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There was no happiness to be derived from sweeping the free-falling Braves last night. There was only a sense of completing a long overdue project by doing a somewhat superficial job on the easiest of subjects. However, AJís start was the story of the evening.



Thereís no doubt that many made too much of the Jays failure to sweep. As frustrating as it was, Iím with Wilner in that I donít believe there is any sort of lack of ďkiller instinctĒ on this club. Iím glad the monkey is off Torontoís back, but I donít think his presence meant anything more than we missed the opportunity to win winnable games. Winning the last game of a series is the same as winning the first. Sweeping may give you more confidence going forward, but at the end of the day a win is a win and a loss is a loss.

 

However, one canít point to this series as evidence to contradict the ďkiller instinctĒ theorists. You didnít need a killer instinct to beat the Braves. You just needed the ability to kick some dirt on the open grave that is Atlantaís 2006. Listening to the broadcast on TBS and watching the late-inning shots of the fans in the stands and players in the dugout, itís abundantly clear that this season is over in Atlanta. There is no hope of a late-season charge. This isnít the frustration one sees in K.C. players after another Angel Berroa baserunning error costs them a run. This is the frustration of players accustomed to achieving something (the expectation was there, even if some members of this particular team may have never made the playoffs), and finding suddenly, while they momentarily turned their backs, someone stole the prize.

 

The Mets are running away with the division and 10 teams stand between the Braves and the wild-card. A fantastic run is coming to an end and no one has any idea how to pretend itís not. I never particularly liked the Braves during the 1990ís and early 2000ís. Andruw and Chipper Jones didnít have the appeal of other superstars and Atlantaís continuous presence became grating. However, I also liked Greg Maddux and, to a lesser degree, Tom Glavine, as well as many of their lesser names, from Pete Orr to Quilvio Veras to Jermaine Dye. One also had to admire the job that John Scheurholz, Dayton Moore, Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone did. Now, when I think of a postseason without Atlanta it seems like something is amiss with that scenario and I wonder if Iíll feel nostalgic in October. Iím not sure yet, but I think that Iíll certainly be better able to appreciate their fantastic run once itís over and I realize that I cannot remember a postseason without Atlanta. The ship is sinking, but it was a fantastic voyage that was never properly appreciated. Of course, maybe they have a great comeback in them, but the faces in the home dugout yesterday donít believe they do and that says enough to me.

 

To move on from a hastily-written obituary to Atlanta, in midweek the Red Sox swept the Washington Nationals. The Yankees took two out of three from the Phillies. We outscored the third-worst team in the National League, in the midst of a 10-game losing streak and reaching 20-year lows, by 5 runs over 3 games. We finally swept a series, a road one no less, but itís no time for celebration. For the first time in years I felt something approaching pity for Atlanta baseball fans. However, more important that a sweep for Toronto fans was the return of AJ Burnett.

 

Burnett pitched quite well last night and showed us a glimpse of the potential that has excited so many over the years and which won him a $55 million contract in the offseason. He wasnít fantastic, but he was very solid and our rotation becomes much better with him slotted right behind Doc. He didnít get the win, but in his first start back from injury, itís as good as we could have realistically hoped for.

 

For his first game back I decided to (amateurly) chart AJís pitches, to get a better look at our newest pitcher, as I missed one of his two previous starts and had rarely seen him pitch for the Marlins, because he missed their 2003 World Series run. Burnett throws a fastball, a hard curveball and a changeup. I stuck with the simple the straight fastball-changeup-curve ball breakdown, while charting him last night. At the bottom of this article is a list of every pitch Burnett threw, but first weíll look at some general figures that this start provides.

 

A matter of disclosure: Burnett threw 91 pitches, the boxscore says he threw 53 for strikes, while my charting says he threw 55 strikes, so obviously watching it in a noisy basement with distracting family members and two phone conversations is not the best way to scout a game. However, Iím going to use my results to reach conclusions.

 

Pitch Type Thrown Strikes Strike Percentage BIP Percentage Strikeouts On Low Speed High Speed First Pitches
Fastball 67 41 61.20% 23.88% 2 93 98 22
Curve 22 12 54.54% 0% 5 79 88 3
Change 2 2 100% 0% 0 85 86 0

 

Of his 91 pitches, Burnett threw 67 fastballs, 22 curveballs and 2 change-ups. Burnettís two change-ups were at 85 and 86 miles-per-hour and both were thrown for strikes to Adam LaRoche. Burnettís threw 12 strikes and 10 balls with his curveball, with one of the balls being a hit-by-pitch. Burnett got 5 of his 7 strikeouts on his curveball, with 3 looking and 2 swinging. The best contact any Brave made with his curve was a foul ball by Jeff Francouer, as nobody put one in play for either an out or a hit.

