May 4, 2009 at 12:27 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, New York Mutts, Series Preview, Series Thoughts
2 rain delays. 2 losses. 2 games under .500. It was a bad weekend. Frustrating baseball all around.
In the first game, the Braves were up 7-2 behind Derek Lowe’s pretty ordinary 6.2 innings, 8 hits, 2 BB, 2 ER, 3 K’s and a trouncing of Mike Hampton after 7 innings, and the rain started to pour. 2 hours later, for god knows why, they decided to finish the game. At 11 PM with 7 innings played and the home team up by 5, just go ahead and call the game. I don’t think the visiting team will complain about not getting the last 6 outs to try to score at least 5 runs. Another decision that makes you go, “what?”.
The second game was also rain-delayed. This time, after a mere inning and a half, so it was fun seeing one of the more anticipated pitching matches of the young season shortened to 9 outs and turned into a bullpen game. I hate bullpen games. I didn’t really watch this one. We lost 5-1.
The third game was back and forth, but more back than forth. Reyes was good through 5 then completely lost the ability to work the count and get people out in the 6th inning. He allowed 5 of the 6 batters he faced in that inning to reach safely (though one was a bunt single). Jeff Bennett relieved and somehow only gave up 1 run with the bases loaded and 2 outs to get. We later tied the game, lost the lead, got closer, got farther, and gave up. Pretty standard crappy Braves.
I didn’t enjoy the series. The pitching wasn’t particularly good (Lowe’s outing was hardly a gem, Reyes blew up, and Jurrjens only got 6 outs before mother nature peed on him(he had actually given up 4 hits (1 HR) in those 2 innings, so maybe mother nature did him a favor)). Our offense wasn’t anything special. Our defense was pretty crappy. We’re now 29th in defensive efficiency. That’s pathetic. I’m spitting out short, declarative thoughts. We’re still 30th in baserunning, also pathetic. Our pitching staff is 3rd in the league in runs allowed. Imagine if they had a competent defense behind them.
The good news is we’re playing the Mutts next, and they suck too. The better news is we don’t have to face Santana, so we face decent chances of scoring 3.5+ runs/game this series. We’ll send to the hill Javier Vazquez tomorrow and Kenshin Kawakami on super-duper 8 days rest Tuesday. I think the reason Javier Vazquez has never been a “great” pitcher is because he throws too many strikes. He’s got the stuff, command, and constantly ranks near the top of the league in strikeouts. But he throws something like 158% strikes, so hitters probably feel pretty good about going up there, taking 3 hacks, putting the ball in play, and seeing what happens. He isn’t a groundball guy, so you like your chances against him if the ball is put in play. Regardless, I love watching him (more than any other member of our rotation and a lot more than any other member besides Jurrjens).
Vazquez and Kawakami will be opposed by John Maine and Livan Hernandez. Maine was supposed to start today, but the game was rained out. Probably not a tactically terrible decision by the Mutts. I’d rather pit Santana against the Phillies and whoever starts (Chan Ho Park is scheduled, lets see if they make a change) than the Braves and Kawakami. Livan sucks, but there’s no evidence that Kawakami doesn’t suck and the Mutts probably think Livan has a good chance to beat Kawakami. It would be ideal (for them) if they pitted Santana against Vazquez, but they can’t do that thanks to schedules.
The Mutts weren’t good at the Ted in 2008 (1-8). I hope that continues in 2009. They haven’t been very good this year in general. They’ve got no leadership, no chemistry, and no pitching staff behind their starting ace and relief ace (provided Putz continues to suck). They have worse problems than the Braves do. All the Braves’ problems could be solved by a) not making stupid mistakes, b) giving 100% effort when you’re on the field (mental and physical effort go hand in hand), and c) acquiring a power-hitting left fielder. The Mutts basically need to do that and acquire about 8-11 new pitchers. We’ll see who is better prepared to play ball this series and next week in NYC.
Not much going on right now. We need to stop sucking.
April 30, 2009 at 3:05 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, NL East News, Series Preview, Series Thoughts, St. Louis Cardinals
I predicted 1 out of 3 in that series, but I didn’t expect it to happen in that fashion. We didn’t win when 2 of our best pitchers went, but we won when Jo Jo Reyes pitched. Go figure.
