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Chop-N-Change: An Atlanta Braves Blog

Learn How to Win a Lottery

Written by Matt Mutt on .


Winning! This is a word that keeps flashing in the mind of each and every lottery player. A few, if anyone will play the lottery with the opposing word –loosing, imprinted in their minds. Still, every player knows that chances of winning a lottery are limited. However, it is the strategies that one employs that determine whether you will win the lottery or not. When you read online casino 888 - full review, you tremendously increase your chances of not only of winning the lottery but also enjoying the whole experience. Below are some basic tricks that you can use to help you win the lottery:

Have a basic strategy of playing

More often than not, lottery winners have said that they strictly followed a certain strategy however basic. Lottery takes a long time to be drawn and this means that you will need to play over an extended period of time. The best approach is to identify the lucky numbers that you would wish to be playing every time.

Learn to be consistent

Just like it is with any game or business, consistency is the root to success for most people. Rather than playing once every month, why not play every week without fail. You will definitely feel bad whenever you find that a person won during the week or the day when you didn’t play. The other way to increase your chances is to buy more tickets when the jackpot is especially large.

Play numbers larger than 31

According to studies done on people who play lotteries, it is highly likely for one to pick a day of a birthday or an anniversary. This obviously means the numbers which most players pick is lower than 31. By picking 31, you significantly decrease the chance of sharing your big win with others.

Master when to buy your tickets

Ideally, all tickets are supposed to have an equal chance when it comes to the draws. Even when you mathematically work out the chances, every ticket should stand an equal as any other when it comes to drawing. Studies carried out in the past show that the tickets that tend to win more are those which were bought on Friday evenings. Even though the reason for this is yet to be established, you should look into buying your tickets on Friday evenings just as the veteran lottery players have been doing.

Consider buying your tickets in certain post codes

The lottery is a game of chance, but sometimes you have to learn from the past in order to learn what chance you stand. Studies done in the past have established that Birmingham and Romford in Essex are the areas where most lottery winners come from especially for amounts larger than £5,000. Indeed, the largest number of lottery millionaires in U.K are found in these post codes.

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Online Poker, Betting and Casino- How They Are Related To Each Other

Written by Cris Crumpler on .


There are many online players, who show their interest in gambling. However, when we enter the world of gambling, we may find out many terms, like poker, casino and betting. All these terms seem to be synonymous. Some people have also misconceptions on these terms. But, there are relation and difference among these terminologies.

A basic idea on what is betting

First of all, let’s have a clear idea about betting. Betting is quite identical to the term- gambling. It may be considered as a kind of contract between 2 groups. One of them calculates or forecasts a result and lays the bet. Another party pays a specific amount or parts with bet. For instance, many people do betting on horse race. While the chosen horse becomes winner, they gain money. However, when the opposite thing happens, they may lose money. The most significant point to be noted is that with gambling, the participants have to determine the strong points and effects of some external factors.

What games are included in casino?

In any casino game, found at http://oddsdigger.com/, all the participants have to bet the chips of casino on a range of outcomes randomly. These games are nowadays played online. However, the land-based games are sometimes played outside the casino house. These casino gaming options may be categorised in three ways- ticket games, table game and gaming with electronic machines. The slot games are generally run by a single player. In these games, casino stuffs don’t need to be involved actively. 

Relation of poker with betting

Poker may be defined as card games, related to gambling. However, unlike the casino games, some skills are needed. In the poker games that are found on different websites, the initial betting rounds start with multiple players. Thus, betting is considered as one of the major parts in all the variants of poker. The variants help in deciding on the champion.

For instance, when you are taking raising actions, the actual bettor may go for re-raising. Many of the cardrooms set a limitation on how many bets have to be allowed. Generally, with 3 raises, there is a single bet. But, if 2 participants are left, some of these cardrooms accept raises and bets to an unlimited range.  

