Under The Radar -- Braves Sightings July 21, 2011

Hello again everyone from that midwestern hotspot, southeast Michigan, we’re the weather is doing its best to keep up with heatwave. It’s only supposed to hit 100 today, with a heat index ten degrees north of that. The last time I remember it being this hot up here Sparky Anderson was still managing the Tigers and Doyle Alexander was about to be a tremendous late season acquistion for them. And it only cost them some unheard of prospect named John Smoltz. Man, that was a long time ago :) .

As you keep yourself out of the heat in your neck of the woods, I thought I’d pass along a few tidbits of info that aren’t being widely hyped during this rumor monger’s delight period leading up to the trade deadline.

  • The Braves are missing Chipper’s defense at third base. I know this is an easy time to pick on Martin Prado after his error last night led to the winning run scoring in the bottom of the ninth, but this is actually something I’d noticed ever since Chipper’s surgery. Prado has missed several attempts to make Chipper’s patented barehand grab charging the ball play. But of more significance to me, he’s also fallen into a habbit of giving ground on hard hit balls or high choppers, playing them off to the side and letting them take an extra bounce. Either of these actions are dangerous; do both and you’re playing with fire, as was the case last night. I know Chipper’s not known for his defense, but I think right now Prado plays better defense either at second base or in left field. I think Chipper’s return will bring dividends both offensively and defensively.

  • I think there is one critical reason why the Braves aren’t likely to trade Derek Lowe mid-season. The reason is pretty simple and pretty old-school: You don’t want to have two rookie starters on a team that’s likely headed to the post-season. THe logic goes that you can’t know what to expect in a pennant race and the post-season that follows until you’ve been there. You also can’t predict how someone will respond to the situation until you’ve seen them respond. Finally, you can “hide” one rookie in the playoffs, but if you have two rookie starting pitchers, you can’t hide them both. When you combine this with Lowe’s playoff reputation, I think that means that it would take an awfully strong offer to pry him loose. I think this will translate to Lowe remaining with the team until the World Series is over.

  • Brandon Beachy does remind me of Tom Glavine. I’m sure you’ve heard lots of people say this. After all, he is a promising youngster and he’s a starting ptcher for the Braves, which has brought out the Glavine comparisons. To me, though, there are a lot of things different about his pitching, foremost being that he throws a lot harder than Glavine did, at least on most days. Having watched him pitched a lot lately, though, I have noticed one thing that makes me think of Glavine. Beachy is the most stoic pitcher I’ve seen anywhere since Glavine. He never seems to react, no matter what happens. It’s impossible to know what’s going on inside his head, but externally he’s unflappable. To me, that’s a mitigating factor in the Braves’ concerns about rookie starting pitching. He doesn’t act like a rookie, even when things are going poorly, like in his last start versus the Rockies.
  • Speaking of Beachy, did you notice his velocity against the Rockies? Beachy’s normal velocity this season has been 93-94 consistently. Against Colorado he struggled to hit 92, sitting at 90-91 most of the time. While I don’t think the loss in velocity directly caused his problems, I do think that it’s a good indicator that he’s having problems with his mechanics. And it wasn’t the radar gun, as the other pitchers in the game had normal to higher than normal velocities. Keep an eye out for this in his next outing. If it doesn’t pick back up, I think this could portend more problems.
  • Alex Gonzalez is lost at the plate. I was actually going to write an article on how bad he’s struggled, but David O’Brien at the AJC.com beat me to it; check out the numbers that David pulled together here. While Fredi Gonzalez has given him a vote of confidence, I wonder how bad his offense will be allowed to get before the Braves have to do something. The problem is that the Braves don’t really have a great option internally, at least not yet. Fred Owens wrote yesterday about Tyler Pastornicky, who appears to be the best internal candidate in the system, but he only put up an OPS in the range of .750 in AA ball, and while speedy, he was only successful about 70% of the time against pitchers and catchers who are not at big league levels. I think he’s still a year away. In my opinion, this team would be a perfect fit for Jose Reyes. He would address so many issues. Imagine having him and a resurgent Jordan Schafer at the top of this lineup after Chipper returns! That’s something I’d trade top-level prospect talent to get.

    Got to run. That’s my take on things; what’s yours?

Tags: Alex Gonzalez Atlanta Braves Brandon Beachy Braves Chipper Jones Derek Lowe Frank Wren Fredi Gonzalez Martin Prado

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