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Written off multiple times, Braves remain resolute

Written off multiple times, Braves remain resolute

 

 

Many pundits wrote the Braves off even before pitchers and catchers reported in February. A team in mid-rebuild, they said. More joined the “Braves remain a doormat” crowd when the team posted a majors-worst 9-22 record at spring training.

And after Atlanta lost six of its first seven regular-season games, then followed up a four-game sweep of the Padres in the first SunTrust Park series by losing their next six games, the Braves were 6-12 and many were saying they were as bad or worse than last year’s team and might even lose 100 games.

If the Braves get through this period without Freeman (left) it’ll be in large part because of the production and leadership of Kemp (center) and Markakis. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Well, don’t look now, folks, but the Braves are 12-11 since that 6-12 start. Seven of their 11 losses in that stretch have come against teams currently leading divisions (Houston, Washington, Milwaukee) or in second place (St. Louis).

“That’s their job, right? That’s their job to be wrong on TV, and more times than not they are wrong,” Braves veteran right fielder Nick Markakis said. “It’s very hard to predict anything in professional sports or sports alone. Anything can happen. This is the professional level, we’re all professionals and anybody can beat anybody on any given day, I don’t care who they are. Just kind of go out and do out thing and be consistent.”

They have series wins in that stretch against NL Central-leading Brewers in Milwaukee and at home against the Nationals in a series that ended Sunday with a 3-2 loss against Stephen Strasburg at top form, after the Braves won the first two games of the series. Oh, by the way: That Nationals series was the first for the Braves since they lost Freddie Freeman to a fractured wrist, a player who is arguably more important to his team than any player is to any other team.

Granted, the NL East is not very good, but the Braves are in second place, folks. They are 18-23, seven games behind the Nationals, a half-game ahead of the Mets, whom many pundits had predicted to win the division title or at least a wild-card berth, and three or more games ahead of the division dregs, the Phillies and the Marlins, a team that many had picked as a dark-horse playoff contender.

“We started out rough and a lot of people wrote us off. A lot of people write a lot of people off and end up being wrong. Hopefully we can do that, we can prove people wrong and go out there and play baseball and win as many games as we can.”

It’s worth repeating, the Braves just won a series against the Nationals – a team that’s owned the Braves for three seasons — without Freddie Freeman, one of the few players who did much against Washington over those three seasons.

“Very encouraged,” manager Brian Snitker said. “These guys, there wasn’t any ‘woe is me’ or feeling sorry, they all kind of rose to the occasion in the games after Freddie got hurt, then everybody picked it up. Exactly what you want to see a team do. It didn’t surprise me with these guys.”

The Braves are 18-23 despite a 4.59 ERA that most believe will improve. A year ago after 41 games, the Braves were 11-30 with exactly the same ERA and not much reason to think that ERA was going to improve.

A year ago through 41 games, the Braves hit .235 with a .299 OBP, .622 OPS, 18 homers and 135 runs (3.3 average) through 41 games a year ago. This year they’ve hit .261 with a .333 OBP, .742 OPS, 44 homers and 188 runs (4.6 average per game). Yes, 44 homers and 188 runs this year compared to 18 and 135 at the same point a year ago.

The loss of Freeman for approximately 10 weeks is a huge blow, make no mistake. Huge. But he alone obviously didn’t account for that huge a disparity in offensive production, and that’s why Braves players weren’t convinced like so many others of us that this team was in major trouble as soon as a wrist fracture was confirmed and that 10-week estimate was announced for their marquee player.

The Braves didn’t have Matt Kemp for the first four months last season. They didn’t have Markakis producing like he has so far this season. They weren’t getting nearly offense early last season from catchers A.J. Pierzysnki and Tyler Flowers that they’re getting now from Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki, or the production from second base that they’re getting now from Brandon Phillips. Just to name the most obvious improvements.

“That’s a big loss,” Kemp said on Sunday of the Freeman injury. “That’s something we can’t control. We can only control what we do now and that’s keep playing good baseball. And I’m proud of the guys for responding the way we responded these last (four) games. We’ve just got to keep going.”

If they can get anything from just-acquired first baseman Matt “Big City” Adams like Adams produced for St. Louis in the three seasons when he got 300 or more plate appearances, it will at least lessen the blow a bit from Freeman’s absence. And Adams could be a much-needed boost for the bench once Freeman returns, provided the Braves keep him. If not, trading him could possibly help fill another need.

Teammates such as Ender Inciarte helped Dansby Swanson (right) stay confident during the rookie’s April struggles. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

If the Braves get improvement from their rotation – either from a couple of current members or any newcomer they acquire – and the bullpen continues its recent performance, then a little less offense should be something they can deal with until Freeman gets back. And as we’ve seen from Dansby Swanson in May, the rookie shortstop can and will provide plenty of offense that was lacking from him in his first April in the major leagues. The kid is special, and he’s surrounded by a group of veteran players that has done him a major service by being patient and supportive both to him and in comments on and off the record to reporters.

Around a team with a less character or some insecure players, there would have been petty off-the-record comments made about Swanson and his woeful April after all the attention he received this winter and spring. There were none. He’s a high-character guy who struggled like so many other rookies do, but Swanson never complained or moped, never stopped working hard, and his teammates respected him for that and supported him. Always.

That is really big. Bigger than most outside an organization realize. And it says plenty not just about Swanson but about the guys setting the tone in this clubhouse.

Hey, I’m in the group that figured the Braves would struggle to keep their heads above water without Freeman. But they showed something in that Nationals series. And talking to the guys, I was equally impressed by the optimism and lack of feeling sorry for themselves after the Freeman injury. They’re a tough bunch, and I think that comes both from the top (Brian Snitker) and especially from players such as veterans Markakis, Phillips, Freeman, Kemp, Flowers, Suzuki, Jim Johnson and one whose form of leadership-by-example probably perhaps goes unnoticed outside the clubhouse – Jace Peterson.

It’s an entertaining team to watch, and a tough team. And to me, toughness is the characteristic that can’t be overstated. Talent is obviously the most important thing in baseball or any other sport, but toughness … don’t sell it short. If you’ve wondered why this team or that one couldn’t seem to put things together when they seemingly had all the talent to contend, more often than not I’d suggest that underlying lack of toughness was a big factor.

This team has that. And it could help them get through a 10-week period without their biggest talent.

We’ll find out. But the weekend was certainly a good start.

Let’s close with this appropriate tune from the great Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions

Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions

“KEEP ON PUSHING” by Curtis Mayfield

Keep on pushing

I’ve got to keep on pushing (mmm-hmm)
I can’t stop now
Move up a little higher
Some way, somehow

‘Cause I’ve got my strength
And it don’t make sense
Not to keep on pushin’

[Chorus:]
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Keep on pushin’

Now maybe some day
I’ll reach that higher goal
I know that I can make it
With just a little bit of soul
‘Cause I’ve got my strength
And it don’t make sense
Not to keep on pushin’

Now look-a look (look-a look)
A-look-a yonder
What’s that I see
A great big stone wall
Stands there ahead of me
But I’ve got my pride
And I’ll move on aside
And keep on pushin’

 

 

 



Full article @ Written off multiple times, Braves remain resolute

Source: Atlanta Braves blog by David O’Brien – ACJ


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14 L’s in 19 games: What’s happened to Braves?