So, remember these relations among each of the terms, related to gambling. Besides, there are some recognized operators, namely, 32Red and Ladbrokes, and they have launched mobile software, which helps in understanding how casino games differ from the pokers. You can use those apps to make your idea clear. These concepts may enable you in playing the games efficiently. With good understanding, you can also choose the most suitable game for you.

The AL West Race Is Full of Questions

Written by Matt Musico on .

What's the key to an MLB team beating out their competition en route to securing a division title? There are a lot of variables that go into a potential postseason run, but it's almost always centered around pitching -- both effectiveness and relative health.

Something that gets overlooked from last year was the incredible continuity the Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays had in their respective starting rotations -- they were both top five in fWAR thanks to finishing first and second in total innings pitched. They accomplished that because each squad boasted five hurlers with at least 29 starts.

Virtually no teams can depend on that kind of consistency throughout the regular season.

Every division race has questions about pitching, but it seems like the American League West is just oozing with uncertainty in each of the team's starting rotations -- whether they're a contender or not.  And if you love this recap of AL West pitching, then you'll definitely love this online casino review.

Texas Rangers

To say that pitching wasn't a strength for the Rangers last year is a bit of an understatement. Yes, Cole Hamels was good all year and Yu Darvish was solid after returning from Tommy John surgery, but the group just didn't perform well overall.

They posted an AL-best 95-67 record despite the rotation's 7.9 fWAR being better than just eight teams, and used their incredible success in one-run games to make up for having a +8 run differential.

This part of the roster was in clear need of an upgrade this winter, but it didn't really happen. Hamels and Darvish are still anchoring the top and Martin Perez is holding down the middle, but they added Andrew Cashner and a rehabbing Tyson Ross, both of which could be starting the year on the disabled list.

Adding Mike Napoli was a solid move, but with questions in the outfield, some losses via free agency and the activity of their division opponents could make taking home the division crown tougher than usual for a defending champ.

Houston Astros

Houston was very busy this winter -- they not only added Josh Reddick and Nori Aoki to the outfield, but also Brian McCann behind the plate and veteran Carlos Beltran.

The only problem? Despite being rumored to have serious interest in Jose Quintana, the lone upgrade they made to the starting rotation was by signing Charlie Morton. What he does best seems to fit what the Astros are looking for, but they also just awarded him a two-year, $14 million contract after throwing just 17.1 innings in 2016.

Dallas Keuchel is projected to lead the way again, but he has a lot to prove after posting an uninspiring 4.55 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 168 innings following a Cy Young-winning 2015 campaign. Lance McCullers is another important part of this group, but has yet to accumulate more than 22 starts or 125.1 innings of work in the big leagues during a single season.

The Astros could very well have one of baseball's deepest lineups, but will they regret not pulling the trigger on a Quintana deal by the dog days of August (if they don't swing it between now and then)? We'll find out.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners are the proud owners of baseball's longest postseason drought, which was extended to 15 seasons after an 86-76 finish in 2016 left them three games off the pace for an AL Wild Card spot. We can't say general manager Jerry Dipoto is sitting on his laurels and hoping for success, though.

Even with an incredibly busy offseason full of moves to improve the roster, the biggest X-factor heading into 2017 could easily be their rotation.

Felix Hernandez is in the best shape of his life, but still needs to prove he can be effective with diminished velocity after two unusual years for the longtime ace. Hisashi Iwakuma registered his most starts (33) and innings pitched (199) since 2013 (33 and 219, respectively), but he's entering his age-36 campaign. Also, don't forget that he only returned to Seattle last winter after a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers fell through for health reasons.

James Paxton has breakout potential and looks great so far this spring, but it still has to happen.

Last but not least, two of Seattle's acquisitions to stabilize the back of the rotation -- Yovani Gallardo and Drew Smyly -- posted ERAs of 5.42 and 4.88 in 2016, respectively (with FIPs that were each north of 4.40).

Los Angeles Angels

Fresh off a 74-88 record -- their worst since Mike Trout took the league by storm in 2012 -- the Angels aren't projected to be a postseason contender. They did have a great offseason considering their circumstances and could surprise some people, though.

