Open thread, 4/4, Braves vs. Fanne Foxxes

Braves starting pitchers have allowed only three earned runs so far – the fifth time in the team’s 48-year history in Atlanta that starters held the opposition to three earned runs or less in the season’s first three games.

No surprise that it happened twice in the 1990s. In ’94, Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz gave up no earned runs to the Padres; a year earlier, the Cubs managed just three earned off Mad Dog, Smoltzie and Avery.

It may surprise you that Rick Mahler, Bob Walk and Tommy Boggs yielded just one ER in the first three games of 1982. Four years later, the vaunted trio of Mahler, Zane Smith and “President” David Palmer held the Astros and Expos to three earned.

David Hale will be the fifth starter by next week, and by the end of the month he’ll be battling the likes of newly signed Pedro Beato for a spot in the ‘pen. (Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd made it through rehab starts last night with no problems, though neither was particularly sharp.) Hale struggled in the spring and wasn’t anything special for Gwinnett last year, so those two impressive September starts for Atlanta were probably an outlier.

He’ll face Jordan Zimmerman this afternoon, a bad break for the Braves. Zimmerman was supposed to pitch yesterday but got pushed back due to the flu.

The Nats come into this series with something to prove, having gone 7-24 last year against the Braves, Cardinals and Dodgers. They have the talent, boasting a deeper rotation and better line-up — the bullpen is the only area where the Braves have a discernible edge.

We’ll know soon enough what the Nats are made of, as the two teams face each other in six of their next nine games. I’d be thrilled if the Braves managed a split.

Today’s line-up: Heyward 9 BUpton 8 Freeman 3 Johnson 5 JUpton 7 Uggla 4 Gattis 2 Simmons 6 Hale 1

*Foxe, aka the Tidal Basin Bombshell, was a D.C. stripper whose affair with powerful Arkansas congressman Wilbur Mills was one of the most heavily reported sex scandals of the last century.

Smoltzie returns to Braves broadcasts

Smoltzie, probably the best baseball analyst working today, will join Chip and Joe for “select Atlanta Braves games during the season on FOX Sports South and SportSouth,” according to a press release that just landed in my inbox.

Tom Glavine will also be returning for “select games,” though it’s unclear how many each will work. Tommy G. doesn’t offer much, but Smoltzie will markedly improve the quality of the telecasts.


Steroid apologists don’t like it when you boo cheaters

Seems the Craig Calcaterras of the world would oppose even a slap, nay, tap, on the wrist for Bonds, Clemens and their ilk.

Calcaterra is pissed at members of the media who criticized Milwaukee fans for cheering cheater and all-around horrible person Ryan “I’m just trying to move forward” Braun.

Of course the one thing all of those people have in common is that they are members of the media. And they’ll tell Brewers fans what they should or should not feel about Ryan Braun, I’ll tell you what.

But how about these possibilities: (1) Fans will cheer for guys wearing their laundry no matter what they do; and/or (2) fans may be fully aware of Ryan Braun’s track record but really don’t give a crap because all they want out of him and their team is a couple hours of entertainment five or six times a week.

But you’re right, media. It’s possible that they’re just stupid.

Stupid isn’t the right word. I’d go with uninformed starfuckers.

Players have been booed for much less. Remember the reception given Tom Glavine following the ’94 strike? And he was just doing his job.


Open thread, 4/2, Braves vs. Billy Jo Robidouxs

Same line-up except at catcher, where Laird gets the start and bats 7th. Nothing wrong with Gattis except that today’s game comes 13 hours after last night’s ended.

If Aaron Harang pitches half as well as Wood did last night, the Braves should take the series. I hesitate to say it, but Uggla looks like a different man at the plate. Wish I could say the same about B.J., though Fredi is right to leave him in the 2-hole. For now. As bad as he’s looked, there’s no need to shake his confidence after just two games.


Open thread, 4/1, Braves vs. Kato Kaelins

First off, a happy Office birthday to Knucksie, celebrating his 75th today.

