Friday, December 30, 2011

Brandon Hicks, Please

The Braves are apparently interested in Ryan Theriot for some reason. Therefore, I'll waste my time and yours with a Theriot post.

Theriot was owed $3.3 million in 2012, so the Cardinals cut bait earlier this month by non-tendering him in a no-brainer move. With Tyler Greene in the picture, they don't seem to have a need to bring him back, either. So he's currently on the market looking for a major league deal at something around $1 million, I would guess.

Theriot is basically a replacement level utility infielder with the ability to play shortstop. If you believe in defensive metrics, he rates below average across the board for his career at shortstop while slightly above average at second base. Shortstop is the one that matters, though, as Frank Wren has already stated he wants a bench player who can play short. Based on memory, I know his defense at the position leaves much to be desired.

So considering Theriot is replacement level, surely the Braves have someone to fill the role for less than $1 million. Oh yeah, Brandon Hicks.

Hicks walks, showed pop in the minors, and most importantly, he can play shortstop well. He has always been known to have a good glove across the infield; he has the range for up the middle and the arm for third base. He also makes the minimum.

Nearing 26 years old, I'd say it's time to give Hicks a role that's a little more important than designated pinch runner. The Braves have no need to throw $1 million at Theriot when they have a better player already in the system who is younger and cheaper.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Washington Nationals: Contenders?

A combination of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez has the potential to be very good. Not to plug my own writing, but... well, OK, I'm plugging my own writing.

"Even so, there’s no denying an fWAR total of 6.7 over 402.2 innings between 2010 and 2011 at ages 24 and 25. Sub-4 FIP’s and solid home run rates mean Gonzalez is doing things right. It’s a nice addition for a Nationals staff that was needing an impact arm to be taken seriously. Stick Gonzalez in there with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, and you have a very solid Top 3 that can compete with almost any Top 3 on its good days."

I won't go into detail about Gonzalez's shortcomings. He walks more batters than anybody else in the game and has done so the past two seasons. He also strikes out a lot of batters and posts sub-4 FIP's below the age of 25, so he's a good pitcher capable of being a No. 2 starter on a contender if he knocks the walks down a tad. If not, he's a No. 3 ceiling.

So a post like this is not out of this world to consider. The Nationals, in a league where it's not impossible to shock the world with a Wild Card berth, could potentially have what it takes to do that. There are two things that could derail their chances, and for one, I plug the same post.

"However, with youth comes questions, and this Top 3 has a few. Gonzalez’s control will always be in question, and he will have days where he can’t find the strike zone, depending on a Nationals offense that hasn’t gotten any better. Health concerns will surround this group, especially considering both Strasburg and Zimmermann have experienced Tommy John surgery. Depth is a concern, as the Nationals will rely on Chien-Ming Wang at the back-end, and if two starters go down at the same time, they will depend on some combination of Ross Detwiler, Matt Purke and Yunesky Maya. Injuries are impossible to predict, and all five starters could throw 180+ innings, but depth is so important to a pitching staff, and I don’t see a ton of it for Washington."

The second problem involves an offense that finished in the lower half of the National League in most categories. They were 11th in fWAR, 12th in wRC+, 11th in wOBA and 12th in OPS. Jayson Werth was the major disappointment for Washington's offense, recording a .323 wOBA after four straight seasons of .380+. Ryan Zimmerman was also held to just a .347 wOBA in only 440 plate appearances due to an abdominal injury. Expecting better seasons from these two middle of the order hitters is obvious.

Along with this is something that continued to appear when looking at team leaderboards: The Braves were either at or worse than the Nationals in the same four categories listed above. Yes, the Braves had among the top pitching staffs in the game last season, which kept them on top of the Wild Card standings for most of the year. But the return of Strasburg and the trade for Gonzalez means a better staff for a Nationals team that ranked in the middle of the pack. The Braves showed it doesn't take a Top 10 offense to contend for a Wild Card. (Of course, much of this depends on individual seasons.)

Any sort of contention for the Nationals hinges on the returns of Strasburg, Zimmermann, Zimmerman and Werth, and the continued development of Gonzalez, so there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding them. However, for the first time since the move from Montreal, this Washington team has a legitimate shot at causing worry for Wild Card contenders. In a league with such parity among Wild Card contenders, it only takes a hot streak or two to make things interesting.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Just Another Jose Constanza/Jason Heyward Post

Hot streaks have little to no predictive value. If a player's career minor league numbers are based largely on empty batting averages and luck, it would be smart to assume a small-sample hot streak is not sustainable. Somebody please pound this into some heads for me.

Constanza's .408 average isn't sustainable, of course, but a .429 BABIP and 3.8 BB% are outrageous. Braves fans, and more importantly Fredi Gonzalez, are blinded by 53 plate appearances from a guy who has walked over 10% in a full season just twice as a professional while recording the majority of his hits by slap bunts and infield singles.

Constanza's career OPS in the minors is .720. Jason Heyward's is .897. A couple weeks ago, Heyward's OPS this season was the same as Constanza's career minor league mark. What does this tell you? Heyward should not be sitting because a hitter with the minor league numbers of a fourth outfielder has a hot streak over 53 plate appearances.

Those that continue to preach that the Braves should ride out Constanza's hot streak fail to realize that his numbers indicate there is no reason for the streak to continue past yesterday. They are also the ones to say they still believe Heyward is the long-term answer in right field. If that is the case, shouldn't he be in the lineup? Has he not proven capable of this yet?

There is nothing that hasn't already been said in regards to the Constanza/Heyward debate, and I'm doing nothing more than repeating what the more intelligent Braves bloggers have already written. But after seeing the results of this, I felt it necessary to say something. There is no reason at all that Heyward should be sitting.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Arodys Vizcaino Called Up To Majors

The inevitable took long enough.

Scott Proctor has been released and Arodys Vizcaino will take his spot in the Atlanta bullpen, says Chris Schiavone.

By all accounts, Proctor is a good guy and I hate this happened to him, but he doesn't need to be in a major league bullpen. The Braves sunk $750,000 into him, which included an opt-out clause for May 15 if he wasn't in the major league bullpen. With his veteran status and revolving door from Gwinnett to Atlanta for the bullpen, as well as solid numbers at Gwinnett at the time, the Braves made a mistake and took on his contract. His many opportunities with the Braves were unwarranted, and he failed to take advantage.