A lot of things have to go right to make good on that potential, and a lot of it lies in the starting rotation.

It all starts with Garrett Richards, who has (so far) successfully avoided Tommy John after missing most of last year. His velocity looked great in his Spring Training debut, but everyone associated with the Angels will be holding their breath every time he takes the mound.

Ricky Nolasco is trying to resurrect his career after being acquired from the Minnesota Twins midway through last year, Tyler Skaggs is dealing with more injury issues, Matt Shoemaker is coming back after a serious head injury and while Jesse Chavez has proved to be a serviceable starter in the majors, he last started a game in 2015.

This group was held together by duct tape last year, and that can't happen again if they want any chance of making some noise.

Oakland Athletics

If there's one thing about the Athletics that we should be excited about in 2017, it's their starting rotation. And we're specifically talking about the trio of Sonny GraySean Manaea and Jharel Cotton.

Gray's case is an interesting one after a tough 2016, and there are reasons to believe he's due for a rebound. Unfortunately, that just got tougher thanks to a lat injury that will land him on the disabled list for Opening Day instead of being on the mound.

Manaea had a great second half last year, but did struggle upon first getting called up. So, he now needs to put it all together from start to finish.

Cotton was dominant in his short time with Oakland (2.15 ERA, 0.82 WHIP), but that's exactly what it was -- short. He only threw 29.1 innings in the big leagues during the 2016 season.


As mentioned before, there are a lot of variables involved when discussing a potential postseason run -- especially when multiple teams are involved. However, it is interesting to see such a consistent theme throughout the entirety of the American League West.

So, how will the west be won? It seems like the team can get the most consistency out of their starting rotation (performance- and health-wise) will be in the best possible position come the end of September. Time will tell, though.


How to use Spring Training signs to wager on the upcoming MLB season

Written by Doug Ramsey on .

It's that time of year again. The weather is getting warmer, football season is over and baseball season is right around the corner. And while opening day is still over a month away, the games played in the first half of spring training are just about to begin.

This is the time of year where teams don’t care about wins and losses, while rosters change daily and little seen on the field tells baseball handicappers about what to expect on the field in April and beyond. But that doesn’t mean that those early spring games are worthless for MLB bettors. The truth is, smart handicappers can pick up a lot of valuable insight about the future of a team and its particular players.

With that we have assembled a few things for those trying to master the art of major league baseball betting picks and baseball handicapping this season. Here are things to pay attention to during spring training that may come in handy when wagering during the regular MLB season.

First, bettors need to keep a close eye on young pitchers who are getting a lot of attention. That's because when teams suddenly find themselves in a rotation pinch, they would much rather rely on young talent in their system, versus having to sign veteran talent from outside the organization. And a rookie pitcher that is tested early in spring training and can handle the responsibility, can often be a good indicator of how a team is feeling about its pitching situation.

The same goes for youngsters who get a lot of time in the spring lineup.

If a team thinks it has a hole in its lineup that they are hoping to fill with a young player, it is going to give that player as much playing time possible. And how that young hitter performs during the spring, can tell mlb picks and those handicapping a lot about how comfortable that player might be, when and if he is presented with an opportunity to step into the lineup in the midst of the regular season.

Next, handicappers need to pay to attention to veteran players who are taking longer to get into form than expected. This could be a clear warning sign of a player who is not healthy.

Or, if a supposed starter isn’t seeing a lot of field time, it could indicate a nagging or maybe even a new injury. Or, could just be a sign that he doesn’t fit into the team’s strategy. Any of which could pose a threat to a team's ability to win games during the regular season.

Finally, handicappers need to take notice of veteran players coming off a bad year who start strong.

 Not all of a players previous season problems are going to follow him, and a player coming off a lousy year who begins the spring with a bang, could mean that his troubles are behind him. However, baseball bettors need to be careful here, as it also doesn’t mean that he is  sure to have a great season. Still it does show if a player can bounce back, and if the public expectations are still low, it could lead to some real value.

