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Atlanta Braves series preview – Hot, muggy, and buggy

August 11, 2014

The Braves are currently 60 – 57, flaying around for a post season spot. They entered August and promptly lost their first five games, before righting the ship and taking two of three from the Nationals.  Since their hot 17 – 8 April start, the Braves are just 43 – 49, hardly the stuff of a post season contender.  Right now they sit 3.5 games back of the Nationals for the Division, and two game back of the wild card. Actually the current record is what you would have expected of a team who lost 2 /5   of the rotation before the season even started.

Kris Medlen – TJ (his second)

Brian Beachy – TJ (his second)

To their credit, the Braves signed Erwin Santana to fill one void, and plucked Aaron Harang out of thin air to fill the second. They also had signed Gavin Floyd during the winter but he would not join them until later in the summer.  So a rotation that was supposed to look like:

Medlen / Beachy/ Minor / Tehran / Wood – until Floyd was ready

ended up being

Santana / Harang / Minor / Tehran / Wood – Until Floyd was ready

and that group is the group that got them off to that 17 – 8 start that wowed the league. Eventually Floyd was ready, moved Wood to the bullpen, but as FLoyd does, he broke down again, and thus Wood is once again part of the rotation.

1st Base – Freddie Freeman signed a huge extension this past winter and is earning his money with a solid followup to his break out 2013 season. Freeman is unique to the Braves. At just 24 he has already played in  588 games, doubling the games played of his nearest competitor Earl Torgeson with 262 games by age 24. for 1st baseman.  His career OPS+ of 126 is second this century for 1st baseman 24 years old and younger with at least 200 games.

Player            OPS+   G From   To   Age   PA   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
Prince Fielder     131 513 2005 2008 21-24 2085 .278 .370 .533 .903
Freddie Freeman    126 588 2010 2014 20-24 2426 .286 .362 .469 .831
Brandon Belt       117 208 2011 2012 23-24  681 .259 .344 .418 .762
James Loney        116 305 2006 2008 22-24 1137 .303 .353 .480 .833
Anthony Rizzo      112 410 2011 2014 21-24 1718 .250 .341 .437 .778

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/11/2014.

2nd BaseTommy La Stella replaced Dan Uggla and is basically the opposite of Uggla. La Stella is a contact hitter with no power whatsoever. He also doesn’t have much speed for a middle infielder. His contact skills/on base skills have produced a triple stat line so far of .285 / .367 / 362.

Shortstop – Andrelton Simmons calling card has been his defensive glove. The metrics say he’s the greatest glove who ever lived accumulating 9.9 dWAR in only three years of play. The next closest from 2012 – 2014 is Manny Machado at 6.2.  Offensively he doesn’t strike out much compared to hitters of his era, and that is about the only kind thing I can say.

3rd Base – who knew that Chris Johnson would actually end up better than P:rado all by himself?  At least he was last year,  as he almost won the NL batting title with his .321 mark. This year Chris is doing what he normally does with a triple stat line of .273 / .298 /.380 which is very much in line with the rest of his career if we throw out 2013.

Catcher – Can’t say the Braves are missing the 2014 version of Brian McCann. The big horse Evan Gattis when he is healthy is doing exactly what Brian McCann did when he was healthy. Blasting mammoth home runs and making sure the game is played “right”.   Gattis has 17 home runs in only 307 plate appearances. When Gattis can’t go, Gerald Laird handles the staff in a very Butera fashion.

RF – Jason Heyward has not become the super star that many envisioned when he broke in as the full-time right fielder at the age of 20, but he is a productive right fielder. I think I’m going to write the same sentence about their left fielder in a moment.

LF – Justin Upton has not become the super star that many envisioned when he broke in as the full-time right fielder at the age of 20 for the Diamondbacks, but he has become an above average offensive left fielder. The Diamondbacks really shit the bed when they boggled his trade. They have nothing left of the deal except a minor league catcher from the Yankee’s while the Braves still have a left fielder about to enter his prime, and a 3rd baseman. An inexplicably bad trade that should have gotten the GM fired, and eventually that is exactly what has happened. Here is how Justin Upton stacks up home run wise for players 26 and younger in the 21st century.

Rk              Player  HR From   To   Age   PA   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1        Albert Pujols 250 2001 2006 21-26 4062 .332 .419 .629 1.047
2       Miguel Cabrera 209 2003 2009 20-26 4441 .311 .383 .542  .925
3            Adam Dunn 198 2001 2006 21-26 3466 .245 .380 .513  .892
4       Prince Fielder 192 2005 2010 21-26 3518 .279 .385 .535  .919
5            Jay Bruce 164 2008 2013 21-26 3406 .257 .330 .482  .812
6         Justin Upton 156 2007 2014 19-26 4139 .276 .356 .477  .833
7    Giancarlo Stanton 146 2010 2014 20-24 2512 .270 .361 .539  .900
8         David Wright 140 2004 2009 21-26 3666 .309 .389 .518  .907
9        Mark Teixeira 140 2003 2006 23-26 2671 .282 .364 .534  .898
10       Evan Longoria 130 2008 2012 22-26 2726 .276 .361 .516  .877
11      Grady Sizemore 129 2004 2009 21-26 3612 .275 .367 .485  .851
12           Matt Kemp 128 2006 2011 21-26 3158 .294 .350 .496  .846
13      Ryan Zimmerman 128 2005 2011 20-26 3669 .288 .355 .479  .834
14          Ryan Braun 128 2007 2010 23-26 2548 .307 .364 .554  .918
15      Hanley Ramirez 124 2005 2010 21-26 3372 .313 .385 .520  .905

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/11/2014.
CF – BJ Upton has not become that super star that many envisioned when he broke in as the full-time center fielder at the age of 21 for the Rays. At the age of 22, BJ Upton put up an OPS+ of 136. At the age of 28 his OPS+ was 54. This year at the age of 29 it is 69. It is horrible. Just horrible.

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