Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

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05 Aug

Giants 8, Braves lose another game Shelby should have won (by coop)

The Braves winning streak is over. Shelby Miller’s non-winning streak continues. Braves lose. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes Shelby Miller doesn’t lose, but Shelby never wins. Miller must been a nasty rascal in his last life, because his karma really sucks.

The August 2015 Atlanta Braves also suck, but at least they managed to give Miller a 3-2 lead after seven innings. Our recently pretty dang good relievers couldn’t hold it. They got hammered. I wish I had. Gregor Blanco torched Atlanta as surely as George Tecumseh Sherman. Our relievers poured gasoline on the flames.

Blanco had a single and a double in three at bats, walked twice and scored four runs. Hunter Pence only had one hit, a three run home run in the eighth; but he got a fourth ribbie in the sixth when dumbass Chris Johnson forgot there was only one out, not two. Chris made up for his idiocy afield at the plate, however, going hitless in four trips with three strikeouts.

The Braves did have highlights. Daniel Castro had three hits and scored twice. Best of all, Shelby Miller did not lose. He pitched well enough to win again, but we know how that story goes. No wins in his last 14 starts. I wonder if he misses pitching for the Cardinals.

04 Aug

Do It Again: Appalachians 9, Coast Range 8

On this evening Braves went gunning for a brand new batting order.
But they fumbled at the start and were 6 runs under water.
Mike Foltynewicz was struggling while Hibernation Mode set in.
The most certain thing about this game was that the Giants would win.

But Braves came back, Jack. Did it again. Runners going round the bases.
We came back, Jack. Giants planted faces.

Five and a half were in the books, and Matt Cain stood on the mound.
But ageless A. J. Pierzinski and connecting Cameron Maybin,
Were on base when Jace Peterson, strode forward toward home plate.
But Cain was not long smiling, as the baseball cleared the fence.

Braves started to come back, Matt, they singed you this time.
Complete come back? Can win again?

Chris Johnson brought in two more and now it was seven – five.
But Norichi Aoki got in one, and down two going to inning nine.
So, A. J. homers, and we go to extra innings.
In 12 Adonis Garcia homers, and once more we are winning.

Braves came back, Jack, did it again.
Runners going round and round.
We came back, Jack, did it again.

02 Aug

Braves 6, Phillies 2 (by coop)

Great game. Braves win. Julio Teheran played staff ace, allowing the Phillies only two runs on eight hits over seven innings. Julio struck out seven, walked nary a soul and had a Home Julio kind of day.

The Braves scored in two — count ’em! — two innings in the same game, and they scored more than a single run both times! Jace Peterson had three hits, including two singles, one a bunt, and a three run home run. The homer came in the fifth after Chris Johnson had singled in the tying run. Who’da thunk it?!

The final two runs came in the seventh. Jonny Gomes drove in Eury Perez with a single (off a right- handed pitcher!!), then Ryan Lavarnway singled in Gomes.

The bullpen kept the Phils off the board in their last two innings, and the Braves are headed home with a win. Let’s keep the bats smoking tomorrow and raze Cain.

02 Aug

Phillies 12, Braves 2 (by spike)

So it turns out we got some extra cable channels just for the heck of it — well actually because my kid wanted to see a movie on Disney and we were able to badger the cable company in the giving us a bunch of stuff for a limited time. As a result I finally got to see the Braves in living color and live in the comfort of my own home for the first time in a few seasons.

I really don’t see how you guys do it. I made it through a few innings and had to go to a bar, where I made it through a couple more and had to go back to my porch and the radio. I suppose I should be more charitable – facing a murderers row of Odubel Herrera, Freddy Galvis and Cameron Rupp what can you really hope for? Did you know that Ryan Howard’s OPS is 300 points higher against Atlanta than the rest of the league? I’ll bet you do now! Now if somebody would tell Fredi and alert our pitching staff that would be very handy.

