May 16, 2013 at 9:00 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
The Braves will finally get back to the Ted for a six game homestand after a much-needed off day today. Probables for this weekends series against the Dodgers are Maholm v. Ryu (7:30), Medlen v. Capuano (7:10) and Minor v. Magill (1:35). Fortunately, the Braves will miss both Kershaw and Greinke.
Currently, the Braves are approximately a quarter of the way through the season. I thought it may be good to take a step back and take a brief look at where the team stands, hopefully putting everything into perspective.
The Braves are 22-18, sixth best in the NL, but first in the division and a full game up on the Nationals. According to their run differential and Pythagorean W/L, their expected record sits at 23-17 (and five games up on the Nationals). Right now, their record is a pretty fair assessment of the team’s ability to score and prevent runs, ranking fifth and second respectively in the NL.
Next, we can take look at a very quick glance of how batters and hitters as a whole are doing compared to the rest of the NL…
The pitching has been prety “ehh” overall this season. After a hot start aided by batted ball and situational luck, the pitchers have a whole have predictably come back down to earth. One thing of note is that the Braves pitchers strikeout relatively less hitters compared to the rest of the league. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as the walk rate is kept in check, which it has been. Overall, the starters have been able to keep healthy while the relievers have been the ones hitting the DL. Luckily, the Braves have a solid amount depth that area compared to the rotation.
With the position players, it turns out that the Braves offense hasn’t been so bad, even with a high rate of one certain type of event occurring more than some folks would like. Collectively, their offense has been slightly above average (102 wRC+) and their defense, ranking fifth as a team, has also helped carry overall position player value. As we’ve seen, they are a very three true outcome (TTO) heavy team, ranking first or second in the NL in all three categories. It can be frustrating to watch at times, but in the end all we should be worried about is overall offensive production and the amount of runs being scored. So far, so good.
Again this is a pretty quick glaze over how the team has performed. It’s kind of funny in a way that Friday’s game will likely be the first game with the full lineup that we drooled about all off-season. Hopefully getting home and rested with a full roster intact will get them off to a quick start as they enter the second quarter of the season.
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs wrote yesterday about the Braves and their high rate of one certain event occurring more than some folks would like.
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May 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
After the win last night, the Braves move to 4-4 on their current 10 game road trip. Probables for the remaining two games are Teheran v. Corbin (9:40) and Hudson v. Kennedy (3:40).
Obviously, last night was Justin Upton’s (and Chris Johnson’s) first game back in Arizona since being shipped away in the off-season. Both left their mark in game one going a combined 7-for-9, each finishing a triple shy of the cycle. Brain McCann also hit his third home run of the season in only his sixth game back. The Braves offense as a whole got back on track, scoring 10+ runs for the second time this season.
Mike Minor pitched well again going 6.2 innings with a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt being the only damage. If you haven’t had the chance to listen yet, the guys talked about him for a bit on this weekend’s CACast.
After being hit on the shoulder last night, BJ Upton is listed day-to-day and will likely be held out of tonight’s game. Upton was pulled early from last night’s game.
Eno Sarris of FanGraphs wrote a great interview-analysis hybrid type article on Andrelton Simmons yesterday. Simmons again showed off his “spectacularly solid” defense and 80 arm, twice, once gunning out
Martin Prado Cody Ross at home on a relay throw in the fourth inning.
Jason Heyward will continue to rehab in Gwinnett this week and will hopefully make his return to the lineup when the team returns home Friday. At this point, there is really no reason to rush him out to the west coast for one game.
On a hopefully unrelated note, Braves top prospect JR Graham (CAC #3) was pulled from last night’s start after feeling discomfort in his throwing arm. Wren said he will be reevaluated today, but doesn’t believe it will be a major concern going forward. It is still something to monitor this next week.
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May 10, 2013 at 9:30 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
Julio Teheran threw well last night, 7IP, 7H, 3ER, 0BB and 3K on 93 pitches. After getting off to a shaky start, he eventually settled down allowing the Braves to take game one of the four game series. There were a number of positives to take away from the start: no walks, a plethora of groundballs and most importantly, the kind-of-sort-of return of his changeup.
According to Brooks Baseball, Teheran threw the change 10 times last night, which is quite a bit considering he only threw it 16 times his his first five starts. There had been a lot of rumors tossed around to the reason why it was basically scrapped, was it Laird? was it McDowell? was it Teheran?
Well, Teheran discussed the usage post game (thanks to DOB for the quotes),
“I started throwing my old changeup, the one I was using the year before. So I started throwing it today and it worked.”
