Posted: 1:35 pm Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Braves’ upper hand on Nats about to be tested 

By David O'Brien

WASHINGTON – The Braves are 22-7 with a 2.05 ERA in their past 29 games against the Nationals (since Aug. 22, 2012), including 5-1 with a 2.17 ERA in six games this season.

And yet, the Nats still chirped.

Their players did for all of last season as the Braves dominated the rivalry, and even their general manager couldn’t stop himself after a couple of losses to the Braves in early April.

Nats GM Mike Rizzo told The Washington Post that the Braves had “come out on the winning side of it more than we’d like,” then added, “but we feel confident against this team. We respect them, and we respect their organization. But we don’t fear them. We think we’re the better team, and at the end of the day we’re going to come out on top.”

Evan Gattis had a two-run homer when he extended his hitting streak to 17 games Wednesday. The Braves need him to keep it up and get some help in their important four-game series against the Nationals starting  Thursday.

Evan Gattis had a two-run homer when he extended his hitting streak to 17 games Wednesday. The Braves need him to keep it up and get some help in their important four-game series against the Nationals starting Thursday. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Braves won two of three in the April 4-6 series at Washington in the first week of the season, and swept three from the Nationals at Turner Field April 11-13. But right now, they aren’t giving the Nats – or any team – reason to fear the chop.

The teams haven’t faced each other since those April series, and they’ve been headed in opposite directions of late.

The Braves are 8-14 with a 4.76 ERA in their past 22 games, while the Nationals are 12-6 with a 2.48 ERA in their past 18.

The Braves went 17-7 with a 2.04 ERA in their first 24 games through April 27, and have since gone 19-28 with a 4.12 ERA.

After going 12-11 with a 3.49 ERA in their first 23 games, the Nationals are 25-22 with a 2.89 ERA in their past 47 games.

For the month of June, Braves pitchers rank last in the NL and 28th in the majors in opponents’ OBP (.356), and 27th in opponents’ OPS (.793). The Nats lead the NL and rank second in the majors with a .281 opponents’ OBP in June, and third in opponents’ OPS (.629).

Meanwhile, Braves hitters have a .313 OBP in June that’s tied with Tampa for 17th in the majors, and that’s despite trips to hitter-friendly ballparks in Colorado and Arizona. The Braves are 16th in the majors in scoring for the month, have the majors’ third-most strikeouts for the month (fewer than only the Marlins and Cubs), and rank dead last in the majors with one sacrifice fly in June. No other team has fewer than two, and nine teams have seven or more sac flies this month.

For the season, the Braves are 29th in the majors in runs (258), ahead of only the Padres. The Braves are fifth in strikeouts (616), 19th in walks (205), and tied for 10th in homers (70).

 The Braves’ starting rotation still ranks fourth in the majors with a 3.34 ERA, but that number has risen steadily in recent weeks and isn’t far below 5.00 for the month. The bullpen started the season shaky, leveled off for a bit, and has looked worn and inconsistent again in recent weeks.

Braves relievers are currently tied for 13th in the majors with a 3.55 ERA and rank 19th in opponents’ OBP (.328) and 10th in opponents’ OPS (.668). Last season Braves relievers led the majors in ERA (2.46) and opponents’ OPS (.607) and finished second in opponents’ OBP (.292).

To recap, that’s a drop from first to 13th in ERA for Braves relievers since last season, and from second to 19th in opponents’ OBP.

The Nationals’ majors-best 2.54 bullpen ERA is now a full run lower than the Braves’ bullpen ERA.

 • Gattitude adjustment: While the Nats now have legitimate reason to have some of that “Natitude” they promoted with the slogan on the outfield wall, the Braves haven’t had much to crow about lately other than their streaking, slugging catcher.

Evan Gattis continues to rake through the team’s overall recent slumber, and enters the Nats series with a 17-game hitting streak in which he’s 27-for-69 (.391) with three doubles and a whopping eight homers, 20 RBIs and .783 slugging percentage.

It’s the longest active hitting streak in the majors and the longest for a Braves franchise catcher since at least 1900.

