Tagged: Atlanta Braves

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Over the past 20 years there have been dozens of pitchers that have challenged the best hitters in the game. They pushed the best teams to their limits and challenged some of the greatest records the game has to offer.

Pitchers like Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, and John Smoltz have lead the way. Through all the controversy there has been one pitcher who has truly weathered the storm. He has played the game with all the class in the world while bolstering one of the greatest resumes one could ever hope for. That player is #31, Greg Maddux.

Greg MadduxOn Friday Maddux will have his number retired by the Atlanta Braves. This is after he has had his number retired by the Chicago Cubs earlier this season. Here’s a look back on arguably the greatest pitcher in the last 50 years.

Greg Maddux began his career as a lanky pitcher for the Chicago Cubs in 1986 at the age of 20. Maddux would spend the next 7 season in Chicago, winning at least 15 games 5 times and at least 18 games 3 times. Despite having an excellent resume Maddux’s career was just about to take off. Maddux would then sign with the Atlanta Braves and begin a streak of dominance that has yet to be contested.

Greg MadduxMaddux would spend the next 11 seasons with the Braves and would collect 3 of his 4 Cy Young Awards while accumulating 194 wins. Maddux’s best season came in 1995, where he went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA. He would throw 10 complete games to go with 3 shutouts on his way to his 4th and final Cy Young Award and only World Series victory.

Maddux is an 8-time All-Star and an 18-time Gold Glove winner. Maddux was able to redefine the position from a defensive standpoint on his way to cementing himself as the great defensive pitcher of all time.

Maddux lead the league in wins 3 times (1992, 1994, 1995) and in ERA 4 times (1993, 1994, 1995, 1998). He lead the league in WHIP 4 times (1993, 1994, 1995, 1998) as well as walks per 9 innings pitched 9 times (1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008). Maddux’s durability further proves why he is one of the greatest. In a stretch from 1990-1996 Maddux finished no worse than 2nd in the National League in innings pitched. That streak included 4 years (1991-1995) in which he lead the NL in innings pitched with no fewer than 202.0 (1994).

When it comes to all-time statistics Maddux ranks 13th in innings pitched (5008.1), 8th in wins (355), 4th in games started (740), and 10th in strikeouts (3371). This goes without mentioning he has only walked 999 batters in his entire career.

Not only is Maddux one of the greatest on the field, he has been an amazing human being off the field. In 1993 Maddux formed The Maddux Foundation which has raised over $850,000 for other various charities.

Greg MadduxThere is no doubt that he is a first ballot Hall of Famer and is one of the greatest pitchers to ever grace the field. A tip of the cap to a Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame person.

“Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.”Warren Spahn


~Ben

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What could have been

Have you ever found yourself watching a baseball game or even Baseball Tonight and see one of your team’s former players and think to yourself “What could have been if we held onto him?” I do it on almost a daily basis. I decided to put together a team of former Atlanta Braves. Almost all have been developed by Atlanta but a few were acquired by trade and for one reason or another allowed to move on.

One former catcher is Texas Rangers starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “Salty” is currently hitting .250 with 6 home runs and 29 RBI in 64 games for Texas. Another catcher is Kansas City Royal Brayan Pena. Pena is currently hitting .319 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI in 22 games for the Royals. Both Salty and Pena are switch hitters.

Jarrod SaltalamacchiaAt first base you have a former fan favorite in Adam LaRoche. He is currently hitting .259 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI for the Pittsburgh Pirates. At second base you have that Mark DeRosa guy. You may have heard about him being amazing at a handful of positions. You’re welcome St. Louis. Atlanta fans have been crying about letting him go for years now. DeRosa is currently hitting .261 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI.

Elvis AndrusShortstop is what really gets me mad. You have studs like Rafael Furcal (.254, 3 HR, 19 RBI) playing for the Dodgers and Elvis Andrus (.262, 3 HR, 15 RBI) playing for the Texas Rangers. Texas thought so much of Andrus that they made Michael Young (5-time All-Star, 2005 AL Batting Champ, 2008 Gold Glove winner) change positions to third base. At third base you have current Tampa Bay Ray Willy Aybar. He is currently hitting .279 with 7 home runs and 25 RBI. Atlanta had plans for Aybar before he had issues with substance abuse. It’s such a shame to see someone with so much talent get moved around like he has been.

Moving to the outfield you will see current White Sox star Jermaine Dye. Dye is hitting .297 with 20 home runs and 54 RBI. He would be great in the current Atlanta offense that is starved for power. Another former Brave is Andruw Jones who is currently having a solid season with the Texas Rangers. He is only hitting .250 but has 14 home runs and 34 RBI. Two former outfielders who were acquired by trade and then allowed to move on are Gary Sheffield (.277, 10 HR, 31 RBI) and J.D. Drew (.260, 12 HR, 37 RBI).

When you get to the list of pitchers it can really get ugly for Braves fans. A rotation could consist of Jason Marquis (11-5, 3.61), Kevin Millwood (8-6, 3.34), and Adam Wainwright (9-5, 3.09). Not to mention John Smoltz of the Boston Red Sox. The bullpen could have Joey Devine (0.59, 11 Holds) at the end of games.