14 L’s in 19 games: What’s happened to Braves?

 

MIAMI – The Braves have lost eight of nine games and 15 of 19 since a 6-6 start. This is not what anyone in the organization hoped for, planned or expected in the first season with a new home ballpark.

Freddie Freeman ranks among baseball’s top three sluggers statistically in 2017, but he hasn’t gotten much help from the rest of the roster of a team that’s lost 14 of its past 19 games. (AP photo)

Even though they knew their rebuilding project was far from over, Braves officials expected – and still expect – far better than what has transpired thus far.

So what has happened to the Braves? How did they go from that promising first couple of weeks to another stretch that feels so much like long stretches of the past two seasons of 93 losses (in 2016) and 95 losses (2015), the worst two-season stretch for the Braves in a quarter-century?

“We’re just not playing good right now,” veteran left fielder Matt Kemp said after Wednesday’s 4-2 loss at Houston, where Kemp struck out with bases loaded in the eighth inning after the Astros pitched around Freddie Freeman. “We’ve got to get better. Just got to get better, plain and simple.”

“When we pitch, we don’t hit,” said Freeman, who has been one of baseball’s best hitters, batting .336 with 12 homers and ranking second in the majors in both OBP (.457) and slugging percentage (.743). “And when we don’t pitch, we hit. It’s kind of just falling down a hill right now, snowball effect. We got our opportunities in the last couple of innings, we just didn’t get it done.”

When the Astros walked Freeman on five pitches – it would’ve been four if the ump didn’t call a pitch several inches out of the zone a strike – it was the eighth time he’d been walked in a meager 21 plate appearances with runners in scoring position. Twenty-one! That’s a really low number of RISP opportunities for any hitter in a regular lineup, and almost impossibly low for a No. 3 hitter.

But when you’ve got the lowest OBP from the leadoff spot, as the Braves do, and one of the lowest OBPs from the No. 2 spot, which they also do, it happens.

Freeman has nine solo home runs in the first 31 games, which puts him on a record pace for solo homers. That’s a record he wants no part of – at least not when it means that three-fourths of his homer total comes with bases empty.

The Braves have hit 18 homers and scored 85 runs while going 5-14 in their past 19 games — a 4.47-run scoring average that, on the surface, isn’t bad. However, it should be noted that 38 of those runs came in four games including two against the beat-up Mets and 21 runs in back-to-back wins at hitter-friendly Miller Park in Milwaukee, where balls were carrying extremely well all weekend.

That means the Braves averaged 3.1 runs in the other 15 of those 19 games. They scored three or fewer runs in 10 of 19 games in that.

Still, the offense hasn’t been nearly as problematic to the Braves’ struggles as the pitching, specifically the starting pitching. The Braves have a woeful 5.77 ERA during the 5-14 slide, with opponents batting .278 and posting an .833 OPS while totaling a whopping 53 doubles and 28 homers in 171 2/3 innings. Atlanta pitchers have a bad strikeouts/walk ratio of 1.88 (130/69) in that stretch.

And it’s gotten a lot worse lately.

During the Braves’ current 1-8 stretch, their pitchers have posted a 6.51 ERA and .880 opponents’ OPS while allowing nearly two homers per game including multiple homers in seven of nine games. They’ve issued five or more walks in five of those nine games. These are unacceptable numbers, folks. And there’s this: Braves pitchers gave up at least one run in the first inning of seven consecutive games before Jaime Garcia snapped that streak Wednesday at Houston.

“We’ve seen what the pitching staff and the offense can do when we’re both on the same page,” said Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz, who’ll be on the mound for a series opener Friday night against the Marlins in Miami. “It’s kind of one of those things where us pitchers do well and we don’t hit, or when we hit we kind of give up (runs); it’s kind of in-between.”

Foltynewicz, who entered the season as the No. 5 starter, had ironically been the one Braves starter to avoid a bad outing until he got roughed up in his most recent start last Friday against the Cardinals, when he gave up seven runs in four innings to send his ERA soaring to 4.55. Before that he’d pitched quite well, though he’s still winless due to poor run support.

He remains optimistic, as do most Braves. The season is, after all, less than one-fifth completed, and surely the three veteran starters they signed this winter – Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, Jaime Garcia – to help assure Year 1 at SunTrust Park could be a decent season or better, will eventually come around. Colon, in particular, can’t be as awful as he’s been so far, right? (Though with his 44th birthday later this month, it could be argued this shouldn’t be a total surprise.)

“I think when we all get on the same page — like you (reporters) saw, we can do it, we can have fun,” Foltynewicz said, referring perhaps to the Braves’ 20-10 finish in their final 30 games last season and a four-game sweep of the Padres in the first series at SunTrust. “We can do it, we can destroy teams – and at the same time, it’s baseball and it can happen to us, too.”

But lately, they’ve been the destroyed much more frequently than the destroyer.

“It’s just, we’re going to fine-tune some things,” Foltynewicz said, “and when we find the right spot it’s going to be fun. It’s early. We’ve been facing some good arms, some good teams. So we’ll be all right.”

The Rolling Stones‘ epic Exile on Main Street album came out 45 years ago today. I’d say it’s aged quite well. Damn if this doesn’t sound as good as it ever did.

“TUMBLING DICE” by The Rolling Stones

Women think I’m tasty, but they’re always tryin’ to waste me
And make me burn the candle right down,
But baby, baby, I don’t need no jewels in my crown.
‘Cause all you women is low down gamblers,
Cheatin’ like I don’t know how,
But baby, baby, there’s fever in the funk house now.
This low down bitchin’ got my poor feet a itchin’,
You know you know the duece is still wild.
Baby, I can’t stay, you got to roll me
And call me the tumblin’ dice.
Always in a hurry, I never stop to worry,
Don’t you see the time flashin’ by.
Honey, got no money,
I’m all sixes and sevens and nines.
Say now, baby, I’m the rank outsider,
You can be my partner in crime.
But baby, I can’t stay,
You got to roll me and call me the tumblin’,
Roll me and call me the tumblin’ dice.
Oh, my, my, my, I’m the lone crap shooter,
Playin’ the field ev’ry night.
Baby, can’t stay,
You got to roll me and call me the tumblin’ (dice),
Roll me and call me the tumblin’ (Got to roll me.) dice.
Got to roll me. Got to roll me.

 

 



Full article @ 14 L’s in 19 games: What’s happened to Braves?

Source: Atlanta Braves blog by David O’Brien – ACJ


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‘Folty’ pitching like far more than No. 5 starter

‘Folty’ pitching like far more than No. 5 starter

 

Anyone who still believes that wins are an accurate or even semi-reliable means of measuring a pitcher’s performance probably isn’t going to be persuaded otherwise at this point, so I won’t present the case of Mike Foltynewicz as further evidence to the contrary.

