Sometimes when a team is scuffling a little bit the fan base needs some reason for optimism. Now of course players are supposed to focus on the game and opponent at hand and not look too far away. However I’m not a player so it’s perfectly fine for me to look ahead at the Braves schedule and what I see is nothing but smooth sailing ahead for Captain Fredi Gonzalez.
Now no game on a schedule can be counted as a win and on any given day anyone can beat anyone in Major League Baseball. I know the arguments against my point but I’d still much prefer to play a soft stretch in my schedule while I’m struggling a little bit then a difficult one.
The Braves have 26 games left before the All Star break once the San Francisco series concludes which is the unofficial half way point to the season. You always want to go into the break with some momentum if possible and I think the Braves are in a perfect position to do so.
vs Mets ( 5 games)
@ Brewers ( 3 games)
@ Royals ( 2 games)
vs D-Backs ( 3 games)
vs Marlins ( 3 games)
@ Phillies ( 3 games)
@ Marlins ( 3 games)
vs Reds ( 4 games)
19 of these 26 games will be played against teams with below .500 records or roughly .500 records assuming the possibility that the Royals are flirting with the .500 mark as we speak.
And 11 of these games will be played against the Mets and Marlins who are two of the National Leagues worst teams. And in fact the Brewers aren’t that much better and Ryan Braun will be side lined for the next 2 weeks which will be a crippling blow to an already struggling Milwaukee ball club.
The 4 difficult games against the Reds will be played at Turner Field after the Braves almost swept the talented Cincinnati club on the road earlier in the year.
If there was ever an opportunity for the Braves to take advantage of their schedule this is it. This is the type of stretch where they could easily go 16-10 and possibly even 18-8 which would put them in a really strong position as we reach the mid summer classic.
Despite the Braves struggles as of late this schedule that waits for us gives me a lot of reason for optimism. These are not guaranteed wins and I realize the Braves will have to play well enough to beat these clubs but like I said I like my chances against struggling teams better then the stronger ones any day of the week.
To win your division you need to beat the bad teams on your schedule and take full advantage of these opportunities in your schedule. The next few weeks will tell us a lot about this Atlanta Braves team. For better or worse I think we will have a very clear vision of wher this team stands at the end of these 26 games.
By: Bob McVinua
I don’t want this article to become one that is filled with stats and numbers. I don’t want to go into the details of the past season, this season or any other season. All this is about is discussing an often misunderstood entity of the game of baseball. The major league bullpens.
The topic of bullpens rarely turns into a heated debate even by baseball’s biggest fans. People are far more focused on the starting rotation and the position players that play every single day. It’s rare for there to be a block buster bullpen signing or trade that really gets the juices of baseball fans going and the names in each bullpen are barely recognizable to most baseball fans.
However we can’t over look this important element of the game and what really goes on in the process of making decisions regarding this entity of the game. Bad bullpens hurt your chances of being a successful ball club, just ask the New York Mets who for several seasons now have had enormous issues at the back end of their bullpen. There’s nothing more heart breaking for a team and nothing that zaps morale faster then the bullpen blowing a late game lead.
A lot of talk has been made of the Atlanta Braves bullpen the past several seasons. Johnny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel made up arguably the best back end of any bullpen in the Major Leagues. They put up numbers of historical proportions and struck fear in the hearts of opposing teams that trailed the Braves in the late innings.
But suddenly fear, anger and even circumstantial doubt has clouded fan bases and management a like after the Braves realized that not one but both of their elite left handed relievers were going to be lost for the season and possibly beyond due to the need for Tommy John surgery. People immediately began to say that Fredi Gonzalez miss handled his bullpen and simply over worked them. And to that statement I have absolutely no argument because I think that played an enormous factor in what happened to the two star relievers. Bad mechanics and being over worked to me are two of the biggest factors in the requirement for Tommy John surgery and the latter was certainly an issue in Atlanta the past couple of seasons.
However we have to remember one thing. Outside of elite closers, bullpen guys are not forever nor do bullpens stick together in the long term. Typically that just doesn’t happen. If you even look back to the 2011 season the Braves bullpen in less then a season and a half as seen 3 of it’s 7 core members from that year leave the team. Almost half the bullpen is gone from that year and we aren’t even 2 full seasons removed.
Christian Martinez is on the D.L and now Venters and O’Flaherty will join him. Now if those 3 guys do not return to the Braves bullpen this year then you now have one remaining member of the 2011 Braves bullpen on your present day roster and that’s of course Craig Kimbrel.
Bullpens are filled with journeymen relief pitchers who are often on 1-2 year contracts. Again outside of elite closers none of these guys are on long term deals. Why? Because quite often they are replaceable. You can mix and match, sign and trade guys around to create a bullpen that is affective.
