Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Luck...and a little of bad luck

Somewhere, Billy Beane cringes a little each time "luck" is mentioned.

Sabermetrics has attempted for some time to quantify luck. Instead of simply saying Player A is hitting the ball well or just not seeing the ball, the numbers may show that one player is simply lucky or unlucky. It allows us a chance to prepare for a possible and pending evening out of a lucky player while staying upbeat about a struggling player.

A little sidenote, Hardball Times hasn't updated their numbers for yesterday's games so these numbers may be slightly off.

Two stats, one for pitchers and one for hitters, do that best I feel. First, we start on the mound. Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP, tries to give an ERAish stat to a pitcher based on what he has the most control over - strikeouts, walks, homers, etc. - over hurting him because of his defense or whatever. FIP is exactly like ERA so a 3.00 FIP or lower is good and a 4.50 or higher FIP is not so good. For instance, Jorge Sosa's FIP in 2005 was 4.13, a good run and a half higher than his ERA, while his FIP last year with the Braves was around 5.83, pretty near his actual ERA of 5.46. Sosa was pitching lucky in 2005 but his numbers more accurately described his suckiness that year. For those scoring at home (congrats!), Sosa's ERA right now is 3.64. His FIP is 4.45. Will he put up lucky numbers again? Doubtful.

FIP can be used in direction relation with ERA, showing its best value. A negative number leads to one calling that pitcher "unlucky" while a positive number leads you to call that pitcher "lucky." Using a half-run either way as random ups and downs in the data, here are the lucky pitchers and unlucky pitchers.

Chad Paronto 4.74 8.16 -3.42
Tyler Yates 2.59 4.13 -1.53

Yeah, that's about it. Two unlucky pitchers. Mark Redman's also on this list, but being how he's not a Brave anymore, I just don't care to mention the Indian more than I have to. He did just sign with the Texas Rangers proving that in the 21st century, cowboys and indians do get along.

On one side, Tyler Yates unluckiness is a bit overstated. His expected FIP is 3.49 so he's probably not mentioning up to that 2.59 FIP, but his ERA is more telling of how useless it is to look much at a reliever's ERA and draw anything from it. On the other hand, Paronto has been "unlucky" but still pretty bad.

How scary is this? Well, if those are your only two unlucky pitchers, how many lucky pitchers are we throwing out there? Well, a great bulk of players fall in the half-run higher or lower catagory, including: Kyle Davies, Oscar Villarreal, Rafael Soriano, Chuck James, Tim Hudson, and Bob Wickman. So really, what you get from those guys is pretty clear. That leaves three more players to mention. I am leaving out McBride (a fourth lucky pitcher) because of his lack of innings.

John Smoltz 3.22 2.82 0.64
Mike Gonzalez 3.02 1.59 1.43
Peter Moylan 4.47 2.25 2.22

Smoltzie is still pretty hot so that's not much of a worry. Gonzo's ERA just needed to even out from its way too low number. On the other hand, Moylan's number is pretty telling. His number basically finds its origins in his LOB%, the same number that helped Sosa put up a sub 3.00 ERA. 85.6% of baserunners to reach against Moylan were left on base. He may be able to continue that, but it's doubtful. Eventually, runs start to score.

On the flipside and the focus of a future column...PrOPS or predicted OPS. Look for it during the week.

Bowman Saddens Me

Mailbag: Will the Braves add a starter?

The loss of Mike Hampton to another season-ending elbow surgery has already proven tragic. Had Mark Redman at least provided some indication that he wanted to continue pitching like a big-league hurler, the Braves might have been able to get by without Hampton.

"Tragic?" Tragic, he says.

Yes, it is absolutely tragic to lose a great arm like Mike Hampton and is slightly better-than-average numbers, pisspoor WHIP, and oh, bulldog mentality. Yes, tragic that instead of just three fifth starters, we don't have a fourth.

I know I cry myself to sleep.

Now with Redman looking to join find yet another employer, the Braves are searching for ways to fix their rotation. If Lance Cormier comes back healthy next week, he'll certainly add some much-needed stability. But if this club has a definite desire to get to the World Series, they have to understand that they currently don't have anybody that they could confidently take into the postseason as a legitimate third starter.

How do we have even the slightest idea that Lance Cormier will provide stability? Was it his 5.72 ERA and 1.74 WHIP that sold you? I wanted Buddy Carlyle to get a chance, but even I wouldn't have said he was a definite to provide stability. Cormier isn't either. And Mark, since you work for the Braves, why don't you tell them that they need a legitimate third starter because they don't get that yet. Sit John Schuerholz down and tell him a story about it. Fill it with images and vivid color. Yeah, that's it. That will help him understand.

Obviously Jayson Stark's recent revelation that he determined (Andruw) Jones to be the most overrated center fielder in the game may change some perceptions. But when you see the guy make an amazing catch like he did to rob Greg Dobbs of a homer in Sunday's third inning, you once again begin to think statistics like zone rating and range factor are pretty much useless.

Okay, if something is obvious, how come it "may change some perceptions?"

I once again didn't think those stats were useless. I thought Jayson Stark had no idea what those stats meant. See, Bowman, numbers are good when you know what they mean. They help you *get* it. You obviously don't, but that may change. See, that's how you use those two together.


I'd say it's primarily because we live in a "What-have-you-done-for-me-lately" society. Unfortunately for (Chipper) Jones, just when it came time to begin debating his Hall of Fame future, he was hit with an injury bug that just simply won't go away.

Rather than address the question, "Why are there so many people out there who doubt Chipper Jones will one day be enshrined in the Hall of Fame?" Bowman moves on to theories.

I doubt Mike B. from Grandview, IN reads this, but here is the answer Bowman couldn't be bothered to provide or couldn't think up.

Chipper Jones's career marks aren't that great - at least not in the terms of where he stands against his peers. Because Chipper Jones played third, he gets a little more love than, say, Gary Sheffield despite having pretty similar numbers. Their 162 game averages are very close. Sheff is not considered by many a HOF player without 500 homeruns, which is based more on his personality.

Chipper, meanwhile, is nowhere close to Sheff on the cumulative numbers (HR, R, RBI especially). It does, as Bowman does ellude to, health, but not because people ignore what Chipper once did, but because your career is up for discussion, not the first eight or so years of it. Taking entire careers into context, Chipper is the 15th or so best active hitter. Not elite numbers.

Nonetheless, he's pretty close. Baseball-reference's HOF monitor has him near the average HOFer so he's almost there.

Why Bowman couldn't think of that is beyond me. Maybe he can't actually use the internets, only write on it.

There's seemingly a need for them to stock the organization with more outfield depth.

Oh, really?

Brandon Jones? Gregor Blanco? Jordan Schafer? Matt Young? Carl Loadenthal?

Hell, last year's first pick was an outfielder.

Seriously, why must the Braves employ someone who knows so little?

Atlanta 2, The Good Land 1

Game Notes...

- Strange game. One, the Braves won, which is pretty strange of late. Two, the Braves got pitching - also a bit odd. Three, Andruw Jones hit an opposite field homerun - very queer (context circa 1950's). Oh, and four, Chris Woodward had a hit and Edgar Renteria did not.

- The good pitching came from Chuck James...sorta. He looked a lot like last year's version of working into a big problem inning or two and then getting out of it, something he has lacked this year. He struck out eight and went six innings, easily major accomplishments for a pitcher on this staff not named Tim Hudson or John Smoltz.

- Yatesy...sucked again. But Rafael Soriano is a beast and even Blob Thickman had a good inning.

- Andruw's homer was very strange. He took a swing at a high fastball away and the thing just flew out. Somewhere, Joe Simpson had to change his shorts.

- Chipper missed yet another game. I have never heard of one other player missing games because his thumbs hurt, but that's Chipper for ya.

- Huge, big, monstrous win. With Smoltz and Huddy going in the other two games, Braves have a real shot of taking this road series. They need it. By the way, if my Milwaukee name is too vague of a reference, watch "Wayne's World." If it's not, watch "Wayne's World." In short, watch "Wayne's World."

Monday, May 28, 2007

Two Game Recap

Game Notes...

- Due to responsibilities and whatnot, I wasn't able to do a recap for each of the last two games. Here they are...in all their...shitiness.

Filthydelphia 6, ATLANTA 4

- It wasn't that Buddy Carlyle was bad in his first game with the Braves. He just wasn't that good and didn't get a lot of defensive help outside a nice Andruw Jones catch. A few breaks and he's looking at a possible victory. But...they didn't come.

- Not that it mattered much because the Braves offense has Derek Bell disease. You know you have a longshot at best on the mound and the bottom six spots in the order managed 3 hits, all singles, to help the top three hits, who had five hits and four extra base hits. Giant surprise you lose that game. With Adam Eaton on the mound for the visiting team no less.

- Renty had the only big day; raising his OPS over .900 with a double and a homer and picking up all four Braves RBIs.

- McCay McBride and Oscar Villarreal kept the team in the game, though McBride let Carlyle's fifth run score after replacing Carlyle in the fifth. Yatesy got touched up for a Shane Victorino homerun in the all-Hawaiian matchup.

- Bobby Cox got ejected from his second straight game. I think of it less of a "ejection" as much as it was an "escape." He's now one ejection away from the record. The ejection came on a chopper that crossed the first base bag, but landed *just* foul. Ron Kulpa immediately ejected Cox without letting him have a word. John Smoltz followed after bitching at Kulpa from the dugout.

- Of all the people in the world, Antonio Alfonsixfingers got the save. God, that's embarrassing.

Filthydelphia 13, ATLANTA 6

- Ugh, it was 4-0 in the first and 11-1 after the top of the fifth came to a close. I didn't even bother to watch this game because I didn't have the power to not poke my eyes out and cut my testicles off. The Braves, still without Chipper Jones and still without the foggiest clue how to win games of late, saw Hiram fail, as Carlyle did the previous day, to get the Braves out of the fifth. He left the game with the bases loaded and just kinda sucked and the overworked pen soon followed in equally sucking fashion.

- Big number for Hiram? 4 grounders to 7 flyballs.

- McBride, Moylan, and Paronto were charged with five runs in 2.2 ING to complete the shitfest.

- Start Villy. Can't hurt.

