Atlanta Braves, MLB

Braves Back Over .500

The Atlanta Braves came into this season with no expectations from the “experts,” but you still have to play the games. They sit at 22-21 just 3.5 games back of the Nationals. It has been a battle with early season pitching struggles from the rotation and the bullpen let’s just say many gray hairs for me. Over the couple of weeks that has changed the starters have gone deeper into ballgames giving the young bullpen rest and going to the veterans that have great track records in Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson.  The pitching has  turned it around and been what we expected at the beginning of the season, patience has paid off big time with our young staff and it’s fun to see guys  taking advantage of their  opportunities.

The offense has been a pleasant surprise that is thanks to new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and the contact guys that were brought in this off-season. Seitzer has turned an offense that struck out 9 times per game last season to an offense with the 2nd fewest strikeouts so far with just 269. Doesn’t seem like much but last year we ranked 27th with 1,369 it was hard to watch for sure. The team has also improved dramatically with runners in scoring position with an average .302 and with 2-outs hitting at a .285 clip. It’s amazing how a new philosophy and voice can change how a team approaches each at-bat. The offense is a big reason we are playing for each other and doing the little things to win ball games.

The team is 7-3 in the last ten games, as we head out west to face the Dodgers, Giants, and Diamondbacks for 10 games. This will be a telling trip as we face Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum. Tough sledding, but we have shown we can play with anyone it should be fun to watch! My motto for this team is Heart and Hussle never giving I love the start we are off to Go Braves!!

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Atlanta Braves, MLB

Shelby Miller the New Ace of the Atlanta Braves

The Trade  

The Atlanta Braves had a very active off-season trying to get back to the philosophy of the 90’s where pitching meant everything. The team was able to acquire a young power in Shelby Miller from the Cardinals, who were rich in pitchers and were in need of an outfielder. Jason Heyward was the perfect fit after the tragic death of Oscar Taveras. This trade was not well received from the Braves fan base because Heyward was a fan favorite and a stud defender who led the majors with 31 runs saved. Shelby Miller is just 24 years old has a power arm and a nasty cutter in his short career, he has a 30-19 record with a 3.14 ERA. Many people were surprised the Cardinals were willing to part ways with this young arm, but on paper this trade looked like a win-win for both sides when this move was made.

Why Trade Made So Much Sense 

Jason Heyward was a fan favorite there is no doubt about that, but he is a free agent after this year and because of his defense ability and he is still only 25 years of age, he is going to get a pretty healthy paycheck and the Braves were not going to be able to fulfill that demand, so it’s better to get something for him now instead of nothing at all. Heyward is one of the best defenders in baseball with 2 gloves already, that will be the issue, but he still has not figured out what type of hitter he is going to be and the Braves wanted him to be the next face of the team with power average etc. and that never happened, with just a .261 career average and 87 home runs not the breakout star the team was looking for.

The team was able to find a need in the Cardinals, who needed a right fielder and get quality in return. Shelby miller is just 24 years of age power arm that is just starting his career the skies the limit for this kid. In just 2 ½ years he is 30-19 with 3.14 and 351 strikeouts a pretty good player to be able to get. His contract is very team friendly with 3 arbitration years after this year, with the team moving to a new ballpark in 2017 Miller Tehran and will be a deadly trio for many years to come. This off-season there was a clear message that the team was going back to the way of the 90’s and early 2000’s pitching and a great pipeline in the farm system. Not only Shelby Miller came from the Cardinals, but another young pitcher Tyrell Jenkins a 22 year old right hander still developing in the minors is thought to be a cornerstone in the Braves future as well.

This trade saves the club money and they were able to acquire quality young arms that will help the team for many years. The cherry on top is the fact they were able to sign veteran right fielder Nick Markakis to a 4-year deal worth 44 million dollars so basically able to trade 4 years for one and they aren’t losing anything defensively as Markakis has 2 gold gloves himself. He also gives a great at-bat every time up at the plate. This trade has so many positives and shows why Jon Hart pulled the trigger.

Miller Carrying the Rotation in 2015

The pitching was supposed to be the best part of the team this year, but outside of Miller it has been a bit shaky. The ace Julio Teheran has a 3-1 record with a 4.33 ERA, not bad, but coming off an All-Star appearance, he was expected to feed of that and be better than ever. He has used his breaking stuff too much, causing him deep counts and has to lay the fastball in there and it has gotten crushed at times. He must work off his fastball more in baseball the best pitch is a well-located fastball. He has also struggled mightily on the road posting a 5.88 ERA whereas at home, he has a stellar 2.04 ERA, he must preform like an the ace we all know to help Braves reach their full potential.

Alex wood has a 2-2 with a 3.53 ERA, he has had trouble with pitch efficiency and going deep into ballgames exposing the weakest part the team in 2015 the bullpen which is young and inexperienced with six rookies making their debuts this year. He also has struggled at home posting a 6.19 ERA and a 2.61 Era on the road. Not bad numbers overall, just need more consistency

The Trevor Cahill experience was a disaster, he started 3 games went 0-3 with an 8.03 Era he went more than 5 innings just once. He has since been moved to the bullpen as the designated long man, that has been a little better, but he is still struggling with his arm slot at times. Not the low risk, high reward type of situation the braves were hoping for when they traded for him.

