Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Braves Blog: Season Concession


Most sensible people had probably already given up on the Braves at the All-Star Break or maybe even a month ago. It normally takes me till the very last moment to give up but even this faithful heart knows when he's wasted his money and time on de bob-tail nag. First this team had no heart and had a habit of gagging and choking. Now they just suck. I'm throwing in the towel.

In years past I could never turn off a game because I always believed that there was a chance the Braves might pull it out. This season I swear to Darwin I can tell they're going to lose within the first few innings most nights. I didn't even watch innings 5-9 of Saturday's game or innings 3-9 of Sunday's game because I knew they were over. Now you might think it's just that I don't have confidence in their ability to come from behind and that's a big part of it. But my friends, on Tuesday evening I knew they were going to lose when the score was 0-0 and the bases were full of Braves with no outs in the top of the 4th! As soon as Brian McCann walked to load the bases I said aloud "Frenchy and KJ will fan and then Kotsay will be retired and we'll lose the game." And damned if that warn't exactly how it went! I said it and if you don't believe me you can ask any of my imaginary friends.

I won't bore you with my 19 page report on how to fix the Braves. That will come later when I have extra adderal. For now I'd just like to say that the first two persons that I'd oust if I had my druthers would be the two main culprits listed in the travesty described above: Johnson and Francoeur.


Get Rid of Kelly Jo: It seems to me that "Frenchy" is a more apt nickname for Kelly Johnson than anyone else on the planet. One of my major rules in any fan-athlete relationship is that if you're going to suck, you'd better be damned likable, and Mr. Johnson is not. In fact, he's quite difficult to like. He's wimpy. That's the best description I can come up with. And for some reason I feel no pity for Johnson. Normally when I see someone that looks like a wounded dog half the time I feel great sympathy for them. What I'd like to do with KJ is send him back in time to get his ass beat more in high school. Then maybe he wouldn't look like such a scolded dog when he fails to make contact with a runner at third and less than two outs or drops a pop fly that ruins the entire season.


Send Francoeur Back Down Pronto: Why does everyone beat around the bush about this guy? Simpson's always yammering on about how he had "some good swings in his last at bat." He sucks! He looks just as bad now as he did before he got sent down. And the thing that bugs me is his attitude. I'm sure he's working hard. Of course he is, he knows he's sucking right now. Working hard never saved Andruw Jones from the wrath of Braves "fans." He complains about being sent down and says it soured him on the organization. It's like Dude, if you played for almost any other team in the country you would be booed out of the stadium every night. Any other manager in the game would have benched you in May! He doesn't seem to get it. In each of the last two offseasons Francoeur has refused to accept the salary which the Braves have designated to him. He's not in any position to do anything about it so there's really no reason to turn it down other than to say "Waaaahhh! I'm not happy!!!"

The Braves just unilaterally assigned it to him anyway. All his refusing to accept the deal did was create a wound. In addition, the Braves offered him a multi year contract similar to the one offered to Mac and he turned it down. Another one of my fan-athlete relationship rules is that if you're going to be the Golden Boy--who comes up with a lot of hype and is well liked and good looking and has pretty much always been the best at everything--than you'd better be good, and Francoeur isn't. He doesn't just need a wake up call. He needs to go back to the minors and work on his game. Right now he's killing the franchise.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Braves Blog: Second Half Preview


We have no way of knowing what exactly it will take for the Braves to finish the season in 1st place in the NL East or to win the Wild Card. What we do know is what it has to achieve those things in the past. Since the start of the modern playoff format in 1995 (it was set to begin in 1994 but there were no playoffs because of the strike), there have been 13 seasons and in 12 of those 13 years the NL East champion has had a record better than or equal to the Wild Card champion. The NL East division winner has had a better record than the Wild Card team in 11 seasons, and last year the Phillies had as many wins (89) as both the Padres and Rockies, who played a 1 game playoff for the Wild Card.

The only year in which the NL East champ won less games than the WC team was in 2001 when the Braves won the East with just 88 victories and the Cardinals won the Wild Card with 93 wins. In 1995, teams played only 144 games because the strike lasted so long. The Braves won 90 to win the East. Colorado won 77 to take the Wild Card. The Braves were on pace for 101 wins; Colorado was on pace for 87. The 88 wins the Braves had in 2001 is the lowest total for any NL East champ since 1995 (the first year there were playoffs after realignment). In the past 3 seasons, the Wild Card winner has finished with 89 wins twice and 88 wins the other year. The most games any Wild Card team has won is 97 by the Mets in 1999. The NL East champ has had 97 wins or more in 6 of the 12 full seasons under the modern format. Clearly, it has almost always been easier to win the Wild Card than the East.

We can also assume that it is most likely going to take around 90 wins to make the postseason. 90 wins may not even be good enough. Since 1996, 3 teams with at least 90 wins in the NL were left out of the playoffs: the 1999 Reds with 96 wins; the 2001 Giants with 90 wins; and the 2004 Giants with 91 wins.


The Braves are currently 45-50 after 95 games. They have 67 games remaining. To get to 90 wins, the Braves would have to go 45-22. That’s really not that bad. It’s winning at a .672 clip which would obviously be difficult to keep up over a full season but over 40% of a season it isn’t that unreasonable. The Braves have won at least 45 of their final 67 games 4 times since 1991, doing it last in 2004 when they went 46-21 in their final 67 games. Remember 90 wins is around the low end of the playoff team records. To get to the high end they would need to reach around 95 victories and that would be almost impossible, as they would have to go 50-17 the rest of the way. They have two ways to get there: win the East or win the Wild Card. I don’t think there’s one way that’s any harder than the other this season.

Right now the Phillies are in 1st in the East and they are on pace for around 88 wins. The Cardinals are on top of the WC standings and they are on pace for 89 wins. The Braves are currently 6.5 games behind the Phillies in the East and 7.5 games back of the Cardinals in the Wild Card Standings. People will say that it’s more realistic that they would win the East because there are less teams to pass but that actually doesn’t really matter at this point. You’re going to have to get hot to win at this point anyway and the majority of the teams in the middle of the pack are going to stay where they are or fall as they always do. All the Braves can worry about is winning their games and if they go up against a division rival it will help to beat them but they have to win them all now anyway.


1. Long Odds
It’s definitely a long shot for the Braves to make the playoffs., whose playoff predictors have become popular on a lot of baseball web pages, have the Braves chances of making the playoffs at 12.4 percent. It’s not likely, but things like this do happen a lot in baseball. They happen a lot more than people realize I think. In basic terms, the Braves have to play very, very well and hope that a whole bunch of teams don’t play really, really well.

2. Recent History
When you look at the Braves history, there are plenty of examples of them coming from behind and playing really well down the stretch to make the playoffs, but that was during the days of the streak. This team is much more like the teams of the past two years than the teams of the 14 division title years. In the last two seasons, the Braves had the exact same record in their final 67 games. They were 34-33 in their final 67 games in both 2006 and 2007. That obviously won’t be good enough to make the playoffs this year either.

3. Health Issues
You could use health as one of the reasons why the Braves could come back. On one hand you might say that the Braves have done well to play as well as they have considering all the injuries and if they get healthy they might finally start to really play well. That could happen but at the same time you have to question whether they ever will get healthy. Neither Glavine nor Hampton is a lock to come back and remain healthy the rest of the way. Soriano isn’t at all a lock and in my opinion there’s no reason to think that an elbow injury that has bothered him all year is going to just heal on it’s own to the point that he’s going to be fine the rest of the way. They should get Manny Acosta, Matt Diaz, and Omar Infante back and hopefully Jeff Bennett will be back eventually but those aren’t really the type of players that are going to turn the season around. And who is to say that the rest of the roster will remain healthy? It’s seems highly unlikely that it would. Escobar is already hurt and he may be out for a while or hampered the rest of the season. What are the chances that Chipper doesn’t get hurt again? Brian McCann catches almost every inning and in the last two seasons he has either missed significant time due to injury or had his play greatly limited for a significant time due to injury. Mark Kotsay’s back could act up at any time. And these are just the likeliest possibilities.

4. Can the Starting Pitching Keep This Up?
While I’ve been impressed just like everyone else with the Braves starting pitching this season, I’m going to have to say that I don’t think they will continue to pitch like this the whole season. To make a 45-22 run they might need to pitch even better and I highly doubt that will happen. You have three pitchers who have never pitched full seasons in the majors before currently in the rotation and another who has only made 6 career starts in the Majors all in the last month. It’s possible that any of them will tire out at some point or that hitters will start to figure things out against them at some point. All young pitchers have ups and downs. At the very least, it’s more likely that they will decline than it is that they will get even better and that’s actually what is needed.

5. The Bullpen May Wear Down
The Braves pen has logged a ton of innings and there have been injuries all season. This is likely going to make for some burned out arms at some point. Also guys like Boyer and Acosta haven’t pitched this much before and Boyer has had trouble staying healthy. There could be more injuries as the season goes on.

6. There’s Little Chance For Help Coming and it May Be Going
At this point I would say that there is a much greater chance that the Braves will be sellers than there is that they will be buyers at the trade deadline. Unless the Braves get hot quickly the front office may be forced to trade Tex or Ohman or someone else. Clearly trading away any pieces from an already depleated roster in exchange for younger players not ready for the Majors would hurt the team’s chances this year while perhaps improving the team’s future. Speaking of younger players, there isn’t a lot of help coming from the minors either. The only real candidate to help is Phil Stockman and he has been injured. Other than there’s not much more pitching help and there’s absolutely no offensive reinforcement. If the Braves came out of the break and won 10 straight they would hopefully not trade away for prospects but I still doubt they would try and add much.