- The game wasn't even half as close as the final score was. Atlanta scored three runs in the ninth before finally dying their slow and painful death. The only bright spot was Salty and Andruw's homers. It was Salty's first and Andruw's first in about three weeks so maybe they can take that with them up to Milwaukee. Diaz, Willie Harris, Salty, and Thor each had a pair of hits.

Here are the pitching matchups for the series in Miller Park.
Chuck James vs. Chris Capuano
John Smoltz vs. Ben Sheets
Tim Hudson vs. Dave Bush

I like the finale and Capuano hasn't been *that* good. Tuesday's game is obviously the best one of the series.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Filthydelphia 8, ATLANTA 3

Game Notes...

- No Series Preview this week. Just don't have time for that.

- Today's lesson, kiddies, is when to pull the trigger. No, no, not on the gun in your mouth that seemed to be there the entire time you watched this game, but on when to take a pitcher out. Here's a SAT-worthy question.

Leaving your high-priced starter in the game, despite him not pitching well, laboring, and already up to 98 pitches coming out of the sixth, is to Losing as _____ is to ____
A - Masturbation is to blindness
B - Masturbation is to winning the lottery
C - Shooting Off Your Foot and then Being Surprised It Hurt
D - Masturbation is to finding the fountain of youth

- Not only was that retarded, but in the seventh, after Hudson loaded the bases with two outs on a HBP, an intentional pass, and an unintentional pass (he worked a wild pitch in there as well) and he stood at 119 pitches, the Braves LEFT him in there. Huge surprise when Greg Dobbs drives in two on Hudson's 122nd pitch.

- I am almost convinced Bobby Cox was making these decisions, too, despite the fact that he was sitting in his office. In the fourth, Paul Emmel rang up Edgar Renteria on a ball that Tom Glavine would have creamed his pants for. Renty, who never argues, was irate and with good reason. Emmel immediately ejected him, which makes me thing back to Bull Durham and this piece of dialogue

Teddy Cullinane: [broadcasting on the radio] I've never seen Crash so angry. And frankly, sports fans, he used a word that's a no-no with umpires.
Millie: [Annie snaps off the radio] Crash must've called the guy a cocksucker.

- Of course, Renty getting ejected caused Bobby to blow a head gasket, which incidentally, my mom did last week. He got his say in before and after the ejection from Emmel was directed at Cox. He's now two away from the record, but despite him being ejected, I am pretty positive the word to keep Huddy in the game came from him and it's just sad that the Braves did that.

- Not that the Braves offense came to play. They managed five hits and only Andruw Jones's double in the second went for extra bases. Weak, weak effort. Chipper Jones, at one point, was on the on-deck circle, but did not bat. In fact, had the Braves gotten to the pitcher's spot in the sixth, he would have hit and Hudson would have been out of the game. Sad.

- Of course, the Mets won. Surprised? Didn't think so. Now, we have to try to win a series with Buddy Carlyle and Kyle Davies pitching. Not good.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Gonzo Sneering His Way to DL

Mike Gonzalez, acquired in the offseason from the Pittsburgh Pirates, will be out for the next 12-14 months after being forced to have Tommy John surgery. A third MRI finally showed an incomplete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament. Gonzo looked inconsistent during the year, but once he started to let go, he was dominating. However, he was forced to leave his most recent game and was immediately DL'd.

This injury may cause the Braves to make a move...but do they really need to? The previous numbers I posted show that Tyler Yates has been a star so far. Peter Moylan is not liked by the stats, but I think the Aussie has some real talent.

We can't discount what Joey Devine can do, though I probably would not concentrate too much on him. Another name thrown around is Will Startup, who is a lefty, but Startup just does not impress me much. He's never really looked that good at Richmond, where there are many veteran hitters who force you to throw strikes. Rheal Cormier is probably in the mix as well. In three games with Richmond, he has been stretched out to 5.1 ING and hasn't looked too bad. Manny Acosta has been the closer with Richmond and has a 1.38 ERA, but the number of walks (14 in 26 innings) is pretty high.

All in all...not the best news. I'll probably look back at the deal in my next Raw Numbers or a later post here.

Stat Pack

Welcome to the first stat pack. I'll show some of the stats you may not hear about on TBS or ESPN about our Braves. I believe stats sometime reinforce and shine new light on something you may have not seen. So here we go with a couple of hitting stats and a couple of pitching stats.

Win Probability Added (basically, what players are helping the most). Only hitters with 20 or more at-bats apply.
Top Five
1. Kelly Johnson - 1.51
2. Edgar Renteria - 1.23
3. Chipper Jones - 0.58
4. Jeff Francoeur - 0.34
4. Scott Thorman - 0.34

Bottom Five
14. Ryan Langerhans - -0.68
13. Brayan Pena - -0.51
12. Chris Woodward - -0.49
11. Craig Wilson - -0.43
10. Pete Orr - -0.19

Equivalent Average, or EqA, is a measure for total offensive value that is adjusted for the league, park, and pitching. It also includes baserunning and is a pretty easy way to compare the offensive value of each player.
Top Five
1. Chipper Jones - .336
2. Willie Harris - .319
3. Edgar Renteria - .310
3. Kelly Johnson - .310
5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia - .300 (get him in the lineup!)

Bottom Five
14. Ryan Langerhans - -.068
13. Pete Orr - .131
12. Chris Woodward - .174
11. Brayan Pena - .190
10. Craig Wilson - .213

Pitcher's Stuff, or basically, their ability to dominate. Three pitchers (Kevin Barry, Steve Colyer, and Macay McBride) have been taken out since they have failed to get to ten frames.
Top Five
1. John Smoltz - 25
1. Tyler Yates - 25
3. Rafael Soriano - 21
4. Tim Hudson - 19
5. Oscar Villarreal - 18

Bottom Five
13. Chad Paronto - -31
12. Mark Redman - -24
11. Peter Moylan - -11
10. Bob Wickman - -5
9. Kyle Davies - 2

Fielding Independent Pitching, or how well the pitcher is pitching in terms of ERA without his defense helping or hurting him.
Top Five
1. Tyler Yates - 1.66
2. Rafael Soriano - 2.67
3. Mike Gonzalez - 2.97
4. Tim Hudson - 3.14
5. John Smoltz - 3.17

Bottom Five
13. Anthony Lerew - 7.54
12. Mark Redman - 5.81
11. Kyle Davies - 4.96
10. Chuck James - 4.42
9. Peter Moylan - 4.07

Thursday, May 24, 2007

ATLANTA 2, Metrosexuals 1

Game Notes...

- Gotta start with the big news. John Smoltz wins his 200th career game, at Turner Field, against Benedict Arnold Glavine, with a hugeass crowd cheering him on. Gotta love that. 36,660 was the announced attendance, but for once, it felt like a packed house and a vocal packed house at that. They wanted Smoltzie to win so badly and he pitched his heart out. Gave up seven hits, but like with Davies, a few of them were little pussy hits that most games would be outs. Of the 28 batters he faced, nine got it out of the infield. Of those nine, four were outs. Tells ya something. He added five K's and improves to 7-2 with a 2.58 ERA. In his last six starts, Smoltz is 5-1 with an ERA of 1.29. He's been as good as now as ever.

- Wickman made it interesting with an assist from KJ. After Carlos Delgado served a single to left, Shawn Green hit what probably was only a groundout, but KJ was facing toward second to try to turn two and never got control of the ball. A sacrifice bunt and groundout brought home the Mets' one run and put a runner on third, but Jose Reyes popped it up to Renty to end the game.

- Speaking of Renty, he was channeling Rafael Furcal in the sixth. Going toward third, he grabbed a groundball by Carlos Beltran and threw out the fast runner. He did the same thing to Paul LoEffinDuca, but obviously had a bit more time. He batted third because Chipper is out till at least Saturday after a cortisone injection.

- Matt Diaz had another good game with a double and a homer, showing surprise power for the singles machine.

- Braves and Phillies start tomorrow. Hopefully, a preview before the series begins.

Read Moneyball Online

Michael Lewis's bestseller is, for now, online. Read all about how the A's and Billy Beane overcame financial troubles. The Hardball Times reported on this today so I figured I would throw it out there for others.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Metrosexuals 3, ATLANTA 0

Games Notes...

- Don't you hate it when the Braves just seem to accept a loss is coming? Bobby sure did or he had a bet going with his bookie that the Braves would fall in this game because he benched KJ, McCann, and Thorman. The traditionalist says, "Oliver Perez pitches with his lefthand and therefore, lefthanded batters shouldn't be up there." The conspiracy nut wants an investigation started. And now dammit.

- Beyond that, Chuck James was his usual shitty self. Seven hits and three walks, James skated through a lot of trouble, but runs were bound to score. A no-catch by Martin Prado on a stolen base attempt led to one of the three runs being unearned. He just was not able to keep runners off base and thus had a high pitch count and was lifted before finishing the fifth. That marked the 8th time in ten games James has failed to give the team six.

- Pen was awesome. Paronto got the final batter of the fifth before Aussie Moylan shut down all six batters he faced. El Vulture hit a pair of Mets (kudos for one of them being Paul EffinDuca) and mixed an intentional walk in there, but struck out two and Shawn Green grounded out on a belt-high pitch to end a bases loaded mess. Yatesy then came in and threw hard cheese by every batter he saw.

- Offensively, there were four instances in the game in which the leadoff runner was on. Their production went like this.
2nd - Andruw HBP - wiped out on a double play
3rd - James singles - wild pitch and a flyout got him to third, stranded.
5th - Willie Mays Hayes Harris walks - Steals second with one out, stranded.
7th - Salty singles - stranded after two K's and a popup.

- Salty had a two-hit game, but nobody else was able to do anything against Oliver Perez. Woody and Prado, the two retarded replacements, went a combined 0 for 8 with Woody striking out three times, none more embarrassing than the final one in which he stared at strike three from Billy Wagner.

- Oddly, the best chance to score came in the third. After James singled and Oliver Perez uncorcked a wild pitch, Prado got under a flyball to right. Green made a diving catch and it allowed James to get to third. Renty walked on a close pitch and stole second. Chipper at the plate, you like your chances, right? Well, he hit it hard, right at Delgado. Two away. Francoeur takes a ball right off his foot and had he just danced out of the way, it would have been a second wild pitch and James would have scored. As it was, it hit his foot and Diaz flied out. Miserable.

