Friday, May 27, 2011

The Braves Blog: Roster Guide Update Part I

When I did all of those roster guide blogs earlier this season I didn’t realize how many of the non-25 man roster guys we would soon be seeing in Atlanta. Due to the extra inning games and a rash of recent injuries, the roster moves have been coming fast and furious. It’s been chaotic and a little hard to keep up with. We’re now 51 games in so I thought I would do a few roster guide update entries. This first one will cover the 17 position players who have appeared in a game for Atlanta so far this season.

Brian McCann (C-DH; 46 games; 42 starts)

Status: Starting catcher

Season Grade: B-

Batting: .274/.340/.393/.733, 4 homers, 25 RBI.

RISP: 15 for 41 (.366).

RISP with 2 out: 9 for 19 (.474).

Fielding: 2 errors, 3 PB, 28% CS.

Notes: Mac has not been as patient at the plate as he was last year, and as a result, he’s not getting on base as often. While his stroke appears to be coming back, his power numbers are way down, as he’s slugging just .393 and is on pace for 9 homers. He has been perhaps the team’s most clutch player this season, posting outstanding numbers in RISP situations. He’s driven in 25 runs. Last week he basically beat Houston single handedly with a 2 out, 2 strike, game tying homer as a pinch hitter in the 9th, and then the game winning homer in the 11th. Defensively Mac has had some issues as a backstop. On the other hand, he has been very solid with his throws against base stealers.

David Ross (C-DH; 12 games; 10 starts)

Status: Backup catcher

Season Grade: A

Batting: 11 for 36 (.306/.359/.583/.942), 3 homers, 9 RBI.

RISP: 4 for 8.

Fielding: Zero errors, 1 PB, 3 CS out of 5 attempts.

Notes: Rossy hasn’t played much but when he’s been in the lineup he’s been about as good as you could ask for. The Braves have to sit one of their best players (Mac) at least once a week, but they haven’t lost anything with Ross filling in. He’s been clutch at the plate and excellent defensively. He’s a great teammate and a fun guy to root for.

JC Boscan (C; 1 game; 0 starts)

Status: AAA

Season Grade: NA

Notes: Boscan was up for a week very early in the year. Not needing a 5th starter for a while and with Jair Jurrjens due to come off the DL in a week, the Braves brought up a 3rd catcher to allow Ross to be used more as a regular bench player without fear of being caught without a catcher. Boscan only got into 1 game with Atlanta and struck out in his only plate appearance. Boscan hasn’t exactly been tearing it up back at AAA either. He’s 11 for 53 at the plate (.208/.333/.245/.579) with no homers and 2 RBI. He’s also committed 3 errors and allowed 4 PB at catcher. He has no value other than the fact that he can play the catching position. Barring an injury to Mac or Ross, we will not see JC again (at least until September).

Freddie Freeman (1B; 49 games; 46 starts)

Status: Starting first baseman

Season Grade: B-

Batting: .247/.328/.373/.702, 4 homers, 20 BB, 39 K.

Vs. LH: 12 for 47 (.255/.333/.468/.801), 3 homers.

RISP: 6 for 37 (.162).

RISP with 2 out: 2 for 16 (.125).

Fielding: 2 errors.

Notes: Free has basically been exactly who I thought he would be during his rookie season. He’s been excellent defensively, particularly making digs and stretches on throws to first. He’s also terrific making throws to 2nd or home. Offensively I’ve still got some concerns. He’s walked a little bit more than I thought he would, but he’s also fanned more than I thought he would. I’m still not sure how well that half-uppercut swing is going to work. It’s kind of strange because he’s not a slugger but he’s not really a gap-power guy either. He seems to be a line drive hitter who usually pulls the ball. That could mean a lot of ground outs to the right side and balls caught at the track. The only time he really annoyed me was when he got thrown out at second on a ball hit off the wall. Other than that he’s been great in terms of effort.

Dan Uggla (2B; 51 games; 50 starts)

Status: Starting second baseman I guess

Season Grade: D-

Batting: .180/.250/.335/.585, 7 homers, 17 BB, 43 K.

RISP: 6 for 47 (.128).

RISP with 2 out: 3 for 31 (.097)

Vs. LH: 6 for 51 (.118/.211/.157/.367), 0 homers.

Fielding: 4 errors.

Notes: Let’s face it: Uggla’s been worse than even the most pessimistic fans could have predicted. The only thing that keeps me from giving him an F-grade is the fact that he’s had a knack for hitting timely homers. I mean he’s had some big time homers. 5 of his 7 dingers have come in the 8th or 9th inning. But other than that he’s been terrible. He’s not a talented fielder, and I knew that coming in, but I didn’t realize how bad his lack of focus was. He makes more mental errors in the field than physical. The same is true on the base paths. At the plate he’s been a disaster. He needs to walk way more and make contact much more frequently. Some of those numbers are just horrible. Uggla is truly a one-trick pony, even when he’s at his best. When that trick isn’t working, he’s a zero (or worse).

Alex Gonzalez (SS; 50 games; 48 starts)

Status: Starting shortstop

Season Grade: C+

Batting: .268/.298/.400/.698, 5 homers, 8 BB, 38 K.

RISP with 2 out: 0 for 16, BB, 4 K (BB was IBB).

Fielding: 3 errors.

Notes: While the .298 OBP and 8-38 BB-K ratio are really, really awful, it’s hard to complain because that’s just who A-Gon is. He’s actually having a great season, but he’s a C-grade player. That might sound like a serious dis, but it isn’t meant to be. I love having A-Gon instead of Escobar. A-Gon has been brilliant defensively, and you never have to wonder whether or not he cares. But he’s going to strike out on 3 breakers in the dirt with a guy on 3rd and 1 out sometimes. You just have to take the good with the bad.

Chipper Jones (3B-DH; 46 games; 44 starts)

Status: Starting third baseman

Season Grade: B

Batting: .262/.347/.436/.783, 16 doubles, 1 triple, 4 homers, 28 RBI, 23 BB, 29 K.

Vs. RH: .223/.307.

RISP: 15 for 38 (.395).

RISP with 2 out: 4 for 12 (.333).

