Posted: 1:35 pm Sunday, May 4th, 2014

With Braves struggling mightily, some levity from Fredi 

By David O'Brien

 

Sometimes it’s best to try to lessen the tension level and put your guys at ease, rather than peel paint off the walls shouting at them about how things had better change in a hurry. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez decided that Sunday was a day for the former.

With his team mired in a five-game losing streak and batting .194 with 10 runs over their past six games, Gonzalez walked into the daily hitters’ meeting before Sunday’s series finale against the Giants and delivered a message.

“Sometimes you have meetings and guys expect you to rant and rave and throw stuff,” he said. “I popped in the hitters’ meeting today for a little bit and told the guys, ‘Hey, let’s whoop somebody’s ass today. Let’s go out there and score three, really put it to them!’ It kind of got a giggle.”

Even Andrelton Simmons  , the hardest hitter to strike out in the NL, struck out chasing a bad pitch Saturday.

Even Andrelton Simmons , the hardest hitter to strike out in the NL, struck out chasing a bad pitch Saturday.

He said he went on to tell them, more or less, “Hey guys, we’re better than what we’re showing. Let’s get back to discipline.”

Gonzalez said Braves hitters strike out on pitches way out of the strike zone three or four times in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Giants. Justin Upton, Evan Gattis and Andrelton Simmons all did it on third outs with at least one runner on base.

“Every hitter ,when they go in slumps they chase out of the strike zone, and yesterday I can think of situations where we chased balls higher than high, or down, and as soon as they left the pitcher’s hand they were balls,” Gonzalez said. “We’re trying to do too much, instead of taking the base on balls. We got seven  hits yesterday; it wasn’t like we only had two. We had some opportunities. But let’s get back to (discipline). This game is hard enough, let alone when you’re swinging at balls.”

The Braves were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position Saturday and 5-for-35 with RISP during the five-game skid. The Braves entered Sunday ranked 27th in the majors with a .214 average with runners in scoring position, and ranked 30th – dead last — with a .130 average in 100 at-bats with runners in scoring position and two outs.

They were 21 points lower than the next-worst average in that category, Houston’s .151, and 64 points lower than the National League’s second-worst, San Diego’s .194.

The Braves’ futility with RISP and two outs is even more glaring when you consider that Freddie Freeman is a majors-best 5-for-8 in that category. The rest of the team is 8-for-92 (.087) with 27 strikeouts

The Braves trailed 1-0 Saturday in the second inning when they put runners on first and second with none out. Chris Johnson grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. With a runner at third and two out, Dan Uggla walked and the Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong pitched around Simmons on four-pitch walk to load bases for Julio Teheran, whose comebacker to the pitcher ended the inning.

In the third inning, Jason Heyward walked, stole second, then scored the tying run on B.J. Upton’s double. Freeman followed with a single and the Braves had runners on the corners with none out before Justin Upton struck out. Gattis then struck out on full-count pitch above the strike zone and Freeman, running on the pitch, was caught stealing for an inning-ending double play.

Gonzalez had Freeman running on the pitch to try to avoid a double play – pretty standard stuff — but the strategy backfired.

“That 3-2 pitch,” Gonzalez said afterward. “There I’m thinking just put the ball in play, I’m not thinking we’re going to double steal or do anything crazy. Just put the ball in play, give us another run. He swings at ball four. We had a couple of guys today swing at pitches way out of the strike zone. That’s something that we need to talk about.

“I don’t know if it’s pressing; I know everybody wants to do well. But usually when teams go in slumps or individuals slump, usually the first thing you look at is swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. And just thinking about three or four occasions today, we did that.

“We’ll look at it. I’m sure Walk (hitting coach Greg Walker) is as frustrated as we are.”

Chris Johnson said after Saturday’s loss: “Same story as (Friday) night. Had guys on; we left a lot of guys on, myself included. Can’t win a ballgame when you leave guys on base. We had a lot of opportunities. We’ve just got to keep grinding and try to get that big hit.”

