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    A Reality Check, But Not A Wet Blanket After 24 Hours in Boston

    By Bud L. Ellis

    BravesWire.com

    ATLANTA – So the last time the Atlanta Braves graced SunTrust Park, I was unable to see them play in person. One game I had tickets for was washed away by rain, and the other game which I was slated to see in person instead was spent in my Braves room, cheering like crazy for my favorite NHL team in an elimination playoff game.

    Alas, the Winnipeg Jets – perhaps you remember them as the Atlanta Thrashers (and yes, there still are four guys on the active roster who skated in those beautiful baby blue unis at Philips Arena once upon a time; one of them, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, sported a Braves cap during press interviews and hereby has earned a standing invite from me to visit SunTrust Park) – fell short last Sunday in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. While the final seconds ticked away on the Jets season and the tears welled up in my eyes, at the same time the Braves were authoring a comeback for the ages, scoring six times in the bottom of the ninth inning to upend the Miami Marlins and put yet another brushstroke on two months of absolute greatness.

    That unfathomable 10-9 victory bolstered Braves County in a way we have not seen in these parts since the 2013 squad rolled to 96 victories, a division title and the last playoff appearance this fan base has experienced. Four miserable seasons followed, with fan favorites traded for kids barely old enough to shave and two different front offices telling us to be patient.

    There is no denying the Braves are baseball’s biggest surprise through the first eight weeks of 2018. At or near the top of the National League East most of the way with equal parts veterans playing well and brash young rookies announcing their presence. The crazy comeback against Miami felt storybook in every sense of the word, and the national media began locked in on this team in advance of this week’s road trip to NL East rival Philadelphia and AL powerhouse Boston.

    So here we sit in the fading hours of Saturday night. There is no hockey until Monday. The Jets have cleaned out their lockers. It’s Memorial Day weekend. Many of us have spent time today grilling out, squeezing what few dry hours remain before Tropical Storm Alberto nails the Southeastern U.S. with tons of rain and wind. The Rockets and Warriors just concluded a NBA playoff game on my big screen.

    And I could not care less, because I sit at my laptop conflicted.

    The Braves dropped two games in Philadelphia, which is OK. After all, Atlanta won the first three series against the Phillies before this week’s meeting. These two teams won’t meet again until Sept. 20, only from that point to play seven times in the season’s final 11 days.

    Geez, unbalanced schedule, thanks for that. Not like we’re in the same division or anything.

    But I digress. After the visit to Philly, the Braves headed to Boston, which is where this franchise’s story began some 142 years ago. Arriving in Beantown, Atlanta found itself squared up with the Red Sox, one of baseball’s gold standard franchises, one of the three American League teams (along with the Astros and Yankees) that many feel will emerge in early November as champions.

    Talk about a measuring stick as we close in on completing the first third of the marathon that is a baseball season. This young and emerging team, against one of the few established powers.

    In a span of 24 hours covering Friday night through Saturday afternoon, the Braves dropped two games. In that timeframe, we saw just how far this franchise has come, and how much further it has to go.

    Look at both games through two different viewpoints, if you will:

    On one hand, Atlanta had ample opportunities to win both games. The Braves left a multitude of runners on base in Friday’s series opener. The starting pitching could not hold the line. The bullpen wasn’t much better. The bullpen management was abysmal.

    You want specifics? How in the world can you have a failed starter just recalled from Triple-A face the frontrunner for AL MVP in a one-run game? That’s on Brian Snitker, folks, plain and simple.

    Let’s go to Saturday, which may be the most agonizing game any of us have watched this season – and yes, I’m including the “weather-n-walk” disaster in Chicago in that discussion. The middle game of this series drug on like a bad early-morning conference call with that one person who keeps butting in mid-sentence to say, “sorry, I was on mute!”

    And yet, Atlanta had multiple chances to seize control of both games. It did not happen, and as of this moment when my fingers are hitting the keyboard late on a Saturday night, the Braves no longer reside in first place in the NL East. That honor belongs to those Phillies, albeit by a scant ½ game.

    There are two talk-tracks that have emerged from the past two games:

    One, is the Braves are not ready for this level of play. They ran up against one of the game’s best teams and they could not handle the pressure, could not handle playing in Fenway – let’s face it, were the Braves to somehow win the pennant and reach the World Series, odds are they would have to deal with a venue like this, be it in Boston, Houston or the Bronx – and could not answer the counter punches from one of the top squads in MLB.