Fielding: 3 errors

Notes: To be honest, my expectations for CJ weren’t all that high this season, and that’s why a gave him a B-grade despite what are (for him) below average numbers. Going into the year we were all worried (naturally) about his knee. The knee’s been okay, but his hands and instincts are finally starting to fade. At the plate, he’s getting beat on pitches that he used to handle. At third, balls he once got to are by him before he can even start to move. However, he’s been out there almost every day, and he’s still been a better than average player. Again, that might sound like a dis, but it isn’t meant to be. Chipper Jones is one of the 5 most underappreciated athletes in Atlanta history, and that’s saying a ton, considering that Atlanta is at the bottom of any list concerning appreciation for athletes (in case anyone’s wondering, the other 4 on the most underappreciated list are Jessie Tuggle, Terance Mathis, Andruw Jones, and Dominique Wilkins). He’s so much better than Dale Murphy it’s not even funny, and yet Dale Murphy is worshiped in Atlanta because he like goes to church and stuff. Chipper is the greatest position player in Atlanta Braves history, but you really wouldn’t think so based on the attitude of a lot of “fans.” Please notice that I specified “position player” and “Atlanta.” I’m not saying he’s had a better career than Spahn or Bad Henry or Mad Dog. I’m saying position player for the Atlanta Braves.

Eric Hinske (LF-RF-1B; 37 games; 17 starts)

Status: Starting in right field while Heyward is out

Season Grade: A

Batting: 28 for 84 (.333/.360/.548/.907), 5 homers, 4 BB, 24 K.

Vs. LH: 3 for 13, homer.

PH: 5 for 18, 2 homers, 4 RBI.

RISP: 5 for 24 (.208).

RISP with 2 out: 2 for 10, 1 BB, 6 K.

Fielding: 2 outfield assists, no errors.

Notes: I love this guy. How many big insurance runs has he produced in the last couple of years? He almost always produces when called upon.

Brooks Conrad (1B-2B-3B; 28 games; 2 starts)

Status: Pinch hitter

Season Grade: C

Batting: 4 for 24 (.167/.323/.333/.656), 1 double, 1 homer, 5 RBI, 6 BB, 9 K, 1 SH, 1 SF.

Vs. LH: 0 for 5, 2 BB, 3K.

PH: 4 for 19, 1 homer, 4 RBI, 1 double, 4 BB, 8 K, SH, .348 OBP.

RISP: 1 for 8.

RISP with 2 out: 0 for 3.

Notes: Brooksy hasn’t had many opportunities but the magic returned this week with his extra inning blast against the Bucs.

Diory Hernandez (SS-3B; 8 games; 1 start)

Status: Backup shortstop

Season Grade: NA

Batting: 2 for 13, 1 RBI, 2 K, 1 SH.

PH: 1 for 5, 1 RBI, 1 K.

Fielding: 1 error.

Notes: Hernandez was left off the opening day roster but was called up earlier this month. At AAA, Hernandez went 23 for 89 to hit .258/.287/.416/.703 with 3 homers, 1 SB in 3 tries, just 3 BB, 18 K, and 3 GDP. He’d also already made 4 errors in the field.

Brandon Hicks (SS-3B; 12 games; 2 starts)

Status: AAA

Season Grade: NA

Notes: Hicks made the club out of spring training. It was a bit of a surprise, as most had assumed that Diory Hernandez would make it as the backup shortstop. He was sent down in early May when the Braves needed to bring up Julio Teheran for a spot start. Teheran was sent back down the next day, but instead of Hicks, Hernandez was called up. While with Atlanta Hicks went 1 for 10 with 1 RBI, 1 BB, and 3 K. He was 1 for 6 with 1 RBI and 2 K as a pinch hitter. He committed 1 error in the field. Since getting sent to AAA Hicks gone 15 for 64 to hit .234/.300/.484/.784 with 4 homers, just 6 walks, and 25 K. He has made 3 errors at short.

Martin Prado (3B-LF; 51 games; 50 starts)

Status: Starting leftfielder

Season Grade: B-

Batting: 285/.325/.430/.755, 13 doubles, 6 homers, 29 runs, 29 RBI, 1 SB in 5 attempts, 14 BB, 28 K, 10 GDP, 1 SH, 3 SF.

RISP: 14 for 39 (.359).

RISP with 2 out: 6 for 18 (.333).

Fielding: 2 outfield assists, 3 errors.

Notes: You gotta love Tino. I worry that he won’t be able to stay healthy but he’s a great hitter and so much fun to root for. It would be nice if he didn’t have to hit leadoff but right now he’s the best option. I say that because he’s not really a work the count and get on base guy. He’s going to have quick at bats and 0 for 5 nights because he likes to ambush pitchers and he’s a line drive guy. But he’s pretty much a guaranteed .300 hitter and you can’t complain about that. Plus, you know he’s going to give everything at all times. And by the way, he’s been pretty damn good in left field.

Nate McLouth (CF; 48 games; 47 starts)

Status: On DL with a strained left oblique

Season Grade: C

Batting: .238/.332/.341/.673, 3 homers, 1 SB in 3 attempts, 21 BB, 33 K, 7 SH.

Vs. LH: 9 for 48 (.188/.278/.229/.507).

As #8 hitter: 20 for 64 (.313/.443/.484/.927), 5 doubles, 2 homers, 15 BB, 10 K.

RISP: 8 for 25 (.320).

RISP with 2 out: 3 for 14 (.214).

Fielding: 1 error

Notes: Nate’s injury was particularly abusive because he honestly was starting to play better all-around. I really don’t know where the power and base stealing abilities that he showed in Pittsburgh went to, but at least he was having solid at bats and playing decent defense before the injury. Oblique’s are tricky. Hopefully he’ll be able to come back in a few weeks and pick up where he left off, because to be honest, we don’t have any other options in center field. Or at least that’s the way it would appear at this moment.

Jason Heyward (RF; 45 games; 38 starts)

Status: On DL with sore right shoulder

Season Grade: C

Batting: .214/.317/.407/.724, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 7 homers, 3 SB in 4 attempts, 20 BB, 34 K, zero GDP.

RISP: 6 for 22 (.273).

RISP with 2 out: 4 for 10, 4 BB, 1 K.

Fielding: 1 outfield assist, 1 error.

Notes: I’m starting to worry. When Jason has been healthy he’s been good, although he has been prone to slumps. But I’m starting to question his toughness. I don’t know, maybe it isn’t fair, but just look at how his injury is listed: on 15-day DL with “sore shoulder.” Don’t recall seeing “sore” before in an official transaction report. It’s kind of hard for me to evaluate him as a hitter at this point because you don’t know how much of his problems have been due to injuries. I’m also not very impressed with his defensive skills. One thing I can say is that we have to have him back in the lineup soon, because he’s one of the few guys in the lineup who knows how to get on base even when he isn’t swinging the bat well or having good luck.