- Frustating game with few moments to smile about...and Joe "Other Way" Simpson bugs me as much as Chip Carey bugs me. I can't sync the radio feed with what I'm seeing on the TV cause if I could, I would listen to the radio. Simpson fails to understand that just because you always went the other way does not mean everyone should.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

ATLANTA 8, New York Metrosexuals 1

Game Notes...

- You know its a good day when your pitcher drives in more runs than he gives up. Hiram gave up six hits, three of which were pretty weak, in eight innings to cruise to his second win. He walked two, struck out three, and allowed the only Muts run. In the sixth, I wrote in the chopnation game thread "Try to hit a homer, Hiram." He did and it was a three run bomb to dead effin center. It was the icing on the cake for him. In the fifth, he pitched around a shitty seeing-eye single that neither KJ or Renty could get to and got a mini break that a runner was called out at second after KJ dropped the ball. He was trying to turn two, but forgot to catch it. Luckily, it was called an out and shortened the inning (though, it should have been a double play anyway).

- KJ, McCann, and ANDRUW each had a pair of hits. And Thorman orgasmed all over a ball from Jorge Sosa. That sounds gross, but if you had seen him hit the ball, you'd understand. High fastball (though technically, Sosa has no real "fastball") and Thor had one of those moments that makes you say "holy shit..."

- Andruw did look much better. He had more balance in his swing. His battle with Delgado for worst cleanup hitter in the NL East is over with Andruw batting sixth, but whereas Delgado went 0 for 4, Andruw had an RBI single and a double.

- Great moment when Hiram hit his homer. To watch Francoeur and McCann jump around like little leaguers. I'm sure Jenny will talk about it either at her blog or at Talking Chop, but was awesome to see.

- Wickmoo got into the game and had a very Wicky McFatty outing. Two quick outs, two singles, a third out.

- Gotta like your chances to take the series when you win the first game.

The Indian Is Off the Reservation!

There are only so many words that can express what I felt when I read this.

"The Braves released Mark Redman..."

I think ellation may describe it. It is amazing what one guy losing his job can do the frown I had thinking he would still be around.

The article went onto say Joey Devine will be called up and pitch till Saturday at least when either Buddy Carlyle or Trey Hodges will get their chance. Carlyle seems like the easy pick. From my latest Raw Numbers, "Carlyle has gone 5-1 with a 2.22 ERA for the Richmond Braves. He has 50 K’s to just nine walks in 44.2 ING. In his last five starts, Carlyle is 4-0 with an ERA of 0.30."

Oh, happy day...oh, happy day...

Meet the Mets!

Ugh, do we have to meet the Muts, or Metrosexuals, or Metatags (nerd alert)?

The Mets are the class of the National League right now. There is no other way of putting that. In the NL, they have the best record, their pythagorean is also the best, and they are also playing hot. In their last ten games, they are 7-3. That number goes up to an NL-best 13-7 in the past 20.

Meanwhile, the Braves are in a tailspin. Losers of six of their last eight, the Braves need to take at least two games from the Mets, who have been an NL Best 14-5 on the road. If they do not, it's going to be catch up from now on and the Braves simply are not playing well enough to get into catch-up mood.

The Mets will run two of their hottest and the old faithful, Tom Glavine at us, while the Braves have one of their two aces going. Only Milwaukee has been better than the Braves at home and they need to show it.

First up is our old buddy, Jorge Sosa. Here is a fun story about Sosa. Last year, in one game, he blew two leads. If it were possible to blow two save opportunities in one game, he would have done that. However, since his promotion from AAA New Orleans, Sosa is pitching the best baseball of his career and that includes 2005's flukey work. In three games, he's won all three starts and allowed NINE hits in 20 innings. You want hopeful signs? I don't got any. The only thing I can possibly point out is that Sosa is pitching a little different from how he was at N'Orleans. He was giving up hits and not walking batters there. With the Mets, he has been walking batters (8), but not giving up hits. Hopefully, for our sake, he combines the negatives of his work in Cajan Country and the Big Apple and gets his ass whipped.

Meanwhile, Oliver Perez is next. I told everyone that before this year, Oliver Perez would end up being a solid pickup. However, I didn't think he would be this solid. Almost a K an inning and 38 hits in 49.2 ING? Jesus. In his last two games against the Brewers and Yankees (hardly shitty-hitting teams), he has allowed three runs in 16 innings. Ladies and gents, Olli Perez is back and I'm scared, especially considering how he has brutalized Atlanta so far this year (2-0, 1.97, 15 K's).

Finally, Smoltz vs. Glavine Part Three. What more can be said about this? Knowing Smoltzie, I would be downright amazed to see him _not_ get a win here. 200th win, facing Glavine, and in Atlanta? Hell, I wouldn't be surprised to see Smoltzie look even better than he did against the BoSox.

Toughass series. Braves going to need to shake off the cobwebs from a horrible road trip. Otherwise, we can start to think about where we stand in the wild card.

Pitching Matchups
Tuesday: Jorge Sosa vs. Kyle Davies
Wednesday: Oliver Perez vs. Chuck James
Thursday: Tom Glavine vs. John Smoltz

Monday, May 21, 2007

Raw Numbers #29

Latest issue of Raw Numbers up for viewing at Chopnation.com

As usual, here is the teaser.
Desperation causes a person to do things he or she would have never considered otherwise. In Alive, they were very desperate. I once voted for John Kerry. How desperate was that? For the Braves, desperation begins and ends with the starting pitching. John Smoltz and Tim Hudson – they give the Braves a chance to win each time. But the three guys behind him do not do that at all. And now, the Braves fans are so desperate they are counting down the return of Lance Cormier. Yeah, how desperate is that?

For the entire issue, click here.

Red Sux 6, Atlanta 3

Game Notes...

- For a game we never seemed to have a shot at, we did a damn good job sticking around long enough to make it one of the most frustrating loses. Tim Hudson was pretty horrible the first two frames. His location was all over the place strikezone and the Boston Red Sox are too damn good to miss mistake pitches. The worst pitch was a fastball to Jason Varitek in the first. Verrrrrytech had been late on the inside fastball and Hudson had him ready to end the first. Instead, his fastball was practically down the middle (McCann was set up inside) and Very Tech.edu took it into right field, ending up with a triple.

- Jeff Francoeur has absolutely no range. We essentially have no-hit defender in center and all-hit, no-glove guy in right. Francoeur overran a belted flyball to right in the first that could have potentially put a stop to the inning. If you want to be a contender, you gotta make those plays. It's not just the errors that show up as defensive mistakes.

- Speaking of the no-hit guy in center...Andruw hit rock bottom. 0 for 5, 5 strikeouts, and 7 runners left on base - including two in the ninth - as he was hitting sixth. Part of me says he has to start hitting now, right?

- Matt Diaz may be the most complete outfielder we have. God, that's odd to think. Mr. Unathletic went 4 for 5, made a nice catch, and picked up an RBI. Granted, everything he hit went for singles...

- Macay McBasesOnBalls didn't walk anyone and set down all four people he faced after relieving Huddy. Crafty. Most dominating performance by anyone came via Rafael Soriano. He totally pwned three Red Sox batters in the eighth, getting a pair of K's.

- Martin Prado got the start at second and may have hit a two-run homer had we played in a less-nutty park with a Green Monster. No word on how long he will remain with the team, but it can't be for too long.

- Salty had the at-bat of the game. In the 6th, he faced Brendan Donnelly and was the main reason Donnelly faced four batters and threw 23 pitches. J-Salt saw about ten pitches and coaxed a walk that brought in Francoeur. Of course, Thor followed with a double play to end the rally in the sixth.

- Later today, I'll preview the series with the Muts.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Atlanta 14, Red Sux 0

Game Notes...

- Something weird happened on the way to the park today. The Red Sox said to themselves, "well, being we are so close to Haaavard, we should be smart about this. Oh, I got it! We will focus entirely on the game with Dice-K against some French guy. LaRue? Lerew? Whoever." Meanwhile, the Braves said to themselves, "Ya know, we got Smoltzie on the mound and we just hate to waste his great effort. And being from the south, what kind of guests would we be if we did not give the Red Sox their moment? We will focus on the second game and let the first Jap since that hot dog eating guy have his way with an American sport." It worked.

- John Smoltz is from another era. Five days after dislocating his pinky on his pitching hand, Smoltzie allowed three hits, a walk, and struck out seven. He did throw two wild pitches and seemed to struggle to have his control popping in the first, but after that, he was the Smoltzie we all love and cheer. He improved to 6-2, lowers his ERA under 3.00, and is now 17th all-time in strikeouts. In slightly over 20 innings at Fenway, hardly a pitcher's haven, the man, the myth, the balding hero has now allowed a run. I guess what I'm saying is: Smoltzie, did you ever know you're my hero? (the Bette Midler in us all begins to sing)

- Chipper Jones got it started early with his 12th homerun. He went 3 for 5, but oddly did not have one of the _EIGHT_ doubles the Braves cranked out. Brian McCann had three of them and drove in a pair while Matt Diaz doubled and homered, showing unusual power for the singles machine.

- KJ busted out of his slump that had him at .265 at one point with a double, a homer, and a triple in that order. He was not able to get the single, but drove in five runs.

- Salty got the start at DH and had his first extra base hit, predictably a double, and drove in a run.

- According to the announcers, Andruw Jones was scratched with a sore back. Oddly, when the lineup was originally announced, it was Brian McCann in Andruw's usual cleanup spot with Andruw demoted to sixth. Was his back hurting or his ego? Guess we'll find out tomorrow.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Red Sux 13, Atlanta 3

Game Notes...

- The Braves have lost five of six and if they do not win tonight's double header conclusion, it is time to sound the panic alarm. It may still be May, but you can lose a division in May and the Mets do not look like a team that is going to let up anytime soon.

- The marks I had in my last column will take a dive. Anthony Lerew went two innings, 48 pitches, and 13 batters. In that time, he gave up five hits, walked two (one intentional), surrendered a lucky amound of just three runs, and served up a pair of homers. His ERA rests at 7.71 and sadly, that is the third highest of the six pitchers the Braves used today. Just the third!