Oh well, I think in our hearts we all knew that the illusion of competitiveness that early timely hitting and unexpected performances created would not continue for the entire season. The roof has officially caved in now, and it ain’t going to be put back anytime soon.

01 Aug

A Gentleman’s Explanation of Cricket: How to “Leave” (by blazon)

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2015/jul/31/england-ashes-fate-cricket-least-fashionable-shot

Good sports writing should know no boundaries..on this Saturday morning here’s Britain’s best — Barney Ronay — with a lovely piece on ‘leaving’, the ability or inability of the hitter to stay away from the ball breaking/swerving away from him. In cricket although the pitched ball is deliberately bowled short so the batsman must play it on the bounce it still ends up tantalising in the same manner as the slider here as it moves away. The ‘slips’ are a small group of guys crouched 15 yards behind him and off to that same side only too ready to gobble up the catch produced by a nick off the edge of the straight-faced bat when the hitter cannot resist the chase. Leave it!

01 Aug

Phillies 9, Braves 3

Not much to say about this game. Neither of the Braves starting pitchers showed up – as Williams Perez gave up four first inning runs and then, aided by the double Grybo, five more in the fifth. Ryan Howard did what he always does to the Braves, driving in four runs, and Domonic Brown homered, again, in leading the rout.

David Buchanan was the beneficiary of the Phillies offensive largesse (and don’t you know Shelby Miller is thinking ‘I haven’t seen nine runs scored for me since April and this dude gets nine in five innings.’) to notch his second win of the season.

Freddie Freeman did hit a two run shot to left in the top of the eighth, but the ball only travelled 367 feet, so it probably was only a homer in Philadelphia. Oh well, at least the Braves didn’t trade off any other players for more injured Cuban infielders.

31 Jul

Phillies 4, Braves 1

The Phillies and Braves tied with 12 hits apiece. But the Braves lost 4-1. This is mainly because:
1) They suck at hitting for power; all 12 hits were singles.
2) They suck at situational hitting; the Braves left seven men in scoring position and had 12 LOB overall.
3) The Braves suck.

The third inning is basically emblematic: Shelby Miller opened the inning with a single, followed by consecutive singles by Markakis and Maybin. Because it was the pitcher running, they all stayed station-to-station, so the bases were loaded. Then Freddie Freeman struck out and Adonis Garcia tapped out and got Miller thrown out at home. A.J. Pierzynski hit a grounder to deep short and Freddy Galvis made a great play to keep it on the infield so that only a single run scored. Then Chris Johnson lined out.

The run that scored on Pierzynski’s infield single was the Braves’ only run of the ballgame. Shelby didn’t really have it, but he’s allowed to have an off night. The offense didn’t have it, but for those guys, every night is an off night.

30 Jul

Hector Olivera

As you all no doubt know by now, the Braves just made a blockbuster trade: Alex Wood, Jose Peraza, Jim Johnson, Luis Avilan, and most of Bronson Arroyo’s dead-money contract for Hector Olivera, Paco Rodriguez, Zach Bird, and a late-first round pick in the 2016 amateur draft.

The key to all of this is Olivera, who just might be an impact player at third base. If he is, then he’s cheap at the price, and the Braves won’t regret trading one of their best pitchers and one of their best prospects for a 30-year old Cuban player who hasn’t played a day in the majors and who has been dogged by injury concerns for the past three years. However, as Martin Gandy says, this is clearly “the riskiest trade the Braves have made yet.”

Who is Olivera? He was born in April, 1985, and he was almost exclusively a second baseman in Cuba, though Baseball America notes that third base is “a position he has some history with when he was starting his career.”

Olivera’s calling card is his broad base of skills: he’s basically average to above-average in every tool. If you don’t know the 20-to-80 scouting scale, it’s basically a normal distribution where 50 is average and 80 is Giancarlo Stanton’s power or Billy Hamilton’s speed or Aroldis Chapman’s fastball. Here are the grades that Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel gave him back in February:

Hit: 45/55, Game Power: 45/50+, Raw Power: 55/55, Speed: 55/55, Field: 50/50, Throw: 55/55, FV: 50

FV means Future Value. The numbers on the left side of the slash are his ratings today; the numbers on the right side of the slash are him at his peak. Essentially, he has no weaknesses.

