Clutch hits have provided rotation more consistent support

While discussing the different feeling that has existed in the Braves clubhouse over the course of the past few weeks, Derek Lowe said, “We believe that we’re going to win every day instead of just hoping that we’re going to win.”  

During the first three months of this season, Lowe and the rest of the Braves rotation simply hoped that the offense could manufacture enough to support their efforts on the mound.  But over the course of the past month, they’ve had the opportunity to toe the rubber with the confidence that their efforts won’t be wasted by a slumbering offense.  

While there’s no disputing just how important it was for the Braves to take the three of four from the Dodgers this past weekend, it might be more appropriate to say that this season’s turning point actually occurred with the 2-1 win at Wrigley Field on July 7.
 
Coming off of three consecutive losses that had killed the momentum they’d gained by sweeping the Phillies the previous week, the Braves gained that one-run victory with a pair of RBIs from Brian McCann and Javier Vazquez’s ability to outduel Carlos Zambrano. 

Dating back to that July 7 game, the Braves have hit .277 with a .355 on-base percentage, a .440 slugging percentage and 34 homers (1.10 per game).   In the process of going 20-11 during this stretch, they have hit .302 with runners in scoring position.

In the 82 games they played leading up to that date, they’d hit .261 with a .331 on-base percentage, a .396 slugging percentage and 66 homers (.80 per game).    During this 39-43 stretch, they hit .266 with runners in scoring position.

Obviously the biggest difference in these stretches comes from the fact that they’re now generating homers and clutch hits with much more frequency. 

During those first 82 games, Yunel Escobar hit .408 (31-fo-76) with runners in scoring position and over the course of the past 31 games, the talented shortstop has hit .450 (9-for-20) in these situations.

That rough early stretch was hindered by the fact that Kelly Johnson hit just .188 (9-for-48) with runners in scoring position before experiencing his Minor League stint.    Since unseating Johnson at second base and becoming an everyday member of the lineup, Martin Prado has hit .370 (17-for-46) with runners in scoring position.

Jordan Schafer also obviously hindered the offense during the first two months in numerous ways, including the fact that he recorded just five hits in his 46 at-bats with runners in scoring position. 

Jeff Francoeur actually hit .250 with runners in scoring position during the season’s first 82 games.  Still while that stat looks good compared to the .192 mark he compiled last year, it’s not the one you want to see generated from a guy who had 12 more at-bats in that situation than any of your other players during that span.

Since joining the Mets, Francoeur has hit .314 with runners in scoring position.  But this is just one of the many of his statistics that look better than the ones he compiled in Atlanta. 
 
In his first 33 games with the Mets, Francouer has hit .303 with five homers  (equal to the mark he compiled in 82 games with the Braves) 20 RBIs and a .820 OPS  (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).

Still like Francoeur has proven to be better off away from the undue stress he placed upon himself in Atlanta, the Braves are certainly better in right field without his presence. 

In the 85 games they played with Francoeur primarily in the lineup on a daily basis, the Braves saw their right fielders hit .255 with a .286 on-base percentage, a .355 slugging percentage, five homers and 37 RBIs. 

In the 28 games that Matt Diaz and Ryan Church have shared the position, the Braves right fielders  have hit .257 with a .348 on-base percentage, a .396 slugging percentage, three homers and 15 RBIs. 

There’s not a drastic difference in these numbers.  But the improved on-base percentage has provided a greater flow to a lineup that has obviously been upgraded since those days when Schafer and Johnson were providing daily frustration.  

McLouth update:  Nate McLouth felt better while chasing down some fly balls during Wednesday’s batting practice and vowed that he’ll definitely be in the lineup for Friday night’s series opener against the Phillies.

McLouth was excited to tell me that he got a shipment of Michigan gear today and that Derek Lowe, another Wolverines fan, immediately dug into the box and dressed himself from head to toe in maize and blue.  

It’s certainly nice to talk to somebody else that’s excited about the start of the college football season.  But I guess McLouth forgot my feelings about Rich Rodriguez are on par with the way many of you feel about Bill Hohn.

TONIGHT’S LINEUP

Church 8
Prado 4
Chipper 5
McCann 2
Garret 7
Yunel 6
LaRoche 3
Diaz 9
Lowe 1

 

32 Comments

Houston scores a nickel in the first against Florida. We might be able to pick up some WC standing tonite.

LOL – Rob Dibble just said “Garrett Anderson still has real good speed for his age.”

