Braves 10 Cubs 7 One half up, one to go

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It’s a blue flag day at Wrigley.

Chris Johnson hit his third home run of the series and may ask for a trade to the Cubs. The killer blow was a Tommy La Stella field goal double in the seventh that put the Braves up 10-2. The Cubs rallied in the eighth to make it interesting, but the Braves have Craig Kimbrel, so there wasn’t really anything to worry about.

The Braves close out the first half a percentage point behind the Natspos. It could be better, but it could be worse.

The big news today remains the one game suspension of Dan Uggla for…well, know one really knows. My barber doesn’t think he won’t be a Brave much longer. It could be that Uggla has sat on the bench in an Atlanta uniform for the last time.

I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I assume Alex (or someone) will have some cool retrospects on the first half over the next few days, so stay tuned.

 

 

68 thoughts on “Braves 10 Cubs 7 One half up, one to go”

  1. Hard to believe that Tommy La Stella has posted an OPS+ of just 98. He’s felt like an all-star to me. I guess that’s the Uggla Factor, like the Wind Chill Factor. He’s got an OPS+ of 98, but with the Uggla Factor, it FEELS like 110 or 115.

    It’s just so nice to have a guy show up and be useful day in and day out.

    (EDIT, I guess though, those numbers don’t include his 3 for 5 with 4 total bases today. So he’ll probably round out the first half a little above 100, rather than a little below.)

  2. @1: 108 wRC+ (including today’s hits), which adjusts for park. He’s been just what the doctor ordered.

  3. Watched an hour-long special on MLB Network wherein they examined the cause(s) of the recent decline in offense.

    IIRC, Costas hosted Harold Reynolds, Plesac, Verducci and long-time Texas Ranger (whose name is completely escaping me at this late hour.

    It was fascinating. Probably 10 causes were put forth – most seemed logical with Reynolds’ take being the most compelling (to me). He claims that the majority of today’s hitters are refusing to swing until they get a strike instead of hitting the first strike they see. Paraphrasing, he said “no one is a good hitter 0-1”.

    I assume they’ll re-run it. I recommend it highly – especially as a debate topic during this desultory week.

  4. There are 7 NL teams going into the break with 42-44 losses, so, you know, probably best to figure out a way to somehow win this division.

  5. Teheran has pitched well, and TLS has been a welcome addition to the team. Harang drank a liter of Jorge Campillo soda, and toed the line for the last two months. That’s not likely to continue in the second half of the season.

  6. I found no new musings on Danny Boy’s fate. Has anyone seen anything on his release or trade?

  7. Chuck James called Dan and told him there’s a spot for him on the Lowe’s Window Installation Team.

  8. @6, I don’t buy that. If you’re looking for reasons that offense is down across baseball, a poor approach doesn’t make much sense — if that were all it was, then some hitting coaches would start telling their hitters to swing on the first pitch.

    Instead, I’d point to the following factors.

    First of all, the following things occurred during the steroid era that are not occurring now:
    1) Expansion: four new teams were created, which led to a major dilution in pitching. The number of teams in baseball has remained constant for 16 years.
    2) Steroids: a huge percentage of players in baseball were on them. In banning amphetamines, baseball actually got rid of a PED that was ubiquitous long before the 1990s.

    Second, of course, defensive shifts. Batters have natural hitting tendencies based on their mechanics, and mechanical shifts are extraordinarily difficult. The defense can shift a lot faster and more effectively than a batter can adjust.

    In the end, in an evenly-matched battle between a pitcher and a hitter, the pitcher is going to win the great majority of the time. The steroid era was historically aberrant. We’re going back to the ’80s.

