Braves 7, Cubs 3

Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves – Box Score – July 5, 2012 – ESPN.

The season is just slightly more than half over. In 82 games, the Braves have scored an average of 4.58 runs a game and given up an average of 4.28 runs a game. Coming into the game, they were fourth in the league in runs per game and eighth in the league in runs allowed per game. This is an offensive club. It just has an inconsistent offense.

Occasionally, of course, teams that sucked over the summer catch lightning in a bottle and have a terrific October — like, say, the reigning World Champs, who stumbled into the playoffs because the Braves couldn’t wait to give it away. But it’s not exactly the norm. Mediocre teams do not typically turn into World Series winners, just like mediocre 24-year old pitchers do not typically turn into Tom Glavine.

Speaking of someone who will not turn into Tom Glavine, Mike Minor had his best start in nearly a month, as he went 6 1/3 innings and was charged with three runs, two earned, yielding just three hits and two walks against six strikeouts. He wasn’t masterful, managing just 58 strikes in 101 pitches. But he also wasn’t awful. Considering that he had given up 15 runs in his previous 15 1/3 innings, and Chipper Jones literally just said that the team won’t make the playoffs if it doesn’t add another starting pitcher, it felt sort of like a masterpiece.

As has been their wont, the Braves scored virtually all of their runs on homers: twin two- run homers in the first inning by Jason Heyward and Brian McCann put the Braves ahead 4-0, and the Braves tacked on insurance runs when Freddie Freeman hit a solo shot in the third and Juan Francisco hit a solo shot in the 8th. A McCann sac fly accounted for the other run; his 3 RBIs on the day were the most that he’d had since May 30, and his 5 total bases were his highest total since June 15. He’s now batting .230/.297/.395. Dan Uggla, of course, went 0-4 with three strikeouts, and he is now batting .225/.355/.394.

The Braves certainly aren’t going to score seven runs a game, though it doesn’t seem too implausible that they could keep on averaging four and a half. The key will be for their pitchers to hold the other guys under four. For the first time in nearly a month, Mike Minor did so. That’s cause for mild celebration.

UPDATE: I did a little number-crunching in the comments to take a look at just how mediocre the Braves have been over the past month. Enjoy!

In their last last 5 games, the Braves are 2-3, with 23 runs scored and 23 runs allowed.
In their last last 10 games, the Braves are 5-5, with 50 runs scored and 41 runs allowed.
In their last last 15 games, the Braves are 8-7, with 76 runs scored and 67 runs allowed.
In their last last 20 games, the Braves are 9-11, with 84 runs scored and 85 runs allowed.
In their last last 25 games, the Braves are 11-14, with 101 runs scored and 111 runs allowed.
In their last last 30 games, the Braves are 15-15, with 125 runs scored and 118 runs allowed.

137 thoughts on “Braves 7, Cubs 3”

  1. Nice job, Alex. It’s good to have a little context, so judgments about the team aren’t based on what happened over the past couple games or so.

  2. Thanks, Adam, although in fairness, your lyin’ eyes could probably tell you that this team is somewhere in the middle between very bad and very good. For example:

    In their last last 5 games, they are 2-3, with 23 runs scored and 23 runs allowed.
    In their last last 10 games, they are 5-5, with 50 runs scored and 41 runs allowed.
    In their last last 15 games, they are 8-7, with 76 runs scored and 67 runs allowed.
    In their last last 20 games, they are 9-11, with 84 runs scored and 85 runs allowed.
    In their last last 25 games, they are 11-14, with 101 runs scored and 111 runs allowed.

  3. From the last thread, talking about both Venters andMedlen allowing 47% of his inherited runners to score:

    I fully understand how small the sample is, and how a number like that can be entirely about luck.

    Venters isn’t luck. It’s that he throws a wild pitch and a homer every single night.

    But in Medlen’s case, I think the problem is he’s not striking anyone out. He’s got a K/9 of 5.5, but came into the year with a career 8.0.

    He shouldn’t be a fireman. Hes giving up too much contact.