Losing players in trades or to free agency is part of baseball. But it’s always nice to wonder, what could have been?

You don’t know what ya got till it’s gone,

Ben

The Real All-Stars

I think just about everyone who voted on this year’s All-Star teams has been frustrated in some way or another. Some guys got snubbed despite having a stellar season in favor of someone having a mediocre season but has that “reputation.”
2009 ASGAs an Atlanta Braves fan my biggest issue is having Brian McCann make the team as a reserve and not a starter in favor of Yadier Molina. McCann is easily having the better season despite spending time on the DL and having horrible eye problems. Molina just happens to be the more popular player so he gets the nod even though he hasn’t been playing as well.

Another issue I have as a Braves fan is the fact that neither Rafael Soriano (1-1, 1.63 ERA, 8 saves) or Mike Gonzalez ( 3-1, 3.20 ERA, 9 saves) got voted in. I try to be as unbiased as possible but dammit at least one of those guys deserves to be in St. Louis. Instead of one of them Ted Lilly (8-6, 3.32 ERA) made the team. I obviously see that his record doesn’t tell the tale of his season but if you want to play that game then Jair Jurrjens (6-7, 2.91) deserves to be there.

Lance BerkmanSomething that puzzles me is why does the National League have 4 first baseman? They have 4 first baseman while only carrying 2 shortstops and 2 third baseman. As for the first baseman I think Lance Berkman is having just as good a season as Ryan Howard. People talk about versatility, Berkman can play the corner outfield positions as well as first base. Did I mention he switch hits? Ryan Howard already as 95 strikeouts. Who wants to see a guy take an 0-2 with 2K in a freaking All-Star game? There are 4 first baseman while someone like Casey Blake is left off the team.

In the American League Dustin Pedroia who is having a solid season is starting over Aaron Hill while Brian Roberts didn’t even make the team. Everyone jumped on the Josh Hamilton band wagon and sent him there, the guy hasn’t even played. Hamilton himself said he didn’t deserve to be there. He made it instead of a guy like Juan Rivera, who is killing the ball this year.

Juan RiveraWhat this all boils down to his the All-Star game is a popularity contest. The average fan knows the most popular players and that’s about it. The most popular players aren’t always the best ones. As long as the All-Star game actually “counts” the leagues need to be presenting the best team possible. Something interesting, the National League has 2 more teams than the American League which means they have to have a representative from 2 more teams.

If MLB wants this game to actually count then I want the players making the decisions. No one knows the players like the players so it’s only right. If they want the fans to get involved then make the game count for nothing or give them power over the reserves at most.

Over and out,

Ben

Gotta love Hanson

The player, not the band. That would just be gross. (I can’t believe I actually watched a full minute of that video after linking to it…)

Tommy HansonBack to the real Hanson, Tommy Hanson. This guy has just been a flat out stud for Atlanta. His fastball usually clocks in at around 91-93 but he can crank it up to 97 when he needs to. He brings a knee buckling curveball at around 73 or so. He also likes to mix in an above average slider with a solid changeup. The great thing is he can throw all four pitches for a strike in any count.

From what I can see the best part about Hanson’s game is that he has such great composure so quickly. He looks like a seasoned veteran out on the mound and I feel that is the most important part of his game right now. Of course his stuff is going to be good, but most guys don’t have the mentality to play the game. Hanson has appeared unfazed even when faced with the stacked lineups of Boston and New York.

Against the Red Sox Hanson threw 6 shutout innings allowing just 2 hits. In his previous start he threw 5.1 shutout innings against the Yankees. These are not easy lineups by any means. They are freaking stacked.

Tonight Hanson had a streak of 26 consecutive scoreless innings broken by Adam Dunn‘s 300th home run. (Hanson went 7 innings allowing just the 1 run by the way.) The kid makes one mistake and it has to be against an all or nothing slugger. Regardless, he pitched a fantastic game and got stuck with the no decision when Mike Gonzalez brought the suck.

The only issue I have with Hanson so far is his command. It was much better today against the Nationals but then again, it’s the Nationals. Hanson walked just 1 batter in today’s game which is a huge improvement over recent starts. In 36.0 innings pitched this year Hanson has 18 walks. Hanson has only struck out 23 batters so far but his dominance is shown with his 2.25 ERA. So far Hanson is 4-0 and I think if he continues his dominance he will be an easy choice for Rookie of the Year.

Till next time,

Ben

Inside the Numbers

Brian McCann vs. Joe Mauer

ESPN always seems to bring up the discussions comparing players and sparking the question, “Who would ya take?”

It seems as though I’m in the minority as I would take Brian McCann over Joe Mauer. Here’s a look inside the numbers. Currently Mauer leads most statistical categorizes throughout both players’ careers. Before writing off McCann one should know that Mauer started his fabulous career a year earlier than McCann. Mauer played 35 games in 2005 while McCann didn’t begin his MLB career until 2006.