Mike Foltynewicz has been the Braves’ most consistent starter in the early portion of the season. (Getty Images)

I’ll just point out that the guy who’s been the Braves’ best starting pitcher so far this season happens to be the only one who doesn’t have a win. Which, again, means nothing other than the fact wins and losses are a flimsy way to gauge a pitcher’s value in any given season.

(Over the course of a career, I still believe the win has plenty of value as a pitching stat, because the vast majority of top starters are going to end up with significantly higher win totals than the vast majority of mediocre pitchers, since things tend to even out over multiple years — i.e., the guy who has the terrible run support for a season or two is going to have years where he gets the best run support on the team, and pitchers who toil for many bad teams eventually pitch for good teams, too. The one notable exception: Nolan Ryan, one of the best and most dominant pitchers of my lifetime, pitched for mostly bad to terrible teams, hence his 324-292 career record despite a 3.19 ERA and otherworldly 5,714 in 5,386 innings and 222 complete games in 773 starts. But that’s another story.)

So tonight in a series opener against the Cardinals, the Braves turn to the pitcher who is technically their No. 5 starter, but who has thus far been more consistent and produced better numbers than anyone else in the rotation, including a 2.81 ERA that’s more than one full run lower than two of the three veteran starters the Braves signed during the offseason, R.A. Dickey (3.94) and Jaime Garcia (3.99), and nearly 3 ½ runs lower than the ERA of the other, Bartolo Colon (6.27).

Braves opening-day starter Julio Teheran is 2-2 with a 4.33 ERA that got jacked up significantly by a six-run, six-inning outing in his Monday start against the Mets. Even before that game Teheran hadn’t pitched as consistently as Foltynewicz, who is 0-3 in five games (four starts), the fewest starts on the team because the Braves skipped his turn once the first couple weeks of the season when they had several off days in the schedule and wanted to keep the top four starters closer to regular rest.

Foltynewicz has allowed one or two earned runs in each of his four starts and has received 0, 0, 1 and 3 support runs while he’s been in those games. He has allowed eight hits and two earned runs with 15 strikeouts and two walks in 13 innings over his past two starts, losses at Philadelphia (by a 5-2 score) and Milwaukee (4-3).

Foltynewicz, 25, handled that early season scheduling disruption well and has demonstrated why Braves officials had him penciled in for a rotation spot well before spring training, and why he would’ve had to fall on his face in spring training and been far outperformed by a Matt Wisler or Aaron Blair or whoever to not have that fifth rotation spot entering the season.

It’s also why the Braves never really considered trading Foltynewicz in the offseason, even when they were in talks to pursue one of the available aces, Chris Sale or Chris Archer. Braves officials watched Foltynewicz closely last season, after coming back from the frightening blood-clot episode the previous September when he had to have emergency Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery when his arm swelled grotesquely overnight.

He came back from that incident — and an offseason in which his activities were largely curtailed and his conditioning put on hold per doctor’s orders — and once he cleared to pitch in the spring he did so with an admirable determination to not just make it back but to be better, to fully realize his talent.

The potential career-threatening incident gave him a better appreciation for his talent and opportunity, and since then “Folty” has moved towards become the hard-throwing, potentially dominant frontline starter the Braves envisioned when they got him from the Astros.

The right-hander made big strides last season and especially this year at spring training to better control his emotions and not let his temper and frustrations boil over into a meltdown inning, the kind that wrecked many of his promising starts in the past. He’s still got a lot of passion and fire on the mound, but he’s learning to channel that and control it, not let it overwhelm him and dictate the flow of a game.

Foltynewicz leads Braves starters in WHIP (1.208), opponents’ average (.229), opponents’ OPS (.656) and strikeout rate (8.1 per nine innings), well ahead of Teheran (6.9) in the latter category.

Teheran (.678) and Garcia (.728) are next behind Foltynewicz in opponents’ OPS, while the 40-something starters, Colon and Dickey, are over .800.

He still has work to do, but Foltynewicz looks to be on his way to becoming a guy who could stick in the rotation as a relatively experienced starter when the Braves have two or three of their rising young elite prospects in the big leagues in the next year or two.

• Just because it feels like a George Jones kind of day, here’s one from the Possum, the greatest voice in country music and one of the best in any genre of music.

“THE COLD HARD TRUTH” by George Jones

You don’t know who I am
But I know all about you
I’ve come to talk to you tonight
About the things I’ve seen you do.

I’ve come to set the record straight
I’ve come to shine the light on you
Let me introduce myself
I’m the cold hard truth.

There is a woman we both know
I think you know the one I mean
She gave her heart and soul to you
You gave her only broken dreams

You say your not the one to blame
For all the heartaches she’s been though
I say you’re nothing but a liar
And I’m the cold hard truth.

All your life that’s how it’s been
Lookin’ out for number one
Takin’ more than you give
Movin’ on when you’re done.

With her you could have had it all
A family and love to last
If you had any sense at all
You’d go and beg her to come back.

You think that you’re a real man
But you’re nothing but a fool
The way you run away from love
The way you try to play it cool

I’m gonna say this just one time
Time is running out on you
You best remember me my friend
I am the cold hard truth.

You best remember me my friend
I am the cold hard truth.

 



Full article @ ‘Folty’ pitching like far more than No. 5 starter

Source: Atlanta Braves blog by David O’Brien – ACJ


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FreddieFree loves raking at Braves’ new yard

FreddieFree loves raking at Braves’ new yard

 

How few games have the Braves played at home so far this season? Glad you asked.

Freddie Freeman has hit four homers in the Braves’ first nine games at new SunTrust Park, including this one off the Mets’ Matt Harvey. (AP photo)

They’ve played so few games that Freddie Freeman and other Braves don’t even qualify for most home-game statistical leader categories that STATS and other statistical services provide, because they’ve had too few home plate appearances per team game. This is glaring only because if they did qualify, Freeman’s almost absurdly strong home statistics would lead the world (or at least MLB).

After home games Monday and Tuesday the Braves have played nine games at SunTrust Park, which is two fewer home games than any other major league team entering Wednesday.

The official MLB home-game OPS leader is the Yankees’ man-beast Aaron Judge at 1.563, which is far ahead of No. 2, Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon (1.391). Judge has hit .386 with nine homers (10 xtra-base hits) and a .386 OBP and 1.045 slugging percentage in 13 games at Yankee Stadium.

Freddie Freeman, who homered again Tuesday, has hit .481 (13-for-27) with four homers (eight extra-base hits), a .622 OBP and a 1.074 slugging percentage in nine games at SunTrust Park.

Not to be, ahem, judgy, but those stats are even more astounding than those being produced by the Yankees slugger so far in the Bronx. Yes, I think Freeman has found just what he’d hoped to find at SunTrust – a hitter-friendly ballpark – after seeing so many balls he hit die on the warning track in the spacious power alleys at Turner Field.

Not that Turner Field exactly shackled the Braves’ first baseman. But it says something about Freeman that, despite playing home games in a pitcher-friendly ballpark before this season, he’s been statistically the best hitter in the majors over the past 365 days.

