Tag: Brooks Conrad

Atlanta Braves Spring Training Stock Watch: Nate McLouth and Other Surprises

Spring Training Stock Watch:

The Atlanta Braves currently have a 7-4-1 record this spring and appear to be rounding into shape for Opening Day. Chipper is back at third, Uggla is in town and Freddie and Jason are providing plenty of excitement.

Although Spring Training stats are meaningless, they can help determine which players will be the last couple men on the 25 man roster when the Braves face the Nationals to kick off the season.

Here are some of the guys who have improved or hurt their chances of breaking camp with Atlanta.

Stock Up:

Nate McLouthAfter a dismal season in 2010 (I would write the full stat line but why point out any more than he hit under .200 and was sent to the minors at one point), McLouth looks to be the weakest member of the Braves lineup. However, he has shown signs this spring that he may be playing more like he was still in Pittsburgh.

In 15 at-bats, he has more hits (7) than he did all of last spring (6) and is getting on base at a .636 rate. With a homerun and stolen base as well, McLouth is showing that he may still be a key part of the lineup as the Braves look to challenge the Phillies in the NL East.

Freddie Freeman – Freeman has had the first base job since the end of last season, but it’s reassuring to see the young slugger hitting his way through the Grapefruit League. With a .458 batting average (that includes three doubles) Freeman has proven everyone right so far and left no doubt about who should be starting at first base.

Ed Lucas – Lucas came into camp with an outside shot to snatch a utility role on the Braves bench, and has increased his chances greatly with a strong performance this spring. With seven hits in just 16 at-bats, Lucas has shown he may add value on offense while being a Swiss army knife on the bench.

Lucas can play all four infield positions and has experience at all three outfield spots (although he isn’t exceptionally gifted at any position) and has worked his way into a battle with Diory Hernandez and Brandon Hicks for one of the final bench spots.

Brandon Beachy – After his breakout season last year, Beachy was on everyone’s radar, but most people figured Mike Minor would run away with the fifth spot in the starting rotation. While Minor has been good (1.80 ERA), Beachy has been the more impressive hurler thus far.

Although his ERA is twice Minor’s Beachy has struck out seven batters while walking none in five innings, showing continued command and the ability to keep batters off base. As Beachy and Minor get stretched out and pitch more than a couple innings per start, the battle should heat up.

Christian Martinez – The forgotten man in last year’s bullpen, Martinez has pitched well this spring and could land himself the long reliever role. Third on the team with 5.2 innings pitched to date, Martinez hasn’t allowed a run while striking out six and walking just one.

If he can continue to pound the strike zone and keep runners off base (just three total have reached so far), Martinez could be there for the Braves when a started falters early in the game.

Stock Down:

Jordan Schafer – Due to Nate McLouth’s struggles, Schafer has been given seemingly every opportunity to win the fourth outfielder job despite his bad performances since his wrist injury in 2009.

While McLouth has been stellar this spring, Schafer is hitting just .214 in 28 at-bats (although he has stolen a pair of bases) and has walked only once. The Braves obviously think Schafer can still live up to the high expectations once placed upon him, but it’s looking like he will have to begin 2011 in the minors trying to find his swing.

Joe Mather – Mather had about an even shot of winning a bench role on this year’s team, but has been outplayed thus far by some other fringe roster candidates. He has just three hits in 19 at-bats and has made an error in the field.

Earlier this spring he was compared to Jayson Werth (for his size, not his hitting ability, but still) but he hasn’t come anywhere close to producing like Werth in Spring Training.

Brooks Conrad – The hits keep coming for Conrad. After some critical errors in the NLDS, Conrad came into 2011 looking for a fresh start on the Braves bench. However, he has struggled this spring and might not get that chance.

He already made an error in the field, but that’s to be expected. What wasn’t expected are his struggles at the plate, where he has just two hits in 16 at-bats and has whiffed five times. If he can’t be an above average offensive bench player, the Braves would be wise to leave him in the minors.

Scott Proctor – Last year Proctor was supposed to finish his rehab and join Atlanta to give them a veteran presence in the bullpen. Things didn’t go according to plan, as Proctor struggled in the minors and the majors with the Braves.

However, he got a new contract with the hope that he could fill a bullpen spot with some quality innings. His struggles have continued this spring, as proctor has a 6.75 ERA and has walked four batters in four innings thus far.

Old Relievers – This group consists of the Braves veterans in the pen: Peter Moylan, Scott Linebrink and George Sherril. All three have struggled early in Spring Training but are essentially guaranteed a spot on the roster.

