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Chop-N-Change: An Atlanta Braves Blog | Page 7

Chip Caray Doesn't Care For OBP Or Underwear

Written by Paddy McMahon on .


Is it trite at this point to criticize broadcasters for not grasping the importance, relevance and simplicity of OBP as a measure of offensive value? My first inclination is 'yes,' but then thanks to our own Jake Humphrey's judicious use of the RT button on his Twitter feed and then my perusal of some idiot named @kapaya1234's feed, I was treated to the following gems from ... well, Chip Caray, it turned out:


caray_very_important


caray_4_teams

Ok, let's begin at the top there. What I think he meant to say is that OBP is not very important because at that point in the game, the Braves had a team OBP of .412 and yet had scored just two runs. 

Let's not even delve into the correlation between OBP and runs scored (or wins). Let's just calmly point out that OBP is indeed very important because, after all, it's awfully hard to score runs when you don't have people on base. Right? I'm sure we can all agree to that. Unless there's some other way of scoring that I hadn't thought about.


caray_obp_stupid 

Oh! Well, this guy thinks of everything! And, y'know, he's not wrong in this statement. After all, homers are one way of scoring runs, and it wouldn't be prudent to judge a team based solely on OBP. I think it's a bit harsh to call it 'stupid,' but hey, this is Twitter, and dumber things have been said. I would like to point out, though, that the most proflici home run hitting team in Braves history -- the '03 version, with Javy Lopez's monster year and Gary Sheffield's monster year and Andruw Jones' monster year and Chipper Jones' monster year and Marcus Giles' monster year and Vinny Castilla's totally above-average year and Robert Fick not straight up dying on the field -- also had a .349 OBP, which would rank second in the league this year. The 1997 Seattle Mariners have the most team home runs in history, and their .355 OBP would've led the league this year -- and, in fact, most years. The 2000 Houston Astros have the most team home runs in NL history. Their team OBP? .361, which is better than Brian McCann's career mark, or Carlos Beltan's, or Kirby Puckett's, or Eddie Murray's, or Reggie Jackson's, or ...

Generally, if you hit a lot of home runs as a team, you're probably going to have a high OBP. Because good hitters tend to be good at one or both of those things, see. I'm just glad that things never got petty here, because this is some pretty simple stuff, and 


caray_basement


Dammit, Chip. You're going to make me look up Mork and Mindy?

Oh. It was a sci fi sitcom that ran from 1979-1982. Yo, did you guys know Robin Williams was in that? It's true! 

Something that's always struck me as funny about the advanced stat-haters (and I'm going a little far out to lump OBP in there) is that they're so condescending and dismissive of the notion that people might have a better way to evaluate baseball than they do. Also, that they might live in their own apartments and houses and have full time jobs. And a Netflix subscription. I mean, Mork and Mindy? I wasn't being sarcastic when I said I had to look that up. As insults go, that was as witty as the Black Plague, only it made fewer people laugh.

But it wasn't all bad news tonight! After all, lovable slugger Jim Thome mashed his 600th tater! That will bring us all together in the end. 

caray_thome_obp

OH COME ON. 

I mentioned this in the recap last night, but here's how the Giants scored those three runs: an error, an HBP, a walk, two sacrifice flies and a home run from Nate "No, with an I and an O and a T" Schierholtz. Do you know what the chances of that happening on a regular basis are? Neither do I, because I'm not very good at math, but you'd have a better chance of charming a girl by telling her that you're going commando tonight. 

caray_commando

Oh, you wily bastard.





Game 122 Recap (8/15/11)

Written by Paddy McMahon on .


Braves 5 (71-51), Giants 4 (66-56)

W: Cristhian Martinez
L: Brian Wilson

As horrible as this game would've been to lose, it was even better to win.