- The Indian gave in and gave up a Grannie. Apparently Bobby wanted to see how high his ERA could get jacked up. Chad Paronto is the Veggie Burrito now as he doesn't have enough beef to get any outs anymore. I think he's afraid to let loose.

- Only Villy and the Aussie thrrew scoreless innings. They are the heroes. Nobody went longer than Lerew's two innings and we have another game tonight? I have to believe someone is getting called up. Hell, right now, I'll take Tanyon Sturtze getting his chance.

- The Braves had a nice seventh inning and eight shitty innings. Chipper Jones doubled and after Andruw Jones grounded out (as he was in the process of another 0-for-4 day), Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled in Andruw and jogged home on a Jeff Francoeur jack. Salty had two hits after replacing McCann when the score got a little nuts while Francoeur had three. Renty had three. Hell, we had ten hits, but only Chipper's double and Francoeur's homer went for extra bases. Until the seventh, we couldn't even get a runner to second.

- Oh, and the Mets are winning. Super! I need a hug.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Numbers to Chew On

In the 18 games that Tim Hudson and John Smoltz have started, they have averaged about 7 innings a game (125.1 ING total). Huddy himself is averaging 7.1 ING.

In the other 23 games, the Braves are averaging a shred over 5 innings (116 total). The poorest mark belongs to Redman the Indian. 4 ING a pop. Lerew averages about 4.2 ING, but he has just two starts. James clicks in right at 5.1 ING while Davies has been slightly better, but still is ultimately at 5.1 ING.

Meanwhile, both Yatesy and Soriano are on pace for 78 innings and around 80 games.

We may have a problem.

AJC: We Like to Show We're Idiots

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution bugs me. Beyond Dave O'Brien's inability to make a convincing argument, his colleagues are just retarded.

The latest evidence comes in the form of Carroll Rogers. I am not sure whether Carroll is a woman or a guy with a girl's name, but he/she (maybe it is a transvestite?) wrote an article titled "Does Smoltz have Hall of Fame credentials?"

Does he?

Here is a pretty easy way to establish that. No player in the history of the game has saved 150 saves and won 200 games. Nobody. Dennis Eckersley came close and he seems pretty convinced that Smoltzie is a Hall of Famer.

Smoltz is also going to become the 16th player in history to strike out 3,000 batters. Of those who have, six players have not been elected to the Hall of Fame. Five are active and of those five, four are easily in the Hall (Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, and Pedro Martinez). Curt Schilling may also be in. The only retired player who is not in the Hall is Bert Blyleven. It is a great argument that he deserves election. The only thing hurting Bly is the fact he never won a Cy Young, nor was even a Cy Young runnerup and only got real love from the baseball writers in 1984. Still, Bly should be in the Hall, especially when the Hall in 2000 put Tony Perez in the Hall. Perez was a good player, but a Hall of Famer? Please.

So, Smoltz has the numbers. Does he have the other accolades? Well, he does have a Cy Young Award and has been to seven All-Star games. He has also is the only player to win a Cy Young as a starter and a Rolaids Relief award as a reliever. Every other player who has both did both as relievers (Eric Gagne, Steve Bedrosian, Rollie Fingers, and Eckersley). The only thing Smoltz does not have that Fingers and Eck have is an MVP award. However, since the explosion of offense, especially after the juiced ball era, baseball writers are prejudice against pitchers. Johan Santana was the move valuable player in the game last year and he received 114 points, or seventh most. When Smoltz won his Cy Young with an amazing 24-8 record and 276 K's, he received 33 points (finishing 11th). Baseball writers just do not discount the amazing offense numbers that players now reach.

Beyond just the accolades, Smoltz has a huge postseason career to fallback on. In 207 postseason games, he is 15-4 with four saves and 194 K's. His postseason ERA is 2.65. Granted, the increase in postseason action makes it tough to really gauge Smoltz's place in postseason action, he does have 15 postseason wins, best in history. Not nearly as impressive as Whitey Ford's ten World Series wins, but still, impressive. With Tom Glavine and Andy Pettitte, Smoltz is one of a trio of players to reach 200 innings in the postseason. Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux could make it five if their teams get to the playoffs. Smoltz also leads Clemens by 22 K's for the most strikeouts. He ranks 8th in World Series only action. But unlike Glavine and Maddux, or even Randy Johnson, Pettitte, and Clemens; Smoltz is not even close to the most loses in the postseason. Glavine and Maddux combined have 30 postseason loses. The Big Unit and the Rocket? A combined 17 loses.

Smoltz? Four. If you buy into win-loss record, that is damn impressive.

Is Smoltz Hall of Fame bound? Do you really think you need to ask that?

EDIT: Only 14 people have struck out 3,000 batters, not 18. Smoltz would likely become the 16th if Pedro Martinez gets two strikeouts between now and the moment Smoltz reached 3K. I've edited it in the column, but it should be edited here to point that out.

Meet the Sox!

Last thing you want to do when getting ready for the 28-12 Boston Red Sox is to lose three-of-four games to the Washington Nationals of all teams.

The Red Sox lead the AL in runs scored, BB, AVG, and of course, OBP. Beyond that, they lead the AL in ERA. They are probably the best team in baseball right now so can we take two-of-three? Sure, stranger things have happened. After all, the Nats took three-of-four...

Grr, I think I'm not going to stop having nightmares about that for awhile.

Well, the Red Sox are giving the Braves a chance here. Because of Josh Beckett's injury and the Sox decision to overvalue the series with the Yankees by holding Tim Wakefield back, the Sox will start a pair of new pitchers surrounding Saturday's Dice-K start. Maybe by missing Beckett and Wakefield, the Braves will be given a bit more of a chance to win this series.

Course, we have to get past the Red Sox offense. David Ortiz has a 1.023 OPS and Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis are also playing well. So is J.D. Drew, but he's missed the past few games because - surprise, surprise - he was hurt. He was initially going to play the second game of yesterday's double header, but was scratched. If it's anything like the Drew we all know, he'll miss the next 5,000 games with his back boo-boo.

Manny Ramirez has yet to really hit this year (.248/.341/.396). As a fantasy baseball owner of Manny, he can be Manny starting Monday. The Greek God of Walks, Youkilis, is nearly impossible to keep off the bases for an entire game. He scores a lot of runs. Jason Varietek is in the same ballpark and even Dustin Pedroia is hitting well. Their bench is very deep as well with Alex Cora, Willy Mo Pena, Eric Hinske, and Doug Mirabelli.

It all comes down to whether or not we can beat up on Devern Hansack and Kevin Gabbard on Friday and Sunday and keep the lead. See, we did plenty of getting the lead against the Nationals and then doing absolutely nothing after that. With a bullpen of Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, and Brendan Donnelly, if the Braves don't get the lead and keep it, we will not have a shot in the world.

Pitching Matchups
Anthony Lerew vs. Devern Hansack
John Smoltz vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka
Tim Hudson vs. Kevin Gabbard

Gnats 4, Atlanta 3

Game Notes...

- It has taken me about eight or nine hours to write this post so that it would not be filled with hate and disgust at losing 3-out-4 to the Washington Nationals. The friggin' Nationals. Their cleanup hitter is Ryan Church. The .456 career slugging Ryan Church. Oh, and they started Tony Batista and Nook Logan today. And the Braves lose. Shit on a stick, what the hell is going on? My take is that the Braves were not as good as their record made them out to be.

- Yet again, the Braves offense mailed it in. Chipper homered, a towering blast that had NORAD on stand-by because of how far it went, but that was about all of the excitement for the Braves. Salty went 0 for 3, dropping his AVG to .200. Matt Diaz, batting leadoff because Bobby apparently didn't take his meds today, had a pair of singles and even got an RBI, but all told, the Braves managed five hits and one - ONE! - extra base hit. Against Matt Chico. I don't have enough creativity to make shit up like that.

- Chuck James sucked. Oh, he looked decent coming into the fifth inning, but that was only because he hadn't found his complete suckitude. Despite laboring through a horrible fifth inning, Cox again forgot his meds and sent Chuck(ie) out for a sixth inning. It...did...not...go...well. All told, the strikes were there, the quality effort was not. Chad Paronto comes in and faces two hitters and both seem to be Ty Cobb and single on pitches that weren't even strikes.

- Yatesy was golden. 1.2 ING, he walked a batter and got a double play. Peter Moylan Aussie'd up a Kevin Gryboski-esk inning with a base hit and a walk, but no runs.

- The terrible threesome of Billy Traber, Jesus Colome, and Jon Rauch allowed - wait for it - no runners in their three innings.

- Gerry Davis had an interesting strikezone. Borderline calls over the inside, balls. Borderline pitches that aren't even close to the strikezone on the outside, strikes. I felt like Erik Gregg was back from the dead and terrorizing us yet again.

- After the game, the Braves did something that only means they want me to jump off something really tall. They sent down Brayan Pena, after activating him for a game, and promoted Mark Redman. Well, jeez, that will be swell.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Mullet Has Been Cut!

...maybe in more ways than one.

Craig Wilson was cut (via dumbass DOB) and the Braves have decided that Jarrod Saltalamacchia (3 for 12, 1 RBI) should be kept over Wilson's hair.

You will not be missed much.

Gnats 6, Atlanta 4

Game Notes...

- Here is a mathamatical equation, don't try too hard. If you get a flyball and two easy grounders right at the infielders, how many outs is that? Well, if you were the Braves in the fifth inning of tonight's game, that actually equals just two outs. In the fifth, Ryan Langerhans singled off Kyle Davies and thus, Langer is now dubbed Langer The Rally Starter. Jesus Flores, some random Rule 5 pick, then worked his way on via a walk. Christian Guzman followed with a little grounder to second...double play...or not. Kelly Johnson got distracted by a penny or something. Actually, he tried to get a triple play despite there being one out. He hurried, bobbled the ball, and then had to fetch it like a dog. Ronnie Belliard followed with a fielder's choice to bring in Langer. A walk to Ryan Zimmerman followed before Ryan Church doubled on Davies' biggest mistake of the game. The Braves entered the inning leading 4-2. They exited the inning losing 6-4.

- And the offense apparently was employing Derek Bell because it was on Operation Shutdown. After the lead was given up, they managed a KJ single to open the seventh. That's about it. Facing the incredible Ray King, Winston Abreu, Saul Rivera, Chad Cordero, and Jon Rauch. Good job, team!

