September 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game 1 vs. Marlins
The Braves begin their final homestand of the regular season, and they’re doing so in the best way possible: a Kris Medlen start.
Medlen pitched eight shutout innings on four hits with one walk and six strikeouts in his last start, an outing in Miami. Medlen’s first start this season was against the Marlins, giving up one run in five innings on July 31.
Nathan Eovaldi’s most recent outing was also against the Braves, throwing eight shutout innings with five strikeouts. As some noted during and after that game, Eovaldi is no scab that some made him out to be in their frustrations. He’s a top 100 prospect who has flashed strong strikeout stuff in the minor leagues and is only 22 years old. He may have had his struggles this year, but what he did against the Braves last time out won’t be a rare occurrence down the road.
The Braves can clinch a playoff berth with a win today or losses by both the Brewers and Dodgers.
Mark Bowman writes on the comparisons between Medlen and Greg Maddux. While both have pinpoint control with similar arsenals, Maddux’s two-seamer and the horizontal movement it received was in a league of its own. The movement on Medlen’s pitches isn’t Maddux-like, and that’s not taking anything away from Medlen at all.
Bowman’s notes include blurbs on Mike Minor’s turnaround in the second half and Freddie Freeman’s struggles at the plate. Also, Michael Bourn is hoping to return today after allowing his thumb to rest an extra day on Monday.
Buster Olney lists one player for each playoff contender that’s important to their chances (ESPN Insider). For the Braves, he lists Bourn.
Baseball America released its Gulf Coast League Top 20 List with two Braves making the grade. Jose Peraza sits at No. 10 and Luis Merejo is No. 13. Follow the link for full scouting reports if you’re a BA member, but the list itself is free. In case you missed it yesterday, Baseball Prospectus had positive things to say about Merejo, calling him “a truly exciting prospect” (sub. required).
September 23, 2012 at 4:18 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game MVP: Tim Hudson, 75 game score
Least Valuable Brave: Jeff Baker, -.102
Most Valuable Phillie: Cliff Lee, 69 game score
Least Valuable Phillie: Juan Pierre, -.149
2nd – (ATL) David Ross solo homer for a 1-0 Braves lead, .121
Two good pitching matchups with the difference being a sac fly RBI off the bat of Dan Uggla in the third inning. Cliff Lee allowed just one earned run, but the go-ahead run became unearned due to his own error. It’s the story of Lee’s season, allowing a home run, recording a lot of strikeouts (11) and managing to lose with no offense.
Tim Hudson didn’t get much more support, but he held the Phillies to the one run thanks to nine ground balls. He threw 59 strikes out of 85 pitches, so his control was on, but his in-zone command remained just a touch off, resulting in a few line drives. He benefited from a .100 BABIP.
The Braves’ magic number is down to two with an off day Monday before their final homestand of the regular season.
September 23, 2012 at 11:59 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Braves lineup: Reed Johnson (CF), Martin Prado (3B), Jason Heyward (RF), Freddie Freeman (1B), Dan Uggla (2B), Jeff Baker (LF), David Ross (C), Andrelton Simmons (SS), Tim Hudson (P).
Phillies lineup: Jimmy Rollins (SS), Juan Pierre (LF), Chase Utley (2B), Ryan Howard (1B), Carlos Ruiz (C), Domonic Brown (RF), John Mayberry (CF), Kevin Frandsen (3B), Cliff Lee (P).
Game 3 vs. Phillies
The Braves won with authority Saturday as Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward combined for six runs driven in against Roy Halladay in one inning alone, and Halladay was knocked out in the second shortest start of his career, evening up the series.
The rubber match features Cliff Lee and Tim Hudson. While the Braves might be getting to Halladay this season, they still have plenty of troubles against Lee. He is approaching 200 innings for the fourth straight full season, recording a 3.27 ERA and 3.12 FIP. His emergence as a high-profile strikeout pitcher in 2010 has continued this year, sporting a 24.1% strikeout rate while maintaining a 3.7% walk rate.
Everything about Lee has remained in line with his four-season trends except home runs allowed, which has been upped to 1.04 HR/9 this year. He owns a career 8.5% HR/FB rate, but it’s at 11.5% this season. The trends say it’s a mini-fluke, and with Lee’s pitch usage staying the same, I would tend to agree. Best bet is his home run total will return closer to his career mark sooner than later.
Hudson has been a bit up and down lately, which could be the result of September fatigue effecting his sinker command. He gave up four runs in five innings last time out, including no walks and no strikeouts, against the Marlins.
Hudson gave up just four home runs through his first 15 starts but has seven allowed in his last 11 outings. As I said, best bet is tiredness with age slowly creeping up in these fatigue months, but Hudson has still had his solid starts over the past couple months.
Braves.com recap for Saturday’s win.
