Braves 7, Reds 3 4

MLB Box Score

Bronson Arroyo looked sharp tonight. For about 6 pitches. And half of that was probably because they were against the very-much-struggling BJ Upton. (The Lesser Upton managed to not strike out once tonight. Is that progress?) After that, Arroyo danced around disaster for 5 innings, allowing 4 runs despite the fact that it felt like it could’ve been 8. Well, once the Cincinnati relievers got involved, it almost was 8 on the back of a 3-run, 2-out 8th inning rally capped by a pinch-hit home run by Success. The biggest night was had by Andrelton Simons, who homered on two of his three hits, raising his average 22 points on the day. Neither of those HRs were cheapies. They were bombs right down the 3B line.

Paul Maholm was more effective, even though it didn’t always seem that way. The Reds are a patient team, and they made him work. Still, it’s hard to argue with 5.2 innings and only 2 runs, and while Maholm isn’t replicating his run at the end of last season any time soon, we can live with him pitching like this. Gearrin, Avilan, and Kimbrel were effective in relief, allowing no runs over 2.1 innings of work, but Jordan Walden made things interesting, allowing 2 in the 8th an necessitating Kimbrel’s appearance.

Brian McCann wasn’t particularly impressive in his 2013 debut, but I was glad to see him back in the lineup. He adds some much-needed lefty depth behind Justin Upton, who failed to homer but had two hits. Also, it’s weird to see McCann and Evan Gattis hitting back to back. It can’t go on forever, but you figure, Gattis can spell Freeman at 1B once every two weeks, play in the OF once or twice a week, and grab a start at catcher once a week, and you’re talking 3 or 4 starts every week, plus your random pinch hit appearances. Seems workable to me. 

61 thoughts on “Braves 7, Reds 3 4”

  1. I’m sure I missed it in other threads… who did we send down to bring McCann back?

  2. @1 I agree, we are up 3 with Kimbrell on the mound and I’m nervous.

    I know that the Original Fredi Gonazalez has to play BJ Upton but how about not giving him 4 and 5 plate appearances? Hitting the guy lead off is ludicrous. The dude is as lost as someone looking for Timbuktu in Siberia. I am pretty sure that a pitcher could say ‘Melvin, middle in fastball.’ and BJ would swing and miss. If Walker can fix this guy then I think he deserves a Nobel Prize.

    Uggla showed a sign of a pulse last night. Just in time as the pumpkinization of Chris Johnson continues.

  3. @4

    I think BJ will be fine, eventually. You’re right, he needs to hit further down in the order.

    I think Uggla has stopped trying to hit the ball off the LF score board.

  4. @5 Uggla is hitting well enough to approach the Mendoza line. Fredi has hoping BJ would get some strikes to hit batting lead off that #8 batter would never get. Neither Gattis or Success has played much left field. Success has more speed to erase his poor jumps. If this is “spring training” for McCann will he sit tonight?

  5. @6 – In the broadcast, they said he’ll catch the first two in Cincinatti, and then sit the third.

  6. I struck me as odd that folks were complaining about the park when Andrelton hit his first one out. I mean, it was down the line, but it hit off the second deck! That’s easily a HR in any MLB park. And I acutally thought Gattis’s was going to go out, but I guess the left-center field corner is pretty deep there.

  7. @9

    I have been to a few games there, it is one of the best places to watch a baseball game.

    Hitting one out to left center is a shot.

  8. 15K’s isn’t so bad when you remember BJ and Uggla are responsible for 6 of them. they have been responsible for about a quarter of our team’s strikeout total this year (82/287 – 42 K’s for Uggla, 40 K’s for BJ)

  9. WAR paces…
    Upton- 10.5
    C.Johnson- 3.1
    Francisco- 2.0
    Schafer- 2.0

    You don’t really want to know the rest…

  10. I watched Fox Sports Ohio instead of ESPN last night. When BJ walked the color commentator for the Reds just sighs and says ‘So you walk the guy with 4 strike outs.’

    Thanks for the link to the AJC article. I sure hope that Walker can help BJ fix himself.

  11. @17

    Joe and Chip would have said. “Smart move there by Fredi. Walking a guy who is having such a bad night will probably lead to a double play or a pick off.”

    Brian Jordan would have called in and said, “I think Brian McCann is great! The Braves will win! Freid is sooo smart walking a guy with four stirkeouts. This guy may play for the Braves one day and it is smart to try not to hurt his feelings.”