- Davies looked great. For about four innings. Zimmerman is getting hot and hit some good pitches off of him, but beyond that, Davies had his best stuff. He gave up six runs, but two were earned, in 4.2 ING.

- The bullpen stepped up to keep it close. Chad Paronto walked the first batter he faced, but he finished the fifth, Villy set down all six batters he faced, and Wickmoo got into his first game and set his guys down as well.

- The Braves were officially sold. Fuckadoodledoo.

- And finally, looks like Gonzo is hurt. Now, we have Macay McBasesOnBalls (credit: Jenny). Could we have had any good news today? Just a little? Oh, yeah, Chipper was back in the lineup. Good to see he avoided the DL.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Atlanta 6, Gnats 2

Game Notes...

- Bob Wickman was activated and Kevin Barry sent down with Bobby Cox expressing that Wickmoo was his man in the ninth. Enjoy it now, Blob Thickman because the Braves saw all they needed from Rafael Soriano to know that next year, he will be the closer. Fatty Wickfatty just doesn't inspire much confidence.

- Edgar Renteria had his second two-homer game of the year in the victory. He was batting third because Chipper still has sore wrists. I've had sort wrists before, though the product of that may have differed. Renty went 3 for 5 with 3 runs scored and 3 RBIs. And my chopnation friend KB said that having him hit third was a bad idea. Bwahahaha

- Tim Hudson brought a perfect game into the fifth before he seemed to lost his effectiveness for an inning. For some reason, he seems to do this every start. If he throws six innings, five were good. If he throws eight innings, seven were good. This time, he throws seven and six were good. All except the fifth when he had a few fullcounts and walked Brian Schneider before Robert Fick singled to first. That play, though, probably should have been an out. Somewhere, Lou Brown was telling Scott Thorman to stop his "o'lay" bullshit and get in front of the damn ball. Ryan Langerhans stepped in and Huddy had him 0-2 on inside fastballs, which Langer just can't hit right now. McCann called another and had it been there, Langer probably K's. It was over the plate and Langer served it to left for an RBI single. But beyond that, Huddy allowed just a hit and struck out four while inducing 14 grounders on the day.

- The Braves as a team induced 16 grounders and struck out five. Damn good work.

- Gonzo looked bad, though. He was checked for an injury and didn't throw his fastball. Gotta wonder what's up with him. Soriano, on the other hand, looked awesome in getting the last four outs. He's a monster.

- Francoeur can't hit a fastball with velocity. He's the anti-Pedro Serrano. Two Major League references in the same post? And they thought it couldn't be done...

- The tag line for the Nationals this year is "Pledge Your Allegiance to the Nationals." Every time I hear Don Sutton say that, I want to have him brought up on treason charges.

The Crazy NL East

So far, through the first 45 days of the season, this is how the division has gone between the Braves and Mets as the division frontrunners.

Braves by two games: One day
Braves by a game and a half: One day
Braves by a game: Four days
Braves by a half-game: Fifteen days
Tie between Mets and Braves: Ten days
Tie between Mets, Braves, and Marlins: One day
Tie between Mets and Marlins: One day
Mets by a half-game: Nine days
Mets by a game: Three days

Braves have led the division for 21 days.

Mets have led the division for 12 days.

The biggest control of the lead was five days, twice done by the Atlanta Braves between 4/8 and 4/12 along with 4/14 and 4/18.

The Mets' biggest control of the division was four days, set 4-23 to 4/26.

The Braves and Mets passed the lead back-and-forth for six straight days between 4/18 and 4/23.

The Braves and Mets were tied for the division lead for a season-high four straight days between 5/6 and 5/9.

...hmm, could be a long and stressful year.

Gnats 2, Braves 1

Game Notes...

- I did not pay attention much to this game. Had some family over and played baseball with my nephew and a few of my nieces (oddly, I hit LH, which I never remember doing). Beyond that, the season finale of How I Met Your Mother was on at 8:00 while 24 was on at 9:00. And like yesterday, I was pretty damn happy I didn't watch the game via my sports network MASN.

- Don Sutton's on MASN and God, I am so happy we don't have to hear that old cracker every game. If I hear one more damn story about the Dodgers, I am going to kneecap the jerrycurl.

- Of course, the big news for the Braves was John Smoltz dislocating his right pinky. Thankfully, he did not break the finger or he would have missed a month or two and the Braves would be down to Tim Hudson and a bunch of guys. Kind of like last year when it was John Smoltz and a bunch of guys. That...did not...go well.

- Of course, the biggest news baseball-wise was Jason Effin Bergmann almost throwing a damn no hitter. Let me get this straight...against the Braves, Bergmann does his best Brandon Webb impression (1-1, 1.53 ERA against the Braves) and suddenly, the Braves can't do anything. Luckily, Brian McCann did his "I'm going to hit a homer off you" thing that he does so well or on ESPN, we would be hearing about his life story and all that jazz. God knows that would cut into whatever Derek Jeter is thinking about.

- Yatesy rocked again. I honestly have trouble finding a pitcher in this pen once Wickmoo returns that I do not like. Maybe Villy. I've always been kind of unimpressed by El Vulture.

- I miss Langer. I don't give a damn he whiffed on the suicide squeeze. He was my guy, man. I probably would have gone gay for him.

- I'm going to watch a lot of porn right now...Chasey Lain, make me forget about Langer.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Raw Numbers #28

It's Monday so that means another Raw Numbers column for Chopnation.com. Today's subject: How bad is Andruw doing really? Well, according to the numbers, not that bad. Not that bad indeed.

Here is the teaser. You can view the entire article by clicking here
As the Braves travel to Washington to take on the Nationals, Andruw Jones is carrying a .229 average and has down numbers in almost every department, or so we are left to believe. In game threads and ballparks alike, Andruw’s inability to seemingly be consistent this year is turning each at-bat he has into a little bit of torture to watch. But I am here to tell you one simple thing. He is not doing that bad.

Meet the Nats!

Four game series are too long. I guess one positive is that the Nats will see our four best pitchers (according to rotation rank, I suppose) so we should be able to shake off that 13-2 loss to the Pirates. Getting Chipper back would help, but he is no definite to play tomorrow in the first game against...

Jason Bergmann. On April 12th, he matched up with John Smoltz and allowed a hit over six innings before the pitch count got him. He'll get Smoltz again and Bergmann is still chasing his first win, despite a 3.07 ERA. He walks quite a few batters so don't be surprised if control problems get him early.

The Nats are without their two best starters, though John Patterson has yet to pitch like it. Patterson is on the DL and Shawn Hill is not there yet, but he probably will be headed there before Tuesday's start when Jerome Williams will be activated. Hill tossed five no-hit innings and then his arm went dead.

The Nats are hot, coming off a sweep of the Marlins that stopped an eight game slide and they are riding their first winning streak of the year. None the less, they cannot hit. In 37 games, they have scored all of 118 runs, or 3.2 runs a game. They batting average is under .240 for God's sake. Smoltz and Hudson should have no problem with them and James and Davies are pitching in winnable games, but we can take nothing for granted.

It's important to win this series. God knows we don't want to go into Fenway with a split.

Will be nice to see Ryan Langerhans. Since his trade from the A's, Langer is 4 for 14 with 3 runs scored and a double. Hope he gets some starts. Since his trade, he has started four games in center, including the last two.

Pitching matchups
John Smoltz vs. Jason Bergmann
Tim Hudson vs. Jerome Williams
Kyle Davies vs. Larry Speigner (first start)
Chuck James vs. Matt Chico

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Jack Sparrow 13, Atlanta 2

Game Notes...

- What a good day to not watch a game. With Mother's Day responsibilities taking up most of my day, I saw small parts of the game (oddly, some of the two-run fifth) and did not have to see the Braves just put up a weak effort.

- Anthony Lerew showed that he was not perfect. You always worry about a kid trying to do too much. Not only was Tony trying to show he had the stuff of his first start, he was doing it with 40 or so friends and family. The result was pretty abysmal, though Peter Orr didn't help matters. Of course, Tony could have helped matters by throwing more strikes. He barely broke 50% on his strikes count and walked three batters.

- The bullpen's long guys showed their worst. El Vulture was charged with three runs before Kevin Barry (did you remember he was on the team?) served up a half-dozens runs in just two innings, taking the hit. He was throwing strikes, but when you do not have any stuff to speak of, major league hitters are going to blast it.

- The one thing that did bug me was that Craig Wilson was not put in the game at some point. If he can't play left, move Harris to center or second and get Thor in left. It just annoys me that Bobby played Andruw and Francoeur the entire game. Little thing, I know, but why risk injury?

- Speaking of Harris, or The Truth (as he is known at Chopnation.com, he committed one of the sins I hate. Stealing third base with productive hitters at the plate. I realize the pluses of a runner at third and one out - grounder, wild pitch, passed ball, balk score the runner - but when you have the solid hitting Edgar Renteria at the plate, why chance it? Renty has the ability to get you home from second. This seems to be an epidemic in baseball today of idiots trying to steal third. Felipe Lopez and Shane Victorino both ran their teams into a short inning this year against the Braves. Just aggravating.

- Chipper didn't play and there is a chance he could a few games of the Nationals series. Series preview will be posted later today. Second straight week we have had a four game series.

Gonzo = Big Bully

All smiles for Gonzo: As he was preparing to exit the bullpen to pitch the bottom of the ninth on Friday night, Mike Gonzalez was showered with appreciation from the Pittsburgh faithful that saw him convert each of his 24 save opportunities for the Pirates last year.

"I showed you with the first hitter what my emotions were all about," said Gonzalez, who, in January, was traded to the Braves in exchange for Adam LaRoche.

After getting LaRoche to ground into a double play, Gonzalez notched the save with a strikeout of his good friend Ronny Paulino.

As Paulino walked toward the plate, he playfully told Gonzalez to tuck his gold chain into his jersey. This prompted the Braves left-handed reliever to think about plunking his former Pirate battery mate. But fear of ejection prevented him from doing so.

"I was thinking about buzzing his tower or something for being a punk," Gonzalez said. "But I had fun with it. It was all good. I knew he wasn't going to get a hit off me anyhow."


I like that. "I knew he wasn't going to get a hit off me anyhow." There is something about that which is so prickish yet fun. I imagine if he was on a different team, I would not enjoy him saying something like that.