Except for his health. Back in March, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan and MLB’s Jesse Sanchez reported that he might have a UCL tear. As a result, the Dodgers inserted a clause into his contract that would give them an additional year of his services for just $1 million if he should require Tommy John surgery.

But the bigger issue is that he has barely played the field in the last four years. He missed the 2012-2013 season after being diagnosed with a blood clot in his left arm; he took blood thinners to address the issue, and his doctors wouldn’t let him play baseball. When he returned to play in 2013, he mostly played DH, and he didn’t play on the Cuban national team that year. So the last time he played a full season as a position player was 2011. That may partly explain why he was DL’ed with a hamstring injury in late June. When he was trying out for teams during the offseason, McDaniel writes, many scouts noticed that he was “noticeably fatigued in some private workouts for clubs, which were all scheduled with plenty of downtime between so he could recover.”

That said, all of these health issues are extremely well known, and he has been examined extremely closely. It is fair to say that his health concerns have been baked into his price. The Braves are getting Olivera for 5 years and $32.5 million, which becomes 6 years and $33.5 million if Olivera needs ligament replacement surgery at any time between now and 2020. That price is about a 45% discount from that of two other Cuban players who were free agents this offseason, Yasmany Tomas (who signed with Arizona for 6 years, $68.5 million) and Rusney Castillo (who signed with Boston for 7 years/$72.5 million). Moreover, as BA’s Badler writes: “On talent alone, Olivera was a better player than Castillo and Tomas when they were in Cuba. Olivera is 29 while Castillo is 27 and Tomas 24, so that works against him, but Olivera is the same age as most major league free agents. But if I had my choice of one of those three players, assuming the team doctors give him a thumbs up, I would take Olivera over Castillo or Tomas. From talking with several scouts about it, I’m not alone in that opinion, either.”

So, this is a leap of faith, and it’s much more of a leap for us fans than it is for the Braves front office. Olivera did a private workout for the Braves in late January, and they were known to be one of the chief teams pursuing him in the offseason, before the Dodgers swooped in and offered him a $28 million signing bonus. Braves scouts clearly love his skills and Braves doctors have clearly reviewed his medical reports, and they believe that he is an acceptable risk, one worth trading one of the team’s top pitchers and one of the team’s top prospects.

I’m not quite sure what a good comparison would be, but it seems to me that the team is hoping that Olivera will be something like Travis Fryman: a pretty good hitter who’s also a pretty good fielder, one of those guys who flies under the radar as one of the better players in the league precisely because he’s good at everything and bad at nothing. (Unfortunately, Fryman also had trouble staying on the field and was done by age 33, so we’ll have to hope that Olivera has better staying power.)

Incidentally, with this trade, Olivera now blocks Rio Ruiz in the same way that Jace Peterson blocked Jose Peraza. Right now, Ruiz’s stock is way down, so he’s no kind of trade chip. But if he is able to solve Double-A next year, he may be just as expendable as Peraza was today.

However, Peraza aside, this trade helps to demonstrate why the Braves believe that pitching is the key currency in baseball: they traded four pitchers and a position player for two pitchers, a position player, and a draft pick, and there’s a decent chance that they’ll use that draft pick to take another pitcher next year. This is why they keep drafting pitchers and trading for pitchers. They believe that they can develop pitchers and trade for position players. I expect that we will see more trades like this in the near future.

It also demonstrates a key truth in baseball: you can never get too attached. Here’s hoping the guys in charge know what they’re doing.

30 Jul

(Some) Braves Present, Birds Sweep

I had the opportunity to attend a lecture this evening on baseball in Richmond Virginia during the Civil War and Reconstruction. The speaker was brilliant and really knew his early baseball history, and the crowd was engaged and interested. On the whole, the evening was well spent.