    Chip- Good point Brian.

    Brian- Go Braves! Frank Wren is the man!

  12. @13 – Hard for me to spin 15 Ks with Bronson Arroyo on the mound in a positive light. Arroyo was averaging just under 4 Ks per 9 innings until last night – he had 7 Ks in 5 innings. Yeah, we won and we hit him hard, but the guy wasn’t on his game and he still struck out 7. Alfredo Simon has averaged less than 7 Ks per 9 innings over his careeer and he struck out 6 in 2 innings last night.

    The number of Ks just tells me that we may have the tendency to be pretty streaky. That has definitely been the case so far.

  13. Great writeup indeed, I would also hasten to mention that EoF was able to wipe out Walden’s mess without too much damage, but it sure would have been nice to keep the 2 best bp arms on the bench for the first night of a 10 game, cross country road trip.

  14. Is anyone else concerned about Walden? That little hop just seems like he has another injury waiting to happen. It seems that as soon as betters figure him out (which has been the case lately), he won’t be very hard to hit.

  15. @21

    He is throwing his change up more. I think there was a reason he wasn’t using his change up before recently.

    Because it isn’t very good.

  16. I’m sure this is second-hand knowledge to most folks here, but I didn’t know this bit of trivia until I just researched it. Anyone want to guess the six players that have played for Atlanta this year that were first-round draft picks? Four hitters and two pitchers.

  17. @19: But why does it matter that they struck out 15 times, given that they hit him just fine? They were going to make 27 outs in some form or fashion; at least strikeouts rarely lead to a double play. As for a correlation between strikeouts and streakiness, citation needed; this just sounds like a gussied-up version of the (incorrect) folk wisdom that teams that strike out a lot score fewer runs.

  18. Hudson and Freeman weren’t. Was Maholm a first rounder? I bet one of the hitters is like Reed Johnson or something.

  19. @25 – if we score seven runs, you’re right.

    It’s like being rich – if you’ve got enough, blowing a lot of money carelessly doesn’t hurt you too much.

    If you’re on a budget, all of a sudden it’s a big deal. Playoff pitching tends to put one on a budget.

    This is the team that scored 0, 1 and 2 runs in a three-game stretch recently. The 2013 Braves may be the laboratory for this avante guarde thinking. Guess we’ll see.

    But new school or old, you simply cannot have BJ Upton in the lineup with that swing. He’s got to go to Gwinnett to rebuild his swing, his eye, his confidence. It’s irresponsible (and unfair to the team) to play him now.

  20. @21 – I’m not overly worried about Walden for 2013, though his profile is certainly troubling long-term. Until this year he’s been almost exclusively a fastball/slider pitcher; it appears he’s trying to introduce a changeup in order to 1) improve his repertoire and 2) combat the drop in his fastball velocity, which is down from 97.5 MPH (2011) to 94.5 (2013).

    Walden’s stats to date show that he’s doing a good job getting batters to chase pitches outside the strike zone, which is a good thing because he doesn’t throw that many strikes and batters have a high contact rate when he does (89.6% contact rate on pitches in the zone, way up from his career line of 83.4%). Basically, Walden used to be able to simply blow away hitters, and now he’s having to learn how to pitch. A 94.5 MPH fastball is still plenty good if he can harness his secondary pitches. For his career he’s been about a 3.2 ERA guy and he’s pitching like one again this year. I expect once his BABIP, strand rate and HR/FB rate normalize, we’ll see him settle in around that ERA (perhaps a little lower, if he can continue to suppress HR/FB rate).

    Long term, I would certainly be concerned that Walden will continue to lose fastball velocity and/or get hurt, especially considering his funky delivery. However, in the short run it appears he has enough giddyup on his fastball (in combination with his other pitches) to succeed in 2013.

  21. I guess Minor, Maholm, Uptons, Heyward and then some random hitter. Since the other Mike picked Reed Johnson, I’ll go with Chris.

  22. @28: I’m sorry, but suggesting that BJ get sent down to AAA is dumb. He’s a 7-year Major League veteran who has never posted a below-average wRC+ in a full season while playing at a position in the more challenging half of the defensive spectrum. Probably his problems stem to some extent from not knowing NL pitchers, in which case sending him down is the worst possible plan. In any event, there is no reason to believe* he’s somehow broken for the rest of the season unless he “rebuilds his swing.”

