August 27, 2012 at 1:34 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game 1 vs. Padres
The Braves began their West Coast swing with a four-game split with the Giants, highlighted by a 7-1 win to earn the split Sunday night.
Atlanta heads down the road to San Diego for three games to finish the road trip. Paul Maholm gets the start for the Braves in the series opener tonight. While Maholm wasn’t quite as sharp against the Nationals last time out, allowing four runs, he still went seven innings and struck out six. His start before that was against the Padres, where he allowed one run over seven innings.
The Padres have promoted one of their better prospects, Casey Kelly, to make his major league debut against the Braves tonight. Kelly was one of the keys to the Adrian Gonzalez trade with Boston. As Ben Badler wrote for Baseball America in April, scouts who saw Kelly reported a fastball 90-95 with sink with above average breaking stuff and changeup. Baseball America ranked Kelly as having the best curveball in either Boston’s or San Diego’s system since 2008.
He has missed much of this year with a strained right elbow, but Kelly has a combined 3.35 ERA with only three walks and 39 strikeouts in 37.2 innings this season. It will be interesting to see how he handles his debut tonight.
Braves.com recap for Sunday’s win.
AJC quotes following Sunday’s win. Tim Hudson on his stuff: “It was pretty good. I was mixing in some change-ups. I was just mixing everything in. Like I said, as hard as it was to see, it just made [the sinker] a little more effective, probably, than it normally would. It wasn’t a walk in the park out there [for hitters seeing the ball with the shadows], no question. I’m not trying to short-change what I did.”
The Braves are hoping it will only be a day or two before Chipper Jones returns from his sore oblique. He pinch hit from the right side last night, giving the impression it affects him more from the left side. However, he aggravated the injury while hitting right-handed, so that’s not entirely clear.
Also in the same link, the Braves will pick their spots in starting Dan Uggla from here on, meaning he’s not the everyday second baseman as he was before. He sat last night but is expected back in the lineup tonight.
Kevin Goldstein included J.R Graham in his latest Ten Pack (sub. required). Goldstein had nothing but good things to say about Graham, who threw six shutout innings with eight strikeouts on Sunday for Double-A Mississippi.
The Braves placed Ben Sheets on the 15-day disabled list and called up Miguel Batista to pitch out of the bullpen.
August 26, 2012 at 11:15 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game MVP: Tim Hudson, 65 game score
Least Valuable Brave: Reed Johnson, -.064
Most Valuable Giant: Hunter Pence, .059
Least Valuable Giant: Tim Lincecum, 47 game score
1st – (ATL) Brian McCann RBI single for 2-0 Braves lead, .109
4th – (ATL) Juan Francisco solo homer for 3-0 Braves lead, .088
Tim Hudson was very good. I could stop there and that would be all you need to know about this game.
Hudson induced 14 ground balls, five fly balls and three line drives, pitching to a .217 BABIP against. He spotted everything so well, it seemed he was just out there to entertain himself. Definitely one of those nights where he had his command and stuff working.
Aside from the two big offensive plays listed above, Jason Heyward hit his 24th home run and Freddie Freeman hit his 18th in back-to-back fashion. Paul Janish added a triple and continued his solid defense. Brian McCann put together three singles in three different ways, but they all count.
August 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
With just over a month left in the season, here are the top 5 in the NL in Fangraphs WAR:
Andrew McCutchen: 6.2
David Wright: 6.2
Ryan Braun: 6.2
Michael Bourn: 6.0
Jason Heyward: 5.8
Now, most voters won’t be weighting Fangraphs WAR to chose their MVP for each league, but they will include each team’s playoff chances. That effectively eliminates Ryan Braun and David Wright from the competition, even though I vehemently disagree with that type of decision making. Additionally, almost all of the voters will be looking predominantly at offensive performance above all else.
Here are the players in contention for the playoffs with a higher wRC+ than Heyward (that haven’t been suspended for PEDs).
Andrew McCutchen: 162
Buster Posey: 154
Yadier Molina: 148
Matt Holliday: 145
Jason Heyward: 133
There is virtually no chance Matt Holliday wins the award, because for some reason people fail to even consider him a top player in the league even though he is nearly every season. McCutchen, Posey, Molina, and also Carlos Beltran (131 wRC+ but will have 100 RBI and 30 HR which voters will care about) are the main competition.
If the Pirates fall out of the race, the award will certainly be attainable for Heyward. Does that mean much for the team? No, but would be beyond awesome to see Heyward win the MVP after such a tough season last year and the fact that so many soured on him.
He would need to have a big last month of the season, needing to probably reach the 30 home run mark and at least have 100 runs scored, which is certainly not easy considering he has just 75 on the year. Voters are becoming a bit more progressive, so maybe they will consider his defense and base running more than expected. If he ends up going 30-20 and the Braves make the playoffs, in combination with the Pirates struggling and Posey having an off month, the MVP seems likely.
