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Dickey to young Braves: Losing like this is not OK

Dickey to young Braves: Losing like this is not OK

Living with the knuckleball is not easy at times, as R.A. Dickey has long known and the Braves learned this season in the veteran’s first and possibly only season with the team. The Braves hold an $8 million option on Dickey’s contract for 2018, but they haven’t said if they’ll exercise it, and the 43-year-old former Cy Young Award winner and father of four hasn’t decided if he’ll pitch again or devote his energies to being a full-time dad at home in Nashville.

Whatever decisions are made, this much is certain: Dickey has been well worth the $7.5 million the Braves paid him this season, as his contributions to a young team and pitching staff have transcended his admittedly modest stats – 9-10 record, 4.41 ERA entering his 30th start tonight against the Nationals – and likely kept the team’s disappointing season from slipping off the rails a lot sooner.

Young pitchers and others have learned from the hirsute teammate who is not of their generation, but is someone who has demonstrated a thoughtful approach and professionalism that traversed the age gap and will serve well those who’ve paid attention.

“There was somebody on the bench the other day that told me, like, Ozzie Albies could be my child,” Dickey said, laughing. “And there’s a couple of other guys, too, who probably could have been if I would have misbehaved when I was young. But it’s like, these guys – its great to see the future of what this could become. I grew up watching us (the Braves) be really, really good. And you’ve got some pieces (young players on the team now) that you could go back to that again here. And down (in the minors), too. But here in particular, I’ve seen two or three guys who could be guys you can count on. Which is great.”

It’s been an up-and-down season for 42-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, whose contributions to the young Braves team have extended beyond his performance on the mound. (Getty Images)

Don’t think that Dickey has been some kind of soft-spoken cheerleader just telling young teammates to have fun and enjoy it all regardless of the totals on the scoreboard at the end of the day. Realistic or not, Braves veterans, including Dickey and Freddie Freeman, among others, entered the season saying the team had a legitimate chance to make the postseason and shouldn’t have any goal less than that.

They reached the 90-game mark with a 45-45 record, but have spiraled since, long since eliminated from the playoff picture and now at 67-83, assured of a fourth consecutive losing season, the longest such streak for the Braves since 1984-90. Rebuilding or not, Dickey said he’s made it clear to young players that the team has fallen short of expectations and should strive to never let this happen again. He’s enjoyed the season and his teammates, but …

“When I signed here, I understood the business of the game, and I knew where we were as a team,” Dickey said. “I had hoped, and we all have pushed, for greater results, but at the end of the day I think there are a few of us that understood this is a process. And my job in that process is to try to help as much as I could people who I interact with, and provide the team with some stability on the mound, posting up every fifth day, in an effort to get 200 innings and 32 starts. So from that standpoint I feel like it’s been a successful year.

“Now, I think we all are disappointed, for sure. Especially the young guys. You don’t want them growing up in this culture thinking that what’s happening to us this year is OK. You don’t want that, so you have to be diligent about that, and intentional about making them feel, this is not it. They can look over there (to the Washington Nationals dugout) and see what it should be like, across the diamond in this series.”

Not that his own roller-coaster season or the Braves’ disappointing record will be a determining factor in his decision whether to pitch again in 2018, he said.

“No, it’s not so discouraging to me to say that I never want to play again,” he said. “If I don’t play next year it will not be because I’m physically unable or because I do not enjoy being a baseball player and getting to interact with my teammates. It will not be for those reasons. And we’ll make those decisions at the end of the year and we’ll see what happens. But I’ve really had a great time in this city, with this stadium and with my teammates. It’s been great.”

Manager Brian Snitker said Dickey has meant a lot to a team that’s in the third year of its rebuilding project.

“The consistency and knowing he’s going to go out there and cover innings,” Snitker said. “(Dickey’s performance) has been up and down — I don’t know that that’s not the life of a knuckleballer because he’s been really good in periods and other periods where he fights to kind of get the feel for it.  But he’s been a great influence on these (players).

“We see him in the dugout, and he’s on the top step pulling for these young guys, and he’s available for them and enjoys doing that. I think he enjoys imparting the knowledge that he has to those young guys. He’s been just a true pro. I’ve enjoyed being around him. He’s a great guy to talk to, he’s got a real good take on things, a professional take on things. I’ve really enjoyed the year with him.”

Here’s what we mean by Dickey’s up-and-down season:

He went 3-3 with a 4.22 ERA in his first seven starts despite allowing nine homers in that span. Dickey pitched at least six innings in five of those starts and won three of the four games in which the Braves scored more than two runs while he was in during that stretch.

Next came a six-game stretch from May 19-June 13 in which he was 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA and .298 opponents’ average, failing to take advantage of 5.2 support runs he received per nine innings pitched in that span and lasting 5 1/3 or fewer innings in half of those starts.

But just as quickly as his performance dipped, it rose again during the best period of Dickey’s season, a 10-start stretch from June 19-Aug. 13 in which he was 4-2 with a 2.12 ERA, .230 opponents’ average and 50 strikeouts with 21 walks and only four homers allowed in 63 2/3 innings, including six or more innings in nine of 10 starts. In five of the six games he didn’t win in that period, the Braves scored two or fewer runs while he was in.

Just when it looked like Dickey might carry that run through the rest of the season and reach his personal goals, he hit another rough patch, beginning with a three-homer game against the Reds at SunTrust Park on Aug. 18. In his past six starts beginning with that one, he’s 1-3 with a 6.55 ERA and .333 opponents’ average, allowing four or more earned runs in all but one outing and lasting five or fewer innings in each of his past three starts.

Dickey’s 4.41 ERA entering tonight’s start against the Nationals is his second-highest in eight seasons as a full-time starter. His 1.43 WHIP (walks-plus-hits per innings pitched) is his highest as a starter and his 67 walks in 29 starts (175 1/3 innings) is seven walks shy of the career-high 74 he issued in 34 starts (215 2/3 innings) in 2014.

He’s going to finish with fewer than 200 innings for the second consecutive season, after averaging more than 219 innings for five seasons through 2015, including a career-high 233 2/3 innings in his 20-win Cy Young Award season with the Mets in 2012.

On the other hand, with a 9-10 record and likely two starts left after tonight, Dickey needs one win for his sixth consecutive season with at least 10, and has a chance to post what would be his first winning record since going 48-32 over three consecutive winning seasons in 2012-14. And this is an important one for him: He could make 32 starts, which would be the sixth time in seven seasons he’s made at least that many.

He’s going to fall short of his innings goal, but Dickey’s 175 1/3 are tied for the team lead with Julio Teheran, who’s made one more start (30). The 4.41 ERA isn’t great by his standards, but it’s the best among Braves who’ve been in the rotation all season, ahead of Teheran (4.52) and Mike Foltynewicz (4.79). Only Sean Newcomb (4.32 ERA in 17 starts) and Jaime Garcia (4.30 in 18 starts) have better ERAs among Braves who made at least three starts.

R.A. Dickey and catcher Tyler Flowers began to develop a good working relationship at spring training. Here they went over things after Dickey’s first mound session at training camp. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

And did we mention the contributions he’s made beyond those innings when he’s on the mound every fifth day?

“You know what I enjoy?” Dickey said Wednesday. “And this may sound corny to somebody, but it’s the truth because this is what I felt when I was coming up: I had guys like Kenny Rogers and Orel Hershiser and John Wetteland and other guys that poured into me when I was young. The thing that I like the most, is not listening to me talk about how to play the game; I don’t really enjoy that actually. What I enjoy is seeing guys take steps forward and getting to encourage them when they do. Like when you see a guy, let’s say a young guy gives up two or three runs in the first (inning) and he makes it through seven innings. That’s a big step for a guy. So to be able to encourage him in that after it’s happened is what’s fun for me.

“That’s the funnest part, to kind of pat them on the back. Now, there are times where you have to kind of pull them aside and say, ‘Hey, you can’t do this,’ or ‘This isn’t the way that pro baseball players play.’ That’s part of it. But my favorite thing about it is getting to see people take steps forward.”

Snitker said, “He’s such an honest, down-to-earth guy, he’s easy to talk to and he’s got a really great take on things. I really respect everything (veterans) have gone through to have those careers, like a Nick Markakis-type guy, watching him every day and talking to him, steady, even keel every day.”

“(Dickey is) a good man. You watch him interact; he brings his kids out here, has a lot of fun. They’re good kids. He’s a good person and fun to be around.”

• Let’s close with Willie Nelson‘s version of this classic, “September Song.”

“SEPTEMBER SONG” by Willie Nelson

Willie

Oh, it’s a long, long while 
From May to December 
But the days grow short, 
When you reach September. 
When the autumn weather 
Turn leaves to flame 
One hasn’t got time 
For the waiting game. 

Oh the days dwindle down 
To a precious few . . . 
September, November . . . 
And these few precious days 
I’ll spend with you. 
These precious days 
I’ll spend with you.

