Posted: 2:35 pm Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Uggla no struggla Monday, and Gattis’ Philly madness 

By David O'Brien

 PHILADELPHIA – Watching it rain here in Philly and thinking again about last night’s game and how, no matter how long you watch baseball, there will invariably be at least a few things every season that you’ve never seen before, things that leave you shaking your head at the splendid unpredictability of this great game. Like last night’s come-from-behind (twice) win for the Braves, capped by Dan Uggla’s ninth-inning grand slam.

By the way, before we go any further, do you realize that after losing the season opener at Milwaukee, the Braves are 9-3 with a 2.75 ERA in their past 12 games. They’ve hit a modest .253 in that dozen-game stretch, but have 20 homers including 14 in the past five games.

Dan Uggla celebrates with teammates after ninth-inning grand slam Monday. (AP photo)

Dan Uggla celebrates with teammates after ninth-inning grand slam Monday. (AP photo)

It’s easy to let one bad series (the Mets series in ATL last week) cloud the overall judgment. But so far, even the most difficult-to-please Braves fans would have to say a 9-4 start to the season, first place in the NL East, and a majors-leading 1.80 ERA from a pieced-together starting rotation is pretty good stuff, no?

There are concerns, no doubt. The bullpen being at the top of that list. And that’s not even taking into account Craig Kimbrel, who has a sore shoulder. Assuming the Braves and Kimbrel are right and this is just typical soreness that other relievers, the non-dominant closer kind, would get and we might otherwise not even know about – because they’d be held out a few games to rest without raising an eyebrow among outside observers – then Kimbrel will be back doing his thing later this week.

(If Kimbrel’s injury is more serious – well, we’ll not even speculate on that. Suffice to say, it would change everything.)

No, we’re talking about the setup part of the ‘pen that’s causing some concerns. Jordan Walden and now Luis Avilan have not been the dominant relievers they were for most of last season (and Avilan for almost all of 2012 as well), and Eric O’Flaherty is gone. Jonny Venters won’t be back until late May or June, and no one knows what level he’ll perform at once he returns.

Lefty Ian Thomas has been impressive, but he’s a rookie with almost no experience and probably isn’t the ideal guy to thrust into tied or one-run games as a bridge between the starters and Kimbrel.

David Carpenter is solid, but the Braves can’t use him every night or he might be on fumes by August.

The Braves’ bullpen ERA climbed to 4.75 after Avilan gave up five runs and blew a 5-1 lead in Monday’s 9-6 Braves win. That bullpen ERA ranks 20th in the majors, from a team that’s been at or near the top in bullpen ERA for the past several years.

The Braves need their bullpen to remain a stalwart component, a major team strength. Because as great as the patchwork rotation has performed so far, it’s not realistic to think that will continue indefinitely. Even with the likely return of Mike Minor next week, the Braves starters are due to have a few more mediocre or worse starts than they’ve had so far.

And on those nights when they do, they’re going to need the bullpen to hold it down for 3-5 innings. Lately, that hasn’t looked like a sure thing, by any means.

So they’ll need to either have some guys in the current ‘pen to step it up, and/or hope for a boost from a starter or two moved to the ‘pen when Minor and Gavin Floyd return from the DL (Floyd is probably at least 2-3 weeks from returning). And if neither of those developments occurs, then at some point the Braves might need to make a move and add a reliever.

One thing to remember: They signed lefty Luis Perez to a free-agent contract just over a week ago, and the former Blue Jays reliever could prove to be a good pickup by this summer, once he’s completely recovered from having scar tissue removed via arthroscopic surgery in January.

  • Last night: Five homers. Two apiece by Evan Gattis and Uggla, with Uggla’s slam in the ninth proving to be the improbable difference maker.

We say improbable for a couple of reasons: He’d already been part of the back-to-back-to-back jacks along with Gattis and Simmons to start the eighth inning, when those three solo homers gave the Braves a 5-1 lead. Uggla hit .146 with four homers and 48 strikeouts against lefties in 2013, and according to ESPN Stats & Info, he was in a 1-for-45 slog against lefties before his ninth-inning at-bat against Phillies lefty Jake Diekman.

Uggla crushed an 0-1 slider, sending it about 20 rows into the left-center bleachers, turning a 6-5 deficit into a 9-6 lead. And it wasn’t even his first go-ahead grand slam against Philly – he hit a walkoff slam off Tom Gordon on June 11, 2008, when Uggla was slugging for the Marlins.

