100 thoughts on “Go USA”

  1. But I’m still rooting for USA today.

    Yes, it’s definitely my favorite colorful, content-free newspaper.

  2. Jingoists.

    Thanks, ‘Rissa, for the nice recap of last night’s game. Thanks, Alex, for rousing my patriotic fervor.

    Break out the brooms, Braves.

  3. @1

    Are their hotel contracts up for renewal/cancellation soon? Hang in there, lil news rag.

  4. So, we lost by a respectable amount and we’re advancing?!!! Yay!!11! Ridiculous sport.

  5. We are going with the same lineup as Tuesday. Let’s see if we get some good results.

  6. B.J. just had his best at bat of the year. He worked the count. He saw 7 pitches. He stayed alive on a 2-2 count. It ended with an opposite field single. Very nice B.J.

  7. A base hit, a stolen base and advancing to third on the error? Who is this leadoff hitter?

  8. When Minor keeps the ball down, he is money, but lately, he has been letting to many of his pitches up and over the plate early in the game.

  9. Congrats to the USMNT. Missed this one. But if you watched US v Portugal you saw all the good things about soccer. To me the fact that it can be confounding is part of the charm. Some of Mac’s posts about soccer were hilarious.

    The most confounding thing about soccer IMHO is that thorough domination of an opponent on the field doesn’t necessarily mean victory. Kinda like Aaron Harang scattering 25 hits over 7 1/2 but allowing no runs, the Braves getting no hit and then BJ winning the game on a walkoff in the 9th.

  10. I know J. Upton got thrown out, but it is nice to see the Braves trying to do somethings like that. On another note, Castro has a heck an arm. Even with B.J.’s great jump in the first inning, it would have been a close play had the ball gotten caught.

  11. @17

    I know Johnson has been the DP guy this year, but he has been hitting consistently lately. Let’s try and not down on the guy while he is going good.

  12. 19: I mean, he tapped back to the mound on the next pitch. And I really don’t like him as a player or a person. So I’m probably not gonna ease up.

  13. @20

    The tap to the mound there would not have been a DP ball. It got to much height on the bounce. Johnson, as slow as he is, would have beaten that out. He was only 4 steps from the bag when the pitcher finally got the ball over there. No way that is a DP.

    As far as how you feel about him as a player and person, we are all entitled to our opinion.

  14. I want to like soccer. I really do try to watch it when I can. I think Atlanta’s MLS team is a good thing. But stuff like today where our side isn’t really even trying to score, and just playing the turtle-up and hold-on game, that just doesn’t do it for me.

    Trying your best to score and win the game is a very important/intrinsic part of sports. It’s not really even a sport if you can benefit from playing 100% defense. Can you imagine the consternation if your favorite college football team kept punting on second down? Or say your favorite baseball team batted their worst hitter first?

  15. @21 – Well, as far as “as a player” is concerned… -1.1 war, -.1 owar, -.9 dwar.

    A .280 batting average with no walks and no power and terrible defense at a corner infield position… He hasn’t been much of a player.

  16. B.J. has seen 14 pitches today. He is 1 for 2 with a run scored. No strikeouts. If he can keep an average of around .250 with a .300 OBP from leadoff, I can live with him in that spot in the lineup. It is not ideal for a leadoff, but it is certainly more than we have gotten from him anywhere else this year.

  17. 23: So glad Wren locked that down. You just can’t find guys like Chris Johnson lying around! Unless you happen to be at a minor league baseball game, in which case you will find three or four.

  18. @23

    I am fine with OWAR numbers and agree that Johnson is lacking. The stat I hate is DWAR. You cannot figure a stat by assuming every player should have the same range and figuring if everyone had the same amount of opportunities that this is where they should be. It just doesn’t compute for me. I have read that fangraphs site front and back on sabermetrics, and I think the defensive reasoning is horrible.

    Look at the solid numbers. He has only committed 4 errors all year. As far as his offense goes, he is batting .293 with runners in scoring position which is one our better averages in that situation and the reason he has not scored any runs is that he has had subpar bats behind him this year to even get a chance to score which pulls down his offensive value.

    Look, he is not a great player, but we could do worse. We could do much worse.