Joe Mather (LF-CF-RF-1B; 17 games; 8 starts)

Status: Backup outfielder/first baseman

Season Grade: B+

Batting: 13 for 38 (.342/.375/.526/.901), 4 doubles, 1 homer, 2 BB, 11 K.

PH: 2 for 7, 1 double, 3 K.

RISP: 4 for 6.

Fielding: No errors.

Notes: So I got this one totally wrong. I have to admit that I’ve done a complete 180 in terms of my thoughts on the Braves signing Mather. It turns out that he actually can swing the bat and his ability to play multiple positions actually is a major asset. I was totally off the mark. Mather did not make the team out of ST but he would be up with the big club before the end of April. Mather was 16 for 62 at AAA (.258/.343/.387/.730), hitting 1 homer, going 2 for 3 on SB tries, and drawing 8 walks against 14 K. He also hit into 4 GDP.

Matt Young (LF-CF-RF; 9 games; 4 starts)

Status: AAA

Season Grade: NA

Notes: Like Hicks, Young was a surprise member of the opening day roster. Unfortunately, Young wouldn’t be with the big club for long. When Peter Moylan went down with a back injury and the Braves had to have a fresh arm to help out an overworked pen, they called up Cody Gearrin and sent Young back to AAA. The next day, the Braves optioned reliever Jairo Asencio back to AAA, but instead of recalling Young, the Braves called up Joe Mather. Young didn’t get much playing time when he was in Atlanta, and he was unable to take advantage of the few opportunities he did get. He was just 2 for 19 at the plate with no EXBH, 2 BB, and 2 K. He was 0 for 3 as a pinch hitter. He was fine in the field, playing errorless ball and making a few nice catches. Young is 27 for 106 (.255/.347/.302/.649) at AAA with 6 SB in 9 tries, 15 BB, 17 K, 3 GDP. He has made 4 outfield assists and his 1 error this season came while playing 2nd.

Jordan Schafer (CF; 2 games; 2 starts)

Status: Starting in centerfield while McLouth on DL

Season Grade: NA

Notes: When Schafer struggled this spring and failed to make the team, it didn’t look like there was any chance he would be in the majors before September, and even a September call-up seemed somewhat unlikely. However, when Heyward and McLouth had to go on the DL earlier this week the Braves really had no other option but to bring Schafer up. At AAA, Schafer hit just .256/.309/.323/.633 with a homer, 6 SB in 9 tries, 14 BB, 28 K, and 2 GDP. He had 1 assist and no errors in the outfield. So far with Atlanta he is 2 for 9 with 1 double, 1 BB, and 1 K.

Wilkin Ramirez (PH-PR; 2 games; 0 starts)

Status: Pinch hitter/Pinch runner while McLouth and Heyward are on DL

Season Grade: NA

Notes: Ramirez was called up earlier this week when the Braves had to place McLouth and Heyward on the DL. He has fanned in his only plate appearance so far, and has yet to make an appearance in the field. At AAA he hit .248/.294/.513/.806 with 6 doubles, 2 triples, 7 homers, 6 SB in 7 tries, 8 BB, and 27 K. He had 2 outfield assists and 1 error while at AAA.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Braves Blog: Explaining the Hitting Woes

What Happened to the Offense?

I’m not breaking any news here when I say that the Braves are struggling at the plate so far in the 2011 season. It’s not like the Braves were some prolific offensive team last season, but they were one of the more patient teams in the NL. They worked the count, wore down pitchers, took walks, and got on base. It was a delightful and surprising development. Out of the blue, the Braves had adopted an AL East style of hitting. I felt this was one of the main reasons that they finally got back to the postseason last year.

This season the team’s approach at the plate has been drastically different. I’m obviously not the first person to point this out. It’s been clear for any fan to see. The shift back in the other direction has been just as dramatic as last year’s improvement.

I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t “misremembering” things and exaggerating, so I dug deep into the stats from last season and this season. The numbers confirmed what my eyes and my memory had been telling me: this year’s offense bears no resemblance to 2010’s offense. Here are some of the key points:

-The 2010 Braves drew an NL high 634 walks (45 more than any other team); they are currently tied for 6th in the NL in walks and on pace for 531.

-The 2010 Braves struck out 1140 times, 6th fewest in the NL; they are currently 11th in strikeouts and on pace for 1182.

-The 2010 Braves led the NL with a .339 team OBP; they are currently 13th with a .309 team OBP.

-The 2010 Braves finished 4th in the NL in pitches per plate appearance; they are currently 13th in that statistic.

-The 2010 Braves led the NL in BB% (percentage of all PA’s that ended in walk) and K/BB; they are currently 9th and 7th in those stats respectively.

-Last season, Braves leadoff hitters ranked 4th in OBP; so far in 2011, Braves #1 batters are 12th in the NL in OBP.

-Last season, Braves #2 hitters led the NL in OBP; Braves #2 batters are currently 11th in the NL in OBP.

-Last season, Braves #3 hitters ranked 4th in the NL in OBP; this season, Braves #3 hitters rank 9th in the NL in OBP.

There are many, many more examples but you get the idea. The Braves have also not had good luck in BABIP (batting average on balls put in play) this season, and that’s definitely making the numbers look even worse. Still, this team is going to struggle to score runs unless they are putting runners on base consistently.

The homerun numbers are up, but it’s not like the Braves have a ton of power. They have even less base running ability than last season (which seems hard to believe), so manufacturing runs with speed is not really an option. Simply put, the Braves need to get back to doing what they did last year. Otherwise, they just aren’t going to score runs consistently enough to match last year’s success.

It is certainly true that run scoring is down league wide, but the bottom line is that the Braves are averaging 3.92 runs per game this season, after averaging 4.56 runs per game last year. That’s a steep drop off.

What’s puzzling about all of this is that this year’s roster of position players is very similar to last season’s roster. 6 of the 8 everyday position players this year were also regulars last year. The departure of regulars Omar Infante and Troy Glaus--along with Matt Diaz, Melky Cabrera, and Rick Ankiel--did not lead many people to expect a major decline in the Atlanta offense this season. So what happened?