 

That means that Burnett threw 41 strikes with his 67 fastballs and got two strikeouts on fastballs, in the first and second inning to Renteria and Francouer, respectively. His fastball was put into play nearly 25% of the time he threw it, but it wasnít hit particularly hard and he was locating it well throughout the zone. As you can see, Burnett tried to establish his fastball early in the count, not only the first time through the order but he continued to do so as the game progressed.

 

Noticeably, he fed Adam LaRoche a steady mixture of pitches, as he threw him 4 fastballs, 3 curves and both change-ups, while he threw Betemit and Renteria combined 21 fastballs and 4 curves. In his two none-hit-by-pitch at-bats to Chipper he fed him exclusively fastballs until he had two strikes, when he went to the curve to strike him out both times (once on a second curve after the first missed). He went to the curve a bit more in the second time through the order, but he still relied on the fastball, particularly to Betemit, Renteria and Horacio Ramirez.

Inning Fastballs Curves Changeups
1-3 29 8 1
4-6 38 14 1


All in all, it was a very satisfying return and even though Burnett basically relied upon two pitches all evening, he still demonstrated why many believe that, if healthy, he could become a solid #2 starter.


Here's the breakdown in more detail:

 

First Inning (11 pitches, 7 strikes)

Batter: Wilson Betemit

94 mph fastball (FB); flew out to LF

Batter: Edgar Renteria

97 mph FB; called strike

97 mph FB; called strike

97 mph FB; ball

83 mph curve ball (CB); called ball

97 mph FB; strikeout swinging

Batter: Chipper Jones

96 mph FB; ball

95 mph FB; ball

96 mph FB; swinging strike

96 mph FB; called strike

82 mph CB; strikeout looking

 

Second Inning (15 pitches; 10 strikes)

Batter: Andruw Jones

96 mph FB; single to centre

Batter: Brian McCann

96 mph FB; called strike

80 mph CB; ball

95 mph FB; grounder to SS

Batter: Jeff Francoeur

96 mph FB; foul ball

96 mph FB; ball

96 mph FB; ball

96 mph FB; foul ball

85 mph CB; foul ball

96 mph FB; ball

98 mph FB; strikeout swinging

Batter: Adam LaRoche

96 mph FB; ball

96 mph FB; called strike

85 mph change-up (CU); called strike

83 mph CB; strikeout swinging

 

Third Inning (12 pitches, 8 strikes)

Batter: Scott Thorman

93 mph FB; grounder to Burnett

Batter: Horacio Ramirez

94 mph FB; called strike

95 mph FB; swinging strike

95 mph FB; ball

96 mph FB; foul ball

79 mph CB; ball

96 mph FB; grounder to 3B

Batter: Betemit

97 mph FB; called strike

96 mph FB; foul ball

96 mph FB; ball

83 mph CB; ball

81 mph CB; strikeout looking

 

Fourth Inning (20 pitches; 11 strikes)

Batter: Renteria

96 mph FB; ball

96 mph FB; ball

94 mph FB; called strike

95 mph FB; ball

96 mph FB; foul ball

96 mph FB; fly ball to centre

Batter: C. Jones

81 mph CB; hit by pitch

Batter: A. Jones

96 mph FB; ball

91 mph FB; ball

96 mph FB; single to 3B

Batter: McCann

96 mph FB; foul ball

79 mph CB; ball

96 mph FB; single to LF

Batter: Francouer

95 mph FB; hit into fielderís choice

Batter: LaRoche

96 mph FB; single to LF

Batter: Thorman

83 mph CB; called strike

80 mph CB; ball

95 mph FB; ball

82 mph CB; ball

96 mph FB; fly ball to RF

 

Fifth Inning (18 pitches; 10 strikes)

Batter: Ramirez

94 mph FB; ball

92 mph FB; ball

93 mph FB; ball

93 mph FB; called strike

94 mph FB; called strike

95 mph FB; grounder to 2B

Batter: Betemit

95 mph FB; ball

94 mph FB; ball

94 mph FB; called strike

94 mph FB; ball

96 mph FB; double to LF

Batter: Renteria

96 mph FB; called strike

82 mph CB; ball

96 mph FB; grounder

Batter: C. Jones

96 mph FB; foul ball

94 mph FB; foul ball

79 mph CB; ball

81 mph CB; called strikeout

 

Sixth Inning (15 pitches, 9 strikes)

