• Eric O’Flaherty

    BRAVES AT THE DEADLINE: Anthopoulos must make the right move

    By Bud L. Ellis

    BravesWire.com

    ATLANTA – And to think, just four months ago we all assumed this week would be about getting some type of return for Brandon McCarthy and Nick Markakis.

    Unless you’ve been hiding on another planet since March – and if you have, pull up a chair because you’re truly not gonna believe this – you realize the preconceived notion of the 2018 Atlanta Braves has transformed greatly thanks to the team winning 54 times in the season’s first 98 games. At least a year ahead of the expected opening of its contention window, Atlanta sits in a very enviable and yet difficult spot as the hours tick toward Tuesday’s trade deadline.

    We could spend the next 40 paragraphs discussing the craziness that has transpired with this franchise since last summer, when Atlanta’s midsummer moves included releasing Bartolo Colon and Eric O’Flaherty, and dealing Jaime Garcia and Anthony Recker to Minnesota for a little-known prospect named Huascar Ynoa (who incidentally today was promoted to High-A Florida and is considered by many as an intriguing pitching prospect).

    Imagine that, another young impact arm in the Braves system, a system that despite the sanctions imposed by Major League Baseball in the wake of Coppygate still bursts as the seams with talent that could make waves in the majors for years to come.

    “Could” is the key word, and therein lies the rub as general manager Alex Anthopoulos surveys the madness of a market that one person described to me today as quiet for now, but “would not surprise me if it becomes frantic in the next three-to-four days.”

    The Braves, among several other teams, deserve credit for that madness. The National League was to be a victory lap for the Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers in 2018, with Arizona and Colorado and Milwaukee fighting for the two wild-card spots. Alas, the standings are chaos, with 10 teams sitting within five games of a playoff spot.

    Alas, the Nationals are not among them.

    How to sort through this unexpected landscape, especially with a team contending a year ahead of schedule and a fanbase starving for a postseason game and a system overflowing with players who could impact your future in a good way (or bad, if you deal the wrong ones)? This is when general managers make their money.

    I’m on record in this space in saying I don’t expect an earth-shaking move to come in the next seven days. It would not be prudent to deviate from a plan that has caused so much pain in order to chase a short-term gain – as sweet as October baseball would be – at the risk of negating what many expect to be a long-standing swing at championships extending into the next decade.

    Again, back to my conversation today. I was reminded of two names.

    “Stephen Strasburg.”

    “Matt Harvey.”

    Strasburg blitzed through the league in 2012 as a 23-year-old, winning 15 games with a 3.16 ERA, but was shut down after 159 1/3 innings to protect his arm. The Nationals did as the Nationals do, flopping in the NL Division Series. Six seasons later, Washington has won as many playoff series as you and I combined, and woke up today six games out of a playoff spot.

    Harvey led a young, talented Mets rotation to the 2015 NL pennant, then famously refused to yield to manager Terry Collins after eight innings of a must-win Game 5 of the World Series. He gave up a walk and a double leading off the ninth before being yanked, the Royals won in extra innings to capture the championship, and today the Mets are a dumpster fire while Harvey pitches every fifth day for Cincinnati.

    One, an organization decision based on belief opportunities would present themselves without fail for years to come. The other, a manager who was convinced to change his mind with good intentions and perhaps lost the only shot that franchise will have at the brass ring for years to come.

    Both are cautionary tales of counting on a future that may not arrive. And so, as the clock ticks toward the deadline, Anthopoulos and his charges won’t sleep much. That’s life in a major-league front office in the days before the deadline, but the challenges facing this Braves regime as July crawls to a close are equally unique, daunting and exciting.

    For his part, Anthopoulos is not shying away from the task at hand. On SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio Monday morning, he stated the Braves are able to make the moves they need to make, provided it’s right for the organization for 2018 and beyond. It’s comforting to know this front office won’t empty the farm system for one run at a ring, but at the same time one wonders just how far they should push.