Same name, not necessarily the same player. Perhaps the most important thing to realize is that just because you have the same names in the lineup from one year to the next does not mean that you are going to have the same players. I can’t think of a better way to put it than that, but what I mean is that players don’t necessarily maintain the same level of performance or even the same approach at the plate from year to year. The opposition can also affect this, as teams may alter the way they pitch to certain players from one year to the next.

For an example, let’s look at Chipper Jones: the Braves’ #3 hitter and their best hitter in terms of batting eye, patience, and approach. Early last season it seemed that Chipper was really starting to notice his age and the decline of his skills. He didn’t have as much confidence as a hitter. I’m speculating to some extent, but the guy did openly talk about retirement. Eventually he got rolling, but my main point was that last year Chipper seemed to be content to take a walk whenever he had the chance. Actually, there were times where he literally seemed to be “up there looking to get walked.” His ability to get on base consistently in spite of his declining skills was impressive.

In my opinion, Chipper came into this season with a very different approach. Perhaps because he was trying to prove to himself that he could still do it, or perhaps because he really had nothing to lose, Chipper seemed to be much more aggressive than usual early this season. Again, he’s been impressive, driving in runs and even hitting for some power, despite being almost 40 years old and coming off of knee surgery. But he hasn’t been getting on base as often as usual. At the moment, Chipper’s batting average is virtually identical to his average over the previous two years, but his OBP is off 30 points.

Of course we also have to consider opposing pitchers and managers in this case. Let me say up front that I don’t have any advanced statistics to prove my speculations; I simply don’t have the time to find that sort of data at the moment. But it could very well be that pitchers are working Chipper differently this season. Last year it seemed like teams were still pitching to Chipper as if he was the guy who hit over .400 for much of the 2008 season. They were often more than willing to pitch around Chipper and go after Mac or whoever was hitting behind CJ. Perhaps this season pitchers are working to CJ more aggressively and with less fear.

In other words, maybe Chipper is being more aggressive because pitchers are being more aggressive. You may have noticed that he’s been taking a lot of called strikes lately. Maybe he’s having to guess more to make up for his declining bat speed. But it could also be that pitchers are going after him more often. It’s been obvious that his hands and his bat speed have fallen off, so it would only be natural for pitchers to attack him and try and get him out more often than before. Finally, Brian McCann may now be the more feared hitter, and that certainly did not seem to be the case last season. Pitchers may be choosing to throw strikes to Chipper rather than pitch around him and deal with Mac.

Speaking of Mac, let’s look at Brian for our next example. Sometimes hitters seem to change their approach out of the blue. For whatever reason, Mac was a far more patient hitter last year than he had ever been before. During his first 5 seasons, Mac averaged a walk every 11.86 plate appearances. Then last year he all of the sudden drew a career high 74 BB, taking a walk every 7.64 PA. Was he maturing as a hitter? Were teams pitching around him because they didn’t fear Troy Glaus? I don’t know, but whatever the reason, Mac clearly was a more patient batter than ever before last season.

This year he’s back to 10.76 PA per BB. For some reason he hasn’t been the same hitter in terms of getting on base this season. Last year he hit a career low .269, yet his .375 OBP was his best since 2006 (when he hit .333). This year he’s hitting .274, but his OBP is a rather low .339.

Roster changes may be more important than they first appear. As mentioned earlier, there were several key players who the Braves did not bring back this season, but not many people were worried about losing those guys. The Braves were replacing Yunel Escobar with Alex Gonzalez (for a full season), Troy Glaus with Freddy Freeman, and Omar Infante with Dan Uggla. These moves were actually supposed to be upgrades. In the grand scheme of things, it may still turn out that way. But in terms of being a patient lineup, working the count, and getting on base, these were actually fairly major shifts in the opposite direction.

During the second half of 2010 it became blindingly obvious that Troy Glaus was no longer physically capable of being an effective player. The obvious move was to have Freddy Freeman take over as the everyday first baseman this year. While this was clearly the correct (and only) choice, the Braves would be losing something.

Clearly Glaus was finished, but during the first half of 2010 when Glaus was actually healthy enough to play, he was a big part of last year’s patient, AL East like offense. He took pitches, took walks, and worked the count. Freddy, on the other hand, never had a high walk rate in the minors. He’s up there looking to get a hit. He will walk every now and then, but many times he puts the ball in play early in the count. He’s a rookie, and thus slumps and strikeouts are expected, but the point is that substituting Freeman for Glaus meant less pitches, less walks, less OBP, and probably more K’s.

Now look at Escobar/A-Gon. Escobar was an aggressive hitter and he wasn’t helping the OBP much last season when he was with the team. Many times he would come up and hit the first pitch on the ground for an easy out. However, he was also a guy that could fight off pitches and work the count when he wanted to. A-Gon is always aggressive. He brings much more power, but he also brings more strikeouts, and a guaranteed sub-.300 OBP. He’s not going to draw many walks or work the count. Again, I’m not saying the move was wrong, I’m just saying that it did mean less pitches, less walks, less OBP, and more K’s.

Finally let’s look at the Uggla/Infante situation. Omar is an aggressive hitter and did not walk a lot. However, he’s a good contact hitter and when his BABIP is on the fortunate side, his OBP’s going to be high. Uggla obviously brings much more power and he draws a decent number of walks, but he also strikes out a lot. When he’s not going well, he’s going to be a hole. That’s what we’re seeing now obviously. And again, it was still the right move, but at the moment the loss of OBP and the increase in K’s are overshadowing the benefits of more power.

A few more factors. Jason Heyward went through hot and cold stretches last season just like every rookie, but he was always willing to walk, and thus he maintained a very high OBP throughout the year. He hit in the #2 hole virtually the entire season, so the Braves always had a high OBP guy near the top of the lineup. Heyward has drawn plenty of walks this year despite the injuries, but he spent the first month of the season batting 6th. He started hitting 2nd again at about the same time that his shoulder started to cause him a lot of trouble. That high OBP in the #2 hole has been missing for most of this season, as Nate McLouth struggled in that spot during the first month. He had finally started to play well on a consistent basis in the last few weeks, making his injury even more frustrating. However, he didn’t start to come around until he was moved back down to the bottom part of the order.