  4. Why is Medlen in the pen anyway? If we need to add another starter, we’ve got one right there.

  5. Agree with Tom at #5.

    What an unlikely game for Francisco: 34(!) pitches were thrown to him in 4 ABs. That 16-pitch battle in the second was epic.

  6. Most important thing about this season is progress of Jason Heyward. He’s at roughly a 2010 pace. He’s hit for more power this season and less OBP, but his value is close. If he’s returned to his rookie value, the season is a success.

  7. I’ll take that from Minor every day of the week. Except for Mondays, because we can’t win on Mondays.

  8. I wonder if the scouts saw something in Medlen they didn’t like when they tried to stretch him out to be a starter. I understand the bullpen situation has changed over the last month, but the starting pitching situation has changed even more with losing Beachy. It just doesn’t make sense to not give Medlen a chance at starting unless they are penciling in both Sheets and Greinke (or another trade) to start in the very near future.

  9. @10

    I think they are show casing Minor and/or Delgatto. If not, someone should be fired.

  10. Isn’t it about time for Freddie to sit down Heyward and put in Constanza? After all, the Braves need a spark. :)

    @10,

    Smitty,

    I think Liberty Media should be fired. Can we do that?

  11. So, the thing with Delgado is his windup leaves the ball exposed at one point, which is basically tipping the pitch. Batters can see what grip he’s got on the ball and adjust before he throws it. I’m not sure if an immediate correction is possible, since it sounds to me like he’ll have to revamp his delivery a bit so that the ball isn’t exposed so early. That doesn’t sound like the kind of thing you do between starts.

    Either way, I really doubt the Braves give up on him. I think its more likely that Minor gets moved in a deal rather than Delgado.

  12. I would definitely keep Delgado over Minor.

    Mac, welcome back and take care.

    AAR, great job!!!

  13. This weekend, the Braves catch a break-no Halladay, obviously, and no Lee or Hamels (unless Lee pitches on short rest). But, after the break, they will presumably see both Dickey and Santana.

  14. @13
    So I guess you listen to the Up and In podcast as well.
    @!5
    Does that mean we have to face Kyle Kendrick? I’d rather see Hamels or Lee than Kendrick any day.

  15. He’s a knuckler. It looks like he’s coming back to earth, then the next instant it looks like he’s moving to the left. You just can’t tell with those guys.

  16. Why should we care what Troy Glaus did against Kyle Kendrick in 2010? “Vs. team” stats drive me nuts.

  17. Mravery, you may well be right that Delgado’s tipping his pitches. But for me, the real problem isn’t the fact that hitters are hitting him hard. (They’re hitting .258/.344/.398 off him, which isn’t awful but certainly isn’t good.) The real problem, for me, is that he has such trouble finding the strike zone. His BB% last year was 9.5%, which is above major league average; this year, it’s 11%, which is a really dangerous direction for it to be headed. His strike percentage has gone from 60% in 2011 to 59% in 2012.

    Likewise, Minor. Batters are hitting .263/.338/.486 off him, which isn’t good. But still, his BB% has gone from 6.0% in 2010 to 8.3% in 2011 to 10.1% in 2012. His strike percentage has gone from 64% in 2010 and 2011 to 61% in 2012.

    I don’t know what the root cause is. I usually tend to believe that a lot of it is mental. Of course, Minor or Delgado might also be hiding an injury. But, for me, the single greatest contributing factor to their struggles is their inability to throw strikes.

  18. Just received my sonos system and have a question: Which is the best “Braves Talk” sports radio station out there? Thanks.

  19. 17—Not true at all. I was immediately upset that they passed on Matzek. (Who’s been an utter disaster so far, it bears mentioning.)

    However, Minor’s uptick in fastball velocity, coupled with his minor-league dominance, had me pretty optimistic for quite a while.

  20. 17—Not true at all. I was immediately upset that they passed on Matzek. (Who’s been an utter disaster so far, it bears mentioning.)

    Also guilty.

  21. 26: It seems like that, but actually it’s just random variation in a small sample. Kyle Kendrick didn’t put a hex on the Braves’ uniforms.

