As I lie in bed listening to Radiohead on my iPhone on this lovely Sunday night (err Monday morning), I contemplate a very horrendous Braves game that took place a good 14 hours ago. To be honest, I was a hair frustrated after the game ended.
Quite the optimist (especially as it relates to the Braves), I became very negative rather quickly this afternoon. I thought surely after Saturday’s game against Bruce and the Reds that we’d picked our bats back up. I was wrong. Dead wrong. Micah Owings, the Gainsville native, shut the Braves down. Really? Yeah, he did. While he’s done well against the Braves in the past, I just didn’t see anything that impressive. I definitely didn’t see anything impressive enough to keep us from scoring more than 2 runs. We played amateur ball, really. Our only professional hitter in the line-up, Chipper Jones, gave him a hard time. Ok, David Ross took him yard. Or was that a Reds’ reliever? I can’t remember and nor do I care.
I’ll just shoot it straight here. It’s late… early.
-Yes, the NL East will be tight all season.
-Look at the NL East standings right now. Take a picture. It’ll be about like this all season. The Braves lose a game and remain 2 back from first place? Scary tight. . . .
-We will have to score more than 2 runs a game to stay in the pack. Period.
-Our strong rotation can’t do everything. Even in the 90’s, the Braves scored on a more consistent basis.
-No more comparing to the Braves’ 90’s rotation. There will never be another like it in all of Baseball.
-Do the Braves have the best pitching rotation in the NL East? Undoubtedly. Argue if you want. It better be good.
-Will Kenshin tone it down on the homers? He’s gonna have to if we’re gonna stay in this.
-About Kenshin, give him a break. This is his first season in the U.S. His talent is there. He has awesome movement. He can mix his pitches and hit both sides of the plate well. He will adjust. He will get better and better. Cy Young? Absolutely not. 3.20-3.95 ERA? I think so . . .
-Will Glavine play again? No. Haha, sorry.
– Will Tommy be called up this season? Personally, I think the Braves would love Jo-Jo to get a few more games under his belt so he can have more opportunities to show other clubs what he can do. I think the Braves will deal him before the break. Hanson finishes the season in the 5th spot.
Okay, I just have to make this statement:
The Braves will start to really surprise some folks when they can get all of the starters in the line-up at the same time for an extended period of time. This has been there problem. No consistent threats at the plate. It’s hard to match up against other clubs with Kotchman as the Braves’ clean-up stick. I love the dude to death. He will be one of our more consistent hitters this year. Just not in the clean-up spot.
Braves pitching is there, folks. The pen is getting things together and fast. Until today, the starting pitching has kept the Braves in games.
I’m gonna leave you with what the Braves’ line-up will soon look like as well as their rotation. You tell me if you don’t think they can match up with anyone in this division.
1. Kelly Johnson 2B
2. Yunel Escobar SS
3. Chipper Jones 3B
4. Brian McCann C
5. Garrett Anderson/ Matt Diaz LF (BTW, I strongly dislike Garrett Anderson)
6. Jeff Francoeur RF
7. Casey Kotchman 1B
8. Jordan Schafer CF
9. Derek Lowe P
Javier Vazquez (Stud)
Tommy Hanson (by June)
I smell a serious run at this…
…of course if the Braves can keep Chipper in the line-up…
…and everyone else.
Wait! Dang, I forgot about Huddy. What do we do with him come late July, early August? Obviously pitch him. Sheesh. Good problems . . .
Good week everyone,
Well folks, I usually prefer to wait until the end of my blog to get to the “meat and potatoes” of what I’m writing about. I’m gonna break my own rules today.
Before I go any further though, let me stop here and say a few things.
A handful of some of my best buddies text me during Braves’ games, especially when things look rough. I got a text from a buddy during one of the last two nightmare-ish games against the Bucs. It said, “It looks like a circus out there.” Of course, he was referring to our recent bullpen skids.
Quite honestly, his text couldn’t have been more aptly put. While I was in deep frustration at the time it dinged in my phone’s mailbox, I couldn’t help but to laugh. Talk about timely comedic relief . . . .
