Jun 7, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra (right) is congratulated by teammates after hitting a walk off hit in the eleventh inning against the Atlanta Braves at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks defeated the Braves 4-3 in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Official Braves Rant Column


So here we are:  in a 3-way tie for first place… and trending downward.  Spiraling, if you will.  I’m personally annoyed at the why this team has been performing, and I’m guessing that many of you are as well.  So this is the Official Get-it-off-your-chest Rant Column so that you can purge yourself of the anger, depression, disillusion, despair, and general malaise.

I’ll get the catharsis started.  But please:  join me at the bar as we drown our sorrows via the keyboard…

 

The Offense Still Sucks

In the past 30 days, Jason Heyward has finally started hitting like… well, Freddie Freeman.  Unfortunately, Freddie Freeman is now hitting like … well, what Heyward was hitting like before May.

Other low-lights:

  • Chris Johnson has a walk rate of 2.1%.  That would be bad enough except that he’s now lowered that to 0.9% over the past 30 days.
  • FOX Sports/South continues to circulate these graphics about how much better B.J. Upton has been hitting lately.
    • For the full year:  Upton is hitting .207 with a 30.3% K rate, 5 homers, and a scant 15 RBI.
    • Over the past 30 days:  Ready? It’s .209 with a 30.7% K rate, 3 homers and 8 RBI.
  • Justin Upton is hitting .200 during road games.
  • Jason, Freddie, and Tommy La Stella are the only members of the team hitting above .300 with runners in scoring position (RISP).  Would be nice to give them some more opportunities.
  • Not only are the Braves last in baseball in plate appearances with RISP (502), but they’d have to add 115 more opportunities (an increase of 23%) just to get up to the middle of the pack.
  • At least they aren’t last in getting runners on base at all.  They have 947 plate appearances with at least some runner on base… that ranks 29th.
  • They are also 29th in run scoring.  Makes perfect sense, given the last two stats.

 

…but Now, the Pitching Sucks, too

You may think I’m harsh in throwing around that “sucks” adjective.  Well, when Craig Kimbrel is using it, then we may as well go with it.  Here’s why:

  • David Carpenter.  March/April ERA:  2.61.  Past 30 days:  6.75 and a blown save.
  • Alex Wood.  March/April ERA:  2.93 (mostly starting, of course).  Past 30 days:  5.02
  • Ervin Santana.  March/April ERA:  1.95.  Past 30 days:  4.86.
  • Gavin Floyd:  only 11 earned runs allowed, but eighteen runs allowed overall (bad damage control).
  • Team ERA Rank (March/April):  1st (2.59).  Past 30 days:  7th (3.38).

 

…Which Gives Us the Following Results:

  • 17 wins in April.  15 since then.
  • Run differential down to +8
  • Just 3 games above .500
  • Allowing Washington and Miami to hang around while those teams get their own acts together

 

Ah… this is the stat I was looking for…

 

 
 

So Fredi Wants to Shuffle Things Around?

…and he specifically mentioned the “roster” (see Jeff’s post about that).  That’s an interesting statement.  But what can he/Frank Wren do?

  • Yes, Jordan Walden is coming back any second now… so somebody has to be bumped.
  • Fredi was talking about ‘another pitcher’.  That means one less position player.  But as Jeff broke it down, Fredi admitted there are no practical options to do so.  That means one thingWren still isn’t willing to bite the poisoned ($20 million) Uggla apple yet.
  • Contract extensions are all well and good, but that also reduces your flexibility to move players around.  Every starter except Gattis and La Stella have contracts through at least 2015.

So unless the Braves option Tommy La Stella back to Gwinnett (in which case fans armed with torches and pitchforks would assemble on Capitol Avenue for a march), a pitcher has to be bumped.  Carpenter?  Wood?

So nothing really changes:  Atlanta will still have – effectively – 24 useful players on its 25-man roster.  And yes, I’ll be happy to yield on the definition of that word “useful”.

The Braves are in some trouble.  They’d better figure out how to right their ship.  Soon.