Oh the days dwindle down 
To a precious few . . . 
September, November . . . 
And these few precious days 
I’ll spend with you. 
These precious days 
I’ll spend with you.
These precious days 
I’ll spend with you.



Full article @ Dickey to young Braves: Losing like this is not OK

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



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Sam Freeman thriving, credits message from Chiti

Sam Freeman thriving, credits message from Chiti

When reliever Sam Freeman was sent to minor league camp after struggling mightily in major league spring training – we’re talking six runs allowed in one inning over two appearances —  it seemed uncertain whether the well-traveled left-hander would ever wear a Braves uniform in a real big-league game.

Sam Freeman struggled mightily before getting sent down to minor league camp in spring training, but he’s been one of the Braves’ best relievers since being brought to the big leagues in May. (AP photo)

But sometimes, the right words said in the right way from a person with the gravitas to get his point across can do wonders for a person. And for Freeman, the message came from Dom Chiti, the mustachioed Braves director of pitching, who took Freeman aside and spoke to him as someone who had more than four decades of pro-ball experience as a player, scout, front-office official and bullpen coach with three major league teams.

He expressed to Freeman, whose career had stalled with a disappointing season in the Brewers organization in 2016, that he was too talented to struggle like he was, that he needed to pitch with confidence again, to trust his ability and to attack hitters. That was how the 30-year-old lefty was going to be successful again.

Freeman was called to the majors by the Braves on May 4 and has been one of the team’s three best and only consistent relievers this season, posting a 2.80 ERA in 53 appearances and allowing one run in 20 appearances since the beginning of August.

“Dom Chiti,” Freeman said, when asked what the biggest difference has been since his spring struggles. “Whenever I got sent down in big league camp, we had a conversation and he said some things that hit home, that I kind of said, OK. Even when it happened, I was telling close friends and family that was going to be a turning point, just because it resonated so much with me.

“So I would say, just interacting with him for the few weeks or whatever (at minor league camp), those conversations have probably been the biggest thing in that regard.”

Chiti is changing roles for the Braves, moving up to become farm director in place of Dave Trembley, who as farm director and head of minor league field operations had been more of a hands-on field coordinator anyway. The personable and energetic Trembley will keep the latter title — head of minor league field operations.

Braves top officials saw the Chiti move as a natural one, given the emphasis they’ve put on pitching in their ongoing rebuilding process and Chiti’s pitching-intensive background and experience.

“Dom brings three things that everybody can respect — lots of experience, brutal honestly, creativity and destire to help players improve,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said. “It’s not cuddly or sweet all the time, but Dom cares greatly and gets results.”

Freeman would certainly agree with that assessment. He turned 30 in June and is having a career resurgence of sorts.

“Well, (the season) is not over yet,” he said, cautiously. “Up to this point it’s been a positive experience. It’s kind of proven to myself that I can be consistent at this level. We’ve still got about (two) weeks to go. I’ll feel more confident telling you how this year went at that point, but up to this point it’s been a positive experience, for sure.”

Before his spring-training chats with Chiti and subsequent progress, it was beginning to seem that Freeman’s best days were behind him. He had a 2.74 ERA in 88 2/3 innings during 111 major-league appearances over a three-season stretch through 2015 with the Cardinals and Rangers, but Freeman spent of 2016 in Triple-A and posting a 12.91 ERA in his only seven big-league appearances for the Brewers.

Now look at him. Freeman has a .222 opponents’ average and .604 opponents’ OPS, which includes a stingy .170/.455 by left-handed batters, who have just two extra-base hits against him in 88 at-bats with 27 strikeouts and five walks. In the late innings of close games, hitters are 8-for-57 (.140) against him with one extra-base hit and a .415 OPS.

And in 20 appearances since Aug. 1, Freeman has 0.53 ERA, .145 opponents’ average and .393 opponents’ OPS, allowing eight hits, one run and five walks with 14 strikeouts in 17 innings over that span.

A reporter mentioned to Braves manager Brian Snitker than Freeman credited Chiti with helping him in the spring to restore his confidence and pitch aggressively again.

“You can tell,” Snitker said. “He’s very confident. The results speak to that. He’s got good stuff. You never know when guys are going to (emerge). You talk to old-timers and they say left-handed pitchers come later sometimes. Takes them a little longer. Sam’s legit.”

Freeman is quiet, small in stature for a reliever but wiry-strong like a cornerback. The first time folks see him pitch they’re often surprised by how hard he throws.

“That’s easy 96 (mph) and 97 sometimes, and good off-speed stuff,” Snitker said. “He’ll get down in the count and has the ability to come back and get a decision. You like what you see. He just quietly does his job.”

He’s been one of the Braves’ three best relievers, along with closer Arodys Vizcaino and setup man Jose Ramirez. And they signed Freeman as a minor league free agent in October, a deal that included an invitation to spring training.

“You bring a guy in, get good reports from Triple-A, we brought him up and you pitch him, then you see him, all of a sudden it becomes an instance of a little more responsibility and a role, and a guy does it and he’s been really good,” Snitker said. “We might have gotten Sam Freeman at the right time of his career. He’d been around a little bit, experienced some things, now he’s getting an opportunity and making the best of it.

“He’s learning as he goes and drawing on some prior experiences and making the most of his situation here.”

And making the most of time spent with Dom Chiti in the spring.

• Seems a good day to go with a song by a lefty, so here’s one of the best by the legendary Lefty Frizzell, a 1963 hit that was later covered by Johnny Cash and Bobby Bare, among others.

“SAGINAW, MICHIGAN” by Lefty Frizzell

Lefty Frizzell

I was born in Saginaw, Michigan.
I grew up in a house on Saginaw Bay.
My dad was a poor hard working Saginaw fisherman:
Too many times he came home with too little pay. 

I loved a girl in Saginaw, Michigan.
The daughter of a wealthy, wealthy man.
But he called me: “That son of a Saginaw fisherman.”
And not good enough to claim his daughter’s hand. 

Now I’m up here in Alaska looking around for gold.
Like a crazy fool I’m a digging in this frozen ground, so cold.
But with each new day I pray I’ll strike it rich and then,
I’ll go back home and claim my love in Saginaw, Michigan. 

I wrote my love in Saginaw, Michigan.
I said: “Honey, I’m a coming home, please wait for me.
“And you can tell your dad, I’m coming back a richer man
“I’ve hit the biggest strike in Klondike history.” 

Her dad met me in Saginaw, Michigan.
He gave me a great big party with champagne.
Then he said: “Son, you’re wise, young ambitious man.
“Will you sell your father-in-law your Klondike claim?” 

Now he’s up there in Alaska digging in the cold, cold ground.
The greedy fool is a looking for the gold I never found.
It serves him right and no-one here is missing him.
Least of all the newly-weds of Saginaw, Michigan. 

We’re the happiest man and wife in Saginaw, Michigan.
He’s ashamed to show his face in Saginaw, Michigan. 



Full article @ Sam Freeman thriving, credits message from Chiti

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



For all the latest Braves news and rumors please bookmark our site!

Braves’ trade of J-Up to Padres starting to pay bigger rewards

Braves’ trade of J-Up to Padres starting to pay bigger rewards

Braves prospect Luiz Gohara makes his third major league start tonight when he tries to beat reigning Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and the Nats for the second time in seven days. And that, combined with the presence of pitching prospect Touki Toussaint at SunTrust Park on Friday to receive the Braves’ high Single-A Pitcher of the Year award, got me thinking about The Trade That Keeps on Giving.

Luiz Gohara is pictured during his win at Washington on Wednesday, when the Braves rookie allowed one earned run in six innings and Nationals Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer gave up seven runs in six-plus innings. The two pitchers will face each other again tonight in Atlanta. (AP photo)

General manager John Coppolella and the Braves have made a multitude of bold trades in the past three years, including a few that haven’t work out – the Hector Olivera deal stands firmly atop that list – but many more that have either turned out as well or in some cases far better for the Braves than for the other team(s) involved.

The Shelby Miller-to-Arizona trade understandably receives the most attention among one-sided deals in the Braves’ favor. They got now-Gold Glove center fielder Ender Inciarte and former No. 1 overall draft pick Dansby Swanson in that trade for a pitcher (Miller) who has struggled to a 5-14 record and 5.78 ERA in 24 MLB starts over two seasons for Arizona.

But today, I’m going to take a deeper dive into another trade that, in the long run, might possibly work out even better for the Braves, given the level of young pitching involved. (Of course we never know how the likes of Gohara are going to develop long term, but so far he’s looking pretty damn good.)

The trade: Eleven months after former Braves general manager Frank Wren acquired slugger Justin Upton in a trade from Arizona, the Braves’ new regime headed by Coppolella and  John Hart traded Upton to San Diego along with minor league pitcher Aaron Northcraft on Dec. 19, 2014, in exchange for lefty prospect Max Fried, outfield prospect Mallex Smith, corner outfielder/third base prospect Dustin Peterson and utility player Jace Peterson.

Upton was owed $14.5 million in 2015, the final season of a big contract he had signed with Arizona. He would become a free agent after one season with the Padres and sign a six-year, $132.75 million contract with Detroit.