If you don’t believe it consider the statistics: Over the past 365 days, Freeman leads the majors (minimum 200 plate appearances) in OPS (1.048) ahead of Mike Trout (1.030) and Joey Votto (1.030). They’re the only trio as high as 1.000.

In that span Freeman is also the MLB leader (min. 200 PAs) in slugging percentage (.629) and is ninth in batting average (.320) and third in OBP (.430) behind Trout (.451) and Votto (.437).

Freeman leads the majors with 92 extra-base hits in the past 365 days and ranks fifth in home runs (41) behind only Nelson Cruz (46), Khris Davis (46), Brian Dozier (43) and Edwin Encarnacion (43). Freeman is tied for eighth in walks (94) in that span and 16th in strikeouts (161). Freeman’s 18 intentional walks in that span rank second in the majors behind Bryce Harper (21) and ahead of Miguel Cabrera (15), Trout (14) and Paul Goldschmidt (14).

Freeman is tied with four other players for 17th in RBIs in that span with 100, same as the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, who has 40 homers, and Anthony Rizzo (30 homers). Wil Myers (30 homers) also has exactly 100 RBIs in that span, while Manny Machado and Todd Frazier have 36 homers apiece and 96 and 90 RBIs, respectively.

This season, Freeman had one of the best Aprils ever produced by an Atlanta Brave and two games into May he’s ranked second in the majors this season in OPS (1.302) between a pair of Nationals, the rejuvenated Ryan Zimmerman (1.326) and Harper (1.270). Judge (1.219) is the only American League player among the top five in OPS, and Judge leads the majors in home runs this season with 12.

Alas, not only did Freeman finish behind Zimmerman for NL Player of the Month in April, but the Braves slugger will also have to contend with Zimmerman and Thames in voting for the NL All-Star team’s starting first baseman, not to mention guys like Votto (nine homers, 22 RBIs, .938 OPS), Myers (nine homers 21 RBIs, .590 slugging), Mark Reynolds (.968 OPS, .606 slugging, eight homers, 23 RBIs) and Goldschmidt (.969 OPS),

Talk about a stacked position. If they picked that team today there’s no way you could go with fewer than three first basemen; Freeman, Zimmerman and Thames would have to be on the team. And look at the list of those who’d be left off if they only took those three.

Freeman’s .811 slugging percentage and .491 OBP are both ranked second in the majors, behind one of the Nationals in each category: Zimmerman (.871) in slugging percentage and Harper (.513) in OBP. Freeman’s .378 batting average is fifth in the majors, but unfortunately for the Braves and other NL East teams outside of D.C. the top two averages belong to Nationals, Zimmerman (.419) and Harper (.389).

It should be noted, the Nationals’ Daniel Murphy isn’t far off the pace with a .343 average and .966 OPS. Not surprising, given that trio as well as the starting pitchers that Washington has, that the Nationals have the best record (17-9) in the National League and second-best in the majors behind  the Astros (18-9). Speaking of Houston, Braves fans can probably take some solace in remembering not long ago the Astros were a last-place rebuilding team.

As far as homers, Freeman is tied with Khris Davis for fourth in the majors with 10, and Freeman’s 16 RBIs the fewest among the 13 hitters with at least eight homers (but Davis only has 17 RBIs).

And if you’re wondering how Freeman stacks up among lefty batters, this season he leads the majors with a 1.302 OPS, ahead of Harper (1.270) and Thames (1.207). Freeman also leads major league lefties in slugging percentage (.811), 50 points above the next-highest (Thames’ .761; Harper is third at .758).

Freeman’s .491 OBP is second among lefties to Harper’s .513, and they are also 1-2 in batting average among lefties with Harper at .389 and Freeman at .378.

Freeman’s 10 homers ranks second among left-handed hitters behind Thames (11 homers), while Freeman’s 17 strikeouts is tied for 46th among lefty hitters.

• I’ll close with this one off Mark Lanegan‘s new album “Gargoyle” that comes out Friday.

“NOCTURNE” by Mark Lanegan

Mark Lanegan

Red lights, X-ray vision
A lonely drug is in my veins
Blood stained indecision
Holiness is burned away

Midnight, midnight calling
Color me insane

Still-life with roses in a vase
A thorn is in your hand
Unsent letters in a box
Frozen where you stand

Do you miss me, miss me, darling?
God knows, I miss you
Somewhere else, two trains colliding
That’s what the sickness brought me to

Dead right
All night
When you feel the serpent strike
Nocturne

Blacklight, house of mirrors
The heavens open up and bleed
Face down, drifting backwards
Lonely river to the sea

Midnight, midnight calling
Coloring my dreams

Anchor chained around your neck
Christ is in your hands
Whispering behind your back
Falling where you stand

Do you miss me, miss me, darling?
God knows I’m missing you
I can see two cars colliding
That’s what the sickness brought me to

Do you miss me, miss me, darling?
Do you know I’m missing you
Can’t you see the world is ending
That’s what this damage took me to

Dead right
All night
When you feel the spider bite
Nocturne
Ooo, nocturne

Do you miss me, miss me, darling?
God knows I’m missing you
I can see two worlds colliding
That’s what the sickness brought me to

Dead right
All night
When you feel the serpent strike
Nocturne
Ooo, nocturne
Nocturne

 

 



Full article @ FreddieFree loves raking at Braves’ new yard

Source: Atlanta Braves blog by David O’Brien – ACJ


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Sluggers Freeman, Thames headline weekend series

Sluggers Freeman, Thames headline weekend series

MILWAUKEE – It wasn’t long ago when a majority of baseball’s best hitters played for American League teams, but we’ve seen that pendulum swing strongly to the National League lately and perhaps never more than now.

The Brewers’ Eric Thames leads the majors in home runs (11) and OPS (1.393) and slugging percentage (.904) and has 10 homers in his past 14 games entering Friday’s series opener against the Braves. (AP photo)

To wit, the top five OPS totals in the majors this season currently belong to National League players, as do eight of the top nine batting averages. And when the Braves face the Brewers in a three-game series beginning tonight in Milwaukee, two of three hottest early season hitters will be squaring off in Freddie Freeman and Eric Thames. (The other of the three is nemesis Nat Bryce Harper, whom the Braves have already seen more than enough of thankyaverymuch.)

The Braves are coming off a two-game sweep of the limping, stumbling, now-last-place Mets at Citi Field, where the Braves have won nine of the last 11 games between the teams going back to mid-June including three sweeps in four series at the Flushing ballpark.

But the Bravos are trending in the opposite direction against the Brewers, regardless of venue. Going back to July 7, 2015, that fateful series finale when the Braves blew a lead at Miller Park in a loss that began their staggering decline, the Braves are 2-6 with a 4.14 ERA and 22 runs scored in their past eight games against the Brewers.

This after a 12-game stretch from April 1, 2014, through 7/6/2015 that saw the Braves go 10-2 with a 2.95 ERA and 50 runs scored against the Brewers.

Thames is the most improbable of early storylines in the majors this season, a 30-year-old who played the past three seasons in Korea after hitting .232 with nine homers and a .672 OPS in a total of 271 at-bats for Toronto and Seattle in 2012.