Asked about the mood of the team, Johnson said, “Offensively, it’s a little frustration. A lot of us want to be that guy to get the big hit and get us going. We’ve been struggling.”

And as for all the focus being on their struggles with runners in scoring position, Johnson didn’t try to dismiss it.

“When you lose it’s probably because you’re not coming up with those big hits when guys are in scoring position, and that’s why we’re losing ballgames,” he said. “We had a lot of chances. Two hits – we get guys first and second, bases loaded, we get two hits and we beat them. We beat them by a couple of runs. But we’re not doing that right now, and that’s why we’re losing. It’s the offense’s fault mostly.”

The Braves also had a chance in the fifth inning, when Heyward hit a one-out double and B.J. Upton followed with a walk. Freeman broke his bat on a fly out to right field and Justin Upton struck out to end the inning.

“We’re giving ourselves plenty of opportunities to drive in runs; we just haven’t done it,” said Justin Upton, who struck out twice and also grounded into a double play after Freeman’s leadoff walk in the eighth. “We haven’t come up with that big hit. That can doom you sometimes, because when you’re facing good pitching, you get those runners out there, those are times that you have to score. You don’t know when you’re going to get more guys out there.”

Braves Sunday lineup

  1. Heyward RF
  2. BUpton CF
  3. Freeman 1B
  4. JUpton LF
  5. Gattis C
  6. Johnson 3B
  7. Uggla 2B
  8. Pena SS
  9. Wood P

 

 

 Etc.

The Braves entered Sunday with a 6-10 record and .203 batting average vs. the Giants since the start of the 2012 season, and have scored one or no runs in five of the past seven games between the teams…. Andrelton Simmons, who is out of the lineup Sunday for what Gonzalez termed a family matter, has the lowest strikeout-per-plate appearance at one ever 21.2 PAs, while Justin Upton has the NL’s highest rate at one every 3.2 PAs. Gonzalez said Simmons should be back in the lineup Monday and was available if needed Sunday…. JUpton was 9-for-20 with a homer against Giants Sunday starter Madison Bumgarner, while Dan Uggla is 1-for-18 with eight strikeouts against the lefty, and Chris Johnson is 3-for-14 with seven strikeouts against him…. Bumgarner came in with a 1.96 ERA  in three road starts.

• It’s not Sunday morning anymore, but here’s a great song about it by one of the finest, coolest bands that ever graced this mortal coil. Here the Velvet Underground play it here.

“SUNDAY MORNING” by Velvet Underground

Sunday morning, praise the dawning
It’s just a restless feeling by my side
Early dawning, Sunday morning
It’s just the wasted years so close behind
Watch out, the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you who will call It’s nothing at all
Sunday morning and I’m falling

Velvet Underground

Velvet Underground

I’ve got a feeling I don’t want to know
Early dawning, Sunday morning
It’s all the streets you crossed, not so long ago
Watch out, the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you who will call It’s nothing at all
Watch out, the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you who will call It’s nothing at all
Sunday morning
Sunday morning
Sunday morning

1059 comments
oldcrackerfan
oldcrackerfan

Gators just broke up a UGA no-hitter in the 6th--with a bunt.

oldcrackerfan
oldcrackerfan

I only just got here, and I've only read the 1st page of posts.  I notice that nobody is talking about Freddi's comments, which are the subject of DOB's column.  Is that b/c nobody wants to recognize that he's trying to lighten the mood?  It must be pretty tense in that clubhouse.  And he called some people out, which some here would say is hurting their feelings.  Somebody recently said that he should try anything, even if it's wrong.  Ok, he tried something.

ZachSpadt
ZachSpadt

Worse RISP than Houston? Christ. 

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Lets give Paul Runge and Rod Gilbreath a call. They'd give it another whirl...

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

I'm moving this to the top before I get the bends.

