Atlanta Hawks: Yearly Pretender

“The camera is on us, quick- look upset on the bench!” First off, let me start by saying this is a very negative post, so save yourself the sorrow of my thoughts, the comments about how I’m a bad fan and just stop reading right now if you consider yourself a “believer” – this is your fair warning! I hate to say it, I wish it wasn’t true, but the Hawks are the biggest joke in the NBA. They are the definition of a team that does just enough to build a little local buzz, but don’t really attempt to do much to change the perception of the franchise. The Hawks annually are near the top the NBA in terms of wins and losses since 2008; the recipe? beat up on the little guys, lose the games against any real contender (especially on the road), do just enough to make the playoffs and then bail out and head to the house after that- no fire whatsoever. The Hawks don’t deserve respect in the media, they don’t average high attendance for a reason, and the front office marketing is focused around who the Hawks are playing to get folks in the seats. It’s a very sad state of affairs when you aren’t able to sell the home team despite being in the playoffs each year since 2008. Around the league no one takes the Hawks seriously, why should they? look at their resume. Not only is their their playoff record ugly- but the effort is embarrassing. In 2008 after batting to force a game 7 with Boston- they scored 65 points in the final game, losing by 34. In 2010 after being swept in the 2nd round the previous year by the Cavs- the Hawks had a chance to redeem themselves, but instead opened round two in Orlando with a 43 point loss. Seriously? 43 points? In game 3 of the same series, they lost by 30 and went on to get swept again in the second round in consecutive seasons. How does this happen? Does Atlanta deserve this lack of desire? Losing is one thing, losing by 30+ in crucial games is another- changes should have been made and weren’t. The entire organization from the ground up is built on financial principles, not putting a quality team on the court; they are built to make the playoffs, SportsCenter highlights and not much more. When changes were made with the coaching staff, they patched a problem from within- with a cheap guy that was a part of the system that was the problem to begin with. When that had a chance to acquire a few smaller, quality team guys- they instead opted to resign Joe Johnson to a contract worth more than Lebron James & Dewayne Wade; crippling the franchise with an above-average fake star that they could put on billboards. Why? because he’s the best they could get, no one else wanted to be here, and if they lost him- they lost the buzz, all that the front office cares about. Buzz > Production to the Atlanta Hawks. The roster is full of guys that just want to be paid; guys that are not overly concerned about winning. Championships have NEVER been a priority here. Save Al Horford (who came from a championship-minded program in Florida, and you can see that) Hinrich, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Marvin Willams all fall under this category. The failure has been strikingly repetitive, but no moves have or will be made in the near future; they have no plans on cleaning house. Charles Barkley said it best in the video here; the Hawks response- NADA. Call them out, they don’t mind, this is sadly their identity… and that won’t change anytime soon. Playoff Woes By The NumbersSince 2008 – 46 Games Total Road Record: 4-18 Round 2 Record: 2-12 AWAY vs. Boston: 0-6 (Home vs. BOS 5-1) Average Playoff PPG: 86 Hawks Road PPG: 83 (98 Opponent Avg.) Losses of 15+ Points: 17 Losses of 20+ Points: 12 Losses of 25+ Points: 8 Games Scoring 90 Points or Less: 32 Series Played (Excluding 2012): 7 Series Lost-Swept in 4 Games: 2 Series Lost in 6/7 Games: 2 Series Won in 6/7 Games: 3

Braves Boom: Statistical Revival

Chipper – “It’s Been Storybook So Far” Ok, its probably WAY too early to start asking, “Is this the year?!” but the Atlanta Braves have already started garnering plenty of media attention- winning 17 of their past 24 games after an 0-4 start, coming back from a 6 run deficit TWICE in the past four days to win in extra innings, and racking up 55 hits & 37 runs in their past 4 ball games (which is even more incredible when you consider one of those games they scored ZERO runs and had a total of 3 hits). Who are these guys? Most fans, especially ATLANTA fans- (ya know…that voice that’s always inside your head saying, “Don’t worry- They’ll find a way to blow it, let ya down…don’t get your hopes up.”) can’t get too excited when your not even at the quarter mark of the season yet, but doesn’t this feel pretty special right now, is it this year? who knows. Projections mean squat (remember when the Braves had a 99% chance of making the playoffs at one point during the season last year? I do.), but if they keep their current pace they’ll finish at 98-64; don’t hold your breath… at least until the All-Star Break. A Few Interesting Stats:– Braves Record in Extra Inning Games: 2-0 – Braves Record in One Run Games: 5-1 – Chipper Jones blasted his 5th HR of the season in his 17th game; Jones didn’t record his 5th HR of 2011 until his 53rd game – The Braves New Era Cap is the 2nd Best-Seller in all of Major League Baseball MLB Ranking: Hits / Game2011 Braves – 8.30 [#23/30]2012 Braves – 9.26 [#5/30] Runs / Game2011 Braves – 3.96 [#22/30]2012 Braves – 5.26 [#5/30] Stolen Bases / Game2011 Braves – 0.48 [#27/30]2012 Braves – 0.78 [#6/30] Sacrifice Flies / Game2011 Braves – 0.19 [#29/30]2012 Braves – 0.37 [#6/30](Sac Flies – First 28 Games 2012 – 11, First 112 Games 2011 – 13) Batting Average / Team2011 Braves – .243 [#26/30]2012 Braves – .267 [#5/30] On Base Percentage / Team2011 Braves – .308 [#26/30]2012 Braves – .329 [#9/30] It’s fairly certain that having Michael Bourn solidified in the leadoff spot, stealing more bases and increased production of sac flies has helped the Braves manufacture more runs early on this season. This A-B-C style of NL baseball is what the Braves have lacked in recent years; successfully playing small ball at times instead of relying on the 3-run homer (Cox Era) is the key to this teams success. This type of thing can get lost in the shuffle, but without a doubt will be the deciding factor in the team making the playoffs as a wild-card/division winner and in my opinion- determine just how far they are able to go. The Braves left off where they finished 2011 in their first 4 games this year, but since then they’ve done a complete 180 and haven’t looked back; morphing into a completely different ball club: I know, projections are always too good to be true; It won’t be this good, but if these 4 players kept their current pace- these are the numbers they would finish the season with:

Atlanta Lineups, Odds & Ends

Here are the best individual seasons by position in the past decade; you may disagree with some. The ones up for debate are Dan Uggla 2011 vs. Martin Prado 2010 (went with power) and Furcal vs. Renteria/Escobar (see below). What do you think? Argument & Debate for Best Season @ Shortstop: …and a few random lineups; Opening Day lineups for past years can be seen here. Which do you prefer 2006 or 2002? I like 2006. *Surprisingly, a different player has appeared in the most games in LF for Atlanta every year since 2004. The last player to have the most appearances in back to back seasons in LF was Chipper Jones in 2002 & 2003. Finally- Found this to be interesting today, according to Baseball Almanac Eric O’Flaherty was the Braves top player in 2011. Not bad for a $20,000 contract waiver-wire claim!