    After all, the right move – not the biggest move, and not just for the biggest name, but the right move – could vault Atlanta alongside the Dodgers as NL favorites. There is a three-headed beast in the American League, four if the Brad Hand deal stabilizes Cleveland’s bullpen, so many think the Senior Circuit is playing for runner-up honors. But the fact is you can’t win the World Series until you get there, and the Braves are in the mix of NL teams who could find themselves getting the chance to win seven games (or eight, depending on if they are in the wild-card game) in October to reach the big stage.

    But at what cost? What will it take? And remember, for all the folks on Twitter begging the Braves to get “this guy” or “that guy” or “those guys,” it takes two to tango. Some of the proposed moves by basement GMs border on absurd. At the same time, Atlanta could offer the moon and sun in any one deal and still have a top-10 system. That’s the result of four years of misery and all the work that’s transpired to rebuild this once-proud franchise.

    Sorting out the varying possibilities and the potential impacts, good and bad, always are part of the recipe of July for front offices. For the one residing at the confluence of Interstates 75 and 285 on Atlanta’s northwest flank, figuring out the straightest path through the winding madness could yield an amplifying boost for the next three months while not negating the opportunity to contend for the foreseeable future.

    After today, I have backed off my earlier stance of the Braves not doing anything, for what it’s worth. Call it intuition, call it a feeling, call it a guess. But the closer we get to 4 p.m. ET on July 31, the more I think Anthopoulos and the Braves will strike.

    —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.

    Braves sweep Dodgers, Twins up next

    It’s safe to say that the Atlanta Braves put their horrid road trip behind them with a home sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers. And the timing could not have been better given the blows to the Braves of late, especially in their injury decimated bullpen.

    Before a rundown of the injuries the Braves are currently faced with, the line scores from the 3-game set against the Dodgers:

    Game 1:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Dodgers 0 1 0 2 0 1 0 1 0 5 10 2
    Braves 0 0 2 0 0 4 2 0 x 8 9 1

    W: Maholm (5-4) L: Rodriguez (0-2) SV: Kimbrel (12)

    Game 2:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Dodgers 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0
    Braves 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 x 3 7 1

    W: Gearrin (1-0) L: Jansen (1-2) SV: Kimbrel (13)

    Game 3:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 r h e
    Dodgers 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 3 3
    Braves 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 4 x 5 7 0

    W: Avilan (2-0) L: Jansen (1-3) SV: Kimbrel (14)

    The highlights of the series included a go-ahead homer by Evan Gattis in game 2. Gattis said the at-bat reminded of his time in the Venezuelan Winter League. He said he hadn’t had “many at-bats with that kind of intensity” and that he loved it. 6 of Gattis’ 8 home runs have given the Braves the lead. Each game of the series featured solid pitching performances. Minor and Medlen pitched just as well as Maholm, if not more so, but the hard luck continues to be with Medlen and Minor’s 9 strikeouts couldn’t do anything about the lack of run support while he was in the game. Another great moment of the series was when, just after Gattis homered to give the Braves the lead in game 2, Andrelton Simmons knocked a homer in the very next bat. Andrelton’s homer came off Kenley Jansen who is also from the island of Curacao. Simons has known Jansen since he was 4-years-old and they played baseball together in their native country. Of course, the moment on every highlight reel was the grand slam by Justin Upton. Upton now has 14 homers since joining the Braves. Unbelievably, his 14th homer of the 2012 season didn’t come until September 15th. The fastest he has ever reached the 14 homer mark was on June 23rd during the 2010 season. Clearly he is on an incredible pace this season.

    BRAVES WELCOME AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL TWINS…

    The Braves will be at home for 30 of their next 55 games. A welcome change given how little they’ve played at Turner Field thus far. They’ll welcome the Minnesota Twins Monday and then will go on the road for a series with the Mets and 2 games of a split series with the Blue Jays. Then next weekend we’ll see the Nationals at the Ted for Heritage Weekend.