But that's why he's a Brave. Bwah.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Atlanta 9, Jack Sparrow 2

A few game notes as I'm tired and groggy...I didn't see the game, just listened to it and watched gameday...

- Chuck James seemed like the Chuckie of last year. Pop-ups, easy outs, and frustrating hitters with his "stuff." He gets the Nationals next and if he performs well against them, it will be interesting how he performs against a real team.

- A real team because these Pirates aren't even playing. You have Jose Castillo bitching about playing time - hitting .188 this year with a career OBP of .299 isn't a way to endear yourself, dumbass. You have Jason Bay not even bothering to chase after a foul ball and then over-running a single. Tony Armas sucks, true, but it is hard to pitch when your team isn't playing to win anyway. A real embarrassment to baseball. At least the Nationals try.

- Back to James, he had a perfect game until the sixth and a no-hitter until the seventh. Did I think he would do it? Not really, but everytime the Braves took the field, I went back to where I was sitting the previous inning until James finally gave up a hit.

- Scott Thorman will probably never be a high average guy, but does this Canadian ever have power. Thor jacked two homers and drove in five.

- Willie "The Truth" Harris had four hits (and oddly, two extra base hits). Seriously, someone ask him who he is and what he did to the real Willie Harris who couldn't hit a barn with an elephant (heard today in Mask, a good 80's flick).

- Finally, the Braves kept Chipper on the bench to rest his wrists and quad after yesterday's hurdle. And yet...the Braves scored nine times without him. Doesn't matter who the team is and who is on the mound, when you score nine times without your three hitter, you gotta add a mini-"yay" to the equation.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Atlanta 4, Jack Sparrow 1

Game Notes...

- It's amazing how a potentally great play can turn into a terrible result. With two outs, Chipper Jones sent a 1-0 drive to right-center. Xavier Nady, hardly an accomplished center fielder, caught it briefly, but the ball was dropped as he smashed into the wall. Zach Duke was trying to keep a 1-0 lead, but he left a fastball over the middle of the plate and Andruw Jones murdered it to deep center for a two-run homer. Duke did the exact same thing to Jeff Francoeur on his next pitch and the result was exactly the same as well. The Braves would add a fourth run on a Scott Thorman double, but had Nady made that catch, the inning would have been over.

- It would have been over for Kyle Davies' first victory in over a year, too. He was very solid, throwing seven innings and allowing seven hits. He only threw 87 pitches and 58 of them were strikes. 18 of the 27 batters he faced saw a first pitch strike. Of the nine who didn't, 33% of them came in the second inning; the one inning he looked like the Davies of the last year-and-half. Beyond that, he looked like a guy with the potential to be a consistent major league starter.

- The fourth inning was very strange. Chipper Jones nearly killed himself trying to hurdle Jose Bautista. The heart of each Braves fan got caught in their throat before Chipper said he was okay. Still think he should have been called out, but I will take it.

- Kerwin Danley is a shitty umpire. This is all.

- Andruw Jones...en fuego. Hit a homer, robbed Xavier Nady of a probable extra base hit, and simply looked like the Andruw we love rather than the Andruw we hate.

- Big first win. Winning the first game of the series is how you win series-after-series and the Braves keep doing that well.

Fun With Numbers

- 18 MLB players have walked 20 or more times. Atlanta is the only tteam to have three players (Kelly Johnson - 29, Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones - 24). Of those 18, all but seven have more walks than strikeouts and of those eleven, the Braves (KJ and Chipper) and the Tigers (Gary Sheffield and Carlos Guillen) are the only teams witht wo players.

- Jeff Francoeur is on pace for 23 homeruns, six less than last year. Despite that, his IsoSLG is the exact same (.189) as last year. The value of doubles is huge. Last year, he doubled 24 times. So far this year, he is at ten, tying him with Chipper, Andruw, and Brian McCann for tops on the team.

- Francoeur's K rate remainds high (22% after 20.3% last year), but his walk rate has more than doubled from his 3.4% last year to 7.7%.

- Mac's power has taken a nosedive. After hitting .240 in IsoSLG last year, he is down to .258. He's also striking out more. Hopefully, that finger gets better real quick.

- Willie Harris has had a massive impact thus far. Though he can't get an extra base hit to save his life. In general, there is not a category he isn't having his best season in, though it's ten games.

And in general, it is way too early to take anything from these numbers...but damn are they ever fun.

ARRR, meet the Pirates!

Everytime pirates come up in discussion, I am forced to think of the fake pirate from Dodgeball.

The Braves head on a lengthy road trip that begins in Pittsburgh with the 14-18 faux Pirates. Pirates of old would steal and plunder. These Pirates will not do a whole lot to impress you. So far this year, Jason Bay and Xavier Nady have provided some slugging and otherwise, they would have nothing because Adam LaRoche has been about 50% worse than your average player. Pretty bad. Nonetheless, he is starting to show some life. In the past six games, he is hitting .318 with a couple of doubles, but nothing to indicate he has shaken the early season struggles.

Ryan Doumit is pushing his way into the lineup. In 15 games this year, he is hitting .425/.489/.725. For any fantasy players, he is a great pickup (I have him) and has been starting games at catcher, first, and right field. The Pirates can ill-afford to keep him out of the lineup. Aside from Nady and Bay, only Jose Bautista has a slugging over .400 and he's hardly a power hitter. He does lead the Pirates with 11 doubles.

How have they even won 14 games? Well, playing in the NL Central helps. Having Tom Gorzelanny and Ian Snell also helps out. We will miss Gorzo, but Snell will start Sunday against Anthony Lerew. He is among lead leaders in ERA (2.35) and K's (36). We will also see former phenom Zach Duke (1-3, 5.50) and Tony Armas Jr. (0-2, 7.94)...who is apparently still in the big leagues. I was surprised, too.

The bullpen has some decent arms in Matt Capps and Damaso Marte. Shawn Chacon takes care of the long relief, but Salomon Torres is definitely no sure thing in the ninth. He has saved his last five chances, but before that, blew three of his first nine chances.

Ultimately, the Braves should be able to extend their series win streak to five straight after losing their first series of the year to the Marlins (damn you, Wickmoo!).

Pitching Matchups:
Kyle Davies vs. Zach Duke
Chuck James vs. Tony Armas Jr.
Anthony Lerew vs. Ian Snell

Thursday, May 10, 2007

ATLANTA 5, A Whale's Vagina 3

Game Notes...

- Atlanta takes a four game set with three straight wins in which San Diego managed all of seven runs in the loses.

- Wins and loses for pitchers are completely worthless. Tim Hudson looks great over three starts and goes eight innings in each go-around to find out he was 0-1 in those starts. He gives up nine hits in six innings and generally did not look very good and he gets the win. Yeah, big w00t. Hudson probably could have gone longer, but his spot came up in the sixth and Willie Harris got the call. He walked to bring up Kelly Johnson and KJ made a "winner" of Hudson. Hudson also got nailed right around the wrist by a hot shot up the middle, but stayed in and x-rays were negative. He's 4-1 now.

- Mike Gonzalez got the day off, but Rafael Soriano was in his third straight save and picked up his fifth save. His stuff was obviously a little less than usual, but damn kid, he's got skills. He was still hitting the mid-90's. In other news, Jon Cooper of Atlantabraves.com is reporting Bob Wickman will be ready to return off the DL on Tuesday. I am still hoping Bobby Cox will not use Wickman has his only option in the ninth.

- Yatesy was filthy...straight up filthy in his one frame. Josh Bard became his little widdle bitch in the catcher's at-bat. By the way, I will miss Bard. The Braves swiped another base today and Willie had a few steals taken away because KJ had to swing to stay alive.

- For the second time this series, the Padres defense turned a flyball out into a double, this time helping Chris Woodward to his first. Going to miss that, too.

- Woody was starting for Edgar Renteria. Apparently, Renty has the full week flu, which makes me want to apologize for thinking his "flu" was just a bad hangover. I know a lot about the latter.

- Andruw Jones only had one hit, but he remains locked in.

- I really hate Chip Carey. Puns should only be used by those who can not look like a moron when they use them. That's not you, Carey.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

ATLANTA 3, A Whale's Vagina 2

Game Notes...

- How great was this game? I broke a sweat jumping up and down in the ninth and I'm listening to the radio feed and watching the GameDay. Man, what a game. People say baseball isn't fast enough or exciting enough and all I can say is...if you can love a team, you will find out just how exciting it can be.

- In the battle of Smoltz vs. Maddux, it was all Maddux for the first five innings. However, in the sixth, Maddux misplayed what should have been a play that he is capable of making. The play was ruled a single, but it was an error. Andruw Jones, who was credited a single, stole second, but was stranded after Maddux was replaced by Cla Meredith. Possibly going to Meredith in the 6th led to Meredith looking not quite as solid in the seventh. The Braves took full advantage. Meanwhile, John Smoltz made a mistake to Geoff Blum, but looked pretty good. He gave up five hits early, but settled down to allow seven hits in the entire game.

- Ya know, the Braves typically don't make baserunning mistakes and it comes up big in close games. Yesterday, Chipper had a brain fart, but that does not happen typically. Twice in this game, the Padres ran into outs and Jeff Francoeur picked up two assists because of it. In a 3-2 game, you end up losing when you do that.

- Once again...Wickman who? Stay hurt, Bob, I'm pretty happy with the Gonzo/Soriano mix that is set up by matchups.

- Andruw Jones and Willie Harris both had two hit games. One is on the best streak of his career, the other is getting hot. But it's nice to have speed in the lineup.

- Brian McCann might be in his worst struggling period of his major league career right now.

- And hey, I get to have the same title in two straight posts. Well, as long as I can start it with the city in Georgia, I am a pretty happy guy.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

ATLANTA 3, A Whale's Vagina 2

- Anthony Lerew looked damn good. Unlike previous years, he is pitching more than just throwing. He got rid of his splitter and adapted a sinker. The latter forced him to stay within himself because when you overthrow a sinker, it straightens out and gets plastered. He does muscle up to near his former velocity for strikeouts, but he stays more in the high 80's and lower 90's with his sinker. He also has a nasty change and a hard curve or slider. He only gave up two hits, but they both went a decent amount of distance. Nonetheless, Lerew was pretty surprising.

