The Braves have a problem: They can’t hold late inning leads because all their non-Kimbrel relievers keep getting hurt.
The Braves have a solution to their problem: More Evan Gattis pinch hit home runs.
Evan Gattis just keeps coming through for the Atlanta Braves.
The rookie hit a two-out, pinch-hit homer in the ninth to send the game to extra innings and Freddie Freeman won it in the 10th, sending the Braves to their fifth straight win, 5-4 over the slumping Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
Entering Wednesday, Simmons had played 680 innings in his major league career and the Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) numbers have him with 30 defensive runs saved. He had 19 in 426 innings last season and already has a major-league best 11 in 254 innings in 2013.
For a little perspective, that’s an incredible number for what amounts to less than half a season’s worth of play. No shortstop has had 30 defensive runs saved in a full season since Troy Tulowitzki had 31 in 2007.
Simmons has been on quite the offensive tear (last 51 PA .367/.373.653 3HRs)as well as flashing some serious leather lately.
If your crack’s from Otis Nixon, then your pipe could use some fixin’.
Nixon, 54, had a crack pipe in his pocket and a crack rock in his vehicle when he was stopped on I-575 early Saturday, according to a Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office reported obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
A 911 caller reported a red Dodge Ram pickup truck driving erratically on I-575 north shortly after midnight and a deputy was dispatched and pulled the truck over, the report states. A state trooper assisted with the traffic stop.
Inside Nixon’s truck, investigators found a small rock substance believed to be crack cocaine, the report states. Nixon also had a crack pipe in his pants’ pockets, deputies said.
“Otis admitted to me that the substance was crack cocaine but it didn’t belong to him,” a deputy wrote in the report. “Otis said the crack cocaine and the pipe belonged to his son.”
“I’m sick and tired of hearing about strikeouts,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said recently as he slouched in the chair in front of his locker. “An out’s an out.”
The Braves say they are not careless free swingers taking hacks at pitches from their shoelaces to their shoulders. They are merely a collection of power hitters who take three full cuts without fear of embarrassment.
“It does no good when you have two strikes on you, nobody on, to choke up and put it in play,” right fielder Jason Heyward said. “What good does it do if you put the ball in play weak? It’s not going to do any good for guys 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 in the lineup to do that. That doesn’t get a lot done.”
... Atlanta had six straight games with double-digit strikeout totals, including a three-game stretch in Detroit in which they had 39. And the Braves have won just one game in which they did not hit a home run. But they draw their share of walks, ranking fourth in the N.L., so it is not easy to cast them as undisciplined.
“The best teams at striking out strike out six times a game,” General Manager Frank Wren said. (The league average was 7.3.) “The worst strike out eight and a half times a game. It’s one or two strikeouts a game that is the difference between the best and the worst. When you are having a rough stretch, it’s a focus.”
As noted super scout, the amazing Chris Well pointed out…“Will Hudson be the last 200-game winner until the next one? Doubtful.”
Tuesday in Atlanta, Tim Hudson won the 200th game of his marvelous Major League Baseball career.
I hope you were paying attention.
Hudson became only the 110th pitcher in MLB history to accomplish the feat, according to STATS LLC. For context, 236 pitchers have thrown no-hitters. So, Hudson’s new distinction is more than twice as rare as having thrown a no-hitter.
... Now that Hudson has arrived, the focus turns to CC Sabathia (195). After that, the 200 Club will stop processing new applications this year. Derek Lowe is behind Sabathia with 176, but he’s now a 40-year-old middle reliever with the Rangers who’s unlikely to earn membership at all.
So, what does a 200-win career mean? Quite a lot, particularly since only 1.26 percent of pitchers in major league history have made it there. Strict sabermetricians probably disagree, because they fume at the continued existence of wins as a popular statistic. But pitching wins recognize two traits — longevity and, well, winning — that are highly valued among major league players, managers and coaches.
In that way, a 200-win career acts as a lifetime achievement award for many pitchers. And as fewer of them reach 300 and even 250 — as Pettitte, by the way, is about to do — then the 200-victory threshold will assume a greater importance.
Which probably explains the vermiformy looking .121/.261/.259.
Braves right fielder Jason Heyward underwent an appendectomy Monday night at a Denver hospital, the team announced just before 1 a.m. Eastern time.
