers traded zeroes for the first four innings until Ivan Rodriguez scored the game's first run with a long home run to left field, his first of the season. Adam Dunn then led off the seventh inning with a blast to right, giving the Nationals a 2-0 lead. Hudson then struck out two of the next three batters he faced to complete the frame.

    Olsen, in the meantime hadn't allowed any hits or any baserunners since he walked Cabrera to start the third inning. Matt Diaz struck out looking for the third time to begin the eighth, but David Ross smacked a high fastball past a diving Desmond into right field for the Braves' first hit. After a standing ovation from the crowd, Olsen pitched to Cabrera. The right fielder hit a bouncer to Zimmerman at third, who threw wildly to first, allowing Cabrera to reach and Chipper to move to third. After walking McLouth, Olsen gave way to Clippard. Heyward, who was sitting out the game with a right groin injury, went up to the plate to pinch-hit. He took a 1-2 outside pitch to left field for a single that scored two runs. Infante hit into a double play to end the inning.

    In the top of the ninth, the Braves loaded the bases with one out, but Ross bounced out into a double play to end the threat. The Nationals, on the other hand, got a leadoff walk from Adam Kennedy on a full-count pitch from Eric O'Flaherty, who had pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth. Moylan was brought in to face Zimmerman, but promptly gave up a double that hit off the base of the right field wall. It seemed that Cabrera either misjudged or gave up on the ball. Pinch-hitter Cristian Guzman was intentionally walked to get to pinch-hitter Willie Harris, but the former Brave spoiled that move by lining a single through the drawn-in infield to win the game.

    Saturday, May 01, 2010

    Making Most Of Being Home; Braves Sweep 'Stros


    The Braves had the kind of game they envisioned having a lot this year: just enough offense to win and the starting pitching absolutely dominating the opposition. Tommy Hanson pitched brilliantly for eight innings, got some offense support, and Billy Wagner held off the Astros in the ninth to break Atlanta's nine-game losing streak.

    A few notes about the losing streak:

    • It was the longest road losing streak for the Braves since 1949, when the Boston team lost two straight four-game series against the Phillies and Dodgers.
    • In nine games, the Braves scored just seventeen runs, one more than the amount they scored on Opening Day.
    • Four quality starts, two by Tim Hudson, were blown by the Braves. Atlanta also lost four games where they took the lead first.
    Hanson threw all that out the window in the 4-2 victory.

    The Braves struck instantly when leadoff batter Nate McLouth homered to center on the first pitch from hurler Brett Myers. Martin Prado singled, Chipper Jones walks and Brian McCann hit into a double play, moving Prado to third. Troy Glaus then bounced a grounder to short which rolled up shortstop Tommy Manzella's arm and struck him in the throat. He stayed in the game, but was charged with an error on the play. He committed another error which allowed Jason Heyward to reach base. After Melky Cabrera walked, the Braves were held off the board when Omar Infante lined to second.

    After an RBI single by J.R. Towles tied the game at two, Hanson retired 20 of the 21 batters he faced, giving up just a single to Carlos Lee to lead off the fourth inning. Heyward provided all the support Hanson would need when he smacked a two-run homer to right in the third inning. Jason would have had a second home run in the eighth inning off of lefty reliever Tim Byrdak, but Hunter Pence leaped up at the wall in right and snagged the ball just as it was about to disappear behind the yellow line.

    Astros starter Brett Myers tossed seven innings, allowing just one other single and walk after Cabrera's two-out single in the third.

    When the ninth inning rolled around, Hanson was pulled in favor of closer Billy Wagner, who had just two save opportunities up to that point. The situation mirrored an infamous game from September of last season:

    The Braves were up 1-0 on the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Hanson had just pitched eight innings, walked no batters and struck out seven men. Cox lifted him for closer Rafael Soriano. Soriano struck out Michael Bourn, but Kazuo Matsui hit a single to right. Lance Berkman then hit a double on the next pitch. Carlos Lee then was intentionally walked to set up the double play. However, Miguel Tejada spoiled that with a single up the middle, scoring two runs and winning the game for the Astros.

    This time, Billy Wagner got Jeff Keppinger to ground to Glaus at first base. He then walked Pedro Feliz on four pitches. Lee ended the game by hitting into a double play, preserving the win for the Braves.


    After going down early, the Braves broke out their bats and Houston lost their gloves, leading to a 10-1 Atlanta win.

    The Astros struck first off Braves starter Tim Hudson when Michael Bourn singled, stole second, moved to third on Keppinger's single and scored on Berkman's groundout.