And then there’s Prado. The Braves offense really got going last year when Tino moved to the leadoff spot and he’s spent much of this season batting first. He’s not a prototypical leadoff guy. He’s actually a perfect #2 hitter. He’s an aggressive hitter and he’s not really a walk/get on base guy. He’s a great hitter, so his OBP is usually fine. He hit .307 in each of the previous two seasons and his OBP was over .350 in both of those seasons. His average is starting to climb, but for much of the season he’s been hitting in the mid-.200’s, and thus his OBP has hovered around .300, which is way too low for a leadoff guy.

Another possible explanation. Fans usually tend to think highly of their team, and thus whenever a team is struggling, fans are puzzled, and they often figure that it must be a problem with the coaching. I’ve always felt that this view point was particularly problematic in baseball. I mean how much of an impact do pitching coaches and hitting coaches really have? Over the last few years there were times when fans would be very critical of Terry Pendleton, calling for him to be fired as batting coach. My response was always that they were making way too big of a deal out of a hitting coach.

However, the Braves dramatic shift in approach at the plate this season has me rethinking the issue. I’m not having second thoughts about TP. I think he was fine as our hitting coach. I’m wondering about our current hitting coach. The Braves moved Pendleton to first base coach this season and Larry Parrish took over as hitting coach. I’m wondering if this may be part of the reason for the drastic shift in the team’s approach at the plate. Parrish was not a patient hitter during his playing days, but neither was TP. I have to admit that I have no idea whether Parrish has pushed a more aggressive style on the hitters or not. It could be a total coincidence. But I’m suspicious. And I’m worried that the Braves may never get back to being the type of offensive team that they were last season.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Braves Blog: Anaheim Series Preview

Braves Update: The Braves recent surge has been stalled this week by back to back hideous, soul crushing losses in Arizona. The Braves essentially wasted a quarter season’s worth of excellent starting pitching and middle relief. With a +42 run differential (2nd best in the majors), the Braves could easily have the best record in the game. Instead, they are 25-21 and in 3rd place in the NL East, 2.5 games behind the 1st place Phillies, and 1 game back of Florida. All of the tight, low scoring games will eventually take a toll on the bullpen. The team is also banged up at the moment, with Peter Moylan and Brandon Beachy out for the foreseeable future, and Chipper Jones and Jason Heyward struggling to play through injuries.

This will be a challenging series in Anaheim, but the Braves really need to take 2 out of 3 in order to make up for the disappointing losses in Arizona. The Braves are playing the Angels at what seems to be a good time, as the Halos have lost 5 in a row. The Braves also have a couple of things going for them in the pitching matchups. They won’t have to face a lefty in this series, and that’s always key. More importantly, the Braves miss both of Anaheim’s aces in Jered Weaver and Dan Haren.

In addition, playing with the DH could end up being a big boost for the Bravos. For one, Chipper Jones won’t have to play the field in the first two games. Also, the Braves will be able to keep Mac in the lineup for Sunday’s game, while also giving him a day off from behind the plate. And the Braves will get two of their hotter hitters into the lineup during the series, with Eric Hinske playing the first two nights (against right handed pitching) and David Ross getting the start at catcher in the finale. Plus, having the DH should allow the Braves to cover up what is obviously their biggest weakness: the bench. But of course all of this is on paper. Let’s face it, regardless of who the opposing pitcher is, the Braves could easily get no-hit on any given night.

Angels Update: It looked like the Angels might be ready to take back the AL West this season, as they got off to a solid start and watched the Rangers lose several key players to injuries. However, Anaheim has lost 5 in a row and they are now a game under .500 for the season at 22-23. They have a -5 run differential. They are in 3rd place but still just 1.5 games out of 1st. They are only 9-10 at home so far but they’ve been one of the best teams in baseball during interleague play over the last few years.

Like Atlanta, the Angels have played a number of close games this season, and so far they are just 7-10 in 1-run ball games. This may seem hard to believe, but the Angels have actually played more extra inning games than the Braves this season. They are 4-6 in those games, the most extra inning losses in the majors.

The Angels have gotten good pitching and defense so far this year. They are 3rd in the AL in defensive efficiency and fielding percentage. They rank 4th in the AL in runs allowed and ERA, and 5th in WHIP. Their starting pitchers are 3rd in the AL in ERA, tied 2nd in Quality Starts, and 1st in WHIP. For years, Anaheim had one of the best, and at times, the best bullpen in baseball. While Jordan Walden has emerged as a reasonably good closer option, the Angels have had an average pen so far. They are 6th in the AL in BP ERA, 9th in WHIP, and dead last in Save Percentage.

The Angels have struggled to score runs this season, despite the 2nd best team batting average in the AL. They don’t seem to have the speed that they used to. They are 6th in the AL in steals but tied 12th in fewest GDP. They are 8th in OBP, 9th in slugging, and 9th in OPS. They are just 9th in walks and 10th in homers. Overall they are 11th out of 14 in the AL in runs scored per game.

Opposing Starters

Ervin Santana (RH): The veteran is just 1-4 in 9 starts with a 4.85 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. He hasn’t had much luck at home, going 0-3 in 4 starts with a 5.14 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP.

Joel Pineiro (RH): He’s been a bit of a surprise so far in 2011. He was hurt at the start of the year but in 4 starts he is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP.

Tyler Chatwood (RH): This is one of those guys that I only know from seeing their name when searching the waiver wire in fantasy baseball. The rookie is 2-2 in 8 starts with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP. He’s been better at home, going 1-1 in 5 starts with a 3.23 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Braves Blog: Early May Entry

I had designs of doing an “After April” blog entry and then an “After May” blog entry and so on throughout the year. But then I realized that the Braves had played their first regular season game in March, so I decided to scrap that idea.

Actually I’m lying a bit. I had planned to create the entry on the final day of April, but that turned out to be a Saturday, and I spent all of said Saturday in an extended napping state. I’ve also been busy working, watching the NBA and Stanley Cup playoffs, and trying to keep up with my 15 (yes, I’m serious) fantasy teams.

So I finally had some time last Tuesday when the game was rained out…or at least I would have had some time if I didn’t have to drag two agoraphobic cats to the vet to get “de-wormed,” and then spend an hour cleaning up a certain male cat’s runny waste that he released upon returning to my apartment complex. Anyhow, let’s change the subject.

This has turned into an “After March, April, and a week or so of May” entry. If you want you can call it a “Through 36 Games” entry. Or you could just say that a sufficient number of games have been played for us to start looking at numbers and trends and thinking of how the season has gone and may go from here on out.