They’ve already depleated the farm system a lot over the past few years and they don’t have a lot to offer anyway. The Braves are most likely not going to make the postseason if they trade Teixera and Ohman and they need to get off to a hot start in order to have a realistic enough chance at the postseason to warrant not being sellers. The problem is, the Braves schedule right out of the break is pretty challenging. They play 3 at home against the Nationals to start which obviously isn’t daunting (even though they are 3-5 against the Nats this season) but then they have 3 at Florida, 3 at the Phillies, and then 4 at home with the Cardinals and 4 at home with the Brewers. Those 4 teams currently have the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th best records in the NL. On the other hand, if the Braves do win a lot of games against those teams it will get them back in things quickly and give them a lot of confidence.


Reversal of Fortune
There’s a lot of blind luck involved in the game and I think there’s a whole lot of bad luck involved in going 5-22 in 1 run games. At some point it’s going to turn back the other way. It might not happen this year or it might happen right now. The Braves won 7 games less than their expected win total in the first 95 games. They should have had a winning percentage of around .547. Well, what if they play that well again in their final 67 games and win 7 or 8 games more than their expected total? They’ll win around 44 or 45 games if they do that which would put them at around 90 wins. That might be enough. I don’t know of any examples of teams having horrible luck in 1 run games and then turning it around all of the sudden and winning a bunch of them in the same season. I’m sure in the long history of baseball such an example exists. I do, however, remember an example of the opposite thing taking place.

In 2005, the Washington Nationals were the surprise team of the first half of the season. They were in 1st place in the East ahead of the Braves for much of the year. Much of their success was due to an excellent bullpen that helped them win a lot of close games. Washington was 51-32 after 83 games. In 1st place in the East with the 2nd best record in the NL, 4.5 games ahead of the Braves. They had been the best team in 1 run games so far that season, with a record of 23-7 in 30 1 run affairs and they were 4-2 in extra innings games. At that point they had won their last 12 games decided by 1 run. Then things turned in the other direction and for the most part they didn’t turn back. In the final 79 games of the season the Nationals played 31 games decided by 1 run and went 7-24. At one point they lost 11 consecutive games decided by 1 run. They went 2-9 in extra innings during those final 79 games, at one point losing 7 straight games decided in extra innings. Part of the reason for all of this was that Frank Robinson used his bullpen up in the first 83 games but that isn’t the point. The point is, luck can change, and if the Braves really are better than they have played so far this year, then perhaps they’ll turn it around.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Baseball Blog: First Half Awards and Recap

First Half Recap and Awards


The swing back in favor of pitchers this season has been remarkable.
There are currently 12 pitchers in the Majors with ERA’s under 3.00 (that qualify for the league leader of course); that’s the same number of pitchers who have finished the year with ERA’s under 3.00 in the previous 3 years combined. Last season 1 pitcher had an ERA under 3.00 at the end of the season in the entire MLB and only 3 pitchers have finished with ERA’s under 3.00 in the last 2 seasons combined. The last time more than 9 pitchers had ERA’s under 3.00 at the end of the season was in 1997 when 13 pitchers did it.

There are currently 2 pitchers with ERA under 2.50. No pitcher with enough innings to qualify for the league leaders has finished the season with an ERA of less than 2.50 in either of the last 2 seasons and a total of 3 pitchers have done it in the last 4 seasons combined. There is 1 pitcher who currently has an ERA under 2.00. No pitcher has finished the year with an ERA under 2.00 since 2005, and only 1 pitcher has done it in the last 7 seasons combined.
There are currently 6 pitchers qualified pitchers who have a WHIP less than 1.05. No pitcher finished last season with a WHIP under 1.05 and only 1 pitcher did so in 2006. There have not been as many as 6 pitchers with WHIP under 1.05 at the end of any season in the post strike era.

There are currently 3 pitchers with WHIP under 1.00 in the MLB. Only 3 pitchers have finished the season with WHIP under 1.00 in the last 3 seasons combined. Roy Halladay is in a different league than the rest of the starters in the game when it comes to Complete Games. Halladay had 7 last season to lead the Majors and he has 7 already this year. No one has had more than 7 in a season since 2004 and if he throws 3 more in his final 13 or 14 starts this year he will be the first pitcher in this century to reach double digits in CG in a single season. No one else in the League currently has more than 3. The Atlanta Braves have had just 3 complete games in this season and the previous season combined.


For whatever reasons you choose to believe, power is down dramatically. It has been dropping for years but it hasn’t been like this. We may be going back to that more boring brand of baseball that was played in the 80’s. There are currently no players on pace to hit 50’s homers this season. It actually wasn’t that long ago that no player hit 50 in a season. There were no 50 homer totals in 2003 or 2004. In the last 3 years there has been at least 1 and a total of 5.

Only 2 players are currently on pace to hit as many as 45 home runs. The last time that less than 3 players hit at least 45 home runs was in 1995 when the season was just 144 games long. At least 4 players have hit 45 homers every year since 1998.
There are 7 players currently on pace to hit 40 or more home runs. Just 5 players hit 40 last season. This would be back to back season of 7 or less players with 40 or more homers after at least 8 players hit 40 bombs in 11 straight seasons from 1996-2006. If indeed only 7 players do hit 40 homers this season it would be a total of 12 over the last 2 seasons combined. From 1996 to 2001, at least 12 players hit 40 homers each year, a span of 5 seasons.

The only reason people give out hypothetical awards at the All-Star Break is because it’s a good topic. It isn’t even the first half; it’s way more than that. And we never stop at the end of the season and give out second half awards. But anyway, it’s good for discussion.

NL MVP: Hanley Ramirez
Runner Up: Lance Berkman
He’s been the best all around player on a team that you might say is overachieving. He’s in the top 10 in the NL in average, OBP, SLG, OPS, Homers, Stolen Bases, Hits, Extra Base Hits, Times on Base, and Total Bases and he leads the NL in Runs. He had 45 RBI from the leadoff spot and is 3rd in the NL in Runs Created. He’s also doing all of this from short stop and while he does make a lot of errors he also leads NL short stops in putouts.

AL MVP: Ian Kinsler
Runner Up: Josh Hamilton
Everyone wants to give it to Josh Hamilton because of the “story” but I’m not a big story guy. I’m more of an actual results on the field guy, and while Hamilton has certainly been awesome, I have to give the nod to Kinsler. And to be honest, it isn’t close. And let me say, I know that my knowledge of the AL is mostly limited to stats and not actually watching games, but I had no idea this guy was this good. He is leading the AL in Batting Average, Runs, Hits, Total Bases, Doubles, Runs Created, EXBH, and Times on Base. He is in the top 5 in the AL in OBP, OPS, Stolen Bases, and Sacrifice Hits. He is in the top 10 in the AL in Slugging, Triples, RBI, and Sacrifice Flies. He also has 14 homes, strikes out only once every 7.24 at bats, and has stolen 23 bases in 24 attempts. And oh by the way, he’s doing all of this at second base where leads all AL second baseman in putouts, assists, double plays, and Range Factor.

NL Cy Young: Edinson Volquez
Runner Up: Tim Lincecum
The guy’s 12-3 with a 2.29 ERA and he pitches half the time at the Great American Band Box. Give it to him.

AL Cy Young: Justin Duchscherer
Runner Up: Cliff Lee
This one isn’t even close. I don’t understand what all the mumbling and grumbling has been about there not being a clear candidate to start the All-Star Game. If people are voted in and elected to the team based on first half performance than I must be missing something because from what I’m looking at it says this guy has a 1.82 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP, a .186 batting average against, and has allowed 71 hits in 108.2 innings. Unless that information is incorrect, whoever the half brained pigeon is that said Mariano Rivera should start the All-Star Game needs to be slapped in the face. It is ridiculous. Who care’s that he’s only 10-5? He plays for Oakland; they only score 3.63 runs a game. He’s pitching better than anyone in the League and no one cares because he plays for the A’s and no one can say his name. Pathetic.

NL Rookie of the Year: Giovonto Soto
Runner Up: Jair Jurrjens
This one’s not close. He leads all NL rookies in Average, OPS, Runs Created, and Homers. And he’s a catcher

AL Rookie of the Year: Evan Longoria
Runner Up: David Murphy
Another easy one. He leads all AL rookies in OBP, SLG, OPS, Runs Created and Homers.

NL Manager of the Year: Tony LaRussa
Runner Up: Freddi Gonzalez
I hate to admit it but LaRussa’s has done an incredible job with that team. I thought they’d lose something like 100 games. Instead they may make the postseason.

AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon
Runner Up: Ron Washington
On July 6th the guy had the Rays at 55-32, the best record in all of baseball, 5 games up on the Red Sox. Every club in Major League Baseball should retire his jersey number.

NL Reliever of the Year: Brad Lidge
Runner Up: Billy Wagner
He’s all the way back to the dominant form he had back a few years ago. He’s 20 for 20 in save chances and has a 1.13 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP with 55 K in 40 innings. Batters are hitting .181 off him with no homers.

AL Reliever of the Year: Mariano Rivera
Runner Up: Fransisco Rodriguez
There have been a thousand closers over the years and a lot of great ones but nobody like the best. And make no mistake, Rivera is the best and he’s showing it again this year. Yes, Rodriquez has a million saves, but Rivera is 23 for 23 in save chances and has a 0.64 WHIP and a 1.06 ERA with 50 K in 42.1 innings. He has allowed just 23 hits and 4 walks. Batters are “hitting” .158 off him with a .414 OPS.

