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"Mmmmm...that's good Brave!"



Updated: 2012-04-15T20:30:35.657-04:00

 



2007 -- A New Season, A New 'Matic

2007-02-14T20:58:27.039-05:00

We've picked up stakes and moved our little circus over to WordPress.

We've got a couple of new contributors and a snazzy new page design. Y'all come on over and sit a spell, and we'll talk some Braves baseball. See you there!



Honoring the Ceasefire

2006-08-17T08:14:23.113-04:00

OK. I overstepped and posted after Sammy had announced a suspension to the Matic. I will not post anything new till I get the all-clear. Braves remain 6+ games out of the wild-card and trail most of the NL. I'll watch what I can and be prepared for perhaps a year-end wrap-up here on Brave-O-Matic.

I've accepted that we'll not see the post-season this year. But next year we'll be back.
-A Brett



It's a Home Win!

2006-08-13T22:51:11.500-04:00

Well, we've lowered the bar a bit this season. So this Sunday night we celebrate that oh-so-elusive creature- the home victory. Braves best the Brewers. So what's it matter you ask? Well, we trail 8 teams in the wild-card race. Tonight the 6 teams immediately ahead of the Braves all lost. So its a big win.

Hudson had another shakey outing, allowing way too many hits, but getting out of it without giving up too many runs. Another save from Wickman. Good to see we have some respectability in the end-game now. Anybody know who leads the Braves in saves this season? We've gone through quite a number of closers. Well?.........................................Yep. Chris Reitsma. Still #1 in the hearts of Braves fans everywhere, with 8 saves. 8. In August. What the hell happened?



Brave-O-Matic On Hiatus

2006-08-12T10:05:10.300-04:00

In case you haven't noticed, your occasional clicks on Brave-O-Matic have yielded precious little content of late. Some combination of poor play by our trusty charges, coupled with the ravages of the dog days of August among your faithful correspondents, has rendered us mute and fairly disinterested in learning to speak anew. So we're closing up shop for a while. It's been a blast seeing our nonsensical scribblings being read everywhere from Keokuk to Korea, and gratifying to get feedback from Braves fans from all corners of the globe. We might crank it up again one day, so keep us in mind. Thanks to everyone who read and wrote.

With deep regrets, we remain,

Brave-O-Matic


P.S. Go Braves!



Game Notes -- August 1

2006-08-01T21:18:36.093-04:00

Funny, I don't remember Turner South broadcasts having the kind of technical difficulties we witnessed tonight before Fox bought the network. This isn't the first time either -- why, it's enough for a person to think they're running this operation on the cheap. Just another example of profit over product?

FYI, Adam LaRoche is now 12th in the NL in slugging percentage. Anyone out there still want to trade him?

Brave-O-Matic is heading to the beach, so our sporadic posting schedule will be even more truncated than is usual. However, Brave-O-Matic Select subscribers are in luck! You'll be able to watch the debut of our webcam series "Brave-O-Matic Bocces..." First episode: Amelia Island!



From Buyers to Sellers

2006-07-31T09:21:41.526-04:00

Just like that, the Mets (featuring the Amazing Beltran) slammed the door shut on any meager playoff hopes we might have had, and exposed our greatest weakness for all to see. Our starting rotation is the worst in the league right now, just getting hammered day after day. No end in sight, no help on the way -- it's so bad that we might be looking at a new era of mediocrity. All the money we've sunk into Hampton and Hudson, Smoltz will be 40 next year, two rookies who we insist have promise but who haven't delievered (James, Davies). And Horacio, always Horacio.

JS has one more day to see what parts we can assemble for spring training 2007. In descending order of likelihood, here are some of the prime candidates to be traded:

1) Wickman -- Hey, you know how it is when it comes time to tighten the belts. Last to arrive, first to leave. Proven bullpen arms are always being shopped this time of year, so let's flip the Wick. Possible destinations: Boston, Anaheim.

2) Baez -- see above. Possible destinations: Anaheim, Arizona.