Recovery for appendix surgery is typically 2-3 weeks for baseball players, although Matt Halladay of the Cardinals and Adam Dunn of the White Sox returned from laparascopic emergency appendectomies in about one week in 2011. Neither went on the 15-day disabled list, but it’s more common for a player to be placed on the DL and not rush his return.
The rest period following appendix removal was reduced with the advent of the laparascopic appendectomy, a less invasive procedure than the traditional open appendectomy. Professional athletes usually have the laparascopic procedure.
There were no details provided in the two-sentence release from the Braves, other than Heyward had surgery at Rose Medical Center in Denver and the procedure was successful. More details should be forthcoming Tuesday.
So will these Braves evolve into a better “team” than any of their predecessors—Atlanta or otherwise? We’re talking about teams ranging from the 1875 one that won nearly 90 percent of its games (71-8) to the Miracle Braves of 1914 who shocked the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series to Chipper’s 1995 bunch that won it all.
“From top to bottom, this Braves team certainly has the capability of being in that same conversation with some of the best in franchise history,” said Chipper Jones, who retired from the Braves after last season as one of the game’s all-time great switch-hitters.
Then Jones added quickly, “But let’s give it a half [of a season], or a quarter anyways, because it’s a long, long season.”
Fair enough, but it has been great during the short, short start to the season for a Braves team that entered Tuesday night’s game at Turner Field against the Kansas City Royals with outrageous numbers.
Only the Colorado Rockies had more homers in baseball to this point than the Braves’ 20, and nobody had a better overall team ERA than their 1.82 mark. The same was true for the 1.30 ERA Braves relievers had posted. Justin Upton led the Major Leagues in homers with seven. Plus, Evan Gattis kept racing toward NL Rookie of the Year honors with a bunch of clutch moments to go along with his .324 batting average, four home runs and 10 RBIs in nine games.
If that wasn’t enough, the Braves owned baseball’s best record of 11-1 for their hottest start in 19 years.
It gets better. It’s how the Braves have done this.
The Braves have placed first baseman Freddie Freeman on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained oblique, tweets MLB.com’s Mark Bowman.
Freeman sustained the injury during a workout last Sunday. As Bowman subsequently notes, Freeman is hardly pleased by the decision to deactivate him:
Mark Bowman tweet: Freeman thinks he could play through the pain. He doesn’t understand why the club opted to DL him hours after he was on deck for Upton’s HR
Mark Bowman tweet: Still furious about the decision to put him on the DL, Freeman is in the outfield shagging balls during batting practice.
Freeman’s frustration is understandable and his desire to keep going commendable. But oblique injuries can linger and worsen if pushed, and players aren’t always to be trusted when it comes to their “play through the pain” instincts.
B.J. Upton led off the ninth inning with a homer and his brother Justin followed one out later with another long ball that helped the Atlanta Braves rally past embattled Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol for a 6-5 victory Saturday night.
Marmol had been through a tough week. He was pulled from a save situation after facing four batters and not recording an out in Chicago’s win at Pittsburgh on opening day, but he earned a save on Thursday against the Pirates despite giving up two ninth-inning runs.
The Upton brothers, major offseason acquisitions for Atlanta, became the 25th tandem of brothers to homer in the same major league game and the first since Adam and Andy LaRoche accomplished the feat for Pittsburgh on June 17, 2009.
Which is all a convoluted way of saying that while Chipper Jones’ seemingly heated Twitter rant in defense of his own statements about fired Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice does not make much sense to me, and in fact appears to contradict itself multiple times, I cannot say for sure that it objectively does not make much sense because Chipper Jones and I have entirely different sets of experiences impacting the way we feel feelings and tweet. Or something:
I guess not everyone is as hyper-sensitive as some of you out there. Some of u can’t be called names or pushed out of frustration.
If some of u thought my tweets were insensitive, I’m sorry u feel that way. I was brought up differently in the ways to be motivated.
...So, to recap as best we can: Chipper Jones thinks you have the right to your own definition of verbal and physical abuse and is sorry that you’re upset by his. If you don’t like being pushed or called names by a frustrated coach, you may be “hyper-sensitive.” Still, Mike Rice pushing and calling players names out of frustration was wrong, but whether or not he was fired should be up to Rutgers and not ESPN.
