Getting back to work

If you are not complaining, then you are not watching.  Or is it more appropriate to say, if you are not complaining, then you are not blogging?

Whatever the case, even if the Braves had started this season 11-4 (as opposed to 7-8), we’d all still be voicing our concerns about a specific aspect or aspects of the club.  To truly enjoy the splendor of a 162-game season, you basically have to treat every day like a new episode of “24”.

Of course in relation to “24”, we all know that Jack Bauer is going to eventually escape or overcome any and every terrorist attack that he encounters.  In the baseball world, we’re not so sure about tomorrow will bring.

The suspense of this current season has us wondering when Brian McCann might regain his optimal vision and help the slumbering Braves offense to awake.

During the last nine games, the Braves have scored 24 runs (11 in one game), batted .229, recorded a .312 on-base percentage and produced a .345 slugging percentage.   The sample size is too small to provide reason to worry.  But it is somewhat telling to see that left-handed hitters have batted just .181 during this span. 

That number is a direct reflection of the recent struggles encountered by McCann, who has just one hit in the 19 at-bats he’s totaled over the past nine games.  The Braves can only hope that his vision continues to improve to the point that he’s able to prove why many believe he’s the game’s top offensive catchers. 

We’ve all discussed how losing Chipper Jones for an extended period would be a crushing blow to this club’s postseason aspirations.  While this is true, you could argue that McCann’s presence is even more important because his absence directly affects Jones’ potential production. 

As long as opponents are fearing McCann in the cleanup spot, Jones is going to have the necessary protection that will allow him to see good pitches on a regular basis.  

If McCann continues to struggle or is forced to miss time, you’ll either see Jones’ walk total rise or his impatience grow to the point that he’s chasing bad pitches far too often.

In the event that McCann is forced to miss an extended period, Jeff Francoeur might be the best option to fill the cleanup spot.  It would be interesting to see how often opposing pitchers would be willing to challenge him to find out if he truly has turned things around. 

In a team-high 60 at-bats, Francoeur has batted .317 with a .795 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).   As long as he stays patient, the power numbers will increase as the summer progresses and you’ll likely once again see him produce another 100-RBI season.

The most encouraging aspect about Francoeur’s start stems from the fact that he’s hit .471 (8-for-17) with runners in scoring position.  While the sample size is small, there’s at least indication that he’s no longer pressing like he did when he hit .193 with RISP last year.  

(While looking for Francoeur’s stats, I noticed Andruw Jones has five hits in his first six at-bats with RISP.   It’s still amazing to think that Andruw had 128 RBIs while hitting just .207 with RISP in 2005.)

Rotation producing optimism:   Most of the optimism the Braves possessed entering the season centered around their reconstucted rotation.   So far this new group of starters has lived up to expectations.  They rank second in the National Leauge with a 3.27 ERA and the 88 innings they’ve completed are five fewer than the League-leading total completed by the Pirates. 

Javier Vazquez could have won each of his first three starts and Jair Jurrjens has been nothing but impressive since proving fortunate to win his first two outings. Derek Lowe showed his potential dominance on Opening Night and provided more reason to believe he’s at his best during big games.

The only two losses Lowe has incurred during his past 14 starts have occurred at excitement-starved Nationals Park.  But it should be noted that he pitched effectively during both of those outings. 

The Braves haven’t provided any indication that they’re going to promote Tommy Hanson within the next week.  They are in position where they can continue to let the 22-year-old right-hander gain more season at the Minor League level. 

Obviously Hanson has the potential to be a valuable asset during the stretch run and because of this, the Braves haven’t allowed him to exceed the 100-pitch limit during his first three starts with Triple-A Gwinnnett.   Unfortunately because of high pitch counts during the early innings, this has prevented him from completing at least five innings during two of those outings. 

Once Hanson is promoted to the Majors (my best guess remains first week of June), the Braves should have a rotation that would rival the Marlins for the division’s finest.   The Mets haven’t found any consistency behind Johan Santana and the entire Phillies rotation is going to have neck problems before the season is complete. 

Philadelphia’s starters have accounted for 22 of the 31 homers the club has surrendered this year.  Kenshin Kawakami has accounted for three of the seven homers the Braves pitching staff has surrendered this year.

It was nice to have a few days to visit family and relax this week. But it’s time to get back to work and see if the Braves can alter the mood of this road trip, which has so far proven to be forgettable.   

43 Comments

Welcome back Mark!
Question – Assuming our bullpen maintains it’s recent consistency and we hover around the neighborhood of the division lead and hold a realistic wild card spot in late June/July, do you think Wren will be looking to shop some of our depth from our 40 man roster to add a legitimate clean up hitter?
If so, who may be available and would be a good fit to add to our offensive production?