Did Fredi damage two of our best relief pitchers? No doubt about it. He went to the well far too many times and now that well has gone dry. He needs to dip into another well that is now currently being created by management both in the clubhouse and in Frank Wren’s office.
Will these loses hurt the Braves? Without question. You can’t lose two elite pitchers out of your bullpen and feel no affect but at the same time you can’t assume that the Braves won’t find other pieces to plug in there to fill the void that was left by the injuries. The Braves can look to sing free agents that may be poking around looking for work. They can make a trade by giving away a mid level prospect for some relief help. They can do an inventory so to speak on their minor league system and see who may be able to fill one of these roles at the big league level.
As long as Craig Kimbrel stands strong at the back end of that bullpen then there will be a constant calming affect with all the rest of the staff. Confidence will continue to fester and grow within that bullpen as we welcome new guys into bigger and better roles. This is an opportunity for new guys to make names for themselves and for new guys to step and replace those who have fallen.
At the end of the day isn’t that what sports is all about?
By Bob McVinua
It’s a very rare set of circumstances. One that not many teams in sports will ever experience. Something that appears so positive that it can’t possibly bring a negative or complicated outcome to your franchise. That circumstance is getting healthy.
Baseball teams worry about health from the moment Spring Training begins and they don’t stop worrying about it until the last pitch of October is thrown and a champion is crowned. The Braves have had their fair share of injuries to begin this season but fortunately we have plugged players in there that have been able to experience a great level of success and lead the team to what is now a 12-1 record to start the season, very impressive.
A lot of these injured players will have a home waiting for them when they return, a spot on the diamond and a place in the line up. Freddie Freeman will be one of those guys who when he returns will not have any trouble fitting back into the line up nor will Jonny Venters when he returns to the bullpen.
However not all of the Braves players will be so lucky. Brian McCann if not for the fact that he wasn’t challenged enough by off season shoulder surgery and the long road to recovery as a catcher coming off that procedure, he has been met with the bitter sweet moment of realizing that Evan Gattis while helping the team win baseball games is also in the process of taking his job.
Does anyone remember the name Wally Pipp? If any of you do I’m quite impressed but if you don’t then you certainly are in the majority. Wally Pipp was the starting 1st baseman for the New York Yankees until one day on June 2, 1925 he showed up at Yankee Stadium complaining of a terrible headache.
Manager Miller Huggins suggested that Pipp take the day off and they’d let that “Gehrig kid” play a game over at 1st base. Wally Pipp got two aspirin from the trainer of the Yankees and decided to take the day off. Well that “Gehrig kid” went on to play 2, 130 consecutive games for the Yankees at 1st base and Pipp would lose his job with the Yankees forever.
You can’t help sickness sometimes, such as a simple headache and sometimes you can’t prevent something like a shoulder injury from occurring but your manager also can’t prevent someone from permanently taking your job while you’re on the shelf either. With the importance of wining and the importance of drawing big crowds on a nightly basis, the manager can ill afford to sit a player who is red hot and helping the team win ball games. Which could spell trouble for Mr. McCann when he returns.
With the numbers that Gattis is putting up right now, what are the odds that McCann could duplicate or surpass them? With the way the pitching staff is performing, could we really assume that McCann could do a better job at handling the pitchers? I’m not sure there is a lot of room for improvement at the catcher position in Atlanta.
Now Fredi Gonzalez will have to make some major decisions regarding the roster when McCann comes back. Will he carry 3 catchers? Gattis can play catcher, 1st base and left field, not extremely well on the latter but he can put the glove on and put a good effort towards fielding the other 2 positions to keep his bat in the line up. Then there’s the idea of trying to teach Gattis to play 3rd base, which personally I view as a disaster waiting to happen. Very few bats in Major League baseball are worth a defensive liability and if people think Francisco struggles at 3rd base I don’t even want to tell you how poorly I think Gattis would be at the hot corner.
The option to trade someone is there, although with McCann’s contract situation that also gets tricky. McCann would be an excellent fit for an American League team who could DH him once or twice a week to keep his bat in the lineup and his legs fresh. It would also extend his career in the long term as well. Laird is barely into his 2 year contract so trading him doesn’t seem like a likely scenario either. Although they do have the benefit of him being signed past this year which could pose the question of, can we trade him for bullpen help if injuries continue to plague us at the back end? A lot of teams may be willing to trade a 3rd or 4th guy out of the pen for a catcher if they are experiencing a shortage in their organization.
To all the Brian McCann fans out there and I know there are a lot of you. There’s hope and not all is lost for your favorite Brave. McCann is still held in extremely high regard within the Braves organization and is still one of the best hitting catchers in all of baseball as his stats don’t lie.
