Posted: 2:37 pm Monday, June 16th, 2014

Gattis to left field not being discussed yet 

By David O'Brien

 Evan Gattis is in the midst of a power-laden 15-game hitting streak going in which the Braves catcher has racked up 25 hits, seven homers, 18 RBIs, a .470 OBP and an .817 slugging percentage. In his past 46 games going back to April 12, El Oso Blanco has hit .311 with 14 homers, 34 RBIs, a .367 OBP and a .621 slugging percentage.

In 180 at-bats as a catcher this season, Gattis has hit .300 with 15 homers – he leads major league catchers in that category — 34 RBIs, a .349 OBP and a .594 slugging percentage. His only other five at-bats came as a pinch-hitter (1-for-5).

Oh, and Braves pitchers have a 3.28 ERA in 417 innings with Gattis catching, compared t

Evan Gattis has been the best-hitting catcher in the majors this season.

Evan Gattis has been the best-hitting catcher in the majors this season.

o a 3.48 ERA in 176 innings with Gerald Laird catching and a 3.50 ERA in 18 innings with Ryan Doumit behind the dish.

Clearly, it’s time for those who questioned the viability of Gattis as a major league hitter to admit they were dead wrong (though I doubt they will just yet). And it’s also becoming clear that Gattis can be a solid, if not exceptional, defensive catcher. Not going to win any Gold Gloves back there, but not the liability that some expected he’d be.

And given his level of experience – he only caught in 42 games (38 starts) as a rookie and 49 games (46 starts) this season – and the fact that pitchers and his manager saying he’s improved steadily in terms of his defensive skills and calling games, it’s reasonable to assume he can be at least a middle-of-the-pack sort of catcher defensively for years to come, as long as his surgically repaired knee and 250-pound body hold up (so far, he’s not any significant problems in that regard).

So what you have is a at least a serviceable defensive catcher who is now the best power-hitting catcher in baseball.

And if you moved Evan Gattis to left field, you’d have a guy who would be one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball, with real good but not exceptional offensive numbers for that position.

And that’s one reason that, from what I’m told by more than one person in the organization, the Braves aren’t talking about moving Gattis to left field this season and moving Justin Upton to right field and Jason Heyward to center and facilitate the benching of underperforming B.J. Upton, as laid out in a published report that said it’s something the Braves have discussed.

In that scenario, defensively gifted catching prospect Christian Bethancourt, who finally started to hit in the second half of the 2013 season in Double-A and has hit .312 in his past 37 games in Triple-A, would be brought up the majors and ostensibly become the primary catcher with backup from Gerald Laird.

Let me put it this way, if it’s something that’s been discussed, then it’s within a very small circle of folks and has not been shared with other people that one would certainly expect to be involved in such discussions. And I’ll leave it at that.

Besides the fact that Gattis was a bad defensive outfielder by major league standards when he played 48 games in left field as a rookie in 2013, and the fact that he’s not done any work in the outfield this year because he was told he’d be exclusively catching unless there’s an emergency or the Braves need him for a game or two in the outfield or first base to give someone a rest, there’s one other big reason why the move doesn’t make much sense: B.J. Upton.

Or, to be more specific, B.J. Upton’s contract.

He’s got just over 3 ½ seasons left  on a five-year, $75.25 million contract that has steadily increasing annual salaries. The Braves, midway through the second year of the largest free-agent contract in franchise history, are not ready to bench the guy when he’s healthy. Too early for that.

Maybe in the stretch drive of the playoff race, if we get to  August and the Braves are desperate and feel like they have no other choice, they’d bench B.J. if he’s still playing like he has been (again) lately. But not in June. Not before the All-Star break. Not when the Braves are still in first place.

Oh, and not when B.J.’s brother is a key part of the lineup and is signed through 2015.

Those of you who think Dan Uggla has been a distraction in the clubhouse – and he hasn’t been – might want to consider how, well, awkward it might be if the Braves bench the team’s current highest-paid player when he’s got 3 ½ years left on his contract and a brother playing beside him in the outfield.

Anyway, Bethancourt, 22, is hitting .274 overall with 11 doubles, two homers and a .301 OBP and .371 slugging percentage in his first season in Triple-A. It’s not as if the Braves have to worry about him getting stale there or him losing any potential trade allure because he’s been in the minors so long. He’s one of the youngest players in that league.

