Marlins 5, Braves 4

Well, the Braves got swept. I think there’s basically three reasons why:

• Every single member of our starting rotation was pitching above his head — some way above their heads, like Aaron Harang (killed in Game 1), some somewhat above their heads, like Alex Wood and Ervin Santana (destroyed in Game 2 and decent in a no-decision in Game 3, respectively). It couldn’t last forever.

Jose Fernandez and Nathan Eovaldi, who beat the hell out of us in Games 1 and 2, are really good. Fernandez may be the best pitcher in the league, Kershaw included, and Eovaldi appears to be breaking out after a spring in which many predicted he would do so.

• Our offense is frequently horrendous. Game 1 was our fifth shutout this year. We’ve only played 27 games. That ain’t good.

I hate getting swept, because it’s humiliating on top of everything else, but even if we’d won Game 3 by a run instead of losing by a run, all of those would be true. Every so often we’re going to lose extraordinarily badly.

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91 thoughts on “Marlins 5, Braves 4”

  1. From previous thread: I agree with Alex, I thought Uggla was being honest and pretty thoughtful. I agree also that I think he is done. I don’t blame the Braves for giving him a shot, stranger things have happened but Uggla is hurting the team. At least if you put a mirror under BJ’s nose there would be some vapor.

    You had to figure that the wheels would come off of Harang, Wood would come back to Earth and Santana would just revert to being competent but all at once?
    5 guys with sub .300 OBPs = recipe for getting our asses kicked a lot once the aforementioned pitchers stop doing their Cy Young impersonations.

    I guess the Braves are extending Johnson because there is no depth in the system at 3b whatsoever.

  2. On Tommy LaStella watch, just note that his .323 BA is backed up by like 2 XBH for the season. He’ll make more contact that ‘ol Uggly, but it’s not clear that he’d actually be an upgrade. Except defensively.

  3. I agree that Uggla is done as a viable starter. And because of his lack of speed, defense, or positional flexibility, he’d also not be much of a reserve. Did I mention his negative trade value? He seems like a decent enough fellow, but releasing him doesn’t seem like just the most sensible thing to do — at this point, it’s practically the most humane.

  4. @2 – In 101 PA Dan has a .194/.248/.290 slash line, he has 5 walks and 5 extra base hits. So you are saying that defense being equal, LaStella who’s main strength is OBP wouldn’t be a big upgrade? Not creating outs at the rate Uggla is wouldn’t be much better?

    The Braves have to be talking themselves into eating the sunk costs of Uggla’s contract.

  5. I’m just saying, don’t expect the world. Something like .280/.320/.350 is where my (possibly too pessimistic) mind puts him.

    In reality, it’d probably be some sort of Pena/Pastor/LaStella platoon.

  6. I would actually like a Pastor/Pena platoon for a while. Give them a bunch of at-bats that they could use, then bring up LaStella when that burns out.

    Send Uggla to Gwinnett as well. Maybe a couple hundred at-bats down there could help.

  7. I think Uggla will be given as long a leash as possible by management because the next roster move involving him will likely be his last. There’s just nothing he gives you in a bench role and he won’t accept going to the minors. There are more valuable ways to utilize a spot on the 40 man roster and if he’s not capable of starting then why have him at all? I think he’s gone by July, but if they keep winning despite his production then it may go on longer.

    Ben @ Talking Chop summarizes the situation pretty well:

  8. I’m pretty sure Uggla can reject any minor league assignment due to his mlb service time.

  9. CJ’s extension: 3/23.5 million. The FA year is probably at 9 million. The option year is for 10 million. Not a bad deal of the Braves expect him to be a 2-3 WAR player.

  10. CJ for less than 8 million a year is a bargain, he got 4.75 in arb this year and would’ve received 6.5 to 7.5 next year most likely then what 8 to 10? You can argue about the allocation of resources but it’s not a bad deal at all in the current market.

  11. yeah, it is a solid contract for CJ. We have no legit prospects so it works out. We do have 2B prospects, even if Lastella is only average it could buy time to move Perazza to 2B and prep him to be a stud fielder and leadoff type.

  12. Yeah, at first I was a bit WTF about extending Johnson, but they’ve basically locked him up for less than he’d have made in arbitration unless the wheels fell off completely. It’s not a centerpiece move but it’s a very reasonable one, considering how little 3B depth is available both in the system and on the FA market.

  13. I didn’t realize Peraza was at 2B this year.
    His OBP has been consistent his short career, leadoff material.

  14. I’m ready to see La Stella. People keep bringing up this “only two xbh this year” thing like it’s supposed to mean something. He’s had 105 PA’s.

    Last year in AA he slashed .343/.422/.473 in 323 PA’s, and in 105 AAA PA’s he’s slashing .330/.390/.352. He also, for whatever it’s worth, has walked more than he’s struck out at every single level he’s played, which is something no one on this team has done so far this year, and that no one did last year. (Going back to 2010, the only Braves to do that are Chipper Jones and Yunel Escobar.)

    This team is 5th in baseball in HRs and 7th in ISO. But despite all the homers this team is hitting, they’re 28th in scoring runs.