  19. 26: How are “errors,” which are literally determined by the caprice of whatever anonymous schmuck is up in the scoring booth, the “solid number” we’re anchoring ourselves to here? More accurate to say they are the “traditional” number, but more accurate still to say they are the “radically incomplete” number that can’t tell you anything about the single most important aspect of defense (range).

    Maybe UZR and DRS can’t tell you anything about range either, but I don’t know of any test, eyes-based or otherwise, that’s going to say Chris Johnson gets to near as many balls as the average third baseman.

  20. @26 – Yeah, you keep saying that. I don’t know why.

    Baseball-Reference dWar is based on Baseball Information System’s Defensive Runs Saved.

    BIS Defensive Runs Saved is based largely on their Plus/Minus system, wherein every ball hit in to the zone of every player in every game is actually viewed, and judged as to whether it should have been made or not.


    Chris Johnson hasn’t made many errors, because he lets the left fielder pick up the ball when it stops rolling. They don’t give you an error for that. Which, coincidentally, is why literally hundreds of smart people spend literally thousands of hours figuring out a method better than “chances” and “errors,” and then put their research on the internet where anyone can find it.

  21. @27

    Anyone can look at Johnson and tell how he moves that he is not going to have much range. What I am say is, he handles what he can get to well. The Braves have taken care of his deficiency by placing Simmons at SS who has the best range and arm in the game. Even with Johnson’s lack of range, we have one of the more solid left side of the infield defense in the game.

    At the end of the day, I will still take Johnson over many others. His offensive numbers would look better with a higher OBP, but he is tied for 3rd in the league for BA for a 3rd baseman. He has not had near the RBI opportunities as many of the other 3rd baseman. His low run total is not a surprise considering he has had Uggla, Pena, Simmons, and the pitcher hitting behind him for the season.

  22. 29: I don’t really care about his run or RBI totals. I care that he’s hitting an empty .280. That’s simply not adequate unless you’re a good defender at a premium position. If you’re not going to contribute any secondary offense (walks, steals, power) at all, you have to hit about .325 to be worth a damn with the bat, and Johnson isn’t.

  23. Okay, I agree that that sucked, but it was a bad baserunning decision, too. So, the blame cannon all go to Johnson there. LOL

  24. @30 and 28 – not sure you’re gonna register with salty. I think he still thinks if we bat Andrelton 2nd he is gonna turn into a .300 hitter.

  25. @29 – Who in the world cares about his RBI and run totals? Nobody cares about those numbers for exactly the reason you pointed out… they are teammate dependent.

    He’s hitting .280, but he’s still making an out 70% of the time. If you were to never, ever walk, you would have to hit .330 to be useful. Sure, a hit is marginally better than a walk, because of the chance of extra advancement of baserunners, and the fact that a homer, triple, and double count the same as a single, as far as batting average is concerned… THUS, we use slugging percentage, and isolated power (slugging minus batting average) and in the case of Chris Johnson, we again find him lacking.

    This is what people mean when they say “empty batting average.” Singles without walks or power.

    Take a look at Pedro Alvarez, for example. He’s hitting .230, but with a .317 OBP. “Oh man, he’s only hitting .230!” But that’s better than hitting .280 with a .300 OBP. He’s also outslugging Chris Johnson, but that’s not the point.

    He also has 17 errors, to Chris Johnson’s 4. But he’s not a statue, so despite the errors, he’s managed to be slightly positive on defense. You don’t get that from looking at chances and errors. You get that by watching every ball he’s had a chance on, and giving him a minus value for plays he misses, and a positive value for plays he made that others might not. And when you do that, you’ll see that saying “Chris Johnson’s hitting .280 with 4 errors! Of course he’s better than Pedro Alvarez, who is batting .230 with 17 errors!” hasn’t been a reasonable claim to make with smart baseball-people since, oh, maybe 1990.

  26. The radio team just commented on how CJ’s failure to advance to second when JUp was in the pickle cost the Braves the tying run.

    Let’s see: limited range, empty batting average with little pop and few walks, and a poor base runner. Maybe CJ’s not that great a MLB third baseman after all.

    He is, however, what we have.

  27. @32 and @33

    It’s just fun to see them debate back. I can’t say that I disagree completely with them, but I can try and find some positives in the Braves players. Do I think we have our optimal potential on the field? No. But, might as well find some positives about each player.