Anthony Varvaro allowing a three-run homer to John Buck seemed to be the last straw for a Braves staff that has nothing to offer from the right side prior to the ninth inning. Scott Linebrink has performed well this year, but as a contender, he isn't the answer for the role.

Enter Vizcaino, who immediately becomes the best right-handed reliever not named Kimbrel. The 20-year-old has a mid-90s fastball that touches 100 with running movement, which is a killer pitch inside to right-handed batters. His power curveball is a plus pitch and profiles as his out pitch. It keeps both sides of the plate honest and records a solid amount of strikeouts. His third pitch is a developing changeup that would be more of a factor if he was in the rotation. However, it's nothing more than a show-me offering that can get him in trouble if used one too many times in the bullpen.

Braves fans have been waiting for this day to come. Eliminating Proctor is valuable in itself, but adding an arm like Vizcaino is the equivalent of a deadline trade for an above-average setup reliever. He will give the pen strikeouts with solid control and a low amount of home runs allowed. But most importantly, he gives them an honest-to-goodness right-handed reliever for the late innings to pair with Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Braves Minor League Update: July 26-Aug. 1

Lines of the Week
8/1: (A) Willie Kempf: 7 IP, 2 H, R, 4 K (8 GB, 7 FB)
8/1: (AAA) Matt Young: 2-4, 2B, 4 RBI, 2 BB
8/1: (AAA) Wilkin Ramirez: 5-5, 3 RBI
7/31: (AA) Randall Delgado: 7 IP, 5 H, R, BB, 7 K (6 GB, 2 FB)
7/31: (A+) Joe Leonard: 3-3, HR, 4 RBI
7/30: (A+) David Hale: 7 IP, 3 H, BB, 8 K (7 GB, 4 FB)
7/30: (AAA) Stefan Gartrell: 2-4, HR, 4 RBI (Grand slam)
7/29: (A+) Joseph Terdoslavich: 2-4, 2B, HR, 3 RBI
7/28: (Rk) Brandon Drury: 2-2, 2 HR, 3 RBI

Triple-A Gwinnett

Julio Teheran: 12 IP, 14 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 10 K (13 GB, 9 FB) (2 starts)
Arodys Vizcaino: 4 IP, 3 H, R, 6 K (Solo HR in Triple-A debut)
Mike Minor: 13 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 15 K (15 GB, 7 FB)
Todd Redmond: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K (3 GB, 5 FB)
Yohan Flande: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 8 K (8 GB, 1 FB)
Tyler Pastornicky: 13-30, 2B, RBI, 2 BB (22-57 at Triple-A)

8/1: RHP Steven Shell activated from 7-day DL
7/31: LHP Ben Swaggerty assigned to AAA
7/29: OF Jose Constanza recalled to MLB
7/29: SS Diory Hernandez DFA'd
7/28: C Wil Nieves assigned to AAA
7/28: OF Wilkin Ramirez assigned to AAA
7/28: RHP Anthony Varvaro recalled to MLB
7/27: C Shawn McGill assigned to AAA
7/27: C J.C. Boscan recalled to MLB
7/27: OF Wilkin Ramirez recalled to MLB
7/26: RHP Arodys Vizcaino assigned to AAA; Steven Shell on 7-day DL

Double-A Mississippi
Randall Delgado: 9.2 IP, 11 H, 11 R, 5 BB, 9 K (9 GB, 5 FB) (2 starts)
Zeke Spruill: 6 IP, 10 H, 4 R, BB, 2 K (10 GB, 3 FB)
J.J. Hoover: 3 IP, H, R, 2 BB, 5 K

8/1: RHP Zeke Spruill assigned to AA
7/26: RHP Brett Butts assigned to AA

Class-A Adv. Lynchburg
Zeke Spruill: 6 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 BB, K (10 GB, 4 FB)
David Hale: 7 IP, 3 H, BB, 8 K (7 GB, 4 FB)
Joseph Terdoslavich: 10-15, 3 2B, HR, 6 RBI, 4 BB (4 games)
7/31: Andrelton Simmons: 3-3, 2B, 2 RBI

Class-A Rome
Carlos Perez: 7.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 5 BB, 4 K (8 GB, 5 FB) (2 starts)
Caleb Brewer: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 9 K (4 GB, 5 FB)
Edward Salcedo: 7-27, 3B, HR, 4 RBI

7/30: RHP Fernando De Los Santos assigned to A

Rookie League Danville
Lucas La Point: 11 IP, 8 H, 3 R, BB, 5 K (14 GB, 10 FB)
Gregory Ross: 6 IP, 6 H, R, 7 K (4 GB, 1 FB)
David Filak: 5 IP, 3 H, 3 R, BB, 5 K (8 GB, 3 FB)
J.R. Graham: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, BB, 7 K (6 GB, 1 FB)
8/1: John Cornely: 3 IP, BB, 6 K
Nick Ahmed: 4-24
Chase Larsson: 9-22, 2 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 3 BB, 0 K

8/1: RHP Luis De Luna assigned to Rk
7/30: SS Kirk Walker assigned to Rk
7/28: RHP Henry Mendez assigned to Rk

GCL Braves
Jean Carlos Gil: 11 IP, 14 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 11 K (13 GB, 5 FB) (2 starts)
Matt Talley: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 R, BB, 3 K (7 GB, 0 FB)
Cole Rohrbough: 1 IP, H, 2 K
Todd Cunningham: 2-11, 3B, 4 RBI, BB, 2 K

8/1: RHP Evan Danieli assigned to GCL
7/30: LHP Sean Gilmartin activated from temporarily inactive list
7/28: RHP Williams Perez assigned to GCL
7/27: OF Todd Cunningham assigned to GCL
7/27: LHP Cole Rohrbough assigned to GCL
7/27: LHP Andy Otero placed on 7-day DL
7/27: RHP Alejandro Sanchez assigned to GCL

Monday, August 1, 2011

Michael Bourn's Value In A Nutshell (And Yes, Hunter Pence)

Let the games begin.

Hunter Pence was traded to the Phillies for two top 40 prospects. The same Pence that is hitting .306/.355/.468 with a .363 wOBA and 2.6 fWAR, has accumulated 17.3 fWAR and a career .353 wOBA in 682 games as a corner outfielder.

