Posted: 1:16 pm Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Big night: Hank to be honored before home opener 

By David O'Brien

Let me start by saying Hank Aaron is in the pantheon of five greatest players in major league history in my opinion, with Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Lou Gehrig. They stand above all others in terms of offensive production, overall skills, longevity, the whole thing.

And as we prepare to watch the Braves icon be honored in a pregame ceremony tonight on the 40th anniversary of his 715th home run that beat Ruth’s career record, let’s consider a few stats that jump off the page regarding The Hammer, who is and I’d imagine always will be the real Home Run King in the eyes of most baseball fans, and certainly those here in the South.images

For starters, think about this: Freddie Freeman hit a career-high 23 home runs each of past two seasons. Jason Heyward hit a career-high 27 in 2012, and the next-most Heyward has hit in four major league seasons was 18 homers as a rookie in 2010.

Hank Aaron hit at least 24 homers every year from 1955 (27 homers at age 21) through 1973 (40 homers at age 39).

Future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones had six seasons with 30 or more homers, the last one at age 32. Gary Sheffield, the second-best position player I’ve covered in 20 years as a major league beat writer, had eight 30-homer seasons, the last one at age 36.

Hank Aaron hit 30 or more homers 15 times, including 44 homers at age 35, 34 at age 38, and the aforementioned 40 at age 39.

Chipper had nine seasons with at least 100 RBIs, including a career-high 111. Hank Aaron had nine seasons with at least 118 RBIs, including four seasons when he led the league with 132, 130, 127 and 126 RBIs.

Chipper had 11 seasons with an OPS above .900; Hank had 17 such seasons.

Chipper finished in the top 10 in MVP balloting six times; Hank did it 13 times.

Chipper made the All-Star team eight times. Hank was an All-Star in 21 consecutive seasons, and made 25 All-Star teams counting four years when they had two All-Star games.

Did I mention that Chipper Jones was the best player I’ve covered two decades of doing this, and that I’ll be shocked if he’s not a first-ballot Hall of Famer?

Hank won three consecutive Gold Gloves through 1960. He won a pair of batting titles in 1956 and in 1959, when he hit .355 with 223 hits including 92 extra-base hits – ninety-two! – and a .636 slugging percentage. He had career-highs of 47 homers  and a .669 slugging percentage in 1971 at age 37 despite missing 22 games with injuries. He had an OPS+ of 194 that season. At 37.

Keep in mind, he did this in the era before steroids, and in the era after integration arrived.

Salute the living legend tonight.

Because we are not going to see another like Hank Aaron.

Braves starting pitchers lead the majors with a 1.63 ERA, but the Braves offense has produced the second-fewest runs among the 30 teams with 15, or 2.5 runs per game. Only the Padres, with 12 runs in six games, have scored fewer.

So we asked Alex Wood and Fredi Gonzalez, after Wood pitched seven strong innings in Sunday’s 2-1 loss at Washington, whether the starters might be feeling added pressure knowing there’s been so little margin for error.

“No more pressure than usual,” said Wood, who is 4-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 13 career starts, including 1-1 with a 1.91 ERA (and in two this season. “I mean, when you’re up here (in the majors) you’ve got to go out and throw well to stay here. That’s enough pressure as it is, there’s not really any extra added pressure.

“You’ve just got to go out and compete and give these guys a chance to win every time out. If you do that, you’ve got to be satisfied with your performance.”

The Braves have score one or no runs three times in six games.

Hank and Heyward filming a commercial a couple of springs ago.

Hank and Heyward filming a commercial a couple of springs ago.

Fredi, does that put added pressure on the pitchers, particularly the young starters?

“No, not at all,” the manager said. “I mean, that’s their job. Their job is to do what they’re doing. Both losses, we’ve only given up two runs – 2-nothing in Milwaukee and 2-1 here. But that’s just the way it goes. The offense will pick it up, I’m sure, down the road. There’ll be a stretch where our pitching staff is going to need the offense to pick (the staff) up.

