Posts Tagged ‘Marlins

15
May
11

Atlanta Braves’ Jair Jurrjens: The Unassuming Ace

How can you deem a pitcher touting a 5-0 record and a 1.66 ERA underrated?
If you’re Braves hurler Jair Jurrjens, you may have beef.

No pitcher in baseball is as red-hot as Jurrjens is right now. The righty from Curacao finds himself among the game’s elite in most major pitching categories and has matched or out-pitched the class of the league.

In his latest winning effort on Saturday, Jurrjens took a perfect game into the sixth inning against the division rival Phillies, enroute to a 5-3 victory—his second win of the season against the National League’s best club.

Jurrjens, or JJ, as coined by his Braves teammates, also became the first Braves pitcher since Tom Glavine in 2000 to start a season 5-0 with a sub-2.00 ERA. He also improved to 5-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 career starts against Philadelphia—the lowest of any active pitcher with 50-plus innings against the Phillies.

When determining excellence on the mound, Jurrjens has been the epitome of just that for Atlanta this season. He has proven to be clutch against the league’s best—out-dueling not just the Phillies’ aces but also Milwaukee’s young stud Yovani Gallardo in a splendid performance on May 2.

Yet the 6’1”, 200-pound Braves sensation remains underrated and often undetected by mass media outlets. Jurrjens has flown under the radar the season, barely receiving recognition, let alone the brilliant accolades he deserves for downright dealing throughout the early portion of the 2011 campaign.

When discussing the elite class of pitchers in the National League, the names oft mentioned are Phillies hurlers Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, Marlins fireballer Josh Johnson or the Giants’ Tim Lincecum.

Yet, it is Jair Jurrjens who ranks second among all Major League pitchers in ERA (only three points behind the leader Johnson) and along with Cardinals sophomore phenom Jaime Garcia, still boasts an undefeated record in the Senior Circuit.

So why is the unassuming and baby-faced 25-year-old Jurrjens masking as silent thunder?

Chalk it up to a 2010 season marred by injury that may have placed Jurrjens on baseball’s backburner. Between a lingering hamstring injury in the early portion of 2010 and a torn meniscus in his knee down the stretch, the Braves chugged along without Jurrjens to claim the NL Wild Card.

But baseball pundits should have known better. In 2009, JJ not only put himself on the map in Atlanta but some would argue he emerged as the team’s MVP, posting a 14-10 record and sparkling 2.60 ERA—third-best in the National League. It was clear then that Jurrjens had the stuff and makeup to become one of the game’s most formidable hurlers.

Healthy again in 2011, Jurrjens has not only regained his 2009 form but according to many—he’s exceeded it. The small sample size of what we’ve seen from JJ this season is just an inkling of what could come for the very impressive albeit mild-mannered ace.

As Jair Jurrjens goes, so go the Braves.

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02
Oct
09

Braves fall short in bid for playoffs…..

Tommy Hanson helped lead the Braves back into contentionThe Braves knew the odds were stacked against them in their quest to win the NL Wild Card … but, that didn’t stop them from making a valiant effort to overtake the Colorado Rockies and sneak into the playoffs.

Unfortunately, three straight losses (and four consecutive Colorado wins) with no margin for error ended their dramatic bid for the postseason.

Atlanta will now look towards 2010, but with a newfound sense of anticipation — and, hope.

Entering Tuesday night’s game against the Marlins, the Braves had won 15 of their previous 17 games and were trailing the Rockies by just two games in the Wild Card race.

The confidence the club gained in their attempt to chase down Colorado has team brass, players, and fans encouraged by the swift transformation from just a year ago when the Braves suffered a 90-loss season.

Credit the team’s quick turnaround in large part to their rebuilt and resurgent starting rotation.

The Braves are stocked with a young staff and two potential aces in Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson and with Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, and the option to bring back Tim Hudson at a reduced rate, the team has the luxury of entertaining offers for Javier Vazquez.

Vazquez, who is coming off a career year, is also under contract for next season but may be the team’s most attractive bargaining chip.

What the Braves choose to do with Vazquez will be the most hotly contested topic of the winter, as the club looks to acquire a power hitter to solve their offensive woes.

With an underwhelming free agent class of hitters available, the club may feel their best chance to land a power bat may come via the trade market.

However, while it can be argued that it may be in the Braves’ best interest to trade Vazquez when his stock is at its highest, the team may be better off by keeping their streaking right-hander, who has arguably been the club’s ace down the stretch this season.

Regardless of what Atlanta opts to do about their crowded but overtly talented rotation, one thing is certain — The forecast for the 2010 Braves remains bright.

In what will be manager Bobby Cox’s last season at the helm, the Braves feel they have the pieces in place to be a playoff team next year with the hope of sending their skipper off into the sunset on a high note.