- Andruw Jones is coming out of his struggle. His RBI single in the 8th went to right-center. If he can do that with a little consistency (he's never going to go the opposite way), you can put up some huge numbers on the board for him. For fantasy leagues, it's time to buy low.

- Edgar Renteria is one of the best natural hitters I have ever seen. Too bad he's not much of a defender.

- Yatesy looked good coming out of the pen. He absolutely destroyed Russ Branyan's bat and looked a lot like the Yatesy before his recent struggles.

- Seriously, why do we need one closer when we have Gonzo and Soriano?

- By the way...I hate Mitch Evans on the Atlanta Braves Radio Network. He just doesn't seem to do much research in his off-radio time and comes off pretty weak when he hits the air. Last night, he said Chad Cordero was the Brewers closer and today, he kept saying this was the major league debut for Lerew. Simple things, I know, but if I can do the job better, shouldn't I get the job? Dammit.

- Um...go Giants! They are losing 3-0 early, though. Looks like the Braves and Mets may be tied yet again.

Chuckie's Problem

Every major league pitcher is going to struggle. Not every major league pitcher will have a clear problem staring at you in the face when they struggle. However, as is usually the case, Chuck James is not your normal pitcher. On the other hand, there is a clear specific problem to Chuck James this year that was not present last year.

Or was it?

Last year, Chuck James was forgotten in the Rookie of the Year voting because he was not a Marlin, but he was a productive rookie nonetheless. He pitched with confidence and effectiveness. This year has been a different story. He may still be pitching with confidence, but his effectiveness has gone down tremendously. Simply put, he is not getting ahead of batters.

How bad is it? Last year, 60% of his first pitches to batters went for strikes. The average since 2005 is 58% so he was a bit better than league average. Common sense tells you that first pitch strikes lead to shorter at-bats and hitters on their heels.

This year, 47% of his first pitches are strikes. Longer at-bats are the product and the more pitches you throw, the higher the chance you will make a mistake and put a pitch you do not want it to be. Even Kyle Davies is throwing exactly half of his first pitches for strikes and that sucks for him.

Nonetheless, I am not sure this is a new problem. James has always struck me as a nibbler. He does not give in, but he does not the stuff to not give in. To me, he is a lefthanded version of Trey Hodges.

The Braves starting rotation needs more at the top of the staff.

Monday, May 7, 2007

A Whale's Vagina 4, ATLANTA 2

Game Notes...

- First, it was confirmed on the post-game show that Anthony Lerew will get the start tomorrow. He is 1-0 in five starts with a 1.37 ERA and in his last two games, he has thrown 13.2 innings without allowing an earned run. Lerew just doesn't impress me too much, but who can impress me less than Mark Redman? Oh, yeah, I did a column about that.

- I have never been a fan of Chuck James. I mean, it is all fun when we make Chuck Norris-themed comments about how awesome Chuckie could be, but when you watch him, you see a guy you never really look at if you are looking for a consistent pitcher. James gets by on guts and guile, but he has no out pitch. The Padres have a veteran lineup, especially the top of the lineup (which counted for most of the production). Match the two and you get a very touch game for James. I really don't see James as a long-term option in the rotation and probably never will. Stuff kills. Not having stuff will kill you.

- Chris Woodward had two hits (including a gift triple) and Willie Harris had a hit. Kelly Johnson, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur, and Scott Thorman...no hits, a walk, and a HBP. Ick.

- Peter Moylan may be my favorite pitcher other than Rafael Soriano in that bullpen. Apparently, Moylan is Australian for gooooood.

- Think Texas wishes they had Chris Young back? I know I do.

- Finally, the worst part of having J-Salt on the bench is that you do not even use him. Someone suggested that the Braves should deal Brayan Pena and put J-Salt on the bench. You do not use your backup catcher as a pinch hitter unless you have to. As such, you're wasting a good bat.

Raw Numbers #27

I just posted the latest edition of my chopnation blog, Raw Numbers.

Excerpt: "After a freak double injury of both Brian McCann and Brayan Pena, the Braves had a decision to make. Do we make a move toward the veteran catcher who will never hit (Corky Miller) or go with the young hotshot catcher who has been blistering the ball (Jarrod Saltalamacchia)? Fortunately for me, at least both names can make me chuckle."

You can find a direct link here

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Meet the Padres!

They are not your friends. If the Padres were an ice cream flavor, they'd be pralines and dick.

Game on!

The San Diego Padres come into town at 17-14 and winners of four of five, including their two more recent series against the Washington Nationals and Florida Marlins. However, now they get to face a real team. And on most nights, they will face a real pitcher. It's just that TBA guy on Tuesday that could be a problem.

Could be a TBA Girl. That would be cool. Or a T&A Girl. That would be better.

The Padres have been unable to get going. They are trying to get to four games over .500 for the third time this year and first since being 12-8 after the AARP matchup of David Wells vs. Randy Johnson (BYOP - Bring Your Own Prunes). Since then, they are an average 5-6, including two loses to the Dodgers. The very same team the Braves just took 2 out of 3 from.

Not that the Braves have been unbeatable either. Since starting 7-1, they are 12-10. However, while the Braves haven't been rolling along with an everpresent smile on their collective faces, they have been getting series wins. The series win over the Dodgers gave them three straight and puts their series talley at 7-1-3. They are a Wickman blow-up away from a perfect 8-0-3 with all three ties in two-game series.

The Padres have two big problems right now. One problem, the Braves can sympathize with. In David Wells and Clay Hensley, you have a combined 2-4 record and a 6.78 ERA. While Jake Peavy, Greg Maddux, and Chris Young have all been as advertised, they have been unable to get solid work from the backend of their rotation, mostly due to the fact that the easiest out is a strikeout and these two can't strikeout a depressed Ryan Langerhans. Hensley was placed on the DL and the Braves will face Justin Germano, a 2000 13th rounder who is back in the Pads' organization after spending 2006 with the Reds. In nine career games, six starts, he is 1-3 with an 8.04 ERA.

Like I said, they have two problems and the other is a problem the Braves cannot sympathize with because the Braves simply do not have this problem. The Padres offense is bad. Third sacker, Kevin Kouzmanoff, is having a dog ugly year, batting .115/.174/.205. His adjusted OPS is 4. The league average is 100. You can look at Kouzmanoff and say he is 96% worse than the league average. Chew on that.

Not everybody is that bad. In fact, the Pads have a good lineup if you remove half of the potentional batting slots. Adrian Gonzalez is smashing everything he sees, Jose Cruz found the fountain of youth or HGH and is hitting .342, and the Giles brothers are hitting a collective .301. However, the Giles brothers have a combined three homers. Mike Cameron, who is a special person, has a better OBP (at .278) than SLG (checking in at .269).

Hmmmm...pitchers are getting a stiffy looking at these numbers.

But the Braves will get challenged. While they will miss All-World hurler Jake Peavy, they will see Chris Young and Greg Maddux. Both pitchers bring interesting stories. In the case of Young, the Braves have wore his ass out. In three starts, he is 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA. Yes, thats right. The only team he has a worse ERA against is the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and that was just one start in which he went 3.1 ING. He has never pitched in Turner Field, too, which is a bit more hitter fiendly than PETCO.

Of course, Maddux returns to his old stomping grounds and John Smoltz gets matched-up with yet another old buddy. Since leaving the Braves, he has faced his old team twice, including once at Turner Field. The results were not pretty. In 2004 at Wrigley, the Braves pounded out seven hits, six runs, a pair of jacks, and a walk off Maddux. He struck out four and, showing the uselessness of the win stat, picked up a W. In 2005, this time at the Ted, the Braves again berated Maddux over six innings, scoring five times and getting a win of their own. He did strike out six. He is hoping for good results and a win and I am hoping the Braves destroy him.

The Padres bullpen started very hot and while Scott Linebrink and Tevor Hoffman have had their struggles, this is still a very good bullpen. Heath Bell, practically a give-away by the Mets, has been unhittable (though so was Chin-hui Tsao).

There is a very good chance the Braves will at least get the split. The pitching matchups do benefit them on at least one day. Should be a fun series, but obviously, Wednesday is the best game from a fan standpoint.

Pitching Matchups
Monday - Chris Young vs. Chuck James
Tuesday - Justin Germano vs. TBA
Wednesday - Greg Maddux vs. John Smoltz
Thursday - David Wells vs. Tim Hudson

Series Tid-Bits
- Tuesday's start continues to be up for grabs. According this Braves.com report, it could be anyone. Oscar Villarreal seems like the easy option considering Bobby Cox's confidence in him and the four starts he logged last year. In those four starts, he gave up 18 hits in 18 innings and walked three while striking out ten. Kevin Barry has been decent at AAA, but he impressed me little last year with his stuff. You can look bad, but still show great stuff (see Kyle Davies). Barry looked bad with no stuff. The other good AAA option would be Anthony Lerew, who is the most convenient option at Richmond. He has been decent (his ERA is better than his pitching performance), the 8th would be his regular day, and he's on the 40 man roster already.
- The left-side of the Padres infield might be the only SS/3B combo that has less range than Renty/Chipper. Khalil Greene is pretty average at short, but Kousmanoff is practically a statue at third.

Greatness Starts With Luck

The bottom of the 7th between the Dodgers and Braves today came down to essentially the old cliche - a game of inches. It defined the game and decided the winner of the series between division leaders. Here is my play-by-play recap:

The Dodgers go to Chin-hui Tsao, who proves the adage that many pitchers have lived by since 1993. Life is pretty sweet away from the Mile High City. It is unfortunate that Denver, as pretty as it always seems to be, is such a death sentence for a pitcher, but oh well. Go to Los Angles, land of Dodger Stadium, a lovely location to be a pitcher. Tsao was certainly enjoying it. Nine games, 10.2 scoreless innings, and one hit allowed. He was like Bill Clinton at a Hooters...he had found paradise.

The Braves, starting Matt Diaz in left, sent Willie Harris up to face Tsao. The two battled to a 2-1 count when the fouls began. Four straight. Tsao, needing to push Harris back, came in on him, hoping to set him up for a breaking ball. It broke and it appeared to be very close, but Harris started to run to first, hoping and praying it was ball four. Home plate umpire Sam Holbrook, who was highly inconsistent on the outside pitch, called ball four. Inches away from the first out, Harris was on.