The law of averages should favor the Braves tonight. They have been shut out in 6 of their last 9 games against Milwaukee, and over that period the Brewers’ pitching has been mediocre at best. That holds true for tonight’s hurler, Kyle Lohse, who has a 1.389 WHIP and 4.26 ERA against the Braves in 11 career starts. Despite that, he’s lost only once against the local nine.

His mound opponent, Alex Wood, was outstanding this spring, and if the Braves are to compete he must continue to exceed expectations — especially now, with Aaron Harang and David Hale following him in the rotation. Lose tonight and an 0-4 start looks entirely possible.

The line-up is unchanged, though B.J. may not be long for the #2 hole. He looked every bit as helpless yesterday as he was in 2013, though he did work favorable counts in two AB’s (3-0, 2-0). Yes, I’m reaching.

*Kaelin was born and raised in Milwaukee before relocating to Brentwood to become O.J. Simpson’s gal Friday.


Office chicanery

No April Fool’s prank today. Been there, done that.

In fact, three of our most popular posts ever were total fabrications that sparked mixtures of outrage and bewilderment.

On May 9, 2010, we posted a fake news story announcing the signing of Darin Erstad, released by the Astros after hitting .194 in 2009.

Erstad, like recent Braves signees Troy Glaus and Garret Anderson, spent the bulk of his career with the Los Angeles Angels. His best season came a decade ago, when he stroked 240 hits en route to a .355 batting average. The former University of Nebraska punter has been a part-time player since 2006, and the Braves said they plan to use him at first base and in the outfield.

To make room for Erstad, 35, the Braves designated Melky Cabrera for assignment.

Needless to say, readers were pissed, though many were happy to see Melky DFA’d.

There was no such silver lining on April Fool’s Day two years ago, when the Office “reported” a trade with the Athletics: Julio Teheran and Andrelton Simmons for Coco Crisp and Cliff Pennington. Keep in mind this was before either JT or Andrelton had appeared in the majors, so it wasn’t as outlandish as it now appears.

  1. pepefreeus says:

Apparently Russ Nixon was a better manager than we thought

An interesting name appears within this FiveThirtyEight piece about the irrelevance of most MLB managers:

It turns out that Cox is one of the few managers of all time who could lead his players to unexpected performances year after year. Over the course of his career, Cox’s teams outperformed expectations by 3.1 wins per 162 games on average, sometimes exceeding their projected talent level by as much as 10 wins.

Nearly every other manager of the last 30 years — 172 overall — was, statistically speaking, indistinguishable from average. They either didn’t manage for long enough or didn’t separate themselves from the pack while they were still filling out lineup cards. Cox is one of only six managers since 1986 — Russ Nixon, Tony LaRussa, Davey Johnson, Billy Martin and Earl Weaver — who we can say with confidence actually affected the performance of the players he was managing more than the average manager.

I assume that’s a typo, considering Nixon‘s .400 winning percentage as a manager with the Braves and Reds (231-347). If not, it certainly merits explanation.

Could it be that Nixon’s teams were even worse than their record? Did the ’89 Braves’ 63-97 record actually exceed expectations?


All about Opening Day

The best: 2010,  vs. Cubs. Up to that point I had never heard The Ted as loud as it was after Jay Hey took Zambrano deep in the bottom of the 1st.

(Runner-up): 2000, vs. Rockies. After missing the ’99 season to cancer, the Big Cat homered in his first game back, breaking a scoreless tie in the 7th. Not sure why only 42,000-plus showed up for that one.


The worst (tie):  1978, vs. Dodgers. Bobby’s first game as a big league skipper was at home, on a Friday night, against L.A. and Don Sutton. Nothing wrong with how it started. Rowland hit a solo homer in the first, Murph, starting at 1B, followed with a 2-run shot in the 2nd and Jerry Royster went deep in the 3rd to give the Braves a 4-3 lead. They wouldn’t score again, while the Dodgers piled on 10 runs off Knucksie and Chopper Campbell.

