May 22, 2011

Show #148: A Braves Week of Quiet Bats and Mounting Injuries

Post mortem on the past week. Who should be closer? Should Chipper get surgery?  And trust level in Fredi.



120 Responses to “Show #148: A Braves Week of Quiet Bats and Mounting Injuries”

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  1. 1
    Pure Says:

    Curt/Ham, who kidnapped Steve? The Steve I know will never predict a 2-and-3 week. Steve, wherever you are, I hope that you escape and return in time for next week’s podcast. Until then, I’ll say what you really would have said:
    1. We’ll sweep the Pirates, and then win 2 of 3 from the Reds.
    2. Kimbrel is, and should always be our closer.

  2. 2
    Pure Says:

    As awful as last week was, we actually went 3-4 — not 2-5 as mentioned in the podcast. And if Kimbrel hadn’t deflected that ground ball by Roberts (Arizona, Wednesday), it would have been a game-ending double play instead of a blown save.

  3. 3
    Curt Says:

    pure, good call. It was 3-4. Boy did it seem like 0-7. If the Braves follow recent form, they will have a good week.

  4. 4
    Steve Says:

    Pure – I know, I know. But this past week left me really rattled. Even had we won game 2 in AZ, I doubt my opinion would be much different. The team looks absolutely flat right now.

  5. 5
    Nate Says:

    Tough week to be a Braves fan. My only optimistic thought on the injuries is that maybe we’re getting them out of the way early in the year. I hope this isn’t the beginning of a trend. It’s definitely not a good sign when older players start having trouble with backs and knees, but hopefully they can heal up and come back stronger. Chipper needs to shut it down for a few weeks. Heyward looks like he could use the same. I hate to say it, but Huddy looks like he needs to be out for a little while, too, which seems like the biggest hit to the team because we’ve been relying so heavily on pitching. McLouth’s injury is kind of like a shoulder shrug reaction for me.

    I could see the Braves turning it around if Freeman and Uggla can get going. I think what you see is what you’re gonna get with Gonzo- mind blowing defense and mind numbing ABs. Uggla and Freeman can perform better, but it seems like the weeks keep going by and we’re still waiting for them to bust out. Prado and Mac can obviously perform better. There is a lot of room for improvement, so we’ll see what happens.

    Why not let Venters pitch the 9th every now and then? Maybe moving Kimbrel around helps him a little bit? Who knows unless you try…

    Utley is back. I wanna see what form he is and what form the Phillies are in with him before I start to worry, but they are definitely a much better team with him in true form. Give that staff 5+ runs a game and see what happens. Yikes. It’s time for the Braves to get it going.

  6. 6
    Eric Says:

    From Baseball Prospectus:

    “According to research by Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News, the Braves have produced 13 players on this year’s All-Star ballot, the most of any organization and one more than the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Cardinals. The Orioles and Giants are last with four each.”

  7. 7
    DAP Says:

    Guys, here’s the weird thing: This team IS hitting. They are. They hit this past week, they just couldn’t score runs. This is an anomaly if I have ever seen one. They had 59 hits this past week, and went 3-4. That isn’t normal.

    I think what is happening is just weird happenstance.

    No biggie on the optional batting practice Saturday. They got 17 hits that day.

    I really think this is just a weird thing the team is going through, made worse by a blown save and some injuries.

  8. 8
    Mark in Memphis Says:

    1. You will never hear the hitting coach say anything that will put pressure on or will cause the Braves’ hitters to press. THAT woudl be stupid, when the mental part of hitting seems to matter so much (i.e. football – run harder, hit harder = better play; basketball – run harder, hustle more = better play; baseball – try harder batting/pitching = play worse). So I consider anything that a hitting coach says to be immerterial to what he is actually DOING with regard to the team.

    2. You ding Fredi for “not playing ‘small ball”, then you ding him for bunting when you think he shouldn’t.. Can’t have it both ways. Maybe because the teams has had problems scoring runs and hopes that scoring a run in the first inning (i.e. bunting a runner over) could give the team/pitcher a lift (i.e. score a run early, put pressure on the other team…).

