April 30, 2013 at 9:00 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
The Braves took the opening game of the series last night against the Nats, battling out a 3-2 victory. They’ll continue the four game series tonight with Gonzalez and Hudson squaring off (7:10). Probables for the final two games are Maholm v. Zimmerman (7:00) and Haren v. Medlen (7:10).
Teheran, again, was knocked around a bit, but was able to get through 5+ and hand it over to the Braves pen. Unfortunately, his changeup was absent again. Get used to seeing all different results and types of outings from Teheran as he is still trying to work out the fastball command and become more comfortable with the breaking all.
On the other hand, Jordan Walden did throw some changeups, and boy were they nasty. According to Brooks Baseball, nine of Walden’s 23 pitches were changeups, resulting in seven strikes and four whiffs. Considering he’s only thrown in 6% against lefties during his career (lefty specific pitch), it has kind of come up out of nowhere. If he can keep the feel for this pitch it will make him that much more dangerous against lefties. So far, Walden had been able to find tame his control issues, sporting a 11/0 strikeout-to-walk.
Some quick injury updates here.
Brian McCann could be activated from the DL within the next week or so.
Brandon Beachy could begin his minor league rehab process next week. This would put him on track to return to the club in the middle of June, almost exactly a year since he underwent TJ surgery (June 21).
Not surprisingly, there hasn’t been a peep about Christian Martinez and his “right shoulder fatigue”.
Finally, Heyward is eligible to return from the DL May 6, but may need additional time after battling some fatigue. Heyward, disobeying all character limits, wrote this lengthy memoir via Twitter…
“Word is I’m not ALLOWED to do anything physically until 2weeks after this surgery (Today being 1week). And after 2weeks (being next Monday May 6th) the pace I decide to comeback is up to my body and me. I will have to test and make sure I won’t cause any further injuries, such as oblique or hernia. That being said, 1week after surgery I don’t know when exactly I will be able to return. My words to the media were that I’m not able to give a timetable for when I’ll be back without being cleared by Doctors to test my body and gain feedback. As far as “late May” I stated that I would be disappointed if I had to wait any longer than that. And that I hope to be back BEFORE then. Fact that I’m not cleared by the medical staff to try ANYTHING physical until at least next Monday MAY 6 means that it would take at least that week to start working and get back in game action and to rehab. Which means by the end of that week it would then be MAY11. At that point considering and hoping all things go well that could put me back with the team sometime as soon as the week of MAY 12-18. But again, the medical staff nor myself have a set timetable at the moment while I’m not able to do anything. And I would be disappointed if I had to wait as long as “Late May.” Therefore the medical staff and I will have a better idea of a timetable for return next week. I’m hoping to be back on the field with my teammates much sooner than later than “late May.”
It’s actually kind of confusing because he repeats himself and gives a lot of different dates, but I bolded the part everyone probably cares about.
April 25, 2013 at 10:00 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
The Braves are off today after taking two of three from the Rockies. They’ll travel to Detroit for a three game weekend series. Probables for the series are Maholm v. Sanchez (Friday 7:08), Medlen v. Porcello (Saturday 1:05) and Minor v. Fister (Sunday 8:05 on ESPN). Luckily, the Braves will have their top three arms going while avoiding the Tigers top two starters, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
There were two big events that caused quite an uproar during yesterday’s game. The first was the decisions to sacrifice squeeze in the ninth with Ramiro Pena at the plate and Jordan Schafer on third. With one out, Pena failed to get the bunt down leaving Schafer to get tagged out between third and home. Looking at run expectancy charts, it dropped the teams run scoring chances from 0.928 to 0.094 – obviously a game changing play. Of course, there is the chance neither Pena or B.J. Upton are able to drive the run in, we don’t know, but you have to take those chances against getting one crack at a bunt attempt. Considering the Rockies infield was all the way in and all that needed to be done was for Pena (84% career contact) to get the ball through the infield or hit the ball in the air, it was the wrong call. It’s also hard not to think both would see some pretty good pitches, in fear of not wanting to face Justin Upton in the hole. In these cases, the manager takes the responsibility off his shoulders and puts it onto the player “only needing to execute what is called”. Even though we are pretty anti-bunt here at CAC, there still are times and places for it, but this was not one of them.
The second notable play was the flyball to Justin Upton in the bottom of the inning, with two out and two on. Upton took a poor route to the ball and eventually wound up missing the catch, which allowed two runs to score to tie the game. His quote on the play after the game,
“I misread it. It was hit a lot harder than I thought it was. I had to retreat, and I just never got back to where I could catch it… Off the bat it looked like he inside-outed it, and it just carried. It carried a long way. I just couldn’t catch up to it.”
