Posted: 1:43 pm Friday, April 18th, 2014

Adjustment gets Gattis back to ‘being me’ at plate 

By David O'Brien

  NEW YORK – It wasn’t just Evan Gattis’ four-hit game Wednesday at Philly, or his three homers in two games, that caused Freddie Freeman to gush a bit over the catcher’s recent offensive performance.

“I guess he likes Philadelphia a little bit,” Freeman said, smiling. “But you could tell last week that he was starting to get the hang of things. He’s going up through the middle, his swing path’s through the zone a long time. So it’s no surprise what he’s doing.”

After going 0-for-4 in the March 31 opener at Milwaukee, Gattis is 14-for-33 (.424) with two doubles, four homers, seven RBIs and six strikeouts in nine April games.  And in two-strike situations, where he really struggled as a rookie, he is 5-for-20 with three homers so far this season.

When I mentioned to him what Freeman had said about his swing path, Gattis nodded to confirm and then explained.

Julio Teheran and Evan Gattis after Teheran pitched a shutout Wednesday at Philly. (AP Photo)

Julio Teheran and Evan Gattis after Teheran pitched a shutout Wednesday at Philly. (AP Photo)

“It’s really just taking my hands directly to the ball,” he said, demonstrating how he holds the bat and moves his hands toward the ball as it approaches the plate. “I was doing it even during spring training, though the results weren’t there. I talked to Freddie a lot and to CJ (Chris Johnson) a lot. It’s really about what you try to do with the ball. I’m not trying to do too much. And lately it’s been a feel thing, trying to get finer and finer with that.

“But really, I’m just trying to take my hands to the ball. I’m not, like, guessing at pitchers or anything like that. Just trying to get a knock (hit), you know? Our first game (in Philadelphia), there was a change-up in, a two-strike change-up in. And I could just feel the bat head coming through.”

“(Facing Washington’s) Tanner Roark last week, sliders down, I didn’t bite on a couple of pitches.”

Asked if he felt better now than he has in the past, Gattis said yes, but…

“It’s still early,” he said. “But yeah.”

There might be a perception that he’s feeling more like a hitter now than a pure power hitter. But Gattis notes that before last season, when he hit .243 with 21 homers (second among MLB rookies) and 81 strikeouts in 354 at-bats, he was a .300 hitter in the minor leagues (actually .308) and also hit .303 when he had a league-leading 16 homers in Venezuelan winter ball.

“Yeah, maybe just being more myself now,” he said. “I kind of got away from that last year. I hit some home runs but my average wasn’t there; it’s the lowest I ever hit for average. I understand better defense, better pitching and all that (affecting it in the major leagues), but last year at the end of the year I still thought I didn’t hit for as good a average as I wanted to.”

On his early season improvement with two strikes, he said, “Two-strike change-ups and stuff like that, I’m trying to put the ball in play, first and foremost. And then (sometimes) you put backspin on it and it goes out.”

As he said, it’s early. Gattis knows not to get carried way by a fast start. A year ago, he hit .285 with 12 homers and a .628 slugging percentage 137 at-bats (42 games) through May 30, then hit .217 with nine homers and a .387 slugging percentage in 217 at-bats (63 games) the rest of the season.

But unlike last season, when Gattis pinch-hit and kept the catching job warm in April until Brian McCann returned, then spent most of the remainder of the season playing out of position in the outfield, this year he’s the primary catcher and will get plenty of rest on the approximately 50 days he’s not in the lineup. He’s had two knee surgeries, including an arthroscopic cleanup procedure in October, and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez wants to do all he can to keep Gattis healthy for the season.

By the way, Gattis has now played 30 games in April in his major league career. In those games, he’s hit .303 (33-for-109) with eight doubles, 10 homers, 23 RBIs, .342 OBP, .651 slugging percentage.

   He’s tied for with four other players for the major league lead with four road homers, and he’s hit .448 (13-for-29) with two doubles and three homers in eight night games.

  B.J. update: TheBraves have been encouraged by at least some modest progress from B.J. Upton, who is 10-for-42 (.238) with three extra-base hits, four walks, nine strikeout and a .304 OBP in his past 10 games. (Hey, if you consider how he hit last season, you’ll know why that’s progress.)

However, he’s still just 2-for-22 with runners on base, including 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. (He had a majors-worst .108 average in 93 at-bats with runners in scoring position in 2013).

Also, he’s 6-for-41 (.146) with a .146 OBP against right-handed pitchers. Upton is 5-for-17 (.294) with a .429 OBP against lefties, and faces a lefty Friday in the Mets’ Jon Niese.

Something that’s continued unabated is Upton’s alarming road work: He’s hit .139 (5-for-36) with a .205 OBP in nine road games this season, and in 70 road games as a Brave over two seasons he’s hit .176 (43-for-245) with two homers, seven RBIs (in 70 games!) and a .244 OBP and .233 slugging percentage.

In 70 home games as a Brave, Upton has hit .196 (40-for-204) with eight homers, 20 RBIs, .288 OBP and .358 slugging.

  Wood pitching like he belongs: Alex Wood is now 2-2 with a 1.67 ERA in four starts, the seventh-lowest ERA among  NL starters.  He has 24 strikeouts and seven walks in 27 innings. He allowed one run apiece in three of them and two in the other.

In his two losses, the Braves scored one and no runs.

For those who’ve asked – and there have been plenty – no, I can’t see him leaving the rotation anytime soon.

Alex Wood's strikeout on a failed sac bunt attempt Sunday was one of the few things the lefty has done wrong this season.

Alex Wood’s strikeout on a failed sac bunt attempt Sunday was one of the few things the lefty has done wrong this season. (Getty Images)

I will say I was a bit surprised Thursday when he got his first complete game (eight innings in 1-0 loss at Philly). Because  he was due up with a runner at second and none out in the top of the eighth in a then-scoreless game, and I thought the Braves would pinch-hit for him, rather than have Wood try to bunt the runner over (he failed in that attempt and struck out).

It just seemed like a good spot to pinch-hit, not like if you had, say, Tim Hudson in that situation and could be reasonably sure he’d get the bunt down. Plus, the Braves are going to be careful that Wood doesn’t throw too many innings this season. Probably around 175 would be a reasonable cap to expect, given their pattern in recent years based on a young pitcher’s previous season-high total. But they haven’t said specifically.

But so far, he’s tied for sixth in the NL with 27 innings, same as Cliff Lee. (Julio Teheran is tied for fourth with 28 innings, two off the league lead.)

Rotation is humming: The Braves rotation has been nothing short of terrific so far. Atlanta starters lead the majors with a 1.58 ERA, nearly full run better than next-best (Oakland 2.48, St. Louis 2.53). Meanwhile, the Nationals’ vaunted rotation has a 5.21 ERA that ranks 29th out of 30 teams.

And yes, we know it’s early. But given how the Braves lost two of their top three projected starters to elbow injuries in spring training, it’s been something to see them patch the holes and not just keep their heads above water, but pretty much dominate in the first 2 ½ weeks of the season.

Braves opponents have scored  two or fewer runs in eight of 14 games so far, and the starters are the ones mostly responsible for that.

Now they can look forward to adding Mike Minor, who’ll make his last scheduled rehab start tonight for Triple-A Gwinnett. Unless he decides he needs another rehab game, the lefty will move into the rotation next week with a home start either Wednesday against Miami or Friday against Cincinnati (the Braves are off Thursday).

Gavin Floyd also makes a rehab start tonight for Double-A Mississippi. Fredi Gonzalez has said Floyd might get two more minor league starts after tonight.

Braves-Phillies doubleheader: In case you missed the story we posted earlier at ajc.com, the Braves-Phillies game that was rained out Tuesday in Philadelphia will be made up as part of a split doubleheader on June 28, with start times of 2:05 p.m. and 7:35 p.m. at Citizens Bank Park.

The makeup game will turn the June 27-29 series at Philadelphia into a four-game series and make the three-city, June 19-29 trip into a 11-games-in-11-days grind for the Braves, who starts that trip with four games in Washington. They have an off day in Houston June 23 before a three-game series against the Astros, followed immediately by the four-gamer at Philadelphia.

The  original start time of the June 28 game has been moved up an hour from 3:05 p.m. to accomodate the split doubleheader (separate admission).

  Etc.

In his past 21 games against the Mets, Freddie Freeman is 29-for-81 (.358) with six homers and 20 RBIs….

 Dan Uggla has 11 homers and 26 RBIs in 42 games at Citi Field….

The Braves are 11-11 against the Mets since the beginning of the 2013 season, including three losses in the past four games. The Mets won two of three in Atlanta last week….

Opponents have hit .223 with a .288 OBP against the Braves, including .193 with a .251 OBP in road games

    Since being swept at home by the Nationals to start the season, the Mets are 8-4 in their past 12 games and coming off a three-game sweep against Arizona. They hit .307 with a 1.67 ERA while outscoring the Diamondbacks 21-5.

• Let’s close with one you might’ve heard from the Glimmer Twins, Mick and Keef. Click here to listen and see a great live performance.

“JUMPING JACK FLASH” by The Rolling Stones

I was born in a cross-fire hurricane
And I howled at my ma in the driving rain,
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas.
But it’s all right.  I’m Jumpin’ Jack Flash,
It’s a gas gas gasimages

I was raised by a toothless, bearded hag,
I was schooled with a strap right across my back,
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas.
But it’s all right, I’m Jumpin’ Jack Flash,
It’s a gas gas gas

I was drowned, I was washed up and left for dead.
I fell down to my feet and I saw they bled.
I frowned at the crumbs of a crust of bread.
Yeah, yeah, yeah
I was crowned with a spike right thru my head.
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas.
But it’s all right, I’m Jumpin’ Jack Flash,
It’s a gas gas gas

Jumping Jack Flash, its a gas
Jumping Jack Flash, its a gas
Jumping Jack Flash, its a gas
Jumping Jack Flash, its a gas

 

 

4215 comments
Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

Tom Hart just said that Harang had loaded up the Delorean and it was "Back to the Future" for him. Ha Ha

He should loan the Delorean to Frenchy. :-)

count_schemula
count_schemula

BJ really does not run out ground balls. He has a pitcher's trot to 1b.

HugoZHackenbush
HugoZHackenbush

Ramiro Pena, OPS vs RHP last season, .869. Certainly no reason to start him today...

DOB
DOB moderator

Braves starters lead the majors with a miniscule 1.50 ERA, more than a run ahead of any other team except St. Louis (2.20). There are 23 teams with starters ERAs above 3.00, including 13 teams above 4.00.

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Summa these later homerun quasi-kings benefitted from expansion to some extent. Every time expansion occurs, there's a permanent infusion of AAAA pitching from which to feast.

Hank played in an 8-team NL first 8-years of career. Next 7-years, from 62-69 there were only 10-teams. Were 12-teams from 69-till end of career. There have been 16-NL teams since 98'. Every player, from that point forward, benefited from pitching TWICE as diluted as what Hank saw his first 8-years. And don't give me any $hit about pitching being stronger now! BS!

Fleming01
Fleming01

Blog sorta slow. Everyone must be saving their bitches for the game.

CB_
CB_

scoots, I see you lost McDaniels. Couldn't come up with enough money? :-)

Lew06
Lew06

Russell - Drop me an email  lewhartman@comcast.net  with some contact info and I'll burn you a couple of CDs 

DOB
DOB moderator

Four Braves starters rank among NL's top 10 in ERA, including league leader Aaron Harang (0.70 entering today’s start). Ervin Santana (0.86) is tied with Cincinnati’s Alfredo Simon for second, Alex Wood (1.54) is eighth, and Julio Teheran (1.80) is 10th

TennesseePaul
TennesseePaul

Listening to the new Pixies. I'm enjoying it. But ... I can hear the age in them. They sound like older guys now. It's kinda funny. I don't think this will top Bosanova, Surfer Rosa or Doolittle, but I'm enjoying it.

ncscoots
ncscoots

@Rick_C  He's always in the zone, a LOT, so Braves just need to square up some fastballs. Eezy peezy, LOL.

Fleming01
Fleming01

@YourWorstNightmare  

But those AAAA pitchers today would be all stars in Hank's day. Just ask Shawn if you don't believe. 

ZAZ
ZAZ

So, you fellas just realized how lame this thread can be when only the lackeys participate?

ncscoots
ncscoots

@CB_  His mama already had a car, LOL.

Tried to talk him out of it, on a strictly basketball point. He'll have to play the 2 in the pros, and his outside shot isn't ready for that. Plus, he won't be able to muscle NBA 2 guards and I'm not sure he's quite quick enough to defend there. In any event, I'll be rooting for him. He's a fine young man.

For the Tigers, I'm actually OK with it, as much as you can be, anyway. Blossomgame is a natural 3, and Djitte can handle the 4, plus some sharpshooters coming in with this year's class. I think they'll be OK.

ncscoots
ncscoots

@DOB  Aaron Harang has give up nine hits. Nine. Total. 

Jeff_R
Jeff_R

@DOB  A remarkable start for those four. 

Rick_C
Rick_C

@TennesseePaul  I've been on a Gentle Giant kick lately.  Had only heard a few of their albums and wanted to work through their discography in order.  Good stuff if you like 70s prog.

raleighbravefan
raleighbravefan

@TennesseePaul  I stream XMradio at my desk...can monitor 18 channels at a time. I have quite a varied taste in music, but am a bit heavy on "oldies" and "soft" rock/pop. I do not apologize for my choices. I listen to a LOT of 50's and 60's.

Russell_Bell
Russell_Bell

@TennesseePaul  I've been stuck in the 70's and 80's for over a year now. Been listening to a lot of Judas Priest, UFO, Motorhead, and a whole slew of NWoBHM bands. 

Fleming01
Fleming01

@HugoZHackenbush @YourWorstNightmare 

But lower percent of population playing baseball today.

No video games in 50's

Fleming01
Fleming01

@ZAZ  

Sigh!

 

I like it much better than when the bitchers participate

CB_
CB_

@ncscoots @CB_ 

Yeah, you guys should still be ok. I like what Buzz is doing so far, got a couple of his old recruits from Marquette and has his eye on a couple others. We still have a long ways to go but he should help future.

ncscoots
ncscoots

@Jeff_R @DOB  All bingos and interstates, on the ERAs. :-) Sweet.

Poor David Hale is sub-3 and ends up looking like the bum of the rotation, LOL. That just ain't hardly fair.

TennesseePaul
TennesseePaul

Nice. Any particular album topping your list at the moment?

TennesseePaul
TennesseePaul

No need for apologizing, RBF. 50's and 60's had a lot of great tunes. Haven't listened to 50's/60's rock lately, but I enjoy it when I hear it.

Lew06
Lew06

@Russell_Bell @TennesseePaul  You might want to check The NEXT Wave of Eurpopean Heavy Metal - Ram, Tarot, White Wizzard, Powervice - all influenced by the NWoBHM

HugoZHackenbush
HugoZHackenbush

@Fleming01  More foreign players in mlb as well. Given all the factors, it would be impossible to prove that one generation of batters had some advantage or disadvantage compared to all the others.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@TennesseePaul  Tough call, I've liked them all so far.  Might want to check out their live album Playing The Fool as it covers material from all of their albums up to that point.

Russell_Bell
Russell_Bell

@Lew06 @Russell_Bell  Christian Mistress are awesome. I don't know Scorpion Child.

Seriously man, Manilla Road. They do it best. 

Nobody but the diehards ever knew about them. In business frome arly 80's through early 90's, started releasing new stuff in 2001ish. Almost everything they've released is fantastic. If you do check em out,  the following albums are generally considered their best:

Crystal Logic, The Deluge, Open the Gates, Mystification. These four albums represent their 1983 - 1987 output. 

Lew06
Lew06

@Russell_Bell @Lew06  Taking Dawn, some Electric Six, Dirty Looks


Check back after the game and I'll see what else I can dig up.

Lew06
Lew06

@Russell_Bell @Lew06  Nope - missed out on them - been listening to Scorpion Child, Royal Thunder and Christian Mistress. You might like them - I think Scorpion Child is from Savannah

TennesseePaul
TennesseePaul

Haven't listened to metal in a long while. I'll have to give 'em a gander.

Lew06
Lew06

@Russell_Bell @Lew06  Check out Melodic metal - Nightwish, Ancient Bards, Magic Kingdom, Excalion.......


Also check out Taking Dawn (balls to the wall hard rock)

Lew06
Lew06

@Russell_Bell @Lew06  There's a sampler album available with 18 bands on it - I'll look up the info and let you know - it's worth picking up.


Ram has a couple of cd's as does Tarot and White Wizzard.

Russell_Bell
Russell_Bell

@Lew06 @Russell_Bell A conclusion I'm (reluctantly) coming to is that rock 'n roll (metal) ain't what it used to be. 

I like a lot of modern bands, but they just don't have the same focus on good times with great riffs. Too much dark stuff that confuses style for substance.

Lew06
Lew06

@Russell_Bell @Lew06  I promise you'll approve - If you like Priest, Maiden, etc., you'll like these guys - especially Ram and Tarot - good guitar work.

Fleming01
Fleming01

@Lew06 @Fleming01@Russell_Bell@TennesseePaul 

Smoke on the Water my favorite. Just didn't think of those 2 as Head Banging music I guess. To my tastes they were just good standard rock but I never cared that much about top 40 or bubblegum rock..

Russell_Bell
Russell_Bell

@Lew06 @Russell_Bell @TennesseePaul  Yeah, they're good stuff. I grew up with 80s thrash, but not the earlier speed metal bands and the such. I generally prefer early German thrash to the American/Bay-area scene (it's harder and edger).

Nice Lew, did not realize you had a metal streak.