Even if Heyward does not end up winning the MVP, he will finish in the top-5 in voting barring an injury or awful month. Those can certainly occur, but this bounce back season from Heyward has been a site to see.
Also, if you have ESPN Insider, Bill Petti wrote a nice piece about Heyward’s power and how he has transformed his profile at the plate.
August 26, 2012 at 9:03 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Braves lineup: Michael Bourn (CF), Reed Johnson (LF), Jason Heyward (RF), Freddie Freeman (1B), Martin Prado (2B), Brian McCann (C), Juan Francisco (3B), Paul Janish (SS), Tim Hudson (P).
Giants lineup: Angel Pagan (S, CF), Marco Scutaro (R, 2B), Pablo Sandoval (S, 3B), Buster Posey (R, 1B), Hunter Pence (R, RF), Hector Sanchez (S, C), Gregor Blanco (L, LF), Brandon Crawford (L, SS), Tim Lincecum (B: L, T: R, P).
Game 4 vs. Giants
The Braves won 7-3 on Friday behind a three-run homer by Jason Heyward and another solid outing from Mike Minor.
While Tim Hudson and Atlanta will look for a series split in the finale tonight, the Giants will send Tim Lincecum to the mound looking for the series win. Lincecum’s 5.30 ERA is atrocious, but he also has the biggest ERA-FIP difference in baseball, with a 3.78 FIP. His strikeouts remain up at a rate of 23.2%, and although his walks are up at 10.2%, it’s not a huge difference from his career 9.1% rate. To top things off, Lincecum has the best swinging strike rate of his career at 12.1%.
Why is Lincecum giving up so many runs? You can start at a .325 BABIP and 65.7% left-on-base rate, both well off his career norms. While he has the best whiff rate of his career, he also has the highest line drive rate at 25.7%, meaning it’s either a whiff or a hard hit ball.
When looking at individual pitches, the offerings that are off the mark are the slider and changeup. Lincecum’s LD/BIP rate on the changeup is 27% compared to a career 17%. His slider’s LD/BIP rate this season is 21% compared to a career 15%. Also, if you want to nitpick, his curveball’s whiff rate is down 5% from his career average, and he’s giving up 7% more home runs per FB/LD on the pitch.
However, when you look at the data by splits, it’s obvious why he has a reverse split of .356 wOBA against RHB and .325 against LHB. It seems Lincecum’s secondary offerings – and I mean all of them – are getting rocked by right-handed batters, while the changeup has been well above average to left-handed batters.
Therefore, while it goes against his career norms, stacking the lineup with right-handed batters could benefit the Braves for one night, as Lincecum’s secondary stuff doesn’t seem to fare well against righties this season.
Braves.com recap for Saturday’s win.
AJC quotes following Saturday’s win. Jason Heyward on facing Madison Bumgarner: “I’m just looking for strikes to hit. I’ve faced him since ’08 now, and he hasn’t really changed much, and he’s been successful at it. Just looking for pitches to hit, trying to stay short [with swing] and don’t miss the one you get to hit, because if you do he’s got you.”
In case you missed it yesterday, Ben Sheets was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Miguel Batista was called up to pitch out of the bullpen.
Julio Teheran pitched a great game Saturday, allowing one run on two hits with nine strikeouts over eight innings. Teheran’s last three outings: 8 IP, 1 R, 9 K; 2.2 IP, 7 R, 2 K; 8 IP, 1 R, 9 K.
Around the NL East
Ian Desmond and Michael Morse likely won’t return until possibly Tuesday with injuries.
Bryce Harper could start sitting more against left-handed pitching. Harper has a .287 wOBA and 77 wRC+ against lefties this season.
August 26, 2012 at 1:16 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game MVP: Jason Heyward, .246
Least Valuable Brave: Freddie Freeman, -.097
Most Valuable Giant: Gregor Blanco, .174
Least Valuable Giant: Madison Bumgarner, 44 game score
3rd – (ATL) Jason Heyward three-run homer for a 3-0 Braves lead, .297
5th – (SF) Joaquin Arias doubled to put two in scoring position with no outs, .134 (Giants scored one)
7th – (SF) Gregor Blanco two-run double for a 4-3 Braves lead, .174
Jason Heyward provided the big blow early in the game with the three-run shot off Madison Bumgarner. The .297 WPA produced was Heyward’s fourth-highest WPA play this season, and the Giants were never able to fully recover from it.
That’s because Mike Minor was on top of his game again, giving the Giants just two opportunities to get anything going. He produced a .211 BABIP against by taking advantage of San Francisco’s park, inducing 12 fly balls to four ground balls and three line drives. He pounded the zone well and didn’t walk anyone. Minor hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start since June 30, and he hasn’t allowed more than one home run in an outing since June 24.