3) Renteria -- Having a great year, he's also a 30-year-old SS whose trade value will never be higher. Possible destinations: Colorado, Minnesota.

4) Hudson -- He's the kind of guy that tends to move this time of year, but he's been so horrible that it's hard to see who would want him. Still, considering his history of success, someone might take a flyer. Possible destinations: Texas, St. Louis.

5) Giles -- Betemit's departure means it's far less likely Giles will be moved before the offseason, so we'd need a functional 2B in return. Possible destination: Anaheim.



Its Better to Burn Out

2006-07-30T09:22:58.740-04:00

than fade away. And the Braves are going down in flames in a spectacularly unsatisfying fashion. As the Mets arrived in town, the Braves faced their moment of truth. They've failed utterly. Pitching has largely been the problem, allowing 6 first inning runs to the Mets in 2 games. Tim Hudson was smacked around again, surrendering 9 earned runs in less than 6 innings. But the hitting has been lackluster as well- Marcus Giles is the only Brave with more than one base hit in the series.

And now Chipper returns to the DL. And Betemit is gone to LA. Well, we have a fancy new set-up man, but I fear nothing will be in set-up condition. A week ago we were poinsed to march into the wild-card with our eyes firmly on the Mets. Now we watch as the Mets roll through Atlanta like Sherman. And we regress to trail 8 teams in the also-ran play-off race. Well, at least we should be able to grab some good seats at the Ted this August.

So how's your summer going?



Braves Win & Lose

2006-07-27T17:59:46.980-04:00

I just thought something should get posted, but I don't have any real interesting angle in mind to delve into. The Braves had a very good come-form-behind win Wednesday night, but followed it up with a lackluster afternoon on Thursday, falling 6-1. The loss hurts because the Mets are off, so it was a free chance to pick up a half game. And the Nats and Philly both won today.

Wicky notched another save Wednesday. Chipper's hit streak ended and Bobby got another ejection towards manager immortality. And today, Sosa hurt himself doing the one thing he should not attempt- pitching. Shiell wasn't bad, but he's not ready to be a prime-time starter yet. Soon maybe, but not yet. It was 92 degrees at the Ted today. Global warming makes me watch on TV. No trade news yet, though Schuerholtz says he is still talking to the Padres about Linebrink. But, given that Chipper couldn't play again today, expect that the deal will not go through.

Ahead- A weekend at home with the Mets. Big, bigger, biggest. If the Braves are serious about post-season play- this series is our Rubicon.



Trade Deadline Rumors Abound

2006-07-26T09:47:53.353-04:00

It's being said and sung on local sports talk radio that the Yankees are trying to pry Wilson Betemit ( Who some call- the best player in baseball without a starting job) from the Braves. The offer appears to have reliever Scott Proctor coming from the Big Apple to our bullpen.

I don't think we'll let Betemit go for anything less than a huge talent. But Death Ray's set-up effort has been less than spectacular of late. We'll see soon enough, as the trade deadline approaches quickly.



Dirty Sanchez (Marlins 2, Braves 1)

2006-07-25T23:49:22.283-04:00

Once again we fell victim to a rookie starter, as Anibal Sanchez baffled the batsmen for seven innings. Our only run came in the sixth when Giles singled in Langerhans, who had a heckuva game, getting two hits (his first since the All-Star break) and making two highlight reel catches -- he must have read my comment on yesterday's game. Cody Ross accounted for the Fish offense, hitting two solo HRs off Chuck James, who pitched very well otherwise.

So it's a bump in the road. We'll have to get a win tomorrow to give ourselves a chance at our seventh consecutive series victory. Smoltz vs. Josh Johnson -- if the bats tonight were any indication, it could be a quick game.



A Headline that

2006-07-25T21:20:27.880-04:00

you'll never forget- Check this out.

You got a better one?