    A recap of the Braves’ injuries:

    • Brandon Beachy (SP) — Recovering from Tommy John surgery on pitching elbow; Scheduled return 06/13
    • Luis Ayala (RP) — Dealing with anxiety disorder; Unknown return date
    • Jonny Venters (RP) — Underwent Tommy John surgery 05/16/13; Out for season
    • Eric O’Flaherty (RP) — May need Tommy John surgery; May be out for season
    • Jordan Walden (RP) — Right shoulder inflammation; Unknown return date
    • Blake DeWitt (2B) — Lower back strain; Unknown return date
    • Cristhian Martinez (RP) — Right shoulder inflammation; Unknown return date
    Key to moving forward without Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty to setup for Craig Kimbrel will be for Luis Avilan and Anthony Varvaro to step up. Cory Gearrin has been exceptional both with O’Flaherty and without him and will continue to be an important piece out of the ‘pen. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Braves looking for help out on the trade market once they know for certain whether O’Flaherty will undergo Tommy John surgery. One other question will be how the Braves will insert Brandon Beachy once he completes his rehab assignment at Triple-A Gwinnett. The Braves could go with a 6-man rotation for awhile, they could move Teheran to the ‘pen (though his success of late makes that an unlikely option) or they could put Beachy in the ‘pen. Putting Beachy in the ‘pen would be similar to what the Braves did with Kris Medlen when he returned from Tommy John surgery. It would limit Beachy’s innings and allow him to ease back in.
    The Braves will get a better picture of what pieces they may need in relief over the next few days as Varavaro, Gearrin and Avilan are tested. They will also know for sure what the path ahead looks like for O’Flaherty after he meets with Dr. James Andrews tomorrow.
    Against Minnesota, the Braves will feature Teheran (2-1, 4.57) vs. Correia (4-3, 3.35) in the opening game of the series Monday. Tuesday matchup will showcase Hudson (4-3, 5.12) vs. Pelfrey (3-4, 6.57). The final game of the series will feature Maholm (5-4, 3.83) vs. Worley (1-4, 6.20).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch" href="https://twitter.com/#!/framethepitch">@framethepitch.

    Braves get more bad news in ‘pen, but glad to be home

    The common wisdom about the Atlanta Braves is that they will strike out in 2013 at a torrid rate, they will hit home runs at a pace not seen in the franchise for decades and they will bring dominant defense to each game. Common wisdom didn’t hold up while the Braves were on their recent road trip. Sure there were strikeouts, home runs and defensive gems, but there were also blunders and dry spells that made the road trip almost unbearable. Losing 6 of the 10 games on the trip, it’s no wonder the Braves are thrilled to be back at Turner Field to face the Dodgers and Twins.

    But should the team be happy to return home? Here are some curious numbers about the Braves’ performance at Turner Field this year:

    – Braves are last in the league in hits at home.

    – They are second-to-last in the league, behind only Miami, in runs and RBIs at home. 

    – And they’re 12th in the NL in stolen bases at home.

    These numbers might seem alarming until you consider one important fact. As of Sunday morning, the Braves had played just 16 games at home all season. No other National League team has played fewer than 21 home games to this point. For instance, the team Atlanta defeated on Saturday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have played 24 games in front of their fans.

    Every other team in the league has played at about 1/3 more home games in 2013 then have the Braves. So… there’s no need to be alarmed by the modest offensive totals at home.

    In fact, the Braves have the 6th best team OPS at home, .764, in the NL. And despite so few home games, relatively speaking, Atlanta is 6th in the NL in homeruns at home.

    On the pitching front, it will obviously be good for the pitching staff’s stats to spend some time at the Ted. Braves’ pitching is 2nd in the NL behind the Pirates in ERA at home. They are 7th in ERA on the road. Keep in mind, though, that the Braves are 1st in innings pitched on the road and 15th (last) in innings pitched at home–a difference of 226 innings on the road to 136 at home.

