April 30, 2013 at 5:31 pm by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
7:10 PM on Sports South
Gio Gonzalez hasn’t had the start to the season he had hoped. A 4.50 ERA is the result of an increased walk rate and decreased strikeout rate early in the season. Nothing seems to be amiss as far as his control goes – he’s throwing the same amount of strikes and pitches in the zone – but opposing hitters are making more contact. Why? Part of the reason lies in the fact that he’s missing a mph on his fastball. It’s easier to be “effectively” wild when you throw harder, and if you start losing velocity without making better pitches, you will lose effectiveness. Whether this is temporary remains to be seen. Velocities tend to increase as the year progresses, but it’s something to monitor.
Tim Hudson will get a chance to right the ship after a couple rough outings. He has a high HR rate (19.2% HR/FB), but that’s likely to settle down as the season goes on. Hudson hasn’t lost any velocity on his sinker, but it appears as though he’s lost some confidence in it as he’s throwing it 6% less and adjusting by throwing more curves and sliders. Perhaps he’s just messing with his sinker and trying to get the feel for it, but again, it’s something to monitor. As for the lineup, Chris Johnson finally moves up to the top of the order in a move that I expected a while ago. Again, his results aren’t likely to continue on his pace, but I prefer him toward the top of the order that Schafer as there’s at least some established success there. It’s a righty-heavy lineup tonight, so let’s see if they can work the count and stay undefeated against the Nats this season.
April 30, 2013 at 12:39 pm by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
There has long been an argument in the sabermetric community about how to properly use a team’s best relief pitcher. The common belief is to utilize that pitcher in the closer role, as the Yankees have done with Mariano Rivera and the Braves with Craig Kimbrel and virtually every team for the past 20+ years. Now, Jordan Walden is not the Braves’ best relief pitcher. He probably isn’t even the second best, and arguably not the third when Jonny Venters is healthy. Even so, the way Fredi Gonzalez has been utilizing the powerful right-hander over the past week is extremely encouraging.
By this, I mean Fredi’s willingness to use Walden in the middle of innings, for more than three outs, and not in any set inning. Being able to bring in a Walden in the sixth inning with two men on base is something very few teams are capable of, and seldom utilized even when this type of reliever is rostered. This was the second time in as many outings that Walden was used for five outs, which is great to see as Fredi has traditionally used his set-up men in one inning stints in specific innings throughout the season. Will Fredi go back to utilizing Walden that way for part of the season? Quite possibly. But the performance Walden has sustained so far has pushed Fredi to use him as is and we can only hope that Walden is able to stay healthy and Fredi utilizes him in this manner.
The Braves’ bullpen is already the best in the game, but adding in higher quality utilization of the back-end arms makes the bullpen even better. There have and will be many reasons to complain about Fredi over the past few years, but if he continues to use Walden as a bullpen ace and not just a sixth, seventh, or eighth inning guy I believe it will be one of the better managing decisions we have seen from Gonzalez to date.
April 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
Gwinnett came to Louisville for their one time this season, so I headed down to take a look.
Sean Gilmartin, LHP – The former first-rounder wasn’t terribly impressive. Gilmartin’s fastball sat 87-89 with mostly 88s, and while he added three solid secondary pitches – change-up, curve, slider – none of them were swing-and-miss types. Each of them has its uses, and being able to throw all of them for strikes will help keep AAA hitters off-balance. I worry that his inability to miss bats will hurt him when he transitions to the MLB. What Gilmartin does have is good control. A smooth, simple delivery in which he keeps good balance throughout is the key to his control/command. In this one, his command wavered at times, but he won’t have much room for error at the next level. At this point, he seems similar to an early-career Paul Maholm, and he might need to add a two-seamer and/or cutter to his arsenal to give hitters a different fastball look and improve his results.
Daniel Rodriguez, LHP – Rodriguez had a miserable Spring Training, but he looked good in this one. His delivery was more in line with the plate and incorporated less crossfire than in the Spring. He threw a sinker in the 87-89 range with a handful of 91s. To his fastball, he added a change-up that has some swing-and-miss potential, but he didn’t control it well, throwing several in the dirt or almost past the catcher. Rodriguez also had a curveball that was decent but wasn’t sharp. The overall control for Rodriguez was better in this one, but his history suggests it’s not that good. He’s a guy that might be good for a few fill-in starts, but I’m interested if those 91 mph sinkers don’t become more common in short bursts.
Cory Rasmus, RHP – Rasmus came out firing 92-94 fastballs, and he added a better slider than I had seen previously. But as you might expect, he was all over the place, and that’s his weakness.
Wirfin Obispo, RHP – Obispo sure throws hard. His fastball comes in at 94-96, but it’s all over the place as well. His slider wasn’t good, though, but he did throw a couple decent ones. His delivery is really weird – as I said in a FanGraphs piece, it looks like he’s momentarily electrocuted – and he may never have decent enough control.
Andrew Russell, RHP – The Braves may always have a sidearmer for as long as we live. Russell’s sinker sits in the 86-88 range, but it does have good sink. He adds his Frisbee slider to the mix. He’s not as good as Gearrin, but he might make it as a ROOGY for a bit.
Jose Constanza, OF – He is what we all know he is – fast, slap-hitter.
Corey Wimberly, 2B – Here’s an interesting pick-up for the AAA team. He’s basically Constanza in infield form. He makes solid contact of the line-drive variety, and he’s a fast little booger. He’s a AAA player, but he’s a pretty nice one.
