What's Old Is New Again: Say Hello To Matt Diaz!

Hello again from southeast Michigan, where the weather has finally changed from beautiful and sunny to overcast and gloomy. Let’s hope that’s not a harbinger of things to come on the Braves front, especially in light of the news that came over the wire a little while ago about the return of Matt Diaz.

In what is starting to look like “old home week” after last week’s re-acquisition of Wes Helms, the Braves have added yet another former Brave right-handed hitter to the organization in the form of Matt Diaz. The good news is that Matt Diaz used to be one Braves hitter who could be counted on to kill lefties, putting up an OPS against lefties of 1.103 as recently as 2009. He was useful against lefties his last year in Atlanta (2010), putting up an OPS against lefties of .830. For his career his OPS against lefties is a respectable .831.

Now for the bad news. 2011 has been a train wreck for Matty. He basically hasn’t hit anyone well at any point in the season. I’m sure I could parse numbers for a few hours with some arbitrary endpoints and come up with something rosy, but I’m sure that even that would wind up being a handful of thorns. Right now, for the season Diaz is hitting a deceptively bad .259, with an OPS of a paltry .627. Even against lefties, his year-to-date performance is bleak, with an OPS of only .704 against lefties. Anyone who quotes his .295 batting average against lefties as an indication that he’s doing well against them must like a hitter who seldom does anything but make outs or hit singles, because that’s mostly what Diaz has done against lefties this year.

The Braves are obviously banking on a change of scenery being a catalyst for Matty, with him being inserted into a playoff chase in an environment he has known and “loved”. At 33, I doubt he has forgotten how to hit or that his physical skills have deteriorated to the point that he can’t be effective. And, since the Braves are not reportedly giving up any premium talent as the “player to be named later” that the Pirates get in the deal, and since the Pirates are chipping in some amount of money to offset a portion of Diaz’s salary in 2011 and through the end of his contract in 2012, this seems like a reasonable gamble that could pay big dividends heading into the playoffs.

Once again, Frank Wren is “bottom fishing” in looking for a right-handed bat. Starting September 1st, my bet is he’ll also call up Wes Helms as an option for a right-handed bat, which is candidly another example of bottom fishing. I have to believe that the owners of the Braves have constricted him on his budget, thus forcing him to look at these options. I mean, do you honestly think he prefers to be limited to players at this level? I think not. And, given what he has available, I think he’s bringing forth decent talent.

It seems that Diaz is supposed to be on the roster for tonight’s game. If that’s so, there is one more piece of drama yet to unfold: who gets sent to the Minors, as the roster is still limited to 25 players today. I think that whoever is sent down will have to stay until the minor league season ends on September 5th (I think that’s correct for AAA Gwinnett, at least), as that’s less than the normal requirement of staying down 10 days unless called back up as an injury replacement. Of course, the Braves could wait a day to activate Diaz. Or they could designate someone for assignment (Linebrink sounds like a good option to me :) ). I guess we’ll see shortly.

That’s enough from me. Care to chime in with your thoughts?

Tags: Atlanta Braves Braves Frank Wren Fredi Gonzalez Matt Diaz Scott Linebrink

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