    It didn't take the Braves long to answer off of Wandy Rodriguez. Hudson led off the third inning with a single and moved to second on Martin Prado's single. The two moved up one base on Chipper's fly ball to center and both scored on Glaus's fly ball double that went over Pence's head in right field.

    The Astros didn't mount a serious threat after the third inning while the Braves just kept on scoring. Houston didn't get a runner to second base until the ninth inning, when they were down nine runs. The Braves scored three in the fifth, one in the sixth, and four in the seventh.

    Heyward led off the seventh with his seventh home run and Prado had a bases-loaded double. Omar Infante scored three runs and went 3-5. Prado also had three hits scored two runs.

    Hudson pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing just one run on five hits and two walks. Peter Moylan finished the seventh inning with a strikeout and Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters finished the game with a scoreless innings each.


    Once again, Derek Lowe got more run support. This time, however, he didn't have to work so hard to help the Braves complete their first three-game sweep of the Astros in seven years. Atlanta scored three runs in the fourth and fifth innings off of Astros starter Bud Norris to cement a 7-1 victory.

    McCann walked to lead off the second inning and moved to third on Glaus's liner to left that was hit so hard, Troy had to settle for a single. Heyward then launched a ball to right field, but Pence corralled it at the warning track. That scored McCann and gave the Braves the lead.

    In fourth, Hewyard doubled home McCann, moving Glaus to third base, and Cabrera singled home both runners. Infante also reached with a single and then Derek Lowe tried to bunt the runners over. Instead, he popped up the ball to the on-rushing first baseman Berkman. Lance then let the ball drop to start a 3-6-5 double play. It would have been possible for him to get a triple play because Lowe wasn't running out of the box, but the attempted sac bunt turned into two outs anyway.

    Atlanta loaded the bases in the fifth with one out for Heyward. The rookie hit a bouncer to the left of the mound that Norris was able to cut off with a stumbling roll. He then tried to throw home, but the toss went to the backstop, allowing Chipper to score. However, the ball bounced right back to Towles and he was able to tag out McCann attempting to score. Cabrera then completed the scoring by hitting a ground ball between first and second that rolled all the way to the wall because Pence was positioned in right center. This gave Melky a two-run double and ended Norris's day.

    Both the Braves and Astros bullpens pitched scoreless stints. Kris Medlen, Takashi Saito and Wagner pitched four scoreless innings (Medlen had two), while Chris Sampson got one strikeout, Jeff Fulchino pitched two shutout innings and Lyon had a scoreless eighth frame.

    Thursday, April 29, 2010

    Nine Is Not Fine; Cards Complete Sweep of Braves


    There really isn't much to tell about this game. Rookie starter Jamie Garcia continued his good work in the early season, limiting Atlanta to just four hits through seven innings. The Braves only managed to get three men in scoring position the entire game. They had the best chance in the eighth inning when Yunel Escobar doubled and Martin Prado singled off of reliever Kyle McClellan, but Chipper Jones flied out and Troy Glaus struck out.

    The Cardinals scored five runs (three earned) off of Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami, who is now 0-4 on the year and 1-7 with a 6.28 ERA in April over his brief major league career. He allowed three runs himself, but got charged with an additional two when reliever Jonny Venters let both inherited runners score. Skip Schumaker scored two runs, Colby Rasmus and Albert Pujols both had a double, single and intentional walk and run scored in their bodies of work.


    The game got ugly quick and continued to get uglier, though not all of it had to do with the Cardinals offense. Both Jair Jurrjens and Yunel Escobar had to leave the game with injuries in the Braves' 10-4 loss that stretched their losing streak to nine games and completed their 0-7 road trip. Jurrjens left with a strained hamstring after finishing the first inning (and coughing up a home run to David Freese, who had six RBIs on the day) and Escobar strained a hip muscle as he was throwing to first base in the bottom of the seventh inning.

    Colby Rasmus scored four runs for the Cardinals with two walks and two singles. Freese and Matt Holliday scored two runs each. The Cardinals did most of their scoring off of Braves reliever Jesse Chavez, who gave up five runs in two innings, including four in the fifth after he got the first two batters out.

    The small highlight of the day was Jason Heyward's at-bat in the seventh inning. He lined a home run off of El Lanzador Gordo Dennys Reyes (if you saw him and know Spanish, you'd call him that too). It was the first home run the Cardinals bullpen had given up since Todd Wellemeyer, now a Giant, gave up one on October 4th of last year.

    Adam Wainwright started for the Cardinals and allowed three earned runs on six hits in six innings, the "big blow" being a two-run single by Eric Hinske.

