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.
*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.
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?
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.