The other aspect to this equation is that Evan Gattis has an extremely small sample size and every pitcher he has faced is facing him for the very first time. The opposition doesn’t have much film on the young catcher and it’s likely that when teams face him a 2nd, 3rd and 4th time the results will vary a little bit in a downward direction.
When a player is going well it’s perfectly normal for a fan base to rally around him and get excited, that’s what being a fan is all about. However the Braves have been down this road before and have not always been pleased with the results.
Tim Spooneybarger: The Braves top bullpen prospect who compiled absolutely outstanding numbers during his 3 minor league seasons as he compiled an era of under 1.00. Came up to the majors in 2001 and was supposed to be the next great closer in Atlanta. His numbers as a Brave weren’t that bad but some say his personality clashed with the coaching staff and was left off the post season roster that year. He was traded shortly after that to the Marlins and his career fizzled out shortly after that.
Jeff Francoeur: I know you all know this name and if you’re anything like me you can’t help but love the way this guy plays baseball. I hate to say a bad thing about Francoeur because he has managed to put together a decent big league career and is still one of the best defensive outfielders in the game. However when Francoeur began his career with the Braves he was labeled as the next “face of the franchise” and as a guy who would bring a championship to Atlanta. And then on July 10th, 2009 he was suddenly traded to the Mets for a mediocre outfielder in Ryan Church.
The question to me becomes, we may never know how good Gattis can really be without adequate playing time but at the same time it’s hard to sit one of the best hitting catchers in all of baseball and one of the Braves most respected leaders on the bench. A very difficult decision for Braves management awaits, just glad I’m not the one who has to make it.
By: Bob McVinua
No you haven’t come to the wrong place. No your eyes aren’t deceiving you. You’re on the Chop Talk blog and you’re reading about basketball. Kind of the best of both worlds right? You all know that I’m a huge baseball fan through and through. And while baseball will always be my first love, my passion for basketball can’t be ignored.
With that being said I’ve watched the Finals this year with a lot of intensity. We have the Miami Heat with their “big 3” and a very talented OKC team that has a “big 3” of their own. Both teams are strong defensively, both teams rebound the ball with intensity and both teams possess serious star power.
However we need to step outside the general realm of that this series puts us in. This article is not about a battle between Durant and James. This isn’t loaded up with 4th quarter stats or shooting percentages. My blog has always been about looking at sports at a slightly deeper level. Getting into the mental part of things and seeing if we’re really looking at things correctly.
Game 4 is tonight in Miami. All the pressure appears to be on the shoulders of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Seems natural right? They’re down 2-1 to a very strong Heat team and no one in any series wants to go down 3-1. So this is a must win for the Thunder right? Sort of. However I’m looking at it as a major opportunity for the Heat to put OKC away early on in the series the same way they failed to do against Boston. Up 2-0, they let Boston climb right back into that series and allowed the Celtics to put them in a 3-2 hole going back to Boston.
The Heat can’t end up down 3-2 to the Thunder because of the playoff format for the Finals. Both games 6 and 7 will be in OKC and the Heat can’t in anyway count on winning both of those games.
Oklahoma City only needs to win 1 of these next 2 to prolong the series for another trip back home where they only have 1 home playoff lose this season. Can they win back to back games at home? Absolutely. So whether OKC goes back home up 3-2 or down 2-3 you can bet your last dollar that the crowd will be electric. And that the Thunder will play their best basketball as they inch closer to a title.
Now speaking of Game 4’s, I can’t not think about last years Finals. Where the Dallas Mavericks were down 2-1 to the Miami Heat. A much less talented Dallas team in comparison to this years OKC team. They were also a lot older very similar to the Boston Celtics. Yes that game was in Dallas but the Mavericks didn’t have the luxury of going back home for playing games 6 and 7. They knew they would have to close that series out on the road, which they did.
If the Thunder are able to win tonight then all the pressure shifts sides immediately. Miami can’t lose game 5 and go down 3-2 heading back to OKC. That game almost become a must win for the Heat.
This series has been extremely even. I don’t believe that either team has taken advantage of it yet.
In the 2012 NBA Finals these teams have played 12 quarters of basketball.
The Heat have won 5
The Thunder have won 5
And there have been 2 ties
One thing that hasn’t been even is the starts to these games. The Heat have won EVERY 1st quarter and have lead every single game at the Half.
If you’re Oklahoma City you MUST start quicker. You create a completely different mindset for your team if you can get off to a fast start and eventually go into half time with the lead, something OKC has yet to do in this series.
If the Thunder can win the 1st quarter and lead at the half then they will have a great chance of winning this basketball game and evening up this series at 2 a piece.
