Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons leads the majors in popups causing a lot of walks like this one back to the dugout Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mid Year Numbers - Andrelton Simmons Top of The Pops

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 %
8.6% 5.0% 18.1% 47.2% 34.7% 18.9% 88.4%
19.7% 7.8% 20.9 44.5% 34.6% 9.5% 79.6%

According to 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
        Gerald Laird 5 ARI 146
          Freddie Freeman 4 COL  146
          Reed Johnson 1 SDP 139
          CIN 137
          PHI 135

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    
Line Drive 3234 47.6%
Ground Ball 2226 32.8%
Fly Ball 1201 17.7%
Bunt Ground Ball 97 1.4%
Pop Fly 32 0.5%
Bunt Popup 4 0.1%
Bunt Line Drive 1 0.0%
Total 6795  

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.

Other Stuff

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
MLB 20th     10th     25th     24th   15th   5th 7th
NL 10th      5th     11th     13th    9th   1st 2nd

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?


Chris Johnson 20
Freddie Freeman 19
Justin Upton 16
Jason Heyward 13
Evan Gattis 11
Andrelton Simmons 11
B.J. Upton 10
Dan Uggla 8
Brian McCann 8
Reed Johnson 6
Jordan Schafer 6
Ramiro Pena 5
Gerald Laird 4

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?

Tags: Atlanta Braves Andrelton Simmons

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