DBacks 2, Braves 6

ESPN Box Score

Remember how earlier in the year, every time Justin Upton stepped to the plate, you thought he was going to hit it out? I remember marveling at how strong and compact his swing was. It blew me away how much power he could generate with so little followthrough. Since April, he hasn’t really been the same. He was striking out back then, but it seems like he’s swinging through fastballs a lot more now. And when he does make contact, he’s not hitting with any sort of authority at all. It’s not regression; it’s like watching a different guy. What I’m saying is, I miss April JUpton.

Now, all of that was kinda moot this weekend. Coming into Armed Forces day (which I want to make fun of because of the parade of bad interviews but refuse to make fun of because, as bad as those interviews were, I was glad that the people being interviewed were doing the things they were being interviewed about, and those topics are important), the Braves had taken the first two from the Diamondbacks. They made it a sweep on the back of good pitching combined with good runner-stranding from Paul Maholm and an offense that got a few hits when they needed to. Let’s start with the pitching. For five innings, Maholm was both efficient and effective, surrendering only one run after the first two batter he faced singled and the third hit into a double play. The scenario repeated itself in the 6th inning, but at that point, the Braves had a lead and you felt pretty good. Because RBIs are weird, you don’t get one when you hit into a double play, which explains why the Diamond Backs were able to score two runs without any RBIs or errors on Atlanta’s part. (Wait, do you get an RBI after an error? I dunno. And I also only got three out of four right on this quiz.) Anyways, things got dicey in the 7th, as Maholm increasingly struggled to get guys to ground out (he had about 60 ground ball outs on the day but struck out only three Ks) and the bases ended up loaded with one out. Maholm struck out Jason Kubel and gave way to Anthony Varvaro, who got out of the inning. Dave Carpenter pitched the 8th and 9th giving up only a single walk.

The reason Fredi was able to go with Carpenter was that the offense had managed to do something. They had 10 hits on the day, 6 of them going for extra bases, including 3 HRs. This is good news since, as I mentioned earlier, Justin Upton isn’t really doing that any more. Freddie Freeman is hitting like a beast these days, Brian McCann is back, and Jason Heyward has had a terrific month. All of this lefty hitting is great, but one it’d be nice if a righty would step things up, too. It feels like the current Braves lineup is a bit too easy to take advantage of late game with a LOOGY, but I guess that’s a better weak spot than, “over half the lineup is hitting below .200” which is where we were 3 weeks ago. Still, it feels (despite Dan Uggla’s solo HR) that Chris Johnson is the only righty in the lineup hitting. He continues to postpone regression by reaching base twice in 4 ABs and by OPS, he’s been the 4th most productive guy on the team so far. And even with all the grounders Maholm was generating, he managed to avoid booting any. So I’m just sayin, let’s remember the (many!) days when he contributes positively when some time in the future we face-palm in disgust at his
miss-play of a short-hop.

Good win. Good sweep. Day off tomorrow, Marlines come to town on Tuesday.

73 thoughts on “DBacks 2, Braves 6”

  1. JC’d by the speedy recap!

    Heyward hit to the tune of .312/.370/.495 in June. If he could continue along those lines that would be pretty magnificent.

  2. Alright so, suddenly we’re 5-1 in our last 6. I guess a couple days off have done some good.

    Lets not lose again until after the All-Star break, and ice this thing early, huh?

  3. I’m beginning to suspect we’ve got a pretty good ballclub here.

    By the way, did anyone catch the Schuerholz interview during the broadcast yesterday? They directly asked him if Wren had the salary flexibility to make any midseason moves and he said yes, they had planned that since the offseason. Not exactly newsy, but still, extremely welcome to hear.

  4. @8, If, as mentioned many times before, Uggla, Heyward, and the Uptons start hitting, yeah, we’ve got a pretty good ballclub. Heck, if any 2 of those guys start hitting like they’re supposed to, we can start being a lot more consistent in our winning ways.

    So who do you think we’d target for a trade? 3b? Starter? Reliever?

    Anybody got a Beachy report?

  5. I think afer his setback a few days ago all bets are off, and it’s strictly a “feel” thing going forward – I can’t see him back within say the next 10 days – 2 weeks.

  6. @10. I would say that they pretty much *are* hitting as expected at this point, and have been a big reason why we are winning. Now if we could combine what we have right now to something resembling Justin Upton in April, we have the arguable best offense in the league.