    I have even thought B.J. has done a good job since going to leadoff the last three games.

  28. @34: It’s a shame Salcedo is apparently a bust. Their third base situation looks like an irredeemable mess for the foreseeable future.

  29. @36

    Johnson would have made that an interesting DP if he had tried to advance to 2nd. We all know that. J. Upton made a bad baserunning decision there, yet you go to blaming Johnson.


    I, by no means, think Johnson is a more positive that Alvarez. I would take that trade in a second just to get that power in the lineup.

    The problem here is we are stuck with Johnson, so unless La Stella or Peraza can play 3rd, we all might as well find something to be happy about with Johnson.

  30. Boring victory for Germany today. Great that both team are advancing. Flying out to New York tomorrow and trying to catch the Red Sox Yankees game in the evening. And, damn, Mike!

  31. There’s a reason why Teheran, and not Minor, got the big deal.

  32. You’d like to think our offense could score 5 runs or so when playing against a AAA team in a little league park.

  33. Ouch.

    FWIW, I’ve been into the 3 USA World Cups matches thus far & will try to watch the next one as well. It’s been fun. Watched the Portugal game at a Vegas pool cabana & everyone was going nuts the entire time—a really memorable afternoon.

    I can deal with soccer once every 4 years.

  34. He pitched a bit over his head last year, but I think he’s been a bit unlucky this year. He’s done a decent job getting strikeouts, but the walks are up a bit and the home runs are up a lot. It’s the home runs that kill him.

  35. His fly-ball rate is up this year, and among NL starters with 50-plus innings, only six are allowing more HRs per inning, and two of them are Rockies. Last year is looking more like the aberration, although there has been a bit of luck involved, but not enough to change the general prognosis. He’s a back-of-the-rotation guy.

  36. If Chris Johnson is the best the Braves can do at 3B-and apparently he is-that’s a serious indictment of the farm system and the Braves’ drafting. This guy is a thoroughly mediocre player; poor fielding, singles-hitting, with a low OBP. I realize not too many Mathews or Chippers come along, but, geez, can’t we do better than this-and to top it off, they given him an extension?

    It’s appearing the Braves are simply an average team at best this year. The question is, what happens next year?

  37. @54

    Can Peraza play 3rd? I hear he has an amazing arm. Apparently, Wren is in Mississippi watching him play this week.

  38. We’ve definitely had trouble developing third basemen in the decades since Chipper came up. Jon Gilmore and Eric Campbell never really turned into anything. Neither did Van Pope. The Johnson contract was predicated on the notion — somewhat but not completely unreasonable, after 2013 — that he was a league-average player who could hit well enough to deserve a starting job through 2016. He isn’t a good player, but as long as he can improve enough to not be a bad player, he’ll hold down the position well enough, and we can focus on our homegrown talent up the middle and on the right side: Gattis, Simmons, La Stella, Freeman, and Heyward. Their collective success represents a pretty good track record for the farm.

  39. 54: I think “what happens next year” is rapidly becoming the only interesting question about this team. They’re stuck with bad players at two positions, with second base a question mark. The rotation is going to have to get patched again, since it’s highly likely that one or both of Beachy or Medlen will never successfully recover from their surgeries. I really, really hate to think about it, but… maybe they should explore trading Heyward this offseason, or even before the trade deadline this year? They badly need to reload with position prospects, and given their performance to date, it’s looking like they do not have a championship-caliber core in place with their current players.

  40. Didn’t the Braves try Terdoslavich at 3rd which ended up being a total failure in the minors?

  41. @58

    I agree with the trading a player into more looking at the future but not Heyward. Gattis is a very appealing player for American League teams due to his power and ability to DH or play catcher when they are in National League parks. We can expect Heyward to get better due to his age whereas Gattis is in his prime years age wise and plays a position hard on the body.

  42. 60: Heyward’s going to be gone after 2015, and thus, unless something unexpected happens this offseason, not going to be part of the next Braves championship (because the players around him are not good enough). The Braves have no replacement for Gattis, unless they trade for one. Christian Bethancourt can’t hit and can’t catch, unless all you mean by “catch” is “throw out attempted base stealers.” He’s not their starting catcher of the future, and I think they should attempt to move him while he still has some prospect sheen on him. Heyward to a contender looks to me like the Braves’ best move to reload a terrible farm system. The Good Upton (also gone after 2015) should also be made available.

