Tag Archives: MLB

What To Do About The Atlanta Braves?

It is a rebuilding year. We knew going into the season that Atlanta would take its lumps under new leadership and their sights fixated toward 2017, but did we really think it would get this bad? A once proud franchise that has recently been mired in mediocrity has officially hit rock bottom, losing 12 straight games and an unfathomable 19 out of 20 games. Atlanta holds just a one-game lead over Philadelphia for the worst record in the entire Major League.

It has gone from bad to worse. A pathetic effort on the field, now fans falling to their death in the stands. Just brutal.

The Braves are void of talent, but it is nearly impossible to play as bad as they have. Where is the heart? Where is the effort? Most importantly, where is the pride? This team does not compete at all. They take the field, take their whooping – and their pay check – and go home. Journeymen and young players liter the field, given a golden opportunity to seize the moment and jump start – or revitalize – their careers. Nah. Instead this group of taxi-squad players just disappoint aside from the few professionals that have busted their butts all season.

Nick Markakis has been zapped of all his power after offseason surgeries and rehab, but he has still managed to hit a team-high .295. A.J. Pierzynski has been a leader in the clubhouse and has hit .294, but hasn’t been dealt to a contender yet to help add to the farm system. The 38-year-old is on his last wheels and this will likely be the last productive season of his long career as he won’t be able to help the club much moving forward.

Cameron Maybin was off to his best season ever, but has tapered off. Freddie is still Freddie and Nick Swisher has played well and hopefully has gained some value on the trade market even with his inflated contract.

The rest of the offense hasn’t done much of anything. Atlanta has hit an MLB-low 83 homers, 18 less than the second-to-last place Marlins and also have the fewest runs scored. Only Freddie Freeman and Maybin have cracked double-digit long balls.

Jace Peterson ran into a hot streak and looked like the second baseman of the future, but after a .174 month of July and .238 August, he is hitting just .236 on the year.

Not Your 90’s Braves…

The pitching, like the hitting, has been just as bad. Atlanta’s 4.58 team ERA ranks 27th out of 30 teams. Shelby Miller is 5-13, but sports a 2.81 ERA and hasn’t won a game since May 17th when he almost threw a no-hitter and advanced to 5-1. Alex Wood was shipped away in a 13-man deal that netted Atlanta Hector Olivera, a 30-year-old Cuban rookie that hit .178 in the Braves farm system. Olivera has subsequently hit .133 so far with the big league club. Swing-and-a-miss.

Another big miss has been Julio Teheran. Former General Manger Frank Wren inked the 24-year-old to a long term deal. Teheran has been the gift that keeps giving as he has rewarded the since fired Wren and current GM John Hart with a 4.51 ERA.

The bullpen was steady early on, but Jason Grilli tore his achilles and Jim Johnson was sent away for prospects which was the correct move. Atlanta has run out slop that even I have never heard of, with ERAs so astronomical, you would think it is a misprint.

In Atlanta’s inspiring 15-1 loss to Washington last week in which they collected two hits, here are the ERAs of the Braves pitchers that appeared: 5.97, 6.05, 6.23, 7.00, 7.07, 6.00, 5.06 and 5.82.

A ghastly sight for any pitching coach

Important rookie pitchers and hitters that were expected to help the team out in the long run have flamed out spectacularly so far. Top infield prospect Jose Peraza was given up on and shipped to Los Angeles. Matt Wisler was supposed to be the gem in the Craig Kimbrel trade, but has a 5.81 ERA in 15 games. Williams Perez? 5.65. Flamethrower Mike Foltynewicz? 5.71 ERA. Manny Banuelos’ stock is still down with a 5.13 ERA.

Patience is paramount with a rebuilding team, but it has gotten out of hand and new blood might be needed to lead the Braves next season.

