Posted: 2:31 pm Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Through rotation shuffle, Braves starters remain strong 

By David O'Brien

 

   PHILADELPHIA – Hey, we all realize it’s way early. Way, way early. Far too early to make any big judgments.

Still, one can’t help but notice that the Nationals, who once again were the pick of many pundits to win the NL East in large part because of their starting rotation, have a starters ERA of 5.06 after Stephen Strasburg got rocked by the Marlins last night.

Mid-spring training signee Ervin Santana has  been instrumental in the Braves' majors-leading 1.80 starters ERA.

Mid-spring training signee Ervin Santana has been instrumental in the Braves’ majors-leading 1.80 starters ERA.

The Braves, who began the season with Aaron Harang and David Hale in their injury-altered, patchwork rotation? Well, the Braves have a majors-leading 1.80 starters ERA, more than a half-run ahead of the No. 2 Oakland rotation (2.44).

Again, we know it’s early, and no one expects the Braves to keep getting what they’ve gotten so far from Harang and Co. I mean, no Braves starter has allowed more than three earned runs so far, and eight of 13 games ATL’s starter allowed one or none.

Still, they can expect good stuff all season from Ervin Santana and even better than what we’ve seen from Julio Teheran so far. And Mike Minor is tentatively set to join the rotation next week, either April 23 or April 25, provided he feels ready after his Friday night rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett.

Speaking of the the Nationals, they finally lost to someone other than the Braves. They had been 1-5 against the Braves and 7-0 against everyone else until Tuesday, when they got whipped 11-2 by the Marlins, which dropped them 1 ½ games behind the first-place Braves, who were rained out Tuesday here in Philly.

I remember a conversation I had with Gerald Laird in spring training, after the Braves lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to season-ending elbow surgeries.

We’re in the same spot as last year,” Laird said. “We won the division. When we were healthy, we were really good – everybody was saying, ‘The Braves are still a really good team.’ But now everyone’s really picking the Nationals like they did last year. ‘Oh, they’ve got the rotation.’ Well you know what? They had the rotation last year. I’m not saying anything bad about them – that’s a great ballclub over there. But that’s why you play 162 games. You never know what’s going to happen.”

  • Good matchup tonight: After Tuesday’s rainout the Braves elected to skip David Hale’s turn, while the Phillies moved their starts back a day. That development sets up a mighty good matchup tonight in Philly — Julio Teheran vs. Cliff Lee, who originally had been scheduled to start Tuesday.

Teheran is 15-9 with a 2.81 ERA and .243 opponents’ average in his past 30 starts, with 167 strikeouts and 44 walks in 188 innings. He has three consecutive quality starts to begin the 2014 season, with two earned runs allowed in each. But his .282 opponents’ average and .346 opponents’ OBP are much higher than we’re used to from him.

Included is a .289 average by right-handed hitters and a .387 OBP by lefty batters. The numbers were inflated by his 10 hits allowed in six innings of his last start Friday against the Nationals in Atlanta. In two road starts before that, he allowed a total of 10 hits and four runs in 13 innings. Again, it’s way early. So numbers tend to get skewed.

Here’s what has made him have to work harder than usual this seasono: Leadoff hitters are 6-for-14 (.429) against him this season with four walks, one HBP, no strikeouts and a .579 OBP. He keeps having to work out of tight spots because of that, instead of having a lot of easy, quick innings.

It’s cold here in Philly today, folks, and it’s going to get a lot colder tonight. Right now (1:45 p.m.) it’s about 45 degrees and quite windy. Tonight, it’s supposed  to be 49 at 7 p.m., dropping to 41 degrees by 10 p.m.

But for those who think the weather might give Lee something of an advantage over Teheran, keep in mind that the young Colombian has actually pitched quite well on several occasions in the cold, most notably last April in frigid Colorado. He allowed eight hits, one run and no walks in seven innings of an April 23 game at Coors Field, in the second game of a doubleheader in which the temperature was below freezing the entire day.

The Phillies have caused more problems than weather has for Teheran. He’s 1-2 with a 5.79 ERA in four career starts against the Phils, including 1-1 with a 6.55 ERA in two last season.

This will be his first start at Citizens Bank Park since he made his major league debut there on May 7, 2011, when he gave up four hits (one homer), two walks and three runs in 4-1/3 innings, with one strikeout.

Teheran also struck out one in his second start 11 days later at Arizona, and those were his only two starts with fewer than two strikeouts until last week, when he struck out one against the Nationals. His strikeouts have been down quite a bit so far this season – two in six innings at Milwaukee, six in seven innings at Washington, and that one in six innings of his second start against the Nationals.

