Open Thread: Hello, June, My Old Friend

The Braves went 13-16 in May, leading some of us to wonder whether the June swoon may have come a month early this year.

The June swoon is what happened to us in June 2006, when the Braves went 6-21, wrecking the season and gradually persuading fans that the longest division streak in baseball history was about to come crashing to a halt. (The Braves were 73-62 in all other months that year.)

The thing is, outside of that single season, the “June Swoon” is mostly a myth. The Braves were 292-248 in June over the 20 seasons from 1994 to 2013, including the 2006 debacle. Basically, the Braves were incredibly good in June from 1994 to 2005 — 188-137, a .578 winning percentage — and then pretty miserable from 2006-2009, as they went 41-67 in June. (That included 13-15 in 2007, 11-16 in 2008, and 11-15 in 2009.) Then they went back to being awesome in 2010, and they were 63-44 in the last four seasons.

None of this means anything, of course. But it does mean that there’s basically no such thing as the June Swoon. By many measures, this is a stronger lineup than the one we trotted out on March 31, since Mike Minor and Ervin Santana are now healthy, and Tommy La Stella is our second baseman. I think there are a lot of reasons to hope that the Braves will have a better June than May.

The Mariners are a bit like an extreme version of us. They can pitch, but they really really can’t hit. Their home park suppresses scoring so much that they’ve actually been a better team on the road than at home.

127 thoughts on “Open Thread: Hello, June, My Old Friend”

  1. Perhaps the notion of a “June Swoon” sticks because the phrase is so euphonious.

  2. Tim Hudson has gotten comfy in Frisco. He slammed the Braves for their low ball offer this past winter.

  3. Aside from Jose Peraza, there is absolutely nothing that excites me in the Minors.

  4. That was an odd Huddy quote. He had been doing a great job at saying all of the right things about being excited about being in SF while still praising his time in Atlanta. I feel like most Braves fans still like him and root for him. And then he says that…in the context of an article about having his first opportunity to win a World Series ring. The timing and the context are both a little weird.

  5. well I get that it’s a business and people have egos and all, but damn, it’s not like they haven’t paid him 90m over the last 9 seasons. You got a better offer, bully for you.

  6. Jason Heyward is leading the team with 2.2 WAR. I am really not sure how meaningful WAR is.

    @2 I don’t think he slammed the Braves? I read him saying the Braves “rejoined” the bidding process with a two-year offer too late in the process. It’s not too harsh.

  7. I’m pretty sure Huddy keeps his pie hole shut if he was having a tough season.

  8. Kennesaw State is moving on to the CWS super regionals after winning a region that included Florida State and Alabama. That’s a pretty big deal for our little local program.

    I’ve watched a lot of college games over the past weekend and all I can say is that I’m glad I’m not a scout. The game they are playing in college barely resembles the game 10 years ago. They’ve gone from home-run derby to the dead-ball era. The ball goes absolutely nowhere off these new bats, and it seems like the ball itself is really toned down. It’s like watching a game from the 1920’s but with better equipment. Pitching and infield defense are all that matters. Teams bunt like crazy. Stolen base attempts everywhere. I don’t know how you can tell who can hit at the next level and who can’t.

  9. @6 – Third highest OBP on the team, second best defense, and best base running. Plus he’s only missed one or two games. Seems plausible.

  10. At least we’ve avoided King Felix.

    Erasmo seems like a guy we’ll clobber and Iwakuma will no hit us.

    Was just browsing through some of the old “Melky is Fat” threads. Mac was really funny and I forgot how much I disliked that POS.

    @3 – Some of the starters in Lynchburg may end up being legit, and past that, I can sort of talk myself into Bethancourt, but not a lot else.

  11. Yep, just read those “Melky is Fat” threads. That Jeff Francoeur talk show was just gold. Mac most certainly had a great sense of humor. Man, miss him a lot.

    Alex, you had big shoes to fill, and you’re doing pretty well yourself. Thanks man.

  12. @13 I think that’s the question I am ultimately asking: is the small sample size argument still applicable as we are 1/3 into the season already?

  13. Heyward made more than his share of run-saving tough plays early in the season, enhancing his defensive numbers. As I said a few weeks ago, he really would be worth the 6 dWAR per season (otherwise impossible for an RF, in my opinion) if the opposition was ordered to hit to RF whenever there are runners in scoring position. He’s actually been stuck around 1.5 dWAR (BBRef) for a few weeks, as those opportunities haven’t been as frequent of late.

  14. @15, yes. Defensive stats are notoriously unreliable over less than a full season.

    Given his performance over the last three years, and taking into account the numbers over the first third of the season and the uncertainty you have to bake in, we can say he’s an overwhelmingly positive defender. We can’t say he’s better than Simmons.