• Braves hitters are 1-for-20 with runners in scoring position and two outs, but consider that the Cardinals are even worse at 0-for-16. Yes, the Cardinals, who last year hit a robust .305 with RISP and two outs, part of their astounding .330 average with RISP, which led the world.

This year they’ve hit .143 with RISP through the first week, second-worst in the NL ahead of only the Padres (.122). The Braves are 12th in the NL at .184 (7-for-38), though five of those hits came in one game Saturday. They’re 2-for-22 in their other five games.

Chris Johnson is 0-for-5 with three strikeouts with runners in scoring position, and Justin Upton is 1-for-8 with three strikeouts. Those are the 4-5 hitters behind Freeman. No. 2 hitter B.J. Upton is 0-for-4 with two strikeouts with runners in scoring position,

• Harang tonight: After taking a no-hitter to the seventh inning and winning his Braves debut at Milwaukee, Aaron Harang makes his second start in tonight’s home opener against the Mets, a team he should be fairly familiar with. And he’ll face a pitcher who’s actually five years older and at least a dozen pounds heavier than him, Mets 40-year-old right-hander Bartolo Colon.

Harang is 4-4 with a 5.66 ERA in 10 career starts against the Mets, with whom he finished the 2013 season after being released by the Mariners. Against the big right-hander, David Wright is 11-for-21 with a homer and seven RBIs, Daniel Murphy is 6-for-11 with a homer, Ruben Jejada is 6-for-11, and Eric Young is 4-for-6.

Harang won’t have to face Chris Young, on the DL with a strained quad. Young is 7-for-23 with three homers against him.

Colon is 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA in three starts against the Braves, which is entirely irrelevant considering those starts all came in 2002, when most current Braves were in elementary school. Three Braves have faced him (all former American Leaguers): B.J. Upton is 7-for-23 with a homer, Gerald Laird is 0-for-7, and Ryan Doumit is 0-for-1 with two walks against Colon.

• To whiff, and not whiff: B.J. Upton leads the majors with 11 strikeouts, while Andrelton Simmons has yet to strikeout in 23 PAs, the most plate appearances without a strikeout in the NL. Freeman also ranks among the leaders with only two strikeouts in 25 PAs.

Simmons is first in the NL in percentage of swings put into play at 61.1 (22 of 36), and Dan Uggla has the fifth-highest percentage at 55.9. Meanwhile, Justin Upton (19.4 percent) and B.J. Upton (23.7) have the second- and fifth-lowest percentages of swings put into play among NL qualifiers.

Simmons is first in the NL in percentage of swings put into play at 61.1 (22 of 36), Dan Uggla – yes, Uggla – has the fifth-highest percentage at 55.9, just ahead of ex-Brave Martin Prado (55.2). Meanwhile,  Justin Upton (19.4 percent) and B.J. Upton (23.7) have the second- and four-lowest percentages of swings put into play among NL qualifiers.

Simmons also has the NL’s lowest percentage of swings that missed at 5.6 (2 of 36), while Justin Upton has the second-highest at 40.3 (25 of 62).

• Recent listening: Since the beginning of spring training I’ve picked up quite a few really good CDS. I might be missing one or two, but here’s the list of ones I’d recommend from recent months, many of which will probably show up on my year-end top 50 list: The War On DrugsLost in the Dream, Beck’s Morning Phase, Lydia LovelessSomewhere Else, Guided by VoicesMotivational Jumpsuit, St. Vincent’s St. Vincent, Cloud NothingsHere and Nowhere Else, Rosanne Cash’s The River & The Thread, Drive-By TruckersEnglish Oceans, Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron, Johnny Cash’s Out Amon the Stars, The Hold Steady’s Teeth Dreams, Scott H. Biram‘s Nothing But Blood, Black LipsUnderneath the Rainbow, Nenah Cherry’s Blank Project, Elbow’s The Take Off and Landing of Everything, ChampsDown Like Gold, and 25th anniversary expanded reissues of Lucinda Williams’s self-titled album and Bob Mould’s Workbook.

OK,  let’s close with a tune by Magic Sam, from his masterpiece blues album West Side Soul. Click right here to hear this gem.

