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Chop-N-Change: An Atlanta Braves Blog | Page 27

Braves Announce September Call-ups

Written by Bill Ballew on .

Dave O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting the Braves will promote six players from Triple-A Gwinnett when rosters are expanded on Wednesday, September 1. Three are familiar faces at Turner Field: corner infielder Troy Glaus, outfielder Nate McLouth and pitcher Kenshin Kawakami. Don't expect any of the three to play significant roles. Manager Bobby Cox would have be in a tough situation to depend on McLouth at the plate or Kawakami on the mound with a division title on the line. Glaus was sent up I-85 to work some at third base. With the G-Braves he looked like he had never played the position. With his lack of mobility, Glaus can only be expected to serve as a pinch-hitter and a possible fill-in for Derrick Lee at first base.

The other three include pitcher Scott Proctor, catcher J.C. Boscan and first baseman Freddie Freeman (pictured)freddie_freeman_approaching_plate. Proctor was expected to help Atlanta earlier in the season but had trouble getting back in rhythm after undergoing surgery last year. Boscan will be on hand to give the Braves another catcher in the bullpen. Freeman will be given the chance to learn the protocol of a major league clubhouse and dugout prior to becoming the leading candidate to start at the first turn next season. There were various reports suggesting that Freeman would not be promoted in order to limit his service time and other long-term factors. Fortunately GM Frank Wren made the right decision by focusing on the baseball aspects and realizing Freeman's comfort level in 2011 will be enhanced by spending September in a pennant race.

Several other corresponding moves were made throughout the organization on Tuesday. The most notable ones included pitcher Erik Cordier receiving a promotion from Mississippi to Gwinnett. Shortstop Mycal Jones made the climb from Myrtle Beach to Mississippi, while second baseman Phil Gosselin was promoted from Rome to Myrtle Beach.

Freeman and Cordier are two of the seven players scheduled to be playing in the Arizona Fall League in October and November. While the list is subject to change, the other four include Gwinnett pitchers Brandon Beachy and Michael Broadway, Mississippi pitcher Kyle Cofield and shortstop Tyler Pastornicky and Myrtle Beach outfielder Cory Harrilchak. I had incorrectly listed pitcher Lee Hyde earlier as a participant in the AFL.

Braves Pulling In Minor League Honors

Written by Bill Ballew on .

It's easy to forget while watching minor league games that developing talent in order to win championships at the major league level is far and away the primary goal of every farm system. Obviously, that plan is working well for the Braves. With Monday night's pasting of the New York Mets and the Phillies loss at Los Angeles, Atlanta's lead in the National League East increased to three games. The Phils, meanwhile, continue to lead the wild-card standings, with both situations boding well for the Braves' chances for playoff spots heading into the season's final month.

As of Tuesday morning, it does not appear there will be any post-season play among the Braves' six minor league clubs. Starting at the bottom rung of the ladder, the Gulf Coast League Braves finished in fifth place in the North Division with a 27-31 redmond_toddmark. In the Appalachian League, Danville, a perennial playoff participant, heads into the final game of the slate down one game to Burlington for the wild-card spot. The D-Braves are in third place with a 33-34 record and are riding a four-game losing string. Burlington has won five straight outings to blow past Danville.

Rome has spent most of the South Atlantic League season in the South Division cellar with a combined record of 57-75. Myrtle Beach is 56-78 ovearall but has challenged for the second-half crown in the Carolina League, currently residing four games behind first-place Winston-Salem. Mississippi has had a stranglehold on fourth place throughout the season while going 59-71. Gwinnett has been steady in second place in the International League's South Division at 69-67. Barring a miracle, the G-Braves will be eliminated for the wild-card spot in the next few days.

On the surface, those numbers do not appear to be anything to get excited about. The reality, however, is quite different. No organization is more dedicated to developing players for the next level than the Braves. Their mission is being accomplished once again this season, with green peas Jason Heyward and Jonny Venters among the strong contenders for National League Rookie of the Year honors. First baseman Freddie Freeman is on the verge of contributing at the game's top level, while shortstop Brandon Hicks and infielder Diory Hernandez have spent time with Bobby Cox's crew this summer.