In immediate retrospect, that sounds a little cheesy, so I apologize, but consider: the Giants scored four runs on five hits and two Braves errors. Two of those runs came in an inning where the Giants did not record a hit -- a goofy Michael Bourn error on an Aubrey Huff liner to center followed by a walk, a hit batsman and consecutive sac flies plated both -- and the other two came off solo home runs from Nate Schierholtz and Mike Fontenot, who have fewer home runs combined in 2011 (11) than Dan Uggla had during his hitting streak (12). Tim Hudson threw eight innings of two ER, two K, one BB ball, Cristhian Martinez was perfect in the ninth, and Jason Heyward actually started a game. Given that confluence of the Giants' performance and the positives on the Braves side, that's a game that you should really come away with. Match up against the defending world champions, who knocked the Braves out in Atlanta last year, and it becomes all the more important.

Fortunately for the Braves, who trailed four to two entering the bottom of the ninth, their hitters were up to the task. Jose Constanza led the ninth off with his second infield single of the night and 956th of the season, Eric Hinske drew a walk as a pinch hitter for Tim Hudson, and was replaced on the basepaths by Julio Lugo. Michael Bourn, much to my dismay, sacrified the runners to second and third, and the Braves poured salt on the anti-sac bunt movement's wounds when Martin Prado singled Constanza home from third. Brian McCann drew the unintentional intentional walk, loading the bases for Dan Uggla to continue his recent heroics and ... well, strike out. But he did double in the game, so pretty soon we can get back to tweeting #hittingstreak all the time. 

Finally, it came down to Freddie Freeman's mohawk vs Brian Wilson's beard, and in the end it was the less conspiciously and aggressively irritating hairstyle that won out: Freeman singled to center field, scoring Lugo and Prado and putting himself in the center of a teeming mass of Braves players out at second base.

So with all that excitement, I think you can see where I was coming from by saying it feels somehow even better to have won this one than it would've hurt to lose it.

As for individual performances, big ups to Freeman, Alex Gonzalez and Constanza for their multi-hit efforts, a tip of the cap as well to Martin Prado and Brian McCann for contributing a knock apiece, and a double tip of the cap to Uggla for his double and also a phenomenal defensive play on a dribbler off Tim Hudson's glove.

The Braves drew just four walks, to the likely delight of Chip Caray, who inspired what I'm sure will be an upcoming post by taking it upon himself to decry the usefulness of OBP, but considering that Madison Bumgarner is one of the up-and-coming pitching stars in the league and the Giants' bullpen is a noted strength of the team, it's hard to be too critical of the hitters.

Tomorrow's affair is one to mark on your calendars, not the least reason for which is that Jonathan Sanchez is pitching for the Giants and I don't want you to be confused in the event that an errant pitch of his breaks your living room window. But the leaster reason for which is that Randall Delgado, a member of the holy Teheran-Vizcaino-um, Delgado pitching prospect trinity is making his second big league start in place of the injured Tommy Hanson. 7:10 EDT, y'all.

Game Recap - 8/14/11

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Cubs 8, Braves 4

WP: Wells (4-4)
LP: Lowe (7-11)

Ho hum, another Derek Lowe start. I'm in Atlanta right now. I had a ticket for tonight's game. But I was tired, and had a bad feeling about this one....so I skipped out and watched it at a local Taco Mac. That was a good choice. Lowe allowed five runs in six innings. On the bright side, he didn't walk anyone and struck out six. Baby steps, Derek. It wasn't enough at the end of the day. The game got blown open in the eighth as Cristhian Martinez allowed three to the Cubs (two earned) to make the possibility of a comeback even more tough.

Now, some positives. Dan Uggla reached four more times, upped his OPS to .753 and his OBP to .300, and extended his hitting streak to 33 games. Chipper had three hits, including a pair of doubles....one of them missed going out of the park by about two feet. Freddie Freeman and David Ross each also added two hits.

But with those offensive positives, there are negatives. The outfield combined to go 2/14. The team stranded 11 men and went 2/14 with runners in scoring position. That's not what the team needs at the end of the day. 12 hits, four runs? That won't get the job done.

On the bright side, Brian McCann will rejoin the team from the DL tomorrow and will be more than likely hitting third. The pitching matchup is a good one: Matt Garza and Brandon Beachy. I should be at the park. Hooray for that. 

Game Recap 8/9/11

Written by Jeremy Reed on .