1980, vs, Reds. Knucksie had another opener to forget in ’80 as Cincy jumped out to a 8-0 lead after 3 innings. They’d end up with three times as many runs (9) as the Braves had hits — all singles. Newcomer Chris Chambliss had two of them.

The strangest: 1995, vs. Giants. The Wednesday, April 26 opener had the feel of a businessman’s special and a crowd to match: Only 32.045 showed up at Fulco to watch the first game since the ’94 strike. The Crime Dog had two homers, four hits and 5 RBI and Mad Dog cruised through five en route to a 12-5 win.

Best performance by a pitcher not named Rick Mahler (tie): The first major league game in Atlanta was started by Tony Cloninger, who went 13 innings, striking out 12. He had allowed only one run to score through 12, but a two-run homer by Willie Stargell in the 13th put the Pirates ahead to stay.

Seventeen years later, on a cold, windy afternoon in Wrigley, Greg Maddux, debuting as a Brave against his former team, was his usual masterful self. The Braves didn’t give him much help, scoring but one run, but that’s all Mad Dog would need.


Opening Day Open Thread, 3.31.2014

To our friend, Black Larry King, I’m not sure where the past few months have gone. But time begins today for Braves fans.

Julio T. will be solid in the first of what I think will be many Opening Day starts. I’m not sure Yovani Gallardo, the opposing moundsman, is the pitcher he was three or four years ago. Many of his numbers went in the wrong direction the past two seasons and he’s reportedly lost a few ticks on his velocity. I don’t follow him nor the Car Salesman’s old team enough to have a clear read on the guy.

Anyway, I’m convinced Julio is a star in the making and that the Bravo offense will be improved. It starts today. If our club can stick around .500 through the first three weeks, things should be OK. That said, six early dates with the Nats are significant. The same was true last year, but that team has the talent to streak ahead of the pack, so staying close early is important.

Not startlingly original thoughts, I know. But that’s what I came up with. Go Julio. Go Bravos! Today will be the first of 85 to 91 wins.

Milwaukee is or was home to such delightful people as Tony Kubek, Laverne and Shirely, Richie, Fonzie, and guitar pioneer Les Paul, but also to Jeffrey Dahmer.

Your line-up:

Jay Hey








Baseball Draft

Scott Boras is such a dick

“I have the pleasure and privilege of watching Mike Trout play every night,” Boras said. “I think he’s a very special cup of tea, for which he is deserving of a completely different brew. While few, I definitely consider Bryce Harper as part of the next generation of elite brand of teas. Certainly as a studied connoisseur, I may hold a differing opinion as to the availability, demand and value of tea futures.”


Rowland predicts, v. 2.014

From the blogger who told you Freddie Freeman was as good as gone and Ryan Langerhans reminded me of a young Paul O’Neill …

NL East

1. Nats. I hate them as much as David Gregory pretends to love them, but there’s no denying their talent or depth (as I wrote in December, the Braves would regret not acquiring Doug Fister, and it wouldn’t have cost them much.) In fact, Gavin Floyd could make more money in 2014. On the plus side, their ‘pen is questionable. Relying on Rafael Soriano may be their undoing.

2. Braves. (WC) They have the look of an 86-76 team, but my heart says 91-71. There’s no margin for error; lose another starting pitcher and we’re looking at a .500 team, at best.

NL Central 

1. Cards. They may have the deepest pitching AND offense in the league. Hard to see them missing the playoffs.

2. Pirates. Starting Travis Ishikawa at 1B sends a bad message to your fans, but with even more young talent on the way they should be competitive for years.

NL West

1. Dodgers. They’re not as good as their payroll would indicate.

2. Giants. (WC) It’d an even-numbered year, so watch out.

AL East

1. Tampa. The Cards of the AL, minus the depth.

2. Baltimore. (WC) Best line-up in the division; pitching could go either way.

AL Central

1. Kansas City. If Yordano Ventura pitches to his stuff, watch out.

2. Detroit (WC) When smart franchises make bad decisions (Cabrera extension, Fister trade).

AL West

1. Angels. By default.

2. Oakland. Like the Braves, beset by injuries to their rotation but lacking the resources to add an Ervin Santana.



Seventeen years ago today, a trade that changed everything

Imagine if you woke up tomorrow to learn the Braves had traded Jay Hey and J-Up to the Pirates for Andrew McCutchen. How would you react?

