Friday, July 30, 2010

Heeeeere's Jonny!

Major League Baseball came to its senses today and rescinded the entire 4-game suspension Jonny Venters had been given following the two-week-old Fielder-gate incident. Venter’s fine was also reduced. I’m a bit puzzled why MLB would erase the entire suspension but then still leave some of the fine. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.

In addition to Jonny and Bobby Cox’s steadfast denial that the HBP was unintentional, let’s take a look at the numbers that the Braves might have used to plead Venters’ case. First, Prince Fielder has already been hit 17 times this season, including twice within only a week following Venters’ bean ball. Only Prince’s teammate Rickie Weeks (19) has been hit more in all of baseball. At nearly 300lb, Fielder is probably the largest batter’s box target in game. He stands close to the plate and his approach often leads him to ‘fall’ into the pitch as it’s sailing towards him. Venters also isn’t exactly immune to hitting batters this season. In his 44 appearances (50.1 IP) this season, he’s already hit 4 batters and walked 23. Those numbers don’t scream control.

The timing of this decision could not have been better as the reeling Braves head to the launching pad that is The Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. The rookie Venters has quietly (to non-Braves fans, anyway) become a critical part of this team. He began to show dominance left-handed specialist and has since been increasingly used in an 8th inning set-up role. The reasons are obvious..Venters has been flat out GOOD.

Jonny Venters likely won't pick up a single Rookie of the Year vote at the end of the season. He’s not an everyday position player, he’s not a starting pitcher and he’s not even a closer (though he does have 1 save to lead all NL rookies). But he’s been an impressive pitcher out of the pen and his numbers stack up against the league’s rookies pretty well. He leads in ERA (1.07), games (44) and is eighth in strikeouts (51).

Venters’ numbers (through July 29, 2010):

  • G – 44
  • IP – 50.1
  • ERA – 1.07
  • WHIP – 1.03
  • K – 51
  • K/9IP – 9.12
  • BB/9IP – 4.11
  • K/BB – 2.22 

Glad to have him ‘back.’

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Brought To You By The Letters R, I, S and P

Another poor start from Derek Lowe helped the Nationals take the series today in Washington by a 5-3 score. It was only thanks to a gem from Tim Hudson on Wednesday that saved the Braves from being swept by the last place Nats. The Braves went 2-4 and lost consecutive series to the 4th and 5th place teams in the NL East. The Braves are now just 9-15 in three-year-old Nationals Park and the loss drops them to 24-30 (.444) on the road this year. Something tells me the team is looking forward to returning to Turner Field on August 2nd.

Over the last 14 games (post All-Star break and last game of the 7/8-10 Mets series in New York), the Braves are a worrisome 6-8. That’s not exactly how a first place team should be playing deep into a pennant race, especially as the Phillies offense is quickly awakening from its two-month slumber. Add in the fact that our NL East rivals picked up Roy Oswalt in a lopsided trade with the Astros, you begin to see that the Braves need to right this ship…and fast.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fine, You Win

As a Braves fan from Upstate, NY, the series loss against the Marlins was even more frustrating than normal. Unless a game is picked up as a national broadcast or we’re playing the Mets (games are usually on SNY locally..ugh), MLB Gameday and Twitter serve as my only ways to follow games. Twitter’s helpful, but it’s obviously not the same as following a game real-time. And as I’m sure many users already know, MLB Gameday can be quite frustrating. For example, when Nate McLouth was at bat Saturday in the 8th with based loaded, Gameday showed he hit into a double play, leaving 2 outs and runners on second and third. Next thing I knew, my fellow Braves twitter-ers told me that Brooks Conrad had just hit a pinch-hit grand slam. But how was that possible with just two runners on?! After a long delay, Gameday updated to show that McLouth simply grounded out to the pitcher, followed by the Brooks blast.

Long story short (well, not really), I purchased Premium on Sunday for the rest of the season. Their free preview a couple weeks ago wasn’t exactly the greatest thing in the world, but if spending $60 is the only way for me to confidently know what’s going during a game from Upstate, NY, so be it. The online subscription started just in time for me to watch Jesse Chavez blow the game in the 11th. Joy.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Nate Who? Jesse Who?