Now look at him: Thames leads the majors with a 1.393 OPS and Freeman is third at 1.269, with Bryce Harper (1.358) between them. Thames also leads MLB with a bloated .904 slugging percentage, with Freeman (.775) fourth behind Nationals duo Harper (.823) and Ryan Zimmerman (.800).

Harper leads the majors in on-base percentage by a pretty wide margin at .535, with Freeman next at .494 and Thames fourth at .489. Harper also leads the majors with a .418 batting average, while Freeman (.380) is fourth and Thames (.380) is sixth.

Five of the majors top nine batting averages belong to NL East players including the Braves’ Brandon Phillips (.352), who ranks ninth. Phillips left Wednesday’s game at New York with a groin strain and didn’t play Thursday, but the Braves were hoping to have him back during the Brewers series and possibly as soon as tonight. (We’ll know when the lineup is posted at around 3 p.m.)

The Braves and Bartolo Colon probably hoped that Thames would’ve cooled by now, but he hasn’t. In his past 14 games, Thames is 20-for-51 (.392) with three doubles, 10 home runs, 13 walks, 10 strikeouts, .523 OBP, 1.039 slugging (1.562 OPS). Yes, 10 homers in 14 games.

Did we mention Thames leads the majors with 11 homers? Harper and Zimmerman are next with eight each, while Freeman and 12 others have seven apiece.

The Braves could also have their hands full with Brewers starter Chase Anderson, who is 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in four starts and has allowed 19 hits (one homer) and six walks with 22 strikeouts in 24 innings. He has allowed earned runs totals of 1, 0, 2 and 0 in his starts while lasting 6, 7, 5 and 6 innings, throwing fewer than 90 pitches in each and issuing two or fewer walks in each.

Against Anderson, Matt Kemp is 6-for-17 with a double, two homers, Phillips is 3-for-11 with a homer and Freeman is 3-for-5 with a homer.

Against Colon, Thames is 2-for-5 with two doubles and Ryan Braun is 3-for-9 with a homer. No other Brewer has more than one hit against Big Sexy and Jonathan Villar is 1-for-10 with three strikeouts against him.

By the way, in Freeman’s past two series at Miller Park — in 2014 and 2016 — he went 8-for-22 (.364) with two doubles, four homers, seven walks, a .500 OBP and 1.000 slugging percentage.

• Dansby update: Rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson hasn’t had a multi-hit game this season, and in his past 14 games he’s 6-for-52 (.115) with no extra-base hits, two RBIs, two walks, 15 strikeouts and a .148 OBP and .115 slugging percentage (.264 OPS).

With runners on base this season he’s hit .069 (2-for-29) with a .225 OPS. In two-strike counts, Swanson is 4-for-48 (.083) with four singles, no walks and 22 strikeouts.

• Let’s close with this one from the great Jerry Lee Lewis.

“WHAT’S MADE MILWAUKEE FAMOUS” by Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis

It’s late and she’s waiting
And I know I should go home

But every time I start to leave
They play another song
Then someone buys another round
And wherever drinks are free
What’s made Milwaukee famous
Has made a fool out of me

Baby’s begged me not to go
So many times before
She says love and happiness
Can’t live behind those swinging doors
Now’s she’s gone and I’m to blame
Too late I finally see
What’s made Milwaukee famous
Has made a loser out of me

Baby’s begged me not to go
So many times before
She says love and happiness
Just can’t live behind those swinging doors
Now’s she’s gone and I’m to blame
Too late I finally see
What’s made Milwaukee famous
Has made a loser out of me
What’s made Milwaukee famous
Has made a loser out of me



Full article @ Sluggers Freeman, Thames headline weekend series

Source: Atlanta Braves blog by David O’Brien – ACJ


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Braves have legit power-hitting prospect in Jackson

Braves have legit power-hitting prospect in Jackson

When the Braves traded a couple of decent pitching prospects to the Mariners for outfielder Alex Jackson in late November, many observers wondered why. What did the Braves see in Jackson, a 2014 first-round draft pick whose prospect status had fallen sharply since he posted a .753 OPS over parts of three minor league seasons, and hit .243 with 103 strikeouts in 333 at-bats in Single-A ball in 2016?

Alex Jackson was a three-time prep All-American in San Diego. (AP file photo)

Well, what the Braves saw was a big, strong kid who had, as Chipper Jones said after watching Jackson one morning on a backfield this spring, “light-tower power.” And they saw a guy who had perhaps struggled because he was miscast as an outfielder in the minors and spent too much mental energy on learning that new position.

What if, the Braves thought, we move him back to catcher, a position of need in the Braves minor league system, and the position where Jackson excelled ? After all, the burly Jackson was highly regarded as a catcher in high school, a three-time prep All-American at Rancho Bernardo in San Diego.

 

And while it’s too early to judge, so far that is looking like an astute trade by Braves GM John Coppolella and president of baseball operations John Hart, and one that could have long-range impact for a team low on both catching and power-hitting prospects.

Jackson, still just 21 years old, went 3-for-6 Wednesday and hit his seventh home run of the season for the high-A Florida Fire Frogs, tying him for the overall minor league home-run lead. The sturdily built Californian is hitting .338 with a .364 OBP, .676 slugging percentage and 16 RBIs through 18 games while splitting the catching and DH duties with Jonathan Morales, another catching prospect the Braves are high on.

“Jackson’s off to a good start,” Hart said. “It’s not like we’re taking a guy and converting him who’d never caught before. He caught his whole life, and then when he got drafted so high and (the Mariners) thought, let’s just put him in the outfield and get to the big leagues in a hurry. But we’re going to take our time; I think this guy is showing some aptitude behind the plate. He’s not perfect, but he’s showing he’s got a plus arm – really, it’s an above-average arm. And he moves well back there. I just think he’s going to need to get reps.

“I think the bat’s going to play (at the big-league level). Maybe it’s not the bat that they wanted at (No. 6 overall selection in draft), but if it’s a catcher, it’s a real bat. Because the power is real.”

At that point I mentioned to Hart what Chipper had said at spring training after watching Jackson hit some bombs on a backfield. The “light-tower power” comment.

Hart nodded at the description and repeated, “The power’s real. And he’s a good enough hitter that he can get to his power. But as a catcher it’s not like the bat has to carry you. So when he’s not catching (at Florida) he’s going to DH, same as Morales. So these guys are going to get their at-bats this year and we’ll see where the catching goes. We’ll see if it (Jackson at catcher) continues to progress. From what we’ve seen to this point, we’re pleased with where it is.”

When I asked Hart how big Jackson is, he replied, “6-2, probably 220. Strong. He’s got the strongest grip strength in the organization, by far. He’s a strong, physical kid. He’s what a catcher looks like – big, strong, physical kid.”

Morales caught and also played some second base Tuesday. He turned 22 in January and has hit .286 with a home run and .693 OPS in 17 games in his first season in high-A ball, after hitting .269 with four homers and 55 RBIs at low-A Rome last season and getting praise for his handling of an extremely talented Rome pitching staff.