Michael Bourn was traded to the Braves for two mid-rotation ceilings, a fourth outfielder and a relief prospect. The same Bourn that is hitting .303/.363/.403 with a .353 wOBA and 3.6 fWAR, has accumulated 14.6 fWAR and .324 wOBA in 663 games as a center fielder.

Bourn is one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. He will have 40+ steals four years in a row. The best center fielder in the game since 2009 according to fWAR? Not Andrew McCutchen, not Shane Victorino, not Curtis Granderson, not even Matt Kemp. It's Michael Bourn.

Traditional stats still control decisions for many teams. Unfortunately for Houston, it ruined their chances of a nice haul for Bourn. Pence wins the home runs and RBIs, and he had the big name everyone was talking about at the deadline. Everyone likes the shiny corner outfielder with power, right? Thankfully, the Braves know which is the more valuable and better player.

I've read what I believe is a pretty large amount of analysis on the Bourn trade across the Internet. My favorite line comes from Satchel Price at Beyond the Box Score:"The Astros didn't think that they were trading a star even though they were..."

The Astros had no idea what they had in Bourn.

Other solid analysis from the day after is below.

Sweetspot Blog (Schoenfield):
"Look, this doesn't mean Bourn is a better hitter than Pence. It means he's similar to others for his position. If you factor in just hitting and baserunning, B-R says Bourn has been about 82 runs better than a replacement-level center fielder over the past three seasons; Pence about 73 runs better than a replacement-level right fielder. Factor in Bourn's defense and he's the more valuable player."

Rob Neyer:
"The simple truth is that if you do consider defense and baserunning with any sort of rigor, you're going to conclude that Michael Bourn is, in fact, better than Hunter Pence. In fact, if you believe fWAR, Bourn has actually been the second-best outfielder in the National League since 2009."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Reactions Around The Web: Michael Bourn Trade

Michael Bourn will make $1.4 million for the rest of this season. The Astros sent some cash that will cause the Braves to pay somewhere around $600,000-$1 million for the final two months. He has one year of arbitration remaining before hitting free agency, which should hit somewhere around $7-8 million, I would guess. Bourn is a Scott Boras client, for what it's worth.

Capitol Avenue Club:
"Not only is Bourn a perfect fit for Atlanta, he came at a very reasonable price and one that allowed the Braves to keep their top 8 or so prospects. This is an extremely good deal for Atlanta. Be happy, be ecstatic. The Braves just got a whole lot better."

Bourn compared to MLB center fielders

"Outside of shortstop, where the Braves seem comfortable with the ineptitude of Alex Gonzalez, center field was hurting the Braves the most. Michael Bourn represents the best possible fit for that position, and in netting the next six-eight wins of his career without giving up blue chippers to do so, the Braves certainly win this deal in the short term, and possibly the long term as well."

SB Nation Atlanta:
"Basically, the Braves just acquired a player who has been worth $57.5 million dollars since 2009. That's more than Curtis Granderson. That's more than Shane Victorino. That's more than Josh Hamilton. To put it simply, Michael Bourn is a superstar and one of the best outfielders in baseball. And we got him for spare parts at the trade deadline."

Talking Chop:
"Bourn is under team control through next season, so this is not a rental, the Braves have acquired a leadoff man for this year and next. A true leadoff man is something the Braves have been lacking for a while, and they got one of the best in the game in Bourn."

Keith Law:
"The return for Houston however is shockingly poor -- quantity over quality, to say the least -- and can't do Ed Wade any good in extending his status as GM beyond "lame duck." It makes me wonder if Houston had a ranking of Atlanta's top 25 prospects but looked at it upside-down."

Baseball Analytics:
"Michael Bourn, recently acquired by the Atlanta Braves, is posting the best numbers of his career in 2011. His BA, OBP and slugging percentage all stand as best single season marks for the outfielder. Bourn's improved strike zone judgement stands as one reason for his progress."

Big League Stew:
"The Atlanta Braves have found their new leadoff hitter, center fielder, and base-stealing threat and — lucky for general manager Frank Wren — they're all the same guy."

"So overall, the Braves received a center fielder that they needed in playoff time, and they traded him for what is probably the lower end of the value of the guy coming in, which again does not include added playoff value. I think the trade was a fair one, but the Braves win out on the probability of this working out for them."

Frank Wren quotes:
"They’re really hard to find. I talked to scouts this spring, and getting a prototypical leadoff hitter who plays a premium position and plays it well – Michael is a two-time Gold Glover – and can lead off, get on base, steal bases at a high rate … they’re hard to find. There’s very few of those guys in the major leagues. We’re thrilled to get the guy who has the most stolen bases the last three years and is a Gold Glover in center field and is really growing as a leadoff hitter."

"We inquired on Pence. We inquired on everyone. And that was part of our strategy, was to inquire on everybody. We did not go to the mat to get Pence. If we had gone to the mat to get Pence, we would have got Pence. And that’s the same with all these other deals. We knew there were certain players that fit us better than others, and we’ve kind of held out to get what we thought was the right deal for our team."

Jeff Schultz

Tomahawk Take

Michael Bourn To The Braves

Braves receive: Michael Bourn
Astros receive: Jordan Schafer, Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens, Juan Abreu

Bourn appears to have been the target for the Braves all along. Frank Wren inquired on everyone, but he made it known Bourn was the man for Atlanta's center field, probably in an attempt to drive up the prices of the other bats. If this was his intention, it worked, as the Braves easily made a much, much better trade than the Phillies.

Bourn is hitting .303/.363/.403 with 26 doubles and one home run. He has a BB% of 8% and K% of 19%, recording a .353 wOBA and 3.6 fWAR. These numbers for his career: .271/.338/.359, 8.7 BB%, 19.6 K%, .324 wOBA and 14.6 fWAR.

Oh yeah, four straight seasons with 40+ steals as soon as he swipes his first bag with the Braves, and very solid defensive ratings.

Bourn has an increasing outside swing percentage over the past three seasons, reaching 26% currently, which is pretty high for the type of hitter he is. His 41.1 Swing% is in line with the normal rate, and his zone contact rate at 89% is solid. His overall contact may not be stellar, resulting in a fairly high amount of strikeouts, but he makes up for it with a good walk rate for a speedy leadoff type.

