Archive for April, 2010

So how come the current Braves can’t hit but ex-Braves can?

I’ve never been one who believed Terry Pendleton was the problem. As the saying goes, he can’t step in and hit for his guys. (It might be better if he could.) But then you look at these batting averages, and even a Pendleton admirer must cringe.

  • Chipper Jones, .271.
  • Brian McCann, .271.
  • Jason Heyward, .246.
  • Yunel Escobar, .188.
  • Troy Glaus, .186.
  • Matt Diaz, .175.
  • Melky Cabrera, 153.
  • Nate McLouth, .146.

Take away Martin Prado — who is, it must be stipulated, second in the National League in hitting at .406 — and the totality of the Braves’ regular lineup isn’t hitting Prince Fielder’s weight. Which is incredible.

The Braves rank last in the league in hitting at .228. (And remember, that’s with Prado doing a Ted Williams.) They were no-hit by Ubaldo Jimenez. They were shut out by Roy Halladay. They were one out from being blanked on a night Kyle Kendrick started for the Phillies. They were shut out over five innings by Mike Pelfrey on Sunday.

They didn’t score an earned run in …

Continue reading So how come the current Braves can’t hit but ex-Braves can? »

The Hawks’ road flops: ‘Unacceptable’ and ‘embarrassing’

He's partly to blame for this road ineptitude. But only partly. (AP photo)

Mike Woodson is partly to blame for this road ineptitude. But only partly. (AP photo)

Milwaukee – There’s a belief within the Hawks’ organization — not a pipe dream, but an actual belief — that this is one of the half-dozen teams capable of playing into June. On talent, it is. But even now, in this third playoff run, there’s something missing.

Over the past 25 months, the Hawks have played 10 road playoff games. They’ve lost nine. As egregious as Saturday’s performance was here, it was the closest of those nine defeats.

That’s correct. An 18-point loss was, by Hawks standards, a tight road game. The average margin of those nine losses is 25.6 points.  Only by the loosest possible definition can such showings be called competing.

Granted, six of those losses — four in Boston in 2008, two in Cleveland last spring — came against the overall No. 1 seed. The Hawks were too raw to handle the champs-to-be Celtics on the parquet and too injured to match up with LeBron’s crew in the …

Continue reading The Hawks’ road flops: ‘Unacceptable’ and ‘embarrassing’ »

The Hawks allow the unassuming Bucks to make this a series

Somebody guard that guy! Brandon Jennings exults after another trey. (AP photo)

Somebody guard that guy! Brandon Jennings exults after another trey. (AP photo)

Milwaukee — They had a chance to show us they’d matured. They had a chance to make quick work of a team that, without Andrew Bogut, is the weakest entity in the playoff grid. Instead the Hawks gave the Milwaukee Bucks reason to believe. If you’re the better team, that’s the last thing you want.

The Hawks trailed by 17 points after 12 minutes of Game 3. They didn’t look like the better team. They didn’t look like much of a team at all. They were outflanked tactically and overwhelmed emotionally.

“Unacceptable,” said Joe Johnson, who scored 16 of the Hawks’ 40 first-half points.

“I was disappointed,” said Al Horford, who had two points the first half. “I didn’t think we were there mentally.”

“We didn’t bring our own energy,” said Josh Smith, who managed only seven points in 36 minutes after stirring up a mini-tempest by suggesting Milwaukee is Nowheresville. (Smith afterward: “I didn’t say anything …

Continue reading The Hawks allow the unassuming Bucks to make this a series »

Live from Hawks-Bucks Game 3: The weather outside is …

Even the Milwaukee Bucks dance team has seen better days. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Even this Milwaukee dance team, shown warming up, has seen sunnier days. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Milwaukee — I’m sitting in the Bradley Center. There are two things good I can say about the Bradley Center: First, it has a nice name; second, it has a roof. Other than that …

It’s raining in Atlanta. I know. It was pouring when Airtran Flight 420 departed — 75 minutes late — from Hartsfield-Jackson this afternoon. From the forecasts, I wasn’t sure we’d depart at all. So I guess, in that sense, I’m glad I’m here.

Then again, “here” is Milwaukee. Where it’s 45 degrees — 45 degrees! — and windy and foggy and raining. It might be possible to find a bleaker setting in April in the Northern Hemisphere. Then again, it might not.

I mentioned the weather to Dominique Wilkins. “What do you expect?” he said. “It’s Milwaukee. It’s just … dreary.”

Students of history will note that I, M. Bradley, was in this city last month to cover Georgia Tech in the NCAA tournament. And it snowed then. But …

Continue reading Live from Hawks-Bucks Game 3: The weather outside is … »

A strange homestand yields a cold truth: More hitting needed

Roy Halladay at work Wednesday. Note goose eggs. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Roy Halladay at work Wednesday. Note goose eggs. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Strange homestand. The Braves were shut out twice and no-hit once and beaten by a guy who has never won the Cy Young Award but who roomed with Cy Young. And yet they won three of six against two playoff-caliber opponents.

At the same time, the Braves conjured up two walk-off wins, one among the more improbable in team annals — Troy Glaus? Nate McLouth? Seriously? — and still managed to look feeble for long stretches. Strange, strange homestand.

But it’s the kind we’re apt to see often, at least until Glaus and McLouth and Melky Cabrera start to hit. (Or, more probably, until Frank Wren gets around to making another round of deals.) The Braves are good at pitching but not very good at hitting. They can keep most games close enough to have a chance at the end. But Jason Heyward can’t work a wonder every night.