By: Bob McVinua
Everyone who reads my blog knows I hate to over load you guys with stats so I will try to keep them at a minimum for this article. Stats tend to bore people and frankly sometimes I get bored researching them. So what’s on the agenda today? Well with the recent injury of Brandon Beachy I think it would only be suitable that we discuss pitching.
The Braves rotation has been less then stellar this year with the exception of Beachy who is now headed to the D.L with an elbow issue. One would assume that he’ll miss 2-3 starts over the 2 week period. With the Braves “pitching rich” organization this should be no issue right? Lots of young arms available to plug into the rotation, so why then are Braves fans so worried?
The issue in Atlanta is that potential doesn’t always generate results. When dealing with youthful pitchers you must allow for a learning curve and the acceptance that things may not work out the way you wanted them to. This is something that fears me in regards to Frank Wren. I thought last year his move to NOT go after Carlos Beltran turned out to be a great one. Beltran was a half year rental for the Giants who missed the playoffs and lost a great pitching prospect of their own in return. All for what? Nothing really. So I applaud Wren for not pulling the trigger in that situation. By doing that he kept the young Braves arms intact and allowed for another year of development.
However now we need to reevaluate the current situation from a year a go. Brandon Beachy turned into an absolute stud. Even if his ERA went up a full run per 9 innings he’d still have a very solid 3.00era. If he could keep his era down in the 2.00’s even better because that would really establish him as a solid front of the rotation type pitcher. So Beachy was an absolute home run for the Braves assuming that he can stay healthy and on the same track.
Mike Minor, Randall Delgado and Teheran still have yet to make a full break through. They’ve all shown some signs of brilliance but still haven’t been able to pitch up to the level of a Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy or Tim Hudson and here’s the thing. It’s FINE, it’s PERFECTLY FINE that they are not top of the rotation studs. Prospects are a very tricky part of sports, sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t.
And to be honest with you I think as Braves fans if we have a rotation that’s made out of 2/5 or 3/5 of our farm system pitching we should be very pleased with that because a lot of teams aren’t even that fortunate. If at the end of the day we ended up with Hanson, Beachy and either Teheran or Delgado or Minor at the back end we should pleased with that. It was not at all a failure in development.
Now if Wren thought that all these guys; Minor, Beachy, Teheran, Delgado and Vizcaino would ALL become number one type starters he was living in a fantasy world. I don’t think this is the case at all, however he doesn’t want to hang onto these guys for too long if they aren’t panning out. At the end of the day baseball is like any other business and when you have assets that appear to be valuable you don’t want them to sit there until they’re worthless.
The trade deadline is quickly approaching as time to me feels like it’s going by faster and faster with each passing week. So the end of July will be here before we know it. Now the worst deal a team can make is a half year rental, especially if it involves dealing away major prospects.
The other thing the Braves should keep in mind is that they will have money to spend next season with Chipper and McCann’s contracts coming to a close. So if they were to trade for a starting pitcher that is due to be a free agent at the end of this season they would have some money set a side to lock him up if both sides could come to an agreement.
Tim Lincecum: Yes I’m talking about the 2 time Cy Young award winner and a former World Series Champion. Yes he has a 2-8 record so far this season but as you recall this article is not about stats. Is Lincecum’s problem physical? Is it mental? I’ve seen no evidence of real injury this season so I suspect that some of it could be mechanics or just that maybe he’s growing out of San Fran. It happens. Players sometimes need a change of scenery to get them turned around. Matt Cain is the apparent new ace for the Giants and that’s likely not going to sit well with Lincecum. The Giants love young pitching and the Braves have plenty of it. With the pressure of the fan base to trade Lincecum growing more intense by the day they Giants may feel the heat to try and move their former ace for a reasonable price tag. Yes, Lincecum’s stats are terrible this year but no one can tell me that the 28 year old 2 time Cy Young award winner is out of gas. He still has plenty left and may just need a new coaching staff to bring out the better side of him.
Matt Garza: Another 28 year old starter that could possibly be on the move. The Cubs are almost in total rebuilding mode at this point. Clearly their current roster just isn’t working as they are dead last and on pace to have one of the worst seasons in Cubs history. So what does the new management team of the Cubs do? It’s likely that they start trading away pieces of the current team to try and attract younger talent that can turn this thing around. Matt Garza has shown some flashes of brilliance while in Chicago and could really help the Braves down the stretch.
