Braves look to surge out of the break

While preparing for last Sunday’s TBS telecast, John Smoltz talked about how the tone for the season’s second half is often dictated by what transpires in the first couple weeks coming out of the break.   He cited how the Braves won 15 of their first 20 games coming out of the break in 1993 and then eventually erased the 9 1/2-game division deficit they faced when they entered the break.

Obviously that incredible run through October’s earliest days was aided by the July 18 acquisition of Fred McGriff.  But instead of evaluating the impact trade acquisitions can make down the stretch, let’s stick with how the tone for the second half can be set by what transpires during the earliest days and weeks coming out of the break.

While watching the Braves come out of last year’s break to split a four-game set against the Brewers and take two of three from the Padres, it just didn’t feel like they were the same team that had won 39 of their previous 57 games entering the break.

The road became more challenging when Chipper Jones was lost in early August and by the time Sept. 15 arrived the Braves had won just 31 of their first 59 games coming out of the break.  Thanks to a final-week sweep of the Marlins and a couple productive days for the Cubs in San Diego, Braves fans will always regard last year as memorable.   In other words, they probably won’t remember the club was just four games above .500 (39-35) after the break.

As the Braves prepare to come out of this year’s break tonight to host the Nationals, they are in good position  — leading the National League Wild Card by five games and trailing the first-place Phillies by just 3 1/2 games in the NL East.

The Phillies faced a four-game deficit in the division standings entering the break last year and finished six games in front of the Braves.  So it goes without saying that the Braves could find entry to this year’s postseason via either the Wild Card or a division crown.

Given what they’ve had to deal with on the injury front, it’s incredible that the Phillies have compiled the game’s best record.   You’re not going to find many arguments when it’s suggested they are baseball’s best team right now.  But at the same time, it would be hard to argue against the fact that this year’s Braves team belongs in that same elite class that also possesses the Yankees and Red Sox.

While recording the NL’s second-best record this year, the Braves have also overcome a plethora of adversity.   They just spent the past six weeks without last year’s team MVP Martin Prado and got all of seven appearances from their top middle reliever, Peter Moylan, before he underwent back surgery.

Well Moylan began playing catch again yesterday and Prado will return tonight to strengthen the lineup and also occupy third base until Chipper Jones returns around July 25 with a surgically-repaired right knee.

Oh yeah, in case you forgot over the past four days, the Braves also persevered through the season’s first half while both Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward stood as liabilities in the lineup.

Uggla provided some sign for encouragement while hitting .241 with five homers, three doubles, a .349 on-base percentage and a .574 slugging percentage during his final 15 games before the break.

As bad as things have gone for Uggla, he’s more than likely going to his 30-plus homers for a fifth consecutive year.  And if he simply maintains the pace he set in these previous 15 games just imagine how much more productive the Braves’ lineup will be in the season’s second half.

Heyward has hit .244 with two homers, eight doubles, a .313 on-base percentage and a .400 slugging percentage in the 24 games he has played since returning from the three-week stint he spent on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder.   But the 21-year-old right fielder has hit just .216 (8-for-37) with two homers, three doubles, a .256 on-base percentage and .459 slugging percentage in 10 games this month.  Five of his eight hits were compiled over the course of two games during this stretch.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he spent his 20-year-old season at the Triple-A level, but at this stage of their careers,  Freddie Freeman has proven to be the one more capable of quickly making the necessary adjustments at the plate.

When Heyward was sent to Florida in late May, the Braves wanted him to test his ailing shoulder.  But at the same time, it seemed they were hoping he would be able to fix a flawed swing that has made him very susceptible to the inside heater. So far, it still appears to be a work in progress.

Meanwhile Freeman struck out 23 times in a span of 48 at-bats from June 8-21 and has struck out just 12 times in the 61 at-bats that have followed.

While hitting .298 with six homers and a 1.043 OPS in his past 16 games, Freeman has helped Brian McCann carry the offensive load and led me to wonder just how soon he might enjoy a 40-homer season.   His ability to hit for power to all fields is quite impressive.  I thought it might take a few more years before he developed the man muscles needed to consistently drop balls over the left-centerfield wall.