First Half Best Surprise Team: Tampa Bay Rays
Runner Up: St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland A’s, Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox, Florida Marlins
The Rays are the clear number one here. After that you can take your pick.

First Half Best Surprise Player: Carlos Quentin
Runner Up: Cliff Lee
22 homers, 70 RBI, and a .900 OPS. Damn. Good call by the D-Backs to give up on him.

First Half Biggest Disappointment Team: Seattle Mariners
Runner Up: Cleveland Indians
It’s sad that Cleveland fell so hard after finally putting everything together to get to the postseason last year but Seattle has gone from a surprise team last season, to spending a bunch of money to go for it all this year, to being the worst team in the League and a complete disaster that will take years to come back from.

First Half Biggest Disappointment Player: Erik Bedard
Runner Up: Jeff Francour
When he’s actually pitched he hasn’t been that bad but he’s been nothing like the pitcher they thought they were getting when they traded for him. Worst of all, he’s been hurt for much of the season and is on the DL again.

First Half Least Valuable Player: Tony Pena
Runner Up: Omar Vizquel
I’m not sure what is going on in Kansas City but there’s no way that Pena should have ever gotten 181 at bats this season. It’s simply another case of KC treating their fans with absolutely no respect. The guy has gone 28 for 181 to hit .155 with a .176 OPB, a .204 SLG, and a ridiculous .380 OPS. Defensively he has a below average fielding percentage and has absolutely no range, registering the 2nd worst Range Factor among AL starting short stops.

First Half Least Valuable Pitcher: Matt Morris
Runner Up: Jason Jennings
Morris made only 5 starts for the Pirates, all in April, and he was horrific. If he was on your fantasy team on the 5 days that he pitched for them you were eliminated from contention in your league. In 22.1 innings he allowed 31 runs on 41 hits and 7 walks and allowed 6 homers. He had a 9.67 ERA and a 2.15 WHIP and batter hit .390 off him. 7 of the runs he allowed were scored as unearned runs or else his ERA would have been 12.49. He went 0-4 and the Pirates lost all 5 games.

First Half All-Murphy AL Team
C: Joe Mauer
1B: Kevin Yukolis
2B: Ian Kinsler
3B: Alex Rodriguez
SS: Michael Young
LF: Carlos Quentin
CF: Josh Hamilton
RF: JD Drew
DH: Milton Bradley
SP: Justin Duchscherer
MR: Jim Johnson
CL: Mariano Rivera

First Half All-Murphy NL Team
C: Brian McCann
1B: Lance Berkman
2B: Chase Utley
3B: Chipper Jones
SS: Hanley Ramirez
LF: Pat Burrell
CF: Nate McLouth
RF: Ryan Ludwick
SP: Edinson Volquez
MR: Taylor Buchholz
CL: Brad Lidge

Welcome to The Horse Collar: No Glitz and Glamour, Just the Game

Welcome to The Horse Collar, a place for sports fans who don't want any Justin Timberlake with their Sports. It's a safe haven for real sports freaks away from sappy stories and tabloid gossip. The only story here is the game. The Horse Collar is also a good place for fans of Atlanta and Georgia sports to go to read about their teams.

Monday, July 14, 2008


As you all know I like to make a number of predictions before each season where I pick which teams will make the playoffs and who will win awards and I write a little something about how I think each team will do. Now that we’re at the All-Star Break I decided to go back and look at my predictions from before the start of the season and I’m excited to say that this year is shaping up to be one of my worst ever. I thought you guys might find them amusing so I thought I’d grade my predictions so far, comparing my picks with the actual results at the All-Star Break and how each team is on pace to finish. After the picks and standings there’s a section of notes which include some of my other awful predictions.


AL East
1. Boston (92-70)
2. NYY (90-72)
3. Toronto (88-74)
4. TB (75-87)
5. Baltimore (53-109)
AL Central
1. Detroit (102-60)
2. Cleveland (100-62)
3. Chicago (70-92)
4. Minnesota (68-94)
5. KC (66-96)
AL West
1. Seattle (100-62)
2. Anaheim (97-65)
3. Texas (70-92)
4. Oakland (64-98)
NL East
1. Philly (94-68)
2. Atlanta (92-70)
3. NYM (92-70)
4. Florida (73-89)
5. Wash (65-97)
NL Central
1. Chicago (89-73)
2. Mil (88-74)
3. Houston (85-77)
4. Pittsburgh (82-80)
5. Cincinnati (62-100)
6. St. Louis (60-102)
NL West
1. Arizona (97-65)
2. Colorado (88-74)
3. SD (83-79)
4. LA (81-81)
5. SF (64-98)

Current Standings

AL East
1. Boston (57-40)
2. TB (55-39)
3. NYY (50-45)
4. Toronto (47-48)
5. Baltimore (45-48)
AL Central
1. Chicago (54-40)
2. Minnesota (53-42)
3. Detroit (47-47)
4. KC (43-53)
5. Cleveland (41-53)
AL West
1. Anaheim (57-38)
2. Oakland (51-44)
3. Texas (50-46)
4. Seattle (37-58)
NL East
1. Philly (52-44)
2. NYM (51-44)
3. Florida (50-45)
4. Atlanta (45-50)
5. Wash (36-60)
NL Central
1. Chicago (57-38)
2. St. Louis (53-43)
3. Mil (52-43)
4. Cincinnati (46-50)
5. Pittsburgh (44-50)
6. Houston (44-51)
NL West
1. Arizona (47-38)
2. LA (46-49)
3. SF (40-55)
4. Colorado (39-57)
5. SD (37-58)

On Pace For Approx

AL East
1. Boston (95-67)
2. TB (95-67)
3. NYY (85-77)
4. Toronto (80-82)
5. Baltimore (78-84)
AL Central
1. Chicago (93-69)
2. Minnesota (90-72)
3. Detroit (81-81)
4. KC (73-89)
5. Cleveland (71-91)
AL West
1. Anaheim (97-65)
2. Oakland (87-75)
3. Texas (85-77))
4. Seattle (63-99)
NL East
1. Philly (88-74))
2. NYM ()
3. Florida (85-77)
4. Atlanta (77-85)
5. Wash (61-101)
NL Central
1. Chicago (97-65)
2. St. Louis (89-73)
3. Mil (89-73)
4. Cincinnati (78-84)
5. Pittsburgh (76-86)
6. Houston (75-87)
NL West
1. Arizona (80-82)
2. LA (78-84)
3. SF (68-94)
4. Colorado (67-95)
5. SD (63-99)

Notes and Other Predictions

· 4 of my predicted division winners are in 1st place.
· At this point I have 7 of 30 teams placed correctly in the standings.
· Of 14 teams currently over. 500 I picked 7 to finish over .500. I Picked Detroit to finish with a winning record and they are the only team in MLB currently at .500.
· Of 15 teams currently under .500 I picked 5 to finish under .500. I picked the Dodgers to finish at .500 and they are currently under .500.
· I picked Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, and Seattle to make the playoffs in the AL. Seattle and Cleveland are currently in last place in their respective divisions and the Tigers are at .500 and 7 games out of 1st in the Central. At least Boston looks like a safe bet at this point but I had Cleveland beating the Tigers in the ALCS to go to the World Series and that doesn’t look likely at this point.
· Some of my worst picks so far appear to be in the AL West. Seattle would have to go 63-4 the rest of the way to finish with the 100-62 record that I predicted; Oakland would have to go 13-54 the rest of the way to finish with the 64-98 record I predicted.
· I also don’t look too good in the AL Central. Detroit would have to go 55-13 the rest of the way to finish with the 102-60 record I predicted; Cleveland would have to go 59-9 the rest of the way to finish with the 100-62 record I predicted; Minnesota would have to go 15-52 the rest of the way to finish with the 68-94 record I predicted; and the White Sox would have to go 16-52 the rest of the way to finish with the 70-92 record I predicted. I think this is my worst division.
· It doesn’t look like I hit the target on my Cardinals prediction either. They would have to go 7-59 the rest of the way to finish with the 60-102 record I predicted. But other than that I’m looking good in the NL.
· Wait, wait…I fucked up in the NL West as well. Arizona needs to go 50-17 to get to the 97-65 mark I predicted; Colorado has to go 49-17 the rest of the way to get to the 88-74 record I predicted; and the Padres must go 46-21 the rest of the way to finish with the 83-79 record I predicted.
· Actually I think the NL West might be my worst division. I picked 3 NL West teams to finish over .500 and 1 to finish at .500. At the All-Star Break all 5 teams in the NL West are under .500.
· I picked the Phillies, Diamond Backs, and Cubs to make the playoffs and they all look like decent calls at this moment. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look very likely that the Braves will tie the Mets for the Wild Card, beat them in a 1 game playoff to make the postseason and go on to beat Cleveland in the World Series. Of my predictions of the awards, some are good and some aren’t so good but one stands out as simply hilarious. My pick for AL Manager of the Year was John McLaren. As you all know, McLaren was fired by the Mariners on June 19th after 72 games with the Mariners in last place at 25-47. McLaren will most likely never manage again in the Majors. His career is likely over after parts of two seasons and just 156 games as a big league manager. However McLaren’s place in baseball history and indeed the history of all of us humans is secure; for before he bowed out unceremoniously a month ago he let loose with a classic tirade, during which he managed to offer perhaps the most dramatic and honest expression of what it feels like to be beaten down day after day by life, with your hopes and dreams crushed, and be completely incapable of turning it around. At some point you can’t take it anymore and you just kind of start shouting things which don’t really mean anything on their own, but when stuck together in a moment of delirium, they make complete sense: “I’m tired of getting my ass beat and so are the guys! We’ve got to change this fucking shit around and get after it! And only we can do it!...There’s no fucking easy way out of this! We can’t feel sorry for our self! We’ve gotta fucking buckle it up and get after it! ” My friends, that is absolute brilliance.