In his past 48 games, Gattis has  hit .306 (52-for-170) with 22 extra-base hits, 15 homers, 36 RBIs, a .364 OBP and a .618 slugging percentage.

He’s seen significant improvement since making adjustments to his stance that have enabled him to cover more of the plate and get to pitches away and low, areas where he previously had a hole in his swing that opponents expoited. Most importantly, he’s been able to avoid chasing bad pitches, a problem in the past. He’s not getting behind in counts nearly as often as before.

Gattis has hit .313 with 7 HRs and a .638 slugging percentage in 80 at-bats with runners on base this season. As a rookie in 2013, he hit .250 with 10 homers and a .473 slugging percentage in 184 at-bats with runners on base.

He already has hit five homers (with a .173 average) in 81 at-bats with two strikes, after hitting six homers (with a .125 average) in 160 at-bats with two strikes as a rookie.

By the way, Gattis has homered in two of his past four games at Nationals Park, including the only game he played there in the April series in the first weekend of the season.

 • J-Hey on rise: The other big performer in the Braves lineup for a sustained period is Jason Heyward, who has raised his average with runners in scoring position to a team-best .348 (16-for-46). That ranks eventh in the NL, just behind the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig (.350) and ahead of the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter (.345). Troy Tulowitizki leads the majors at .400.

Heyward was moved from leadoff to fifth in the order on Wednesday as manager Fredi Gonzalez tried to get the offense going by shaking up the lineup.

Beginning April 20, Heyward has hit .290 with 17 extra-base hits and a .363 OBP in his past 53 games. In his past 35 games, the big right fielder is 43-for-142 (.303) with six homers, 19 RBIs, a .381 OBP and .472 slugging percentage.

Day-game doldrums: There’s only one day game  (Sunday) in this four-game series against the Nats, and for the Braves that’s a good thing. Atlanta hit just.212 with a .332 slugging percentage in day games, compared to .258 with a .405 slugging percentage in night games.

That explains the Braves’ 9-13 record in day games and 27-22 record in night games, despite having a 3.52 ERA in day games that’s not significantly higher than their 3.35 ERA in night games.

• Opening matchup: It’ll be Gavin Floyd facing the Nats’ white-hot Jordan Zimmermann in tonight’s series opener.

Floyd has a 2.31 ERA in four road starts, but just a 1-2 road record to show for it. The win came June 9 at Colorado, where he allowed three hits and one run in 6 2/3 innings for his first Braves win in his seventh overall start.

He’s 1-2 with a 4.45 ERA  in six starts against the Nationals. His only start against them in the past four seasons was an April 2013 loss at Washington in which he gave up nine hits and five runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Denard Span is  17-for-38 (.447) against Floyd, Ian Desmond is 4-for-6, and Adam LaRoche is 2-for-11 with a homer and four strikeouts.

Zimmermann is on a tear, going 2-1 with a 0.36 ERA in three June starts, with 21 strikeouts and two walks in 25 innings. He had 12 strikeouts in a two-hit shutout June 8 at San Diego.

He’s 3-1 with a 2.98 ERA in eight career starts against the Braves, with 45 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings. Zimmermann got no decision April 4 when he allowed four hits and one run with nine strikeouts in five innings of a Braves win in Washington.

Justin Upton is 5-for-14 against Zimmermann, while Heyward is 3-for-12 with a homer, Freddie Freeman is 3-for-13 and B.J. Upton is 2-for-10 with four strikeouts. Also, Andrelton Simmons is 2-for-7 against Zimmermann, Gattis is 1-for-5 with a homer, and Jordan Schafer is 1-for-8.

  • Etc.

  Justin Upton has a .299 average with five homers and a .517 slugging percentage in 23 games at Nationals Park, while Freddie Freeman has a .283 average but just one homer in 30 games (106 at-bats) at the park that still doesn’t have a corporate sponsor even though they’ve tried long and hard to find one willing to pay a price the Nats deem suitable for naming rights.

• Here’s a, ahem, killer tune from one of the all-time rockers, the late, great Joe Strummer. Listen to it by clicking here.