Bourn is in his prime and that's evident by his career-high numbers across the board this season. He's showing more pop and creating more runs than ever before, and the Braves are catching him at a pretty good time, as he has had his best two months in June and July, hitting .324/.388/.467 in June and .349/.388/.413 in July.

Always keep in mind the position. Center field is a premium spot and does not come cheap. To get someone that impacts an offense as much as Bourn in a premium position is always a major move. It usually costs a ton. The Braves made the move without giving up any big impact prospects in a seller's market, and that in itself is a victory.

My offseason reports of the two ranked prospects traded to the Astros:
#15 - Brett Oberholtzer
#24 - Juan Abreu

Paul Clemens emerged as a mid-level pitching prospect over the last two seasons, posting a 3.69 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 75.2 innings at Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach in 2010 and currently a 3.73 ERA with 93 strikeouts and 44 walks in 108.2 innings at Double-A Mississippi. He wasn't on many radars prior to last year, and his ceiling is mid-rotation, so his stance in the Atlanta system wasn't very solid. He would have been ranked between 15-20 on my list this offseason, more than likely.

Jordan Schafer is a fourth outfielder. He should only start by necessity, and hopefully the Astros are smart enough to realize this. But judging by this trade, you never know.

To wrap this trade up, the Braves got the bat and center fielder they need without giving up any of the big four prospects. To top it off, the only worthwhile player sent to Houston is Oberholtzer, a left-hander with mid-rotation potential. It could be perhaps the best buyer's deal of the deadline.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Leaderboard (7/29): Outside Swing Percentage

A look at outside swing percentage by National League teams through July 28, according to FanGraphs:

1. Rockies: 28.2%
2. Cardinals: 28.3
3. Mets: 28.9
4. Reds: 29.3
5. Braves: 30.2
6. Padres: 30.3
7. Phillies: 30.5
8. Brewers: 30.5
9. Diamondbacks: 30.8
10. Nationals: 30.9

Braves O-Swing% by Month:
March/April: 28.8
May: 29.8
June: 31
July: 31.5

Braves Zone Contact% by Month:
March/April: 87.7
May: 89.2
June: 85.5
July: 85.4

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Leaderboard (7/26): Bullpen Depth By fWAR

Below is the Top 5 bullpens according to fWAR. The "Total" is the total fWAR of relievers not including the "closer" and "setup man," which is essentially the entire bullpen aside from the top two fWAR numbers. The "Average" is the average fWAR of those relievers. The "Difference" is the difference in fWAR between the total of the"closer" and "setup man" and the total of the rest.

These are rough numbers meant for entertainment more than anything, but they can provide some sort of evidence of bullpen depth. Obviously, the higher the "Total," the deeper the pen. Also, note that I included all relief innings, meaning leverage and reliever role were not accounted for in the total.

Total: 1
Average: 0.1
Difference: 3.7

Total: 1.4
Average: 0.09
Difference: 1.6

Red Sox
Total: 1.6
Average: 0.1
Difference: 1.1

Total: 1.9
Average: 0.3
Difference: 0.2

White Sox
Total: 1.9
Average: 0.2
Difference: 0

This tells us what we already know: the Braves need right-handed relief. The difference in fWAR between Craig Kimbrel + Jonny Venters and the rest of the bullpen is enormous.

Something else that's not that surprising is the difference between the "closer" + "setup man" and the rest of the bullpen gets smaller as the bullpen fWAR gets smaller, as well as the total. The top two relievers in the higher-ranked pens have fWAR's that catapult their entire bullpens to the top of the list (Kimbrel/Venters, Rivera/Robertson). The better they are, the more they're used, the higher the potential fWAR.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Deadline Rumors: B.J. Upton

Friday night was fun on the Twitterverse as the Rays caused mayhem with their pullings of B.J. Upton and Desmond Jennings. Unfortunately for all those who waited for the news, including me, it was nothing more than just a call up for Jennings and demotion for Reid Brignac.

For now, anyway. Tampa Bay is rostering a ton of outfielders at the moment, and Upton has since been all over the Internet regarding trade rumors, so one might think he could be leaving the Rays soon. The Braves are automatically linked based on their needs, and while I don't know of their actual level of interest or if they've inquired, there's no doubt he has been considered by the front office.

Should the Braves target Upton? Yes. He's controlled through 2012, which makes giving up a prospect more bearable, and they will have to dip into the higher tier like Carlos Beltran would cost. Upton provides solid defense and athleticism in center field and on the basepaths; he has a career walk rate of 11.1% and is at 10.3% this season; and he has an above-average bat for the position.

Upton's .232 BA and .312 OBP isn't very attractive, but a .275 BABIP and zone contact percentage above his career average is a sign he could find some more holes in the final two months. That regression seems to already be kicking in, as he has posted a .269/.329/.418 line in July, including six multi-hit games. I would expect more of the same in August and September.

If the Braves are giving up a higher-tiered prospect at the deadline, I would be much more accepting if the return is in an Atlanta uniform for more than two months. Upton can provide a much-needed bat in center field down the stretch and in 2012.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Carlos Beltran For Mike Minor Rumor

Rumor has it the Braves could possibly be the frontrunners for Carlos Beltran. A lot of this could be speculation based on the fact that Atlanta has the best prospects available out of those interested in the outfielder, including the Giants, Phillies, Brewers and Red Sox. It's nice to have a loaded farm system for such things. It's nice to have a loaded farm system, period.

The rumor for Friday is Beltran for Mike Minor. As is the case with any deadline deals for rental players, the No. 1 debate is how much Beltran should be worth for two months and hopefully the playoffs.

Beltran has been worth 3.9 fWAR in 93 games and 395 plate appearances, posting a .290/.387/.524 line with a .394 wOBA and .234 ISO. His 13.4 BB% is three points higher than his career average. Pretty much every number Beltran has would rank first on the Braves aside from batting average. So yes, the Braves would do well to add him to the lineup alongside the improving bats of Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla.

By all accounts, Beltran has fared well as a corner outfielder this season, and asking for two months in center field isn't a deal breaker. Plus, any loss on defense is made up by the huge upgrade on offense. Current Braves center fielders have hit .239/.321/.330 with four home runs. Quite a difference.