In the first game we made a bunch of stupid mistakes, stranded a bunch of runners, and wasted a brilliant performance by Jurrjens to lose 3-2. I was pretty mad after the game because we played like crap. In the 2nd game, Jo Jo Reyes pitched 7 innings allowing only 1 run. We got lucky when Matt Diaz swung at ball 4 with 2 outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th, hit the ball off the end of the bat, Kahlil Greene made a terrible play, and the ball got through the infield on the ground for a 2-run single. Gonzalez pitched a perfect 9th striking out the side against the heart of the order. His fastball was back up to 94 MPH and he looked truly dominant. Much reason to be encouraged there.
In the 3rd game Vazquez pitched 8 innings allowing 5 runs. Four of these runs came in the 5th inning when Vazquez allowed 6 hits (no walks), all singles, and not a one of them was hit hard. There were a few bloops and a few ground-ball singles. Folks, that isn’t Vazquez’s fault. Singles are largely luck and defense. Vazquez allowed 3 other hits in the 7 other innings he pitched and only 1 of them was for extra bases (a double). He walked 1 and struck out 8. Allowing 10 baserunners in 8 innings usually doesn’t result in 5 runs. I’ve got no complaints about how Vazquez pitched, he was just on the bad end of some terrible luck tonight.
On the other hand, Wainwright walked 5 batters and allowed 7 hits (1 for extra bases, a double by Kotchman) in 6 innings while striking out only 2. When you’re getting 2 runners on an inning you’re supposed to score more than 3 runs. Mac at Braves Journal makes a great point about our lineup:
But he [Adam Wainwright] got some good defense and the Braves’ peculiar lineup arrangement kept the most successful hitters (Infante had three hits, leading off; Kotchman had two and a walk in the cleanup spot; Schafer walked three times and stole a base hitting seventh) from interacting properly.
It reminded me of a great quote by Bill James on a similar subject. Bill James is the answerer p.s.:
Q: On the topic of batting orders, does it make sense to space out your best hitters instead of clumping them together. This would seem to give an advantage because the team never has to deal with a weak bottom half. You always have a good hitter up, or on deck. Also this might mess with the pitchers mind cause he wont be able to “rest” pitching to 3 or 4 bad hitters in a row.
A: It would seem to me that this offers speculative advantages and tangible disadvantages. Offense is interactive. If you have three good hitters, probably the worst thing you can do with them is to bat them 3rd, 6th and 9th.
We didn’t bat our 3 best 3-6-9, but 1-4-7 is the same thing. It just wasn’t the Braves’ night. By the way, in the series Yunel Escobar was 2-12 with no walks, grounded into a double play, and made 2 baserunning errors. Pretty weak.
We averaged 12 and 2/3 baserunners per game this series and managed to scratch across 7 total runs (2 and 1/3 runs per game). I’m not concerned with the lack of offense because we’re getting on base. We aren’t going to keep getting unlucky and stranding 10 runners a game. It will come. Don’t panic.
The offense DID receive a boost when Kelly Johnson was lifted from the 2nd game in favor of Omar Infante, who also started the final game of the series. Johnson has been struggling to the tune of a 4 for 39 slump and he needs some time to re-group. Well, I really don’t know what he needs, other than to start hitting.
The pitching staff allowed 10 total runs. The Cardinals were averaging 6 runs a game going into the series and they averaged 3 and 1/3 during our series. We can and will win games with this pitching staff. It is top-notch.
The 2nd win was huge. We’d had baserunners all night, failed to score, finally got a clutch (lucky) hit that put us on top, and Gonzalez delivered big-time. He was downright dominant in that outing and I’m looking forward to having him pitch the 9th for us in the future. Reyes’ outing was very encouraging too. More on this later, but the Braves will push back Kawakami’s start 3 days because he’s experiencing shoulder soreness and Reyes’ strong outing probably makes them feel much more comfortable about doing that.