    Wednesday, April 28, 2010

    Same Old Story; Cardinals Come Back, Hold Off Braves


    It's almost like I was watching a re-run of last night's game. The Braves jumped out to an early lead, but the starting pitcher (and bullpen) couldn't hold it and the Braves were unable to come from behind. This time, it was by a 5-4 score.

    The Braves took a 2-0 lead in the second inning thanks to an RBI groundout by Nate McLouth and a first-pitch RBI single for Derek Lowe. The Cardinals struck back with a one-out solo home run by Ryan Ludwick in the fourth inning. Albert Pujols followed with a single and the Cardinals didn't get another hit until the sixth inning.

    Lowe and Cardnials starter Chris Carpenter were matching each other pitch for pitch up to then. Lowe had no walks and two hits allowed through five innings while Carpenter had three walks and one hit allowed.

    It wasn't meant to last for Lowe, though. Brendan Ryan led off the inning with a single, and with one out, Ryan Ludwick hit a double to left-center, scoring Ryan to tie the game. Albert Pujols was intentionally walked to get to Matt Holliday and he hit a ground ball to Chipper Jones at third base. Instead of throwing to second to try to start a double play, Chipper thought he could start it, so he forced out Ludwick at third. However, Holliday beat the throw to first.

    This proved to be crucial to the inning. Colby Rasmus worked out a walk after being down 0-2 and Yadier Molina lined a single up the middle to give the Cardinals a 4-2 lead. Lowe was removed in favor of Peter Moylan and he coughed up an RBI single to David Freese, making the score 5-2.

    The Braves were able to answer in the seventh inning thanks to some sloppy Cardinal fielding. Reliever Blake Hawksworth took over for Carpenter, who went six innings and allowed only two runs on three hits and three walks. He got Nate McLouth to ground out, but Brooks Conrad ripped a double off of him, then Yunel Escobar singled him to third. Martin Prado then hit a comebacker to Hawksworth. He attempted to throw home, but Molina was trying to get Prado's bat out of the way and couldn't grab the throw. The ball went to the backstop and Conrad scored. Chipper Jones then singled to second base, scoring Escobar.

    Tony LaRussa then played the LOOGY-ROOGY game he loves to play every so often. The Cardinals manager brought in lefty Dennis Reyes to face Brian McCann. The catcher flied out to deep left next, advancing Prado. Mitchell Boggs was summoned to face Troy Glaus walked, but he walked. Veteran lefty Trever Miller faced lefty Jason Heyward and struck him out looking to end the inning. He stayed on in the eighth and paired with Jason Motte (1 2/3 innings) to hold the Braves off the scoreboard the rest of the game. Kris Medlen and Billy Wagner finished the game for Atlanta.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010

    This Time, Bullpen Blows Lead; Cardinals Work Late-Inning Magic Once More


    First it's the leadoff hitters, then it's the RISP hitting, now it's the bullpen's turn to get into the act. St. Louis scored three runs off of Atlanta's bullpen to pull out a 4-3 victory over the slumping Braves.

    The game started out well for Atlanta. While they once again failed to bring a runner in from third base with two out in the second inning, the team finally chased in an opportunity in the third. With the bases loaded, cleanup hitter Brian McCann hit a sacrifice fly to left field and Troy Glaus singled up the middle, giving the Braves a 2-0 lead. They added a run in the fourth inning when Nate McLouth doubled in Melky Cabrera from first, but he was stranded as Escobar walked and was caught off first base after Martin Prado hit a liner that was snagged by Cardinals third baseman David Freese.

    The Cardinals' Albert Pujols had three hits on the day, but his first hit in the second inning was an odd one. He hit a drive to left field that he thought was a home run, so he trotted to first base. The ball hit the left-field wall on the fly and Cabrera was able to throw out Pujols at second base.

    The Cardinals were kept at bay by Braves starter Tim Hudson for most of the game. The veteran didn't allow a baserunner to score until the sixth when Skip Schumaker scored on a ground ball to short after walking and going to third on a single.

    The Braves were held hitless after McLouth's double until the ninth inning, which gave the Cardinals the opportunity to make their move. St. Louis, as a team, scores 21.8% of their runs in the seventh through ninth innings (17 of 78 before yesterday's game). This is where that showed.

    Colby Rasmus led off the seventh inning with a line drive home run off of Tim Hudson to right field. After Hudson walked Yadier Molina, Cox brought in Peter Moylan, who hadn't pitched in three days. Molina attempted to steal a base after stutter-stepping against Molyan and was successful when McCann's throw was short. Freese flied out to the warning track and Brendan Ryan struck out, but pinch-hitter Brian Anderson hit a flare to left field that dropped in for a hit, scoring Molina. Moylan walked Schumaker, but then got Ryan Ludwick to ground to short.

