Braves Season in Review: Outfield
Garret Anderson was signed just after spring training started to serve as the starting left fielder, shafting Brandon Jones yet again. Rookie Jordan Schafer won the starting center field job coming out of the spring, beating out the anemic hitting speedster Josh Anderson and the on base wizard with a bat that couldn't knock out a flea, Gregor Blanco. And finally in right field, the inimitable Jeff Francoeur took his post with fans hoping and praying he'd get his OPS to something in the vicinity of league average. Things um...didn't go exactly as planned.
Anderson was hurt nearly straight from the get go in April, and couldn't crack a .700 OPS through the end of May. He turned it on during the beginning of the summer, OPSing .804 in June and .944 in July. Maybe this experiment would work out...or not, as Anderson absolutely hit a brick wall over the final 2 months of the year, walking 10 times in his final 224 plate appearances and OPSing .533 in September and the first weekend of October. This season pretty much proved Anderson has nothing left in the tank. His walk rate was a tinge higher than his career average, but still abysmal at 5.2%. He posted career lows in every rate stat imaginable with the exception of his .133 ISO, which was his lowest mark since he was 25 in 1997. And just to top it all off, his defense, which was somehow spectacular in half a season in the field in 2008, regressed to a level of horribleness never reached by Anderson since UZR began measuring defense. He ended up being worth NEGATIVE 4.1 million to the team. What a waste...he obviously won't be back next year.
Lets talk about Jordan Schafer now. Fans went bonkers when Schafer homered in his first career at bat on opening night against the Phillies. That was pretty much the highlight of the year for him, as he posted an ungodly bad 37.7% K rate before being sent down to Gwinnett in early June. Schafer's wrist had been bothering him all year, and he was shut down for the year soon after. I'm not totally sure as to why he was being trotted out there so often if his wrist was really bothering him all year, but hindsight is 20/20.
So with Schafer out, the Braves needed a center fielder, and they got a pretty good one in former Pirates all-star Nate McLouth. For the sum of Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, and Jeff Locke, McLouth would be a Brave until the end of the 2011 season (2012 if the option is picked up). McLouth gave the Braves a nice spark at the top of the order, posting a solid .773 OPS and scoring 59 runs in 84 games. McLouth also shockingly produced an ISO only 4 points lower than Chipper Jones's...something unexpected at the top of the order, but much welcomed. McLouth's defense, which was horrible a year ago, was merely "slightly below average" with the Braves, which is something you can't complain about too much. I'm looking forward to see what he can do with a full season with the Braves this year.
Braves fans had the luxury of watching one of the worst players in baseball for the first half of the year, and I'm not talking about Garret Anderson...though that is also true. I am of course talking about Jeff Francoeur. When you think of a right fielder, you think of a guy who can post an OPS at minimum in the .800s with at least 20 homers. If you're a Braves fan...you think of someone like Jeff Francoeur, who OPSed .634 with the Braves this year and an abysmal 3.8% walk rate and .102 ISO. He was just so unbelievably bad with the bat. Thankfully it wasn't a total waste, as his defense improved to above average. Thankfully, he was shipped to New York at the beginning of the summer in exchange for...
Ryan Church. Church continued the trend of great right field defense, with 3 assists in only 26 games with the Braves. Unfortunately, injuries got the better of Church during most of his time in Atlanta, and he only got 144 plate appearances over the last 3 months of the year. He was roughly league average over that time...nothing really to write home about. If he's not DFAed this offseason, I expect him to be a bench player for the Braves...mostly due to the emergence of...
Matt Diaz. This is a guy that every Braves fan has a soft spot for. He's a fantastic story, getting given up on by 2 franchises that have been in dire straits for most of the decade, and then given a chance by the big market club and making the most of it...think Jayson Werth on a smaller scale. After a lost 2008 season due to a knee injury, Diaz played sporadically over the first half of the year, logging only 145 plate appearances through the end of June. But then with the trade of Francoeur and subsequent injury to Ryan Church, along with the struggles of Garret Anderson, Diaz got 280 plate appearances the rest of the way, and absolutely thrived, with a .909 OPS after the All-Star Break. I hate the "clutch hitting" nonsense that announcers ramble on about, but Diaz delivered when he needed to, OPSing .939 with runners in scoring position. His defense wasn't too hot, at -7.5/150 combined over all 3 positions, but it wasn't nearly as bad as Anderson's over in left. This season was a total coming out party for Diaz, and the big question on everyone's mind is, "can he do it again next year?" The jury is still out on that one, but don't get your hopes up too high...he did have a .388 BABIP this year.
That takes care of the outfielders...hooray, almost halfway done! I'll hopefully be back tomorrow with another review.
We had more server issues, hooray! But that appears to be all over now, and I have a nice new interface that I have no idea how to use...awesome. Today, we shall discuss the Braves starting outfield in 2009 before FOOTBALL starts for the day. Awesome.
The Braves outfield came into 2009 looking like a mess...thankfully, it didn't really end that way.