“LOVE KILLS” by Joe Strummer

Walking out of England thinking you were king
Taking on this world, on that bus that goes through Mexico
A killer love finds a sweet Mexican girl
But in Mississippi we rushed into the room

Down in Dixie you were crying for dope
Down in Alabama, they like home cooked fare, yeah
So we’re gonna strap you to the frying chair, yeah

Joe Strummer

Joe Strummer

But I don’t know what love is
Is there something else giving me the chills?
But if my hands are the color of blood
Then baby, I can tell ya, sure I can tell ya
Love kills, kills, love kills, kills

Do you wanna hear all the sirens
Of the city drown the arguing?
We’re on Rikers Island on a population board
They don’t care about your fame

But I don’t know what love is
Is there something else giving me the chills?
But if my hands are the color of blood
Then baby, I can tell ya, sure I can tell ya
Love kills, kills, love kills, kills

On the Rio Grande they’ll tie you to a tree
Ooh, oh, ohh, ooh, oh, ohh
And you can’t call the lawyers
‘Cause the whorehouse is asleep
Ohh, oh, ohh, ooh, oh, ohh

You people will get weak
Ohh, oh, ohh, ooh, oh, ohh
They’ll throw you in a cell
Where you can barely breathe
Ohh, oh, ohh, ooh, oh, ohh

But I don’t know what love is
Is there something else giving me the chills?
But if my hands are the color of blood
Then baby, I can tell ya, sure I can tell ya
Love kills, kills, love kills, kills

 

 

1754 comments
ERM016
ERM016

Tried to get the lineup going, but yet, left the biggest hole in it. 

Move. BJ. Out. Of. The. Two. Hole!

noleee
noleee

The Buchter , the Butcher is coming

all other teams are domed....

MFin04
MFin04

I don't know about in Washington...but in Atlanta theyve owned Strasburg.

Hope it continues..

ncscoots
ncscoots

Hey, how many beatdowns did Star and Elder take for going bust at the top last night, LOL? I haven't scrolled back any to read them, so somebody just give me the highlights. :-)

DS1
DS1

I was traveling during the game last evening, but I caught the highlights on MLB Gameday.  Floyd was DEALING with that curve or slider or whatever it is he throws.  Had guys swinging at pitches in the opposite batters box.

HugoZHackenbush
HugoZHackenbush

Buchter has allowed no runs in eight of his last ten appearances, allowing two runs in two 2-inning appearances.

ncscoots
ncscoots

My question of reaction in the event of a first-game loss yesterday went like this from the DC game story:

"If the Nationals could not beat the Braves on Thursday, when Justin Upton sat, Jordan Zimmermann pitched and Atlanta starter Gavin Floyd exited early with a broken arm, then when will they?"

LumanHarris
LumanHarris

I bet Harang will delighted to hear that it doesn't matter how many hits and runs a pitcher gives up.


Rick_C
Rick_C

shawn (atl)

do you see the braves making an even bigger push for price/samardzija?

Jayson Stark (12:59 PM)

Sounds like they're scouting all potential rotation upgrades. Whether they can deal for one is another story. But people around the Cubs and Rays say they've been watching both of those guys carefully.

DS1
DS1

Dear Mr CobbBraveNightmare:


We are the IRS.  We need you to send us ALL your records of the past 25 years.  And we don't want to hear any bullshyt about hard drives crashing or missing emails!


You have one day to respond.  Thank you for your prompt attention to this request!


Your Friendly IRS Agent

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Rawky Mountain High Remix:

He was scorned in the summer of his thirty-second year, coming home to a job he can't perform

He left yesterday behind him, you might say he sucks again

You might say he found a zone that we abhor

It's the Danny Uggla swing and miss or die, I've seen it raining balls by his side

The backdraft from his bat, man, will make a grown man cryyyy

Swing and miss or dieeee, Danny-boyoooo, Swing and miss or dieeee, Danny-boy-oooooo

MFin04
MFin04

So you are trying to make each pitchers numbers appear like they play behind the same defense even though they clearly don't.