Before we wrap this up, I’ll feed you a few bits of news:

  • Tim Hudson will take the mound tonight and to give Jair Jurrjens an extra day to to rest after competing in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, Tommy Hanson will start Saturday’s game.  Not sure if you heard, but Hanson didn’t make the NL’s All-Star team.
  • Look I understand many of you were upset Hanson didn’t earn one of this year’s 10,000 All-Star selections.  But I didn’t understand those of you who were upset when Bruce Bochy said he would use Brian Wilson to close Tuesday’s game.  Did you really expect him to tell Wilson, “Hey, I’ve got better options tonight, but for these next 75 games, you’re my guy again.”
  • Speaking of 10,000, the Braves need one more win to become the fourth Major League franchise to record the 10,000th win in franchise history.   They are also eight losses away from joining the Phillies as the only franchises to ever lose 10,000 games.
  • The Braves have agreed to terms of a $1.134 (right at slot) million signing bonus with their top selection Sean Gilmartin, who was taken with the 28th overall pick in this year’s Draft.  Gilmartin, a 21-year-old left-hander from Florida State, began a throwing program at the club’s Spring Training complex today.

77 Comments

That woulda been 1993….not 2003…the McGriff thing…

Let’s be clear, it is now 10 games beyond the half way mark. Times a wasting. Braves 17-16 against division rivals. Good luck with that.

Just read another idiotic statement of yours – “take out BB from the equation of all baseball players, recalculate their OBP under these new parameters and then tell me how Howard stacks up.” Okay, lets do so with Brain McCann. With the new “parameters”, McCann has a .310 OBP(like his average, if you were too dumb to notice this), a solid .044 points over your precious Howard. Once again, thanks for playing.

Worried about Heyward and his inability to make quick adjustments. There are holes in his swings and I don’t like how far off the plate he stands. I worry that we will have another Francour on our hands. Tore it up the first year and couldn’t make the adjustments to counter the adjustments made to you by the pitchers.

A reliable Major League source just alerted me that Gilmartin’s signing bonus was right at slot ($1.134 million). Updated that on the blog entry.

Heyward is 21 years old. The skills that Franceour had/has don’t even compare.

Cool Prado bats second and Schafer bats first. I guess Zippy’s head will explode again. Tell us again Zip how no self respecting organization would continue to use Schafer or maybe you could quote his OBP for the millionth time.

That’s kinda like having 2 leadoff guys at the front of the order in my opinion. Shafer has the speed should he get on and martin can bring him in. If he doesn’t get on its like having martin at leadoff with less speed but conceding an out. Martin compliments shafers abilities if he can get on. Let shafer get on and watch what happens, too much to worry about for that pitcher. Speed on base and skill at the plate are dangerous together. Yes, its a lot of if’s but they will get it rolling sometime.

In other news maybe we should lead off with usain bolt. If all it takes is speed. Sure he will hit .100. But he could just stand in the box and get on base almost as much as schafer. Having said that I predict a big night for schafer tonight. My reason? He has had a break and will have the right approach tonight. Unfortunatly though, schafer will relapse into being terrible in the next games after tonight.

Wow schafer doesnt tag up on a fly to right with no outs in the first. Terrible.

Because Jayson Werth has a freakin’ cannon out there. Geez. Suspend your irrational hate for Schafer and get in touch with reality.

Nate McLutch

Why wave ross there. Terrible.

Ok mr glass half empty. Chill! Or should we call u debbie downer? U do complain like a woman.

Oh Martin, glad to have our MVP back

Indeed. Shame nobody was on base for that homer. I guess somebody has to hit behind schafer though

That’s how it goes when you lead off the inning. I’d wager that at least nine times out of ten a HR will be of the solo variety.

Thank you Papi. You beat me to the punch with a slightly more eloquent reply.

Martin was leading off the inning dumbass

I would wager most sides bat people with OBP over .280 in their lead off spots too.

