All about the Braves and baseball events.

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.