    One, is the Braves needed this. They have rolled through the NL, found success in their division, sport a favorable run differential and have been swashbucklers on the road. They needed to see how the penthouse teams live, how they thrive, how they take every little mistake you make and bury you for it, and this will serve their development well. This is a good teachable moment that will help this bunch moving forward more than any of us right now can grasp.

    Want to know my take?

    Both are true.

    Is Atlanta ready to face a team like Boston in a seven-game series in the 10th month of the season, with the bunting on the railings and all the media and all the cameras and a billion people worldwide watching and that trophy with 30 gold pennants on it? Probably not. And that’s OK. Do I dream about it? Absolutely! I’ve been there. These two aging blue eyes saw the trophy with the pointy pennants brought onto our home field, albeit on the wobbly (read: drunk) head of Ted Turner, and paraded on top of a fire truck through the streets of my hometown.

    Is this weekend a good measuring stick and a good barometer for this team that hasn’t played for anything meaningful the past 55 months, when the bullpen door in Los Angeles remained locked for reasons none of us ever will freaking understand? Yes, certainly. We are 50 games into this season that has engaged us so much. Yes, it is disappointing to lose the first two and be left with resorting to salvaging the finale, but would any of you not sign up for this back in February if you had a crystal ball and realized Atlanta arrived the day before Memorial Day with a 29-21 record?

    There are challenges afoot, for sure, and questions to answer and holes to fill. And yes, the schedule does not get easier, not with a doubleheader at home on Monday with the Mets (if Tropical Storm Alberto allows such festivities to commence) and the always-dangerous Nationals in town after that, followed by the usual west-coast roadtrip that includes three with the defending NL champion Dodgers.

    Many of us longtime fans used to bemoan that early June swing out west, that back in the day would constitute trips to San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles. I always called it the “June Swoon Trip,” the one that let me know it was time to look forward to Falcons or Hawks or Dawgs season because the Braves would arrive back home buried in the old NL West.

    I certainly don’t see that happening this season. This team figures to be relevant deep into summer. The fits and starts in the Northeast this weekend only help fuel the development of this fun, exciting and intriguing team, as we continue shifting from rebuilder to contender.

    —30—

    Bud L. Ellis is a lifelong Braves fan who worked as a sports writer for daily newspapers throughout Georgia earlier in his writing career, with duties including covering the Atlanta Braves, the World Series and MLB’s All-Star Game. Ellis currently lives in the Atlanta suburbs and contributes his thoughts on Braves baseball and MLB for a variety of outlets. Reach him on Twitter at @bud006.

    SOUTHERN FRIED BASEBALL RADIO: 8-8-11… Can the Braves Match the Phillies?

     

    Braves stil boast the NL's second-best record

    The Braves are winning. BUT… they still aren’t firing on all cylinders.  The NL East pennant race is likely a lost cause. However, the NL Wild Card leading Braves could still be on a collision course with the Phillies come October.  So how ’bout it…  Can the Braves match the Phillies? Kent Covington breaks it all down in this week’s edition of Southern Fried Baseball radio.

    (NOTE: Please notice “play in popup” link under flash player. This is often a more convenient way to listen.)

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    Follow Kent on Twitter: @FriedBasballATL

    Bubbling at AAA, Braves’ young arms ready for showtime

    Gwinnett Braves' starter, Julio Teheran

    By Bud L. Ellis

    Glavine. Smoltz. Maddux. The names roll off the tongue as easily as the vaunted Hall of Fame “Big Three” frustrated opposing hitters en route to pitching the Atlanta Braves into baseball’s elite in the 1990s.

    That type of pitching rotation is once-in-a-lifetime stuff. If many of us are lucky, we may see one hurler of that ilk pitch for our hometown team, but three at the same time?

    Those of us who followed the Braves through the glory years of the 1990s know how blessed we were to see Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux form the cornerstone of one of baseball’s most successful and sustainable runs. Nobody, and I mean nobody, who bore witness to the greatness of Atlanta pitching in the ’90s could realistically expect to see another deep batch of top-shelf arms come our way again.

    But alas, it very well may be about to happen again. In fact, it’s already happening, a short ride up Interstate 85 from Turner Field.

    There are more than a handful of Major League teams that would love to run out a trio of young pitchers as talented as Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino and Randall Delgado. Throw in Mike Minor, and the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate in suburban Gwinnett County features as talented and as hyped a pitching staff as one can find toiling in the minor leagues.

