Posted: 2:18 pm Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Braves offense a roller coaster for all concerned 

By David O'Brien

 

  NEW YORK – Chatting with Greg Walker over a week ago at Pittsburgh, early in this three-city road trip, back when the Braves were four games into a five-game winning streak, the Atlanta hitting coach was pointing out how many young players this team has and folks tend to forget since guys like Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward have been around for years.

The subject came up because I’d asked him how tough this rollercoaster ride of a Braves season must be for the hitting coach.

He made that comment about how young many of the Braves’ key players were and said they’re at a stage in their lives where some of them have issues – starting big-league careers, getting married, starting families, living up to new long-term contracts or trying to get one, etc. — that outsiders might not know or consider, and quickly made it clear he wasn’t making any excuses. He was just pointing something out for me.

I said, yeah, it’s not like they’re all established 28-year-old veteran players who’ve got it figured out.

“Somebody is going to coach these guys when they are 28 years old, and it’s going to be easier,” Walker replied. “It’s fun now. A lot of fun. I enjoy the guys, I enjoy the job. But it’s … a lot or our players are young. Another set of issues.”

It wasn't Alex Wood's best start, but it was another quality start unrewarded Tuesday in the Braves' 3-2 loss to the  Mets. (AP photo)

It wasn’t Alex Wood’s best start, but it was another quality start unrewarded Tuesday in the Braves’ 3-2 loss to the Mets. (AP photo)

The Braves won that night to extend their winning streak.

But after going 5-0 with a 2.60 ERA, .299 batting average, 33 runs and 10 homers in five games through Aug. 19, they have since gone 2-4 with a 2.01 ERA but a .219 batting average, 18 runs and three homers in six games.

They’ve totaled 20 hits (.211 average) and five runs during their current three-game losing skid.

A near-perfect microcosm of the 2014 Braves, who are 7 1/2 games behind NL East leader Washington with 30 to play, and 1 1/2 games behind San Francisco for the second NL wild-card spot.

By the way, for the record the Braves opened the season as the National League’s youngest team (27.255 average age) and the second-youngest in the majors behind the Astros. After making some midseason trades – Emilio Bonifacio, James Russell – and callups that swapped out a few younger players for older ones, the Braves’ average age of 28.036 ranks as third-youngest in the NL.

And no, let me make this clear: This is absolutely NOT me making an excuse for the Braves’ overall disappointing offensive performance so far this season. Not my place to do that. Merely pointing out a fact, one that was noted by the hitting coach. They are who they are. There won’t be any excuse-making from me – and I haven’t heard any from them either, to their credit — for performing as they have.

• Braves vs. Mets: Who would have imagined the out-of-contention Mets would have a better record since the All-Star break (17-20) than the playoff-hopeful Braves (16-21).

Not only that, the Braves’ 3-2 loss in Tuesday’s series opener made it four losses in their past five games against the Mets to leave Atlanta one game over .500 (17-16) against the Metropolitans since the beginning of the 2013 season. The Braves have scored three runs or fewer in each of their past six games against them.

Rather remarkably, the Braves have not hit a homer in their past nine games against the Mets. They are 4-5 with a 3.31 ERA and 28 runs scored in those nine games going back to a 14-inning, 4-3 loss in a series finale at Citi Field. Seven of those past nine games between the teams have been decided by one or two runs.

  • J-Up keeps it up: He had a walk and three of the Braves’ eight hits Monday, including an RBI double, and Justin Upton in his past 35 games has hit .331 (41-for-124) with 18 extra-base hits (eight homers), 32 RBIs, 20 walks, .416 OBP, .613 slugging percentage.

The Braves are 15-20 in those games.

“We’ve just got to keep our heads up,” he said after Monday’s loss. “We’ve just got to keep playing. Results are results. There’s nothing we can do about that, we’ve just got to continue to try to play better, play better baseball and try not to get too far ahead of ourselves.”

  • It’s not the pitching: The Braves have the third-best ERA (3.24) in the NL since the All-Star break, but have the league’s fourth-worst record (16-20) since the break, better than only the Reds (12-25), Rockies (13-23) and Diamondbacks (15-21). The three teams with worse records all rank in the bottom six in the league in ERA since the break.

• Two downturns:  Shortstop Andrelton Simmons went 12-for-25 (.480) with seven RBIs and six consecutive two-hit games to begin the month of July. Since then, he’s 26-for-122 (.213) in 34 games with eight extra-base hits, 14 RBIs and a .278 OBP, and has grounded into six double plays.