Bottom line, Chipper Jones was “brought up differently in the ways to be motivated,” thus your perspective and his perspective on Mike Rice might not necessarily jive and you’re in no way obligated to follow him on Twitter. I will continue to do so, though, because it’s super entertaining.
Pete Gaines, a friend of the site, said something stupid on Twitter to Chipper Jones over the weekend, and then spent most of the day day getting blasted—at Chipper’s Bieber-style behest—by both Jones and his followers. It was ugly and dumb and went on for hours, and we asked him to write about it.
Perhaps I was miffed that Jones’ mere presence happened across my Twitter timeline. I’ve heard stories over the years of Jones’ hypocrisy—that he put on a convincing aw-shucks good-ol’-Christian-boy act for the media and (some) fans, but was what students of the type call a “raging #########” the rest of the time. I’ve heard stories of bullying, hypocrisy and all the other things that might be expected of a grown-ass multimillionaire man-child who calls himself “Chipper.” Anyway, I was a dick to Chipper Jones on Twitter. That was uncool of me.
But I guess what I’m saying, after Chipper Jones went on an hours-long invective jag against me—my literacy and my jealousy, my height, my (lack of) hair, my weight, the appearance of my fiancée (a professional sportswriter, no less) and my sexuality—is this: Chipper Jones himself has done more, personally and recently, to confirm these second- and third-hand stories about him than I would ever have thought possible.
Jones has a right to respond to insults, of course. I would not begrudge the man for not taking the idle, knee-jerk insults of some Twitter smartass—me in this case, but doubtless many other smartasses in many other instances—lying down. But I might also suggest that a man in a relative position of power who trades on his Christian faith as a businessman, might refrain from calling anyone—me or you or anyone—an “ignorant, balding, overweight dumbass.” That would seem, relative to the alternative, the “Christian” thing to do, which is after all your descriptor, pal, not mine.
By those standards, Jones might also have reconsidered the suggestion that my fiancée—a former Division I wrestling team manager who writes about mixed martial arts for a living, and who found herself involved only because she appears in my AVI—“outweigh(s)” me and my beer gut; she doesn’t, although of course that doesn’t matter, really. Further congratulating his hundreds of thousands of hero-worshipping followers for busting on my personal appearance and that of my fiancée—rather than my words—also seems a decidedly un-Christian look for Tim Tebow’s business partner. When Jones congratulated his followers for going after my fiancée and me, was he particularly proud of the “your gay” insult that kept recurring? Anyway, these are rhetorical questions, and don’t really matter much; a Tweetdeck filter for “fat, bald” solved this on my end, anyway.
There’s a movement in sports and across the country to reduce or eliminate bullying. I would suggest the leaders of this movement not contact Chipper Jones to be their spokesman.
Braves closer Craig Kimbrel fired a hole-in-one during Tim Hudson’s charity golf tournament Monday at the difficult ChampionsGate Golf Club outside Orlando.
“Went in on the fly—I dunked it,” Kimbrel said Tuesday. “Second hole we played, 180 yards into the wind. I got lucky. Good thing it went in because I probably would have four-putted from about two feet away.”
It was the first hole-in-one for Kimbrel, who plays plenty of golf in Atlanta and back home in Huntsville, Ala.
“It would have been a little more spectacular and exciting if I’d known it went in from the tee box,” he said. “There was a bunker right in front of the hole and the pin was in the front of the green. I hit it and said, man, it looks good. And Jonny (Venters) said, ‘Man, that does look good.’ And the ball just disappeared.
“My first instinct was that it went in the bunker. The last thing I thought would have happened was it went in the hole. It was exciting. A lot of fun.”
Someone grabbed the flag from the hold and gave it to Kimbrel, and ChampionsGate is making a plaque that will hold the ball he used for the shot.
All that, and Kimbrel didn’t even have to pick up the bar tab like golfers traditionally do when they make a hole-in-one.
“Open bar, because it was at an event,” he said, smiling. “I bought everybody’s drinks, because it was free. The guys I was with were ragging on me because it was an open bar.”
A fighter for sure; he looked totally washed up after 2010. Fine career.
If you’re Bessemer City’s Kevin Millwood, there’s a lot of coaching youth sports, hunting and fishing in your future.