But is it worth an arm as good as Mike Minor's? Minor is 23 this year, and while he has yet to establish himself in the majors, he has proven himself in the minors and is ready for a permanent shot in a rotation. He has the ceiling of a No. 2-3 starter and could be quite valuable as a young left-hander if he sticks.

While the Braves are loaded with pitching prospects, this shouldn't change the value of them and what they should receive in return for them. I've never been one to go along with trading prospects for rentals at the deadline. For one, players on the deadline market are constantly overvalued. Two, unless the player traded for leads the team to a deep playoff run, it's common sense that several years of a solid young player are worth more than a couple months from a rental. But that's the chance a team takes in making a deal like this. It's necessary in order to make a push for the World Series.

Two months of Beltran isn't worth Minor's ceiling, but when put into the current situation, it's acceptable, yet not desired. Enter Bobby Parnell, the right-handed reliever with a 2.93 ERA and 2.78 xFIP with a 27.9 K% in 27.2 innings. The Braves need a right-handed reliever just as bad as an outfielder, if not more, and Parnell would plug the hole very well.

If it's Beltran for Minor, I would accept it reluctantly. Add Parnell and it's a solid deal for both sides.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tyler Pastornicky Promoted to Triple-A

Tweeted first by Capitol Avenue Club's Kevin Orris, the Braves have promoted shortstop prospect Tyler Pastornicky to Triple-A Gwinnett.

Pastornicky, ranked No. 16 on my offseason prospect list, is hitting .299/.345/.414 with 13 doubles, five triples, six homers and 36 RBIs. He has seen a drop in walks to 5.9%, but he's hitting better and is showing a better use of his speed while getting on base at a pretty similar rate as last year.

Pastornicky's stint at Gwinnett could very well be his audition for the starting shortstop job in 2012, or at the very least, he could be considered for a roster spot. I would venture to say no other month and a half will be monitored as closely as his. He will give the Braves some walks, steals and good defense, and he will certainly provide a better bat than Alex Gonzalez while not losing too, too much on defense.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Midseason Top 30 Prospect Grades

I'm not one to do midseason Braves prospect lists. I feel like I would put too much into a half season of work for it to affect my rankings. That's not meant to put down others who do the lists; I enjoy reading them, and revisiting the prospects and their work at the halfway point is important. But it's just a personal preference.

Therefore, I give you my offseason list with a midseason grade. (Please note that some of these were written at various times. Stats may not be up-to-the-second accurate.)

1. Julio Teheran (A-)
It's tough to give arguably the best pitching prospect in baseball a grade lower than an A. Teheran's 1.79 ERA and 2.69 FIP in Triple-A tells you all you need to know about his success, but if you want more, there's a 6.6 BB%. While 81 strikeouts in 95.2 innings is a bit low for his standards, I would expect it to increase some in the second half.
2. Freddie Freeman (N/A)
Freeman struggled out of the gate in his MLB debut, but he turned it on late in the first half and has carried the offense at times. He's in Atlanta to stay.
3. Randall Delgado (A-)
Delgado has played as the lesser half of the Teheran-Delgado combo for a while, but 2011 marks a change as he has become more of the "two" in a one-two punch with Teheran. Delgado made the jump to Double-A with success, posting a 3.50 ERA and 3.72 FIP in 97.2 innings.
4. Mike Minor (B+)
Minor has solidified his control with a 2.62 BB/9 in 75.2 Triple-A innings. His strikeouts are down some and home runs are up for his minor league totals, which should happen the more innings he logs. His MLB totals are nothing to write home about, but the fact that he hasn't allowed a home run in 33 MLB innings shows sample size. He hasn't moved up, nor has he fallen.
5. Edward Salcedo (B+)
After a rough stateside debut in 2010, Salcedo has fared much better in his second stint with Class-A Rome. While it's tough not to best a .197 average and .240 wOBA from last year, he is actually hitting quite well, posting a .277/.349/.466 with 24 doubles, four triples and 10 home runs. He has a 8.3 BB% and .183 ISO, both of which are great to see. The only problem is defense, but it was never a strong part of his game, anyway. He should start in Lynchburg next season if he stays on pace.
6. Arodys Vizcaino (B+)
Despite having Teheran and Delgado ahead of him, Vizcaino might be the most talked about of the three so far this season. There has been some debate as to whether he will remain a starter or if his future is in the bullpen. If he is destined to be a reliever, his value takes a bit of a hit, and he probably wouldn't rank much higher than where I have him now because of it. That's nothing against him - I'm sure he would be a very valuable reliever - but starters are simply worth more. I give him a good grade because his peripherals are very solid and he seems to be healthy. The fact that he has almost re-joined Teheran and Delgado on the ladder is pretty big.
7. Craig Kimbrel (N/A)
Kimbrel has been as advertised as the Braves closer. When he's on, he's among the best relievers in baseball.
8. Christian Bethancourt (B)
If you had asked me before the season where Bethancourt would end 2011, I would have said where he started - Rome. He made the jump to Class-A Advanced Lynchburg sooner than I expected due to a .303/.323/.430 line. The problem is much of it is due to hits falling in and finding holes. He had a 3.4 BB% at Rome, meaning that line likely won't be repeated over a period of time. Bethancourt has displayed solid defense, but there is little plate discipline.
9. Matt Lipka (C-)
It took Lipka a solid chunk of the season before he managed his first extra base hit. He now has 11 doubles, one triple and one home run to go with a .284 SLG and .047 ISO. When I saw him, Lipka showed zero pop in his swing, and it seemed like any extra base hits would be the result of poor defense or luck. Lipka isn't walking enough to make up for it, either. He has a ways to go to turn this around.
10. Carlos Perez (B)
Perez has pitched much better than the ERA indicates. His 40 walks to 87 strikeouts in 94.2 innings is a big jump from last season, and he's finally showing his strikeout ability while limiting the long balls. I was very impressed with Perez when I saw him. He has the potential for three above average pitches. Don't let the ERA affect your opinion of him.
11. Brandon Beachy (N/A)
Beachy has been as advertised for the Braves: great command, high strikeout totals, tons of fly balls. He's better than most realize. If I had to guess, he is one that sticks in the rotation long-term.
12. J.J. Hoover (B+)
Hoover has had a solid season so far, recording a 2.69 ERA and 3.16 FIP in 77 Double-A innings. His control remains solid with a BB/9 below three, and his strikeout rate is actually up from last season at Class-A Advanced, which is great to see. Hoover's two starts in Triple-A didn't go well, but it doesn't take away from what he's done in Mississippi.
13. David Filak (D)
I have been high on Filak, but I must say, he may be the most disappointing prospect on my list through a half season. He gave up 46 runs in 45 innings at Class-A Rome, including 33 walks to 32 strikeouts. That led to a demotion to Danville, where he has been even worse, allowing 20 runs in 16 innings. The one time I saw Filak this year, he couldn't get on top of the ball and had zero control. He'll take a big hit on my offseason list unless he completely turns it around.
14. Mycal Jones (C+)
I haven't been as high on Jones as others despite the athleticism. I questioned his ability to get on base in the upper levels, but he has proven me wrong by posting a 15 BB% along with a dip in strikeouts. He is struggling to get on base by base hits and has shown very little pop, but if he can find some holes and turn that around for the rest of the season, he can at least maintain his spot on the list. The walks are a great sign.
15. Brett Oberholtzer (B-)
Oberholtzer's first full season at Class-A Advanced Lynchburg last year put him on the map due to his good rates. However, he has seen a rise in walks to 2.9 BB/9, and a drop in strikeouts to 6.87 K/9. He maintains a solid 3.38 FIP due to low home run totals, but the K/BB raises some questions about his upper level ability. Of course, it's only a half season, so you can't put a ton of weight into it.
16. Tyler Pastornicky (B+)
If Pastornicky makes it, I will forever say, "I told you so." Ever since the Braves acquired him in the Yunel Escobar deal, I've held the belief he could be the eventual starting shortstop. I said this offseason that 2011 would be the deciding factor for Pastornicky's hopes of taking the job in 2012. His line of .300/.344/.417 is a sign he might be ready. The only issue I have is 22 walks in 376 plate appearances. He is showing a better ability to hit and make contact, but the walks are almost cut in half. He needs to bring some of that back and put it all together.
17. Stephen Marek (N/A)
Marek had a solid start to his season before getting pounded in his last couple innings, which was the result of an injury that led to Tommy John surgery. It's unfortunate timing for him and the Braves, who could be using his right arm in the Atlanta pen right now.
18. Andrelton Simmons (B-)
Simmons is making his way through the system based on his defense and arm. He has a .302/.333/.373 line with 15 walks in 350 plate appearances for Class-A Advanced Lynchburg, so the average is based on luck. His speed is almost worthless due to 11 stolen bases and 12 caught stealing, and the defense hasn't been spotless at shortstop. He's athletic and has a tremendous arm, but it's hard for me to get excited.
19. Cory Harrilchak (C+)
There's little reason to believe Harrilchak will be anything more than a fourth outfielder, which is fine; you don't see many starters this low on prospect lists. He has a 8.5 BB% with a .312 OBP, and his low average has a lot to do with a .266 BABIP. Even so, I wouldn't expect a huge increase in the second half.
20. Benino Pruneda (C+)
Pruneda is what he is: flamethrower, high strikeouts, high walks. His second stint with Double-A Mississippi is not going as well, seeing a dip in strikeouts to 43 in 41.1 innings, and the walks remain high. He'll have to limit the walks at least a little to make it. What he's doing now won't get him to Atlanta.
21. Todd Cunningham (B+)
In a similar fashion as Harrilchak, Cunningham will likely never be more than a fourth outfielder, but he's proving his case for possibly being one sooner than expected. Cunningham has a .365 OBP with a 8.2 BB% at Lynchburg, which is a big improvement over last season's 5.3% at Rome. Along with the improved plate discipline is an increase in pop, though the numbers are still quite low. He could see some plate appearances in Mississippi before the season ends, and if he continues to get on base, he could see Atlanta sooner than later.
22. Adam Milligan (B)
Milligan has major league strength and pop, and after injuries derailed his 2010 season, his slugging is back with a .536 mark and .253 ISO for Lynchburg. He will have to maintain these types of numbers to continue the climb, because he doesn't walk at all. Milligan will always be a homer/strikeout guy, but he can make it if he survives the AA test, which should be coming soon.
23. Cory Gearrin (B+)
Gearrin is as ready for a major league relief spot as he'll ever be. The problem is he gets called up and hides in the back of Atlanta's bullpen for weeks with spotty appearances. He is what he is: good against righties, bad against lefties. If used correctly (Sergio Romo), he could be a successful reliever for the Braves. They haven't caught on yet.
24. Juan Abreu (B+)
Abreu will likely be in Atlanta by the end of the season. He continues to strike out a lot of hitters and walk a lot of hitters with low ERA's. He'll never rank higher than 20th. Not much else to say.
25. Erik Cordier (C+)
Cordier is lucky to have his ERA as low as 4.03 at Gwinnett. No strikeouts and a ton of walks. If I made a new list today, he's not on it.
26. David Hale (C+)
Hale is stuck in the mud at Lynchburg. He has a 4.71 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 36.1 innings, mostly in relief. Unless he hits a new gear, he has a long way to go.
27. Joe Leonard (C)
The only thing going for Leonard is an increased walk rate at 9.2%. But a .248/.319/.390 line at Lynchburg won't get you far. For a guy with solid size, the power hasn't been there, and he's starting to fall.
28. Jesus Saldeno (N/A)
Hasn't pitched.
29. Chris Masters (B)
Masters is holding his own at Lynchburg with a 3.48 ERA and 3.79 FIP, including a 21.7 K%. The increase in walks over his three seasons is a bit alarming, but it's not a huge factor if he levels off soon and maintains the strikeouts. His stuff still doesn't seem to play well for the upper levels, but we'll soon find out if that's the truth.
30. Cory Rasmus (N/A)
A lack of health is ruining him.

Those to watch for on the next list:
Sean Gilmartin
Zeke Spruill
Kyle Kubitza
Nick Ahmed
Paul Clemens
Joseph Terdoslavich
Philip Gosselin
Jean Carlos Gil

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Outfielder Options At The Deadline

Frank Wren has already made it clear no moves will be made any time soon, instead hoping for bouncebacks in the second half from Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward. And he's right about that. A better Uggla and Heyward down the stretch is like picking up the best bats on the market.

