Tag:Jeff Francouer
Posted on: July 20, 2009 1:21 pm

Braves Beat - 2nd Half, The Week Ahead & More

Welcome to another fun installment of the Braves Beat.  Last week we enjoyed the festivities of the annual All-Star break and the beginning of the official second half of the baseball season.  We got a lot to go over so here we go.

The Braves 2nd Half Chances

Seen a lot of these writings over the last week describing what the Braves need to do in the second half to make a run at a playoff spot.  The answers were pretty much 1) Get another bat and get the offense going, 2) Continue to pitch well, and 3) By all means stay healthy.  I pretty much agree with all of these sentiments. 

Now with that said, object #1 will be intriguing to watch over the next 10 days as we inch ever so closer to the trade deadline.  I have no idea what the Braves are going to do to help the offense, but I can guarantee two things; 1) Tommy Hanson, Jayson Heyward, and Freddie Freeman will NOT be part of the deal, and 2) The Braves will not acquire a half year rental.  Whoever they get will be on the ball club next year.  Keep an eye on the Marlins.  They had a nice run in June and early July, but just like the start of the season we are not starting to see the Marlins come back down from their high.  If they get any further back, look for them to unload some talent.  It won't be a firesale we are all accustomed to seeing out of Miami, but a deal here or there.  Cody Ross and Jorge Cantu would be nice trade pieces for the fish should they continue to slide and the Braves obviously have interest in Ross.

As of this writing the Braves have just finished off a 3 out of 4 series win against the Mets.  They begin a 4 game set with the Giants tonight at Turner Field sitting just 4.5 games back of the NL Wild Card and the Giants.  Taking 3 of 4 from the G-Man can set the tone for the rest of the summer on what is shaping up to be a nice Wild Card race.  Of course I would love to see the Braves play for the division and they are still within striking distance at 6.5 and in 2nd place.  However, I tend to look at the next best scenario right now and that would be to put distance between the yourself and the Marlins and Mets while at the same time, getting closer to the Wild Card lead.  If the Braves can achieve that, then the 9 games they have left with the Phillies (6 at Turner Field) will help the Braves inch closer to the division lead, especially since the head 2 head tables have turned from a year ago and the Braves are 7-2 against the Phils.  But as I have said in the past, beating the Mets, Phillies, and Giants are great, but if you continue to struggle against the Nationals, then no way can you sustain a streak to get you back in it.

Summary:  Braves win the East, if they continue to play like they have over the past two weeks, continue to hit and score runs, and take care of the NL East as they have a boat load of games remaining against the division.  They will need to win each remaining series against the Phillies which would give them a 6-3 record and inch them closer to the division lead.  A sweep in one of those series would be nice as well.  The Braves must take care of the Nationals.  No excuse playing .500 against a team that still has yet to crack the 30 win mark.  Starting tonight the Braves can make their run for the NL Wild Card and I bet when all is said and done this will be where the Braves are standing in the end with a trip out west to play the Dodgers in the NLDS where anything can happen with good pitching.

Retirement of #31

This past Friday night the Braves retired the jersey number worn by the greatest pitcher of our lifetime, Greg Maddux.  It was truely a spectacular night and one that will definitely be copied again when Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, and even Bobby Cox are retired.  Greg Maddux was truly great watching as I had the pleasure seeing growing up in the Atlanta area.  You always knew the Braves had a 9 in 10 chance of winning the game if he was pitching.  Good to see Maddux get the exposure he deserves and this fan will be making the trek up to Cooperstown in 5 years when Mad Dog is enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Francouer's Return

It was good to see Jeff back in Atlanta in just one week after his trade to the Mets.  He looked like someone just took a huge boulder off of his back and seemed to be having fun and no pressure.  The fans who were at the games all weekend were truly class acts and gave Jeff the notierity he deserves instead of the bashing he has taken from the fans here at home.  He also looked like he started going back to his approach from early this season and in spring training, going the other way with pitches and not trying to pull everything.  Heres hoping nothing but the best to Jeff the rest of the way and now he can focus on baseball again and not trying to be the hometown hero. 

Other Ramblings......

- Anyone notice how ESPN continues to have probably the worst baseball announcers?  How in the world do they get away with this?  Jon Miller is great, but how many times does he have to point to Joe Morgan's time with the Reds everytime he compares a player.  More great players played the game that were not part of the Big Red Machine......come on Jon give it a rest already.  Also Steve Phillips needs another front office job because he has no business being in the TV booth.  Again, Joe Morgan needs to be fired as he brings nothing to the broadcast anymore. 

