Hello everyone from southeast Michigan, home of the 40 degree Spring day! Of course, when I see all the devastation that has hit the southeast, it sure makes being chilly a lot more tolerable. Fortunately, all my family in Georgia and South Carolina seem to be fine; I hope the same is true for all of you and your families.
On the baseball front, things are obviously quiet for Braves fans on a rare off day. Despite what could charitably be called a struggling offense, the Braves were able to turn around their road trip and come home with a 6-4 record on the trip, bringing their overall record back to .500 at 13-13. Browsing the web it’s easy to find a big chunk of the Braves’ tribe who are ready to burn the furniture (and burn Fredi at the stake while they’re at). Many of these folks are screaming at Fredi that he has to learn to manufacture runs and must stop waiting around for the three run homer. To these folks I have one simple question: Why?
The situation with the Braves reminds me of a situation I had with a very large client in a prior life. For ease of illustration, let’s just call the client “Giant Motors”. My boss at the time was screaming at me that the client was too slow in decision making and that I had to “fix them”. Finally, I told my boss that the client was a turtle. Can you train a turtle to go faster? Hmm, not so much. I know, let’s give the turtle a performance incentive; surely that’ll work. Oh, not too well. I know, we’ll just yell at the turtle! That didn’t work either. Sometimes, the best course of action with a turtle is to just be patient. Otherwise, you get frustrated and the turtle just tenses up and maybe draws up into its shell. I think this Braves team is a turtle. Patience is called for!
Given the speed of the Braves team, the analogy is even more apt. If you try to enter the turtle in a sprint (by doing things like trying to steal bases at the wrong time and with the wrong talent, or over-using the hit and run, or doing other questionable things that don’t fit your talent, you will lose games you shouldn’t lose and wind up looking silly in the process (I’m sure none of that sounds familiar!). The great news, though, is that turtles are great in marathons, and the MLB season is a classic marathon.
For those of you screaming that we need to “create runs”, I’d say that would be great if our team makeup was suited to that. But it isn’t. The good news is that we have eight starters who are capable of hitting 20+ home runs. We also have eight starters that are currently under-producing their OBP. You can absolutely take it to the bank that the team’s OBP, currently sitting at .296 and last in all the major leagues, is going to increase substantially. Last year the team OBP was .339. Look for this year’s team to be in that range. What that literally means is that the best way for this year’s team to score runs is to get two men on base and play for the three-run homer. Last year, we had to get two men on base and play for the single to score one (as we had little power). Adding the power of Chipper and Gonzalez for the whole year, Freeman and Uggla plus a resurgent McLouth drastically changes the offensive outlook of the team for the better. Repeat after me: a three-run homer is a good thing; I like three-run homers!
This team is at .500 with a pitching staff that has basically performed to expectations and an offense that has drastically under-produced. There is a very strong upside for this team. Just as I predicted that Heyward was about to turn around his season right before his recent surge, I’m predicting that the team is just now hitting its stride. Even in winning five of the last six games, the team OBP during those games was still only .295; the hitting was just more timely (some might say luckier).
I say good times are coming. What do you think?