Batter: A. Jones

94 mph FB; grounder to Glaus

Batter: McCann

93 mph FB; ball

79 mph CB; ball

93 mph FB; ball

93 mph FB; called strike

94 mph FB; swinging strike

77 mph CB; walk

Batter: Francouer

95 mph FB; called strike

80 mph CB; swinging strike

94 mph FB; ball

81 mph CB; swinging strikeout

Batter: LaRoche

79 mph CB; ball

86 mph CU; swinging strike

88 mph CB; called strike

95 mph FB; grounder to 2B

 

No Pleasure in Atlanta (or AJ's Return With Broom in Hand) | 18 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mick Doherty - Friday, June 23 2006 @ 11:47 AM EDT (#149632) #

 I realize that I cannot remember a postseason without Atlanta.

FWIW, until I read this phrase, I thought I was reading a Magpie-etched feature, with the tables and everything.

That is a compliment, sir. And teaches me to check bylines!

Dave Till - Friday, June 23 2006 @ 02:13 PM EDT (#149649) #
Nice article - thanks for all the info on Burnett's outing.

In my opinion, the Jays' inability to sweep series had nothing to do with killer instinct or the lack of it - they were just getting too many bad starting pitching outings, especially from Towers.

As for Atlanta: I hate that frickin' chop. I don't want to hear it again. Therefore, I am pleased to see Atlanta drop down the division.

iconoclast37 - Friday, June 23 2006 @ 03:12 PM EDT (#149657) #

I've never much cared for the Braves, with their pretentious "America's Team" slogan, and it's about time they take their place at the back of the queue.  This feeling was only reinforced after reading "Built to Win," John Schuerholz's recent effort, and perhaps the worst baseball book I have read.  His amswer to any and all criticism is:  "I've won fourteen consecutive divisional championships."  Braves have won only one World Series?  Rest of the NL East weak and/or underachieving?  Atlanta plays a lacklustre style?  "See previous answer."

Stan Kasten's gone, Dayton Moore is gone, and baseball's hollowest dynasty is soon gone, as well.  Glad to see the back of you.

Thomas - Friday, June 23 2006 @ 03:16 PM EDT (#149658) #
Wow, that was an oversight on my part. The chop is awful. I agree. I'm glad that won't be part of this year's playoffs.
Rob - Friday, June 23 2006 @ 06:52 PM EDT (#149672) #
I'm just putting this out there, with no predictions of any bad umpiring. None whatsoever.

CB Bucknor will be at first base tonight.
StephenT - Friday, June 23 2006 @ 08:50 PM EDT (#149675) #

The Mets radio announcers keep claiming there's no difference between the green FieldTurf and the brown warning track at Rogers Centre except for the colour, implying that the players aren't able to "feel" a difference when they are close to the fence.

This is different than what was advertised at the beginning of last year, which was that the warning track was filled with potentially abrasive "crushed lava rock", e.g. http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Baseball/MLB/Toronto/2005/04/08/987948.html

I can't find any mentions of it after the players had a chance to play on it.  Anyone know?

Magpie - Friday, June 23 2006 @ 11:19 PM EDT (#149678) #
CB Bucknor will be at first base tonight.

John "the strike zone is whatever I think it should be and to hell with the rule book" Hirschbeck is calling balls and strikes and you're worried about Bucknor?

Yeah, I can see that, actually.
Rob - Saturday, June 24 2006 @ 10:17 AM EDT (#149685) #
John "the strike zone is whatever I think it should be and to hell with the rule book" Hirschbeck is calling balls and strikes and you're worried about Bucknor?

He's a jerk, plain and simple. (I'd use other words, but children read this site and they're already scarred enough by the sight of Bengie Molina trying to run to first.) I'll never forget that time (was it in Wrigley?) when Gibbons went out to argue and Bucknor was the more animated one. Plus, with that statement already made last night, I can transition easily to saying this, with no predictions of any bad umpiring. None whatsoever.

CB Bucknor will be behind home plate tonight.
Magpie - Saturday, June 24 2006 @ 10:31 PM EDT (#149707) #
CB Bucknor will be behind home plate tonight.

And I trust you enjoyed his work in the second inning. After informing Willie Randolph that he had in fact made a second visit to the mound and therefore had to make a pitching change, Bucknor then allowed Darren Oliver as many pitches from the mound as he wanted to get ready. Which is fine, but it's not what the rules say. Hernandez was neither ejected nor injured - he was just pulled from the game.
No Pleasure in Atlanta (or AJ's Return With Broom in Hand) | 18 comments | Create New Account
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