Winning Isn't Everything

Written by Chop-N-Change on .

I do not believe in absolutes.

Yes, I recognize the paradox inherent in that statement. But as a general rule, I feel confident saying that you couldn't tell me one statement of opinion for which I can't present an opposing viewpoint. Feel free to try me in the comments.

But I was idly browsing the internet earlier today when I came upon something that caused me to rethink the one thing that I've considered a Belief in the last few years. And, as is the wont of such things, that something was on Facebook. 

No, I don't mean the genius-level copywriting produced by an overworked, underpaid intern with a B.A. whose job it is to produce pithy sentences to get fans excited. Nor do I mean the fairly terrible Photoshop work performed by, um, well, probably the same guy. Nor even do I mean the fact that pitchers and catchers REPORT IN ONE MONTH, YOU GUYS!

What caught my eye was that they used Jason Heyward in the picture.

Now, on one hand, the association is natural. Not only are Heyward's Spring Training feats as close to legendary status as Spring Training feats can be -- who among us doesn't remember the story about him breaking the assistant GM's car window with a home run? -- but the two are irrevocably associated on an internal level as well. Heyward, like all top prospects, represents something more than just a baseball player; he's the physical embodiment of Hope and Future. And I can tell you that on Opening Day 2010, Braves fans were pretty thrilled that their version of Hope happened to be a linebacker-sized fella from Atlanta who mashed a home run off the starting pitcher for the Mercurial All-Stars, Carlos Zambrano.

But there's always an other hand, and if we fast forward two seasons, we see it in stark relief: people who feel personally offended that this 23-year old struggled through injury on his way to a season that was as disappointing for the young outfielder as it was for the team.  We saw people who believed Doctor Chipper Jones' sub-moronic advice that Heyward needed to be playing through injury for the good of the team and we saw people happy that Jose Constanza got to play over Heyward long after the little sparkplug's fire had burned out. Hell, we got enough of that confrontation on our own corner of the blogosphere, never mind what was happening on Twitter or in the comments of, like MLB.com or the AJC.

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More fun with DOM

Written by Joe Lucia on .

In case you missed it earlier, I wrote about the Braves' usage of DOM and where the team's pitchers stood in the grand scheme of things. As I thought about it and crunched all the numbers, I thought that DOM might favor relievers more than it did starters, after seeing the higher numbers posted by the team's bullpen in 2011. So I decided to take it upon myself to do a little more research into the topic.

Here are the top ten DOM numbers for relievers in baseball in 2011.

Koji Uehara 1.809
Kenley Jansen 1.714
Craig Kimbrel 1.588
Jonathan Papelbon 1.450
Tyler Clippard 1.405
Rafael Betancourt 1.352
David Robertson 1.333
Greg Holland 1.321
Sergio Santos 1.314
Antonio Bastardo 1.296

The highest FIP of those ten players belongs to Clippard, at 3.17. Of the top ten relievers in baseball in FIP, five are on that list, including all of the top four.

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How much will the departure of David Ross hurt?

Written by Joe Lucia on .

By now, all the dust has settled and all the smoke has cleared. The four year Braves career of David Ross has come to an end, as the veteran backup catcher has signed a two-year deal with the Red Sox for an average of $3.1 million per season. A lot of Braves fans are crushed over Ross leaving the team, and with good reason - he was an awesome and productive member of the team.

In his four seasons with the Braves (2009-2012), Ross was paid just $6.2 million (coincidentally, the exact amount he'll get over the next two years in Boston) and provided the Braves with 6.4 fWAR in 663 plate appearances. That is an absolutely insane level of production off the bench. To put that in perspective, Chipper Jones provided 5.0 fWAR of value over the last two seasons in 960 plate appearances while making $26 million. Defense has *a lot* to do with those fWAR numbers, but nevertheless, that puts into perspective just how valuable Ross has been.

