Category Archives: Atlanta Braves

10 Bold Predictions for 2013: BJ is the Upton with the better 2013 season

As part of our preview for the upcoming 2012 season, we’ll be doing a 10 Bold Predictions for 2013 series that will be featured between now and Opening Day. Our sixth prediction is that B.J. is the Upton with the stronger 2013 season.

Maybe the story of the off season is that the Braves were able to go out and get the talented Upton brothers.  BJ signed as a free agent from Tampa Bay and Justin was acquired via trade from Arizona.  Both brother possess tremendous athletic ability and skill and have carved out very nice careers so far.  The general consensus has long been that Justin is and will be the better player.  He has just a slightly lower career WAR than older brother BJ in one less season and has the best single season WAR between the two at 5.7.  And most thought that the Braves made a better deal to get Justin than BJ.

I’m going out on a limb though and saying BJ will have the better season.  BJ’s main struggle has been in the batting average department.  After hitting .273 in 2008, he has hovered under .250.  The power hasn’t gone away though – he hit the most home runs in his career last year with 28 and still stole 31 bases.  He is getting out of Tropicana and into a slightly better hitters park.  What if he can get back to .260 this year – that’s pretty much league average now.  And don’t forget the benefit of going to the NL where the talent is generally a notch lower.

Now what about Justin?  He’s always had the advantage in batting average, topping out at .300 in 2009.  He seemingly has been in a bad situation in Arizona where he didn’t “fit in” for some reason.  In 2011 he was just on the cusp of breaking out an MVP season (he wouldn’t have touched Matt Kemp or Ryan Braun in reality) hitting 31 home runs with 21 SB.  But last year he “regressed”, getting only 17 and 18.  That’s not a bad line, but it’s not the line of a young superstar waiting to break out.  A lot of people are pegging Justin to have a huge year now that he is free from the desert.  I’m not so sure.  I see his batting average continuing to slip just a bit to .275 or so.  The power and steals should come back some especially if he plays 158 instead of 150 games.

I see BJ besting Justin this year.  And as I researched this article I found I’m not the only one.  ZiPS projections have BJ besting Justin in WAR by a small margin – 3.8 to 3.3.  We’ll have to wait a few months or longer to see.

Final prediction:  BJ – .261, 32 HR, 92 RBI, 87 runs, 35 SB  Justin – .275, 23 HR, 75 RBI, 90 runs, 21 SB

Atlanta Braves 2013 Team Preview

20802993_BG2

Braves fans are in for a fun year. You have to admire this organization. Chipper Jones exits stage left as possibly the greatest Atlanta Brave ever. The organization waits just a few months and brings in Justin Upton, a kid that many scouts said would be the next Ken Griffey Jr. type player and added him to a lineup who scouts said would be the next Ken Griffey Jr. type player (Jason Heyward).

The Braves have had a recent string of postseason letdowns. The had the eventual champion Giants on the ropes in 2010 and let them off the hook. They’ve lost one-game playoffs in each of the last two years. Braves fans must feel like they’re a bit snake-bitten.

Major Off-season Moves:

  • Traded for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson (for Martin Prado and Randall Delgado)
  • Signed B.J. Upton
  • Signed Gerald Laird
  • Traded for Jordan Walden (for Tommy Hanson)
  • Chipper Jones retired
  • Michael Bourn, David Ross, Jair Jurrjens signed elsewhere

The Braves run their organization in a professional manner. They’re going to have a really successful season. I expect them to be in the market for a starting pitcher along with St. Louis. If they can shore up their starting rotation, this team is going to be one of the top teams in baseball. They might be anyways, but at the end of the day I like their division rival Washington’s starting pitching a bit more.

Continue reading

Mevs’ Thoughts on the Justin Upton Trade

20130130-170935.jpg

I considered this trade to be huge news, so the fact that I’m not getting around to writing a take on it until the week after should tell you that something pretty monumental was going on in my away-from-blogging life I try to have every once in a while.

In actuality, nothing monumental really was going on. I went with my company from my real job to Las Vegas. I gambled on Canadian hockey, saw a guy offering to be kicked in the nuts for $20 (he told me he had been kicked over 5,000 times for those of you wondering how it’s possible), and generally just did some people watching in a city that offers you a little of everything. Playing blackjack at Belagio beats the heck out of the online casinos.

The day I left, Justin Upton was dealt to Atlanta (we told you that’s where he was headed on this episode of The Baseball Show Podcast) for a package of players valued a lot less than a package for Justin Upton should have yielded.

