September 19, 2009 at 6:04 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Daily Post, Philadelphia Philthies, Transactions
Happy Saturday, everyone. New Elias Rankings are out via MLBTR. Adam LaRoche had previously dropped out of Type B status, but he’s pulled back into Type B. He’s still on the border, but I think he has a good chance of finishing the season as a Type B. If we need any further evidence that this system simply doesn’t work, Chris Coghlin, a rookie, would be a Type B if he were a FA tomorrow but Nyjer Morgan, who will be a 5-win player this year, would not.
Tim Hudson may be inching towards Type B, though I don’t find that very relevant.
Here’s my off-season time-line for this space: Once the season is finished, I’ll write a review of the year much like I did during the all-star break and suggest the Braves’ off-season needs. After that, I’ll be doing prospects almost exclusively, with a few trade speculation pieces and covering all the transactions. With the prospects, I’m going to be doing a year in review piece on the farm in general, a year in review piece for every one of this year’s top 40 prospects, assemble my list of 2010 top 40 prospects, and write them up much the same way I did last year. The Arizona Fall League will be covered extensively from a Braves fan’s perspective and the other Winter Leagues involving both Braves players and prospects. When the projections come out I’ll do some work with them, no doubt. I’ll cover Spring Training, though mostly just transactions and races, not the general play of regulars. And at that point, the season will be here. Hopefully it ends better than this one is looking like.
Game Last Night
Terrible. I did a Q&A over at Macho Row and here’s what I wrote about the pitching match-up last night:
I don’t know what to expect from Hudson, he’s made three starts all season. So you have to like Happ in that one.
Though, if I’d known Happ would be out of the game after 3 and the Braves would have to face Kyle Kendrick(!) thereafter, I would’ve responded quite differently. There’s no excuse for not scoring more off of that guy. I mean, this is a guy who was allowing runs at a Jeff Ridgeway rate in Spring Training this year. He’s not good.
This Video Says It All:
September 18, 2009 at 12:50 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Daily Post, Kelly Johnson Fan Club, Philadelphia Philthies, Pitching, Series Preview
7 games out, 23 games out, or whatever, it still feels good to sweep the Mets. It also feels good to watch Jeff Francoeur try to leap over the wall and catch Brian McCann’s home run to no avail. Yes, I did watch this one. After I turned off the GT Miami game in disgust. Anyway, I’m pretty sick of the Jeff Francoeur crap. The baseball media makes such a fucking huge deal about it when he comes to town. Get the fuck over it. He’s going to be coming to town 9 times next year because the Mets are stupid enough to tender him a contract.
Ryan Church vs. Jeff Francoeur
To those of you who think it was a bad trade:
Jeff Francoeur 2009 Mets WAR – -0.2
Ryan Church 2009 Braves WAR – 0.4
Ryan Church has been the better player–any way you slice it.
Continuing with both because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Again, starting in the East:
The Cubs are pretty much dead.
Phillies Come to Town
If the Braves have any shot at the division, they need to sweep the Phillies. Here’s how the pitching match-ups play out:
Tim Hudson vs. J. A. Happ
Hudson is completely unpredictable, but if he pitches like the Tim Hudson of 2007-2008, the Braves should be in pretty good shape. There’s also extra motivation to beat Happ in order to boost Hanson’s ROY hopes. I don’t know what to expect, I’m just going to close my eyes and hope for the best.
Javier Vazquez vs. Pedro Martinez
Though Pedro has pitched well for the Phillies, he’s thrown 119 and 130 pitches in his past two starts. Even though he gets 5 days rest before the game Saturday, you have to think the Braves have the advantage in this one. Vazquez is 1-1 with a 3.81 ERA vs. the Phillies in 4 starts this season.
Tommy Hanson vs. Cliff Lee
A crucial game for Hanson’s ROY campaign. Beating Cliff Lee is no small task. Lee threw a shutout in his last start, but had a 9.60 ERA in his previous three. Atlanta was in the middle of the first of those games, touching him up for 6 runs in 5 innings to start the streak. Hopefully we’ll see a deja-vu.
The good news is the Braves won’t face Cole Hamels who seems to have their number.
Kelly Johnson Fan Club
Prado and Infante have been swinging hot bats as of late, so I don’t suggest playing Kelly Johnson over one of them this series. To back my point up further, he’s struggled against Martinez (.455 OPS) and he’s 1-for-7 with a homer and no walks against Happ. Still, I think he should play Left Field this series, at least some. He’s a better bet defensively than Garret or Diaz and he’s been swinging the bat well lately, unlike Garret.
Stay Hot, Nate
Nate McLouth has been tearing it the fuck up since he came off the DL. He’s hit .413/.500/.652/1.152 with 3 HR, 2 2B, 8 BB, 6 K, and 9 RBI during that period. I’ll take a .500 OBP and a .239 ISO out of the leadoff spot any day of the week.