The Braves had Mallex Smith for one season in the minors and one in the majors before trading him in January to the Mariners with injury-plagued reliever Shae Simmons in exchange for lefty prospects Gohara, who beat the Nationals last week in his second major league start, and Thomas Burrows, a former University of Alabama closer and fourth-round draft pick in 2016, who posted a 2.16 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings this season at low-A Rome.

Of the $14.5 million that the Braves saved by trading Upton with a year left on his contract, they used $10 million, in effect, to get highly regarded if still-raw pitching prospect Touki Toussaint from the Diamondbacks by also taking Bronson Arroyo and his salary from Arizona in that trade and sending utility player Phil Gosselin to the D-backs. The Braves took aging veteran Arroyo in that deal to get Toussaint, who was the Braves’ high-A Florida Pitcher of the Year this season after posting 167 strikeouts (albeit with 64 walks and a 4.53 ERA) in 145 innings between Single-A and Double-A.

The Braves had looked around and checked with a few teams about a deal in which they could take on a bad contract (using the savings from Upton) to get a top young prospect, and the Diamondbacks with Arroyo/Toussaint was the team that was willing to do it, so eager were they to unload the final year of Arroyo’s contract.

Touki Touissaint was the Braves’ high Single-A Pitcher of the Year. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Getting back to the original Upton deal and the biggest piece the Braves got directly from the Padres: Fried, 23, missed almost two full seasons recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery and was slowed earlier this season by finger-blister problems in Double-A. But the lefty was called to the majors after getting that worked out, made four big-league relief appearances, went to Triple-A briefly, then beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field this month in his first major league start, displaying a curveball that could potentially be one of the best in the big leagues.

Lefties Gohara, with his high-90s fastball and devastating slider, and Fried should be strong candidates for spots in the Braves’ opening-day rotation next season.

Dustin Peterson, who turned 23 this month, hit .282 with 52 extra-base hits and a .343 OBP in Double-A in 2016 and was competing for a major league roster spot this past spring training before a broken hand ended that bid and required surgery that caused him to miss much of the season. He was still regaining strength in the second half of the minor league season when he returned, but will be back at 100 percent for spring training and should be a strong bench candidate.

Jace Peterson was the Braves’ starting second baseman in 2015 and for much of 2016 and has been part of a productive bench for most of this season.

The Justin Upton trade was the impetus for getting all of the above players to the Braves organization. In effect, the Braves gave up one year of Upton and got a potential 30 years of major league service (before free agency) from the group of pitching prospects Gohara, Fried and Toussaint and utility players Jace and Dustin Peterson. And saved $4.5 million in the process.

If, say, two of the starting prospects Gohara, Fried and Toussaint turn out to be as good as many project, and Dustin Peterson becomes at least a solid major league fourth outfielder, think about what the Braves will have gotten in return for trading one year of Justin Upton.

Not all trades work out as planned. Some work out really poorly. But when you can make a couple of deals that work out as well as the Shelby Miller-to-Arizona and Justin Upton-to-San Diego trades have for the Braves, it makes the misfires a lot easier to swallow.

Postscript: Upton was traded from the Tigers to the Angels three weeks ago and is owed $88.5 million over the next four seasons (unless he exercises an opt-out clause and again becomes a free agent after this season).

• Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers was born this day in 1940. So here they are in a Phil Spector-produced Wall of Sound masterpiece,

“YOU’VE LOST THAT LOVIN’ FEELING” by The Righteous Brothers

The Righteous Brothers

You never close your eyes anymore
When I kiss your lips
And there’s no tenderness
Like before in your finger tips
You’re trying hard not to show it (baby)
But baby, baby I know itYou’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’
Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’
You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’
Now it’s gone, gone, gone
Whoa, oh-whoa, oh-whoaThere’s no welcome look in your eyes
When I reach for you
And girl you’re starting to
Criticize little things I do
Ooh, it makes me just feel like cryin’ (baby)
‘Cause baby something beautiful’s dyin’You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’
Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’
You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’
Now it’s gone, gone, gone
Whoa, oh-whoa, oh-whoaBaby baby I get down on my knees for you
(Get down on my knees)
If you would only love me
Like you used to
(If you would only love me, love me)
We had a love, a love, a love
You don’t find everyday
(A love you don’t find)
So don’t, don’t, don’t
Let it slip away (away)I said baby
Baby (baby)
Baby (baby)
(I’m beggin you please)
I’m begging you please
I need your love
(I need your love)
I need your love
So bring it on back
(Bring it on back)
Ah, bring it on back
Now bring it on backYou’ve got to
Bring back that lovin’ feelin’
Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’
Bring back that lovin’ feelin’
‘Cause it’s gone, gone, gone
And I can’t go on
Whoa, oh-whoa, oh-whoaBring back that lovin’ feelin’
Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’
Bring back that lovin’ feelin’
‘Cause it’s gone, gone, goneBring back that lovin’ feelin’
Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’
Bring back that lovin’ feeling
‘Cause it’s gone, gone, gone

 

 

 



Full article @ Braves’ trade of J-Up to Padres starting to pay bigger rewards

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



For all the latest Braves news and rumors please bookmark our site!

Freddie Freeman’s ‘wet newspaper’ is not pitcher-friendly

Freddie Freeman’s ‘wet newspaper’ is not pitcher-friendly

Those of you who insisted 10 days ago that Freddie Freeman needed to be, had to be, must be shut down for the rest of the season, Dusty Baker and the Nationals would like to second that proposal. (Actually, the Cubs, Rangers and Marlins also probably would have seconded it already.)

Freeman had three hits, including a three-run homer, in the Braves’ 8-0 win against the Nationals on Tuesday night, which gave the big first baseman a .415 average (17-for-41) with eight extra-base hits (three homers), 11 RBIs and a .500 OBP and .756 slugging percentage in 10 games since Sept. 2.

Freddie Freeman returns to the dugout after crushing a three-run homer against Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez on Tuesday at Nationals Park. (AP photo)

You might recall, Sept. 2 was the day in Chicago when Freeman said after striking out with a runner on in the ninth inning of a 14-12 loss that it felt like he was swinging a “wet newspaper” and that his bat speed was “completely gone” because of the weakening state of the left wrist he fractured May 17, which caused Freeman to miss seven weeks.

Nevermind that Freeman had a home run and an RBI double that day. “I’ve got nothing left, really. I’m doing my best up there, but I needed to do a little bit better the last time,” he said afterward.

To which lesser major league hitters – which is almost every active major league hitter – would probably say to their genial pal, “Shut up, Freddie.” But they would say it with a smile, because everyone seemingly loves Freeman, despite the fact he routinely rakes against most of their teams including the Nationals.

“Freddie, boy, he continues to hit us hard,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said after Tuesday’s game, when Freeman hit a home run that sailed more than 440 feet, high on the green-grass batter’s eye backdrop beyond center field at Nationals Park, the first homer by a lefty batter this season off veteran Gio Gonzalez.

In his past 83 games against the Nationals, dating to July 1, 2012, Freeman has a .370 average (114-for-308) with 46 extra-base hits (15 home runs), 59 RBIs, a .620 slugging percentage and 1.058 OPS.

In his past 19 games against the Nats, since mid-August 2016, Freeman is 29-for-75 (.387) with nine doubles, six homers, 24 RBIs and a 1.218 OPS.

Before we go any further, here’s a stat I looked up today. It’s the top OPS totals in the majors over the past 365 days by all who’ve played at least 100 games in that span: 1. Mike Trout 1.077, 2. Joey Votto 1.045, 3. Freddie Freeman 1.042, 4. Charlie Blackmon 1.026, 5. Giancarlo Stanton 1.005, 6. Paul Goldschmidt .994.

More on that in a moment, specifically the Freeman vs. Trout numbers that are remarkably similar.

While Freeman probably was frustrated after going 3-for-27 with one homer and a .561 OPS in an eight-game span from Aug. 25 through the first two games of the four-game series at Wrigley Field, it’s clear that slump was the outlier in his performance, not an indication of where he was or is performance-wise, regardless of the wrist. Consider: In his 20 games before that slump, Freeman hit .380 (30-for-79) with 10 extra-base hits (three homers) and a 1.025 OPS.

Granted, the home-run total was a bit down, but 99 percent of the players in baseball would love to have a 20-game stretch like that one that Freeman had with his wrist in what he characterized as a declining condition, the strength being reduced to about “65 percent” by midway through the series at Chicago at the beginning of September.

If his left wrist is 65 percent, then he’s even more of a hitting savant, more of a gifted baseball freak, than many teammates and coaches already believe he is.

Freeman returned from his fractured wrist well ahead of schedule and after hardly any minor league rehab, and still hit .269 with an impressive (by average-player standards) 11 extra-base hits (five homers), 15 RBIs and an .841 OPS in his first 24 games through Aug. 1.

