Tag:Fredi Gonzalez
Posted on: February 25, 2012 9:51 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 10:23 pm
  •  
 

Spring primer: Atlanta Braves

Chipper Jones

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Thanks to the Red Sox collapse, the Braves' September disappearing act seems to have been forgotten by everyone outside of Atlanta and St. Louis. Atlanta led the wild card race by as many as 8 1/2 games in September before conceding the final NL playoff spot to the Cardinals, going 9-18 over the last month of the season, losing their last five and 13 of their last 18. While there were rumors of big changes in the offseason, none of that materialized and the Braves head into 2012 with the same team that appeared to be headed to the playoffs before the final month of the season.

Danny Knobler's camp report: After epic collapse, inaction brings optimism | Likes, dislikes

Major additions: None
Major departures: RHP Derek Lowe, SS Alex Gonzalez, OF Nate McLouth, RHP Scott Linebrink, LHP George Sherrill

Probable lineup
1. Michael Bourn CF
2. Martin Prado LF
3. Chipper Jones 3B
4. Brian McCann C
5. Dan Uggla 2B
6. Freddie Freeman 1B
7. Jason Heyward RF
8. Tyler Pastornicky SS

Probable rotation
1. Tim Hudson
2. Tommy Hanson
3. Jair Jurrjens
4. Brandon Beachy
5. Mike Minor

Hudson's status for the beginning of the season is in doubt, which would make room for right-hander Randall Delgado

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Craig Kimbrel
Set-up: Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty, Kris Medlen

Important bench players
OF Jose Constanza, 1B/OF Eric Hinske, OF Matt Diaz

Prospect to watch
In three starts and two relief appearances, Julio Teheran went 1-1 with a 5.03 ERA and only struck out 10 batters in 19 2/3 innings, while walking eight batters. But it should also be noted he was just 20. Teheran will likely start 2012 back in Triple-A, where he went 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA. The right-hander has four pitches, including a fastball in the mid-90s. He may not be an ace right away, but few pitchers in the minors have his potential.

Fantasy sleeper: Mike Minor
"His strikeout and walk rates showed he has the skills to become a top-of-the-rotation-type pitcher, and with Derek Lowe banished to Cleveland, he suddenly has a rotation spot to refine them. The Braves' decision to clear that spot for Minor this offseason should give the 24-year-old a renewed sense of purpose entering spring training. If his performance during his final nine starts last year, when he posted a 3.83 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning, was a sneak peak at what he can do with a defined role, he'll be a late-round find on Draft Day." -- Scott White [Full Braves team fantasy preview]

Fantasy bounce-back player: Jason Heyward
"He developed numbness in his shoulder in spring training and, in an effort to play through the injury, altered his mechanics. His popout rate was through the roof, which is a clear sign his swing wasn't right. With an offseason of rest and the fresh perspective of new hitting coach Greg Walker, Heyward should be in for a bounce-back season. Expecting other-worldly numbers from him would, of course, not be prudent, but even a return to his rookie form would make him a top-25 outfielder." -- Scott White [Full Braves team fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
Everything that went wrong last year -- Uggla's early-season struggles, Heyward's sophomore slump, manager Fredi Gonzalez's overuse of the bullpen -- goes right this year, while the young pitching studs are as advertised. If all that happens, the Braves could win the NL East. Then with their starters and relievers, the Braves would be a tough out in any series.

Pessimistic outlook
Uggla plays the entire season like he did last May (.160/.241/.260 with two home runs), Heyward's 2012 is a repeat of 2011 and Hudson, Hanson and Jurrjens have a large chunk of time on the disabled list with varying injuries. Meanwhile, the rookies the team is counting on to perform -- Pastornicky and Minor -- struggle and the veteran Jones can't hold up for an entire season at 40. There's plenty that can go wrong and with the improvements made by the Marlins, the growth of the Nationals and the Phillies' pitching, the Braves could battle with the Mets for the bottom of the division rather than searching to avenge 2011's collapse.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:49 pm
 

Kimbrel, Venters to dial it down this spring



By Matt Snyder


We all know the narrative by now. The Atlanta Braves blew a double-digit lead in the NL wild-card race to the eventual World Series champion Cardinals. Chief among the reasons for the September swoon were a lack of offense and the once-untouchable back-end of the bullpen duo Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters running out of gas. This spring, they'll look to avoid such a disaster.