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A six man rotation is an awful idea

Written by Joe Lucia on .

For all the crapping on Fredi Gonzalez we do for his awful moves, he's done some good things this year. This however, is not one of them. The Braves will activate Tommy Hanson from the DL and start him on Friday, and go with a six man rotation until August 30th (when the team has an off day).

Hanson will start on Friday against the Dodgers, who have a .680 OPS (third worst in the NL). His second start looks to be on August 23rd against the Giants, who have a .710 OPS (sixth worst in the NL). His third start before a decision will be made for September on the rotation will be on August 29th against the Padres, who have a .680 OPS (a fraction of a point behind the Dodgers, and the second worst mark in the NL). So essentially, Hanson will be given every opportunity to succeed. Keep in mind, this is a particularly cushy part of the Braves schedule, with seven against the Padres, four against the Giants, three against the Dodgers, and three against the HATED NATIONALS coming over the next three turns in the order.

The crucial series this month are obviously the back to back road trips against the Nationals and Giants next week. You could actually argue that Fredi's handling of the rotation makes sense here, as the only pitcher to start in both series is Tim Hudson, the team's best starter all year. He'll start the opener in Washington next Monday, and the closer in San Francisco in two Sundays. Hudson, Paul Maholm (fresh off of a complete game shuout in New York), and Kris Medlen (who has been dominant in three starts this year, albeit against bad teams) will start in Washington, and I really can't complain about any of the three.

My main issue with giving Hanson every opportunity to succeed is well...he doesn't deserve it. Since the All-Star Break, he has a 7.45 ERA (third worst on the team behind the demoted Anthony Varvaro and the "injured" Jair Jurrjens). The next worst mark on the entire pitching staff belongs to Hudson, who has a 4.29 ERA while somehow managing to walk fewer hitters than Hanson in 16 1/3 more innings. Hanson has walked nearly a batter per inning since the break, and even discounting the disaster in Miami a couple of weeks ago, he hasn't been good. Hell, he's not even going deep into games. He's gone into the sixth inning just once since the break. What the hell?

Hanson probably isn't going to turn into the ace we all thought he would be when he was kicking the bejeezus out of the minors in 2008 and 2009. After a fantastic 2010, he's taken turns south in both 2011 and 2012, and he just isn't a viable option right now. His fastball isn't even averaging 90 mph this year. In his last start on July 30th, Hanson's fastball *averaged* 88mph, and topped out at a hair above 90. Looking at the PitchFX graph, it looked like he only topped 90 twice...on 45 fastballs. That's not good at all.

This has kind of developed into me rambling about Hanson, and I apologize for that. But the guy just isn't one of the Braves top five starters right now. Hell, when you figure Randall Delgado into the mix, is he even one of the top six starters right now? The six-man rotation worries the hell out of me, but if Hanson can't succeed in his three turns through the rotation this month...he shouldn't be making any more starts for the rest of the year. Period.


Say goodbye to Michael Bourn

Written by Joe Lucia on .

bourn2Braves center fielder Michael Bourn is having a career year, just three short months from hitting free agency for the first time in his career. Bourn has sparked Atlanta's offense this year, OPSing .758 at the top of the order with a team-leading 29 stolen bases. His eight homers are a career high, and more than he had in the last three seasons combined. Bourn is also an elite defender in center field, logging 13.2 UZR and +13 DRS. However, despite how valuable he's been for the Braves this season, there is no chance in hell he's going to be a Brave past this season. Let me explain.

Even before Buster Olney's confirmation that the Phillies coveted Bourn, any sane baseball fan knew that the Phillies would have interest after dealing impending free agent Shane Victorino to the Dodgers last week. When Philly gets involved in negotiations, a player's price goes through the roof. Before the season, everyone assumed that Bourn would get a contract in the range of five years and $60 million. That's out the window now after Bourn's fantastic year, and of course, the interest of a large market club. The new salary estimate for Bourn starts at $16 million per season, and while you can argue the merits of giving that kind of money to a soon-to-be 30-year old center fielder who's best asset is his speed, the Braves simply cannot afford to pay that kind of money to one player with their current payroll situation unless the deal was heavily backloaded.

