February 21, 2013 at 9:01 am by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
@Hipp0Toddamus: How can the Braves best utilize the DH spot in road games at AL parks this year?
I think there will be a variety of ways to tackle this, with the most likely being using it to give guys days off. I imagine against lefties that Reed Johnson finds his way into the lineup and one of the outfielders gets slotted in the DH spot, and against righties the Braves try and find a day for McCann to get some rest and also use Chris Johnson pretty regularly. If Gattis can really rake and makes the roster as a reserve, he would be a solid guy to use in the DH spot throughout the year as well. The Braves have two solid DH types at third base already, and with how regularly they will be playing in the platoon they will likely participate in, I would bet on one of those two leading the team in starts at DH by the end of the year.
@pharmongsu: Why shouldn’t BJ Upton lead off vs. LHP?
For his career, B.J. has a .260/.365/.433 line against left-handed pitching, good for a 119 wRC+ overall. He is definitely one of the team’s top hitters against left-handed pitching, and I think leading him off against southpaws is a great idea. The likelihood if it actually happening seems low at this point, as the team seems to really want to go with Simmons in the leadoff spot and for some reason they act as if this is one spot that is not good to rotate. Having him bat fifth against southpaws is still a good deal, and I imagine he will be driving in his brother pretty often in games against lefties.
@jbrundage: do you think the new added big bats will take pressure off of Uggla and he won’t struggle as much this season at the plate?
Over at CAC, the mental aspect of the game and “pressure” are things we try and avoid. Not that we don’t think they are a factor, but it is impossible to quantify and the analysis usually seems highly speculative. With that said, I do feel that Uggla could surprise us this year. He will be hitting seventh at the start of the year, and I doubt many teams will have a number seven hitter as good as Uggla. While his two years in Atlanta have been lackluster compared to expectations and compared to his performance in his final year in Florida, he still has posted consecutive years with a wRC+ above 100. His ISO dropping to .164 is not something to expect, but his walk rate will likely take a little dip back closer to his career rate as well. I think expecting a year like he had in 2007, when he hit .245/.326/.479 with a 105 wRC+ is reasonable to expect. The slugging percentage will probably be lower, something like .450 or so, but mid 20′s home runs and a decent OBP at the bottom of the lineup could be a huge part of the team’s offensive success. I think when people will look back on the year if he does perform at that level, they will state that the pressure of having a new set of right-handed hitters hitting higher in the order took the pressure off, but the more likely reason would be a regression back closer to his career norms.
@Harrisnye: Is Simmons already the best defensive SS in baseball or is that a ceiling he hasn’t actually reached yet?
I think by the end of the year, he will certainly have an argument for it. His arm is comparable to any of the game’s top shortstops, but I don’t think it is fair to Brendan Ryan to say that anyone is better than him at this point. Over the past four years, Ryan has averaged 22 defensive runs saved. Defensive stats are not the most trustworthy, but given a large sample size that helps mitigate the noise you can make relatively accurate assumptions about a player’s overall defensive skill. Ryan has consistently performed as the game’s top defensive shortstop over the past number of years, so Simmons will have to take a back seat to him for the time being. I think it is a stretch to assume Simmons will post those kinds of defensive numbers over that long of a stretch, but it is reasonable to expect 10+ defensive runs saved during his six year pre-free agent stretch in Atlanta.