Braves defense centers around shortstop Andrelton Simmons's who set a record for defensive runs saved this year with 41. The Braves plan to use their defensive superiority to defeat the Dodgers Thursday night. Photo Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Braves Post Season Roster Emphasizes Defense


Final Post Season Roster Announcement Shocks Many Fans

The Braves first post season roster is out and there were a lot of surprises on it. In case you haven’t seen it elsewhere it looks like this.

Pitchers Catchers Outfielders
Kris Medlen Brian McCann Jason Heyward
Mike Minor Gerald Laird Justin Upton
Julio Teheran
Evan Gattis
Freddy Garcia Infielders Jose Constanza
Alex Wood Freddie Freeman Reed Johnson
David Hale Elliot Johnson Jordan Schafer
Luis Avilan Andrelton Simmons B.J. Upton
Luis Ayala Chris Johnson
David Carpenter Paul Janish  
Jordan Walden    
Craig Kimbrel    

Significant post season omissions include Dan Uggla and Paul Maholm, Scott Downs and Anthony Varvaro.  Twitter Critters ( © me) were abuzz and either inflamed, shocked or cheering the omission of Uggla in particular and inclusion of Constanza. I saw one note that said essentially those who weren’t good in September were left off and while that has some truth to it, the rationale is more complex.

It’s All About Defense

Uggla and BJ – what’s the difference?

Pitching and defense win in the post season; always pitching and defense. The Braves rotation is good and our defense very good. The Dodgers rotation is very good but their defense is second worst in the league and they are now without their two best defensive outfielders. The Braves philosophy going into the post season appears to be emphasize defensive superiority and attack Dodger defensive weaknesses.  That’s why Uggla isn’t on the roster and BJ is. That’s why Uggla isn’t on the roster and Paul Janish.is. It’s all about defense.

The Braves don’t expect BJ to hit but they do know he’s an above average outfielder with speed. He’s the likely defensive replacement for Gattis and first choice pinch runner in late inning situations.

The Braves don’t expect Paul Janish to hit but they know he will  play superb defense at any of three infield spots, primarily as CJ’s defensive replacement in the late innings.

The Braves don’t expect EJ to be a force at the plate but they know he’s a superior defensive second baseman than Uggla and since arriving he’s hitting better too.

Offensively EJ is Better

No I don’t mean BJ I mean EJ – Elliot Johnson. Since being claimed off waivers from Kansas City the numbers for EJ and Uggla look like this.

  PA Outs RC RC/G BAbip BA OBP SLG OPS
EJ 102 74 11 4 .320 .261 .317 .359 .676
Uggla 105 84 6 2 .167 .111 .305 .148 .453

The pro-Uggla crows say, “yes but he hit 22 home runs and he’s a power hitter.” He did hit 22 homers but only 6 since the All Star Break and only one (1) since August first. Whatever Uggla was when we signed him, he’s no longer a force to be reckoned with at the plate. If he can’t hit enough to put pressure on top notch pitching and his defense isn’t good it makes no sense to include him on the roster, it really is that simple.

Outfielders

Constanza is on the roster as a pinch runner and possibly a pinch hitter to lay down a bunt or as he did the other night, surprise everyone with a double. He’s not a great sacrifice bunter but he is better than many wehave and he bunts for hits well. His defense is okay but Schafer and BJ have the backup outfield spots covered (Reed Johnson is purely the RH pinch hitting choice against left handed pitching) so Constanza’s job will be to get get someone over or to get on  put pressure on the Dodger infield.

I believe Schafer’s spot is as pinch runner or an injury replacement starter.  Fredi Gonzalez clearly doesn’t trust BJ to start but has used Schafer there in recent weeks. Schafer’s bat isn’t really much hotter than BJ’s but he can be used in the leadoff spot where BJ hasn’t shown himself in the same zip code.

Infielders

The infield speaks for itself. Freeman, EJ, Simba and CJ start. Janish replaces CJ in the ninth if we have a lead. If there’s an injury a player can be added so we could always get Dan back in an emergency.

Pitching

Your starters are Medlen, Minor, Teheran and Garcia. Aside from Kimbrel the bullpen arms and rolls are:

  • Ayala who Fredi sees as his best ground ball option,
  • Avilan the go to lefty,
  • Carpenter who’s been the unheralded surprise RHP from the pen this year,
  • Hale as long man or emergency starter. I’d rather have him in game 4 but Fredi’s chosen the experience of Garcia
  • Walden who is theoretically healthy but hasn’t pitched well lately and has been wild in the zone
  • Wood who was moved back there because Fredi needed a second left hander particularly after Downs suddenly became hittable.

Paul Maholm was omitted because he’s been a fifth starter at best in recent weeks and he’s not been a bullpen guy. His stuff isn’t what’s needed in a post season pen where power arms are best. If power arms are best why not Anthony Varvaro?

Varvaro worries men when he comes in during pressure situations but he has been good in the last two months posting a 2.19 ERA – 7 runs in 24 1/3 IP – walking 7 and striking out 15 while allowing only one home run. His work against the Dodgers has been stellar as well so perhaps there’s an injury that we don’t know about. Other than that possibility I don’t have a clue why he isn’t there.

That’s a Wrap

I have no delusions that I changed the mind of those who just can’t understand Uggla being left out. They aren’t being objective about how much he’s declined this year and in the last three months in particular. This isn’t an anti-anybody position and please don’t try to redefine hate as preferring one player to another because of facts. Hate is far too string a word for that. I respect Uggla, BJ and the rest for their skill, work and commitment to the Braves. The job at hand however is to win the NLDS against the best pitching staff left in the playoffs.

Don’t get all irate about that comment either. No one loves Medlen more than I but Kershaw in the best in the game now. Greinke is the ace of most other staff’s and Ryu would be a strong rookie of the year candidate were it not for Jose Fernandez.

Fredi and the brain trust decided that we hold the upper hand in two departments; power and defense. The Dodgers are without Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Yasiel Puig has been in a huge slump – .214/.333/.452 in September.  Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez are their remaining power bats. If the Braves can keep them quiet they will have to get on base and use their speed. McCann will not stop the running game though Medlen and Teheran might damage it quite a bit. We have to keep them off the bases as much as possible. That requires our best defense on the field as much as possible. That’s why this roster is built the way it is. It is that simple.

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Tags: Atlanta Braves FanSided Post Season

  • http://thekencarroll.blogspot.com/ Ken Carroll

    Good summation. I think you’re on the money regarding the Braves’ thought processes.

    BTW, Medlen is 1-0 vs the Dodgers this year (2 starts) with a 0.00 ERA. I know that was early in the year, but Medlen is now hitting his stride and likes pitching against tough competition. Are you out there, Mr. Cliff Lee?

    Kershaw is a great pitcher, but beating Medlen in Atlanta is anything but a cakewalk.

    I think the Braves win this series in four games.

    • fireboss

      I really don’t want to Face Kershaw twice so 4 is good

      • http://thekencarroll.blogspot.com/ Ken Carroll

        I’d be happy if Kershaw misses the team plane.

  • Sandra

    for the players not on the roster….are they allowed to be in the dugout/travel with the team, practice with the team, etc.? I’m just thinking it would be awkward, but what if you had to have one of them?

    • fireboss

      Yes they can I expect them all to be there