Among the Phillies, Chase Utley is 4-for-6 against Teheran, Jimmy Rollins is 4-for-9 with a homer, and Ryan Howard and Cody Asche each has a homer in three at-bats against the right-hander.

Teheran should probably expect less than usual run support with Lee pitching for the Phillies. As we went over in yesterday’s blog, Lee has been about as tough on the Braves as any pitcher has in recent years, and only a lack of run support from his teammates has kept him from beating Atlanta several times more than he has.

Lee has a rather remarkable 113 strikeouts and seven walks in 99 2/3 innings against the Braves. Yes, 113 and seven.

Julio Teheran faces Cliff Lee Wednesday in a matchup of top pitchers in frigid Philly.

Julio Teheran faces Cliff Lee Wednesday in a matchup of top pitchers in frigid Philly.

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

Lee has has 96 strikeouts, six walks and a .199 opponents’ average in 80 1/3 innings of those past 11 starts against the Braves, 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.

That 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 struggled mightily against the Rangers on opening day, allowing 11 hits and eight runs in five innings. But in two starts since – at Wrigley Field and home against the Brewers –  he’s allowed 18 hits, three runs and no walks with 14 strikeouts in 13 innings.

Chris Johnson, who was back in the lineup Tuesday (before the rainout) 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 him, but has two homers. Catchers Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird are a combined 2-for-26 with 13 K’s against Lee, including Laird’s 2-for-20 with nine strikeouts.

  • Extremes: The Braves have one lineup regular (Andrelton Simmons) who hasn’t struck out this season, and another (Gattis) who hasn’t drawn a walk. Simmons easily has the most plate appearances (45) in the majors this season without a strikeout.

By the way, Gattis now has 24 homers in 415 career plate appearances, after homering twice in Monday’s series opener. That’s an extreme ratio to start a career, even among top power hitters.

Philly fans probably wonder why he’s not hit even more, considering Gattis has four homers in 20 career at-bats (five games) at Citizens Bank Park, including two-homer games in each of his past two games at the hitter-friendl venue.

  • Freddie & J-Up: Despite having his nine-game hitting streak snapped Monday, Freddie Freeman is second in the majors in both OBP (.491) and slugging percentage (.745), trailing Chase Utley (.549/.844) in each category. Justin Upton (.446) is fourth in the National League in both OBP and slugging (.646).

As far as average, Freeman (.404) is fourth in the majors and J. Upton (.354) is 10th in the NL. (Utley also leads the majors in that category at .489.)

But even more encouraging for the Braves is the fact that no ATL player in bottom five in batting average. Been a while since they could say that. Certainly not last season.

B.J. Upton has the league’s fifth-lowest OBP (.226), but even that’s been on the uptick of late. The center fielder is 8-for-34 (.235) with three extra-base hits, three walks, seven strikeouts and a .297 OBP in his past eight games, and 4-for-13 (.308) with two walks, one strikeout and a .400 OBP in his past three games.

Freeman’s 1.236 OPS is second in the majors to Utley’s 1.393, and J-Up (1.092) is fourth in the NL.

• I’m gonna close with this great tune by one of the best and coolest singer/songwriters alive, Rosanne Cash, off her terrific recent release, The River & The Thread.

“A FEATHER’S NOT A BIRD” by Rosanne Cash

I’m going down to Florence, gonna wear a pretty dress
I’ll sit atop the magic wall with the voices in my head
Then we’ll drive on through to Memphis, past the strongest shoals
Then on to Arkansas just to touch the gumbo soul Rosanne_Cash

A feather’s not a bird
The rain is not the sea
A stone is not a mountain
But a river runs through me

There’s never any highway when you’re looking for the past
The land becomes a memory and it happens way too fast
The money’s all in Nashville but the light’s inside my head
So I’m going down to Florence just to learn to love the thread

A feather’s not a bird
The rain is not the sea
A stone is not a mountain
But a river runs through me

I burned up seven lives and I used up all my charms
I took the long way home just to end up in your arms
That’s why I’m going down to Florence, now I got my pretty dress
I’m gonna let the magic wall put the voices in my head

A feather’s not a bird
The rain is not the sea
A stone is not a mountain
But a river runs through me

A feather’s not a bird
The rain is not the sea
A stone is not a mountain

A feather’s not a bird
The rain is not the sea
A stone is not a mountain
But a river runs through me 

 

1680 comments
VeniceJim
VeniceJim

Good to see the spilled-milk criers enjoying their sobbing...

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Gonna leave for a while, cause don't want everybody ending up hating me, but I'm gonna leave y'all with some food for thought.

