Braves Check: May 20, 2008

Chris Resop made two appearances last week, which was probably the best signal that the Braves played eight games in seven days.  And Blaine Boyer only tied for the third-most relief innings for the team last week!  All was right with the world, if you don’t consider that the Braves lost two more road series.  Let’s first take a look at the gory details.

This Week’s Stats

Biggest plays of the week:

  1. Freddy Sanchez doubled in three runs in the 5th inning of Monday’s first game against Jair Jurrjens, breaking a scoreless tie (-.282).
  2. Mark Kotsay doubled in the third run of Alan Embree during the 8th inning of Friday night’s win over the A’s (+.260).
  3. Brian McCann doubled, scoring the second run off Dana Eveland in the 6th inning of that game (+.201).
  4. Kotsay hit an RBI double (yes, there were a lot of important doubles) off John Van Benschoten, giving the Braves a 3-1 lead in the 4th inning of Monday’s second game (+.197).
  5. Dana Eveland induced a double-play ball off the bat of Mark Teixeira, getting the first two outs of the same inning as McCann’s aforementioned double (-.174).


  • The Braves continue to dig a hole with untimely hitting, finishing yet another week with a collectively negative clutch performance rating of -.139.  This is probably a topic for another post, but I guess I shouldn’t complain since it was only about 1/4 of a win of anti-clutch this week.  This week’s biggest culprit was Greg Norton (-.151), and the best clutch performer was Brian McCann (+.150).
  • Chipper Jones again had the best week at the plate, adding nearly a full win to his WPA total for the year, now +1.104.  McCann was a close second, while Mark Kotsay, Kelly Johnson, and Gregor Blanco were all solidly in the black for the week (though Johnson was somewhat anti-clutch).
  • Matt Diaz had a rough week, but he had just 10 PAs to lower his season slash line to .268/.284/.339.  Last year he was the victim of Willie Harris’ great start, and this year it’s Gregor Blanco.  While I like Blanco much better than Harris, I still think Diaz has the better track record and should be getting more starts.  He’d be more valuable if he had better plate discipline or power, but he deserves at least a shot.
  • Jeff Francoeur and Mark Teixeira bring up the rear in batting WPA for last week, with the latter having a ghastly .136/.174/.227 line while playing somewhat hurt.  Frenchy had 10 hits, but 9 of them were singles.  He has continued last year’s downward power trend, and it’s actually somewhat disturbing at this point.  These are his career isolated power numbers: .249 (2005),  .189 (2006),  .151 (2007), .137 (2008).  Here are some players with comparable career OBP and SLG to his numbers since the start of last year: Todd Hollandsworth, Wil Cordero, Bret Boone.  Boone was mostly successful because of a high peak value and his play at a premium defensive position, and the other two were mostly journeymen after fast starts to their careers.  I think we’re all hoping for more than that out of Jeff.
  • Brian McCann is playing on a totally different level than Francoeur since their concurrent 2005 debuts.  After a 100 OPS+ blip last year, his OPS is near 1.000 this year, and he’s projecting alongside the all-time great backstops.  His career OPS+ of 120 would rank him #20 among all catchers with at least 2000 career plate appearances, and that’s setting a low bar for two reasons: he hasn’t hit his theoretical peak yet, and there are several players who barely cleared 2000 PAs (roughly four full seasons of catching work).  His OPS+ currently places him ahead of Carlton Fisk (117), Gary Carter (115), and four other HOF-ers (not counting Connie Mack, who belongs in as a manager).
  • Mark Kotsay is up to a .300 average now, giving the Braves five (at least semi-regular) players making that level of contact.  Chipper is hitting .410, McCann .316, Blanco and Escobar .308.
  • The bullpen was solid all week, and only one starter at least broke even in WPA: Tom Glavine at +.099.  Tim Hudson followed a strong start in the Pirates doubleheader with a stinker against Oakland, and it’s starting to seem like he somehow forgets how to pitch for a start about once every 3 weeks.
  • Hudson’s Monday start was the only “quality start” of the week, but my biggest concern is the rotation’s inability to last deep into games.  In the scheme of things, their 4.98 ERA wasn’t absolutely terrible.  Right now they’re only averaging 5.5 innings per start, which is going to make the bullpen look really bad at the end of the season when they’re completely worn out.
  • Jeff Bennett was the relief MVP for the week, finishing second to Chipper in total individual WPA at +.381.  He threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings across four outings of fairly high leverage.  Only Blaine Boyer was used in more crucial situations on average (2.21 gmLI, or average leverage when he entered the game).  Manny Acosta, despite the “closer” tag, was used in average situations, with everyone else falling in line somewhere behind him.
  • Phil Stockman made his season debut this week after a strong start in Richmond.  He came into one of the lowest-leverage situations possible, but he retired the side without allowing a hit.  Even though he hasn’t pitched a lot over the last few years (certainly not in one place), I can’t say he has much left to prove at the minor league level, and every team can always use another solid reliever.  Here’s hoping he can perform well and work his way up the depth chart.

The Road Ahead

It’s another seven game week starting with a double-header.  The Mets haven’t played particularly well, but every series against them carries some NL East importance.  That series starts today, and the D-Backs come in after that to cap off the homestand over the long holiday weekend.  Here are the probable pitchers:

Tuesday (Game 1): Glavine vs. John Maine
Tuesday (Game 2): Campillo vs. Claudio Vargas
Wednesday: Jurrjens vs. Mike Pelfrey
Thursday: Hudson vs. Johan Santana
Friday: Reyes vs. Doug Davis (or Max Scherzer?)
Saturday: ??? (Bennett? James?) vs. Randy Johnson
Sunday: Glavine vs. Micah Owings
Monday: Jurrjens vs. Brandon Webb

I hope to have the next recap ready on Monday, but since it’s a holiday weekend and we’re doing a lot of work around the house, I can’t guarantee it.  Hopefully you have better things to do on Memorial Day anyway.  There’s also an outside chance that I may go to one of this weekend’s games, in which case a Monday recap becomes even more unlikely.


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