Julio Teheran nearly no-hit the Pirates Wednesday, but he's not quite the same pitcher you remember from prospect lists.
On Wednesday afternoon Julio Teheran grabbed the baseball world's attention, just as his prospect days had hinted he someday might. He flirted with a no-hitter through 7 2/3 innings but, after a Brandon Inge single, settled for eight one-hit, no-run innings.
The performance continued a string of good performances from the young righty. Teheran entered the game with five consecutive quality starts and three straight outings that lasted into the seventh inning. Both streaks continued. Teheran also fanned a career-high number of batters for the second consecutive start. True, the 11 batters that the Colombian native fanned were Pirates—ranked 22nd in True Average at first pitch—and his recent performances came against the Nationals, Mets, and Twins—lineups also ranked in the bottom-half of the league. But the signs of encouragement extend beyond Wednesday's stat line.
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The first play-in game ever will be remembered more for the umpires than for who won.
In an unfortunate turn of events, the first-ever Wild Card Game, and official 2012 postseason opener, will be known for an umpire’s call rather than the competitive and exciting play between two good teams.
Chipper Jones chose to stay an Atlanta Brave until the end. But he also earned it, with a spectacular career.
Will Chipper Jones have played his final game come October 5th? We know Jones and the Braves conclude their regular season schedule in Pittsburgh on October 3rd. Given how the standings are shaping up, and the new single-game Wild Card round, Jones could play in back-to-back elimination games, a scintillating proposition for those who seek out history by watching the firsts, lasts, and other notable milestone of a player’s career. Jones’ career could end on October 3rd, 5th, or maybe not until the following week, or the week thereafter. The unpredictability of it all creates great drama; and so, we’ll hear lines uttered reminding us that this could be Jones’ final at-bat, or his final home run, or his final error. All as a way to emphasize the moment—to say, this matters!
Jones retiring does matter, of course. As the final on-the-field link between the present and the glory days, Jones means a tremendous amount to the Braves and their fans. Play in one city for as long, and do it as well, as Jones has, and local idolatry is a given. What’s telling about Jones’ legacy is not how Braves fans feel about him, but rather, how opposing cities are treating him. From gifts to standing ovations, the pomp and circumstance honoring Jones is everywhere, even in New York. The outpouring of appreciation toward the future Hall-of-Famer seems two-folded: one part hat tip for his impressive numbers, one part for embodying the ideal franchise player.
If the Nationals had handled their ace's innings limit a little more like the Braves massaged Kris Medlen's, they might not be facing a Strasless October.
WARNING: Here there be hindsight.
We can’t say Mike Rizzo didn’t warn us. “There’s not going to be a whole lot of tinkering done,” he said. “We’re going to run him out there until his innings are done.” That was on February 20th, the earliest reference by Rizzo I can find to any specific plan for limiting Stephen Strasburg’s workload. We knew then that the Nats weren’t going to get creative: they were going to pitch Strasburg like any other starter until he was fresh out of innings. What we didn’t know then (and what we still don’t really know now), is when that would be. For months, everyone assumed Strasburg would go into storage after 160 innings. Why 160? As far as I can tell, the 160 meme began innocently enough, with this sentence from an mlb.com article by Bill Ladson on February 19th: “He is expected to throw 160 innings, the same number his teammate Jordan Zimmermann threw last year after coming off elbow reconstruction.” Expected by whom? The article didn’t say. Certainly not by the Nationals. But before long, 160 was ubiquitous, and usually attributed to the team. By the time Rizzo denied the number had come from him in an article at BP in April, it was already accepted as fact.
The National League East could come down to baserunning. The Nationals have the edge in the standings, but the Braves' baserunners have kept it close.
On Wednesday night, the Braves shut down the Padres behind another strong start by deadline trade target Paul Maholm. Thanks to a 27-13 run since the start of July, Atlanta’s record stands a season-high 18 games over .500. However, while the Braves have nipped at the first-place Nationals’ heels—at times this month, only two games have separated the NL East’s top teams—they haven’t been able to close the gap completely. The Nats, who won their own game Wednesday on the strength of six precious innings from Stephen Strasburg’s dwindling supply, have matched them win for win.
However, while the Nationals own the NL’s best record, they haven’t yet locked up a division title. Washington won’t have Strasburg on its side for much longer, and the Braves will be right behind them, waiting to capitalize on any sign of weakness. Both teams boast playoff odds north of 90 percent, so neither is likely to miss the postseason (though after the way things went for the Braves last September, they probably aren’t taking a trip to October for granted). But the real prize—a first-place finish, and a guaranteed ticket to the first round of the playoffs—remains at stake. The Nats have the better pitching staff and defense, and both teams are evenly matched on offense. But the Braves do have a sizeable advantage over the Nats in one often-overlooked area: baserunning.
A radio broadcaster's persona reflects the team's roster and fan following. Or is it the other way around?
I’m driving in Georgia with my new wife, way, way down south. We’re here on family business, but we’ve taken an afternoon to indulge the notion that we are still on our honeymoon, although it officially ended weeks ago. We are passing through the rural exotica: tiny, ruined towns, no signs of life. Stunted, desiccated crops. Vultures are everywhere: in the air, in the trees, devouring carcasses on the side of the road. Rain blatters on the windshield. History has ended here.
We need a signal, some reassurance of life against this deathless decrepitude. Put on the radio, there’s a Braves game—that will more than do. Those live pauses between pitches, the ambient life piping through the speakers. Baseball on the radio is as potent as the smell of bread in the oven. What sound could possibly be better in southwest Georgia, on a road where the speed limit is 45 mph, where you can drive five, 10 miles at a stretch without seeing a single other vehicle?
Brian McCann's hot streak has the Braves on a roll heading into the break
The Weekend Takeaway
On Thursday, Ben Lindberghpicked three players to rise and three to fall during the second half of the schedule, based on BABIPs, past performances, and expectations. One of his three risers was Brian McCann—and, right on cue, the Braves catcher has hit a home run in each of the team’s last four games.
Thanks in part to McCann’s efforts, the Braves enter this week on a four-game winning streak with things looking up for the second half. Fredi Gonzalez’s team is 46-39 at the break, four games behind the division-leading Nationals, and currently penciled in as the second Wild Card. That puts the Braves on an 88-win pace, but a hot summer from McCann would help them exceed it.
Is a team that takes a player to arbitration really running the risk of driving him toward another team down the road?
"Why did they trade for me if that's what they think?"—Yankees left-hander Jim Abbott, after losing a 1993 arbitration case in which the team used a "very negative" presentation
Imagine, for a moment, that you’ve just accepted a job that requires you to join a union. This union is pretty powerful, but there are limits to its power. The main downside of your new deal is that you can’t control your own fate: for your first several years, you won’t get to choose which company you work for or where you spend most of your time.