“Oh, man, you just kind of hope you get something – you hope he doesn’t throw a strike, or you hope that he leaves something up, because he’s got such great stuff,” Uggla said of his approach against Diekman. “He throws so hard, you just go up and try to get your foot down and put the barrel on it… It was a slider. He threw a fastball first pitch and I was kind of, like, oh, man, this is going to be tough. But then he threw a slider, and luckily I just got enough of it.”

Don’t look now, but Uggla is 4-for-8 with two homers and seven RBIs in his past two games, after going 6-for-37 (.162) with two doubles, three RBIs, one walk and 11 strikeouts in his first 10 games.

With their five homers Monday, the Braves raised their total to a gaudy 14 in the past five games and 20 for the season, second in the majors to the Angels (21). No other team has more than 18 entering Tuesday.

Oh, and by the way: This group of Braves hitters, whom we once thought might threaten major league strikeout records, is actually ranked in the bottom half of the NL in K’s as of today with 113. That’s just ninth most in the league, and five NL teams have more than 120 including the Mets with a league-high 132.

• ATL vs. Philly: The Braves are 23-12 with a 3.31 ERA in 35 games against the Phillies going back to July 2012. It’s not to the level of recent supremacy the Braves have displayed against the Nationals, but it’s pretty impressive, given the difficulties the Braves had against the Phillies for about a half-decade or more previously.

The Braves banged out 45 homers and scored 175 runs in those 35 games, while the Phillies had 34 homers and 120 runs, along with a 4.43 ERA.

• Gattis madness: With two homers Monday night, Evan Gattis has consecutive two-homers games at Citizens Bank Park, where he hit two off Cole Hamels on Sept. 8 including the longest homer in the majors last season (486 feet to center field) and the longest by a Brave in the past nine seasons. All four of his hits in five career games at Philly have been homers.

A face that Philly fans have quickly come to recognize. El Oso Blanco.

A face that Philly fans have quickly come to recognize. El Oso Blanco.

But wait, there’s more.

Gattis is now 10-for-25 with five homers and 10 RBIs in his past six games against the Phillies. He has half as many homers (four) in five games (20 at-bats) at Citizens Bank Park as he has in 54 games at Turner Field, where he’s hit eight in 174 at-bats.

Gattis has slugged .800 in five games at Philly, his highest slugging percentage at any ballpark where  he’s  played more than two games. (He has a .466 slugging percentage at Turner Field).

Meanwhile, Freddie Freeman had his nine-game hitting streak snapped Monday night, and it was appropriate that it be snapped in Philly: The big Braves 1B has only five homers in 60 games against the Phillies (half as many as he he’s hit against the Mets) and three homers and a .351 slugging percentage in 30 games (111 at-bats) at Citizens Bank Park.

Interestingly, Freeman also has no homers and a .294 slugging percentage in nine games (34 at-bats) at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. However, at Coors Field, Freeman has raked for a .349 average and nine extra-base hits (four homers) in 10 games, for a .767 slugging percentage in 43 at-bats.

    One more thing about Gattis. After going 1-for-8 with three strikeouts in the first two games of the season, he is 9-for-25 (.360) with two doubles, three home runs and six RBIs in his past seven games.

Braves lineup Tuesday

  1. Heyward 9
  2. BUpton 8
  3. Freeman 3
  4. JUpton 7
  5. Gattis 2
  6. Uggla 4
  7. Johnson 5
  8. Simmons 6
  9. Hale 1

 • Facing Cliff Lee: If the rain holds off and we get a game in tonight, the Braves and David Hale will face veteran lefty Cliff Lee. And if there’s anyone who could cool their hot bats, it’s Lee.

Cliff Lee has 113 strikeouts and seven walks in 99 2/3 innings against the Braves. Seriously, the man has 113 strikeouts and seven walks against them.

Lee is a relatively modest 7-6 with a 2.80 ERA in 15 starts against them, but Lee is 6-4 with a 1.79 ERA in the past 11 of those starts, going back to May 2011.