But since then, ramped it up, if not to his usual standards then pretty damn close: In 38 games beginning Aug. 2, he’s hit .340 (50-for-147) with 21 extra-base hits (seven homers), 28 RBIs, 21 walks, 27 strikeouts and a .424 OBP and .578 slugging percentage (1.002).

That’s a 1.002 OPS over 38 games while swinging a “wet newspaper.” As I said, the rest of baseball would like to smack you, Freddie.

Now, back to the leading OPS totals in the majors over the past 365 days.

In that span Votto played 163 games, Blackmon 160, Stanton 153 and Goldschmidt 156, while Freeman (114 games) and Trout (115 games) each missed about seven weeks because of injuries this season — Freeman’s fractured wrist and Trout’s torn thumb ligament, both in May. Each led his respective league in several major offensive categories this season before getting hurt in May.

Freeman led the NL in homers (14) and ranked second in both OBP (.461) and slugging percentage (.758) before he was hit in the wrist by a 94-mph fastball May 17, which caused him to miss seven weeks (three fewer than initially anticipated). At the time of the injury, he also led the majors in home runs (42) and OPS (1.058) over the previous 365 days while batting .318 in that span.

Flash ahead to now, and here’s the rather startling past-365-days comparison between Freeman and Trout, a two-time American League MVP who has finished no lower than runner-up for that award in each of his first five seasons and is generally regarded as the best player in the game:

— Trout in 514 PA (400 AB): .313 average, .459 OBP, .618 slugging percentage (1.077 OPS), 58 extra-base hits (30 homers), 73 RBI, 25 SB, 102 BB, 92 K.

 — Freeman in 501 PA (425 AB): .325 avg., .421 OBP, .621 slugging percentage (1.042 OPS), 65 extra-base hits (30 homers), 81 RBI, 9 SB, 66 BB, 97 K.

To which I say, wet newspapers for everyone. (Besides, we could use the boost in rack sales.)

• Since today is Dave Mustaine’s birthday, here’s one from Megadeth.

“ADDICTED TO CHAOS” by Megadeth

Megadeth

Only yesterday they told me you were gone
All these normal people, will I find another one?
Monkey on my back, Aching my bones
I forgot you said “One day you’ll walk alone”
I said I need you, does that make me wrong?
Am I a weak man, are you feeling strong?
My heart was blackened, It’s bloody red
A hole in my heart, a hole in my head?

Who will help me up?
Where’s the helping hand?
Will you turn on me?
Is this my final stand?

In a dream I cannot see
Tangled abstract fallacy
Random turmoil builds in me
I’m addicted to chaos

Lights shined on my path,
Turn bad days into good
Turn breakdowns into blocks, I smashed ’em
Cause I could
My brain was Labored, My head would spin
Don’t let me down, don’t give up, don’t give in
The rain comes down, cold wind blows
The plans we made are back up on the road
Turn up my collar, welcome the unknown
Remember that you said
“One day you’ll walk alone”

 

 



Full article @ Freddie Freeman’s ‘wet newspaper’ is not pitcher-friendly

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



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On “Bae” jerseys, Acuna & Braves All-Classification All-Stars

On “Bae” jerseys, Acuna & Braves All-Classification All-Stars

WASHINGTON – A few thoughts on some of the Braves’ rapidly rising top prospects while also wondering if the organization had any idea of the potential jersey-buying frenzy they could have if their just-signed 18-year-old Korean shortstop prospect Jihwan Bae makes it to the majors, or even to big-league spring training. John “Coppy” Coppolella has a bit more youthful hipness than you might know, so I’m guessing he’s aware of the whole “Bae” thing. …

Anyway, now to some Braves prospects already making significant impact in the minors.

Joey Wentz, a Braves first-round draft pick in 2016, was one of two 19-year-old Braves prospects to make Baseball America’s low Single-A Classification All-Star team. (AP photo)

We’ll skip Ronald Acuna, the Braves’ No. 1-rated prospect who was just crowned Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year. The 19-year-old was one of the best, if not the best, player at each of the three levels he tore through in 2017 – high-A, Double-A, Triple-A, and also the youngest player in the high minor leagues.

By the way, Acuna became only the third Brave to win that award since it began in 1981, joining Jason Heyward (2009) and Andruw Jones, who won it in 1995 and again in 1996 – the Mets’ Gregg Jefferies was the only other two-time winner. Suffice to say, my guess is that Acuna won’t have a chance to become a repeat winner, as I’m expecting him to spend most if not all of the 2018 season in the Braves’ outfield. The major league outfield.

But we’ll talk plenty more on that in later blogs.

For today, let’s take a look at the four other Braves prospects who made Baseball America’s Classification All-Star teams for their respective levels.

HIGH SINGLE-A (California, Carolina and Florida State leagues): Alex Jackson, 21, was one of the more encouraging stories in the Braves’ system, after the Braves got the former first-rounder (sixth overall pick in 2014) from the Mariners in a November trade for minor league pitchers Rob Whalen and Max Povse, after Seattle had basically given up on Jackson, a former top-rated high school catcher who they converted to outfield soon after drafting him.

Alex Jackson was widely regarded as the best high school player in the 2014 draft, but the Mariners converted him from catcher to outfielder and he was pretty much a bust. The Braves traded for him last winter, moved him back to catcher, and he thrived in 2017. (AP file photo)

The Braves moved him back to catcher and saw Jackson hit .272 with a .333 OBP, .502 slugging percentage (.835 OPS) in 66 games at high-A Florida before a promotion. Jackson finished the season with a .267/.328/.480 slash line in 96 games, with 21 doubles, 19 home runs in 402 plate appearances over 96 games including 30 games at Double-A Mississippi.

DOUBLE-A (Texas, Southern and Eastern leagues): Right-hander Mike Soroka, a first-round draft pick by the Braves in 2015, didn’t turn 20 until August and went 11-8 with a 2.75 ERA and 1.087 WHIP in 26 starts at Double-A Mississippi against mostly hitters who were at least two or three years older. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Canadian posted 125 strikeouts with only 34 walks and 10 homers allowed in 153 2/3 innings.

Soroka allowed one or no earned runs in half of his starts – and two earned in six others – and had starts with 10 strikeouts and two walks in 5 2/3 innings; nine strikeouts and no walks in eight scoreless innings, and 12 strikeouts with no walks in seven innings of two-hit ball July 19 vs. Biloxi.

LOW SINGLE-A (Midwest and South Atlantic leagues): The Braves were the only team with two starting pitchers of the five total — 19-year-old righties Joey Wentz and Bryse Wilson, also the two youngest of the five on BA’s All-Classification team.

Wentz, a 6-foot-5 first-round pick (40th overall) by the Braves in 2016 out of Shawnee Mission East High in suburban Kansas City, was 8-3 with a 2.60 ERA in 26 starts at Rome and totaled a whopping 152 strikeouts with 46 walks and only four homers allowed in 131 2/3 innings. He won his last seven decisions and allowed one or no earned runs in nine of his last 12 starts.

Wilson was a fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft out of Orange High in Hillsborough,  N.C., and Braves officials have been raving about this guy ever since, after being thrilled to get him where they did in the draft. At 6-1 and 225 pounds, he’s built like a football player – for good reason; he was an accomplished linebacker, drawing got major college offers for both sports. He committed to the University of North Carolina before opting to sign with the Braves.

Wilson has a low-mid 90s fastball and good breaking ball, and he’s made significant improvement to his pitching mechanics since signing. He went 10-7 with a 2.50 ERA in 26 starts at Rome and had 139 strikeouts with 37 walks and eight homers allowed in 137 innings. He allowed two or fewer runs in all but seven starts and had 11 strikeouts with one walk in seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball Aug. 8 at Augusta.

And there you have it. Acuna got most of the headlines, and rightfully so, but plenty of other Braves prospects distinguished themselves at their respective levels in 2017 including the group above recognized by Baseball America, still the bible of the sport in the view of many.

It’s worth noting, all of the above were 19 for most or all of the season except Jackson, who was basically starting over at catcher at 21.

Johnny Cash, in my opinion the greatest of them all, died 14 years ago today. Here’s a live version of Folsom Prison Blues.

“FOLSOM PRISON BLUES” by Johnny Cash

Cash.

I hear the train a comin’
It’s rolling round the bend
And I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when,
I’m stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps draggin’ on
But that train keeps a rollin’ on down to San Antone..
When I was just a baby my mama told me. Son,
Always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns.
But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry..

I bet there’s rich folks eating in a fancy dining car
They’re probably drinkin’ coffee and smoking big cigars.
Well I know I had it coming, I know I can’t be free
But those people keep a movin’
And that’s what tortures me…

Well if they freed me from this prison,
If that railroad train was mine
I bet I’d move it on a little farther down the line
Far from Folsom prison, that’s where I want to stay
And I’d let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away…..



Full article @ On “Bae” jerseys, Acuna & Braves All-Classification All-Stars

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



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If you stopped watching, you’re missing Oz and Dansby

If you stopped watching, you’re missing Oz and Dansby

 

Hey you. Yeah, you, with the bowl of dip and the football point-spread sheet in front of you, and your Braves jersey moved to the back of the closet for the season.

