The greatest mystery of the Braves season so far? B.J. Upton was intentionally walked once!?!
If Jordan Schafer, in his next 79 plate appearances, reached base four times, that would exactly match BJ’s on-base performance so far. We all assume — hope — BJ will crank it up soon. We search desperately for signs, for green shoots of growth as Ben Bernanke once said re the economy. But we find few shoots. Take last night: a couple strikeouts, a popup. Hey, he hit a hard grounder to the second baseman!. It’s a hackneyed trick, but if you divide his average annual salary by four, as we’re a fourth through the season, BJ has been paid nearly $200,000 per hit. On the other hand, his defense has been generally good, though not outstanding. He’s lollygagged in backing up a couple balls off the wall in right field, and booted a ball here and there. Watching Andruw all those years spoiled us.
B.J. Upton: F
Fan Uggla. CB and I attended last night. Had a blast. After Uggla’s potentially game-wrecking blunder, it dawned on me that any time he has to think in the field, he’s flummoxed. Bouncer near the baseline. Runner approaching. Try to quickly grab the ball, tag the runner and get two? Or take your time, field and throw to first for the sure out? Eh. Fan just kicks it. I have no data to support this, but it seems any time he has to hurry or make a decision defensively, he flubs it. Oh, yeah. He’s struck out fully a third of his plate appearances. His OPS is worse than Julio Teheran’s. This weird notion that he has somehow been a bargain, always absurd, is now as logical as Dennis Rodman’s views on North Korea. He, Uggla not Rodman, is tied for second on the team with 7 homers, so that saves him from an F.
Fan Uggla: D-
On to more pleasant stuff. Andrelton Simmons so far has been pedestrian with the stick, though he will no doubt improve. His OBP and OPS are worse than Fan’s. But he puts the damn ball in play and his offense will come. Now. Defense. Simmons has no errors. Repeat. None. At shortstop. His defensive WAR is best in the league. Beyond that, the guy is a virtuoso, a pleasure to watch. He’s the anti-Uggla, always under control, never panicked or unsure. On a possible double play grounder, the baseball spends less than a millisecond in his glove. And of course, he has an arm like Kimbrel. He is already the best defensive shortstop in Atlanta Braves history, and maybe franchise history. I can’t comment on Milwaukee and Boston.
J-Hey. He’s off to a woeful start, yes, but unlike BJ, J-Hey shows hopeful signs. In his first game back last night, he sprayed line drives all over the field. And his defense has been excellent, as always.
I generally like the local organ columnist Jeff Schultz, but it bugs me that he writes five columns about the NFL draft for every one he does about the Braves. One in the offseason warned of the dangers of trading a sure thing in Prado for a question mark in J. Upton. Maybe that’s why Schultz never writes about baseball. This isn’t about Schultz, and I hate picking on newspaper guys, since I used to be one and that is a hell of a tough road these days. But had to get that off my chest. Anyway, JU is a legit MVP talent, and we knew that before this season. Now that he’s content and healthy, he’s the best thing to hit Hank Aaron Drive since Hank Aaron’s drives. Well, maybe since Chipper in his prime. J. Upton’s defense has been fine, if not quite stellar. There’s that.
Freeman. Little to quibble with here. He only has two homers but he’s hitting .299 with a .380 OBP. His defense has been rock solid. He is hitting .324 with a .925 OPS vs. lefties. It’s only 40 PAs, but still.
McCann: Incomplete. He has come out mashing, but he’s barely played. Let’s hope he rampages to the finish and snags a big contract from an AL team that is not Boston or New York.
Chris Johnson, which translates roughly to pleasant surprise. He has more total bases than Uggla in 39 fewer plate appearances, and WAY more than BJ. He’s cooled, yes. But he has hit and his defense has been better than advertised. Plus, what a cool guy to petition the official scorer to charge him with an error.
C. Johnson: A (given expectation)
Juan Francisco. Juan’s been OK, but he’s solidified his rep as a guy who takes a slow-pitch softball hitter’s plate approach. He has struck out more often, per plate appearance, than Uggla or BJ, for God’s sake. That, and he sometimes throws like Fred McGriff (Badly). In fairness, Juan’s grand slam in Cincy was one of the season’s more important hits, sealing a win the day after Kimbrel’s back-to-back homer blown save.
Evan Gattis. One of the best stories we’ve had since, I don’t know, Otis? That is, before Otis became pathetic and despicable. Gattis has been a bolt of excitement, but add it up and he’s only reaching base 29 percent of the time. Nevertheless, he should continue to be a thunderous weapon off the bench and behind the dish now and then. (Fredi, Teheran can throw to Gattis.) Finally, Evan’s defense at catcher has been good.
Ramiro Pena: B+
Reed Johnson: B
Game day stuff: It’s never going to change. CB and I decided last night that Turner Field is equipped with a computer that determines the mass appeal of every sound emitted by a human or machine. When Billy Idol is the most interesting music all night, well….
Meanwhile, the only original element to the presentation, the organist, has been banished to a couple of riffs a game during visits to the mound. Shame on you, Braves marketing people.
Oh, and yesterday I had to make two trips to the Turner Field Box office. It’s supposed to open at 9, I arrived about 9:05 and stood around with two other guys for about 20 minutes before I had to leave. They still had not opened. I came back later. The attendant didn’t realize June 28 was Chipper’s number retirement game. Speaking of, you can’t buy tickets to that game only. You have to also buy tickets for three other games too. I’m going to see a lot more than three additional games, but damned if I want the Braves marketing staff dictating which games I attend.
So, all that stuff: D