 

Tags: Atlanta Braves Rant

  • Michael Feinmel

    Fredi’s lineup management has been awful. I know everyone is an expert but how about this one: LaStella Simmons Heyward Gattis Freeman JUpton Johnson BUpton

    • Brandon_Woodworth

      That’s still really, really bad.

      • Jeff Schafer

        My lineup on June 9th….Heyward, La Stella, Freeman, Gattis, Justin Upton, Chris Johnson, Simmons, Schafer, Pitcher

        • Jeff Schafer

          Or do Fredi’s crazy lineup and put the Pitcher in front of Schafer

    • Mushy Peas

      Not gonna happen.
      Their problems go way beyond just the order of their line-up.

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      Simmons is still under .300 OBP. not 2nd slot material. I do see what you did there – which brings up the issue that your best three hitters are all lefties: Jason/TLS/Freddie. You can add Justin to that group, but only if you’re in Atlanta. So that complicates any sentiment toward putting your best OBP guys up front in the order.

      If CJ hit like he did in 2013, then you could use him 2nd. But he’s at .238/.243 OBP over the past month. Either way, La Stella is a prototypical #2 guy in my book. I’ll be very curious to see the newest lineup shakeup, though.

  • Mushy Peas

    It really makes you wonder how critical the situation has to get before management finally makes the necessary moves to right the ship. Now, as you say, they are spiraling downward. This trend is gaining momentum and, without intervention, they are going to fall hard and fast. I’ve lost track of the number of games I felt they had no business losing. It also must be considered that the Braves, aside from a few pitchers, haven’t yet been bitten by the injury bug. If there was ever a time for them to pull ahead of the pack, it’s now when they are all well and, theoretically, able. They’ve really squandered a huge opportunity and time is quickly running out for them to take advantage….if it hasn’t already.

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      good rant; glad you mentioned the (lack of) injuries.

  • fireboss

    The player to go down will likely be David Hale. He’s been so-so out of the pen of late and has options. He’s also not as good as Woody who hasn’t been stellar but is at least left handed. Another option could be finding that Carpenter has a sore shoulder and putting him on the DL.
    Wren has a history of not making hard decisions; see also Kawakami, Lowe. David O’Brien and Mark Bowman have said that unnamed sources in the front office say there is no way they will just dump Uggla. That has to be ego overcoming logic, there simply is reason to keep a below replacement player no matter what he’s being paid. It’s sunken cost bite the bullet and do it. UNLESS. . . playing Uggla looked like a showcase game – okay it flopped as expected but still – so perhaps there’s something brewing. I have ideas but none anyone would consider as feasible I suspect so I’ll shut up.
    Fredi is either a) under the gun to win and scared to death or b) getting management decisions handed down from above. Too much of what he’s done is exactly the opposite of what his history has been. He’s been mediocre not flat out stupid as some of his recent moves have proven.
    His best option to change things lies in stuff I suspect he can’t do. Platoon BJ and Schafer, move BJ out of the two hole and hand him a pacifier when he whines and slip TLS up. Both Schafer and Tommy have had better at bats that BJ’s had even during his hit streak and oh by the way he still hasn’t adjusted to hit balls on the outer half with authority and has no idea where the outer edge of the plate is relative to his strike zone.

    The fix requires outside the box thinking and no one in management has shown the ability to do that in a few years

    • Mushy Peas

      Unfortunately, I’m not able to see the pre/post game interviews. I only get to read chopped quotes online. I agree with your suspicions that Fredi is being managed by the upper tiers. He’s really not been that bad of a manager, but lately his odd decisions have suggested otherwise, leading me to believe that he’s not pulling on all the strings.