Braves veteran Kurt Suzuki (left) and rookie Ozzie Albies celebrate after Suzuki drove in the winning run on a ninth-inning walk-off hit Thursday. Albies drove in the tying run earlier in the inning. (Getty Images)

If you watched the Braves for much of the season but lost interest or had your attention diverted by college football or other pursuits, I’d suggest you at least pay a bit of attention to the Bravos during this stretch drive. Because while they aren’t in the playoff race, they are showcasing the opening act of what could be one of the majors’ most exciting middle-infield productions for many years to come.

And you always want to be able to say you watched something grand when it was in its infancy, right?  Well, if you’re watching, you’re going to remember 10 years from now how second baseman Ozzie Albies was dashing around the bases on a nightly basis in August and September 2017, in his first two months in the big leagues, sliding head-first with his helmet flying off a spectacular hair flying.

And you’ll remember how Dansby Swanson, the erstwhile Golden Boy, responded to the most humbling experience of his athletic career – struggling for months and getting sent back to the minor leagues – by returning to the majors and getting his career right back on its upward arc.

Albies and Swanson are starting to make sweet music together defensively, and at the plate each is emerging as a key piece of the Braves’ lineup going forward, both hitting for higher average and getting on base at a high rate in recent weeks, both showing good plate discipline, good speed — OK, great speed in Albies’ case – and line-drive swings.

Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (2) forces out the Marlins’ Adeiny Hechavarria (3) on a ground ball fielder’s choice by Ichiro Suzuki in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, in Miami. Suzuki was safe at first base. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Perhaps you read and heard all the hype about Swanson and Albies for two springs and got a little numb to it, particularly when Swanson struggled mightily for most of the first four months this season while Albies toiled at Triple-A and … well, I can see where the excitement level might’ve been difficult to sustain for even the most ardent fans.

But it’s happening now, folks.

Everything we said these two were capable of doing, they are starting to do together as they finish their first month playing together in the majors. These young dudes can play, and as they and other Braves showed in Thursday night’s walk-off win against the Marlins, it doesn’t matter when you’re a rookie trying to show you belong whether the team is in a tie for first place or 20 games out. You’re playing the same way regardless.

And that’s what Albies and Swanson are doing, as are other rookies trying to show they’re worthy of roster consideration or a rotation spot next spring. And that, for baseball fans, is reason enough to keep watching this team for the rest of September.

“It’s pretty cool,� veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki said of the rookie keystone tandem, Albies and Swanson. “That’s kind of the present and the future right there. Obviously everybody talked about them. Obviously Dansby’s first half didn’t go the way he wanted, but the kid’s a pro. He knows what he has to do. The guy’s been a winner his whole life. So he knows what it takes to make adjustments and get himself back in the groove.�

Swanson hit .213 with a .287 OBP and .312 slugging percentage (.599  OPS) in 95 games through July 26, the day he was told he was being optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett. He had 35 walks and 84 strikeouts in 324 at-bats in that span.

Since returning from Triple-A on Aug. 9,  Swanson has hit .333 with a .427 OBP and .452 slugging percentage (.879 OPS) in 28 games and has 16 walks and 17 strikeouts in 93 at-bats in that period.

And after going 2-for-12 in his first four games back, Swanson has hit .377/.479/.519 (.998 OPS) in his past 24 games with seven doubles, two triples and 16 walks.

Albies has a .279/.336/.450 slash line in 35 games since he was called to the majors Aug. 1, his big-league arrival a little later than it would’ve been if he hadn’t broken his elbow in October and missed the Arizona Fall League and much of his regular offseason work. When he got here he was still just 20 and the youngest player in the majors, not to mention the smallest.

Upon arrival, Albies was still in the midst of making changes to his swing, particularly his left-handed swing, work that had begun under Gwinnett hitting coach John Moses and Braves special assistant and future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones. Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said Albies still had plenty of work to do and that these were significant swing adjustments he was making, but added that the kid was hungry, teachable and receptive, and that he was coming in every day for early work in the cages.

The work is paying off: Albies hit just .179 with a .230 OBP, .339 slugging (.569 OPS) in his first 16 major league games through Aug. 18, but since then he’s been a dynamo, batting .356 with a .415 OBP and .534 slugging percentage (.949 OPS). He has five doubles and four triples, 15 runs and eight RBIs in that impressive 19-game stretch, and he showed his resiliency again Thursday when he made a costly error, then came back in the ninth and hit a game-tying RBI double, before Suzuki’s game-winning single.

“He’s playing his butt off,� Suzuki said of Albies, who has earned the respect of teammates with his energy, work ethic and irresistible, all-out style of play. “This game of baseball, mistakes are going to happen. For a guy like that, he’s a confident kid. He knows his talents and abilities and kind of knew, or hoped that he was going to help in a big spot. Because with his competitiveness, you knew he was going to do something special. That’s the type of player he is and it’s been fun to be able to play with him and see him really go out there and play.�

So pay attention, those of you who consider yourselves Braves fans but stopped watching a month ago. Believe me, the stuff that Albies and Swanson are doing in their first months together in the majors is more likely to be memorable years from now than the first few weeks of football season. And besides, no reason you can’t watch both. Your football team plays only once a week.

The Bravos’ kids are appearing nightly, or at least 6-7 times a week.

• I’ll close with this obvious one, but a great one nonethless from The Who.

The Who

“THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT” by The Who
I don’t mind other guys dancing with my girl
That’s fine, I know them all pretty well
But in time I know I must get out in the light
Better leave her behind with the kids are all right
The kids are all rightSometimes I feel I gotta get away
Bells chime, I know I gotta get away
And I know if I don’t I’ll go out of my mind
Better leave her behind with the kids are all right
The kids are all rightI know if I’d go thing’s be a lot better for her
I had things planned but her folks wouldn’t let herI don’t mind other guys dancing with my girl
That’s fine, I know them all pretty well
But I know sometimes I must get out in the light
And leave her behind with the kids are all right
The kids are all rightSometimes I feel I gotta get away
Bells chime, I know I gotta get away
And I know if I don’t I’ll go out of my mind
Better leave her behind with the kids are all right
The kids are all right
The kids are all right
The kids are all right

 



Full article @ If you stopped watching, you’re missing Oz and Dansby

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



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Phillips said trade decision wasn’t easy, but Dat Dude is gone

Phillips said trade decision wasn’t easy, but Dat Dude is gone

 

CHICAGO – A day after collecting his 2,000th career hit and getting sprayed and congratulated by his Braves teammates after a doubleheader sweep at Philadelphia, Brandon Phillips was not expecting to be asked if he’d approve a trade to the Los Angeles Angels.

Brandon Phillips agreed to a trade to the Angels on Thurday, but only after talking for hours with family members and, he said, letting them make the decision. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

But baseball being a business and deadlines being deadlines, a Braves official approached Phillips shortly before Thursday’s night series opener and said he was scratched from the lineup against the Cubs because the Angels had made a trade offer for him and that it was up to him to decide if he’d approve the deal.

Oh yeah, and he only had a few hours to make up his mind because deals had to be done before midnight Eastern Time in order for traded players to be eligible for postseason rosters.

Braves trade Brandon Phillips to Angels for minor league catcher

And so he spent the game on the phone, in his Braves uniform in the visitor’s clubhouse, talking to his mom back home at Stone Mountain and other family members in Atlanta and elsewhere, asking them what they thought he should do.

“The whole damn game,� he said, able to smile about it later, after he had approved the trade and the dye was cast. “The whole game, I talked to my family. I just talked to everybody. Because this is the last thing I would’ve thought; I never thought this was going to happen. I know it’s the last day (before the postseason-roster deadline), but the last thing on my mind was getting traded. I was going out there just thinking about getting 2,001, getting my next hit, and getting a W for Atlanta.

“I was just talking to everybody — my older brother, everybody — and asking their opinion. My family made the decision for me and I’m going to Cali, I guess.â€�

He’s a 36-year-old man with four Gold Gloves, three All-Star selections, a Silver Slugger Award and a reputation for saying and pretty much doing whatever the hell he wants, even if it occasionally makes some folks cringe. He was outspoken, occasionally loud, quite funny and arguably the most entertaining player on the team.

But Phillips is also a sensitive guy – he really is — who likes being embraced and appreciated by teammates, which had been the case since he was traded from his longtime former team, the Reds, to his hometown Braves the week before spring training. (He had to approve that deal, too, because at the time he had full trade-veto rights as a player with at least 10 years of major league service and at least five years with his current team.)

Even though he’d been displaced at second base at the beginning of August when the Braves decided it was time to bring up prospect Ozzie Albies and let the kid play every day, and even though Phillips agreed to a move to third base and then immediately excelled at a position he’d never played in his major league career, and even though the Braves were now coming to him barely four weeks later and asking if he’d give his approval so they could trade him, it still wasn’t an easy decision. Not at all.