I don’t have many complaints about the series. We played pretty well this series and most things didn’t break our way. That won’t continue. I was pleased with the result. We’re inching towards being ready to compete in a big-time series. I wonder what type of big-time series we’ve got coming up?
Well, we’re playing the Astros next, which isn’t a big-time series, but the Mets come to town for 2 games following the Astros series. Hopefully we’ll be ready to kick some butt by then.
Speaking of the Astros series, we’ll pitch Lowe, Jurrjens, and Reyes this weekend and they’ll be opposed by Mike Hampton, Russ Ortiz, and Roy Oswalt. Look, I hate how Mike Hampton cramped our payroll all those years he spent on the DL, but I like the guy. It isn’t like he WANTED to be injured and didn’t want to pitch, he’s just fragile as glass. I wish him well, just not against the Braves Friday night. He’s been pitching well recently and has a 3.86 ERA. Ortiz is sporting a super-cool 5.30 ERA and 1.74 WHIP and there isn’t an excuse for not scoring off of this guy, even with McCann out of the line-up. If we don’t win this game for Jurrjens I think he should be allowed to line all the position players’ wives/girlfriends up, pick one, and do something sexually filthy (I’ll let you use your imagination to keep the post PG-13) with her in front of everyone in the middle of the clubhouse, because that’s the kind of treatment he’s been getting from them lately. I’ll get to McCann in a second. Oswalt has an 0-2 record despite his fairly decent 3.96 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. I still like our chances at home with Reyes pitching, especially if he pitches anything like he did Tuesday night. This seems to be a very sweepable series and that’s the expectation I have for the club going into it. We’ll see if I’m disappointed or not.
I said I’d get to McCann. McCann went 1-3 while DHing for Myrtle Beach tonight. He’s using a different contact lens in each eye. I’m legitimately concerned. The way this has been handled leads me to believe the organization is hiding something, which is NEVER good. When the organization hides things it is usually because they’d hurt attendance if revealed and they hope it just sort of “corrects itself” before they have to reveal anything. How many times have we heard about a pitcher “diagnosed” with “elbow inflammation” with the organization saying he’ll make his next start only to see him going under the knife for Tommy John surgery 2 weeks later? We’ll see. If he’s activated on May 8, I’ll be beyond thrilled. Unless the organization is really THAT stupid and they’ll run McCann out there with crappy vision just to salvage attendance.
The most recent topics of discussion have centered around the line-up. While I don’t think line-ups matter all that much, here’s how I’d line ‘em up (full health assumed):
Interestingly, Escobar hits RHP better than LHP. I know it is weird, but just one of those things. He hits into ENTIRELY too many double plays to be hitting in the 2-hole. I’m sick of seeing the lead-off man get on only for Yunel to erase him in front of Chipper Jones. In these line-ups, we minimize the double plays batting him 1st (where you always lead off the 1st inning and are more likely to lead off any other inning in the NL because the pitcher makes the last out a lot and they like to walk the number 8 hitter and pitch to the pitcher) and 5th where he can’t take the bat out of Chipper or McCann’s hands. Switching it around that much based on platoons probably isn’t a good idea, though. That’s why I’m only a critic and not an actual manager.
As I previously stated, Kawakami’s start has been pushed back 3 day so he can recover from shoulder soreness that he’s experienced. This goes back to my Kawakami article. You expect things like this to happen when you’re adjusting to a 5-man rotation and a larger baseball. We’ll see how he responds to the extra rest. He’ll be going on 8 days rest so that should be more than adequate and I’m expecting him to respond positively and turn in a strong outing. We’ll know more on Tuesday. I don’t think we’re dealing with an injury here, he’s just not used to doing what the organization is making him do. I think this shuffling of the rotation will mark the end of our 4 and 1/2 man rotation gimmick.
Other news around the NL East:
The Nationals have re-shuffled their bullpen. Again.
Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge will both attempt to avoid the DL on Friday when they throw bullpen sessions. Hamles sprained his ankle in his most recent start and Lidge has been battling knee inflammation.
Have no fear, Marlins (and baseball) fans. Hanley will return Thursday.
The Mets are having bullpen issues again. Putz has been erratic and they’ve blown leads a few times already this season.
Until next time,