A depressing series loss gets a depressing blog post. The Braves dropped two of three to the Marlins in a series that realistically could have been swept by the good guys. Billy Wagner blew his second save in as many chances on Friday and the Braves wasted numerous chances on Sunday to grab the lead (the Braves had just 1 RBI in 5 bases loaded plate appearances..that included two GIDP). A clutch pinch-hit grand slam by Brooks Conrad on Saturday allowed Atlanta to snag at least one game in Florida.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Another Series, Another Series Win

We’ve seen this movie before..and it’s one of my favorites. The Braves completed a pounding of the San Diego Padres yesterday with an impressive 8-0 shutout. Heading into the 9th inning of Wednesday’s game, Atlanta looked ready to earn other series victory, but a rare Billy Wagner blown save and a 12th inning loss later, the Braves were in danger of an even rarer series loss heading into yesterday afternoon’s contest. But Tim Hudson’s seven scoreless innings made sure that would not happen. Braves pitchers held Adrian Gonzalez, the key to the Padres’ offense, to a 1-12 with 6 K series performance. Not an easy task. The Braves success was complimented by the Mets somehow being swept by the NL West basement Diamondbacks and the Phillies dropping three of four to the Cardinals. Atlanta now owns the NL’s best record and their division lead continues to grow.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Braves Down The Brew

The Braves managed to salvage a series split against the Brewers on Sunday with an offensive-laden 11-6 win. Brian McCann had a huge day with a third-inning grand slam and an RBI walk. Matt Diaz added his own homer with a solo shot in the 5th and Omar Infante banged out four hits in place of the ailing Chipper Jones. Chipper sat out for the second consecutive day with a strained hamstring. Diaz continues to hammer left-handed pitching and his performance (3-4, 3 RBI) is beginning to lessen the need for an outfield bat from the trade market.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thanks!...I Think?

The Braves opened up the second half of the 2010 season last night with a 2-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers to begin a four game series. The win, coupled with Mets and Phillies losses, pushed Atlanta to 5 games up in the NL East. The game wasn't on television in Upstate, NY...BUT, I was able to watch it online thanks to The service is currently offering a 'reward' (read: promotion) for those who cast a ballot in the All-Star Game Final Vote. Voters have the chance to sign-up for a free 10-day (July 10-20) trial of's Premium online service. Hooking up the laptop to the TV meant I could watch a semi-decent HD quality Peachtree TV broadcast of the game. Good enough for me.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Second Half: Where To Go From Here?

Now that the Braves have seemingly addressed an inefficiency, at least offensively, at the shortstop position with the trade for Alex Gonzalez, will there be any more moves by the Braves before the trade deadline? For at the past couple months there have been rumors that the team might be interested in a leftfielder or centerfielder, particularly one with some pop. Things might depend on how well Jason Heyward and Nate McLouth perform following their return from the DL. If a move is needed, a number of possible candidates are out there and while the Gonzalez acquisition has somewhat lessened the need for a power bat, the Braves have plenty enough minor league pitching depth should a potential deal make sense. Good players require good players in return, but I think the Braves should be hesitant to include Freddie Freeman, Mike Minor or Julio Teheran in any package. Freeman looks to be the first baseman of the future, Minor is the only near-ready Braves true lefty starter and Teheran might be the best pitching prospect in the game. Frank Wren was burned in the Mark Teixeira to Texas deal, so we can probably expect him to be a bit more careful this time.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Yunel Escobar Traded to Toronto for Alex Gonzalez

MLB Trade Rumors is reporting (now confirmed by Atlanta) that the Braves have sent Yunel and minor league LHP Jo-Jo Reyes to Toronto for SS Alex Gonzalez and minor leaguers LHP Tim Collins and SS Tyler Pastronicky.

It had been rumored recently that the Braves were listening to possible offers for Yunel in a season of significant offensive drop-off and critiques of his effort and attitude. The Braves are probably selling a bit low here, but it seems the team was likely tired of waiting for Yunel to reach his potential..both on and off the field.

Alex Gonzalez has been part of the home run boom in Toronto this season and is in the middle of what might be a career power year, having already hit 17 HRs (he now leads the Braves in that category) and driven in 50 RBIs. His OBP is seriously lacking, and has throughout his career (.294), but it's not exactly like Yunel was lighting it up in that department this year. Gonzalez comes with a $2.5m club option for next year, so there is still a bit of stability there if the Braves want/need it. If he shows similar power in the second half, then the trade could very likely pay-off for the Braves, who could really use a right-handed power bat. I don't consider Jo-Jo to be much of a loss as he's seemed to be the prototypical Quad A player, having been consistently hit pretty hard in his handful of major league appearances over the past few years.