At Home on the Road (Braves 10- Phils 8)

2006-07-25T08:36:19.016-04:00

The Braves win again. Doing it with the bats, on the road, against a division foe and without the Jones Boys again. A 7-2 roadtrip was unimaginable a month ago, when just winning a series seemed impossible. Now we've moved back into sole possession of second place, focused firmly on the pursuit of the Mets (11.5 games back) rather than the wildcard (4.5 gb), as Sam rightly recommended.

Cole Hamels was indeed 100 feet tall, though only 5 innings long, last night. A dozen k's in 24 batters faced. Timmy Hudson was mediocre yet again and owes the hitters some nice gifts for bringing him an undeserved W. Ken Ray and Tyler Yates reminded us why the Wickman acquisition is so important, surrendering 4 runs in 2 innings, just so as to provide Wicky with a save situation. And WICKY SAVES. Another 3-up, 3-down 9th.

4 more Braves homers. 2 from LaRoche. Adam looks solid at the plate- head steady, eyes fixed on the ball and a smooth, deceptively easy swing and follow through. Opposite this is Ryan Langerhans, who severely needs extended time in the batting cage. Ryan was 0-for-3 again and is now hitting a lowly.235. Ryan has not had A HIT since July 9th. His swing looks uncomfortable and awkward, like a right-handed batter trying to swing lefty for the first time. With Andruw returning tonight (I hope), Langerhans needs to be benched and spend the game working on the mechanics. Leave Thorman or Diaz in. Diaz is hitting at a .320 clip now and Thorman has only 2 fewer homers than Langerhans in 165 fewer at-bats.



The Wickman Era Begins (Braves 5-Phil 1)

2006-07-24T14:47:42.386-04:00

Prior to Bob Wickman's debut, the Braves led the NL in blown saves, with 20. Since the Wickman Era began- 0 blown saves.

The Braves sat on their hands all night and refused to score run more than one run until HoRam sat down. Finally, in the 9th, the Braves exploded for 4 runs and took away another big road win. HoRam was once again pitching from the stretch all night long, allowing at least one baserunner in every inning after the first. But time and again our Houdini of the diamond escaped virtually unscathed, allowing only one run- on a bases-loaded fielders choice. Wicky faced the minimum, striking out one and coaxing 2 harmless ground outs to close out the 9th.

This was a big win for the Braves, being on the road against a divisional foe and without the services of either Jones brother. Expect to see at least Andruw return tonight, as fallen-star Tim Hudson faces off against the 100-foot tall Cole Hamels. Prediction- Francoeur will either strike out or leave the yard in every at bat.



Bob Wickman

2006-07-22T14:10:08.193-04:00

We've waited for Scheurholz to make a move to shore up the bullpen, and considering what's available out there, this was about as good as he could do without giving up the store a la the Reds. Wickman has the Proven Closer label, but more importantly can draw on a simple history of success at the major league level that's completely absent from the remainder of the bullpen.

There are definite signs that he's not what he once was, though. Wickman's Baseball Reference page shows an aging pitcher who was league-average in 2003-4 before enjoying a renaissance last season. However, he's no longer the pitcher who would routinely strike out a man per inning, and he got a little lucky last year -- anyone who gives up 9 HR in 62 innings and Ks about 6 per 9 IP is fortunate to only give up 17 total runs.

So far this year he's kept the ball in the park, which he'll have to continue doing. I'd still like to see us import Linebrink or Williamson, but if we don't take a couple from the Phillies this weekend it may not matter much. The recent hot streak accentuated the hole that we've dug for ourselves -- we're still behind the same teams, and losing 4 of 5 will put us right back where we started.

Anyway, we welcome any contributions that Wickman can make. I have a suggestion for his entrance music -- what about "Fat Man" by Jethro Tull? Fear The Flute!



The Scoring Ends. But help is on the way..

2006-07-20T20:31:57.313-04:00

It finally happened. The Braves lost a game. And failed to score 45 runs in the game. Sad. A rough way for Shiell to make his Braves debut. Imagine starting during the biggest win streak of the season. Against Carpenter, the defending Cy Young winner. On the road. And you get a surprise 2-hour rain delay before taking the mound. Rough.

