May 05, 2009

I Hate Baseball

I hate baseball.

The Braves make me hate baseball sometimes. It’s not like it was when I was a kid. Back then, the team was also awful. The difference? Back then, we didn’t expect anything more out of the team. With all due respect to the Cubs, those Braves of the ‘80s were loveable losers. This current crop of Braves has played 2009 as…well, losers.

            Projections for this season had hopes high in Braves fandom. The season started off nicely enough, at least record-wise. Atlanta stormed through the Phillies and Nationals to start 5-1. Since then they are 6-13. That’s just sad. We hear from the official team mouthpiece that, despite the ugly start, the Braves are still in a good position because none of the other teams in the National League East have put it all together yet either. Ask yourself this, though: Haven’t you heard this before? Better yet, ask yourself this: Do you have faith the Braves will be the team to put it all together first, or do you think the Mets or Phillies are probably going to get straight at some point and leave us in the dust?

            Yeah, based on recent history, I’d place my money on the rest of the division. Sorry Braves, but you’re all talk these days.

            Braves Fun Facts:

-          If there is a runner on first and less than two outs, you had better pray to high hell that Yunel Escobar or Prince Francoeur aren’t the ones coming to bat. Yunel grounds into double plays nearly three times as often as the league average. Frenchy, who has been in this position a team-high 24 times, is twice as likely as the league average player to kill the inning with a double play.

-          Jordan Schafer is 0 for 4 so far this season with a runner at third and less than two outs. In addition, he has struck out 30 times in 95 plate appearances. Yet, young Jordan’s .816 OPS is third-best on the team. If you remove part-timer Omar Infante, Jordan’s OPS stands at number two on the team, behind only Chipper Jones.

-          Team batting average when ahead in the count:         .324

Team batting average when behind in the count:       .183

 

This seems to make sense. Unfortunately, the Braves have 179 at-bats when they are ahead in the count and 256 at-bats when they are behind in the count. The team’s tendency to hack away definitely has a negative affect on their performance. These statistics argue for plate discipline.

 

-          So far this season, the Braves have handled starters better the second time around. They have hit .265, posted a .788 OPS, and scored 23 runs against starters the first time they have faced them this season. The second time they see these pitchers, they hit .297, post an OPS of .859, and scored 35 runs. Strangely, they cannot seem to hit relievers. Through 24 games, the Braves have hit .212 against relief pitchers and struck out 65 times in 337 plate appearances.

It’s been a frustrating season so far, to be sure. In seasons past, slow starts were to be expected. No one fretted over them, because you knew the team was good enough to overcome the slow start. That is no longer the case. If the Braves can’t start stringing together wins, if they keep playing their brand of inconsistent baseball, it is going to be a very long summer.

            One last note…

 

            After a horrible start to the season, the Braves deemed it preferable to bench second baseman Kelly Johnson, in favor of super-utility man Omar Infante. Johnson has been plagued throughout his young career by long periods of cluelessness at the plate. Generally, these periods are followed by streaks of brilliance, when we all remember why we were so excited by him in the first place. I’d like to make a comparison, though, between the recently exiled Kelly Johnson and the Braves’ Golden Boy, the worst everyday player from 2008, Jeff Francoeur. Below, I averaged out Kelly’s 2009 stats (granting that is a little early to be doing so) and put them up against Frenchy’s 2008 stats, when he started 155 games for the Braves.

 

K. Johnson

2009 (predicted)

Statistic

Francoeur

2008

627

Plate Appearances

652

66

Runs

70

118

Hits

143

22

Doubles

33

7

Triples

3

22

Home Runs

11

66

Runs Batted In

71

66

Walks

39

89

Strikeouts

111

.219

Average

.239

.263

League Average

.266

.313

OBP

.294

.344

League Avg. OBP

.338

.411

Slugging

.359

.422

League Avg. SLG

.425

.724

OPS

.653

.766

League Avg. OPS

.762

88

OPS+

72

221

Total Bases

215

15

GDP

18

.350

Offensive Win %

.341

Offensive Win % is the percentage of games a team of nine of this player would win, assuming average pitching and defense.

 

So, can someone please explain to me how a 2008 Jeff Francoeur started 155 games for the Braves, but a comparable 2009 Kelly Johnson is benched after a month? Why are there cries for Johnson to be benched, traded or demoted? 2008 Jeff Francoeur showed us that this kind of performance is acceptable for an Atlanta Brave. Not only is it apparently acceptable, but it should garner you 155 starts, a spot in batting order hovering around sixth, and a red-faced semi-apology from the team when you are demoted mid-season.

            I won’t argue that Kelly Johnson isn’t a frustrating player, or that the team needs to make a change in order get things moving. However, the overt Francoeur-love spewed from the team is what drives a lot of fans who are over the age of 13 to sour on the kid. Jeff Francoeur was the worst everyday player last season. Let me repeat that: Statistically speaking, Jeff Francoeur was the worst everyday player in Major League Baseball last season. And, he started 155 games for the Braves.

            I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason KJ has been relegated to Bobby Cox’s doghouse is because he may have mentioned this to someone. (Not really, but someone should mention it to old man Cox.)

 

 

One Response to “I Hate Baseball”

  1. 1
    Leah Says:

    For the first time ever I turned off the game. After Chipper hit into a double play with the bases loaded I just could not watch any more. It’s not good for my health.

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