- Time to rethink the All-Star game.  Baseball seriously needs to scrap the whole concept and begin a do-over.  Yes it should still be NL vs AL, but its time to rework the festivities and take away that stupid World Series home field carrot because we are all tired of seeing the AL Champion be given home field advantage when probably only 1 player from their team contributed to the AL team's win.  All-Star week with legends games, futures games, the HOF induction, the HR derby, etc.... needs to be pack into a one week festival instead of three days.  Give the players who participate some extra time off and give those who don't a whole week to get ready for the second half.  The week needs to begin on Monday with the legends game and the futures game, Tuesday a charity game with celebs, Wednesday the HR Derby, Thursday the actual game and end on Saturday with the HOF ceremony.  Sunday can be an off day with games set to restart on Monday.  Its not perfect, but its better than what we have now.

- Are they seriously considering a movie based on the book Moneyball? 

- Speaking of movies; Field of Dreams, Pride of the Yankees, and The Rookie are still some of the best baseball movies ever.  Watched all three of them on TV this past week and they never get old. Bull Durham ranks up there with them too.

- Boy this trade deadline is all and only about one player - Roy Halliday.  In my opinion he stays with the Blue Jays and gets dealt in the offseason.  No one team is going to pony up the prospects to get him.  It will take a three team deal to get it done. 

The Week Ahead

Alright time to close out the ole blog for another week.  The week ahead, as we discussed earlier, has the Braves beginning a big 4 game set tonight with the Wild Card leading Giants.  A series win here will help pull the Braves closer to Giants who currently have a 4.5 game lead over the Braves.  The week rounds out with a trip up to Milwaukee to face the Brewers

Posted on: May 31, 2009 11:16 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2009 2:44 pm

Atlanta Braves Beat Blog - May 31, 2009

Braves Eyeing Trade Market

Last week we discussed the Braves after 40 games and it was mentioned that an offensive upgrade is needed for them to get over the top in the NL East.  This week has not been great and the offense has exposed for the lack of pop it has.  Alot has been focused on the outfield and with great reason.  The Braves outfield was last in the majors in 2008 with only 27 HRs as a unit and are last again this season with a putrid 8 HRs as a four man unit.  Clearly the Braves need a power bat in the middle of the lineup, but they also might need someone to man CF because of Jordan Schafer's troubles adjusting to the big leagues.  Since all of the future OF stars are in AA or lower, the Braves will have to look outside the organization to upgrade the OF. 

Sadly Jeff Francouer's time in Atlanta may be up.  While I am of the opinion to keep the guy around and let him work his way out of these troubles; I also understand that since he is being counted on to put up big numbers, management has seemed to finally reached their tipping point with Jeff.  Had the Braves had a LF or CF who could bash out 30 HR and 100 RBI then Jeff would get more time.  However that is not the case and it seems his time in Atlanta is up as soon as the Braves can secure another RF.

And that is a good lead in to our topic this week and that is who the Braves might be interested in. These following players are those who have already been rumored to be available or teams are in a position soon to make them available.  We will look at outfielders since that is the primary need for the Braves at this posting.

Carlos Lee - Houston Astros

Pros: Having a very good 2009 season hitting .313 8 HRs 29 RBIs. A .360 OBP and .516 SLG%.  Hits RH and plays a decent LF.  Houston is currently in last place in the best division in baseball.  Really not going anywhere and management would love to dump Lee's contract.

Cons: His contract.  Lee is currently making 18.5 million for the next three seasons and The Braves would have to unload a hefty contract or get Houston to eat some of the money for the rest of this year.

Matt Holliday - Oakland A's

Pros: Plays LF and bats RH.  Hitting an ok .264 6HRs 28 RBIs.  Plays very well in the NL and is only under contract for the rest of the year.

Cons: Only under contract for this season and is a Scott Boras client.  His contact is 13.5 million so Oakland would have to eat some of this money.  A's GM Billy Bean would also command a nice ransom from the Braves for a guy he gave up alot for.  Holliday has the schtick of being a product of Coors Field and his short time in Oakland has not helped this view. 

Brad Hawpe - Colorado Rockies

Pros:  Can play RF and can hit for both average and power.  Having a great 09 season hitting .343 7 HRs 39 RBIs.  Splits between Coors Field and the road are comparable so he is not a product of the high altitude and could swing it well in any ball park.  Only making 5 million this year so the Braves can afford him.  Rockies seem to be ready for another fire sale as they recently released World Series manager Clint Hurdle and traded Holliday in the offseason. 

Cons: Hits LH.  Rockies will command a nice return of prospects and major league players. 

Corey Hart - Milwaukee Brewers

Pros: Hits RH and plays RF.  Has 6 HRs and 19 RBIs.  Salary not very much so the Braves could take on his contract.