To the naked eye, Upton probably makes this play >99% of the time, he literally missed the catch by an inch. The time he doesn’t catch it just happens to be a very pivotal point in the game. He’s a good fielder, but stuff like that still happens every so often. Upton will win the club a ton more games this season than he will lose them, he took responsibility after the game and moved on.
On to the most important portion of the program – Jonah Keri had a great interview with Paul Maholm that was posted on Grantland a couple of days ago. Even taking the fanboy hat off, there really are some interesting quotes from Maholm about how he attacks hitters with his added repertoire of pitches.
Cardinals 4 – Nationals 2 *Nats are currently under .500
April 23, 2013 at 7:30 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
After being snowed out yesterday, the Braves and Rockies will attempt to play a doubleheader today with games scheduled for 3:10 (Minor v. Francis) and 8:40 (Teheran v. Garland). If all goes according to plan, which isn’t likely, the Braves will finish up the series tomorrow at 3:10 (Hudson v. Chatwood). The forecast today in Denver calls for a high of 33 with no real chance of precipitation after noon.
On to the big news from last night. For those who weren’t up until the early morning, Jason Heyward underwent appendectomy surgery Monday night in a Denver hospital. According to WebMD, the average recovery time for this type of surgery is typically 2-3 weeks. The most notable and comparable player who recently underwent the same surgery was Matt Holliday, who surprisingly returned nine days after his operation.
Two years ago, after the news of Holiday’s operation, Jeff Zimmermann wrote at RotoGraphs about similar players who had their appendix removed,
“Since 2002, 20 players have been on the DL for having having an appendectomy, 10 hitters and 10 pitchers. The average time lost was 37 days with 15 days being the shortest time and the longest being 134 days. (Toby) Borland spent so much time on the DL for the injury because he hurt his arm in rushing to return. The next longest stay was 67 days by Andy Machado in 2004. If Borland’s value is removed, the average number of days on the DL drops to 32 days.”
We should in all likelihood expect Heyward to be placed on the 15-day DL and miss the expected 2-3 weeks. Obviously, it’s blow for the time being. Just when Freddie Freeman was expected to return from his DL stint, the lineup loses another LH bat. Again, it’s funny just how quickly the Braves shed their “too LH heavy” label.
As I tweeted last night, the Braves have a couple of options (in no specific order). They could simply mix and match in RF with Reed Johnson and Jordan Schafer, which is not ideal. They could also move Justin Upton back to his natural position in RF, then mix and match in left field with the added possibility of Evan Gattis being able to play LF (played 37 games in LF last season in minors). I don’t see why the team would have a problem moving Upton back to RF for a brief period. Finally, they could and probably will, call up an OF from Triple-A to help fill the vacated roster spot. The first two names that pop up are Joey Terdoslavich or Jose Constanza who would see scattered playing time in the OF. If I had a guess, I think Justin will be slid over to RF to give the club flexibility in LF. It would be nice to see the switch-hitting Terdoslavich get a call to at least be a bench option, someone who impressed many in Spring Training and is continuing to put up solid numbers in Triple-A so far, slashing .324/.346/.622 in 78 PA. However, Jose Constanza is still in the organization.
It will also be interesting to see how Fredi plays the second spot in the lineup. A combination of Simmons and BJ Upton hitting 1-2 at the top seems like the most likely choice for now. We should expect to see a lot of different lineup combinations over the next two weeks. Lets just hope Heyward can recover ASAP.
On the bright side, Freeman is back.
Uggla should also be ready for today.
Marlins – Twins PPD
April 18, 2013 at 9:00 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
The Braves split the two game set with the Royals, moving to 12-2 on the season. So far, their two losses have been 1-0 and 2-0 (so basically all they need to do is score this year to win). They now hit the road again and will start a four game series in Pittsburgh, beginning tonight. Probables for the series are Teheran v. Locke (Thursday, 7:05), Hudson v. Rodriguez (Friday, 7:05), Maholm v. McDonald (Saturday, 7:05) and Medlen v. Sanchez (Sunday, 1:05)
Yesterday was just one of those days. The Braves couldn’t muster together any hits, while getting a little unlucky with balls in play. As a whole, they struck out 11 times and did not draw a single walk. Mike Minor continued to Braves string of pitching success, finishing with 6IP, 5H, 1ER, 0BB and 5K. Overall, he pitched great except for one costly mistake to Jeff Francoeur where he left a changeup down the heart of the plate, after getting ahead 0-2, previously getting him to swing and chase two balls out of the zone (link to chart). That is almost the last place you want that pitch, in that count to that hitter. I think we can all forgive Minor for one mistake. Big picture, he seems to be carrying over his great control from the second half of last season and at the end of the day, putting up that line should be more than enough to put the team in a great position to win with that kind of offense. Again, it was just one of those days.