As I watched the 2009 Braves scratch and claw their way back into the playoff hunt when they were a sub-.500 team back in June and a lofty 8 1/2 games back of the Wild Card lead just a few weeks ago, I find myself surprisingly content with the season’s end result.

For so many years, I was spoiled, as so many Braves fans were by watching a team that was consistently playoff bound.

But yet, I always felt in my gut that something was missing.

Still, it was hard to not get excited about another playoff appearance, but it was also hard not to admit (at least to one’s self) that precipitating feeling of doom.

It got to the point that I just knew the team was going to fall short.

It didn’t matter on the surface how promising the picture looked… the talent was there, every single year, but the heart wasn’t.

It’s not like the Braves didn’t want to win, it is just they had come to expect it.

But, no longer.

Three years removed from the playoffs, the 2009 Braves played loose with a chip on their shoulder and nothing to lose.

Sure, they fell short… but, their never-say-die attitude, the fire in their bellies, and the gumption that they showed in the face of adversity, were all things this team had lacked for so many years.

It’s those characteristics that breed a champion.

And, it is those very traits that made watching Braves baseball fun again.

Disappointment can be measured in many different ways.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping against all logic and reason that this team would pull off the impossible and win the Wild Card, but am I disappointed that they didn’t?

No, not in the least.

That is because this team showed to me and to the baseball world that they are relevant again.

They showed that they are a threat — hungry, talented, and fearless.

The Braves are back… and, it is seemingly only a matter of time before they re-claim their spot back on top.

12
May
09

Lack of run support doesn’t derail J.J.

Jair Jurrjens

Jair Jurrjens

Fluke… what fluke?

After leading the Atlanta Braves rotation with 13 wins in his rookie season last year, Jair Jurrjens is dispelling notions of a sophomore slump.

Jurrjens has shown better command of his pitches this season, answering critics’ concerns about his control.

In his past five outings, J.J. has posted a mighty impressive ERA of 1.84 and an equally solid 2.01 ERA on the season.

But, due to the Braves inconsistent offense, his strong outings have often been wasted.

The 23-year-old right-hander just nabbed his third win of the season in his last start against the Marlins. The Braves offense scored four runs in support of J.J., which was just one fewer then they had scored in his previous four outings.

Many Braves players and pitchers believe J.J. has been the team’s best pitcher all season long.

Tonight, Jurrjens hopes to live up to that billing when he takes the mound against the Mets.

If J.J. can build off of Derek Lowe’s opening night win against New York, Atlanta will have successfully notched three consecutive road series’ wins against divisional foes.

04
May
09

Houston … we have a problem?

Braves rookie Jordan Schafer

Braves rookie Jordan Schafer

The Atlanta Braves dropped 2 of 3 to the Houston Astros this past weekend, falling to 2-4 on their current homestand and two games under .500 for the season.

But, what is even more disturbing is the continued struggles and lack of production from the lead-off spot in the batting order. Kelly Johnson, who started the season atop the Braves order, is 6-42 with a .143 batting average in his last 12 games.

That’s not going to get it done, folks.

The leadoff hitter, or table setter of the order, sets the tone for the entire offense. And with the lack of production provide at the top, it is no surprise that Atlanta’s offense has been stymied. Despite having 11 hits against the ‘Stros on Saturday, Atlanta still managed to strand 11 runners enroute to a 7-5 loss.

Bobby Cox has shaken things up, placing rookie Jordan Schafer at leadoff on Saturday against the Astros… an experiment that only lasted a day. Schafer’s strikeouts have been piling up, signaling a need for the rookie to shift his game plan against pitchers at the major league level. The book is out on Schafer and until he adjusts, his personal struggles are sure to continue.

Cox placed Omar Infante at leadoff on Sunday, a spot where he has enjoyed success. Infante has hit .448 when leading off and went 2-4 with a walk on Sunday in that position. The interesting thing to note here is that when Infante plays, Johnson’s benched. It appears Cox will either platoon the two at second base or go with the hot bat. Right now, anything that can jump start a sputtering offense is needed.

The Braves are hoping for an offensive boost with the impending returns of All-Star catcher and clean-up hitter Brian McCann and left fielder Garrett Anderson from the disabled list this coming week. McCann has been sidelined with blurry vision in his eye while Anderson has battled lingering leg injuries, beginning with his calf and continuing with his quadriceps. Anderson was brought in by the Braves this off-season in an attempt to add more power to an outfield that severely lacked just that last season. But, Anderson has played in only 10 games so far and hasn’t proved to be a durable or reliable bat for Atlanta.

Still… it’s early and despite all the Braves hiccups, they find themselves only 2 1/2 games out of 1st place in what appears to be a wide open NL East race this season. The Braves hope to make up ground with an impending ten game stretch against three divisional foes on the horizon. The Mets head to Turner Field for a two game set before the Bravos hit the road to face the Marlins, the Phillies and then the Mets again in New York.

Let’s hope Atlanta’s offense can find its mojo!




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