    When you put it all together, the Braves are 11-5 at Turner Field. Home sweet home.

    As the Braves kicked off the 3-game set with the Dodgers Friday, there was a familiar face in the lineup that they haven’t had for nearly a month. Jason Heyward has rejoined the club after completing a rehab assignment following an emergency appendectomy during the frigid series in Denver. While at Triple-A Gwinnett for his 6-game assignment, Heyward hit .300 with 6 hits, a double and 6 RBIs.

    Having Heyward back in the lineup means less potential playing time for Evan Gattis given that Gattis had picked up some playing time in the outfield when perennial All-Star catcher Brian McCann came off the disabled list. However, Gattis is still a huge bat off the bench and on McCann’s off days, as he proved with his go-ahead 2-run shot in Saturday evening’s contest.

    With Heyward’s return the only real question in the Braves’ outfield is what to do with B.J. Upton while he is in a tremendous slump. You clearly can’t bench the guy with the highest free agent contract in the history of the Atlanta Braves. But how do you reset his timing so he no longer looks so lost at the plate? Having Jason Heyward’s bat back in the lineup makes this less pressing. Reed Johnson, Jordan Schafer and Evan Gattis did a fantastic job filling in while Heyward was out, but there is no denying the dynamic talent of Jason Heyward. Having his speed, defensive prowess and offense is big for the Braves right now. Add his talent to that of the incredible Justin Upton, who smashed a grand slam last night and set the Braves up for the win against the Dodgers, and the Braves have something special that will win them many games.

    Something the Braves experienced on the road trip that is very unfamiliar to them was inconsistency in the bullpen. The Braves have been lucky the past few seasons to have Craig Kimbrel, Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters to shutdown the game for them. Last season with injuries here and there, the Braves were able to lean on Chad Durbin out of the ‘pen. This season they haven’t had the kind of consistency from Avilan and Walden (who is now on the DL) that they would like. That has put additional pressure on Kimbrel and O’Flaherty and they haven’t always been able to pitch under that pressure. They haven’t had Jonny Venters as part of their 1-2-3 punch this season and that has taken a toll. And after resuming throwing once shut down for a month with elbow soreness, Venters felt soreness return. His visit with Dr. James Andrews resulted in immediate Tommy John surgery, his second. The Braves will not see Venters pitch again for 12 months and chances are when they do see him again, it won’t be in a Braves uniform given that 2013 was his first year of arbitration eligibility.

    Then came another bombshell for the Atlanta bullpen when news broke on Saturday that O’Flaherty has a torn UCL in his pitching elbow, which almost certainly means season-ending surgery for him as well.

    Relievers Luis Ayala, Christhian Martinez and Jordan Walden are also on the disabled list. There is no timetable for Martinez or Ayala to return to the club. This has left a large hole in the ‘pen with Avilan and Gearrin now splitting the setup duties. Prospects J.R. Graham and Alex Wood are not currently considered options for call-up, Graham was recently shut down with pitching soreness. In the meantime, Cory Rasmus has been called up from Triple-A Gwinnett to help in the ‘pen. In his 19 appearances in Gwinnett, he has an 0.93 ERA with a 1-1 record.

    Safe to say, injuries have taken a sledgehammer to Atlanta’ vaunted bullpen.

    All the same, the Braves are quite happy to be home. Why the Braves have spent 26 of their first 40 games on the road is just another of those scheduling issues that never seems to be resolved. There will be teams that spend a big chunk of their early schedule away from their home ballparks. However, it would make sense that the teams in warmer climates would naturally be at home more frequently in the early going. Colorado, Minnesota, Chicago and Detroit would be the obvious choices for more road games in the first month of the season, but that would just make too much sense. Instead, the boys from Hotlanta are on the road, battling rain and snow. At least this last terrible road trip was not impeded by weather. Though, maybe weather would have helped their cause. It certainly couldn’t have hurt.

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch" href="https://twitter.com/#!/framethepitch">@framethepitch.