Braves 4, Marlins 3

Jason Heyward turned 22 today, and he celebrated by relaxing on the bench yet again.  Of course he did.  Now I know a birthday is no reason to play anyone, but the Braves were facing a right hander tonight, and outside of injury, that’s a must start for Heyward.  Joe and Mark have covered the situation pretty thoroughly so I won’t harp too long, just long enough to say that it’s the wrong decision and that it doesn’t inspire confidence in the Braves’ decision making abilities.

In case it hadn’t sunk in the first 116 games, Braves fans were once again given a lesson in how not to manage a bullpen.  Brandon Beachy was on cruise control until running into trouble in the seventh.  He struck out ten batters through five innings and only gave up three hits and one walk until walking two more in the seventh.  With two on, Beachy tiring, and the order up for the third time, Fredi smartly turned to the bullpen…but brought in the wrong guy.  With the Braves up 3-0, this is probably the best chance for the Marlins to get back into the game; hence, you use your best bullpen options to prevent that, not Varvaro.  Varvaro promptly served one up to John Buck to tie the game.  Kimbrel, Venters, and O’Flaherty watched this happen.  Kimbrel got the save as he was still available in the 11th because everyone knows you can’t use your closer in a tie game on the road.

The Braves opened the scoring in the second after two singles and two walks brought home a run.  Prado added a solo shot in the fifth, and the Braves put one more up in the sixth after a couple of walks and a hit.  Though tempting to assume, it was purely coincidence that the Braves scored in the two innings in which they drew walks because Prado got four hits tonight, and in his post game interview, he said he was trying to be more aggressive and take less pitches.  Unbelievable the mentality of this team.

After a Hinske walk led off the tenth, Fredi used Heyward as a pinch runner who was promptly picked off.  Replays showed he might have been safe, but it couldn’t have come at a worse time either in the game or in the season.  Bourn followed it with a double on which he actually fell down running and still made it.  He’s fast.  Prado poked one through into right, and Stanton threw the ball to the back stop to allow Bourn to score the winning run.

Pointless Musings:

As with any game in Miami, the atmosphere was electric…think Bob Uecker in Major League.  Seriously, it’s embarrassing, and the fact that the local government acquiesced to constructing a new stadium – like that’s going to solve attendance issues – is criminal.  Dan Uggla extended his hitting streak to 30 games on an infield single, and Alex Gonzalez extended his to ten on a bloop hit to right.  Hitting streaks are very impressive when they get to where Uggla’s is, but as both Gonzalez and Uggla proved tonight, it’s almost entirely dependent on luck.  Hot Hand wasn’t hot tonight…shocking I know.  Julio Lugo pinch hit, and that was exciting.  Also, there was a fan who looked like Fredi Gonzalez…congratulations?

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Why This Heyward Situation Is Ridiculous

Written by Mark Smith on .

I am known to dislike Fredi Gonzalez. I don’t dislike the man because I’ve never met him. I don’t dislike him as a clubhouse manager because I have never seen that in action. The only thing I can dislike him for is what I see--lineups, game decisions, quotes in the paper, etc. Unfortunately, I hate those things about him. Now, does that mean I think he’s a bad manager? No, actually. The team seems to like him okay, but then again, the team is winning and those clubhouses generally stay positive. Regardless, he manages the players well, and that’s the main part of a manager’s job. The tactical decisions, being the rest of what managers do, are significant, but considering most managers make similar decisions, the difference between one manager and another tactically probably isn’t much. If I had to make a decision to fire him or keep him, there’s at least a decent chance I’d keep him, but decisions like this make it difficult.

Originally, the idea was to platoon Jose Constanza and Jason Heyward, with Heyward playing against RHP, and while that’s still a serious folly, I could at least see some merit in it. Constanza has hit .421/.436/.579 in his 10 games in an Atlanta uniform, and considering that and my belief that players can be “locked in” for periods of time, I’ll grant that Constanza can play more. Does that ultimately mean I think he should be playing a lot or taking time away from Heyward? No. Heyward’s the superior player, and he needs to be hitting every day to gain experience. Sitting him against lefties only inhibits his development against them, but when a team is in a playoff race, you gotta do what you gotta do. Sometimes that means putting development behind winning.