  9. That didn’t work….

    rk team w l w% g back Rdiff pythag “luck”
    1 LAD 54 43 0.557 — 0.5 54-43 0
    2 MIL 53 43 0.552 — 0.2 50-46 3
    3 WSN 51 42 0.548 — 0.7 54-39 -3
    4 ATL 52 43 0.547 — 0.1 49-46 3
    5 SFG 52 43 0.547 — 0.2 50-45 2
    6 STL 52 44 0.542 0.5 0.1 50-46 2
    7 CIN 51 44 0.537 1 0.3 51-44 0
    8 PIT 49 46 0.516 3 0 47-48 2
    9 NYM 45 50 0.474 7 0.2 50-45 -5
    10 MIA 44 50 0.468 7.5 -0.2 45-49 -1
    11 PHI 42 53 0.442 10 -0.5 42-53 0
    12 SDP 41 54 0.432 11 -0.5 40-55 1
    13 CHC 40 54 0.425 11.5 -0.3 44-50 -4
    14 COL 40 55 0.421 12 -0.5 43-52 -3
    15 ARI 40 56 0.417 12.5 -0.7 40-56 0

  10. Yes, it’s a combo: Drug testing, defensive shifts, the idea that every club stocks its bullpen with empty-the-tank-for-one-inning flamethrowers & hitting approach, as in “I don’t care if I strikeout.”

  11. Perhaps quietly, considering all the offense, Jason Heyward had a very nice series at Wrigley. 6 for 13 with 3 doubles and a walk, 5 runs scored and 2 batted in. In the first two games he really drove the ball hard and deep the way we all expect him to. Yesterday, all 5 of his at bats were against lefties, which makes his 2 hits seem like more of an accomplishment, even if they weren’t scorched.

    Is he turning the corner from being the slightly-better-than-league-average hitter he was in the first half and growing once more into a real offensive presence? Here’s hoping. We need it from someone.

  12. Alex @13 – yeah, they mentioned most of those as possible explanations, along with the fact that you can’t swing a cat in a Major League bullpen and not hit at least five guys throwing mid-90s.

    I agree with Reynolds that a strategy that attempts to get to the bullpen as quickly as possible by running up the pitch count isn’t as viable as it used to be. (Unless, of course, you know they’ll send in Avilan.)

    I agree with you, Alex, that it’s going to start looking like the 80s – which I guess means that speed is no longer an overrated quality and strikeouts will be verboten and “productive outs” (what a mess Joe Simpson will make of himself)will be back in style.

  13. Sam, here you go:

    rkteamwlw%g backRdiffpythag“luck”
    1LAD54430.5570.554-43 
    2MIL53430.5520.250-463
    3WSN51420.5480.754-39-3
    4ATL52430.5470.149-463
    5SFG52430.5470.250-452
    6STL52440.5420.50.150-462
    7CIN51440.53710.351-44 
    8PIT49460.5163 47-482
    9NYM45500.47470.250-45-5
    10MIA44500.4687.5-0.245-49-1
    11PHI42530.44210-0.542-53 
    12SDP41540.43211-0.540-551
    13CHC40540.42511.5-0.344-50-4
    14COL40550.42112-0.543-52-3
    15ARI40560.41712.5-0.740-56 
  14. @17

    That would be nice. One of the unintended consequences of the general realization around baseball that Earl Weaver was right all along about the efficacy of power and patience has been a product that became less interesting to watch. Rickey Henderson was infinitely more enthralling than Jim Thome. Speed and dexterity are fun. Brute force is not.

  15. I don’t really trust the “luck” factor that much. Pythags are fun to play with but I don’t know that they’re predictive outside of larger samples than we have in-season. Still, the point is that Atlanta – while frustrating as hell to her fans – is a top five team in this league. They could fade down the stretch, and the fact is there are 8 teams bunched reasonably close to those five playoff spots. You obviously want to win the division and avoid the play-in game, but anyone from the Bucs up could make a run. (Hell, if you take the pythag/luck thing seriously, the Mets could make a run too…)

  16. It looks like, as it has been the past two seasons, the winner in the East will come down to who does better in the ATL-WAS season series.

  17. If you’re going to go that way, the Braves were “lucky” they saw Edwin Jackson rather than, say, Jeff Samardzia. The way the schedules work these days, a non-division team might play the Dodgers and never see Clayton Kershaw. So I think run differential has some degree of “luck” too.

  18. So, there is an article on MLB.com about Peraza at the moment. It is implied that he will be in Spring Training next year with the hopes of being the Braves everyday second baseman if he continues at the pace he is currently at in the minors.

