Braves Injuries, Successes and Slumps Have The Fans Attention

The Braves play the Mets in a couple of hours, Tim Hudson and R.A. Dickey square off at Citi Field. No Chipper Jones tonight eve though there were no ill effects from game type activities this afternoon. Skipper Fredi Gonzales chose to hold him out one more day and not make him face the knuckleballer even though Chipper is 2 for 4 with 3 walks, a homer and 5 RBI in 7 trips to the plate against him.Jose Constanza continues to hit 9th giving protection to slugging pitcher <cough> Tim Hudson. Constanza had been the find of the season so far. He’s 9 for 23 with a double and 2 RBI and a slash line of .391/.391/.435. Makes one wonder whether Jordan Schafer blindness, Wilkin Ramirez major league experience and Nate McLouth’s salary caused the Braves to miss out on a talented player they badly needed earlier in the year.

Speaking of Nate McLouth, he had surgery in Philadelphia for a sports hernia and will be out at least 6 weeks. That would make his return somewhere around the middle of September. The acquisition of Michael Bourn and Constanza’s play so far mean McLouth may have taken part in his last meaningful game for the Braves. The epitaph is in abeyance for now, but fans have shown little indication that he’ll be missed.

July’s Rookie of the Month Freddie Freeman continues to rake the ball and drive in runs in spite of passing 100 strikeouts like it was a yield sign on a dirt road.  Freeman scalded the ball for a slash line of .362/.433/.600 with 6 homers 7 doubles and 18 RBI. He also struck out 24 times in 105 at bats. He’s become a fan favorite for his extreme stretches at first and his good glove work as well in spite of his sabermetric  shortcomings. Speaking of advanced metrics, a brief exchange this week involving Freeman and his buddy Jason Heyward got a few people’s hackles up.

The gist of the chat was that while Freeman was having a great year, Heyward’s tools mean he’s a far superior play and will have a better career. There’s no question that Heyward has more innate skill that Freeman. Baseball history is however loaded with huge talents who started with great numbers but were overshadowed by players with less talent but a better work ethic and mental attitude.

Few would deny for example that Alex Rodriguez was a superior shortstop talent to Derek Jeter. In 2003 –2004, Rodriguez UZRs dwarfed Jeter’s  Yet I suspect not many who play the game on the field instead of with a spreadsheet would trade the player Jeter was for the player Rodriguez was. Does anyone believe A-Rod makes the famous Jeter scoop to Jorge Posada that effectively killed the A’s world series hopes? Anyone? I didn’t think so.

Discussion this week in the tweetisphere / blogisphere circled around comparing  Jason Heyward to Jeff Francoeur. While there are obvious differences their numbers are very similar and point out why numbers can be deceiving when predicting a career.( I am aware of Heyward’s injuries but the numbers are still a valid comparison for this mental exercise.)

2005 257 .300 .336 .549 .140 .370 43.0 17 14.1 13
2006 651 .260 .293 .449 .189 .308 72.5 9 6.8 5
2010 520 .277 .393 .456 .179 .376 98.9 10 4.2 -3
2011 286 .224 .315 .399 .184 .316 36.5 9 0.2 -2

Sadly for Braves fans, Frenchy’s skill and talent never carried him to baseball heights they might have. Jason Heyward hasn’t yet become Frenchy and there is no need to panic. Those fans screaming for him to be traded would be advised to take a deep breath and relax, things will change,

J-hey will heal. He will correct the bad habits he picked up trying to compensate for his injured shoulder. Players do have sophomore slumps and let’s not forget the SI cover jinx. (Oh Freeman was on the cover too? Hmm never mind. . .) The best news may be that he actually slid feet first into a bag the other night. I hold out hope he’ll never slide head first again. The chances of injury are just too great.

Jason Heyward came into this season with the overly inflated expectations of Braves fans on his shoulders. He’s struggled with injury to be the player he wants to be.  The season isn’t over and his career is just beginning.  The man that all account from his teammates say Heyward is will help him to become the star his talents predict he can be.

Tags: Chipper Jones Freddie Freeman Jeff Francouer Jose Constanza

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