Thursday, April 28, 2011

Braves Status Report: 26 Games (13-13)

Now that's more like it! The Braves finished up their West Coast road trip going 5-1 over their last 6 games, including a sweep of the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants. The team now sits in 3rd place in the division with a .500 record, 4 games back of the Phillies.

The past week included some dominant pitching performances and an energized offense. The Braves averaged an even 6 runs per game over the past week, nearly 3 runs more than they were averaging following their series loss at the hands of the Dodgers. But drilling down into the numbers, Atlanta only hit a paltry .227 with an anemic .295 OBP during those 6 games, even a few ticks below their season averages. But it was the team's performance with runners in scoring position that made the difference. They hit a scorching .365 with RISP this past week, a significant departure from their woes in those situations last season. Braves hitters also drove in 16 runs with 2 outs over the week, a number that represents nearly 45% of their runs scored during the 6 games.

The upcoming week will see the Cardinals and Brewers visit Turner Field. At a combined 25-23, the two NL Central teams will help us fans see if the team has turned a corner or if they simply took advantage of a couple scuffling teams out west. So, without further ado, here are this week's (6 games) "Cheers and Jeers"....


Jason Heyward - After a rough previous week, J-Hey hit the lights out of the ball over his past 6 games. His torrid .423/.483/.692 line for the week included 11 hits (2 HR) and 6 RBI. While I think his pitch selection is still off a bit, he's putting a much better swing on the balls he decides to go after. More of his grounders are going up the middle and he's driving some pitches to the opposite field. The sophomore slugger is most effective at the plate when he's using all parts of the field.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pictures of Gwinnett Braves, Julio Teheran vs. Charlotte

A friend of mine, and fellow Braves fan (an Upstate, NY native who recently relocated to North Carolina), was able to catch Julio Teheran's start last night against the Charlotte Knights at Knights Stadium. He kindly shared these couple shots he took during the game.

The 20-year-old phenom did not disappoint in his start, needing only 89 pitches to go 8 innings while earning his second win this year. Teheran surrendered 3 ER to go along with 6 H, 7 K and 1 BB. He now sits at 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA on the season.

Teheran, on the mound

Teheran, hatless

Monday, April 25, 2011

Empire State Braves Prospects: 4/26/11

Here's how the Empire State prospects performed this past week (4/19-4/25)....

Anthony Varvaro, RHP (Triple A - Gwinnett)
With Jairo Asencio's call-up to Atlanta, it looked like there was a chance that Varvaro might end up in the closer role. But over the past week, Stephen Marek has been given those opportunities. Varvaro's one appearance was in a middle relief situation.

This Week: 1 G (0-0), 1.2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 2 K, 0 BB
Season: 6 G (0-2), 8 IP, 5.63 ERA, 5 K, 6 BB

Corey Brownsten, C (High Single A - Lynchburg)
Brownsten was placed on the 7-day DL on 4/20. The Hillcats added another catcher, Shawn McGill, the same day to fill Brownsten's spot. We should see in the next day or two what the Lockport, NY native's status is as he becomes eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday.

This Week: DNP
Season: 3 G, .182/.250/.273, 0 HR, 0 RBI

Dave Filak, RHP (Single A - Rome)
Filak had one start this week and managed to recover from the previous week's rough-up.

This Week: 1 G (0-0), 4 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 1 HR, 3 K, 3 BB
Season: 3 G (1-1), 11.1 IP, 5.56 ERA, 8 K, 10 BB

Dan Jurik, RHP (Single A - Rome)
The 2011 Dan Jurik saga continues. This week brought good news. The former St. John Fisher Cardinal was again brought-up to Rome from Extended Spring Training and saw some action the day after his arrival. Jurik had another dominant outing, this time in middle-inning mop-up relief. It will be interesting to see if he earns any starts or if he's only used in a relief role.

This Week: 1 G (0-0), 2.2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 5 K, 0 BB
Season: 2 G (0-0), 1 SV, 4.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 7 K, 1 BB

Brendan Rowland, C/OF (Gulf Coast League)

Season Has Not Yet Begun

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Braves Status Report: 20 Games (8-12)

So this losing thing is already getting old. The Braves went 3-4 over the past week and now sit at 8-12 on the season. The same issues seem to be persisting: great pitching, solid defense and near-nonexistent offense. Yes, it’s still ‘early’ in the season, but these games count and the team’s already 4.5 games behind the division-leading Phillies (pending their game tonight at San Diego). With the Giants pitching staff getting ready to face the Braves next, it’s not going to get easier any time soon.