But getting back to Gattis. As a catcher, he’s an elite-level power hitter. He’s on pace for about 110 starts, and the Braves can catch him more if they need to or want to and believe he can hold up to the grind of squatting and wearing the gear in the Atlanta heat all summer.

By September, when they might want him to do that, it should be cooling off a bit here and the cities the Braves visit.

I’m not saying the Braves won’t eventually considering benching B.J. Upton, who has struggled offensively for most of the season and played some sloppy defense as well.

Upton has hit .208 (23-for-11) in his past 28 games with three homers, 12 walks, 33 strikeouts, a .282 OBP and four errors, including costly errors Friday and Saturday. For the season he’s at .210 with a .284 OBP, .634 OPS, six homers and 11 stolen bases. Bad. Real bad. Again.

If he keeps playing like this through midseason, to me it seems like they almost have to give Jordan Schafer a shot in center, at least on a part-time basis.

But benching the guy with 3 ½ years left on his five-year, $75.25 million contract, moving the best power-hitting catcher in baseball to the outfield where he’s uncomfortable and bad defensively, and calling up a 22-year-old (Bethancourt) who has two homers and a .672 OPS in Triple-A to be your primary catcher? In June? That seems a bit extreme.

• Here is some video I took today of first-round draft pick Braxton Davidson taking batting practice with the Braves today after signing his contract.

And here is video of Terry Pendleton talking about the death of his friend and playing contemporary, the great  Tony Gwynn.

• We’ll close with this one from a great and underrated singer-songwriter, Leon Durham.

“DRIFTING WOOD” by Lincoln Durham

One path leads to destruction I got two idle hands that’ll get me there

Three stand before me to enlighten I’d reach for the shores if I dared 

Let the wind act as a savior

Let it guide like a savior should

May the river have mercy have mercy on the drifting wood 

I may be hanging from a tree come next morning

Gone to from whence I came

Lincoln Durham

Lincoln Durham

My world is burning down to ashes

By match or by chance it’s all the same 

 Let the wind act as a savior

Let it guide like a savior should

May the river have mercy

have mercy on the drifting wood 

These waters are deep and they are unheeding

I could swim upstream or just go along for the ride

The latter of which has this clear warning

That’s to doom myself to a passive suicide 

Let the wind act as a savior

Let it guide like a savior should

May the river have mercy

have mercy on the drifting wood 

 

 

1297 comments
MFin04
MFin04

certainly in bj's case there was no indication that his skill would reduce so much...

That's more true of Uggla than BJ. BJ has been declining offensively for a while. That or just isn't a very good offensive player for the last few years. His on base is a wreck in recent years that's for sure.

JerseyGil
JerseyGil

I Just proof that The Underperformance Insurance exist but i don't know if the Braves has one to cover large contract.

DS1
DS1

Bo Graves!!

JerseyGil
JerseyGil

Skill reduction — Only recently available, teams can buy this insurance to protect against underperformance by key free-agent signings. For example, if the Cincinnati Reds wanted to guarantee that Ken Griffey Jr. continued to put up MVP numbers, they could use this insurance. If he significantly underperformed in relation to those expectations, this insurance would become effective.


http://m.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2000/02/20000228/No-Topic-Name/$Font-


Size3sports-RELATED-Insurancefont.aspx

DOB
DOB moderator

David Hale was 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA in 21 career games (six starts) before giving up five runs in the 13th inning of each of his past two outings Saturday and Tuesday, and taking the loss in each of those games. He had allowed 12 runs (10 earned) in 54 career innings before being charged with 10 runs (seven earned) in 3 1/3 innings over those past two outings.

Hale gave up six hits and five walks with no strikeouts in those two outings.

David Carpenter has an 11.81 ERA and .563 opponents’ average in his past 10 appearances, with 18 hits, seven runs, three walks and eight strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.

noleee
noleee

@MFin04

yes on dan, not so on BJ, his numbers the last 4 seasons in Tampa were fairly steady, on indication that all of a sudden he would not be able to hit 200

kenhotlanta
kenhotlanta

@Rick_C Carp seems to have a Take no shyt attitiude...I like that, and we need more of it. 

noleee
noleee

@Rick_C

great stuff

one of the 988,144 guitarists that Cobb thinks is better than Clapton.....

noleee
noleee

@JerseyGil

just because it is available does not mean teams will use it, certainly in bj's case there was no indication that his skill would reduce so much, and those policies are expensive

noleee
noleee

@CobbBraveNightmare

makes clapton look like cobby,

and in that case we might need to put eric on suicide watch....