He has 96 strikeouts, six walks and a .199 opponents’ average in 80 1/3 innings of those 11 starts, including games with strikeout totals of 16 (in seven innings), 11, 10 and 13. He struck out 13 with no walks in eight innings of his most recent start against the Braves on Sept. 27, when he he limited them to three hits and one run — and still took the loss. It was the fifth time the Phillies scored one or no runs while he was in the game in his past 11 starts against the Braves.

Lee has a 5.50 ERA and .358 opponents’ average in three starts this season. He got rocked by the Rangers on opening day this season, allowing 11 hits and eight runs in five innings. In two starts since then – at Wrigley Field and home against the Brewers —  he’s allowed 18 hits, three runs and no walks with 14 strikeouts in 13 innings.

Oh, and the Braves aren’t the only team against which he has some absurdly good numbers. Against the Giants, Lee is 5-0 with a 0.88 ERA in six starts, with 42 strikeouts and four walks in 51 innings. Against the Dodgers, he’s 2-2 with a 1.70 ERA in seven starts and has 55 strikeouts with 10 walks in 53 innings.

This guy has some ridiculous strikeout-to-walks ratios, including 26 K’s and 2 walks in 26 1/3 innings vs. Colorado.

Chris Johnson, expected to return to the lineup after being benched for two games, is 6-for-23 with two homers against Lee. Uggla is 7-for-27 (.189) with 17 strikeouts against Lee, but does have two homers against the lefty. Catchers Gattis and Gerald Laird are a combined 2-for-26 with 13 K’s against Lee, including 2-for-20 with nine strikeouts for Laird.

As for Hale, the second of his four major league starts – and his only decision so far — came against the Phillies on Sept. 26, when he got the win after allowing seven hits and one run in six innings, with no walks and five strikeouts.

Hale had allowed only one run in 16 innings of three big-league starts before giving up five hits and four runs (three earned) in a career-low 4-1/3 innings Thursday against the Mets. He got no decision in that Braves loss.

Jimmy Rollins is 3-for-3 against Hale, while Cody Asche (1-for-3) is the only other Phillie with a hit against him.

  • Still no ‘K’ in Simba: He tripled and homered for the second consecutive game Monday, which made Andrelton Simmons 11-for-29 (.379) with five extra-base hits and five RBIs in his past seven games. He had also tripled and homered Sunday against the Nats.

He still hasn’t struck out in 45 plate appearances this season, easily the most PAs in the majors without a strikeout. Simmons leads the NL with a .467 average (7-for-15) on two-strike counts. He’s also ninth in the NL with a .438 average (7-for-16) after the sixth inning, while Jason Heyward is a league-worst 0-for-17 after the sixth inning.

• I’ll close with one from the great Nick Cave, which you can hear by clicking here. Do it, I think you’ll be glad you did.

“NATURE BOY” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

I was just a boy when I sat down
To watch the news on TV
I saw some ordinary slaughter
I saw some routine atrocitynick-cave-and-the-bad-seeds6
My father said, “don’t look away!
“You got to be strong, you got to be bold now”
He said that in the end it is beauty
That is going to save the world now

And she moves among the sparrows
And she floats upon the breeze
She moves among the flowers
She moves something deep inside of me

I was walking around the flower show like a leper
Coming down with some kind of nervous hysteria
When I saw you standing there, green eyes, black hair
Up against the pink and purple wisteria
You said, “Hey, nature boy, are you looking at me
With some unrighteous intention?”
My knees went weak, I couldn’t speak
I was having thoughts that were not in my best interests to mention

And she moves among the flowers
And she floats upon the smoke
She moves among the shadows
She moves me with just one little look

You took me back to your place
And dressed me up in a deep sea diver’s suit
You played the patriot, you raised the flag
And I stood at full salute
Later on we smoked a pipe that struck me dumb
And made it impossible to speak
As you closed in, in slow motion
Quoting Sappho in the original Greek

She moves among the shadows
And she floats upon the breeze
And she moves among the candles
And we moved through the days and through the years

Years passed by
We were walking by the sea half delirious
You smiled at me and said 
“Babe I think this thing is getting kind of serious”
You pointed at something and said
“Have you ever seen such a beautiful thing?”
It was then that I broke down
It was then that you lifted me up again

She moves among the sparrows
And she walks across the sea
She moves among the flowers
And she moves something deep inside of me

She moves among the sparrows
And she floats upon the breeze
She moves among the flowers
And she moves right up close to me

 

954 comments
LumanHarris
LumanHarris

If pitcher wins are meaningless .... does that mean pitcher losses are meaningless, too?