  43. Terdo can’t play 3b. That experiment didn’t last long. He’s also forgotten how to hit AAA pitching.

  44. As bad as Mike has been, it’s inexcusable to only score 1 run in this ballpark. Piss poor offense.

  45. Yes, catcher is hard on the body and Gattis is 28, but remember he spent 3-4 years not playing at all, so for a 28 year old catcher, he doesn’t have that many miles on his odometer.

  46. @61

    J. Upton could catch us a hefty sum. Also, Wren signed Heyward to a 2 year contract this year in hopes of working out a longer one next season is what was said. Like you said, J. Upton is gone after 2015. That frees up money for Heyward. Also, we will not have the Santana money on our payroll at that point. All signs point to Heyward getting a good extension. Also, depending on numbers for this year, Heyward might not be that expensive. 10-12 million a year is what he will probably get around.

    As far as Gattis goes, he is great now, but why would we keep a guy who plays a position that is known for its big drop offs in production and only plays 4 out of 5 games? I would hate to see him go, but of the people you have named. I could see the upside in sending him over Heyward.

  47. Gattis is under control for 5 years. We’re not the Marlins, our event-horizon is not 5+ years out. That’s ridiculous.

  48. @58 absent some really drastic things happening in the next few weeks, the Braves aren’t going to sell talent this year. While the Braves aren’t looking good right now, the team is only 1 GB in the NL East and it’s certainly plausible we could make the playoffs.

    The fact of the matter is that there’s a lot of pressure placed on teams to go for it if they’re anywhere close to contention. I’m reminded of the White Sox “White Flag Trade” – they traded away a bunch of talent for prospects on 7/31/97 while only 3.5 GB. It generated a lot of fan outrage at the time, but in retrospect it was a smart, ballsy move. In any event, it’s mostly notable because it was unusual; you just don’t see teams selling unless they’re definitively out of the running.

  49. We’re basically a small market team nowadays. We’re not going to get rid of cheap and super-talented players like Gattis.

    I doubt Heyward brings in as much in a trade as you guys think he might. I’d rather roll the dice and see what happens this year and next with him on the team. After that we’ll just have to play it as it comes. These two years are our window for competing.

  50. @63

    I thought that he did. It just goes along and backs what @Alex said about us having bad luck with developing 3rd basemen.

    Again, does anybody know if Peraza can play 3rd? I just think Wren actually going to Mississippi to watch him play has to mean he might be getting called up to AAA soon.

  51. If Peraza is really a shortstop, when the time comes, I’d consider trading Andrelton Simmons for some other teams entire prospect list.

  52. @57,

    Alex, I agree that the Braves have done a good job in the past in drafting and bringing players to the majors, but right now, the cubbard seems pretty bare. I know people have mixed, if not negative, views of Keith Law, but he has been panning the drafting over the last several years. Plus, I don’t think LaStella proves much at this point. He basically came up because Uggla was so bad, almost anything would be an improvement. I think you have to wait to see if LaStella actually is a decent player before you give the Brave credit. I think the jury is still out on that. As for Heyward, I don’t give credit to the team for having their first-round pick make the majors. That should be a given-and yes, I know that historically, a number have not made it.

    The Braves have obviously had a lot of bad luck with the pitching. You can probably write off Beachy and Medlen, at least as top-of-the-rotation starters. I guess this is still where the organizational strength lies, but they sure better pray that nothing happens to Teheran.

    I certainly don’t think the Braves will or should give up on the year. But, so far, this is a pretty uninspiring bunch and I just wonder how they can improve either in the short or longer term.

  53. 70: That was my preference before the year too, but this team has already demonstrated it doesn’t have what it takes to make the playoffs. One game back of a Washington team that has essentially seen its worst-case scenario transpire with injuries and is now getting its house back in order is a huge problem. The Braves’ lineup is terrible. They could pass for a playoff team while the rotation was doing its best-in-baseball act, but we’re seeing now that this is a league-average run prevention unit at best. I don’t see any of those things getting better on net between now and 2015, so I think they should sell.