On why he got away from it…
“Because I wasn’t throwing it for strikes. So I was trying to get away from it and got another grip. I came back to it today and it worked… I was trying to throw it for a strike to the middle of the plate and over to the right side… Yesterday I was like, I want to throw the changeup tomorrow. I was feeling it before the game, that grip.”
Fredi as also discussed Teheran’s changeup last night…
“Julio did a terrific job, for a guy who hadn’t pitched in about nine, 10 days. He did a terrific job. After the second inning we asked him, or we made him throw his changeup more often to the left-handers. For me, that’s what got him over the hump, to be able to keep those left-handers off his fastball and off his breaking stuff. And he gave us a great outing, he really did… Young kids. Young pitchers. Maybe he didn’t have the confidence he had before. You’ve got to make them do some stuff sometimes. Today, I hope he takes it to his next start, because that pitch tonight was an equalizer, especially against the left-handed hitters.”
So, it appears Teheran simply lost command and confidence in the pitch, leading to the lack of usage. It is still unclear why he changed the grip last season. Of course, it is a positive sign he has gone back to the original grip and upped the usage a bit last night. In a perfect world, Teheran regains the confidence and feel for the pitch with his old grip and continues to throw it with regularity from here on out. However, the changeup is the ultimate feel pitch, a good changeup is thrown with the same arm speed as a fastball, allowing the grip to take care of the speed and movement. Being able to put it back into his arsenal of pitches is key because he’s going to have a hard time surviving and succeeding at this level with a mid-low 90′s fastball and an inconsistent breaking ball.
At the end of the day, it is good to finally get some answers to end the speculation. I always assumed it had something to do with his feel for the pitch and not an outside force. Originally, it was a plus pitch and his top secondary offering, one of the main reasons he was such a highly-touted prospect (3 of the 6 whiffs yesterday were on the changeup). Hopefully last night was a progressive step in the right direction.
May 9, 2013 at 9:00 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
The Braves continue on their 10 game road trip with a stop out west in San Francisco. Probables for the four game series are Teheran v. Vogelsong (10:15), Hudson v. Cain (10:15), Maholm v. Bumgarner (4:05) and Medlen v. Lincecum (4:05).
Even with the B squad lineup yesterday, the Braves were able to finish off the Reds, taking two of the three. Mike Minor had another great start going 7IP, 4H, 1ER, 3BB and 7K while throwing a career high 117 pitches. Dan Uggla, currently riding a six game hit streak, jacked out two homers giving him seven on the season. The struggling Uggla all of a sudden has a 110 wRC+, not bad.
One of the best parts of yesterdays game was when Juan Francisco took J.J. Hoover deep with the bases loaded. Not only did it essentially put the game out of reach, but as you probably know, these two were traded for each other at the beginning for last season. So far as a Brave, Francisco has played in 116 games posting a 1.1 fWAR. In his 284 appearances, he has put together a .247/.287/.449 triple slash, .313 wOBA and 97 wRC+. As a Red, Hoover has thrown 47.1 innings, accumulating 0.1 fWAR as a reliever. His ERA-/FIP-/xFIP- currently sit at 67/104/116, with a 24.0% strikeout rate and 10.7% walk rate. Overall the trade has worked out great so far, already a one win advantage. At the time of the trade, the Braves were able to give up an expendable bullpen arm in the minors for a player, with potential, at a position of need. To many fans, yesterday’s grand slam probably closed the book on their opinion of this trade.
FanGraphs ran a piece yesterday about Kimbrel’s implosion from Tuesday night. This has been highly discussed on Twitter, but for those who haven’t been around for that I’ll give my quick thoughts. There is nothing wrong with Kimbrel. His velocity is right where it’s always been, his strikeout rate is 40.4% and his walk rate is the lowest it’s ever been. Just remember, he struck the previous two hitters out before the two knee-high fastballs were sent deep. We preach it a lot on here, but sometimes random variation and fluctuation of results happen, it’s just the way things are and can probably best explain the past few outings. If you’re expecting to see 2012 Craig Kimbrel again, well don’t, you may never see that type of season again.
Jason Heyward will begin his rehab assignment today in Gwinnett.
May 7, 2013 at 9:00 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
It was a good start to the road trip Monday with the Braves holding off the Reds, 7-4. The probables for the rest of the series are Medlen v. Bailey (7:10) and Minor v. Leake (12:35).
Brian McCann went 0-4, BB in his first game back. Of course, it may take a couple of games for McCann to get back into the flow of things and adjust to big league pitching, but having him back behind the plate was a comforting feeling. Whether this means anything or not, he appeared noticeably thinner from previous seasons.
Andrelton Simmons was the big story last night, popping out two home runs and continuing to show off his defensive wizardry in the field. All of a sudden, his batting line don’t look so terrible, and his 93 wRC+ is actually above league average for his position.