Outside of Jair Jurrjens missing his first start and a Peter Moylan DL-stint, the team’s been essentially injury free, so they should be putting their best product on the field. Weaknesses are already becoming clear, including some bullpens roles and hitting options off the bench. Again, it’s still ‘early’ (when exactly is it no longer ‘early?’), but Fredi Gonzalez , Frank Wren & Co. should not be afraid to tap into the successful farm system when some tweaking becomes necessary. That time may be nearer than we think.

With all that being said, here are some highlights over the past week (7 games, beginning with the doubleheader on 4/16). With so many blogs using the “who’s hot, who’s not” categories, I’m going to switch it up to the amazingly original “cheers and jeers.” They are….


Freddie Freeman – Freddie has continued on his tear. Moving up to the 6th/7th spot in the line-up, he’s beginning to show the power he displayed at Gwinnett last year. The rookie first baseman went 6-17 with 3 HR and 5 RBI this week. Surprisingly, he’s actually hitting lefties better than righties. He battles LHP well, staying in against tough off-speed pitches, already much better than other LHB throughout the league. While he’s still getting comfortable fielding his position, he’s already made a myriad of impressive scoops on throws from his fellow infielders. Let’s hope he keeps it all up!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Empire State Braves Prospects: 4/19/11

Continuing with last week's introductory post, here's a quick look at how the Braves prospects with New York State connections have performed over the past week.

Anthony Varvaro, RHP (Triple A - Gwinnett)
With Jairo Asencio being called up to Atlanta a few days ago, it looks like Varvaro is being used as the main late-inning option. Can't tell for sure yet whether he's 'officially' the closer (Gwinnett hasn't been in a save situation since Asencio left), but we should know soon. He's seen some 7th, 8th and 9th inning action over the past week, including giving up a walk-off three-run HR to the Durham Bulls in extra innings on Monday. His stats for the week include an appearance on 4/11 that wasn't included in last week's update.

This Week:  4 G (0-1), 4 IP, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 H, 1 HR, 3 K, 4 BB
Season: 5 G (0-2), 6.1 IP, 7.11 ERA, 3 K, 6 BB 

Cory Brownsten, C (High Single A - Lynchburg)
Looks like Brownsten's splitting some starting time at the catcher's position with Braeden Schlehuber. Unfortunately, he hasn't taken much advantage of it recently.

This Week: 2 G, 0-8, 1 K
Season: 3 G, .182/.250/.273, 0 HR, 0 RBI

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Braves Status Report: 13 Games (5-8)

The Braves dropped their third consecutive series Thursday, falling to the Marlins 6-5. The team went 2-4 over the past week and are struggling to get on the right track. We've seen a couple strong pitching performances (especially Hanson's on Tuesday), some decent offense and impressive defense, but the Braves haven't been able to do it all consistently. As Atlanta gets ready to welcome the woeful Mets (I could use some gloating ammunition here in Upstate, NY!), let's take a look at the highlights over the last week (April 8th - April 14th).

Who's Hot:

Chipper Jones - The week included some significant milestones for Chipper, including career hit number 2,500 and career RBI number 1,500 (on his first HR of the season, nonetheless), further solidifying his Hall of Fame resume. He also sits just 3 doubles away from 500 and should pick those up over the next week or two. The Braves legend knocked in 7 RBI in 6 games this week while going 7-21 with 3 walks. He's doing his part to keep this offense afloat.

Martin Prado - The Braves lead-off guy also hit over .300 for the week, going 8-26 through 6 games. Prado hasn't walked much and hasn't shown as much power as he did last year, but has rapped out his own share of doubles. Prado needs to continue to set the plate for the Braves offense to be successful.