“I’m playing at the house,� Phillips said, meaning he was playing in his hometown, where it was common for a handful or more of his family and friends, guys and girls, to be outside the Braves clubhouse after home games, at least one or two wearing his jersey as the group waited for him to shower and dress before they visited with him afterward.

“I had to talk to my family first. I left my family make the decision for me. I didn’t want to leave my family,� Phillips said. “It’s fun playing for the Braves. Hopefully I can come back next year or whatever’s in the future for me. It’s really tough to leave the team that I grew up watching. This decision is much harder than leaving the Reds, honestly. Just being around the family and stuff like that. So my family made this decision for me. I’m going to go out there and do what I’ve been doing. My dream is to get a ring and that’s what I have a chance to really do now, and hopefully I can go out there and help the team out.�

Spending a month or two with a team on the West Coast pursuing a World Series ring has its appeal, for sure. But so does playing at home for a Redan High School graduate who usually wears something bearing his Atlanta pride – be it an ATLIEN shirt beneath his uniform, or an Atlanta cap, or the T-shirt he designed with Brand 47 that has illustrations of Atlanta and Stone Mountain landmarks or the 1996 Olympics, where he was a batboy.

He grew up dreaming of playing for the Braves, now he was being asked to approve a trade after spending less than one full season with them.

“My mom made the decision for me,� he said. “Just everybody in my family. I just talked to everybody and asked for their opinions, the ups and downs about me leaving home. I just let them make the decision. Still, it’s tough. I’m happy that I’m going somewhere where they’re winning, I’ll be in a playoff run and get a chance to win a ring.�

But he probably won’t have a chance to bond with them like he did with his Braves teammates. Being thrown into a playoff race as the newcomer with a bunch of players who’ve gotten this far without you is different than spending six or seven weeks together at spring training and going through the grind of a six-month regular season with each other.

And don’t think he didn’t notice and appreciate all the nice things that teammates and manager Brian Snitker said about him to reporters, starting that first week of spring training.

“I’m going to miss these guys,� he said of his Braves teammates. “I grew to love these guys in here from Day 1. They all took me in, I was the new guy. For everybody to love the guy I am and all the little compliments they were saying about me, it’s an honor. I’m sorry that we really didn’t put on for the city of Atlanta like we had the team to do. That’s the one I can really say that sucked about this season. But other than that, my family told me to go to Anaheim and try to make my dreams come true.�

After Phillips approved the trade late Thursday, Snitker met with him and let him know how he felt about Phillips.

“I just talked to him about how much I respected and appreciated everything that he did,� Snitker said. “The guy can still play. I think he did himself a huge (service) by going to third, I think it’s going to be good for his career that people saw him and how well he played. He’s a guy that comes to play. The guy likes to play baseball, as evidenced by the 2,000th hit he got yesterday.

“I just have nothing but the utmost respect for the guy because he wants to play every day, enjoys it, he has fun playing. It was fun watching him.�

Oh, about third base. Many of us had assumed Phillips was upset about the move to third base because he declined to speak to the media about that particular subject, and only that subject. But on Thursday after agreeing to the trade, he said that playing third base had actually been quite enjoyable for him. And he insisted he’d be glad to do it again for the Braves if they asked. Seriously.

“I think the big experience for me was just moving to third base,� he said. “It was fun. It was fun going over there. I learned a lot about myself, I learned a lot about baseball. Just knowing how hard it is playing different positions. I mean, I really thought playing second base and shortstop was hard, but playing third base you’ve got to get used to the hook (of the ball) and all this other stuff. I feel like I’m athletic enough to play anywhere on the field, other than being a catcher – that’s one thing I’m not doing.

“But other than that, just playing third base was a lot of fun and I would love to come back, and if they want me to do that or whatever, that’d be awesome too. But you know, right now my No. 1 goal is to get a ring. I’m playing for the Angels.

“Like I said, I didn’t want to leave here. But a team called me, they want me to go out there and help the team win, and hopefully I can do that.�

It remains to be seen whether the Braves will actually pursue him as a free agent, but general manager John Coppolella said Thursday night that they would seriously consider it.

But for now, Dat Dude has left the building. And things just got a little less colorful for this Braves September.



Full article @ Phillips said trade decision wasn’t easy, but Dat Dude is gone

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



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Those Braves Wednesday — that’s how this team was supposed to be

Those Braves Wednesday — that’s how this team was supposed to be

 

CHICAGO – Both games started in the afternoon on a work day, and on the verge of football season, so I’m betting that the TV audience for Wednesday’s Braves doubleheader sweep against the Phillies was significantly smaller than for most games this season.

Julio Teheran was sharp in the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader sweep at Philadelphia. (AP photo)

Which would be a shame because those who tuned in saw the Braves team that so many of us thought we would see on a regular basis this season. Two strong starting-pitching performances from R.A. Dickey and Julio Teheran, power from Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp, table-setting and so much more from Ender “Eight Hits� Inciarte, steady on-base production from Dansby Swanson, some jolts of energy from Ozzie Albies, strong bullpen work, etc.

But we’ve not seen all of that on the same day very often this season. Not after Kemp was injured early and hurt again and went from early-season force to the disabled list or non-factor so many nights. Not after Teheran spent much of the season producing terrible starts in the Braves’ new home ballpark. Not after Freeman fractured his wrist, missed seven weeks and returned a few weeks sooner than expected, but admittedly with a wrist that’s only at 80-85 percent strength-wise.

Not after Swanson struggled for months and didn’t start producing again until he got back from a two-week demotion to Triple-A. Not after Albies took a little longer than expected at Triple-A this season to convince team officials he was ready and that he’d made enough adjustments to his left-handed swing to give himself a reasonable chance to perform well at the big-league level. Not after closer Jim Johnson’s sinker stopped sinking and the Braves stayed with him a little longer than most though they should’ve.

But Wednesday, with the Braves long since eliminated for all intents and purposes from the wild-card race and with little to play for at Philly except pride and a strong desire not to go winless all season at Citizens Bank Park, the Braves came through with not one, but back-to-back games that reminded us of why the players, front-office officials, manager and even some media types believed the Braves could play meaningful baseball well beyond the All-Star break and maybe even into September. For one day, at least, they looked  like a solid all-around team.

Now we’ll see if they can continue it in a four-game series against a whole different caliber team than the Phillies. The Braves start a four-game series tonight (Thursday) against the Cubs at Wrigley, and the Cubs have put their lackluster first half behind them and are playing like the defending World Series champions, leading the NL Central by 3 ½ games and feeding off energized crowds at Wrigley. In other words, back to their recent norms.

But first, before this thing starts tonight at Wrigley, let’s look back at what just transpired.

Dickey and Teheran did something in Wednesday’s doubleheader that Braves starters have rarely done lately, pitching consecutive starts that weren’t just quality starts – I mean, six innings of three earned runs or fewer is not a high bar for “quality� – but outstanding starts.

Between them, Dickey and Teheran posted a 1.23 ERA in the doubleheader, allowing two earned runs in 14 2/3 innings with 17 strikeouts and only two walks. And by the way, Rhy Hoskins didn’t hit a home run in the three-game series after coming in on fire, having homered in eight consecutive days in which the Phillies played a game (they had a doubleheader in that span in which he homered in one of the games).

The three total runs allowed by the Braves in the doubleheader were the fewest allowed by Braves pitchers in consecutive games since June 8-9, when they beat the Phillies 3-1 and beat the Mets 3-2. And that was after pounding the Phillies 14-1 on June 7.

The Braves gave up four runs in that three-game winning streak June 7-9 against the Phillies and Mets, then posted a 5.02 ERA over the next 70 games while going 30-40 before Wednesday’s doubleheader sweep. In those 70 games, the Braves gave up five or more earned runs 34 times including seven or more earned runs an alarming 20 times.

Think about that: Seven or more earned runs allowed in 20 of 70 games. Combine that with the inconsistent and lately underperforming offense, and it’s not hard to see why the Braves had crumbled.

And then there was Inciarte, who was a stunning 8-for-10 with a triple, a walk and five RBIs in the two games Wednesday, only one hit shy of matching the MLB record for hits in a doubleheader. In the opening game he went 5-for-5 with a walk and four RBIs in six plate appearances, and the remarkable thing was that it was his third five-hit game of the season – he leads the majors in that category – and not even his first 5-for-5 game with at least four RBIs.

Inciarte was also 5-for-5 with five RBIs at Cincinnati on June 4, and that coupled with Wednesday’s 5-for-5 game made him just the fourth player since 1920 – the first year RBIs were an official stat – to go 5-for-5 with at least four RBIs twice in one season. The others were Joe Carter in 1986, Jeff Kent in 1999 and the Cubs’ Kris Bryant last season.

Inciarte is 32-for-79 (.405) in his past 18 games with two triples, two homers, 10 RBIs and a .960 OPS. He has 10 multi-hit games in that span including five games with at least three hits. Seldom will you see a leadoff hitter as effective as he is despite getting so few walks. He has four walks in that 18-game span and one walk with eight strikeouts in his past 12 games, but has hit .400 (22-for-44) in those dozen games.

