Monday, March 18, 2013

Weekend Roundup: Games 21-24 Cards, Yankees, and Mets x2

As you can probabaly tell there is a gap between updates during tax season. I think you all know why. Daily recaps don't start until after the 15th of April when I can settle in during daylight hours without constantly cranking the adding machine. Also, as we get closer to the actual real games starting on April 1st, I think we all realize that the last 10 days of spring training are totally useless. Everything will have been decided already in terms of roster slots and rotations, and we're just playing the games because we have to. I think you'll be excited about some of the new things I'll be adding to the blog once we get to the regular season, though. More on that in the coming weeks.

The game against the Cards is hardly worth going over. The only thing worth noting is that Minor struggled and Uggla had another hit. Minor didn't hit his zone at all and walked 4 guys while giving up 4 runs in 5 innings. Nobody had a homer, only Parraz had an extra bag hit, and we went 2-11 with RISP and 8 Ks. It sucked. Moving on.

Game 1 against the Mets was fun for the two bombs that Freeman and Francisco hit off Jeremy Hefner, the Mets starter. Hudson also looked much better going 6 innings with only 2 earned runs. BJ Upton also went 2/3 and looks good swinging the lumber every time he gets up to the plate. Downside? We went 0-8 with RISP and struck out 9 times.

The Yankees didn't send their A squad. They didn't even sent the B squad. On the radio broadcast, the announcers basically said if you knew any of these guys playing for the Yankees out there, you knew more than them. As a result, the "Yankees" only got 3 hits off Maholm and the relief crew. I don't really think this proved anything about Maholm, but maybe 6 innings of shutout ball will give him some confidence. The Braves lit up the 2012 rookie starter for the Yankees, David Phelps, for 7 hits, 4 runs, and a long shot. So at least the hitters were facing legitimate MLB pitching, albeit young pitching. Francisco went deep again (notice a pattern?), Reed Johnson had a double, and Heyward, Francisco, and Justin Upton had 2 out RBIs. The RISP was a much better 3-6, and the strikeout total was down to 7. Notice how the RISP improves when the Ks go down? Hmmm.

Game 2 against the Mets was as boring as baseball can get. The upside was Julio Teheran dazzling the Mets batters with his stuff. After 6 innings, Teheran had only given up one run on a homer, and struck out 7 with 2 walks. Downside? Unless your name was Chris Johnson, you didn't get much hitting done. Chris had a robust 3/4 day with a 2 out jack in the 4th off Niese (who we will see a lot of in the regular season). Dan Uggla went 0-4 with 2 Ks. Not so good there. It all ended with a 2-1 snoozer that the Braves won, but nobody was still in the stadium to notice.

So how do we look at this stage in Spring? I'll do a who's hot and who's not of the Braves during Spring:

Who's HOT? -

BJ Upton is batting .408 for spring with 5 doubles and 7 RBIs.
Freddie Freeman has 4 homers and is slugging close to .600
Chris Johnson is batting .333 with 3 bombs.
Pastornicky is hitting .364 with an OBP of .429 showing a good eye
Francisco is slugging .630 with 4 jacks and 8 RBIs.
Joey Terd is hitting a ridiculous .417 average for spring with 3 doubles in 36 ABs.
Evan Gattis has an absurd OPS (OBP + Slugging) of 1.076, and anything over .900 is considered awesome
Teheran has worked 20 innings with a 1.35 ERA
Maholm has worked 19.1 innings with a 2.33 ERA

Who's NOT? -

Dan Uggla is hitting .196 with 17 Ks and only 3 walks. He's also committed a team high 5 errors.
Bethancourt looks unready for primetime hitting only .133 in limited ABs
Reed Johson is hitting .179 in 39 ABs.
Chris Johnson has committed 4 errors at 3rd during spring. A sign he may not be ready as a starter.
Tim Hudson has an ERA of 5.40 in 20 innings of work. He's also given up 3 homers.
Sean Gilmartin and Cristhian Martinez both have ERAs in teh 6's, and look extremely shakey in middle relief
Jonny Venters has a WHIP that's over 2.3 in his limited work. He's simply putting on too many runners.