Individually, several players are putting together strong finishes, a fact that can be noted in that at least one Brave farmhand was named either the pitcher or player of the month in a minor league in August. The amazing righthander Julio Teheran started the award parade by being tabbed Southern League Pitcher of the Week for August 2-8. For the week of August 9-15, Gwinnett first baseman/designated hitter Barbaro Canizares was the player of the week in the International League, while Myrtle Beach shortstop Mycal Jones received player of the week accolades in the Carolina League.

Gwinnett outfielder/second baseman Matt Young was the player of the week in the IL for August 16-22, and Myrtle Beach righthander J.J. Hoover was the Carolina League pitcher of the week for the same stretch. And, as was announced yesterday, Gwinnett's Todd Redmond (pictured) was the pitcher of the week for August 23-30, and Danville's Ryan Delgado was dubbed the Appalachian League player of the week.

In the coming days, I'll look at some of the individual bright spots in the organization, including several of the players mentioned above. In the meantime, don't let the Braves' lack of post-season play in the minor leagues fester. Instead, put that energy toward a National League pennant this September for the big club, which in the big scheme of things is really all that matters in professional baseball.

* * * * *

On a side note, two former Braves received similar recognition in recent weeks. Deunte Heath, who was released by the Braves in spring training after being charged with soliciting for prostitution, was the pitcher of the week in the Southern League for August 16-22 while twirling for Birmingham. And this past week, 27-year-old Cole Armstrong was named the Southern League hitter of the week, also for the Barons. Armstrong was drafted by Atlanta in 2003 and earned all-star honors in the Appalachian League in 2004 before being selected in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft after the 2005 campaign.

Say It Ain't So, Chuck!

Written by Bill Ballew on .

The rumor mill along the Grand Strand has been buzzing at full throttle of late, spinning nonstop like a hamster on crack. With the conclusion of the mock auction confirming that Nolan Ryan and Pelicans owner Chuck Greenberg have added the Texas Rangers to the stable, the word has run rampant that Myrtle Beach's boys of summer will be representing the American League club instead of the Atlanta Braves as soon as next season.

As a refresher, minor league teams and major league affiliates sign player development contracts that typically run in two-year cycles and conclude after even-numbered seasons. The Braves are one of the very few major league teams that owns most of its farm clubs-Triple-A Gwinnett, Double-A Mississippi, Class Rome and Rookie-level Danville-meaning they never have to worry about where their up-and-comers will be toiling on an annual basis.

The exception has been the Advanced Class A step, although that has been consistent for the past three decades. The Braves were partners in the Durham Bulls' revival in 1980 and remained at Durham Athletic Park until the city moved up to the Triple-A International League in 1998. After spending one year in Danville as the 97s while locating a new home, the Braves played an integral role in helping get what is now BB&T Coastal Field built in time for the 1999 campaign.

Before the Braves' arrival, professional baseball was anything but a success, at least in the stands, along the Grand Strand. The area's lone stint in pro ball prior to the Pelicans' presence came in the South Atlantic League, from 1987-1992. As an affiliate of the Blue Jays, the Myrtle Beach team won league titles in its first and final seasons. The games were played in Conway, on the campus of Coastal Carolina University, because city and county officials refused to provide any financial assistance for a ballpark. The lethal combination produced seasonal draws that ranged from a high of 78,212 in 1988 to a low of 61,120 during the team's swan song. Given the fact that minor league numbers are akin to the major leagues' on-field stats during the steroid era, it doesn't take a room temperature IQ to see why owner Winston Blenckstone took his toys to Hagerstown.

That scenario changed when the Braves and Capitol Broadcasting combined forces to get baseball back on the South Carolina coast. In addition to working with local politicians to get the ballpark built, the Braves provided assistance with the layout to make the facility fan friendly while contributing design elements that were reminiscent of Turner Field. The result was an immediate success as well as a recent resurgence after Greenberg purchased the team a few years back.