That makes sense if Dibble is under the impression that he’s 62 years-old.

Maybe Dibble meant for HIS age…

What I thought was funny was Dibble tootin’ his own horn and saying “…they love me, they love the nasty boy.” Ya know, it worked back in the 90’s when they WERE the nasty boys, but bragging on yourself like that about something in the past just sounded downright gay lol.

By the way, Mark, the Buckeyes will hand it to Rich for you again this year. I got a shirt for Christmas this past year that says “Choke, the official soft drink of Michigan Football” and on the back it says “So what’s your excuse THIS year Michigan?”

asphalt: My buddy owns a bar called Greco’s that is located in the German Village area in Columbus. He gave me a WVU fan club t-shirt that reads, “I root for WVU and anybody who plays Michigan.”

Still haven’t gained any indication that the Braves would be interested in bringing Smoltz back. They obviously don’t need him in their rotation and the fact that he doesn’t want to go back to the Minors to at least prove he can pitch more than twice a week leads me to believe he still wants to be a starter.

I was at the game on Tuesday night and highly enjoyed watching Hanson pitch well versus the Nationals. His adjustment period is strikingly small….a sign of great things to come. The last time I was at a game was Hanson’s major league debut where I was both encouraged by his stuff, sadened by the homers, and loved the final score. It’s also been great to see early returns from the Laroche deal. He has looked instantly comfortable back in the Braves line-up, and possibly, around his good friend Chipper. 3 homers in 10 games from our firstbaseman? You’d think Tex was out there.

Also, as I’m seeing some minor college football convo. involving the hated Wolverines, I can’t help but say they’re going down on 9/12/2009 to by alma mater. For those that look up to see who that is, I promise not to respond to any of the evil comments/words that may come from your hands/mouth.
http://tomatalk.mlblogs.com/

Mark remember me mentioning the Nationals sweeping the Braves thing??? The curse is still there!

Hey guys, I have a shirt that says, “Hey! Your shirts are old and no longer funny!” Pretty hilarious huh?

I also have one saying, “Victorino, … and you thought Phillie fans were the white – trashiest in baseball.”

Huh. I was at that game on July 7 at Wrigley Field….. I also have not wore any Braves merchandise during Braves games since Thursday night… Thats the last time they lost… and I was the one who prayed to God during Fridays and Saturdays games…. OMFG! I AM THE KEY! I AM THE ONE! Fear not Atlanta Braves fans, I am here, and I will free this team from the machines that has kept them from the playoffs! As soon as I see the oracle, get a floor length black leather trench coat, free my mind and learn kung fu!

Speaking of Dibble last night… Having the MLB package on Comcast and being forced to listen to half of other teams broadcasts has really made me appreciate the sheer excellence of Braves announcers… for the last 20 + years! Skip, Joe, Don, Pete, Chip, Boog…from TBS to Peachtree we have been really spoiled! I remember watching games with my dad growing up and recognizing the excellence in Braves broadcasting. If we were forced to watch a game on another broadcast for whatever reason, we would immediately recognize a downgrade in quality broadcasting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made the comment “Man, if this game was on TBS, they would have shown 3 angles of that play by now” after wondering when I was going to see a replay…. Being in Florida, I really miss those days!

Has anyone heard of this 16 yr old who hit a 570 ft bomb? Can’t miss prospect who is a catcher and is clocked at 96 on the mound? Bryce Harper is his name. Rachel Nichols and E:60 did a story on him. If you have a few minutes to spare, this story will blow your mind! Check it out!
http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=4394893&categoryid=3060647

Scott Boras is already advising him and his family. Very alarming what is happening in Youth Sports these days. I often wonder if I would have been able to keep up if played youth baseball in this era. We had little money growing up and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to afford year round travel ball / AAU / personal trainers / and private hitting instructors. I am expecting my first son in January… Will he need all of this stuff to keep up with the Jones’? I heard a parent tell me the other day that if your kid only plays rec ball… he’ll never make his high school team.
No wonder their is a decrease in minority and inner-city participation in America’s game!

Bravo, I’m not going to say the parent you talked to is 100 percent correct, but if you live in a baseball rich area, I would say that they are at least 99 percent correct.

Here in the Tidewater area of Virginia that is pretty much the case. Ever since the Upton’s, Cuddyer, Zimmerman, Wright and a couple others started the travel ball craze around here, that is all anybody with the slightest resemblance of talent plays. I can tell you that it pays off. These kids play at least double the amount of games that rec ball kids play and they are playing against a talent level that is far superior.

