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Chop-N-Change: An Atlanta Braves Blog | Page 6

Game 129 Recap (8/22/11)

Written by Paddy McMahon on .

Braves 3 (77-52), Cubs 0 (56-72)

W: Jair Jurrjens
L: Ryan Dempster
SV: Jonny Venters

Gather round, folks, and let me tell you the scary tale of the regression monster. You see, sometimes baseball players get lucky over the course of a season, and post a sub-2.00 ERA, or bat .360. Some ground balls either go unfettered by fielders; some screaming line drives find leather. Them's the breaks, as they say, but lost in that folksy bit of charm is the sinister Regression Monster, his teeth gnashing at extreme BABIPs and HR/FB rates. And eventually, every player who plies his trade long enough, will find himself ensconced in the jaws of statistical reality.

But then sometimes, your team employs Dan Uggla, who can dispel the demon with a simple flex of his barely-covered biceps. A latter day He-Man, Uggla has a gift for not only doing battle with the monster to distract it from his teammates, but can cover for them with a 984-foot home run onto Waveland Ave and, if he's lucky, a few nice charging defensive plays.

And indeed, that was the story today, as Jair Jurrjens -- who's been doing battle unaided with the monster since the All-Star break -- struggled his way through six and a third innings, allowing eight hits and walking five while recording just one strikeout. And yet, because of the heroic efforts of Dan Uggla, Jurrjens allowed not a single run. The Cubs left at least two men on base in six separate innings (a total of 15!) which either speaks to how bad the Cubs are or how Jurrjens found the luck that was on his side in the beginning of the season.

Of course, that was all nearly for naught when Jurrjens almost detonated his knee and/or ankle while trying to make a sliding play on a bunt from Cubs speedster Tony Campana, but he appears to have escaped that scary situation no worse for the wear. The same might not be true of Jose Constanza, though, who caught first base awkwardly while trying to beat out (another) infield hit; he left the game with a mildly sprained ankle, which shouldn't DL him, but will likely keep him out of the next couple of games.

As for the rest of the game, we were treated to a first-inning home run from Freddie Freeman, his 18th of the year, and a combined trio of hits from the resident speedsters, Constanza and Michael Bourn. The bullpen, as is its wont, was able to close the door on the Cubs, though it wasn't quite the dominating performance we've become accustomed to; Eric O'Flaherty allowed a hit, and Jonny Venters walked the first two Cubs he saw (and threw 9/12 pitches for balls at one point). I'm obviously more concerned about the latter, but I suspect that it was a more a bad night for Venters than any serious issue. His command was off, but he was still hitting 95+ with the sinker and 87 with movement on the slider. 

Plus, he ended the game by striking out Carlos Pena and Marlon Byrd, and Alex Gonzalez made a really cool diving tag of second base on an Alfonso Soriano ground ball to end the game. Oh, speaking of Alex -- he drew a walk tonight! On four pitches! Fun fact: according to the Cubs' broadcast, that was his first walk in literally one calendar month. Congrats!

And so we're ready to do this again tomorrow night, aren't we? It'll be, to my neverending delight, the defining alliterative battle of our generation, with Mike Minor facing off against Casey Coleman. 8:05 EDT tomorrow night. See y'all then.

A Photo Journal of My Summer Vacation

Written by Joe Lucia on .

I got back from my vacation yesterday. During that vacation, I made stops in Danville, Atlanta, Asheville, and Lynchburg, and saw seven games over the course of the trip, both major and minor league. I saw shutouts, I saw ceremonies, I saw homers, I saw records....it was a fantastic trip all around. Just like I did during spring training, I had my trusty Nikon Coolpix D100 around my neck at all the games I went to, and here are just some of the pictures I took during the trip. For the full galleries, check out the Chop N Change Facebook page. Warning: there are a ton of photos below the cut. I've shrunk them, but the post could still take awhile to load.

Re-Evaluating the Derrek Lee Trade

Written by Joe Lucia on .

When the Braves picked up Derrek Lee last August from the Cubs, the reaction from fans was....mixed. Some thought Lee was washed up. Some thought he'd be a massive improvement over Troy Glaus. Others were pissed about the prospects the team gave up. A year later, let's look back at that trade and see where everything ended up landing.