August is going to be Inciarte’s best month statistically, as he enters tonight’s last game of the month batting .366 (41-for-112) with a .390 OBP, .464 slugging percentage and .854 OPS. His next-highest OPS was an .800 in May, when he rebounded from a sluggish first month to hit .336/.397/.403 with a seaso-high 12 walks in 28 May games.

Inciarte has hit .336 or better in three of the season’s first five months including back-to-back .336 averages in May and June. He hit .336/.375/.405 in 28 games in June with season highs of 19 runs and 13 RBIs.

After dipping to .269/.313/.380 with a .693 OPS in July, he’s bounced back with his best month in August, when Inciarte and the Braves hoped they would be immersed in a playoff drive and ready to make a September run at securing a wild-card berth.

Those dreams faded quickly after they fought to get their record to .500 at the 90-game mark July 16 after completing a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks in the first series after the All-Star break. Things came apart from their and their season spiraled, the Braves posting a majors-worst 12-27 record from July 17 through Tuesday, before sweeping Wednesday’s doubleheader at Philadelphia.

The Braves and White Sox are tied for the worst record going back to July 17 at 14-27 through Wednesday.

But the Braves still have time, a entire month, to play a lot more games like the ones they played  Wednesday and renew the faith of many fans starting to wonder if the team hasn’t taken a step or two backward in its rebuild.

• Let’s close with this great tune from Chicago’s own Smashing Pumpkins, in which they refer to the “city by the lake.”

“TONIGHT, TONIGHT” by Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins

Time
Is never time at all
You can never ever leave
Without leaving a piece of youth
And our lives are forever changed
We will never be the same
The more you change, the less you feelBelieve
Believe in meBelieve
That life can change
That you’re not stuck in vain
We’re not the same, we’re different
Tonight

Tonight
So bright
Tonight

And you know you’re never sure
But you’re sure you could be right
If you held yourself up to the light
And the embers never fade
In your city by the lake
The place where you were born

Believe
Believe in me

Believe
In the resolute urgency of now
And if you believe there’s not a chance tonight

Tonight
So bright
Tonight

We’ll crucify the insincere tonight
We’ll make things right
We’ll feel it all tonight
We’ll find a way to offer up the night
Tonight
The indescribable moments of your life
Tonight
The impossible is possible
Tonight
Believe in me as I believe in you
Tonight



Full article @ Those Braves Wednesday — that’s how this team was supposed to be

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



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Brandon Phillips on Braves’ slide: ‘We (bleeped) up’

Brandon Phillips on Braves’ slide: ‘We (bleeped) up’

 

PHILADELPHIA – Brandon Phillips has seen plenty in a 16-year major league career and formed some strong opinions. And if there ever was a point in his professional life where he was reluctant to express himself, well, he certainly is long past that stage.

Brandon Phillips received a warm welcome from the Cincinnati crowd when the Braves played the Reds this season in Cincy, where he spent the bulk of his career. (AP photo)

He’s in his first season with the Braves, who have spiraled to a 12-27 record since reaching the .500 point at 45-45 on July 16.

“The coaching staff, Snit’s (Brian Snitker) doing a great job,� Phillipss said. “I feel like we should be doing way better for him. But it’s a learning stage….

“I just feel like once we got to .500, we were like, ‘Oh, we did our job.’ (Stuff) just hit the…. We just broke off. I feel like the city of Atlanta deserves more than what we’ve been giving them. But for myself, coming here, I feel like I can help that out and it’d be nice for me to just be here the rest of my career.�

More in a moment from Phillips on the Braves’ decline since reaching .500. First, a brief recap:

He had two hits including an RBI single Monday to drive in the Braves’ only run in a 6-1 loss to the Phillies, leaving the 36-year-old former Gold Glove second baseman-turned-third baseman just one hit away from becoming the 12th active major leaguer with 2,000 hits. Which he’s not ready to talk about until he gets there.

“I don’t even know how many more hits I need; I don’t really like to hear about those things,� Phillips said before Monday’s game, when I went over to ask him about needing just three hits to join teammate Nick Markakis in the 2,000-hit club, the initial point in my approach him at his locker. “I didn’t know that, but I’m not the type of person that worries about stuff like that.

“I don’t really think about that stuff until it happens. In this game anything can happen, so I don’t worry about things until they happen, really. That’s just how I’ve always been. I try my best not to worry about stats. Whatever happens, happens.�

Understandable, I said, but wasn’t quite ready to walk away with nothing on the subject. So I asked him if stats like 2,000 hits meant more to him than some other individual achievements since it meant he had put together a long and consistent career.

“You can ask me that question after I do it,� he said cordially, and he flashing that big, disarming smile that makes it impossible for you not to smile back. “I haven’t did it yet. How I look at it is, I just play baseball. Like I said, I haven’t done it yet, but if it happens, when it does happen, I can give you all the answers you want. But anything can happen. This game is crazy. I’ve seen crazy (stuff) happen, man.

“So until it happens – I wish I didn’t know I needed three more hits, but you just told me.�

Now he needs one more hit, so there’s a good chance Phillips joins the 2,000 hit club tonight at Philadelphia, seeing that he has a 13-game hitting streak and has batted .352 (25-for-71) with three homers and 10 RBIs in his past 16 games.

Phillips has hit .293 overall, which would be his third consecutive season above .290 if he keeps it up, and has 39 extra-base hits including 11 home runs, a .331 OBP, which would be his highest since .353 in an All-Star season in 2011. His .427 slugging percentage would be his highest since a .429 in 2012, when he finished 13th in the National League MVP balloting.

In 39 games since the All-Star break, he’s hit .319 with 13 extra-base hits, a .341 OBP and .798 OPS. But here’s the thing: The Braves are just 14-25 in those last 39 games he’s played.

And most importantly, the Braves are just 12-27 since they scratched and clawed to get their record to .500 at the 90-game mark.

There had been talk when they got to 45-45 that the Braves might be ahead of projections in their rebuild and might actually make a run at a wild-card spot. But those hopes have disintegrated in the weeks since for many reasons, of which Phillips has an opinion.

I reminded him Monday what he said a few weeks before the Braves got to .500, when he predicted once they got to .500 they would either soar and make a run at a playoff berth … or go the other direction. He was right. It was one or the other, and they have, indeed, gone the other direction. In a major way.

You hit the nail on the head, I said to him Monday. And Phillips smiled that knowing smile and offered one of those strong opinions he doesn’t hold back.

“I know baseball, man,� he said. “I know players, I know how things can happen. We were all grinding to get there. You could tell, our swag and everything was going toward getting there. We were hungry, we were like, ‘We’re almost there, we can do it.’ But the thing is, once we get there we’re either going to keep doing what we’re doing, or not. That’s the only way we could have won. And when we got there, we just (screwed) up. I just know that’s how it is.

“I said, once we get there we’re either going to go up or we’re going to go down. And we haven’t seen that (expletive) since….

“You’ll see what kind of team you are when you start winning. When you win, you see what type of players you have and you see what kind of team you have. And that’s what happened. It’s real. I did it when I was with Dusty (Baker, his former manager with the Reds). I saw when we were winning and losing. Being with Dusty for all them years when we were winning, either guys were stepping their game up and starting to be team players, or when you’re losing then people start being selfish.

“It’s kind of hard to win when you’ve got some guys being selfish and some guy who want to win. You have to be on the same page. It’s just how it is.

“That’s just baseball, man.�

By the way, for those wondering if the Braves’ decision at the beginning of August to supplant Phillips at second base with prospect Ozzie Albies and ask Phillips to play third base had soured the veteran on his previously stated desire to return to the Braves after his contract is up at the end of 2017, it has not.

But it also seems a long shot at best, and he said there have been no talks with the organization in that regard.

“Nobody’s really brought it to my attention,� he said. “It’d be nice to come back. This would be a nice play to finish my career, I’m from here, from Stone Mountain, but nobody’s really said nothing to me about it. So that’s just something I don’t worry about until it happens.�

But yes, he’d like to remain with the hometown Braves, if they’d want him back.

“Oh, yeah, that’d be nice. It’d be nice to come back here,� he said. “I love my teammates, I love the little youth movement that they’re doing. Freddie, Kemp’s going to be here for a little bit, Markakis gonna be here. It’s still young, basically the same thing as when I first came over here.�

Snitker, for one, has no doubts about Phillips being able to continue playing at a high level beyond this season.

“Yeah, especially playing third base. It’s kind of, I would think, less wear and tear on his body, not having to cover so much ground. As well as he’s played it, my God, I would think…. Because he can still hit. That rascal, he’ll be hitting when he’s 60. He’s one of those guys, you can throw him in the batter’s box and he’ll be able to hit. He’s ever going to probably not know how to hit.�

•  I’ll close with another slice of Philly soul, here’s the great Lou Rawls.