    Braves split rain-shortened series before heading to Cincy, Mac is back!

    Before the Braves could get on a plane to Cincinatti to welcome back their All Star catcher to the roster, they faced off at home against the Mets. Unfortunately, Mother Nature shortened the series to two games instead of the scheduled three. The Braves have yet to make an announcement about when the game will be made up, but there is a possibility of lengthening the 4-game series June 17-20 into a 5-game set.

    Game 1:

    When Lucas Duda led off the 2nd inning with a home run off Mike Minor, it didn’t appear Minor was long for the game. However, after giving up the blast to Duda, Minor buckled down and pitched 5 consecutive perfect innings. Minor was able to retire 18 straight after that home run.

    The offense was lively, but not in the usually explosive ways it has been in games where the Braves have scored multiple runs. Evan Gattis launched a go-ahead home run in the 8th, but had struggled at the plate before that at-bat, striking out in his previous 3 at-bats. Gattis’ home run was the highest high of the game, by far. B.J. Upton  had his 4th multi-hit game of the season and Jordan Schafer walked 4 times, just missing the franchise record of walks in a game (5) set by Dale Murphy.

    If a Braves game requires a high high and a low low, the lowest low came via the bullpen. Game 1 marked only the 13th time since the 2010 season that the bullpen allowed multiple homers in a game. It was the first time in their careers on the same roster that Eric O’Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel each gave up a homer in a game.

    Closer Craig Kimbrel has been hit hard of late. He has now allowed 3 runs in his past 3 appearances, something that he hasn’t experienced in a very long time, if ever. Before this slide, he had given up 3 runs total in his previous 61 appearances. Kimbrel still has only given up 7 home runs in his big league career. Kimbrel notched his second blown save in 10 days. His first came in that bizarre game in Colorado when they Braves had a 2-run lead and a misplay by Justin Upton contributed to Kimbrel’s blown save.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
    Mets 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 2 7 7 0
    Braves 0 0 1 0 2 0 1 1 0 0 5 10 0

    W: Parnell (2-0) L: Walden (1-1) SV: Familia (1)

    Game 2:

    The Braves were without Juan Francisco for the second game of the series. Francisco left game 1 with a mild right ankle sprain. He is currently day-to-day and says he is feeling better.

    Braves’ offense hit Jonathan Niese hard. In the 3rd inning, the Braves sent 10 men to the plate, including pitcher Tim Hudson twice. Had it not been for the wind, Justin Upton’s sacrifice fly in the 5th inning would have been a grand slam. Nothing Niese threw seemed to be getting hitters out. Dan Uggla hit his first triple of the season off Niese. It was also the Braves’ first triple of the season, the last team in baseball to do so. Uggla’s triple came in game 30 of the season and the franchise record for the latest first triple of the season was set in 1977 during game 31.

    Torrid offense and solid pitching from Hudson gave the Braves the opportunity to add to the oft-cited record of Huddy’s that gives him a record of 138-3 when given a lead of 3 or more runs.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Mets 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 4 6 0
    Braves 0 0 5 0 2 1 0 1 x 9 12 0

    W: Hudson (4-1) L: Niese (2-3)

    BRAVES JOIN BRIAN McCANN IN CINCY…

    The Braves begin their 10-game road trip tonight in Cincinnati. They will ten swing through San Francisco and Arizona before returning to the Ted.

    For the second time in two weeks, two pitchers, Medlen and Bailey, bring the same ERA to the matchup. Last week we saw that with Gonzalez and Hudson.

    The big news for the Cincy trip is that the Braves will have catcher Brian McCann returning to the lineup. And not a moment too soon. McCann holds a .333 average with 3 doubles, 10 homers and 19 RBIs in his 22 games at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. He has a nearly unheard of 1.130 OPS in the Queen City. Mac will face a pitcher that he is very familiar with in his first game back. Against Bronson Arroyo, Mac is 9-for-18 with 4 homers.