_DAP_
_DAP_

@DOB i guess it really was unsustainable.

DS1
DS1

@DOB In defense of Hale, he'd not been used for 8 days since the end of May, then over the course of the next 8 days, he's used 5 times for over 8 innings of work.  I'm sure this could be a partial contributor to his recent failures.

Not blaming anybody though, cause sometimes that's the way the cookie crumbles.

EMWTK
EMWTK

@DOB But wait! Shaun told me Carpenter was fine just the other day........

noleee
noleee

@DOB

could just be that 13 is an unlucky number.....

MFin04
MFin04

He was basically a 240/310 hitter with power over the last 4 years...hitting for power in NY, Boston, and Toronto.

EMWTK
EMWTK

@DS1  Don't worry. He get's to cry on the way to the bank.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@EMWTK He was fine until he got hurt.  He was striking out more batters per 9 IP, walking fewer batters per 9 IP, giving up slightly fewer homeruns per 9 than last season.  But a .452 BABIP.  


You do realize that things like ERA and hits allowed aren't entirely influenced by the pitcher's skills, right?  

noleee
noleee

@EMWTK @DOB

well, in that case, braves are obviously mistaken....

noleee
noleee

@MFin04

yes, no reason to think that would drop off like it has

noleee
noleee

@EMWTK @DS1

no he does not, there is no crying in baseball

he can rub a little dirt on his bad luck though iffen he wants to

i can't believe how many here have so little knowledge of the inside workings of the BBGs and baseball....

EMWTK
EMWTK

@ShaunATL  David Carpenter has an 11.81 ERA and .563 opponents’ average in his past 10 appearances, with 18 hits, seven runs, three walks and eight strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.

That's some mighty bad luck there, bucky. Mighty bad.

ncscoots
ncscoots

@ShaunATL @EMWTK Well, I think his LD% was up by about a third, too, which will tend to bloat your BABIP. :-) When they're hitting more rockets, they tend to fall in a little more.

Sure, the guy had some bleeders and a little bad luck, but he was, in fact, unable to command his secondary pitches and that left hitters sitting on his heater. That's going to tilt the player towards failure, regardless of luck.

MFin04
MFin04

Hmm, I kinda liked that whole exchange. Pitcher did his job, Gattis took it and did his job. Game over.

Not sure about a suspension. But that's just a nice rest for a reliever.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@EMWTK Yes.  I've already established that's some mighty bad luck.  A .452 BABIP is a strong indication of some mighty bad luck.  That will cause a pitcher's ERA to be ridiculously high and that will cause opponents to have an extremely high batting average.


You see, in baseball there is a pitcher, there is a defense, and there is neither a pitcher or a defense doing anything particularly bad but a batted ball still becoming a hit.  When evaluating, it's important to isolate what the pitcher does, what the defense does, and to take into account the times in which the pitcher and defense don't do anything particularly wrong or bad but a batted ball becomes a hit.  Got to dig a little deeper than basic stats, into what actually happened. 

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@ncscoots @EMWTK His LD% was at 30.1%.  Last season it was at 22.9%.  For his career, it was at 24.5%.  


Nothing so drastic as to produce a .452 BABIP versus a .353 BABIP for his career or a .260 BABIP from last season or a normal BABIP of around .300.  


Now David Carpenter isn't as good a pitcher as he was last season.  But he's not nearly as bad as he was this season.  

ncscoots
ncscoots

@ShaunATL @EMWTK

His LD% was at 30.1%.  Last season it was at 22.9%.

As I said, about a third higher. As in, 33% of 22.9 higher. As in 22.9% + 7% = ~ 30. Geez. 

A BABIP varying so widely from the norm as Carpenter's in no way can be directly attributable to luck. There are bound to be underlying factors in the pitcher's contribution to that number.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@EMWTK What makes things even more tricky is that sometimes what has happened is not what is likely to happen going forward.  So not only might we attribute to a pitcher failures of defense and/or bad luck (if we look at the wrong stats or if we use stats incorrectly), we also might assume that a pitcher performing badly (or with bad superficial stats) will continue to do so, even if other info indicates he won't.  

