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Chop-N-Change: An Atlanta Braves Blog | Page 4

Larry Parrish GETS AXED

Written by Joe Lucia on .

After the Braves stunning collapse this September, someone had to take the fall. Many fans wanted it to come down to two men: Larry Parrish and Fredi Gonzalez. I wrote a piece yesterday damning Parrish. Today, just one day after Fredi said that the entire coaching staff would return in 2012, a simple tweet from the Braves twitter account cleared things up.

 parrish
DING DONG, THE WITCH IS DEAD! Larry Parrish is OUT as hitting coach, much to the joy of Braves fans across the country. When the news was announced, my feed exploded with people absolutely awash with joy. It's almost like a vicious dictator being taken out of power, except not nearly as important in the grand scheme of things. I haven't seen one person who was upset with the dismissal. Not one. This is a good thing - we're all united on this one.

Now, who's going to replace him? The replacement hasn't been named yet, but the immediate favorite is the former hitting coach, Terry Pendleton. TP had some level of dislike towards him from the fans, but overall, the Braves offense wasn't that bad with him leading the ship. During Pendleton's tenure as hitting coach (2002-2010), the team ranked sixth in baseball with a .339 wOBA. For comparison's sake, that's Rafael Furcal's wOBA from 2002-2010. I'd take that, especially when you consider some of the putrid hitters that he's had playing under him (Jeff Francoeur, Garret Anderson, etc).

As for other candidates, the field is vast. Hitting coaches can come from anywhere. Hell, Parrish was coaching with the Toledo Mud Hens in the Internaional League when the Braves appointed him last offseason. Pendleton was out of baseball for a couple of years before the Braves brought him on a decade ago. Maybe the Braves go with Pendleton. Maybe they go with an experienced hitting coach. Or maybe, like they usually seem to do, the Braves pluck a candidate out of left field that none of us even considered.

A Damning Examination of Larry Parrish

Written by Joe Lucia on .

In the wake of the collapse, the Braves announced today that Fredi Gonzalez and his entire coaching staff would be returning for the 2012 season. Let me get this straight - you bring the entire staff back 12 hours after capping off one of the biggest collapses in baseball history, for a team that ended up winning two fewer games than the previous year? That doesn't make much sense. I'm all for Roger McDowell coming back, as he's done a fantastic job since coming to Atlanta in my mind. Many fans share my sentiment in this regard after a quick Twitter straw poll.

The major issue that myself, and the rest of Braves country, has with the return of the coaching staff is the return of Larry Parrish, who had a disastrous first year in Atlanta. With Parrish and his preaching of aggressiveness at the plate, the Braves have absolutely suffered. Look at the walk rates that the 2011 Braves starters had this season and in 2010. NB: Freddie Freeman is excluded from this list due to his jump from AAA to the majors. Michael Bourn's 2011 rate is just with Atlanta, as is Alex Gonzalez's 2010 rate.

walks

*Every* starter featured a decrease in walk rate this year. EVERY. LAST. ONE. This is not a coincidence. Some of the drops are frightening, with Bourn, Jones, McCann, Uggla and Heyward all falling by over 2%. The team as a whole fell by nearly 2% as well, which includes bench players. It was damn near impossible for Prado and Gonzalez to drop off, but yet, they somehow did. But did that have much of an effect on the team's overall offensive performance? You bet your sweet ass it did.

ops 

Every starter aside from Chipper Jones saw a drop in OPS, and Chipper's rise was only by seven points. Some of the drops were small, like Michael Bourn losing 14 points from 2010 in Houston to 2011's two months with Atlanta (this does not include his 2011 numbers in Houston) and Brian McCann losing 11 points after falling off a cliff after returning from his strained oblique in August. But some of the drops were frightening. Martin Prado simply ceased to be effective, losing 120 points in OPS. Jason Heyward lost 130 after a shoulder injury hampered with his season, and his approach never looked good all year. Dan Uggla's debut in Atlanta started terribly before he turned it on over the season's final two months, but he still lost over 110 points of OPS.