Shaun's thoughts on LaStella: "He's going to make a living on consistently squaring up the ball and hitting for a good enough average to make him a second-division major leaguer."

Maybe so, but I hope we'll strive for better with Uggs' replacement.

Second-division MLers are for second-division teams..

What we thought Uggla would be, LaStella doesn't even come close to. Are we gonna set our desired standards so much lower at second base?

CB_
CB_

Lineup with LaStella: 

1- LaStella

2- BJ 

3- FF

4 JUP

5- Heyward

6- Gattis 

7-Johnson

8- Simmons


HugoZHackenbush
HugoZHackenbush

Jesus would not pile on.

When I saw this, I thought of "Dropkick me Jesus, through the goalposts of life." Jesus wouldn't pile on, but would he punt? Would he punt Uggla?

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

By the way another AMAZING signing was that Guy from the Twins...... Ryan Doumit  batting a cool .188.


Where do we find these washed up guys and sign them ?

Old_Man
Old_Man

There was an interesting quote on radio this morning, Uggla making some kind of reference to the fact that it's easy for people to sit back and criticize.  Look, that's totally true, and I know he is in complete agony over where he is right now.  I have been relentless in my jabs, dark humor, hyperbole, etc.  But I know he is unhappy.  I suppose if I was a better person I would not post some of the things I do.  Jesus would not pile on.  I know I have.

But I was curious if anyone saw/heard the comment, and heard the question which prompted it.  I got the odd feeling is was a precursor of something.  Like that "the team's better with me in the lineup" comment from September.

kenhotlanta
kenhotlanta

I have to give props to The Kid for his recently published article...we may not agree with all or any of his points, but the piece was very well written and he shows a lot of potential as a writer if he decides to pursue that instead of meteorology. You did good, Toby. 

Old_Man
Old_Man

I'll take punch-and-judy over punchless-and-judy any day of the week.

MFin04
MFin04

You know what is sadly missing from this team is guys who hit to all fields. I get being pull happy early in counts...but can guys not just bloop stuff the opposite way once in a while?

kenhotlanta
kenhotlanta

ZAZ, did you know there is a French singer named Zazie who is different from Zaz? Found her while looking for someone else.

HugoZHackenbush
HugoZHackenbush

Small sample size follies, pt. 114...Bethancourt's last ten games, OPS .809. Bring him up, cut Laird!

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

Mark Bowman is a beat writer for MLB.com and has been since 2001.  With all due respect, I'm sure he has more sources than all of you and should be taken more seriously than all of you, with regard to him putting it out there that the Braves are considering a La Stella call-up soon.  

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@YourWorstNightmare  My desired standard is Cano or Pedroia.  Are they available at a minimal cost?  


You go with the best option at the cost that works for you.  


Also, you said second-division players are for second-division teams.  Not true, unless you are talking a team full of second-division players.  But plenty of great teams fill in with second-division players at at least a spot or two.  Teams rarely have 8 position players who are all above average.  

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@CB_  No way.  I don't think he's a leadoff hitter.  Maybe he proves us wrong and at that point they can put him at leadoff.  But I'd put him near the bottom.

ncscoots
ncscoots

@HugoZHackenbush  He would not. Uggla serves to keep prying eyes away the team-wide suckage on display. As such, he provides an incredibly useful service.

ZAZ
ZAZ

@Old_Man Yeah, understood...but then I saw all the never-before-played grand pianos staged in his homes/condos................

ZAZ
ZAZ

@Old_Man I just don't want to see the bat waggle any more.........

ZAZ
ZAZ

@kenhotlanta Yeah and both are named Isabelle.........Zaz is Isabelle Geffroy........there is overlap there. Both play some of the same instruments, similar inspirations......interesting how this stuff develops from one generation to the next.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@HugoZHackenbush  Gattis is the starting catcher and his production hasn't been in a steady decline since 2010 to the point where it's now at a 45 OPS+.  He's not 34.  He's not a second baseman who has never had great tools or a diversity of tools.  