If you’ve been following the Braves this year, or at least the past 5 games or so, there’s been times when I’m sure you were ready to throw a brick through the TV. And I don’t blame you one bit.
If you don’t mind though, I’d like to be that shiny, white toilet when you have the squirts at the most inopportune time. Those two extra strength Tylenol when you’re head is beyond aching. That large Coca-Cola with Nu-Way ice when you’re craving that bubbly sensation that runs down your throat after the first sip of a Coke.
If you’re a frustrated Braves fan, Sunday’s game vs. the Bucs should be all of these things to you and more. Wait. Not because it’s final score was 11-1. Not because Javier Vazquez threw 6 shut out innings with 8 strike outs. Not because the recent struggling rookie sensation, Jordan Schafer, went 3 for 5 at the plate after striking out about a dozen times (not an exaggeration) since getting off to a sizzlin’ hot start. Not because the Braves’ offensive anchor, Chipper Jones, made his return to the line-up at a time when it couldn’t have been needed more.
But because Jeff Francoeur went 2 for 5 with 3 RBI’s. Two of his RBI’s came with 2 outs. Huge, folks. Huge. Now, if you’re the patient Braves fan who has had to endure the past handful of seasons, and especially last season, then you should be beyond excited about Frenchie’s much anticipated return as a Brave. Frenchie, the organization’s golden boy endured the lowest point of his young life last season. For the first time, this atheletic jock struggled. You have to remember, Frenchie had set all kinds of records in baseball and football in high school. He made such an impression on his high school that the school decided to retire his number and has made a memorial for him beside the ball park.
Now, I went to high school with some pretty impressive athletes. All of whom have gone on to play college baseball and football. However, neither of these talented fellas have had their jersey number retired.
Frenchie turned down a full ride to Clemson to play football. Instead, he was drafted by the Braves in the 1st round (23rd overall) in 2002 at the ripe, young age of 18 (maybe barely 19). He didn’t spend much time in class-A Rome. He was quickly called up in 2005 to make his major league debut. And boy, did he make one! He made such an impressive debut that companies such as Delta Inc. and Under Armour signed a contract with him.
In his 2006 call-up debut, Frenchie hit .260 with 29 HR’s and 103 RBI’s. The following year, he impressed even more by maturely increasing his average to .293. His homer total came out to be solid 19 with 105 RBI’s. While Jeff seemed content with his RBI total and batting average, he wanted to increase his HR total in the 2008 season.
Like any athelete would do, he hit the weight room during the off season. As a result, he added a good 30 lbs to his frame. In hopes of hitting a few more bombs as a result from “beefing” up, Frenchie humbly realized just the opposite. Frenchie compiled a meager 11 homers with a .239 batting average. Oh and let’s not forget, a 71 RBI total. This humbling season suddenly became worse when he was demoted to Triple-A (then, Richmond).
Since the end of last season, many have wondered if he would be another star gone bad.
It’s early, but I predict your wondering can cease. In fact, you don’t really have to hope anymore. You can expect.
You can expect this new and improved Jeff Francoeur to deliver this year.
Til’ next week,
PS: In case you’re wondering, here’s Frenchie’s totals thus far:
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to blog as much as I’d like. Being that it’s my final semester of my undergrad, I’ve been occupied with, in my eyes, less important things. For instance, tonight, I could be at home watching the Braves. Instead, I have to go to class wait for updates on my iPhone regarding the status of tonight’s game against the young and pumped Florida Marlins ball club.
Enough of that.
Considering I don’t have the time to make each of my blog entries “pretty” with all of the flowery language that most professional writers spend time creating, I’m going to take a more informal approach to this season’s blog. I’m simply gonna share my thoughts on issues regarding the Bravos in the most raw form possible. And hopefully, I will do this once a week.
Let’s get to it.