    Twenty-five teams have hit fewer homers, but only 2 teams have scored fewer runs than the Braves.

    Want to know why? They’re 3rd in K%, they’re 23rd in BA, and they’re 27th in OBP.

    Why are we going to act like a couple of singles wouldn’t help?

  15. @17 – It ain’t me dude. I fully advocate the change. I’ve never said that La Stella has to be or is going to be a star. All he has to be is better than Dan Uggla. I think he can pull that off with ease. Pastornicky and Pena may be better as well but La Stella has been a good offensive player at every level. I don’t think he has anything to prove in the minors. So why not give him a chance to help a team with championship aspirations?

  16. #17
    Another big difference between the 162 games played last year & the 27 so far this year: the Braves were 2nd in BBs in the NL last year, while this year they’re 13th.

  17. An OBP machine at the top of this lineup would be a major boost to the offense. Especially if you got improved defense from 2B in the package. I would think that even if La Stella is strictly Slappy McGee, he solves a lot of problems here.

  18. Combining/adapting two of my posts from previous threads:

    La Stella’s ISO by year in the minors:
    2011 – .215
    2012 – .167
    2013 – .135
    2014 so far (admittedly, small sample) = .022

    For being a little old for each level, for a prospect, that’s not a super-encouraging trend. An average ISO is something like .145. So this isn’t just a SSS thing.

    EDIT: Getting on base in MLB is not the same as getting on base in the minors. The question is: Can La Stella maximize his true strength, controlling the strike zone, without pitchers fearing his ability to drive the ball? Will major league pitchers simply knock the bat right out of his hands?

    Put it another way…another guy did the following in our minor league system:
    Age 25 – .282/.378/.342
    Age 26 – .319/.373/.394
    Age 27 – .312/.361/.351

    You say, “Woo! OBP!”

    I say, “You’re woo-ing for Jose Constanza!”

    Maybe La Stella will be better than Uggla, and maybe he’ll be fine in general. But it’s reasonable to be somewhat concerned.

  19. 21 Good info but Constanza in 10 minor league seasons .290/.362/.352 compared to La Stella in his 4th season .328/.410/.482. I agree the trend line indicates he won’t hit for as much power as he showed in the lower levels, but I hardly think 105 PAs of .330/.390/.352 is something to be all that alarmed about. Constanza never showed the ability to hit for any kind of power.

  20. Constanza’s OBP was more driven by batting average. Slap and run. La Stella has a 10% walk rate for his career.

    Look all I am saying is anything has to be better than what we are getting from Uggla at this point, right?

  21. @21: Legitimate concerns (although his lines have been better than the Constanza lines you posted), but he doesn’t have to be great, he only has to be okay. The Braves’ situation currently is that Dan is actively hurting them by suiting up. In the face of that, the organization must give La Stella a shot to prove he can be above replacement level. Your points counsel caution in our expectations for La Stella’s major-league production, but surely you wouldn’t say they suggest the Braves would be better off keeping him down.

  22. Tonight’s lineup vs. SF (7:35, FSS/680AM/BRN): Heyward 9 BUpton 8 Freeman 3 JUpton 7 Johnson 5 Simmons 6 Pena 4 Laird 2 Minor 1

    Maybe it’s getting closer, Pena starting for Uggla tonight.

  23. I’m not sure why I’m even biting on this one, but here goes.

    Those seasons are Jose Constanza’s 25, 26 and 27 year old seasons, and are also his 5th, 6th and 7th as a professional.

    La Stella’s numbers I showed are from his age 24 and 25 seasons, his 3rd and 4th professional seasons.

    And despite the supposed similarity in their numbers, they are not similar players. First of all, Tommy La Stella isn’t a burner. His batting average is made up of clean hits, not slashing and bunting. Second, their numbers aren’t actually similar. La Stella’s OPS for his minor league career is .892. Constanza hasn’t touched .892 in a single season at a single level. (Career .714.)

    But the biggest difference between the two, is that Constanza plays the outfield, and Tommy La Stella plays the infield.

    So aside from being a better player, at a younger age, and doing so with less professional experience, and doing from a valuable position rather than a low-value position, you’re right, they’re pretty much the same guy.

    Regardless, of all that, are you saying .278/.322/.329 (the career Major League line of Jose Constanza, compiled as a 27, 28 and 29 year old with 7, 8 and 9 years of professional at bats) wouldn’t play at 2B right now?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to be concerned that La Stella isn’t “the answer,” if we’re asking “Out of all possible players, who should play second base for the next three years?” But if we’re asking “Out of Dan Uggla and Tommy La Stella, who should play 2nd base tomorrow?” I think it’s a pretty clear decision.

  24. David O’Brien ‏@ajcbraves 42s
    Braves lineup: Heyward 9, BUpton 8, Freeman 3, JUpton 7, Johnson 5, Simmons 6, Pena 4, Laird 2, Minor 1

  25. @26-

    We’re just trying to be circumspect. If the alternative’s upside is “a bit above replacement level”, you can understand why the Braves want to make extra extra extra sure that Uggla’s done before they take him out back and shoot him. Personally, I’m fine surviving another month to six weeks of Uggla sharing time with Pastornicky and Pena while he tries to turn it around. Ideally you’d bat him lower in the order while this is going on, but whatever.