Kimbrel was just 3-of-6 in save chances with a 7.36 ERA and six walks in his last eight outings (7 1/3 innings). Before that stretch, Kimbrel was one of the most dominant closers in baseball, closing 43 saves in 48 chances with a 1.55 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings. All told, Kimbrel appeared in 79 games. The only pitcher who appeared in more was his setup man, Venters, who appeared in 85.

Venters had a 5.65 ERA and 1.81 WHIP in his last 15 outings. Before that, he had a 1.10 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.

So it's pretty evident if the Venters-Kimbrel duo was able to remain as deadly in September as they were April through August, the Braves would have found a way to hold off the Cardinals. It's easy to point to the regular season workload -- and that was a major issue -- but David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out the two youngsters also dialed it up in the spring.
At 2011 spring training, no major league reliever had more appearances (13) or strikeouts (15) than Kimbrel. As for Venters, the lefty with the 95-mph sinkers appeared in midseason form from the outset of camp, then reeled off whopping 51 appearances (in 92 team games) before the All-Star break.
This time around, they are slowing things down considerably in the spring, with hopes of going strong into October.

“I definitely slowed it down, started throwing a little later,” Venters said of his offseason throwing program (AJC.com). “Last year I came into camp guns blazing, ready to go 100 percent. This year I’m going to use spring training as more of a tool for trying to get ready for the season, as opposed to … really two years ago I was trying to make the team, and last year there was a new manager and it was my second year in the big leagues.”

Kimbrel is in a very similar situation.

“Yeah, I definitely started to throw a little later, because I understand there’s no reason for me to have myself ready to go right now,” Kimbrel said (AJC.com). “As long as I’m good to go with two weeks left before the season starts, that’s good enough. You don’t have to be 100 percent ready to go at the very start of spring training."

This is a good start. The next step is the Braves' offense providing bigger leads in victories and manager Fredi Gonzalez realizing he doesn't have to use both of them every single time they have a three-run lead. Just because the rulebook says it's a save doesn't mean you must have your best two pitchers out there. After all, it's not that hard for a major-league pitcher to get three outs before allowing three runs.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 26, 2012 3:31 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2012 3:38 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Storen or Kimbrel?



By C. Trent Rosecrans


One of the most volatile positions on the field is closer -- one minute a guy is lights-out, the next he's teaching High School phys ed, like Kenny Powers. The few guys you can count on can count on big bucks, and even some with questions can still get big money.

Don't want to shell out big money on a big-name closer? Sometimes young guys can get the job done at a fraction of the cost with a young pitcher with a live arm. While the Phillies and Marlins have dolled out a combined $77 million this offseason, two other teams in the National League East will pay less than $1 million combined for two guys who saved 15 more games than the Jonathan Papelbon and Heath Bell combined in 2011 -- Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel and Washington's Drew Storen. So, for today's penultimate matchup in the Would You Rather Have? series, it's two young, NL East closers.

Would You Rather Have
The case for Storen

Storen was the Nationals' second pick in the 2009 draft, but first to make the majors, beating Stephen Strasburg to D.C. He picked up five saves in 2010, before starting out 2011 as the team's full-time closer. He finished 2011 with 43 saves and nearly a strikeout an inning. He has a fastball that averages 95 mph and a very good slider, to boot. His changeup isn't great, but as a one-inning guy, two pitches are plenty.

In addition to his strikeout rate, he allowed just 2.39 walks per nine innings, a number that was better than his first year. He also bettered his strikeout rate (8.84 strikeouts per nine innings), ground ball rate (47.3 percent), left-on-base percentage (81.1 percent), ERA (2.75) and xFIP (3.14). Storen -- despite some questionable coaching from CBSSports.com blogger Matt Snyder earlier in life (true story) -- appears to be improving and could get even better than he was in 2011. Although it should be noted his batting average on balls in play dropped by .050 last season, from .296 in 2010 to .246 in 2011.

The case for Kimbrel

Kimbrel was a unanimous choice for National League Rookie of the Year -- and for good reason. He was nearly unhittable. The right-hander had a 1.039 WHIP while leading the National League with 46 saves and putting up just a 2.10 ERA. In 77 innings -- and 79 games -- Kimbrel struck out 127 batters, walking 32. He did that all while allowing a .314 batting average on balls in play.