The Braves Blog: Braves First Half Recap

Braves First Half Recap


Grade: C

What is the Problem Here?

The Power’s Down

The Braves offense has been a bit of a mystery this season in that even though a lot of the numbers aren’t that bad they don’t seem to translate into scoring a lot of runs. In the three seasons since the last division title, the Braves have made a strange transition from a free swinging power hitting club, to a much more patient and disciplined but much less powerful one. In 2006, the Braves led the NL in homers, finished 2nd in runs scored, tied for 2nd in batting average, 1st in Slugging and 2nd in OPS. However they were 10th in walks and 11th in strikeouts and this style of hitting made the Braves susceptible to cold stretches. They were very streaky and if they weren’t hot they could be shutdown.

They didn’t put the ball in play enough and would make things easy on pitchers by getting themselves out at times. Over the long haul the Braves were a bit of a juggernaut offensively in 2006, but at times they got into trouble due to strikeouts and not walking enough. Last year strikeouts continued to be a major problem, as they were 12th in K’s but they got better about taking walks, finishing 7th in the NL in BB. The Braves power dropped off, however, as they were just 6th in homers and 6th in Slugging. Although the OBP improved they finished 6th in OPS. They were 4th in batting average though and they still managed to finish 3rd in the NL in runs. This season, the Braves have really gotten much better about making contact and working the count and drawing walks.

Unfortunately, the Braves have lost even more of their power, and though some of the numbers are good, the Braves are having trouble scoring runs. At the break the Braves are tied 4th in the NL in Walks, tied 4th in Strikeouts, tied 3rd in batting average and 3rd in OBP. The Braves are just 7th in Slugging and tied 9th in Home Runs, however, and they go into the break 8th in the NL in Runs. Clearly, the power is way down. In 2006, the Braves led the NL with an average of 25.1 At Bats per Home Run. The NL average for teams that year was 31.8 AB/HR. It’s not so much the Braves average that year as compared to this year that is important. Home Runs are down across baseball. The important thing is how the Braves compare to the rest of the League. Last year the Braves fell all the way back to 7th in the NL with an average of 32.3 AB/HR. The NL team average last year was 34.1 AB/HR. This season the Braves have dropped significantly again. Going into the All-Star Break the Braves are 10th in the NL with an average of 35.9 AB/HR, worse than the NL team average of 35.7 AB/HR. This has hurt the Braves a lot and the fact that they have improved in other areas hasn’t seemed to make up for the loss in power.


It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what the problem is but despite a good team batting average and OBP, the Braves have really struggled to score runs. In the past, when the Braves were a homerun hitting club they used to struggle to score without hitting homers, and really depended on power too much. It seems like the Braves are still finding it hard to score without homers and depending on power too much, only now it’s a lot worse because they don’t hit a lot of homers anymore. Over the years, Bobby Cox has at times been criticized by some for “sitting back and waiting for a 3 run homer.”

The Braves haven’t been a big base stealing team in years and they have never been a team that played “small ball.” The value of the stolen base is something that is debated in baseball circles but the simple rule is that you shouldn’t be trying to steal unless you are very confident that you won’t get caught stealing. One problem is that even if Cox wanted to be aggressive on the bases with this team it would be difficult because the Braves don’t have any good base stealers. Base stealing hasn’t been a good strategy for the Braves the last couple of years but that wasn’t a big deal because the Braves hit with power. In 2006, the Braves were dead last in the 16 team NL in Stolen Bases but that wasn’t as big of a problem because they hit so many homers.

You don’t want to risk it trying to steal that much if you hit a ton of homers, especially if you aren’t good at stealing bases. And the Braves weren’t good at stealing bases, also finishing dead last in Stolen Base Percentage in 2006, so it was a good thing that they were 15th in SB Attempts. Last year the Braves didn’t hit as many homers but they attempted a few more stolen bases. They stole a few more bases and were slightly better at it, finishing 13th in SB Attempts, 14th in SB, and 14th in SB%. The Braves still don’t steal bases and they still aren’t very good at it. They are 13th in SB and 13 in SB%. They have just 31 steals and have been caught 14 times for a success rate of 68.8%. That’s an unacceptable percentage so it’s smart that they don’t send runners a lot and they are 14th in SB Attempts. You can’t send runners if they’re going to get thrown out a third of the time. The problem is, as stated before, the Braves don’t hit homers any more, so the stolen base would be a useful weapon for them if they could do it well. But the Braves can’t hit for power or steal bases well.

The So-Called “Little Things”

Lack of speed doesn’t mean you can’t still “create runs.” You can get on base by walking; a batter with speed can try a bunt against a tough pitcher; you can move runners over when the situation calls for it; you can hit and run, etc. The Braves don’t always do the fundamental things at the plate and that hurts them. The Braves have gotten way better at working the count, taking walks, and making contact but there are times when they seem to lose focus on taking the good approach to the plate. Sometimes it isn’t what they do but when they do it that hurts them. Sometimes it’s swinging at the first pitch of an inning when the starting pitcher has thrown a lot of pitches in the game. Sometimes it’s swinging for the fences when contact is important or swinging at the first pitch when the pitcher has missed with the last 6 pitches. Sometimes it’s trying to bunt for a hit with two out and no one on. At other times the Braves just don’t execute things like moving the runner over with a bunt or a ground ball or fly ball. Sometimes it’s not being able to get a run home from third with less than two outs. Once again, these things are even more vital if you aren’t hitting the ball out.

Just Not Coming Through

But I don’t think it’s the lack of power, or the lack of speed and versatility, or the problems with fundamentals and situational hitting that is hurting the Braves the most. They are still getting on base, making contact, and hitting enough to score runs without being great at those other things. In my opinion, the biggest problem is that the Braves just aren’t getting hits when they really need to. This is why they are tied for 3rd in the NL in batting and 3rd in OBP but 8th in runs scored. In 2006, the Braves led the NL in batting with runners on base, finished 2nd in batting with Runners in Scoring Position, and 1st in batting with RISP and 2 out. Last season, the Braves finished 4th in the NL in batting with runners on base, 1st in batting with RISP, and 2nd in batting with RISP and 2 out.

This season the Braves are 8th in the League in batting with runners on base, 9 in the League hitting with RISP, and 12th in the League batting with RISP and 2 out. It’s hard to say what the reasons are for this exactly. Surely some of it is luck but there must be more to it than that. Whatever the reason, it has been by far the biggest problem this season in my opinion. The Braves just haven’t been getting enough of the “clutch” hits; or if you prefer, “timely” hits.


Any team can be shutdown by a great pitcher and you are always going to have games where it’s just not your night, but the Braves have been completely dominated in an inordinate amount of games this year. The Braves have scored 1 run or less 15 times this year, including being shutout an alarming 9 times this season. They were shutout 10 times all of last season, and they were only shutout 10 times in 2005 and 2006 combined. Last season was the first time the Braves had been shutout more than 9 times in any one season since 1990, the year before the start of the streak, when they were shutout 14 times. There’s a lot of season left and the Braves already have 9 shutouts this season. Part of this may be a little deceiving because runs are down across the game but no matter what era it is, scoring 1 run or less in a game should not happen that often. You’ve got to be able to adjust and create runs better than that. If it happens every once and a while you can chalk it up to good pitching but when it happens this often it has more to do with bad hitting.


Now then, we have to attribute some of the problems to the youth, inexperience, and general lack of ability that has been in the Braves lineup quite a bit recently due to injuries. Starters and backups have missed time and been forced to play hurt and the combination of this has caused the Braves offense to struggle for the last couple months. There have been back-ups and back-ups to the back-ups in the starting lineup a lot since May. It’s not that these players have no value, although some are certainly better than others, it’s just that you don’t want to have them in the regular lineup a lot. You may not realize just how the bench and utility players have been in the lineup. It doesn’t seem like there have been that many injuries to the position players but there have been small injuries here and there and those add up after a while.

Most Braves fans would agree that the Braves best lineup includes McCann, Chipper, Escobar, Johnson, Teixeira, Blanco/Diaz, Kotsay, and Francour. For the most part, it seems like those guys have stayed fairly healthy, but just look at all the games that players other than those 9 above have started: Greg Norton has made 22 starts; Omar Infante has made 28 starts; Martin Prado has made 10 starts; Brandon Jones has made 14 starts; Josh Perry has made 3 starts; Josh Anderson has started 4 games; Brent Lillibridge has started 9 games; and Ruben Gotay has started 9 games. Also, for whatever reason, the Braves decided to give away Bryan Pena and keep Corky Miller as the number 2 catcher and he has started 12 games.

Look, Omar Infante is a solid veteran utility player and Martin Prado is a solid young infielder but you probably don’t want them starting a lot. And the real problem is that Prado and Infante have been hurt themselves and you really don’t want the other guys starting. They are capable as bench players but you don’t want Norton and Gotay and those guys starting. There has been one other problem recently, and that is the injury to Escobar’s shoulder. He hasn’t been himself when he has actually been able to play so it’s just like having a backup player in there offensively. Mark Kotsay has not gotten going again since hurting his back. The injury to Chipper not only took him out of the lineup for quite a while, it also seemed to take him out of the zone that he had been in all season.