EMWTK
EMWTK

@ShaunATL @EMWTK Is that a fact? I'm not sure I've ever heard that before.

Thanks for trying to straighten me out!

Fleming01
Fleming01

@ShaunATL @EMWTK 

Sounds like some mighty bad grooving of pitches to me

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@ncscoots @EMWTK Of course a pitcher influences BABIP some.  But when it's so ridiculously and abnormally high or low, that's an indication not all the hits are on the pitcher.


We remember the times he was hit hard, look at his ERA, hits allowed, opponents' BA, etc. and we overlook strikeouts, walks, homeruns allowed and weak contact.  


You remember the times he was hit hard, you see that his ERA is high and you assume that he's been pitching poorly.  But you don't realize that he's actually been pitching fine because your mind is already made up based on ERA and the times you remember hard hit balls being hit off him.


You know who has the second-highest LD% on the Braves' staff?  Craig Kimbrel at 27.1%.  Yet, Kimbrel's BABIP is .306.  

noleee
noleee

@EMWTK

Dummy, it is never about what actually happens, but what should have happened

I thought everybody knew that....

Fleming01
Fleming01

@EMWTK @ShaunATL 

EMWTK No way is throwing a straight fastball down the middle and getting the cover knocked off it is the pitchers fault. It's just that his BABIP is high. Pitcher didn't cause the high BABIP. No Way

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@Fleming01 How so?  All the peripherals for Carpenter were as good as ever.  His BABIP was abnormally and ridiculously high.  All this indicates that Carpenter himself was performing fine, but other factors led to a high ERA for him and a high opponents' batting average for him.  Perhaps you should learn the difference between a stat belonging to a player and a player always having influence over that stat.  Obviously defense and luck can influence hits allowed and ERA. 

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@noleee It is about what actually happened.  Carpenter actually pitched well.  An unusually high number of batted balls actually became hits in spite of Carpenter actually pitching just fine.  

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@Fleming01 @EMWTK Obviously sometimes he's going to groove a fastball and it's going to get hit hard.  That's going to happen to all pitchers.  But when a pitcher is striking out hitters as often, walking hitters as rarely, and giving up homeruns as rarely, it's unusual for that many of a pitcher's batting balls to become hits.  

Fleming01
Fleming01

@ShaunATL @Fleming01 

Shaun do you understand at all that there can be a difference in the quality of pitches thrown and that bad pitches get hit hard and therefore harder for fielders to turn into outs thus raising BABIP levels. Just because the number hit on ground or on line etc stays the same BABIP don't measure how hard they were hit.

noleee
noleee

@ShaunATL @noleee

oh yeah, he pitched so well that hie gave up a dozen runs and lost two games in just two innings. thats really pitching well, no doubt

Fleming01
Fleming01

@ShaunATL 

Shaun- "Obviously sometimes he's going to groove a fastball and it's going to get hit hard"

And just as obvious if you groove more of them then your BABIP is going up without a dam thing to do with luck

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@noleee LOL at people who actually watch baseball and seem to be halfway intelligent and have half a brain actually thinking that pitchers' skills entirely and completely influence hits allowed and ERA, that defense and luck in no way play a role in hits allowed and ERA.  

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@noleee I've already commented, a pitcher doesn't always and completely have influence over hits and runs allowed.  In baseball there is also defense and there is also a pitcher and defense not doing anything bad or wrong but batted balls still becoming hits.  

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@Fleming01 But the thing is he hasn't grooved enough to match his ERA, hits allowed, opponents' BA, etc.  Look at his peripherals, how he's actually pitched, the things his skills directly influence and it's impossible to conclude that Carpenter has had a normal amount of luck and/or defensive help.  


But you don't want to do that because you don't want to ruin your trust of the almighty ERA.  If a pitcher has a bad ERA and allows a bunch of hits, he's automatically bad in your world.  You can't comprehend that defense and luck plays a role in a pitcher's ERA and hits allowed, which frankly is pretty amazing.  I'm not picking on you.  It's amazing that that's what a lot of seemingly halfway intelligent people seem to think.