  54. @71, Peraza is a little guy with almost no power. He’s lightning fast though. I really think if he were to play anywhere for us it would be 2B.

  55. La Stella is 3 for his last 40 with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts. I hope he turns it around soon.

  56. I’m with you @30.

    One person has accounted for 23 of 76 posts on here and it’s getting a little tiring. Sorry if that’s rude, I’ve hesitated to say anything, but frankly I’m here less since he showed up.

  57. @74, I’m pretty much with you but you just can’t be sellers less than halfway through the season when you are one game back of the division lead. There’s tons of pressure on the front office to field a competitive team to fill the new stadium. We won’t sell off pieces until we’re buried in the standings. And even then I don’t expect us to make huge moves.

    Heyward is the one piece that would be realistically tradeable, but how much is one-year of Heyward worth to other teams…they’d have to get some assurance he’d sign long-term to warrant giving up good prospects.

  58. I’ve read Peraza could also project to be a CF. He won’t have the bat for 3b and probably not the arm.

  59. @76

    I did not realize La Stella had been doing so bad lately. Is it just a slump or have the pitchers figured out this guy?

  60. @77

    I will step back a bit man. I hate that me responding on here has made it where you do not want to. I just like talking Braves and having good natured debates.

  61. Right now, Peraza projects to suck. I’m tired of hearing about him like he’s worth all this conversation. He has a walk rate of, like, 3%. I can’t even bring myself to check it, but I think that’s right.

    He is young for his level, but so is Carlos Correa, and you don’t see Carlos Correa sucking (mostly because he sustained a horrific injury, but also because, unlike Peraza, he doesn’t suck).

  62. Peraza’s chief virtues are youth and athleticism. Those are really good virtues. But he’s a long way away. His best-case scenario is probably something like Elvis Andrus, a guy with so much glove that he really doesn’t need a bat. Of course, we already have a shortstop. Peraza’s an athletic lottery ticket, like Andrus was. Sometimes those guys work out. But he really isn’t worth salivating over until he can hit his way out of a wet paper bag. Neither is Bethancourt.

  63. We’re also not going to blow up this team — not unless Liberty gets especially greedy. It would be horrible if we did. It’s way too soon to make that call.

    If Heyward or Upton get traded, it had better be 1) not anytime soon, or 2) for truly major-league ready talent.

  64. I don’t see a front office that just locked up a bunch of players selling anytime soon. Besides, to what end? Rebuild the farm? Trade a catcher that apparently can hit, a very rare commodity, for what? A super athletic RF for what?
    I’m not convinced you get better than what we have now in return.

  65. 85: You get talent you can control in 2016 and beyond, when the Braves are much more likely to contend. I agree that they should not move Gattis, though. They have no replacement for him. Heyward and J. Upton will be leaving after 2015, so the Braves should get value for them during what looks to be a fallow one and a half seasons ahead.

  66. I know you gladly take two out of three anytime on the road. But this is the Astros, worst team in baseball, and we really need to sweep when we have the opportunity against a team this weak. And we still couldn’t outscore them for the series against a team running neck and neck with the Padres for worst offense in a couple of generations! Our offense needs help.

  67. @86, I don’t get what you’re saying. We’re competitive right now. By definition. How is it possible that we’d be more likely to contend in 2016 and not less?

    Maybe I was dreaming, but I could’ve sworn the team has more revenue to play with from renegotiating our deal. We could pony up and extend either of Heyward or Upton. Who knows, maybe even both. Perhaps Heyward will drop his extension demands after another non-breakout year. Perhaps Ian Desmond gets popped for PEDs, Jordan Zimmerman gets injured, and Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa fall apart again in the second half.

    Perhaps Teheran and Wood buzzsaw their way through the playoffs if we can just make it there.

    There’s just so much we don’t know. Blowing it up and starting again right now is just total lunacy.

  68. @Marc/73

    Hold up. Braves don’t get the credit for drafting Heyward? Well, here’s the list from the 2007 draft: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Major_League_Baseball_Draft

    Who would you have drafted?