Sherril is coming off a terrible year and Linebrink and Moylan weren’t as good in 2010 as previous years, so hopefully they are just shaking off some rust. If not, the Braves young relievers Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters are sure to be worked early and often should they be the only reliable options in the pen.

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Atlanta Braves: Brooks Conrad’s Time For Redemption Is Now

The baseball offseason has all but come to a close and just over two weeks remain until the Atlanta Braves’ first spring training game against the New York Mets on Feb. 26.

No Braves player is itching to get back onto the field quite like Brooks Conrad.

It was nearly four months ago to the day when Conrad tied an MLB postseason record by committing three errors in one game and ultimately swung the momentum of the NLDS in favor of the San Francisco Giants.

The errors (a hard grounder going between his legs, a booted double-play ball and a dropped pop fly) have surely replayed in the minds of Braves fans and Conrad alike, ever since that atrocious Game 3.

“I feel absolutely terrible right now,” Conrad had told reporters after the game. “I wish I could just dig a hole and sleep in there.”  

But the truth is, up until that moment, Conrad had all but carried the team in the latter half of the season. The 31-year-old utilityman had become a fan favorite when he capped of a seven-run ninth inning with a walk-off grand slam against Cincinnati Reds closer Francisco Cordero.

Months later, Conrad hit another pinch-hit grand slam, this time in Miami against the NL East foe Florida Marlins. The shot put the Braves ahead for good in the game, which they ended up winning 10-5.

When All-Star Martin Prado went down with an injury late in the season, Conrad again came up large for the Braves in an August 13th game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The game had been a pitching duel, as Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda matched Braves starter Tim Hudson pitch-for-pitch until the seventh inning, when Conrad took him deep over the center field wall.

The Braves won the game 1-0.

It would be easy for Braves fans to turn their backs on Conrad after his performance in Game 3 of the NLDS, but they shouldn’t.

Game 3 was only the 11th time Conrad had started at second base in his entire major league career, a career that saw him go from a hero to a one-man blooper reel in less than five months.

Nowadays, Conrad, sporting a No. 7 jersey instead of his traditional No. 26 because of new teammate Dan Uggla’s request for the number, has reportedly moved on from incidents of that October afternoon and is ready to get back onto the field and prove himself to Braves teammates and fans alike.

His journey begins on Feb. 18th, when Braves’ position players report to spring training.

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Atlanta Braves: The Top 5 Moments of 2010

This past year presented Atlanta Braves fans with plenty of moments to relish.

This was the first time the Braves had reached the playoffs since 2005 and was the final season for venerable manager Bobby Cox.

But, I’m staying away from those topics for this slideshow.

Instead, I’m focusing on singular moments over the course of the calendar year that Braves fans will be talking about for years to come rather than events that involved a culmination of years/months of dedicated work to draw their fanfare.

So, without further adieu, my top-five moments for the Atlanta Braves for 2010.

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2011 Fantasy Baseball: 6 Strategies To Improve Your Team (Humor)

As the fantasy baseball season has mercifully drawn to a close, I thought it would be the perfect time to dispense some wisdom and advice for those who are hopelessly hooked on this game.

Call it the Goldilocks Guide, if you will.

Too early for next year, too late for this year.

Just right for those who are wallowing in self pity because they made the playoffs riding Josh Hamilton to that last playoff berth.

Only to watch him break a couple ribs on the eve of the finals.

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MLB Playoffs 2010: Which Players Let Their Teams Down?

Poor Brooks Conrad.

The Atlanta Braves second baseman, whom the team was forced to place considerable faith in when they lost infielders Chipper Jones and Martin Prado to season-ending injuries, could not have had a harder time of it during Atlanta’s four-game loss to the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS. He collected just one hit and committed four extraordinarily costly errors, including three in the team’s Game 3 loss alone.

By the fourth and final contest, Cox could not even justify starting Conrad, and the man who had very nearly become a folk hero during a strong regular season now looks like the biggest playoff goat in Atlanta since Lonnie Smith.

Believe it or not, though, Conrad might not be the biggest goat of this year’s postseason. Several key contributors of whom much more was expected faltered nearly as badly as their teams made first-round exits, and thus Conrad has plenty of company. Where among the top five losers of the 2010 playoffs does he rank? Read on.

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Atlanta Braves Take Loss in NLDS: 2010 Still Going To Be One To Remember

It started with blasts of Jason Heyward in Spring Training and probably the most memorable Major League debut in recent history.

One hundred sixty-six games and 725 tweets (by me) later, the 2010 season ends for the Atlanta Braves with Bobby Cox tipping his cap to the San Francisco Giants following Game 4 of the National League Divisional Series.