I cannot wait to hear why Kevin Towers is the smartest man in the room on this one. Can’t. Wait. And mark my words, it will make it’s way out into the media. We’re going to know almost every juicy detail of this. Someone’s going to have some ‘splaining to do. And it’s going to be Towers.

It works out perfectly for Atlanta. They’ve now got just enough ammo to challenge the once thought to be invincible Nationals. You can just about count on Justin Upton to go off, stay free of nagging injuries, and generally be the MVP candidate he was always supposed to be. I’ve got nothing against the Braves, but no one deserves Justin Upton for a small price like that.

In closing, I want you all to remember back to that day before the 2012 season when I told you it would all fall apart for Upton and the Diamondbacks. My God I am the smartest man alive.

Image h/t: My buddies MJ & Mike

Wild Card Friday (& Predictions)

For the first time in the history of this blog (and the sport in general), the postseason kicks off with two Wildcard teams playing a one game play-in the day before the real deal gets going.

National League: St. Louis Cardinals at Atlanta Braves

The last time Fredi Gonzalez was in this situation, he didn’t fare so well. He’s not a good manager, and his immensely talented team has brought him back for a chance at redemption despite his attempts to sabotage them all. It’s a testament to the winning culture in Atlanta, and the fact that they want to send their strong leader Chipper Jones out as he deserves; a winner.

The Cardinals had enough magic last season to last them a lifetime. If you were like us, you waited all season long for a Cardinals run that never really came. We have no doubts that the Cardinals will have some great runs in the future under Mike Matheny, and this season was a nice start to his managerial career. But these Cardinals are not made with the same ingredients that made them great at this time last year. They just aren’t.

They’ve still got the ability to score and knock down fences with the best of them, but there’s some smoke and mirrors within their starting rotation. Adam Wainwright has a lot of mileage on his arm, Chris Carpenter missed most of the season, and the wildcard game starter Kyle Lohse had a career year that seems to be an anomaly more than a constant.

The baseball gods will allow the Braves to extract some sweet revenge on the team that stole their spot like a thief in the night a year ago. Fredi and the Braves will win tomorrow night in Atlanta and give Chipper Jones one final crack at a ring that has eluded him since 1995. The Cardinals season ends tomorrow.

Prediction: Braves over Cardinals

American League: Baltimore Orioles at Texas Rangers

My goodness we love Ron Washington. His speech to his troops before World Series game seven last postseason is the thing that legends are made of. And how about those tricky Orioles? Who in their right mind had Buck Showalter and the Orioles here at this point? No one. Not a damn person outside the Baltimore fan base, and if you try to tell me otherwise you’re lying.

The Orioles have strung together a rag-tag bunch that includes Mark Reynolds, Robert Andino, Nate McLouth, and Chris Davis. Of course they’ll go to the Hellhouse that is the Ballpark in Arlington, to face all of those terrifying hitters and F-bomb dropping Ron Washington and they’ll start a pitcher (Joe Saunders) who I would consider waiver wire garbage. Were they trolling late-night for catfish the night that they found Saunders? He started seven games for the Orioles this season. They haven’t a season like this since I was still searching for my first kiss. And they’re going to let Joe Saunders decide their season? This is who you throw out there to decide the biggest game this team has played in decades? That’s TV I’ve got to see.

But you know what? The baseball gods are a funny thing.

Here are teams on the opposite side of the spectrum. One team is littered with superstars, while the other just appears littered. The Rangers will throw their high-dollar import special Yu Darvish to oppose Saunders. The Rangers have about as much postseason experience up and down the roster as anyone in the field this year. The Orioles have little to none.

Everyone in the world will pick the Rangers tomorrow night. It would probably make sense to do the same. But something in my gut tells me that this Texas team has learned the just how long and impossible the journey seems. They’re jaded. They dropped the World Series two years ago. Last year they climbed back up that tall hill only to see it slip away in the most gut-wrenching fashion possible in sports. If that wasn’t enough to kill the spirits of this team, getting caught by the Oakland Athletics and losing the division title after leading the way for 99% of the season has destroyed this team’s inner conscious. I’m telling you that they’re mentally cooked.

Look back at the other side now, those tricky Orioles. They don’t know what they’re about to embark upon. They haven’t been here. They can say ‘who gives a shit, the whole damn season has been crazy anyways’. They have been starting Mark Reynolds the last few seasons. What do they care? Here’s a situation where I think lack of experience helps a team. In this one game scenario, they can catch some lightning in a bottle because they aren’t able to fully grasp the moment. All the pressure in the world is on our beloved Ron Washington and his Cocaine Cowboys of the West.

