Waiting for Olivera (it shouldn’t be much longer, Braves fans)

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The Braves are counting down the days till the arrival of Hector Olivera, the 30-year-old Cuban who could be in their lineup in another week or so. (AP Photo)

 

While Braves brass and manager Fredi Gonzalez were in Orlando on Thursday to see newly acquired Cuban third baseman Hector Olivera (and Freddie Freeman) in a Gulf Coast League injury-rehab game, another of the pitchers they sent to the Dodgers in the Olivera trade got knocked around Thursday.

Lefty Luis Avilan was charged with two hits, three runs and a walk in two-thirds of an inning against the Reds at Dodger Stadium, giving him a 7.71 ERA in five appearances since the trade. (He gave up a run, a hit and a walk in his first appearance, then only one hit over three scoreless innings in his next three appearances before Thursday’s mess.)

The Braves are counting down the days till the arrival of Hector Olivera, the 30-year-old Cuban who could be in their lineup in another week or so. (AP Photo)

The Braves are counting down the days till the arrival of Hector Olivera, the 30-year-old Cuban who could be in their lineup in another week or so. (AP Photo)

The Dodgers also got lefty starter Alex Wood and reliever Jim Johnson along with infield prospect Jose Peraza from the Braves in that deal for Olivera. The Braves also got lefty reliever Paco Rodriguez (currently recovering from arthroscopic elbow surgery) and 21-year-old minor league pitcher Zachary Bird, unloaded part of Bronson Arroyo’s contract on L.A., and got a competitive-balance pick (35th overall) in next year’s draft from the Marlins.

But from the Braves’ perspective, the deal was all about  Olivera, who they could have in their major league lineup at some point during the upcoming seven-game trip to San Diego and Chicago, provided he has no more setbacks in his hamstring recovery.

They’ve made a significant gamble and are expecting big things from the 30-year-old Olivera in the coming years – signed for five more beyond this season — something along the lines of a .270-.280 type hitter with 20 homers a season. He can also play second base, first base and left field, but third base is where the Braves have him penciled in, for now.

I was told that Olivera looked rusty in the rehab game Thursday, but that it shouldn’t take long for him to shake off that rust and be ready. He hadn’t played in about a month because of the hamstring issue.

After a delayed start to his season due to his late-spring signing with the Dodgers , who gave him a six-year, $62.5 million deal that included a $28 million signing bonus, Olivera hit .348 (24-for-69) with five extra-base hits (two home runs), a .392 OBP and .885 OPS in 19 games for three minor league affiliates, including .387 (12-for-31) with a double, a triple and a home run in seven games for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

It’s a very small sample size, but Dodgers fans aren’t too thrilled with results so far from the trade:

— Johnson has posted a 23.14 ERA and .542 opponents’ average (those aren’t typos) in five appearances, getting scored upon in each of his first four including six hits and eight runs allowed in two-thirds of an inning Sunday at Pittsburgh to send that ERA soaring.

–Avilan has a 7.71 ERA, .222 OA and four walks with six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.

— Wood is 0-1 with a 5.56 ERA and .283 opponents’ average in two starts, with 13 strikeouts and five walks in 11 1/3 innings.

Peraza, 21, was brought up from Triple-A to start make his major league debut Monday, after Howie Kendrick got DL’d. Peraza started two of of three games at second base before being optioned back to Triple-A on Thursday when Justin  Turner came off the DL.

Peraza went 1-for-6 with a triple and a walk in two games, showing his speed by turning what would’ve been a single to shallow right field into a three-base hit when the ball got past Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper when he tried to catch it while charging in.

Oh, and for those who might be wondering: Bird is 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA in three starts for the Double-A Mississippi Braves, with 12 walks and eight strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings.

• Not much of a relief: Remember before the season, when the bullpen looked like it could be a real strength for the Braves if a few of the veteran reclamation projects and/or castoffs came through?  Well, obviously it hasn’t turned out that way. Most of those veteran didn’t pan out, and of the two main ones that did, Jason Grilli had a season-ending Achilles injury the weekend before the All-Star break and Johnson was traded to the Dodgers last month.

The Braves’ 4.24 bullpen ERA is tied with Detroit’s for third-highest in the majors, and second-highest in the NL to the altitude-challenged Rockies’ 4.68. Now brace for a couple of stats that make that look only mildly disappointing by comparison.

The Braves have used more relievers – 27! — in a season than many teams do in two seasons. And of the whopping 27 relievers the Braves have used this season, 13 have ERAs over 5.00, including 10 with ERAs of 6.46 or higher. Think about that.

Thirteen  of those 27 pitchers have allowed an opponents’ average of .300 or higher as relievers this season for the Braves, and two others (Cody Martin, .296 OA and Nick Masset, .286 OA) allowed slugging percentages above .500.

• Punchless offense: The Braves also traded away two of their best bats not long after the break, Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe. And Freddie Freeman has been hurt for most of the past six weeks. Which has contributed to a few rather startling stats:

Only two Braves have more than seven RBIs since the All-Star break:  Nick Markakis (14 RBIs in 24 games) and Jace Peterson (11 RBIs in 25 games). There are 85 National League players with more than seven RBIs since the All-Star break. The Braves have just two of those 85 players.