The team as a whole lost 45 points in OPS. The Braves offense went from Neil Walker to Delmon Young. That's....really not good. And personally, I don't think it's a coincidence that the drastic dropoff in production coincides with the beginning of Parrish's tenure in Atlanta. One more chart for the road. What about power? If the Braves were swinging more, they were probably at least hitting more balls over the fence and into the gap, right?

iso

McCann and Jones up. Uggla and Bourn neutral. Heyward, Gonzalez, and Prado down, with Prado's decline being the worst. Team aggregate: neutral. So for all that effort put towards being aggressive and changing approach, nothing positive happened.

Larry Parrish, everyone: your 2012 Atlanta Braves hitting coach. Thanks for coming. 

Game Recap - 9/28/11

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Phillies 4, Braves 3 (13 innings)

WP: De Fratus (1-1)
LP: Linebrink (4-4)
SV: Herndon (1)

We lost. St Louis won. The season is over.  34 days ago, the Braves had a ten and a half game lead on the Cardinals in the NL wild card standings. Today, on September 28, 2011, the Cardinals are wild card champions, and the Braves are...nothing. The Braves are choke artists. Plain and simple, that's what's up.

I'm not going to do a typical recap here. The Braves had a 3-1 lead through six innings, and Craig Kimbrel blew a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning. He walked three hitters and hit one - the control issues that weren't there for most of the season showed up at the worst possible time. With the game in extra innings, Fredi brings in his long man, Cristhian Martinez. There is no double switch. Martinez throws seven pitches and is pulled. The next pitcher is Scott Linebrink. He loses the game in typical Linebrink fashion.

I'll be back...sometime this week with a more in depth look at just what the hell happened, and I'm going to start up with the offseason stuff....which I didn't expect to be starting for at least another week.

Peace out, 2011. It was a good ride that could have been so much better. 

Fredi Gonzalez: the Blind Man Who Leads Us

Written by Joe Lucia on .

The final game of the season. The Braves are tied for the wild card lead, and trending down. Who is in the starting lineup to face Joe Blanton, a right-hander?

Matt Diaz. The same Matt Diaz who has a .222/.260/.282 line against righties this season.

I saw this, and thought one thing: does Fredi actually WANT to go to the playoffs? Does he WANT to win a championship? Apparently not.

When the team traded for Diaz a month ago, I was against the deal.  Look at the comments on that post. "Diaz will just be a pinch hitter", "He started off slow, but has turned it on lately!" and so on and so forth. Here we are, game 162, season on the line....and Matt Diaz is in the starting lineup against a right-hander. Matt Diaz, with the career .688 OPS against righties. Matt Diaz, with OPSes against righties of .633 and .542 against righties over the last two seasons. Matt Diaz, who's "hot streak" before the trade has led to a .607 OPS in a month with the Braves, with one walk, and one extra base hit.

Matt Diaz, you are more qualified than Jason Heyward to start this critical game. Now get out there and put up your 0/4 so we can get Fredi out of town. You can point to the offense struggling as much as you want. The fact of the matter is that the exhausted bullpen hasn't helped matters, because of Fredi's insistence on overusing them earlier in the season in un-necessary spots. Jonny Venters: 5.56 September ERA. Craig Kimbrel: 4.22 September ERA. Thank you Fredi, for running the team's two best relievers into the ground so hard that they single handedly cost the team multiple games this month, when JUST ONE WIN would have changed everything.

Fredi, I'm done with you. At this point in time, I don't care if the Braves make the playoffs. In fact, I'd almost rather the team didn't....just so Frank Wren would feel obligated to make a change because of this epic collapse. I'm absolutely disgusted right now. 

Game Recap 9/27/11

Written by Jeremy Reed on .

Phillies 7, Braves 1

There’s not much to say about this one that hasn’t already been written.  It feels like Bull Durham, except that the Braves started well and then forgot how to play baseball.  The Braves are depending upon the Astros, and that’s probably all that needs to be said.