First off, the Braves payroll is rather static. It's going to sit between $90 and $95 million, and there isn't a damn thing that anyone can do about it. Blame that on whoever the hell you want to (Liberty Media, Frank Wren, SportSouth, Atlanta fans, whatever), but nothing is changing in regards to the payroll unless something unforeseen happens. By "something unforeseen", I mean that a multi-billionaire offers Liberty 20% over market value for the team and pumps money into them like the team is a deflated cream puff, or that something happens with SportSouth that makes the network renegotiate the extremely favorable (for them at least) TV deal they have with the Braves. Quite frankly, I don't think either will be happening any time soon.

Looking at the Braves payroll for next year, despite Derek Lowe's behemoth contract coming off the books and Chipper Jones's retirement, there isn't a lot of wiggle room. Dan Uggla is owed $13.2 million, and that's not going to be going anywhere. Brian McCann has an option for 2013 that will surely be picked up for $12 million (at least, due to the presence of awards escalators that can bump it up by $3 million). Tim Hudson has a $9 million option that's going to be picked up (and bumped to $9.5 million in oh, six starts or so). Barring an awful two months with the team, new acquisition Paul Maholm has a $6.5 million option that will be picked up. With just those four players, the Braves payroll is over $41 million...or nearly halfway to the budgeted goal.

Then, you have to figure in the arbitration raises. Martin Prado is making $4.75 million, and let's guesstimate that he gets a raise to $6 million or so after his bounceback year. Eric O'Flaherty is making $2.49 million in his second to last arb year, and a raise to $3 million seems feasible. Bam, you're already over $50 million in payroll. Jair Jurrjens has a year left of arbitration, but there is no chance in hell that the Braves are going to pay him the $6 million he'd likely be awarded.

There are also the younger players who will be entering arbitration for the first time, and they're all guys that are pretty crucial parts to the team on varying degrees: Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson, Jonny Venters, Kris Medlen, and Cristhian Martinez. It's a pain in the ass to determine value for first time arb players, but let's compare Heyward to Hunter Pence (who settled for $3.5 million as a Super Two in his first year of arb) and Hanson to Chad Billingsley (settled for $3.85 million in his first year of arb). Give the three relievers (or quasi-starter in Medlen's case) $1.2 million each, and you're at about $11 million for just those five players and something like $62 million overall.

This is the issue the Braves are faced with now. They'd have around $30 million or so left to spend on their team, and be short one outfielder (two if you move Prado to third), and three slots on the bench (assuming either of Janish/Pastornicky and Francisco are penciled in for the 2013 team). The rotation would look something like Hudson/Maholm/Hanson/Minor and one of Delgado, Teheran, Gilmartin, Medlen, etc. So if the Braves wanted to sign Bourn and throw say $18 million per year at him, they'd only have $12 million to fill the other holes on the team...which would likely be doled out to mediocrity, or hell, be eaten and have slots given to young players.

Keep in mind, that this entire piece says nothing about how silly it would be to give a player like Bourn a possible nine figure deal. I don't think Bourn will get Carl Crawford money by any means, but I think he'll get more than Torii Hunter. If this was the 90s, and the Braves' $90 million payroll was one of the top five in the league, I could rationalize a long-term deal for Bourn at a comparable rate. But in the year 2012, where $90 million doesn't even put you in the league's top ten...it just doesn't make sense for this team at this point in time.

Photo courtesy of Daylife.com

The struggling Braves bullpen

Written by Joe Lucia on .

The Atlanta Braves bullpen is a different animal in 2012 thusfar than it was in all of 2011. Last year's Braves bullpen had a 3.11 ERA and 3.12 FIP in March & April, and a 2.91 ERA and 3.42 FIP in May. This year, the pen had a 3.91 ERA and 3.57 FIP in April, and a 4.48 ERA and 4.41 FIP in May. That is a HUGE difference when looking at a crew of seven pitchers, with the best three returning from 2011 to 2012.