When I heard JS had swapped Marquis Grissom and David Justice to the Indians for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree, I was thrilled. My reaction had nothing to do with Marquis and DJ, who were instrumental in securing the Braves’ only world championship. But Lofton, coming off a season in which he hit .317 with 14 homers and 75 SB, was the Rickey Henderson of his time and a Gold Glover to boot. Though it was widely assumed Lofton would be in Atlanta only one year, Andruw was waiting in the wings and the money saved in the deal made it possible for the Braves to re-sign Maddux and Glavine.

Of course, Lofton was no Rickey. Yes, he hit .333, with a .409 OBP, but played a pedestrian CF and was successful on only 27 of 47 SB attempts. He also managed to run afoul of Bobby, which is virtually impossible.

The Braves would’ve been better off trading either Marquis or DJ for a second baseman, assuming one was available, or a top prospect. This was a team that should’ve been playing for its third consecutive World Series title — instead they began a run of early playoff exits, losing 4-2 to the Marlins and Eric Gregg in the NLCS. No need to remind you who won the AL pennant.

JS’ bender continued three days later when he dealt Jermaine Dye to the Royals for Michael Tucker and Keith Lockhart, a trade that particularly irked Braves fan Elton John.

You could argue those three days in March 1997 derailed a dynasty. “This was the break-up of a very functional family,” wrote the AJC’s Steve Hummer, a prophetic description.

JS had better weeks, to say the least.

Mike Gonzalez

Another day, another pitcher injured

Cory Gearrin left today’s game holding his right elbow; the initial diagnosis is a sprain, but there’s reason for concern.

The Braves could do worse than signing Mike Gonzalez, released today by the Nats. Gonzo is coming off a rough year with the Brewers but he did strike out more than a batter per inning. And he’s left-handed.

Or you could take your chances with the likes of Atahualpa Severino.



Is Aaron Harang less mediocre than Freddy Garcia?

According to Bowman, the Braves are interested in signing Aaron Harang, late of the Reds, Padres, Dodgers, Mariners and Mets. He was terrible in 2013, finishing with a 5.40 ERA and 1.347 WHIP. But he was decent in 2012-’13 with San Diego and L.A., and while it seems they’re just substituting one Chief for another, the Braves know more about pitching than we do.


Say hello to Gus Schlosser; Braves release Garcia

The Braves released the Chief on Monday, erasing what little depth remained in the starting rotation. Barring a trade, the move means Gus Schlosser is likely to start the first game against the Nationals, following JT, Wood and David Hale. But with Gavin Floyd apparently ahead of schedule, Hale and Schlosser will be making what amounts to glorified cameos in the rotation.

The move is a surprise, but let’s not build Garcia into something he’s not. My guess is that the Santana signing left FW with minimal financial flexibility going forward, so every little bit, such as the $1.25 million due the Chief, counts. Or maybe they’re going to use the money on another spare part.

Meanwhile, DOB reports Ryan Buchter, Tyler Greene and Terdo were reassigned Monday, likely ensuring roster spots for Ian Thomas, as the second lefty out of the ‘pen, and Tyler Pastornicky.


Gavin Floyd, difference-maker?

Depth is an undervalued asset in baseball, especially when it comes to pitching. The Braves had it but lost it over two days in March.

Ervin Santana and Alex Wood are solid substitutes for Med Dog and Beachy, but it’s not that seamless. Wood, enjoying an impressive spring,  needs to be handled with extreme care, lest we see another double graduate of Tommy John’s recovery school. He’s never pitched more than 140 innings in a season and that funky delivery gives you pause. It would be careless to expect more than 170 this year. How he gets there will be one of Fredi’s bigger challenges — hopefully the handling of Stephen Strasburg in 2012 won’t serve as a model. (Instead, rest him along the way, taking advantage of days off on the schedule by skipping his turn in the rotation when a series with the Cubs or Mets looms.)