    *Amateur fan scouting = no reason.

  23. @22 Didn’t see Walden pitch yesterday, but his change-up was filthy and unhittable just a few games ago.

    @32 Perhaps, but he’s right. It’s also absurd to suggest that anything involving sending down a 7-year veteran can be confidence building.

  24. @32: Maybe, but you’re not providing any reason to think you’re right. Unless I miss my guess no one who’s here noodling about B.J.’s supposedly broken swing is a professional scout, so they’re all just going off his results and letting that dictate their analysis as to what’s going on with his mechanics. That kind of results-driven fake swing analysis is just not “information” worth having.

  25. @31 Success is doing well as spot starter. He should not be starter in CF on regular basis. FF is so much better at 1B than Johnson or Gattis. Gattis with his inexperience does not cover LF well. He should play some winter ball there.

  26. @33 No one was expecting that change up then. They look for it now. And hit it well.
    @36 My back always hurts whenever I whiff.

  27. @34 – wow dude, very condescending tone.

    Ok so none of us are ‘professional scouts’ only fans. I would have to say that the body of evidence based on BJ’s current results vs his career totals tells us that there is something wrong with his offensive game. And then there are the various quotes in the media from BJ himself and the professional hitting coach that say there is something wrong with his swing. I am thinking that given information some of us could conclude that there is something wrong with BJ Upton’s swing.

    You are correct, neither the Braves nor Upton will consider a minor league ‘rehab’ assignment. He should have to figure it all out, hopefully batting 8th, as the most expensive defensive CF in history.

  28. First rounders: Upton, Upton, Heyward and…Blake DeWitt? Yep. Blake DeWitt. Also Paul Maholm and Mike Minor, our two lefty starters!

  29. @37 The change-up I saw wasn’t hittable even if expected. The only thing they could have done was lay off it, as most ended up being balls. But that’s hard to do when it looks like a strike most of the way in. But as I said, I didn’t see him last night, so maybe he hasn’t been able to keep it working as well.

  30. @40 Looked like Walden was throwing a lot of very hittable fastballs. At least I didn’t see a slider. I didn’t hear the announcers say if he threw a change. His pitches were low middle with little action. Freddie got him out just in time.

    edit – If he was throwing sliders they had little to no break.

  31. @34: Expecting a standard of “proof” when hanging with a bunch of guys and gals “talkin’ baseball”, and then treating people like jerks when they don’t provide them to your satisfaction, is pretty insufferable posting behavior.

    Lotsa numbers fly around this place. I wouldn’t know how to calculate half of them or even tell you what they mean, but I hope that doesn’t mean I can’t offer up an opinion without a pedant dumping a ton of rhetorical bricks on top of me.

    PS: BJ looks utterly lost at the plate.

  32. According to Pitchfx, Walden threw 8 fastballs, two sliders, and one changeup. Cozart doubled on a slider, Votto took the changeup low before doubling on a fastball, and Phillips singled on a fastball. Frankly, it looked like Walden wasn’t hitting his spots very well last night.

  33. 42: The numbers that fly around are publicly available information. And since there are lots of sites that calculate them, there’s no need to be an expert in linear weights to compare two players by wOBA or to comb through boxscores to find the league-average infield fly ball rate.

    There is publicly-available information on swing mechanics, but a) every player has a different swing, and so pointing out this or that supposedly “bad” feature is usually misguided when talking about Major League hitters, and b) if you’re not a professional scout, you don’t know what you’re looking for or how to find it. So speculating in reaction to bad results about how some guy’s swing is messed up is pointless for a fan with no scouting experience. To the extent that swing problems are causing B.J.’s problems, we have no way of knowing what they are, and no reason to believe that a minor-league assignment could help straighten them out. To the extent that swing problems are not at issue, and he’s just mentally off-balance, having a hard time adjusting to pitchers he hasn’t faced before, or in the midst of a run of atrocious bad luck, all the talk about swing problems is pointless.

  34. @44 What you’re describing is a conversational pool composed solely of people who understand all the numbers and people who pretend they do. That leaves me out. Is there no room in your heart for folks who engage in fun and on the fly speculating about why BJ stinks right now?

    You do realize that you don’t have to be an insufferable pedant in order to persuade people that their thinking is off base, right?