But still, Chipper's hit streak reaches 19 games. And McCann went deep yet again. So now it's on the Philly and let's win there. But the big news......

Braves acquire veteran closer- Bob Wickman- from Cleveland. How good is it? Hard to tell. Wickman's a veteran closer, so that's good. But this year his ERA is over 4, not good. For me, I'm excited about the move. I think its important to have a closer who's been there and done it before. And we'll recall that last season Wicky, as he'll come to be known, had 45 saves and a 2.47 ERA. Not a whole lot of k's for a closer, but solid location control.

I'll sit back and watch, and await the in-depth analysis of this new Brave's prior work from Sam or M. Norman. Probably Sam, since M. Norman is conspicuously absent of late.



No Superlatives Left Behind

2006-07-19T07:37:09.216-04:00

Holy Cow. Another incredible, dominating, stunning performance. A 20-hit, 15-run performance is followed by an 18-hit, 14-run performance. Andruw, 0-for-4 on Monday, is the Dominator of the Day with a 5-for-5, 2-HR, 6-rbi display. Just incredible.

Hudson gets a win despite surrendering 5 meaningless runs in under 6 innings. 5 runs? What the hell good is that nowadays? The Braves scored in all but 2 innings. I'm speechless. What a time for M. "Daddy" Norman to quit posting again.

Nothing left to say. Every starting position player except Francoeur had a multi-hit night. 4 of our first 5 in the batting order are hitting over .300. Only Andruw "lags". Scott Thorman is up to .273. Blah, blah, blah..... Beaneaters..... 1929 Yankees.....Paul Waner.... 4 games out of the wildcard. And tonight we offer up rookie Jason Shiell to see if pitching has ANY relevance.



Memo to Jeff Torborg...

2006-07-18T20:44:36.313-04:00

...who sounds surprised that 1) Marquis didn't cover third on a single to right, and 2) he made a stupid first pitch to Renteria, busting him up and in with the bases loaded: Jason Marquis is a hothead and a me-first player. Always has been, always will be. Now let the slaughter continue....



No Individual Record-Breaker...

2006-07-18T12:17:53.056-04:00

But one hell of a team performance, whipping a new division leader.

Chipper's streak ends with him still tied Paul Waner. But Chipper certainly did not have a down night, as he offered up 3 singles in the rout. The roster flooded the field with 20 base hits, this season's best thus far for the resurgent Braves. Sosa proved that he hits better than he pitches when he smacked his 3rd HR of the season, moving him into a tie with Brian Jordan. (And also Sean Casey) LaRoche was 4-for-4, Francoeur had 3 hits and Betemit added 4 to his totals. Among the starters, only Andruw and Thorman went hitless, and each of them left the game early, as a dozen position players were used by Cox.

Player of the Game has to be Brian McCann. His 3rd inning grand slam on the 9th pitch of an extraordinary at-bat was a thing of beauty. He just kept fouling off every pitch till he got one he wanted. And the "Wow!" At that point it was a scoreless game and Horacio was getting tired from the heat. After the slam, the wheels came off for the recently demoted Jeff Weaver.



The Whompin' Stick

2006-07-17T09:21:02.730-04:00

Another day, another double-digit offensive output. Nice of our boys to provide at least a glimmer of hope -- and it would have been even nicer had the Cubs been able to hold a 5-run lead vs. the Mets -- alas, their vaunted bullpen (virtually the only strong spot on the team) imploded Braves-style, so we remain 12 games in arrears.

But let's not dwell on that. Today we salute Chipper Jones, who tied Paul Waner's record of 14 straight games with an extra base hit. He goes for the record tonight against Jeff Weaver of the Cardinals. Not a bad straw to draw -- he'll get to bat lefthanded, his more powerful side, against a mediocre pitcher in a park that, while historically a home run graveyard, does yield a fair share of doubles. He's 5 for 15 against Weaver -- all singles.

A little later we'll meet the man with whom Chipper (for the time being) shares history.



