Braves Mid year hit numbers provide a lot of food for thought and discussion. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons leads MLB in one category but in this case it’s not a good thing.
As I watched the Simmons popup to Jimmy Rollins to end the Braves ninth inning last Friday I realized that it was what I expected to happen. Simba seems to popup or strike out most of the time. Of course what seems to be true isn’t always what really happens, so I looked. I was wrong about the strikeouts, according to Fangraghs his 8.6% strikeout rate is less than half the league’s 19.9% rate. My apologies. Now about those popups . . .
Top of The Pops
Another peek at Simmons’ Fangraphs page showed that his popup rate in the mirror image of his strikeout rate; his IFFB rate is 19.8% while the league rate is 9.2%. Here are his other contact numbers with the league average below. League average is sort of a nebulous concept as it lumps all kinds of hitters together but with such a short history at the major league level for Simmons and that broken by a DL stint, trending him individually isn’t practical.
|K%||BB %||LD%||GB%||FB%||IFFB%||Contact %|
According to Baseball-Reference.com he actually pops out more than anyone in the majors. While no other Brave is in the top ten Heyward is just below that line.
|Major league||National League||Braves||Team|
|Andrelton Simmons||36||Andrelton Simmons||36||Andrelton Simmons||36||CHC||185|
|Ian Kinsler||31||Jimmy Rollins||30||Justin Upton||21||SFG||181|
|Manny Machado||31||Carlos Beltran||27||Jason Heyward||21||ATL||176|
|Luis Cruz||30||Luis Cruz||27||Dan Uggla||17||NYM||173|
|Mike Moustakas||30||Pete Kozma||27||B.J. Upton||16||LAD||168|
|Matt Dominguez||30||Zack Cozart||26||Evan Gattis||15||MIL||168|
|Edwin Encarnacion||30||Hunter Pence||25||Jordan Schafer||10||WSN||163|
|Alexei Ramirez||30||Pablo Sandoval||25||Brian McCann||9||STL||162|
|Jimmy Rollins||30||Carlos Gonzalez||24||Chris Johnson||6||FLA||160|
|Yoenis Cespedes||29||Ian Desmond||23||Ramiro Pena||5||PIT||154|
As you can see below – and most of us would guess – if you want to get a hit, a line drive is you best chance and aside from anomalies a popup is the worst.
|MLB Hits by type|
|Bunt Ground Ball||97||1.4%|
|Bunt Line Drive||1||0.0%|
Popping up a pitch is a timing issue; either the pitcher fools the hitter with the pitch and throws the timing off or the hitter is having mechanical or pitch recognition issues. I’m not a hitting coach nor do I play one on TV but Simba lunges at a lot of pitches and if pitchers are fooling him that often something needs attention. Converting just half of those popups to line drives or even ground balls would likely improve his OBP a good deal and make him a better leadoff man in the process.
There are other interesting things in the numbers as well. These are noted with comment because they sort of speak for themselves
- Gattis has 15 popups in 163 ABs
- Schafer 10 in 125 ABs
The Braves are third on the list behind the Mets and and the downward spiraling Giants. No other division leading team is in the top half of the league. The Dodgers are there but they are just at 500 and prior to June they were just not a good team.
Some numbers that we don’t hear and may or may not mean anything. Going into Thursdays games this is the Braves rank in various hit categories.
|Hits||vs RHP||vs LHP||Doubles||Triples||Homers||BB|
I was mildly surprised that while this year’s Braves are a more right/left balanced lineup, we are only 11th of 15 in hits against LHP. That said the slash is .238/.316/.387/.704 vs LHP and .255/.329/.421/.749 vs RHP so while I would like it to be better it isn’t awful. If I have the choice however, I start a lefty against us.
The Braves home number is pretty well touted so I’ll pass that one up. Although we have some fast players, triples are hard to come by and Turner field isn’t known for them; it ranks 18th in MLB and 11th in the NL. Interestingly the top five parks for triples are NL and while I understand Coors Field being 2nd and Marlins park 3rd I would never have guess Citizens Bank Park in Philly as being number one in MLB. I would have said AT&T Park but it ranks fourth. Number one in the AL is Fenway.
Being 13th the NL in doubles was a surprise because it seems we have a folks for whom a it’s a double or nothing. Perhaps it’s nothing more often than it seems?
It is well known and much discussed of course that we are second in the majors (behind Houston) and first in the NL in strikeouts. What you don’t hear is that we are seventh in MLB for walks and second in the NL behind the Reds How much the latter offsets the former depends on your opposition. We’ve seen this year that pitchers who pound the strike zone and walk few hitter are hard for us to handle.
That’s A Wrap
This started as a look at Simmon’s propensity to popup and that is indeed the case. We haven’t heard that there’s been emphasis on that from Greg Walker and crew but as Simba is the leadoff man – at least for now – working on that might improve our second half.
In the process of looking at the numbers the other numbers I highlighted took caught my eye. Our lack of hitting against by right handers against lefties is still an issue. At the bottom of the hit list against lefties is B.J. Upton with a .165/.235/.233/.467 line. That’s 70 points down on his numbers for the last two seasons so there is hope that a second half awakening will occur and change things. Simmons is the next lowest with a .218/.277/.333/.610 line. The lowest line for an every day lefty is Jason Heyward’s .205/.284/.384/.668.
Our lack of base hits overall is most troubling and no amount of walks can bridge that gap. You don’t beat the best pitchers with the home run alone, you nibble at them, make them pitch out of the stretch as much as possible and generally wear them them down. Walks help but those guys don’t walk many and while hits aren’t easy either they are generally more of them than free passes. The obvious way to grab a few is to reduce strikeouts and put the ball in play more often by taking what the pitcher gives you and settling for a single. Justin Upton has shown signs of doing that more of late and and has turned many of those into doubles. Now fully healthy, Brian McCann is doing it again as well. It’s time for others to follow suit.
That’s how I see this numerical mish mash, and I know some will disagree. So tell me, what’s your Take?