    The Braves couldn't answer in the eighth despite getting two men on with two out. So Cox brought in Takashi Saito to face Pujols and Matt Holliday. Pujols led off the inning with a double ripped down the third-base line. Holliday flew out to Brooks Conrad (who was in the game as a pinch-runner to Troy Glaus and switched positions with Prado) in short right field and Rasmus was intentionally walked to get to Molina, another right-hander. Molina spoiled the strategy by hitting a ground-rule double to left-center, scoring Pujols with the go-ahead run. Freese grounded to Conrad at second who threw out Rasmus at the plate. Ryan struck out looking to end the inning.

    Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin allowed a swinging bunt single by pinch-hitter Matt Diaz to lead off the ninth, but got pinch-hitter Eric Hinske to ground into a double play. Yunel Escobar reached first on a ball hit up the middle that Schumaker could only knock down, but Prado grounded to the second baseman to end the game.

    Odds 'N Ends: The Braves' leadoff spot has reached undiscovered territories of epic stinkiness. The team's leadoff hitters are a combined .099/.178/.148 in 90 plate appearances. The main ones, Cabrera (7 games), McLouth (6 games) and Diaz (5 games), are a combined 7-72, with Cabrera only having one double and Diaz with the double and triple in the Rockies game. Even the Braves pitchers are batting better than they are (.131/.197/.213 in 73 PAs), including the same amount of hits (eight)!

    Sunday, April 25, 2010

    The Silliness Continues; Mets Take Rain-Shortened Game


    Sunday's Braves-Mets game was a little like getting Whammied on Press Your Luck. Atlanta repeatedly failed to get runners in from second and third base, had an unearned run scored off of them and the skies opened up in the sixth inning, allowing the Mets to sweep the Braves by a 1-0 score.

    It was almost like clockwork: the Braves had the bases loaded with two out in the first inning, men on first and second with two out in the second inning, men on first and second with one out in the third inning and men on first and second with one out in the fifth inning. A pop-up to short by Jason Heyward, a strikeout by Martin Prado, a double play grounder to short by Heyward, and a double play grounder to third by Troy Glaus ended each of those threats.

    The Mets got their run off Braves starter Tommy Hanson in the first inning when Jose Reyes singled with two out, stole second and scored on an errant throw by Chipper Jones to first base in an attempt to get Jason Bay. It appeared that Chipper could have chosen to go after Reyes to tag him out, but he decided to throw to first anyway. The ball took a funny hop and bounced away from Glaus, allowing the run to score.

    Hanson and Mets starter Mike Pelfrey wriggled out of that kind of trouble all game. Whlie striking out eight batters, Hanson was able to strand the other six baserunners he allowed via three singles and two walks. Pelfrey was able to strand every Braves runner, who got on with two doubles, three singles and five walks.

    Odds 'N Ends: At least Tommy Hanson didn't have a quality start for the Braves to blow. As I think I mentioned yesterday, the Braves are 3-5 in games where the starter has a quality start.

    Troy Glaus has seemed to become the bane of many Braves fans' existences. He leads the team with 10 hitless games where the player has started the game. Glaus has started 15 of the Braves' first 18 games. Calls for Eric Hinske to start more frequently have already begun, and probably won't be realized until about mid-May or so if Glaus continues to hit like he did coming back from shoulder surgery last year.

    More Woes And Weirdness Lead To Second Mets Win


    Okay, now it's just getting silly.

    Yunel Escobar made a key baserunning gaffe in the fifth inning with a scoreless tie and the Braves wasted another quality start from Jair Jurrjens with poor RISP batting, losing to the Mets 3-1.

    The Braves left the bases loaded in the first inning and Chipper Jones, who turned 38 years old yesterday, appeared to hurt himself on his first swing. He tried to go back out in the third inning, but he couldn't extend himself and had to come out of the game. Martin Prado, who was getting the day off, took his place at third base the next inning. Chipper is day-to-day with a hip injury.

    Matt Diaz and Melky Cabrera struck out with the bases loaded to end the third. Atlanta left men on second with two out in the second and third innings.

    With one out in the fifth, Escobar walked. Prado then hit a double in his first at-bat, sending Escobar to third. Troy Glaus then flied out to right. Seemingly forgetting the situation, Escobar failed to tag up at third, while Martin Prado did tag up at second and ran to third on Francoeur's catch. By the time Escobar realized what was going on, it was too late. Prado tried to get in a rundown, but he was quickly tagged out before Escobar could score.