King Felix: Everyone assumes that King Felix will be shipped to the Yankees because well the Yankees are a team with a lot of money. However we can’t always make that assumption. Does Felix Hernandez even want to pitch in New York? Cliff Lee didn’t. And it doesn’t guarantee a championship the way that it used to. The Yankees have only won 1 World Series in the past 10 years, the Marlins can say the exact same thing. Not to mention the Braves could compile a much better package of Minor League stars then the Yankees could. At the end of the day the Mariners have to get prospects in return to try and rebuild their organization. Why not start the process with guys like Mike Minor or Julio Teheran? I would give up both of those guys for a front of the line starter like Hernandez. Yes, his stats are down slightly this year but a LOT of that has to do with lack of run support in Seattle and the frustration of being on a losing team every single year. A rotation of Felix Hernandez, Tim Hudson, Brandon Beachy, Tommy Hanson and Randall Delgado could almost guarantee the Braves a trip to the post season and with those guys they’d be very tough to beat in a 5 or 7 game playoff series.
Final Note: With the new playoff format it could pay off greatly to have added depth in the rotation. If the Braves were to land one of the two Wild Card spots they would be forced to use their #1 starter in a 1 game playoff. This would obviously make him unavailable to start game 1 or 2 of the N.L.D.S. If the Braves were to add a quality starter they could throw Beachy or Hudson in the one game playoff (or the newly acquired starter) and still be able to stack 3 solid starters together for the N.L.D.S. This would be a big advantage over a lot of other teams in the National League.
By: Bob McVinua
As the Mets came into Atlanta I couldn’t help but feel that there was a great chance for redemption. After losing 4 straight games to start the season, the Braves had managed to win 5 straight including an impressive sweep over the Brewers. This team looked completely different once they returned home and I was hoping for the winning streak to continue. With Hanson on the mound I didn’t see any reason to worry.
And to be honest Tommy Hanson pitched a pretty darn good ball game. His entire outing was dictated unfortunately by one pitch. A curve ball that Ike Davis hit over the right field fence as Jason Heyward watched helplessly. Hanson was more or less cruising through the first 5 innings. The only run he allowed was in the 2nd inning where a poor pick off attempt to a not so great fielding 1st baseman Erik Hinske didn’t go as planned. This would allow the Mets to play small ball and push across a run.
As we entered the 6th inning Hanson had a reasonable pitch count and had done a great job of limiting his base runners. I know you guys aren’t reading this for a full recap of the game as you could go to a 101 different websites and find that. You come here looking for an opinion and a different take on things. However I figured I’d include just a small prelude to my point.
As we fast forward partially through the 6th inning we will find that the Mets have a runner on 3rd base with 2 outs. Tommy Hanson is still in the game and still looking relatively strong. I can honestly say that with 2 outs in the 6th inning he was still the guy that should be out. No need to lift him for the bullpen.
David Wright comes up to the plate with the go ahead run at 3rd base. Fredi Gonzalez signals for the intentional walk. As Wright headed down to 1st base I couldn’t help but scratch my head in confusion.
Now this isn’t intended to disrespect David Wright, not at all. I’m actually a very big David Wright fan as some of you know and I have a lot of respect for his abilities. And on the surface I see where Fredi was coming from because many Braves fans seemed to support the move. Wright is swinging a very hot bat and is the Mets best player, while Ike Davis has been ice cold. So you naturally would want to avoid Wright, correct? Not in my opinion.
If I were Fredi Gonzalez I would have pitched to David Wright and taken my chances with whatever outcome was intended to come my way. Why? Because David Wright is 3-20 against Tommy Hanson all time. That accounts for a .150 career average. I don’t care if you are the Virgin Mary. If you are 3-20 against someone then you can’t hit them. That’s what the numbers say. Right?
Hanson is obviously a right handed pitcher and Wright is obviously a right handed batter. Immediately that accounts for something in my opinion. If I’m going to intentionally walk a right handed batter to get to a left handed one when my pitcher is a righty then I’m going to need a lot of evidence to do so.
Wright does not have the career numbers against Hanson to warrant that walk. Hanson was forced to face the left handed Ike Davis who is not a bad hitter and who possesses a fair amount of power. He doesn’t have an impressive average at the moment but you have to remember it’s the beginning of the season. He’s hit a lot of balls hard this year that could have easily been hits.
After throwing 5 straight curve balls to Ike Davis, Hanson watches the last one fly over the right field fence. One swing later the game goes from a 1-1 tie to a 4-1 Mets lead. Of course at this point in the game that’s a decent size hole for the Braves to climb out of as their offense has shown signs of life but still hasn’t completely clicked.
If Hanson faces Wright who he has outstanding numbers against and gets the 3rd out, the game is tied going into the bottom of the 6th inning. The Braves would likely need 1 or maybe 2 runs to win this game. O’Flaherty and Venters would dominate a Mets line up that is almost all left handers, making it nearly impossible for them to get any type of rally going.
So I pose the question… What’s in the numbers? Did Fredi Gonzalez not do his homework on the Mets hitters? Did he know the numbers and ignore them? Should a game be managed by the numbers or by gut instinct. Yes, David Wright appeared to be the more intimidating batter but it was Ike Davis who ultimately burned the Braves.
