2009 in Review: April (10-11, .476, 3rd in East)

With April now behind us, and a better understanding of what sort of team the Braves have put together for 2009 in front of us, I thought a review of April is in order.

The National League East is shaping up like this:

TEAM                  W      L         %       GB
Florida                 13      8        .619      —
Philadelphia          11     9        .550      1.5
Atlanta                 10     11       .476      3.0
New York               9     12       .429      4.0
Washington            5     15       .250      7.5

Streaks: L1; Last 10: 5-5; Home: 4-5; Road: 6-6; Runs Allowed: 90; Runs Scored: 85.

The two stats that jump out at me the most are the home record of 4-5 and the runs scored is 5 less than what they’ve allowed. The theory is simple: score more than you allow.

Even with the addition of Derek Lowe and Javier Vasquez, the Braves are in serious need of another quality starter and at least one more bat to anchor the offense. Let’s face it, with McCann and Garret Anderson both on the DL, and Chipper ailing from a sore thumb, the offense cannot be carried by the likes of Jeff Francoeur, Casey Kotchman and Yunel Escobar.

To compete, Frank Wren will have to sign another thunder stick, like an Adam Dunn, to help the Braves compete in the division.

As far as the rotation is concerned, Javier Vasquez (2-2, 3.38 ERA, 42K) has been the victim of a terminal offense, so we can’t accurately judge his performace and have only his years with the White Sox to go by. So, no fault to him.

Derek Lowe (2-1, 3.10 ERA, 25K) has been a breath of fresh air for the Braves and I am genuinely excited to see him toe the rubber. In fact, I hope to make it to the Ted to see him pitch this year. I just hope it’s a game where the Braves’ offense shows up.

Admitedly, both Jair Jurrjens (2-2, 1.72 ERA, 16K) and Jose Reyes (0-1, 4.26 ERA, 11K) have surprised. (Reyes has been the victim, even more so than Vasquez, of the “show up or don’t” offense).

Frankly, the Braves can’t wait for Tim Hudson to return to the rotation to replace Kenshin Kawakami (1-3, 7.06 ERA, 18K). If the Braves are going to compete against the surprising Marlins, they have to get Kawakami back to form and pitching to his billing.

Tom Glavine is a non-factor at this point, being on the DL, and honestly, we can’t count on more than, say, 8-10 wins from him, depending on when he returns to the team. All subject to the offense, of course.

Another puzzling thing: why is Omar Infante sitting when he’s batting .350 to Kelly Johnson’s .203? A real head scratcher there. Sure, Johnson has more power, but Infante makes better contact, and with a team like the Braves, contact and speed should be primary concerns, in my view. Infante also has better OBP and Slugging.

In terms of the bench, Grag Norton, quickly became one of my favorite Braves last year, is off to a horrific start (.222, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 3BB, 4K in 15 AB). This is another area where the Braves have to pick up someone to help out. Another good contact hitter and someone, like a Dave Roberts, who can steal a base late to put pressure on the defense.

I can sit here all day and analyze this team to death. In the end, however, whether they suceed or fail on the field is ultimately up to them. It is my hope that the Braves pull themselves out of this hole and put on a good old fashoned surge to retake the division.

Go Braves!


The Tampa Bay Rays have defeated the Boston Red Sox 4 games to 3 in the American League Championship Series. The final score was Rays 3, Red Sox 1. Matt Garza picks up his first ALCS MVP Award for his 2-0 performance in the series.

Tampa Bay, under shoe-in for Manager of the Year award, Joe Maddon, won 97 games during the regular season, a franchise record. (The previous record was 70 wins).

It was a tense series, with many ups and downs. I never felt comfortable as a fan watching these games. This is due to Boston’s tremendous ability to come back regardless of the score. When Akinori Iwamura recorded the final out, I literally jumped for joy and threw my hands up in the air and screamed so loud, I’m sure my neighbors thought I was being beaten to death.

I’ve been a long time fan of the Tampa Bay Rays and I’m pleased beyond measure that they were able to pull of a ALCS victory over rivial Boston.

9 = 8? No.

9 = 4. Four wins to complete their Worst-to-First season and secure their first World Series title. To do so, however, they are going to have to beat a tough Philidelphia Phillies team who features a solid starting rotation led by Cole Hamels.

Whatever happens, we, the Fans, are in for a World Series that could very well go down in history as the best yet.

Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Rays for their hard faught victory. And thank you for this. I know its special for you guys, but for me, a fan of the Rays since the beginning, its really special.

Congratulations and thanks again. Best of luck in the Fall Classic.

Go Rays!

With one more win, FOX Sports will be forced to acknowledge Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays are one win a way from a World Series showdown with the Philadelphia Phillies. When, (or if, to be fair to the Red Sox), this happens, FOX Sports will be forced to acknowledge a team they’ve spent the last 11 years ignoring.

FOX Sports broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver have been studious in their lack of attention to the Rays, (though to be fair, Tim McCarver did acknowledge the Rays’ season on his own “The Tim McCarver Show,” and for that I give him credit).

While I wanted the Dodgers to pull out a victory, mainly because I feel the Rays matched up better with the Dodgers than the Phillies, I am happy that I won’t be hearing anything more about Manny Ramirez. Sure, he’s a great player, but that’s all anyone will talk about. There are 24 other guys who play for the Dodgers. How about you talk about the game and not “The Manny Show?

I am looking forward to the World Series. I hope the Rays perform well, (when/if they get there), since a good performance during the Fall Classic will assure future broadcasts on the two Pro-Yankee/Red Sox, Anti-everyone else networks of FOX Sports and ESPN.