Frenchy’s Been An Everyday No-Show

But it can’t all be blamed on injury. Everyone knows about Francoeur’s struggles but it is hard to exaggerate how big of an effect his struggles have had on the team. He has made a ton of outs and that hurts when a guy plays every day and bats 6th. He’s also been used by the other teams to get out of jams consistently. But his struggles have hurt even worse than they would have last season because of the makeup of this year’s team. Say what you will about Andruw Jones final season in Atlanta but when he left the team Francour became the main right handed batter with power at the back end of the lineup. There has been a huge void after the top half of the lineup that Frenchy has not filled either with getting on base or power or timely hitting.

Uncertainty in the Top Two Spots

Moving on from the disaster of Francour, Kelly Johnson has been a bit of a disappointment in my opinion. Last season he was coming back from a year off and learning to play second and hit leadoff and all those things and to be honest he did pretty well all things considered. But this year he has not improved and in my opinion he has taken a step back. The Braves seemed to think that Kelly would be better farther down the lineup than first or second where he would be able to be more aggressive and not have to worry about working counts or anything like that. He doesn’t take as many walks as he used to but he is still striking out a lot, and what makes all that a real problem is that he isn’t hitting for power either.

It’s true that he has done better batting 7th so perhaps he should stay there but if he isn’t going to hit with more power than he needs to go back to trying to make more contact and take more walks because it doesn’t work to hit 8 homers, strikeout 64 times, and only reach base .346. The Braves really have been struggling with the leadoff hitter problem since Furcal left for LA after 2005. They still haven’t solved it. A lot of people try to reason that the leadoff hitter isn’t that important because he’s only guaranteed to leadoff once a game and such and such but these folks are missing the point. Not only does your leadoff guy start the game, he starts each turn through the order. He sets the table for the guys that drive in the runs, not just in the first inning, but every time the order turns over. And the leadoff hitter is going to get more at plate appearances than everyone else because he hits first. For all these reasons, you want to have a good leadoff hitter who may be able to run, hopefully is adapt at working the count, and definitely needs to be able to get on base consistently.

The Braves tried using Escobar in the leadoff spot but he didn’t seem to take to it. That was strange, because last year he didn’t do very well batting second and did quite well batting 1st. He has done much better batting second this year and that really seems to suit his style of batting anyway. Escobar has done alright, maintaining a solid average and getting on base okay but he hasn’t been able to replace Edgar Renteria in that 2nd spot in the order. That’s not to say that he should be able to do that in his second year in the Big’s, I’m just pointing out that he hasn’t. So if Esco’s going to bat second when healthy and Kelly’s going to bat 7th, you still need a leadoff man.

The Braves have moved Gregor Blanco to the #1 spot now and while there is so much about him that screams prototypical leadoff guy, I don’t believe Blanco is going to be a great leadoff man for the Braves this season. Blanco is a rookie and I believe it will be harder for him to keep up with adjustments and produce at the plate batting first in the lineup. In my opinion, Blanco is best off batting 8th. He was doing very well in the 8th spot and that’s a good place for a rookie because whatever holes pitchers might expose in the leadoff spot can be covered up more. He’s going to be pitched around at times to get to the pitcher and that will help him get on base where he is dangerous. Some may argue this point but I believe it’s also easier to bat 8th because pitchers naturally pay less attention to the 8th place hitter especially compared to the leadoff man.

Blanco will take walks and if gets on with less than two outs he can be bunted over by the pitcher. Blanco is a great battler, he has a good eye, and he understands that speed is his game, not power. I still don’t know that this makes him a good leadoff batter, at least not right now. For evidence I point to the results we’ve seen so far. It’s a small sample size but telling I think. In 88 at bats in the leadoff spot, Blanco has a .337 OBP, 11 walks, and has struck out 20 times. He is 0 for 21 leading off the game, and has batted .193 with a .276 OBP leading off an inning. One other issue is that while some of the Braves left handed batters have reached the point where they can handle south paws, Blanco clearly has not. That doesn’t mean he has to come out of the lineup, but every time there is a lefty starter on the mound he’s going to have a hard time fulfilling the leadoff duties well. I don’t know what the answer is at the leadoff spot. It may be that Blanco is the best option right now.

The Trouble With Lefties

This is actually a serious concern, because the Braves have a lot of problems with left handers. As already started, Blanco doesn’t handle lefties well and Kotsay doesn’t hit lefties well at all. For some reason, Escobar has struggled against lefties and Tex has struggled against lefties for most of the year. Chipper has hit .400 as a right hander most of the season but he isn’t going to hit for power as a right handed batter. It’s fortunate that Kelly and McCann have gotten to the point where they can hold their own against lefties, but again, they aren’t normally going to hit with power off south paws. This is another reason why Francoeur’s struggled have hurt so much. He should be creaming left handers. The Braves need him to be a guy that can hit for power against a left hander and who the opposition will be worried about in the lineup.

The lefty situation is also something that you hoped Matt Diaz might be helpful against. Diaz has murdered lefties the last few years and it would be nice to be able to sit Blanco or Kotsay and inject Diaz into the lineup against a southpaw but Diaz has been gone since early May. In truth, however, Diaz was gone before he crashed into the wall. While Matty had hit constantly the last two years he had done it almost exclusively as a part time player and not as an everyday starter. He deserved the chance to prove that he indeed could be an everyday starter but it became obvious after 40 games or so this season that Diaz was not making the transition well. For a variety of reasons he was really struggling and had gotten himself all screwed up and wasn’t doing the things that had made him successful as a platoon guy. This isn’t anything knew; it happens all the time. I guy does great as a part time player and people wonder why he doesn’t play everyday and then that player does play everyday for a while and people start to understand why he was a part time player. Maybe pitchers paid more attention to Diaz because he was in the lineup every game; maybe they were able to see him more and figure out ways to pitch to him better. Diaz has the same weakness in his game that Francour has, in that he swings at anything and everything and never takes walks.

Diaz is good at it. He hits pitches out of the zone for singles and doubles all the time but when he’s in the lineup every day getting 4 or 5 plate appearances it doesn’t seem to work as well. He might get himself out on 1 pitch or swing at a breaking pitch a foot off the plate and miss it. He might go up swinging and strike out against a guy who would have walked him if he hadn’t just swung at every pitch without thinking. And the thing is Diaz’s style can be used against him a lot easier by right handers. He can be successful batting the way he does against left handers but I doubt he will ever be able to succeed as any everyday player unless he makes drastic changes to his style of batting and approach at the plate. It certainly wasn’t working when he hurt his knee.

Diaz played in 41 games before going on the DL and he was hitting just .250/.270/.311/.581 with 2 doubles, 2 homers, 32 strike outs, and 3 walks in 132 at bats. That’s not the Matty Diaz that Braves fans know. Despite those awful numbers, Diaz still went 23 for 69 to hit .333 against lefties, and if he is able to come back healthy he should be able to give the Braves some help against southpaw starters.

Tex Solid But Never Really Hot

Teixeira was on fire for his entire time with the Braves last year after coming over in the trade and I really felt like the Braves would be an offensive juggernaut this year with Chipper and Tex batting 3 and 4 in the lineup for an entire season along with a healthy Brian McCann. This year Chipper has been incredible when in the lineup and healthy and Tex has had a solid year but the two have never really been rolling at the same time. Tex started kind of slow but he’s been pretty solid all year and he has 17 homers, 69 RBI, a .373 OBP and an .857 OPS and you can’t really complain about that. But because of the limitations of the Braves offense they really need Teixeira to be at his best. It’s not just because he needs to protect Chipper so that he can get better pitches but also because guys are going to pitch around Chipper no matter what and Tex has to make them pay. And again, the Braves don’t have a lot of great hitters in their lineup. When you really look at it, as things stand at this time, the Braves only really have 3 big time hitters in their lineup: Chipper, McCann, and Tex. They really all need to be playing at a high level for the Braves to have a lot of success scoring runs.

Starting Pitching

Grade: B

Surviving and Thriving

So Much For That

I’m not keeping injuries and other circumstances in mind when making these grades. Injuries are part of it all. That grade is for how good the starting pitching has been in the first half, not how good the starting pitching has been all things considered. But you have to admit that it’s pretty impressive that the Braves starting pitching has been as good as has been despite injuries to 3 of the 4 guys they expected to have in the rotation. And it’s not like they lost a couple of 5th starters. The loss of Smoltz was simply devastating. Smoltzy is the greatest Brave of the entire era. He’s obviously a huge presence in the clubhouse and he brought fire and passion and intensity to the mound with him every time he pitched. And that’s just the intangibles. He was also the Braves only power pitcher and still an ace when fully healthy. We all knew that someday it was going to end and that it very likely would be an injury that finally forced John from the game but you just kept crossing your fingers and hoping the arm would hold up for another year. Smoltzy is irreplaceable and had we known that Smoltz would pitch in just 6 games in 2008 we wouldn’t have thought the Braves had much of a chance to make the playoffs. That’s the cold hard truth but you can’t just quit a couple months in or say it’s over.