Livan is throwing meat balls right down the middle at 80 mph and schafer is 0 for 3. If he had made it on last inning then maybe prado would of hit a multi rbi homer. Complicated concept I know.

Yeah and if nobody ever made an out the innings would just keep going and going…….

I talk to my dog and get more intelligent responses than I do from ZippyMonkey

Bill. Quick question. Is a .589 OPS good? Let me know. Thanks mate.

Zidane, I think your biased rants about Schafer are more tiring than Bills about McLouth were. Only someone who can’t read between the lines would compalin about being 5 runs up in the 5th.

Not really Brandon. We cant win the WS or the division with a guy so bad hitting lead off and getting the most at bats in the team, and hitting in front of our best hitters.

It’s official Zippy. You have lost your last friend.

Hudson might have to come out after 6 today guys, but it’s because he’s too tired from running the bases.

Schafer just reached for his 2nd time in 4 AB. Can you do the math on that Zippy?

MARTIIIIINNNN! Glad to have you back. Notice Schafer scored that last run Zid?

Wow. You guys are nuts. He reached on a double error and on ball 4 that went to the backstop. Notice the hit coloumn. 1 guy hasnt got a hit yet. Name that player for 5 points? Also name the only brave with an OPS under .600? for another 5 points. Or just dodge the facts and statistics. Owned. This is too easy! Bam!

I understand your concern with Schafer, I really do, but Jesus Christ could you shut up. He’s a kid being forced into an everyday role because he has tools that our team doesn’t posses without him. He may not be helping with his offense, but his defense is making up for it. His WAR is 0.6, better than McLouths 0.5.

He is 25 so not really a kid. Heyward and freddie are both alot younger.

It’s his second year as a MLB player. Hence the term “kid.”

No because people are cut slack when they are young, and thus immature. Hence “kid”. Schafer has been a baseball pro long enough now. He should have it down by now.

Sorry, but that’s the jargon we use on this side of the ocean. Has nothing to do with age and everything to do with experience at the MLB level.
No sense in redefining it now.

And Schafer reaches again, barump bump.

I am just going to get behind EVERYONE in the team. I am not going to be like bill and am instead gonna rout for whoever has the uniform on.

And Schafer scores for the 3rd time tonite. Love that off field power from Freddie. We are getting ready to get hot. And Zippy, rout is when you beat the other team 11-1. Root, root, root is what you do for the home team.

Well if you think guys with sub .600 OPS are top class then fair enough. Can’t really argue with you!

So we can’t win the ws without a good/great leadoff guy hmm? Who lead off for the giants last year. As I have tried to explain to pherrispainintheass, stats done tell all of the story.and sorry to tell ya ma, but in the baseball world shafer is a kid. Until the past few years it was so rare to find a guy in the majors under 25 it was like searching for a needle in a hay stack. It happened but not often at al

Ok you all win. I submit to all your greater knowledge. Jordan Schafer is like the second coming of willie mays. .217/.300/.301 is clearly a hall of fame career in the making. He is a “kid”, but even kids show some sort of potential. Most good players dont hit .230 in AAA.

Your hyperbole lacks humor, sir.

Should Pherris be concerned? Worley only went five and a third tonight. Their pen might be in serious jeopardy.

You tell me if I should be concerned with the rookie Vance Worley – 5W 1L, 2.15 ERA, 54.1 innings, 1.23 WHIP. Wait! Now that I look at it, Young Vance, with 10 or 11 more starts would appear to be a strong ROY candidate.

U are truly an idiot. Had that been a braves starter, the first thing spewed from your mouth would have been how horrible they were since they didn’t go 7 innings. If u can’t apply the same logic and reasoning to everyone shut up.

not-the-old-nc or maybe you are the original nc? Regardless. It takes a real Braves fan to try to compare one instance of a Phillies pitcher not making it out of the 6th inning when the entire Braves staff can not do so. But whatever floats your boat.. But I guess you apply southern logic. Something to the effect that Moses rode around on dinosaurs if I am not mistaken.

