Atlanta Braves Betting – Notes ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
| MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL! (ATLANTA BRAVES) |
By Bob Acton of Sportingbet USA – now SuperBook.com –
While several teams in Major League Baseball and especially their fans would have a party in the streets if their team won on divisional crown, you must excuse the blasé attitude of the Atlanta Braves faithful. You see the Booby Cox led Braves will seek their 14th straight crown when they begin the 2005 season in April and will do so in an era that with free agency and yearly salary issues, just repeating as division champs is a huge accomplishment. Its not like this team has had a stacked lineup as they have been willing to unload superstars Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Gary Sheffield, Javy Lopez, and several others and simply reload to continue their dominance. Their team payroll last season was $90 million which ranked then 8th in the majors, but also just a few million from the middle of the pack.
This year sees a new cast of characters added to the fray as well as the usual suspects who have hung in for several years. Tim Hudson, Dan Kolb, Brian Jordan and Raul Ramirez will try and make up for the loss of Paul Byrd, J.D. Drew, Jaret Wright and Russ Ortiz and the Braves incredible farm system will no doubt bring with it a few gems. They still have stalwarts Chipper Jones, John Smoltz, Rafael Furcal, Marcus Giles and ageless Julio Franco! Heres some info on ace reliever Dan Kolb who comes over from the Brewers, just 3-years removed from being released by the Texas Rangers, who never seem to make a good pitching decision.
When Dan Kolb shredded his elbow, he figured that was just one of the hazards of the job. When he blew out a muscle in his forearm, he began to wonder if he was jinxed. When he tore his rotator cuff, he fretted that his baseball career was over.
“I was not ready to give it up,” Kolb said. “But in the back of my mind, I knew I might not have a choice. One more year of injuries, all that stuff, and I was done. I don’t think my arm could have taken it.”
Kolb persevered and look how far he’s come in two short years. He’s now the closer for the powerhouse Atlanta Braves, a key player on a team seeking its 14th straight division title.
“I, for one, can vouch that the closer is one of the most important pitchers on the team,” said starter Tim Hudson, who pitched last season for Oakland, a team that struggled to find someone who could finish games.
“It doesn’t matter how good you pitch before the ninth inning,” Hudson said. “It you don’t have someone to nail it down, you’re not going to win many games.”
The Braves had one of the best in the business over the last three years. John Smoltz saved 144 games during that span, but he yearned to return to the starting rotation.
Kolb clearly has some big spikes to fill.
“I can pretend it’s not there, but it’s really there,” he said. “I’m sure in the first month or so, I’ll be under the microscope. People will talk about the way John did things, how good he was in this role. All I can do is my best and hope it’s good enough.”
That Kolb would even be considered as Smoltz’s replacement can largely be attributed to an awakening on the mound.
At the urging of Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux the older brother of former Braves star Greg Maddux Kolb learned that taking a little off his fastball gave him better control, which allowed him to use fewer pitches, which put less strain on his arm.
The results for lowly Milwaukee were stunning: He had 21 saves in 2003 and 39 last season, making the All-Star team. Those numbers drew the attention of the Braves, who agreed to surrender top pitching prospect Jose Capellan.
Kolb keeps things simple, relying almost entirely on a fastball that once reached 98 mph but is now thrown in the low 90s.
“It’s not a lot, but it’s just enough to help my control,” Kolb said. “If I throw a thousand pitches this season, I’ll bet nine hundred of them will be fastballs.
“That’s who I am. I really consider it four pitches in one: in and out, up and down. I’ve had luck with it so far.”
Kolb doesn’t worry about strikeouts anymore, preferring to get hitters out as quickly as possible. Last season, he became the first reliever to have more saves than strikeouts (just 21 in 57 innings).
Of the 25 saves he had heading into the All-Star break, Kolb figures 20 of them took 10 pitches or less usually ending with three ground-ball outs.
“It’s great throwing 10 pitches and you’re done. Game over,” Kolb said. “My arm felt great at the end of the year for the first time in a long time.”
The Braves should have one of the best rotations in baseball. Smoltz and Hudson are a potentially dominant one-two punch and Mike Hampton, John Thomson and Horacio Ramirez aren’t too shabby, either.
But it won’t matter if Kolb doesn’t come through in the ninth inning.
Smoltz, for one, believes the Braves have found a worthy replacement.
“I think he’ll be fine,” Smoltz said. “I like his personality, the way he’s able to handle things and goes about doing his role.”
Kolb plans to rely heavily on Smoltz’s advice once the season begins. The two will probably spend a lot of time sitting together on the bench, going over hitters and various scenarios.
“It’s my advantage that he’s still here,” Kolb said. “I’m definitely going to be in his ear. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve used someone as a knowledge point. I think he’ll be my guy here.”
Just two years ago, Kolb was released in spring training by the Texas Rangers. Even though his arm isn’t quite as strong as it was before those three straight years of injuries, he’s not in pain.
“So far, it feels really good,” Kolb said. “I’m enjoying not being hurt.”
Information obtained from the Atlanta Journal Constitution: