Monday, August 10, 2009

Thoughts After the Big Weekend in Mannywood

Mark Bradley proclaimed that the Braves needed to go 5-2 on the West Coast trip to stay in contention. Lo and behold, the team honored his request and Atlanta is now 3.5 games back in the wild card standings, although it must be said that the Braves are behind four teams, so that 3.5 games is bigger than it appears. Random thoughts on the weekend:

1. I stayed up on Thursday night to watch the end of the game and ended up muttering about Cox's decision to pitch Rafael Soriano at the end of a four-run win over a punchless Padres team on the preceding day. I'm not quite sure why I stayed up until 1:30 on a work night to watch a ballgame, other than that I wanted some sort of throwback to the late summer of 1991. I also muttered about Cox letting Peter Moylan pitch to Manny Ramirez with the tying runs on in the seventh and Matt Kemp in the same situation in the eighth, but Moylan got strikeouts on both occasions. Moylan has been excellent since the All-Star Break. Finally, I muttered when Brian McCann took a foul tip off of his throwing hand. There are very few baseball technique subjects upon which I can comment intelligently, but I did play catcher in little league and I remember being taught to keep my throwing hand behind my back when receiving the pitch. That seems like a relatively low-cost way to avoid breaking a bone in one's hand, no?

2. Remember when Jeff Schultz wondered why the Braves wouldn't trade Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson in addition to Jeff Francoeur? I thought about that sage piece of wisdom on Saturday night (OK, Sunday morning watching highlights) after seeing Johnson hit the game-winning homer and then Escobar saved the game in the bottom of the tenth with a sterling defensive play. Johnson and Escobar were both excellent this weekend. Kudos to Frank Wren for not doing something impulsive and stupid in off-loading them, not that there's any evidence that he considered doing so.

3. Anyone who thought that the Braves were going to win on Saturday night with the weakest of their five starters on the hill and Chipper and McCann both out of the lineup, please raise your hands.

4. I am pasting in full an e-mail that I got from frequent commenter Peacedog on Sunday morning regarding Jason Heyward:

2008 Braves (A) 9.80% 16.50% 0.66
2008 Braves (A+) 8.30% 18.20% 0.50
2009 Braves (A+) 10.00% 15.90% 0.70
2009 Braves (AA) 15.20% 10.70% 1.67

That's BB%, K%, BB/K

This year, he has 12 assists and 3 errors in 68 games (he's DHed ten games); last year it was 9 and 9. He has played 11 games in CF, but it's not a viable long term option. That said, one of the things people say about him is how well he moves for a guy that big. No, that's not quite right; he's got real speed. He's 21-25 career on SBs, and they say he just flies around the bases. He doesn't have Ricky-type speed, obviously. It bodes well for his defense, of course.

He turns 20 this month, IIRC. (Freeman won't until September.) I think it's actually next week.

29 doubles and 11 homers last year in 471 AB.

24 doubles and 15 homers this year in 286 AB.

91 AB now in AA. It's still not a huge sample size, but a month is a month. As the above chart shows, he's markedly better. His K% has improved at every level after A-, as has his Walk Rate. He may be a guy who walks more than he Ks at the major league level, if he gets near his potential and after he settles in. The 11k in 97 AB is a wonderful number. If that keeps up. . . I think it means he's started to find strikeouts quaint, and wanted to try baseball without then. I'd *love* to see his contact rate, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be in the 80s.

The real downside here, I think, is that it's very likely he will eventually have to leave Atlanta to go fight in Ragnarok.

The Braves could be very, very good next year.

5. Wouldn't it be amusing if the Phillies collapsed after winning the division because of collapses by the Mets in 2007 and 2008? It seems unlikely, but so did the Mets' implosions.


Kevin said...

I don't recall the base-runner situation when McCann got the foul ball off the hand, but catchers are sometimes taught, with a man on base, to keep your hand behind your glove, allowing for a quicker release in the event the runner tries to steal (FWIW I don't think it really makes a difference). Even so, B Mac didn't really have his hand protected at all on that pitch.

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