  22. I,too, tabbed Matzek as the right pick at the time we selected Minor. Suffice it to say, I think the Braves did a better job than I would have with that pick.

  23. #29
    When you play 18 games a year vs. a club that has slapped you around with Lee, Hamels, Halladay & Oswalt, you’d like to think that a game vs. Kyle Kendrick wouldn’t be so daunting.

    So, when you’re talking about the Braves’ inability to beat a wildly inconsistent pitcher, a guy who’s usually the 4th- or 5th-best starter on what’s a usually very deep staff, the results aren’t any less infuriating.

    Why has it been this way? Who the hell knows? But it would be nice to beat this guy.

  24. Weren’t folks big on Shelby Miller too? I seem to remember everyone wanting Matzek or Shelby Miller, who’s sucking in the minors this year.

    Mid-20’s that year was Mike Trout. Sigh.

  25. Trout was picked with the comp selection that would have been the Braves had they not traded Teix for that big package from the Angels… Probably just as well, looking at who else we picked that year.

  26. Shelby Miller may be sucking, but his future remains bright. I wouldn’t close the book on him just yet. I’d guess any GM in the league would much rather have him than Minor.

    But not Matzek.

  27. @34 – Ouch. Didn’t even think about that.

    There was an article online the other day stating that we still pay Bruce Sutter from a contract in the 80’s similar to the setup with Bobby Bonilla and the Mets. Is this true? Anyone heard that before?

  28. Re Sutter, from wikipedia…

    He was momentarily the highest paid player in baseball, although he agreed to have his Atlanta contract configured so that he was paid $750,000 for six years with the rest going into an insurance fund that was to be structured to pay him $1,000,000 for 30 years.

  29. @37 – funny.

    Yeah, for all of you young folks out there complaining about the current front office there’s the Len Barker trade to remind old guys like me that it ain’t so bad now.

  30. @39: Still a lot less than we’re paying Derek Lowe to pitch for Cleveland. And don’t forget we paid Quilvio Veras $4,000,000 to put up an OPS+ of 76.

    Still though: we got Julio Franco for nothing. We got the old Matt Diaz for nothing. Why do the mistakes seem so much more memorable than the successes?

  31. There are at least five kinds of deals, and the Braves have successes and failures at all of them– with examples:

    (1) Drafts: Chipper Jones vs. Brad Komminsk
    (2) Selling: Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz vs. Dusty Baker for Paciorek-Royster et. al.
    (3) Buying: McGriff vs. McLouth
    (4) Free Agent: Maddux vs. Sutter
    (5) Scrap heaps: Franco vs. Brogna

    By and large though, we are all about the draft and buying guys with draft guys… at least in the Schuerholz-Wren era. That, and scrap heap deals, especially in middle relief. With only a few exceptions, the trades and rentals haven’t really worked out. And other than Maddux, free agents have been really weak. (This is all off the top of my head… I’m probably forgetting lots of salient examples.)

    I’m just not waiting for the next Fred McGriff. It’s too painful.

  32. foxsports – Mark Lerner, one of the franchise’s principal owners, told FOXSports.com in an interview Thursday that general manager Mike Rizzo will have the freedom to add payroll through trades this month. The Nationals’ ownership group is prepared to make a big investment in the club as it attempts to reach the postseason — and finish better than .500 — for the first time since relocating from Montreal before the 2005 season.

    Must be nice to hear.

  33. When reached for comment, Liberty Media officials rolled on the floor in laughter.

  34. JonathanF, that’s a pretty good analysis, but I wouldn’t exactly say that the Braves “lost” the McLouth trade: neither Gorkys Hernandez nor Jeff Locke has amounted to anything, and both are looking like total prospect busts at this point. McLouth was horrendous, but he gave us more value than those two guys gave the Pirates.

    Also, there is a sixth type of deal as well: (6) Release.

    Sometimes it works out. And sometimes Melky Cabrera becomes an All-Star.