Todd Cunningham, OF – Cunningham doesn’t look particularly good at the plate, but it looks more like an approach thing than an inability to make contact problem. He’s being pretty aggressive at the plate, and it’s ending in swinging at some bad pitches. His speed and defense are still there, though, and he’s still making contact with a pretty short swing. I still like him, but adding some OBP skills would raise the ceiling past a solid 4th OF.
Ernesto Mejia, 1B – Mejia is definitely a masher. He unloaded a 91 mph fastball left at his belt deep into the night. His swing has a significant uppercut, but his experience and approach close up his holes against AAA pitching. As for his defense, he was pretty bad over there – dropping a pop-up, making a throw into LF, and moving poorly. There’s some bench value with the power, but as a righty, it’s limited.
Joe Terdoslavich, OF – The thing I was surprised about with Terdo was how well he moved. He ran the bases well and moved well in the OF, not the plodder I had expected. He has a good swing, at least from the left side (didn’t see him vs. a LHP), but I’d like to see him take more of a swing at certain pitches in hitter’s counts, though maybe the ease of his swing downplays how hard he’s actually swinging. But he looks more content to drop the barrel on the ball and drive it, leading to all the doubles. The unfortunate thing here is that there is no full-time possibility any time soon, but he’d make a nice bench option that can play the corners.
Joe Leonard, 3B – Well, he looks good at third base with good reactions, smooth glove, and a strong arm. The swing, however, is long, and he didn’t make any solid contact. That’s basically the story with Leonard.
Matt Pagnozzi/Jose Yepez, C – AAA catchers. Neither of them did much or had to do much.
Sean Kazmar, SS – Kazmar is “one of the great young middle infield prospects in the Braves system.” Okay, well, no. Only Chip and Joe think that. This Kazmar, however, was on fire in these games, lacing line drives everywhere. He isn’t great on defense with a too-weak-for-SS arm, but he’s passable on a AAA roster.
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 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
7:10 PM on Sports South and ESPN
Nationals ISO Maps
The Nationals walk in a little wounded as Ryan Zimmerman is on the DL. The rest of the lineup looks pretty similar to last time. This is a good lineup with quite a bit of lefty pop, and it can be problematic for a pitcher like Teheran. The hope here is that Teheran will regain his confidence in his change-up and utilize it more to get these lefties – Harper, LaRoche, Espinosa, and (to a degree) Tracy – out.
Strasburg hasn’t been quite Strasburg-ian so far this season. While he’s still been very good (3.16 ERA, 3.31 FIP), his strikeout rate has plunged from 30% to 21%, though his walk rate has decreased from 7% to 6% to help compensate. The reason for the decrease in Ks has been because the league is making more contact against him so far, but we may not know the root of it for some time. Perhaps the league has simply adjusted to him, and maybe this is simply a small sample issue (probably). But the velocity and strike throwing are still there (though fewer first-pitch strikes), so he’s still capable of being the best pitcher in baseball.
Julio Teheran takes the mound in this one. Once his best pitch, his change has only been thrown 3% of the time so far, and that really needs to change, even from a normal starter pitch use perspective. His last appearance in Colorado was encouraging, but things aren’t much easier for him this time. In other news, Jordan Schafer leads off again in what is becoming an issue as the Braves are likely to get the usual Schafer production – .224/.309/.302 – instead of the hot start of 30 PA that seemingly merited this promotion. I realize that Simmons, BJ, etc. aren’t hitting very well at the moment, but I would rather take the chance they will improve than Schafer will continue on his current pace. Either way, life would be much easier if everyone would start hitting the way they can. That would solve most of the problems.
April 29, 2013 at 4:17 pm by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves
We laugh at ourselves entirely too much.
Direct Downlaod of the mp3 here:
April 27, 2013 at 11:33 am by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
*Brief moment for the Braves’ season that has past*
1:05 PM on FOX (if in market)
Rick Porcello is having a rough year. After being an above-average pitcher who suffered because of his defense from 2010-2012, Porcello has become a bad pitcher suffering more because of a bad defense. He’s never been a big strikeout pitcher – 13% – but he’s down to 5%, and while that won’t continue (insert jokes about Braves lineup helping that out), it’s not a good sign, especially when there seems to be a change in strategy. In past years, he has employed a slider as you can see above, but this season, he has strictly gone to a curveball. Is that why he’s struggling? Maybe, but it’s something to keep an eye on. His velocity gains from last season seem to largely be intact, but the peripherals and results have been poor so far beyond just last week’s debacle against the Angels. The Braves hope to continue this trend, but Porcello is a guy I’d love to buy low on.
Kris Medlen has been steadily improving. Despite some roughish starts at the beginning of the season that saw better results than peripherals, Medlen’s control/command and bat-missing abilities have been much better over his last two starts, though he’s gotten some worse results. He’ll get a tough test tonight against one of the better lineups in baseball and one that destroyed Maholm yesterday, though there were some defensive mishaps that helped the implosion along. As for are offence that haz past, it sucks, and you don’t like to see it. But you had to expect at least one game like this at some point this season. Bright side, Brian McCann looked good last night in his return to action – 2 HRs in Rome – so by the weekend after next, Jason Heyward and McCann will be back and making this a better lineup than it already is. I have a better feeling about this match-up tonight due to Porcello’s struggles, and it’d be nice to get one back here.