In my opinion, Greenberg would be making a huge mistake in kicking the Braves out of Myrtle Beach. Braves fans from throughout the Southeast make dual-purpose trips to the beach along the Grand Strand with evenings at BB&T Coastal Field, with many of them doing so several times over the course of the campaign. Without the Braves as the main attraction, many of those excursions will evaporate, thereby hurting the Pelicans' attendance.

The rumor mill also has the Braves possibly relocating to Kinston, where the Cleveland Indians have resided since 1987. The K-Tribe has had a loyal following during that time, but Grainger Stadium and the heat found in eastern North Carolina are not exactly enticing alternatives after more than a decade in Myrtle Beach. That's a deal along the lines of Charlie Brown trading five Mickey Mantle cards for one Joe Shlabotnik.

The Rangers appear to be headed to the playoffs thanks in large part to the trade they made with the Braves that sent Mark Teixeira to Atlanta for Texas' starting shortstop Elvis Andrus, closer Neftali Feliz and pitcher Matt Harrison. Isn't that enough in this game of cowboys and Indians? Come on, Chuck, do the right thing and keep the Braves in Myrtle Beach.

Albert Pujols and Joey Votto, Meet Omar Infante

Written by Evan Walker on .

Albert Pujols is once again defying the odds and shredding the history books while the young "Big Red Machine," Joey Votto, is establishing his reputation as one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. Both have a legitimate chance of winning the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

So we thought.

Last month, we were all scratching our heads laughing at the "fool," Charlie Manuel, for selecting super-utility man Omar Infante of the Atlanta Braves to the National League All-Star team.

One month later, Infante has proven his All-Star ability and is on track to win the National League batting title.

Now who's laughing?

Infante has the league's best batting average at .347. However, to qualify for the batting title, a player must have a total of 502 plate appearances. Infante is currently at 342.

That means that Infante must play the remaining 35 games of the season and average 4.4 plate appearances each game.

This is a very unlikely scenario and nearly impossible if the Braves can clinch a playoff spot at the end of the season and Bobby Cox decides to rest his players, but in the world of baseball, there is always a loophole.

The Loophole: If a player doesn't finish with 502 plate appearances, you can the add necessary hitless  plate appearances to get him there. If his new batting average is still good enough to lead the league, he gets his batting title.

As of right now, here are the standings in the NL Triple Crown categories:

Average: 1. Votto (.326), 2. Pujols (.320)

Homers: 1. Pujols (33), T-2. Votto (31)

RBIs: 1. Pujols (92), 2. Votto (90)

The Triple Crown race could be even tighter than the race for the NL Central, but if Infante can keep his batting average over .340, there may be no Triple Crown; just a utility man running into the shadows with his batting title and a story to tell for ages. 

Braves, Phils A Fight To The Finish?

Written by Bill Ballew on .

The Giants have been toiling in the National League for a while, a franchise that dates to 1883. Never during that span has the team won a game after trailing by as many as nine runs. They nearly accomplished the feat on Wednesday by rallying from a 10-1 deficit against the Reds to tie the contest, only to lose in 12 frames.

The Colorado Rockies, circa 1993, achieved the feat of coming back from a nine-run hole to win on Wednesday. While someone must have forgotten to put the baseballs in the humidor and reminded Jair Jurrjens that simply throwing the stitched sphere over the plate does not win big league games, regardless of the size of the advantage, the Braves were the victim of the Rockies' rally, thereby concluding a three-game sweep at Coors Field. The lone positive from the day's events was the fact that Philadelphia dropped its third straight at home to the lowly Astros, which kept Atlanta's lead at 2 1/2 games while wiping another date off the 2010 slate.

Fortunately, the Braves are off on Thursday, a fact that should give the team a chance to rest and lick its wounds after being rolled by the Rocks. The off-day also sets the stage for an important week that could go a long way toward deciding the division winner.

