Constanza continues to surprise
As the past couple weeks passed, there certainly didn’t seem reason to believe Dan Uggla’s hitting streak would not obviously rank as the most surprising development surrounding the Braves recently.
But now that the unexpected march toward history is complete, is it more surprising that Uggla hit in 33 consecutive games or that Jose Constanza has batted .414 with a .452 on-base percentage and .569 slugging percentage through the first 16 games of his Major League career.
The 27-year-old Constanza got his first call to the Majors on July 29 and quite honestly I wondered if he would would stick around for more than a couple days. Jordan Schafer and Nate McLouth had just gone on the DL and the Braves simply needed somebody who could play center and bat leadoff.
They filled that need on the morning of July 31, when they acquired Michael Bourn from the Astros. Then a few hours later Constanza enhanced his resume with the first of the three, three-hit games he has produced during his first couple weeks in the Majors.
As Constanza dazzled with his speed and continued to find good fortune through his first week in the Majors, you had to wonder, OK, when is this going to end? But as time has passed, he has made it clear that he is not necessarily the typical 27-year-old midseason roster addition.
Constanza spent three seasons playing at the Class A and Class A-Advanced levels for the Indians. Since then, he has steadily improved his numbers with each promotion. While spending all of last year with the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate and the first four months of this season with Triple-A Gwinnett, the lightning-fast outfielder combined to hit .316 with a .368 on-base percentage and a .374 slugging percentage.
In other words, maybe we shouldn’t be shocked to see Constanza enjoy this kind of immediate success. Yes, you should be surprised he has proven this productive over two weeks. But maybe it’s unfitting to describe the reaction as “shocking.”
This certainly wasn’t what was expected in late April when it seemed Constanza should have gotten the call to the Majors in front of 40-man Joe Mather. But with his speed, this rookie outfielder has proven he’s always capable of providing a surprise.
When Constanza began last night’s stirring ninth-inning comeback with an infield single, you could almost sense the frustration felt by Giants closer. After The Jet burned the The Beard, Eric Hinske showed his veteran patience by drawing a key walk. Then of course you know the rest of the story right up until the point where Freddie Freeman hit 3-2 fastball up the middle for a two-out, two-run single that gave the Braves a walk off victory.
Constanza has registered 10 infield singles through his first 16 games, moving him to within six of Uggla’s team-high total. This is an absolutely incredible pace that nobody would ever be able to sustain over the course of an entire season.
But just for fun, let’s point out that Constanza’s current pace would equate to 101 infield hits over the course of an entire 162-game season. Brett Butler set the Major League record in 1992 with 72 infield hits for the Dodgers.
As he has continued to experience a charmed life over the past couple weeks, Constanza has provided much more than speed. Dating back to the outfielder’s July 29 debut, Uggla is the only Braves player to compile a higher slugging percentage and more homers.
Uggla actually leads all Major Leaguers in those two categories over that short span and also dating back to July 5, when his hitting streak started.
After beginning a new hit streak with a double last night Uggla now owns a .231 batting average. It still seems quite doubtful that he will match the .263 career batting average he carried into this season. But that number was also slightly skewed after he surprisingly produced a .287 average last year.
If Uggla maintains his current pace and completes the season with 604 at-bats, he would need to hit . 362 (54-for-149) the rest of the way to match .263. But he could hit a more manageable .309 (46-for-149) the rest of the way and end the season with a .250 batting average.
Whatever the case, it’s seemingly a lock Uggla will post his fifth consecutive 30-homer season quite possibly better his career-high total of 33 set last year. He enters tonight with 27 homers, puttting him on pace for 35. <p>
Remembering Ernie: It was certainly sad to hear of Ernie Johnson Sr.’s passing during the late innings of Friday night’s win over the Cubs. But maybe it was fitting that he was given a chance to rest and look over Turner Field as his beloved Braves put an end to a day reserved to celebrate Bobby Cox’s career.
When I spoke to Johnson’s longtime broadcast partner Pete Van Wieren Saturday evening, you could still hear the hurt in his voice. But he was very thankful that he had taken advantage of one more chance to see his close friend last Wednesday.
While I didn’t get to work with Ernie Sr. on a daily basis, it has been a privilege to have gotten to know his son Ernie Johnson Jr. and hear how much both Van Wieren and Skip Caray loved him.
Over the past few days many of you have expressed what Ernie meant to you. So let’s end this with a song that might stir some great memories you shared with him. It’s called “I Watched It All On My Radio” by Lionel Cartwright, who just happens to be from my neck of the woods in Glen Dale, WV, or you might better know it as Brad Paisley’s hometown.