    Minor league baseball is awesome, plain and simple. The prices are lower. The access is easier (10 minutes after arriving at the stadium in Bowling Green, Ky., last month for a baseball fix while on vacation, both of my sons had baseballs – thrown by that night’s starting pitcher, no less – and a ton of autographs). The pure essence of players fighting for their ticket to “The Show” makes the price of admission a worthwhile investment.

    But there is talent in the bushes, and for the Braves, the gathering young squadron of pitchers just might thrust Atlanta back into perennial World Series contention.

    Teheran has anchored Gwinnett’s staff all season, save for two spot starts for the big-league club. It’s clear his days in Triple-A are numbered; Teheran is 12-1 on the season with a dazzling 1.90 ERA in 19 starts, striking out 99 in 113 2/3 innings while displaying the command and the talent that makes him the organization’s top prospect.

    Vizcaino is at his third stop this season in the Braves’ organization. Starting the year in High Single-A Lynchburg (after grabbling fans and Braves’ brass attention by hitting 100 mph on several occasions in spring training), Vizcaino struck out 92 hitters combined between Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi. Promoted to Gwinnett, Vizcaino has moved into the bullpen, perhaps foreshadowing a future role as reliever in the majors. In four relief appearances at Triple-A, Vizcaino is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA, fanning six in four innings with no walks.

    Delgado is the newcomer to the highest level of minor-league ball. In 21 starts for Mississippi, Delgado went 5-5 with 110 strikeouts in 117 1/3 innings with a 3.84 ERA. The right-hander, who made a spot start for Atlanta in June, makes his Triple-A debut Saturday night at home against Charlotte. Minor, who has shown flashes of brilliance at times at the major-league level, sits at 4-5 with a 3.13 ERA in 19 starts for Gwinnett, striking out 99 in 100 2/3 innings.

    Put it all together, and you see why Frank Wren was willing to move two really good minor-league starters – Brett Oberholtzer and Paul Clemens – as part of the Michael Bourn trade on Sunday. In many organizations, Oberholtzer and Clemens would be at or near the very top of the pecking order.

    But not in this organization. The Braves are fortunate – again – to have pitching, pitching and more pitching. The core of that pitching future sits 37 miles northeast of Atlanta, poised to move into the major-league rotation and ready to fashion another once-in-a-lifetime run for Braves’ fans.

    —30—

    Follow Bud Ellis on Twitter: @bud006


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    REMEMBERING SKIP

    Braves broadcasting legend, Skip Caray

    Occasionally, I am asked the question, “Who is your favorite Atlanta Brave of all time?”  My answer is always the same…

    Skip Caray.

    It was three years ago today that Skip Caray, one of the finest announcers and greatest baseball personalities of all time, left us.  I was surprised by the level of loss I felt for a person who I had never even met. But like so many others, I felt as though I knew him.  That’s because Skip Caray was never anything different on-air than he was anywhere else. What you saw was what you got with Skip. No pretense.

    I moved around a lot as a kid, but because of TBS, wherever we were, Skip was on the TV every day for six months out the year. Though I never had the privilege of shaking his hand, he was a part of my life, and miss him still.

    From the humor and levity he brought to the broadcasts during some truly awful Braves seasons… to his triumphant calls in the 90’s and beyond, he left many thousands of fans with memories we’ll carry as long as we live.

    Today, I want to invite you to share your Skip Caray memories. Stories, quotes, whatever. Here are a few that come to mind for me:

    •    “The bases are loaded, and I wish I was too.”
    •    “And like lambs to the slaughter, the Braves take the field.”
    •    “A partial sellout today”
    •    “Well, here we are in the bottom of the fifth, which is exactly where I’d like to be.”
    •    “Hello again everybody, welcome to another night of Atlanta Braves baseball”
    •    “Chopper to Chipper”

    •    When a ball was fouled into the stands, Skip would often comment, “And a fan from [random town] comes away with the ball.”  For years, I wondered how he knew where the fan was from. Of course, he was simply pulling a town name out of a proverbial hat. But I don’t think I was alone in wondering how he knew where that fan who caught the ball was from.

