The Braves have just finished their first “half” of the season, the pre-All-Star Game portion of the schedule, with a 50 and 41 record. With 72 games left on the schedule, the team is poised to make a playoff run. After watching the team do so well in the 1st half, especially in April, what can we expect for the rest of the season? How can sabermetrically analyzing the players help us understand what performances are likely? Do continue reading, if you want to know.
I will start with the team’s hitters. We’ve had some changes to the roster made, as Pena has gone down for the rest of the year with a shoulder injury, and will likely be replaced with either Pastornicky, Janish, or a player via trade. Gattis has missed time recently, but should be back before the end of the month. Overall, the team’s offense, while inconsistent at times, has been very effective. It is currently on pace to score 5 more runs than last season, despite the strikeouts, and massive slumps from BJ, Justin, Uggla, and massive underperforming at the plate from Simmons. The reason for this? Increased ISO (slugging-average), about 20 points higher than last year’s team. So despite a 2% increase in the K rate, and a relative non-movement in walk rate, the team is better offensively as a whole.
For the 2nd half, we should expect a slight increase in average runs per game; Uggla, BJ, Justin, and even Simmons should all be better, plus with the heat of summer, we may see even more home runs hit. Currently the team is on pace for 705 runs, however, I predict that we will score at least 730.
Catcher- 377 Pas, .272/.344/.480/.824 with 17 HR, 18 doubles, and a .283 babip.
Brian McCann- He will be used as the starting catcher, receiving at least 65% of the Pas down the stretch. His BABIP and periphs outside of Homerun/flyball ratio are near career norms, so I expect that he will hit at a .275 clip, with a .460 slugging, and about 8 HR post all-star break.
Evan Gattis- He should be cleared to play not too long after the break, and when he does return will likely be used as the 2nd catcher, along with the primary pinch-hitter. He will likely get another 100 at-bats pretty easily, and I expect that he will make the most of them. Late inning heroics seem to be his thing, so I’d expect a nice slugging percentage from him (.470 or higher), with another 8 to 10 HR, to go along with a .250 average.
Gerald Laird- He unfortunately for him, will get relegated to 3rd string duty, with a spot start every 2 weeks or so. He won’t get many Abs in my opinion, but he will still post a good average. My prediction: .275/.320/.360
1B- 395 Pas, .316 .392 .476 .868, 10 HR, 22 doubles,, 2 triples .383 babip
Freddie Freeman has been the primary 1B, though Chris Johnson did see some time over there while Freeman was on the DL. He’s been very good so far, posting a .310 avg. with good slugging. His average is likely to regress, but we should see a little more over the wall power; he’s currently on pace for 16 HR. My prediction: .270/.340/.480, with 12 HR
2B- 379 Pas, .217 .327 .416 .743, 16 HR, 10 doubles, 3 triples, .280 babip
Dan Uggla has been the object of much hatred among Braves country, but as posted here on our affiliate site, ATL All Day, Harris Nye has a good write up on how Uggla has actually been pretty useful. You can see this by looking at his stat line. 327 OBP, 217 avg. That’s a 110 point difference, which is VERY good. His walk rate is over 14%, meaning that he is an elite walker. He is also hitting homeruns, which helps his OPS climb to near .750. He isn’t the guy that we expected when he was signed to that 5yr,62mil contract, it hasn’t even been close. Overpaid? Definitely. Useless? No. Over the second half, I expect that he will be hotter than he was in the 1st half, esp. average wise. He’s able to see better now, and is due for some improvement from his April-June30 numbers. My Prediction: .240/.360/.450, with 9 HR
SS- 413 Pas, 253 .293 .358 .650- 8 HR, 12 doubles, 2 triples, .260 babip
Andrelton Simmons has been woeful at the plate this season, especially as a leadoff hitter. He makes contact, but a lot of it is weak contact, as evidenced by his 20% Infield Fly Ball rate. He is also seeing too few pitches per AB, currently he sees 3.51. He walks in under 4% of his plate appearances. This isn’t a recipe for success. If he continues to hit leadoff, I’d expect his ineuptitude at the plate to continue. If he gets dropped to 8th, we may see more flashes from him of the hitter he was last season. My Prediction: .235/.270/.340, with 3 HR.
