September 04, 2016

The Change that Sparked the Braves’ Offense: Inciarte Leading Off

On July 30th the Braves rid themselves of Hector Olivera and acquired Matt Kemp.  Kemp’s 2015 and 2016 seasons have been bad.  He’s been about a league-average hitter and a poor defender, and he looks out of shape.  But the Braves offense took of in August.  They were tied for 5th in the National League in runs scored.  Kemp was the big trade, so clearly his presence has sparked the offense, right?

Not so fast.  Kemp has been much worse for the Braves offensively than he was for the Padres this season.  He’s posted an 84 wRC+ for the Braves.  He posted a 102 wRC+ for the Padres.  So if the Kemp trade isn’t the reason for the great offense over the past month, what is the culprit?

Well, for one thing, Freddie Freeman has gone off.  Freeman had a .289/.389/.553 slash line and a 146 wRC+ in August.  Over the last 30 days (going into play on September 2nd), he’s posted a wRC+ of 217.  He may be feeling the affects of Kemp’s mere presence in the lineup but then again, are pitchers really all that afraid of Matt Kemp these days?

There was another significant change that happened in early August that should get more press than the Matt Kemp deal, if we’re looking for why the Braves’ offense has looked so good lately.  On August 5th the Braves inserted Ender Inciarte into the leadoff role, and haven’t looked back.  He’s started in the leadoff role every game since, except a Sunday game on August 21st when Dansby Swanson hit leadoff against the Nationals.

Inciarte posted a .430 OBP and a 156 wRC+ in August and he’s posted a .434 OBP and 155 wRC+ over the last 30 days.  Inciarte becoming the everyday leadoff role and performing well has probably done more to help Freeman than anything Kemp has done or than Kemp’s mere presence in the lineup.  Freeman has basically had Rickey Henderson in his prime hitting in front of him for the past month (without all the stolen bases and caught stealings).

Pitchers have a hard time of it when they have runners on base.  They have to pitch from the stretch and they usually want to be careful with the batter so as not to put any more runners on base.  This is why, contrary to popular belief, lineup protection often comes from the guys hitting in front of your big bat(s) rather than behind them.  This is why the Braves offense has been so good for about a month now, in spite of their newly added cleanup hitter producing at a worse pace than he did with the Padres.

Inciarte is obviously not Rickey Henderson and, as great a hitter as Freddie Freeman is, he’s obviously not a 217 wRC+ hitter.  As we all know, the offense isn’t this good.  It takes unusually good performances for a bad offense to be one of the best over a month’s time.  But while the offense is going strong, the insertion of Inciarte into the leadoff spot and his performance (along with Freeman’s) should be getting much more press than the Matt Kemp addition.



5 Responses to “The Change that Sparked the Braves’ Offense: Inciarte Leading Off”

  1. 1
    Neil Swingruber Says:

    28 home runs and nearly 100 RBI’s is a bad year? Maybe his number since joining the braves (like what? .240 avergage 5ish homeruns and about 10-20 RBI) are a little below what we desire but to say he’s having a bad year is a little ridiculous.

  2. 2
    Adam Says:

    Kemp has picked it up in the last three games. Although you’re correct the top of the order is fueling the fire right now (we have to note the tear Garcia has been on as well and his improved defense is an added bonus), this article seems somewhat fueled by a generalized hate of making a trade and spending money on the aging bat of kemp.

    To make a franchise have a complete overhaul and turn around and do it as quickly as the braves are attempting you have to take chances. Kemp is a risk especially in the field as of right now, but we got a power right handed bat for not too bad of an additional cost which shouldn’t affect the free agency endeavors we will be venturing towards this winter. Overall I think the move was a good one, only for the fact that a move needed to be made to get that righty bat and rid ourselves of the shame that is the Olivera trade.

    I might be drinking the kool aid, but it’s tasted pretty sweet over the last 6+ games.

  3. 3
    Anonymous Says:

    Really I can see inciarte helping as what you mentioned is true. Although Kemp may not be playing at the pace hr was for padre’s he is still outperforming the person he replaced. And the last two games were won by the catalyst of none other than Freeman and Kemp. Even if his average is lacking his power and timing have been great. I think the team has begun to gel. I think this has more to do with success as anything though. A managerial change helped some but at first it probably was a challenge getting used to the new manager.

  4. 4
    Chris P. Says:

    Good grief, just relax on the Kemp hating. Recognize he has made a difference, he has shown worth, and he has brought a certain swagger to this offense. This move was incredible and John Coppollela needs to be recognized for his wizardry. He took his worst trade and turned the Braves into a .500 club (since the trade). I don’t understand the negativity, the bigotry, and monotonous rhetoric surrounding Kemp. He is doing his job and ATL is winning. You can tell he wants to be here and the guys want him here.

    Also, Snitker needs credit for the construction of this lineup. It is very non-Fredi like.

  5. 5
    Shaun Says:

    Kemp has made outs at a 70.8 percent pace this season. It’s difficult for anyone who posts a .292 OBP and who is a negative on defense to provide much value.

    That doesn’t mean I think Kemp is sure to be a terrible player going forward, for the rest of the time the Braves employ him. I think it was a pretty good risk to take. They are going to need to take some risks and for risks to pay off in order for them to contend next season. So Kemp is just as good a calculated risk as any.

    But most of the good offense is because of the top of the order performing well and Freeman going crazy (which is likely partially a result of always having runners on base in front of him).

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