  15. The promote and extend deal that the Astros just completed with Jon Singleton was absolutely brilliant. They signed him for 5y/10 million, carrying him through his first 2 years of arbitration. If he comes close to his real potential, that’s one heck of a bargain for the ‘stros. Good for them, and good to see that franchise will probably be turning the corner very soon.

    I’d be down for a deal like this for La Stella in the offseason, if he continues to be the OBP machine we think he’ll be.

  16. This is going to start happening a lot more. They tried to sign George Springer the same way but he rebuffed them — and considering how many homers he’s already hit, he’s made himself quite a few million dollars more in just a few months.

    There is no reason to do this with La Stella, though. He’s 25, which means that we control him into his early 30s, once he will already have started his decline. We pretty much want to go year to year with him.

  17. @19

    I agree. I grew up going to Astros’s games in the Dome. I have always been a big fan of Biggio and Bagwell.

  18. Look, we’re not paying Heyward for defense. We’re paying him to hit bombs, steal bags, drink Keystone Light, listen to Metallica, and scream as loud as he can.

  19. @20
    A 5/10 million dollar deal this offseason would keep La Stella through age 30 and take him through arbitration. I disagree.

  20. @3, there isn’t a lot position-wise that’s interesting in the minors — though La Stella and Gattis are older prospects who appear to be pretty credible major leaguers, so it’s possible we’ll find another player like that. But the pitching is a bit better. Cabrera, Hursh, Sims, and Graham all have plenty of potential.

    @23, I just don’t see the reason to do that. La Stella’s an old prospect who will hit for batting average and not a lot else — he’s basically a slightly older version of Mark Loretta, who never made a lot of money. I don’t think that La Stella will have a huge arbitration payday waiting for him in three years. So the upside to locking him up now is relatively low, in my opinion. And the downside is the usual — baseball players can get hurt, they can regress, they can fail to develop. So I just don’t think that there’s any reason not to simply pay him the major league minimum this year and next year and the following year, and then pay him a few million each year in arbitration.

  21. Would Heyward’s value be greater if he plays centerfield full time? Or it would actually work the other way as he would be compared against better defensive outfielders?

  22. @19. I just don’t understand how any baseball player who has any confidence in his abilities would take that deal…especially one of her game better power hitting prospects.

  23. Because it gives him financial stability through his late 20s, at which point he’ll be eligible for a megadeal in free agency. By signing it now, it means that he’ll still have a chance to get paid tons of money.

    That’s exactly what happened with Brian McCann, whom we extended just after he turned 23, and who got $85 million in his first free agent deal.

    The bigger question with Heyward in center field is whether it would affect his ability to stay on the field. He’s always been viewed as a bit injury-prone, and though he was a center fielder in high school, the Braves immediately moved him to right field at least in part because they felt it would be easier on his legs and help to keep him healthier.

  24. 25: In theory, it should be about the same–relative to other players at the position, Heyward’s defense wouldn’t play as well, but his bat would play better. (That’s setting aside Alex’s good point about the potential health risk.) If WAR is calibrated correctly, the two effects should cancel each other out.

  25. David Laurila has a great article up on Fangraphs interviewing Alex Wood and Kevin Pillar (Blue Jays) regarding their experiences going through the draft process and low-minors ball. It’s definitely worth a read.

  26. There’s no good reason to shift Heyward to CF unless you have someone better than BJ Upton to play RF (or LF if you shift Justin to right.) At this point, I don’t think the Braves have anyone who makes that move necessary. If they had George Springer or Oscar Taveras just demanding a spot in the OF, then yeah, maybe.

  27. Alex, you’re discrediting La Stella’s skillset when you say he’ll only hit for average. He has always ever been an OBP machine whose OPS, until this year, wasn’t only carried by a good OBP, but a good slugging percentage as well. 1/3 of La Stella’s hits in the Minors were for extra bases.

  28. @31

    That still doesn’t mean there’s a good reason to guarantee him $10 million over the next five years. He will not be a Super 2, and we control him for the next five years no matter what, at Major League minimum for the next two-and-a-half. Is he gonna make $9 million over his three years of arbitration? He’d have to make more than that, actually, because a few extra million on the back end is worth it to avoid the risk of injury on the front end. Which is why I think these deals are kind of silly except in extreme cases, all of which involve players who are likely to be Super 2s, which La Stella is not.

  29. There is no reason to extend LaStella. It’s only 50-50 he is our second baseman next year.

  30. My initial post regarding this topic stated that I’d be down for that kind of extension for La Stella if he continues to be the OBP machine he’s been so far, which entails waiting until the offseason. With that being said…

    Martin Prado made 16 million in the first 6 full years of his career. Arbitration salaries are on the rise and 5 years/10 million dollars for La Stella would be a steal.