Troy Glaus broke down for the Braves over the summer after strong months of May and June, and he became useless in July. Thus, Frank Wren swung a deal after the waiver deadline, picking up former All-Star Derrek Lee from the Cubs for three minor league pitchers: Robinson Lopez, Ty'Relle Harris, and Jeff Lorick. Lopez was a 19 year old holding his own in Rome, and was thought of as the key to the deal. Harris was a college reliever who was smoking hitters in Mississippi, and it was thought he'd be major league ready soon. And then there was Lorick, who was just another guy, a minor league reliever that was thought of as a specialist in the long haul.

Lee's performance in Atlanta was about what the team expected. He hit .287/.384/.465, which is in the general ballpark of his career numbers. He wasn't the same player he was in his prime with the Cubs, but he was still effective. Without Lee, the Braves don't make the playoffs. His biggest hit was the grand slam into the second deck at Citi Field against the Mets to cap a comeback. Anyone who complains about Derrek Lee's 39 game tenure as a Brave has no idea what the hell they're talking about.

But the prospects in the deal....they are what will determine if the deal was a double-edged sword for the Braves at the end of the day. As of right now, it's looking like the Braves ended up on the winning end of the deal.

Robinson Lopez, who was thought of as a damn good prospect, has a 5.52 ERA in 62 innings for A-ball Peoria, working mainly as a reliever. In those 62 innings, he's struck out only 29. He's also walked....29. The eight homers he's allowed is the cherry on top of his sundae. Lopez hasn't panned out, at least one season in that is, as many pundits has expected. Is he injured? Did Frank Wren know something ahead of time about him that led to the trade? Whatever the cause behind his struggles this year, they've benefitted the Braves.

Ty'Relle Harris was the big, flamethrowing righty out of Tennessee who took the organization by storm after being drafted in 2009. At the time of the trade, he had 60 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings, and had gotten as far up the ladder as Mississippi. This season, he's reached AAA Iowa, but just for one appearance. The majority of his time has been spent in AA Tennessee. He hasn't pitched since June 13th after a hit and run broke both of his legs. When healthy, he wasn't terribly effective, walking 28 and striking out 30 in 37 1/3 innings. What happened to him is absolutely tragic though, and I'm not going to comment anymore on his situation, because it's terrible.

And then, there's Jeff Lorick. The guy expected to be a specialist has actually started 18 games for Daytona in the FSL this year. He's been....not good. His ERA is 5.16, and he's allowed ten homers and 43 walks while striking out 73. Lorick's best feature, his ability to get ground balls, is still there, as he's got a 1.34 GB:FB ratio this season. But as the sample size grows, and Lorick faces more hitters, his control issues get exemplified, and his ability to strike hitters out takes a hit. He'd be better off in a relief role, but the Cubs keep trotting him out there as a starter. There would be no room for him in the Braves organization in that role.

So there you have it. Of the three prospects traded to the Cubs, ineffectiveness has plagued them all. The bounty, once thought to be a little steep, isn't looking so bad now. I would love for Harris to come back and succeed after everything he's been through, though. But to all Braves fans complaining about the Derrek Lee trade, and how awful it was...please. Step off. 

Game Recap - 8/21/11

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Braves 1, Diamondbacks 0

WP: Hudson (13-7)
LP: Collmenter (7-8)
SV: Kimbrel (39)

This was a pitcher's duel from the getgo, and the Braves prevailed with the sole run that crossed the plate all day. Tim Hudson started, and turned in another one of his great outings: seven shutout innings while allowing three hits and three walks, and striking out seven. Huddy also got three double plays: a lineout from Kelly Johnson, a strike em out, throw em out, and after a foul popup, Freddie Freeman threw out Johnson at home after a triple that looked like it would bring a run in. Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel did their thing, but there was drama with Kimbrel....men on the corners and one out, but what's Kimbrel do? Strikes out the final two batters on some nasty stuff. He's got got 101 strikeouts on the season and hasn't allowed a run in two months. Purely dominant.