Stat of the series just completed: The Braves didn’t score an earned run against a …

Continue reading A strange homestand yields a cold truth: More hitting needed »

From Braves-Phils: Can the Bradley live-blog streak continue?

This young fellow always seems to hit when MB's here. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

This young fellow always seems to hit when MB's here. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Strange homestand. The Braves have been shut out twice and no-hit once over these five games. On Sunday they were an out away from losing 3-2, and two nights ago they were an out away from losing 3-0. And yet they’ve won three times in five.

They’ve done it with two bursts of late-inning lightning, sure, but they’ve also done it with pitching. The Braves’ starting pitchers have managed only one win this homestand — that by Derek Lowe against Colorado on Friday in a game he led 7-0 after two innings — but they’ve kept their team close in every game except Saturday’s, which was the night Kenshin Kawakami worked against no-hit Ubaldo Jimenez.

Throw out that game and the Braves’ starting pitchers have yielded 10 earned runs in four starts against two good-hitting teams this homestand. And that is, I submit, what will have to keep the Braves close if they’re going to make a race of it — pitching.

The …

Continue reading From Braves-Phils: Can the Bradley live-blog streak continue? »

For Dimitroff and his Falcons, the draft has no clear-cut course

Most  general managers work hard to give away nothing. Thomas Dimitroff is unlike most GMs. He’ll give you some hints, provided you know how to listen. No, he won’t say, “Write it down — we’re taking Tommy Tailback from Bugtussle U. in Round 1.” He won’t draw a map, but he will leave breadcrumbs.

To wit: His pre-draft briefing last week began with Dimitroff expressing his excitement. Why? Because, he said, “We’ve finally got an opportunity to open the draft board to both offense and defense.” That wasn’t just a boilerplate intro. Dimitroff doesn’t traffic in boilerplate. He’s precise with his words. He says what he means.

It has long been speculated — in this space and many others — that the Falcons would use the 19th pick of Round 1 to bolster a defense that ranked 21st among 32 NFL teams in yardage yielded last season. Makes sense, right?

But let’s also note that the Falcons’ defense improved from 24th in 2008, and that was with almost nothing from Peria Jerry and William …

Continue reading For Dimitroff and his Falcons, the draft has no clear-cut course »

With the 19th pick, the Atlanta Falcons take … Mike Iupati?

In February most all the mock drafts had the Falcons taking a cornerback. Then they signed Dunta Robinson, and the mocks moved on to Brandon Graham, the defensive end from Michigan. Now, with D-Day almost at hand, comes a new mock and a new name:

Mike Iupati, guard, Idaho.

That’s correct. On ESPN’s Insiders site, Todd McShay and Scouts Inc. now have the Falcons taking an offensive lineman. (Link requires registration.) And not the offensive lineman many have ticketed for Atlanta. McShay and Co. have Maurice Pouncey, the Florida center, going to Pittsburgh one pick ahead of the Falcons’.

What of Graham? Gone to Tennessee with the 16th overall pick, per McShay. What of Sean Weatherspoon, the Missouri linebacker some think would be a better pass-rushing upgrade than Graham and whom Don Banks of SI.com has the Falcons taking in Round 1? He’s not in McShay’s first round.

The other ESPN draft maven is the famous Mel Kiper, and he has the Falcons snagging Graham at No. 19. (Link …

Continue reading With the 19th pick, the Atlanta Falcons take … Mike Iupati? »

Glaus! Heyward! McLouth! Folks, this is really getting good

How's that for your first extra-base hit of 2010? (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

How's that for your first extra-base hit of 2010, Mr. McLouth? Pretty sweet, you say? (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

An amazing thing has happened. A 20-year-old has become the rising tide that is lifting all boats. The Braves beat the reigning National League champs 4-3 on Tuesday on a night when they had no runs and surely no hope after 26 outs.

To recap: They were one out from being blanked on a night when the Phillies’ starting pitcher was Kyle Kendrick, he of the 17.47 ERA. But Kendrick had done as bad pitchers too often have done to the Braves: He made them look timid. He worked eight scoreless innings and left the game to Ryan Madson, who’s not really a closer but who’s trying to bridge the gap until Brad Lidge gets healthy.

Madson walked Chipper Jones with one out. Then he retired Brian McCann, and then you saw who was coming up next and you thought, “Good night, Irene.” Because it was Troy Glaus, the latest incarnation of the All-American out. Put it this way: When last …

Continue reading Glaus! Heyward! McLouth! Folks, this is really getting good »

Live from Braves-Phillies: Guess who’s ‘tremendous-looking’?

Turner Field as of 5:30 p.m. EDT, April 20, 2010. (Gloomy photo by M. Bradley)

Turner Field as of 5:30 p.m. EDT, April 20, 2010. (Evocatively gloomy photo by M. Bradley)

Ryan Howard arrived in Philadelphia in September 2004. The next season he was the National League rookie of the year. Today he stands as the pillar of the club that even rivals concede is the model of excellence. As Brian McCann said Sunday: “The Phillies aren’t just the team in the National League East — the Phillies are the team in the National League.”

Charlie Manuel wasn’t managing the Phillies in 2004, but he arrived in 2005 and has been there since. And Manuel, who has become my favorite manager to hear speak, was asked today by an Atlanta correspondent (i.e., me)  if a big-hitting rookie can make a difference not just on a season but on the future of a franchise.

“A player like that brings excitement and energy,” Manuel said. “He brings a whole lot to a team and to a clubhouse.”

The obvious point of reference: Jason Heyward. He’s not yet Ryan Howard — there’s a difference of 222 …

Continue reading Live from Braves-Phillies: Guess who’s ‘tremendous-looking’? »