That puts the onus on Gavin Floyd, scheduled to return sometime in May. He’s an unknown quantity to Braves fans — only the most ardent will remember him as the Phils’ top pitching prospect who fell on his face (6.96 ERA, 1.739 WHIP in 108-2/3 IP). The fourth overall pick in the 2001 draft evolved into the quintessential average major league starter on the South Side: 4.22  ERA, 1.296 WHIP.

The reports have been glowing, but the Braves tend to fluff their Band-Aids. They also have a unparalleled track record of turning Milwaukee’s Best into Courvoisier. (Rick Reilly, ladies and gentleman.)

John Burkett? The Devil Rays released the 34-year-old, fresh off a 5.62 ERA with the Rangers in 1999, two months after signing him. It took a year — Burkett was nothing special as a Brave in 2000 — but in 2001 he was among the NL’s top hurlers, striking out 187 in 219 IP with a 3.04 ERA and 1.172 WHIP. He saved the Braves season in 2001, a year in which they overachieved (as opposed to the usual choking).

It so happens Javy Vazquez retired with a 4.22 ERA, same as Floyd’s White Sox ERA. Javy had better stuff, averaging 8.8 K’s/IP, nearly two K’s better than Floyd (7.1), but if the only major leaguer ever to be named Gavin pitches two-thirds as well as Javy, the Braves are in good shape. Vazquez should have been the pitcher on the our All-Underrated Braves team — he was better than I remembered in 2009, striking out 238 in 219-1/3 IP with a 2.87 ERA and 1.026 WHIP. I’ll take a 3.75 ERA and 1.25 WHIP from Floyd. The Braves may need that to make the playoffs.

Let’s just hope they never trade him for Melky Cabrera.


Braves in good hands for Opening Day; home opener, less certain

Fredi has tabbed Julio Teheran to start Opening Day, perhaps one year early, but it was inevitable. Injury just expedited his progression to the top of the rotation. JT has started 34 games in the majors — in his last 27, covering 169-2/3 innings, he has a 2.81 ERA with 158 K and 38 walks.

Sounds like an ace to me. As for the home opener, expect either David Hale or Freddy Garcia to get the nod. The Braves are going with a four-man rotation for the first 10 days, so the Game 3 starter will be lined up to start Game 7 against the Mets.

I can’t help but think back to 2007, when Mark Redman started the home opener, also vs. the Mets. Nothing went according to plan that night — it was freezing cold, Chris Woodward hit lead-off and Craig Wilson (remember him?) started at 1B. Redman gave up five runs in 5-2/3, and Tyler Yates allowed five more in relief as the Mets, behind Oliver Perez (!?!), cruised to an 11-1 victory.


Just a reminder that the greatest living ballplayer resides in Atlanta

I try to remember to repost this every year because it’s pretty much the coolest stat line in baseball history.

Hank Aaron would have passed 3,000 hits even if he had never hit a home run. Pick any star who ever played the game and give him 180 additional homers and Aaron still would have more total bases.



Which Upton will bat 2nd?

Bowman reports this could be the Opening Day line-up, noting B.J. has “looked comfortable” in the 2-hole:

Heyward 9 B.J. Upton 8 Freeman 3 Gattis 2 J. Upton 7 Johnson 5 Uggla 4 Simmons

B.J. is batting .297 this Spring, albeit with no power and plenty of strikeouts. Getting him comfortable is paramount, as he’ll be with us through 2017. He should see more good pitches hitting between Jay Hey and Freddie, and B.J. needs all the help he can get. I like it.

As for the rest of the line-up, I’d hit Justin 4th and CJ 5th. I don’t know why you’d bat Gattis in front of them, but that’s Fredi.