However, there is always the chance of acquiring a bat at the deadline if the price is right. If it means fewer at-bats for Jordan Schafer, I'm all for it (though, it was also made known Schafer could get the nod over Nate McLouth, which is stupid). For argument's sake, let's consider some bats.

Josh Willingham:
Willingham has been linked to the Braves on several occasions, and in the past it would have been a good pickup, but he appears to have forgotten how to walk, posting a career-low 8.3 BB% so far this season. This has resulted in career lows in on-base numbers, including a .309 OBP, and he has a .322 wOBA. A hitter with a career OBP of .362 and BB% of 11.3% doesn't all of a sudden forget how to walk, but he's obviously struggling with it, and he's not the attractive piece from the past few seasons.

Michael Cuddyer:
Cuddyer is perhaps the most attractive option to this point. His .298/.370/.479 line bests his career numbers by a wide margin. He's walking at the third-best rate of his career at 9.4%. A .376 wOBA and 140 wRC+ are both career bests, as well. His batted ball numbers are in line with his career norms aside from an increase in contact percentage, so he appears to just be seeing the ball better this year. He would likely take the most to pry away, but he would provide a solid bat in left with Chipper Jones going down with the knee injury.

Ryan Ludwick:
Ludwick's power isn't being skewed very much by Petco. In fact, he has a better slugging percentage at home. So his career-low ISO of .146 is likely real. This isn't good considering he has a .314 OBP and 8 BB%. Ludwick is an empty bat that probably won't get much better in the second half. The Braves should look elsewhere.

Peter Bourjos:
The promotion of Mike Trout may not mean that much for Bourjos at the moment, but if Trout catches fire, I wouldn't be surprised to see Bourjos dealt. He's not much of a hitter, posting a .272/.323/.397 line with a 5.8 BB%, and his minor league numbers indicate that will probably be the norm, but his value comes from defense, where he's rated as one of the best center fielders in the league, and speed, recording 11 steals - and 50 for Class-A Advanced in 2008. Going after Bourjos is a matter of whether the Braves offense can handle a glove-first outfielder, though he does hit better than Schafer. He may be a better option in the offseason, but I wouldn't oppose it.

The Braves have the pieces to get whoever they want; it's a matter of whether the value is there in return. The market isn't overflowing by any means, so the bats that are available will likely be sold off for more than they're worth. But that's the price you pay for buying at the deadline. Hopefully, the Braves realize this and don't mortgage the future for a mediocre bat.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

OBP? We Don't Need No OBP

Tuesday's lineup against the Rockies went:

1. Jordan Schafer, .288 OBP, .271 wOBA
2. Alex Gonzalez, .270 OBP, .278 wOBA

Gonzalez has a .259 OBP with one walk in the No. 2 hole. His walk rate this season is 4%. His O-Swing% is 15% higher than the MLB average, and he's swinging at 56% of pitches seen. Schafer has only started in the leadoff spot. These are the sixth and seventh worst OBP's in the lineup hitting in the two most important OBP spots in the lineup.

Of course it's ridiculous. We all know that. But I mention it because Gonzalez has hit second three of the past four games, and the one he didn't was due to a scheduled off day for him.

Just saying.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Brian McCann, Meet Your Prime

It's often said a player hits his prime between ages 26-32. There are always cases of early success or late revivals, but in the end, you tend to see the best years for players falling into that age category. And for hitters, there is a good reason. Power develops at its peak in these years.

A half season is a long way from determining anything, but so far, Brian McCann seems to be entering these years at age 27.

McCann has already posted a 3.2 fWAR, on pace to shatter his previous marks and good for 11th in the National League. That's 11th overall, not for catchers. He is 0.6 wins above the second-best mark for catchers in MLB by Alex Avila and 0.8 wins above the second-best in the National League by Miguel Montero. This while accumulating the second-most games played and most plate appearances by a strict catcher (Carlos Santana plays 1B, as well), meaning more innings logged behind the plate.

McCann's power has returned to 2008 levels, slugging .527 and posting an Isolated Power of .212. Both of these marks are second-best to Avila in MLB, but he leads all catchers in home runs at 14.

However, the big value is coming from his on-base numbers. His .388 OBP matches his career-high set during his rookie campaign in 2006, and his .390 wOBA is second to that year on his career-bests. The big number is a 150 wRC+, which is 13th in all of baseball.

This while posting a second straight season of 10+ BB%. His 10.7% is a little less than the 13.1% last season, but he's maintaining an excellent walk rate while adding more power to last season's totals. This way of combining both and putting it all together is a sign of reaching maturity as a hitter, and McCann seems to be entering that stage. He said it himself during a recent post-game interview when he said he's hitting at a level only reached one other time during his career.

When McCann was first coming up, we all knew what the Braves had. This was no secret among the Braves community, yet it seemed to be a secret held to the Braves community. Even now, McCann's face isn't plastered on video game ads or billboards, and he is still considered underrated by those who don't study baseball. Whether that changes as McCann hits through his prime years is not certain, but as long as he continues to hit like this, I don't think anybody really cares.

I've held the belief for a couple years that McCann is every bit as good as Joe Mauer, and while I hate to pick on the injured, McCann has certainly blown by Mauer this season. The thing is, I would put good money on McCann besting Mauer during their prime years regardless of injuries, anyway.

Don't take for granted what you're watching on a daily basis with McCann. You're watching a potential Hall of Famer at work, and that's something to remember.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jonny Venters And Reliever Usage

Jonny Venters appeared in his 16th game for the month of June. That's out of 26 games. He has appeared in 46 games and pitched 51 innings. The Braves have played 82 games.

While Fredi Gonzalez has limited Venters' three-day outings (three appearances in three days) to only two so far this season, this doesn't hide the fact that Venters is getting almost no rest. When Venters pitches on consecutive days, whether it's two or three days in a row, he averages a little over one full day of rest. He has pitched on consecutive days 15 times. That means when he pitches two days in a row, more often than not he's back out there after one day of rest, and sometimes he is again pitching on consecutive days, so he ends up throwing four out of five days.

This type of usage has been common for Venters this season, and it's unacceptable for him to have this many innings pitched this early in the season. It's understandable to want arguably the best reliever in baseball on the mound as much as possible, but you have to protect your talent, and Fredi has done nothing to protect this talent.

