Manager Freddi Gonzalez has pushed all the right buttons so far in 2013, guiding the Braves to an 11-1 start that includes a number of impressive wins. They have dominated their divisional competition during this early run, going 8-1 against the rest of the NL East with a +31 run differential in those games. And all of these victories have come despite the fact that big free agent acquisition B.J. Upton and homegrown star Jason Heyward are hitting south of the Mendoza line. Here are just a few of the reasons Atlanta has been able to stay red-hot:
One of the most vital tasks for any veteran pitcher worth his salt to master is the ability to will his team out of losing streaks. That means taking the mound knowing the bullpen is overworked and in need of rest and delivering a big performance. It means efficiently working through 7 or 8 innings while shutting down the opposing lineup. It means throwing everything plus this kitchen sink to get your team the win. On Thursday night a couple of crafty lefties in Andy Pettitte and Cliff Lee were able to do just they. They were able to be the veteran stopper, putting both the Yankees and the Phillies among the ranks of the victorious. Let’s take a look at each pitcher’s performance:
As we prepare to embark on yet another wild and enthralling MLB season it’s time for everyone’s favorite exercise in futility: Predictions! After 2012’s thrilling season ended with the Giants raising the World Series trophy the offseason that followed was full of surprises. Annually overlooked ball clubs like Cleveland, Toronto, and Kansas City all made big win-now moves while traditional powers like the Yankees and Phillies opted for minor moves and the ensuing result could turn baseball as we know it on its head. So without further adu, I present to you my thoughts and ideas about what’s in store in 2013. No matter what happens, 2013 should be a thrilling year so sit back, grab a beer, and get settled in for some great baseball.
Each year baseball fans everywhere mark a random day in mid-February down on their calendars as one of the best days of the year: the day pitchers and catchers report, aka, the unofficial start of the Major League season. For many players, particularly veterans and All-Stars, Spring Training offers a chance to reconnect with old teammates while meeting new ones and to work the body into shape for the long grind of 162 games. But for many other players, rookies, guys on the fringe, or the 40-year-old looking for one last shot at glory, the start of spring represents the start of the season. These players are fighting for their big league lives, the last spot on the roster, or maybe even a starting position.
Let’s face it, nobody really wants to replace a legend like Chipper Jones. I mean c’mon, the guy’s as big a part of Atlanta baseball as Hank Aaron and the tomahawk chop. He made 8 All-Star games, won an MVP award and a World Series, and was universally respected throughout the league as one of it’s most honest and honorable players. Even in his final season Chipper was still pushing the Braves toward victory in one dramatic way or another. As Chris Johnson, one of the candidates for the 3rd base job said “”Chipper was a god here. People are not used to looking out there and seeing somebody else at third base on opening day, so there’s definitely a lot of pressure.”
But regardless of his legendary status, he’s retired now and it’s time for somebody else to take over the hot corner in Atlanta and it’s left the Braves brass asking who’s on third? The franchise has a couple of candidates for the job, so let’s take a run through them:
In what is quickly becoming one of the wildest off-seasons in memory, the Atlanta Braves and Arizona Diamondbacks appear to have agreed on a seven player swap. Atlanta will add their second Upton brother this offseason, Justin, while also picking up 3rd baseman Chris Johnson. In return the Diamondbacks are getting Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, and a host of minor league talent. This trade has the potential to work out beautifully for both ball clubs. Arizona has, for some odd reason, been trying to trade the hyper-talented Upton for the better part of the last two years, trying to stake out the best deal. Well it appears GM Kevin Towers has finally found his elusive match, and he may have gotten the short end of the stick. On a more positive note, he also found his starting 3rd baseman and a nice collection of young talent as well, but it’s harder to judge his return in this deal until the youngsters involved acquire more seasoning. Instead, let’s take a look at what the deal does for the Braves.
The last couple of days have brought some interesting news on the centerfield front, with NL East rivals Atlanta and Washington both making significant upgrades to their rosters. The Braves inked BJ Upton to a 5 year/$75 million dollar deal yesterday as the continue their ongoing quest to add some pop to their lineup. Today the Nationals responded by swapping pitching prospect Alex Meyer for former Twins’ centerfielder Denard Span. These two franchises each won over 90 games a year ago, and their aggressive attitude (or Nattitude) early in free agency should pay dividends in 2013. Let’s take a look at the move each franchise made, as well as what it means for the rest of the National League East.
“The infield fly is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.
When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare Infield Fly for the benefit of the runners.” -MLB.com Rule Book