Freddie Freeman - You might look at Freddie's .214 season average and wonder how exactly he can be considered 'hot.' The rookie first baseman went 6-19 through these 6 games and is now riding a seven-game hitting streak after knocking out just 2 hits through the first 6 games of the season. The streak has included a couple doubles as well as some bullets that unfortunately found fielders' gloves. Freeman has also made plenty of impressive picks at first, looking much more veteran than the back of his baseball card states he is.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Empire State Braves Prospects: 4/12/11

With this blog’s focus on being a Braves fan from Upstate, NY, I thought it might be a fun idea to follow Braves prospects who specifically have connections to New York State. With snow on the ground from October/November through March/April, the Empire State isn’t exactly conducive to professional-level baseball development. Spring practice usually involves weeks of indoor play and each season begins with plenty of snow-outs. But while New York State weather can wreak havoc, there are still a handful of New Yorkers scattered throughout the Braves organization. I hope to provide updates weekly.

Anthony Varvaro, RHP (Triple A - Gwinnett)
While not from upstate, Varvaro does have plenty of New York State roots, having grown up in Staten Island. After high school, he stayed in-state while playing for the St. John’s University Red Storm. Varvaro was drafted by the Mariners in the 12th Round in 2005 and was immediately sidelined following Tommy John surgery later that same month. The Braves claimed him off waivers this past January after 5 (mostly) minor league seasons with the Seattle organization. He did see some brief time in the majors last year with the Mariners, giving up 5 ER in 4 IP over 4 appearances. 

1 G (0-1), 2.1 IP, 1 ER, 0 H, 2 BB

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Braves Status Report: 7 Games (3-4)

As most Braves fans would probably agree (myself included), it’s a bit surprising to see the team sitting at 3-4 after their opening week. The series again the Nationals looked encouraging, especially considering it was at a place the team often struggles at. The beginning of the Brewers series started off right with some late game heroics, courtesy of Martin Prado and Dan Uggla, but the Braves followed that up with three straight close game losses. Turner Field looks even more welcoming than it did a few days ago.

As the Braves head to Atlanta for a big weekend series against the rival Phillies (and their supposedly 47 ace starting pitchers), here’s a look at some of the highlights and lowlights so far.

Who’s Hot:

Pitching – Not too surprising, but the Braves pitching is already standing out as a clear strength of the team. Lowe (x2), Hudson and Beachy have all put up starts with 1 ER or less while the bullpen sits with a miniscule 1.71 ERA (4 ER in 21 IP). Tommy Hanson has been roughed up in his first two starts, but seemed to settle down a bit over his final few innings on Thursday. Mike Minor’s spot start on Wednesday was tough to watch, but Jair Jurrjens looks ready to return to the rotation within the next week or two.

Defense – This listing is more of a recognition of how well the defense has performed as compared to last year than actually defining it as ‘hot.’ What looked to be the weakness of the team has actually seemed to be in control through the first week of the season. There have been a few defensive miscues so far, but nothing to the level of what we saw last year. Alex Gonzalez, Dan Uggla and Matt Young are some of the Braves that have already made some notable defensive plays.

Jason Heyward – J-Hey started the season off strong with HR in his first AB of the 2011 season and has continued to produce since that swing. He’s getting on base (.444 OBP) and is hitting the ball with authority (.550 SLG, 2 HR, 5 RBI). His walk rate continues to impress with 7 BB in 27 PAs. The big question is how long will Fredi keep him in the 6th hole? He was kept in the spot when McLouth rested on Wednesday, but moved up to the 5th spot when Chipper sat on Thursday.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Braves at Nationals: Gameday Photos

Although I wasn't able to be there for Opening Day, I traveled down from Upstate, NY to Washington, DC to catch games 2 and 3 of the Braves 2011 season. This was my first time at Nationals Park. While the stadium was pretty accessible for fans, the overall ballpark experience didn't quite match-up to places like PNC Park, Fenway and, of course, Turner Field.

Tommy Hanson struggled in Saturday's game (he hasn't been effective in any of the 3 starts I've seen in person) and the Braves fell 6-3. The game included 2 rain delays, with hail accompanying the second. While I had to sit through the loss, I was able to see Dan Uggla's first home run in a Braves uniform.

Sunday's game looked as if it was going to be similar to the first, as Tim Hudson labored through the first inning. From there, Huddy settled down and looked like his dominant self from last year. The Atlanta bats did their part was well, exploding for 6 runs in the eighth on the way to an impressive 11-2 win and the series victory. While I haven't been lucky with Tommy Hanson starts, I've seen Tim Hudson pitch in 5 of the past 8 games I've attended, of which the Braves have gone 4-1.

For your viewing pleasure, I've included some games shots from the two days. Enjoy!