Hello again everyone from southeast Michigan. I wish everyone a happy Labor Day, especially the two-thirds of lower Michigan who treked up I-75 to the Upper Peninsula for the long Holiday weekend. You can already see the traffic backing up on southbound I-75 as folks are trying to beat the rush only to create an early rush. When you have that many people crowding the 2-3 lanes of the one major pathway to the UP, there’s no way to avoid it, so sit back and catch a ballgame on the radio!
Speaking of ballgames, I’ve gathered up a few observations over the past few ballgames that I’ve saved up for today. This Braves team is so full of promise, yet so full of questions!
In no particular order:
- What is Fredi Gonzalez thinking playing Freddie Freeman almost every day when his quad is so bad he almost has to crawl to first base when he hits the ball? Not only is that asking for more trouble, it is also impacting his swing, in my opinion. Without a firm underpinning, he’s having to start his swing earlier, or at least he thinks he has to. That sets off a whole chain reaction of things, but at the end of the day his bat is slower. Not good. Even worse is the scenario where he blows out the quad completely. With the lead the Braves have in the Wild Card, I say give him a week off. Even if it’s not completely healed in that time, it has to be better, plus that’s 7 games that he can’t blow the quad out in. And it’s not like the Braves don’t have a lot of viable short-term options to fill in. I just don’t want to enter the playoffs with one of them having to play every day.
- Speaking of fill-in options, have any of you checked out the stats that Freddie Freeman‘s replacement at first base for Gwinnett this year, Mauro Gomez, is putting up? How about a .304 batting average, .356 OBP, .522 slugging percentage, and an OPS of .878! Not to mention he’s hit 24 HR’s. Objectively, that’s a better offensive season than last year’s league MVP, Freddie Freeman, put up. The only knock I can see on him offensively is that he strikes out a lot (131 K’s in 506 AB’s, 557 PA’s). I have no idea what kind of defense he plays, but if he’s at all serviceable in the field, why not let him come up to the big team and get his feet wet while Freddie gets some rest?
- Moving on from that issue, why isn’t Chipper Jones back in the three hole in the batting order? He’s been the hottest Braves hitter for some time, showing both a power stroke and classic Chipper OBP hitting. Plus, McCann just doesn’t seem comfortable hitting in that spot. I know that Brian is dealing with other issues with his swing right now, but that seems all the more reason to flip-flop him with Chipper in the batting order. I want the best Braves hitter to have the most opportunities to appear at the plate with chances to drive in runs. That means Chipper needs to be hitting third, especially while he’s hot. And there is no doubt in my mind that opposing teams still do not want to face Chipper with the game on the line. Put him third; the team needs all the “intimidation factor” it can get heading into the playoffs.
- This team continues to come through in tough situations. For a team as young as this Braves team is, figuring out how to win when the chips are down — and experiencing the feeling when they pull it off — is a great thing to have happen before the playoffs. Yesterday’s game against the Dodgers was huge, coming back from three runs down late against Clayton Kershaw, and with a lineup filled with backups and late additions to the squad, was an important learning experience. In fact, Chipper called it the most important win of the season. I don’t know about that, but beating a world-class left-hander heading into October, where we’re likely to face a lot of them, is a big thing. And stopping the bleeding against the Dodgers, preserving the claim of never being swept in a 3 or 4 game series this year, will be ingrained in the mind of the players, should a similar situation occur in the playoffs. And that can’t be a bad thing.
- Finally, I wanted to post a few numbers from Michael Bourn and Jordan Schafer for you to think about. I think when people evaluated Bourn, they may have discounted a little too much the impact that playing in the Juice Box may have had on Bourn’s game. I think that Minute Maid Field fits Bourn’s game, and for that matter Jordan Schafer‘s game, very well. Looking at their OPS in Atlanta, Bourn’s OPS thus far is .665. For comparison, Schafer’s was .623. I know that everyone was/is looking for better numbers than this for Bourn. But let’s compare their numbers in a Houston uniform: Bourn’s OPS this year for Houston was .766. Schafer’s OPS as an Astro is .792. And just for grins I looked at each of their OPS numbers at Turner Field and Minute Maid Park. This year, Bourn’s OPS at Turner Field is .616; Schafer’s OPS at Turner Field is .680. Bourn’s OPS at Minute Maid field is .795; Schafer’s OPS at Minute Maid Field is .901. Finally, I looked at stolen bases since the trade. Bourn has stolen 5 bases at a 50% success rate. Schafer has stolen 3 at a 100% success rate. With all the standard caveats about sample size, I think we should at least be cognizant of the fact that our upgrade in center field may not be quite as much as was expected, especially if you believe that, as did many of the Braves scouts and coaches, that Schafer was finally figuring out how to be an impact hitter in the major leagues.
That’s my take on things. Please share yours!