  35. @46: I guess I feel like I’ve said enough about why I don’t see value in non-scouts talking mechanics. I’m not trying to police people talking about baseball however they want to, I just started off explaining why I (strongly) disagreed with justhank’s comments about B.J. I’m not planning to run around yelling at people whenever they talk about how X’s swing looks really bad right now.

  36. While we as fans may lack the expertise to diagnose the underlying causes of, and solutions for, B.J. Upton’s hitting woes, we can at least look to the statistics to see if how B.J.’s problems are manifesting themselves in terms of results.

    B.J.’s plate discipline stats show that he is swinging at far fewer pitches out of the strike zone than last year; unfortunately, he’s lost his ability to make contact with strikes (and especially fastballs). Pitchers are throwing first-pitch strikes 68% of the time, so B.J. is frequently starting at-bats behind in the count. Compounding the problem is that his line-drives are down, pop-ups are way up and BABIP is very low (due in large part to the pop-ups).

    In short: it looks like B.J. will get straightened out when he starts putting good swings on fastballs again. I have no idea how we’ll get from here to there, but to my eyes, it appears that B.J. is physically capable of hitting fastballs if he can get his hitting mechanics in order (which is a lot more than I can say for Struggla).

  37. I think the gist, Anon21, is that justhank ain’t writing an article for FanGraphs. He’s not actually authoring anything. He’s just commenting. A person doesn’t need to necessarily be held to as high a standard of proof to his opinion when he’s just talking ball as if he were trying to publish something.

    I don’t know what it’s like for others who post here, but not knowing any of you personally, I have vague little characters in my mind based solely on user names and the feel of the ideas you each express. And I think justhank kind of personifies half of what I love about this blog. The character in my mind that represents justhank would post on Rowland’s Office, too. The character that represents you would post on Capitol Avenue Club. If either of your little characters switched boards, you’d be ridiculed into frustration. But not here. Some people toss around some advanced numbers, and some people engage in amateur scouting, or even amateur psychology. Some people do all of it (me.) I like it that way. I think others here might feel the same. That’s probably why you’re feeling so much pushback on this one.

    So, when someone says something you think is dumb, disagree with him, sure. Or maybe skip over it. There’s not enough time in the day to go to battle with every guy on the internet who says something he can’t possibly prove.

    Or, to put it differently: there’s a restroom around every corner. Please don’t poo in my jacuzzi.

  38. @44 – Is it ok for the rest of us to talk about BJ’s bad swing? I like talking about pointless shit. I mean you don’t have to participate because you know, its pointless.

  39. I don’t think it’s that hard to figure, actually: BJ has a long swing & he’s stepping in the bucket pretty dramatically right now—he’s pulling away from the pitches.

    That’s how you miss fastballs right down the middle. No reason he can’t fix that to some degree.

  40. At the risk of drawing Anon21’s ire:
    Plus he has a lot going on with his hands. Between the leg kick and large amount of hand movement he seems consistently late on balls over the plate.

  41. Speaking of swings, Andrelton reminds me of Javy Lopez. Javy was stronger, obviously, but they’re built similarly — tall-ish and long-armed, and both get a lot of extension with loose flexibility in the shoulders. He looks like a 20-25 HR guy eventually, to me (easy to say after he just hit two, I know).

  42. Those dingers he hit weren’t GABP specials, they were legit.

    edit: I remember a pre game with Javy describing his baseball swing. The thing that struck me was that he said you should always swing down on a ball.

  43. Part of the reason to swing down on the ball is to generate backspin, which makes a ball rise, both in tennis and in baseball. (I vividly remember Jay Payton’s swing, which was like the opposite of an uppercut.)

  44. From the casual observer, what seems to be delaying BJ’s timing causing him to be late on everything, not just a speedball, is a combination to 2 things:
    1. High-leg kick
    2. Negative forward motion of his upper hand, pushing the bat forward while still above his head (the “cocking” of the bat) prior to moving toward the zone.

    However, looking back at footage, both were very present in a Rays uniform. The one thing that seems different is his hand-positioning. His hands are now further toward his front meaning that they’re having to travel further back and further forward. This to me is a simple explanation why, no matter what pitch is being thrown, he can’t catch up to it. Here’s the slo-mo clip with the Rays…

    And here’s one with the Braves…

    Pulling the 2 up side by side, it seems apparent that his hand-positioning is now obviously closer to his front leg.

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