Before everyone immediately starts pinning the struggles of this year's bullpen on Chad Durbin, remember that the 2011 pen had Jairo Asencio destroy his chances at ever making it in Atlanta in April, and Scott Proctor sabotage the world in May. And actually, Durbin has calmed down quite a bit in May. His 2.38 ERA is second lowest in the pen for the month (*what?!*), but his 4.95 FIP is second-worst. Regardless, both are improvements over April, when his ERA was 9.00 and his FIP was a starting 7.38. 

The pen was largely fine in April, aside from Durbin. The only FIPs higher than 3.20 belonged to Durbin and (perhaps shockingly) Eric O'Flaherty, sitting at 4.37 and adding a  4.91 ERA to the crew as well. May on the other hand, was an unmitigated disaster. Only two pitchers had a FIP under that 3.20 mark, and one of them is currently in Gwinnett stretching to be a starter (obviously, Kris Medlen). The other one, and the best pitcher on the staff, is once again Craig Kimbrel.

But what is the absolute root of the bullpen's struggles? A lot of it just has to do with luck coming back and slapping the Braves in the face. The league averaage HR/FB rate for relievers is 10.0%. Four of the Braves seven relievers have posted marks higher than that, including Jonny Venters at an eye-popping 27.3%. Venters had allowed a total of three homers over 171 innings over 2010 and 2011, and has allowed three in 20 1/3 innings this year. Dumb luck, or a sign of something worse? I'm not going to say that Venters' career is over, but his groundball rate is down to 55.9%, after being above 68% in his first two years in the majors. Furthermore, he has a 25% line drive rate, which is just terrible. The .466 BABIP possessed by Venters also suggests that he's just terribly unlucky, but with that line drive rate, it makes a little more sense. On the other side of the coin, he has career bests in both strikeout and walk rates, signifying that there's still something there. His fastball velocity though, has dropped one mile per hour from 2011 to 2012. That's a little concerning.

The other negative option from the bullpen is Eric O'Flaherty, initially brought to the team in 2009 as a LOOGY, but then was transitioned into the seventh inning role. Last season, when O'Flaherty had a 0.98 ERA, he was aided by a 92.3% strand rate and 3.9% FB/HR. This year, those marks have regressed to 75.3% and 16.7%, which seem a little more realistic. As a result, his ERA is 3.66 and his FIP is 4.18. Oh, and there's the righty thing. O'Flaherty is allowing a 1.018 OPS to righties, and he's faced 54 of them compared to just 34 lefties. Last year, O'Flaherty faced four times as many righties as lefties, and held them to just a .599 OPS. That's a little low for a guy who's allowed righties to a .739 OPS over his career, in comparison to the .560 OPS he's held lefties to.

You can point your finger at Durbin or old man Livan (who has actually been perfectly adequate in his role) all you want, but quite frankly, the Braves bullpen is struggling because two of the big three (on an aside, how silly was it for people to get obsessed over a nickname for a reliever trio when only one of those relievers possesses long-term sustainable dominance?) are struggling terribly this year. The only player to amass less fWAR than either O'Flaherty or Venters this year is Durbin, and everyone pretty much expected that.

One HUGE positive note for the Braves bullpen, though. If Venters and O'Flaherty do manage to put it together over the season's final four months, they'll be fresh. They've combined to throw just 40 innings this year (with Kimbrel adding 20 of his own), while last year, O'Flaherty logged 26 1/3 innings over the season's first third, with Venters clocking in at a mind-blowing 33 2/3 innings. For comparison's sake, Kimbrel had 27 innings over that timespan, and actually pitched worse than he has so far this year. At least Fredi is attempting to make sure a late-season bullpen meltdown doesn't happen this September.

Photos courtesy of Daylife.com

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