    However, the Braves did take the lead off of of starter Jon Niese in the sixth. Cabrera hit a one-out double, his second of the year, and scored on David Ross's single to give the Braves the lead. The Mets then brought in former Brave Manny Acosta, who shut down his old teammates through 1 2/3 innings.

    In the bottom of the sixth, Jose Reyes took a two-out walk and stole second base. He went to third on David Ross's poor throw, which skipped into the outfield. Jason Bay then drove Reyes home with a double.

    Rookie first baseman Ike David led off the seventh with a walk. Jeff Francoeur then hit a high fastball (which is pretty much one of the only things he can hit) to the 415 sign in right-center, scoring Davis with a triple. He was brought home by Henry Blanco's sacrifice fly. Jurrjens got pinch-hitter Frank Catalaotto to ground out, but a walk to leadoff hitter Angel Pagan ended his day. Eric O'Flaherty got Alex Cora to ground out to end the inning.

    The Braves got another man in scoring position off reliever Pedro Feliciano with Jason Heyward beating out a double play relay and moving to second on a walk to David Ross. Brian McCann then lined a pitch to shortstop that was tailing on Reyes, but he made a great diving catch to save a run.

    Kris Medlen held the Mets scoreless in the ninth and Francisco Rodriguez had a much-less shaky ninth inning as he put the Braves away 1-2-3 for his third save of the year.

    Jurrjens went 6 2/3 innings and allowed just one earned run on four hits and four walks. Mets starter Jon Niese similarly allowed just one earned run, but on five hits and five wlks in 5 1/3 innings.

    Odds 'N Ends: So far in the series at Citi Field, the Braves are 3-17 with RISP, with six walks and 3 RBIs. Those three hits are only singles.

    Batting Average With Balls In Play is designed to show how often the defense turns a player's batted ball into an out. Sometimes, it shows that a player is very unlucky and other times it shows that a player is playing at an unsustainable level.

    As of this post, the league average is .296. Out of the Braves' nine regular players, only three of them have a BABIP above the league average:

      Martin Prado - .473 BABIP (.409 BA)
      Jason Heyward - .344 BABIP (.254 BA)
      Chipper Jones - .306 BABIP (.283 BA)
    The rest of the Braves' starters have significantly lower BABIPs than average:

      Matt Diaz - .241 BABIP (.175 BA)
      Brian McCann - .238 BABIP (.258 BA)
      Yunel Escobar - .218 BABIP (.194 BA)
      Troy Glaus - .211 BABIP (.175 BA)
      Nate McLouth - .208 BABIP (.150 BA)
      Melky Cabrera - .174 BABIP (.143 BA)
    McCann is especially unlucky because his average is higher than his BABIP.

    The last time the Mets swept a three-game series from the Braves in New York was August 19-21, 2008.

    Friday, April 23, 2010

    Near Misses, Strange Plays, Offensive Woes Add To Mets Win


    Nate McLouth missing the game-tying home run by about 5-10 feet capped the weirdness of this game as the Mets defeated the Braves 5-2 in the opener of their three game series.

    The game started normally, at first: the Braves struck first with Chipper Jones's RBI single off of starter John Maine. New York almost tied the game when former Brave Jeff Francoeur just missed a home run, hitting a ball off of what I would like to call the Black Monster in left field. Francoeur took third base on an ill-advised throw by Cabrera to second base. He then tried to score on Rod Barajas's grounder to third, but Chipper was able to throw him out at the plate.

    Maine would leave the game in the middle of the fourth inning as he felt some muscle spasms in his left elbow. "Rookie" reliever Hisanori Takahashi, a 10-year veteran of the Yomiuri Tokyo Giants, went on to strike out seven of the twelve Braves that he faced.

    In the meantime, the Mets tied the game with Ike Davis's first major league home run, a bomb to straight right off of Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami that knotted the score at one. New York went ahead in the bottom of the sixth on consecutive triples by Jose Reyes and Jason Bay. David Wright's sacrifice fly to the warning track in center field plated Bay and the Mets went up by two runs.

    Kawakami finished the inning and left with his second quality start in three tries, with six hits and three earned runs allowed in six frames. The Braves finally chased Takahashi with a leadoff double by Omar Infante and a two-out single by Martin Prado.

    The bottom of the seventh is where things got wacky. With one out and setup man Takashi Saito on the hill, Angel Pagan singled to left. He went to second on Luis Castillo's walk. Jose Reyes then hit a pop fly on the infield and the infield fly rule was called. Here is the rule and its points:

    2.00: An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.