If RBI's tell us nothing .... does that mean runners left on base are unimportant, too?

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Another Braves first baseman is 11th on the list. McGriff, 1,882, 1-behind Mike Schmidt.

raleighbravefan
raleighbravefan

It's not that most of us don't understand or appreciate the advanced statistics, along with other traditional factors.Actually, most do, at least to some extent. Hell, sometimes Shaun even makes a valid point. The problem is Shaun....not the metrics. He's just so annoying about it. 

TennesseePaul
TennesseePaul

scoots: "On the other hand, you make an assumption that, just because someone has a FO job, they MUST be smarter than, oh, me, for example. :-) Truthfully, the only conclusion that you can legitimately draw is that the two parties simply chose different career paths."

Well, there's a study out there which suggests truly smart people avoid commenting on blogs while the most ignorant and obtuse of society tend to comment on blogs under the compulsive belief that it will have an impact. 

That leaves most of us low on the list, but some in particular at the absolute bottom. ( :

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Two former Braves Center-Fielders are tied at 20th-place for all-time strikeouts for hitters. 1,748

A one-time Braves first-baseman is 6th on the list with 2,003.

Bat_Masterson
Bat_Masterson

Clearly if a GM says something I agree with, or, at least if I interpret what he says so, he's a smart guy that gets it. If, on the other hand, he says something I don't agree with he's a behind the curve knuckle-dragger and we'll all be better off when his kind dies off.  

raleighbravefan
raleighbravefan

In Shaunland, there are 3 groups...Those who agree with him, Those too stupid to understand the "truth", and those too lazy to learn the "truth". 

BFChris29
BFChris29

Mets just outrighted John Lannan in favor of Dice K.


Wouldn't taking a flier on him. Put him in AAA as a starter/bullpen guy. Guy has had flashes of brilliance. Maybe Braves staff can fix him. They have a good keening sense when it comes to pitchers.

noleee
noleee

how can you look at two pitchers, one with huge groundball numbers and one with huge flyball numbers, and be silly enuff to claim that they have little control over where the ball will go?

Bat_Masterson
Bat_Masterson

But all folks can do is criticize.  There is no attempt to get anything or to back up claims around here. _ Shaun 

 Unequivocal BS. 

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Just read where Amelia Earhart was found in shallow grave at Area-51, with 6-Aliens, 3-Sasquatch, crew of the Edmond Fitzgerald, and Jimmy Hoffa.


Yeah, Hugo, sometimes I talk too much..

raleighbravefan
raleighbravefan

Good grief! Another day of chasing Shaun down a rabbit hole. ENOUGH, ALREADY. You cannot have a discussion with this man, only listen to a lecture. Let's have some baseball, for gawd's sake, please. 

Threadkiller
Threadkiller

The concept behind FIP is a focus on the pitcher's skills and separating that from what happens on batted balls, because pitchers have a minimal influence on what happens once the ball leaves the bat.  Scouts also isolate the pitcher and his skills from what happens after the ball leaves the bat.  The underlying concept behind it all is the same.  It's just that sabermetricians do the accounting of events that happened on the field.  Scouts observe what the pitcher has in the way of skills, tools and mechanics.  But both are trying to isolate the pitcher and separate his skills from the defense behind him or batted ball luck, etc.  


Is that clear enough for you?  Probably not


I think Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine would  strongly disagree with this. But they are Hall of Famers, what do they know?

Stinger2
Stinger2

You guys are sure giving Shaun a good workout today. 

HugoZHackenbush
HugoZHackenbush

When Mike Rizzo says the Nationals are a better team than the Braves, is he using info from the scouts or the saber department to determine this?

EMWTK
EMWTK

If strike outs are the natural result of a batter trying to hit the ball hard somewhere, does that mean Simmons just isn't trying hard enough?

DOB
DOB moderator

Braves have one lineup regular (Simmons) who hasn't struck out this season, and another (Gattis) who hasn't drawn a walk.

By the way, Gattis now has 24 homers in 415 career plate appearances.

jim024
jim024

@YourWorstNightmare You have to be pretty darn good to get the opportunity to strike out 2000 times in the major leagues.