Cons: Only hitting .256 with .330 OBP. Strikes out alot (49 this year) and is comparible to Jeff Francouer who the Braves are trying to improve. 

Jeremy Hermida - Florida Marlins

Pros: Plays LF. Hitting .270 5 HRs and 22 RBIs.  Low Salary and familar with pitchers in NL East.  Marlins and Braves have hooked up before in trades.

Cons:  Bats LH and plays within the division for a team who considers themselves a contender.  Strikes out alot; 45 already this season.

Austin Kearns - Washington Nationals

Pros: Bats RH and plays RF.  Will come cheap.

Cons: Not much of an upgrade.  Only hitting .226 3 HRs and 15 RBIs.  Strike outs are a little high. Making 8 million dollars and the Nats will probably not want to eat any of his money. 

Andruw Jones - Texas Rangers

Pros: Hitting .282 5 HRs and 14 RBIs in only 85 ABs.  Has a very nice .415 OBP and seems to finally be back to the Andruw of pre 2006.  Knows the Braves system and coaches.  A big fan of Bobby Cox and vice versa.  Will come cheap since the Dodgers are picking up his salary.  Texas likes trading with the Braves and the Bravos could afford to spare a few prospect pitchers who could help Texas in the long run.  Currently in an OF logjam with the Rangers as all 3 starting spots are manned by Josh Hamilton, Marlon Byrd, and Nelson Cruz.  Plus the Rangers have David Murphy ready as a 4th OF.  Andruw is expendable.

Cons: Hitting very well in hitter friendly park.  Not getting regular playing time so conditioning is still a concern.  Will leaving Texas and hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo cause Andruw to lose focus and revert back to his old hitting ways?  Can Andruw overlook his not so great relationship with Terry Pendleton and be the offensive force the Braves need?  Can he still play CF with his recent injury history? 

Juan Pierre - LA Dodgers

Pros: Lead off hitter who can get on base and create run scoring opportunities.  Having a great 09 season hitting .374 20 RBIs 20 RS and 10 SB.  Plays a decent LF and CF and would possibly be available once Manny Ramirez returns in early July.  Makes contact and does not strike out often.

Cons:  getting older,  arm strength not very great and lacks power.  Making 10 million this season so the Dodgers would have to eat some payroll for the Braves to make a move.  Dodgers might keep Pierre even when Manny comes back.  Not a certain they would trade him though he could bring a nice return.

So those are the outfielders who could be available for the Braves this upcoming trade deadline or before.  This blogger certainly likes the before option.  With Kelly Johnson coming out of his funk, the Braves may opt to keep him around until Infante returns and then proceed with the platoon unless Kelly just starts raking it for a consistent period (finally) and the Braves decide to keep him at 2B full time.  With that seemly the likely scenario the Braves may opt to not go after a guy like Mark DeRosa who they have recently been rumored to be pursuing.  Cleveland seems to be asking for too much at this point and the Braves seem to let things play out before committing to a trade for the former Brave infielder and fan favorite. 

So as it stands it seems the only need the Braves will try to fill will be the OF spots.  Will it be 1 or 2?  That is anyones guess right now, but judging by the way the Braves played on the recent road trip and the fact that both Schafer and Francouer sat out a game each makes me think 2 could be the number they are looking at.  Only Frank Wren and the front office know for sure what they are going to do. 

Now you are probably asking who are the Braves going to give up in a trade.  Please keep in mind that alot of you are going to say Francouer or Jo Jo Reyes or Matt Diaz.  Please understand that a package is probably going to have to consist of Francouer and some minor league prospects; though those not named Hanson, Heyward, or Freeman.  Kris Medlen seems to be a nice piece the Braves would be willing to listen too; as is Cole Rohrbough, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Locke.  Keep in mind that they have some OFs who could command some attention such as Brandon Jones, Gorkys Hernandez, and Cody Johnson.  As for the Major League roster, Francouer of course and possibly Kelly Johnson and Martin Prado might garner some interest.  Jordan Schafer has drawn interest in the past, but I suspect the Braves will have to be wowed by an offer to give up on him so soon which I totally doubt will happen. 

Ok there you have it that is some early looks at the upcoming trade market.  Maybe none of these guys are available or maybe all of them are.  Who knows, but this is just an early list at what could be standing in a Braves uniform in the not so distant future.  For the Braves sake they better hope so.  If not, its going to be a long summer with some uncertainties.

The week ahead.......

The Braves are off on Monday as they return home from the recent 7 game west coast swing.  Tuesday begins the next homestand in which the Braves will see the Cubs and Brewers in for 3 games each.  Should be some good matchups and Turner Field should be packed now that school is out and the Cubs are in town. 