Problem: How to Overcome 8 Teams

2006-07-16T15:48:58.156-04:00

and win the Selig Spot in the Post-Season.

Answer: Win more games than anyone else in the National League.

And thats just what the Braves are doing. 8 wins in the past 10 games. No other NL has done it. We've gained ground on EVERY SINGLE TEAM in the league. 8-3 for the month of July. No other NL can match it. Averaging 7 runs per game. Stunning. Hitsville. The Big Blue Machine.

Is it for real? Or just a false positive? We'll know very soon. After this series against the NL West leader, we move on to challenge the Central-leading Cardinals. If we can win that series too, then I'd say the rest of the league better wake up and pay attention. Am I nuts? Or do you think this is the Braves' big summer streak of dominating the game that we've come to expect?

Notes: How many saves were earned in the majors on Saturday?

Answer-Zero. The first time since September of 1978 that such a thing has occurred. All 30 teams were in action. Not a single save registered. Bizarre.

Chpper's extra-base hit steak ended. He now has merely a 15-game hit streak. Renteria and Francoeur's hit streaks ended. Giles didn't play, so his streak awaits his return.

**UPDATE** Chipper DID extend his EBH streak with a sixth inning double, so he's now just one away from Paul Waner's 79-year-old record. How cool is that?



All Aboarrrrrrrd!!!

2006-07-15T10:56:52.700-04:00

Climb on board the Second Half Train (or bandwagon) everybody. Its already rolling and somebody's gonna get crushed under the wheels. I'd say the whole 'Matic Nation agrees that the Braves 2nd half will be a new kind of excitement for real Braves fans. We've cut the wheat from the chaff- and the chaff is all those clowns from Lilburn and Griffin who were sporting Boston jerseys at the stadium a few weeks ago. Today those last-place Braves sit in 2nd place after beating a division leader on the road Beat them 3 or 4 times in one game it seemed. In your face Trevor Hoffman. Wooooo-wooooooooooo. Here we come.

Your conductor will be Mr. Chipper Jones. He went yard early and often yesterday, securing his 12th straight game with an extra-base hit. The ML record is 14. Rentaria's hit streak is 15 games. Giles- 13 straight. FRANCOEUR (seriously. no joke.) has a 10-game streak. Suddenly we're looking like The Big Blue Machine out there.

Smoltz takes the mound tonight to keep the train rolling. You recall that Maddux got to pick his catchers in days gone by. I wonder if Cox will allow Smoltz to choose his relievers from here on in. If not, I imagine that Smoltz will simply chain himself to the mound after the 7th inning and refuse to move till Villarreal is in street clothes.



