Braves Check: May 5, 2008

The Cincinnati Reds seemed to be the Braves’ cure-all over the weekend.  A three-game sweep followed the Braves’ four-game losing streak within the division, and they’re now sitting at .500 (15-15) once again.  Unfortunately, the rest of the NL East won on Sunday, and the Braves are still two games back of the new division leaders, the Philadelphia Phillies.  They’re still in fourth place, 1.5 games behind both New York and Florida.

This Week’s Stats

Top 5 plays of the week:

The first four of these come from Wednesday’s extra-inning loss to Washington, while the last is from Tuesday’s more merciful 9-inning defeat.

  1. Manny Acosta induced Felipe Lopez into an inning-ending double play in the 10th.  The bases were loaded with one out (+.335).
  2. Mark Kotsay singled home Martin Prado with two outs in the top of the 12th (+.331).
  3. Manny Acosta committed an error on a bunt attempt by Wil Nieves with no one out in the 12th.  Runners that were on first and second advanced, and Nieves reached safely, loading the bases (-.218).
  4. Acosta walked the next batter, Ronnie Belliard, tying the game with the bases still loaded and no one out (-.193).
  5. Ryan Zimmerman doubled in two runs off Blaine Boyer in the 7th inning, breaking a 2-2 tie (-.190).


  • If the Braves are playing a close game, do they even expect to hit the ball anymore?  The lineup watched yet another week of negative clutch performance (“CP”) go by.  Coupled with the pitchers’ similar woes this week, the team further distanced itself from Pythagoras, who would suggest they’re perhaps the second-best team in the NL behind the Diamondbacks.  No other NL team is more than two games off their Pythagorean pace, while the Braves are behind theirs by four (19-11 to 15-15).  This is getting old fast, although it’s difficult to sound the alarms when the team is performing so well in other areas (i.e., situations that don’t matter).
  • Every regular except Mark Teixeira is now in the red in CP, including white-hot Chipper Jones (-.714), who is on pace to obliterate his career highs in pretty much every offensive category.  Other than that one, presumably.
  • Jeff Francoeur had a rough week at the plate, going 4-for-21 and lowering his season batting line to .276/.311/.455.  JC pointed out earlier that he’s falling well short of the pace to reach his goal of 60 walks, and he’s going to need either more power or more contact ability to become the great player most people seem to think he already is.  He also pointed out that Frenchy’s strikeout rate is much lower this year, so perhaps an improvement in contact is on the way.
  • Even though all but four Braves hitters have negative WPA at this point, five regulars are significantly above average in WPA/LI per plate appearance (pWPA/LI): Chipper Jones +1.12, Brian McCann +0.64, Yunel Escobar +0.50, Mark Kotsay +0.24, Mark Teixeira +0.23.
  • Pretty much everyone getting at-bats is at least within shouting distance of an .800 OPS.  Chipper is obviously knocking the cover off the ball at 1.189, and McCann’s is .912, second-best on the team.  Only Matt Diaz is currently under .700 (.693).
  • Mark Kotsay was this week’s batting WPA leader, with .206 added and a 1.101 OPS.  Chipper’s OPS for the week was actually higher, but he had a tougher time in key situations (-.155 CP).
  • You might imagine that Chipper is a little hit-lucky at this point with a .371 BABIP, but that can’t obscure his incredible power right now: almost 25% of his fly balls are flying all the way out, a figure that usually lands a hitter in the league’s top 5.  Chipper is currenty sixth in MLB in HR/FB.
  • Tim Hudson was Good Hudson this week, racking up over an entire win’s worth of WPA in his 2-0 complete game shutout win against the Reds.  Even when you factor in his 0-for-2 day at the plate, he still got +.530 for his efforts, leaving the rest of the team with the unusual stat of -.030 batting WPA in a win.
  • Jair Jurrjens and Tom Glavine also had quality starts this week, although Glavine’s outing yesterday was anything but quality.  Jo-Jo Reyes’ season debut went well, but he didn’t last long enough to get credit in my book (6 innings).  If he can work on becoming more efficient with his pitches (something that would be nice for him to do in AAA), perhaps he could really harness some of that potential.  Four pitches per batter (which is what he needed in his first start) is not a bad figure, but not every start will go so well.  For now, he’ll work as a back-of-the-rotation starter, but the Braves could use a third guy who can go at least 6 innings a start (Hudson and Jurrjens are the only ones getting that done so far, on average).
  • Last, but not least, Royce Ring should not be used as a LOOGY.  I had to get that in at least once.

The Road Ahead

The week-long homestand concludes with three games against the worst-hitting team in the league, San Diego.  Then, the Braves head to Pittsburgh, where they can only hope to perform better than they have against other bottom-dwelling teams like the Nationals.

Probable pitchers are:

Tuesday: Jurrjens vs. Chris Young
Wednesday: Hudson vs. Randy Wolf
Thursday: Reyes vs. Justin Germano
Friday: Glavine vs. Ian Snell
Saturday: Bennett (?) vs. Tom Gorzelanny
Sunday: Jurrjens vs. Zach Duke


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