Fleming01
Fleming01

@raleighbravefan  

Some like me are a combination too dumb and too lazy according to Shawn. Been told both before.

EMWTK
EMWTK

@noleee  In fairness, I think what he's actually trying to say is that the pitcher has little influence on what happens to the ball after it leaves the bat, not how the ball leaves the bat. The overall point is that the pitcher most definitely does influence the quality of contact, but does not much influence the quality of fielding.

Fleming01
Fleming01

@raleighbravefan  

That's what happens when you have a rainout the same time that Freddi moves CJ out of the 4 hole. Nothing else to talk about.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@Threadkiller  I think Glavine and Maddux realize they could make a perfect pitch and the ball could still be just out of the reach of Jeff Blauser.

ncscoots
ncscoots

@HugoZHackenbush  Doesn't matter. He should probably fire everybody in both, and let God sort 'em out. :-)

jim024
jim024

@EMWTK During the streak, there was a period of about 1 month where Joe DiMaggio never swung and missed a pitch.  He K'd a couople of times on called strikes but everything he swung at was hit fair or foul.

airblair22
airblair22

@DOB  When he stops chasing high, he's going to be a big time power hitter in this league. 

noleee
noleee

@DOB  

I think I prefer the zero Ks over the zero Bobs idea

noleee
noleee

@jim024  

exactly, kinda like the fact that even the worst defensive player in the bigs is still capable of great plays at times. I sometimes think that most fans do not realize just how much better these guys are the the rest of the world.

BFChris29
BFChris29

@raleighbravefan @BFChris29 

Looked it up and says 5.78


But it is a small sample size considering how early it still is in the year and he only appeared a few times.


I am not a big stat person, but more of an intangible person.

Fleming01
Fleming01

@EMWTK

Can  he influence whether the ball gets hit to Simmons of Uggla with location thus influence fielding???  LOL

noleee
noleee

@EMWTK @noleee  

of course, but thats not really how he presents it a lot of the time when he gets on his horse.....

he does that with every discussion, makes blanket statements with both force and repetitiveness that they do not deserve.

which is why so many have little regard with what he says, not that it is necessarily wrong but that he behaves as if it was gospel when it is really mostly theory

TennesseePaul
TennesseePaul

nah, they knew Jeff's chin could still stop it.

jim024
jim024

@airblair22 @DOBThe high ones he hits every so often -- usually a long way.  It's the low outside slider that he has to lay off from first.

ncscoots
ncscoots

@noleee  Ya think, LOL?

I give Gattis some credit, though. He seems to not be swinging at every pitch that has a wrinkle in it, and he's hitting some balls from the outer half. Do enough of that, and eventually pitchers will get further out of the zone in an effort to make him chase, and he might actually see some pitches that he's willing to, you know, take. :-)

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@EMWTK @noleee  What gets you to a better understanding, systematically measuring events and looking at relationships between events and runs, or just throwing your hands up and saying "because there are too many variables, we should just not try to understand"?

EMWTK
EMWTK

@noleee   there is no real life proof with which any of this stuff can be backed up. because there are too many variables to ever play out the same way

Exactly. It's all informed speculation. I've tried to say the same thing a dozen different ways. Complex systems are not easy to understand or predict.

noleee
noleee

@EMWTK @noleee  

and then like below, no matter how much folks try to define their opinions he claims that it is just unwarranted criticism with no attempt to back it up.

the truth is that there is no real life proof with which any of this stuff can be backed up. because there are too many variables to ever play out the same way

noleee
noleee

@jim024  

i doubt it was all randomness, confidence plays a part in any long streak good or bad

course if the pitcher cain't effect where a batted ball will go and neither can the hitter much, or they would all hit at least 500) what is left except the baseball gods??????

jim024
jim024

@ncscoots @jim024@EMWTKRandomness is the only explanation for the Uggla streak 3 years ago.  If you flipped four coins for 33 straight days what would be the probability of getting at least one head every day with the coins weighted 1:4 against a head?


And how often would you have to do this before you got 33 such days in a row?

ncscoots
ncscoots

@jim024 @ncscoots @EMWTK  Sorry, jim, I was making a joke based on a conversation from a day or two ago. I've got to stop assuming everybody else reads everything here, LOL.

noleee
noleee

@ncscoots @noleee  

yeah, I don't have any real problem with Gattis, just wish he'd walk at least once a month....