That would be fine if Constanza had any sort of track record or reason to believe the talent was actually there. His .290/.364/.356 career line in the minors tells me that he’s not this good. But that’s not the big issue. While he has the “hot hand”, why not play him? It certainly sounds good. Constanza produces, and when he does, he helps the team. But when is that “hot hand” no longer hot? That no one can explain. Is it one game? Probably not because everyone has off games. Is it two? Maybe but one could argue that two rough games isn’t it either. Just remember that the more games you go out the more time Heyward sits, and remember that a hit here and there will make it seem like he’s still hot or heating back up. So how long will Constanza’s stint last? That’s tough to say if Constanza doesn’t outright collapse, which he may not immediately. He might just be worse than Heyward but with the perception of being slightly better because his hot start superficially bumped up his stats. Meanwhile, you’re sitting the superior player on the bench.

And I don’t think that’s an argument. It’s a statement of fact. Heyward is a better player than Constanza. And Prado. I don’t think anyone wants to dispute that. But let’s take this “hot hand” thing and finish it off. Constanza certainly wins there, but we all know he won’t continue this. Heyward (.217/.379/.391), however, is doing better than Prado (.294/.345/.373) over the past two weeks. Even if the “hot hand” argument made sense, Prado is the one that should be sitting. If you want to platoon, Heyward (.244/.339/.440) is better against RHP than Prado, and there’s no reason to think Constanza should be better than Heyward against lefties as Heyward was always strong against lefties in the minors and was last season as well. This situation sets up to be a perfect platoon, but Heyward has no part of being in that platoon. It should be a platoon of Constanza and Prado.

But that shouldn’t happen, either. Prado is the better player of the two regardless, though it is closer. Though Prado has his faults, he remains the third-best OF on the team, and giving Constanza the lion’s share of the ABs is a bad idea. Constanza might be a nice 4th OF option, but that’s it. Listen, the “hot hand” argument might work if we knew when people were hot and cold, but we don’t. Sometimes, hot players hit hard balls right at defenders, and sometimes, cold players hit bloops that fall in. WE DON’T KNOW WHO’S REALLY HOT AND WHEN THAT WILL END. The best thing to do is to thank Constanza for all his hard work and play Heyward and Prado anyway.

What worries me the most, however, is what this means for the organization. I really don’t care that Constanza is getting more playing time this week or last over Heyward. It won’t make that big of a difference in the grand scheme of things. Constanza will cool, Heyward will play, he’ll hit, and we won’t care anymore. But the thinking behind it gets applied in a much wider manner. Some say actions speak louder than words, but ideas put them both to shame.

When I taught students or helped classmates in history class, I would always ask them to think deeper. What does this mean? Why is this significant? Here’s what I see here. One possibility is that the Braves are hiding another Heyward injury by giving him frequent time off without DLing him, and if that’s the case, then the Braves are being stupid again by threatening Heyward’s future. But at least it would be an explanation of events. If that’s not the case, then we have more problems. One, the team values batting average too much. Heyward and Prado have nearly identical OBP, SLG, and OPS, but Prado’s BA is way higher. Prado should actually see a better batting average considering his BABiP on the season is just .276, but Heyward’s is just .243. If Heyward’s healthy, that should get better, and if he’s hitting, drawing walks, and hitting for power, he’s way better than Prado. And they’re both way better than Constanza, whose BABiP is through the roof with no secondary skills to speak of. Two, it tells me they don’t value Heyward properly, which is dangerous. He draws tons of walks, and the Braves should be encouraging that. He’s also the 2nd best defensive OF they have. Three, it continually reminds me that Fredi focuses on the wrong things. He wants speed and batting average, and while each of their virtues, other things need to be taken into context, none of which Fredi seems to do whatsoever. Four, it tells me the front office agrees. If it keeps happening, the bosses must at least believe it’s okay. Maybe they don’t want to meddle in the day-to-day affairs of the team, which is admirable, but with everything Fredi has said and done, someone should have talked to him about it by now. They need to explain it to him and have him follow through. Five, if Wren actually does understand that something is wrong, either he isn’t saying anything or he isn’t in charge enough to say anything, both of which are bad. If he isn’t saying anything, then he needs to realize that he’s the boss. If he isn’t in charge, then who is? Schuerholz? Fredi? Is Wren just the transactions man? These are questions that need to be asked.