Rocky Mountain Highs And Lows: Trading With The Colorado Rockies

The MLB Trade Deadline is just three days away and the seismic changes that the deadline brings to the outlooks of franchises’ futures has already begun. This morning I woke up to the stunning news that five-time All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was traded alongside the ageless LaTroy Hawkins by the Colorado Rockies to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for four-time All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes and three minor league prospects (Miguel Castro, Jeff Hoffman and Jesus Tinoco).

Both Tulo and Reyes are making over $20 million a year, but it’s the 30-year-old Tulowitzki who is signed thru 2020 while Reyes, at 32, is signed thru 2017.

While teams are wheeling-and-dealing to make their respective ball clubs better, there’s always one team to be weary of trading with, the Colorado Rockies. The thin air of Coors Field has ballooned average major league batters’ stats to those of perennial All-Stars; it is buyer beware when taking a chance on a Colorado Rockie, especially one that has played their entire career in the Mountains.

Tulowitzki, though starting to age, has been known as the best hitting shortstop in the league and a fielder with a cannon of an arm from the hole. But if you delve deeper into his stats you can see that some of his production has been aided. To date, he is a career .299 hitter that averages roughly 20-30 homers a year and anywhere from 80-100 RBIs when healthy.

Over his ten-year career, he has played over 145 games just twice and hasn’t played over 140 games since the 2011 season. In 2012 he appeared in 47, 126 in ’13, 91 a year ago and now 87 games out of the last-place Rockies’ 97 games.

Back to the Coors Field effect. He has hit a star-studded .321 at home with a .394 OBP, making him worth his current $20 million per year contract easily, but if you look at his road numbers he has hit a mere mortal .276 with a .349 OBP, very good for a shortstop but not nearly what he does in the friendly confines of home.

Luckily for Tulo, who slashes .300/12/53/.348/.471 this year, he’s going to Toronto which has turned into a power plant in terms of producing homerun hitters. His splits this season have to be comforting for Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos as he is hitting .301 at home and .299 on the road, but I still wouldn’t bank on Tulowitzki being an annual .300+ hitter in his new home.

Colorado is looking down the barrel of their fifth consecutive losing season meaning they will be willing to ship off players for pieces down the line. Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez is another coveted bat. The two-time All-Star is a career .292 hitter and former batting champ, but his splits have been even more pronounced than Tulowitzki’s.

Over his career Gonzalez has hit a blistering .326 at home but a measly .258 on the road. His average this season has slipped to .278, but he still has 20 homers and you guessed it, his splits are more of the same, batting .301 at Coors Field and .256 elsewhere.

Home Sweet Home

Teams have to be careful when trading for or signing former Rockies. That .290/30/100 guy you think you might be getting might actually be a .245/20/70 guy away from Coors.

Lets look at some recent Rockies batters that have moved on to not-so greener pastures. Injuries and age have hurt, but Michael Cuddyer is coming off a .331 batting champion season in 2013 and an injury shortened 49-game campaign last season in which he hit .332. This year with the Mets? He is hitting only .250 and is currently sitting on the DL.

How about a reverse look? 34-year-old Justin Morneau, a former MVP, looked like he was on the backend of his career. From 2011-2013 he strung together averages of .227, .267 and .259 after batting a combined .289 the six seasons previous. He signs a deal with Colorado to start the 2014 season and bang. He wins the NL batting title with a .319 average and has hit .290 in limited action this season.

Back to the bad. From 2006-09, Brad Hawpe hit over 20 homers each season. In 2010 he cooled down and was subsequently traded to Tampa Bay at age 31 after 88 games with Colorado. He would finish the season with nine homers in 103 total games. Hawpe hit four homers the rest of his career and was out of the league after a short stint with the Angels in 2013. His final numbers would total out to a .280 career average with Colorado (.288 average at Coors) and a .193 average in 94 games with other teams.

Over a four-year stint spanning 2005-08, Garrett Atkins mashed 88 homeruns, drove in 419 runs and batted .301. At age 30 in 2010, he signed a contract with the Baltimore Orioles and started in 39 games. After 44 appearances he was released that same season after hitting just one homerun and driving in nine runs with a .214 average. Atkins never again played in the Majors.

