A few thoughts about some less-than-riveting recent performances by the Braves, while listening to a very good CD titled “Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm.”
The Braves were wrapping up last night at about the same time as this week’s episode of 24, and neither were exactly riveting. The positive view: Both have the potential to turn it around (24 has been very good most of this season).
The negative view: Someone needs to light a spark to get them going. Not that we necessarily want to see that canister explode on 24 and thousands of innocent people die, but a stolen base might be nice, eh?
How’s that for transitioning, compadres?
No, but seriously. I know this Braves team is anything but built on speed, and I know it’s probably not the biggest thing holding them back. But still, three stolen bases in 19 games? Three!?
That’s the fewest in the majors. In fact, the next-lowest totals belong to the Padres and A’s, who each have six — er, twice as many as the Braves, if my failing math doesn’t fail me.
Nineteen of 30 major league teams have at least 11 stolen bases, including nine NL teams. Eight NL teams have a player with at least four steals; the Braves have no player with more than one.
Entering spring training, it was widely assumed Josh Anderson was going to be the leadoff hitter for the Braves, and we were told he gave them something they otherwise lacked — the ability to steal 40 bases.
Hey, right now they don’t have anyone on pace to steal as many as 10.
Meanwhile, Anderson has six steals (in seven attempts) for the Tigers, even though he’s not playing every day (he’s played 14 games).
Jordan Schafer beat him out for the center-field job rather thoroughly this spring. But you’ve gotta wonder if the Braves might regret not keeping Anderson as an extra outfielder.
I’m not gonna suggest they should’ve kept him instead of signing Garret Anderson, because it’d be entirely hypocritical of me. I said to several of you, and to others, that there was no way Frank Wren could make no significant additions to the outfield this winter after the entire unit produced a major league-low 27 homers in 2008.
If he’d done nothing but add Schafer to this year’s outfield and hope that Jeff Francoeur and Matt Diaz bounced back from bad and/or injury-plagued 2008 season, Wren would have been excoriated here and elsewhere when/if the outfield produced simimilar numbers in 2008.
Were there better choices to sign or trade for than G. Anderson? Yes, earlier in the winter there were. But for whatever reason, the deals didn’t work out or the Braves deemed the price tags too high of the defensive weakness of this free agent or that one to be too great.
So far, G. Anderson has been an injury-riddled bust. No doubt.
Garret hasn’t stolen more than seven bases in any of the past seven seasons, and I’ll go out on a limb and say he’s not going to steal more than that this season, even if he gets back from the DL soon and plays 120 or so games (humor me and allow that assumption).
So unless Schafer moves up the order and starts running — he did steal 23 bases in 2007, albeit in 38 attempts — or the Braves bring Gregor Blanco from the minors and hope he figures out how to use his speed a lot better than he has in the past, then the only way these Braves are going to have a legit, big-time base stealer is by making a move to get one.
Not suggesting they should or would do it. Just stating facts.
It’s not a team with a lot of power hitters, or at least it hasn’t been so far. And so, also not having any serious base stealers becomes more of an obvious flaw. You’ve got to generate runs somehow.
♣ Speaking of no runs: During their current 4-9 stretch, the Braves have scored two runs or fewer eight times. That’s eight times in 13 games, two runs or fewer.
They’ve lost three games in that span in which they allowed only three runs (including Monday night’s 3-2 loss to St. Louis), and lost another while allowing four runs.
Jair Jurrjens has turned in three consecutive consecutive quality starts, but gone 0-2 in that span. And I mean strong starts, not just the minimum “quality” standard of six innings or more, three earned runs or fewer.
He’s allowed one run in 6-2/3 innings, no runs in 7-2/3 innings, and two runs in six innings last night, and the Braves haven’t been able to get him a win in that stretch.
Jurrjens is 0-2 with a 1.33 ERA and .219 opp average in that three-game span, with 16 hits (no homers) and three runs allowed in 20-1/3 innings. He hasn’t issued more than two walks in any of those starts.
The Braves are having most of their big-run outputs behind two starters: Javier Vazquez ranks second in the NL in run support with 9.4 runs per nine innings he’s pitched, and Derek Lowe is 10th at 7.1 runs per nine innings.
♣ Big glove, not bat: Braves first baseman Casey Kotchman has played exceptional defense, as usual. And he’s hitting .309. But as a power hitter … well, he’s a hell of a glove man.
The Braves have zero homers and major-league low five RBIs from the 1B position. Among 30 major league teams, the Dodgers and Giants are the only others who have no homers from the 1B position.
♣ Clutch hitting lacking late: The Braves rank among MLB leaders in hitting with runners in scoring position, particularly with two outs. But in the late innings (after sixth) of close games, the Braves have just eight RBI.
Among NL teams, only the Rockies (seven) have fewer RBI in late-and-close situations. The Phillies have a whopping 35 RBIs in those spots, and the Dodgers and Marlins have 19.