  35. AAR: I’m with you on deal type (6). As to McLouth, it’s true that the guys we traded to get him did nothing, but at least they did their nothing in the minors where they can’t hurt anyone’s major league record or take $5 million off the payroll.

  36. Yankees and Red Sox each scored 5 runs in the first inning. That might be a really long game.

  37. @59 – or another way to look at it, he’s thrown 1 more pitch over 5 innings than it took Garza to get out of the first inning yesterday.

  38. Huddy is at 45 pitches through 5. Some runs to show support would be great, guys.

  39. Rollins, then Victorino, then Utley. I know how this play ends.

  40. You might have to go back to Willie Mays in 1973 to find anyone playing worse heading into an All-Star appearance than Uggla.

  41. Maybe the best thing about the All-Star break is that we can skip Delgado and Minor.

  42. Any good reasons not to trade Uggla? Would anyone take him? That contract is way too risky under the shackles of Liberty.

  43. bastardo is still the coolest name in baseball. Satan in hockey is the chap (oooh let him get traded to the devils someday!)

  44. They bunt when you wish they wouldn’t and don’t bunt when they obviously should. The Fredi Gonzalez-led Atlanta Braves.

  45. Rally time?

    #85
    Tough to beat Tony Bastard.

    Although I’m a huge Devils fan, I’ve never bought the sweater-jersey. However, I’m on record as saying that, if New Jersey ever acquired Miroslav Satan, I’d re-consider.

  46. So.. Holliday goes to the ASG over Bourn?

    Guess how surprised I am. Although I suppose Holliday is deserving. Still makes me hate TLR though.

  47. Smartest thing he did was keep that bat on his shoulder. Well done, Freddie.

  48. AAR said in the OP that the Braves need to score 5 per game. I’d just like to suggest that waiting until the 8th to do it is not good for people’s mental health.

  49. Game’s not over, of course, but you really gotta give it up to Huddy for gutting this one out.

    #92
    During the Rangers series in Newark, I saw a guy in a Devils sweater numbered 666, and instead of a name above the number it just read: Rangers Suck.

    Not that I condone such undignified adornment…

  50. Not to sound like a Met fan or anything, but this is the kind of Philly game that I’ve become mentally prepared to lose.

    Bartender! Another Leffe please…

  51. McCann now has 9 career grand slams. Don’t know where that ranks in Braves history but it’s an impressive number nonetheless.

  52. @128: Interesting. Combining that list with the homer list, we find that BMac is 16th alltime in Grand Slams per homer. (Among the top 1000 home run hitters with at least two grand slams). The leader? John Milner, with 10 salamis in his 131 homers.

    It’s a somewhat odd list. Here’s the top 20:
    Player HR GS Ratio
    John Milner 131 10 0.076335878
    Ron Northey 108 8 0.074074074
    Marlon Byrd 82 6 0.073170732
    Fernando Tatis 113 8 0.07079646
    Ben Broussard 87 6 0.068965517
    Damian Miller 87 6 0.068965517
    Jason Kubel 118 8 0.06779661
    Jim Tabor 104 7 0.067307692
    Joe Rudi 179 12 0.067039106
    Edgar Renteria 140 9 0.064285714
    Elbie Fletcher 79 5 0.063291139
    Roy Howell 80 5 0.0625
    Shane Mack 80 5 0.0625
    Tim McCarver 97 6 0.06185567
    Robin Ventura 294 18 0.06122449
    Travis Hafner 196 12 0.06122449
    Brian McCann 147 9 0.06122449
    Ben Zobrist 83 5 0.060240964
    Brian Roberts 84 5 0.05952381
    Dave Concepcion 101 6 0.059405941
    Trot Nixon 137 8 0.058394161

  53. When people say things like “This team has no heart” or “The Braves just don’t know how to rise to the occasion,” clearly they’re forgetting about Tim Hudson.

  54. Are we allowed to talke about other baseball games when the Yankees and Red Sox are playing?

  55. @131/132, True. That was just my way of complimenting Huddy for being a demonstrably gutsy player.

  56. Freeman will hit few grand slams if they keep walking him with bases loaded. What is the record for bases loaded walks?

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