Rookie second baseman Tommy La Stella hit his first major league home run on Aug. 8. Since then he’s gone 6-for-40 (.150) in 13 games with one double, four RBIs, four walks, seven strikeouts, .227 OBP, .175 slugging percentage.

• Tonight’s matchup: It should be a real good one, with Julio Teheran (12-9, 2.96) facing surging right-hander Zack Wheeler (9-8, 3.48), the pride of Paulding County just outside of Atlanta.

 

Zack Wheeler of Paulding County is 6-0 with a 2.12 ERA in his past 10 starts entering Wednesday's matchup with Julio Teheran and the Braves. (AP photo)

Zack Wheeler of Paulding County is 6-0 with a 2.12 ERA in his past 10 starts entering Wednesday’s matchup with Julio Teheran and the Braves. (AP photo)

Teheran is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and .200 opponents’ average in his past two starts, after going 2-4 with a 5.24 ERA and .300 OA in his previous seven starts. He has only four strikeouts in 12 innings over his past two starts, but allowed just four hits in six innings in each game — at home against Oakland and at Cincinnati, where he pitched six shutout innings Thursday.

Teheran is 7-7 with a 3.99 ERA and .260 opponents’ average in 14 road starts, compared with 5-2 and a 1.95 ERA and .203 OA in 13 home starts. He was 2-5 with a 5.64 ERA and .309 opponents’ average in a stretch of seven road games before shutting out the Reds for six innings Thursday.

Against the Mets, Teheran was 2-0 with a 2.60 ERA in his first five starts, before giving up 11 hits and five runs in 3 1/3 innings of his most recent outing against them, a July 8 loss at Citi Field.

Against Teheran, Eric Young is 5-for-11, Curtist Granderson is 2-for-4 with a homer, David Wright is 3-for-11 with a homer, and Ruben Tejada is 1-for-12.

Wheeler is 6-0 with a 2.12 ERA and .215 opponents’ average in his past 10 starts, with 57 strikeouts and 28 walks in 63 2/3 innings. The Mets averaged 5.9 runs per nine innings he pitched in that span.

Wheeler is 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA in his past four home starts, after losing his previous three in a row. He’s allowed two or fewer runs in each of his past four home starts while pitching into the seventh inning in all and lasting 6 2/3 innings three times.

Against his hometown team, the Braves, Wheeler is 3-1 with a 3.50 ERA in six starts over two seasons, including 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in three this season.

Freddie Freeman is 6-for-11 with a homer, five RBIs, six walks and a .667 OBP against him, and Jason Heyward is 6-for-15 with a homer. B.J. Upton is 3-for-8 against Wheeler, but Justin Upton is 0-for-15 with six strikeouts and Chris Johnson is 2-for-17.

Here’s one off the great new Spoon album, They Want My Soul.  You can listen to it by clicking here.

“NEW YORK KISS”  by Spoon

Spoon

Spoon

Yes, I got shook up
But bets are good
It took it to another ’til I go back

Now when I show up
It’s gonna hit me good
It’s gonna blow my mind
Just like the first time
You told me by the neon sign

And then your New York kiss
I knew your New York kiss
Now it’s another place
A place your memory owns

I come fast
I look past
And I know that it won’t get to me at all
Until I go there
And then it hits me clear and sharp
The streets are empty, there’s no one ’round
It’s a far-off shout, it’s a far-off shout
Just like it was when next day came up
And it felt so tough

From your New York kiss
Mmm, your New York kiss
Now it’s just another place
A place your memory owns

Another place that you own
And it ain’t goin’ back
Caught up inside of it, yeah
Caught up in the moment
Got it right
Oh there ain’t a thing I miss

Not like your New York kiss
Not like your New York kiss
But now it’s just another place
A place your memory owns

Right now I know no other time
Right now I know no other place
I say good night

1248 comments
noleee
noleee

whats up with all the new blogs lately??

MFin04
MFin04

It worked just fine last year.  Why?  They got on base and slugged""

They had a better team, built better for it. Gattis in LF, McCann catching, Uggla hitting and Simmons hitting.

We effectively lost McCann and Ugglas production...

So with those guys gone...OPS would take a hit. Now its time to reevaluate if it can work without those homers...

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Welp. tricky is 2-0, but I've tired of his postmortem obnoxiousness...