    •    During a game in Pittsburgh, Joe Simpson was broadcasting alongside Skip.  Joe said “The Braves have the right guy at the plate. Brian Jordan’s leading the world in hitting against lefties!” Skip’s response (after a lengthy pause): “Ya know, Pittsburgh has one of the prettiest airports in the entire country.” Joe began to laugh and could only manage a “WHAT??” through his laughter. I don’t recall Skip’s explanation for such a random thought, but remember that he had one. Classic.
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    Are the Braves still in the NL East hunt?

    by Kent Covington

    After another frustrating loss to the Nationals, coupled with an extra-innings win by the NL East-leading Phillies in Colorado, the Braves now find themselves 7 games out of first place. Eight games in the loss column.  This begs the question…

    Are the Braves still in the hunt for the NL East pennant?

    With 1/3 of the season still remaining, the answer is yes, they are still in the race in the East. Needless to say, however, it’s going to be tougher than a frozen bag of Jack Links.

    Here are a couple of scenarios that would force a 1-game playoff to determine the division champ:

    1)  The Braves play white hot .750 baseball the rest of the way (39-13), and the Phillies play out the season at a .611 clip (33-21).

    2)  The Braves play .692 ball from here out (36-16). Meanwhile, the Phillies scuffle just a bit and play .555 baseball (30-24).

    These scenarios are obviously unlikely. Then again, standings can shift in the blink of an eye in baseball.  If Atlanta could reel off an 8 or 9 game winning streak in the very near future, they might just trim a few games off Philly’s lead and turn that 7-game deficit into something much more manageable.  Overtaking the Phillies at this point will be very difficult, but not impossible.

    The good news, of course, is that Braves currently rest atop the Wild Card standings, 2.5 games in front of the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks. While the odds of knocking the Phillies off their NL East perch are increasingly slim, they have an excellent opportunity to repeat as the NL Wild Card winners.

    But winning the NL East pennant is worth more than just bragging rights. If the Braves hold on to win a Wild Card postseason berth, their road to the World Series would most likely wind through BOTH San Francisco and Philadelphia, without home field advantage for either series. Meanwhile, the Phillies would open against the NL Central champs, who will likely be a weaker opponent than the defending World Series Champion Giants. And the Phillies would have home field throughout the postseason.

    Nevertheless, 3 of the last 10 World Series Champions earned their postseason berth via the Wild Card. So while that “2011 NL East Champions” banner would look pretty alongside the other 14 currently hanging at “The Ted”, and the division pennant is the preferable path to the postseason, the important thing is to get there. One way or the other.
     

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    Braves have added one of baseball’s fastest men. They also got Michael Bourn.

    by Kent Covington

    On April 21, 1993 at (then) Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, Atlanta Braves Manager, Bobby Cox handed a lineup card to home plate umpire, Harry Wendelstedt, with the names Deion Sanders and Otis Nixon scribbled atop the batting order. Sanders would go 1-for-5 that day with 2 stolen bases. Nixon went 0-for-4 with an RBI.

    That would be the last time fans would ever see two men that fast in a Braves lineup at the same time.

    Eighteen years later, however, you might just see it again.

    In a move that has been the talk of the town around Atlanta, the Braves completed a deal on Sunday to acquire the Major League stolen base leader, Michael Bourn, from the Houston Astros.  But two days earlier, with far less fanfare, they added another premier base stealer to the roster when they promoted outfielder, Jose Constanza, from AAA Gwinnett.

    Constanza, who was signed by the Braves as a minor league free agent prior to the 2011 season, has waited a long time for this opportunity. He signed with the Cleveland Indians organization in 2003 as a non-drafted free agent, and throughout his 6 years in the Indians system, he anxiously awaited a big league call up that never came.  Now, at age 27 (approximately 50 years-old in baseball years), he’s finally getting his shot. And the numbers seem to suggest it’s well earned.  

    Prior to his August 29th promotion, Constanza was hitting .312 for the “G-Braves”, with a .361 on-base percentage and 23 stolen bases. Despite batting left-handed, he also handled southpaws well, batting .300 against them.

    Last year, Contstanza finished with the International League’s (AAA) second-best batting average (.319). He also boasted a .373 on-base percentage and 34 steals in 40 attempts in 114 games. In 2009, he led the AA Eastern League in stolen bases (49), while batting .282 over 130 games. 

    Beyond the naked numbers, his ability on the base paths has drawn the praise of his peers. Based on a 2010 survey of minor league players and coaches, Baseball America called Constanza “Class AAA’s fastest base runner”.

    Despite his minor league success, Constanza has been criticized by some observers for his low walk rate.  He accepted only 35 bases on balls last year in 448 plate appearances. And just 25 free passes in 363 PA’s at AAA this season. Without a doubt, “free swinger” isn’t a label you want as a leadoff-type hitter auditioning for a big league job.