There was a bit of concerning news yesterday regarding Brian McCann’s wrist. It was first made news that wrist complications might have delayed McCann’s rehab time-table, but Mark Bowman later reported that McCann was ok after seeing a specialist and will begin to catch extended spring games either today or tomorrow.
Luis Avilan hopes to avoid the DL after being pulled from Tuesday’s game with a hamstring injury. This is good news considering O’Flaherty is the only other lefty currently in the Braves bullpen or on the current 40-man roster.
Final injury news, Freddie Freeman could be activated Monday, just in time to a trip to Coors field where Freeman has absolutely mashed baseball’s in past seasons. He hopes to play the weekend series with Gwinnett before coming off the DL.
Mets - Rockies PPD
April 16, 2013 at 9:00 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
Braves host the Royals for a two game set beginning tonight in their first interleague matchup of the year. Probables for the series are Guthrie v. Medlen tonight (7:10) and Davis v. Minor tomorrow (12:10).
So far, you couldn’t really ask for a better start overall. One thing I wanted to talk about quick is the pitching.
It has no question been stellar. Through 12 games, Braves pitchers have thrown 109 IP with a 1.82 ERA, 17.9 K%, 7.2% BB% and have only given up a league low 23 runs. It is pretty clear that no one can expect this level of performance to continue. The real question is how much of this can they continue and should we change our expectations with the starters, a group that we at CAC labeled as the teams big reason for concern coming into the season.
Right now, it’s hard to change the overall outlook. We could just blanket this statement with “small sample size” and move on, but taking a look at the peripheral numbers helps give us specific answers. Braves pitchers currently sporting a league best .232 BABIP. It would be one thing if we knew there was a magnificent defense in the field, but we can’t exactly go that far. Yes, the outfield is probably one of the best defensively, but with some of the infield combinations the club has been running out this past week, it is hard to believe this type of batted ball luck will continue below average (league average floats around .290-295). League average is close to where I would expect the team as a whole to finish considering they have the 4th highest GB% in the league so far. Pitchers LOB% is also currently second in the league at 85.9% (league average ~72%). Every team is basically guaranteed to fall within 5% +/- of the league average at the end of a season. Again, this is really just small sample that will be hit with regression as more games are played. I may be willing to shift my position a little if the team was positing higher than expected strikeout rates and missing more bats, but with K% coming in below league average, the Braves are honestly getting pretty lucky right now. Eventually batted balls will find holes in the infield, runners will score and home runs will be given up. There is a reason ERA estimators peg the team as a whole where they do: FIP: 3.20, xFIP: 3.67, SIERA: 3.91, tERA 3.87.
Many of reason’s why the rotation was questioned at the beginning haven’t changed with this hot start. A lot of it was based around depth concerns if a starter were to go down. So, enjoy the performances the team has been running out for however it may last, it has definitely been a phenomenal start. At the end of the day, it hasn’t been enough for me to change my opinion on their true talent level and on the outlook of the pitchers as a whole (expect for CY Maholm because he will never give up a run).
As a side note, DOB reports Brandon Beachy is on track to return in late June, hopefully before the All-Star Break. Don’t ask who he is going to replace, its April 16.
Mets – Rockies PPD
April 11, 2013 at 9:00 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
The Braves are off today after finishing off a sweep of the Marlins, 8-0, last night. They will begin a weekend series in Washington Friday. Probables for the series are Teheran v. Detwiler (7:05), Hudson v. Strasburg (1:05) and Maholm v. Gonzalez (1:35).
The Braves finished off an impressive sweep of the Marlins after putting up eight runs and pitching the second shutout of the series. The were able to scatter 13 hits including multi hit games from Schafer (4), Fransicso (3), Gattis (2) and C Johnson (2). The two most notable were a line drive rocket of a home run from Gattis and an absolute bomb to right-ish center from Francisco. Mike Minor impressed again finishing with solid 5.2IP, 5 H, 0R, 1BB and 4K.
Speaking of Francisco’s home run, here are the longest home runs so far in the new Marlins Park according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker (by true distance).
1. Stanton – 462 ft
2. Francisco – 459 ft
3. Stanton – 458 ft
4. Stanton – 456 ft
5. Stanton – 450 ft
Listening to he Marlins broadcast, they kept referring to it as “the longest home run hit in the new stadium,” possibly forgetting 80 power Stanton played for the home team. However, while it wasn’t quite the longest, he fell just shy of Stanton’s bomb off Jamie Moyer last May. ICYMI or just want to please your eyes again, here it is.