Like Storen, Kimbrel gets by on his mid-90s fastball and a slider, both above-average pitches.

Another thing to love about the two pitchers is that they're both under team control through the 2016 season, although Storen is likely to be a Super Two, giving him an extra year of arbitration starting next season.

Our call

With apologies to Storen, this one isn't that close. Kimbrel's a little younger, will have one less arbitration year and is probably just flat better. The only question is how Kimbrel handles the workload he was handed by manager Fredi Gonzalez last season, when he put up a 4.76 ERA in the last month of the season. While he faced just three more batters and pitched only 1 2/3 innings more than Storen, his higher walk rate and strikeout rate means he threw 1,314 pitches in 2011 to 1,100 by Storen. Still, neither has been injured at the big-league level and expect Gonzalez to learn from his mistakes. Storen's a good pitcher, but Kimbrel's an easy pick here.

Fan Vote: Would you rather have Storen or Kimbrel on your favorite team?



For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.

Posted on: November 16, 2011 4:22 pm
 

The 2011 Anti-Managers of the Year



By Matt Snyder


Some of the best managers in baseball for 2011 were listed on ballots that were revealed Wednesday. Joe Maddon and Kirk Gibson came out on top in a completely unsurprising movement. But what about the other end of the spectrum? Who were the worst managers? We'll exclude guys who were fired during the season because they've already suffered enough. But what about the managers who kept their jobs well into September despite failing to meet preseason expectations? Let's check them out.

AL Anti-Manager of the Year candidates

Terry Francona, Red Sox. No, he wasn't fired during the season. He walked away after the season, so he's "eligible" in this fun little exercise. And with the fallout of the historic collapse we've already heard far too much about, you have to question everyone in the Red Sox organization. Francona built up a ton of credibility throughout his years at the helm in Boston and rightfully so, but in looking at just 2011, the awful September is a real black eye on his resume.

Ozzie Guillen, White Sox. He wasn't fired either. He walked away to take a new job after having a colossal disappointment of a season. The White Sox were picked by many to win the AL Central with what looked like a stacked offense and very good starting pitching. Instead, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios were albatrosses, Gordon Beckham took a step backward in his development and the back-end of the bullpen was a mess for the first several weeks of the season. There were some positives, but the negatives far outweighed those on a high-priced roster that failed to meet expectations.

Ron Gardenhire, Twins. It's hard to completely blame Gardenhire for the disaster that was the Twins' 2011 season, considering all the injuries, but, frankly, I needed a third name here. And with the Twins getting 31 games worse in one season, Gardenhire has to shoulder at least some of the load.

The pick: It's gotta be Francona with that monumental collapse. And the funny thing is, I'd hire him in a heartbeat if I was running a team with a managerial opening. He just had a bad month, along with many of his players.

NL Anti-Manager of the Year candidates

Fredi Gonzalez, Braves. His ballclub lost a double-digit lead in the NL wild card in one month. That's not always on the manager, as the offense was sputtering just as it had most of the season, but I'm placing a lot of blame on Gonzalez because the back-end of his bullpen started to falter down the stretch. All season, people had been pointing out the overuse of Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters. And all season, Gonzalez just ignored it, and continued running the duo out there, even with three-run leads. Just because the save rule says a three-run lead means a save opportunity doesn't mean you have to use your guys. What was wrong with using Scott Linebrink and George Sherrill with a three-run lead in the middle of July, for example? Plus, there were times Gonzalez used either Venters or Kimbrel with a lead bigger than three. That's just unexcusable.

Dusty Baker, Reds. The Reds got 12 games worse in a mediocre division (yes, there were two good teams, but three pretty bad ones) with very similar personnel to their division-winning team in 2010. In four seasons, Baker has only had a winning record once.

Mike Quade, Cubs. Flawed roster? Yes. Injuries? Sure. But Quade was still pretty overmatched and appeared to lose control of his locker room by July. This was coming from a guy many players endorsed prior to the season.

Jim Tracy, Rockies. The Jorge De La Rosa injury hurt, just as some underperformance from a few players, but the Rockies entered the season with far too much talent to end up a whopping 16 games under .500. Manager of the Year voting seems to always use performance versus expectations, so it's only fair the Anti-Manager does the same. Thus, Tracy's inclusion here.

The pick: Gonzalez, and I'd actually think about firing him due to the aforementioned overuse of Kimbrel and Venters. It cost his team the season. Hopefully the wear and tear doesn't alter the career paths of the young fireballers.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 14, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 11:52 am
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Atlanta Braves


By C. Trent Rosecrans

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Altanta Braves
Record: 89-73, 2nd place in NL East, 13 games back
Manager: Fredi Gonzalez
Best hitter: Brian McCann -- .270/.351/.466, 24 HR, 71 RBI, 51 R
Best pitcher: Tim Hudson -- 16-10, 3.22 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 158 K, 215 IP

2011 SEASON RECAP

If it weren't for the Red Sox, the Braves' collapse would have been the biggest story of the last part of the 2011 season. Atlanta held an 8 1/2-game lead in the wild card on Sept. 5 before losing 13 of their last 18 and 20 of their last 30 to finish a game behind the Cardinals. Unlike Boston, Atlanta didn't lose its manager and general manager as a result. Only first-year hitting coach Larry Parrish was axed because of the team's failings.

R.I.P. series

There was plenty to like about 2011, especially in rookie first baseman Freddie Freeman, rookie closer Craig Kimbrel and second-year setup man Jonny Venters. The second two manager Fredi Gonzalez liked so much he ran them into the ground, putting Venters into a league-high 85 games and pitching the 23-year-old Kimbrel in 79. Lefty Eric O'Flaherty also pitched in 78 games, as the Atlanta bullpen ran out of gas in the final month of the season.

The worst part of the season was the regression of right fielder Jason Heyward. The runner-up for the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year struggled in his sophomore campaign, hitting just .227/.319/.389 with 14 home runs and 42 RBI in 128 games. 

2012 AUDIT

The Braves were unlucky when it came to injuries, and they return most of the team that did play well for most of the season -- so it doesn't seem like there are big moves that need to be made, just some tweaks. The team is set for a while at first base, second base and behind the plate. Chipper Jones is coming back for one more year to man third. Atlanta also picked up a center fielder in Michael Bourn to fill that hole. The future of the rotation is bright, and that's the foundation the team can build upon.

FREE AGENTS

Alex Gonzalez, SS
Jack Wilson, utility IF
Eric Hinske, OF ($1.5 million club option)
Nate McLouth, OF ($10.65 million club option)
Scott Linebrink, RP
George Sherrill, RP

OFFSEASON FOCUS
  • The team needs to decide what to do about its shortstop positions. Alex Gonzalez solidified the position defensively, but the free agent shortstop is 34 years old and the team may want an upgrade offensively. A lot depends on what Gonzalez is willing to take from Atlanta, if he is open to a one-year bargain deal, or maybe two years,  it wouldn't be the worst option. Otherwise, the team will have to look elsewhere. If Marco Scutaro is available on the cheap, he may not be a bad choice. The team isn't going to be able to afford the likes of Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins, so any long-term solution is going to have to be creative -- or wait.
  • General manager Frank Wren has said Heyward isn't guaranteed a starting spot -- to drive that point home, the Braves need to sign a veteran bat that could actually take some at-bats away from Heyward -- or at least be able to fill in when the team is facing a left-hander. That outfielder could also play left, where the team has to decide if Martin Prado is the answer or if he's just a placeholder in the outfield until Chipper Jones retires and Prado returns to the infield.
  • The Braves' back end of the bullpen should be strong, but they need an innings-eating right-hander to help keep Venters and Kimbrel from having to appear in every game. He may cost a little more than the Braves would like to spend, but reuniting with former Braves second-round pick Matt Belisle could be a solid addition.
  • Whoever is the new hitting coach will be the third in three years. Parrish never really fit in and had trouble getting his message across. Sometimes it's not the message, just how it's delivered. The team needs to look inside the organization (or for someone who has been in the organization) to find a voice that fits and will stay for a couple of years.
  • Finally -- several players just need to rest for a couple of months. McCann seemed to come back to soon and struggled after his return, and Prado rushed back from offseason surgery, rehabbing all offseason, and appeared warn out. And then there's Venters and Kimbrel -- those arms could use a lot of time off.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 4:28 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 4:33 pm
 

Hitting coach Parrish takes fall for Braves

By Matt Snyder

More staff changes
We just witnessed two pretty historic collapses over the course of the past month or so. The Red Sox and Braves both blew huge leads in the respective wild-card races and missed out on the playoffs. In Boston's case, Terry Francona is out as manager. The Braves have retained manager Fredi Gonzalez, but made one staff change: Hitting coach Larry Parrish has been fired (Danny Knobler via Twitter).