Listen, as I said, I don’t really care in the moment that Constanza is getting playing time. It’s a nice story, and he’s producing. What I care about is the thinking behind the decisions, and that’s what gets me. Fredi seems to value certain things without really thinking about them, taking orthodoxy for truth. Listen, tradition, etc. have their virtues and their sense, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be questioned. If your claim is legitimate, then the questioning will only reprove your point. If it’s not, then your point is gone, and the world has been improved. Don’t fear questioning. Embrace it. Fredi almost seems to be making a point that what he thinks is the only thing that matters, and he doesn’t give a damn about what anyone else says. And that’s dangerous. It’s ridiculous. Wren put an excellent team on the field despite the difference in payrolls between him and many other teams, and he filled it with depth to absorb the injuries the team is faced. Fredi was charged with deploying it, and instead of doing it correctly, he taking the organization backward. Heyward and Prado are the better players from a scouting and statistical perspective, and they need to be the ones in the game.

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Game 116 Recap (8/7/11)

Written by Paddy McMahon on .


Braves 8 (67-49), Marlins 5 (55-60)

W: Derek Lowe
L: Brad Hand
SV: Craig Kimbrel

This looked to be about as easy a win as the Braves have had all year (with the exception of eternal screwup Scott Proctor's 9th inning. Though that did provide us the opportunity to revel in another Craig Kimbrel performance -- two batters faced, two strikeouts). Every lineup regular reached base at least once, and David Ross was the only one to not record at least one hit. That, of course, means that Dan Uggla now has a 29-game hitting streak, over the course of which he's hitting roughly 1.251 with 38 HR. Martin Prado had an absolute bomb of a ground rule double to left center and Alex Gonzalez got all of a ball that went into the blue seats of Sun Life stadium, and Michael Bourn, Chipper Jones and Jose Constanza each recorded a pair of triples.

On the subject of Constanza: I'm of two minds here. On one hand, he absolutely, positively should not be starting over Jason Heyward. At all, full stop. I mean, he did this. In an actual, Major League baseball game! And he's not even all that good and Heywrd needs to develop and AH OKAY STOP IT.

See, on the other hand, he is hitting over .400, and the longer he keeps prolonging the illusion that he is not, y'know, Jose Constanza, it's hard to be too angry that Fredi Gonzalez continues to aggressively mismanage this team by starting him over Heyward. I mean, he's making positive contributions, and we all want the team to win ... but there definitely is an element of not wanting Fredi's team to succeed in spite of the mistakes he's making. I guess that it's ultimately about the results, but for the erudite fan, the process is equally -- if not more -- important than what ends up happening. That's why FIP is a more valuable indicator of how a pitcher actually performed in a season than ERA; that's why run differential is a better way to determine which are actually the best teams in the league. 

So here's my compromise: as long as he keeps hitting and not Scott Proctoring everything up, I won't begrudge him his playing time during the game. But before and after the game? You're damn right I'll be railing against Fredi for unconsciably ruining the development of one of the premier prospects of the last I don't know how many years.

Oh, cool thing, you guys: Sun Life Field is actually so sparsely attended that you can hear a manager yelling at the home plate ump and actually asking to get run. Which is precisely what happened in this game, when Hunter Wendelstedt wanted to put on a show tossed Fredi for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout. 

Anyway.

Let's touch on the pitching before moving along. Derek Lowe turned in a quality start, going six innings while allowing six hits, two runs, walking three and striking out three. I guess that's more of a mediocre start, but y'know what, it's Derek Lowe, so let's be easy here. Cristhian Martinez threw two good innings of relief, allowing a home run to Greg Dobbs but displaying impressive command of the fastball to the inside part of the plate. It's the little things, you guys.

