Archive for August, 2012

Video: On the Braves, Dan Uggla and the big Nats series

This video chat was taped before Game 2 of the Braves’ series in Washington. The Nationals would take Tuesday night’s game 4-1 behind Stephen Strasburg.

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Why the Braves’ 13-inning loss to the Nats gives me pause

The happy Nats after unleashing their winning barrage of infield hits. (AP photo)

The happy Nationals after unleashing their winning fusillade of infield singles. (AP photo)

I’m on record as believing the Braves are a very good team, and I’ve been around long enough not to overreact — or at least to try not to overreact — to any single regular-season baseball game. (They play 162 of them, after all.) That said, a couple of things about last night’s loss in Washington bothered me.

They bothered me because they fly in the face of what I’ve come to believe — and, truth to tell, what some in the Braves’ organization have come to believe — about this team vis-a-vis the Nationals. I (and certain Braves folks) believe the local nine is better than Washington everywhere but in the starting rotation, and here let’s concede that starting pitching has an outsize importance. And that’s the root of my unease.

The Braves and Nationals were tied at 4 by the top of the fifth inning. Jordan Zimmermann, the Nats’ starter, was gone after five. Tim Hudson was pulled after six. …

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Augusta National admits women, and we all should smile

The man who made it happen. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The man who did the right thing. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

That a day too long in coming has finally arrived probably shouldn’t touch off a celebration, but somehow this does. There was never a good reason for Augusta National not to include women among its membership. There was no reason beyond the stubbornness that human beings — both male and female, let’s stipulate — can sometimes mistake for “tradition.” But now the famous private club has admitted two women into its green-jacketed ranks, and that’s one less reason to regard Augusta National as the tin-eared old coot it has often seemed.

Yes, went the hollow argument, Augusta National is a private club and as such could admit whom it chooses. But Augusta National is a private club with a ragingly public face. It invites outsiders — at least those fortunate enough to land tickets — onto its premises for a week every April, and through television and the Internet and even iPhone and Android apps it invites the rest of …

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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 …

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GM Frank Wren on the 2012 Braves: ‘We can go all the way’

This is how it ended in 2011. It'll be better this time. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This is how it ended in 2011. It'll be better this time. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

We start with the obvious: Yes, the Braves are in great shape, but they were in great shape a year ago and collapsed in a heap. They awoke Saturday with the same record (70-49) as they held after 119 games in 2011, and then they owned a six-game lead over St. Louis and San Francisco for the one and only wild-card berth.

This year there are two wild cards, and the Braves led Los Angeles by 5 1/2 games for the second WC entering Saturday night’s game at Turner Field. And they were 3 1/2 games closer to the first-place team in the National League East — Philadelphia last year, Washington now — than in August 2011.

Baseball Prospectus gauges the Braves’ chances of making the 2012 playoffs at 96.7 percent. So, to put it bluntly: Unless this team authors a flop of historic dimensions for the second consecutive year — and what are the odds of that? — it will qualify for the postseason. And what’s …

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Numbers give Braves edge over the Nats in … baserunning?

"Even when I'm 40, I'll have better wheels than you, Rochy." (AP photo)

"Even when I'm 40 years old, I'll still have better wheels than you, Rochy." (AP photo)

There’s a metric for everything in baseball. The fun ones are those that tell us something we might not have known just by using our eyeballs. Here, courtesy of an ESPN Insider post by Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus, is a key reason why the Braves might just overhaul Washington to take the National League East.

The Braves are very good at running the bases. The Nationals are not.

From Lindbergh:

Baseball Prospectus offers a stat called baserunning runs, which measures the number of runs a player adds or subtracts by advancing more or fewer bases than expected given his number of opportunities. The Braves and Nationals couldn’t be further apart on the BRR leader board. Atlanta is baseball’s best baserunning team with 13.7 BRR, while Washington is the worst with -14.9. The Braves have been almost four runs better than the next-best baserunning team, while the Nats fall a full …

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Well, Braves fans, we now know what got into Melky Cabrera

Melky homers against the Braves. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Melky homers against the Braves. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Melky Cabrera spent a season of no special distinction with the Atlanta Braves, whereupon they non-tendered him, which is to say they dumped him. He wound up in Kansas City, which as we know is the Last Chance Saloon for all undistinguished Braves, and finished the 2011 season with 201 improbable hits.

This raised a few eyebrows — the prototype fourth outfielder getting more hits in a season than Ted Williams ever did? — but only a few. Because playing for the Royals doesn’t quite count. Then Cabrera was traded to San Francisco, where he turned into a fair approximation of Barry Bonds. Through 113 games he was hitting .346 with 11 homers and 6o RBIs. And those are, it must be noted, the numbers with which the Melkman will end this regular season.

Because he just got suspended 50 games after testing positive for elevated testosterone. This could well doom the Giants, who have fallen behind the Dodgers in the …

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As coach and conscience, Bill Curry will be greatly missed

Bill Curry at the podium Wednesday. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Bill Curry at the podium Wednesday. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Bill Curry asked that Cheryl Levick, Georgia State’s athletic director, not refer to him Wednesday as a legend. Having played under Bobby Dodd, Vince Lombardi and Don Shula, Curry is sensitive about the word and its usage. And there is, ahem, the issue of whether it actually applies.

Bill Curry’s career record is 92-118-4. He has had seven winning seasons in the 19 he has worked at Georgia Tech, Alabama, Kentucky and now Georgia State. He announced Wednesday that the season ahead will be his last as a coach. It will not, he hopes, be his last as a person of influence, and that’s the good news. If there’s such a thing as a legendary voice of reason, Bill Curry is it.

This correspondent met Curry 28 years ago, just after he gave a speech to a Yellow Jacket booster club proclaiming that his Tech team “will drive the cheaters to their knees.” Fans of rival schools were outraged. The AJC columnist Lewis Grizzard, an …

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Video: On UGA winning the SEC and Tech taking the Coastal

Oh, and here’s a print version of those predictions, if anyone cares to have proof of my lunacy in writing.

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Six men in the rotation? The Braves say yes; I say, ‘I wouldn’t’

Is keeping Medlen in the rotation worth the risk of meddling? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Is keeping Medlen in the rotation worth the risk of meddling? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

For half a season the Braves couldn’t find enough good starting pitchers. Now they have so many they’re planning to deploy a six-man rotation. They’re not doing this because they’re desperate. They’re doing it because they think it’ll make a rotation that has finally begun to function work even better.

Here we return to a fairly key phrase: “A rotation that has finally begun to function.”

And here we note: The Braves are tinkering with what, to get ungrammatical, not only ain’t broke but what, not so long ago, was a mess.

The Braves see it this way: Tommy Hanson is due back from the disabled list, and it would make no sense to ship him to the bullpen or Gwinnett. Hanson has proved he’s a big-league starter. (Even in this lesser season, he has won 12 games.) Kris Medlen, deputized as Hanson’s replacement, has won two of his three starts with an ERA of 2.16, and the Braves like that, …

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