Bill Shanks, the radio host for Fox Sports on 1670 AM (former ESPN radio host) boldly stated during yesterday’s segment that he thinks the Braves should consider trading Jair Jurrjens, as he would prove to be a luring piece of trade bait. Shanks mentioned that JJ could be used to bring that “missing” power bat the Braves need in order to contend in the East.
I couldn’t disagree more.
Normally, I take heed to Shanks’s opinions on matters regarding the Braves. However, this time, I turned the radio off. The comment regarding JJ was simply ignorant.
I could relate my opinion on the matter, but a professor friend of mine said it best in an email to me last night:
“No way on earth I’d trade Jair! The lesson of the ’90s was that pitching wins, bats don’t matter nearly as much–and it’s much, much easier to rent a good bat for a year or even half a year because there are always bats people will deal–but far less so with really good pitchers. And yes, with Chipper, B-Mac, Kelly, even Schafer, and a number of other guys off to promising starts, we’d be freakin’ out of our minds to trade such a strong young pitcher for a bat! “
Even so, I’m not sure I’d give up a pitcher like JJ for a power bat regardless of the status of players like Chippper, B-Mac, Kelly, and Schafer. Like Dr. Chip said, bats don’t matter nearly as much. 2 runs can win a ball game if the pitching shuts the opposing team down. End of story.
So, this year is completely different than the last 3 years in so many ways. We actually have solid depth in our rotation. After seeing our rotation at the beginning of Spring Training last year, Peter Gammons predicted that the Braves would win the World Series. His prediction was solely based on the fact that we had a rotation that appeared legendary on paper: (in no order) Smoltz, Glavine, Hudson, Hampton, and Jurrjens. Yeah, it looked nice. It looked really nice. However, the age element always made me a bit nervous. This year’s rotation is so much younger. I really like this year’s rotation. I love the idea of having work horses this year as opposed to future hall of famers who are fragile enough to break a limb picking up a shampoo bottle. I’m telling you folks– Lowe, Vazquez, and Jurrjens have proven to be work horses. Lowe and Vazquez more so than JJ, but JJ is getting there. I absolutely the love the idea of having a Japanese player on our roster as well.
I think the front office does, too. I just got the clubhouse catalogue in the mail and Kawakami’s face is all over it. Now, he’s obviously a great marketing tool. But, my Lord, is he more than that! The dude can flat out pitch. Yes, he will give up a homer or two this year, for sure. But, when you strike out 8 batters in a game, it sort of balances itself out.
Before I wrap up this week’s blog, I want to make mention my opinion regarding Schafer’s place in the line-up. So many commenters on DOB’s blog at http://ajc.com have said they’d like to see Bobby bump Schafer up to the lead-off spot.
Schafer is 22 years young and is completely thriving in the non-pressured 8th spot? Why fix what ain’t broke?
Til’ next time.
The Braves sure looked loose last night. The dudes are having fun.
My thoughts and predictions:
1) Derek Lowe: I’m loving Derek Lowe right now. Any sinker-baller will do well on this team. Great defense. Great year for Lowe.
2) Chipper Jones: Chipper will be chipper. I will be content with him playing 125 games. Martin Prado- great back-up.
3) Javier Vasquez: I’m curious to see if Vasquez will return to who he was with the Expos. Sinker-baller… I think so.
4) Kenshin Kawakami: I’m still not completely sold on Kawakami,
but I do believe he will at least be solid. Superstar? I’m not
POSITIVE, yet. Yes, I think it was a great move bringing him here. I’m
just going to be careful with how much hope I put in his ability to
perform in this league. I hope he does well and wins over my
5) Jeff Francoeur: I’m looking for Frenchie to hit around .275
with about 30-35 homers. This open stance will enable him to have his
best offensive year (power-wise) yet. I just hope he can drive those
outside-corner fastballs to right field. If so, his average will exceed
.275. I’m expecting a .270-.280 average, a 30-35 HR total, and a
97-111 RBI total.
6) Brian McCann: MVP. No doubt. He looks good… really good.