    That said, the negatives of his low walk rate are somewhat mitigated by one simple fact… He’s an excellent contact hitter.  He is skilled at keeping the ball on a low plane to make use of his speed, and he’s logged a solid 8/1 at-bat to strikeout ratio this year at Gwinnett. 

    Constanza has indeed proven himself against minor league opposition. The question now is obvious. Will his success translate to the big leagues?  There’s only one way to find out.

    But how long will he be here? Will he truly get the chance to prove he belongs (or doesn’t belong)? 

    Constanza was called up as an emergency replacement for injured outfielder, Nate McLouth. When word of the Bourn trade hit the newswires, many assumed Constanza’s stay in the big leagues would last only as long as it took for Bourn to catch a flight to Atlanta. Not so. Braves Manager, Fredi Gonzalez indicated on Sunday that he plans to take Constanza north with the team, as they travel to D.C. to open a 3-game set against the Nationals.

    Furthermore, Gonzalez hinted that we might even see both Bourn and Constanza in the lineup in Washington. Otis Nixon and Deion Sanders, anyone?

    When McLouth is ready to play, the Braves may still opt to return Constanza to Gwinnet for the time being. If that is the case, however, he seems a safe bet to be among the call-ups when the roster expands in September.

    However the remainder the season plays out for the rookie outfielder, at least for now, one thing is certain. A Braves roster that has been among the slowest in baseball in recent years suddenly features two of the game’s fleetest athletes.  And an offensive scheme limited solely to station-to-station baseball, which for us fans has sometimes only narrowly eclipsed the recreational value of watching paint dry… may suddenly give way to a more explosive offensive attack.  

    I, for one, plan to enjoy the show.

     

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    Braves get OF Michael Bourn from Houston in 5-player deal

    The Atlanta Braves have acquired speedy outfielder, Michael Bourn, from the Houston Astros in return for Jordan Schafer and 3 minor league prospects.

    With this trade, the Braves appear to have accomplished their goal of substantially upgrading their outfield without surrendering any of their most coveted pitching prospects. The Braves will send outfielder, Jordan Schafer, to Houston, along with minor league pitchers Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu.

    Atlanta did surrender a quality package of young talent to get Bourn, but held onto their "big 4" pitching prospects (Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Mike Minor, Arodys Vizcaino).

    Bourn is a 2-time gold glove winner, currently hitting .303, with a .363 on-base percentage and a MLB-best 39 stolen bases.

     

     

    Pence is off the market… who’s left on the Braves’ shopping list?

    by Kent Covington

    With the announcement of a certain outfielder switching uniforms Friday, the field of potential Braves trade targets officially narrowed.

    That’s right… Ryan Langerhans was dealt to the Diamondbacks on Friday.

    Then, after Atlanta lost out on the Langerhans sweepstakes, word came down that all-star outfielder, Hunter Pence, who the Braves reportedly pursued, would be moving from one popcorn machine (Minute Maid Park) to another (Citizens Bank Park).

    Multiple sources reported that the Astros wanted 2 of the Braves’ “big 4” pitching prospects (Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Arodys Vizcaino and Mike Minor), along with another quality arm.  And sticker shock compelled Braves’ GM, Fran Wren, to pull out of the Hunter Pence auction, clearing the way for the Phillies to close the deal.

    Pence is a fine ball player, and he will make the Phillies a better team. That said, he is not a premier hitter or anything close to a franchise player. Wren could not afford to substantially overpay for his services, and he was correct in refusing to do so. But where does that leave the Braves now?

    From a field of about 10 rumored Braves trade targets, we can now scratch 3 off the list. Pence to Philly, Carlos Beltran to San Fran and Jonny Gomes to Washington.

    Among the outfielders who we know to have drawn the Braves’ interest… that leaves:

    •    Michael Bourn (Houston — pictured above)
    •    Carlos Quentin (Chicago-AL)
    •    B.J. Upton (Tampa)
    •    Marlon Byrd (Chicago-NL)
    •    Josh Willingham (Oakland)
    •    Coco Crisp (Oakland)
    •    Ryan Ludwick (San Diego)

    Atlanta is rumored to have especially robust interest in Bourn, Quentin and Upton.  It’s unclear whether the White Sox are earnestly entertaining offers for Quentin, so he may or may not be a viable option.  As for Bourn… we know Houston wanted 2 of the Braves’ top young arms for Hunter Pence. If they’re willing to settle for a package built around ONE of those arms in exchange for Bourn, a deal could be completed soon.  I believe the same could be said of Upton. Atlanta may be willing to part with one of their blue chip pitching prospects (most likely either Minor or Delgado) to get him, but it’s quite unlikely that they would surrender more than one.