Bumgarner walked four batters in a game for the third time in his career, matching a career high. Two of those attributed to runs on the Heyward home run.
August 25, 2012 at 1:17 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Braves lineup: Michael Bourn (CF), Martin Prado (3B), Jason Heyward (RF), Freddie Freeman (1B), David Ross (C), Reed Johnson (LF), Dan Uggla (2B), Paul Janish (SS), Mike Minor (P).
Update (1:30p): The Braves have placed Ben Sheets on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation and called up Miguel Batista to pitch out of the bullpen. Sheets’ stuff has fallen flat over his past few outings, limiting him to 10 strikeouts in his last 23.2 innings. Now we have a confirmed explanation. It appears the soreness stage was more than he could handle.
Game 3 vs. Giants
The Braves lost 5-3 on Friday, making it two straight losses to the Giants to open the four-game set. If the Braves want to salvage a split, they’ll need to turn things around tonight.
Unfortunately, Atlanta will have to turn things around against a top 10 starter in the National League in Madison Bumgarner. The left-hander is ninth in the league in fWAR with the sixth-best ERA at 2.83. He has a 3.23 xFIP with a 23.5% strikeout rate and 4.7% walk rate. Bumgarner does an excellent job of mixing strikeouts and ground balls, utilizing his swing-and-miss slider with his sinking fastball. It’s a deadly combination that has earned him top 10 status in the league in his second full season at 22 years old.
The Braves will turn to Mike Minor to get them back on track, who is as worthy as they come lately. He allowed one run on five hits with no walks and two strikeouts over seven innings last time out against a solid Dodgers team, and he hasn’t had an actual bad outing in nearly two months. This isn’t the overmatch people will think when they first see the probables.
Dan Uggla IFFB% by Season
2006 (FLA) – 6.8%
2007 – 9.6
2008 – 8
2009 – 9.8
2010 – 6.8
2011 (ATL) – 11.9
2012 – 18.9
Braves.com recap for Friday’s loss.
AJC quotes following Friday’s loss. Fredi Gonzalez on Ben Sheets: “I’ll sit down and talk to Roger about it. I think he’s one of those guys, he’s going to charge. And maybe some of the balls are catching too much of the plate. You can see the breaking ball is still there. You can see the velocity is kind of still there. So maybe he needs to make a little bit better pitches, or maybe the pitches he’s getting hit on are just catching too much of the plate.”
Mark Bowman writes on Brian McCann’s ailments and how they’re impacting his hitting and future.
David O’Brien writes on Dan Uggla’s struggles.
ESPN’s Future Power Rankings has the Braves at No. 9. The Nationals come in at 11th, the only two NL East teams in the top 15 (Insider).
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs has a must-read on Tommy Hanson’s hitting ability.
Around the NL East
Tom Tango writes on what the Nationals could have done with Stephen Strasburg to preserve him for the playoffs. This is exactly what I’ve been trying to say ever since this became an issue, and Tango lays it out perfectly.
Michael Morse was hit by a pitch Friday night but sustained only a bruise on his right hand. Also, Ian Desmond was out Friday because of a mild hamstring strain.
August 25, 2012 at 1:54 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game MVP: Angel Pagan, .244
Least Valuable Giant: Brandon Crawford, -.163
Most Valuable Brave: Freddie Freeman, .143
Least Valuable Brave: Ben Sheets, 28 game score
1st – (ATL) Jason Heyward solo homer for a 1-0 Braves lead, .133
2nd – (ATL) Freddie Freeman solo homer for a 2-0 Braves lead, .115
2nd – (SF) Ryan Vogelsong inning-ending double play with bases loaded, -.174
3rd – (SF) Pablo Sandoval RBI double for 2-1 Braves lead, .100
3rd – (SF) Sandoval scored on a wild pitch to tie game at 2, .142
4th – (SF) Angel Pagan RBI triple for a 3-2 Giants lead, .175
4th – (SF) Marco Scutaro RBI single for a 4-2 Giants lead, .106
Trying to win on solo home runs doesn’t get you far in San Francisco. Despite two homers from Freddie Freeman and one by Jason Heyward, the Braves’ offensive struggles continued. Outside the three long balls, they managed three singles and reached second base once. The Braves had a .136 BABIP due in large part to a 56% fly ball rate and 35.7% infield fly ball rate as a team. It’s tough to get hits when you do these things.
Ben Sheets’ lack of strikeouts is beginning to take its toll. After suffering from three infield hits early in the game that led to nothing, he gave up two run-scoring extra-base hits and three total extra-base knocks in his four-plus innings of work. Sheets threw more changeups than curveballs in the game, a sign he didn’t trust his breaking pitch, and he had just three whiffs.
Sheets has 10 strikeouts in his last 23.2 innings. Good teams take advantage of pitchers lacking swing-and-miss stuff, and this is what will continue to happen with Sheets if he can’t regain his curveball.