Perfect symmetry a 10 run win for 10000 wins

Oh shit Chip just said the same thing, I am so embarrassed

Haha

Great minds………

Ten thousand franchise wins. Not bad. Sure beats having a franchise record that’s over 1,000 games below .500.

You mean like a certain Northern city that reeks of peppers and onions?

Indeed, Bill. But if I may be honest, I enjoy a good cheesesteak.

Yeah, me too, but it sucks if you have to go to Frilly to get it. I like beans too, doesn’t mean I am on a plane to Boston. I’ll settle for a Glorified, Rings and a Frosted Orange if I have to.

That’s why we learned to make them ourselves. Cooked to order, and little to no chance of someone hitting our cars when we’re parked outside.

Zidane, lay off the sauce man, you will find out you will be a much happier person. Moving on, it was great to see Prado out there. Take your time Chipper and fully heal, no need to rush with Prado at 3B.
I know it makes no difference in performance, but sherrill looks like a guy that snuck into the game from a fantasy camp. Kind of remind me of David Wells…..
Oh and whoever thought Jason stands too far from home plate take a look at the telephone poles he has for arms, he can cover the plate. However, one can’t deny the hole in his swing. You definitely do not hear that “sound” off of his bat anymore.

To reference a post from a while back, let’s hope jason has a brother or father who can help him with that hole. Heck if he has to borrow mac or chippers family coaches. Lol

Yeah no shit. I think LP’s motto is “grip and rip it”.

He’s kinda like a working man’s Bob Wickman. Yikes.

Man, this blog formatting sux. You never know where a comment is gonna show up in the string. Or what time it will think it is. I mean this time stamp problem is like a year old now. What good does it do to have a screaming fast modem, when all it’s doing is carving on rocks?

Yeah WordPress is crap. MLB needs to use Disqus like MLBTradeRumors does. Much better.

You know, I had a very public debate on here a couple of years ago, regarding the merits of Martin Prado over then 2nd baseman Kelly Johnson. I was widely renounced for my position and had lengthy arguments with a number of parties but most notably an individual who now runs a little website and still extolls the virtues of KJ without much comment on how Martin has become the hard working, tough as nails, heart of this team. I also took a very public position on Brooksie last year for which I was pretty soundly trounced when he got thrown into the fray and developed a case of the “yips” during the playoffs. Despite his misfortune, I remained loyal to a young man who Chipper called “one of the best teammates I have ever played with. Brooks has now settled into a comfortable role and hasn’t really shown any ill effects from his defensive miscues late last year. NOBODY is better in the clutch than Brooks. He is going to break all the PH records before he is done.

Now, I want to go on record, Jordan Schafer is a pure baseball player. He walks it, he breathes it and he lives to play it. He is gonna be an amazing addition to this ball club once he settles into his role. It may happen as soon as the 2nd half and it might not happen until next year, but he is gonna be a big part of MLB. He is an all star caliber player and any attempt to use him as trade bait would be insane. Martin doesn’t give his stamp of approval lightly, but I read quotes from him regarding the work ethic of Schafer during the winter at Disney. Jordan Schafer is in the Major Leagues for good. He is a game changer. Much like speed merchants Reyes and Rollins, he can alter a pitcher and a defenses approach to the game. Just by taking a lead at first, or dribbling a ball down the line, he alters the entire defenses approach to the game. I think Jordan has found a mentor in Martin and I think he will realize a lot of his potential because of that. I remember precisely the first time I saw Jordan Schafer. It was opening day, in Dodgertown Spring Training 2009 and Schafer had been invited to ST because of the reviews he had gotten in AA the year before. I looked at him play that day, and I had to know, who the f*** was that? Throw all the numbers out the window. Throw out all the drug accusations. Jordan Schafer is going to be an All Star center fielder. Remember, you heard it here first.