It's thought that the average person over a lifetime swallows 6-spiders during sleep..

TennesseePaul
TennesseePaul

Payne: "Whether one didn't thinks he was worth what he got, it was certainly reasonable to pay him that, based on the market."


From accounts, other teams valued him less and offered less with the Braves winning by offering a contract substantially larger. I will not disagree that free agency is an inefficient means of money spending in baseball. But, as I stated then, and state with regularity since then, the Braves should not have been going after him. Alas, they did, which means I cannot say this team is perfect for another 3.8 seasons, or sooner if we are fortunate enough to witness him being moved off the team prior to the end of his contract.

However, Payne, you can take solace in this, the presence of BJ's ineptitude has fully freed me from any disparaging remarks of Heyward.

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Noleee, you've got me confused with somebody else. I've not said a word about Andrelton's "contract."

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

I'm bringing this to top cause I'm sicka scrolling up from Dante's Inferno. I'm addressing Shaun and noleee.

Simmons's contact might well play to his advantage eventually. Nobody can conclusively say at this point, because, as I said before, all players are not created equally.

Argue wit dat!?

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Where is that new Blawg, everybody (cept me, as I am very patient - and would enjoy free subscription) is harping for?

DOB
DOB moderator

Braves and Phillies moved start time of 3:05 game June 28 at PHI to 2:05 to accomodate split doubleheader, for Tuesday's rainout makeup. 2nd game at 7:35 p.m.

VeniceJim
VeniceJim

Tony Kornheiser, on his Wednesday morning radio show - "There's a wrap-around the front section of the Post, advertising for the Nats - and on the back it says 'Nothing but Natitude' - and that's what they've got so far, nothing but Natitude"...

Lew06
Lew06

Not sure if this is truth in advertising or an example of societal decline, but just heard a commercial on XM Home Plate -


"Get Dish and see all the games and you'll know which players to complain about."

DOB
DOB moderator

Braves starters lead majors w/ 1.58 ERA, nearly full run better than next-best (Oakland 2.48, St. Louis 2.53). The Nationals' vaunted rotation? They're 29th with a 5.21 ERA.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@TennesseePaul  First of all, we don't know what B.J. was offered by other teams.  Also, during negotiation time, I'm not so sure the Braves know what other teams are offering or likely to offer so they might largely have to come up with their own valuation and base their offer on that, rather than having clear-cut opportunities to match and beat other offers.  Ideally the Braves would offer just enough to beat out other teams on players they want.  But I'm not so sure that's how negotiations always work.  If I were an agent, I certainly wouldn't want to give teams specifics on what it would take to just beat out another team.  I'd want to get as much as I could.


There was nothing to indicate, at the time, that B.J. Upton should not have been on the Braves' radar.  At the time, from 2008 (when he first had over 600 PA in the majors) through 2012, he had been in the same class offensively as Ellsbury, Adam Jones, Austin Jackson, Andres Torres, Denard Span (looking at wRC+ here).  And 2008 was the year after his 136 OPS+ in 48 PA season.  And B.J. was entering his age 28 season.  His only down year offensively was an 82 OPS+ in 2009.  There is no way anyone could have seen a 51 OPS+ coming.  


In terms of WAR over that time frame, B.J. was sandwiched between Beltran and Torii Hunter among centerfielders, from 2008-2012.  

MFin04
MFin04

Yep it was an obvious bad signing and overpay from day 1...but he has been far worse than anyone could've imagined...that's for sure.

Lets just stop pretending he is a two hitter and let him be what he is. A bottom of the order, low on base hitter with speed...that helped us get Justin.

noleee
noleee

@TennesseePaul  

and I think that as much as I disliked him that he was at the top of who they would most likely be interested as Scoots claimed for a year b4 that.

they have had a lot of turnover so it makes sense that they would be looking at what they thought would be a long term solution with a guy who was still young, and from whom they had many years of sample size.

 if he had given us 5 seasons of nothing more that his last 4 at Tampa I am sure they would have considered the contract well worth it, and there was no real reason to think that he would not

noleee
noleee

@YourWorstNightmare  

i'm nor arguing with anything, the onliest thang I've said is that high contact/low K rate does not guarantee good OBP. the rest of it is stuff you are coming up with AFAICT

noleee
noleee

@YourWorstNightmare  


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JerseyGil
JerseyGil

@DOB  Confuse....I have ticket for that Games sat June 28 and say 3PM and my schedule show 3Pm? when they change to 2PM? and now is 3PM

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@VeniceJim  

A close friend advised me (couple years ago) that my budding beard was beginning to look like Kornheiser's. When friend was outa driveway, beard removal occurred.

kenhotlanta
kenhotlanta

@Lew06  Bullshyt!! Get Dish and see 2/3rds of the games for the 2nd year in a row and we still have to pay full price. 

richbrave
richbrave

@DOB  


My comment would be they should improve considerably now that they don't face BRAVES bats again until June.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@TennesseePaul  @noleee I really don't see that there was much to dislike about B.J. at the time.  True, he's not a perfect player or centerfielder but what player or centerfielder is that you could get at a fairly reasonable rate on the free agent or trade market?  


I suppose you could say the Braves paid a little for potential.  They could have went after Span or Revere.  But even his performance, ignoring potential, matched up with a solid tier of centerfielders.  Also, I would say it's wise to go with the player who offers not only performance but potential, especially if you are a franchise in a going-for-it mode.  


It seems to me the only way you could say it wasn't an understandable, reasonable move is to assume the Braves had a crystal ball and could have known he would post a 51 OPS+ his first season with the team.  

noleee
noleee

@MFin04  

I don't agree that it was much of an overpay at all in foresight

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@noleee

It also doesn't guarantee bad OBP, so really, it doesn't guarantee anything, like everything else in baseball. There's no guarantees or crying in baseball.

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@noleee

Somebody asked it there was gonna be a new blawg a while back. 

Watched Cards/Gnats on Gamecast last night. Like watching time fly on a sun-dial. If they're gonna do the thing, they should do it right.

MFin04
MFin04

Fister will save them..

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@MFin04  Even if we assume that the Phillies offered $12 million less, how do we know they were the only other team involved and how do we know that the Braves knew exactly what they should have offered to be just ahead of the next highest bidder?  


If I'm selling something and trying to get the most money I can for it, I'm not tipping my hand on what everyone is bidding, at least not in terms of getting too specific.  No.  You give me your best offer and I'll go with the best deal.  


And if I'm another competing team, I'm certainly not giving you any indication of my price for that player.  

noleee
noleee

@MFin04  

we really do not know for a fact what was offered by whom, and none of them were likely last offers, and at the time those GMs were making that series of offers none of them likely knew exactly what the others had done

Frank has a history about every season of jumpting in as one of the first signers offering what he and the scouts and the stats depts think a player is worth.

no way at all to know that other teams wouldn't have upped initial offers if he had still been availible

I think leaps of judgment are being made that are possibly not warranted. course I understand the attraction of that since he was so abyssmal

MFin04
MFin04

Not if you include Justin and CJ. But the Phillies offered $12 mil less.

noleee
noleee

@YourWorstNightmare @noleee  

was a typo, we have been talking contact all hour so I did not think you would need it corrected. guess I was wrong....

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@noleee

I'm sorry noleee. I didn't mean for you to get pissed. I just love to debate as an activity, as much as what fruit I might gain as a result of the conversation. Was high-shool and college debate-teamer. I'll try and damper my debating enthusiasm a bit..

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@YourWorstNightmare I do think Simmons is helped by the approach he takes.  Making contact a lot is part of that approach.  I tend to think if Simmons changed his approach to walk more and/or hit for more power, things that are good to do in and of themselves, it would mess him up and make him a worse hitter.  I think the same is generally true of high-strikeout hitters.  If they altered their approach to try to strikeout less, they would become less productive.  Of course all that is impossible to prove.  And admittedly it is a generality.  Some hitters may very well benefit from trying to make more contact and some hitters may very well benefit from worrying less about contact.  The Gary Sheffield quote comes to mind that he thought he would have been a better hitter had he not hated striking out and wasn't so obsessed with not striking out.  Basically he suggested that shortening his swing to avoid striking out caused him to make weak contact in a lot of cases, and might have made him a little less productive, or so he thought.

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@noleee  

BTW, when I said "argue," I didn't mean to infer anything but a civil exchange of ideas. "Argue" does not always portray an aggressive connotation.

noleee
noleee

@YourWorstNightmare @noleee  

i never said it did guarantee bad, you have been the one making a big deal about his high contract and sounding with the chicken/egg example as if you believe that it does practically guarantee high OBP, and it does not

anything more than that you are getting out of my statements is something that you are putting in first

my last post on the subject for now btw

Lew06
Lew06

@YourWorstNightmare @JerseyGil  This is not the OFFICIAL MLB complaint department. Direct your calls to........

MFin04
MFin04

Zimmerman is moving to first he will pick everything :)

Lew06
Lew06

@MFin04  Only if they change their entire defense.