• Johnny Venters

    Chippers return lifts the Braves

    By Jim Pratt

    Not expected to return to the Atlanta Braves lineup until the home opener on April 13, Jones was able to convince the coaching staff over the past few days that he was healthy enough for game action.

    Chipper, who will play the majority of the season at 40 years old, was activated from the disabled list prior to Tuesday’s game against the Houston Astros after spending the last couple weeks recovering from arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.

    Regardless of whether his early return was due to a quick recovery or the fact the Braves have struggled to a 0-4 start to the season, the return was welcomed not only in the lineup but also defensively at third base. Especially after his newly acquired replacement, Juan Francisco, committed a career-high three errors in Monday’s game.

    Chipper made his presence with the glove felt immediately with his classic barehanded pick-up of Jordan Schafer’s first inning bunt for the first out of the game. He later saved a run by taking advantage of a base running mistake by the Astros’ Carlos Lee on a tag play at home.

    It was originally thought that he would make at least one minor league rehab assignment, but he eventually decided to forego any such assignment and join the big league club immediately citing his only concern being his timing at the plate.

    Any concern was quickly laid to rest when he put the Braves ahead with a two-run bomb in his first at-bat of the season. A career .400 hitter in 39 games at Minute Maid Park, Chipper finished the night 2-4 with 2 RBI while batting sixth in the lineup.

    <a href='http://www.foxsportssouth.com/pages/video?videoid=89033164-1ff1-4fa4-b27b-1ed47e39073b&#038;src=v5:embed::' target='_new' title='Jones, Gonzalez on win over Astros' >Video: Jones, Gonzalez on win over Astros</a>

    With Chipper leading the way for Atlanta’s first win of the season, it almost goes without saying that manager Fredi Gonzalez was his biggest fan of the night. Gonzalez told reporters after the game, “I’m glad we didn’t make [Jones] go on that rehab assignment. I think today, he won our game single-handedly — home run, base hit and a couple nice plays defensively. I think today he made a statement that Spring Training is too long. I think next year we’ll show up the 20th of March, play 10 games and then say, ‘Go get them.’ But the stuff he does, nobody else can do.” – Via MLB.com

    Overshadowed by the return of a future Hall of Famer, rookie shortstop Tyler Pastornicky hit his first career home run in the fourth inning to extend the Braves’ lead. Eric Hinske later put the finishing touches on the victory scoring Jason Heyward with a pinch-hit single to left field in the eighth inning.

    Although starter Tommy Hanson struck out eight batters on the night, he had to work his way out of trouble multiple times, throwing 101 pitches in only five innings of work.

    The combo of Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel kept the “Stros at bay in the 8th and 9th innings. Venters faced five batters giving up a walk and a hit while striking out three. Kimbrel got himself into some early trouble allowing a single and a walk. He eventually escaped the inning unscathed with the help of a 6-4-3 double play ball and another nice play by Chipper to end the game.

    Randall Delgado will make his season debut tonight in the rubber match of the series, while the Braves offense will try to solve their woes versus left-handed pitching as they face the Astros’ Wandy Rodriguez.

    Before you go, check out the Lineup Card on the BravesWire homepage with headlines from over a dozen Braves news/opinion sources.

    Glimpse of the Future (part-3): 2014 Braves Pitching

    By Jim Pratt

    Editor’s note:  Last week in part-2 of his 2014 Braves preview, Jim Pratt gave us a look at the Braves outfield of the future. Prior to that, he previewed ’14 Braves infield

    The 2014 pitching staff will feature many familiar names as the Atlanta Braves continue to dip into their deep farm system after the eventual loss of Tim Hudson to retirement and Jair Jurrjens to trade or free agency. It’s difficult to say the pitching staff will be better after those losses because of the youth of the arms that will replace them, but there’s no question the talent level will be raised. The potential top three starters are all hard throwers with plus strikeout ability and will be expected to anchor the staff for years to come.

     

    RHP Tommy Hanson

    2014 ROTATION

    1) Tommy Hanson

    Hanson will be making his third consecutive Opening Day start to begin the 2014 season. In his prime at age 27 and with previous shoulder troubles well in the past, he should be ready to make his first legitimate run at the Cy Young award.

    2) Brandon Beachy

    Before 2011 there was a question on whether or not Beachy had the “stuff” to be more than a number 3 starter. After he re-introduced his college slider back into his arsenal those questions slowly became moot. Beachy establishes himself as a solid number two behind Hanson and continues to maintain an above average SO/9 rate.

    3) Julio Teheran

    Even though his mound maturity is well beyond his age of 23, he will need one more year of refining his pitches at the major league level before challenging Hanson as the staff ace. His fastball and changeup are both plus pitches, but his curveball is still a work in progress.