Most of all, in this life when everything seems so certain; it isn’t at all. Go the other way with the pick that everyone will go one way with. When they zig, you zag.

Prediction: Orioles over Rangers

Bryce Harper likes Oppo Bombs in Atlanta

Think back to Memorial Day weekend when Bryce Harper said hello to the world by homering to the opposite field in Atlanta off Johnny Venters.

Fast forward to last night, where an un-hittable, lights out version of Kris Medlen was on the bump for the Braves. Medlen had a career high 13 strikeouts and was throwing a shutout. Then Bryce Harper took him deep the opposite way.

Great piece of hitting by Harper, who matches his ripe young age with 19 homers. I would say it’s even odds that he makes it to 20.

See Tommy Hanson’s decreased Velocity become part of the Upper Deck

Tommy Hanson, some would say you deserved a better fate.

Here we see frame-by-frame Hanson’s once dazzling 89 MPH fastball hit into the seats in right field at Nationals Park. This was the most impressive of Harper’s five career home runs in my opinion. Watch the speed of the bat head exploding through the zone.

The blast came while opponents were still patting Steve Lombardozzi on the butt for taking his own bite out of Hanson in the way of his first big league home run.

Hanson probably had the last laugh (until he regains some RPM’s on that fastball, this happens all summer long) because the Braves won the game 3-2 and knocked the Nationals from sole possession of first place in the NL East.

Tommy Hanson's fastball is owned and dominated.

 

Bryce Harper’s Sunday Night Baseball Home Run off Livan Hernandez

In last night’s 7-2 win that finished off a Nationals sweep, Bryce Harper hit what I think was the most impressive of his four career big league home runs.

In case you weren’t watching, in the at-bat prior Livan Hernandez struck out Harper with a breaking ball. When Livan came back with a breaking ball the following at-bat, it ended up deep in the Atlanta night.

Bryce Harper Destroys Johnny Venters (Career Home Run #3)

Here’s Bryce Harper finishing a nice little Memorial Weekend Saturday (Nats won 8-4) by taking a 94 MPH Johnny Venters fastball out on a line drive the other way to left field. It was the third home run Venters has allowed to a lefty in his career. Around the bases in 16.35 seconds according to our friends @TaterTrotTrkr.

And it resulted in this:

A beautiful little impression left on the concrete wall over the fence in left. This kid is unbelievable. Just cancel football season and winter sports and lets see what he can do during all four seasons.

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/Natituder/status/206542208009113601"]

The Return of a Generational Superstar: Jason Heyward is Back

When I woke up this morning I got an e-mail about my Jason Heyward Baseball-Reference page sponsorship expiring in 20 days.

In a year’s time, it seems like I was barely able to take solace in my own epitaph written on that page:

Every once in a while, we who follow the game of baseball are blessed with a generational talent of that era. This is that player.

And I could be wrong, but I think Heyward is back. Really back. Been to the lowest depths and didn’t know how good he had it once back. The wheels could still fall off just like they did after last April, but I think we’re seeing that crown jewel prospect who was once ranked ahead of Stephen Strasburg starting to become a force again.

I had the chance to scout Heyward’s at-bats all day long on MLB.tv. I made my wife mad because she couldn’t peel me away from the computer screen to put up an umbrella on our new porch table. I had to see his plate presence. I had to see what kind of pitches he was swinging at. And of course, what kind of results was he yielding.

In the first at-bat of Heyward’s game (a 7-4 win to complete an Atlanta sweep over the Milwaukee Brewers) he got Chris Narveson into a 3-1 count but just got jammed and flew out to center. He didn’t swing at any bad pitches. Next time up Heyward hit a towering home run off the lefty starter into the right field seats. It doesn’t look like line-drive power to me. He followed that by lining a 3-0 count rocket to left field off a lefty reliever and a walk off John Axford.

These 1 for 3 with a walk and an extra base hit are the types of games that you will take all day long from Heyward, or any young player trying to make his way back. Heyward looks like he’s onto something special again.

And those are really cool shoes to honor Jackie Robinson.

In other news, Fredi Gonzalez is still horrible

I’m telling you, matter of time until Fredi Gonzalez is done in Atlanta. And while that could be said for every manager that stands on the top step of the dugout every night in baseball, Fredi’s reign is going to be short. This is because Fredi is a boob who believes he is smarter than everyone else. I do not believe he inspires his men and I think he gets too cute with the lineup. Bad recipe.