  31. When he’s played CF, Heyward has had pretty awesome defensive numbers and some spectacular results (remember the game ending catch against the Marlins last year). If you assume that he’s fast and gets great jumps on everything, wouldn’t you just want him in the position that provides more opportunities? This is neglecting the presence of BJ with whom you have to do something. Like go back in time, don’t sign him, and find a RF with Heyward moving to center full time.

  32. @37,

    Somewhere where we couldn’t find it when Wohlers hung the slider to Leyritz.

  33. Or traded Teixeira for Kotchman, costing us the draft pick that became Mike Trout.

  34. 32-Unless the Braves send him down La Stella will almost surely be a Super Two. The cutoff is usually June 10th or so and he was called up May 28th.

  35. Zimmerman more or less said “I’m done as a 3B, and I’d prefer LF.” Basically this means “I don’t feel comfortable at 1B” or, just as likely, “Rochie is my friend and I don’t have any real attachment to that Span guy.”

  36. Other people who don’t have any real attachment to that Span guy include Washington Nationals fans, who have enjoyed watching him hit .277/.325/.380 since arriving in Washington.

    The really baffling thing is he used to walk a lot more. His first two years in the majors, he had an 11% walk rate, and he hit .305/.390/.422. Since the beginning of 2013, his walk rate is 6.3%, which is pretty awful. He hasn’t been above a 10% walk rate since 2009. I don’t get what happened to him, but he’s a worse hitter at 30 than he was at 24, and he appears to be headed steadily in the wrong direction.

  37. They’re still stuck with Span until Harper comes back. Nate McLouth is hitting for Washington about as well as he hit for the Braves.

  38. I’ve had seats behind the visitor’s dugout for three Nats games since the beginning of last season, and Denard Span is a holy terror if you’re sitting there. I believe his primary offensive skill to be “fighting off fastballs”.

  39. I can see why Not-Horacio (thanks, Chip, I would have been wondering for hours) has a high ERA. Fastball looks straight as an arrow and neither of his other pitches seem to have much bite.

  40. Meanwhile, in New York, Mr. $85,000,000:

    .230/.291/.377, seven home runs, 85 OPS+.

  41. Our defense is so Jekyll and Hyde—we have the top defenders in the world, and then we have CJ and the Uptons (and TLS). It’s a strange contrast.

  42. Ugh…Regession continuing to regress. Don’t forget to take it out on the clubhouse

  43. BJ’s contract looks a lot more palatable after he invested some of it in those glasses.

  44. I really hate replay, and how every close play has the manager waddling out to chat with the umpires, and literally doing nothing except standing around waiting for someone in the dugout to tell them if they should appeal.

    Really slow and tedious.

  45. First to 10 runs wins.

    I’m fine with replay but they really do need to fix the whole manager-stalling-for-time bullcrap, because it got annoying about two games into the season.

  46. Yeah, Floyd is definitely not inspiring confidence tonight. We may need double digit runs to win.

  47. Gavin, you finally got some run support tonight. Way to make it hold up (not).

  48. Wood warming up. You know, the guy who should be pitching in Floyd’s rotation spot.

  49. If Wood is to be kept below the 170-inning limit, then he cannot return to the rotation until the All-Star Break.

  50. Floyd apparently can only pitch when the game is close. Maybe we need to score him runs more often so he can get used to pitching with a lead.

  51. @87, no, because he pulled it to the shortstop. Had it been a 4-6-3 DP instead of a 6-4-3 DP, Joe would approve.

  52. We’ve got a ground-ball pitcher and an infield with two substandard defenders. What could go wrong?

  53. Now that this is a straight up bullpen game, I bet no team scores again in regulation. I’m calling a JUp walk off home run in the 10th.

  54. How many closers do the Mariners have, anyway?

    One nice thing interleague play has taught us this year is that the Braves can’t beat AL teams, so, even though it’s only early June, we can already cross winning the World Series off the list and just sit back and enjoy watching baseball.

  55. From the Braves Journal glossary:

    Hibernation Mode: When the Braves score early runs to take a lead, then completely stop hitting for several innings rather than stretch the lead, often pressuring the bullpen and/or allowing the other team to get back into it. It’s key that they score the early runs — it’s not Hibernation Mode if they’re just getting dominated. (Added June 4, 2008.)

  56. We’ve won our share of 2-1 and 1-0 type games…time for the offense to bail the pitching out for once and win an 8-7 game.

  57. I think La Stella is trying to prove to Freddie that he does not need a late inning defensive replacement.

  58. When CJ sailed the ball over Freddie’s head and then BJ ham-handed another uncontroversial bouncing ball in center to instantly fritter away our 4-0 lead, I knew we were gonna lose.