We’re getting close to a quarter of the way through the season. Plus, both the Bravos and the Hawks were off on Monday so I finally had some time to write a full, committed—if rushed as always—Braves Blog entry.

Uncle Fredi

The hiring of Fredi Gonzalez to take the place of Bobby Cox was perfect in so many ways. He knew the team well and was (as far as we know) universally liked by the players and the organization. He was the guy Cox wanted. He was seemingly like Cox in many ways, and yet he was certainly not just a Cox clone or lieutenant. Braves fans seemed to accept Fredi as one of their own. There was so much good faith in the deal. I wondered how long it would take for feelings to change if for some reason things didn’t go well.

Thankfully we don’t yet know the answer to that question. But it didn’t even take two weeks for Braves fans to start questioning Gonzalez and become frustrated with his managerial decisions. I had actually had a feeling that fans who were particularly critical of Cox would automatically be staunch defenders of Fredi. If Gonzalez started to do some of the things that fans used to rail on Bobby Cox for, I figured a lot of fans would overlook or ignore it.

But this theory was shaken when fans became furious with Gonzalez’s early season experiment with Nate McLouth in the 2-hole and Jason Heyward hitting 6th. Gonzalez eventually shook things up, but it was surprising how little patience fans had.

My first “what the hell was he thinking?” moment came in the finale of the Dodgers series, when Gonzalez decided to have Cristhian Martinez pitch to Matt Kemp with first base open in extra innings when he was hitting over .500 on the season.

Overall, I think Fredi has done a fine job as manager so far. For me, what has been most intriguing about Gonzalez’s first 36 games is how obvious the differences between his managing style/theory and Cox’s have been. Some of the changes have been welcome in my opinion. Others I’m not so sure about.

Obvious Managerial Style Differences

-Roster Management: Anyone else feel like roster spots have been bandied about in a much more willy-nilly way than usual so far?

-Less Patience: I’m actually inclined to welcome this change. I would have liked to see Matt Young (and even Jairo Asencio) be given more opportunities before getting sent back down, but I’m glad that Gonzalez does not seem to be afraid to mix things up if they aren’t working (i.e. the lineup). Most importantly, it seems like Fredi has a grasp of the sense of urgency that we really need to have. While this is perhaps not entirely fair, there were times over the last few years when I felt like Bobby was still managing as if the playoffs were a given, rather than as if we had to win every game we possibly could just to have a shot to get in.

-Starters Going Deeper: During the years when the Braves had 3 to 5 aces in their rotation at all times, Mr. Cox was often accused of staying with his starters too long. However, in the final few years Cox was very cautious with his starting pitchers. This has perhaps been the most obvious difference so far between Fredi and Bobby. Gonzalez has given the starters a much longer leash in games when they are encountering trouble, and has allowed starters to work deeper into games when they are rolling.

-Less Caution with Injuries: During the Cox era, whenever an injured or ailing player pronounced himself ready to go, Bobby would invariably reply “give it one more day.” This is probably a decent rule, as competitive athletes often rush to get back on the field/court. But again, the Braves don’t have as much room for caution now as they did when they owned the division and had one of the highest payrolls in baseball.

-Bench Management: Keeping reserves fresh with spot starts every now and then seems to be one of the few things Gonzalez has carried over directly from the Bobby Cox Book. I actually like this strategy, provided that the moves aren’t jarring, and more importantly, provided that the bench player getting the start is not a total misfit. A guy like Eric Hinske can be a big boost to the lineup when inserted. But you don’t want Brandon Hicks or Joe Mather getting too many starts.

One other interesting change, is that Gonzalez has shown little tendency to remove Chipper Jones late in games, whether behind or in the lead. If Chipper goes down with an injury late in an 8-0 game, I’m sure Gonzalez will be hammered. As scared as I am about the potential for a CJ injury, I have to admit that I kind of like this strategy. Chipper is not stupid. He knows when to letup and when it’s worth it to push it.

Outside of that, I think it’s best for him to just play the game. Freak injuries are going to happen to position players whether you try to protect them or not (as we’ve learned with Chipper). While we’ve got him, we need Chipper to be as much like Chipper as he can be. And I believe he’s a better player when he’s not thinking about how old he is or the fact that he could hurt himself at any moment.

-Aggressive Offense: I’ve got some mixed feelings here. There were certainly times where I felt that Bobby did not take enough chances to try and help the offense get a run. Bobby Cox’s teams rarely stole a lot of bases, and the Braves really didn’t even put guys in motion that often.

Now, I’m fully in agreement with those who criticize reckless base stealing. However, I do not go as far as some, who claim that stolen bases don’t matter and that base stealing is basically a bad strategy. Look, I understand that in the grand scheme of things you don’t want to risk an out for the chance of advancing a base. But I have several caveats. If you have an edge (a pitcher with a ridiculously slow move to the plate; a guy behind the plate who simply cannot throw; or a catcher with a mental block) it is often wise to exploit it (see the Braves in the 1999 NLCS against Mike Piazza). If you have a very, very high success rate it can be a useful strategy (think about the Phillies). And finally, if you really, really need to force the issue (Dave Roberts, game 4 of the 2004 ALCS) it can be worth a shot.

With all of this said, I generally didn’t mind Bobby’s stance of almost never sending a runner. For one, this preserved outs. In addition, some batters (Chipper for example) don’t seem to like guys moving around in front of them, or having to worry about giving a guy a chance to steal a bag, or having to protect a runner. During the power era, trying to steal bases seemed reckless, and I actually expected the hit and run to become as rare as the straight steal of home.

But that era came to an end. Sitting back and waiting for the 3-run homer made more sense when the Braves had a lineup of sluggers. At times I felt like Bobby did not adapt to the decline in power throughout the Atlanta lineup.

I loathe the sacrifice bunt by a non-pitcher unless you’re bunting the runner over to 3rd with one out. And sometimes when you’re struggling for runs you have to try and force the issue. With all of this in mind, I was somewhat excited when Gonzalez showed more of a willingness to put men in motion and send guys on straight steals. However, it steadily began to get out of control.