The Braves have 35 games remaining--20 at Turner Field and 15 on the road. That's good news, considering that the Braves are 44-17 when playing alongside Hank Aaron Drive versus a pedestrian 29-37 away from the comforts of home. The Phillies, meanwhile, have 36 games left--17 at Citizens Bank Park, where they are 42-25, and 19 on the road, where they are 28-31. Twenty-eight of Atlanta's games are against National League East clubs, the exceptions being three at PNC Park in Pittsburgh and four at home against St. Louis. The Phils have a similar schedule by facing the NL East in 25 of their 36 outings.

In all likelihood, the division will be decided in two parts of the slate. Over the next week, the Braves have the easier stretch by hosting the Marlins for three games this weekend before welcoming the Mets for four. The Phillies play the series finale against Houston on Thursday before traveling across the country to San Diego to meet the first-place Padres three times. Charlie Manuel's crew then goes to Los Angeles for three next Monday through Wednesday before making a one-day stop in Colorado on Thursday to make up a May 11 postponement. That's eight games in eight days in four cities with a cross-country flight thrown in. Not easy.

The other part is more obvious--the head-to-head three-game series in Philadelphia on September 20-22 and the season-ending three-game set in Atlanta on October 1-3. Sweeping six games for either team will be a tough task, which makes it that much more important for Bobby Cox's club to make the most of the week ahead.

The Braves definitely have an easier road ahead than the Phillies over the next five-plus weeks. But allowing the Phils to remain within striking distance is not advisable, particularly since Philadelphia has played much of its season without key components that are gradually getting back on the field. Now is the time for the Braves to play their best baseball. If Atlanta fails to create any breathing room, the two-time defending National League champs might still have life come the final weekend of the slate.

By the way, that last weekend of the year will be Cox's final series as Atlanta's manager. Might be a good idea to go ahead and secure those tickets asap.

Salcedo Rushed To Rome

Written by Bill Ballew on .

There's no questsalcedo_resizeion the Atlanta Braves are among the best at what they do, which is sign and develop talent in order to compete for championships at the major league level. In fact, in more than two decades of covering the team and more than 40 years of following them, I have seen the Braves commit very few mistakes in terms of making the right decision for players making the proverbial climb along the organizational ladder.

Unfortunately, the Braves pushed too hard this season with shortstop Edward Salcedo. Signed during the early days of spring training for $1.6 million, the largest bonus ever given to an international player by the Atlanta organization, Salcedo went through camp in Florida before spending a month, from late May until late June, in the Dominican Summer League. Comfortable in the surroundings of his homeland, the La Vega native batted .297 and demonstrated his excellent bat speed by posting a .432 slugging percentage and an OPS of .885 in 23 contests. His plate discipline was also impressive, as evidenced by his 18 walks. There were a few concerns, naturally, including his seven errors and 19 strikeouts in 74 at-bats, yet neither number could be deemed excessive.


Where the Braves made their mistake was sending Salcedo to Class A Rome instead of the Gulf Coast League after his stint in the DSL. Had he reported to Orlando, Salcedo would have been able to make a steady adjustment to a new culture while having a support system in place in the form of numerous Spanish-speaking teammates. He also would have been able to compete away from the spotlight in the relative anonymity of the GCL. He could have gradually learned some English and received a little extra care by living in the complex's dormitories.

Instead of easing into the United States and professional baseball in Orlando, Salcedo has struggled in Rome. He initially worked out an agreement with pitcher Steve Figueroa in which Salcedo would foot the bills if Figueroa would drive the shortstop around town and live with him to help make the adjustment to life in the United States easier. Figueroa, who was born in New York and raised in Florida and speaks fluent Spanish, was more than willing to help, yet was released by the Braves just a few days later. Since then, Salcedo has stayed in the shadow of catcher Christian Bethancourt as he tries to communicate with his coaches, teammates and others.