Also Scott Proctor continued his season-long plea for DFA status, walking two and surrendering a home run to John Buck while recording just one out. That's bad enough on its own, but -- and I should qualify this by saying that I'm never unhappy to get to watch Craig Kimbrel pitch -- it also necessitated (well, inasmuch as a three-run lead 'necessitates' anything) an apperance from our rookie closer to wipe out the final two batters on strikes and pick up his 35th save.

Tomorrow, come hell or high water (or, more precisely, neither of those things) the Braves and Marlins will do it again starting at 7:10 EDT. Brandon "Life's A" Beachy will compete in a no-holds-barred death match against Clay "It's Hedley" Hensley.  

Jose Constanza and the Platoon Fallacy

Written by Joe Lucia on .

We have a situation here in Atlanta that I briefly touched on yesterday. Jason Heyward is struggling, and instead of letting him face lefties and play every day to work out his problems....Fredi has moved him into a platoon. You can argue all you want that it's not a platoon, but guess what? He's on the bench again today, after reaching three times yesterday and getting double switched out in the sixth inning. In the month of August, where the Braves have played seven games, Heyward has ten at bats. TEN. In seven games. He's not playing every day. He's losing playing time to a pair of inferior players, and it doesn't make any sense.

Fans are clinging to the old adage of "riding the hot hand" to explain Heyward being on the bench. Jose Constanza is playing like a man possessed since his recall from Gwinnett, going 14/34, albeit with only three extra base hits and one walk. His BABIP thusfar this year is .433. Think about that: .433. Constanza should have a higher BABIP due to his speed, but a number that high is really not sustainable. The question isn't "if" he will fall down to earth, but "when". I liken the situation with Constanza to going to a casino. You plunk $100 down on the blackjack table and start playing. After a half hour, you're up $50. The common sense move is to walk away, because if you keep playing, you're going to lose all that money. You've made a profit. Why not get the hell out of there? Right now, the Braves are the degenerate gambler who keeps throwing in $20 a hand and ignoring the porn star sitting next to you who wants to get freaky. Who in the hell would want to keep gambling with money that you're eventually going to go bust on when there is a much better option RIGHT THERE?

There's another thing I want to touch on right now, and that's the infatuation Braves fans have with Martin Prado. What the hell is up with this? Prado has a .726 OPS as a corner outfielder, and is hitting second with a 6.2% walk rate. And of course, he's been completely absolved from any scorn or criticism. When Dan Uggla was struggling, he was raked through the coals. When Jason Heyward didn't perform up to expectations, he was taken to the woodshed for some unknown reaeson. When Prado struggles....fans talk about how good-looking he is and spout off inane catchphrases like "MVPrado". You know what Prado is? He's a slap hitting infielder. And he's not playing the infield right now. He's a corner outfielder, and he's hitting like a shortstop. This is pathetic, and I'd argue that it's way more draining on the team than Heyward's struggles.

You wanna talk about the hot hand? Prado had a .688 OPS in July, and is off to a pitiful .490 start here in August. Heyward was at .687 in July, and so far in his brief bit of playing time in August, he's at .929. Obviously, you have to bench the better hitting player that has more upside. This also doesn't take defense into account at all, where Heyward is a +11 in right field, and Prado is a -1 in left field. That right there is one full win. Constanza is a cumulative +2 on the year over all three positions thusfar, but it's still too small of a sample to decide what his defensive results will look like.

So to summarize. If you're Fredi Gonzalez, you'd rather play a slap hitting, career minor leaguer and a slap hitting, outfield butcher over a guy who is the face of the franchise. I've become less pissed off that Constanza is playing every day, and more pissed off that Prado is playing every day. I'd really like to see some accountability for Prado by fans, but I'm not holding my breath. 

Analyzing Jason Heyward's Disappointing Year

Written by Joe Lucia on .

As most Braves fans will know just from watching the games this season, Jason Heyward doesn't seem like himself. All of his slash stats are in the pits, and some fans are (incorrectly) screaming to the heavens that he needs to be demoted to AAA or turned into a platoon player, which is absolute lunacy. I did some digging to find out what's up with Heyward, and the results....are very un-Heywardlike.

