Hector Olivera hit an absolute moonshot of a home run in the fifth inning of Tuesday night's game against the Mets, and the three-run shot ended up giving the Braves enough juice to force their way past the NL East leaders by the score of 6-2. Matt Wisler contributed with an extremely solid pitching performance of seven innings pitched and eight strikeouts with only one walk allowed. The win against the Mets on the road was a a momentous one, as this was the first Braves victory outside of Atlanta or Philadelphia in 58 days. Incredible.
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Right fielder Nick Markakis has had a decent enough year at the plate (even though his power numbers are hilariously bad. Two home runs and .078 ISO?! Bruh.), he's been a bit of a disappointment when it comes to showing off his arm. Fredi Gonzalez has claimed that this is due to the fact that Markakis was unable to have legit offseason preparations for the season due to neck surgery in the offseason, but our friends over at Beyond the Box Score think that this might just be Father Time sapping Markakis of his arm strength. This isn't exactly the most encouraging thing to think about considering that there's still three seasons left on that contract of his.
Markakis has done even worse as the year has gone along. He notched his fourth assist of the year on July 3rd, when he fired this bullet to retire Cesar Hernandez attempting to stretch a single into a double. At that point, he had played 685.0 frames, meaning his assist rate on a per-1000 inning basis stood at a satisfactory 5.8 — not terribly worse than the standard of 7.9 he set for himself in Baltimore. Since that day, however, he's endured a 564.1-inning assist-less stretch, which has drained any value he accrued before. Had the lack of preparation significantly harmed Markakis, we'd expect him to progress with more time under his belt; instead, he's just fallen further behind.
While one Brave may be showing signs of decline, another Brave is showing clear signs of improvement. That particular Brave happens to be closer Arodys Vizcaino. Whenever he's had an opportunity to pick up a save for the Braves (and we know those have been rare lately), he's been a solid contributor in that regard. The Augusta Chronicle's David Lee has chalked this up to the fact that Vizcaino is starting to clean up his delivery, which is improving his command, and also helping his velocity as well. Overall, it appears that Vizcaino is on his way to developing into a good pitcher, which could be key for the Braves' rebuilding plans.
Since returning to the Braves, he's staying on a more consistent line from the rubber to the plate, and it's producing a tighter release point that allows him to hit his spots. He's not losing his backside toward first base, but rather keeping it in sync with the rest of his body, and his foot strike is more in line toward the plate. There's less stress on the right side of his body to produce momentum and velocity.
Aside from better command, another positive resulting from Vizcaino's cleaner delivery is more velocity. Some of this could be from simply getting stronger as he develops and gets further away from his surgery date. Some of it could also be from generating more torque and momentum from a better lower half in the motion. He has stabilized his lead side better, and that can produce an uptick in velocity. He's currently averaging a career-high 98 mph with his fastball.
The Braves already have their new home in Cobb County set in stone, and now they could potentially have their new Spring Training home figured out as well. They'll be leaving Disney's Wide World of Sports in the Orlando area after the 2017 season, and their home for 2018 and might be in St. Petersburg. The team is part of a group that plans to put $662 MM into building a Spring Training complex at the site of a former landfill. Talk about turning trash into treasure, right?
This morning, the baseball world woke up to some extremely sad news as one of the most charismatic figures in the history of the game passed away. Yankees legend Yogi Berra died at the age of 90, but his memories as a ballplayer and just as a genuinely intriguing human being will live on as long as baseball exists as a game. Seriously, how many of Yogi Berra's infamous quotes have you been trying to think of this morning? We'll be hearing about them for a very long time, which ensures that Berra's legacy will continue to live on even after he's passed on.
Universally known simply as Yogi, probably the second most recognizable nickname in sports — even Yogi was not the Babe — Berra was not exactly an unlikely hero, but he was often portrayed as one: an All-Star for 15 consecutive seasons whose skills were routinely underestimated; a well-built, appealingly open-faced man whose physical appearance was often belittled; and a prolific winner — not to mention a successful leader — whose intellect was a target of humor if not outright derision.
That he triumphed on the diamond again and again in spite of his perceived shortcomings was certainly a source of his popularity. So was the delight with which his famous, if not always documentable, pronouncements, somehow both nonsensical and sagacious, were received.
Emotions will be on full tilt at the O.co Coliseum this weekend, because Oakland Atheltics' pitcher Barry Zito will be starting against San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Hudson. In addition, former A's pitcher Mark Mulder will be in the building, and the former formidable pitching trio for Oakland will throw the first pitch before Saturday's game. It's a cool gesture on the part of both teams. Everybody knows the history that these three have together, and the fact that Zito and Hudson will both finish their careers competing against each other will surely be one of the cooler moments of the 2015 season.