    3. I agree, they need to put Ventners in to close some, not necessarily all the time. Ventners has some of his own problems with walks, but not as much as Kimbrel. Kimbrel’s first three appearences were “clean” (no walks, no hits). Since then (as of May 19th), he had clean appearences in 4 of his last 19 (one clean appearence was to one batter). In 9 of those 19 he walked at least one batter, in 4 of those 9 it was the first batter.

    4. Personally, I think Fredi/Lance needs to walk up to Dan and say “Move closer to the plate and cover the outter half. Hit line drives. I don’t care if you hit another home run, just hit line drives or walk”. I think in his move from Fla where he was a tough out in the middle of the lineup, he has come to Atlanta as “the pop in the middle of the lineup the Braves have needed for a long time/to be successful” (see note 1).

  9. 9
    DAP Says:

    do you guys think kimbrel wouldnt walk guys and give up runs in the 8th? where do propose pitching him where walking guys and giving up runs wont be an issue? gwinnett?

    also, do you think he will continue to blow 1/4th of his save chances?

  10. 10
    john j Says:

    Injuries go with the game. Lucky to have some heavy hitters at AAA. Hoping for some “Mather Magic” for Schafer (.256) and Ramirez (.248).

  11. 11
    Steve Says:

    M in M #8 – my point about Fredi is that he’s not playing smart small ball. Bunting in the first inning?! Putting on a squeeze with the worst batsman on the team at the plate (Hanson). Part of Hanson’s twitter account description is about what a terrible hitter he is!!!

    DAP #9. He may well continue to blow 1/4 of his saves. You think it’s been a total anomaly? I want to believe you, but why do you think that? And, c’mon, there’s a huge difference between walking guys in the 8th vs. the 9th. Namely, your team comes up again and there’s time for someone else to come in and clean up your mess.

  12. 12
    Steve Says:

    DAP #7 – I’m all for you optimism about the run drought is just an anomaly. But I’m not there with you. Not yet. 5 runs tomorrow night would go a long way for me.

  13. 13
    Leah Says:

    I cry foul! Why can’t I get Josh Hamilton off the DL on my fantasy team?

  14. 14
    Danny Says:

    I agree with whoever said this week could be the start of something great with all of the young guys taking over for our limping starters. Part of our problem has been the holes in the lineup from players trying to produce while 50% healthy. I am especially excited about Ramirez and Shafer, and even Minor.

  15. 15
    Curt Says:

    Danny, it will be interesting to see what they can bring. I think it is do or die time for Schafer. I hope he can gather himself and take advantage of it. It wasn’t that long ago that he was the starter in CF for us. He was the 3rd rated guy in our system behind Heyward and Hanson. It would be great if he could live up to that potential. I can’t help but think he was humbled by the whole experience. I was just hoping his numbers in AAA would have been better.

    Team batting average is .242. OBP is .310. That’s not really hitting. No starter on the team is batting over .300. Ross, Mather, and Hinske are the only players batting over .300. That’s not good. They might have had 59 hits, but 17 of those were in one game. That leaves 42 hits over 6 games which is 7 hits a game. Again, not good.

    My biggest problem is that I think the Braves should be so much better than they are. The team, on paper, should be 10 games over .500. The combination of pitching (we’ve gotten), and hitting (which hopefully is coming), in addition to the defense, should be giving us a team that is right there with the Phils. Seeing as how we can go toe to toe with them in our matchups, there is no reason to think otherwise. So why isn’t that translating to a better record?

  16. 16
    Nate Says:

    So do you think Wilkin or Jordan is the off the bench guy?

  17. 17
    Jeff Says:

    Listening to a lot of the “fair or foul” questions, I think most revolve around one thing – is this team a contender? Are we a playoff caliber team? And here is why I think we might not be:

    1. Heyward is starting to look like a glass cannon, and as such cannot be counted on to lead the team’s offense. I don’t recall him having injury trouble in the minors, but he sure has them in the majors. Worse, he’s very unwilling to own up to his aches and plays (poorly) with them.
    2. Chipper looks to be declining off his hot spring. Injuries are quickly taking their toll this season, and while I agree with you that he should just get the surgery and have done with it – by the time three weeks have passed, we are staring at the all star break and are we going to still be anywhere near contention for the wild card? Is he staying in because he doesn’t want to miss any of his swan song?
    3. Uggla’s season is a loss, I’m afraid. I still think he will be a terrific player in the long term, but I think 2011 is a wash. If he was going to stage his usual May breakout, we would have seen signs by now.
    4. The bullpen, supposedly our strong point, has fallen apart, due in no small part to the loss of Moylan (who knew?).
    5. DLowe being erratic in his starts. Huddy’s back. All of a sudden, the age of our two pitching vets becomes an issue.
    6. Joe and Don were talking about this on Saturday – we are in a season of pitching dominance, where games are low scoring and close. Stolen bases, once forgotten in the age of PED homers, are suddenly back in importance, and we can’t steal to save our lives.
    7. If you had to pick one Brave to get a base hit in a crucial situation, and I told you it couldn’t be Prado or McCann/Ross, who would you pick and how confident would you be? I guess the upside to this is that I could make a case for anyone, seeing as they all hit approximately equally poorly.

    I guess my point is this: we’re about five straws past the one that broke the camel’s back. I just don’t think the team is going to the playoffs this season. I’ve heard every week some variation on “The offense has to get going soon” yet it never does. When do we wave the white flag and start thinking about 2012?

  18. 18
    Nate Says:

    And do you trade promising, young players to salvage a season…

  19. 19
    Mark in Memphis Says:

    #11 “Smart” in your opinion as “smart” is a subjective observation. I gave what I considered to be a viable scenario/reason he might bunt in the first inning (i.e. Braves having trouble scoring runs, expects a low scoring game based on the starter, etc.).

    Being that he (Fredi) is MUCH closer to the team than I am, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    As for squeezing with the worst batsman on the team at the plate… putting down a bunt is something they (the pitchers) practice all the time (I personally think from recent execution it should be concentrated on more…) and a pitcher should be able to “lay one down” (for that matter, in my opinion, EVERY team member should be able to…).

    For a squeeze, you just need to get it in play far enough out that the catcher can’t get it and get back to the plate. If Hanson can’t do that (I understand they won’t be 100%, but they should at least be 90%+) then he needs to spend his entire batting practice every time doing nothing else until he can. THAT failure I put at Fredi’s feet… NOT the choice to call for a squeeze…

    You should have a reasonable expectation for ANYBODY on the team to perform at the plate on a squeeze…. Now if he called for it with a left hander at the plate, I would have reason to question…

    The problem is not so much that Fredi is calling them bad, the real problem is that the Braves are not executing… If Hanson gets the bunt down, Fredi is a hero…

  20. 20
    Eric Says:

    I hope Uggla at least LaRoches it this season. And it would be great to see Schafer become useful.

  21. 21
    Mark in Memphis Says:

    #9 I don’t know. Is it “closer pressure” that causes him to try to be too fine and he walks a man? Is it “end of game pressure” that he tries not to put “too good a pitch” up there and ends up walking someone?

    Then when he has a man on base and (maybe) forgets to “pitch” and just lets his stuff work that he ends up striking out the side? Maybe in the 8th he comes in pitching that way. Maybe he figures out he can do that all the time… (I don’t know)

    What happened to the guy that had his first three outings be “clean” (no walks, no hits) and then was only “clean” in 4 (inclduing a one batter save) of his next 19, 9 of which he walked a batter, 4 of which he walked the first batter? Where did he go? What changed for him?

  22. 22
    Anne Says:

    T minus 8 hours to a Matt Diaz sighting.

  23. 23
    Mark in Memphis Says:

    As for Schafer, consider how long it has taken Mather to “return to form” (hopefully) after a hand/wrist injury… Hopefully, since Schafer’s injury wasn’t the result of being hit by a pitch, he might have a quicker recovery…

    Just remember, the knock on him has always been that he is a bit of a “free swinger”…

  24. 24
    Kate Says:

    Leah – you have to drop someone to open up a spot for Hamilton.

  25. 25
    Curt Says:

    Jeff, welcome. In NO way am I giving up on 2012. Way too much stuff on the team for that eulogy to be written. I just think we might end up fighting to the end of the season for the WC, when I think we should have such higher aspirations this season.

    Hitting is down dramatically across the league. That is a fact. So if you can get this lineup going, with this staff, you should be better than the bulk of the teams in the league. I can’t think of a team that is noticeably better than the Braves.

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