Last night was odd to say the least. Brooks Conrad clutch again, a walk off balk of all things, and comments before and after by Larry Parish and Fredi Gonzales that made me shake my head. So let’s take these in order and see if we can sort them out.
First to Terry Collins my thanks. Thanks for sending K-Rod out there three nights in a row (I know you had no choice but thanks anyway) Thanks for letting Lucas Duda take over at first, because without him the inning is over and the night drags on. I know you quietly went down the tunnel and slammed your head in a door when Brooks Conrad homered and again when Duda decided he wanted to play second base as well as first. (Note to Jordan Schafer, I know they gave you a hit but we know that was an error by Duda don’t we?) I appreciate your generosity and I understand your pain but, as a Mets manager, pain is part of the contract. We have plenty of our own so it’s nice to know someone else shares it too. On a side note who’d have thought Lucas Duda wasn’t the first Duda to play pro ball or even the only Duda playing today? I guess I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on all the Duda day … Okay, sorry couldn’t resist. On to more serious things. . .
Before the game I posted a piece pointing out that this year’s overall numbers weren’t that much behind last year’s except for those of the role players. There have been problems of course, Dan Uggla’s ongoing slump not the least of these. Later I saw an interview with hitting coach Larry Parrish and Skipper Fredi Gonzales about the hitting. I’ll start Parrish because there’s a lot more of the Skipper to cover.
Parrish came highly recommended by Braves scout Dom Chiti and a variety of baseball people. In October Frank Wren said this on hiring Parrish: “He said there were certain jobs in the big leagues he wouldn’t take because he didn’t think he could make an impact like he could in this one.”
Larry Parrish yesterday to David O’Brien in the AJC: “You go home and you think, what can you do? All I can do is work and be available to the guys. Hopefully we start hitting better.”
Between October and June his position has changed from thinking he could make an impact to “what can you do.”
I am well aware that the hitting coach isn’t swinging the bat for the players or able to change their bad habits by simply waving a magic wand or telling them to hold their hands higher or lower. On the other hand if you are hired to coach hitters and you want to “have an impact” you should at least have an idea where to start. Since he admits he doesn’t I suggest he clear the way for someone who does because as far as I can see, our hitters are either treading water or sinking and he has no idea where the life vests are. For now, teaching them how to bunt might be a good start.
In the article noted above and another by Chris Cox over at MLB.com the Skipper says he’s considering hitting the pitcher eighth. Then immediately said:
“I’ve never done it. I’ve never toyed with it,” Gonzalez said. “I really don’t know about the theory. I’m digging deep.”
It shouldn’t surprise me that our Skipper is considering trying a tactic without knowing what that tactic is supposed to produce. After watching his bullpen management – for want of a better term –, base running choices and lineups it’s clear that happens a lot. Still the tactic has a specific use and Tony LaRusa has provided it many times.
.”In the end, it comes down to giving your third-place hitter – and there’s no more dangerous player in the game – one more guy on base, potentially,” La Russa said. “And that is half of how you get the bat in his hands. The other half is to have somebody like Matt Holliday behind him. So that’s why I do it.”
LaRusa’s third place hitter is Albert Pujols of course.
I like getting Brian McCann or Chipper Jones more RBI chances and as we aren’t scoring many runs it fits LaRusa’s model. However, Gonzales is no LaRusa in the dugout and doing this requires knowing why it works and what other buttons to push to make it work. LaRusa learned those lessons over the years. Most managers don’t have that luxury, particularly those that want to be in the post season this year. Gonzales says “I’ve never done it; I’ve never even toyed with it.” Now is not the time to start Skip.
Gonzales said that Eric O’Flaherty had a “Stiff back. We’ll see with him. Maybe day-to-day with him. . .” That’s not good news. In spite of Sherrill’s numbers he’s given up hits to lefties in key situations and righties smack him around pretty well.
The Skipper said he wants Mike Minor to builds on his outing and learn from it that in the major leagues, you can’t go out there in the fifth and walk the first two guys.
I understand being supportive of Minor. We forget that he’s a young inexperienced player getting tested at the Major League level at a time when not so long ago he’d have been kept in the minor leagues until he had learned how to pitch when ahead by four and how to limit damage and get out of trouble. That he isn’t doing that is a fact of life now for all teams; young pitchers are blooded in the majors and we find out later if it made them or broke them. Some make it, some don’t. Ask Nate Cornejo or Jeremy Bonderman how they liked it.
What we’ve seen from Minor – who I thought would make the team out of spring training – so far this year is a player not ready for prime time. He has the tools to be a Tom Glavine type of pitcher but he hasn’t learned yet how to use them. A look at his Fangraphs Heat Maps will tell you he’s in the middle of the plate far too often to be successful. Pitch FX shows he’s virtually abandoned his sinker, cut his use of the slider and curve by about half, uses a a four seam fastball 63% of the time and a change up 25% of the time. Since he’s in the middle of the plate a lot and the hitter knows what’s coming it’s not surprising he gets knocked around the second time through the order.
I want for him now what I wanted for him at Christmas. A lot of one-on-one time with Tom Glavine. If he doesn’t learn what Glavine learned soon. . .
Chipper left the game last night with what we used to call a groin pull. Proving that he’s a far braver man than I, he went to the training room and got a shot immediately. . .in the groin. Ouch! He’s day to day but even if he plays his already limited range is further reduced and he won’t be able to go first to third for a while. We didn’t need that injury now. With Prado on the DL our choices at third are in no particular order because I suspect the Skipper has a dart board he uses to choose anyway; Brandon Hicks, Brooks Conrad, Diory Hernandez, and Eric Hinske. Once again our fragile bench and shallow minor league depth force unwelcome choices.
Randall Delgado” width=”136″ height=”113″ align=”left” />Last night’s projected starter Tommy Hanson has shoulder tendonitis so into the infirmary for his major league debut comes Randall Delgado, the Braves second best pitching prospect behind Julio Teheran and 35th prospect by Baseball America. In 13 starts at Jackson, Delgado’s thrown 73-2/3 innings, allowed 69 hits and 6 homers while walking 26 giving him a WHIP of 1.262 to go with his 3.54 ERA. In the tradition of such things he gets to face the Texas Rangers, one of the best hitting teams in baseball. On the other side tonight is Colby Lewis.
Lewis is 5-7, 4.97 ERA but his last two starts have been less than stellar. On Saturday he faced 13 batters and gave up six runs on seven hits and two walks in a 9-1 loss to the Twins. In his last 42/3 innings he’s allowed 15 runs so our hitters – the ones not on the disabled list or unavailable – have an opportunity to make hay and prolong his misery in support of Delgado.
I wish Delgado his best stuff and lots of luck tonight. He and the Braves will need both.