Millwood, a 1993 Bessemer City High graduate, said Friday during a celebration of his alma mater’s basketball history that his major league baseball career had come to an end…
After going 6-12 with a 4.25 ERA in 28 starts last season for the Mariners that included being a part of the second no-hitter of his career, Millwood says he told his agent, Scott Boras, that he only wanted to pitch “close to home,” indicating the Atlanta Braves and Tampa Rays were really the only two choices.
When neither team showed interest, Millwood said he’s enjoyed living in Gainesville, Ga., while coaching his 11-year-old (Kevin Jr.) and 10-year-old (Conley) sons in basketball and baseball…
Millwood said finishing his career after a solid season was important and he felt he did that last season with the Mariners.
“I feel like I can still throw it well and going out on a high note is a big deal,” Millwood said. “I just felt it was time to be closer to home and to be around the kids more often.”
The highlight of last season was the June no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Millwood went the first six innings before a groin injury forced him to the sideline; Five relievers pitched no-hit ball over the past three innings to complete the no-hitter.
“It was a cool experience,” said Millwood, who watched his teammates get the final nine outs from the training room. “But it was bittersweet to not be able to finish it out.
“I’d rather have gone on and lost it (the no-hitter) late in the game than not be able to complete it. But it was a special moment for my team, my teammates and me.”...
Millwood finished with a 169-152 pitching record during a career in which he made the All-Star team for the National League in 1999, threw a nine-inning no-hitter for the Phillies in 2003 against a San Francisco Giants lineup that included all-time home run leader Barry Bonds and led the American League in ERA (2.86) in 2005 for the Cleveland Indians.
Earl Williams, the 1971 National League Rookie of the Year with the Atlanta Braves, died Monday night. The Newark native and longtime Montclair resident was 64.
He died at his home in Somerset surrounded by his wife of 33 years, Linda, and stepdaughter, Raquel West. He is also survived by a granddaughter, Ruquayyah Williams.
He was diagnosed with acute leukemia last July.
Williams played on four teams, including two stints with the Braves, in his eight years in the major leagues. He made his debut as a September call-up for the Braves as a 21-year-old in 1970.
The next season he slugged 33 home runs and compiled 87 RBI on his way to being named the senior circuit’s top rookie.
He did so playing catcher for the first time in his life, a position the Braves asked him to play because they were desperate to include his bat in the lineup when there was a logjam at first and third base—his usual positions.
“He had to learn from scratch,” Williams’ 83-year-old mother, Dolores Reilly, recalled in a phone interview. “He used to tell me that if he could’ve he would’ve used two gloves to catch Phil Niekro’s knuckleball.”
My opinion on the deal is right in line with the general consensus: The Diamondbacks didn’t get enough. Which, in so many ways, is incredible to me. After close to 2 1/2 years of on-again/off-again trade discussions involving Upton, this is the deal they settle on? After saying time and again that they’re only going to trade Upton if/when the right package comes along, this is the one they deem the right one?
*This whole off-season seems like a huge overreaction, something Towers said in early December he didn’t feel any pressure to do. This is from a story I wrote just before the winter meetings:
“Even though last year was a disappointing year,” Towers said, “I still think that same ball club, given maybe a different year and a different set of circumstances and doing some of the little things that are hard to measure better and smarter, that we can be a much better ball club.
“I know everybody thinks you have to tweak it here and tweak it there and there are some years you have to, but I still look at my club and am a little dumbfounded (at the results). I think we were a better ball club.”
He mentioned the number of highly regarded prospects in his farm system. He brought up the fact that the organization has no bad contracts. He said his roster has flexibility.
“I really like the state we’re in,” Towers said, “and I don’t want to do something drastic just because we finished .500 last year.”
Surprised they tracked him down at the Quail (sp) Unlimited hunting trip…I guess Pheasants Forever was booked solid.
Schuerholz couldn’t help but gush about the moves his franchise made 24 hours earlier.
“What a dynamic and talented outfield that will be with a lot of upside for many, many years to come. Defense, power and speed…throughout our line up. These three guys (Justin Upton, B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward) and all the rest of the guys in our line up are going to give us a chance to have a real exciting year,” Schuerholz said Friday at the Albany Civic Center.
The lengthy process to put the Upton brothers and Heyward together in the Braves outfield was well worth it for the Braves President. Though, the casualties of Martin Prado and prospects will hurt the clubhouse and the field.