  7. @10
    DOB seems to think we’d be after bench and/or relief help. There’s nothing really on the trade market that’d be an upgrade at 3b.

  8. Why is our road record so much worse than our home record? I know some teams are put together to take advantage of the way their park plays, but we are not really a team built to win at Turner Field. If we could reel off a few wins on the road and get that record back over .500, I’d feel really great about our chances of playing well into October.

  9. The radio guys said Beachy had a good pen session today. I agree it’s “day to day” with him now.

    I’d guess the road record comes down to playing a lot of pretty good teams; a lot of long, exhausting trips, many of which included big west coast swings; and random luck.

    Take the sweep in San Diego, as a use case. One more hit in those games, well timed, and the Braves take 2 of 3.

    Regardless, the big road trips are over and what travel is on the docket from now on is in the Eastern or Central time zones. That should help a lot.

  10. @7: 4-2, actually. Still, since shaking off that terrible funk in Milwaukee, they have indeed looked pretty good.

    @14: I have no clue. Just random variation, probably. Still, worth noting: if everything holds up, the Braves will definitely have home field advantage in the first round, vs. the NL West champion. Then they could get home field in NLCS if the wild card knocks off the Central champ. And they’ve got more or less a 50/50 shot at home field for the World Series, TBD by the All Star Game. So all in all, they could end up playing a pretty home-heavy schedule in October, so maybe they just need hold their own on the road.

  11. I agree with Sam — I think that one big explanation for the team’s occasional malaise is the low number of off days the last two months. In each of the next two months, we’ll have another off day or two. In a sweltering summer, that can make a difference.

    Month, games, record
    April, 26 games in 30 days, 17-9
    May, 28 games in 31 days, 15-13
    June, 28 games in 30 days, 16-12

    Upcoming months:
    July, 26 games in 31 days
    August, 27 games in 31 days
    September, 27 games in 29 days

  12. Dont see why the Braves would be in the market for a starter, esp with Beachy due back and with Wood being able to step in if needed. Lisp looks like he may be coming back soon also. I dont think there are too many options for 3B and Chris’ bat is good enough to offset his defensive struggles. Especially now that Fredi is using Janish as the late inning guy over there.

    I dont know what they would look for in a bench guy, except maybe a LH power bat. Im sure we would love another late inning set up type reliever. Gregerson or someone like that maybe?

  13. @18: When you can’t figure out what you need to help your team, you know you have pretty good team…. or a completely pathetic one.

  14. I’m sure the Braves are looking at a LH relief pitcher or two, and probably a middle infielder who isn’t laughably bad (Janish) at the plate. I’m sure they’d like to go into the stretch run with something better than Janish and Pastornicky on the bench.)

    (Getting Gattis back obviously helps a tone, but you still have no backup MI who can even fake offense at the ML level if one of your starters gets dinged up.)

  15. @16 – Won the last in Milwaukee, one out of 2 in KC, and 3 in a row now.

    1 + 1 + 3 = 5, plus one loss in KC. That’s 5-1 from Sunday to Sunday.

  16. @21: Fair enough. I would probably flunk second-grade math if I had to take it now, so I’m lucky that all the math teachers I ever had were lying when they said I would need it when I grew up.

  17. Where does this notion that Uggla is not performing lately come from exactly? His June slash line is .247/.390/.420 — out of your second baseman, more than any team can ask for.

  18. @24: I know Gwinnett’s having a lousy season, but rushing out to buy them a new shortstop seems premature.

  19. @14/17 – Agreed. Aside from the insane length of two of the road trips combined with very few off days, I remember noting at several points that bad things seemed to happen around the roadies – injuries, running into another team’s best pitcher, etc. Whereas it’s seemed that things have tended to roll our way at home (missing a lot of great pitchers, etc.). That’s unscientific, but I recall thinking it several times during the first half.

  20. Two series and six games against the Marlins in the next 10 days, and barring any rotation shuffling, we will miss Jose Fernandez both times. The Phillies series in between is tentatively Lee/Kendrick/Pettibone.

  21. @23

    Too much scarring from the previous two months and beyond. His wRC+ year by year has been 110, 103 and 106, and it’s fair to say, “$31 million paid so far for that?” .296/.424/.555 slash line since the contacts first went in is nice enough, but he still complains about not having the right ones, so that problem has not been solved, and hot streaks are dog bites man, where avoiding a cold stretch for the rest of the season would be man bites dog.

  22. @23, I think it’s that people secretly still only trust batting average, and don’t want to admit it.