The team desperately needed a vintage performance from Derek Lowe tonight, but Chase Utley dashed those dreams with a first inning home run.  It didn’t get better either.  The Phillies added two in the third and one in the fourth, and Lowe’s night was finished after a leadoff single in the fifth.  Homers from Pence and Rollins would make it 7-0 at the end of seven.  Game, set, and match.

The Braves’ offense was again MIA, AWOL, or whatever you want to call it.  The only run came on a ninth inning Prado home run.  Base runners = runs.  People have to get on to score, but the Braves managed five base runners in nine innings.  It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

This probably sums it up the best:

Game161 

Courtesy of fangraphs.com

Here’s hoping the Astros can do it again.


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How Crucial Is Tonight's Game?

Written by Joe Lucia on .

With a win tonight, and a Cardinals loss, the Braves can clinch the NL Wild Card tonight. If either of those results happen, they clinch a tie. If the teams end up tying at the top of the standings, the Braves would travel to St Louis on Thursday, where the Braves just lost three games by a combined total of five runs three weeks ago. This would not be a good thing. If the teams are tied, the pitching matchup would be Kyle Lohse versus Brandon Beachy. Neither pitcher threw in the series in St Louis, so the slate is clean. Beachy did face the Cardinals way back in April, and went seven innings, allowing just three hits, two runs, one walk, and five strikeouts. He allowed just two baserunners in his first seven innings, before allowing the first two to reach in the eighth, and Jonny Venters allowing them to score. The Cardinals lineup that Beachy faced that night was much different though, with Colby Rasmus, Gerald Laird, Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene in the lineup instead of Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, Ryan Theriot, and Rafael Furcal.

But if Beachy had success against St Louis, why is tonight's game so important?

If the Braves clinch tonight, they could scratch Tim Hudson from tomorrow's start with the playoff berth locked up, and save him for Game One of the NLDS, with Beachy starting Game Two. If the Braves DON'T clinch tonight and have to go into Wednesday's game looking for a win, then Beachy will be starting Game One. And if they go to a playoff on Thursday...well then, I have no idea who is starting Game One. The closest starter on normal rest is....Randall Delgado. Randall Delgado of the seven career starts. I think Mike Minor, who started Sunday in Washington, would be a better option than Delgado at this point in time.

Delgado isn't necessarily a bad option at this point, but figure this. In his seven starts, he's gone five innings in all but two: in one, he went six, and in his major league debut, he went four. He's walked 14 and struck out 18 in 35 innings this season, and allowed five homers. Those are NOT great peripherals at all. That's a FIP above 5.00. Having Delgado start any playoff games would be a major down point for the Braves. Look past the 2.83 ERA, and you see a rookie pitcher who is getting pretty damn lucky. He's got an 86.5% strand rate and a .220 BABIP. I don't want to see him regressing in Game One of the playoffs.

Mike Minor, at this point in time, would be a better option for Game One, and hell, for the playoff rotation, than any other starter aside from Hudson and Beachy. He's got a good strikeout rate, a manageable walk rate, he's keeping the ball in the park much better than he has for a majority of his career...yeah, he'd be fine. That 4.14 ERA hides a lot of the good things he's done this year. In August and September, he's struck out 51 and walked 15 in 49 1/3 innings.

The best possible rotation would be Hudson-Beachy-Minor, in some order. If Delgado and/or Lowe is shoe horned in there due to the team not being able to clinch or other reasons, the Braves chances in October just took another hit. 

Game 160 Recap (9/26/11)

Written by Paddy McMahon on .

Phillies 4 (100-60), Braves 2 (89-81)

W: Cliff Lee
L: Cristhian Martinez
SV: Ryan Madson

HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Or however one spells gloom, frustration, and a crushing sense of futility. Which normally is 'Pittsburgh Pirates,' but, hey, special occasions.

I guess we weren't supposed to expect much, with Randall Delgado squaring off against Cliff Lee. But how can you not have hope that the team you've been rooting for all year can't pull off a win against their division rivals when the playoffs are on the line?

