Archive for the ‘Focal’ Category

Offensive woes: Braves hitting .220 in 6-11 stretch

So much criticism is directed at a Braves starting pitcher anytime he gives up a few runs and/or a couple of homers in the first five or six innings, as Tommy Hanson did Tuesday against Colorado.

Martin Prado is the only Braves lineup regular who hasn't seen some sort of dip in production during the team's hitting slump.

Martin Prado is the only Braves lineup regular who hasn't seen some sort of dip in production during the team's hitting slump.

But as much as Hanson hasn’t lived up to expectations this season, but to me the stagnant, inopportunistic Braves offense has been a bigger problem than pitching during a 6-11 stretch that’s all but wiped out the Braves’ hopes of winning the division and could put in peril even a wild-card berth if things continue at this rate much longer.

Over the past 17 games, the Braves have hit .220 and posted a 3.90 ERA while scoring 55 runs. This coming immediately on the heels of a seven-week stretch in which the Brave had a 28-10 record while hitting .248 with a 2.78 ERA and 189 runs.

Yes, the ERA is more than a run higher in the past 17 games than in the previous 38. …

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Since move to rotation, Medlen’s been Maddux-esque

Kris Medlen is 12-2 with a 3.08 ERA in the first 25 starts of his major league career, which is more than impressive enough. But what he’s done this year since a end-of-July move from the bullpen to the starting rotation has simply surpassed all expectations. He’s making it look way easier than it is for any pitcher, much less one with such little experience as a starter.

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The Braves have won 18 consecutive games started by Medlen. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

In 7 starts this season, he’s 6-0 with a 0.54 ERA, .206 opponents’ average, ridiculously low .468 opponents’ OPS, one homer allowed, eye-popping 50 strikeouts with only five walks and 1 HR allowed in 49-2/3 innings. I hate to keep bringing up the name of the greatest right-handed pitcher (non-steroids division) of the past two decades, but Medlen’s numbers through seven starts are absolutely Greg Maddux-like.

Or as Mad Dog’s longtime teammate Chipper Jones put it, Maddux-esque.

Today he was named the NL’s Pitcher of the Month.

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Braves slumping 2B Uggla now a part-time player

He stuck with him for three months, but manager Fredi Gonzalez decided he could not wait any longer for Dan Uggla to start hitting.

Gonzalez called the All-Star second baseman into his office Sunday and told him that until further notice, Uggla would not be in the lineup on a daily basis.

Uggla has gone from starting lineup in the July All-Star game to part-time player in September.

Uggla has gone from starting lineup in the July All-Star game to part-time player in September.

“This is new to me, so I’ll just take it step by step and handle it the best way I can handle it,” Uggla said this morning, when he was out of the lineup for the second consecutive game since his meeting with the manager. “He didn’t really explain anything to me. He just kind of said something like, ‘We’ve got to make a change, and I don’t know how much playing time you’re going to get in the next 29 games.’

“And that was about it.”

The reason was clear: Uggla, in the second season of a five-year, $62 million contract, has hit a National League-worst .208 with 17 homers, 150 strikeouts and a .373 …

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Simmons back soon; sputtering Braves can use him

Since there’s been precious little positive news to report about the Bravos the past couple of weeks (unless Kris Medlen was pitching), we’ll start today’s blog with a couple of pieces of good news before the abundance of bad. After all, it’s nearly a holiday.

Janish was named Defensive Player of the Month at ESPN.com.

Janish was named Defensive Player of the Month at ESPN.com.

First, it looks like Andrelton Simmons could rejoin the Braves by next weekend, provided he gets final go-ahead when he’s examined later today, then has no setbacks during the rehab games he’s expected to play this week for one of the Braves’ Single-A teams, Rome or Lynchburg, that advanced to the playoffs (with the minor league seasons ending, there were only a couple of options for a rehab assignment).

Secondly, the player who’s been filling in for Simmons, Paul Janish, was named voted ESPN.com’s major league Defensive Player of the Month over at the SweetSpot blog. He’s the second Brave to win the award this year, after if you forget you can probably guess …

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Hold onto your seats, September is here

(Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)

Well, here we are. September 1. Thirty games between the Braves and a possible return to the postseason for the first time since 2010. The Braves venture into what was very treacherous territory last year – need I remind you of last year’s E.C. as my esteemed colleague Mark Bradley calls it. Frankly the Braves might as well just get right back into action after last night’s oddly familiar kind of loss to the Phillies (extra innings, blown save by Craig Kimbrel, reminiscent of the last game of the season last year.)