Call it a gift, call it a curse. Whatever you call it, Coors Field produces hitters but the longevity of those hitters and credibility of those bats can be called into question.

But there is faith for Blue Jay fans and for fans of teams who want to acquire current Rockie hitters. For every Garrett Atkins, there is a Matt Holliday, who passed the test of being just a Coors Field product with flying colors. Holliday spent five seasons (04-08) with Colorado and saw his splits improve; wiping out the idea that he was just a home-show pony.

Year                Home              Road

2004                .338                 .240

2005                .357                 .256

2006                .373                 .280

2007                .341                 .338

2008                .332                 .308

Tulowitzki has shown the same type of progress in his seasons with over 120 appearances:

Year                Home              Road

2007                .326                 .256

2009                .326                 .267

2010                .339                 .291

2011                .310                 .292

2013                .342                 .281

Carlos Gonzalez’s four seasons with over 110 games played, have been a bit more troublesome and even confusing:

Year                Home              Road

2010                .380                 .289

2011                .331                 .252

2012                .368                 .234

2013                .273                 .332

Colorado GM Jeff Bridich is making it more and more likely that Gonzalez is available in a trade. If you’re a team looking to add an impact bat, do you roll the dice on the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of baseball? Or do you play it safe and look for more of a “sure-thing”. Decisions, decisions.

Photo By: UPI/Gary C. Caskey

The Atlanta Braves: Buy or Sell?

It’s July 7 and the Braves are only five games out of first place. Would you believe me if I told you that in April? Would you buy into the team being a postseason contender? Atlanta is 41-42. The division-leading Washington Nationals are 46-37 after slumping badly out of the gates. The Mets are currently in second place at 43-41, but have no speakable offense and rival the 2014 Braves in terms of offensive incompetency.

The plan under new General Manager John Hart was to rebuild and he has successfully done that by shipping off nearly every recognizable name from last year’s train wreck of a team. But now, Hart finds himself seemingly in the middle of the playoff hunt halfway through the season. Should he make a move to strengthen the team? Something Frank Wren tried to do every season but never resulted in a playoff series win. Or does Hart stand pat and let the chips fall where they may?

Once again, it’s more of the same with the Braves. Fool’s gold. Atlanta should continue to stay the path and look to rebuild. No one would have expected the Nationals to start off so poorly and basically give the rest of the division a month head start on them. Even with that stumble out of the gate and injuries to key players, Bryce Harper and now Max Scherzer have lifted the Nats to the top of the division and have begun to look like the 100-win team people thought they would be.

The Braves still would have to leap the Mets before they could challenge the Nationals. If Hart tried to make a move, it would be division or bust. There is a slim chance they would be able to grab one of the two wildcard spots. The Pirates (48-34) and the Cubs (44-37), yes, the Cubs, have a hold onto the two spots with the Mets (2.5) and Giants (3.5) trailing by a few games.

Atlanta has played admirably and hasn’t tanked completely, which is great news for John Hart not only for the future of the team, but for his goodwill with the fan base after trading away fan favorites. The Braves stole an All-Star away from the Cardinals in the Jason Heyward trade, acquiring young ace Shelby Miller (5-4, 2.07 ERA). Julio Teheran has flopped miserably as the assumed ace heading into the season (6-4, 4.60 ERA) and has a contract extension already inked thanks for former GM Frank Wren. Alex Wood has been steady when healthy and the rotation has gotten a lift from surprise minor leaguer Williams Perez (4-0, 2.88 ERA).

One of the most important things to remember this season is that it is a precursor to success that will follow. The Braves have struck gold on some veterans and would be wise to trade them at the deadline. Yes, Atlanta should be sellers, not buyers this July. The bullpen has been atrocious at times, but it has also had its moments. 38-year-old Jason Grilli has been great for Atlanta, notching 23 saves after compiling an ERA of 4.00 last season. 32-year-old set up man Jim Johnson has a 2.14 ERA in 43 appearances after a sparkling 7.09 ERA in 2014.