In the meantime, playing the game has been even harder for Salcedo than adjusting to a new culture. Through games of August 24, Salcedo's batting average was riding on the razor's edge of the Mendoza line at exactly .200 (31-for-155). Facing pitchers in the South Atlantic League who for the most part are at least three years older and have more professional and/or collegiate experience, Salcedo has fanned 40 times in 155 at-bats while drawing only nine walks. He has tried hard to make up for his lack of production by swinging from his heels in certain situations. Instead of making consistent contact, Salcedo's aggressiveness has been used against him by hurlers and opponents with considerably more savvy than the teen-aged Dominican. The same has been seen in the field, where Salcedo displays excellent range and a very strong arm, yet makes poor decisions at times with his throws, which has led to 21 errors, including three games with two or more.

There is no question that Salcedo has the tools to be a solid major leaguer. When he has hit the ball in the SAL, he has displayed power potential and above-average speed with five doubles, four triples and a home run. Yet when he went deep in Greenville for his first big fly in the United States on August 7, Drive manager Billy McMillon was not impressed, saying he didn't care for Salcedo "pimping around the bases in a 10-0 game." The former major league outfielder had a point, but give the kid a break in an otherwise tough situation.

That home run has been one of the few big moments for Salcedo in August. In 19 games this month, he is hitting .183, with only 13 hits in 71 at-bats. It's obvious that his confidence has sagged, yet to his credit his approach has remained resilient. He works hard prior to games, willingly signs autographs for hordes of collectors at every ballpark, and attacks the game with a vengeance, from the first pitch until the final out.

Scouts and opposing managers are universal in their belief that Salcedo's struggles are evidence of his lack of game experience. His tools are obvious, which he and his representatives were able to display to would-be employers in various showcase events in the Dominican Republic. He initially attracted attention in 2007 when the Cleveland Indians entered negotiations with the player’s representative at the time, Scott Boras. The Indians were prepared to acquire Salcedo’s services for $2 million before questions arose that centered on Salcedo being too young to sign. The Braves and other teams requested an investigation by Major League Baseball regarding Salcedo's age, with his reported birthdate of July 30, 1991, being verified after more than 18 months.

Given his talent, Salcedo should be able to make some adjustments, both on the field and off, during instructional league this fall. He also might have the opportunity to play some this winter in the Dominican Republic, which could also help get things pointed in the right direction. For obvious reasons the Braves were excited about adding Salcedo to the fold and even referred to him as being the equivalent of a first-round draft pick. That could still be the case. Hopefully in the meantime the Braves will learn from this rare mistake and continue to place players based on merit instead of reasons beyond a young man's control.

Anatomy of an All-Star: Infante and Luck

Written by Paddy McMahon on .

As Evan mentioned at the end of his article, Omar Infante has a chance to win the batting title this season if he manages to accrue 4.4 PA per game the rest of the way. He's currently at 4.7, which means that if he can stay healthy, he should run away with the award. After all, his .349 average easily paces the NL field; the ineligible* Buster Posey is hitting .339 and Joey Votto leads qualified hitters with a .323 mark. Barring some terrible slump - or some truly remarkable performance by Votto - the batting title should be Infante's to take. Which would be yet another reason to call this a banner year for the 28-year old utility man; I don't think more than the smallest handful of even the most optimistic of Braves fans would honestly have expected an All-Star appearance and batting title contention out of Infante. What's been his secret this season?

*I like Buster Posey and I'd feel bad if all I said about him was "ineligible." So: the ineligible, but also very talented, Buster Posey...

Let's start by looking at some of his career numbers at the plate:

.275/.319/.399, 42/61 SB, 6.0% walk rate, 17.4% K rate, .315 BABIP, 0.88 GB/FB, 21.5% line drive rate, 5.2% HR/FB

Basically, we're looking at a fairly marginal hitter (career 92 wRC+, or about 8% below average) whose bat plays because of his handy work in the field; he's an average fielder at every infield position, which makes him a reasonably valuable dude. He doesn't have great wheels, doesn't walk much, doesn't have much power, and strikes out a little more than you'd like to see from a hitter of that caliber. Basically, up until this season, he's been the antithesis of an All-Star. But look upon his work this season, ye Charlie Manuel, and despair:

.349/.379/.455, 5% walk rate, 14.3% strikeout rate, .391 BABIP, 1.39 GB/FB, 18.7% LD, 6.5% HR/FB