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@ShaunATL

I'm not saying anybody wouldn't be an improvement over Uggla, but my Gawd, that criteria ain't enough... We need a hitter who can drive in summa the runs Dan was supposed to... Don't know where/how we'd get him, I just think it'd be a prudent move in the current situation. Replacing Uggla, permanently, with a punch-and-judy hitter, will make us a much less threatening team, and a worse one.

Hell, Id rather have Uggla the entire year than go with LaStella. At least there'd be a threat..

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@ShaunATL

We've got a bench-full of second division players. The last thing we need is to add even more. We'd better be looking for some punch, or things could get even uglier.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@YourWorstNightmare  Uggla looks no better than replacement-level, if that.  A second-division regular would be a step up.  

Old_Man
Old_Man

@ShaunATL @CB_  

I don't disagree, Shaun, but we have Pena, Pastor, LaStella, Constanza, Schafer, all not "ideal" lead off hitters.  (A consistent Schafer would be, but that's another story).  

So it's basically pick the best of some bad alternatives, or trade.

EMWTK
EMWTK

@ShaunATL  Disagree. Heyward needs to move down. Half the point of replacing Uggla, at least in my mind, is to accomplish this.

If TLS can't hit 1 or 2, then leave him alone.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@ncscoots @HugoZHackenbush  Some of us realize that the question of what to do with Uggla is separate from what has gone on with the offense for the past week or so.  Maybe some others think that it's all on Uggla and that La Stella or whoever else would save the offense.  Those people are wrong.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@ncscoots I'll quote Bowman: "As of Sunday, it appeared a potential La Stella promotion was likely at least a few weeks away"


But the point was more to say who are you all to say Bowman doesn't deserve to be taken seriously?  How many sources in MLB do you have?  How long have you been a MLB beat writer?  


Yes, if you have a problem with his analysis about baseball and can build an argument against it, go for it.  But as far as what the Braves' front office is probably doing, I'll go with the beat writers.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@YourWorstNightmare If you've been "doing this" for 46 years, you should understand that a second-division player already in the Braves' system that cost the minimum would work just fine in replacing Uggla, the way he looks and the way he's been trending the last 4 years.

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@ShaunATL

I been doing this for 46-years, I respectfully don't need a tutorial on what a second-division player is..

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@YourWorstNightmare Most players on major league benches are filled with guys typically classified as bench players.  Imagine that.  Players on major league benches are second-division, at best.


Second-division just means below-average regular.  A step below that would probably be a platoon player, then maybe a bench player or an extra player.   

Old_Man
Old_Man

@EMWTK @ShaunATL  

EMWTK, your thought seems to be getting expressed a lot here.  For some it's Uggla, for others it's those top two spots, especially lead off.  For some a little of both.

If you can go from a D to a C+ at lead off, why not do it and replace your worst offensive player at the same time?

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@HugoZHackenbush  I suspect you need to learn more about baseball, and stop being so obsessed with me simply because you don't measure up.  It's okay.  You can get better.  There's plenty of information out there.  It's not as hard as it looks.

EMWTK
EMWTK

@HugoZHackenbush  I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated......

It does kind of remind me of the blog after a loss.

ncscoots
ncscoots

@ShaunATL @ncscoots  Oh, come on. Don't you want to at least get in one age-related-decline comment before we finish? :-)

ncscoots
ncscoots

@ShaunATL @ncscoots  who are you all to say Bowman doesn't deserve to be taken seriously?

I am someone who had previously read his columns, that's who. Someone who had enough data to come to a conclusion, said conclusion being that he wasn't very smart about baseball. Unsurprisingly, I found this to be a deficiency for someone who writes about baseball.

HugoZHackenbush
HugoZHackenbush

I'll go with the beat poets. That Ginsberg was somethin'!