By: Bob McVinua
So there’s been a complete day at the Winter Meetings with not even a single rumor coming out of the Braves camp. This doesn’t surprise anyone, especially not Braves fans. We know how Frank Wren operates and sometimes keeping quiet is the best way to go. He’s known for his sudden and sometimes jaw dropping moves that come out of no where.
A year ago no one expected him to go out and get a guy like Dan Uggla. Despite what anyone says about how he performed during the first half of last season, no one can deny that the guy is incredibly talented. His power numbers are absolutely off the chart for his position and Frank Wren went out and got him.
I’m extremely torn about the Atlanta Braves right now. So I can argue both sides and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’ll let you guys be the judge of which argument is better. I’d love to hear your feedback.
No Shakeups At All:
Frank Wren said himself that he believed this is a 95 win team that underperformed late in the season. I have to agree with him. The injuries didn’t do us any favors but we still could have won 92-95 games and made the playoffs. There was just no excuse for what happened in Sept.
When will it ever be enough? That has to be what Frank Wren is thinking because that’s what I’m thinking as I hide behind my lap top trying to play GM for the Braves. We need a power bat from the right side. Alright, I’ll bring Dan Uggla to town. But Frank Wren we can’t win without team speed. Alright, no problem I’ll bring Michael Bourn to Atlanta. Those are two outstanding players and people don’t fully realize that. Bourn is one of the fastest guys in the game and the cream of the crop as far as center fielders go. He’s a great player. Easily a top 10 center fielder in the league. Dan Uggla is easily a top 10 second baseman, I could easily argue him as a top 5 without any problem at all. He is what he is and Bourn is what he is. They aren’t perfect but no player can do it all, or I should say very few. They are no without flaw but Wren brought two great guys to this organization.
At some point in time the Braves are going to have to perform at a high level. That’s all there is to it. Wren could put all-stars at EVERY position for next season and if THEY struggle then we still wont win a World Series.
How many more moves can we expect Frank Wren to make? We are not the New York Yankees and to be honest I think he’s put a pretty good team out there for the payroll that we have. The offense NEVER clicked. I can’t think of one stretch of more then a week where the offense looked good. If this offense, yes the offense we have right now starts to hit then this team could easily win 95 games. It’s just like anyone in this world, you need to realize your potential before you can be great.
Lets Be Aggressive And Make Some Moves:
After last seasons collapse this team has NO choice but to make some major moves. You can’t put the same team out there that choked in Sept and expect the fan base to stay loyal. The chemistry was arguably the biggest reason why the team collapsed in the first place. No one on the team had any sense of urgency.
Besides that, look at what’s going on around us in the N.L East. The Phillies brought in Jim Thome and Jonathan Papolbon. Those are some big names coming to the city of brotherly love. The Marlins have already made two big signings as well by bringing in Heath Bell and Jose Reyes.
We already know that the Nationals are likely to improve a little bit either with the talent that they already have or the talent they may acquire via trade or free agency. The Mets may be the weakest team in the division next season but I’m not even counting on them as a team that’s going to roll over a die.
My point being this is no longer a clear cut 2 team race. The Marlins are expected to make some major noise and the Nationals should be right there as well. You play the majority of your schedule against division opponents, yes I’ve decided to state the obvious. But with that being said we need to improve our squad or we could potentially fall to 3rd or 4th in this division.
Both of these arguments are valid. Which way will Frank Wren go? Your guess is as good as mine. Would you rather see the Braves shake things up for next season? Or would you just like to see last years team play at a higher level? Are we ready to win now? Let me know your thoughts.
By: Bob McVinua
So I have been absolutely beating the Braves playoff race to death. There is no way I can write another article about it until something drastically changes, good or bad.
I’ve come up with another series of articles that some of you might find interesting. When Spring Training comes there is a great feeling in the air because everyone believes they have some chance to compete. Sure there are certainly favorites just like in any other sport but you never truly know what will happen until the games are played.
Last year the Minnesota Twins went 94-68. That was good enough to win the A.L East and earn a home playoff series in their new stadium. The Twins were matched up with the Yankees who just always seem to have their number when they meet in the postseason. Part of it I honestly think is mental and that the Twins started to expect to lose those types of games. Not a good mindset to have. The Yankees disposed of the Twins in just 3 games and all the hard work over the course of the season came to quick end for the Twins.
Still they maintained a positive attitude going into Spring Training as most teams would after winning a division title. They made a few moves over the course of the off season and they felt good about their chances to repeat.