The problems here were several and systemic. No offense after the first two innings, where we saw a Chipper Jones home run. Runs allowed by each of Cristhian Martinez and Jonny Venters. Matt Diaz hitting for himself against righty Michael Stutes.  The team drawing one walk, and stranding nine runners. 

If I were to point out the single biggest factor in the loss, though, it'd be Chipper Jones. Which is weird to say about a guy who hit a home run, but he came up lame on a ground rule double, and then -- I'm assuming here, but come on, it's Chipper -- insisted to Fredi that he was good to stay in the game. And maybe the blame lies on Fredi for listening, but regardless: to describe Chipper's range as 'fall-down' at that point would be kind, and that alone cost the Braves a run: he was unable to get to a Shane Victorino grounder down the line, allowing the speedy Victorino to take second and then score on a subsequent single from Raul Ibanez. Then, batting with the runners on first and second, he hit a slow groundball that, because he was running like ... um, is there any metaphor more evocative for this than 'a 39-year old man with a lengthy history of leg injuries who is also running on one leg'? 

Really, the only saving grace for the Braves tonight is that the Astros are currently winning 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh, but ... it's the Astros. If your postseason fate depends on a team that's 55-104 and is also, let's not forget, the Astros, your plan and/or execution went slightly awry somewhere. You know, like if you were going to drive to the store and pick up groceries for dinner, only instead you spent 15 minutes trying to ram your car into the cart return, went to pay at the self checkout, couldn't figure out how to use it, pissed everyone off, and then got back to your car only to find out that all you managed to buy was Saltine crackers and artichoke hearts and also you can't drive your car now because it's impaled in the cart return. 

It's at this point in the metaphor that the car just explodes for, like, no good reason. Because I just looked it up and saw that Derek Lowe is starting tomorrow. So hey let's keep the masochism party going at 7:10 PM EDT tomorrow!

The Season is on the Line, and Fredi Still Doesn't Get It

Written by Joe Lucia on .

The lineup for today's game was released.

Bourn, CF
Prado, LF
Jones, 3B
Uggla, 2B
Freeman, 1B
McCann, C
Diaz, LF
Gonzalez, SS
Delgado, SP

Now, what about that lineup strikes you as odd? Well, it shouldn't strike you as too odd, because it's been happening all season...but Jason Heyward is out of the lineup. Again. Diaz is starting, because apparently, Fredi is legally obligated to start Diaz against a lefty, even if the lefty is a buzzsaw like Cliff Lee that runs through everyone, animal, vegetable or mineral.

When the Braves acquired Diaz at the end of August, I wasn't in favor of the move, mostly because I was afraid of nonsense like this happening. Diaz has a reputation as a lefty killer, so he has to start against the lefty, even if he's the inferior option. When Diaz was acquired, I pointed at his overall splits this year and noticed he wasn't that effective against lefties this season. I was then told "he's been hot lately!" and "he'll snap out of it!". Here is Matt Diaz's slash line against lefties as a Brave this season.

.304/.320/.304

23 at bats versus lefties since returning to Atlanta....seven singles, one walk, four strikeouts and a big ol' pile of BLEH. Jason Heyward, who is the antichrist and cannot hit lefties to save his life and is a platoon player forever (according to some very smart people out there) has a line this season of .192/.270/.308. More power and more walks, with a batting average held down by a .228 BABIP.

That's not even to discount their overall production in the month of September. Heyward's line in September is .262/.387/.377. He's tied for the highest OBP during the month with Alex Gonzalez, who is back in the lineup after missing a chunk of time with a calf injury. But what about Diaz and Martin Prado, both of whom are getting playing time instead of Heyward this month? Prado has 96 at bats, the second highest on the team during September behind just Michael Bourn. Heyward's 61 at bats are....seventh on the team this month. Mostly because he's rotting at the bottom of the order, but I digress. Anyway, what are Diaz and Prado doing during September?