Coming up next on the blog

Next time we will discuss the upcoming All-Star game and what Braves could be headed for the NL team.  We will also look at any changes the Braves make and the possible return of Tom Glavine and update the Tommy Hanson watch. 

Posted on: May 24, 2009 5:14 pm

Atlanta Braves Beat Blog

The Braves at 40 Games

As the Braves conclude their first interleague series with the Blue Jays, let's take a look at the team as it stands after forty games. The reason to look at forty games is because this is the benchmark that Bobby Cox has always used to gauge just how good his Braves teams are. With that said let me state that these are clearly my views of the team and not those of Bobby Cox even though I think Bobby would agree on some of these.  So here is how things are going for the Braves:

What has gone right for the Braves:

Clearly coming out of 2008 and going into 2009 the game plan by Frank Wren and the front office was to improve the starting rotation and get the Braves back to the blue print that gave them all of the success during their 14 year run and that is a strong and deep rotation.  The Braves took some flack for giving Derek Lowe ace money.  Clearly though after starting 6-2 with a 3.45 ERA in 10 starts, Lowe is definitely pitching like an ace.  However, if you ask him he would say (and he did say this in New York last week) that the Braves best pitcher is Jair Jurrjens. Whats great is he has the stats (4-2, 1.96) to back that assertion up.  Javy Vasquez (4-3, 3.39) has been solid and been everything that the Braves have asked for since acquiring him in the offseason.  These three starters are giving the Braves innings in each start as well as throwing out quality outings each time out.  This has been the achillies heal so to speak over the last three seasons and is now the strong suit of the 2009 Braves. Kenshin Kawakami has battled back after a rough start to his Major League career with three solid outings in his last four starts and outdueled in my opinion the best pitcher in baseball over the last 5 years. The jury is still out on whether he will be the next Dice K or Irabu, but as a Braves fan you have to like the way he has battled back and pitched lately.  The Jo Jo Reyes experiment is clearly done at the fifth spot and Tom Glavine is expected to be back on May 30th.

Though the bullpen started off very badly the unit has pitched well over the long haul thus far and look to continue as we go forward.  Soriano and Gonazalez have been very good and give Bobby a nice 1-2 punch in closing out games.  Eric O'Flaherty has been this years version of Will Ohman and Peter Moylan, despite his performance against the Rockies on Monday, seems to be coming around. These four give the Braves needed depth in the bullpen and with the starters going deep into games, the unit should be sharp going into the latter part of the season.  Adding Manny Acosta who was 1-3, 2.86 in Gwinnett should help as well.

What hasn't gone right for the Braves:

Clearly this conversion begins and ends with the offense or lack thereof.  I know this is the biggest understatement of the season, but the offesense has been the achillies heal for the Braves.  With just a little more offense to back up the steller pitching the Braves could be well in front of the NL East.  Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Yunel Escobar, and Casey Kotchman are the only ones who are producing, but they cannot drive in runs if no one is on base in front of them.  The lack of a leadoff hitter has hurt this team and losing Omar Infante even though he only played in a platoon mode will hurt.  He is the Braves best leadoff hitter and the Braves were scoring runs with him getting on base. With the lack of power in the lineup the best way for this team to score runs is to create those opportunities with a leadoff hitter who can get on base consistently.  Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar have not been able to do this and the better option was Infante. 

I really hate to continue to kick that dead horse, but with only 10 steals total as a team the Braves are going to have to figure out their leadoff situation.  Without enough power in the lineup, run scoring opportunities are going to have to be created from this position. The Braves also need to let Schafer use his speed at the bottom of the lineup when he gets on base.  No steals for a guy who posses that skill is a huge disappointment and that lies with the coaching staff.  Either the speed or power situation is going to have to improve for the offense to score the runs needed to protect the pitching.

The Jeff Francouer experiment has not gone as many had hoped it would.  After getting off to a good start, Jeff has started to revert back to his old habits and is constantly getting away from everything he worked hard on in the offseason. While he has admitted this problem and has vowed to correct it, he is obviously pressing now while the Braves really need him to be his 2006-2007 form in order for them to get on a roll.

What we can expect over the next 120 games:

They Braves, as they are currently constructed, can hang with the Mets and Phillies in the division.  However, if they want to get over that hump and surpass these two favorites a power hitting OF or a speedy lead off hitter will need to be acquired. Over the next couple of weeks we should start to hear some of the names of those who will be available for trade. From the way it stands now, the Braves will be buyers and though a big splash is probably out of the question, a solid move to solidfy the lineup will probably be made.  Since Infante will slated to be back by or shortly after the All-Star break the move will likely be a power hitter.  The pitching is very good and should continue to be so and the offense will have its good days to keep the team in it.  I think we know where Frank Wren will be focusing his attention on over the next several weeks.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com