We knew that the Braves didn’t have a lot of speed and we knew that they didn’t have many capable base runners, but even I have to admit to being caught off guard by just how inept the Braves are at stealing bases. In my opinion, under normal circumstances, you shouldn’t be trying to steal bases unless you have a success rate of at least 70%. If you are only making it 6 out of 10 times, it’s not a good idea for you to be trying to steal. It goes way beyond that for the Braves. They probably shouldn’t ever steal unless they’re going up against an absurdly weak catcher.

The Braves are not efficient base stealers. They’re not even inefficient base stealers. If an inefficient base stealer attempted 48 stolen bases, he might make it 30 times and get caught 18 times. He’d be chided as selfish and reckless but at least he’d have 30 SB. The Braves are so bad, it would be like if a guy attempted 48 stolen bases and made it 10 times while getting caught 38 times.

I’m hoping that Gonzalez has started to come to the same conclusion I have: as much as I’d like for the Braves to be more aggressive at times on the bases, they simply aren’t anywhere near good enough. Unfortunately, the Braves just aren’t going to be able to use the SB as a weapon. More on this later.

-The Off the Field Incidents: This doesn’t really have anything to do with Fredi. But I do wonder if Derek Lowe and Roger McDowell would have acted differently if Mr. Cox was still at the helm.

First off, let me say that outside of the distraction element and the negative press, I really wasn’t that upset about either issue. It’s not good to drive drunk. However, it would appear that Lowe got pulled over for racing a flashy car after he had been drinking. He didn’t crash his car into a tree or pass out at a stoplight. If he would have been suspended for the incident then I would have been pretty upset. But again, outside of negative press, it didn’t appear to have any effect on Lowe’s performance or the team.

As for McDowell, I thought it was much (media induced) ado about absolutely zip. The “victim” is obviously looking for money and attention (hence hiring Gloria Fricking Allred). The punishment for the incident was outrageous in my opinion. The fact that he is going to have to go through some kind of sensitivity training and actually apologize personally to this douche is absurd.

I wish the Braves would fight it but it’s probably not worth the PR hit and the attention. McDowell has no choice, as—let’s face it—pitching coaches just aren’t that valuable. My only concern now is that it could limit whatever positive effect McDowell has on the team’s pitchers as far as teaching goes.

Now let’s get back to the original question of whether things would have been any different if Cox were still in charge. For Lowe I would say no. D-Lowe is not the type of player who thinks about his craft and his career 24-7. We have known that all along. I don’t think he did anything differently on this particular night other than get pulled over. During Lowe’s first two years with the Braves, I made the statement on many occasions that there might not be enough pressure in Atlanta for Lowe to be motivated enough to succeed. However, he finished last season very strong and has started off this season pitching just as well. As long as he’s getting the job done on the field, I really don’t care if he parties with his hot blond girlfriend who doesn’t like to wear a bra underneath a tight tee-shirt when she’s walking around the lobby of Piedmont Hospital (just trust me).

McDowell’s situation is another story. I mean, you’d have to imagine that his relationship with Fredi Gonzalez is different in many ways from his relationship with Cox. McDowell was most famous during his playing days for his pranks and his outlandish personality (he was on the 1986 Mets after all). Maybe that side of him was starting to come out a bit more this season. Remember, he replaced perhaps the most famous pitching coach in the history of the world, and he took over the job under a legendary manager. Coming into this year, he had now established himself as the team’s pitching coach and was working under a new, younger, less experienced manager, who was himself replacing a legend. It’s not hard to imagine Roger gradually letting his hair down a bit. But, like I said, as long as it doesn’t negatively affect his ability to help the pitching staff once he returns, I could care less about the whole thing.

Records and Standings

Despite playing some great baseball of late and outscoring opponents by 43 runs on the season (2nd best in the NL, 3rd best in the ML), the Braves are still just 20-16 (.556) overall and in 3rd place in the NL East (4 games back of Philly, 1 game behind the 2nd place Marlins). The Braves have the 5th best record in the NL (4 games back of the Phils) and tied for the 8th best record in the majors (again, 4 games back of Philly). The Braves are a game behind the current NL Wild Card leader (Florida). The Braves have been in 1st place for all of 2 days this season, not since April 1st, and they never had a lead of more than a half game.

The Bravos started off the season 3-1 but then went just 5-11 in their next 16. They were 4 games under .500 on April 21st. The Braves were 6 games out of 1st on April 30th. However, they’ve gone 12-4 in their last 16 and are a season high 4 games over .500. They won 6 straight from May 1st through the 6th, and they’ve had only one 3-game losing skid all season (April 5th through the 7th). The Braves are 6-5 in series.

The Braves went 1-0 in March but then had just a 12-15 record in April, despite outscoring opponents by 17 runs during the month. They are 7-1 so far in May. The Bravos are 9-7 in Atlanta and 11-9 on the road. They’ve gone 8-7 against division foes, 8-7 against teams at or above .500, and 12-9 against teams below .500. They are 6-3 in shutouts and 8-2 in games decided by 5 runs or more. However, they are just 1-3 in extra inning games and 3-5 in 1-run games.

The Braves last 5 losses have come by a total of 10 runs and never more than 3 runs in a game. Of those last 5 losses, 3 have come in extra innings and a fourth was by 1 run. Based on their excellent run differential, the Braves record should be 23-13.


Despite a great deal of effort by the franchise (both on the field and off of it), the Braves seem to be losing the battle in their fight to raise attendance. In fact, they’re having a hard time maintaining attendance levels at the moment.

The Braves reached the playoffs last year for the first time since 2005; they have a very likeable roster of players; and they have several exciting young players, some of whom have local ties. And yet, attendance at Turner Field, particularly among neutral/hometown fans appears to be declining further still.

The Braves are currently 11th out of 16 NL teams in average attendance, drawing 24,190 a game. Obviously it’s still early, and perhaps no team experiences a bigger boost from school letting out for summer than the Braves, but at this point Turner Field attendance is well off of last year’s rather disappointing 29,013 a game.

These poor numbers have come despite opening the home season against the Phillies, and getting early season visits by the Mets and Cardinals. On the other hand, one of the other home series was against the Marlins, and the Braves have played a pair of true double headers at home, with only one total gate number going towards attendance. In other words, the Braves have two zeros going against their average per game attendance. While that might make the Braves and their supporters feel better, the fact that they only managed to draw 15,000 to last Wednesday’s double header with the Brewers is somewhat disturbing.