    Where does this leave La Stella? La Stella is not glamorous, but I have thoroughly enjoyed watching him play since his call up. He has really seamed to add some stability and consistency to an otherwise inconsistent line up. I would say that he could become a sub player, but judging from his resume, he has never played anywhere but 2nd base his entire Pro career. Could he be traded to a 2nd base hungry team? Would we really do this without knowing if Peraza will really work out?

    I guess we will find out next year.

  19. I imagine that they will allow them to compete for the job in spring training, but I also imagine that it’s mostly to motivate La Stella to earn the starting job. I don’t think Peraza’s bat is major league-ready. Of course, he’s a natural shortstop, which every team wants, so if he actually is perceived as an ML-ready shortstop by next April, then he could be dangled as a trade candidate. Remember, the Indians were able to trade Didi Gregorius for Trevor Bauer, and I don’t think that Gregorius at the time was a much better prospect than Peraza is now.

  20. I disagree a little bit. I feel like the Braves, in the recent past, have tended to tip their hand on things like that. If there’s a thought in their mind about trading a guy, they keep him at the more valuable position in the minors. Nick Ahmed would be one example.

    I take the fact that they moved Peraza off shortstop so early, to mean they intend to keep him, and keep Simmons at short, and figured that the upside of his being maximally prepared to play second base for the big league Braves outweighed the added trade value of leaving him at shortstop. Either that, or they didn’t feel he was truly a shortstop, but I doubt that one, as they kept Pastornicky at shortstop.

    I still want to give Peraza a shot at short, take our time with him, and consider trading Simmons for a mountain of prospects. But that’s because Andrelton Simmons makes me want to bash my head against the wall. (Note that I acknowledge he is a very valuable player. I would just prefer to cash in that value for 3 or 4 guys who aren’t dumber than a box of rocks.)

  21. I never want to trade Simmons. He is getting lumped in with names like Ozzie Smith and Joe Tinker. Those guys are in the hall of fame.

  22. If the Braves replace La Stella with He of the 4.4 Percent Walk Rate, they deserve what they’ll get.

    It’s a trade deadline puff piece. It has to be. Please, let it be. Or if Peraza’s really that good and that fast, they should be trying him out in CF.

  23. As it relates to Andrelton Simmons, let’s not worry about what he can’t do so much & give great thanks for what he can do. He’s kinda like Alex Gonzalez, but better.

  24. Simmons is going to eventually be a better hitter. I think. The all-defense skill set probably won’t age that well so I hope for Braves fans’ sake that he gets a lot better and smarter up at the plate.

  25. There’s no reason to believe that the all-defense skill set in shortstops doesn’t age well. As a matter of fact, I’ve frequently read that the opposite is true.

  26. It’s very easy to say trade so-and-so for a basket of prospects but it’s rare when the prospects actually are better than the player traded. Simmons may be frustrating offensively, but that’s only because people started deluding themselves after all the home runs he hit that he could be a good hitter and not just a glove. I think Simmons is an incredibly valuable player regardless of his offense; if the lineup overall was better, people would not worry so much about his offense. Unless the Braves were to just get bwled over, I would not trade him.

  27. I was impressed with Simmons at the plate in Chicago. Sunday he walked ( 3x!). Earlier in the series hes was hitting the ball the other way. He is not a finished product. He is work in progress. I hope the thought of trading him has not crossed Wren’s mind.

  28. They aren’t trading Simmons unless it’s so lopsided that we can’t say no. He’s going to hit. He’s not going to be Derek Jeter, but he’s going to eventually hit and we’re going to be glad that we were patient.

  29. Remember Ozzie Smith when he was with the Padres couldn’t hit a lick either and he turned into a perfectly cromulent major league hitter in St. Louis. I think Simmons can (and I hope) will follow the same path with the stick as The Wizard.

  30. I’m under no illusion that Andrelton will be traded. And of course, I hope Andrelton Simmons does grow as a hitter (and he has actually been REALLY good the last two weeks, .358/.414/.415 (.829) over 13 games.)