“Jackson’s splitting (catching duties) with Morales, because we think Morales is a prospect, too,” Hart said. “He’s a good (receiver), a good leader — he caught in Puerto Rico and they won the Caribbean World Series. I mean, this is a guy we like as well. We’re fortunate that we have two catchers that that we like.”

And fortunate that one of them is a former first-round draft pick with “light-tower power” who was acquired for a relatively small price. Since the Braves were so deep in pitching prospects, neither Rob Whalen nor Max Povse, the two right-handers they sent to the Mariners for Jackson, figured prominently in the Braves’ future.

Whalen, 23, went 1-2 with a 6.57 ERA in five major league starts for the Braves in 2016, but hasn’t pitched yet this year after opening season on disabled list with a strained calf. Povse is off to a great start for the Mariners’ Double-A affiliate, going 3-1 with a 1.82 ERA and .0973 WHIP through four starts, but it should be noted he’s 23 and in his second season at Double-A.

So why was Jackson available? The Mariners invested a $4.2 million signing bonus after taking him with No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 draft. But after he hit .280 with an .820 OPS in 24 games of rookie ball in 2014 and climbing to No. 20 overall prospect status in Baseball America’s Top 100 prior to the 2015 season, his stock fell after he hit .207 with eight homers and a .683 OPS in 2015 in low-A and Single-A.

He’s back at catcher now in a new organization, and so far Jackson is suddenly looking a lot like a guy worthy of being a high-first-round draft selection.

• When in Queens, got to tip the proverbial cap to the mighty Ramones, who were from the neighborhood. Check out this live version of Blitzkrieg Bop. Greatness.

“BLITZKRIEG BOP” by the Ramones

Hey ho, let’s go! hey ho, let’s go!
Hey ho, let’s go! hey ho, let’s go!

They’re forming in straight line
They’re going through a tight wind
The kids are losing their minds
The blitzkrieg bop

They’re piling in the back seat
They’re generating steam heat
Pulsating to the back beat
The blitzkrieg bop

Hey ho, let’s go
Shoot’em in the back now
What they want, I don’t know
They’re all revved up and ready to go

They’re forming in straight line
They’re going through a tight wind
The kids are losing their minds
The blitzkrieg bop

They’re piling in the back seat
They’re generating steam heat
Pulsating to the back beat
The blitzkrieg bop

Hey ho, let’s go
Shoot’em in the back now
What they want, I don’t know
They’re all revved up and ready to go

They’re forming in straight line
They’re going through a tight wind
The kids are losing their minds
The blitzkrieg bop

They’re piling in the back seat
They’re generating steam heat
Pulsating to the back beat
The blitzkrieg bop

Hey ho, let’s go! hey ho, let’s go!
Hey ho, let’s go! hey ho, let’s go!

Rotation? Solid. Offense, bullpen? Problems.

Rotation? Solid. Offense, bullpen? Problems.

NEW YORK – It wasn’t a unanimous opinion, but the consensus over the offseason was that if you ranked the Braves’ starting rotation, bullpen  and offense by level of concern, a rotation that added baseball’s two oldest pitchers and an injury-prone lefty was more worrisome than an offense that ranked among the National League’s most productive in the second half of the 2016 season and a bullpen that looked promising, if healthy.

But with exactly one-ninth of the season completed, the starters are currently the least of those concerns for a 6-12 team lugging a six-game losing streak into the Big Apple for a series with the also-struggling Mets, whose bad luck with injuries in 2016 continues unabated in a new season.

As for the Braves, the excitement over a highly praised new ballpark and a four-game sweep of the lowly Padres hasn’t been enough to offset the realization that rebuilding continues and a reminder that, yes, rebuilding stinks.

That rotation, with the additions of 43-year-old Bartolo Colon, 42-year-old R.A. Dickey and lefty Jaime Garcia to the incumbent duo of Julio Teheran and still-unproven Mike Foltynewicz, has held its own, ranking 10th in the majors in ERA (3.80), albeit with the majors’ fewest strikeouts per nine innings (6.41). Braves starters have just three wins in 18 games, tied with Toronto for the fewest in the majors, and the reason is two-fold: shaky bullpen and lack of run support.

Braves starters are 25th in the majors in run support at 3.63 per nine innings pitched, and the alarmingly inconsistent bullpen ranks 25th in ERA (5.19), 27th in opponents’ batting average (.272) and 26th in opponents’ OPS (.806).

Braves relievers have blown more saves (four) than they’ve converted (three). Ouch.

Offensively, the Braves rank 24th in the majors in runs per game (3.61) despite having baseball’s hottest hitter for much of the early season in Freddie Freeman, who has continued a remarkable hitting surge he began in early June. Freeman ranks third in the majors in average (.381), tied for second in home runs (seven) and third in OPS (1.303) behind Milwaukee’s Eric Thames (1.392) and Braves nemesis Bryce Harper (1.321).

But while Harper has 20 RBIs and Thames has 17, Freeman has just nine. None of the other 18 hitters with at least six homers has fewer than 10 RBIs and 15 of them have at least 13 RBIs.

Which brings me to a rather staggering statistic: The Braves have hit 20 home runs, but just three with runners on base, tied with the Giants for second-fewest homers with runners on base in the majors. Only the Royals (two) have hit fewer. The Braves’ .320 slugging percentage with runners on base is third-lowest in the majors, while the Nationals (.544) and Brewers (.500) lead the majors in that category. The Nats are hitting .321 with runners on base compared to the Braves’ .227.

The Braves’ 17 homers with nobody on base is tied for fourth-most in the majors, trailing only the Brewers (22),  Mets (21) and Astros (19). The Braves’ .438 slugging percentage with bases empty is fourth-highest in the majors (second in the NL) and a whopping 118 points above their slugging percentage with runners on base.

Ender Inciarte has two of the Braves’ three homers with runners on base, while Freddie Freeman has the other. Part of the problem is, their hottest hitter, Freeman has had only about half as many opportunities to hit with runners on base as several other Braves.

Again, Freeman has seven homers and nine RBIs, continuing a disturbing trend that’s gone on for a full year now.

Consider this: In Freeman’s past 162 games, going back to April 22, 2016, he has hit .322 (194-for-603) with 93 extra-base hits including 40 homers, 93 BB, a .416 OBP and .620 slugging percentage (1.036 OPS). As remarkable as those statistics are – and they are indeed remarkable – what’s also astonishing is Freeman’s RBI total in those 162 games: 96 RBIs. Yes, the man has 40 homers and almost as many extra-base hits as RBIs in 162 games.

Freeman had some stretches in that period where he didn’t hit great with runners in scoring position, but what the stat points to more than anything is just how inconsistent – and this season, consistently bad – the guys hitting in front of him have been in terms of getting on base.

This season, Braves leadoff hitters – Ender Inciarte has hit leadoff in all 18 games — rank 26th in OBP (.247) and Braves No. 2 hitters (primarily Dansby Swanson) are dead last in the majors in batting average (.179) and OBP (.200; next-lowest is .237).