I don’t call Kenny Rosenthal of FOX Sports the Jay Glazer of MLB for nothing. Rival executives seem out to get Fredi. Or maybe it’s just the truth:

Gonzalez, unlike the Boston Red Sox’s Terry Francona, survived his team’s collapse, in large part because the Braves value stability.

A poor start, though, could alter the equation. Rival executives believe that Gonzalez, entering the second year of a three-year contract, already is on probation.

I’m not even a Braves fan and I already can’t wait. The reason is simple. Do not short change yourself when sitting at home this spring and summer and complaining about Fredi’s lineups and his in-game management. There are fans, bloggers, and chimpanzees alike that could out manage this guy. I promise you that. Don’t doubt it for a minute.

Chipper on Jason Heyward: “He’s 90 Percent Back”

The significance of us sponsoring Jason Heyward’s Baseball Reference page could mean only one thing: we felt that the man was a generational talent ready to blossom in front of our eyes last year.

He wasn’t just rewarded with our admonishment. There was another Opening Day home run. There were SportsCenter comercials. A twitter account created solely to track when he hits a home run. He became Nike’s new ‘Swingman’.

But then the struggles came, and the injuries lingered. Heyward’s sophomore campaign became one continuous desolate ruin.

By reading an article focused on the reconstruction of J-Hey by Paul Newberry, we learn that Chipper Jones seems to think the worst is behind Heyward.

“He’ll get it done. He’ll get it back. He’s 90 percent back,” Jones said.

I hope Chipper’s right. This guy has a chance to be the crown jewel of the entire league if he’s right. There’s some other interesting points in the write-up–like Heyward coming off a bit ‘snarky’ when asked about childhood memories of David Justice and Fred McGriff.

There’s also a bit where new Braves hitting coach Greg Walker mentions this:

“We went back and looked at 2010, when he was really good,” Walker said. “We said to him, ‘OK, this is what you did. You’ve done it before, so that’s you.’ We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here. We’re not trying to change Jason Heyward. We’re trying to get him to maximize his potential. We showed him. We filmed him and showed him what he looks like now, and how he looked in 2010. He saw the difference. To be honest with you, we haven’t made a lot of changes. We’re just trying to clean him up and get him back to where he was.”

So if you’re keeping score at home, Greg Walker and the Braves do not want to change Jason Heyward. But they want him to hit like he did in 2010.This idea is absurd, because if you saw him at the plate for much of last year, of course the Braves would like to change Jason Heyward. But you must be careful with the treatment and wording of such things around young potential stars.

And my mind shifts back to that rumor we heard way back when–when someone had said that the legendary Bobby Cox had said that Heyward was like a Ferrari: you have to be careful with them, you don’t want to dent them.

Have a Nice Offseason, You Bald Dickhead

Fredi Gonzalez managed his way out of Miami, and now he’s managed his way out of an 8.5 game Wildcard lead. His ass-hattery botching of the Jason Heyward situation was beyond ridiculous, down to not even starting Heyward against a right-hander tonight. We credit Fredi with single handedly screwing up a superstar 21 year old.

All year long, Fredi Gonzalez thought he could outsmart everyone. Just like he did last year in Florida.While he was busy re-inventing the wheel, Tony LaRussa was managing like his hair was on fire. And as much as we don’t like the Cardinals, they deserve credit.

We don’t feel bad for Fredi. We feel bad for Chipper Jones. Uggla. Venters. Kimbrel. But not Fredi.

If Atlanta is smart they’ll keep searching for the Bobby Cox imcumbent because this guy proved he isn’t cut out for managing in the big leagues.

Wild Card Scramble Wednesday

We’ve got quite a turn of events that will go down tonight. There is a good chance that in the final hour–with 161 games down and just one to go–that two teams season’s come to an abrupt end.

The Cardinals dream stayed alive last night. The Braves lost to the Phillies 7-1 in Atlanta. St. Louis battled back from a 5-o deficit early on in Houston to win 13-6 and move into a tie for the NL Wild Card with Atlanta.

Over in the American League, the Rays got a big home run from Matt Joyce to beat the Yankees 5-3. The Red Sox hung on to a narrow 8-7 win and escaped with nothing but their dignity in Baltimore.

Three of tonight’s games will be on ESPN or ESPN2. We’ll learn whether or not there will be one, two, or zero ‘winner takes all’ games tomorrow.

This should be a wonderful display of what the sport is all about tonight and into tomorrow. We’ll post about as much of it as we possibly can. Everyone enjoy themselves. Go Rays, go Braves.