But we don't make the assumption that they pitch differently based on their personal behind them?

Seems like s lot of assumptions

HugoZHackenbush
HugoZHackenbush

@ncscoots  Virtually nothing about La Stella...maybe they were taking into account his 10 PAs at the spot!

monty1
monty1

@DS1  Reminded me of my old whiffle ball days. Sigh....

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@ncscoots

I would say something, but the BBGs and noleee would be really pissed.

I'll just go ahead and say the opposite. It's a mental thang with us and the Gnats. We know they've got our number, and they know it too!

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@LumanHarris

Harang went into trade-prevention mode with his last start...

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@LumanHarris Who said it doesn't matter?  


More than just the pitcher's skills influence how many hits and runs that pitcher gives up.  And when evaluating a pitcher, we should try to isolate the pitcher's performance and strip about other factors as best we can.  Obviously it matters how many runs a pitcher gives up.  The issue is that it's not just the pitcher giving up hits and runs.  That's why teams also try to get good defensive players in addition to good pitchers, so that they allow fewer hits and fewer runs.  

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@Rick_C

And we were apparently bout to trade one...

I just pray Santana gets some consistency going.

ncscoots
ncscoots

@Rick_C @DS1

And not close swings, either. Some of those nobody-saw-that-did-they swings.

HugoZHackenbush
HugoZHackenbush

Thanks, I was trying to show why they would've picked him over other relievers.

ncscoots
ncscoots

@Rick_C @ncscoots I got absolutely no answer for 'em. Now, they may come up off the deck and take the next three, for all I know, but damn...all the ledger entries were on the Nats' side last night, and the Braves still put profit in the other column.

If they beat Strasburg tonight, too, frickin' Ray Knight might hang himself from the TV desk or something.

MFin04
MFin04

Shauns discussion below...

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@LumanHarris

Thanks buddy, wish I could see it. I still got the helmet.

Don't know why y'all's's changes before mine does.

monty1
monty1

@CobbBraveNightmare @ncscoots He didn't K 3 times and he only let one ball fall in  front of him, but the announcers said the guy "swung hard and hit it soft, which is hard to read,". So all in all not a real bad night for BJ. Low expectations is the key.

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@ncscoots

I left a couple nights ago during game cause it was nothing but trools.

Last night might be the least criticism I've ever seen here during game.

Mentioned it last night.

monty1
monty1

@ncscoots @Rick_C @DS1 Prolly a combination of electric stuff and an opposing team that was little geeked up, wanting to bust the snot out of it.

Fleming01
Fleming01

@MFin04 

That was a side discussion about two hypothetical players with identical stats other than BABIP playing in front of the same defense. Has nothing to do with the Strasberg Medlen comparison.

And certainly ERA and W_L wasn't mentioned.

And would prefer to keep it below out of the blogs way so people don't have to read it unless they want

MFin04
MFin04

I don't worry about his at bats. His are the most relaxed at bats I have watching the game...

I expect Ks and anything else is chocolate sauce...

ncscoots
ncscoots

@monty1 @CobbBraveNightmare @ncscoots

All you can do is hit the ball hard somewhere, but I can't imagine Upton getting any grace for hard outs. He doesn't have enough good will built up for that to happen.

MFin04
MFin04

Ok so what is the purpose of FIP may be what I'm looking for...?

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@MFin04 FIP is just an attempt to isolate a pitcher's performance and strip away outside factors, like the defense behind him.  When evaluating an individual player, obviously it's good to get at the way the individual performed and isolate his performance as best you can, rather than look at things that are more influenced by factors outside of his own performance.  


Can you imagine a scout claiming that his team should go after a pitcher who inferior to another simply because he gave up fewer hits and fewer runs?  No.  We need to look at how a guy pitched, not how many hits and runs he gives up because hits are runs are influenced by factors such as defense and luck, chance, coincidence, seeing-eye hits or hard-hit balls hit at fielders, etc.  

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@MFin04 No evaluator, whether it be a scout or a stat person, is going to read into hits allowed and runs allowed and not try to isolate the pitcher and look at how the pitcher performed.