When the Braves brought back Glavine so many people had talked about how all the Braves needed the year before was a solid, dependable 3rd starter who would give the team a chance to win and that still described Glavine even at the age of 42. While Glav had never been on the DL in his career coming into this year, he was still 42, so you had to be somewhat prepared that something like this could happen. Still, getting only 6 first half starts from your veteran number 3 starter is a big blow, especially with Smoltz as well. Now Hampton was always a huge “if” because he had gotten hurt so many times before but it seemed like he was finally going to be able to come back and at least give the Braves a veteran at the back of the rotation who could go 5 or 6 innings without giving the game away. But he did get hurt again and that was another blow. Amazingly, the Braves have found a way to put together a pretty damn good rotation despite all of this. In fact, the Braves starting pitchers have the 3rd best ERA in the National League.

Hudson is a True Ace

Hudson has been excellent most of the time and has gotten almost no help from his teammates as usual. Huddy has thrown Quality Starts in 15 of 20 starts and has been awesome in a number of different outings. He has been a true ace, pitching consistently well and much of the time shutting the opposition down. The only thing you can ever really complain about with Huddy is that when he has an off night it is normally a really off night but it doesn’t happen much. Despite how well Hudson has pitched, his presence on the mound has not been harbinger of success for the team. In another of the puzzling things about what has been a very strange season for the Braves so far, the Braves are actually 9-11 in Huddy’s 20 starts. They have a losing record with him on the mound! Making this all the worse, in 8 of the 20 games Hudson has pitched for the Braves in 2008 they have lost by 1 run. Now he didn’t pitch well in all of those games; in fact 3 of his 5 bad starts have resulted in 1 run losses, but the Braves have also lost by a run in games in which Hudson has allowed 1 run over 6.2 innings; 1 run over 7.2 innings; 2 runs over 7 innings twice; and 2 runs over 8 innings in another game. Huddy’s gotten an average of just 4.3 runs in support this season. That’s how it’s been for most of the Braves starters this season. When you have the 3rd best ERA, you expect to have a winning record but that isn’t the case for the Braves starters.

The Yo-Yo Man

The biggest and best surprise of the Braves first half was their 29 year old former Mexican League pitcher Jorge Campillo. He has been a miracle. Guys like him rarely have any success at all and when they do it’s almost always a fluke but it’s getting harder and harder to be skeptical. His taken a lot of steps to prove himself. It could be that teams will start to have success against him once they’ve seen him a few times and once the League gets to know him. But I still think his change up is a good enough pitch to work even after guys have seen it a bunch. Campillo hasn’t gotten a lot of support either in his starts. The Braves have scored 3 runs or less in 7 of his 11 starts.

JJ Worth ER

How good does the trade of Edgar Renteria look now? If the little center fielder Hernandez never makes it to the Majors it will still be a good deal because Jurrjens looks like a guy with a lot of success in his future. The Braves have done a better job in support of JJ than some of the other pitchers, although they have scored 3 runs or less in 6 of his starts and 1 run or less 3 times. The one thing JJ does that could get him in trouble is walk a few guys and he doesn’t strike out a lot of guys to make up for it but he has not allowed a lot of hits to this point. The biggest worry this season has got to be fatigue. The last 3 years before 2008, JJ has thrown 142.2, 141, and 143.1 innings respectively in the minors and last year in the minors and majors combined. This year he has already thrown 111 and he may run out of gas towards the end.

Go Jo Jo…Sort of

When you think about it, although the Braves made a name for themselves in the early 90’s for being an organization with a lot of great young starting pitching, much of it homegrown, the Braves have not done a great job of developing starting pitchers since those early days. Since churning out Tom Glavine, Steve Avery, and John Smoltz (yes, I know he was drafted by Detroit) in the late 80’s and seeing them flourish in the 90’s, the Braves have not had a lot of successful starting pitchers come up through their organization. The last two pitchers to come through the Braves system who we could say have had a lot of success starting in the Majors are Jason Schmidt (who really didn’t flourish while with the team) and Kevin Millwood. And those guys came up in the mid-90’s.

The only guy the Braves have developed recently who has had some success has been Adam Wainwright and they traded him to St. Louis while still in the minors. I will say though that the Braves have been very good at deciding which starting pitcher prospects might be worth trading and when to go ahead and give up on a young starter. Schmidt and Wainwright are exceptions and they may pay for trading some of the prospects they gave up for Tex, but in general the Braves have not been burned by the young pitchers they have traded away. They’ve been excellent at knowing when to give up on a young starter, for example: David Neid, Armando Reynoso, Jason Marquis, Bruce Chen, Odalis Perez, Horacio Ramirez, Kyle Davies, etc, etc. There are countless other young pitchers that were traded away and never panned out for other teams. Lou Pinella once said that when the Braves call and want to talk pitching, the right thing to do is “run out of the room.”

My point in bringing all of this up is that we don’t know yet whether Jo Jo Reyes will be the next good young starting pitcher to come through the Atlanta system or one of the many who have made it this far and never quite become a better than below average to average Major League pitcher. Leo Mazzone had a hand in the success of the original young aces for the Braves back in the early 90’s but after the well dried up and some said that Mazzone wasn’t the guy you wanted working with young pitchers anymore. Hopefully Roger McDowell has more success. Last season Jo Jo was not quite ready for prime time but he has been better this year. Despite improvements he still has only flashed brilliance, something that every single one of those pitchers mentioned above did as well. It’s almost never “stuff” that keeps these young starters from becoming good and I guess that makes sense since they are talented enough to have gotten this far. With Jo Jo the thing that keeps him from being consistently good is control, both in and out of the strike zone. He’s thrown 30 walks and allowed 8 homers in 77.2 innings. The homers hurt more because he’s put people on base and throwing a lot of balls runs up his pitch count quickly. He’s thrown only 5 Quality Starts out of 14 starts this season and a lot of times he gets rocked or just can’t stay in the game very long. But he has been better and if he was just the 5th starter on the team it would be completely acceptable in my opinion. As it is, he’s still not the worst 4th starter to have.

One More Starter Needed

Charlie Morton has been solid in a few starts and gotten crushed in the others and he’s really about where Jo Jo was last year. Even though he is already 24 he really should be in the minors for now. The Braves would be in better shape if Glavine or Hampton were healthy enough to pitch although how much better shape I don’t know. Glavine had some good starts but also looked bad at times. Hampton has obviously not pitched much in the last few years and no one really knows how good he can be again. Even before he got hurt he was really a mediocre pitcher most of the time but I still think it would be better if Glavine or Hampton were in the rotation rather than Morton.

Not a lot of Innings Eaten

Going into this season, anyone who looked at the Braves starting pitching situation objectively knew that even if everyone stayed healthy there were going to be some limitations and the main one was that the rotation was unlikely to rack up a lot of innings. Only Hudson looked like a guy who could be counted on to pitch deep into games consistently. With Smoltz’s age and arm situation, Glavine’s age, Hampton’s health, and the youth of the pitchers who were likely to be fifth starters, there were going to be a lot of 5 and 6 inning starts and there were not going to be many 8 or 9 inning starts. When Hampton was injured again and Smoltz went down the situation got worse because more young guys were in the rotation. Then Glavine went down. As expected, the Braves didn’t get a lot of innings from their starters and it has meant a lot of work for the bullpen. Smoltz is obviously gone for the season and if Glavine and or Hampton do come back the Braves will surely be careful with how long they pitch in games. Fortunately, JJ has proven to be good beyond his years and has consistently gone 6 or 7, but Campillo hasn’t been pitching as deep and Morton and Reyes are normally only good for 5 or 6 on their best nights. This has been a problem, it likely will continue to be one, and it will hurt more as the year goes on.


Grade: B

Surviving and Thriving II

The Summer Iditarod in Georgia

To repeat, these grades are for first half performance, irregardless of injuries. To be honest, the fact that the Braves pen has been this good despite the loss of both quality and quantity and the amount of work it has been asked to do is pretty amazing. The Braves have only 14 saves which is dead last in the NL but the fact is they haven’t had many save chances; 24 to be exact, also the least of any team in the NL. They are 10th in the NL in Save Conversion Percentage but those stats are all a little less important than people think in my opinion. This is particularly the case when you’re talking about team stats. The Braves may have 14 saves and 10 blown saves but they’ve made 69 appearances in save situations and they have a 2.03 ERA in 62 innings. Also, the bullpen is important when the team is behind, tied, or ahead, not just when the team is ahead by 3 runs or less. What’s more important is that the Braves pen is 3rd in the NL in both ERA and WHIP despite the 6th most Innings Pitched. The pen has seen injuries to its best pitchers and has survived. Peter Moylan pitched just 5.2 innings in 7 games before his season ended and the Braves have had Rafael Soriano for just 9 innings in 9 appearances. Buddy Carlyle also missed a bunch of time and now Manny Acosta and Jeff Bennett are hurt. But the relief corps have carried on and done well anyway to this point.

Too Much Work

Due to the lack of innings pitched by the starters discussed earlier, and due to injuries which have caused a lack of options for Bobby Cox to go to in the bullpen, the Braves relievers have logged a lot of innings and appearances. This may come back to bite the Braves later in the year if pitchers burn out and lose their effectiveness or get injured. They are going to have to get some help from somewhere to give guys like Boyer, Ohman, Bennett, and Acosta (when healthy) a break.