So the 4 p.m. FOX start is probably a good thing today as the Braves didn’t have much time to sit around and think about anything. I do think it was telling when both Chipper Jones and Michael Bourn talked about how they didn’t lose any ground in the wild card last night. At 6 ½ games behind the Nationals, even though Stephen Strasburg has only two or three starts left, and the Braves have three games left with …

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Spoiler alert? Here come Halladay, Lee and Hamels

(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)

Beware of the spoilers. The standings say the Braves have to feel pretty good about their schedule from

Doc is 0-1 with an 8.74 ERA in two starts vs. Braves this year

Doc is 0-1 with an 8.74 ERA in two starts vs. Braves this year

here on out. Of the last 31 games of the regular season, only six are against teams with winning records – three against Washington on Sept. 14-16 and three against Pittsburgh Oct. 1-3.

(The Nationals, by the way, have twice that number, with 12 games in their final 31 games against winning teams, including six more against St. Louis, three against Atlanta, and three against the Dodgers.)

But overall records can be deceiving. The Braves figured this out pretty well in San Diego after dropping two of three to the Padres to end their 10-game road trip. They scored only four runs in three games against a Padres team which is 10 games under .500 for the season but has now won nine out of its past 10.

(And after losing two of three to the Nationals, …

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Suffice to say, Medlen has secured his spot in Braves rotation

SAN DIEGO – Before we turn the page on last night’s Medlen-fest and focus on the Braves’ series finale and road-trip finale this afternoon (or 6:35 p.m. back in Atlanta), indulge me a few more moments to reflect upon what we’ve witnessed from the boyish looking right-hander who has what Freddie Freeman called the “Bugs Bunny change-up” and what John Smoltz called a fearless mound presence.

Medlen has been nothing short of sensational since moving to the starting rotation. (AP photo)

Medlen has been nothing short of sensational since moving to the starting rotation. (AP photo)

The debate over whether Kris Medlen was more valuable as a starter or reliever is now moot. He won’t be pitching the sixth and seventh innings in relief again anytime soon.

The only debate is likely to be which of the first three rotation spots should he have for the postseason rotation, assuming the Braves hold on and make it, at least as a wild card and possibly as the NL East winner, the far more preferable – albeit still less likely — route. But with the Nationals in a five-game skid through …

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Medlen’s Braves-record streak on line vs. Padres

SAN DIEGO – After being shut out Monday night by a Padres 22-year-old, Casey Kelly, making his major league debut, tonight the braves will face another pitcher they’ve never seen, Andrew Werner, who is making his second major league start. And this rookie is left-handed. Uh-oh.

The Braves have won 16 consecutive games started by Kris Medlen, who toes the slab tonight against the streaking Padres.

The Braves have won 16 consecutive games started by Kris Medlen, who toes the slab tonight against the streaking Padres.

Ah, but the Braves will counter with their no-longer-secret weapon, Kris Medlen, who brings with him a rather remarkable team-record streak of 16 consecutive wins for the Braves in games he’s started going back to 2010.

Medlen and his streak are up against the Padres and their eight-game winning streak. Something’s gotta give, folks. It should be interesting.

By the way, of course, the Braves are facing lefties tonight and in series finale (Eric Stults). It wouldn’t feel right if they didn’t face one or more lefties in a series, know what I mean? Faced two in San Francisco, now two …

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5-tool Heyward is reminding us what the fuss was about

SAN DIEGO – He isn’t a finished product yet, but for the past few months Jason Heyward has reminded everyone what all the fuss was about when he burst onto the scene in the spring of 2010.

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Heyward hit three homers in the past three days at San Francisco. (AP photo)

The multi-talented Braves right fielder, one of the few legitimate “five-tool” players in the National League, has shown his full range of skills since early June during the healthiest and most productive stretch of his career.

(For those who might not know, the five tools are hit for average, hit for power, run, throw and field.)

And you better believe there has been a collective sigh of relief from Braves officials, even if they wouldn’t admit it publicly. The Braves had an awful lot riding on Heyward, who has been talked about as a future face of the franchise since he and Freddie Freeman were 19-year-old non-roster invitees to manager Bobby Cox’s spring training in 2009.

Now Heyward is a 23-year-old — his …

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Braves manager will ‘pick his spots’ to rest slumping Uggla

SAN FRANCISCO – When Fredi Gonzalez was asked by Fox broadcaster Tim McCarver what the manager had learned from his Braves’ September collapse last year, Gonzalez said he’d learned to be less patient.

Fredi Gonzalez is going to "pick his spots" to rest Dan Uggla until the slumping second baseman gets his bat going. He's hit under .150 for nearly three months.

Fredi Gonzalez is going to "pick his spots" to rest Dan Uggla until the slumping second baseman gets his bat going. He's hit under .150 for nearly three months. (AP photo)

“Sometimes you feel like you’ve got to go with a guy, and you go with him for a lot of good reasons,” he told McCarver. “But you have to understand, April and May is not September…. At the end of the season, you say, ‘You could have done this, you could have done that, maybe I stuck with this guy at this position too long, maybe I stuck with that pitcher too long.’”

And so I asked Fredi today about the specific player that came to mind when I read what he’d said to McCarver. I asked him how his statement applied to Dan Uggla, who entered Sunday with a .206 batting average and .364 slugging percentage, and who …

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