The offense for the day came on a solo homer from Alex Gonzalez in the third, and that was that. The team only had a total of five hits on the day. It looked like the Braves would get an insurance run in the eighth after Michael Bourn doubled into the right field corner and made it to third on a Justin Upton error, but Bourn was thrown out at the plate on a botched suicide squeeze by Martin Prado. It was a completely un-necessary call, and seemed like Fredi was just trying to manage for the sake of managing. Prado was the only Brave to reach base multiple times, as he doubled and also walked.

No rest for the wicked, as the Braves are probably hopping a plane to Chicago right now for a four game set with the Cubs. Oddly, three of the games are at night....very strange for the Second City. Tomorrow's pitching matchup will pit Jair Jurrjens, who struggled in his last start against the Giants on Wednesday, against Ryan Dempster, who allowed two runs in seven innings last Tuesday in Houston. He's had five straight quality starts. It's a tall order for the team, but they're on a great roll right now. 

Game Recap - 8/20/11

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Braves 8, Diamondbacks 1

WP: Beachy (6-2)
LP: Miley (0-1) 

The Braves sure did lay a nice whooping on Arizona tonight. The Diamondbacks picked up their run in the first inning, and it looked like it would be a rough night for Brandon Beachy. He settled down though, and that one run was all he'd allow on the evening. He only allowed four hits and one walk in his six innings, and struck out seven. Two of those four hits came in the first inning, so Beachy only allowed three runners in his final five innings. That's pretty solid. The bullpen allowed just two baserunners in three innings of relief of Beachy, with Cristhian Martinez facing four batters and getting them all out to be the standout of the back end of the game.

Atlanta's offense was back up to full speed again. Eight runs, 13 hits, and four walks for the home team....when it rains, it pours. The offense was distributed evenly too, as every starter reached base at least once. The top of the lineup did most of the damage though. Michael Bourn had two hits and two runs (and a fantastic catch in center field), Martin Prado had three hits (two doubles) and a walk, Chipper Jones had two hits, and Dan Uggla had two homers and a walk. Freddie Freeman also homered for the Braves.  Yeah...I'll take that.

The Braves now have an eight game lead on the Giants in the NL wild card race, as they lost AGAIN. This team looks to be guaranteed a playoff berth right now, and everything is clicking really well over the past week. The team will look to sweep the Diamondbacks tomorrow, and will send Tim Hudson to the mound against Arizona rookie Josh Collmenter. I'll finally be home from my vacation on Sunday afternoon as well, so regular posting should resume both here and on The Outside Corner. 

Game 126 Recap (8/19/11)

Written by Paddy McMahon on .

Braves 4 (74-52), Diamondbacks 2 (69-56)

W: Derek Lowe
L: Daniel Hudson
SV: Craig Kimbrel

And the Braves keep on rolling.

After taking three of four from the Giants in the previous series, the Braves continued their good play against the NL West by taking Daniel Hudson deep three times, then handing it off to the bullpen to protect the four-run lead. Which, with the fairly notable exception of all the home runs, is how the Braves are going to win most baseball games.

So! Those home runs. Michael Bourn led the game off with a tater tot, which was (according to I think @ESPNStatsInfo) the second time in his career that he's led a game off in such a fashion. Both occasions, you'll be happy to know, have come while he was employed by the Braves.

edit: SONUVA! ... As was rightfully pointed out in the comments, this was Bourn's first homer as a Brave, meaning that the aforementioned fact cannot be true. I was lied to on the internet, you guys, and I turned right around and propogated it back to you. Such an idiot. I still love you, though.

Brian McCann followed suit in his second at-bat of the night, taking advantage of Daniel Hudson's foolish walk of Jose Constanza to put a crooked number on the board by way of a tater that was about as mashed as taters can be and likely would have burned its way through the bleachers and into the earth's core if not for the interference of a lucky fan.

And then, on the day he announced that he plans to return to the team next year for the final year of his contract, Chipper Jones was all like 'fastball inside, I hit a bomb' and became the final Brave to try to induce whiplash in Danny Hudson. It was Chipper's 448th career home run, meaning that we're probably two away from some no-count bozo trying to start a discussion about whether he can hit 500. 

