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open_thread_what_were_good_at_and_what_were_not_good_at | April | 2009 Articles

2009 Archives

Open Thread: Hitters' "Hibernation Mode" is Killing Us, Not the Bullpen

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The Braves are exactly 10-10 10-11, and, for once, they're exactly where their Pythagorean expectation projects that they should be. They've scored Through Tuesday's games they had scored 82 runs and allowed 85 runs. (The rest of the stats in here are likewise through Tuesday.) The general knock against the team from its fans has been that it's good at starting pitching and bad at hitting -- particularly timely hitting -- and relief pitching.

Is that accurate? Mostly.

Of the 85 runs we've allowed, 51 of those runs (46 earned) were scored off our starters, who collectively have an ERA of 3.49; 34 (32 earned) came off the bullpen, which has an ERA of 5.11. In particular, Jeff Bennett gets the "Smoke and Mirrors" award, for putting up an ERA of 0.96 despite a WHIP of 2.036 -- that's right, he averages more than 2 baserunners an inning and yet has only been charged with giving up one run in 9 1/3 innings. Don't bring him in with runners on base, Bobby.

However, Blaine Boyer and his 40.50 ERA are gone, and if you ignore the 6 runs he gave up in 1 1/3 innings before being traded, and the 4 runs Peter Moylan gave up without an out on Opening Day -- he's only given up 3 in 8 innings since then -- the relievers have had a 3.60 ERA. So as aggravating as they've been, they're not the problem. Kenshin Kawakami has had much more trouble, limping out of the gate with a 7.06 ERA to start his major league career, and he has given up twice as many runs -- 20 (17 earned) -- as anyone else on the team. I still like him going forward, but he's personally responsible for 21% of all the earned runs our entire team has allowed.

Another big problem is that our starting lineup only has 4 players with an OPS+ over 95 (Casey Kotchman, Yunel Escobar, Chipper Jones, and Jordan Schafer) and our bench has 3 (Dave Ross, Omar Infante, and Martin Prado). With McCann on the DL, of course, Ross is basically a starter, and that's a good thing: he's leading the team in hitting right now. Ross's 1.204 OPS is almost 200 points higher than that of Prado, who's second on the team, and himself has an OPS 60 points higher than Chipper's. Not that that's a bad thing, but we have two guys with an OPS over 1.000, and neither plays every day. Kelly Johnson's an occasionally great hitter, but he's been wooing Mendoza for the last couple weeks -- 6 for his last 46 -- and we really can't afford for him to be at the top of the lineup. And the way that Prado and Infante are hitting, they deserve PT.

What's the problem? I'd say it's something that Mac Thomason calls "Hibernation Mode." The Braves are batting .291/.371/.547 in the first 4 innings, and only .228/.317/.352 in all the innings afterwards. It would make sense if we didn't hit in the 8th or 9th, since that's when other teams send their best relievers to the mound; it might even make sense if we didn't hit in the first or second innings, since a pitcher's first time through the batting order is when he can use the greatest amount of deception. For whatever reason our hitters are having a tougher time hitting a starter after they've already faced him in the game.

If you want to look for something to blame, blame that. "Hibernation Mode": it might be real, and it's killing us.

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