I did a Q&A for a buddy at the Phillies’ blog Macho Row. I’ll link to it when he gets it up.
That’s all I got.
August 12, 2009 at 11:13 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Philthies, Series Preview
People ask me all the time if this game is a “must-win”? Or if this series is a “must-win”? It’s usually a very idiotic question, of course, because it’s not like this is the one game or this is the one series that if you don’t win, you have no chance of making the playoffs. Game 163. There’s a must-win. An elimination game. There’s a must-win. Tied in the loss column with 1 to play and the team you’re chasing finished? That is a must-win. But when you’ve got 100, or 50, or even 20 games left, nothing is a “must-win” in the truest sense of the word. And I’m a literal person, if you didn’t know. That is–I take things literally. If you didn’t know.
Throwing all the sports-journalist-talking-point-puppy-fluff-emotional-nonobjective crap out the door (things usually don’t piss me off more than journalist’s nonobjective bullshit) , this is an important series. I don’t know what the standings will look like going into the series. The Braves will be between 4 and 6 games out in the loss column. They have a chance to make up major ground. By the same token, they have a chance to eff the goat and piss away a great deal of ground they’ve fought for over a month to gain. Doing the former would do wonders while doing the latter would be devastating. And you don’t need me to rattle off statistics to know this.
The Phillies are a very good team. Make no mistake about it. You can try to poke holes in it. You won’t get very far. They’re a very good team. Are they better than the Braves? I don’t know. The Braves are a very good team too.
I’ll preview the series.
Game 1. Friday, August 14. Jair Jurrjens vs. Joe Blanton.
Jurrjens comes into this game pitching like horse shit in his last two starts–both against the Dodgers. Jurrjens gave up a combined 17 hits, 5 walks, 8 ER, and struck out 10 in 9 and 1/3 innings pitched. His previous season-low game score was 35. He tallied 34 and 33 in these two. It’s been very unlike him. He’s pitched pretty well all year and hasn’t had an extended (more than 1 start) stretch of suckage. Hopefully he’ll pitch well, like I know he’s capable of. It wasn’t a stretch that was hard to see coming if you looked close enough, though. BABIP neutral, he’s been better against left-handed batters this season. Reason being is he lacks a true out pitch to right-handed hitters. When he has the slider (which is sketchier than hit or miss), he handles them fine. Otherwise? He’ll keep getting 0-2, 0-2, 0-2, and fail to put them away. We saw this in both of his starts against the Dodgers. The whole time. The Dodgers are largely a right-handed hitting team. Their only dangerous lefties are Loney and Ethier. Right-handed they’ve got Manny, Kemp, Casey Blake, and Russel Martin with 2 switch-hitters. He nearly always has the good change-up, which can do a number on left-handed hitters. Good thing Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Raul Ibanez all hit left-handed.
Joe Blanton has been a solid starter. Just the blue-collar, run of the mill, strike-throwing, consistent, never great pitcher. It’s not that he’s unbeatable, it’s that you have to beat him. Waiting for him to hand you the game will largely resemble a famous Samuel Beckett play. Ultimately beatable, though. If good Jurrjens shows up, and I hope he will, this is a very winnable game.
Game 2. Saturday, August 15. Kenshin Kawakami vs. Cole Hamels.
You never know what you’re going to get with Kenshin Kawakami. I could put a Forest Gump reference there, but I figure I’ll let the reader just fill in the blank. He threw a minimal quality start (6.0 IP, 3 ER) against the Padres two outings ago before shutting out the Dodgers through 7 in his last start. In his only start against Philly (at their shitty joke of a ballpark), he pitched 6 innings allowing 9 baserunners but only 2 runs against all odds. He was credited with the win in that game. He has sort of this reputation as a “big game pitcher” because he seems to do well when the stakes are high (like when you’re facing the Red Sox or Yankees or Dodgers or Cubs or Phillies or Roy Halladay). Probably all crap, but I hope the stereotype holds up against the Phillies.
Hamels has fared worse than Jurrjens over his past 2 starts. He’s given up a combined 15 hits and 6 walks with only 6 (!) K’s and 11 runs (10 ER) in his past 2 starts over 10 and 1/3 innings. He’s had stretches like this all season, though. The curse of the contract! (Which is total bullshit, by the way). Left-handed hitters have hit him a little better than right-handers in his career. Again, because his curveball sucks and his change-up is dynamite. Good thing like every Braves player ever hits left-handed. Except Yunel.
Impossible to predict which Hamels or which Kawakami will show up.
Game 3. Sunday, August 16. Javier Vazquez vs. J.A. Happ
Say what you will about Happ’s record and ERA, but both of those are nothing more than a delusion and the Braves should certainly win with Vazquez pitching. Vazquez has been great all season. No need to preview him. You already know.
Happ, on the other hand, has been great at nothing other than getting lucky. Low BABIP and high strand rate. He hasn’t been good at getting ground balls, striking out batters (well, not exceptionally good, 89 K’s in 121 IP), limiting line drives, or being stingy with walks. As I mentioned, his ERA is a delusion, and he isn’t all that good. A very winnable game.
So, a sweep is possible. And this series is important. Let’s hope it happens. Missing Cliff Lee is huge.
May 11, 2009 at 7:07 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, New York Mutts, Philadelphia Philthies, Series Preview, Series Thoughts
Again we win a series in Philly, although we didn’t play as well as we did in the first series. We lost the first game behind Reyes’s terrible outing. He gave up 8 runs (only 4 were earned because of 2 errors in 1 inning, 1 by Escobar and 1 by Reyes, both on routine plays). Anyway, we pretty much didn’t have a chance after that and never really threatened to come close to the 10 runs they eventually scored. Kotchman hit a 3-run blast off Lidge in the 9th, but that would only make us 4 runs away, and we lost 10-6.
Vazquez was vintage in the 2nd game striking out 7 in 7 and 2/3 innings while allowing 4 hits (2 home runs) and 2 runs (both earned) while walking none. The offense scratched across 6 runs, McCann and Escobar both hit 2-run homers. We used Gonzalez in the 9th to protect a 4-run lead for some reason, which pissed me off because he’d been used 3 of the past 4 days. And it turns out, he’d be needed the following day, so he’s now pitched on 5 of the past 6 days including 2 in a row. And he won’t be available for the first game against the Mets and Santana. A starter that we’ve needed a closer against every time we’ve faced him last year.
Anyway, in game 3 Kawakami labored through 6 innings of 2-run ball. He looked sub-optimal and really struggled, but 2 runs in 6 innings is a quality start nonetheless. The Braves got 3 RBI’s from Kotchman and 1 from Garret Anderson. The bullpen shut them down. O’Flaherty pitched the 7th, Gonzo the 8th because Howard, Ibanez, and Stairs were due, and Soriano the 9th. The Braves won 4-2.
Looking forward to the Mutts series, we’ll face them for 3 games in our first trip to Citi Field. Interestingly, we’re matched up perfectly. #1 vs. #1, #2 vs. #2, and #5 vs. #5. Unfortunately, their #1 is named Johan Santana and ours is named something else. Jurrjens should have the edge over Pelfrey and we have no idea what to expect out of Niese, but he’s been terrible at AAA so I like our chances to take 2/3 from the Mutts. It’d sure make me happy.
Having McCann back is so huge. He really is our only good, young player. The way he takes pitches and works the count is unique on our team and universal on most good teams. Although Kotchman has been taking a lesson or 2 from him recently.
Hopefully we’ll put it together a good series and upset the Mutts’ winning streak. I hate the Mets.
Game’s about to be on.
It’d be great to take 4/6 from the Mutts and Philthies on the road and get back to 500 in the process.
May 7, 2009 at 8:56 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Draft, Monthly Awards (fake), Philadelphia Philthies, Series Preview, Tim Hudson, Transactions
Break out the brooms. Well, not really. We did take both of the games, but sweeping a 2-game series is hardly broom-worthy. Especially against the Marlins’ (who are currently in a 4 for 17 skid) 2 worst starters. In the first game, we scored 8 runs off Florida’s Andrew Miller replacement, Graham Taylor, then failed to get a hit off of their bullpen for the final 6 and 1/3 innings. During that period, we only got 4 runners on the basepaths. Garret Anderson, Omar Infante, and David Ross all drew walks while Chipper was intentionally passed. Complacency is greatness’s biggest enemy, and it is currently the Braves’ biggest enemy. The Braves haven’t put a game away with their bats all season. The inability to put pressure on the opposition after the 3rd inning is giving the opposition lots of hope, something they don’t need to have. Once again, our pitching staff bails us out. Derek Lowe kind of sucked in that first game. He gave up 6 runs, all earned, in 5 innings while allowing 7 hits (3 doubles, 1 HR) and 3 walks with 5 strikeouts. This performance wasn’t on the defense, you can’t allow 4 extra base hits and walk 3 batters and expect to have a good outing. Jorge Cantu was responsible for most of the damage against Lowe, smacking 2 of the doubles, the home run, driving in 5 of the runs, and scoring 2 of them, playing some role in all 6. Anyway, allowing 6 in 5 innings usually results in an automatic loss, but since we scored 8 early runs, Lowe put another one in the W column after Carlyle, Moylan, Soriano, and Gonzalez all pitched scoreless innings (in that order) to finish the game. Gonzalez was especially sharp, striking out 2 in his perfect 9th for a save.