In a division where nobody is going to run and hide, hanging at .500 during spurts of poor play, provided they are only spurts, is a very good thing indeed. If the Braves hang around .500 while they work the roster kinks out, they will begin to creep up the win column when they get the pieces in place. Philly and New York are already showing that their lack of pitching is going to be an issue. Not to mention New York has no flexibility at all with the veteran line up they role out there, so they are pretty much stuck with what they have. I can’t see any team “helping” them fit their line up to their stadium give how much they pay those guys.
Philly is going to have to go deeper for pitching, and they didn’t have 5 real starters in the first place. That means they will probably continue to play slow pitch softball style 12-10 games up there most of the summer.
Florida is the one team that has a chance to build a lead, but their line up other than Ramirez and Uggla really isn’t that daunting either.
It’s going to be a long hard battle this season.
Fun, Fun, Fun…

Welcome back Mark! We’re all anxious to know if G. Anderson will be DL’d today, and if so, who the most likely call up is. Can someone get a fix on the GPS coordinates of B. Jones??

Bravo, let’s start with a July shopping list of everyone over $6 million or so on a team at or below .500.
Did that narrow it down enough?

I think it is between Brandon Jones and Brian Barton. Barton made a nice running catch last night and looked pretty good. He can fly. Brandon Jones is Brandon Jones. He got a couple hits last night and is up to around the .300 mark for the season now. Either choice would work in the short run.

Oh yeah, Barton. However, he’s not on the 40-man roster so maybe the edge goes to Jones. We have two spots on the roster but maybe they are being reserved for Hanson & Medlen at the appropriate time.

Could one of you fine gentleman that follow the Gwinnett Braves closely, tell me if Tommy Hanson is on schedule to pitch one of the games next week in Norfolk. That would be April 28th and 29th. Thanks.

Anxious to see also if G.Anderson goes on DL.

And for the record Barton is indeed on the 40-Man roster.

My guess would be that Jones gets the call. That siad though I do believe Barton will be up by the break to stay as the 4th OF.

Still no word about Garret. I do believe there’s a chance Barton could benefit the big league club at some point this season. But I’d like them give Brandon a chance if GA does indeed go on the DL. He looked good in Spring Training and it appears that he’s still playing well in Spring Training. There’s no doubt that Barton is the better defensive option. But he hasn’t exactly gotten into a groove offensively this year, hitting a combined .121 in his first 33 at-bats with Memphis and Gwinnett.

Tommy Hanson pitches tonight, so count to 5 on the calendar and circle it for his next start. I hope that helps.

I think Barton is the better player, but Brandon should get the call this time because he has been here longer, and he is the left hander to fit in the exact slot GA was in. Barton would be the answer if they also wanted to give Schafer a break against some of the tough lefties coming up. Either way is Ok with me.

It looks like the 29th is next for Hanson, unless an off day moves him back one.

Today is Chipper’s 37th birthday…The Braves are 8-1 in the nine games that he’s played on his birthday and he has batted .500 (18-for-36) with 10 runs and four homers and 10 RBIs in those games. During his birthday game against the Marlins last year, he went 3-for-3 with a homer. His four “birthday” homers are one short of the Major League record shared by Al Simmons, Alex Rodriguez and Derrek Lee.

Garret has been DL’d and Brandon is on his way.

Good for Brandon. and Happy B-Day Chipper!!!

Let’s just call him Mark “Elias” Bowman lol.

Looks like I’m going to the Wed. game against the Tides. I just hope they don’t get rained out or anything and change the rotation.

Well all our wishes came true in regards to GA, welcome to Brandon Jones! I’d like to wish Chipper a happy birthday, and we all wish him a big night tonight! Do you happen to know when Brandon will be joining the team? LETS GO BRAVES!

If he doesn’t get there by game time from Gwinnett, he doesn’t really want to play. Go get ‘em Brandon. Stay hot and get you some rips tonight.

This division is easily winnable for the Braves. If Hammels or Santana go on the DL, then we have the clear advantage.
I’m sad to see Anderson go on the DL, but I’m happy to see Brandon Jones in Atlanta again since he had such a strong spring. Matt Diaz has done a great job so far so it’s not a huge loss.
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

McCann has been scratched from tonight’s lineup. I think this means he’s going to have to undergo the Lasik procedure again. We’ll know more after the game.

Whats the delay?

Thanks!

Each of the three runs the Braves have scored over the past 21 innings have come via bases-loaded walks.

Vazquez threw 40 pitches during the fourth inning. His seven walks are a career high. He issued six walks in three previous games.

They can have the no hitter as long as we get the win.

Is it a record that KJ got the go ahead/winning run on consecutive nights with RBI walks?

McCann has been placed on the DL and Sammons is here at the park to serve as the backup catcher today.

Don’t think it will happen but it would be an opprotune time to reset the batting order. Chipper hits cleanup
Today(if it were me)
1.Schafer-CF
2.Esco-SS
3.KJ-2B
4.Chipper-3B
5.Kotchman-1B
6.Frenchy-RF
7.B.Jones/Diaz
8.Ross
9.Pitcher

.