The speaker brought up some fascinating points I will highlight here. He dismissed the idea that baseball has ever been played for simply the joy of the game, arguing that from its most recognized inception in the 1830s it’s always been all about the business.

The New York style of play the Knickerbockers spread was a less harsh style than that played elsewhere, as it banned the practice of throwing the ball at the runner to record the out. It also introduced strike outs and foul territory, which eliminated the practice that some of the batters engaged in where those who hit right handed would stand on the left side of the plate, and after the ball was pitched they would let it go past them and then take a right-handed swing to make the ball go behind the plate and well out of the reach of any fielder. Those early players were quite devious.

In 1885 Richmond’s pro team was two years old and was so good they played themselves out of existence. They had helped form the Eastern League that year, which was the predecessor of the Independent League, and by July they were dominating their opponents. Up by 9 games, no one doubted they would win the pennant. Early in the season they were averaging 2000 fans a game, but their success caused fans to stop coming to the ball field. Newspapers commented that going to watch a game was not enjoyable when the result was already known, and attendance dwindled to averaging 200 fans a game. By mid-August the team was forced to declare bankruptcy. The players attempted to overthrow management and finish out their schedule, but their attempts failed. The team folded and withdrew from the league. Therefore, in under two months, a pro baseball team’s success caused them to go from pennant winners to league dropouts. What a story.

Oh, and apparently there was a baseball game tonight in Baltimore that the Atlanta Braves participated in. And by “participate”, I mean continue their grand experiment in trying to see if it is possible to play a game of baseball without any offense at all. So far they have been able to complete whole games, an achievement for which they should receive some accolades.

Mike Foltynewicz pitched pretty well, going six innings giving up two solo home runs while striking out eight. David Aardsma relieved him and finished out the game in perfect fashion. He’s been a great piece of the bullpen since he’s been with the team.

When you decide to try to play baseball without an offense, you shocking don’t score any runs. And when you don’t score any runs, winning becomes pretty tough. So Folty was the sacrificial lamb who had to take the loss tonight. Someone had to do it.

Working with a bunch of Orioles fans will make my life insufferable tomorrow. I should probably call in sick.

But on to the big question of the night (with the Furcal Rule still strongly in effect): will this team have Alex Wood on it tomorrow? What about Luis Avilan or Jim Johnson? I don’t see that there’s any way Johnson is with the team after the trading deadline, and I predicted in my player write up on Avilan this past winter that if he made it to the Openig Day roster he wouldn’t be there for game 162. If Wood leaves, though, I’ll be sorry to see him go. He’s fun to watch and is the type of player who’s easy to root for. I wish him nothing but the best, and I sure hope that if/when a trade like this goes down, it truly does make the Braves a better team by the time they’re in a position to compete again.

29 Jul

Orioles 7, Braves 3 (by coop)

The Braves are not good right now, but Freddie Freeman homered in the first to give Atlanta a two run lead. That’s the good news.

Road Julio Teheran showed up. So did Chris Davis. Davis hit a three run home run in the first and a two run blast in the second. After two, the Orioles led 5-2. They tacked on an earned run in the fifth and an unearned run in the sixth to put the game out of reach. Let’s face it. Our Braves probably won’t score eight runs on the rest of this road trip. They sure as heck weren’t going to score eight runs tonight.

The Braves offense continues to be offensive. After the first, Atlanta did not get another hit until the eighth, when Adonis Garcia, Jonny Gomes and Jace Peterson all singled. Peterson’s hit drove in the Braves third and final run. For the record, Nick Markakis collected two more hits in his continued celebration of his return to Baltimore.

Not counting Julio, tonight’s pitchers were good. Especially good was Andrew McKirahan. He pitched two strong innings, allowing nothing.

That’s all I’ve got to say about that. Good night and God bless.

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