The Compleat Midseason Grades

2006-07-15T10:23:57.706-04:00

First, thanks to everyone for their cards and letters concerning the Brave-O-Matic Midseason Grades. While a few were a tad churlish (bunch of slaves to the now, if you ask me), most confessed that the extended rollout of the MG served to heighten their anticipation, thus making the eventual payoff ever more sweet. This was our hope.On to the bullpen -- and since there haven't been any consistently defined roles to create a pecking order, we'll go alphabetical:Kevin BarryThis will double as an introduction. The newest member of the 'pen, and seems to have been slotted in Chuck James' April role -- multiple inning eater for an ineffective starter. His first three appearances were brilliant, last night not so much. He's not young (almost 28) -- after matriculating at Rider University (by the way, the Baseball Cube now has some college stats in addition to all minor league player stats -- it's really an invaluable tool), he's resolutely made his way up the ladder, usually as a setup guy/secondary closer, then converted to starter in 2005. Generally good ERA and K numbers, struggles with control at times. Isn't that a strange career pattern? First, his slow ascent is more indicative of a high school pitcher than a college pitcher (I think). Second, there are probably 5 pitchers who begin as starters and then convert to relievers for every one that goes the other way, especially considering his success as a reliever. He's done well in both roles, and Piazza's HR last night may prove to be an aberration -- since 2000, Barry has given up a grand total of 19 HR in over 450 IP, which is fairly astounding. Sosa gave up 20 in the first half of this season, by way of comparison.Grade: Inc.Lance CormierHalf of the Estrada Booty, he pitched well for a few weeks, then completely fell apart. He made a couple of emergency starts that resulted in emergency bullpen cattle calls, and sports a gaudy 13/25 K/BB ratio (yes, that's backwards). July 4 marked his Independence Day from the major league roster, as he was optioned to Richmond.Grade: FMacay McBrideAnother guy whose K/BB is underwater (16/20), but he hasn't given up a gopher ball in 34 appearances. As the sole bullpen lefty, his job is secure, but he inspires neither confidence nor ire.Grade: C-Chad ParontoI have an old friend who likes to tinker with cars, and one of his favorite pastimes is to go junking -- he'll find a salvage yard and poke around, looking for something he can use. Most everything there is garbage, but once in a while he'll come across a ditributor cap or headlight rim that happens to fit. In the salvage yard that is the Braves bullpen, Paronto is the headlight rim.Grade: BKen RayMeet the distributor cap. We all know how slow Cox can be to adjust player roles, but maybe Sosa's blowing TWO leads last night will land Death Ray back into the closer role. Obviously, that's no guarantee of success, but I'm heartened by his recent return to dominance after a bit of a rough patch. His motion is fairly unstable -- he falls to the first base side of the mound, not unlike Reitsma, so McDowell should keep a close eye on his mechanics.Grade: AChris ReitsmaWas reportedly hiding an injury -- though as A Brett reports, the nature of the injury and what to do about it isn't clear to anyone. He'll spend the remainder of the year scouring the New England Journal of Medicine for possible solutions. Maybe a copy of the DSM-IV would be helpful at getting his head straight while he's at it. Suggested o[...]



Keeping Hope Alive

2006-07-11T20:54:37.100-04:00

I keep hoping that one day major league baseball will come to its senses. For the good of the game, Bud Selig will be removed in favor of an actual Commissioner of Baseball. The DH will be relegated to slow-pitch softball leagues, where it belongs. Inter-league play will give way to a balanced INTRA-league schedule. Just like when Teddy Ballgame played the game. Clemens will be told to "Retire or Play". Just pick one for crap sakes. And then shut the f--- up!

Will order be restored to the baseball universe? You say NO, but I see a sign of the inpending anti-apocalypse:

According to a report in the New York Daily News, several sources within Major League Baseball expect a San Francisco grand jury to indict Giants slugger Barry Bonds, possibly even as early as next week.

Sure it's a report on Fox about a report in the New York Daily News, but still...... Could happen.



The Continuing Saga of the Midseason Grades

2006-07-11T09:52:21.010-04:00

Starting pitchers:

John Smoltz

His NL rank in various stats:

IP - Sixth
Ks - Sixth
ERA - 12th
Wins - 25th

Is having as good a year as the highly publicized Glavine, and his K rate has actually increased over last year, despite going away from his splitter. He's a horse.

Grade: A-


Tim Hudson

He'll never be worth the contract he signed, and if he doesn't get more consistent the fans may begin blaming him for signing it. People are silly that way. It's strange, and frustrating, how Hudson seems to lose his command for weeks at a time, then puts it together and looks unbeatable. I give him about a 90% chance of pitching better in the second half, but for now...

Grade: C-


Horacio Ramirez

Has a worse ERA than Hudson (4.65 to 4.56), but there's no doubt that HoRam has been the better pitcher. The numbers are skewed by that ugly start against the Reds, but six of his nine starts have been stellar. Maybe he's doing it with mirrors, or maybe his discovery that the strike zone also has an INSIDE corner will make an enduring difference in his results. All I know is, he shut down the Yankees in New York, and looked like he knew he could do it.

Grade: B


John Thomson

Actually led the NL in ERA for a while, but only because he was blowing up after two-out errors. I've always felt he was underrated, and I still do -- only now, he's become an underrated reason that we suck. Rowland's Office rightly ridicules him for his penchant for goofy injuries. On the plus side, he sweats more than Mark Wohlers in the throes of performance anxiety.

