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 8, 2013 at 11:00 am by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
I’ll get better at remembering to put this up after the games, I promise.
MVP: DAAAAAAAAN Uggla .272 WPA
LVP: Gattitude -.160
12:35 PM on Sports South and MLB Network
Mike Leake isn’t a terribly good pitcher, but relative to other 5th starters, he’s pretty good. He won’t strike out many hitters (16%) or walk many hitters (6%), but he gives up home runs like it’s going out of style (14.5% HR/FB – average is 10.6%). Leake is a Kitchen Sink Pitcher that tries to confuse the hitter by throwing so many pitches although none of them are particularly good. He’s a pretty blah pitcher, especially for a former top-10 pick, but he adds some hidden value with the stick, hitting .275/.306/.354 for his career, and is not an easy out at the plate.
It’s Mike Minor Day again! Considering the ballpark and the fact that both pitchers are a bit homer-prone, today’s game has a fairly decent chance of getting out of hand. The Braves are throwing out a “Get Away Day” lineup, however, so the Reds would have the advantage if Minor wasn’t so much better than Leake. It would be awesome to grab a series win tonight before the 7-game trip out West to San Francisco and Arizona.
May 7, 2013 at 5:30 pm by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
MVP: Devin Mesoraco .490 WPA, McCann .151
LVP: Craig Kimbrel -.813
7:10 PM on Sports South and MLB Network
Home Bailey is a pretty good pitcher. though he’s never quite lived up to his top-prospect pedigree. For his career, he has struck out 18% of batters while walking 8%, but over the past three seasons, the strikeouts have perked up while the walks have declined. Essentially, he has evolved as he has implemented his splitter, whose usage continues to rise. Bailey throws hard, but his fastball is generally fairly straight, and he’s never fully decided on a breaking ball that he can gets swings-and-misses with. 2013 has seen a jump in strikeouts, and while it’s a small sample, he is utilizing his splitter more than in the past, and it may be the secondary pitch he’s always needed. But overall, one can expect a lot of fastballs, a few more sliders than curves, and plenty of splitters for lefties.
Kris Medlen takes the mound looking to keep the Braves in the win column. Juan Francisco also returns to the lineup tonight to help battle Bailey, and Bailey and his fastballs seem like a good night for Juan to come back, as opposed to last night with Arroyo and his myriad breaking balls. This lineup is starting to thicken out again, and hopefully, Jason Heyward will be back early next week to finally put it all into place. For now, the Braves have another solid match-up for tonight and will hope for a few more long balls.
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 6, 2013 at 5:30 pm by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
7:10 PM on Sports South and ESPN
Great American Ballpark
Great American Ballpark has always been known as a hitter’s park, and it isn’t because of the altitude. As you can see, Turner Field dwarfs the one in Cincinnati, especially to right field. The advantage to left is somewhat negated by a higher fence, but long fly balls are more likely to get out there as well.
Reds ISO Maps
The Reds have a good offense, but it is one that can be pitched to. Shin-Soo Choo is an OBP machine, but he has a hole on the inner half of the plate. Zack Cozart isn’t very good at hitting but hits there because middle infielder/bat control, and he likes the ball up-and-in. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Todd Frazier are where things get dicey, but they each have their holes – not much, away, in (esp. against LHP), and away, respectively. Devin Mesoraco has a top prospect pedigree and is still trying to become an everyday player, but he isn’t there yet. And Derrick Robinson probably shouldn’t be on a major-league roster.
Do you have that one pitcher you always happen to see when go to a game played by a certain team? Well, Bronson Arroyo is my guy, and when considering which game of the series I would go to, I purposefully avoided this one. It’s not that Arroyo is a terrible pitcher. He, in fact, a pretty average pitcher who limits his walks (6%) while not striking out many (15%) and giving up his share of home runs. He doesn’t throw hard, so mixing his pitches and locations is key, but as you can see, he leaves the ball up in the zone, which causes him to be homer-happy at times. Looking at his pitch selection, he throws the kitchen sink at both types of hitters, but the real difference is when he gets ahead and goes heavy on the curve to RHH and goes with more sinkers to LHH. Again, expect a lot of junk pitches as only about 41% of his pitches are fastballs.
Brian McCann returns tonight to the aid of Paul Maholm both at the plate and behind it. His return shifts Even Gattis to LF and Justin Upton to RF until Jason Heyward gets back. Arroyo seems a poor match-up for Gattis, but there’s little doubt Gattis could put one out of GABP. Maholm will look to counter a tough lineup, but the best hitters on the team are left-handed, though Phillips and Frazier are nothing to sneeze at. The key, as always, is to limit the baserunners that get on before the middle of the order, but it’s especially necessary in a park like this. The Braves will need to patient on offense and wait back on Arroyo, and if Arroyo is just slightly off, this game could end up in a laser show.
May 6, 2013 at 1:46 pm by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
“Yeah, but you go 0-2 (count to Minor if he stayed in) or something, then all of a sudden…”
In the late-innings in a tight game, a bunt to move a runner into scoring position, especially to third base, isn’t a terrible idea. Bunts in the early going ARE because the range of outcomes is so great – essentially, why play for one run when you might need 5 – in addition to simply reducing the run expectancy because of giving up an out. Later in the game, however, the range of outcomes has been greatly reduced, and given a tight game situation, playing for one run makes more sense. So in this instance, I’m not upset with the DECISION to bunt as much as WHO to use to bunt.
The quote at the beginning is Fredi’s response for why he pinch-hit Tyler Pastornicky for Mike Minor on Friday and then had him bunt instead of simply having Minor do it. It sounds very nice in theory. Players brought up to bunt don’t always succeed, and if he doesn’t on the first two strikes, one would prefer to have a better hitter than a worse hitter. If Minor was trying to bunt and didn’t succeed, you’d now have the pitcher trying to hit.
