For The Braves It's Put Up Or Shut Up Time


Now or Never

It’s September 28th, last day of the 2011 MLB season and the Braves last chance to book a post season spot. The fans have heard all of the excuses and none want to see Fredi Gonzalez tip his hat to anyone except the doorman as he leaves for a new job. Tonight’s lineup was just posted:

  • Bourn 8
  • Prado 7
  • Jones 5
  • Uggla 4
  • Freeman 3
  • McCann 2
  • Diaz 9
  • Wilson 6
  • Hudson 1

Alex Gonzalez calf injury forced him out of the game last night and the call up of Tyler Pastornicky to back up Jack Wilson at shortstop. Wilson has not been an immediate fan favorite in spite of his great defense, presumably because he didn’t immediately start a hitting streak like Jose Constanza did when he arrived. Posts flying around Twitter were asking for Pastornicky to start in his place even though he has no major league at bats and a history of being error prone at shortstop. It’s true Pastornicky hit .365/.404/.413 at Gwinnett this year but that isn’t immediately transferable to the major leagues. Diory Hernandez had a .319/.399/.422 year there as well and he never managed to hit consistently with the Braves. Jack Wilson on the other hand has hit at the major league level and hit well.

Why you should love Jack Wilson

Wilson’s career numbers are very good for a shortstop. It’s true they dipped when he went to Seattle but in two of his years there he missed a lot of time with injury. Besides, his numbers weren’t the only ones to go into the toilet up there. Adrian Beltre suffered lower numbers than he had in LA  and after leaving in Boston and Texas. Chone Figgins fell completely off the map after he moved there. In short I don’t give much credence to an individual’s numbers in Seattle’s.

Wilson isn’t Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins but, who or what standard are you comparing him to? Alex Gonzalez? Gonzalez comes out well on the bottom of that comparison in almost every category. Don’t believe it? See for yourself.
(All statistics from the folks over at Baseball Reference)

Both Gonzalez and Wilson have one all star selection. The year Wilson was selected he also won the Silver Slugger award for National League shortstops.  Wilson often hit in the 2 hole .271/.310/.374.or the 8 hole where he is tonight .270/.314/.382 and had success in both spots. Over his career he strikes out at about .126 rate while Gonzalez is about .203. It’s true that Gonzalez has hit for more power over his career but, have we seen that since his arrival? Not much. In all non-home run categories Wilson’s numbers are superior including his RISP numbers.  We all know too well that until the end of August this year, when Gonzalez came up with men on base the rally was usually over.  The other lineup kerfuffle is over Matt Diaz starting instead of Jason Heyward.

Diaz instead of Heyward

Fredi Gonzlalez told reporters that he’s starting Diaz instead of Heyward because Blanton has less luck against righties and they expect Cole Hamels to be in the game by the third or fourth inning. It makes sense to at least try that. Heyward is a shell of last year’s player. He has little confidence at the plate and it shows.  I know all the sabermetric Heyward worshippers are readying their stats to skewer those who disagree but the possibility of what he might do doesn’t overwhelm the reality of what he has done. He’s hitting .226 and his BAbip is .258. He has been hitting balls that slip into his hot zone hard but his hot zones are fewer this year this year than last. In short there just isn’t much difference in his performance now and that of the other 4th outfielders; actually Diaz’ are better.

Statistically Diaz is 2-6 with a double and 2 RBI when facing Blanton and 10-38 with 2 doubles, a triple, a homer and a walk when facing Hamels. Heyward is 0-3 against Blanton and 3-13 with a double and a walk facing Hamels. It appears as if Diaz is a better choice even statistically than Heyward. I’m sure somewhere a Heyward worshiper’s head exploded reading that.

I know very well Diaz is not the defender Heyward is of course but this team is starved for hits. They will take them anywhere they can get them and worry about defense later.

There’s not much I can say about tonight’s game that I didn’t say in the last two or three days. We need do or die play from everyone because it is do or die. Winning tomorrow – Fredi Gonzalez favorite cliché after tipping his hat – is ONLY possible if we win today. We can’t depend on the Astros to beat a fired up Cardinal team with an experienced manager that smells the post season and wants it badly if for no other reason that his contract and that of his star player. We can only rely on ourselves.

Let’s go out and whip the Phillies butt!

Tags: Alex Gonzalez Fredi Gonzalez Jack Wilson Tyler Pastornicky

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