AJC quotes following Saturday’s win. Fredi Gonzalez on Roy Halladay: “He’s not the same Halladay I’ve seen. I don’t know if it’s that scapula or shoulder blade, but he didn’t look the same the last couple of times we’ve faced him. Nevertheless, he’s probably gotten us more than we’ve gotten him.”
In case you missed it yesterday, the Braves aligned their rotation so Kris Medlen can start the wild card game. Medlen will start Tuesday at home against the Marlins, Paul Maholm will be switched to Wednesday and Tommy Hanson should start Thursday.
The Braves felt Andrelton Simmons needed one more day on Saturday, and he is in the lineup today.
Hanson will remain in the rotation. Meanwhile, if Fredi decides to give Hudson extra rest, he could start one of Ben Sheets, Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado down the stretch. One would think Sheets might get that call if it happens, considering Teheran and Delgado haven’t pitched in a game in weeks.
Ken Rosenthal reports the Braves tried to acquire Greg Dobbs from the Marlins at the trade deadline.
Around the NL East
Because of milestones and whatnot, Gio Gonzalez became the first 20-game winner in the majors this season. More importantly, his 200 strikeouts is the highest total for a Washington pitcher since Walter Johnson in 1916.
Bob Brookover’s interpretation of the Phillies’ 2013 plans: “Listen to manager Charlie Manuel, and you can envision a team with Chase Utley at third base, Freddy Galvis at second base, a big-ticket free agent playing center field, and at least one quality free-agent addition to the bullpen.”
Mets reliever Frank Francisco is battling elbow tendinitis.
September 23, 2012 at 1:15 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game MVP: Freddie Freeman, .265
Least Valuable Brave: Jose Constanza, -.019
Most Valuable Phillie: Domonic Brown, .005
Least Valuable Phillie: Roy Halladay, 17 game score
1st – (ATL) Freddie Freeman three-run homer for a 3-0 Braves lead, .275
2nd – (ATL) Jason Heyward three-run double for a 6-0 Braves lead, .125
The Braves bombarded Roy Halladay for seven runs in just 1.2 innings, the second shortest start of his career. His 17 game score ties for his lowest this season with… a start against the Braves on May 2 in which he gave up eight runs in 5.1 innings.
Halladay’s two 17 game scores against the Braves this season ties for third lowest of his career and lowest since 2007.
Mike Minor benefited from a huge lead early by throwing strikes, hitting the zone 59 times out of 91 pitches and walking one. He also benefited from a .077 BABIP on an equal amount of ground balls and fly balls with two line drives.
Minor also struck out six, recording 17 total whiffs over his six innings. His curveball was especially good, receiving nine whiffs, while his changeup and slider had three each.
The top five hitters in the Braves lineup combined for all nine hits and drove in all eight runs. The only player outside the top five that took part in a run was Brian McCann, who scored on Jason Heyward’s double in the second.
September 22, 2012 at 12:15 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Braves lineup: Michael Bourn (CF), Martin Prado (SS), Jason Heyward (RF), Chipper Jones (3B), Freddie Freeman (1B), Dan Uggla (2B), Brian McCann (C), Jose Constanza (LF), Mike Minor (P).
Update (1:40p): Mark Bowman reports the Braves will line up their rotation to have Kris Medlen start the wild card game. Medlen and Paul Maholm will swap spots, meaning Medlen will start Tuesday after the off day.
It’s an expected move, as Medlen has been the best starter since being added to the rotation 10 starts ago. While it’s not ideal to have Medlen pushed back in a potential division series, you can’t plan for the NLDS without winning the wild card game, so all efforts must go toward the one game.
Update (1:20p): Andrelton Simmons remains out, with Martin Prado starting at shortstop and Jose Constanza in left field again.
Game 2 vs. Phillies
The Braves lost the series opener with the Phillies 6-2 as Tommy Hanson gave up three home runs and the offense couldn’t do much with Kyle Kendrick.
They will try to even the series today with Mike Minor on the mound against Roy Halladay. The latter hasn’t had a normal Halladay season, recording a 4.03 ERA and 3.57 FIP, but has maintained a 20% strikeout rate and 4.9% walk rate while still keeping the ball in the park at a rate of less than one homer per game.
Halladay’s ground ball percentage has dropped around 5% from both last year and his career average, sitting at 45.2%. He’s also giving up more line drives and a higher HR/FB rate. The difference could be Halladay throwing far more cut fastballs this year, which could attribute to the drop in fastball velocity across the board. But while his cutter’s outcomes have remained fairly in line with his career norms, his curveball and splitter have taken a small hit, showing a lower whiff/swing rate and higher LD/BIP rate.
Minor struck out just three last time out, but he allowed just one run over six innings against the Nationals. That ran his current hot streak to one run allowed over his past three outings, totaling 18.2 innings.
Braves.com recap for Friday’s loss.