“I NEED YOU SO BAD” by Magic Sam

Oh, I need you so bad
Oh, I need you so bad
Well, when we are together, baby
I have more fun than I’ve ever hadimages

Well, I’ve been looking inside
Trying to find someone to call my own
Yes, I’ve been looking inside
Trying to find someone to call my own

But without your love, pretty baby
I would rather be left alone

I know my luck has been bad
It’s been bad so many days
I know my luck has been bad
It’s been bad so many days

Yes, please come to me, baby
Please don’t turn my love away

Well, baby, I need you so
Yes, baby, honey
You know I need you so

Well, look right up
And say you’ll take me
So I can live just once more

2569 comments
ZAZ
ZAZ

The chickens are coming home to roost....................

MFin04
MFin04

DOB made me wonder...what's BJs best hitting stretch as a Brave?

DS1
DS1

Jeez guys, I go away for an hour or so and you folks can't think of anything interesting to chat about?


What would you folks do if not for me???


:-)

DOB
DOB moderator

Before homering twice Thursday, Justin Upton had batted .233 (41-for-176) with five homers, nine RBIs and 55 strikeouts in his past 49 games, and had a .322 OBP and .358 slugging percentage in that period that began Aug. 10

monty1
monty1

Bubba trying to seize control of the Masters!

DOB
DOB moderator

Gattis’ past 69 games since May 31: .215 (51-for-237) with 10 HR, 34 RBIs, .258 OBP, .388 slugging percentage. 

Gattis in his first 49 games through May 30: .285 (39-for-137) with 12 homers, 32 RBIs, .333 OBP, .628 slugging.

monty1
monty1

If Chipper can fix BJ, he should receive a significant under the table bonus from FW.

EMWTK
EMWTK

I wonder if Jon Stewart is po'd that Stephen Colbert got the Letterman gig, and not him.

MFin04
MFin04

CNN, Fox News who really wants to listen to the same point over and over again. And read the 3rd grade reading level ticker and comments.

Our blog is wayyyy more entertaining and fair and balanced! ;)

ElvisFreshly
ElvisFreshly

Fredi puts a lineup out there with good chemistry 2 nights ago and what does he do the next night? Change it like he always does. Sorry but not a fan of the way he manages. Love our players but would like to see a set lineup out there every night like the 90's Braves teams did.

DS1
DS1

You guys are getting very boring.  Time to go watch some Fox News!!  

Fair and Balanced!

JerseyGil
JerseyGil

Notice that everytime we play the mets they take some one down.....Jhey,Huddy and the other night Simmons..

DS1
DS1

Climate Change = Sabermetrics


How about a new subject???   It's all about the modeling vs the actual data.


:-)

MFin04
MFin04

Time to give him 5 years 72.5 million! :-)

monty1
monty1

@DOB Ah, just another flash in the pants. I feel quite sure you could find numbers like that with any of the braves current crop, except for CJ and FF.

VeniceJim
VeniceJim

@EMWTK  He does not want it at this point - 10 years ago he would have. He was set to take over if Dave had gone to ABC, but at this point he is happy where he is (per Bill Carter of the NY Times, and, as Jon and I went to the same school not-at-the-same-time, I obviously know how his mind works).. 

Fleming01
Fleming01

@MFin04  

Tell me all knowing one which news broadcast isn't slanted one way or the other

Fleming01
Fleming01

@JoeDurt  

You do realize that Simmons batted 2nd 2 nights ago and was hurt and not playing last night?

raleighbravefan
raleighbravefan

@JoeDurt  So the same 8 guys should play 162? And you don't give BJ a chance to work through it, which means you write that "investment" off as a 5 year loss. Sounds like your usual ideas.

Rick_C
Rick_C

About Freeman around 49 minutes in.