But perhaps even worse than Venters' amount of usage is how he's being used. Peter at Capitol Avenue Club wrote on this yesterday:

"This is what happens when you manage straight out of the Tony LaRussa handbook. You end up burning your relief aces when you don’t need them and when you actually do they’re unavailable, either because that’s not the (illogically defined) role you’ve assigned them or because they’re worn out from protecting almost already assured victories. Venters is probably unavailable all weekend because he’s pitched six times in the last eight days, four of the appearances coming in spots with leverage indexes under one and three of them being legitimate mop-up situations (pLI’s of 0.53, 0.27, 0.17)."

Venters came in to Wednesday's game having pitched in eight of the past 13 games, including three of the past four. The Braves had a four-run lead against one of the worst offenses in baseball in one of the biggest pitcher's parks in baseball. But Fredi's reason for using Venters is because it was 5-1 instead of 6-1.

I cannot grasp this way of thinking. It makes no sense to me. All I know is, if Fredi continues to think this way about his using of Venters, he will run the guy into the ground and the Braves will either have him at 30% for the stretch run or not at all.

Venters has appeared in 14 games in which the player Leverage Index was below 1. He has appeared in nine games in which the index was between 1 and 1.5. He has appeared in 23 games in which the index was above 1.5. So overall, he's being placed in high leverage situations more often than not, mainly because he isn't relegated to the closer's role like Craig Kimbrel.

The problem, as Peter pointed out, is that Fredi is getting greedy with how Venters is being used. Four of his past six outings have had a pLI below 1, including a 0.17 and 0.27. With as many innings as Venters is seeing, you would think a manager would be able to notice he's being used in unnecessary situations. Unfortunately, it takes a two-run home run for Fredi to notice. This is the type of manager the Braves have.

I often watch Braves games and wonder what Frank Wren and John Schuerholz are thinking as Fredi manages.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Jordan Schafer And The Leadoff Spot

Speed blinds people. It also strikes them dumb.

Example A is Jordan Schafer. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out Schafer's numbers don't belong at the top of a Major League lineup. Before Sunday, he had a line of .221/.296/.310 with a .277 wOBA and 72 wRC+. After Sunday, despite the RBI double, his OBP dropped to .295.

He has 18 strikeouts this month, and he went on a string of six straight games with at least one strikeout at one point, but that's not the problem here. Plus, I don't care about strikeouts, anyway. The problem is he doesn't get on base. He has three walks in his last 15 starts and five this month. He had 14 in 209 Triple-A plate appearances in 2010. Schafer did walk before last year, but he hasn't shown it since his injury.

Whether this is a trend or just a fluke as he continues to "re-invent" himself as a leadoff hitter, I don't know. But Schafer doesn't deserve the leadoff spot over Nate McLouth as long as this continues. McLouth is walking at a rate of 11.2% with a .337 OBP and .309 wOBA. These aren't mind-blowing numbers, but they are better than Schafer's. Assuming Martin Prado returns to full strength when he is activated, Schafer should take a seat to McLouth, and McLouth should return to the leadoff role.

This is actually difficult for me in some ways because Schafer's defense is much better than McLouth's. However, knowing Schafer would remain in the leadoff spot if he is starting, I feel the best value comes with McLouth in center.

Braves fans find Schafer's eight stolen bases and multiple bunt singles to be sparkly and exciting, but his bat is not helping the Braves.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Arodys Vizcaino's Stuff As A Starter

In his latest work, Mike Newman at Scouting the Sally has some stuff on Braves pitching prospect Arodys Vizcaino. It's certainly worth a click to read in full, but it includes this:

"A scout I spoke to recently mentioned Vizcaino looked like a reliever early on in a recent start, but his breaking ball grew on the scout to the point where his mind was changed by the end of the outing. With seasons evaluators now believing Vizcaino can stick in the rotation, his prospect status has certainly increased."

Vizcaino's injury history and mechanics say otherwise to me, but knowing that his stuff can project as a starter to a scout is pretty big. At this point, I'm sort of on the fence as to whether he will remain a starter, but his potential as a reliever is so huge, it's impossible to ignore.

After posting a 2.45 ERA and 37/10 K/BB in 40.1 IP at Class-A+ Lynchburg, Vizcaino has thrown 25.2 innings for Double-A Mississippi, posting a 3.51 ERA and 27/8 K/BB.

Bring Back The Selective Braves Offense

Make no mistake the Braves offense is much worse than it was last year.

.258/.339/.401, 10.1 BB%, 20.9 K%, .143 ISO, .301 BABIP, .327 wOBA, 101 wRC+

.238/.305/.385, 8.5 BB%, 22.4 K%, .147 ISO, .276 BABIP, .304 wOBA, 89 wRC+

The difference in on-base ability is the focal point. They aren't walking at nearly the same rate and the OBP is down considerably, which has led to worse numbers across the board.

And no, aggressiveness is not paying off. Last season, the Braves had a line drive rate of 18.7%. This season, it's 17.1%. Why? In 2010, the offense swung at pitches out the zone 27.5% of the time, the best number in the National League. This year, the number is 30%, good for eighth. You swing at more pitches out of the zone, you end up with fewer line drives. And it's not like the aggressiveness is paying off on pitches in the zone. The Braves' contact rate is down by one percent.

I'm not one to blame the coaching staff for everything. In the end, the players make their own results. However, an offense that is carrying the majority of the same players doesn't lose the ability to post the best walk rate in the league without something factoring in.

O-Swing% (2010, 2011):
Alex Gonzalez: 40.9%, 45%
Eric Hinske: 31.2%, 33.8%
Brian McCann: 30.2%, 31.2%
Martin Prado: 26.1%, 28.4%
Jason Heyward: 24.2%, 28.1%
Dan Uggla: 22.7%, 27.9%
Chipper Jones: 21.2%, 22.1%
Nate McLouth: 21.1%, 21.6%

I find it difficult to believe this has nothing to do with having Larry Parrish as the hitting coach.

"That’s the way we’ve been hitting most of the year. If you look at our stats over the course of the year, we’re not where we want to be offensively as a team, as a club." -Fredi Gonzalez, per the AJC.

Does this mean anything? One can only hope so.