Although baseball is a TEAM game like all other sports you can’t over look the value of each individual player. Sports like basketball often have a much high emphasis on single player talents because they can control the game a lot more then a start baseball player. Kobe Bryant can go down to the other end of the court and shoot the ball on 20 straight possessions if he so chooses. He can really take over the game. In baseball Albert Pujols can’t go up to the plate for 10 straight at bats. He can’t just go up to hit because the bases are loaded in a crucial part of the game. It just doesn’t work that way.
However baseball spans itself over 162 games. Basically twice as many as basketball and 10 times as many games as football. So over the course of time teams will really begin to miss their star players when they are either struggling or out with injury.
Joe Mauer the Twins best player has only played in 82 games this season. He’s hit only 3HR and drove in just 30 runs. That’s not going to get it done. Justin Morneau played in just 69 game. He has hit only 4HR and has sadly matched Mauer’s production in the RBI department with 30.
Your two best players have a combined 7HR and 60RBI? That’s a real deal breaker when it comes to winning your division.
These injuries put a lot of pressure on guys like Jim Thome and Michael Cuddyer to be the soul run producers and that just wasn’t going to happen.
Not one pitcher on the Twins staff has more then 9 wins. I’ve never heard of a team making the playoffs without 1 double digit winner in the rotation.
It was tough to watch the Twins this year and truthfully I never realized how bad they were record wise until today. I saw them sinking in the A.L Central Standings but I had no idea that they were 30 games under .500.
Only the Houston Astros have a worse record in all of Major League Baseball.
A real rough year for the Twins and they still have a lot of question marks as they close out the season. Morneau hasn’t been fully healthy in awhile. Mauer doesn’t seem like himself at all. They have had him at 1st base and even in the OF t his year. They need to figure out what they’re going to do with their franchise player.
The Twins are well managed and are a classy bunch of guys. I wish them the best going forward.
By: Bob McVinua
There’s some concern buzzing around Tomahawk Nation after last nights game but I think it might be for the wrong reasons. I hate to see my fellow Braves fans in a panic so I usually try to write something that is upbeat and positive. Last nights 9-0 loss to the Phillies was not the way I had hoped the Braves would start this series. Chipper started the series off with a bang by saying how the Braves weren’t afraid of the Phillies and how he thought the Braves were the most likely team to give the Phillies a run for their money come the postseason. Personally I like the approach. Show some confidence and swagger. Your ball club is more then 20 games over .500 and just like the Phillies we also have a playoff birth basically locked up.
What I didn’t like was that Chipper Jones makes those comments and then doesn’t play. He looked extremely upset with his teams performance as he watched from the dugout. The key word being dugout. I understand he’s an older player but this is a big series for his team and I think he should have played in the first game.
The loss to Philadelphia was disappointing to say the least but to be 100% honest with you guys, I don’t see this team winning the N.L East. I think the deficit is just too large to over come this late in the season. However we shouldn’t feel bad about it. All playoff spots lead to the same road. Whether you win the division or the wild card, if you’re in it you can win it. It’s that simple. Sure the road to the World Series will go through Philadelphia but didn’t it go through the same road last year? Yes it did. And the Phillies got left behind on the side of their own road as the Giants continued on to win a world championship.
I think it’s important for this team to win games for the purpose of maintaining their wild card lead and also to build some confidence going into the postseason. However I think the team’s biggest concerns are not in the standings but in the club house.
Mixed news came in yesterday in regards to Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson. It appears that Hanson has the best chance to return in time for the postseason, as they have announced that it’s very likely Jurrjens will miss the entire 1st round of the playoffs. Although Hanson has the best chance of a possible return he’s still looking at another 2 weeks or so.
With only 3 weeks left in the regular season that doesn’t give Hanson a lot of time to return to form. It’s very possible that Hanson will only be able to make one start before the playoffs begin. That doesn’t give Fredi Gonzalez much to go on when he’s forming his playoff rotation.
Right now the offense is pretty much set. Assuming everyone is healthy there are very few question marks of who will play what position and who will hit where in the order. I don’t see Fredi straying too far from the normal line up that he’s put out there that past few weeks. The only thing I’m still not clear about is the OF rotation. Bourn and Prado will be out there everyday as long as Chipper is alright to play. Then you have Diaz, Heyward and Constanza fighting for playing time in RF. Tough call as to who will get the majority of the time out there. Diaz will likely face lefties I would assume as that’s what he was brought in to do.
The rotation is the real issue with so many possible scenarios looming. Hudson is the clear cut ace and #1 starter at this point in time. I don’t think anyone, including Fredi Gonzalez would argue that. But what happens when you drop down to #2 and #3. A 4th starter won’t be necessary for the divisional round but we still need to fill those last two spots.
If Hanson comes back and appears to be in good form I have a feeling that he might be the #2 guy. Then I would assume that Beachy would be put in the #3 spot if he continues to pitch well.