Prado: .240/.263/.313
Diaz: .240/.259/.240

The two have combined for four walks in September. Heyward has....13. Right now, this team is having problems scoring runs. What's the easiest way to score runs? Putting runners on base. And who's the best player on the team at getting on base this month? Jason Heyward. And where does Jason Heyward find himself for the second straight day?

heywardbench 
Thanks to my friend Daiana for the stellar artwork 

On the bench. Well done Fredi, you have the fanbase united...in questioning your decisions once again. 

Game Recap - 9/25/11

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Nationals 3, Braves 0

WP: Detwiler (4-5) 
LP: Minor (5-3)
SV: Storen (43)

I don't know what to say. It's another pathetic offensive performance from the Atlanta Braves, what else is new? The team only put six men on base all game, all of which came against starter Ross Detwiler. The Nats bullpen threw three perfect innings and struck out six in the process. The Braves had one prime chance for scoring, in the third inning with the bases loaded and none out after a pair of walks from Detwiler. Michael Bourn worked the count against Detwiler to 3-0...and the team saw five pitches over the rest of the inning, swinging at three of them. No runs came across the board. The team had another chance to score in the fifth, with men on second and third and one out. The team's next two batters combined to see four pitches and not drive in a run. That would be the last scoring chance of the day for Atlanta.

Mike Minor really didn't pitch too badly, and this game isn't on him at all. He only went 4 2/3, but allowed just one run on a solo homer from Wilson Ramos. He allowed six hits, walked two, and struck out five. It wasn't a bad start. But with the way the offense is going right now (which is, not at all), it wasn't enough. Pathetic, really. One bright spot from the game: Kris Medlen threw an inning, and only needed seven pitches to go 1-2-3 and record a strikeout.

More bad news: the Cardinals lead the Cubs 3-2 in the ninth inning. If that result holds, the lead in the wild card race will be down to just one game. That's not good at all. St Louis takes on Houston to close out the seaon, and tomorrow's game will pit Jaime Garcia against Wandy Rodriguez. The Braves finish their season back in Atlanta against the Philllies, and it's a tall order: Cliff Lee against Randall Delgado. This might not end well. 

Game Recap - 9/24/11

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Nationals 4, Braves 1

WP: Wang (4-3)
LP: Beachy (7-3)
SV: Storen (41)

Sometimes, I just don't know what to say.

The Braves were befuddled by Chien Ming Wang today, and only tallied four hits in Wang's six innings, while he didn't walk a batter. The team scored just run, coming on a solo homer by Freddie Freeman in the 5th. The Braves fared better against Washington's bullpen, putting four runners on base, but they didn't score at all. The best opportunity for runs came in the eighth, with Brooks Conrad on third and Michael Bourn on first with Martin Prado at the dish and one out. On a 1-2 pitch, Bourn ran. Prado checked his swing, and Bourn was out. He flew out to right on the next pitch to end the scoring threat, and any chance the Braves had at winning the game. The only Brave to reach base multiple times was Dan Uggla, who singled and walked. Freeman, who struck out three times in addition to his homer, was the only Brave to have an extra base hit.

The Nationals on the other hand, didn't have an extra base hit. But, they did something against Braves starter Brandon Beachy that the Braves couldn't do against Wang: walk. Beachy walked four and allowed five hits in his six innings, and those walks resulted in four runs, all coming on singles. Beachy struck out nine, but that wasn't the story. He had an inability to finish off hitters, as four of the Nationals nine baserunners against Beachy reached on two strike pitches. This has been a problem for Beachy all season, and it reared it's ugly head yet again today. On the positive side, Beachy did get 21 swinging strikes on his 108 pitches, a great total. He also only allowed three air outs, another positive sign. But this start could have been so much better if Beachy was able to finish off just half of those hitters that reached on two strike counts.

After trailing all game, the Cardinals won in the ninth against Carlos Marmol of the Cubs, with the game winner coming on a walk off wild pitch that was nowhere near the plate. The wild card lead is back down to two, with four left to play. If the Braves are going to clinch, they'll do it at home against the Phillies. Tomorrow, Mike Minor will face Ross Detweiler in DC, Edwin Jackson takes on Randy Wells in St Louis. Gametime for the Braves is 1:35, gametime for the Cardinals is 2:15.

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