    On the matter of the bullpen: While Kimbrel and O’Flaherty have been shaky recently, part of this can be attributed to the state of the Braves’ bullpen of late. Losing Luis Ayala to the 15-day DL with an anxiety disorder was a big blow to a ‘pen that had relied on his consistency. Since returning from a hamstring injury, Avilan has not been as consistent and commanding as he was before. Walden is not tricking batters, except for his one appearance against the Nationals when batters seemed to be perplexed by his change up. And the absence of Jonny Venters is felt. Venters will return in the coming weeks barring a setback and the Braves hope for a speedy recovery for Ayala. However, if the Braves were to go looking for some bullpen help, they need look no further than Double-A where Alex Wood is tearing it up for Mississippi. Promoting him to Triple-A Gwinnett sooner rather than later would set him up to be of service to the big league club should they need it.

    The Braves will send Maholm (3-3, 3.08) to the mound vs. Arroyo (2-3, 3.95) for game 1. Tuesday’s game will feature Medlen (1-4, 3.38) vs. Bailey (1-3, 3.38). The final game of the series features Minor (3-2, 3.26) vs. Leake (2-1, 4.15).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch" href="https://twitter.com/#!/framethepitch">@framethepitch.

    Braves Bullpen Trio Needs New Name

    By Kent Covington

    In 2011, no bullpen trio in baseball was more dominant than Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel, Johnny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty.  In fact this group of Braves’ relievers was reminiscent of another bullpen trio; The “Nasty Boys” (Rob Dibble, Randy Myers and Norm Charlton) of the 1990 Cincinnati Reds.

    The Nasty Boys… pretty cool nickname, huh?  That moniker could be found on a variety of t-shirts sold by street vendors outside Riverfront stadium and on the handmade signs of countless fans in ‘90.  “The Nasty Boys” was catchy, it sounded mean and it aptly described the “stuff” of that flame-throwing trio. It helped form an aura around Cincinnati’s relief core, which may have enhanced, at least slightly, the sense of intimidation felt by opposing teams that trailed the Reds after 6 innings.  And it certainly helped the buzz factor surrounding the team as they mounted their World Series run, a perk the Reds marketing department put to good use.

    An indelible and marketable nickname also helped that trio to leave a more vivid imprint on Major League Baseball.  Twenty-two years later, we’re still talking about The Nasty Boys.

    Now, let me ask you something.  Twenty-two years from now, will anyone say “Hey, remember ‘O’Ventbrel’?”

    O’Ventbrel is the nickname that seems to have caught on—at least to some degree—to describe the remarkable Braves trio of Kimbrel, Venters and O’Flaherty.  But is O’Ventbrel really the best we can do?  The ’90 Reds trio gets The Nasty Boys and these guys get O’Ventbrel??

    Braves closer, Craig Kimbrel

    With this nickname, we’ve turned the back-end of the Braves ‘pen into the “Brangolina” of Major League Baseball. It’s not intimidating, and it’s not memorable.  Let’s leave the name-squishing to TMZ.

    How many O’Ventbrel t-shirts did you notice on street vendor tables outside “The Ted” last season?

    My point is simply this:  These guys deserve better. They deserve an enduring label.  And let’s face it… anything that adds even a small measure of excitement to the sometimes lethargic crowds at Turner Field is a plus.

    That’s why we believe it’s time to kill O’Ventbrel (no, not the pitchers; just the nickname).

    Over the past six months, I’ve asked our Twitter followers to suggest nicknames for this Braves trio. I’ve polled those suggestions and have isolated a couple of names that stand out.  The first of those names is “The Unholy Trinity” (credit to @politicgame).  It sounds edgy and aggressive, and it has an intimidation factor.

    But someone (@ChopAttack) recently suggested a nickname via Twitter that seems to poll better than anything else… “The Untouchables”.

