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the-black-hole-at-first-base | August | 2010 Articles

2010 Archives

The Black Hole at First Base

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Fans want Troy Glaus' head on a silver platter with some nice garnishes around it. Is cutting the head off of the hydra really the best solution, though? Troy Glaus came to Atlanta on a low incentive deal this offseason. Fans had absolutely no idea what to expect. Would he be the stud he was with the Angels? Or would he be a washed up former shell of himself? Sitting here in August, its been a tale of 2 seasons for Glaus. He struggled terribly with the Braves struggling in April, posting a slash line of .194/.310/.292. Yup, one of my biggest pet peeves...an OBP higher than your SLG. Like most of the legion of Braves fans populating the internet, I was very frustrated, but I wouldn't quit on Glaus after a month. There were signs that things would turn around...his BABIP was a very low .245, 30 points below his career norm. His walk rate was right in line with his career average, while his strikeout rate was a little higher than what he's used to, with a mark of 29.2%. The ISO of .097 however...THAT was hideous to look at. His line drive percentage was a stellar 23.5% though, so all wasn't bad...Glaus's problem was the enormity of ground balls he was hitting, to the tune of a 1.29 GB:FB ratio. Then something funny happened. The calendar turned to May, and Glaus and the Braves took off, reaching first place in the standings, where they still reside today. Glaus won the NL Player of the Month award in May, posting a line of .330/.408/.534 with a fantastic .409 wOBA. Glaus' walk rate remained around where it was, while his strikeout rate plummeted to 20.4%. His ISO popped back up where it should have been, at .209. All seemed right with the world with Glaus swinging a hot stick. Glaus decreased the amount of line drives and ground balls he hit, and translated them into fly balls, more of which were going out of the park than in April. It was alllllllllll good in Atlanta. June was a funny month. Glaus' line slipped to .237/.364/.505, but no one gave a damn about the low batting average because he was hitting for MORE power than he did in May, and was getting on base at a good clip. But there were some underlying factors going on in June that should have been a tipoff to fans. His line drive percentage fell all the way to 12%. As a frame of reference for how bad that is...slap hitting Juan Pierre is sitting at 14.4% for the season. Yeah. His flyball percentage stayed the same, while all of those line drives turned into ground balls, thus explaining his sharp drop in batting average. His BABIP fell to .246, so there would have to be a little bit of progression in July...right? As you all know by now, as avid watchers of the Braves...not exactly. Glaus completely fell into the tank in July as his knees began to hurt more and more. His line drive percentage fell *again*, down to a pathetic 11.1%. His ground ball percentage fell, which is good. Unfortunately, his flyball rate rose, and more importantly, his rate of hitting infield popups jumped to 12.1% after not hitting a single one in June. Houston...we have a problem. Glaus' BABIP even fell yet again, down to a chilling .222. He did not homer all month and only had 4 doubles, leading to an ISO of....052. Now that my friends, is BAD. Somehow, there were a couple positives. His walk rate stayed strong at 14%, and his strikeout rate dropped below 20%, down to 19.5%. As we enter August, fans are irate with Glaus and calling for his head, demanding things like more playing time at first for Eric Hinske (apparently content to let Melky Cabrera flail away in left field, or encouraged by Matt Diaz hitting against right handers...something I have no desire to see for more than 1 at bat a week), to promotions from the minors for Barbaro Canizares and/or Freddie Freeman, to just straight up cutting Glaus. First off, he's not going to be released. It would be ridiculous, and its not going to happen, so its best just not to think about. Glaus has struggled this year against righties, hitting .238 with a .725 OPS. Now, if you turn the Braves into a super platoon team and start Glaus/Diaz against lefties and Hinske/Cabrera against righties, you're opening yourself up to an interesting situation. Hinske's got an .802 OPS against righties on the season, but he's 1 for 14 thusfar this August, and posted OPSes of .727 and .742 in June and July, perhaps indicating that he's just not good enough to be an every day player...which is what he's essentially been for the past couple of months, getting 4-5 starts a week in left field. As for Melky Cabrera getting regular playing time...you know what, it might not be a terrible idea. He's been hot lately, OPSing .813 in July, and going 4/14 in August so far with 2 extra base hits. Unfortunately...he's more effective against lefties than righties, with a .684 OPS against the conventional throwers, and a mark of .748 against the southpaws. So essentially, on the roster right now, the Braves have 4 guys for 2 spots, and only 1 of them can hit righties well...and he's been struggling lately. Center fielder Rick Ankiel *can* hit righties though, with an .802 career OPS compared to a .705 mark against lefties. So...what the hell? If you really start playing the matchup game, you'd have Diaz, Cabrera, and Glaus playing against lefties, with Hinske, Ankiel and...I have no idea who else playing against righties. This is why you can't get too involved with lefty/righty splits...you can just take things to an extreme degree and get your head very messed up. What about minor league promotions? Top prospect Freddie Freeman has been called READY by many, but is he? He could be an interesting platoon partner for Glaus, as he is KILLING right handed pitching with a .309/.380/.528 line, compared to one of .253/.300/.396 against southpaws. Calling Freeman up only to have him platoon seems like a really crappy way to use him though. Here's another option...what about Barbaro Canizares? He's having a solid season in Gwinnett, and is hitting both lefties *and* righties well: .889 OPS against lefties, .824 against righties, though the lefty split is off a small sample size. He really might the best option at this point in the time if the Braves are desperate to make a change. What will *probably* happen though? Thats easy, when you look at who the manager is. Bobby is going to ride Glaus into the ground, as you could tell this week when he was supposed to get a couple games off...and would pinch hit and come in during the late innings of the game. I'd expect Hinske to get maybe a start or two at first each week while also getting regular playing time in left field and killing the team in that way. I feel weird suggesting this, but I have a feeling that Melky is going to die on the bench...he would probably be a good platoon made for Ankiel, considering how much Bobby has loved platoons during his career. There is no doubt Diaz should start every day in left against left handers though, so lets not even fool around there. The concept of Hinske getting 4-5 starts a week while Cabrera is only getting 1 or 2...it jars me, and I didn't expect to feel like this after how horribly Melky started the season. What would *I* personally do? Simple. Throw Glaus on the DL for the next 3 weeks and call up Canizares to see if he can provide a spark to the team. Another option that would be perfect, but is currently impossible, would be to start Martin Prado at first and just continue to play Omar Infante every day at second. Its not ideal, but Infante is hitting really well right now. With that configuration, you could hit Prado and Infante 1-2, and shift Jason Heyward down to the 5 hole in the order behind Brian McCann. If only that would happen...regardless of what the Braves decide, its a huge decision. If the Braves can't get a legitimate option at first base for the last 7 weeks of the season...they're going to lose the division to the Phillies. It really is that simple.
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