Heat Check: Matty Ice starts hot; Ben Sheets begins to cool

Ben Sheets after yielding the second of four home runs. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Ben Sheets after yielding the second of four Dodger home runs. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Our weekly Heat Check commences where you’d expect, although falling five games behind the team you’re chasing does tend to lower any case of pennant fever.

BRAVES: They’ve lost only two of 12 series since the All-Star break, which is good. Less good is this: They haven’t won a series from a team that is currently above .500 since June 26-28, when they took two of three from Arizona.

Dropping the final two games of the Dodgers series only served to underscore a sore point: The Braves are 26-30 against plus-.500 opposition, and they’re 10-20 against teams that are leading divisions. This week they’ll play three games against Washington and four against San Francisco, and they’re 5-10 against those two.

That said, the September schedule is, to borrow a line from the great Joe Dean Sr., as soft as church music. Heat Index: So long as the Braves don’t go 1-6 these next seven days, they should be fine.

BEN SHEETS: It almost seemed too good to be true, and maybe it was. He won his first three starts, yielding one run in 18 innings. On Saturday he lost for the third time in his past four starts, yielding three runs on four pitches. Granted, the loss to Los Angeles was one of the weirdest you’ll ever see: Sheets was touched for only four hits, but all were homers, meaning the Dodgers’ BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was .000 on a night they won 6-2. Heat Index: Even if Sheets doesn’t win another game, he was worth the investment. And he’ll surely win some more games, don’t you think?

FALCONS: They lost another exhibition, which means they haven’t won a game that doesn’t count since August 2010. But I would remind you that the 1990 Falcons of the Great Glanville were 4-0 in preseason and 5-11 in the real season. Heat Index: Wake me when September rolls around.

MATT RYAN: Even as we note that exhibition stats aren’t to be taken as gospel truth, we must note that the quarterback seems to have taken to Dirk Koetter’s offense as (inelegant image upcoming) a pig takes to slop. Ryan has completed 27 of 34 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns (against one admittedly bad interception). He has not been sacked. Heat Index: If Ryan doesn’t post banner numbers this fall, my name’s not Mike Mularkey.

GEORGIA BULLDOGS: Mark Richt was upset because Scrimmage No. 2 was festooned with eight turnovers. “It wasn’t just awful, but it wasn’t great,” Richt told reporters. “I didn’t see a team that was ready to be great. I saw a team that was still pretty good. So I wasn’t that thrilled about it.” Heat Index: Just wondering if any team has ever looked “great” in a scrimmage. And if so, why?

GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS: Paul Johnson wasn’t happy because Saturday’s scrimmage was, to use his word to reporters, “ragged.” Also it included “a lot of mistakes.” But Vad Lee apparently looked pretty good, so there’s that. Heat Index: See above.

By Mark Bradley

74 comments Add your comment

Beasts of SEC East

August 20th, 2012
8:29 am

First. Go Dawgs!

Mark Bradley

August 20th, 2012
8:30 am

Kudos, Beasts.

Bill in VA

August 20th, 2012
8:40 am

Thanks for insightful stats on the Braves, Mark. These next two series will tell the tale, I believe.

ole dawg

August 20th, 2012
8:41 am

Thanks Mark. Have a great day yall!

coach joe

August 20th, 2012
8:46 am

Chipper has to bring us home…. no other way to get there

Cletus

August 20th, 2012
8:48 am

Falcons need to drop those lame ‘Rise Up’ radio commercials. Reminds me of the same old same old that produced zero playoff wins. Time for a new sound.

dawgnation1

August 20th, 2012
8:53 am

Its nice to see Mark Richt isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Mark, I was was thinking the same thing about Ben Sheets. His arm was bound to get tired after a few starts. Matty Ice gets 4500 yards this year. Can we have 3 championships ion the same city, in the same year? Is that allowed?

GT Letterwinner

August 20th, 2012
8:54 am

Go Jackets.

Thanks for the Braves analysis…the next move to reduce from 6 to 5 starters will be interesting, Mark. Thoughts?

Mark Bradley

August 20th, 2012
8:57 am

My thought, GT, would be that Hanson or Minor would be dropped from the rotation. But let’s see how Sheets’ next start goes.

dc74

August 20th, 2012
9:00 am

How do you get a nickname like Ice when you constantly choke in playoff games.

Sammy

August 20th, 2012
9:05 am

Fans get so psyched about this Braves line-up but when the Braves face serious pitching, in most instances, it rarely does well. Almost no point in making the playoffs when the opposing team will just throw out a dominant pitcher, especially a lefty, and then we watch Hudosn throw a gem but lose 1-0 or 2-1. I really like Freeman and Heyward but I wonder what those two average against quality starting pitching? Freeman was just sad this past series against LA. Stats are great against those sub .500 clubs. Doesn’t mean squat if you can’t do anything at crunch time. BMac being hurt sure doesn’t raise any hopes either.