    The Untouchables is, of course, the name of a classic gangster flick and television series, so the name is inherently menacing.  And it definitely describes the “stuff” of this trio, which is at times, well… untouchable.  It’s also short and memorable.  The marketing possibilities surrounding this moniker are endless.  A 1920’s gangster photo shoot with Kimbrel, Venters and O’Flaherty—complete with pinstriped suits and tommy guns, anyone?  And fans would surely have fun with the classic gangster theme.

    Admittedly, As long as Braves broadcasters, writers, and even manager, Fredi Gonzalez, continue to repeat “O’Ventbrel”, this effort may be a lost cause.  But again, these guys deserve better, so we’ll give it our best shot.

    So with this blog, we officially ask you to join our campaign to replace the utterly forgettable O’Ventbrel with a far more enduring and buzzworthy name.

    Here’s to the continued dominance in 2012 of The Untouchables!


     

    Braves’ bullpen trio better than the Nasty Boys?

    By Kent Covington

     

    Braves All-Star left-handed reliever, Johnny Venters

    In the summer of 1990, three flame-throwing Cincinnati relievers became the toast of Major League Baseball. The trio, which came to be known as the “Nasty Boys”, was comprised of southpaws, Randy Myers and Norm Charlton, and the riffle-armed righty, Rob Dibble.  To this day, the “Nasty Boys” are still remembered as one of the most dominant back-end bullpen ensembles in the history of the game.

    Twenty-one years later, we may have found an even better one.

    The Atlanta Braves have unearthed a frightening young bullpen ensemble of their own. With lefty middle reliever, Eric O’Flaherty, locking down the 7th inning, LH power-sinker setup man, Johnny Venters, silencing bats in the 8th, and the right-handed strikeout machine, Craig Kimbrel, turning out the lights in the 9th… the Braves now feature baseball’s most overpowering bullpen trio. We like to call them, the “Unholy Trinity” (our refusal to use the “O’ventbrel” nickname is a topic for another day).

    If you’re reading this, chances are, you already know that these young men are good. Exceedingly good. But Nasty Boys good? C’mon, really?

    I can think of no argument as convincing as the raw numbers themselves, so have a peek:

    Reds’ 1990 “Nasty Boys”:

      Inn Hits BB SO ER HR ERA Saves
    Charleton 50.2 48 22 57 17 2 3.02
    Myers 84.1 59 38 98 20 6 2.08 31
    Dibble 98 62 34 136 19 3 1.74 11
    TOTAL 233 169 94 291 56 11 2.16 42

    “Unholy Trinity” AS OF 8/22/11:

      Inn Hits BB SO ER HR ERA Saves
    Kimbrel 62.2 38 25 101 12 1 1.72 39
    Venters 73.2 38 32 81 9 1 1.10 5
    O’Flaherty 57.2 47 20 55 8 2 1.25
    TOTAL 194 122 75 234 29 4 1.35 43

    “Unholy Trinity” PROJECTED 2011 STATS:

      Inn Hits BB SO ER HR ERA Saves
    Kimbrel 83.1 48 32 128 15 1 1.72 49
    Venters 92.2 48 40 102 11 1 1.10 6
    O’Flaherty 72.2 59 25 69 10 3 1.25
    TOTAL 248.2 155 97 299 36 5 1.30 55


    Braves closer, Craig Kimbrel

    Twenty percent of the ’11 season remains, and until the final September out is recorded, we cannot fully measure the ’11 “Trinity” against the ’90 “Nasty Boys”. It is late enough in the year, however, for this trio to begin drawing “Nasty Boys” comparisons. And it’s not a stretch to wonder aloud if this trio might be even better.

    It will be interesting to see if Kimbrel, Venters and O’Flaherty can continue to perform at THIS level through the end of the regular season, and more importantly, in October. There’s no reason to think they can’t.

    There will be plenty of time over the winter to debate where this trio’s rightful place in the history books may be. For now, one thing is certain…

    No other present day team in baseball has anything quite like the Braves’ “Unholy Trinity”.