Here’s the problem: asking the pinch-hitter – whoever he is – to bunt until two strikes has now made him a poor hitter, essentially offensively castrating him to the point of making him a pitcher. Pitchers collectively hit .129/.162/.166 last season. All hitters when they got to a two-strike count hit .178/.244/.273. But remember that this is a player trying to sacrifice bunt and, as such, is more likely to see strikes. With an 0-2 count (Fredi’s suggestion, not mine), he’s now a .168/.196/.254 hitter, and with a 1-2 count, he’s a .179/.227/.272 hitter. That’s not exactly “pitcher-level”, but the difference between “legit hitter” and “pitcher” has been greatly reduced.
The next thing to note is that a pinch-hitter brought into pinch-hit is often not even a league-average hitter, probably one of the reasons he doesn’t start. That reduces the expectation even farther.
Following that, a player’s production often goes down when he pinch-hits. The reasons are varied – being “cold”, having to face mainly relievers, etc. – but we know it happens. So the pinch-hitter is now worse than already expected to be.
Now, wouldn’t this happen to a pitcher in this situation as well? Sure, his overall line would also suffer, but a pitcher has much less distance to fall than a position player. Putting a batter in an 0-2 hole automatically makes him a bad hitter, and while there are degrees of bad hitters, the range of differences has been greatly reduced. Here’s what a pitcher would do if his rate stats were reduced to the degree that a position player’s has.
The other thing is strategically picking who to send to the plate. Fredi could have let Minor hit, but he’s a /069/.121/.099 hitter for his career. Eck. He could also have sent in Tim Hudson – a .178/.212/.234 hitter – to the plate as a guy who can bunt and swing the bat fairly well. Kris Medlen of the .110/.198/.134 line wouldn’t have been a great choice, but it would be an upgrade over Minor. Paul Maholm – .109/.151/.130 – kind of fits in the same boat as Medlen. As for Julio Teheran, we’re still not really sure, but he’s been golden in his 17 career PA. In any case, sending up another pitcher to pinch-bunt, especially Hudson, would have improved the chances of getting on while not burning a versatile bench option.
And that’s the final piece of the puzzle – future considerations. Future considerations, of course, aren’t as important in the late innings of a close game, but they aren’t inconsequential. Burning Pastornicky AND Reed Johnson prevented them from being possible defensive replacements, pinch runners, injury replacements, and pinch-hitters in the case of extra-innings, which is a distinct possibility given the presumably close score. As I said, future considerations aren’t as important late in the game, but it’s another point not in favor of burning valuable bench options to simply bunt.
One thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t the reason the Braves lost Friday’s game. It’s not even a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. And Fredi isn’t the only manager who would have done such a thing. I’m not here to criticize the bunt or Fredi. But we shouldn’t just take orthodox strategy for granted. The manager is already putting the hitter in a bad position by forcing him to go to two strikes to get the bunt down, and any hitter would be in a tough situation down 0-2 or 1-2. Then, he’s burning a bench player for something a pitcher could easily do, and if the manager really wants a “legit hitter”, he can simply sub him in with two strikes.
But leaving in a pitcher lets the other team know it HAS to be a bunt, right? Yes, but so does showing bunt early, something every hitter does when sacrificing.
But a hitter could pull it back and hit the ball, right? Sure, but a pitcher could also do it, and he probably has more experience with that than a position player does. I mean, how many times do you see a position player do that?
But bringing in a pinch-hitter cold with 2 strikes just makes it worse, doesn’t it? Sure, but what is he gaining from trying to bunt. He gets to see the release point, I suppose, and he may get a sense of timing. But it’s only a couple pitches, and it’s not like he’s seeing the pitch from his usual angle as he bends down to bunt. He’s basically screwed regardless.
And if you’re going to screw someone, it might as well be a pitcher you weren’t going to use anyway
May 3, 2013 at 5:30 pm by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
7:30 PM on FOX Sports South
Mets ISO Maps
The Mets aren’t a terribly threatening lineup against lefties. Two of their power guys – Ike Davis and Lucas Duda – are neutralized by poor platoon splits. Tejada has a decent stick, but he’s not a power threat. Daniel Murphy does a lot of BA damage, but again, he’s not a power guy. David Wright is a monster, but he seems to have a hole up-and-in. John Buck has been destroying the ball early, and he can hit lefties. Justin Turner isn’t a big threat as long as you keep it out of the middle of the plate. Stay away from Marlon Byrd and Andrew Brown, and they shouldn’t cause you too much trouble. The top of the order isn’t bad, but there isn’t much overall depth to the lineup.
It should be obvious how Marcum gets by – he throws a lot of pitches. Nothing Marcum throws will be hard, but he sinks it, cuts it, adds to it, subtracts from it, and tests your patience. He’s always been a slightly above-average pitcher, but his durability has killed his overall value. Despite his 20-grade velocity, Marcum still strikes out and walks batters at pretty average rates, and he’s a bit of a flyball pitcher. His key is mixing his pitches. Against RHH, he’ll throw lots of 4-seamers, cutters, and slider (pitches that move away), and against LHH, he abandons the slider for some curveballs and change-ups while also adding a few sinkers. Essentially, he throws pitches that move away from RH and then the kitchen sink at LH. He can be effective and, because he might top out at 88, frustrating.
It’s Mike Minor Day, and if he can avoid mistakes to David Wright and John Buck, the rest of the lineup shouldn’t give him too much trouble. The concern, as always, is how this lineup will do against a soft-tosser. I like Minor’s chances in this one against a Mets team that isn’t very good. Braves could use this one as they’ll face Jonathon Niese and Matt Harvey later this series.
(Thanks, as always to Brooks Baseball and ESPN for the charts, etc.)