♣ “Reverse” platoon? Kelly Johnson might be the first Braves player in recent memory to warrant consideration for a reverse platoon, or whatever you want to call it.
It won’t happen, but consider these numbers:
Johnson, a left-handed hitter, is batting .320 (8-for-25) against lefty pitchers, with seven RBI, a .414 OBP, and a 1.094 OPS.
Against right-handers, he’s hitting .136 (6-for-44) with two RBI, a .224 OBP and a .471 OPS.
That’s the fourth-lowest average in the majors against RH pitchers, among qualifying hitters with at least 2.3 plate appearances per team game.
Late he’s not hitting any pitcher, lefty or righty. Johnson is 4-for-39 (.103) with no extra-base hits and two RBI in his past 11 games.
♣ Tough task tonight: Jo-Jo Reyes will try to break his long winless skid tonight against the Cardinals and Kyle Lohse, and it won’t be easy.
Lohse is 5-0 with a 2.81 ERA in 10 starts going back to late August, and he’s 2-0 with a 3.28 ERA in the last four of his five career starts against the Braves (they beat him in 2002, but he’s not lost in four starts against them over the past three seasons).
Chipper is 5-for-9 with a homer off Lohse, and Garret Anderson is 9-for-25 with a homer. What’s that?Oh, that’s right. Nevermind about Garret.
Reyes is 0-8 with a 7.13 ERA in 15 games (14 starts) since June 18, including 0-3 with a 9.82 ERA and .366 opp average in five home starts during that period.
Against the Cards, he’s 0-2 with a 4.24 ERA in three starts. Mr. Pujols is 4-for-7 with a homer against him.
♣ Bob Dylan today: Don’t think I’m gonna have time to get the new Dylan album released today, but I’ve seen some great reviews for it so far, including a NY Times review we ran in the AJC today. I’ll pick it up no later than the Braves’ off day Thursday.
The Dylanphiles we have here, let us know what you think of it.
I got a few CDs last week at Decatur CD (man, the depth and breadth of that dude’s selection is outrageous), including a great recently released one by The Heartless Bastards and a Hold Steady CD/DVD documentary thing.
This Doug Sahm tribute album I’m listening to is stellar. It’s a tribute to the hugely influential leader of Sir Douglas Quintet (among other eclectic projects), who died in 1999.
Among artists covering his tunes on this album: Los Lobos, Alejandro Escovedo, Greg Dulli, Dave Alvin, Flaco Jimenez, Delbert McClinton, Jimmy Vaughan, the Gourds and Joe “King” Carrasco.
But my favorite tune on it might be Little Willie G’s version of “She’s About a Mover.”
Anyone go to the Springsteen show in Atlanta Sunday? I couldn’t get back from Cincy in time.
“POINT BLANK” by Bruce Springsteen
Do you still say your prayers little darlin’
do you go to bed at night
Prayin’ that tomorrow, everything will be alright
But tommorow’s fall in number
in number one by one
You wake up and you’re dying
you don’t even know what from
Well they shot you point blank
you been shot in the back
Baby point blank you been fooled this time
little girl that’s a fact
Right between the eyes, baby, point blank
right between the pretty lies that they tell
Little girl you fell
You grew up where young girls they grow up fast
You took what you were handed and left behind what was asked
but what they asked baby wasn’t right
you didn’t have to live that life,
I was gonna be your Romeo you were gonna be my Juliet
These days you don’t wait on Romeo’s
you wait on that welfare check
and on all the pretty things that you can’t ever have
and on all the promises
That always end up point blank, shot between the eyes
Point blank like little white lies you tell to ease the pain
You’re walkin’ in the sights, girl of point blank
and it’s one false move and baby the lights go out
Once I dreamed we were together again
baby you and me
Back home in those old clubs the way we used to be
We were standin’ at the bar
it was hard to hear
The band was playin’ loud and you were shoutin’ somethin’ in my ear
You pulled my jacket off and as the drummer counted four
You grabbed my hand and pulled me out on the floor
You just stood there and held me, then you started dancin’ slow
And as I pulled you tighter I swore I’d never let you go
Well I saw you last night down on the avenue
Your face was in the shadows but I knew that it was you
You were standin’ in the doorway out of the rain
You didn’t answer when I called out your name
You just turned, and then you looked away
like just another stranger waitin’ to get blown away
Point blank, right between the eyes
Point blank, right between the pretty lies you fell
Point blank, shot right through the heart
Yea point blank, you’ve been twisted up till you’ve become just another part of it
Point blank, you’re walkin’ in the sights
Point blank, livin’ one false move just one false move away
Point blank, they caught you in their sights
Point blank, did you forget how to love,
girl, did you forget how to fight.
Point blank they must have shot you in the head
Cause point blank
bang bang baby you’re dead.