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@DS1  

Dang-it. It would seem that a considerable portion of my new best Braves friends that I like to hang out with, are either Tea-Party folks or Fox News watchers, or both. How will I explain this at my next, Hillary in 2016 meeting? :-)

You know who you are. :-)

Tumbledown
Tumbledown

I have heard it said that we must be wary of the rule that declares itself to be fair and reasonable.  The same reasoning could apply here.

chipontheroadagain
chipontheroadagain

@DS1  Puuuuuuuuuuuuuullllllllllllllllllllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssssssseee!!! do 


Tumbledown
Tumbledown

Next time they meet, the Braves gotta get some payback!  Sorry, Captain America!

EMWTK
EMWTK

@DS1  Climate Change = Sabermetrics

Cow Farts = Unicorn Farts

I was always good at analogies.

MFin04
MFin04

Speaking of modeling...anyone opposed to Kate Upton in CF?

MFin04
MFin04

Got any of his other numbers then? I can't get them currently.

DS1
DS1

@ncscoots @DS1 I have a theory.  I realize that a lot of my rants and innuendo do not fit the rules of the blog.  But I can't remember the last time a post of mine was removed.

So, that tells me that I am slowly, methodically, surely getting you folks to think! 

As Lloyd said in Dumb and Dumber:  So you're telling me there's a chance... YEAH!

MFin04
MFin04

Interesting. Funny they said Freddie is sticking to his plan...and Freddie says he doesn't have too much of a plan. See ball, hit ball.

Fleming01
Fleming01

@RabbitMaranville1914  

I think if you took a survey you would find hat there are a lot more Fox News haters than likers on the ole blog and many more liberal than conservative people.

CB_
CB_

@Tumbledown  

It's kind of like people here who brag about how much of a ladies man they are or how handsome or rich or near mensa they are. Kind of like that,huh? :-)

Fleming01
Fleming01

@MFin04  

Might have a problem hitting. Too much hanging over the plate. Pitchers would have a hard time throwing a strike without hitting her

DS1
DS1

@MFin04 Would that be Center Field, or Centerfold?

DS1
DS1

@_Murph_ @DS1 Yeah, I've seen that one.  :-)   Then every time I fart, I'm contributing too, huh.

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

No comprende?  If nawt fer wemmen all over me, and bee'in so perdy and smart, maybe I cood understand..

ncscoots
ncscoots

@EMWTK @ncscoots @CB_  Daylight hours are a different priority, is all.

Besides, mama always told me that, if you're going to offer up a treat, best have enough for everybody. Even I can't do THAT anymore. :-)

EMWTK
EMWTK

@ncscoots @CB_  I guess you just find the attention of all these beautiful women too tedious and annoying, seeing that you spend so much time with us.

TTTAWWT.

Fleming01
Fleming01

@ncscoots @CB_@Tumbledown  

Scoots

you sure it was the sight of a pretty, rich, smart man and not the smell of someone who forgot to shower that caused the swoon

ncscoots
ncscoots

@CB_ @ncscoots  It's just that I'm beyond handsome, CB. Need another word to describe the awesomeness.

CB_
CB_

@ncscoots @CB_

I don't know if I want to hang out with a guy who calls themselves pretty. lol

ncscoots
ncscoots

@CB_ @Tumbledown  Well, I can only say that women swoon at the sight of a pretty, rich, smart man such as myself.

I don't know if that's appropriate to this thread, but I just wanted to get that out there. :-)

MFin04
MFin04

Braves need revenue, maybe both?!

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@RabbitMaranville1914  

Went to Six Flags in same shape once. And on a Senior's Night, when the place was jammed. After the Mind Bender, I was ready for a dark corner and the fetal position. Didn't get on another ride, even a Merry-Go-Round, the rest of the day/night. lol

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@_Murph_ @Fleming01 @DS1  

Really, Murph? Why, in my day we would drop a half a hitof  Lysergic acid diethylamide 25 and then walk the streets of Anaheim. Upon entering the IHOP we thought the waitresses really were actual witches.

Ahh, good times.... :-)

_Murph_
_Murph_

@Fleming01 @_Murph_ @DS1  We don't really talk about the weather in our Weather Ambassador's meetings... we mainly just drink a bunch of Zimas and then spend the rest of the night daring Paresh to talk to the waitress at IHOP.