What Happened

The past four games have all felt very similar, haven’t they? The offense has been quite good and the starting pitching has been dreck. Last night, this combination finally produced a win, as the bats overcame Yonny Chirinos‘s four-homer stinker.


Ronald Acuña hit a 448-foot leadoff homer, and in the sixth, the Bucs plunked him. Was it intentional? In context, probably not. It was the sixth inning; the Braves had a man on first and the Pirates were nursing a two-run lead, and brought in a new reliever to face Ronald. His first pitch was just a little bit inside and Ronald overreacted in silly outrage that the pitcher had come in on him. Two pitches later, on a 2-0 count, Holderman stuck it in Acuña’s elbow.

The pitch location is fairly damning; it was easily a foot inside and kept tailing in from there. But there would be simply no reason to hit him in that situation, and Holderman had missed off the plate with his previous two pitches (a fastball in though not that far in, and a slider outside), suggesting that he came into the game lacking his command.

Luckily, X-rays were negative, and Snit said it probably caught him “where the crease is on the [elbow guard].”

About Ronald’s Production

I’ve been wondering a bit lately about Ronald’s power. His homer last night was a moonshot, but while he had 20 homers through July 1 – he was hitting .334/.413/.595 through the first 81 games – he only has six home runs since then, as he’s been hitting .350/.445/.564, as his ISO has dipped from .261 to .214. So, has he been subtly changing his approach to prioritize average over power?

Maybe – or maybe it’s just luck. Per Statcast, from March through June, Ronald’s EV was 94.9 and his HardHit% was 55.5; since July, it’s 95.4 and 58.8%. He may not challenge Matt Olson for the team lead in homers, but the dude is cooking with gas.

About the Other Guy

The same cannot be said for Ronald’s countryman, Yonny Chirinos. He has now made three appearances in a Braves uniform and has yielded 13 earned runs in 13 2/3 innings. While his 3.25 K/BB looks superficially positive, his deeply crappy 7.5% swinging strike rate tells you what batters think of him; the league average is 11.1%. His Faberge-blue Baseball Savant page makes Bryce Elder‘s look like a Miami sunburn. And while his first name inspires all the confidence of a 1940s radio-show Minnesota Norwegian, I feel confident that his last name will be emblazoned upon a different jersey before too long.

Why We Won

Last night, the last two hitters in the order, Orlando Arcia and Michael Harris II, were 5-9 with a walk, three RBIs, and two runs scored. Arcia hit a homer to bring the Braves to within one, and then in the top of the 9th he hit the go-ahead double that provided the game’s final margin against the Pirates’ All-Star closer, his teammate a month ago. Arcia is hitting .302, and every game like this feeds the nagging suspicion that maybe he’s actually good.

Harris, meanwhile, is up to .286, and while his walk rate is only slightly higher than it was last year, his strikeout rate is appreciably better, and while his BABIP is 38 points lower than it was last year, his average is just 11 points lower. While he has slightly reduced the number of pitches he swings at that are outside the strike zone, he has significantly improved the percentage of those pitches with which he makes contact. In all, it appears that his swing decisions have gotten better across the board. Poor approach was really the only flaw in his game, and he’s addressing it. Since his three-hit game on June 7, he’s hitting .370/.396/.613 over the past two months. And he won’t turn 23 till next March.

Yeah, the starting pitching has been terrible of late. But this team sure can hit.