Adonis Garcia, with four homers in 17 games, is the only Brave with more than two homers since the All-Star break. The Braves’ 14 homers since the break rank 29th in the majors, ahead of only the Giancarlo Stanton-less Marlins, who have 11. Nineteen teams have 25 or more homers since the break, and five have 35 or more. The Braves have 14.

The Braves and A’s are tied for last in the majors with 80 runs since the All-Star break. And here’s something that is another  indication of just how underperforming last year’s Braves offense was. Even with Justin Upton, Evan Gattis and Jason Heyward on that team, those Braves finished 29th in the  majors in runs scored with 573. This year’s team is tied for 27th and on pace for 606 runs.

  • A tip (and toss) of the cap to Bobby Cox: On this day in 2007: The Skipper broke the all-time major league ejections record by getting thrown out for the 132nd time.

Underappreciated superstar: That tag fits Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, who arrives for a three-game weekend series at Turner Field starting Friday night. All the first baseman has done is lead the majors with a .341 average, lead the NL with 83 RBIs, and rank third in the majors in WAR (6.7) behind the sport’s two young superstars, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper (7.0 apiece).

Goldschmidt’s .457 OBP is second in the majors, just behind Harper (.458), with Joey Votto and distant third (.434). Goldschmidt’s 1.041 OPS also ranks second in the majors to Harper’s 1.101, with no one else as high as 1.000.  (Nelson Cruz is third at .998, followed by Trout at .995.)

The Braves have handled Goldschmidt far better than most teams in his career, particularly at Turner Field, where he’s hit 7-for-39 (.179) with one homer, three RBIs, seven walks and 11 strikeouts  in 12 games, with a .304 OBP and .308 slugging percentage. That’s his third-lowest batting average at any ballpark, and it’s his second-lowest slugging percentage anywhere he’s played more than three games.

• Tonight’s matchup: It’s Julio Teheran, trying to continue his home excellence, against Arizona rookie lefty Robbie Ray, who’ll try to continue his road success.

Ray, a Tennessee boy from Brentwood, is making his 20th start and 24th appearance, six of those starts coming last season with the Tigers. He was traded to Dbacks in December in a three-team deal also involving the Yankees, and has been used only as a starter this season.

Ray is 3-3 with a stingy 2.18 ERA and .209 opponents’ average in seven road starts, compared to 0-4 with 4.45 ERA in six home starts. All but one of his starts have come since since the beginning of June, when he moved  into the rotation.

Ray allowed two or fewer earned runs in six or more innings in each of his first six road starts, before giving up seven hits and four earned runs in five innings of his most-recent road start Aug. 2 against the Astros.

He’s 1-6 with a 4.08 ERA in his past nine starts, despite 55 strikeouts and 14 walks in 53 innings in that span. The Diamondbacks scored two runs or fewer while Ray was in six of those nine games.

A.J. Pierzynski (0-1) is the only current Brave who’s faced the lefty.

Teheran is 5-1 with a 2.52 ERA and .206 opponents’ average in 11 home starts, compared to 2-5 with a 6.75 ERA and .326 OA in 12 road starts. Teheran has allowed more than three earned runs in just one home start – and that was four earned.

Against the Dbacks, Teheran is 2-1 with a 2.35 ERA in four starts, none this season. Goldschmidt is 0-for-9 against him, with four strikeouts and no walks. The only other Dback with more than six at-bats against Teheran is Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2-for-12, one homer, eight strikeouts).

 • Etc.

Arizona is 12-6 with a .291 batting average, 20 homers and 97 runs in its past 18 games, with a 3.52 ERA in that span.

The Braves are 9-21 with a .240 batting average, 19 homers, 96 runs in their past 30 games, with a 4.74 ERA in that span.

So the Dbacks have more homers and more runs in their past 18 games than the Braves have in their past 30, and the Dbacks also have pitched to an ERA more than a run better for a significant period….

Michael Bourn is 1-for-14 with three strikeouts  and no walks as Braves leadoff hitter. Bourn and Nick Swisher are a combined 2-for-27 with one double, two walks and seven strikeouts since being traded to the Braves from Cleveland. Chris Johnson, who went to the Indians in that trade, is 9-for-17 with three doubles, no walks and two strikeouts in five games for Cleveland since the trade.

  More sign of youthful inconsistency for Jace Peterson: Braves second baseman is 1-for-16 (with three walks) with no RBIs in his past five games, after going 10-for-22 with two doubles, two homers and seven RBIs in his previous five games.

Let’s close with this slice of  hard, real country from the late, great George Jones.

“HE STOPPED LOVING HER TODAY” by George Jones

George Jones, aka "The Possum"

George Jones, aka “The Possum”

He said I’ll love you ’til I die
She told him you’ll forget in time
As the years went slowly by
She still preyed upon his mind.

He kept her picture on his wall
Went half crazy now and then
He still loved her through it all
Hoping she’d come back again.

He kept some letters by his bed
Dated 1962
He had underlined in red
Every single I love you.

I went to see him just today
Oh, but I didn’t see no tears
All dressed up to go away
First time I’d seen him smile in years.

He stopped loving her today
They placed a wreath upon his door
And soon they’ll carry him away
He stopped loving her today.

[Spoken:]
Ya’ know she came to see him one last time
Oh, we all wondered if she would
And it kept running through my mind
This time he’s over her for good.

[Sung:]
He stopped loving her today
They placed a wreath upon his door
And soon they’ll carry him away
He stopped loving her today…

 

 


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