I’m beginning to think he will go down as one of the best offensive
catchers in the history of baseball before it’s all over with. Of
course, that’s if he can keep those knees in shape throughout his
career. 2009 will be a big year for B-MAC.
7) Casey Kotchman: is going to settle in by the end of this
month and start producing. His defense is supurb. His offense will
pick-up. He’s starting to love Atlanta. He will have a solid year–
something we need from our first basemen.
8) Tom Glavine: For the sake of keeping things positive, I won’t go there.
9) Garrett Anderson/ Matt Diaz: This should be interesting. Look for Matty to get some at bats. Matty will make things tough for Bobby.
10) Tommy Hanson: Will be up by early Summer. I’m thinking June. (*See Tom Glavine)
11) Jordan Schafer: will be Rookie of the Year. 5-tool player.
He has a balanced amount of cockiness/confidence. Both needed to excel
as a 22 year old rookie.
The Braves will be biting at the heels of the Mets and Phillies.
I predict that they will go to the playoffs. Now, whether it’s by
winning the division or catching the wild-card is yet to be seen,
I’m expecting big things. Age is no longer an excuse.
New days. New Braves.
A bit optimistic? Absolutely. It’s just what we need around here.
Well, it was definitely a frustrating “blogging” day Thursday. I wrote a “Thanksgiving Blog” and it was zapped two times. Right as I would get ready to upload a few photos, somehow I would lose the body of my blog. I guess I should start writing my blogs in a word document and copy and paste. I’m not doing that right now, though. I’m too lazy to do that. I’m already going right now.
- I’m sorry, folks. I love Glavine. Always have. However, this past season was just dreadful. Now, I know he didn’t get any run support his first several games, but it wasn’t like he was just shutting people down like Smoltz (before he got hurt). Glavine was barely skimming by. He wasn’t as sharp as usual. Crap, he’s gained 100 pounds since his Cy Young days, which is understandable . . . he will be 43 in March. Bottom line– I’m just not convinced he needs to still be playing. I know this will probably make some Glavine fans angry with me. I love Glavine; I really do. I’m just not for paying him 6-8 million dollars to come back next year to pitch 4-6 decent games. Sure, it was nice to see him leave snobby New York to come back to his home in Atlanta. But, the “feel good times” need to be over, folks. It’s time to start winning again. Build from the ground up. Glavine is just not our ground (foundation) anymore. Guys like McCann, Yunel, Hanson, Jurrjens, Frenchy (hopefully…), etc.. are our foundation.
- Now, Smoltz deserves around 6-8 million to come back. It’s pretty much already understood that he will not receive the 12-13 million he did last year. Smoltz knows this. However, it must be stated that whenever Smoltz is healthy, he is still one of the best (if not the best) pitcher in baseball. Guys can’t touch him. Heck, you saw what he did last season before getting hurt. He shut folks down. Period. Someone recently commented on one of the few blogs I’ve posted since joining MLBlogs saying that they don’t see Smoltz returning for “special relief,” or even plain bullpen work, for that matter. The commenter said that Smoltz will and should return as a starter. Initially, I said that it would be an asset to use Smoltz for long relief/closing stuff, as the situation presents itself. However, I’m going to waver from that for a minute. I’m going to be like John Kerry and just flat-out FLIP FLOP. I agree, commenter. Smoltz should return as a starter. Perhaps, he should pitch as a starter until his arm won’t let him in 09′ and then, if needed, he can go to bullpen and let Hanson get his crack at the BIGS. What do you all think? Regardless, I think the Braves should bring him back for at least one more year. If Smoltzie demands more than his feeble arm is worth, then turn him loose. And don’t sweat over it. We’ve got to start winning. Start young, again. Let the “feel gooders” go.
First of all, a big “thank you” to all of you who have commented on my blog. I read each entry and enjoy them all. Also, thanks to Mark of MLB.com for doing some PR work for my blog. Many thanks.
To the readers of my blog, “Braves Buzz with Luke” (at blogspot): I have officially joined the MLBlogs network. This is exciting. Okay, to Braves talk!