The second game was much closer to what was advertised, 2 run-prevention minded teams playing in a pitchers’ park. Funny how there were 4 HR in this game, though. Kotchman pulled a pitch down the RF line that beamed into the seats on a rope, David Ross Hit a no-doubter to left-center, and Hanley Ramirez hit 2 solo shots off of Jurrjens. Jurrjens was very, very good despite giving up 2 home runs. He only gave up 1 additional hit and walked 2. He struck out 4 and allowed only 2 runs, both earned, in 7 innings. Garret Anderson drew the team’s only walk of the afternoon, but we had 12 hits, 3 for extra bases. 2 of those XBH belonged to Kotchman who finished the game 3/4 and a triple shy of the cycle. Kelly Johnson was 2/4 and stole a base, maybe he’s out of his funk, but I don’t support putting him back in the lead-off spot. I’ve never thought it mattered all that much, but even if Bobby refuses to put Schafer in that spot Kelly Johnson isn’t the next most logical choice. That’d be Yunel Escobar, Omar Infante, or maybe even Casey Kotchman. The bullpen picked up where Jurrjens left off, and Soriano pitched a scoreless 8th, though he got into some trouble and at one point we had Moylan warming up in case Soriano faltered anymore. He successfully got the ball to Gonzalez who finished the game by pitching another perfect 9th. The Braves had scored 4 runs by the 5th before they started their afternoon nap, which proved to be enough.
Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano have been used 3 days in a row while Peter Moylan has been used twice in the past 4 days and warmed up today. I’d say Peter Moylan is the only one of our late innings guys that will be available tomorrow night and if he’s used tomorrow night he probably won’t be available the following day. Bobby needs to slow the eff down with our late innings group. I know they’re great and he feels very comfortable using them in late and close situations, but you’re talking about our best 3 relievers and we can’t afford to lose one. Also keep in mind they’re ALL coming off surgery. I would have rested one of Soriano and Gonzalez and used Moylan, Carlyle, or Bennett in the 8th just to keep one of them fresh for the upcoming series. Then again, this team needed that win and you take it any way you can get it.
Right now seems like a prime time to call up Medlen to piggyback with a starter and give the bullpen a rest. His line so far at Class AAA Gwinnett: 30 and 2/3 innings pitched, 17 hits, 7 walks, 4 runs (all earned), 0.78 WHIP, 1.17 ERA. I’d say he’s handling International League hitters just fine.
But that isn’t likely to happen, so we’ll head to Citizens’ Bank Park for Repeat Tour #1 with a pretty tapped bullpen. This especially doesn’t bode well since we’re using 2 starters that are pretty incapable of going the distance, Jo Jo Reyes and Kenshin Kawakami. Vazquez will pitch the game between the two of those guys, which also doesn’t bode well, because he’s a fly-ball pitcher and that’s one heck of a home run park. They’ll be opposed by Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, and Brett Myers. Myers, the least crappy of the 3, is sporting a 5.35 ERA, Joe Blanton a 6.84, and Cole Hamels a 7.27. Those should be jet names, not ERA’s. We seem to have Myers and Blanton figured out as we jumped on them pretty well in the first series. Cole Hamels was a few outs away from shutting us out twice last year, but he’s been off to an awful start. He’s had injury troubles all season and can’t seem to put it together. Hopefully he doesn’t put it together for at least 1 more start.
The Phillies have hit 39 home runs entering tonight’s game. They’ve allowed even more though, more than 45 (fuzzy on the exact figure). Any time you play in Citizens’ Bank Park you want to do 3 things: 1) keep Rollins and Victorino off the base-paths at all costs, if they’re running wild you’re going to pay, 2) keep the ball down in the zone and away from hitters when possible, limit those home runs, and 3) pitch to Ryan Howard with the bases empty, because he’ll make you pay if you make a mistake in front of him. We have GOT to take advantage of the mistakes their pitchers make (and they will make them, especially when Hamels isn’t pitching) EVERY TIME, not just in the first 3 innings. Someone named Dusty (and I don’t know who Dusty is) posted this at Braves Journal, it deserves a re-post:
OPS+ by inning:
Complacency. Bad, bad thing.
The good news is McCann is eligible to return to the club tomorrow and he very well may. No official word yet, but he’s 1-3 with a double, a walk, threw out a baserunner, and tagged someone out at the plate today for Gwinnett so far. I’m praying he’ll be back. That’d be the boost we need. And we’re going to need some comfortable leads to win this series considering how cashed our bullpen is.
Lets go get them. Another road series win in Philthy would be a huge confidence boost. There’s no reason we can’t do it, either. Their starters are crap so we’ve got a decent chance to score a bunch of runs. May complacency not rear its’ ugly head.
Edit: P.S. I won’t be discussing Manny Ramirez on this site. Not until I know more, at least.