DawgDad

August 20th, 2012
9:29 am

Re: Braves — Please define “fine”. Coasting through September to game 163?

Re: Matty Ice. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about winning football games.

snoopy

August 20th, 2012
9:59 am

Jason

August 20th, 2012
10:00 am

“Like a pig to slop.” Every now and then the Kentucky shows, Mr. Bradley. Great column nonetheless. Any idea what roster moves might be in store for late September? Finally, might this finally be the year the BOTH the Braves and the Dawgs do better than break my heart in the same season?

Joey

August 20th, 2012
10:00 am

This week will tell the tale for the Bravos. They need to make it through at least not getting further behind.

I hope the hitting is better than vs the Dodgers.

Andy

August 20th, 2012
10:03 am

Mark, Disagree with you on Minor sitting. In his last 8 starts he has a 2.62 ERA with 37K and 8W in 44.66 innings. That includes the rain shortened start. He has arguably been the Braves best pitcher during that period. I think Sheets will sit. He’s running out of gas.

Don

August 20th, 2012
10:05 am

I said last season they should have traded hanson and was ridiculed. They could have gotten a lot for him. Now he’s just gonna slowly disappear.

Chipmunk

August 20th, 2012
10:12 am

Now that there’s video that other teams can study, maybe they have figured out Ben Sheets and he isn’t going to be so great going forward.

Braves might want to drop Sheets instead of Minor or Hanson.

PMC

August 20th, 2012
10:15 am

so if Ryan does post banner numbers this fall your name is Mike Mularkey?

Marvin Mangrum

August 20th, 2012
10:19 am

Will tell you this, Ben Sheets is one heck of a pitcher, would love to see him after spring training. The Braves are in serious doo. They will lose 3 to the Nats, which will make them 8 out then several more, I believe theyre on a 10 game road trip, Id say 3-7. I say Wren, by God ,executive of the year, Fredi G manager of the year, and Mac and Ugly as loosers of the year!

gbal

August 20th, 2012
10:39 am

MB –
What do you think about UGA being chosen 6 in the AP? I mean is the media seeing something I am not? Inexperienced OL….. Inexperienced RB’s …. Questionable or inexperienced kicking…. Suspensions the first 3-4 games. I dont see how we can be ranked 6 with this many holes. Maybe 12-18… Maybe!!!

Sonny Clusters

August 20th, 2012
10:46 am

Well, we was hoping for video but this heat check is still pretty good. One thing that the Braves need to consider is that they are playing a guy every day that has Popup arms and is hitting .211. Now, .211 is Rafael Belliard territory, not All-Star second base territory. Certainly not $60 million territory. Even little Janish is hitting the ball more often than Uggla – or so it seems. Put them back to back in the lineup and then bat a pitcher and there’s not much excitement offensively. We’ve seen some big walks, though, and some great popups, and some very impressive swings on strikeouts. Then, there is McCann who is playing hurt. We didn’t know the Braves players played hurt. What’s up with that? Last thing this Clusters has to say in this post is . . . sunglasses on a ballplayer should help that player see the ball and allow him to make a play. We was thinking the Braves players and manager are just being fashionable with their sunglasses and taking on a NASCAR look except with deer tattoos.

Hillbilly D

August 20th, 2012
10:47 am

Just wondering if any team has ever looked “great” in a scrimmage. And if so, why?

Seems to me only half a team could look great in a scrimmage, so wouldn’t the other half have to look awful?

Can we have 3 championships ion the same city, in the same year? Is that allowed?

It’d be best to get one, before people start thinking about three.

Doug

August 20th, 2012
10:52 am

Do they need to let Sheets skip a turn? Looks like fatigue is setting in. Considering his recent injury and retirement history, is it reasonable for us to expect him to carry a complete load right away? Let’s not destroy his arm for good.

GT Dude

August 20th, 2012
10:52 am

@gbal – with UGA’s schedule they will be in the top ten all season – that is until the SEC Champ game where they get blown out again

As for my Jackets, we just need to play better D this year and we win 9 – 10 games

Sonny Clusters

August 20th, 2012
11:15 am

Let’s say the ajc was going to enter the competition for a Pulitzer . . . would this new guy try to put his best team in the competition or would he go with some folks in a slump that “could get hot” at any time? What if they was hitting .211? Let’s say you was going to the hospital for some surgery. Would you want a guy operating on you who was a “notorious slow starter” and was in a prolonged slump but had the potential to get hot at any time? Let’s say you managed a baseball team and you had a guy that was about to lead the world in strikeouts and was hitting .211 and had Popup arms and was hitting a few impressive popups. Would you pencil him in every game? Sure, those “big walks” are impressive but for $60 million we was thinking there should be more than big walks. Prado was an All-Star at second base (and that used to mean something until Uggla was an All-Star this year) and maybe Johnson could play left and the team would have some chances to put the ball in play. Janish might could play some 2B. Pastornicky, even. Somebody that makes contact and is unselfish and will try to put the ball in play and move a runner or bring in a run. Of course, what do we know? We was just State Championship and we did it without a wild card.

Sonny Clusters

August 20th, 2012
11:22 am

Clusters will always accept some criticism from other little fans that will disagree with us from time to time to every time. See, Clusters are deep thinkers and we don’t suffer fools lightly but we can always accept someone else’s opinion for what it is. We also never hit lightly – and .211 is lightly. Some blogger made a really good point here the other day that maybe the mention of Dan Uggla should include, “light-hitting Dan Uggla”. That’s really who he is. No matter what the Braves front office and Homer Joe Simpson wants to say . . . that’s really what he is. Light hitting. Popup hitting. Strike out – not hitting. When we was playing ball we once had a girl on our team that had big ol’ arms like that and she couldn’t hit the ball, either.

Columbus Dawg

August 20th, 2012
11:23 am

gbal, The coaches voted the Dawgs #6 as well, and I’ll take their word over some pundit , pencil necked sports writer all day long, (No offense Mark). The AP poll does NOT carry any weight these days. The kickoffs and place kicking can not be any worse than the last kicker at UGA, kickoffs are closer this season as well. Who knows about the punter, but good reviews have come out of camp, so I am not sweating it. The loss of the two fat, lazy O linemen, who both had a knack for the “hands on hips” position, while watching Murray being shaken like a rag doll, won’t be missed either. All in all, I’d say improvements have been made, and while we are all in a wait and see mode, I think most folks have a positive outlook going in.

Hillbilly D

August 20th, 2012
11:27 am

There are actually 4 players who have more Ks than Dan Uggla, which says a lot about the state of the modern game.

Mr. Dawg

August 20th, 2012
11:31 am

I stand corrected in a post I made earlier that suggested that with his experience coming out of the bullpen Medlin should be the one to go there. It wasn’t meant as a slight. In my mind the bullpen shouldn’t be releagated to players who are simply not good enouth to start. Middle relief is important. That said, If Ben Sheets’ last three games are the what we can expect I’m not sure what to do with him. In any event, for adding Medlin to the bullpen obviously won’t leave the Braves with one of the 5 best starters getting the ball every night.

Greg

August 20th, 2012
11:44 am

Sadly, the Braves, Hawks and Falcons are all cut from the same mode. Dominate crappy opposition to make the playoffs and then get owned I’m the playoffs by the good teams that also dominated them in the regular season.

Yes, Atlanta is a transient city, but the main reason the locals are generally apathetic when it comes to their sports teams is because so few of those teams have had any real hope to compete with the elite teams and win a championship. That is, after all, what it’s all about. The Brave were the exception during the 90’s…and all the have to show for it is one championship ring and a long string of incredibly painful post season failures. It sucks being an Atlanta sports fan and, if the Braves happen to back into the wild card this year, it’s easy to see that won’t last long. I’ll go ahead and predict it now – the Braves will play the Cardinals at home in the 1 game wild card playoff. Hudson will give up 5 runs in the first 2 or 3?innings and the Braves will get 3 or 4 hits all game on their way to an 8-0 loss.

PreyDawg

August 20th, 2012
11:49 am

I liked Richts comments. I want him holding this team to a higher standard. Everyone complains about him being too soft on his teams. So lets not complain when he is harder on them.

eastbound and down

August 20th, 2012
11:50 am

let’s hear again how the baseball prospectus tells us that the braves have a 90+ chance to make the playoffs. didn’t we hear that last year? of course, any atlanta team that makes the playoffs is considered a team of greatness, then you can turn out the lights.

PoliticalMan

August 20th, 2012
11:56 am

Watching Heyward jumping around in the box, five feet from the plate, with no chance of hitting a change-up on the outer half or bobbing and weaving in right field almost could make one long for Franceour. Is there something in the Atlanta water that turns OK players into losers? Uggla is only the latest. How about Cabrera?

Todd

August 20th, 2012
11:58 am

Sonny Clusters for president!!!!!!

dan the nerd

August 20th, 2012
11:59 am

Mark must be drinking Natty Ice while watching Mattie Ice. The Ryan I saw last week wouldn’t throw the ball down the field. His longest throw was in the 15-20 yard range. At one point he was averaging less than 6 yards per attempt. His arm still looks weak and his pocket was breaking down too early. This is going to be another year of more of the same.

dtanner

August 20th, 2012
12:13 pm

as long as that imbecile freddi is manager braves are going nowhere

Cooled off

August 20th, 2012
12:22 pm

Not only has Sheets gone cold he has looked like SHEET!………….Freeman and McCann have also not hit SHEET lately!……..if they can’t beet the Nats at least 2 games I see another epic slide with the Dodgers/San Fran getting one wild card and Pitt/St Louie the other……………goodbye Fredi and no more Bourn because they will be Losers again!

Paper Bag Hitters

August 20th, 2012
12:25 pm

Freeman and McCann couldn’t hit their way out of a paper bag now!

Columbus Dawg

August 20th, 2012
12:25 pm

I wonder who will be the starting tailback at the University of Alabama? Could it be that the inbreds problems are starting to mount? I watched Yeldon in their spring game, and he was impressive. I have no clue on Dee Hart or the other back on their depth chart. I wonder why all the Bammers are in bed with the cover pulled over their heads this morning? Nobody will report on Lacey’s torn ACL?

Jay

August 20th, 2012
12:27 pm

Matt Ryan is gonna have a hard time putting up good numbers when we don’t have a running game. Turner is done.

GTBob

August 20th, 2012
12:29 pm

Mark Richt was upset because Scrimmage No. 2 was festooned with eight turnovers.

What does he expect? He has nothing but freshman in the backfield and a QB who rarely knows what team he is on.

Paper Bag Hitters

August 20th, 2012
12:29 pm

In every 10 at bats Uggla Strikes out 6 times,hits 2 singles and is walked 2 times………not bad for a 10mil$ plus player!……………yeah right!

Paper Bag Hitters

August 20th, 2012
12:32 pm

In every 10 at bats Bourn hits about 3 singles and is struck out 7 times!………but he can field a ball well.Another of Fredi’s big time defensive players who can hit a few singles too(Janish and Wilson are 2 more)

Whiffer"s

August 20th, 2012
12:34 pm

Uggla,McCann,Bourn and Freeman to name a few!

Holy Sheets

August 20th, 2012
12:36 pm

The Brave’s haven’t made many bad defensive plays behind Sheets because most of the balls hit off him are over the fence!

Roymus

August 20th, 2012
12:39 pm

Matt Ryan is a darling for stat junkies like MB, but greatness seems to elude him (Ryan, I mean). From what I see, he still can’t extend the play and make something happen downfield…he’d still rather slide or throw the ball away. When he was a young QB the announcers would go on and on about his maturity whenever he did this, but as a veteran in the prime of his career let’s call it what it is…fear of taking a risk (or maybe a hit). If the preseason really “doesn’t count”, then why not show the fans and the pundits that you can take some risks…you’ve got enough weapons fer Chrissake! Sadly, I predict more of the same this year from the Falcons (particularly the offense), and patience will start to wear very thin among the fan base.

And another thing: I’m sick of that analogy MB keeps making about Glanville’s team going 4-0 in preseason and stinking in the regular season…like this is somehow supposed to justify mediocrity in future exhibition games. Here’s a truism for you: While I agree that doing well in the preseason is not necessarily a predictor of a good regular season, under NO circumstances can losing all your exhibition games be a predictor of ANYTHING good for the upcoming season! Remember, they don’t just not count for the Falcons…they’re supposed to not count for anybody, so the playing field is level. As a paying (and watching) Falcon fan, I really would like to see more than 10 minutes of good football in a 3-hour plus game, thanks!

Dirty Dawg

August 20th, 2012
12:39 pm

The Bulldogs are like the Brave’s………they blow a few and Choke on the Big Ones!

cdog

August 20th, 2012
12:41 pm

FREDDIE FREEMAN IS KILLING THE BRAVES. HE”S UPPERCUTTING EVERY PITCH AND TRYING TO KILL THE BALL INSTEAD OF MEETING THE BALL AND PUTTING IT IN PLAY USING THE WHOLE FIELD..DAN UGGLA HAS GIVEN UP AND THE BRAVES HAVE THE WORST ANNOUNCERS IN THE LEAGUE. ONE GAME, THE BRAVES WERE BOMBING JOHAN SANTANNA, ONE MADE A STATEMENT THAT HE FELT SORRY FOR SANTANNA. I GUESS HE WANTED SANTANNA TO BEAT THE BRAVES.ALL ARE TERRIBLE AND DOES NOT PROMOT THE BRAVES. HOPEFULLY, THE BRAVES WILL JUMP ON THE NATIONALS.

Reebok

August 20th, 2012
12:43 pm

The Braves and Falcons are both slightly-better-than-average teams. That’s why they will both squeak into their respective playoffs, and why they will both immediately sink without a ripple.