"When you have the last month we did, you know things are possible," Parrish said (Knobler).

During that month, the Braves hit just .235 with a .300 OBP and scored only 87 runs in 27 games. Worst of all, they had no punch, with a .357 slugging percentage and only 22 homers. The season as a whole doesn't look great, either. They ranked 11th in the NL in runs scored, 13th in batting average, 14th in OBP and 10th in slugging.

The interesting thing here is that Gonzalez previously said the entire coaching staff would be back. Then again, maybe this wasn't his call and he wasn't aware a change was going to be made.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 9, 2011 5:25 pm
Edited on: September 9, 2011 8:07 pm
 

Gibson easy frontrunner for NL Manager of Year



By Matt Snyder


During the week, Eye on Baseball has been profiling candidates to win baseball's major awards after the season. We close the week with the NL Manager of the Year

View contenders for the: AL MVP | NL MVP | AL Cy Young | NL Cy Young | AL Rookie of the Year | NL Rookie of the Year | AL Manager of the Year

As opposed to most of the other awards we've discussed this week, this one likely has little drama. Whether you agree or not, it seems rather obvious -- based upon how most BBWAA voters cast their ballots in any given season -- that Kirk Gibson of the Diamondbacks is going to win the NL Manager of the Year. There are some other very solid candidates, but it's been well established that a manager leading a division champion who most people expected to come in last place is an absolute shoo-in for the honor. Clint Hurdle was all set to challenge Gibson, but the Pirates fell apart in August. Terry Collins has also done a great job to have the Mets hovering around .500 considering all the issues they're dealing with. Still, he's not in contention for this award. Here is Gibson's case, along with three others who have an outside shot.

Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks
Record through 9/8: 83-61
2010 D-Backs record: 65-97

If you didn't think the Diamondbacks were going to finish last in the NL West before the season, you were likely predicting a fourth-place finish or fooling yourself. Instead, they've obliterated all expectations and Gibson's demeanor has set the tone for the turnaround of his upstart ballclub. Behind MVP candidate Justin Upton, Cy Young candidate Ian Kennedy and a host of other difference-makers -- including a revamped bullpen -- the D-Backs are now the biggest surprise team in baseball for the 2011 season. Assuming there's no colossal meltdown that sees the D-Backs miss the playoffs -- they entered Friday with a 7 1/2 game lead and less than three weeks to play -- this award is as good as Gibby's.

Also in the Mix (listed alphabetically)

Fredi Gonzalez, Braves
Record through 9/8: 84-60
2010 Braves record: 91-71

His ballclub is performing mostly to expectations -- probably a tick higher -- but replacing a legend (Bobby Cox) is no insignificant task. Gonzalez has also had to juggle the lineup often due to key injuries and some underperformance. Plus, the development of so many young players -- save for Jason Heyward, who is one of the guys underperforming -- has to look good on Gonzalez.

Charlie Manuel, Phillies
Record through 9/8: 92-48
2010 Phillies record: 97-65

It's too bad that expectations virtually eliminate some managers from contention on this award -- more on that coming next week, by the way -- because Manuel definitely deserves a shot at this thing. He has his Phillies on pace to win 105 games, which would break the franchise record by four. Yes, he has a stacked starting pitching staff and a very good lineup, but there have been injury issues all season, many to All-Star caliber players. Yet it has never knocked the Phillies off course. That has to be a testament to Manuel. April 26 was the only day all season the Phils weren't in first, and they were a half-game out. But since the Phillies were picked by almost everyone to win the NL East, Manuel won't win the award.

Ron Roenicke, Brewers
Record though 9/8: 85-60
2010 Brewers record: 77-85

If not for the D-Backs' incredible turnaround, Roenicke would be on his way to winning this award. Yes, the Brewers did push all their proverbial chips to the center of the table this season, in acquiring Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to bulk up the pitching staff and possibly make one last run with Prince Fielder anchoring the lineup -- if they're unable to retain him via free agency after the season. So, yes, the Brewers have talent, but Roenicke has been a solid leader for this group. They weathered an 0-4 start and then a seven-game losing streak had them at 13-19. They played well for much of the rest of the way, but still were involved in a wide-open, four-team race at 54-49 in late July. Since then, the Brewers are 31-11 and have opened up a menacing eight-game lead in the NL Central. They're on pace for the most Brewers wins in a season since 1982 -- when Harvey's Wallbangers made the World Series. And Roenicke is a first-year manager, so that should earn him a few more bonus points. Expect him to finish second, which is only due to bad timing.