  • Mushy Peas

    The Braves’ offensive stats are, frankly, quite pathetic and not at all indicative of what they are capable of. (I suppose the realization that they have the potential to be a potent offensive club is somewhat of a silver lining) They’re just not clicking at all. When the pitching excels, they can’t score runs. When they do manage to score runs, the pitching falters.
    I really feel that J-Hey, Freddie, and CJ are the keys to a productive offense. If more than one of these guys is scuffling, then they really don’t have much of a chance. Jason started out slow, but has regained a somewhat consistent level of productivity at present. Freddie and CJ seemed to start off as expected, but then CJ quickly diminished and now Freddie has as well. The two of them are just fighting themselves at the plate. Both appear to not be seeing the ball well, their timing is a little off, and they keep swinging at bad pitches. It’s needless to say that the number of Ks between the two are alarming. I think we were all a bit spoiled last year and took their consistency for granted. It’s no secret that everyone expected CJ to regress this year, though I think the change in his over all approach to hitting will still allow for him to hit around .300. He’s being pitched differently this year and hasn’t made the adjustment. The scouting report on him obviously says to pitch him away, away, away. Couple that with the current issues with his plate discipline and timing and it becomes clear why he’s struggling. Freddie also has similar issues. Despite his struggles, Freddie’s quick bat allows for him to capitalize on any mistakes so it may not be as apparent that he is struggling just as much. I know he’s had some eye issues, but Freddie, lately, just looks lost at the plate. It seems like he has no idea what pitch is coming and with his timing a bit off as well, the end result is an awkward swing with weak contact or a whiff. He has also succumbed to being a bit pull happy. That may be a result of opponents frequently pitching him inside trying to jam him. Then when they throw him a pitch away, he ends up off balance and reaching to hit the ball. His upper body strength and long arms can counter some of this, but overall the results will continue to be less than desirable. Until these two guys can adapt, then I obviously forsee a continuance of these struggles. I can clearly see the frustration on both of their faces. Unfortunately, frustration is as contagious as confidence. The current plague of frustrations is certaintly not going to provide for a more disciplined approach from anybody. Each guy is attempting to pick up the other. In effect, they are trying to do too much. It is a vicious cycle that needs to be reversed or the end result will be a long and painful decline leading to a date with the couch in October.

    Justin will always be streaky. Evan isn’t going to be in line-up everyday and Simba doesn’t seem willing to alter his aggressive approach. BJ has improved somewhat, but expectations for his consistency aren’t going to be very high. He still has alot to overcome and I just don’t see that happening. Tommy is a breath of fresh air, but he can’t and shouldn’t be expected to pick up all the slack for the rest of the team. He’s been swinging the bat well since his call-up, but it is quite unreasonable to think that he won’t have his skids as well. Finally, it has to be said that the pitchers’ inability to successfully lay down a bunt is just as crippling to the offense.

    To start, I think Aaron Harang needs to go. Alex Wood needs to be put back in the rotation and they should look into trading David Hale.

  • Lee Trocinski

    Sadly, there really aren’t many adjustments that can happen on the field. Schafer and Pena need to play CF and 3B more often against RHP, while the top 5 in the lineup should be Jason, Tommy, J-Up, Freddie, Gattis. Wood should go back into the rotation after the All-Star Break, replacing whoever is hurt or struggling by then. Players just have to start performing somewhat near their normal level.

    Which brings me to my next question: why have incoming veterans struggled so much in ATL? There is an expected drop in performance for players changing teams, but it seems like the Braves are the reason for such a penalty. The players that have been signed have had their red flags, but none of them should have done as poorly as they have. If Uggla and BJ were hitting league average like they should be, you’re talking 3-4 more wins already.

    I don’t think I’ve ever had a comment like this, with more questions than answers, which really shows how perplexing the Braves situation has become. I don’t see a downward spiral coming, but I don’t see 90 wins either.

    • fireboss

      The veteran issue is really BJ and Uggla. Laird is hitting well when he plays and Justin has always been a streaky hitter. In Dan’s case I think he just lost bat speed and is unable to adjust. That happened to Marcus Giles as well though his was a straight downward slope while Dan had that career year in 2010. Other than that he’s been trending down in average and now that his bat speed or reaction time doesn’t allow him to catch a good fastball it’s over.
      BJ has been trending down in an almost parallel fashion in average and OBP to Dan, run a comparison on Fangraphs and have a look. His slugging numbers crept back up fro 10 to 12 but changing leagues bumped that off track. That got into BJ’s head and made it worse.
      Derrek Lee hit well in his short stint in spite of injury. Garrett Anderson and Troy Glaus were done before they arrived. Can’t really think of any veteran hitter that failed who wasn’t already sliding down the slope. Mekly arrived fat and out of shape, sulking because he wasn’t a Yankee any longer.