  26. Would it be possible that Uggla could be shipped out if packaged with a young desirable rookie/sophomore. Overpaid plus underpaid equals fair value?
    Think anyone would take Uggla plus Wood or even up for a player of minimal value or minor prospect?

  27. I was reading about Ty Cobb today and saw his picture. He looks just like Chase Utley lol!

  28. @26, I’m not trying to say that Constanza and La Stella are at all similar players, but more broadly, that it’s unwise to pencil in a high-minors OBP player as a top-of-the-order hitter, let alone an above-replacement player.

    Constanza is an extreme example of a no-power type of “hitter” — he makes La Stella look like a real slugger, what with all those line drives that can reach the outfield and such. But while they may find different ways to get on base in the minors, those differing approaches are similarly limited by a lack of power that could end up yielding somewhat similar results in the majors. Constanza really has no power and no real prospects for success; La Stella for sure has more to show for himself with the bat, but it’s not clear that it’ll be enough.

    FWIW, reports suggest that La Stella “plays the infield” similar to how Uggla “plays the infield.”

    So, it’s actually not clear to me that La Stella would be an improvement on Uggla. He totally deserves a chance to try, and I hope he succeeds. I hope he can be a singles and walks machine, plus play a competent 2B. To me, the question is actually what the most productive platoon between Pena/Pastornicky/La Stella would be because I feel like that could be where we’re headed.

  29. @28 – The problem isn’t that Uggla is struggling. Its that the team is terrible at scoring runs. The only teams that score more seldomly than we do are the Astros and the Padres.

    The idea that “we can live with it because we’re winning,” doesn’t carry water with me. If it was a case where we were scoring runs fine, just carrying some dead weight, I might agree. But we aren’t scoring. We’ve been winning because our pitching has been doing things we never in our wildest dreams imagined they would do. That will not continue. It may or may not have already stopped.

    Uggla is the worst performer of a sorry bunch. But it also happens that he is all of these: the one with the longest track record of being lousy, the one you have to say is least likely to get it turned around due to age and recent performance, the one who brings the least defensive value to counter-weigh his bad offense, and, most importantly, the one who we happen to have possible replacements for.

    Three weeks ago I was saying it was too early to dump Uggla, I was saying his next home run would give him 200 points of OPS. Then I was rewarded with a two-homer game, and a two day stretch that raised his OPS from .416 to .665. But that was immediately followed by 13 games of .182/.250/.205.

    We’re not going to learn anything in the next two weeks that we didn’t know today. Uggla is done. Pull the plug.

  30. #30
    Maybe Chase Utley on PCP channelling Nathan Bedford Forrest.

    Still, if I could go back in time & just watch any player, Cobb would be the guy.

  31. La Stella has a .482 slg percentage for his minor league career. 30% of his hits have been for extra bases. Worrying about hitting with this guy is feeble and unjustifiable by looking at 24 games in AAA.

  32. @31: I haven’t seen any scouting report that pegs La Stella with Uggla-level defense. La Stella’s not supposed to be a plus or even average defender, but I think you are overestimating Dan if you think “below average” is “similar” to what Dan has been doing out there.

    Also worth noting: projections like La Stella pretty well, think he can be a league average player. His profile–low power, good hit tool–is one that tends to be underrated in prospect lists and the like.

  33. Constanza is more similar to La Stella than Cobb is similar-looking to Utley, I think…

  34. @1

    I know Otis Nixon was a long time ago, but I’d still prefer if our center fielders kept their noses away from mirrors.

  35. Yeah Lincecum looks like he’s walked straight off a 70’s porn set.

    And our offense is so inept that we can’t even make outs on purpose properly.

  36. JonathanH, are you on the Braves Journal league?

    If so, the door is being slammed by the… Proven Closer. Ithankyou..

  37. Whomever is responsible for teaching the pitchers how to bunt should be fired right now

  38. I would never have guessed that the Giants have hit more HRs this year than the Braves.

  39. @60

    Not real good, either. But for a first start back, I’ll take it. Certainly can’t sneer at the results.

  40. I hate giving up leadoff walks, but two out of three hitters fries my cabbage.

  41. Why schedule bunting practice for spring training when you can just do it during the regular season?

  42. I love the commercials for Papa Johns offering a discounted pizza deal, on days after home games in which the Braves score six runs or more. How often is that deal going to be applicable this year, with this offense?

  43. I don’t want to talk about it. Good night. Maybe we’ll score two runs tomorrow.

  44. I think that last one was actually a strike. The others that inning … not so much.

  45. Joe West lets us all know he’s there.

    But still … 10 games with one or zero runs out of 28? Nine runs in the last 51 innings? Barf.

  46. Man. This has been a rough stretch. Walker’s gotten some great performances out of some guys, but the offense has also felt wildly inconsistent under him.

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