The Rocking Mantis

Closer is a spot that has given the Braves trouble ever since Smoltz moved back to the starting rotation in 2005. He’s only been back for a month but I’m starting to think the Braves may have finally found their guy, at least for this year, in Mike Gonzalez. In the future it may not work out because Gonzalez has been injury prone but 3 times in his career he has made at least 47 appearances in a year and I doubt he will make more than 50 this season so he should be okay. Obviously in 10 appearances so far Gonzo has been great. He’s allowed just 4 runs, 3 earned, in 10.2 innings and all of those runs came in 2 games, one that the Braves led by 8 runs, another that they led by 10 runs. He’s struck out 10 and walked 0. His velocity is not what it was but the word is that it usually takes a little bit longer for a pitcher to get all the velocity back after that kind of surgery. It doesn’t seem to matter at this point. He’s allowed hits to just 6 of 39 batters faced.

Setups Knock ‘Em Down

Currently the Braves have themselves a pretty good lefty-righty combo for the 7th and 8th innings in Blaine Boyer and Will Ohman. No question that Boyer has had some rough days. He has 5 losses and has blown saves in 2 other Braves losses for which he did not receive a loss. He has 1 save and 11 holds, however, and he has been the definite workhorse of the team with 52.2 innings pitched in 51 appearances. He has posted a 3.93 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP so far with 45 strikeouts. Ohman has been awesome. In 49 games he has pitched 39 innings and struck out 35 batters with a 1.18 WHIP and a 2.77 ERA. He is 3-0 with a Save, 1 Blown Save, and 11 Holds. The only thing that worries you is that Boyer and Ohman are on pace for 84 and 81 appearances respectively and then you factor in all the times that they warm up and don’t come in. They may burn out at some point, particularly Boyer, who has had arm troubles and has never made more than the 57 appearances he made in AAA and the Majors in 2005. Ohman has made a lot of appearances in a number of years before so he may handle it better.

Manny’ll Cost Ya

One Braves pitcher who the Braves have used a lot in the first half who has not fared very well is Manny Acosta. He’s currently on the shelf with a bad hamstring but he’s made 41 appearances and pitched 47 innings this year. Until his final 3 appearances before getting hurt it looked like Manny might need to go back to the minors. Manny’s 4.02 ERA doesn’t look that bad but the problem goes deeper than earned runs. His biggest problem is walking guys and his other main problem is throwing it right down the middle. He’s walked 24 and allowed 8 doubles, a triple, and 7 homers in 47 innings. He has 3 saves and 4 holds but he’s also blown 2 saves and taken 5 losses. The biggest mystery is where the strikeouts went.

When Acosta came up and made 21 appearances last year he walked a ton of guys but he also struck out a ton. He threw 14 walks in 23.2 innings last year but he fanned 22 and allowed only 1 double and 2 homers. His year he has just 25 K in 47 innings. I haven’t heard anything about Manny’s arm, but going from averaging 8.37 K/9 to 4.79 K/9 seems like a pretty drastic drop off. He’s only given 44 hits but 16 have been for extra bases and have come alongside the 24 walks and 25 K. His 1.45 WHIP is really more telling than the 4.02 ERA. Whatever has happened to Acosta seems to have begun in June. Manny struggled at times early in the year but mostly it was just a few really bad outings and then he got it together in May. Through May 30th, Acosta was 3-1 with 3 Saves, 3 Holds, and no Blown Saves in 26 appearances. He had walked 12 and had a 1.41 WHIP in 28.1 innings but he had allowed only 3 homers and held batters to a .218 average and a .654 OPS. He also had 20 strikeouts in those 28.1 innings and his ERA was a nice looking 2.54. Then things went wrong. From May 31st until he got injured running to first on July 6th, Acosta went 0-4 with no Saves, 1 Hold, and 2 Blown Saves in 15 appearances and he had a 6.27 ERA and a 1.82 WHIP in 18.2 innings.

He allowed 22 hits, 4 homers, 4 doubles, and a triple and walked 12 with just 5 K over those 18.2 innings. Batters hit .310/.405/.563/.968 against him. He allowed 13 earned runs over those 18.2 innings but he also allowed 4 unearned runs for a total of 17 runs allowed in 18.2 innings. What makes these numbers even more amazing is the fact they include his final 3 appearances, during which he allowed no runs on 4 hits and 2 walks with 2 K over 6.2 innings, so you can imagine how bad his numbers were in the 12 appearances before that. Perhaps Manny was getting a little tired out and the rest he gets while his hammy heals will help him when he comes back. The one thing he has done well is come on in jams and get the Braves out of it. He has come into the game in the middle of an inning with runners on base 8 times and has stranded 11 of 13 inherited runners. The Braves could use him if he can get back healthy.

Bennett’s Not Bad

I have noticed that not all Braves fans are fond of Mr. Bennett and so they may not have been saddened by his arm injury but I was. Bennett has pitched in 41 games, 37 of them as a reliever, 4 as a starter. He is 1-4 with a 4.28 ERA and an ugly 1.51 WHIP in 61 innings and has walked a ridiculous 33 batters. However, Bennett has not been that bad as a reliever. In 37 appearances out of the pen he is 1-2 with 2 Saves, 5 Holds, and 0 Blown Saves. He has still walked 25 batters in 44.1 innings and has a 1.49 WHIP but he has 32 K and a 3.45 ERA. If he can come back from the injury he’s useful as a long relief man.

Buddy’s Back

Last year Buddy Carlyle impressed when he filled in for injured starters and went 7-3 with 6 Quality Starts in his first 13 starts. Everyone figured it wouldn’t last for the journeyman righty, and it didn’t, as he went 1-4 with a 7.47 ERA in his last 8 games. I have to admit that I was a little surprised that Buddy Carlyle made it back to the Majors with the Braves this season. This year he has been strictly pitching in relief and other than being out with injury for a while he has had a great year. He’s only pitched 29 innings in 19 games but in those 19 appearances he has been spectacular. He’s posted a 1.55 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP with 31 K in 29 innings. He has not allowed a homer and opposing batters are hitting .178 with a .497 OPS against him. Those numbers are ridiculous and he’s unlikely to do this the rest of the year but if he can manage anything remotely similar he’ll be doing great.

The Ringer

Lefty specialist Royce Ring has been excellent this year for the Braves. In 34 games he has a 3.44 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP with 13 K over 18.1 innings. He’s 2-1 with 4 holds and no Blown Saves but his greatest stat is that in 20 games that he has entered with runners on base, Ring has stranded 27 of 30 inherited runners. I have wanted him to pitch more often with so many other guys being over used but it could be that he would get lit up if he had to face right handers on a regular basis. Right handers are 7 for 26 against him and 4 of those 7 hits have been for extra bases.


Grade: B

Defensive Life Without Andruw

Pretty Steady

The Braves don’t often make spectacular plays that show up on national highlights but they don’t make a lot of mistakes either. The Braves are 6th in Errors and Fielding Percentage in the NL. Defensive statistics are a little shady but for what it’s worth the Braves have far and away the best Defensive Efficiency. Unfortunately, the mistakes the Braves have made in the field have been costly, as they are tied with the Mets for the most unearned runs allowed in the NL with 20.

Ground Ball Fielders for Ground Ball Pitchers

The Braves infield has played stellar defense, which has been important because their 2 best pitches induce a lot of ground balls. Again, you always have to take defensive stats with a bit of caution but some are useful. Anyone who has watched the Braves play this year knows how good their infield has been. Tex has been special, committing just 2 errors for a .998 Fielding PCT (tied for 2nd among NL starters at first base) with an excellent Range Factor. He may end up winning the Gold Glove in this league as well. Kelly Johnson has trouble with the easy play sometimes but it is only his second year at the position, and though it may be difficult, Braves fans will have to be patient and hope he continues to improve. He has made 7 errors for a below average .977 PCT but on the positive side he has shown good range, and his Range Factor is 5th among starting NL second baseman. Chipper has been very steady at third base. He has made 8 errors and has an above average PCT and Range Factor. Then there is Escobar, who has been the most fun to watch at short. He has only 7 errors and is 3rd among starting NL shortstops in Range Factor. Some of the Braves defensive troubles have come in the last few weeks when the left side of the infield was hit by injuries, but Brent Lillibridge has done good work at short since he’s been in the lineup.

The Outfield Minus 2 Gold Glovers

Usually it’s the Braves outfield that is the strength of the defense. In the 4 years preceding this one the Braves have had some great defensive outfields. The center piece was always Andruw Jones and he always made the guys around him in the outfield better. Last season the Braves had 2 Gold Glove outfielders in AJ and Francour. Left Field wasn’t that strong last year but Diaz and Willie Harris were not bad defensively by any stretch. This season, Andruw is no longer there, Diaz has been hurt since early May, and Jeff Francoeur’s defense in right has declined sharply. It’s not that the Braves outfielders make a lot of errors, in fact they make hardly any, they just don’t make that many plays. In 32 starts in left before the injury, Diaz was adequate, making just 1 error for an average PCT with average range. He also had 2 Assists. Gregor Blanco has made 29 starts and has been a bit of a liability. He has an Assist and has made only 1 error for a PCT that is slightly below average but his range has been well below average for an NL left fielder.

Four other players have combined to make 34 starts in left and their play has been anywhere from bad to below average. Again, they haven’t made a lot of errors, they just haven’t gotten to a lot of balls. Braves leftfielders as a whole have made only 3 errors this year and have 4 Assists but with well below average range. Blanco and Kotsay have both played a lot in center field this season and their play has been very similar: they both have shown good arms, making 3 assists; neither has committed a single error; and they both have almost no range. Kotsay has a very good arm which makes up for his lack of range but after watching Andruw Jones for so many years it’s hard not to notice the balls he doesn’t get to. Also Kotsay doesn’t get to anything. He has the 2nd worst Range Factor of any starting center fielder in the NL.