    I’m just saying, if Peraza is Rafael Furcal, which it’s highly unlikely that he is, then the team shouldn’t only consider trading La Stella or trading Peraza. The haul that Andrelton could bring back, in say, 2016, should be considered.

    Other options, if Peraza is real, should include turning Peraza in to Emilio Bonifacio, playing him everywhere, including CF.

  31. @41

    He is. I think the Braves are hyping him up and making him appear more valuable. The big chunks of our farm system have graduated to the bigs and we are kind of low on prospects.

  32. Simmons now has 177 career at bats in the 2-hole. His career OPS from that spot is .768. His BA is .315 with and OBP of .362 so far from the 2-hole in his career. It isn’t anything to right home about, but it is great if you toss in the fact that he has the best glove in baseball. It, also, proves that Simmons benefits from hitting in the 2-hole over any other spot in the order that he has batted for couple of reasons.

    From the 2-hole, he has protection in the lineup which leads to better pitches and the feeling that he doesn’t have to do it all himself like when he bats in from of the pitcher all the time.

    Position in batting order might not matter as much when it comes to a seasoned player, but Simmons is still learning to hit on a major league level. He seems more comfortable in the 2-hole, and the results so far in his career would back this up. If he can keep those averages up til the end of the season, he will have accumulated around 500 career ABs from the 2-hole. If those numbers stand true, the Braves will have found their SS and 2-hole hitter for years to come, and the trade speculation could stop.

    On a side note, Simmons career OPS is actually better from the 7-hole, but I think La Stella has that spot in the order locked down with his OPS of .911 from there.

    It is all talk at this point though. He might just be on a streak at the moment. His performance the rest of the season will tell the tale.

  33. You see a lot more fastballs in the two hole. It is actually a great place for a contact hitter like Simmons.

  34. Andrelton’s having almost exactly the same offensive season this year as last year, albeit with a little more average and a little less power.

    The big decline has been defensive, oddly enough. Last year he got to 4.9 batted balls per nine innings and was worth 5.4 WAR (b-r) with the glove alone. This year that range factor is down to 4.2 batted balls per nine, which is the league average. If he plays the same number of games as last year, he’s on pace for just a 2.4 defensive WAR season.

    By the eye test, it seems like last year you could make a mixtape of all the ridiculous no-way plays he was making. This year he gets to the balls you’d expect a shortstop to get to, but none of the holy crap balls. He’s still a high-level defensive player, but this year has been a decline in that regard and I don’t know why.

  35. Maybe I got Peraza confused with the very very very lucky Kyle Kubitza who is benefiting from a .400+ BABIP.

    So do you crush the soul of Phil Gosselin and send him back to Gwinett after the break?

  36. I think that the answer is just the obvious one: just like you can have a career year or a slump on offense, you can have a career year or a slump on defense. He certainly hasn’t been as good this year as he was last year, and I think part of that may be regression and part of that may be bad luck, or whatever you want to call it. Even at his worst he’s a multiwin defensive player, but defense can fluctuate even as offense does.

  37. @ 46 & 48

    Hudson’s departure has certainly affected Andrelton’s number of fielding opportunities.

  38. Jonah Keri is talking about the Braves on his podcast! Yay! But he’s talking about them with Chip Caray. Ugh.

  39. @46

    It probably has something to do with the chances. I have still seen him make some crazy plays this year, but the fact that he is getting less balls per game takes away from those chances. He is still 3rd in the league in dWar this year with the 1.4. Last year’s 5.4 was ridiculous. Although, this year he is down in fielding percentage by a bit.

  40. My eyes have told me the same as W. C. G. I remember being bummed last year when I didn’t see Simmons do something amazing in a game. Now I think I can count the “Holy Shit” things I’ve seen on a hand. Only one that comes to mind is the DP he turned a couple days ago. Whatever’s up with his range, the arm is still there.

    It just seems like he’s barely not getting to balls. I’ll hold my breath anticipating something otherworldly, but it’s just a little off.

    I hope it’s just a first-half defensive slump. Last year was incredible.

  41. Could Simmons’ improved familiarity with NL hitters lower his fielding percentage? He knows where to position himself better than he did last year or the year before; thus, there are fewer spectacular plays? Having to adjust to a second baseman with limited range could also be another factor.