Lowe just gained some clubhouse points with that purpose pitch that drilled Votto in the right side…Some of the Braves felt Volquez knew exactly where he was throwing that pitch that hit Escobar on Friday night.

Is Escobar crowding the plate or are the Reds being jackazzs?

After Esco was hit does anyone know if anything happened like yesterday I realize him starting out towards volquez wasnt neccessary but getting hit the following day would make me infuriated!!!

Arroyo just missed inside with that pitch. It appeared to hit Esbobar’s hand. The fact that he didn’t react with apparent sign of discomfort leads me to believe the pitch just grazed his hand.

Thanks Mark!

Thats good…with Bmac going to the DL the next thing we need is Esco headed there to…speaking of hands, Mark how is Chippers thumb?

So much for Arryo being undefeated…the Braves bats are back!!!

Good for Escobar. He earned it after being hit twice. Loved how Dickerson was getting all the love at left field.

Dickerson’s reaction after making the diving catch on Johnson’s soft liner was priceless. As he walked back to his position, he threw his hands up to the crowd, which was somewhat mockingly applauding the fact that he’d finally made the “tough catch”. Schafer’s double just kept carrying, forcing him to run into the wall and Ross’s double simply sliced away from him as he attempting to make a diving catch.

And Dickerson yet again gets another ball hit to him and it just so happens to be another double! haha man he is getting quite alot of action today!

Here’s another rbi for Escobar

meant to say rbi opportunuity

I always wondered what the contract negotiations concerning Garret Anderson between Frank Wren and Scott Boras were like. Through a source close to the negotiations, I have acquired a transcript of such negotiations.

Frank Wren (answering the phone): Hello.

Scott Boras: Hello Frank, It?s Scott.

FW: Oh, hi Scott. I haven?t heard from you since you fleeced us in the Derek Lowe negotiations, how have you been?

SB: Well, I?m still waiting for Manny to sign so I can collect my fat bonus check, but thanks to you and the Yankees, I?m doing just fine.

FW: Good to hear, Scott. What can I do for you today?

SB: Well, Frank, I have a client that you may be interested in.

FW: Well, at this point in the off-season the only thing I?m really looking for is a right-handed power bat that can play acceptable defense in left field. Do you have anything that fits that description?

SB: Not exactly, the player I had in mind doesn?t bat right-handed.

FW: We could still be interested, provided he can hit for power.

SB: And he doesn?t EXACTLY hit for power. Well, he doesn?t hit for power at all, really. He?s kind of washed up and his bat speed is extremely slow.

FW: As long as he play acceptable defense in left field we may still be interested in a platoon partner for Matt Diaz.

SB: He really can?t play acceptable defense anywhere.

FW: Scott, that doesn?t seem like something we?d be interested in, what else can you tell me about him?

SB: Well, he?s 37 years old, so you know he?s got longevity. He played for 15 years with 1 organization and holds most of the records with that organization but they?ve decided not to try to re-sign him, so you know he?s loyal to the team. And he?s only looking for a 1-year deal. Combined with the fact that he plays with the passion of a cinder block, I think he may be a fit for your organization.

FW: So you?re thinking a 37-year-old whose previous organization of 15 years wasn?t interested in re-signing, who bats left-handed, who plays terrible defense, and who doesn?t hit for power would be a good fit for us?

SB: Well, not necessarily a fit, but you?ve got extra money, and I know how you love to waste it. Just sign this guy.

FW: What?s his name?

SB: Come on, don?t you read the internet? It?s Garret Anderson.

FW: How does 2.5 million sound?

SB: Let me get back to you with my decision, give me and my client 24 hours to talk it over.

FW: OK, Scott. Talk to you soon.

?end conversation?

2 minutes later:

FW (answering the phone): Hello.

SB: Frank, it?s Scott, we?ll take it.

FW: OK, we?ve got a deal. I?m going to have a heck of a time explaining this one to the fans.

SB: Frank, it?s Atlanta. The fans will think he?s valuable so long as he gets a few RBI?s here and there.

FW: Right you are, Scott. How silly of me to worry about my incompetence.

SB: Take care Frank.

FW: You too, Scott. I look forward to doing business with you in the future.

SB: Not nearly as much as I?m looking forward to it. Maybe next year we can work on a deal that will bring Kevin Millwood back to Atlanta. You know, he?s been working on his batting practice fastball and he?ll be a great asset to every other NL team should you acquire him next year.

FW: We?ll see, Scott. Take it easy.

SB: Likewise.

?end conversation?

PWHjort, you have way too much free time and until G.A. comes off of the D.L. he is a dead subject and if he doesn’t pull himself together after the D.L. stint he’ll be probably joining Jacque Jones, Moises Alou, and Luis Gonzalez collecting Unemployment.

Love PW. Just absolutely love it.

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