A quick look at some impressive numbers and potential roster moves
As Brian McCann was highlighting a three-hit performance with his first home run since coming off the disabled list and Craig Kimbrel was notching his 100th career save in Thursday night’s 6-3 win over the Giants, I stumbled across a few interesting trends, stats and tidbits.
McCann’s second-inning home run off Ryan Vogelsong came in his ninth at-bat this year. Most players would certainly like to tally their first home run within their first 10 at-bats. But for the Braves catcher, this was actually the third longest homerless span to begin a season in his career. He went 38 at-bats without a home run in 2011 and 10 at-bats without one in 2012.
Here is a breakdown of the homerless at-bats McCann tallied before hitting his first in each of his nine big league seasons: 5(2005); 4 (2006); 1 (2007); 5 (2008); 0 (2009); 1 (2010); 38 (2011); 10 (2012); 8 (2013).
Yesterday’s blog entry focused on why there was not any reason to panic about Kimbrel’s recent results. This next graph will provide the reminder of just how dominant the 24-year-old Braves closer has been through the early portion of his career. He became the second-youngest closer to reach 100 saves last night.
Among all Major League relievers who have ever totaled at least 175 career appearances, Kimbrel ranks first in ERA (1.60); hits per nine innings (4.95), strikeouts per nine innings (15.66), strikeouts per batter faced (.446), opponent’s on-base percentage (.241) and opponent’s batting average (.157).
“What he has done in his [three years], that’s hard to do,” McCann said last night. “Nobody really does that.”
While we’re on the subject of impressive pitching numbers, let’s take another look at just how good Mike Minor has been since exiting last June with a 6.20 ERA. In the 22 starts that have followed, he has posted a 2.45 ERA and limited opponents to a .196 batting average.
The only Major League pitcher who have compiled a lower ERA while making at least 22 starts in this stretch are Clayton Kershaw (2.11), Justin Verlander (2.29), and Hisashi Iwakuma (2.32). The only pitcher who has allowed a lower batting average is Kershaw (.193).
Like the Braves were patient with Minor last year, they entered this season determined to take the same approach with Julio Teheran. But while allowing two runs or fewer in each of his past three starts and lasting seven innings in two of those outings, the 22-year-old right-hander has provided every indication he is already capable to be a reliable piece in a big league rotation.
The most encouraging development regarding Teheran in Thursday’s win over the Giants was his willingness to throw his changeup much more frequently. He threw 10 changeups, which is six fewer than the combined total from his previous five starts.
Teheran lost command of his changeup when he altered his grip last year. But during Thursday’s outing, he went back to the grip he used back in his early Minor League days, when the changeup was considered one of best weapons.
If Brandon Beachy continues to make progress and avoids any setbacks during his final stages of returning from Tommy John surgery, he could rejoin Atlanta’s rotation in the middle of June. This obviously creates reason to wonder how the Braves will make room for Beachy. But with his return still a month away, it is far too early to know what the state of Atlanta’s rotation will be at that point.
While the rotation decision can wait, the Braves will have to make a decision when Jason Heyward makes his return from the disabled list, possibly as early as Monday. Jordan Schafer has established a firm spot on the roster while hitting .263 with a .417 on-base percentage in his past 13 games.
The Braves also are not likely to part ways with Reed Johnson, who provides a solid contact right-handed bat off the bench and strong veteran leadership in the clubhouse.
There is a chance the Braves could attempt to trade Gerald Laird, who would certainly be coveted by a number of teams looking to improve their catching depth. But Laird has proven to be a good mentor to Evan Gattis and the team might want to keep him through the entirety of his two-year deal to serve as Gattis’ backup next year.
If the Braves do not move Laird, they will likely create a roster spot for Heyward by going to a six-man bullpen. David Carpenter has not been used since he was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett on April 30 and Cristhian Martinez made just one multi-inning appearance before being placed on the disabled list in early April.
The Braves have compiled the third fewest bullpen innings (92) in the National League this year and really have not had a need for the “seventh pitcher” in their pen. So it certainly would not be surprising to see them go to a six-man pen to make room for Heyward.