Cahill has been replaced by young flamethrower Mike Foltynewicz the key piece acquired in the Evan Gattis trade this off-season. Foltynewicz is just 23 years old, he tops out at 97 MPH on his fastball he also features a put away curveball. In 3 starts, he is 2-0 with a 4.24 Era, the Era is a little inflated because the bullpen allowed a few runs to score, but he is fun to watch pitch and looks like he has the “it” to stick around and help the Braves win games for a long time.

Eric Stults was supposed to be the veteran presence at the backend of the rotation that would eat innings, which has not been the case at all. He has a 1-4 record with a 5.36 ERA and 9 home runs allowed, just nothing good he like Cahill is headed to the bullpen to try to right the ship. Williams Perez to take his rotation for the time being to try to get some consistency in that spot as well. As you can see the word to describe the rotation in 2015 is inconsistent.

Miller Reaching New Heights

Shelby Miller is in a class of his own right now and making the president of Baseball Operations Jon Hart look like a genius! He has a 5-1 record with, record with a microscopic Era of 1.33 and whip of 0.83 these are video game type numbers right now. He was the first starter to go 7 innings and that was on April 30th against the Reds, he had a 3 hit shutout against the Phillies on 99 pitches and just yesterday he was one out away from a no- hitter against the Marlins amazing to watch a break out star being born in 2015, just his 3rd year in the big leagues. Miller has also to spare the bullpen from getting even more exposed early this season, if that is not an ace I don’t know what is. The Braves sit at 18-19 right now could you imagine where they would be without Shelby Miller; I can’t and don’t want to!

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Carolina Panthers, NFL

Carolina Panthers Draft Recap

The NFL Draft is always a fun event to watch and see what all 32 teams do to improve their teams. Not to mention athletes lives changing forever wether they are a 1st round pick or Mr Irrelevant, fun to see! The Carolina Panthers had a very active draft trading up down and all around. Although I might be biased I think we had good draft addressing some needs and getting good quality players to help this team win football games in the near future.

Round 1 Shaq Thompson LB Washington 6-0 / 228 LBS.

Many felt this was a questionable choice given the glaring need to protect Cam Newton, but just a pick before the Arizona Cardinals selected the ideal selection of offensive lineman DJ Humpires out of Florida. Rather than going with someone they didn’t really like they stuck to their guns and drafted the highest rated player on the board. Thompson is very versatile player he played safety, linebacker, and even running back while at the University of Washington, many feel his primary position will be safety with the Panthers to help out the weakest part of the defense in 2014.

As a linebacker, he will be able to learn from two of the best in the business in Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. A dream for a young player like him to learn from two guys that have been though it all in their careers, even with Kuechly being so young himself. They have been though a lot of adversity and success and they can teach him how to be a great professional on and off the field. The possibility of Kuechly, Davis, and Thompson is a nightmare for opposing offenses to deal every game. He will also help the special teams that were terrible in 2014. A pick not many liked but he is a great player that has a lot of tools that can boost an already stellar defense.

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talking10.com

talking10.com

Round 2 Devin Funchess WR Michigan 6′ 5 236 LBS.

The Panthers knew who they wanted in the 2nd round,they made that very clear trading 3 picks to the Rams to move up to 41st and take the Michigan wideout. It is quite clear GM David Gettlemen wants a basketball team for a wide receiving core with Kelvin Benjamin 6’5 240, Greg Olsen 6’5 253 and Stephen Hill 6’4 215 and now Devin Funchess 6′ 5″ 236 can you say match up nightmare. Queen City sky scrapers are going to be fun to watch, don’t forget about Jarrett Boykin, Philly Brown, and Jerricho Cotchery the veteran of the group. A lot to be excited about the key will be for Cam to take a few miles an hour of his throws to make it an easier catch.

Funchess was a 2 time 2nd team All- American at Michigan he ran a 4.47 at his pro day pretty good speed. He must work on his hands because drops were an issue, bottom line he is a big mismatch in the Red Zone and teams are going to have so much fun covering them game after game. Cam Newton is getting a great weapon on the outside. Very excited to see the head ache we will create for teams.

Round 4 Daryl Williams OG Oklahoma 6’5 327 LBS.

The team desperately needed some more competition and depth to help protect Cam Newton he is a load very physical and should be a welcome addition to a weak part of the team in 2014. He is also a guy that can be moved around the line if needed a solid pick at that point in the draft.

Round 5 David Mayo LB Texas State 6’2 228 LBS

twitter.com

twitter.com

This kid is a great story wasn’t recruited out of high school with no division one offers, he found himself at Santa Monica College. California is not a cheap place to live, he was going to rent a guest house, but that fell though so he ended up staying in a shed with no plumbing or electricity. An awesome story that shows hard work pays off!! On the field you say why another linebacker I say you can’t have too much of a good thing. He has a high motor and will be a great special teams guy and can fill in when injuries happen.

Round 5 Cameron Artis-Payne Running Back Auburn Tigers 5’11 209 LBS 

The team needed to replace Deangelo Williams and they did that with a north and south physical back to be paired with Jonathan Stewart who is a bruiser himself, our backfield will be very taxing to opposing defensive lines. He will be a new fresh addition to the team. He put up solid numbers in college in 2 years he had 2,218 yards and 20 touchdowns. I like this pick because it gives us great depth and a quality player to add to the backfield.

I think this draft was very productive getting quailty players and sticking to our game plan. I Belive all of this players will help the panthers win in the present and future. GO Panthers!!!

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