The Gattis catching situation in the short-term has also become quite interesting. Fredi…
“Well, it’s not a quarterback controversy or anything. You’ve got to do it. He fits in that No. 4 hole until Freeman gets back or McCann gets back. And who knows then? Shoot, at the pace he’s going he may have 12 or 13 (home runs) in that four-hole. It’s just good for the club for him to hit in that four-hole. I’m glad it’s worked out… Friday when Teheran pitches and Laird catches I don’t know who’s going to hit fourth. Maybe Oso Blanco (Gattis) plays first for seven innings or something, I don’t know. Because it’s hard to take that bat out of the lineup.”
As stated earlier in the week, it is unlikely they would give Gattis the chance to play first. He should see the majority of the playing time going forward over Laird though. So far, he has responded well to being the everyday catcher and has yet to show any major issues defensively.
In case you were out yesterday, the Braves traded left handed reliever Chris Jones to the Orioles for veteran right handed reliever, Luis Ayala. You can read Ethan’s piece on Jones here. The corresponding move, to what is expected to bring Ayala to the Braves pen, has not been announced, but we will provide an update one it becomes available.
*Keith Law (Insider) posted updated reports a couple of days ago on the top young NL East arms: Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey and Julio Teheran. Not to beat the point to death, but Law also saw Teheran’s lack of a breaking ball as an area of concern going forward.
*Dave Cameron had a piece up today on ESPN (Insider) about NL teams and their disadvantage during interleague play. He cited the Braves current bench as weakness (until McCann comes back), compared to other top NL teams like the Cardinals and Nationals, when playing in AL parks. As he points out, these little advantages can really add up when playoff races are often decided by a matter of games, something that hits close to home for Braves fans.
*Tim Dierkes of MLBTR took a look at what a possible Jason Heyward extension would look like. He concluded a deal from 5-6 years worth between $63-75M. I do not see Heyward signing an extension with this type of average annual value. Recently, we have seen many players extended trough their arbitration years, similar to what would happen with Heyward if he were to consider an extension. Many of these deals have been > $100M, likely because of all the new TV money coming into the sport in the next few years. With inflation beginning to kick in, I see Heyward signing for more than comparable players in the past. It is hard to put a ballpark $ figure on position player deals because much of it depends on the length of the deal, but it’s probably somewhere ~$20M per year during his FA seasons. It should be made clear though, there is no guarantee Heyward would be willing to sign and extension in the first place.
*Through nine games, the Braves have surrendered the fewest runs and are tied with the A’s for the best run differential in the majors. YE.
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April 9, 2013 at 9:30 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
Braves scraped out a win Monday in the first of a three games series against the Marlins. They will continue the series tonight (Medlen v. LeBlanc) and finish Wednesday (Minor v. Sanabia), both games scheduled for 7:10 starts.
Paul Maholm continued his early season success giving up just one hit in seven innings of work. Opponents have yet to score against Maholm and are currently 7-for-50, sporting a 3.11 xFIP. Justin Upton again showed his potential at the plate, going 4-for-4 while continuing to spray balls to all fields, including a 400 ft line drive HR. Aside from Francisco and Johnson continuing to match each other at the plate, the rest of the offense was fairly dead. Simmons did return to the lineup Monday, but was bumped down into the eight hole for the time being.
Maholm’s arsenal of pitches continues to grow as he now flashes his super slow loopy curve a couple of times per outing (60-65 mph last night). Along with the multiple breaking balls, Maholm has equally used his straight, two-seam and cut fastballs as well as a changeup against righties. So far, he has thrown seven different pitches in 2013.
JD Sussman of FanGraphs and Bullpen Banter wrote a fairly lengthy and in-depth piece on Julio Teheran and is definitely worth the read. His biggest concern, like many, is still with Teheran’s slider…
“Teheran’s breaking ball continues to be a concern. The pitch still resembles a slider and its quality is poor. Against the Cubs, Teheran recorded one swing and miss on the 23 breaking balls he threw. The new offering breaks too early and does not feature enough vertical tilt to go along with its significant horizontal movement.”
As he goes onto mention, Teheran’s changeup was almost absent Saturday. According to Brooks Baseball, he only threw it four times (5%) against the Cubs. Considering it is a plus pitch and his top secondary offering, it would be encouraging to see it used more frequently in future starts as opposed to the breaking ball. Definitely something to keep an eye.
To get in your daily dose of #Gattitude, the Braves do not plan to work Gattis at first base while Freeman is out. Chris Johnson will start on a regular basis at first (Francisco at third) until Freeman returns. If they do find themselves in need, and Blake DeWitt’s left handed bat hasn’t left the bench, they could opt to call up Mejia for a brief period to mend the gap.
Nationals were off Monday after dropping two of three to the Reds this weekend. They begin an interleague series tonight against the White Sox.