    6.05(e): A batter is out when An Infield Fly is declared.
    This rule was made to prevent fielders from intentionally dropping balls to start double or even triple plays. Another key to this rule is that when the ball is dropped, it's still a live ball; any base is fair game if unguarded.

    That's exactly what happened: Chipper Jones dropped the ball and picked it up as the Pagan and Castillo advanced a base. McCann then left home plate unguarded as he tried to get an explanation on why he didn't need to throw it to first. The ball was still live, however, because Saito didn't have it and he wasn't on the mound. So Pagan, with a heads-up notice from base coach Chip Hale, bolted for home plate and beat McCann's tag by a full second.

    David Wright added on to the free run with a single, so it looked like the Mets would coast to a victory.

    Not quite.

    Pedro Feliciano and Jonny Venters provided a scoreless eighth inning, so it was up to Frankie Rodriguez to earn the save for the Mets. Melky Cabrera, who was 0-3 in the game, greeted him with a single to right. Infante, who had three hits up to that point, gave the Mets an out with a first-pitch fly ball to center.

    However, Rodriguez then lost control against pinch-hitter Yunel Escobar, walking him. That brought up Nate McLouth, who had struck out three times already. He battled with Rodriguez a bit, and at one point absolutely crushed a high fastball that ended up 5-10 feet to the right of the foul pole. Rodriguez got him looking on a change-up on the outside corner then blew away Prado with an 0-2 breaking ball to end the game.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    The Old Junkballer Strikes Again; Phils Take Series


    Forty-seven year old Jamie Moyer just keeps chugging along. Two years younger than Julio Franco when he retired in 2008, the crafty left-hander carved up Braves batters. With near immediate support, he helped the Phillies cruise to an 8-3 win.

    The Philles struck first off Braves starter Derek Lowe with three singles and a sacrifice fly in the first inning. They added three more in the third aided by an errant throw by second baseman Martin Prado on an attempted double play that sailed high and bounced off of Escobar's glove. Two runs scored on that play and shortstop Juan Castro added a third run with an RBI single. He ended up with three hits on the day. Greg Dobbs and Chase Utley both scored two runs in the two innings.

    The Braves got a similar break in the fifth inning. Walks by Melky Cabrera and pinch-hitter Omar Infante put men on first and second with one out. In the next at bat, Matt Diaz grounded a ball to short. Castro's throw bounced off of Chase Utley's glove, allowing Cabrera to score and Infante to move to second. Prado then grounded to Castro at short and Utley threw wildly to first base while trying to avoid Diaz's slide. That allowed Infante to score. Chipper Jones lined to Dobbs at third to end the inning.

    Philadelphia tallied a run off of Kris Medlen in the sixth with Shane Victorino's sacrifice fly and became the first team to get to Peter Moylan, scoring two runs off of him in the seventh. Ross Gload and Victorino had consecutive RBI singles off of the sidearmer.

    The Braves threatened in the sixth with men on second and third with one out, but Jason Heyward struck out looking and Melky Cabrera popped out to Castro at short. That ended Moyer's day; he finished with only four hits and two walks given up in six innings. The three Phillies starters in the series didn't allow a single earned run.

    Brian McCann was able to get a run in with the bases loaded with one out in the seventh with a sacrifice fly, but Troy Glaus struck out swinging to end the Braves' threat. The team had to endure a similar indignity in the final frame. After Diaz turned a leadoff Eric Hinske single into a double play, Prado hit a grounder that Castro couldn't quite corral and Chipper doubled to left. The two got five of the Braves' nine hits on the day. However, McCann flew to the warning track to end the game.

    Odd 'N End: I may as well keep a running tally of the Braves' offensive futility as long as they're struggling:

    AVG: .229 (T-14th in NL, T-24th in MLB)
    OBP: .329 (10th in NL, 15th in MLB)
    SLG: .361 (13th in NL, 23rd in MLB)

    So, basically, the Braves' NL-leading 72 walks are keeping them from having a totally putrid offense.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    No Miracle With Doc On Mound; Phils Shut Out Braves


    Your bullpen blow a game you had in the bag? No problem: just put the majors' leader in complete games over the past decade on the mound, add water, stir, bake and enjoy.

    Phillies ace Roy Halladay twirled a few lucky breaks and some great defense into a five-hit shutout as the Phillies took Game 2 against the Braves by a score of 2-0.

    Halladay set down the first eleven Braves he faced until Chipper Jones doubled to left-center. This included a drive by Troy Glaus in the second inning that center fielder Shane Victorino snagged just before it went over the wall.