Brian McCann, Your 2010 All-Star MVP

Braves catcher Brian McCann won the 2010 Ted Williams All-Star MVP award last night as the National League finally defeated the AL 3-1 in Anaheim. McCann's 3-run double in the 7th off a Matt Thornton 98mph fastball proved to be the only runs needed as the senior circuit held the home team to just one unearned run. McCann's rip down the right field line ended the NL's 13-year All-Star winless streak. Not surprisingly, there's been very little local media coverage of the game so far this morning. I'm going to really go out on a limb and suggest that if a Yankee or Met..or even or a Red Sox (Red Sock?)..won MVP, we'd be seeing a lot more coverage of the entire game. Shocker.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nothing Minor About 7,005!

On Sunday I made the short drive across the Hudson River to 'The Joe" in Troy, NY to catch the Tri-City ValleyCats game. The ValleyCats are the Short-Season Class A affiliate of the Houston Astros, competing in the NY-Penn League. I happened to be joined by another 7,004 fans! The game against the Jamestown Jammers (Florida Marlins affiliate) was 'Time Warner Fan Appreciate Night' and brought in nearly half as many fans as the Jammers' MLB parent club Marlins are averaging this season (16,664... *cough - ya right - cough*). The ValleyCats moved to Troy to start the 2002 season following a period of time in Pittsfield, MA and represent the 'tri-cities' of Albany, Schenectady and Troy. This summer's team features 2010 first round pick (33rd overall) Mike Kvasnicka while Ben Zobrist and Hunter Pence lead the list of ValleyCats MLB alumni. The Jammers defeated the ValleyCats 9-6.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Weekend of Baseball

The Braves are sitting pretty in 1st place heading into the All-Star break after taking 2 of 3 against the rival Mets at Citi Field. Each game was on a national broadcast (Fri - MLB Network, Sat - FOX, Sun - TBS), but all were blacked out here in upstate, NY and picked up by local SNY/CW broadcasts.

I took the 2.5hr trip down the NYS Thruway for Saturday's match-up. Tim Hudson lived up to his All-Star status with a dominant 7 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 3 K, 2 BB performance. The Braves finally cashed in on Mike Pelfrey's ineffectiveness with 4 runs in the 5th inning, including a Tim Hudson RBI double. The lefty bullpen tandem of Jonny Venters and Billy Wagner closed out the 8th and 9th to preserve a 4-0 shutout for Atlanta.

Here's a few shots of the game for your viewing pleasure...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Braves vs. Mets at Citi Field...ON TV!

The first place Braves take on the Mets this weekend for a three game series in Queens. A Braves vs. Mets game is always bittersweet for me. It means I'll be able to watch the game in my SNY viewing area, but I'll also have to suffer through listening to the Mets announcers. I'm sure listening to a rival team's broadcasts aren't fun for anyone, but SNY's Keith Hernandez and, to a lesser extent, Ron Darling especially irritate me. Tonight's game is also scheduled to be on MLB Network, but will be blacked out in local areas (aka: mine).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Five Braves in Mid Season Top 50 Prospects List

From my friends over at Bullpen Banter, five Braves prospects made their mid-season ranking of top prospects. 5. Julio Teheran - RHP 12. Randall Delgado - RHP 21. Mike Minor - LHP 24. Arodys Vizcaino - RHP 42. Freddie Freeman - 1B Despite the Bullpen Banter guys being low on the Braves coming into this season (their pre-season prediction had ATL at 4th in the NL East), it's pleasing to see the team's great minor league system getting some much due recognition. Being in New York, it's obviously difficult to see the any of the Braves prospects play in person on any regular basis. The most 'northern' minor league Braves affiliate is the rookie-ball Danville Braves in Virginia. The Triple A Gwinnett Braves were scheduled to play the Syracuse Chiefs (AAA Nationals) in early May when I had tickets to check out the aforementioned Freddie Freeman, but rain decimated the series. The game I was set to see was PPD and was eventually made up down in Gwinnett.


Welcome to my new blog, "Braves State of Mind." As the Bravos sit in first place with the best record in the National League only a few days before the Mid-Summer Classic, I thought it an appropriate time to create this blog and start offering my prespective as a dedicated Braves fan more than 1,000 miles away from Turner Field. In a region dominated by Yankees, Mets and Red Sox fans, I plan to blog about my thoughts on all things Atlanta Braves from a long distance fan's view: games, players, minor leagues, prospects, media coverage...and more! Please feel free to offer your comments and questions...Enjoy!!