Odds and ends from Denver
Attempting to match the emotional reaction to yesterday’s entries, we’ll begin this entry by examining why it is so important for the Braves to give Jordan Schafer a multi-year contract RIGHT NOW!!!.
Now that the blood is boiling for those of you who aren’t a part of TEAM SCHAFER, I guess I can greet you with a good morning from Denver, where Scott Proctor and Cory Gearrin have not surrendered a run in more than 12 hours.
While last night’s 12-3 loss was ugly in many ways, it seemed to at least strengthen some opinions about what the Braves should do between now and the trade deadline.
It still seems quite obvious that they would greatly benefit from the addition of a right-handed reliever. Gearrin has struggled mightily against left-handed hitters and Proctor has simply struggled. Adding at least another arm out there will lessen the strain placed on Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty down the stretch.
During last night’s game the idea of trading the experienced Derek Lowe might have become a little less appealing as rookie right-hander Brandon Beachy experienced the roughest start of his young career.
Before evaluating these two trade angles, it must be noted that Beachy once again managed to impress with the way he handled last night’s outing. After hanging a pair of sliders that led to Troy Tulowitzki’s three-run, first-inning homer and Carlos Gonzalez’s two-run, second-inning homer, Beachy refused to blame the thin Rocky Mountain air at Coors Field.
Instead he quickly pointed out that he had also struggled with his slider during his previous start on July 8 in Philadelphia. When asked about the career-high five walks he issued, Beachy said he was simply being stubborn with his attempts to paint the outside corner with fastballs against left-handed hitters.
Never did he say, “there were some borderline calls” or anything like that. Instead the 24-year-old hurler once again proved accountable and in the process showed why he gained immediate respect when he was welcomed to the Braves clubhouse late last season.
Since Beachy wouldn’t say it, I’ll describe last night’s outing as simply a learning experience. While allowing six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, he recorded just one groundball out and three strikeouts (two against Ubaldo Jimenez). Still his line might not have been so ugly had he not become the latest pitcher to learn breaking balls often react a little different in the thin Rocky Mountain air.
Beachy should return to form over the course of his next few starts and continue serving as a valuable piece of the rotation. But the fact that he and any of the Major League-ready prospects in the Minor League system are bound to endure growing pains should at least lessen the urge to trade Lowe.
Since becoming a starter in 2002, Lowe has gone 78-67 with a 4.02 ERA before the All-Star break and 65-37 with a 3.81 after the break. Given that he’s now 38 years-old, maybe it’s more appropriate to show his splits since the start of 2008 – 29-30, 4.20 ERA before the break and 22-10, 3.67 ERA after the break.
Say what you want about the way Lowe has pitched this year. You were probably saying some of the same negative things last year. But in September and October, you came to appreciate what he provided on the mound.
Since we’re talking about splits, this seems to be a good time to show just how consistent Dan Uggla has been during his career. And to think it was just a couple weeks ago when it seemed ridiculous to put Uggla and consistent in the same sentence.
During his career, Uggla has hit .255 with a .336 on-base percentage and .478 slugging percentage before the All-Star break. After the break, he has hit .257 with a .346 on-base percentage and .474 slugging percentage.
With his first multi-homer performance of the year last night, Uggla provided another reason to believe he is escaping his early-season nightmare. During his 11-game hitting streak, he has batted .341 with five homers, a .438 on-base percentage and .805 slugging percentage. His batting average has improved from .173 to .192.
I would expect Fredi Gonzalez will put Jason Heyward back in the lineup for tonight’s game against the Rockies. The 21-year-old right fielder removed himself from Monday’s lineup because of a sore left foot and was told he needed another day to rest Tuesday.
Obviously yesterday’s entry about Heyward’s struggles stirred a lot of emotions. Some of you agreed, others described me as an idiot.
Some of you couldn’t understand why I wrote there’s a chance Heyward could be sent to the Minors or that he could lose his everyday role in right field. These weren’t simply my opinions. This information was gathered through conversations with scouts, players, associates and members of team management.
It’s very easy to understand why some of you have asked how can you say this about Heyward and not Schafer. Both have struggled mightily and truth be told, I always felt Schafer needed to stay in the Minors for at least the first four months of this season.
That possibility was erased when Nate McLouth went on the disabled list in May and Schafer suddenly became the team’s starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter. Even as Schafer has endured growing pains and shown the effects of the significant time he’s missed the past three years, the club has provided every reason to believe they feel his athleticism makes him the best fit for that leadoff spot.
So there has been no reason to even suggest Schafer could return to the Minors.
With Heyward, the Braves possess one of the game’s most physically-gifted young players. It’s their responsibility to provide him whatever he needs to develop and maximize his skills.
Truth be told, the Braves probably weren’t wise to bring Heyward back to the Majors so soon after he rested his sore shoulder for nearly a month this year. He probably should have spent more than just a couple days on a Minor League rehab assignment attempting to fix his swing and approach at the plate.
What’s done is done. But if the Braves do eventually opt to send Heyward back to the Minors for a week or two, it shouldn’t simply be viewed as a demotion. It should be viewed as a decision aimed toward the best interests of a 21-year-old kid with a world of talent.
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