  23. Uggla tends to look really bad when he fails. I’ve been perfectly happy with how he’s done this month and I hope he can replicate that a few more times. Jason seems to have truly bounced back and BJ is slowly rejoining the land of the living. If those guys OPS 750-800 from here on out then we look like a much, much better team.

  24. His wRC+ year by year has been 110, 103 and 106, and it’s fair to say, “$31 million paid so far for that?”

    And the honest to god, no-shit answer is “Yep.” $15 mil per is the new $6 mil per. Superstars cost $20+.

  25. @23, Because we traded for and signed to five years the guy who was a world-beating second baseman for the Marlins. He’s being paid to replicate that for the Braves. Not to be pretty good but to be that guy. And outside of a couple hot streaks, he hasn’t been.

    Plus, Bethany is right, he’s about the most horrible swing-and-misser on this team. Elegant he ain’t. It makes him look confused, inept, and irredeemable. That doesn’t instill confidence that he’s gonna get better.

    Here’s hoping he does, though, because we’re stuck with him! And despite his play, I kinda like that guy. “Struggla” is certainly an endearing nickname.

  26. On another note, I’d like all of us to take a moment and reflect on the fact that while we may complain about the limited payroll from Liberty, the difficult to swallow contracts for Uggla or BUpton, the occasional tactical mystery from Fredi, or the fact that we aren’t 23 games up to start July, at least our favorite franchise did not just deposit the third of 25 payments of $1,193,248.20 per year into a retired player’s bank account.

    Happy July 1, everybody. It’s Bobby Bonilla Day!

  27. @34, I’m thankful every day we’re not that team. I am also overjoyed that the Mets are!

  28. @32, exactly. And we should be rooting for ownership to pony up for more of these players, not disparaging useful veterans for making market value. People act like “we” are entitled to ride a useful, market-level vet for not being a superstar because “we” are paying him, but I don’t see anyone offering to make Freddie Freeman’s rent and pay his dinner tabs for all the surplus value he’s providing “us”. It’s not our money. Just get the best 25 in the dugout and let what they’re paid be someone else’s problem. You can win a World Series with 2013 Dan Uggla as your starting 2B/six-or-seven-hole hitter. So don’t worry about it…

  29. @36 – exactly

    The problem isn’t Dan Uggla making market rate for his services. The problem is that Liberty hasn’t allowed the Braves to increase their payroll to keep up with market rates for a decade. As a result they are required to take chances on mid-tier stars with upsides (and also downsides) like Uggla and Upton, because they can’t afford to go all in on a Josh Hamilton or Albert Pujols contract for fear that they might do what they’re doing in LA.

    You can mitigate a bad run by your mid-tier players on a $90m payroll. If you locked into one of the $20m+ guys and had him go Hamilton on you the team would be hamstrung for the length of that deal, period. No outs. No way to get around it. Just completely screwed.

    What the Braves need is for Liberty to up the player payroll to something closer to what STL works with.

  30. @25
    Unlike Jack Wilson and Paul Janish, Ramiro Pena could hit a bit and thrived in his role as a utility infielder. It seemed apparent that he was able to find success because he was being used just enough as a PH/spot starter to stay acclimated to playing and underexposed at the same time. One dimensional players like Janish will never succeed on a team like the Braves because the one spot where he’d most likely see time is being filled with a player who doesn’t seem to need rest and is better defensively.

    Dee Gordon could very well turn out to be a one-dimensional player, with the one being speed. However, he has shown the ability to play a few positions, steal bases at a high success rate, hit for decent average at AAA, and seems to have learned how to take a walk or two. He’s cheap, he’s undervalued, and there doesn’t seem to be any young Prado/Infante/Pena type players on the market. The utility guys like Keppinger/Carroll could be had and provide “veteran leadership” but they’re having terrible years and, with their current production, would be the same as having Janish.

  31. We traded Omar Infante for Uggla. Omar has performed at roughly the same offensive level as Dan, just more consistently and with his numbers actually getting better in the last three years, not showing a steep decline towards oblivion. The Marlins and Tigers have also paid him over three seasons less than we have paid Dan in one.

    In hindsight, we’d have been better off keeping Infante as our second-baseman and using our trade and salary resources elsewhere.

  32. Absolutely no one complained about trading Omar Infante for Dan Uggla when it happened. (Also, as weird as it sounds, Comerica has played as a massive hitter’s park this year.)