So there's a recap of where we stand. I think you'll agree that the lineup for the most part looks pretty hot, as do the starters. We need a little work on the middle relief, but overall it's shaping up nicely for our opener in April.

Go Braves!


  1. i look forward to seeing the new elements of the blog. hopefully it includes photos of selected players and a full column dedicated to how fantastic Martin Prado is when he returns to play us with his new team in June.

    Keep cranking.

  2. Since you seem to have a hang up on strikeouts (which surprises me b/c you are generally intelligent person,) here's a much better explanation than I could give on why you shouldn't care. From Capitol Avenue Club -

    January 23, 2013 at 11:17 pm by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves

    A reoccurring comment I’ve seen on various Braves sites, comment sections, Twitter and even from Ken Rosenthal tonight, goes something like, “the Braves will have too many strikeouts in their lineup by adding/starting player X.” It started with B.J. Upton and has since moved to players like Juan Francisco and most recently Justin Upton.

    Well, that statement is not really true. I thought it may be helpful, since there is a diverse Braves readership, to hopefully help clear this up. When it comes to the offensive side of baseball, an out is an out. Take the chart below as an example. It is the correlation between team runs per game and team strikeout rate over the past 25 years (1988-2012).

    Data courtesy of FanGraphs

    As you can see, those 720 samples form a fairly large blob in the middle of the chart. The trend line does show a negative correlation of r=-.11, but this is very weak and there is really no relationship to speak of between the two.

    The highest dot on the chart is the 2010 Diamondbacks. They struck out just under a quarter of the time they came to the plate, managing to score 4.4 runs per game. The 2007 Twins are another dot, located very low on the chart. They also scored 4.4 runs per game, but only striking out as a team 13.6% of the time. An out is an out.

    We can also simply look at Tom Tango’s run values of individual events. In The Book: Playing The Percentages In Baseball, Tango shows (Table 11) that value of a strikeout is worth -.301 runs, while a non-strikeout is worth -.299 runs. They are essentially the same. Just remember, when you put the ball in play, it can sometimes lead to multiple outs.

    There are other, more valid arguments, which can be made for wanting to start or acquire a certain player. Team OBP and team runs per game over the past 25 years have a very strong correlation, r=.88. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone; you have to get on base to score runs. Team wOBA has an even higher correlation, r =.94. You would also expect this to be high because the stat is an attempt to measure total offensive contribution.

    So, when making a case for or against player X, use reasons that effect the ability to score runs. A high strikeout rate doesn’t, the lack of ability to get on base does. Those two may even seem like they go hand-in-hand, but you can still get on base at a good rate while striking out over 20% of the time. Some players produce better when they strikeout at a higher clip due to the quality of contact being made (see Ben’s piece from 2011 about Dan Uggla). Other players, mainly those who rely on speed, would be better off putting the ball into play more and striking out less. Players must tailor their individual skillset to maximize their total offensive ability.

    Lastly, don’t be confused with strikeouts from a pitchers point of view, they are more important for a pitcher on the mound. Many ERA estimators are largely based off strikeout rates (as well as BB and HR). It may be hard for some to separate the importance of a single stat for two opposing sides, but it does exist.

    Being concerned over too many strikeouts in the lineup shouldn’t be a major worry when acquiring players. Even if the Braves have five regulars strikeout over 20% of the time and a couple of guys over 25% of the time (not including pitchers), it really shouldn’t be a concern. It is only one result of a plate appearance. Be more concerned of the overall offensive value the player brings to the lineup. At the end of the day, an out is an out.

  3. I agree that strikeouts isolated by themselves in a regular season aren't a concern. I'm drawing a comparison to high strikeout rates in training versus performance in the season, and the lack of the Braves walks in addition to whiffs.

    I don't like to see a big differential in hitters in training in their BB to K rate. That translates to a bad OBP, and a bad chance of putting in runs in close games.