    In the second inning, Jayson Werth hit a pitch where he thought he had a home run and he bumped fists with first base coach Davey Lopes as he rounded first. The ball hit off the wall and Werth had to hustle to second for a double. This led to some apparent confusion by Braves radio announcer Don Sutton on whether Werth should have been called out on the play. This is the rule that he was referring to:

    Rule 7.09(h): In the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base.
    Since Lopes wasn't assisting Werth in running the bases while the ball was in play, he wasn't called out. Raul Ibanez drove him in with a ground-rule double to right-center. Juan Castro singled to put men on the corners with none out. However Carlos Ruiz flied out to short right, Halladay struck out and Victorino hit a soft liner to center that McLouth got with a sliding grab.

    Ryan Howard led off the sixth inning with a check swing that resulted in a freak single to left field. This proved to be significant because he scored on Werth's double. Raul Ibanez was intentionally walked and Hudson got three straight groundouts to end his day, including Escobar throwing out Werth at home for the first out.

    The Braves tried to get rallies going the next two innings, but they were snuffed out both times. Melky Cabrera singled to lead off the bottom of the sixth, but was stranded with four pitches resulting in three outs. In the seventh, Jones and McCann hit back-to-back singles to start it off. Glaus struck out, but Heyward drew a walk to load the bases. After a five-pitch at-bat, Escobar hit a hard liner up the middle that bounced off the mound. Chase Utley was able to corral it and start an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play, the Phillies' only one of the day.

    Eric Hinske hit a bloop double down the left field line with one out in the eighth. He moved to third on Nate McLouth's groundout, but was stranded at third base when Martin Prado grounded out.

    Tim Hudson was able to pitch around trouble after damage was done. The Phillies scored runs in the second and sixth innings. Both times after the scores, they had men on first and third with no one out. Both times, Hudson was able to keep the Phillies off of the board. He pitched six innings, allowing six hits, two runs (both earned), two intentional walks and five strikeouts. Jonny Venters continued his success, pitching two innings in relief, allowing no hits and getting two strikeouts. Takashi Saito finished the game for the Braves.

    An Odd 'N End: The Braves are scuffling offensively as a team: they're 15th in the league in batting average (.227, three points above Houston's .224) and 13th in the league in slugging (.360, one of four teams below .400). Their league-leading 69 walks is what puts their on-base percentage tenth in the league (.329).

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Miracle on Hank Aaron Drive: Late Long Bombs Lead Atlanta


    The Phillies have now had their Tommy Hanson-Rafael Soriano moment. After a dominating performance by starter Kyle Kendrick, Charlie Manuel turned the 3-0 game over to his closer and could only watch as the Braves went on to win the game 4-3.

    Kendrick, who had an ERA of 17.27 in 5 2/3 innings over two starts, simply dominated the Braves with his sinker. The one inning he ran into trouble in was the fourth. Martin Prado singled with one out and Chipper Jones hit a double off the right-field wall to move Martin to third base. Brian McCann was intentionally walked to get to Troy Glaus. Glaus to grounded to Polanco at third to start an inning-ending double play.

    The Braves didn't have another base runner until McCann singled in the seventh. A walk to Nate McLouth in the eighth inning provided the Braves with their only other baserunner against Kendrick. The Phillies starter went eight innings and allowed four hits and two walks, striking out two Braves hitters.

    Tommy Hanson, on the other hand, had a strange game. He pitched well, but the Phillies lineup made him throw a lot of pitches and got a couple of runs thanks to some funky hits. With one out, Chase Utley checked his swing on a full-count pitch and ended up grounding the ball down the line past third base for a freak double. Ryan Howard then grounded into the overshift, but the ball kicked off of Glaus's glove for a single, allowing Utley to score. In the fifth, Placido Polanco had a similar double to Utley's hit.

    Hanson was removed after 4 2/3 innings in favor of Eric O'Flaherty to face the lefty Phillie mashers. Utley foiled that plan by singling up the middle, scoring Polanco and putting the Phillies up 2-0. O'Flaherty got Howard to line out to Glaus to end the inning.

    Peter Moylan pitched a scoreless inning and Kris Medlen went two innings. He allowed a run on two singles and a fielder's choice in the seventh, but didn't allow anymore damage. Jesse Chavez pitched a scoreless ninth for the Braves.