First off, his low batting average can be immediately tied to one thing: a terrible BABIP of .244. Last season, it was .335. A decline was expected, but not a 90 point decline. But why is his BABIP so low? Looking at his batted ball stats is pretty stunning. He's hitting pop-ups 24.6% of the time. Think about that for a minute: essentially once a game, he's hitting a pop-up. Only the inimitable Corey Patterson is higher this season, and you don't want to be compared to Corey Patterson at all. Interestingly enough, teammate Nate McLouth is fourth on the list at 21.3%, and Alex Gonzalez is eighth at 19.2% (minimum 300 plate appearances). That's pretty laughable...three Braves hitters in the league's top ten of hitting pop-ups.

But back to Heyward's batted ball stats. His line drive rate is down to a pitiful 13.2%, which is fifth worst in baseball, again with a minimum of 300 plate appearances. Another interesting note: Chipper Jones is third worst, at 12.7%. No wonder this team's offense is struggling. His groundball and flyball rates are pretty much where they should be, so his struggles can clearly be pointed at the abundance of pop-ups and lack of line drives.

Why is this happening, though? He's been one of the most polished hitters wherever he's played for years. It seems odd that he'd start to struggle this year. Is his shoulder still bothering him? Heyward would probably never publicly admit it, but I'm assuming that's the case, and he's starting to press at the plate. The "aggressiveness" aspect pushed forward by new hitting coach Larry Parrish probably isn't helping things. Heyward's strong suit is his patience. Making him change his game to fit into Parrish's mold of a hitter isn't helping his approach.

Looking at Heyward's plate discipline stats is stunning. He's swinging at more pitches in the zone (24.2% last year, 28.5% this year), more pitches out of the zone (58.8% to 67.4%), making less contact in the zone (64.0% to 61.5%) and making less contact out of the zone (barely: 87.1% to 86.8%). Heyward has gone, overall, from one of the more patient hitters in the league to the middle of the pack. Plate discipline has been one of his strong suits for his entire career, and this season, that strong suit has been sapped away from him.

To summarize: Heyward is struggling because he's swinging way too much, and when he's making contact, he's not making good contact. Is it because of the shoulder, or because of Parrish? We may never know, unless Parrish is jettisoned from the team this offseason, and Heyward is allowed to go back to his old habits that made him a successful player over his entire professional career. 

Game 113 Recap (8/5/11)

Written by Paddy McMahon on .


Braves 4 (65-48), Mets 1 (55-56)

W: Tim Hudson
L: R.A. Dickey
SV: Craig Kimbrel

Oh, sweet victory! Not only did the Braves win this in fairly convincing fashion, but today's results sees the Mets drop below .500 for the first time all season, which is outstanding.

Now, I was stuck at work for the first like hour of this broadcast, but from what I saw, Tim Hudson was locked in, and the numbers bear that out. Seven outstanding innings of three-hit, one-run ball with two walks and two Ks for the sinkerballer, who showed excellent composure in getting through a difficult seventh inning. In a turn perhaps emblematic of his performance tonight, he shook off what should have been an uncomplicated 6-3 grounder but was instead sloppy from Alex Gonzalez's nonchalant throw to Freddie Freeman's weak effort at corraling the low throw and escape the inning unscathed, a play I mention because lord knows you have to say SOMETHING negative about your team's performance when they win. 

In fact, we can say two negative things! Because man oh man, the bullpen ... Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel performed their familiar routine, but it was a heartstoppingly tense last couple of innnigs. I mean, Venters allowed a walk and a hit, and Kimbrel struck out just one batter. I'd have burned my Braves hat if (a) it weren't in the car and (b) I had a source of fire around.

But enough of that; let's hand out some accolades for the offense. They nearly managed to scrape across a run without hitting the ball out of the infield in the seventh inning, but Dan Uggla had to go and ruin all that by shooting a single into left field to score a pair. Hey, did you not think that Dan Uggla was a great guy before? He's nearly halfway to DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak, and yet isn't hitting his weight. You love to see that.