  59. Gattis may sit, but really with two idiotic off days this week I would think he plays.

    Seriously, there is a game at noon today and then we’re off until 9:30 Friday night in Arizona, this after already having Monday off. That’s going to be 56 hours between games. Better win today or it will be a long couple of days.

    At least we’ll have the Draft to entertain us.

  60. Let me just randomly state that Braves fans hacking at the shins of Brian McCann is just bad form. That kid gave us great years for pennies on the dollar and should be remembered fondly by every one of us. Snarking about his struggles in NY is just anklebiting pettiness.

  61. @112,

    I agree, Sam, that it’s petty to be knocking McCann considering the team never seriously considered resigning him. But, it doesn’t surprise me that he is struggling and I think the team made the right move. His injuries and struggles the last few years in Atlanta made it pretty clear he was in decline. I’m sorry he is not doing well and I hope the Yankee fans don’t turn on him, but, frankly, I think the Braves got most of the value from McCann. A 30-year old catcher is not a good investment going forward unless it’s someone like Piazza, who wasn’t really a catcher anyway but just sat back there until it was his turn to hit.

  62. I try not to root against players that previously played for my teams. In the case of some of the greatest Braves of this generation, the Braves didn’t make a strong attempt to keep a lot of them. Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, McCann, Galarraga, etc. were pretty much past their prime and Atlanta just decided to let them go somewhere else. Fortunately, my favorite player played his entire career in Atlanta (Chipper).

    It’s when guys make, in my opinion, stupid decisions that I develop a disdain for them. Kyle Farnsworth chose less buying power with his money by taking a contract in New York to be the setup man vs. less-but-more money in Atlanta to be the closer. That one ticked me off.

  63. @ 112, 113.

    I disagree.

    As a baseball fan it is my solemn duty to hate the New York Yankees and hope for poor performances from their players.

    Do I remember McCann fondly and the times we shared? Of course. Do I blame him for signing with them for $85 million as a 30-year-old catcher? Of course not, that would be silly.

    He could have signed with the Rangers or the Red Sox and I’d hope for the best. But the Yankees? No way.

  64. Dude, it’s a business. McCann gave us great results on a 5-year, $25M deal, and then he left for his big payday. I don’t care who he left to play for, the guy was a great player for many years in Atlanta. Hard to hate a guy like that.

  65. I don’t hate him, I just hate the team he plays for and hope they lose…. a lot.

    Yes, I’m still bitter about 1996 and 1999.

  66. Chipper will be first ballot. He will not be unanimous. If Greg Maddux is not unanimous, no one will be in the foreseeable future.

    As for the “he signed with the Yankees” argument @116, this seems to be an outdated view of the world. It’s pointless to hate a guy just because he took the Yankees’ money. He wasn’t going to be offered a matching contract in Atlanta. He was going to go somewhere else, most likely into the AL where he could DH a little. Whether that’s NYY, or BOS, or ANA matters not at all.

    Brian McCann was a great Brave for a decade. He deserves to be remembered that way. It might be different if he had spurned an equivalent offer from Atlanta just to “play for the Yankees” or something. But that’s not what happened, and there’s no reason to be petty and bitter about him leaving.

  67. @118,

    “Yes, I’m still bitter about 1996 and 1999.”

    If you are going to be bitter at teams that beat the Braves in the playoffs, that’s almost half the teams in the majors: Twins, Blue Jays, Phillies, Yankees, Padres, Cardinals, D-Backs, Giants, Cubs, Astros, Dodgers). Some more than once, of course (although the Braves also beat some of these teams). Add the Mets if you want to go back farther.

    Teams whose fan bases are bitter at the Braves: Pirates, Indians.

  68. Just so you all know, the Braves are doomed today as my daughters and I will be watching online

    We don’t have a good track record for these events

  69. I don’t hate the guy. I hate the New York Yankees as a collective.

    I’m not petty and bitter about him leaving (though some probably are.) I think we got his best years, and I don’t see his numbers improving with age – especially as a catcher. The AL was a natural fit with the DH option as you said. I just really, really, really, wish he signed with some other team.

    “As for the “he signed with the Yankees” argument @116, this seems to be an outdated view of the world. It’s pointless to hate a guy just because he took the Yankees’ money”

    It’s pointless for me to yell at the TV during a game too, but some of us still do it.

  70. I am indignant that some jackhole would leave a guy off his ballot so that he can’t be unanimous.

  71. If you don’t like the Yankees and think McCann is in decline then it should work out pretty well overall.

    I’m glad he got his big contract. Nobody here or anywhere else would’ve done it differently.

  72. @121

    I try and limit them to World Series appearances and recent playoff losses (Dodgers, Cards). I also include the latest bandwagon team (hey Red Sox!)

    Of course the Nationals are de facto members.

    The Los Angeles Puigs of Los Angeles
    The St Louis “Best Fans in Baseball”
    The David Ortiz’s

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