This is the definition of buying low and selling high. These two veterans don’t have a place with the team in the future. By the time Atlanta intends to compete again, 2017, Grilli will be 40 and Johnson 34. Contenders at the deadline are always looking for bullpen help and if Hart can swing both players for C-level prospects, he will have done a great job after they entered the season with limited value.

It’s tough to swallow punting on a season after seeing some success, but at the end of the day, Atlanta is still under .500 and chasing too many teams. They found a winning lottery ticket in Cameron Maybin who is having a career season, but may revert to his old ways (.252 career BA) any second. It would be a prudent decision for Hart to continue to sell as the deadline approaches. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Dansby Helps Georgia Remain Hotbed of Talent for MLB

Another year, another run of Georgia talent primed for success in the pros. The Peach State has given baseball the likes of Buster Posey, Jason Heyward, Adam Wainwright, Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and many, many more. Dating back to 2007, former Georgia high schoolers have peppered the draft in the first round. Heyward was selected 14th overall eight years ago.

In 2008, Tim Beckham out of Griffin High School was the No. 1 overall pick to the Tampa Bay Rays. He was followed by Buster Posey at No. 5 (FSU via Lee County), Gordon Beckham at No. 8 (UGA via Westminster) and Ethan Martin at No. 15 from Stephens County High School.

2009 saw Donavan Tate go third overall to the Padres after a prestigious prep career at Cartersville while Zack Wheeler of East Paulding was nabbed at No. 6 by the Giants.

Delino DeShields (Woodward Academy) went No. 8 to Houston and was followed by Jake Skole (Blessed Trinity), Kaleb Cowart (Cook), Cam Bedrosian (East Coweta) and Chevy Clarke (Marietta) in the 2010 edition of the MLB First-Year Players Draft.

Byron Buxton, who just made his MLB debut on Sunday, was the second overall selection in the 2012 draft out of Appling County. Lucas Sims (Brookwood) and James Ramsey (FSU via Wesleyan) followed Buxton at picks 21 and 23.

Clint Frazier of Loganville led the way for a trio of Georgians in the 2013 draft. Frazier was selected fifth overall while Austin Meadows (Grayson) landed at No. 9 and was followed by Travis Demeritte (Winder-Barrow) at No. 30.

Last year Max Pentecost (Winder-Barrow) led Kennesaw State to the College World Series and was drafted 11th by the Toronto Blue Jays. Michael Chavis (Sprayberry) was scooped up at 26 by the Red Sox.

Dansby Swanson is next in the long list of Georgia prep stars to get drafted highly. Swanson was a standout at Marietta High School before being selected first overall this year by the Diamondbacks after a great two seasons at Vanderbilt after an injury plagued freshman campaign. The shortstop stole the show as he won Most Outstanding Player honors at the College World Series when he helped the Commodores to their first ever championship.

Swanson has hit .350 with 15 homeruns, 62 RBIs and 16 stolen bases this season. His makeup and work ethic has had scouts raving about him since his breakout season in 2014. After hitting three homers a year ago, Swanson’s recent power surge all but solidified his position as the top prospect in the draft. Not only does he make contact at a high clip, his new found power allows him to spray balls into the gaps and even launch some into the seats.

Three other former Georgia high schoolers achieved their dreams of being drafted in the first round. Cornelius Randolph followed Tim Beckham as the next shortstop from Griffin High School to be drafted in the first round. Randolph went No. 10 to the Phillies and was slated to play at Clemson next year. He has an advanced bat and plate discipline beyond his years which encourages scouts that he can move up the ranks quickly.

Tyler Stephenson from Kennesaw Mountain went 11th overall to the Cincinnati Reds and was the first catcher selected in the draft. At 6-foot-4 225 pounds, Stephenson isn’t the prototypical catcher. He is a very fluid athlete with raw power potential and the ability control the game from behind the plate. Stephenson was originally pegged as a pitcher before the leaps and bounds he has made as a backstop in the past year.