We all wanted “11 for 6” and a world championship for the capper on the illustrious career of venerable Braves manager Bobby Cox…but that’s simply not what was in the cards for a Braves team that finished the season riddled with injuries and defensive miscues.

And, before I move on, you can hate on Brooks Conrad as much as you want and place him with the title of “goat” for the Braves falling short…but the fact of the matter is this: Without “Raw Dawg’s” late-inning dramatics in three or four games over the course of the regular season, the Braves don’t even get the chance to disappoint us in the playoffs…. Dude played his guts out for the Braves all year.

As the long offseason awaits the Braves, there are a lot of things this team can build on…Jason Heyward‘s career should continue its upward track…Brian McCann is becoming a more well-rounded catcher…and the “mellow” of the team created by the veteran-rookie mixture (think: Freeman, Heyward, and Kimbrel to Jones, Lowe and B-Mac next year) should still be in place.

I’m going to keep this short…I’m kind of in shock right now (that’ll happen when you watch 98 percent of the games…).

But I think I can muster up the energy to say two more things…

First, and foremost, go Rangers.

Second: After four years of it, I think I was, emotionally, ready for this over and for the Braves to start the offseason…there’s more to write about (that, my friends, is called light sarcasm). 

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Atlanta Braves Baseball: Don’t Hate Brooks Conrad; He Needs The Fans Behind Him

     The Atlanta Braves were one out away from completing another storybook come from behind victory when things fell apart in the top of the ninth. Earlier, in the bottom of the eighth, Alex Gonzalez singled and Eric Hinske hit a pinch hit home run off of Sergio Romo to the Braves up by a score of 2-1. Hinke’s homer was just the fourth Brave hit of the night but it came at such an opportune time.

     Without closer Billy Wagner, Manager, Bobby Cox, went to rookie Craig Kimbrel to put the game away. He quickly earned two outs and it was apparent that Giants hitters were having a difficult time catching up to the youngster’s fastball. With two outs and two strikes,  Braves catcher, Brian McCann, called for a slider. This was a mistake. No one had been close to hitting the fastball. Put the guy away with the heat.

      The pitch that was thrown was a slider and it came across the plate at 87 miles per hour, or approximately 10 miles per hour slower than the fastball. It was knocked for a base hit and with two runners on base Bobby Cox pulled Kimbrel from the game. I believe this was also a mistake. Did Bobby take Kimbrel out because he thought he would buckle under the pressure? So far, the rookie had faced four batters and he had been great. Yes, he had given up a hit and a walk, but not a run.

     Mike Dunn would only face one batter, the Giants first baseman, Aubrey Huff. With two strikes, Huff was able to go to right field with a pitch on the outside corner and Jason Heyward’s throw to the plate was not accurate enough to keep the Giants from tying the game.

     With the score tied, and with Peter Moylan, the ground ball wizard, on the mound, it looked as if we might go to extra innings in the event the Braves couldn’t score in the ninth. Moylan got his ground ball but it was a hot shot to second baseman, Brooks Conrad.

     It had already been a rough night for Conrad before the ball came his way in the top of the ninth. Guilty of two errors in preceding innings, Conrad allowed the sharply hit ball to go between his legs and another Giant run was able to cross the plate. The “little man that could” was not able to on this night.

     Brooks Conrad committed three errors. He would not have been out there to commit the errors in the first place had he not walloped several pinch hit home runs to tie or win games earlier in the season.

     Remember that guy? 

     He is the guy who hit a grand slam home run to beat the Reds. That one game helped the Braves win the Wild Card by just one game. Brooks Conrad was guilty of helping the Braves lose an important game against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday.

      Much of Braves country wants Conrad out for the next game but that would be another mistake on top of mistakes that have already been made. Can’t change anything in the past. No one feels worse about those errors than Brooks Conrad. He will have to live with them a lifetime.

     Fortunately, the will not be such bitter memories if the Braves can come back and win two games; one at home and one on the road. To do this, the offense will have to wake up. The stats look good for the San Francisco starting pitchers, however, I do not believe they have been as good as the Braves have been bad. That’s right. The Braves offense has been terrible and that is why the Giants pitchers have walked away with such wonderful statistics.

     The Atlanta Braves are very capable of winning two games against the Giants. They must hit the ball and they must commit no errors of any type at any type. Atlanta has pitching that can get it done but they need help from the offense. Much of the Braves offense is injured but there are plenty of guys out there who can hit the baseball. Why can they muster no offense lately?

     The Braves hitters are swinging at way too many bad pitches. Can they slow things down and jump on Giants pitching early? Perhaps it is simply a matter of the Atlanta players trying way too hard at the plate and even so in the field. They want to do it so bad for Bobby. Perhaps they are exerting too much adrenaline and it causing them to overreact? They simply need to relax and have fun. They are capable. They are a close knit group and if anyone can win, they can.

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San Francisco Giants: Bobby Thomson and Franchise’s 10 Greatest Playoff Moments

The San Francisco Giants battled back from what would’ve been a catastrophic loss at the hands of the Atlanta Braves on Sunday afternoon and now head into Game 4 of the National League Division Series with a two-games-to-one advantage.

Clutch at-bats from Travis Ishikawa, Freddy Sanchez, Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, and a major assist from Atlanta second baseman Brooks Conrad made up for another rough trip to the bump for Sergio Romo.

The increasingly suspect big-spot, late-inning option gave up a sickening home run to journeyman pinch-hitter Eric Hinske in the bottom of the eighth inning and almost blew a Giant starter’s gem for the second consecutive NLDS game.

Thankfully, Conrad got the last crack at the postseason-goat pinata and broke that sucker wide open with his fourth “erruh” (to quote Dick Stockton) in three games. Yet another E-4 accounted for San Francisco’s winning margin, which makes it 2-for-2 in the five-gamer thus far.

Consequently, you won’t find this comeback on the list of greatest playoff moments in franchise history. The rebound from Hinske’s crushing blow was another magical moment in 2010, but the fact that it required help keeps it off this illustrious list.

As I think you will agree…

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MLB Playoff Predictions: Brook Conrad’s The Key To Atlanta Braves’ Playoff Hopes

For a guy that was signed as a Minor League Free Agent prior to the 2009 season, Brooks Conrad sure has accomplished a lot for the Braves in 130 games.

In addition to accumulating a ton of nicknames (“Raw Dog” and “Dirt” being the most notable), the Magic Man from Monte Vista (that one is mine) has been involved in some of the more memorable moments in recent Braves history.

From his first Major League homer in Washington July 3, 2009 that gave the Braves a lead, to his “disappearing ball trick” in Chicago and two pinch-hit grand slams this season (including the walk-off slam off Francisco Cordero earlier this season), Conrad has left Braves fans with a menagerie of moments that will be embedded in their minds for a long while to come.

But now, the 5’11” infielder is going to be counted on for a lot more than coming through in close-and-late situations.

With Martin Prado (you know, the guy who replaced the guy with the torn ACL…Chipper Jones, or whatever his name is) out for the remainder of the season (postseason included if the Braves get to that step), the lifetime back-up is going to be called upon to man the hot corner for the Atlanta Braves.

Number 26 has accumulated a grand total of 218 ABs in four seasons between Oakland and Atlanta and has posted a career line of .225/.290/.450…that and a -.09 UZR for his career at third (although I’ll vouch for some very nice plays at the hot corner) reeks of a grossly below-average MLB player.

But, when you look solely at his 145 at-bats in 2010 and, overall, very impressive .241/.317/.497 line…you have to like the potential production in the season’s final series (and, if those results are indeed fruitful, the postseason).

Small sample size?

Most definitely (after all, he hit is first non-“latter than 7th inning” homer on September 29…that tells you when–and how much–he’s been playing).

But, when the pressure’s been highest, the “Raw Dog” has been at his best (see his 1.43 Clutch–a FanGraphs stat that tabulates how much better or worse a player is in high-leverage situations…which would be good for 7th in baseball if he had enough plate appearances–and that is most definitely what he’ll be facing over the next couple of weeks (hopefully batting behind either Derrek Lee or Brian McCann in the five hole *cough**cough*).

While “Dirt” has been a vital cog in a Braves club that has become know for the come-from-behind victory, he’s now going to be placed with the job of putting the Braves ahead in the early stages of the Braves’ coming games.

With what he has done this season, I’m comfortable voicing my confidence (that and $1 will get you a cup of coffee) in the 30-year-old being able to produce over the course of the Braves’ (hopefully…as this will mean a World Series) next four series.

However, it’s going to come down to him being confident…and, as Mark Twain once said “A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.”

But with the support all around him (see this Mark Bowman article)…I don’t see any reason as to why he can’t approve of his own “comfortability” (experience be damned).

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Chipper Jones: With Veteran Sidelined for 2010, Who Should Step In?


With the news breaking on Thursday that Chipper Jones was done for the 2010 season and, potentially, his career with a torn ACL, the Braves found themselves without some sense of certainty at the hot corner for the first time in nearly sixteen years.