People claimed that Andruw’s defense had slipped and that was absolutely true but almost every other game there is at least one ball that goes for a hit that Andruw would have caught. His absence may be part of the reason that Francour has struggled so much this season. I believe another part of the problem for Frenchy has been mental. He has only 2 errors but he’s made a number of misplays that have not been ruled as errors. He has allowed balls to get by him, air mailed some throws, and also bobbled balls and not even gotten off a throw. I believe some of this is in some way due to his problems at the plate, whether it’s a lack of focus or an over eagerness to do something good in the field to help make up for not hitting, or both. But the biggest problem is the loss of speed and athleticism that has been very obvious.

It really has to be due to his ankle problem because it wouldn’t make sense to lose that much in less than a year. He never really appeared to me to be very fast. The first couple of years he was in the Big’s I though the reason he didn’t steal bases was that he just wasn’t a good base stealer but then I noticed that he really almost never beat out ground balls for infield singles. He still was able to move in right however. He could go back and get balls hit over his head very well and he moved in on balls and to the side well. This year anything over his head is going to be a double and most bloops and sinking liners are going to get in as well. Francour has the 2nd worst Range Factor in the NL among starting right fielders. He has 6 assists which is good but not as good as usual. That’s a different story though. It’s only natural that you are going to have less assists when teams stop trying to run on you and that tends to happen when you have 19 assists the year before.

Mac Does Enough

Brian McCann doesn’t block every pitch in the dirt and he doesn’t throw anybody out trying to steal but he plays 93% of the games, he stays in and takes the throw when the runners are bearing down on him at the plate, and the pitchers all love him. That, along with what he does on the offensive side, is enough for me. He’s made only 3 errors and has only 3 Passed Balls and those are good numbers for a guy who catches as much as he does. If you want to complain you can talk about how he tries to catch pitches in the dirt instead of blocking them sometimes and about his throwing. He’s thrown out 18 of 77 base stealers or 23.4 % of them. For comparison, people used to bang on Mike Piazza for not been a defensive wizard behind the plate and he threw out 24.3 % of runners in 1999 when the Braves played the Mets in the NLCS. Opponents have stolen more bases off Mac than any other NL catcher but he has also caught more innings than all but 2 NL catchers. There is one other thing to consider, and that is that the Braves have never seemed to put too much emphasis on holding runners on.

Overall First Half

Grade: D

Disappointment and Blown Opportunity

How the Hell Did That Happen?

You might wonder how I can give the hitting a grade of C; the starting pitching a B; the bullpen a B; and give the Defense a B and then give an overall grade of a D. But if you’ve followed the Braves this season you know that makes perfect sense. That’s what has been so bizarre about this season. The Braves have done a lot of things very well and they haven’t really done anything very badly, they just haven’t won enough.

The Number One Problem

The first thing any Braves fan will think of when asked to recall the first half of this season will be all the one run losses. There have been 22 of them; by contrast, the Braves have won just 5 games by 1 run. It’s been way beyond ridiculous. Of course it’s been worse on the road, where the Braves are 0-17 in 1 run games. Some of all this is luck but when it happens this much there has to be something more. The Braves have a .185 winning percentage in 1 run games; no team in the Majors has anywhere near that bad of a record in 1 run games. Seattle is the closest with a record of 11-19 in 1 run games, a winning percentage of .367. Toronto has lost 21 games by 1 run but they’ve also won 15 games by 1 run. Cleveland has only won 6 games by 1 run but they have only 11 losses by 1 run.

The Braves are by far and away the worst. And they’ve had trouble in extra innings, going 2-7, 0-4 on the road. It’s hard to know exactly why this has happened. It’s been a combination of every thing. A lot of little mistakes have been made in games that have ended up costing them. There have been a few times where the bullpen just blew it. Sometimes the Braves have made a comeback to within a run and then not been able to tie it. There has been some questionable managing at times. All of this has contributed. It has gotten out of hand this season but losing 1 run games is not a new thing for this team. It’s been a problem ever since 2006 when the streak of 14 division titles and 15 straight winning seasons ended. During the streak the Braves usually fared well in 1 run games. In the 15 years of winning records from 1991-2005, the Braves had a winning record in 1 run games in 10 years, a losing record in 4 years, and were .500 in 1 run games in 1 season. There worst record in 1 run games during any year was 2003 when they went 17-25 (.405).

Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, their best record in any year was 1995 when they were 31-17 (.646). Extra inning games were a different story. From 91 to 05 the Braves had winning records in extra innings in 5 seasons, losing records in 8 seasons, and were .500 in 2 seasons. Extra inning games appear to be a lot more random. Strange as it may seem, the Braves worst season in extra inning games was 1995, when they were 3-9 in such games. Their best year was in 1999 when they went 17-5 (!!!) in extra innings. Last season the Braves were 6-9 in extra inning games and in 2006 they were 8-3. Again, these games seem to be much more random. But 1 run losses has been a problem in each of the seasons following the last division title in 2005. In 2006, the Braves were 19-33 in 1 run games; easily worse than any season during the stretch of winning record. Last year, the Braves went 18-25 in 1 run games; worse than any season during the stretch save 03 when they were 17-25 in 1 run games. From 91-05 the Braves were 60 games over .500 in 1 run games. They are a stunning 38 games under .500 in 1 run games since the start of the 2006 season. For what it’s worth, the Braves were 5 games over .500 in extra inning games from 91-05 and they are 2 games under .500 in extra inning games since the start of 2006.

Road Blues

The other problem that has gone hand and hand with the 1 run losses is the road trouble. The Braves are 15-32 on the road for a .319 winning percentage in away games, the 2nd worst road record in the Majors ahead of only Colorado. Once again, this problem is not new to this team and it wasn’t a problem during most of the years of the streak. From 91-05, the Braves were 200 games over .500 on the road, had a winning record on the road in 13 of 15 seasons, and in 1 of the losing years, 1996, the Braves were 40-41 on the road. The Braves worst year on the road came in 2005 and that may be a clue as to why the Braves have played so much worse on the road lately. After finishing with a winning road record in 13 of 14 seasons, with the only exception being a year when they finished 1 game below .500 on the road, the Braves went 37-44 in 2005, the last year of the streak, the year of the so-called “Baby Braves.” In 2006, the Braves went 39-42 on the road and they were 40-41 on the road last season. They are 28 games under .500 since the start of the 2005 season. In other sports youth can sometimes be the reason a team struggles on the road as opposed to at home but I’ve never really heard of it being a factor in baseball. That’s as good of a possible explanation as I can come up with.

Below Expectations

The Braves have played below expectations the last couple of years and they’re doing it again this season. I don’t mean just in terms of the expectations of fans and baseball people going into the season or during the season. They aren’t winning as many games as their run differential says they should be either. The Braves have outscored their opponents by 38 runs this season, the 4th best number in the NL and 8th best in the Majors. Yet they have the 10th best record in the NL and the 21st best record in the Majors. This has gone on each year after the last season of the streak. Going by their run differential this season, the Braves expected record is 52-43. That would put them in 1st place in the NL East.

They are 7 games below their expected win total so far this year. From 1991 to 2005 the Braves played above their expected win total 10 of 15 seasons, played at their expected win total in 2 seasons, and played below their expected win total in 3 seasons. In the 3 seasons in which they played below their expected win total they were 2 wins below the expected total twice and 1 win below in the other year. Since the last year of the streak, the Braves have played 6 games below their expected win total in 2006 and 4 games below last year. Again, they are 7 games under their expected win total this year. They played 31 games over their expected win total from 1991-2005; in the last 2 years and 95 games this season they have played 17 games under their expected win total. When you look for reasons why, you just end up back at that simple answer: they’re just not winning enough.

So Many Opportunities Wasted

The most frustrating thing about this season has been the countless times that the Braves have wasted great starting pitching. The Braves have lost 21 games in which they allowed 4 runs or less; 12 have come in games in which they allowed 3 runs or less; 5 times they have allowed 2 runs or less and lost; and they’ve lost 1-0 twice.

Gotta Win the Games You Should

Good teams win the games they are supposed to win. The Braves haven’t done that. Back in the days of the streak the Braves ate up the bad teams. Even if there were teams that were better, the Braves always ended up with the best record because they just knew how to take care of business against inferior competition. This Braves team doesn’t know how to just go out and win without question the way those old teams did. The Braves are just 23-23 against teams with losing records in 2008. That includes a 1-3 record against the Rockies (39-57); a 2-5 record against the Pirates (44-60); and an inexcusable 3-5 record against the Washington Nationals (36-60). They were also swept in 3 games by the Reds (46-50) on the road after sweeping them at home earlier in the year.

Whipped by the Phillies

To be honest, it really looks like the Braves confidence against the rest of the League that they had after all of those years of winning is completely gone and so is their mental edge over all the teams that had seen them win so much. The best example of this is Philly, who currently seems to have the Braves number and seems to be in the Braves heads a little bit. It reminds me a little of the way the Braves dominated the Mets for all those years in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Right now, the Braves can’t beat the Phillies. These two teams have battled each other about even most of the time this decade and then all of the sudden the Braves swept the Phillies at Citizens Bank in 3 close games to begin the 2007 season and then took 2 of 3 from them back in Atlanta a month later. Since the end of that series, the Braves are 5-16 against the Phillies. They are 1-8 against Philly this season, having lost by a combined score of 51-27, although they have also lost 2 games by 1 run, including 1 game in extra innings. These games have obviously been key to the season.