Joe MauerDespite this most of the major statistics are somewhat close with Mauer having the edge in hits (733 to 549), doubles (140 to135), RBI (345 to 328) and total bases (1077 to 922). Mauer also has the advantage in career batting average (.324 to .299).

McCann seems to only lead Mauer in one major category, home runs (78 to 58). Right now you should be thinking this is a no contest, Mauer is obviously the better offensive catcher. This is before I inform you that Mauer also leads McCann with 616 games played to just 533. He also leads McCann in at-bats 2263 to just 1839. Not only has Mauer played in 83 more games than McCann, he participated in 76 of those as the designated hitter. McCann doesn’t have the luxury of the DH in the National League. McCann has only been able to DH 27 times in his career compared to Mauer’s 76.

Brian McCann The DH may not seem like a big deal but it can really boost one’s statistics. Mauer can occasionally take the day off defensively but remain in the game to hit. I believe it is common knowledge that catching is the most physically demanding position on the field. If McCann wants to hit he has to catch also. When McCann needs a day off he doesn’t have the luxury of the DH like Mauer does. Mauer gets his day off while padding his offensive statistics. When taking this into consideration Mauer has a large advantage in opportunities since the beginning of the 2005 season.

This proves that you can’t always take statistics at face value. Mauer leads the major statistics but has had more opportunities. On the other hand, Mauer has had more at-bats and games but still has a better batting average and only 14 more strikeouts. Statistics can also be warped by injuries. Mauer has missed a substantial amount of time this season while McCann spent about a month or so with terrible eye problems that forced him to the DL.

Joe Mauer currently owns the better fielding percentage (.996 to .989) but McCann has one more All-Star appearance. It really is a toss up between the two superstars. No matter what you think we are truly lucky to see two great offensive catchers playing at the same time. These two could go down as the two greatest offensive catchers to ever play the game.

Happy blogging,

Ben

The Unsung Hero

Martin PradoMartin Prado not only has been Atlanta‘s hero in the last few games, but he has been for the entire season.

It is easy to disregard the earlier part of the season and replace it with the previous two games, in which Prado has gone 6-9 with four runs scored, two doubles, one home run and six RBI. In the last two games Prado has improved his season batting average 25 points, yes, 25 points. It is easy to overlook his complete body of work when he provides an outstanding two game stretch.

When you look past Prado’s recent success you will find a mediocre .280 batting average with 3 home runs and nine RBI. His offense has been above average, but it is his defensive versatility that really gives this young man value. Prado has played in at least 10 games at three different positions. His ability to play first, second, and third base give him value. Seeing his recent success gives me flashbacks of another versatile player named Mark DeRosa.

Mark DeRosaI believe it is safe to
say that the second base job is Prado’s to lose at this point. He has
proven time and time again that he can play solid defense and now his
offense is coming around when given the chance to play on a regular
basis.

Prado’s recent success has not only drawn whispers from fans,
but it has caught the eye of manager Bobby Cox. “He’s too hot to take
out,” Cox stated after Prado’s walk-off single against the Phillies Tuesday night.
If Prado continues to succeed Kelly Johnson will remain on the bench. Johnson has had plenty of opportunities and rarely has been able to cash in. Now it’s Prado’s turn.

Till next time,

Ben

Help On The Way?

It should be interesting to see if the Braves can actually land an impact bat. I think it is pretty clear that without another bat Atlanta’s sickly offense won’t be able to back their strong starting pitching.

Jeremy HermidaI have read that Atlanta has shown interest in Florida’s Jeremy Hermida, but I don’t think that makes much sense. He has been compared to Jeff Francoeur, which I’m sure doesn’t make Atlanta fans very excited. He has more power than Francoeur but doesn’t play as well defensively. People are hard on Francouer’s offense but we often forget that he plays Gold Glove defense year round.

Hermida hits for about the same average but has shown more power with 8 home runs. Francoeur however has driven in more runs. I value runs driven in over home runs, but that’s just me.

I don’t see Atlanta bringing in Matt Holliday as a rental. It would end up being a Mark Teixeira debacle all over again. I would rather Atlanta go for a mid level outfielder such as maybe an Alex Rios over a huge bat such as Holliday. If the Braves can’t bring in a big bat I think Martin Prado has shown as of last night that he can produce. Sure, he isn’t a big bat but he is an upgrade over Kelly Johnson. Atlanta has gotten just about nothing from Johnson so anything from that position could be a huge boost.

Yunel EscobarJohnson has been inconsistent at best, both offensively and defensively. Prado is quickly proving he can play above average defense as well as hit for a decent average and drive in runs. If he plays anything like he did against the Phillies for the rest of the year the Braves may not need another bat.

Unfortunately as Prado shines when on the field, Yunel Escobar keeps giving the Braves reasons to trade him. It really is unfortunate that someone with so much talent can’t play the game the right way. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Escobar go by the end of the week. He has been arguably the most productive offensive player for the Braves but just can’t seem to see that his behavior both on and off the field doesn’t make up for his production on it. It really is a shame to see a potential superstar waste his career like this.

Till next time,

Ben