Of course, the most notable thing here is that .391 BABIP that is certainly inflating his stats. After all, he's walking less often than he has in his career, is hitting more groundballs, and smacking fewer line drives. That is not comme on dit a recipe for success, and indeed, regressing his BABIP to the mean looks like it could very easily drag his season line down to the mediocre depths we've seen from Infante in the past. But I for one am not satisfied with the idea that one of the Braves' best hitters this season is purely a creation of good fortune on balls in play and I suspect that you aren't, either. So what can we look at to see why Infante has stepped his game up? How about this:

27.2% O-Swing, 59.0% Z-Swing, 43.2% swing frequency, 68.8% O-Contact, 93.3% Z-Contact, 85.7% Contact, 5.8% Whiff

If you're not familiar with those, that's (in order) the percent of time he swings at pitches outside of the zone, in the zone, how often he swings, how often he makes contact on pitches out of the zone, pitches in the zone, overall contact rate, and how often he swings and misses. Mouthful! But all of that means nothing out of context, so lemme fill you in a bit here: he's swinging at way more pitches out of the zone (22% career average), fewer pitches in the zone (62.4%), and fewer pitches overall (44.2%). Which come on, Omar, I'm trying to make you look good here. So far, we're dealing with a breakout season that has come despite doing just about everything wrong, viz hitting fewer balls in the air, fewer line drives, walking less often, and showing markedly worse plate discipline. Weird, right?

But here's one good thing: when he's swinging at all those bad pitches, he's making contact at a much higher rate than usual (56.6%) and rarely misses a pitch when he does offer at one in the zone (five percentage points above league average). The dude can handle the bat, as further evidenced by that tiny whiff rate. But 'handling the bat' is not the hallmark of a 129 wRC+ hitter, it's what they say about the guy who comes up with a runner on first and tries to slap a single to the right side on a hit-and-run. And those guys aren't usually fourth on their team in wOBA.

Unfortunately, as I suspect we fans intuitively knew, it's unlikely that Infante will continue to playing at that level. His rest-of-season projection from ZiPS has him at .310/.355/.394, for a roughly league-average .331 wOBA. That's precipitated, of course, by a projected .356 BABIP going forward; as PAs pile up, it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain a...well, an unsustainable BABIP. And Infante has somewhere between 144-180 ABs left in the season (36*4, 36*5), so don't be surprised if we see him slipping back to what we expected going into the season - a decent singles hitter. But, hey, no one likes to end on a bad note, so take heart: (A) as long as he gets the ABs, he'll almost certainly still win the batting title, and (B) Derrek Lee's BABIP is 30 points below his career average and he's projected to post a .345 wOBA the rest of the way. See? Peach tea and sunshine abound!

Jurjens Takes The Mound As Braves Try To Avoid Sweep

Written by Evan Walker on .

Omar InfanteThe Atlanta Braves have already lost the three-game series with the Colorado Rockies. They have been out-pitched and out-hit.

Now, Atlanta turns to one of their most reliable pitchers in hopes of shutting down the potent Rockies offense and avoiding a series sweep.

In the month of August, Jair Jurjens is 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA. Since being activated from the disabled list, the Braves have won eight of the ten games that Jurjens has started.

Esmil Rogers will be today's starter for the Rockies. In his last outing, Rogers had a career outing, giving up one run on six hits in 6 1/3 innings against the D-backs.

The Braves will look to score more runs in the early innings of the ball game. Although heart-pounding comebacks are entertaining, they have not worked out like the Braves expected in this series.

This lack of offense in the past couple of days is most likely from the lack of production from newly acquired Derek Lee and Brian McCann. The top of the Braves order, with Omar Infante, Jason Heyward, and Martin Prado, is consistently hitting and getting on base, but Lee and McCann have failed to drive them in.

Infante, who has raised his overall batting average to .350, looks to extend his 13-game hitting streak and continue to crush the hopes and dreams of Triple Crown contenders. Infante needs to average 4.4 plate appearances per-game to qualify for the batting title. He is averaging 4.7 this month.

