Starting Success

Braves 2, Pittsburgh 5

Javier Vasquez started a Grapefruit League game for the first time since the conclusion of the World Baseball Classic, and he was lights out.  He went 5 2/3 innings, giving up only 1 earned run.  Quite a few hits were allowed, but there was plenty of clutch pitching on his part to get out of most major pickles.  The other four runs were surrendered by Jeff Bennett (who I hope doesn’t make the cut) and Rafael Soriano (who I expect much better from).  Offensively, the Braves did very little, with Gregor Blanco being the sole run producer. 
Prospect Ross Ohlendorf continued to impress for the Pirates, firing 6 innings of shutout ball.  Munroe, Doumit, and Mclouth each had one RBI apiece.

Javy_Vasquez.jpg
courtesy of: http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/6uEmIHBCbBd/World+Baseball+Classic+Puerto+Rico+Day+1/JwHaoEguoJM/Javier+Vasquez

What do I make of all this?

Chipper Jones went hitless in his return, while Brian McCann contributed a solid 2 hits.  Hopefully, more offensive production comes out the rest of the lineup, especially the 5 and 6 spots.  Chipper can’t do his thing every day, as evident from this game, so others need to step it up a notch.
I am very optimistic about the Braves’ starting pitching, but I still have some doubts about the bullpen (especially considering their propensity to give up leads so much last year, resulting in one-run losses).  I think I will go as far as to say the Braves have the most solid starting rotation in the NL East, and that’s saying a lot.
In other news, Tommy Hanson continued to impress, throwing first-pitch strikes to 15 of the 21 batters he faced and no-hitting a minor league team for the duration of his outing.  He recorded 8 strikeouts.

My next post will be about who I feel the Braves should trade or release.  Thanks for reading!   

Japan, the Sequel

Japan 3, South Korea 1
2009-world-baseball-classic-logo.jpg
courtesy of http://benchadwick.mlblogs.com/2009-world-baseball-classic-logo.jpg

Job well done.  That’s the second time in a row Japan has been crowned champions of the World Baseball Classic, and winning this time was no walk in the park.  South Korea put up a fight, and dragged the game into extra innings, with the score tied at 1-1 thanks to brilliant clutch pitching by both sides.  I find it fitting that Ichiro, who struggled throughout the entire Classic, came up with the clutch hit that carried his team to victory in the 10th inning.  What a way to end the contest!   Here are just a few of my thoughts and observations on the Classic:

1.  Other countries actually do care about baseball, way more than what I was aware of.  This may seem a bit elementary to say, but considering soccer is considered the true international sport, it really is heartening to see people everywhere cheer and moan for their national baseball team.  That stadium in South Korea that housed fans watching the final was a sight to see.

2.  The best players need to step up for the U.S.A. and participate.  Maybe it’s a timing issue, with Spring Training and all, but denying a chance to play in the World Baseball Classic degrades its significance that much more.  If the players don’t care, why should the fans care?  The players that did show up, however, played with considerable heart and effort.

3.  The event needs to be publicized a whole lot more, kind of like what NBC did with the Olympics.  This is a World Classic; just think of the hoopla that is caused by FIFA every time it comes around.  Fans everywhere need to be excited out of their minds!  Once again, maybe by fixing the timing of the event, this can be resolved.

But it’s over for now.  Can’t wait for 2013!

Thank you, Team U.S.A.

This is just a quick dedication to Team U.S.A., who gave it their all this year and played with lots of heart and pride.  I thoroughly enjoyed their games and appreciate all the sacrifices they had to make (missing Spring Training) to play for their country.  They had a great run, hopefully to be built on next time around.  Here’s also to hoping the great show displayed by the Americans attracts more countries into the Classic in the future, making baseball even more far-reaching.  Thanks again to all the players who participated!  Hopefully, injuries will be a non-factor at the next World Baseball Classic!  Nothing detracts from the fun like a strained oblique or a sore shoulder.  Best of luck to Japan and South Korea, two teams who definitely earned their spots in the finals.

WBC.jpg

Courtesy of http://www.mlb.com

Jairtastic

Mets 12, Braves 1

The New York Mets returned yesterday’s pounding with a strong offensive showing of their own today.  Thankfully, it wasn’t against Jair Jurrjens, who pitched brilliantly, throwing 4 2/3 of shutout ball.  One run was charged to him after he was pulled out of the game.  The starting pitching certainly seems to have shown up for the Braves this spring, except for one of Derek Lowe’s outings.  On the other hand, Johan Santana did his job tremendously well, limiting the Braves’ hot offense to just 2 hits, one of which was a Matt Diaz solo homerun.  Not much to discuss today, folks, thanks to a weak offensive turnout for the Braves.  The last week of spring training will give us all a glimpse of what the season has in store offensively speaking when Chipper Jones, Garrett Anderson, and Brian McCann are all in the starting lineup. 

Boxscore:
http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/news/boxscore.jsp?gid=2009_03_22_atlmlb_nynmlb_1   

Best of luck to Team USA today against Japan in the WBC semifinal!!!!!!!!

Welcome back, Tommy!

To be honest, I am still recuperating from Wake Forest’s loss.  Sadly enough, there are the Duke of this year, being the highly touted team to drop in the first round.  But how far will Cleveland State go?

Braves 12, Mets 1
glavine.jpg

Courtesy of http://www.braves.com

Today, Tom Glavine made his first start since undergoing surgery, and man, was he brilliant against the Mets!  You can’t ask for more than 3 shutout innings from the pitcher that will most likely round out the Braves rotation.  Could the news get any better?  He gave up only 2 hits.  On the other hand, John Maine struggled, giving up 5 earned runs in just four innings, 3 of which Jeff Francouer manufactured.  It is encouraging to see the Braves do so well against division rivals; one could argue that they are missing some of their top sluggers, but so are the Braves.  Josh Anderson contuinued his productive Spring with 3 RBIs of his own, continuing to make a very strong case for leadoff hitter.  So far, so good for the Bravos.

2009 Spring Training

Amidst March Madness, it’s certainly refreshing to have baseball active once again!  The World Baseball Classic has been truly exciting, with the only setbacks being the nagging injuries that are hitting Team USA.  How have the Braves been faring without Brian McCann, Chipper Jones, Javier Vasquez, and others?  As of now, they are an outstanding 15-4, at the very top of the Grapefruit League…not bad for a team that looked so shabby last year.  The prospects have been producing and the newly acquired Braves pitchers have certainly not been a disappointment.  Is this enough reason to be excited?  I have a feeling that the NL East this year will closely resemble what the AL East was like last year: a largely 3 team race, with decent teams at 4th and 5th.  If the Braves are to keep up with the Phillies and the Mets, the 3 following things must be accomplished:

1.  The bullpen must be in shutdown mode, all the time.  This is a pretty tall order, right?  I think the talent is there.  But it’ll be quite some time before I forget the fact that the Braves had so many 1-run losses last year.  A solid, injury-free bullpen would cut those down severely.

2. Jeff Francoeur needs to become a bigger factor.  Spring Training has been treating him well, I have no doubt that this year, he will be better than ever.
Jeff Francouer

Courtesy of www.sportsillustrated.cnn.com

3. A stable lineup HAS to be decided on.  All of last year was spent deciding who should lead off, whether it was Yunel, Gregor, or someone else.  A clear, set lineup would help players feel more comfortable in establishing their role in the team.  Although it is generally not part of Bobby Cox’s philosphy, I feel that the Braves need to steal some more bases to be more effective.

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