    Out of 64 players taken in the first and supplemental rounds, Heyward has been the most valuable according to baseball-reference (21.6 wins above replacement to #1 overall David Price’s 19.7, despite 2 fewer seasons in the majors). Sure, sure, the defense is probably weighted too heavily–but it’s not wildly wrong either. Jason Heyward is a wonderful baseball player.

    I think you’re just a stingy person when it comes to giving credit where it’s due.

  69. And another thing, since I’m on my favorite subject.

    Heyward’s slash line over the last 28 days is .278/.369/.464. That’s a line you love out of the best defender at his position in all of baseball. Keep it up, Jason.

  70. I don’t think “blowing it up” is the right move either. However, this team is 2 games above .500 and has one of the worst offenses in all of baseball. It’s basically the same team, minus Hudson, Medlen, and McCann, that wasn’t good enough to make it through the first round of the postseason last year. I don’t think this is a 96 win team, but I also don’t see this team finishing below .500.

    It’s competitive but it’s not great. As things seem to appear right now, this team won’t make the playoffs.

  71. Edward,

    I grant what I said was a bit ungenerous. But it was not intended to be a knock at Heyward at all. My only point was that, in evaluating how well the team drafts, you would expect the no. 1 pick to be productive so that, in itself, does not indicate great drafting. But there’s nothing in the pipeline now and recent drafts have been relatively barren. Now, I don’t follow the minor league system like many here do and, admittedly, I am going by Keith Law, who many don’t like and who has been down on the Braves’ recent drafts. Traditionally, the Braves have had a very strong farm system and, obviously, most of their best players are homegrown. But right now, you have to admit, there’s not much help to be found in the system for the team’s offensive problems.

  72. “We’re competitive right now. By definition.”

    By what definition? They’re hovering around .500, failing to keep pace with the wild card and likely to get steamrolled out of the division race by a superior Washington ball club. Their offense is awful–bottom 5 in all of baseball. If June is any indication, their run prevention is not nearly good enough to make up for the offensive disaster. They have no injured players coming back. They have no more reinforcements to call from the minor leagues. What you see is what you get: a mediocre team that will not make the playoffs.

    So sure, they should keep Heyward if they think they have a good chance at extending him, but if not, move him, move Upton, reload for 2016, because this group of players is not good enough to contend.

  73. @93

    Did you look at that list? Half of them at least are total flame-jobs. Another few of them are barely major leaguers.

    I guess you’re right about the farm right now.

  74. Marc, I’m sorry, but I simply don’t agree with your argument. The list of successful #14 picks is actually not a long one. Jason Heyward, who is a far better player than anyone gives him credit for, has already produced 21 WAR in his career, and by that measure, he is the most successful #14 pick since Jason Varitek in 1994, and is already the sixth-most valuable #14 pick of all time. The Braves absolutely deserve credit for developing him into one of the better outfielders in baseball.


    Regarding La Stella, simply in making the majors, he has already exceeded the typical productivity of his draft spot. For example: only two eighth-rounders from 2011 have made the majors; the other is Kevin Quackenbush. Who? Exactly. Only three eighth-rounders from 2010 have made the majors. 2008 and 2009 were banner years, as a combined 14 of the 60 players made the majors and one of them was Paul Goldschmidt, but it goes without saying that the rest of them were not. (Brian Dozier and Jon Singleton were also drafted in the 8th round in 2009 along with Goldschmidt, which truly was a historic aberration. You don’t usually see three players of their quality fall that low.)

    The Braves managed to locate major league talent in the 8th round, and most teams don’t. It remains to be seen whether La Stella can truly be a league-average starting second baseman — I’m optimistic, but it’s too early to tell — but even if he turns into a utility man, he’ll be a productive member of the 25-man roster. Evan Gattis, obviously, is an unusual story, but he went from the 23rd round to become one of the better starting catchers in the league. Jonny Venters was a 30th round pick. Kris Medlen was a 10th round pick. Brandon Beachy was undrafted. Andrelton Simmons and Freddie Freeman and Alex Wood were all second-rounders. And on and on.

    Keith Law is a really smart guy, but like a lot of prospecters, he favors toolsy athletic high-upside players — and is very open about that preference. That means that guys like Gattis and La Stella don’t have a lot of value in his prospect rankings. But they have a lot of value on a major league roster, where they can make the major league minimum and start hitting right away.

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