  33. I didn’t complain about the Uggla trade. I did, however, complain about the contract. I thought 5 years for $65 million was a bit too optimistic for a swarthy, stocky dude on the wrong side of 30. And now with Uggla we have a player who would be almost impossible to get rid of without giving a team more than the equivalent of Infante and Mike Dunn in return. I’m not sure how that translates to the Braves getting their money’s worth.

    I’m also confused by W.C.G.’s notion (unless I’m reading it wrong), that the Braves should be happy to pay for Uggla’s glory days with the Marlins where he was underpaid, and that Braves fans should take joy in rooting for that.

  34. The extension was questionable at best, yes. But you’re suggesting that the Braves should have kept Infante rather than make the trade. That’s nothing but back seat driving with 20/20 hindsight. Absolutely nobody was upset to trade Infante, who had just had a “back to earth” season, for Dan Uggla.

  35. Uggla’s contract dollars through this exact point- 29.5 million
    Uggla’s worth through this exact point, according to fangraphs- 29.8 million

  36. Over the last 30 days, Uggla probably been the thrid best possition player on the team.

    .847 OPS, 4 HR, 3 2B and 14 runs.

    Maybe the contacts are working.

    I’m not worried about Uggla.

  37. @43, You’re right. Bad word choice.

    @44, I’m not suggesting that the Braves should have kept Infante. Just that they could have kept him and been arguably better off, or made a better trade with him and Dunn and gotten a better player. You’ve correctly pointed out that Liberty Media’s approach to team investment has us hamstrung, and that we have to play things smarter in the markets we’re allowed into.

    I’m also suggesting that his extension we gave him defines Uggla for the Braves and their fans more than his production does. We can live with a guy who is in decline who is in the last year of his deal. But we’ve just reached the mid-point on Dan.

    Anyway, here’s hoping the contacts are indeed an improvement for his hitting.

  38. I wonder how much the aesthetic peripherals influence our perception of Uggla. In that he’s kind of a doof. I know AAG flipping the hell out whenever he’d strike out added to his suck factor for me, personally.

  39. @39: Dee Gordon got 330 PA in 87 games for last year’s Dodgers, and hit .228/.280/.281 while playing atrocious defense. Is it possible there is a good player hiding somewhere in there? I suppose it is. Should the Braves be the team that pays for the privilege of finding out? No way.

  40. The thing with Uggla is that people really underrate his walks, which he’s generated tons of for the team. Now, with a .200 BA, it’s hard to provide much “on base” value regardless of how many walks you have. But IIRC, he lead the league last year. It’s not like he’s Andrelton with the stick out there. (Or glove, I suppose, but whatever….)

  41. The primary problem is that Uggla’s aesthetics and approach make it unlikely that he’ll ever bat where he should: leadoff.

  42. @52: Bingo. The too-tight shirt screams “meathead,” and meatheads aren’t “speedy,” which is the sole thing the lesser-informed want out of their leadoff guy.

  43. I think Uggla would walk less if he hit higher in the order. I think he gets intentionally pitched around quite a bit when hitting 7th. Conversely, maybe he’d see more hittable pitches if he led off? Sure wouldn’t mind him swapping places with Simmons.

  44. Can someone explain how Fangraphs calculates salary value?

    I would think that the proper way to do it would be get all starting second basemen over the last three years and divide their salary by WAR. Then find the mean $ per WAR and multiply that by Dan’s. I doubt you’d get to even $7M by that method.

  45. @42/48: the only surplus value is in homegrown players. Reach out to other teams and you’re going to pay, either in cash or prospects. Go through the list of MLB second basemen who have changed teams since the 2010-11 offseason, and tell me who you’d rather have than Uggla. I’ll wait.

    Zero points for Infante as a response, as he has been and continues to be an objectively worse player than Uggla every year since the trade. And it’s not as if you can use the resulting savings to buy up Evan Longoria and park him at third; baseball doesn’t work that way these days. Free agents are by definition flawed and on the wrong side of 30, but if you don’t have an in-house replacement ready to go…

    My point is that sometimes you just have to pay the going rate to fill a position adequately, and we should be rooting for that to the extent that it helps build a championship-level club, not bemoaning the extent to which those signings drag down the mythical wins-per-dollar title.