Schuerholz didn’t downplay Prado’s significance, but it was a sacrifice the organization had to make.
“To include a player like Martin Prado, you have to give up those kinds of guys. No matter how much we admire him, how well he’s played for us and how beloved he is…to get a guy as perfectly a fit as Justin Upton was for us, you had to be willing to do that,” Schuerholz said.
• Asked if the Diamondbacks preferred grinding, gritty players
Towers replied, “That’s accurate. That’s the way [manager Kirk Gibson] played the game. That’s how we won in 2011, and Justin was part of that club.” Towers lauded Martin Prado as having that kind of mentality, grinding out at-bats and not striking out. He added, “Justin played hard every single day,” and “he cared, he’s a competitor.” But because he had a bit of a “swagger,” and because of his general body language, people might have perceived him differently.
As much as any baseball team in recent memory, the Diamondbacks on Thursday publicly embraced the idea of grittiness and guts, of the inherent and unquantifiable. And in doing so, they finished a two-trade whammy over the last six weeks that has seen them ship out their two most talented players in an effort to better embody this belief.
First went Trevor Bauer, the super-talented and cerebral pitching prospect who rubbed manager Kirk Gibson and some teammates the wrong way. And now [Justin] Upton, the super-talented and underproductive outfielder who was extremely well-liked by teammates but did not embody the dirt-on-the-uniform, all-out, get-concussed-or-go-home sort of player [manager Kirk] Gibson wants, because, in a flare of vanity, Gibson wants guys who play like he did, football in a baseball uniform…
The result is a fascinating experiment: a team stressing culture over talent. The Diamondbacks might say otherwise – [Martin] Prado is an All-Star and in both deals they got young and talented shortstops, one of the toughest things to find – but a consensus of scouts and sabermetric wonks agree: In both trades, Arizona sacrificed one for the other.
“Different clubs like to look for certain intangibles,” Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers said. “We like that gritty, grinder type. Hard-nosed. I’m not saying Justin isn’t that type of guy.”
Actually, he sort of was saying that. While Towers made sure to praise Upton, to say the Diamondbacks “never had to kick him in the rear to play,” he brought up body language. Towers is an old scout, and it is an old scouting trope – that slumping shoulders can tell all he needs to know about a player. Fluidity can be mistaken for bad body language, too, and the ease with which the game comes to Upton and other such gifted players can be mistaken for not caring. When the seed of that idea is already planted, it doesn’t take much for someone to germinate it.
“Sometimes people’s mannerisms and the way they carry themselves – they might not perceive him as the grinder type,” Towers said, and he used that word again. Grinder. It’s a baseball catch-all for players who make up for a lack of physical gifts with hard work and a willingness to do anything. It is also a word that baseball people almost never attach to black players. Maybe it’s because they see most black players as physically gifted to begin with. Perhaps it’s a subconscious bias borne of historic stereotyping. The Diamondbacks certainly don’t traffic in racism – they wouldn’t have built ad campaigns around Upton otherwise – but in outlining their philosophy for this team, they severely limit the sort of player who fits the system…
Towers has gone all-in shaping this team in the mold of his manager instead of forcing his manager to be malleable to the talent. Diamondbacks players love Gibson – not necessarily his obsessive detail as much as how much he hates losing, how he’ll come into a clubhouse and rant about the attitude or whatever else is on his mind and punctuate it with a simple pick-me-up: “Let’s go get ‘em today.”
Gibson, at the same time, is not Tony La Russa, the sort of manager with the cachet and gravitas to hand-select his roster. Gibson won a division title in his first full year. Then he went 81-81. And that is his résumé. Gibson may well end up being the best manager of his generation. Towers wants to do everything he can to make sure that’s the case.
Trading talent with perceived personal flaws rarely leads to such success. This does not make Gibson a bad guy for wanting a certain type of player. This does not make Towers stupid, not after a career of showing that he is indeed one of the game’s savvier GMs, the sort who has made what seemed like ill-conceived plans in the past work with aplomb. Because they contradict current convention does not fit them for a dunce cap.
It simply leaves them prone. The Diamondbacks dumped a player with superstar potential when they didn’t have to. They scoffed at the roads offered and cleared a new one with Grit Avenue and Guts Boulevard and Grind Parkway as side streets. They can only hope the ride is not as bumpy as it looks.