But what if Hanson doesn’t come back. What if both Hanson and Jurrjens are out for the 1st round? Do we dare put Derek Lowe in the #2 spot? Or do we risk putting Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy into the playoff rotation? I think there is a good amount of risk involved with both moves. Having Minor and Beachy in the playoff rotation gives us no experience what so ever.
The Phillies are not who we should be worried about. Catching them would be nice but is extremely unlikely at this point. We need to focus on maintaining that wild card lead and getting our playoff rotation in order. Fredi is going to have to make some tough decisions down the stretch.
The Braves should be more worried about the health of their team then the N.L East standings.
By: Bob McVinua
I am a fan of all sports. I love football, baseball, basketball, tennis; you name it. If there’s competition involved then I’m there. I know this is a Braves blog and you guys look forward to hearing all of the latest news on Atlanta Braves baseball. With the holiday weekend behind us I decided to switch things up for today.
One of the reasons why baseball is my favorite amongst all professional sports is the length of the season. Yes, I’m saying that the length of the season makes baseball such a great game. Now to most people that would seem absolutely insane. I hear a lot of “How can anyone watch baseball, the season is too long”. I get that a lot and I’m sure all of you have heard that one quite a few times yourself. Clearly those people are not die hard baseball fans like me and you.
There is something magical about the 162 game season. I feel that it takes patience to be a baseball fan. 162 games is a lot of games and those games move and at a slow to steady pace. Each move is carefully decided by the players and coaches. Every pitch could be critical. Hundreds of pitches are thrown in each game alone. The amount of decisions is astonishing when you really stop to think about it.
Football is the favorite sport of many. I’ll admit that I look forward to football season just like anyone else. I enjoy watching games on Sunday afternoons even though my Dolphins don’t usually give me a ton to cheer about but that’s besides that point. Football is a great game. It’s very fast paced and the season appears to fly by because games are only played once a week for each team and the season lasts for only 16 weeks. But to me this just feeds into the instant gratification aspect that this country and so many others are obsessed with. I want it and I want it now. People don’t want to wait for anything. It’s much easier to follow a season of 16 games rather then following one that lasts for 162 games.
Baseball is a marathon and the NFL is a sprint. If you lose 3 games in a row during an NFL season then you need to hit the panic button. If you lose 4 or 5 then you’re basically finished and you can look forward to next year. See to me that’s not as much fun. I hate the suffering I feel inside when my team loses back to back games or god forbid our team loses 3 or 4 in a row.
Think about the comparison. If the Braves lost back to back games it wouldn’t even matter. Sure we hate to see our Bravos lose but hey if it’s only 2 or 3 in a row then we’ll be fine. Granted certain games are more crucial then others but when there’s 162 of them you can’t freak out about back to back loses. Baseball is a sport where fans can settle in and enjoy the ride. There’s ups and there’s downs just like any other thing in life.
Baseball is the sport that best represents our lives. Think about it. How many of us have had perfect lives? Not many, if any. You have your good times and your bad times. Hopefully you have more good then bad just like baseball teams. A great team will win 100 games in a season. Well what about the 62 times that they failed? A great hitter will get a hit 3 out of every 10 at bats. That means a good player will fail 7 out of 10 times.
The baseball season is full of memories. Remember when the Orioles started out the season so strong? People were saying they might be able to compete in the A.L East after all. Now they find themselves in the seller of the division with no chance of making the playoffs. Remember when the Mariners were just 1.0 game out of first place in the A.L West? Then they went on that horrible losing streak and played themselves right out of contention. Or how about the Pittsburgh Pirates? They actually got a taste of first place for a little bit of time but would eventually fall by the way side.
So much happens over the course of 162 games. It’s such a great journey that starts every spring and allows us to enjoy our favorite sport almost every single night. We don’t have to wait until Sunday to watch a baseball game. There’s games on EVERY single night of the week. Baseball fans can appreciate the marathon mentality.
I don’t even believe in Cinderellas when it comes to Major League Baseball. Nope, not in the least. If you make the playoffs after a 162 game season then you are not a Cinderella. There are under dogs in the playoffs for sure. But only in a head to head match up sense. In the big picture if the D-Backs make the post season then they are not some fluke like a March Madness team. The Giants, Rockies, Dodgers and Padres will have had 162 games to make a statement. If the D-Backs out last the Giants over that long of a period then they are just BETTER.
Baseball represents patience. Baseball is the marathon of sports just like life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon as well. We can’t freak out every time something bad happens to us. We have to realize that’s just a single loss in the game of life. There’s always time to make a comeback and we live our lives every single day, not just on Sundays. Baseball is inspirational in a lot of ways.
So as we keep this in mind, lets enjoy the last 2 months of the baseball season.
By: Bob McVinua