  46. Damn these Braves. They keep on clogging up the bases with slow guys walking, then kill rallies with homers. All the experts in the booth were really bummed with these wins coming with so much dependence on homers, because they know the way really good teams win games is with steals, hit and runs, sacrifices, and hitting the ball the other way. Every time the Braves win without a homer, the announcers act like the team deserves some sort of extra credit for that, as if it was a “better” win.

    Seriously, the Braves are good at walking, they’re good at striking out, and they’re good at hitting the ball hard. They play better when the manager is ok with that and has the patience to allow big innings to happen. When the big innings don’t happen, as sometimes they don’t, the Braves look bad. The variance of Braves runs per game should be higher than most teams, but the average should be higher as well. The good news is that most of the hitters should be able to hit better than they have over the last couple of months. If the UpWard outfield + Uggla can just become average hitters with plus power, they can grind down most pitchers by the 5th or 6th innings.

  47. I’m glad to see that the anti-Uggla train appears to be shedding a few adherents, at least temporarily. I continue to believe that Uggla is the perfect Rohrshach test for sabermetrics: he looks horrible when he’s bad and the thing he is best at, walking, is the single least valued skill. People seem to think that he is been worth his value because of mirrors or something. Nope… that’s what a wRC+ of 104 looks like when it is composed of Uggla’s skills. Plus, there’s almost no actual evidence of decline other than the fact that his homers are down. BA doesn’t count. As has been pointed out, the only reason BA is important is that it’s an important component of both OBA and SLG. For Uggla, oddly, it’s a small component of each. I don’t call dropping from leading the league in walks to fifth in the league much of a decline.

  48. The anti-Uggla case is pretty simple: he’s 33, a reasonably poor defender, and his bat appears to be slowing down, as evidenced by his rising K%, his rising infield fly ball percentage, and his rising walk rate. (When players lose bat speed, they tend to become more selective with the pitches they swing at. That’s why walks are part of “old player skills.”)

    Of course, as long as he’s still hitting homers and drawing walks, hey, I’m happy to have him. But I don’t believe in his recent hot streak nearly as much as I believe in his overall numbers as a Brave: .223/.329/.420, with -10.6 UZR and 6.5 fWAR in two and a half years. That is basically worth the money we paid. But the first three years of the contract were supposed to be the good years.

    Unless the contacts work miraculously well, or Dan starts working out with Yuri Sucart, 2014 and 2015 are gonna be tough to watch. I’m just mentally preparing myself.

  49. I still think that walks are a tiny bit overrated. With runners on base a walk is less valuable than a hit. If the walk is basically on-purpose to get you to expand your zone or to set up a double-play and to get to the crappy hitter hitting behind you, then I’m not sure how much credit you deserve. Certainly it’s good that you took the walk rather than got yourself out by swinging at crap. I’m just not sure it should count the same as a single to the outfield. Walks near the bottom of the order in NL games are very often more about defensive strategy rather than a batter exhibiting extra-special abilities.

    I would almost never throw Uggla a strike when he’s hitting 7th. And for the most part I would say he does get very few good fastballs to hit. I think we might see his AVG and SLG go up if he were to hit lead off or second.

  50. Uggla can look pretty horrible when he swings and misses, which gives off the aura of “bad plate discipline,” which of course is the opposite of true. He’s a weird case. I kinda like him.

  51. @64: You’re right, walks are less valuable than hits. That is accounted for in wOBA and wRC+ (the latter of which is derived from wOBA). It still washes out to an above-average offensive performance so far, although it it’s hardly crazy to think he won’t keep it up.

  52. @66, yes exactly, thanks…I should have just said that the advanced stats that use weighting schemes are better and left it at that.

    Just for fun we should track how many happy-zone fastballs that Uggla sees in a week. He can look terrible when he swings at breaking balls low and away, but I still think that when that’s pretty much all you ever see you might get a bit frustrated and chase one every now and then.

  53. In a “just ’cause” tweet, Morosi thinks Pedroia is the first half AL MVP. If Chris Davis or Miguel Cabrera were either a Yankee or a Red Sock, that thought wouldn’t even enter his thought process.

  54. Walks are less valuable than singles in OPS, too. Singles contribute to OBA and to SLG (unless you slug over 1.000) while walks contribute only to OBA. I guess there is the small anomaly that for someone slugging over 1.000, walks are actually more valuable than singles, but if you’re slugging over 1.000, who cares?

  55. @70 – reached-on-error isn’t an out…and it’s at least as valuable and usually more valuable than a walk – and OBP counts it against you. I’m just saying that there’s better ways to measure what OBP is trying to measure.

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