Tennessee junior Christin Stewart went 34th overall to Detroit. The former Providence Christian Academy outfielder hit 15 homeruns with 47 RBIs and a .311 batting average this year.

Possibly the biggest steal of the draft went 37th to Houston. Daz Cameron, the AJC’s Baseball Athlete of the Year and son of former LaGrange star and MLB All-Star/Gold Glover Mike Cameron, was a consensus top 10 talent but dropped all the way to the compensation round due to signability. The Florida State signee is a great value pick for the Astros if he decides to sign.

Wrapping Up A Historic Weekend

The weekend has come and gone, but it was one not soon to be forgotten—for better or for worse. The mega-fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao headlined the weekend and grossed enough money to make you sick to your stomach if you watched the fight. The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby was another spectacle to behold. The NFL Draft made for good TV and the Atlanta Falcons seemingly put together one of the strongest drafts in the league. Game 7 of the Clippers-Spurs series was everything fans could have hoped for. The Braves hosted the Cincinnati Reds and on Sunday the Hawks welcomed the Wizards for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

From a local standpoint, there were some good moments and some bad moments for Atlanta teams. Let’s start with the positives. The Braves came away with a split in their four-game series with the Reds. Atlanta’s No. 3 ranked prospect Mike Foltynewicz made his first career start and helped the Braves win 4-3 with both his arm and bat. The 23-year-old who was acquired from the Houston Astros in the Evan Gattis deal, pitched five innings and allowed two earned runs. Foltynewicz settled down after a shaky 28-pitch first inning which saw two Reds cross the plate to gain an early lead. In the fourth inning, Foltynewicz stepped to the dish and delivered a two-run double to help spark the offense.

The Falcons had a well-liked draft and picked up some good value in the later rounds. Grady Jarrett is the son of former Falcon great Jessie Tuggle and will look to bring the same hardworking mindset his father had that made him a five-time Pro Bowler after going undrafted. The first round selection of Vic Beasley filled a glaring need for a pass rusher and gives Falcons fans an exciting player to look forward to seeing on Sundays.

One Atlanta team however, did lay an egg this weekend; your Atlanta Hawks. An energized team came out and held a 37-26 lead after the first period and looked as if they were ready to run the Wizards out of the building. Atlanta entered the half up 63-53, but the wheels would fall off. Bradley Beal took over the game and poured in a game-high 28 points to lead the Wizards to a 104-98 win. After struggling to close out Brooklyn in a timely fashion, Atlanta fans might be ready to hit the panic button after blowing Game 1.

On the national stage, the Kentucky Derby went chalk with the favorite, American Pharoah, pulling away down the stretch to hold off Firing Line. The pomp and circumstance was a sight to behold as the graceful power of the horses was on full display. American Pharoah will now attempt to be the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.

Game 7 of the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs was the most exciting event of the weekend hands down. A hobbled Chris Paul with just one hamstring willed the Clippers to victory and stunned the defending champs with a 111-109 victory. Paul finished with 27 points including the game-winner with one second remaining over Tim Duncan; a shot even the Russian Judges would give a 10-out-of-10 in difficulty. The incredible performance was meant to serve as the ultimate appetizer to the biggest boxing match in history, but the main course didn’t please everyone’s pallet.

Mayweather beat Pacquiao by decision in a match that most were let down by. Being an avid boxing fan year round, this was exactly what I thought would happen. The casual fan who thought there would be some sort of knockout got their hopes up for nothing. These two fighters aren’t guys who try to knock you out anymore. Mayweather is the greatest defensive fighter of all-time and always looks to hug and slither his way out of trouble. People can’t say the fight was a disappointment because this is what was expected going in. Pacquiao hadn’t scored a knockout since 2012 and Mayweather, 2011. The villain might have won the fight, but overall as sports fans, we won this weekend.