text For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 3, 2011 1:32 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Jackson heating up for Tigers



By Matt Snyder


Austin Jackson, Tigers. The young center fielder had been an offensive disappointment for much of the Tigers' season, but he started to show signs of life a few weeks ago. Now, he's flat out hot. With a 3-for-5 game in which he hit a home run, and the Tigers won 8-1, Jackson has now put together a huge five-game stretch. In those five games, he's hitting .500 with two doubles, a triple, two homers, four RBI and eight runs scored. His OPS is 1.417 in that stretch. The Tigers lineup looks a lot scarier with him swinging the bat like he can. Just ask the White Sox.

The San Francisco Giants. They went into Friday night's game trailing the Diamondbacks by six games. The D-Backs came in with a nine-game winning streak. And the defending champs came through with exactly the effort they needed. Matt Cain battled through eight innings, despite not having his best command or stuff (he walked four while only striking out three). The offense got a huge effort from July acquisition Carlos Beltran (4-for-4, triple, home run, three RBI). Put it together and mix in an all-around team effort, and you have a 6-2 Giants victory. The deficit is still five games, but there are two games left in the series at San Fran. This thing could be three games by Labor Day. Of course, if the D-Backs take the next two it's a seven-game difference. We'll see. Head-to-head series in the last month are fun.

Kevin Millwood, Rockies. I don't care if it was against the offensively-challenged Padres in the best pitcher's park in the majors, because Millwood was picked up off the scrap heap by Colorado. Thus, his seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts and zero walks in the Rockies' 3-0 win certainly bears mention here.



Andrew Miller, Red Sox. With the Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka injures -- not to mention how unreliable John Lackey has been -- the Red Sox lost a lot of starting pitching depth. So when Miller strung together back-to-back victories (0.77 ERA), there was hope that the former first rounder might be finally emerging. Instead, Friday night was a wakeup call. Miller coughed up five hits, four walks and six earned runs to the Rangers in just 1 1/3 innings. The outing set the tone for a 10-0 loss, as the offense was stymied by Derek Holland, who threw seven shutout innings. Meanwhile, the Yankees won, which means the Red Sox are now back to second place (by a half game).

John Danks, White Sox. The White Sox have a big opportunity this weekend, but didn't start off on the right foot Friday. They entered the three-game series trailing the Tigers by 5 1/2 games. With Justin Verlander pitching Friday, Danks was going to have to bring his A-game and keep it close. Instead, he turned in one of his worst outings of the season. The Tigers dinged him for nine hits and eight earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, as the White Sox lost 8-1. The loss essentially makes the final two games of the series must-wins for the White Sox. If they lose both, they'll be 8 1/2 out. Even a split keeps them at 6 1/2 and that's tough to make up in 3 1/2 weeks -- especially when Verlander is going every fifth day for the team they're chasing.

Braves pitching staff/planning. The Braves' staff was spotted a 5-0 lead through three innings Friday, but couldn't hold it. One of the biggest issues may have been the overuse of Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel at the back-end of the bullpen. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had told reporters he wanted to avoid using either Friday. So that means he was likely holding back from using Scott Linebrink or Eric O'Flaherty before the eighth. After starter Brandon Beachy let the Dodgers creep to within 5-3 in the sixth, Gonzalez needed to dip into his reportedly short-handed bullpen. The result was Arodys Vizcaino allowing four hits, two walks and five earned runs in the seventh -- and an 8-6 loss. The Braves' usual seventh-to-eighth-to-ninth inning bullpen combo (O'Flaherty/Venters/Kimbrel) is the best in baseball, but they've been heavily leaned upon all season. Gonzalez better get them some rest down the stretch, or Friday night's game will be a harbinger for the postseason. He'll need some combination of O'Flaherty, Venters and Kimbrel available in every game in October. Maybe try to get by with Linebrink or the starting pitcher in the seventh and use two of the three studs in the eighth and ninth to keep everyone fresh? It is worth mentioning that Peter Moylan will be back from his rehab assignment soon, so that should help alleviate some of the pressure.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com