    In the bottom of the inning, the Phillies brought in Ryan Madson, who was 3-3 in save opportunities this year. Prado, the leadoff batter, grounded out to short to start the inning. Jones then coaxed a walk out of Madson to bring up McCann. The Braves catcher lined out to Raul Ibanez in left for the second out. Glaus then swung and missed at a fastball then watched a pitch in the dirt. The next pitch, a fastball down the middle, was deposited in the left-field seats. Jason Heyward, who was 0-3 on the day, was next. He watched a fastball on the outside corner then got a change-up down the middle of the plate. The ball ended up in the right-field seats and the game was tied.

    The Phillies didn't score off of their former closer Billy Wagner in the top of the tenth, so Manuel sent in The Ageless One (as Braves announcer Joe Simpson called him) Jose Contreras to pitch the frame. Braves outfielder Nate McLouth was the first to face him. The struggling center fielder tomahawked a 2-2 pitch to give the Braves an improbable victory. The whole team went into the clubhouse so as McLouth returned to the dugout, there wasn't anyone but a batboy there. The team celebrated in the hallway to the dugout instead.

    My Take and Odds 'N Ends: I was prepared to accept defeat, but knowing that Kyle Kendrick was coming out of the game gave the Braves players and their fans (including me) some hope. It paid off immensely.

    When I said the Phillies now have their Hanson-Soriano moment, I was referring to a game on September 9th last year where the Braves got eight innings of five-hit shutout ball from Hanson and he had only thrown 98 pitches. Despite that, Cox put in Soriano to close the game, when he had pitched in three of the last four days. Almost like clockwork, the Astros scored two runs with a single, double, intentional walk and another single to win the game. Thankfully, I think Cox is shying away from that type of managing this early on in the season.

    All alone, Jason Heyward has driven in 25% of the Braves' runs (16 of 64). Far and away, he's the best player at adding Win Probability percentage points for his team (2.6 total), which is twice the total of Brian McCann's amount (1.3). For what it's worth, the Braves player right now who has the lowest total is Troy Glaus (-1.6).

    Sunday, April 18, 2010

    Heyward Strikes Again; Braves Pull Out Wild Win To Win Series


    The game was a hundredth of a second from being over on Troy Glaus's groundout. A walk later, the game was over as Heyward bailed out his team with a two-run single, getting the Braves a 4-3 victory.

    Braves starter Jair Jurrjens, who faced cocerns due to his drop in velocity in his terrible start agsinst San Diego, pitched eight strong innings, becoming the first Brave to go past the seventh this season.

    However, it was almost all for naught.

    The Braves took the lead in the first inning when Matt Diaz led off with the Braves' first hit, a tripe to right-center. This was the Braves first hit since Brooks Conrad's double in the eighth inning of Friday's win. Diaz came home on Martin Prado's liner to left fielder Seth Smith. They would have had a second run in the second inning on Matt Diaz's single to right, but Carlos Gonzalez threw Melky Cabrera at the plate trying to score.

    The Rockies answered quickly in the second inning with a double by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and a one-out RBI single by third baseman Ian Stewart. The Braves took the lead again when Jason Heyward walked with the bases loaded and two out. Rockies starter Greg Smith got Cabrera to strike out to prevent anymore runs from scoring.

    The next few innings were dominated by Jurrjens and more missed opportunties by the Braves. Matt Diaz doubled with one out in the fourth, but was stranded there. In the seventh, Chipper Jones walked and moved to second base on McCann's flyout, but was picked off by reliever Joe Beimel. Jason Heyward drew a walk from Rafael Betancourt to lead off the eighth, was sacrified to second and moved to third on a wild pitch with Eric Hinske at the plate. But he was stranded as Hinske grounded to first and Diaz flew out to center fielder Dexter Fowler on the first pitch.

    By that time, Jurrjens had been victimized by two solo home runs. With one out in the seventh, Ian Stewart yanked a ball down the right field line to tie the game. Carlos Gonzalez then led off the eighth inning by hitting a fastball similar to Stewart down the right field line. That gave the Rockies a 3-2 lead. Jurrjens finished the inning with two strikeouts and a foul fly to Escobar. He allowed just five hits and three walks, striking out nine Rockies, but he was slated to take the loss.

    Closer Franklin Morales came in to finish the game for the Rockies. Here's how the inning transpired:

    • Prado led off with a single.
    • Prado advances to second base on a balk.
    • Jones flies out to center field.
    • McCann walks and is replaced by pinch-runner Nate McLouth.
    • Troy Glaus bounces to Todd Helton off first, who throws to second to force McLouth. Glaus beats the return throw to Morales at first base. Brooks Conrad replaces Glaus as a pinch-runner.
    • Yunel Escobar walks.
    • Heyward grounds a single to left field, Prado and Conrad score.

    Frankly, I can't think of anything else to say other than this is a game I'm glad the Braves won.

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