Mark Twain once said: “A round man cannot be expected to fit in a square hole right away.  He must have time to modify his shape.”

But, you know what?

The Braves don’t have any men that are really square enough to fit into the hole left behind by the veteran switch-hitter…no one’s had to be shaped into that mold with the stature of the 38-year-old Jones.

And they don’t have the time to allow one of their round pegs to modify their shape.

So, the question for the Braves right now is simple: Who is going to be thrust into the square hole at third base?

On the waiver wire, names like Chone Figgins, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Lopez would all have to pass through all of the American League and the majority of the National League before the Braves would have an opportunity to claim them (and, even then, trade partners would likely have pretty high demands since they would know the Braves’ desperation).

And since the options down on the farm don’t exactly scream “excitement,” (Brandon Hicks, though an amazing talent in the field, lacks the bat to play regularly in the Majors; Wes Timmons is a 30-year-old career Minor Leaguer with a .964 FLD% in 104 games at third in AAA; Freddie Freeman is an amazing option if Troy Glaus moves to third…but Glaus’ running is painful to watch, so I’d imagine that his defense at the hot corner would induce a similar effect; Joe Thurston has posted a .255/.303/.376 line at AAA with the majority of his time coming at 2B) we’ll focus on the three big names currently on the big league roster 

Brooks Conrad, despite his occasional defensive brilliance and title of “Captain Clutch,” is best utilized as a bench player (at least for the time being) and has struggled when given starting opportunities in 2010 (as would be expected from a guy that has a mindset of “hack, hack, hack”).

So I think we can eliminate him from the list of contenders right off the bat (although he will, in my opinion, be a valuable asset off the bench to fill in at 2B and 3B down the stretch in the scenario I will reveal momentarily).

So, that leaves Omar Infante and the soon-to-be activated Martin Prado as the two candidates for the hot corner (with the other playing second base…so we’ll run with this theory).

Prado has shown great improvement with the glove at second base with increased playing time, but UZR likes Prado as a third baseman (3.2) more than as a second baseman (-10.1)…that’s not to say that UZR is the be-all, end-all of all types of defensive profiling–it’s just going to be our base for comparison here.

And while UZR doesn’t love Omar Infante at second (-2.5), the way things would swing with Prado at third (where Omar is at 1.0), the Braves would be at their best defensively.


And by phrasing that last paragraph in the way I did…I’ll go ahead and cut to the chase and say that I think that Martin Prado should be the Atlanta Braves’ third baseman when he returns from the disabled list sometime at the beginning of next week.

So, that brings us to our next question concerning this new-ish (since Chipper has been on-and-off the DL for years now) issue: How does the line-up set-up now?

After all, the Braves just lost the guy that’s been batting third in the line-up since 2005 (the year after JD Drew left Atlanta) and no one, obviously, has much experience being “that guy.”

In that spot, you, ideally, want a guy that’s going to be hitting for a fairly high average with a ton of doubles and a ton of hard line drives to move guys first-to-third for the four- and five guys.

With the choices at hand, you have to like Jason Heyward and Martin Prado…Heyward for the ability to hit balls hard all over the field and Prado for his average and gap power.

With those two guys/thoughts in mind, this is the line-up I’d put on the field if I were a grumpy old man with a No. 6 on my back (joke):

Pos. Name Slash Line (matchup)
2B Omar Infante .330/.360/.404
RF Jason Heyward .262/.377/.451
3B Martin Prado .315/.357/.484
C Brian McCann .273/.384/.483
LF Hinske/Diaz .256/.339/.460–.273/.317/.597
1B Troy Glaus .241/.348/.403
CF Rick Ankiel .227/.301/.391
SS Alex Gonzalez .258/.301/.483










Since four-through-eight here is largely unchanged, I’ll offer a fairly brief explanation of why I chose the 1-2-3 punch that I listed for the Braves.

By sliding Prado into the three-hole, even though Jason Heyward will likely have that spot in 2011, you give a nice doubles-hitter two very nice OBP guys in front of him and a pretty strong home run threat directly behind him. 

While the presence of Chipper Jones in the middle of the line-up was nice, this line-up loses virtually nothing in terms of offense (Chipper’s line for ’10 will go down in the books at .265/.381/.426) besides a name.

It’ll be sad if this is indeed the end of Chipper Jones‘ career, and the hole he (potentially) leaves behind pertaining to leadership and “plate presence” will be tough to replace.

But, even though the Braves are in the thick of a playoff race and will be forced to do some “on the job training” with whoever takes over the third base job, this team is equipped to move up, up, and away into the future.

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