  42. Simmons’ is suffering from incredibly high expectations. He’s made a couple of errors on routine plays but that happens sometimes. And a lot of it is circumstance. Brooks Robinson was a great third baseman, but he had a lot of opportunities in the 1970 World Series and he made a zillion highlight reel plays. How often does that happen? Let’s face it, the difference between a great defensive play and a near miss is a couple of inches.

    I bet if you look at Ozzie Smith’s career you would find years where he was better than others.

  43. I discount BA as well, but I actually think it’s a bit of a better barometer for MLB skills, while in the low minors, than raw OBP. At that level, it’s useful to be La Stella like and refuse to swing at trash. That’s a great skill at every level, obviously. But in the low minors, when so many pitchers don’t throw strikes particularly well, being able to identify the pitches to hit, and then hitting them with some authority, is a good sign. I wouldn’t read too much into anything at that level, but I wouldn’t write off a very young hitter who is seeing the ball and hitting it on a line, just because he’s “BABIP lucky” either.

  44. Ozzie Smith, rFIELD, with games played, by year:

    1978 23 159 3
    1979 24 156 14
    1980 25 158 21
    1981 ★ 26 110 4
    1982 ★ 27 140 21
    1983 ★ 28 159 12
    1984 ★ 29 124 14
    1985 ★ 30 158 20
    1986 ★ 31 153 16
    1987 ★ 32 158 14
    1988 ★ 33 153 18
    1989 ★ 34 155 32
    1990 ★ 35 143 14
    1991 ★ 36 150 3
    1992 ★ 37 132 13
    1993 38 141 4
    1994 ★ 39 98 12
    1995 ★ 40 44 0
    1996 ★ 41 82 4

  45. @57 – Says the guy who’s ridden Jason Heyward since the second game of his career..

  46. I think a little too much is made of BABIP with regards to luck. For one thing, anybody who hits .350 is going to have a .400 BABIP. Second, it doesn’t really scare me that a guy who runs like the wind and hits line drives puts up a high BABIP. When a slow guy who hits fly balls, like Chris Johnson, sees a crazy BABIP spike, then, yeah, that’s weird. But a guy who’s career is going to be in his wheels, I don’t think it’s crazy that he’d a) have a high BABIP or b) see a sudden jump, as he learns his role.

    I don’t know anything about Peraza’s batted ball profiles, and I doubt such a thing would exist or be reliable if it did, from the low minors. But I digress..

    EDIT: That said, sure, pitchers in the big leagues might do a better job of popping him up, and fielders in the big leagues make plays that they don’t make in the minors. So I don’t expect him to hit .350 in the big leagues unless he’s got a little pop. But he doesn’t have to hit .350 to be useful, especially with 40 SB speed.

  47. @61: Ted Williams hit .344 for his career, and his BABIP was .328. Ty Cobb hit .366 for his career, and his BABIP was .378.

    The proven path to hitting for a high average is to avoid strikeouts.

  48. There’s limited value in BABIP, and there’s no room for BABIP determinism. But much like batting average, it is very hard to sustain an extraordinarily high BABIP.

    In the history of baseball, only 8 players have ever finished their careers with a BABIP above .350. (Minimum 3000 plate appearances. Here’s the list.) Derek Jeter is about to become the 9th. He’s the first since Rod Carew, who retired in 1985; the other 7 players on the list all retired before World War II.

    (Joey Votto and Matt Kemp both currently have a BABIP over .350, but both have begun to decline and it’s a good bet that they won’t keep it that high their entire careers.)

    So, the point is, most guys don’t stay that high. Ichiro’s career BABIP is .344. Tony Gwynn’s BABIP was .341. And if Peraza or Kubitza or any other player needs a .350 BABIP in order to bat .300, then it’s a better bet that his batting average will go below .300 than that his BABIP will stay above .350.

  49. @60,

    Are you referring to me? Are you serious? I waited until at least his third game.

  50. I get why everyone wants to put this kid in CF, but how about putting him at 3B? If he can hack it defensively, that could be an upgrade as well.

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