As a result, Braves hitters with the most at-bats with runners on base are usual Nos. 5-6 hitters Nick Markakis and Brandon Phillips, with 33 at-bats and seven RBIs apiece in those situations, and Inciarte, with 31 ABs. Markakis is 9-for-33 (.273) with four doubles and a .368 OBP with runners on base, Phillips is 11-for-33 (.333) with a .371 OBP, and Inciarte is just 6-for-31 (.194) with a .242 OBP.

The next-most at-bats with runners on base belong to Adonis Garcia, who is 4-for-25 (.160), and Swanson, who’s just 2-for-23 (.087).

And No. 3 hitter Freeman? He has just 16 official at-bats (4-for-16) with runners on base, though he also has five walks and a .429 OBP.

Eighteen games and just 16 at-bats with runners on base. That’s a problem. The Braves have one of the majors’ best and hottest hitters, but his searing performance feels like it’s being largely wasted.

This classic ’70s pop tune seemed appropriate for some reason.

“HOW LONG” by Ace

Ace

How long has this been going on?
How long has this been going on?

Well, if friends with their fancy persuasion
Don’t admit that it’s part of a scheme
Then I can’t help but have my suspicions
‘Cause I ain’t quite as dumb as I seem
And you said you was never intending
To break up our scene in this way
But there ain’t any use in pretending
It could happen to us any day

How long has this been going on?
How long has this been going on?

Oh, your friends with their fancy persuasion
Don’t admit that it’s part of a scheme
But I can’t help but have my suspicions
‘Cause I ain’t quite as dumb as I seem
Oh, you said you was never intending
To break up our scene in this way
But there ain’t any use in pretending
It could happen to us any day

And how long has this been going on?
How long has this been going on?
How long?
How long has this been going on?
How long has this, how long has this been going on?
How long, how long has this been going on?
How long has this been going on?

 



Full article @ Rotation? Solid. Offense, bullpen? Problems.

Source: Atlanta Braves blog by David O’Brien – ACJ


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Braves’ Seitzer on learning to coach Freddie Freeman

Braves’ Seitzer on learning to coach Freddie Freeman

 

Freddie Freeman, the Braves’ scorching-hot-hitting first baseman, is a modest sort who doesn’t like to talk much about his exploits and prefers to portray an “I just see the ball and hit it” sort of philosophy, even if teammates and coaches know he is much more technical than that. He works as hard as anyone in the batting cage and is notoriously hard on himself when he doesn’t feel like his swing is where it needs to be at any given time.

Freddie Freeman has been the majors’ best hitter since mid-June. (Curtis Compton/AJC file photo)

So on Wednesday afternoon, while Freeman’s group was taking batting practice at SunTrust Park and hitting coach Kevin Seitzer was standing on a step behind the netting of the batting cage, watching intently, I asked Seitzer about working with Freeman since Seitzer came to the Braves after the 2014 season, following one season as hitting coach for the power-hitting Blue Jays, who finished second in the American League in OPS when he was there, and four seasons with a youthful Royals team including Alex Gordon, who credited Seitzer with successfully overhauling his swing.

There was no overhauling of Freeman’s swing when Seitzer arrived. A two-time All-Star and .295 career hitter in 12 major league seasons, Seitzer led the American League in hits as a rookie with 207 in 1987, when he had Royals icon George Brett as a mentor late in Brett’s Hall of Fame career. Seitzer, who played multiple seasons with the Royals, Brewers and Indians, considers Brett and Paul Molitor as the best pure hitters he ever played with.

But wait till you see some of the praise Seitzer has for Braves slugger Freeman, who has been arguably baseball’s best hitter since mid-June. In 110 games dating to June 13, Freeman has hit .350 (143-for-409) with 73 extra-base hits including 30 home runs, a .448 on-base percentage and .689 slugging percentage, for a 1.137 OPS. Those are absurd numbers, folks. MVP numbers if he maintains anything close to that.

After his two-homer, two-double night Monday against the Padres, Freeman was 2-for-2 with two singles and two walks Tuesday against the Nationals. Extending his streak of reaching base successfully to 10 plate appearances, one shy of an Atlanta Braves record set by Jeff Burroughs in 1978.

“A couple of days ago I was fouling off  a lot of pitches,” Freeman said with a shrug. “I can’t tell you anything that’s happened; I’m hitting balls and they’re going through.”

Seitzer knows better.

Here’s what he had to say when I asked him about working with Freeman and whether Freeman reminded him of any other hitters he’d been around.

“Honestly it took a year and a half to figure out what buttons to push with him in order to keep him out of his long (cold) stretches,” Seitzer began. “I don’t even like to talk about it because he may go into a long stretch and those buttons — I might have to find news ones. But he’s been really, really disciplined to make the adjustments he needs to make in order to have a chance to do some serious damage in the games. But when he gets out of whack he can’t catch up to fastballs, he’s swinging at bad pitches, and we’ve seen a few stretches of that this season where the buttons have brought him back.

Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer is a two-time former All-Star player and .295 career hitter who led the American League in hits as a rookie. (Curtis Compton/AJC file photo)

“When I first came here and we started having our initial conversations I said, what do you do when you get in trouble? What adjustments do you make? He goes, ‘None, I just keep swinging until it goes away.’ And I said, well, we’ve got to find out what we can do sooner instead of having to wait until it goes away, because it could take a while to go away. He goes, ‘I know.’

“He’s just a – and George Brett was like this – just a very natural, God-given hitter that … they just did it. And they didn’t know what they did, they just did it. And so when you work with guys who haven’t ever thought about mechanics, the one thing he told me when I first got here, he goes, ‘I want to hit .300 and I’m going to try to take my base hits the other way’ (to the opposite field), and he goes, ‘and if you try to make me pull the ball because I’ve got power, we’re going to have problems.’ And I go, well you don’t have to worry about me. I like staying in the middle of the field, being aggressive that way, and if that’s your approach, with as quick a hands as you have, I said, you’re going to be in good shape.

“Helping him find adjustments was a long process. Because, as with any hitter, you can’t talk through reasoning of what’s going on with their swing and their brain, but if they don’t get quote-unquote immediate results, then they discard it. Even if it’s right, makes sense, they understand it, they agree with it, if they don’t get results they’re going to go look for something else and you’ve got to help them find something else. Freddie’s just been, since last June, we found some buttons and it’s been pretty cool. And we found a couple more this spring that helped him. Because he was just on fire in the second half last year, but it was like, I held my breath all the time because I don’t want it to go away. Because when it starts to go away, then we’ve got to get it back.”

Then I asked Seitzer a little more about Brett, since he’d mentioned the great Royals hitter.

“George, Paul Molitor – unbelievable. And Paulie (Molitor) had an unorthodox swing – no load, very still and very quick hands, explosive. He was more about pitch selection and being aggressive in a spot. Robin Yount was unbelievable, too. He wasn’t as gifted as a hitter; I mean, he was a well-rounded athlete/baseball player, great hitter too, but not like George and Molitor were. Freddie’s as good as anybody I’ve ever worked with. I won’t say he’s low-maintenance, but when he’s on fire he’s no-maintenance. And the key is just keeping him right where he needs to be, because he can get frustrated really fast, just with flips (underhand tosses in batting cage) and batting practice, if he doesn’t feel his swing working the way he wants he gets really, really mad.