      • Lee Trocinski

        I was saying more the big-salary vets, including Lowe in there. It seems like the Braves got the worst-case scenario with all 3, which is very hard to imagine. I also don’t believe in the changing leagues thing. Way too many pitchers change leagues and there are so many new arms coming up every year that make it a moot point.

        The team’s wOBA + baserunning say they should have scored 230 runs so far, so they’re 18 short of that, worth about 2 wins. The Mariners basically have a worse slashline, yet have scored 40 more runs than the Braves. It’s poor offense + bad luck.

        • fireboss

          It’s not so much that veterans stumble when they come to ATL as we get them when they are on a downwards slope and we them as they do their Wylie E, Coyote impression. I know someone will scream at this but Lowe was over paid in years so FW wouldn’t loose another FA and AJ decided to go to NY instead, Three years on Lowe wouldn’t have been that bad money wise. In 2011 the Braves scored 2 runs or less 14 times when he pitched and lost 13 of those games so some of his record is on the offense. If Wren had traded him instead of Vasquez who led the NL in Ks in 2010 the Braves AND the Yankees would have been far better off. I know Vasquez wasn’t good for the Yankees but he hated NY. when he returned to the NL he returned to form.
          Changing leagues does have an effect on hitters which is why a midyear cross league trade isn’t preferable unless the hitter is in the upper echelon.

          Teams make a lot of their own luck by playing hard and not giving the other team extra outs. We’ve made some bad mistakes on defense and the opposition has capitalized on them.

  • Joseph Fain

    Did anyone else feel like the “lineup shuffle” comments by Fredi were a shot at Wren? It seemed to me like Fredi was saying “I am playing the hand that I have been dealt. I would love for the front-office to make some changes but they won’t”. Why else would he make the statement about wanting to make changes and then come back the next day and say that they don’t really have any options?

    • fireboss

      Don’t think Fredi’s mind works that way. Having had opportunity to listen to Fredi fielding random questions I can say he isn’t the most articulate or the quickest thinking speaker amongst managers. I suspect that he was thinking out loud and felt he had to clarify it when he realized how it sounded.

  • MIke MIhaljevich

    I have been complaining about the Braves Manager for a long time. Let’s be hones: the guy is just dumb. He put Uggla in a game recently (this after a year and two months of waiting for Uggla to learn to re-hit!!!!!—to complete failure of course) and Uggla went hitless again and made two errors to cost them the game. Uggla batted as a pinch-hitter the yesterday against the Rockies and went hitless again. This with two runners on base.

    I mean, can a manager REALLY be this STUPID???? Meanwhile Jordan Schaefer sits on the bench. Jordan, if given playing time, is a MUCH better all-around player than BJ Upton. Schaefer hits better, runs faster, is quicker, tries harder, is a better base-stealer and his attitude is 100 times better than Upton whose average is dipping closer and closer to .200.

    What does it take for Freddie G. to understand reality??????!!!!!!!

    HIs batting order is ridiculous. The goal of baseball is to win, to score more runs than the other team. THEREFORE (this is so obvious, it is amazing I have to even say it), those batters who get on base the most should be at the top of the order. To have BJ Upton batting second is a total joke. Johnson should be batting second, BJ out of the order and Schaefer put in to replace him.

    Last year, Freddie G. actually justified the Braves reaching for the fences as if it was the natural thing to do as opposed to getting on base!!!!!!! The Braves are striking out, maybe at a historic pace the Upton brothers, Uggla, and others are swinging to hit the home-run. What is wrong with just getting on base, changing your approach and batting style to accommodate the necessities of the game???

    I won’t even get into the manager’s misplaced loyalty to players he likes contrary to their production or his insertion of relief pitchers too late. I would say this manager has cost the Braves 10 games already this season. Take away April, and the Braves REALLY SUCK. And with Freddie G at the helm, it looks like the ship will go down faster than the Titannic.