The Curious Case Of Derek Lowe: Bad Luck Or Bad Pitching?

Written by #test on .

What happened to Derek Lowe?

In the offseason of 2009, the Atlanta Braves signed Derek Lowe to a four-year, $60 million dollar contract. Lowe was one of the most accomplished pitchers in baseball. He was the man who broke the curse of the Bambino, he threw the first no-no in Fenway since 1965, and in his four previous years, his ERA never climbed above four.

Since 2005, the only National League pitcher to win more games than Lowe is Roy Oswalt.

That was the old Derek Lowe.

Lowe has not been absolutely terrible for the Braves, but he has definitely not proven to be the pitcher that they invested $60 million dollars in. Last year, his ERA flirted with five points and this year, Lowe has been far from great.

Lowe's recent struggles have left people wondering if the old Lowe rider has any gas left in the tank.

Baseball is a sport of a million statistics and there may just be a few stats that could explain the sudden free-fall of Derek Lowe's career.

Lowe's four years in Los Angeles were the best four years of his baseball career. His average ERA was 3.59 and Lowe was striking out six men per nine innings. He was pitching consistently and winning more games than the majority of pitchers in the NL.

Just about when the Braves thought they were getting one of the best pitchers in baseball, Lowe ran out of luck.

 

Batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is a statistic measuring the percentage of plate appearances ending with a batted ball in play (excluding HRs) for which the batter is credited with a hit. This sabermetric stat is used to determine if a pitcher's season is dependent on luck.

While with the Dodgers, Lowe had an average BABIP of .291. This is slightly below the average BABIP of .300, so some could say that while in Hollywood, Lowe was slightly lucky.

When Lowe travelled down south to join the Braves, his fortunate luck did not join him. Lowe's BABIP skyrocketed to .330 and although this year's .309 is a slight improvement from 2009, it is still considered above average.

However, even if luck is fighting Lowe every step of the way, the reason for his struggle is quite simpler than that.

Lowe is not the same pitcher that he used to be. The 37-year-old is still a great number three pitcher to have on a starting rotation, but his pitches have lost some of that nasty movement on them and his numbers have suffered because of it.

If indeed the Atlanta Braves do reach the postseason for the first time since 2005, they will be glad to have a guy like Derek Lowe on their team. No matter his struggles, Lowe has proven to be a fantastic postseason pitcher and he is one of the few Braves that can provide October experience to a young Atlanta Braves team.

Braves Set Opening Day Roster

Written by Tom Gieryn on .

Bobby Cox has picked his final team. He's named the three players who will fill the final three open roster spots remaining for Opening Day. The last job on the bench goes to Brooks Conrad over Joe Thurston, with Frank Wren saying during today's telecast that the two primary factors were that Conrad was already on the 40-man roster, and can switch-hit. Not entirely sure I agree with that decision, since I like Thurston's utility in the field, but at the end of the day, you're talking about a guy playing a couple times a week at most, and Thurston stays around at Triple-A as a hot-swappable piece should Conrad falter. The two spots in the bullpen go to Jesse Chavez and Jo-Jo Reyes, leaving Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters on the outside looking in. I think this is the right decision with Reyes; he's got nothing left to prove at Gwinnett, and it's high time they figured out what if anything he is good for. Chavez I'm not so excited about. His work in Pittsburgh last year was decidedly pedestrian (if not worse), and he's done nothing this spring to suggest he's made significant strides since then. Some of the scoutier types might be intrigued by his stuff, but isn't that something you can see just fine at Gwinnett, and let him use it in The Show when he's proven it works? I'm not sure Kimbrel is the solution either, and Venters would give the 'pen four lefties, but how about a guy like Cory Gearrin? Maybe I'm reaching, but Chavez seems like a bit too much like a second coming of Manny Acosta for my liking. Hopefully Cox will restrict Chavez to low-leverage work in the earlygoing to see what we've got on our hands.

All in all, I'm feeling optimistic in spite of myself. Bring on baseball!


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