Grade: D


Kyle Davies

Struggled badly in eight starts before going on the 60-day DL with a strained groin. Must be some strain. I'm hesitant to grade him too harshly -- he's still a baby, and I've got high hopes for him. But he was having a hell of a time getting out of just about any inning. But I'll give him a break (I'm sure he's relieved).

Grade: Inc.


Chuck James

So far, so good. He's going to give up his share of HRs, so he'll have to keep the walks to a minimum. Considering the relative merits of our outfield and infield defenses, inducing a large number of flyballs would seem a prudent strategy. He's fun to watch, and keeps things moving -- only Smoltz when he's on a roll pitches as quickly.

Grade: A


Jorge Sosa

All together now:

Grade: F



An Optimistic Mid-season Assessment

2006-07-10T08:24:20.010-04:00

This is from Baseball Prospectus, a trusted source of baseball analysis and forecasting for many years. Let's not lose too much faith, Braves' fans!As most of the baseball world begins to accept the idea that 2006 does, in fact, mark the end of an era, you won’t find much doom and gloom in this space today. Most everyone knows the Braves spent time in the cellar; in fact, they began the month of June by losing 18 of 20, and fell as deep as 16 games beneath the mighty Mets on June 26. If you’re keeping tabs on the Playoffs Odds Report, you may have noticed their chance of playing in October dip below one percent on June 25. If you want to see a Braves fan really cranky, tell him or her that Bobby Cox’s chances of raising his 15th straight “NL East Champs” flag are 250 to 1 as of Wednesday.But really, what separates the 2006 Braves from the 2005 club? Apart from the exodus of Rafael Furcal and the subsequent Andy Marte/Edgar Renteria trade, it was a pretty quiet winter in Turnertown.The ulcers caused by the bullpen are nothing new. Last year’s squad ranked 12th in the National League in bullpen ERA at 4.74, and this year’s ranks 11th at 4.68. Relief help might be the team’s greatest need approaching the deadline, but it doesn’t help explain the chasm between 2005 and 2006.And despite the major drop-offs of Jeff Francoeur, Andruw Jones, and Marcus Giles, the offense has shown great resilience. It’s scoring nearly five runs per game, better than it was in 2005, good for fifth in the NL through Wednesday. Renteria’s hitting around his 90th percentile PECOTA projection (a level from which he's likely to show some regression over the second half). On the flip side, PECOTA was optimistic about Francoeur and Giles, who are both playing close to their 10th percentile projections. Perennial Team Health Report red light Chipper Jones was holding up until this week, and while Will Carroll’s most recent report doesn’t sound too serious, how fortunate are the Braves to have Wilson Betemit? Since the start of 2005, Betemit’s hit .293/.350/.449 while playing third base, shortstop, and second. If the Braves weren’t so loaded at those positions, his numbers might look quite a bit more like Bill Hall’s in Milwaukee.Adam LaRoche’s top three comparable players are Tino Martinez, Todd Helton, and Jason Giambi, but you wouldn’t know it from his performance. With LaRoche maintaining his severe platoon splits, perhaps the Braves are missing Julio Franco more than they thought they would. Brian Jordan, LaRoche’s nominal platoon partner who is currently on the disabled list, has a 564 OPS while playing first base this season, primarily against southpaws. Since Jordan bruised his clavicle, lefthanded hitter Scott Thorman has been filling in.The rotation is where the disparity becomes clearer. No one is pitching outrageously badly, but almost every starter has slipped. John Smoltz’s peripherals are vintage John Smoltz, but a slightly elevated BABIP might help explain the ERA bump. Tim Hudson’s 4.57 ERA is easily the worst of his career, and more than a run higher than his career mark. John Thomson missed some time due to injury and is having his worst campaign since his days as a young Rockie in 1999. Jorge Sosa, he of the ridiculous 2.55 ERA last year, is back to normal and got moved to the bullpen, due in part to his poor showing in the rotation and in part to the[...]