I asked last Friday if the Braves really were swept by the Reds, and it turns out that this actually happened. After a split with the Cardinals, the Braves ended up dropping five of seven this week, finishing the homestand at 5-5. The Marlins went on to take 3 of 4 from Cincy this weekend, and the Braves are now 3.5 games back in the division, 1.5 up on the Phillies for second place.
This Week’s Stats
Scores and FanGraphs summaries:
7/16: Reds 10, Braves 3
7/17: Reds 6, Braves 5
7/18: Reds 5, Braves 4
7/19: Braves 10, Cardinals 1
7/20: Cardinals 4, Braves 2
7/21: Braves 14, Cardinals 6
7/22: Cardinals 7, Braves 2
Stats for the week alone:
Best plays of the week:
- Chipper Jones doubled off David Weathers, scoring Edgar Renteria and tying Wednesday’s game at 3 in the 10th inning (+.470).
- Pete Moylan induced a double-play ball from Scott Rolen, ending the sixth inning of yesterday’s game with a 2-1 lead still intact (+.186).
- Jose Ascanio struck out Ryan Freel with runners at the corners and one out in the 15th inning of Wednesday’s game (+.184).
- Andruw Jones hit a 2-run homer off Mike Maroth in the first inning of Thursday’s blowout win (+.180).
- Brian McCann singled off Aaron Harang in the 8th inning of Wednesday’s game, advancing Andruw Jones to third with one out and the Braves down 2-1 (+.176).
One great game does not a great week make, as we should all learn about Willie Harris’ much-heralded 6-for-6 game on Saturday. His WPA was +.227 for the game, but -.400 for the entire week. You can chalk some of that up to poor clutch play, but his OPS was just .756 for the week, and he was only 1-for-4 on the basepaths. He ended up second from the bottom in hitting WPA this week, with only Salty behind him at -.462.
Now that Harris’ inevitable plunge toward mediocrity is in full swing, is it time for the Free Matt Diaz campaign to begin? His OPS is already higher, and despite the best efforts of Bobby Cox, he doesn’t have trouble against right-handed pitching. Perhaps he’s not as good as Harris defensively, but 1+ years of great hitting should be enough to give him a full-time role.
Back to this week’s stats, Chipper had the only truly outstanding week at the plate, throwing up a 1.188 OPS in 34 PAs. He added a dash of positive clutch play (a change of pace for him this year) and finished the week with a +.647. He is now the team’s leader in both WPA (+2.076) and leverage-neutral WPA (WPA/LI, +2.356).
Kelly Johnson, who is immediately behind Chipper on the batting leaderboard, had another solid week despite his reduced role. He’s still striking out a ton (22% of ABs, leading the team), but he’s having a great year with an outstanding .291/.391/.485 hitting line at second base.
Johnson’s platoon counterpart Yunel Escobar was among the five or so mediocre regulars this week, along with Diaz (still hitting .353/.372/.478) and Renteria, whose solid .987 OPS was diluted a bit by poor clutch play. Thorman, Andruw, McCann and Francoeur all finished in the vicinity of -.1 WPA, with Jones and Francoeur looking the best in the traditional stat categories. The former had ten hits, and the latter two homers.
Julio Franco got off to a positively unimpressive start, with a single hit and a walk in 13 PAs. On a per-at-bat basis, he was the worst Brave this week with at least ten trips to the plate. If he’s going to be taking at bats from Salty, I don’t want any part of this. Hopefully his signing is a precursor to another move, preferably for a starting pitcher and perhaps involving Scott Thorman as part of the deal.
As for the Braves’ current staff, there were five solid starts out of seven this week, which isn’t bad when you look at who was starting. Yes, Kyle Davies finally pitched himself out of the rotation with Monday’s “start,” and Jo-Jo was only half-good, but the trio of Smoltz, Hudson and James were great, and Carlyle was adequate. Smoltz made perhaps his best start of the year in Wednesday’s gut-wrenching game, and James and Hudson allowed just two runs in 14 innings.
The bullpen was another story entirely. Wickman maintained his grip on the closer’s role with 2 solid innings, but that was about it for solid performances from this worn-out group of players. Yates, Soriano, and Ledezma were all awful. Villarreal and Moylan were as hittable as ever. Devine pitched a single nerve-wracking inning. Ascanio couldn’t pitch around a Kelly Johnson error (a fact that is not picked up in the WPA numbers, by the way). Paronto managed to put together five nervous innings of one-run ball, but I wouldn’t expect that to continue.
The problem with the bullpen is tough to pin on the bullpen pitchers themselves, because they’ve been overworked all year as a result of inconsistent starting pitching. I can’t say for sure that Yates and Soriano have regressed, so much as I can say that they’re dead tired. I suppose this makes Moylan’s 2.25 ERA in 52 innings that much more impressive given the circumstances, and it’s no coincidence that he is now the leader in pitching WPA. Hudson still has a commanding lead in WPA/LI, and there shouldn’t be much question that he has been the most valuable pitcher up to this point.
The Road Ahead
This is the week we’ve all been waiting for. The Braves travel to San Francisco for four games, with Bonds three homers shy of breaking Hank Aaron’s record. I’ll go on the record hoping they pitch around him every time he comes up, since the Giants have otherwise been a mess offensively. I might shed a tear if Bonds actually does break this record against the Braves. Here are the pitching matchups for the week, which will end with a weekend in Arizona:
Monday: Smoltz vs. Matt Cain
Tuesday: Hudson vs. Matt Morris
Wednesday: James vs. Noah Lowry
Thursday: Carlyle vs. Tim Lincecum
Friday: Reyes vs. Yusmeiro Petit
Saturday: Smoltz vs. Doug Davis
Sunday: Hudson vs. [future Brave?] Livan Hernandez
The D-Backs have played over their heads all year, and the Giants just aren’t very good, so I’m hoping for a winning week. Just don’t give Bob Wickman the ball (8.31 road ERA), and everything should be fine.
One last important note
In a remarkable tragedy, Tulsa Drillers (AA-Colorado) coach Mike Coolbaugh was killed by a line drive during yesterday’s game against the Arkansas Travelers in Little Rock. I’m honestly surprised this hasn’t happened more often than it does, but there’s no escaping that this was a terrible event for his family, his team, the opposing hitter, and everyone in attendance who witnessed it. Coolbaugh and his brother played in the minors during my heyday of attending Chattanooga Lookouts games, and I remember seeing him play, probably on more than one occasion. Times like this make you rethink your devotion to a game in which hundreds of people place themselves in danger on a daily basis.
One thought on “Braves' homestand ends in a disappointing split”
Julio is quite possibly the most popular hitter that doesn’t hit. Listening the crowd chant his name is almost comical to me.
Julio! Julio! it’s as if they think he has come to save the team’s season.
If the team’s savior continues at 1 for 12 with a BB then it may be time to quit watching.