The Braves have drawn fairly well when playing the Phillies, Cardinals, and Mets. The problem is that those are three teams who always have a significant number of their own fans in attendance. The Brewers and Marlins don’t have any of their own fans in attendance. For those games the Braves have drawn record lows, including the smallest crowd in Turner Field history on April 12th.

Offense (Season Grade: C)

The Braves offensive struggles have been somewhat of a surprise to me. I did not think we would have the top offense in the game, but I thought we had a very good chance to be as good as last season, and maybe better. Instead, the Braves have regressed significantly. It’s not only that the numbers are down; the Braves aren’t doing the things that made them successful last year, particularly during the first half or so before the injuries took a toll.

Last season the Braves thrived on working the count, getting on base, wearing down pitchers, and turning the lineup over. The Braves haven’t been doing any of those things this season. Last year the Braves were at or near the top of the NL in BB and OBP from wire to wire. The Braves have been at the very bottom of the league in OBP this season and have not been getting their walks on a consistent basis.

If not for timely homeruns and a fortunate knack for hitting with runners in scoring position, the Braves might be in a big hole. They’ve had few opportunities and have suffered through extended periods of anemia.

The Bravos are just 9th in the NL in runs per game (still above average). They are just 8th in the NL in walks (above average) and tied 11th in fewest strikeouts (below average). They are 11th in average, 13th in OBP, 8th in Slugging, and 10th in OPS. The Braves have been saved by the long ball, as they are 3rd in homers.

Last season the Braves worked the count, got on base, moved runners up and over, and rarely had quick and easy innings when they were healthy. This hasn’t been the case so far in 2011. They are 9th in pitches per plate appearance (still above average) and 15th in “Productive Out Percentage” (moving any runner with first out or scoring runner with second out or sac bunt by pitcher). They are tied 5th in sac hits and 6th in sac hit success rate, but they are just 15th in sac flies.

The Braves just don’t seem to be focusing enough on trying to get on base. Consider that they are 13th/15th/10th/12th (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS) in the NL with the bases empty, yet they have the 5th best batting average in the NL with runners on. The Braves have been super clutch this season when they have had opportunities. They are 1st in the NL in average, OBP, Slugging, and OPS with RISP. They have the 2nd best average with RISP and 2 out. You can obviously look at this in a positive light: they’ve been clutch. But on the other hand, you have to wonder if they can keep that sort of “clutch” hitting going.

We’ve already discussed this but it’s worth mentioning again how awful the Braves have been in the stolen base department. As a team, the Braves are just 6 for 17 (Uggghhhhh) in SB attempts for a hideous 35.29% success rate. They are last in the NL in SB (1 behind the Cubs) and easily worst in SB% (the next worst team has a 56% success rate).

But the Braves lack of base running prowess extends beyond stolen bases. They are tied 12th in the NL in infield hits, tied for last in bunt hits, 13th in fewest double plays, and tied 9th in fewest ground ball double plays. The Braves are also dead last in “Bases Taken” (bases advanced on fly balls, wild pitches, passed balls, balks, and defensive indifference). On the other hand, the Braves are 2nd in “Extra Bases Taken Percentage” (percentage of times a runner advanced more than 1 base on a single or more than 2 bases on a double).

One seemingly random number is that the Braves are dead last in the NL in HBP with only 4 all season. This could be random, or it could at least in some way speak to not working the count. They are tied 8th in IBB. One number that can give us hope is that the Braves are 12th in the NL in BIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play), meaning they are hitting into some bad luck. However, this certainly has to do with speed as well (beating out grounders for hits can make a big difference).

One thing that hasn’t been a surprise is the struggles the Braves have had against left handed pitching. The Braves lineup is heavily left handed and they just aren’t going to be as formidable against southpaws. But hopefully they can improve on the results so far, as they are 14th/16th/14th/14th in the NL against left handed pitching. Contrary wise, they are 8th/6th/4th/3rd against righties; pretty solid.

No one expected the Braves bench to be a strength either this season, as they had only 5 bench players make the opening day roster, two of whom were fringe players/career minor leaguers (neither of whom is still on the MLB roster). Again, however, they should be better than they have been so far. Erik Hinske and David Ross have gotten it going, but overall Braves pinch hitters are 11th in average and 11th in OBP.

Pitching (Starting Pitching Grade: A; Bullpen Grade: B+; Overall Grade: A-)

I’m being a bit of a tough grader. If the Braves pitching had been anything less than brilliant so far they would be below .500. If the Braves hitters had been a little bit better they could be winning the division.

The Bravos lead the NL in runs allowed per game, ERA, WHIP, and BB/9. Atlanta pitchers are tied 3rd in complete games, tied 2nd in complete game shutouts, and tied 1st in team shutouts. The Braves are 2nd in H/9, HR/9, and K to BB. Braves pitchers are tied 8th in saves and 6th in K/9.

The Atlanta pitching staff ranks 2nd in batting average against, 1st in OBP against, 2nd in Slugging against, and 1st in OPS against. Braves pitchers are tied 1st in GDP induced, tied 4th in fewest runs on errors allowed, and tied 14th in IBB. Braves pitchers rank 14th in BIP against, so perhaps they will be unable to sustain these lofty numbers, but that number has a lot to do with good defense as well. Plus, you can hedge bets based on BIP all you want, but the Braves have several pitchers who have proven capable of consistently getting ground ball outs and not being overly reliant on K’s.

The Braves starting rotation has been stellar. Braves starters lead the NL in ERA and are 2nd in QS% and innings per start. All of those innings haven’t kept the Braves from relying heavily on the pen (or at least a few relievers). Still, Atlanta relievers are 3rd in ERA and 1st in inherited runners stranded percentage. The pen hasn’t been perfect. The Braves are 13th in blown saves and just 11th in save percentage. Also, Braves relievers are tied for the 5th most appearances in the NL, and their top 3 relievers have shouldered the majority of the burden.

Fielding (Season Grade: A-)

The Braves have arguably been the best fielding team in the NL this season. After all of the struggles late last season and the sloppy play late in spring training, I did not see this coming. They are 2nd in defensive efficiency, tied 2nd in fewest errors, tied 1st in double plays, and 1st in fielding percentage. They have allowed a league few 4 unearned runs.

Braves catchers haven’t been the best backstops this season, as they are tied 13th in fewest passed balls and 12th in fewest wild pitches. However, Braves catchers have been excellent against opposing base stealers. They currently rank 2nd in the NL in CS% and tied for 3rd in fewest SB allowed.