Schafer and fans need to show patience
After Saturday’s loss to the Pirates, Chipper Jones echoed the popular sentiment by saying that he was concerned about the fact that Jordan Schafer was striking out too often. But as the same time, he said he was confident the 22-year-old center fielder would soon cut down on his swing and utilize his speed to end his mini-slump.
“He’s smart,” Jones said. “He works hard and he wants to get better. Guys like that make the adjustment eventually.”
With his three-hit performance on Sunday, Schafer halted his forgettable five-game slump and followed Jones’ suggested blueprint. After notching a second-inning single, he produced a fourth-inning bunt single.
Then with Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche standing on the edge of the infield grass to protect against another bunt, Scafer lined another single off of a diving LaRoche’s glove.
Suddenly Schafer could smile again and forget about the fact that he’d recorded one hit and struck out 13 times in the 21 at-bats he’d recorded during his previous five games.
“You don’t want to get to the point where you start doubting yourself,” Schafer said. “I know that I can hit. I just need to start making adjustments a lot faster than I did. I know that I can compete here.”
As we all started to wonder whether the Braves had made the right decision by bypassing the option to provide Schafer more Minor League seasoning, we were showing the same lack of patience that factored heavily in the development of this short skid.
Having hit two homers in his first three Major League games, Schafer has been going to the plate with the same overanxious excitement that has caused him to be too overaggressive in his pursuit of multiple fly balls over the past couple of weeks.
There have been a couple of near-collisions when he’s ventured into the left and right center field gaps. Plus his insistence to race all the way to the wall in pursuit of balls that are going to riccochet back into the outfield grass has been somewhat maddening. But this really only proved costly on Friday night, when he allowed Brandon Moss to turn a double into a triple and score the only run charged to Jair Jurrjens in 6 2/3 innings.
The man who has taught me more than anybody about player development has always said “trust your instincts” and “the player will let you know when he’s ready.”
While watching Schafer for six weeks during Spring Training, my instincts told me that he was ready for the Majors. At the same time, I was mindful of the fact that you have to guard against being overly impressed by results produced by prospects in the Grapefruit or Cactus Leagues.
But the instinctive reason for believing Schafer was ready extended far beyond his statistics and five-tool talents. There’s just something about the quiet confidence that is displayed through his actions and words.
Like Chipper Jones, Schafer is one of those few players who truly gives you a sense he was born to play the game of baseball.
In a roundabout way, I guess I’m saying that instead of panicking about a five-game stretch we should just trust the evaluations that we’d compiled with data that was collected over a much longer period of time.
Left field concerns: While I’m confident that Schafer will prove effective while battling through inevitable strikeouts, I’m also pretty sure the Braves spent about $2.5 million too much on the left field manequin that Scott Boras sold them in February.
When you talk to Garret Anderson, he’s as lifeless as he looks during those few occasions that he’s actually deemed himself healthy enough to be on the field. He’s a nice guy who has had a nice career.
But there were a number of better, more economically-sound options for the Braves, who would have been wise to just stick to their initial intention to give some of their own players a chance to prove they could play left field.
Braves manager Bobby Cox pushed for Anderson’s signing and he has continued to show support for the 36-year-old outfielder. Cox has labeled him to be a “glider” who moves effortlessly toward balls in the outfield. In addition, he’s believes the 36-year-old outfielder will be a key piece to this year’s success.
Well Cox is entitled to his opinion and I’m entitled to believe the Braves will be putting Matt Diaz in left field much more frequently than Anderson.
Don’t let Diaz’s .217 batting average concern you. He’s owns a .255 career batting average in April. During the season’s other five months, he’s combined to hit .322.
Weekend remains: While shutting the Braves out for a second consecutive game on Saturday, the Pirates threw just one pitch with a runner in scoring position.
Adding to the afternoon’s frustration was the fact that early in the game, some of the Braves players felt that they had started to decipher the pitch signals Pirates pitching coach Joe Kerrigan was relaying to Ian Snell. Still with Kerrigan in plain sight, Braves left-handed hitters recorded just one hit (Casey Kotchman’s fourth-inning double) in 22 at-bats against Snell.
Boyer update: I don’t have the details yet, but it sounds like the Braves are close to completing a trade that will provde them a return for Blaine Boyer. They aren’t going to get more than a marginal Minor Leaguer in return. But that’s better than nothing.
I’m taking a few days off to enjoy time with the family here in Wheeling, WV. I’ll check in from time to time and follow the games scheduled to be played in rainy D.C. this week. .