    Any offer the Braves may make for Willingham, Byrd, Crisp or Ludwick is NOT likely to include any of their “big-4” pitching prospects. However, Atlanta does have a number of other quality arms, which could be used to reel in a less ambitious trade target.

    For the record, BravesWire.com officially endorses Michael Bourn as the next Atlanta Braves Center Fielder (though, we can’t get the campaign buttons and yard signs completed before the deadline). Bourn is one of the game’s premier leadoff hitters. Despite batting left-handed, he hits southpaws well (.284 average vs LHP). His on-base percentage stands at a solid .364, and he leads all of Major League Baseball in stolen bases (39).

    While Atlanta’s current starting Center Fielder, Jordan Schafer (on 15-day DL), has introduced dynamic speed to the top of the order, he has yet to prove an ability to hit consistently at the big league level.  And the Braves’ opening day Center Fielder, Nate McLouth, has continued to underwhelm this year.  With that in mind, Bourn would represent a tremendous upgrade to the top of this lineup, and could certainly have a big impact on the postseason aspirations of the Wild Card leading Braves. 

    If the price is right, Bourn would be our man, followed – in order – by Upton, Quentin, Willingham, Byrd and Crisp.  We cannot get behind any deal for a struggling Ludwick, unless it’s paired with a trade for one of the other aforementioned players.

    So there you have it. Will the Braves make a substantial move over the weekend?  If so, will it be one of the players discussed herein… or someone else entirely?  Only time will tell, but I will be surprised if they don’t swing a deal for a bat that can make a difference. The Braves don’t have Philly’s checkbook, so they MUST develop talent from within. This requires Wren to guard their young talent rather jealously. However, the Braves do feel they have a chance to compete for a World Series championship right away. So as the clock counts down to Sunday’s non-waiver trade deadline, I’m convinced a deal will go down. It’s just a matter of who and when.

    Stay tuned, Braves fans.  If and when a move is made, we’ll be on top of it.

    Braves trade targets… One of these things is not like the others

    by Kent Covington

    One of these things is not like the others.  One of these things just doesn’t belong.  

    Atlanta is rumored to have interest in Carlos Quentin, Hunter Pence, B.J. Upton, Josh Willingham, perhaps Michael Bourn (despite the fact that he’s a left-handed hitter) or Ryan Ludwick. OK, boys and girls…

    Can you tell which thing is not like the others by the time I finish this song?

    Quinten represents another right-handed middle-of-order bat. Pence offers a productive RH bat & good wheels, along with the ability to play any OF position. Willingham has been a consistent run producer for years, and he boasts a nifty .918 OPS vs LHP over the past 3 seasons. Upton can provide speed, power and defense anywhere in the outfield. Bourn is one of the game’s premier leadoff hitters.

    Ryan Ludwick brings a solid glove and… ummm… well, he also provides, uh… never mind.

    All of the aforementioned players could substantially boost Atlanta’s World Series aspirations.  All of those players, that is… except for Ryan Ludwick.

    Ludwick was one of the game’s top offensive forces in 2008, hitting .299 with 37 HR’s and 113 RBI. Since ’08, however, he’s displayed only momentary flashes of the superstar slugger he once appeared to be.  His current .238 average and .675 OPS are the worst marks of his career (min. 100 at-bats) by a wide margin.

    What’s more, over the past 3 years, Ludwick, despite batting right-handed, has struggled against left-handed pitching, hitting .238 with an OPS around .700 vs southpaws.

    Granted, he would fit right in with an Atlanta offense that is dead last in the NL in hitting vs left-handed pitching (.215).  But I think the point of a deadline trade is to UPGRADE your roster for a postseason run. And simply put, Ludwick does nothing to improve this Atlanta Braves ballclub.

    Quentin, Pence, Upton, Bourn and Willingham are worthy trade targets.

    Ludwick just doesn’t belong.

     

     

     

    Southern Fried Baseball Radio — July 28, 2011

    As Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline nears, Kent Covington opines about who the Braves might target and the importance of not overpaying.

    NOTE: Chicago’s Carlos Quentin was not mentioned in the podcast, but he is another strong trade possibility for the Braves.