Kelly Johnson stepped in, 0 for 4. Again Tsao got ahead and went inside to set up an outside pitch. However, this time, it was an outside fastball and KJ was all over it, serving a single to left. However, Luis Gonzalez was so focused on Harris, he failed to attack the ball and get it back to the infield. KJ took advantage and had himself a double instead. Edgar Renteria stood in the box and looked flatout ugly as he fell behind 1-2, but Renty is a good hitter (don't ya know?) and did what he does as well as anyone. Took the outside pitch away and sent it to the right-center gap. His seventh double plating two runs. Would KJ have scored on that double? Possibly.

Jeff Francoeur tried to go the opposite away after falling behind 0-2. They pitched Francoeur properly. Hard fastballs. Four of the five pitches he saw were fastballs. With Francoeur, he will kill breaking stuff (especially weak breaking stuff), but he struggles to get around on high-velocity fastballs. After a coaching visit, they left Tsao in. At that point, I commented in the chopnation forums that he thinks Pedro's out there.

He got a pair of called strikes (sliders perfectly placed on the corner), but three fastballs were not very close. The final pitch, another slider, failed to hit the corner and Andruw Jones was on with a walk. With Renteria and Jones on, Bobby had Matt Diaz due. Well, he had already used Willie, so why not go to the bench, especially when Chipper Jones is sitting there ready to get an at-bat in.

This was a very interesting at-bat. His first four pitches included two sliders and two fastballs. The sliders were called strikes and the fastballs were inside or low. After getting him 2-2, Chipper fouled away a slider he was trying to serve into left. Seeing that Tsao came in on him with a fastball. Chipper started his swing, but held up. Nonetheless, third base coach Bob Davidson rung him up. If you ever want to see Chipper pissed when it has nothing to do with Hooters, look at how pissed he was when Davidson made that horseshit called. Both Chipper and Bobby were ejected.

Scott Thorman pinch hit for Craig Wilson and Grady Little stuck with Tsao. Had Little been using Ramon Martinez at second, the inning would be over and it would be 4-3 heading to the 8th. As it was, Thor went around an outside slider and pulled it between Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra. The single scored Renty easily.

Finally, Little had enough and took Tsao out. Chad Billingsley got the call and maybe Jarrod Saltalamacchia and he seemed to know what was coming (might have seen him in the minors or something) because he jumped all over the first pitch he saw, lining a single to right to make it 5-4.

Even Chris Woodward of all people got into it. He took a hanger toward center for an RBI single to bring in Thor.

Game of inches, people. The Willie Harris walk, Gonzo not charging the ball and getting it back to the infield during KJ's double, the walk to Andruw Jones, the Chipper strikeout, and Kent's inability to get to the ball.

Clutch? Nah. Great players and a little luck.

ATLANTA 6, Los Angeles Braves 4

Game Notes...

- Big, Huge, Gigantic win for the Atlanta Braves. With the D'Backs incapable of beating even Jorge Sosa, getting a come-from-behind win against a damn good bullpen is important, no matter what time of the year. Yes, the division is not won in April or May, but it can be lost and the Braves have to stick with the Mets. Scoreboard watching in May is fully acceptable. Dammit, it's mandated. Watch a scoreboard somewhere!

- Kyle Davies overall line (6.2 ING, 6 H, 4 R, 2 BB) looks a lot worse than it actually was. 103 pitches and 63 strikes is huge for him. He's got the major league stuff to be successful at this level, he just has to get ahead of the batters and throw quality strikes. Doesn't every pitcher? Yeah, but most pitchers don't have the stuff Davies does.

- The Supreme Burrito comes in, throws a pitch out, and gets his second win of the week. Continue that and we may have to make you a Seven-Layer Burrito.

- When Wickman returns, I would keep an almost Nasty Boys (circa 1990 Reds) setup. Situation, game usage, etc. sets up who closes, not the title "closer," which is a bullshit title anyway.

- I am going to have to devote an entire post to that five-run seventh.

- Big day for J-Salt. Two hits, his first RBI, and another runners thrown out.

- I am really starting to like Thor. Not enough to keep him from being traded, but enough to not look to go outside the organization for a first baseman.

- I love Skip. "Shut up, duck" when the AFLAC! duck interrupted him during the trivia question...classic!

- Go D'Backs! Win one damn game you dumbasses.

Having the (Dodger) blues...

Rafael Furcal was and is a very flawed player. At times, he seemed to get the Little Man Syndrome and try to show how much of a man he was with big homerun power. Other times, he simply was too nonchalant in the field. But, all players have their little demons. Some have really big demons (see: John Rocker).

However, I never miss Furcal more than when the Dodgers come to town. In the top of the fourth with the Dodgers down by a run, Furcal pushed a bunt toward shortstop and Edgar Renteria, his replacement, had no shot. Maybe he would have been able to get there if his name was Furcal? Eii, who knows. But nonetheless, it was Furcal’s speed and guile that did pretty much what you are always told you cannot possibly do. He stole first. He would later score the game-tying play and the Dodgers would score again to take the lead in the fourth.

In Renty’s defense, he did make a nice play on a Luis Gonzalez groundout that should have probably been turned into two, but Kelly Johnson fumbled with the ball a little, turning the play into an RBI fielder’s choice.

Furcal received a lot of criticism in Atlanta and some of it was justified. Like I said, he did try to turn into a power hitter when he was better suited to use his speed and OBP ability, like he did his first year when he put up an IsoOBP of .099. To put that in context, entering tonight, Kelly Johnson IsoOBP was .149 (a number he is not likely to continue). Furcal had it all in 2000. He stole 40 bases, reached base nearly 40% of the time, and got a Rookie of the Year award because of it.

However, he failed to live up to that particular hype again, though he did have impressive years in 2003 (109 OPS+) and 2005 (100 OPS+) before leaving Atlanta. His defense always looked worse than it really was. Yes, he committed between 23 and 31 errors in four of his first five years, but he was getting to balls you only dreamed of. He was also throwing out people he has no business throwing out.

Not that I do not like Renty and for the money, he is a better player.

I just miss Furcal every now and then.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Los Angles Braves 6, ATLANTA 3

- Strange outing from Tim Hudson. He had one bad inning, seven good ones, and lost. He also tossed just 87 pitches in eight innings and 90% of the time, he will get a W for his effort. The flyballs (eight) are a little high for him, possibly showing an inability to get his breaking stuff working as well as he wanted it, but still, without his best stuff, he was damn good.

- Derek Lowe must have heard me call him mediocre. Oops.

- I have been wrong about Willie Harris so far. Two hits, two stolen bases, a run scored...generally speaking, he was solid. Still think he's a pretty weak defender, but he's not in the lineup because of that.

- Steve Colyer has never been able to consistently get ahead of batters and really shouldn't be in the majors, but I guess Bobby need a lefthander to replace McBaseOnBalls (hat tip to Jenny, I think). When there was consideration at chopnation to keeping him with the team when the season began, I looked at his mediocre stats and hated the option. He's just not that good.

- Dave O'Brien says the Braves hitting is clutch. They went 3 for 15 with runners on and that includes a Diaz infield single where replays show that he was out.

- Scott Thorman gets a double off a lefthander. With Randy Wolf pitching tomorrow, Thorman will likely not play...but that double could make Cox think about the lineup at least for a second.

- Tyler Yates showed why walks can kill you. He got Russell Martin to fight a pitch off his fists, but it still scored a run because of his walk to Jeff Kent with one out.

- Why are saves absolutely useless? Saito comes into a save situation in which his team is winning 6-1. Yes, the bases were loaded, but jeez, he can give up two singles and still pick up a save. Instead, he gives up one single and he Gryboski's a pair of runs. Nicely done.

Friday, May 4, 2007

ATLANTA 4, Los Angeles Braves 0

Game Notes

- McCann back in the lineup. On the Bobby Cox Show, heard via the pregame show on the radio, he said that there are no current plans to move Salty to first or the outfield. Same shit as usual from these guys. God, why would you ever want to move Salty to another position? Nah, keep at catching cause then you have to trade him away. Brilliant!

- Furcal leading off. Ya know, he was never that good of a leadoff hitter, but I always liked him. Short little fast guy. I liked him when he came up a bit more, though. When he was using his speed and eye to his advantage. But man, that arm is nuts. He absolutely burned Renty on what should have been an infield single.

- Anxious to see if Smoltz continues his success from his start against the Rockies. Early on this year, he has struggled once the game got to the fifth/sixth innings. He starts off strong today against the Dodgers with a 1-2-3 first. That strong start would continue to the tune of 7 scoreless innings on 102 pitches. Cox took him out (and that is the right move) and the bullpen finished from there.

- McCann just doesn't look like he can hold onto the bat and shouldn't be in the lineup anyway. No reason to bring him back this quick, is there? He still one-hands a double the other way to make it 2-0 early. Then his buddy walks on four straight. Weird game, I tell you. Good game for him.

- Willie Harris does so little, but somehow, he's been more productive than Langerhans. So frustrating. But more frustrating is how the Braves announcers love Harris's defense. His catch the other night was not even necessary for a diving attempt and tonight, he makes a catch after hesitating cause he was so afraid to take charge.

- Nomar is a good hitter in the clutch, Joe? Well, he's actually a good hitter period. Dumbass. Chip follows that up by saying Brett Tomko did not pitch that badly, but the walks were problematic. The walks were why he did not pitch well.

- Hopefully, Chipper gets Sunday afternoon off. Yeah, Davies is on the mound and we could use more offense, but treat Chipper like a catcher. Day game following a night game = perfect chance to get him some rest.

Bad Bobby!

I like Bobby Cox.

Really, I do.

He seems like a nice guy, fights for his players, and generally puts most of his players in the right position to win. He doesn't tend to care about your age, just how you play.

But he scared the crap out of me when he said this when asked about putting Mark Redman back in the rotation.
"I hope so," Cox said. "I think there is some pitching still there."

Bobby, tell me you're just trying not to come out and say, "God, he sucks ass. Why did Schuerholz give me this piece of shit? What, Jason Shiell was too fucking busy? What about Terrell Wade? Dig him up and he'll be better!"

Here's hoping he was just being nice.