BRB

monty1
monty1

Schafer was hitting .296 with is first 125 AB's last season, and OPS around .800 with 9 SB until he fouled the ball off of his foot and had that deep bruise. Some conveniently forget. After that he tanked. Doing a nice job with the Twins. I'd take him over Bono right now, and he is a vast improvement over BJ. Not saying he's some kind of great player, just better than what we have.

tony_austin
tony_austin

Probably not too much to read into this, but the 3 teams who strikeout the least are a combined 50 games over while the three teams that strikeout the most are a combined 38 games under.

raleighbravefan
raleighbravefan

Jebus...you speak the truth here, and get deleted. LOL


Why would that comment be deleted?

count_schemula
count_schemula

Don't we typically fire Pendleton in this situation?

MFin04
MFin04

If Walker doesn't like the strikeout or thinks it has a negative effect on players then he's going to try to eliminate the strike out... which will probably end up hurting this team in the end

MFin04
MFin04

Chipper wasn't a huge fan of the strikeout philosophy either...

noleee
noleee

let me get this right...everybody and their pitbulls want Walker fired, but someone is using quotes from him  as a line of reasoning??

hmmm

noleee
noleee

if any of y'all ketchep fans ever lived near a Heinz cannery, the odor would put a quick stop to you eating that stuff

peee-yew

Rick_C
Rick_C

@DOB I'm not sure how we'll manage to keep all these conversations about strikeouts, BJ Upton, and lineup construction going...

Rick_C
Rick_C

@monty1 I didn't forget.  I think you just forgot the previous seasons of suckage.

raleighbravefan
raleighbravefan

@monty1 Yep. Really PO's me when Wren and the FO think they know more than the bloggers. Arrogant B@stards.

EMWTK
EMWTK

@monty1 You should have sent your memo to Frank a couple of months ago.

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@tony_austin

One'ud thank there's a correlation there...

Course trying to figure-out whether strikeouts are good, or bad, is wayyy over my head...

EMWTK
EMWTK

@raleighbravefan So strikeouts are okay...except when they aren't..

And that, sir, is exactly it.

_DAP_
_DAP_

@MFin04 Chipper had a certain set of abilities that made it possible for him to not strikeout much. not alot of players have that, and the ones that do are typically hall of famers.

tony_austin
tony_austin

@noleee I don't want Walker fired, I want the hitters to gain a better recognition of the strike zone and of the current situation.  When the hitter is ahead in the count and swings at a pitch that nearly bounces then that is a problem.  Too many times the hitters have swung at pitches no where near the strike zone.


Aggressiveness is okay when the hitter recognizes the pitch and location.  Swinging at bouncers and above the strike zone pitches is overaggressive and needs to be corrected.

abeeeewright
abeeeewright

@noleee

Walker should be fired because his name is deceptive.


Braves thought they were hiring a guy who would increase walks & OBP.


Instead, they got a guy who wants to drive in runs.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@noleee Fredi and the coaching staff are safe for now. The General's son is not ready for the move up yet . He will be in Gwinnett in 2015 and on Fredi's staff in 2016, he will be ready for the move to Cobb in 2017. Who says nepotism is not a great thing.

MFin04
MFin04

Walker should be fired if he hates strikeouts...

It doesn't jive with the team philosophy

EMWTK
EMWTK

@noleee Somebody's got to take the fall. It's nothing personal.

VeniceJim
VeniceJim

@noleee Nala does NOT want Walker fired - she prefers to drive Cobby crazy...

MFin04
MFin04

You wouldn't eat chicken if you knew where it came from...that or hotdogs...

tony_austin
tony_austin

@CobbBraveNightmare @tony_austin Honestly I don't, but I just hate the strikeout.  I understand the argument about it being no worse than any other out, just a pet peeve of mine.


The bottom 3 teams just aren't very good teams right now, I'm sure that's the difference, but I just found it coincidental because of my hatred of the K.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@CobbBraveNightmare How well do those teams get on base and slug?  How are their pitching staffs?  How is their defense?  It's not that simple.

MFin04
MFin04

Get more Hall of Famers then!!!

raleighbravefan
raleighbravefan

@MFin04 I have toured a chicken processing plant, and I know what's in hot dogs. Doesn't deter me a whit.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@Buschleaguer Yeah, he's done terrible at his job of holding the players' equipment when they get to first base.  Did you see him drop Justin's shinguard the other day?  Awful...

MFin04
MFin04

Or maybe a HOF hitting coach...

MFin04
MFin04

A modern day hero! ;-) I suppose there is a recency effect...

MFin04
MFin04

Lol. Heck I wanted 9 Chippers...who didn't get hurt..