AJC quotes following Friday’s loss. Tommy Hanson: “I don’t know. I feel like I’m battling my ass off to help my teammates out and to help my team win, and as of right now I’m not doing a very good job. It was a horse[bleep] day. I’m not pulling my weight around here right now.”
In Braves.com notes, Mark Bowman writes on Chipper Jones’ last visit to Philadelphia, in which he received a painting of himself hitting, and John Smoltz’s thoughts on who to start in the wild card game. Hint: You’re looking too far ahead, Smoltzie. The Braves could announce their rotation for the rest of the season and line it up for the wild card game this weekend.
Chipper isn’t a fan of the one-game wild card playoff.
Andrelton Simmons could return today, while Paul Janish is likely out 2-4 weeks with the dislocated shoulder.
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs writes on Simmons’ defense and whether it’s the best in the game.
Jonah Keri adds his thoughts on Kris Medlen’s success this year.
James Wagner of The Washington Post compares the career paths of Medlen and Stephen Strasburg to this point, including the what-ifs of Medlen starting earlier in the season and Strasburg pitching later into the season.
Around the NL East
The Marlins are contemplating firing Ozzie Guillen.
Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reports Larry Beinfest likely won’t be fired, contrary to what Bob Nightengale reported yesterday.
September 22, 2012 at 1:43 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game MVP: Carlos Ruiz, .135
Least Valuable Phillie: Domonic Brown, -.086
Most Valuable Brave: Dan Uggla, .125
Least Valuable Brave: Tommy Hanson, 42 game score
2nd – (ATL) Dan Uggla double to put two in scoring position with no outs, .126
3rd – (PHI) Kevin Frandsen solo homer for a 2-1 Phillies lead, .130
4th – (PHI) Ryan Howard solo homer for a 3-1 Phillies lead, .114
I just used whatever energy I had left in the day. Discuss amongst yourselves.
September 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
The Draftstreet freeroll offer is back. It’s a $150 prize pool and 10 places paid, and it’s for the games this Friday (9/21). Follow this link to play.
Game 1 vs. Phillies
Coming off a series win over the Marlins, the Braves had Thursday off before visiting Philadelphia for three games this weekend.
The starters in Friday’s game are Kyle Kendrick and Tommy Hanson. Kendrick has been a bit of a rollercoaster in the rotation lately, allowing six runs to the Braves the last time the two met, then throwing consecutive shutouts, maintaining consistency for a few starts, and allowing four runs in five innings to the Astros last time out.
Through all of that, he owns a 3.95 ERA and 4.27 FIP in 143.2 innings, including a 17.3% strikeout and 7.4% walk rate. His strikeout totals and swinging strike rate (8.7%) are well above his career averages, and he has benefited in several of his starts over the past month or two. The key difference seems to be an increase in changeup effectiveness. Last season, his changeup had a whiff/swing rate of 20%, while so far this year it’s 39%. He’s also throwing it far more than in the past at 21.8%.
However, if the last week – and most of this season – is any indication, the Braves offense has done a great job of pinpointing a pitcher’s strong or weak spot and either spitting on it or taking advantage of it. They did so with Gio Gonzalez’s control issues, staying patient and making him throw strikes. They did so against Josh Johnson, pinpointing his slider and hitting around it. If the plan continues, look for the Braves to hit around Kendrick’s changeup and take advantage of a lack of breaking ball and a fastball that can get homer-prone at times.
The Braves are hoping to get another good five-plus innings out of Hanson to turn it over to a fresher bullpen after the day off. Hanson allowed four runs – two earned – over five innings against the Nationals last time out, but he only walked one and struck out seven. The outing tied for the fourth-best K/9 game of his season and showed a bit of the Hanson of old in getting fly balls and strikeouts.
Mark Bowman writes on the emergence of Jason Heyward this season.
David O’Brien writes on the struggles of Michael Bourn and getting him going for the playoffs.
Jayson Stark writes that Craig Kimbrel deserves Cy Young consideration.
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs writes on Kris Medlen’s awesomeness.
Grant Brisbee of SB Nation writes on Kris Medlen’s awesomeness.
Around the NL East
Bob Nightengale reports the Marlins will fire Larry Beinfest and possibly Michael Hill, the two names running the circus in Miami. Assistant GM Dan Jennings will take over as general manager and vice president/baseball operations. You could see this one coming.
Tom Tango gives his opinion on the potential move to third base for Chase Utley. The name Jason Heyward came to mind when I read this part, although defensive ability is the main factor in that case: “Except you have to appreciate that the long-term solution player needs to be at SS (or CF). This is why Mike Cameron moved to RF when Beltran came, because Beltran was the long-term solution. Putting Beltran at RF and only moving him back to CF might cost the Mets long-term, because there is still a “familiarity” factor to account for. That’s why you want to keep your long-term players stuck at one position if you can.”
Eric Seidman of FanGraphs takes a look at the Utley move, too.