“Throw all the numbers our the window”. Sadly that seems to be the attitude of most the blog posters on here. Led by the most irrational man of all: Billreef. Unlike all you I look at the numbers of a player to see if they are good. Everything else is subject to extreme bias, and therefore irrelevent. Lets not forget schafer has also played most his games vs poor opposition this year. How did he get on vs the phillies? His 1 for 12 with no walks was probably the main reason we didnt win. You cant win those tight games vs top sides when your lead off man is basically never on base.

Zidane, have u ever actually played a team sport? There are these traits that they speak of often in football(american). They are called intangibles. Baseball is a team sport, shafer’s stats during the philly series weren’t good but by no means did his line cause us to lose and to say that it did is absurd. Then to attack his speed and base running on top of that. I didn’t get to watch the game ysterday but I guarantee the threat of his speed caused at least one of the errors by the nats. He walked at least once as well. No hits but still on base at least twice.

And saying Schafer is as dynamic on the base paths as jose reyes is just pure dellusion. Its like comparing adam dunn to albet pujols. Sure they both have power, but thats about where the similarities end. Reyes has 361 sb and 91 cs. He averages 0.36 steals per game and has a sb % of 80%. Jordan schafer, on the other hand, gets 0.14 steals per game at a sb% of 72%. There truely is no comparison to be made. Reyes is so much more active on the bases. Once again, I am sure you will just brush over these facts. After all, Bill knows more than statistics.

Maybe I will find someone hitting .220 across the minors and majors in the last 3 years and proclaim them an all star in waiting.

I still can’t believe that joker really said OBP didn’t include walks. And he did it in such a cocky and condescending tone, which makes it even more hilarious. What the hell did he think OBP was??? BA + HBP? Hahaha unreal.

Except that is not what I said. Let me guess, you were educated in the south so your reading skills are not up to snuff?

Actually, that’s exactly what u said. And u said it twice. If its not what u meant to say that’s one thing but then I guess u need to learn how to articulate what u actually mean. But hey, must be those darn northern inner city schools.

Ahem…
“LittleLordPhountLeroy, you better check again and learn the formula, a walk has no impact on OBP.
By Pherrisphain on July 14, 2011 5:58 pm”

Darn this southern education. Lolololol

And if u would like more specifics. U spoke of a situation were a batter walks and stated it had no effect on his obp. Then said that instead, same batter struck out and his obp declines. Hey, u got it partially right. Then later u said that they should check the formula for obp, therefor once again basically stating that it doesn’t affect obp.

So pherris, would like to go put on your big boy pants now and admit u were wrong? Or are u gnna change the subject like always and tip toe around the facts.

Pherris, I know you’re saying to yourself not to take it personally because of your anonymity, but really dude, you should feel pretty stupid. I mean more so than usual.

It is so nice to have so many phans here. When I don’t even post, I am being talked about. But I will admit that I am not sure about this OBP thingy, as that great American, Sarah Palin, who you all so love and adore and as she is keeping an eye on Russia from her front porch, would put it. But, as soon as I can give an explanation, I will be dropping leaflets containing same into all of yo’ alls hollers. But please do not be confused by the air drops, they will not be an additional allotment of teeth and shoes. Those will remain on their annual schedule. Thank you for your support and understanding.

Zidane, I have not jumped aboard the Jordan Schafer as a future all star train, but you have to admit he is a better option in CF than anyone in our system (maybe Wilkin?). Also, he is the only hitter in our lineup capable of hitting leadoff other than Martin, who i really like in the 2 hole. Once Jordan becomes more comfortable with his role, I think he will be a very serviceable player. But, please, whatever you do, don’t mention McLouth for leadoff or CF. We’ve been there and done that….. McLouth is fine where he is at this point. Hitting in the bottom of the lineup is the only place in the order that McLouth has shown any signs of promise. The true fan in you would hope that Schafer comes around, because our offense would be very formidable if he does.

OK you can take Cuddyer off the Braves list so I was wondering bout Willingham not being high on the Braves list if hes not then who is. I mean the Astros are asking for top prospects for Pence I dont see that happening but if we trade for Pence does that mean Heyward moves to CF or maybe to LF and in the Trade ask for Pence and Bourne or maybe Louis Durango have him play CF and leadoff.

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