Go Rays!

Don’t Worry Braves Fans, The Streak Is Still Alive!

The Braves’ one-run road loss streak is still alive, thanks to Vladimir Nunez’s bases loaded walk in the bottom of the tenth to lose the game 9-8. The Braves were in Washington to face the Nationals, who, you’d think, the Braves could handle.

But, lest we forget, the Braves were on the road.

Destiny has a way of kicking you in the teeth.

The Braves have 13 scheduled road games left this season. Thirteen more chances to continue the streak of one-run losses. I guess it’s something to look forward to.

Mark Kotsay Still a Brave

Mark Kotsay is still an Atlanta Brave despite persistent rumors that he is to be dealt to the Boston Red Sox in a waiver deal pending final approval.

My opinion on this is that the Braves would be making a HUGE mistake trading Kotsay to anyone. As I said in a previous entry, Kotsay should be given a contract extension for at least 1-2 years.

Simply put, the Braves need the outfield help and Kotsay’s veteran presence and leadership skills in the clubhouse outweigh his production. Currently, Kotsay is batting .289, 6HR, 37RBI, and 2SB on the season. He walked in a pinch-hit appearance in tonight’s come from behind victory against the Florida Marlins (the final score was 10-9).

We will have to wait and see if Frank Wren makes a deal with Boston or some other team involving Mark Kotsay. I certainly hope he stays.

ESPN to (Acctually) Broadcast Tampa Bay Rays Game

I know. I’m as shocked as you are, but it’s true.

Apparently, ESPN is finally convinced that the Tampa Bay Rays are the Real Deal and won’t be going away any time soon.

To prove this, they are set to broadcast a game between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (who really need a name change) and the FIRST PLACE Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday Night Baseball, starting at 7:10 PM EST.

Of course, the cynic in me thinks ESPN is only showing the game because the Angels are in first place and, well, people love to see first place teams. Since there are TWO first place teams in this match up, I would urge anyone who’s within 15 feet of a TV to tune in and see this game. Show ESPN that there are people out there who want to see games featuring the Rays and their winning ways.

Oh yeah, since this is a blog about the Braves, they lost again.


Wouldn’t it be Neat If. . . . ?

Wouldn’t it be neat if sports networks would display the fielding percentages for players who come in as defensive replacements late in games?

For example, let’s say Martin Prado replaces Chipper Jones at third base late in a game. When the graphics person displays Prado’s stats on the screen, the graphic usually lists the position and the name only.

As it is now:
3B Martin Prado

What it could be:
3B Martin Prado
FPCT: .958 (1 E)

This would allow the fans at home to quickly gauge how effective a player is in the field. Graphics departments already put a lot of effort into providing the key statistics of players while at bat, so I don’t see how this can put any undo stress on those departments.

Sure it creates more work, but the graphics departments should think of this as job security (and in this economy, that’s reassuring.)

Just an idea.

Is Jeff Francoeur Coming Out of It?

Jeff Francoeur is showing some signs of life. Frenchy went 4 for 5 raising his season average to .233. He drove in 2 and scored 2 in Atlanta’s 11 to 5 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday.

I admit, I have had my doubts about Francoeur for some time now, even since last year. I was not, nor have I ever been, a huge fan of Jeff’s, honestly. Cynics would say it’s because of jealousy. Not so. It’s a desire for the Braves to do well and for them to make it to the postseason and bring another championship to Atlanta. Nothing more.


The whole “local boy done good” thing is great, as far as it goes. And it’s gone far enough, I think.

My view on team sports is this: If one part of the team isn’t performing well, then replace it with a part that IS performing well. Simple as that. When Francoeur was sent to Mississippi earlier this year, I thought, “Well. About time. He needs to get his head on straight and come back mentally healthy.”

Injuries forced his return a scant three days later, however. And despite this upsurge in production, I still feel that Francoeur, and the Braves, would be better served were he to spend more than three days in Mississippi (or Richmond, or wherever the Braves need to send him to get his swing back).

The Braves have, to this point, (and I hesitate to use this word, but if the shoe fits. . . .) coddled him and it is high time for some tough love. If the Braves are truly finished this season, and they’ve given up an a comeback, (being 11 games behind the rival New York Mets), then perhaps its time to send Jeff out to fix his swing and bring up some younger talent to cut their teeth on major league pitching.

Of course, the Braves will do what they need to do to make this franchise the most competative they can be. I applaud Frank Wren for doing a good job so far as the new GM.

I just wish he’d take the kid gloves off when it comes to Francoeur.

Braves Fan’s Should be Patient with Kotchman

Many Braves fans might be thinking Casey Kotchman should return to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and bring Mark Teixeira back to the Braves.

These fans should be patient with Casey Kotchman because of his past success with the Angels and his future, which looks rather bright in a Braves uniform. (The Braves have control of Kotchman until the close of the 2011 season.)

Kotchman is currently batting .272, 12 HR, 59 RBI’s and 2 SB in 430 AB’s combined between Los Angeles and Atlanta. He is a career .269 hitter.

My theory is that Kotchman is simply nervous about being in a new town, in a new league, and is having some trouble adjusting to the National League style of play and the differences in managerial styles between Angels manager Mike Scioscia and Braves manager Bobby Cox.

Who can blame him, really? Kotchman is 25 years old and is one of the rising stars of baseball. He will catch fire and prove his worth to the Braves and to Braves fans.

Just be patient.