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.

2 Comments

Trade Reed Johnson. Why do you need him? Jordan can play CF, BJ is right handed, Justin and Heyward could play CF, Gattis is a right handed bat with pop(who also has a pinch hit HR) who can play LF.

So why do you need Reed Johnson? Team Chemistry? Veteran pinch hitter? Well that to me aren’t the right answers to keep a guy.

Bottom line, you don’t want to lose Schafer’s on base capability, speed, defense, as well as a left handed bat off the bench. If you trade Laird, then if an injury happens to McCann and Gattis you call up JC Boscan, and next year McCann leaves and who is the backup.

Trade Reed Johnson, it’s the logical solution. He is good, I really think teams would be interested and give the braves a quality return, maybe a solid reliever.

The bullpen worries me to tell you the truth. Things aren’t looking good for Venters, EOF has been used a lot, so has Kimbrel. Walden is good with an ocasional bad outing here and there, Avilan and Gearrin are wild cards, they don’t look in control throwing wild pitches, hitting batters, walking guys a little bit too much.

So trading Reed Johnson for a reliever is actually a good strategic decision.

This team is ridiculus and very scary. I have been saying it for 3 years, Dan Uggla was a bad signing. He hits a lot of useless solo HRs and gets a few walks, but adds nothing to the team (on the field). I know he is well liked in the clubhouse. I doubt there is much of a trade market for a guy hitting 210 for 2 plus years, but I would love to see a guy like Martin Prado, Marco Scunora or anyone that can hit 260, steal some bases, put the ball in play and play some defense. Maybe Tyler P can be the guy. BJ Upton has been just as bad, but he did have a big HR earlier in the season and plays good defense and can steal some bases. Plus, he has only been awful for 1 month. I know the team is stuck with Uggla so it would be great if someone would teach him not to pull off every single ball. Yes, it works at times, but not against the better pitchers.

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