    4) Mike Minor

    Minor remains the lone lefty in the rotation. In an effort to place a left-handed starter in the middle of the rotation, Minor could be bumped into the number three spot ahead of Teheran for the 2014 season. Minor is a solid mid-rotation starter

    RHP Randall Delgado

    that will have an ERA around the 4.00 mark for most of his career. The command/control will improve, but he doesn’t have the overall stuff to continue racking up the 8.76 SO/9 he has showed in the majors to this point.

    5) Randall Delgado

    By 2014, Teheran has separated himself from Delgado as the better pitcher, but with Delgado listed as the fifth starter the Braves will once again boast one of Major League Baseball’s best starting rotations.

    Rotation Depth includes: Sean Gilmartin, Zeke Spruill and JR Graham.

    2014 BULLPEN

    By now Craig Kimbrel is established as the top closer in MLB as he continues to post 40-plus saves a season.  With the full time addition of hard throwing Arodys Vizcaino to the bullpen, the eighth inning workload on Jonny Venters is lifted. Sharing the set-up duties, the righty/lefty combo of Venters and Vizcaino turns any ballgame into a 7 inning affair.

    The biggest loss to the bullpen will be the free agency departure of Eric O’Flaherty. With O’Flaherty gone, Atlanta turns to Kris Medlen as the primary bridge to the back-end trio of Kimbrel, Venters and Vizcaino.

    By the way, we’ve got a new Spring Preview Fried Baseball podcast up now. You can hear it here.

    Also, before you go, check out the Lineup Card on the BravesWire homepage with headlines from over a dozen Braves news/opinion sources.

    Join us on Twitter @TheBravesWire@2OutSacBunt@FriedbasballATL

    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!


     

    The Braves’ 5 critical keys

    by Kent Covington

    So… how ‘bout that road trip?!

    As I watched the Cardinals take a 5-0 lead in route to sticking the Braves with their second sweep in a week’s time, I fully expected to hear Jigsaw’s voice in my living room (for those of you who didn’t get that reference, please Google the terms “Saw”and “torture”).  Fortunately, I didn’t have to saw off my foot to reach the remote.  It might have been a difficult choice, had I been faced with it.

    Braves' highest paid player, Derek Lowe, is just 9-14 with a 4.70 ERA


    The bad news:
    Atlanta’s once mighty Wild Card lead has been cut in half to 4.5 games entering play against the Marlins at Turner Field Monday night.  First-half ace, Jair Jurrjens, may very well be out for the remainder of the season.  Tommy Hanson is still on the shelf.  Martin Prado and Jason Heyward continue to look like poor imitations of themselves.  Johnny Venters may finally be showing the wear and tear of two years of inexorable overuse.  Derek Lowe, after providing Braves fans with a brief swell of optimism, has reminded us that he cannot be wagered upon. And the veteran leader of the staff, Tim Hudson, who had been brilliant nearly all year, has looked lately as though he’s drinking from the same water fountain (or keg spout) as Lowe.

    The good news: The Braves still have a 4.5 game lead in the Wild Card race, which at this point in the season is substantial.  They have only 3 games remaining against a winning team (3-game set at home against the Phillies to close the season).  They also have a few weeks to get their **** together before they begin postseason play, assuming they’re able to find a foothold on the side of this cliff they’ve been sliding down recently.

    While it is not the all-but-over race it appeared to be a week ago, I still believe the Braves will repeat as NL Wild winners.  However, if the Braves once again limp into the playoffs, playing their worst baseball since April… will it matter?  I doubt a repeat of last year’s postseason script will do much for Braves fans.

    With that in mind, what are the keys if the Braves are to not only lock down a postseason berth, but compete for something that matters when they get there?

    What to watch…  the Braves 5 critical keys (in no particular order):

    •  Tommy Hanson:  A healthy Tommy Hanson is a MUST for the postseason.  It’s important that he’s not only healthy by the end of September, but also that he’s able to make multiple starts in preparation for the NLDS.
    • Tim Hudson:  The Braves desperately need him to find the handle and regain his command.  He must be the anchor for this injury plagued pitching staff.
    • Derek Lowe:  Lowe reminded us last September/October that he is capable of earning at least some of that ridiculous paycheck of his.  And that ability could not have entirely vanished in a year’s time.  He’s capable, but woefully unreliable. The Braves will just have to hope and pray for the best when he takes the hill.
    • Johnny Venters:  Worn out?  Venters clearly has not been the light’s out super-setup man lately that he was most of the season.  The back-end of the Braves’ bullpen has been a mainstay all year long. Needless to say, Venters is a huge part of that.
    • Martin Prado:  The production that made him what many believed to be the team’s MVP in ’10 has been sorely missed this season. There is still time for Prado to iron out the wrinkles.

     

    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”.