“YOU’LL NEVER FIND ANOTHER LOVE LIKE MINE” by Lou Rawls

You’ll never find, as long as you live
Someone who loves you tender like I do
You’ll never find, no matter where you search
Someone who cares about you the way I do

Whoa, I’m not braggin’ on myself, baby
But I’m the one who loves you
And there’s no one else! No… one else

You’ll never find, it’ll take the end of all time
Someone to understand you like I do
You’ll never find the rhythm, the rhyme
All the magic we shared, just us two

Whoa, I’m not tryin’ to make you stay, baby
But I know some how, some day, some way
You are (you’re gonna miss my lovin’)
You’re gonna miss my lovin’ (you’re gonna miss my lovin’)
You’re gonna miss my lovin’ (you’re gonna miss my lovin’)
You’re gonna miss, you’re gonna miss my love

Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh (you’re gonna miss my lovin’)
Late in the midnight hour, baby (you’re gonna miss my lovin’)
When it’s cold outside (you’re gonna miss my lovin’)
You’re gonna miss, you’re gonna miss my love

You’ll never find another love like mine
Someone who needs you like I do
You’ll never see what you’ve found in me
You’ll keep searching and searching your whole life through

Whoa, I don’t wish you no bad luck, baby
But there’s no ifs and buts or maybes

(You’re gonna) You’re gonna miss (miss my lovin’)
You’re gonna miss my lovin’ (you’re gonna miss my lovin’)
I know you’re gonna miss my lovin’ (you’re gonna miss mylovin’)
You’re gonna miss, you’re gonna miss my love

Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh (you’re gonna miss my lovin’)
Late in the midnight hour, baby (you’re gonna miss my lovin’)
When it gets real cold outside (you’re gonna miss my lovin’)
I know, I know that you are gonna miss my loove

Let me tell you that you’re gonna miss my lovin’
Yes you will, baby (you’re gonna miss my lovin’)
When I’m long gone
I know, I know, I know that you are gonna miss my love
You gonna miss my love



Full article @ Brandon Phillips on Braves’ slide: ‘We (bleeped) up’

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



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Braves try again to end inexplicable skid vs. Phillies

Braves try again to end inexplicable skid vs. Phillies

 

PHILADELPHIA – After dropping all three series on the nine-game homestand that ended with a thud when the Braves were shut out by the Rockies, the struggling Bravos are back on the road to face one of the best teams (Cubs) in the National League and statistically the worst team (Phillies) in the majors. And guess which of those teams has dominated the Braves this season?

OK, that’s was a trick question. They both have.

Lucas Sims hasn’t faced the Phillies before, so maybe he’s the perfect guy for the Braves to turn to when he starts Monday’s series opener as the Braves look to finally win at Citizens Bank Park. They were swept in their past two series there and are 2-11 vs. the Phillies in 2017. (AP photo)

Right after the Braves swept a three-game series from the Diamondbacks coming out of the All-Star break to get their record to 45-45 and stoke talk of a possible run at a wild-card spot, the Cubs supplied a rude awakening by following the Dbacks into Atlanta and sweeping a three-game series July 17-19. That began the slide that has continued pretty much unabated, the Braves having lost 26 of their past 38 games to fall to 57-71, with the same number of wins as the fourth-place, injury-riddled Mets (57-73).

But before the Braves go to Chicago later this week to try for a little payback – or at least maybe a split – they will try to do a couple of things they haven’t done all season: Win a game in Philadelphia and win a series against the Phillies.

It still is hard to fathom that the Braves are 2-11 against the Phillies this season entering tonight’s series opener, and that the Braves have been swept in seven games in their first two series at Citizen Bank Park, where the Braves will turn to rookie Lucas Sims for his first start in Philly when he takes the ball tonight. The Phillies have the worst record (48-81) in the majors, and against teams not named the Braves the Phillies are 37-79 overall and 20-35 at home.

And now the Braves, in their final series in Philly and one of their last two series against the Phillies this season, will try to avoid further embarrassment by taking at least two of three. It won’t be easy, because as bad as the Phillies are, they thrive against Atlanta and they’ve also received an injection of excitement since the arrival of rookie slugger Rhys Hoskins. He was called up Aug. 10 – the day after the Phillies completed a two-game sweep at SunTrust Park – and has hit like late-career Barry Bonds since joining the big-league club.

That’s only a slight exaggeration: In 18 major league games, Hoskins has hit .297 with an astounding 11 home runs, 24 RBIs, a .408 OBP and .828 slugging percentage. Yes, in his first 18 big-league games, he has 11 homers and a 1.236 OPS, with almost as many walks (11) as strikeouts (12). He’s the fastest to reach 11 homers in major league history, doing it in 64 at-bats. And he’s already set a Phillies rookie record for homers in a month, despite not hitting his first homer until Aug. 14. And the Phillies still have four games left in the month.

So there’s that for the Braves to contend with, as if they needed something else to overcome against their improbable nemesis from Philly.

The Braves lost their first five games against the Phillies, won the last two (June 7-8) of a four-game series at SunTrust Park to salvage a split, and have lost the last six in a row. Yes, the Braves have five-game and six-game losing streaks this season against the team with baseball’s worst winning percentage (.372).

Atlanta has scored 47 runs in 13 games against the Phillies, and 14 of those runs came in one game June 7, a 14-1 win. The Braves have totaled 33 runs in their other 12 games against the Phillies, an anemic 2.75 scoring average in a dozen games against a team with a 4.75 ERA — which ranks 24th in the majors, one spot ahead of the Braves (4.77).

And the Braves have been remarkably consistent, scoring three runs or fewer in 10 games against the Phillies including six of the seven games at Citizens Bank Park, where Phillies pitchers have allowed 103 home runs, tied for third-most in the majors at home behind the Reds (112) and Twins (108).

Their struggles against the Phillies – a team that most of us figured the Braves could beat up on this season – have contribute to the ongoing slide for the Bravos. Since winning the first two games (July 20-21) of a four-game series at Dodger Stadium, the Braves are 10-23 with a 5.26 ERA, been outscored 175-137, out-homered 47-35, and out-OPS’d .830-.741

After winning the first two games (Aug. 4-5) of a three-game series against the Marlins, their last series win, the Braves lost the finale to begin a stretch in which they are 6-13 with a 5.23 ERA.

The Braves have scored two or fewer runs in six of those 19 games – including two times shut out by the Rockies — while Atlanta pitchers have allowed five or more runs in 10 of those 19 games.

By the way, speaking of hitter-friendly ballparks, as we were regarding Citizens Bank Park here in Philly, now would be a good time to point out that the Braves’ 84 homers allowed at home (in 65 games) ranks 11th in the majors. And considering the proclivity of some Braves pitchers for giving up plenty of homers whether home or on the road, it’s become pretty apparent to many of us that the early narrative of SunTrust Park being “the new Launching Pad� was way overblown.

The Braves have given up 82 homers in 63 road games, tied for 16th in the majors in road homers allowed. That’s 1.30 homers per game allowed by Braves pitchers on the road, and 1.29 homers per game allowed by Braves pitchers at SunTrust Park.

There are five teams that have given up 102 or more homers at home, followed by the Mariners (94) and then a group of 12 teams that have given up 80-88 homers at home this season. The Braves are in that group, pretty much right in the middle of the majors.

Meanwhile, Braves hitters have just 63 homers in 65 home games, 27th in the majors, compared to 72 homers in 63 road games, tied for 24th in the majors. So despite knowing by now the quirks of their new home park and how the ball carries, etc., the Braves hit more homers on the road than at home.

So please, stop with the home-run park nonsense. Neither the Braves nor their opponents are hitting homers at a high rate at SunTrust Park this season compared to other teams and other parks, which are the only comparisons that are really relevant for the discussion.

For now, they just need to figure out how to hit a few more than the opposition at Citizens Bank Park these next three days. And try to keep this kid Hoskins in the park for at least a game or two in the series.

• I’ll close with this this classic cut of Philly Soul, with the mighty Teddy Pendergrass on vocals. It don’t get much better than this.

“IF YOU DON’T KNOW ME BY NOW” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes

If you don’t know me by now
You will never never never know me
 
All the things that we’ve been through
You should understand me like I understand you
Now girl I know the difference between right and wrong
I ain’t gonna do nothing to break up our happy home
Oh don’t get so excited when I come home a little late at night
Cause we only act like children when we argue, fuss and fight
 
If you don’t know me by now (If you don’t know me by now)
You will never never never know me (You’ll never, never know me)
If you don’t know me by now
You will never never never know me (No, you won’t)
 
We’ve all got our own funny moods
I’ve got mine, woman you’ve got yours too
Just trust in me like I trust in you
As long as we’ve been together it should be so easy to do
Just get yourself together or we might as well say goodbye
What good is a love affair when you can’t see eye to eye, oh
 
If you don’t know me by now (If you don’t know me)
You will never never never know me (No you won’t)
If you don’t know me by now (You will never never never know me)
You will never never never know me (ooh)



Full article @ Braves try again to end inexplicable skid vs. Phillies

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



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