3B- 371 Pas, .290/.335/.464/.799, 12 HR, 22 doubles, 1 triple, .364 babip
Chris Johnson has taken over the daily 3B job after the trade of Juan Francisco and the shoulder injury to Ramiro Pena. He’s been very valuable as a hitter, and very unvaluable as a defender. However, at the moment, his hitting value outweighs the negative defense. This may not last however. His BABIP in the 1st half was a whopping .416, more than 60 points higher than his career .355 line. He’s doing this with a very similar batted ball profile to his career. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he has hit his stride as he reaches the prime of his career (he’s 28 this year) and is also enjoying hitting 8th in a very deep lineup. However, per the stats, it seems much more likely that he will decline from his current performance down the stretch. My prediction: .280/.320/.450, with 3 HR
LF- 407 Pas, .236/.328/.438/.765, 17 HR, 16 doubles, 2 triple, .289 babip
Justin Upton has been quite the character for the Braves this season. He started red-hot, hitting .286/.404/.629/1.032 with 13 HR through May15. Since then, he’s hit .231/.313/.339/.652, though he has been better the last 2 weeks. The common factor between his hot and cold stretches, though, is that he still shows a good eye at the plate and takes his walks. That’s a very valuable asset for any player (Simmons, cough cough) to have. He is currently on pace for 27 HR for the season, but I expect that he will break that, especially if he gets hot again. His average is below his career average at the moment, and his babip is also below his career normal. This is a good sign that he will get more hits in the 2nd half, and if he keeps up his HR rate as expected, he should definitely be able to reach that 30 HR plateau that we all predicted he would. My Prediction: .290/.370/.500 with 14 HR
CF- 381 PAs, .199/.286/.328/.614, 9 HR, 14 doubles, 1 triple, .271 babip
B.J. Upton has been a disappointment thus far; there is no way around that. He hasn’t slugged well, and his average is poor, even compared to his less than ideal .242 average over 2009-2012. What is the reason for this? I’m not really sure. Sure he’s popped up a good bit, but he’s made decent contact often enough where he should at least be hitting over .200. To an extent, he has experienced some of Heyward’s bad luck. He’s walked at a good clip still, and already has 8 HR, which is about where I expected him to be at the all-star break. He is a better 2nd half hitter, and so hopefully he will continue that trend this season. His first half was pretty ugly, reminding me of Uggla’s 2011 first half. BJ Upton should be primed to have a good 2nd half, which would get his overall numbers looking more respectable, and make him more endearing to the fans. My Prediction: .260/.340/.470, with 9 HR
RF- 403 Pas, .242/.346/.380/.726, 8 HR, 20 doubles, 2 trip, .290 babip
Jason Heyward has had a very rough season. He started the season in a cold streak, then had to miss some time after an appendectomy. After returning, he continued to struggle even more, before heating up in June, where he was one of the team leaders in WAR. His poor overall numbers on the season have many fans wondering if Jason is even going to be a good MLB player in the future; some are, unfortunately, comparing him to Jeff Francoeur. So what’s the deal on him? Well, looking at his batted ball profile, he should be having success. He’s hitting the most line drives of his career, and has a good approach at the plate. Unfortunately, some of his hits aren’t falling. This may be just my perception, but I feel like I have seen at least 3 hits per week stolen from Heyward. Add all of those up, and he’d be having a very solid year. His babip is about 50 points below his career avg, meaning that his average is lower than it “should” be. In the 2nd half, I’d expect that his stats correct to this mean, so I think that Heyward will have a strong end to the 2013 season. He desperately needs it. My Prediction: .270/.350/.490, with 12 HR
Pinch-hitting- 119 Pas, .301/.357/.505/.862, 6 HR, 3 doubles, .368 babip
The team’s bench was a strong asset for the team in April and May, but has started to fall apart since June. Ramiro Pena has gone down to injury; so has Jordan Schafer. Gattis went down with an oblique injury as well. For a unit that looked to be in good shape just a few months ago, it desperately needs some reinforcements now. Before Terdoslavich was called up, the bench was void of any power after the Gattis injury. Schafer’s injury has cost the team an outfielder. Pena cost the team a 1-man shop for backup infield help. With all the new, and not as strong pieces being added to the bench out of necessity, I am of the opinion that our bench will become a bit of a liability for us at the plate, if we do not make a trade. We will get Gattis back in the next few weeks, but outside of him, there isn’t much of anything to be excited about here. My prediction: .240/.300/.400, with 3 HR
I’ve already gone a bit long on this post, so I won’t bore you any more with tedious details. The pitching staff, especially the rotation, is due for some regression in the 2nd half. Mike Minor and Julio Teheran have been so good in the 1st half, that we know it won’t keep up. The two won’t become terrible, but I don’t expect the near 3 ERAs to continue over the 2nd half. Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson have been pretty unbearable to watch at times, as they have had their ups and downs all season. Maholm’s “decline” is likely correction for his unsustainable good work in April, and Hudson’s is likely age related. Over the 2nd half, I’d expect both guys to continue the up and down roller coaster. As for Kris Medlen, he’s gotten lucky all season in my opinion, especially considering that really has just 1 good pitch; his changeup. Batters have been hitting his fastball and sinker very hard all season, so it was quite amazing that he had been able to keep his ERA in the low 3s. His issues could be mechanical, or it could just be that he isn’t a very good starter. I know it’s an unpopular position, but I lean towards the latter. The lack of 3 good pitches really hurts Medlen as a starter, and I think it would be better if he were used as a setup man in the bullpen.
My Predictions (rotation): Minor, 3.40 ERA; Teheran, 3.50 ERA; Maholm, 3.8 ERA; Hudson, 4.00 ERA; Medlen, 3.8 ERA
In the bullpen, I expect most everyone to keep up at the level they are currently producing at. The only exception is Luis Avilan. While the results have been good, he has been very lucky to achieve these results. His babip against is under .180. MLB average for pitchers is near .300. This is very unsustainable for Avilan, and I fear that he may get shellacked in the 2nd half. Let’s hope not.
My predictions (bullpen): Kimbrel, 2.00 ERA; Walden, 1.85 ERA; Avilan, 3.90 ERA; Varvaro, 3.70 ERA; Carpenter, 3.50 ERA; Wood, 3.30 ERA; Ayala, 4.60 ERA