Jason Heyward took BP yesterday for the first time since surgery. According to DOB, he will likely take two more days of BP before going on a rehab assignment. His return date is still up in the air, something the club will monitor day-to-day. So far, so good.
Mike Viso of Big Leagues Magazine, had a great interview with Braves prospect Matt Lipka (you’ll have to scroll through a couple of pages to get to the interview). Lipka, because of where he was drafted out of high school, feels like he has been around forever making little progress through the system. Because of this, it is easy to throw the “bust” tag on him, however we have to remind ourself that he’s still pretty young. When I went to see Lynchburg play last week, I again had one of these moments, realizing he just turned 21 and by far the youngest player on the Hillcats roster.
The Mets/Braves rainout from this weekend has been rescheduled for June 18 as a split doubleheader.
May 2, 2013 at 12:00 pm by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
Kris Medlen, while posting a 3.26 ERA so far, hasn’t been as sharp and efficient as many would have expected so far this season. His FIP and xFIP reflect this, currently sit at 4.20 and 4.55, respectively. It’s not like he has been all that “bad”, things just haven’t quite clicked for him yet.
When watching Medlen, a couple of things have stood out. For one, he hasn’t had the greatest command and control, especially with the fastball. When the fastball can’t be thrown for strike consistently and located with previous Medlen like command, it is hard to get ahead in the count on hitters and work off that with his off speed pitches. Despite this, he has actually been able to keep walk rate under control. This would lead us to believe that opponents are making more, stronger, contact that what we’ve seen in the past. This is confirmed look at his contact rate, up 6% from his career norm. We can also see this lack of ability to miss bats in his strikeout rate, currently 13.2% in 2013 compared to a 21.2% career rate. However, as Carroll Rodgers reported yesterday, Medlen believes things may have clicked in his side session the other day…
“Medlen said pitching coach Roger McDowell pinpointed the problem during a bullpen session Tuesday. He was landing so that his legs were firing in the wrong direction on pitches to that part [left side] of the plate.”
Hopefully we’ll see increased command from Medlen within the strike zone tonight, specifically with the fastball. Being able to pitch ahead in the count allows Medlen to get back to throwing any pitch in any count, which should result in missing more bats and inducing weaker contact, both positives.
The second thing, which I briefly noted in this weeks podcast, is that Medlen has noticeably thrown more curveballs (opposed to changeups) when ahead in the count to LHB. This is a bit odd considering the changeup is a major reason he has always been dominant v. LHB. We can see this by looking at percent changes from this season compared to last season (via Brooks Baseball).
As we’ve seen with a couple of pitchers this year, the pitch selection has been a little odd. There is probably a valid reason (not as comfortable with the changeup right now) he’s gone to the curve more when ahead in the count, Medlen is a smart dude. Look to see what he goes to tonight ahead in the count. Going back to the changeup, if comfortable, could result in seeing results a step closer to the 2012 Medlen.
Just a couple of things to look out for with Medlen tonight.
May 2, 2013 at 9:00 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
The Braves will finish off their four game series against the Nats tonight. Haren and Medlen will square off this evening (7:10 on MLB Network) as the Braves look for the series win.
Last night was a classic pitchers duel between Maholm and Zimmermann. Unfortunately, Maholm made one mistake, a HR to Ian Desmond, which wound up being the difference in the game. He finished with 8IP, 3H, 2ER, 2BB, 4K on 99 pitches. Zimmermann was dominant, only surrendering two hits in eight innings of work. It was just one of those “tip your cap” nights for the Braves offense. Not much else to say about this one.
I know a lot of us here are tired of talking about strikeouts, but Fredi had a solid quote last night when asked (again) if it was a problem…
“No. Everybody keeps asking me that same question. I’ll give you the same answers. At a certain time of the game, sure. When you’ve got a man on third base and the infield is back or the infield is in and you need a productive out, you need a flyball, you need a groundball up the middle, sure a strikeout is a concern there. But other than that, that’s what we’re built as. The teams that don’t strike out are probably complaining they don’t have any power in their lineups.”
Brain McCann, still with Rome, went deep again last night off 20 year-old Jason Garcia. As Mark wrote yesterday, McCann and Gattis will likely form a platoon when McCann returns, hopefully beginning next week.
Evan Gattis’ story has been talked about a lot so far this season. As fans, we’ve heard it over and over, almost becoming numb to it when it’s brought up on national broadcasts. That being said, I would recommend reading this article over at the USA Today by Bob Nightengale from a couple of days ago. Again, it just helps put everything in perspective just how much of an achievement it is for him to find any career, let alone in a professional sport, and have this type of success.