Hello again: On Braves’ second half, Shelby Miller and Falcons’ pass rush

Braves pitcher Tyrell Jenkins reacts after giving up a three-run home run to Colorado Rockies' Nolan Arenado in the first inning Sunday. The Braves lost for the eighth time in 10 games since the All-Star break. (AP photo)

Braves pitcher Tyrell Jenkins reacts after giving up a three-run home run to Colorado Rockies’ Nolan Arenado in the first inning Sunday. The Braves lost for the eighth time in 10 games since the All-Star break. (AP photo)

Coming off some vacation time (and I learned that my Garmin doesn’t give nearly enough credit for pressure washing a deck).

I’ll get to the serious stuff later. But here are a few things bouncing around my noggin.

BRAVES: Look out below (oh wait, already there)

The Braves, determined to spend every day this season in last place, are 2-8 since the All-Star break. There goes the wild card.

Consider the 2-8 re-start more accurate foreshadowing for the second-half than a six-game winning streak in mid-June. There is a settling effect as seasons unfold, with the better teams rising and the lesser ones flailing. In a baseball season, things tend to get worse for the bad teams after: 1) The All-Star break; 2) The trade deadline (when reality sets in with players: “Oh, this is who we’re stuck with”); 3) Down the stretch of the regular season when other teams battle for postseason berths (remember what that was like?).

At 33-66, the Braves are on pace to finish 54-108. The most losses in franchise history came in 1935 (Boston Braves: 38-115). The worst Atlanta team ever: 1988 at 54-106. Maybe if this team breaks the record in the final homestand, commemorative buttons can be handed out to the 112 people in attendance.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO: Shelby Miller?

Arizona may be looking to deal starting pitcher Shelby Miller, who has struggled since being acquired from the Braves. (AP photo)

Arizona may be looking to deal starting pitcher Shelby Miller, who has struggled since being acquired from the Braves. (AP photo)

John Hart and John Coppolella, who continue to bank the team’s future on a bag of seeds in the minors, didn’t screw up every trade. The deal that sent pitcher Shelby Miller to Arizona for Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair looked great at the time and it still looks good, even with Inciarte’s offensive struggles (.243, .312 on-base percentage) and Blair’s early hiccups (0-5, 7.99 ERA, .305 opponents’ batting average).

Miller has morphed into some unrecognizable figure in Arizona. He led the Braves’ starters in innings (205.1) and ERA (3.02, despite a bad-luck 6-17 record). But he has been horrible with the Diamondbacks, going 2-9 with a 7.14 ERA before being sent to the minors. Now comes a report, via Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, that Arizona may be looking to move Miller before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

https://twitter.com/JeffPassan/status/757277037316939776

Question: Should the Braves be interested?

They need hitting more than pitching. But even after all of the prospects Hart and Coppolella have acquired, it’s not as though the future of this rotation is certain. After Julio Teheran – whom management insists won’t be traded – every young pitcher is still working through issues: Blair, Matt Wisler and Mike Foltynewicz included.

Miller had success with pitching coach Roger McDowell. So why not try to bring him back – assuming it doesn’t cost Dansby Swanson? Miller earns $4.33 million this season and has two years of arbitration left.

IT’S FOOTBALL TIME: OK, where’s the pass rush?

Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney, who had eight sacks with Arizona last season, says he wants to play one more season. (Getty Images)

Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney, who had eight sacks with Arizona last season, wants to play one more season. (Getty Images)

The Falcons open training camp Wednesday and the biggest question I have right now is: Will we see Dwight Freeney at some point in Flowery Branch?

There are a number of questions that have to be answered this camp but the pass rush may be the biggest one (again). The Falcons were among the teams to work out the 36-year-old Freeney recently but didn’t sign him, which could mean either that they’re not interested or that they prefer to see what they have in a couple of exhibition games first, given that Freeney isn’t going to play in those anyway and there’s no reason for him to be in camp.

Freeney obviously is just a part-time player now but he had eight sacks and three forced fumbles with Arizona last season – and those eight sacks doubled the highest individual Falcons’ total last year (Vic Beasley with 4). The Falcons finished last in the NFL with 19 sacks. Houston’s J.J. Watt (17.5) had almost that many by himself. The NFL had 27 teams with at least 31 sacks, led by Denver, which won the Super Bowl, with 52.

Other things to watch in the Falcons camp: 1) How much center Alex Mack improves the offensive line; 2) Whether Matt Ryan improves in the second year of the offense with Kyle Shanahan; 3) The development of rookie safety Keanu Neal, who’s expected to start for the released William Moore; 4) Will Julio Jones evolve into more of a leader after the release of Roddy White? 5) Does linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, signed as a free agent, have anything left?

Reader Comments 0

8 comments
OH:IO
OH:IO

Sack Schultz

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Either the collection of pitching prospects already in-house suddenly blooms into the second coming of Glavine-Smoltz-Avery next season or the Braves are doomed into what is looking for all the world to be at least a Five-Year Plan. This has become, for all practical purposes, an expansion team, nothing more.


Devolving a team to this state really does not require any talent or special baseball wisdom. Promising to be competitive again beginning in 2017 does not take any talent or wisdom, either. You want me to buy-in and believe? Show me the prospects. Call them up and let's have a look at the next Justice, Gant, Blauser et. al.

DawgNole
DawgNole

"Consider the 2-8 re-start more accurate foreshadowing for the second-half than a six-game winning streak in mid-June."

____________________

YUP! That streak generated some excitement on the AJC blogs. It was refreshing, but not likely to last. Here's what I posted then, which seemed obvious to me (and I'm no baseball expert):

DawgNole June 24, 2016

Winning 7 of 8 is great, but so was winning 4 straight back in April.

WAY too early to project Snitker as a permanent manager based on the small fraction of a season he's been at the helm.

The Braves' roster remains deeply flawed, which means the team is subject to yet another nosedive at any time.

Meantime, just gotta enjoy the winning for as long as it lasts--hopefully through October!

Gman84
Gman84

@DawgNole Those posts sure have great reference value. Thank you for sharing them again!

Gomez Addams
Gomez Addams

I'm not worried about the Braves' hitting.  I know deep in my bones that Aybar will get hot and get up to .220.  And Inciarte can definitely reach .240 before it's all over.

Edgar
Edgar

Not much to say about the Braves except I hope they don't pull the same collapse as the Twins, (missed the playoffs last season by one game and compete with the Braves for the worst record this season), when and if they start competing for the playoffs. Why not make a move for Shelby Miller even though he's got a case of the yips. Smoltz went through it in '91 and he's commented that Miller will find his way again at some point.

The Falcons? A lot of "ifs" for this season. A pass rush better than last season would make a suspect defense from last year a nice improvement this season. Speaking of a case of the yips, Matt Ryan had a case of them last year. Or did he. Or was it Shanahan. Or was it the O Line. I guess we'll see in a few weeks.

ErnestB
ErnestB

Wouldn't it be interesting to trade Blair and another piece to get Miller back.  I wonder what Arizona would be interested in.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@ErnestB

Yeah, Blair and Olivera and about $15 Million in cash to re-acquire Miller.