Other'n him, we had two-hit performances from both Martin Prado -- who contributed to the Braves' bevy of infield hits -- and the team's only .300 hitter, Freddie Freeman, whose double paired up with Jose Constanza's triple to account for all the extra-base hits the Braves would record on the night. Which it's still weird hearing broadcasters say 'Constanza.' It's like someone with a speech impediment being a really big fan of Seinfeld, but just not being able to express it all that well.

Oh, and before we hit the outro, did you guys know that the Mets catchers don't call their own pitches? It's true! The catcher relays them from the dugouts. So now you have the answer to the question that's been bugging you all these years: yes, the Mets actually are a little league squad. 

You know the really cool part, though? We get to do this all again tomorrow. Same time (7:10 ET), same channel (in theory, anyway), different pitchers (Tommy "Hammer" Hanson and Jon "Nice Enough" Niese). Ride or die, you guys!





Game Recap: 8/3/11

Written by Brian Fessler on .


Braves 6, Nationals 4

WP: Brandon Beachy (5-2)

LP: Chien-Ming Wang (0-2)

SV: Craig Kimbrel (32)

The Braves came into play Wednesday afternoon having gone just 9-10 since the All-Star break, including two losses against the Nationals to start the two teams' three-game series. It was going to be up to Brandon Beachy to defeat the Chien-Ming Wang in order to avoid the sweep. Just to keep things interesting, Fredi again hit the pitcher in the eighth spot while sitting Jason Heyward for the second game in a row.

Atlanta jumped on the board early. Michael Bourn led-off the contest with a ground ball to the left side. He immediately stole second (his first as a Brave) and advanced to third on a Prado ground out.  He then scored on a Freddie Freeman ground out to third. A Michael Bourn run on only a single, just like Frank Wren drew it up. The Braves tacked on another first inning run on a rare Alex Gonzalez two-out RBI, driving in Dan Uggla, who had singled (extending his hitting streak to 25 games) and moved to second on an Eric Hinske walk.

Both teams put up goose eggs over the next three innings before the Atlanta bats again came alive in the fifth. Beachy started things off, reaching on an error by Wang. Fredi’s man-crush Jose Constanza moved him to third with a line drive single to Jayson Werth in right. After a Borun fielder’s choice, Beachy then attempted to score on a Martin Prado grounder to third, but was nailed at the plate for the second out of the inning. Freddie Freeman, who had earlier extended his own hitting streak to 18 games, drove in the team’s third run with a single to center. Uggla then stepped to the plate and unloaded on a Wang hanging slider for his 23rd homer of the year (about 22 of those have comes over the past 5 or so games, right?), giving Atlanta a comfortable 6-0 lead.

Brandon Beachy was cruising through the Nationals line-up, putting up a scoreless gem through the fifth inning. Then the sixth inning hit and the rookie’s wheels absolutely fell off.  It was painful to watch, so I’ll describe it in as few words as possible: walk, single, wild pitch, single (run), wild pitch (run), home run (two runs). Make it 6-4 Braves. That four batter sequence spelled the end for Beachy, who was replaced by Anthony Varvaro. Varvaro promptly walked the first batter he faced before the skies opened up for a brief 20+ minute rain delay. The precipitation proved to be just the break Atlanta. Varavro struck out the next two batters before walking his second inning. Fredi then brought in Eric O’Flaherty to get Rick Ankiel to fly out with two runners on.

While the Braves couldn't plate any more runs the rest of the afternoon, the last 2/3 of O'Ventbrel made sure they didn't have to. Venters made it a 1-2-3 eighth with a groundout and two strikeouts. Kimbrel took the mound in the ninth and put up his own 1-2-3 groundout, strikeout, strikeout innning for the thirty-second save of his stellar rookie season.

The 'pen put up four scoreless innings to keep the Nats in check and preserve the win for Beachy, while Freeman and Uggla led the team at the plate. The duo notched four of the team's seven hits and drove in five of the team's six runs. Atlanta remains one of just teams in baseball that have yet to be swpet this season. Following an off day tomorrow, the Braves take on the Mets at Citi Field for a three-game weekend series. Tim Hudson will toe the rubber against R.A. Dickey Friday night to kick off the set.

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