Side note: do you guys think it would be the only nickname that could be so simultaneously fitting and funny as 'The Franchise' for Chipper? I mean, the guy's an icon, but ... can you imagine Chipper wearing a big silver chain that says The Franchise in script? With like diamonds on it? I want this to happen.

ANYWAY, before we get to the pitching, there's one more thing I'd like to point out: if Fredi is going to insist on keeping Constanza in the lineup, this is the way I'd like to see it: Prado on the bench, Constanza in left, and Heyward getting his PT in right. That'll placate all y'all hot hand fiends, right?

Speaking of fiends and/or people who get really, really sweaty, Derek Lowe was pretty good for the Braves tonight! I puzzled for a long time over whether to call him good, great or outstanding, because he struck out seven guys and allowed just six baserunners. But he threw only five innings, and was pulled after consecutive walks to Justin Upton and Miguel Montero that put Arodys Vizcaino in a tough spot. So, overall, he was better than you expect from Derek Lowe, but still kind of Derek Lowe-y. Got it? Good.

Finally, Craig Kimbrel. It was the shakiest outing we've seen from the rookie in quite some time, as he walked Wilie Bloomquist (which I assume was recompense for Hudson walking Constanza) and allowed a bunt single to Kelly Johnson. But, in classic Kimbrel fashion, he ended up with two strikeouts and got the third out by inducing a swinging bunt from Justin Upton. I just wanted to ask y'all while I'm here, though: Mark Smith and I discussed this briefly on Twitter last night, but do you think it's sexier for Kimbrel to strike a guy out on a fastball or a slider? This is probably something that deserves a full post, but I wanted to get a quick straw poll on where we stood on this issue.

We do it all again tomorrow night, folks. The Diamondbacks will send quakin'-in-his-boots Wade Miley to the hill for his first EVER Major League appearance, while the Braves see the shook rook and raise the Dbacks Brandon Beachy. 7:00 EDT.

Game Recap: 8/18/11

Written by Jake Humphrey on .

WP: Mike Minor (3-2)

LP: Tim Lincecum (11-10)

SV: Craig Kimbrel (37)

Going into this series, I thought a split would be a pretty good outcome. We had a pitching advantage in the first two games and then would be looking at a pretty stiff task to take two games from Cain and Lincecum. After coming short in the ninth last night, it looked like a split would be the likely outcome with Lincecum on the mound for the Giants.

Luckily for us Minor decided to show everyone why Wren has been hesitant to include him in a trade, pitching six shutout innings while allowing only four hits and one intentional walk to go with nine strikeouts. Chipper Jones gave the Braves the only run of the game, and the only one they'd need, with a home run off of Lincecum in the fifth inning. O'Flaherty, Venters, and Kimbrel did their job after Minor left, allowing only one baserunner in their three innings of work. Kimbrel struck out two the batters he faced on his way to his 37th save of the season.

McCann and Chipper both hit doubles. Jason Heyward, who somehow found his way in the lineup despite him not being someone "you have to defend" went 1-2 with an intentional walk and seemed much more comfortable at the plate and in the field than he has of late. Hopefully he'll reclaim his rightful starting spot soon. Constanza contributed with a pinch-hit single and a stolen base in the eighth.

After extending their Wild Card lead to six games, the Braves will host the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondback in a three-game set this weekend.

Gonzalez is the Best Option for 2012

Written by Joe Lucia on .

A lot of Braves fans, myself included, are sick and tired of Alex Gonzalez and his anemic bat at shortstop. We all clamor for him to be pinch hit for late in close games. His offense this year has been, quite frankly, a complete and utter disaster. Many fans are assuming that he won't be a Brave in 2012. But he could be the best available option for the team in 2012.

The early favorite to win the shortstop job next season is Tyler Pastornicky, who did nothing but hit after a promotion to Gwinnett before spraining his ankle this past weekend and being placed on the disabled list. That DL stint could end his season. Do you really want to hand the starting shortstop job to a guy who has only 102 at bats in AAA? There's no doubt that he's the shortstop of the future, but I'm not necessarily sure that the future is now. I'd like to see him get a full season in at AAA before handing him the job. It's what the team did with Freddie Freeman, not rushing him to the majors in 2010. Jason Heyward was a different case, because he was clearly ready for the majors with the way he mashed minor league pitching during his career there. Hell, look at what happened to Jordan Schafer: he got the call from AA, got hurt, and was never the same player since. I don't think the team wants the same thing to happen to Pastornicky.

That brings me to the free agent market. Aside from Jose Reyes, there really isn't an exceptional talent going at shortstop. Most of the guys available are defensive subs. Would you really feel more comfortable with someone like Ronny Cedeno, Adam Everett, John McDonald, or Jack Wilson playing short in 2012? Yeah, neither would I. If you're going to go with a defensive specialist, why not bring back Gonzalez? He's the best defensive SS in the league (+16 according to DRS, which makes him one of the best FIELDERS in the league, regardless of position), and I wouldn't mind living with his awful bat if the alternatives are just as bad offensively.

Gonzalez has most definitely been an offensive wasteland since the Braves acquired him from the Blue Jays last year. But his defense has been absolutely stellar. On a team with groundball specialists like Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson and Jonny Venters, you need a solid hand at short. And I think Gonzalez is the right man for the job next season despite his struggles with the bat, just because of Pastornicky's lack of experience at the higher levels of the minors. 

Game Recap - 8/17/11

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Giants 7, Braves 5

WP: Cain (10-9)
LP: Jurrjens (12-5)

It almost happened again. There was almost another Braves comeback, but it fell short in the ninth inning with Brian McCann striking out to end the game. The Braves didn't have any offense to speak of in the game's first eight innings, plating just one run on five hits. Matt Cain retired his last 17 hitters. Yeah, that's something that will really kill your run scoring chances. But regardless, the team finished with just eight hits, and Martin Prado was the only one who had a multiple hit game. Only two walks too....not good.

Speaking of not good, Jair Jurrjens was pretty awful tonight. He went six, but allowed five earned while walking two and striking out just one. He's allowed 21 earned in his last 29 innings. Talk about a fall from grace after his stellar first half. With Tommy Hanson being injured and ineffective in the second half, and Derek Lowe being utterly useless, the team needs Jurrjens to step his game up. He has not done that thusfar.

Braves look to take the series tomorrow on Dan Uggla Bobblehead Day, and it'll be a tall order, with Mike Minor going up against Tim Lincecum. I'll probably be at the park super early tailgating, and I need to do some merch shopping before the game....so if you're going to be around, feel free to say hi! 

Game Recap 8/16/11

Written by Jeremy Reed on .

Braves 2, Giants 1

What is it with these Giants vs. Braves games?  It seems like every time they play it’s doomed to be a low scoring, over/poorly managed affair.  To say the Giants’ offense is bad would be quite the understatement, and the Fredi continues to insist on running out a non optimal lineup making these games excruciating to watch.  Oh, and Chip Caray announces.  I miss the TBS days.

Randall Delgado made his second career start tonight, and it was impressive, surrendering but one hit while pitching into the seven, albeit it was a homerun.  He walked one and struck out four.  Tonight served yet another reminder of the embarrassing riches that are Braves’ pitching prospects with Delgado starting and Arodys Vizcaino pitching two innings and picking up his first win.  Frank Wren’s first season as GM was wrecked by pitching injuries, and he has made sure that will never happen again, stockpiling young arms whenever he gets the chance.  It’s a good strategy.

The offense was…not so good tonight.  The good news was that the Braves managed five walks.  The bad news (team wise) was that Michael Bourn accounted for three of them.  Surprisingly the Braves managed only two runs tonight.  But as Mr. Caray stated recently, there’s probably little connection between base runners and runs scored.  Constanza scored the first run after he reached on a bunt single, continuing his streak as the luckiest man alive.  The real hero tonight was Brooks Conrad.  His ground rule double in the eleventh set up Prado’s walk off single to run the Braves’ wildcard lead to six games.

Pointless Musings:

  • Alex Gonzalez cannot hit to the tune of a .268 wOBA and a 65 wRC+
  • Read that twice to let it sink in
  • Fredi Gonzalez is a horrible tactician
  • Brooks Conrad’s hands must be ridiculously calloused

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