“Trying to help him deal with that frustration and channel it to an adjustment has been challenging at times. But I think the relationship that we build over the last two years and the trust that’s been established, it’s been a lot, lot better. It’s been a lot smoother. Not that it was ever hard, you just want guys to be able to make those adjustments pretty quick.”



Full article @ Braves’ Seitzer on learning to coach Freddie Freeman

Source: Atlanta Braves blog by David O’Brien – ACJ


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Sweet-swinging FreddieFree almost too good to be true

Sweet-swinging FreddieFree almost too good to be true

 

He has a gorgeous wife, the impossibly cute 7-month-old kid, the sweetest of swings, and by far the largest contract in Braves franchise history, one that will pay him between $20.5 million and $22 million annually from 2017 through 2021.

That sweet swing: Freddie Freeman connects on a two-run homer in the third inning Monday (AP photo)

What Freddie Freeman doesn’t have is many, if any, begrudgers. Because he’s just too nice a guy and too good a player and teammate for people to dislike. I mean, seriously, the guy might be the friendliest Braves superstar since Dale Murphy, and if he keeps doing what he’s been doing Freeman might have a good shot at becoming just the third Brave to win the National League MVP award since Murph and the first since Chipper in 1999.

It’s too early to predict he’ll win it this season – though Freeman’s current pace would make that a strong possibility – but if not this season then there should be plenty more opportunities for the first baseman who’s still just 27. By the way, Chipper won his MVP award in his age-27 season in 1999, and Murph won his back-to-back MVP awards in 1982-1983 at ages 26 and 27.

Terry Pendleton was the relative oldster of the bunch, winning his at age 30 in 1991, the Braves’ worst-to-first season.

Again, we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. I’m not predicting Freeman wins the MVP award this year. Not yet, at least. But if he keeps doing what he’s done not just this season but since mid-June, he might just be the favorite to win.

Freeman had another stunning performance Monday night, going 4-for-4 with two doubles, two homers and three RBIs in a 5-4 win that gave the Braves a five-game winning streak and a four-game sweep of the Padres in the first series at SunTrust Park, which looks like it could be significantly more hitter-friendly than Turner Field, which was a decided pitcher’s park even if Freeman (and Chipper) made it seem otherwise at times.

Freeman’s four extra-base hits tied a franchise record and raised his average to .400 (18-for-45), tied for fourth in the majors, with a .481 OBP (sixth in the majors) and whopping .867 slugging percentage (second in the majors). He has four doubles and five home runs in 12 games after hitting over .500 for most of spring training.

“Hitting is really hard, and he makes it look easy,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said after Freeman’s Monday night display of power hitting to every part of SunTrust Park.

Padres catcher Austin Hedges said, “He’s a really good hitter, man. He puts good swings on balls. He’s tough to pitch to. You just tip your cap to him.”

Freeman ranks second in the majors in slugging percentage and OPS (1.347) behind Milwaukee’s hot-starting Eric Thames (1.000, 1.479), with Freeman and Thames the only big-leaguers OPS’ing over 1.218 through Sunday.

It’s worth noting again, before we dive a little deeper into some impressive stats, that Freeman is not just arguably one of the best five overall  hitters in baseball, he might be the nicest and easiest to pull for. This is a controversy-free guy who works hard, wants to play ever single day even if he’s got a nagging injury, never wants to go on the disabled list even when he should. He feels like he’s letting down his teammates and the organization if he doesn’t play and play at a high level, regardless of aches and pains.

There’s more: He doesn’t cuss because he knows his late mother wouldn’t like that — and he’s all about honoring his late mother, every day in several ways. He also brings family members from California across the country for games when they can plan family reunions on the road, and the Orange County native scrambles to come up with dozens of tickets for family and friends every time Braves are in Los Angeles or San Diego.

Freeman never has a cross word for a reporter or holds a grudge if someone writes something bad about, though granted there has been just about zero to criticize for some time now.

Which brings us to the longer-range stats. Going back to May 20, he has 33 home runs and four multi-homer games in his past 131 games.

And just consider these jaw-dropping stats for Freeman in his past 109 games going back to June 13: .346 average (141-for-407) with 73 extra-base hits including six triples and 30 home runs,. a 443 OBP, a .688 slugging percentage (1.131 OPS), 79 RBIs, and 86 runs. The Braves are 55-54 in those games and he has 23 go-ahead RBIs and 11 game-winning RBIs in that span.

For some context, consider what some other stars have done since June 13: National League MVP Kris Bryant has hit .288/.389/.550 (.939 OPS) with 54 extra-base hits (24 HR), 64 RBIs and 80 runs, and American League MVP Mike Trout has hit .321/.453/.565 (1.018 OPS) with 47 extra-base hits (19 HR), 66 RBIs and 86 runs.

Also since June 13, Rockies slugger Nolan Arenado has hit .302/.364/.571 (.934 OPS) with 59 extra-base hits (26 HR), 88 RBIs and 79 runs, and Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has hit .301/.399/.484 (.883 OPS) with 42 extra-base hits (15 HR), 62 RBIs and 80 runs.

And to think, just a year ago there were still some folks who insisted the Braves picked the wrong guy to give that huge contract to. No, they didn’t. They picked exactly the right guy in Freeman, who’ll be a bargain for the next six seasons if he keeps producing anywhere near his current level.

• Freddie Freeman remains an underrated star in the majors. “Green” remains one of R.E.M.’s most underrated albums. OK, it’s a stretch, but anyway, here’s a great tune from that album.

“TURN YOU INSIDE-OUT” by R.E.M.

R.E.M.

Divide your cultured pearls and paste
I’m looking for to lay to waste
Of all the things I cannot taste
And this not the racy raceThey spoke loud,
“I believe in what you do
I believe in watching you”
It’s what you do
“I believe in what you do
I believe in watching you”I could turn you inside-out
What I choose not to do
I could turn you inside-out
What I choose not to do

Given the choice
Given the heart
Given the tool
Given the word
Given the cheers

“I believe in what you do
I believe in watching you”
It’s what you do
“I believe in what you do
I believe in watching you”

I could I, I could turn you inside-out
What I choose not to do
I could turn you inside-out
What I choose not to do

Given the choice
Given the heart
Given the tool
Given the word
Given the cheers



Full article @ Sweet-swinging FreddieFree almost too good to be true

Source: Atlanta Braves blog by David O’Brien – ACJ


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Gohara cruises through five for Fire Frogs

Gohara cruises through five for Fire Frogs

After going 1-for-3 with an RBI and run scored in the matinee for Triple-A Rochester, Daniel Palka exploded in the Red Wings’ second game against Syracuse. The right fielder was involved in the entirety of Rochester’s offense in the nightcap, driving in four runs and scoring three more of his own in the Red Wings’ 8-7 loss to the Chiefs.

Full article @ Gohara cruises through five for Fire Frogs

Source: MLB Atlanta Braves RSS


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