This trend may not be conducive to getting minority kids to play baseball, but I think it will at least help American kids keep up. Our youth spend way too much time playing Xbox and whatever. The kids in some of the latin countries are outside playing baseball all the time. Like we all used to do when we were kids.

There was a good article in the New York Times either yesterday or the day before detailing some of the detriments to year-round ball as it pertains to youth pitchers. It was a great read. Basically, something needs to be done to preserve the health of the child’s arm, as some leagues have no strict pitch count limitations and others have outdated restrictions of the number of innings or pitches allowed. The article detailed how Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham has seen an enormous jump in the number of surgeries (Tommy John, shoulder, etc) he’s performing on children over the last few years. Some of these children because of their enormous talent are being pitched relentlessly by over-ambitious coaches. Others play for multiple teams year-round and might pitch one day for one team, then pitch the next day for a different team, and they’re seeing their arms destroyed by overuse. Also, most scouts will tell you not to begin throwing off-speed until high school, but with the serious competition just to be able to get onto certain teams, children are beginning to throw changeups and sliders as early as 11 or 12 and their elbows and shoulders aren’t capable to keeping up with that stress.

Does anyone know how many years Church has on his contract?

I also saw something on espn.com that says the Braves were interested in LaRoche for more than this season. Maybe we will sign him for a one-year deal until Freeman is ready.

Does Hanson’s arm action worry anyone?

Peter Gammons made a comment about Hansons arm action and said it will probably lead to problems down the road.

Yea I’m no scout, but Hanson’s delivery seems like it will lead to injuries.

OH MY GOODNESS ESPN AND MLB NETWORK TICK ME OFF SOOOOO BAD!!!!!!!!!! they NEVER give the braves ANY respect or attention…they were talkin bout the marlins coming out of nowhere…..the Bravos were even farther back and now were ahead of the fish……unbelievable….i just dont get it

does anybody else notice that?

Adam LaRoche and Brian McCann are sitting in the front row for Tim Hudson’s rehab start with Gwinnett tonight.

Hudson retired the first two batters he faced and then allowed four consecutive two-out hits during Durham’s two-run first inning. Matt Joyce and Chris Richard damaged him with consecutive doubles.

I can’t tell if the gun here at Gwinnett Stadium is accurate. But it looked like his fastball was maxing out around 91 mph. Hudson threw 14 of his 20 pitches for strikes in the first inning. He is scheduled to throw 60 pitches tonight.

the gun at Gwinnett at the beginning of the season was so far off they just completely turned it off, but i think since then they’ve got it fixed and calibrated correctly. thats good news there mark!!

Hudson allowed two runs and five hits while throwing 63 pitches over four innings. The only hit he surrendered after the first inning was a fourth-inning infield single. And it looked like he may have hit 92 with a couple of heaters.

We’ll be going to talk to him shortly. It still appears that he’ll make three more rehab starts and be ready to rejoin the Atlanta roster in early September.

New post about how and why ESPN sucks, and a little stuff about the upcoming Phils series: http://knoble.mlblogs.com/archives/2009/08/phils_braves_preview_why_espn.html

I hope Schafer’s hand will turn out ok because if he can live up to his potential imagine this outfield(I’m guessing Schafer will play center). Left-McLouth (a gold glove center fielder) Center-Schafer( a good leadoff man) Right-Heyward(the next superstar)

Wow! You’re right Jurrjens4NLCY ESPN does suck under their daily notes they have Joe Blanton being a better pitcher than Jurrjens.

To those of you who keep playing up McLouth’s Gold Glove, you might want to read Rob Neyer’s article about the selection.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?name=Neyer_Rob&entryID=3684832

He explains why he think’s McLouth won the GG and it isn’t that complimenary. I tend to agree. After having a chance to watch some great CF’s 1st hand it’s clear Mclouth isn’t one of them. He has a very weak arm and doesn’t get a great jump. He gets to rountine balls and catches them but he isn’t an elite defensive talent.

Really? I don’t really agree with that. I don’t get to watch the Braves often only when they are on MLB Network, ESPN, TBS, FOX, WGN, and when they play the Rays and Marlins but, when I do watch them it seems like he makes some nice catches and covers a lot of ground. So, maybe he’s not Gold Glove worthy but he is a good center fielder.

Me neither, 2-3rds of the world is covered in waters and the rest is covered by Nate McLouth.

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