MLB: Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves

Upton, Uggla = NI

The bloom is fading for the Whiff Kids, who have combined this spring for twice as many strikeouts as hits.

Upton entered Saturday 4-for-20 with 8 strikeouts and just one walk. Uggla is 4-for-17 with 7 strikeouts and has one hit in his last 16 plate appearances.

Hitting instructor Greg Walker offered tepid votes of confidence.

On B.J.: “He does some different things in the game than he doesn’t do in BP,” Walker said. “He knows what he’s trying to do, and in the games we’re getting about a third of them that are really good, and then about two-thirds of them he’s spinning. He seems to be getting better and better. We’re trying to get his bad-posture spin out of it.”

On Uggla: “When he came into camp everything was great,” Walker said. “Then he lost it for two or three days.”

The Mendoza Brothers

1/3 of the Braves’ payroll

Credit to Jayson Stark for the headline and this remarkable stat (via Baseball Reference):

In the history of baseball, only three other teams have had regulars (at least 400 plate appearances) finish with batting averages below .200.

  • 1917 Cleveland Indians: Steve O’Neill (.184) and Joe “Doc” Evans (.190)
  • 1901 Philadelphia Phillies: Bill Hallman (.184) and Monte Cross (.197)
  • 1886 Baltimore Orioles: Milt Scott (.190) and Mike Muldoon (.199)

The Bravos will be the first of those teams to finish in first place.

By the way, the Brothers U combined to go hitless in 6 AB’s Saturday, with four strikeouts.

Was the Philly sweep an omen or a blip?

Hard to say, but there’s a few takeaways that should’ve been obvious before:

  • B.J. Upton can’t be trusted. He was 0-for-Philadelphia, with 7 strikeouts — three versus Kyle Kendrick. Baffling that Schafer sat on the bench all weekend even though he was apparently healthy enough to play. Until Jay Hey returns there’s no reason not to stick w/ an OF of Gattis, Schafer and the ever-unpredictable Justin, who has a .190 BA and .637 OPS over his last 19 games (63 AB). Obviously he can carry this team when hot, but when he’s not he’s as big a liability as his sibling.
  • Speaking of liabilities, Dan Uggla continues to suck. He hasn’t homered in 28 games, during which time he has 21 more strikeouts (32) than hits (9). He’s hitting .133 with no XBH since returning from LASIK surgery, regressing to the point that I’m beginning to wonder if the Braves aren’t better off with Elliot Johnson at second base. Those who still try and defend Uggla should really stop making fools of themselves.
  • Remember Jeff Suppan, the middling Cardinals starter who parlayed a stout performance in the 2006 NLCS into a big contract with the Brewers? For the Braves to advance to the World Series for the first time in 14 years, they’re going to need Paul Maholm to mimic Suppan. Because Maholm is the only realistic option as a fourth starter. Beachy has only recently begun soft-tossing so it’s questionable whether he’ll even be available out of the bullpen, while Alex Wood has either tired or been figured out by opposing hitters.
  • Jordan Walden is more important to this team than we may have realized. Without him the Braves bullpen is considerably less intimidating. Can’t say enough about how well Carpenter and Avilan have pitched up to now but I’d rather not have to depend on them alone as the bridge to Kimbrel.  Walden is reportedly “not close” to returning from a groin strain, according to the AJC’s Carroll Rogers.
  • On top of everything else, now I’m worried about Freddie’s right knee. Fredi says it’s fine after he banged it into a wall chasing a pop-up yesterday in Philly, but that knee has given him trouble before. And frankly, it’s getting difficult to trust the Braves when they say a player is day-to-day. As evident with the two Jordans and Reed Johnson, the team’s prognoses of late tend to be wildly optimistic. I’d sit Freddie for at least one game — home-field advantage won’t mean a thing if our best hitter is limping to the plate.

 

B.J. fun fact of the day

‘And they thought I sucked’

Thus far in July B.J. has struck out three times (9) for every time he’s been on base (3 — zero walks, 3 singles).  One of those hits was a blooper and the other should have been charged an error.

B.J. has more strikeouts (25) than hits and walks combined (24) in his last 76 ABs,  good for a .276 OBP. So much for that resurgence.

B.J. Uggla

The Braves’ two highest-paid players have been their worst. By far.

DOB shares these distressing stats:

bjuggla

Apparently Uggla is contagious

B.J.‘s .485 OPS ranks 188th out of 192 MLB qualifiers.

(.138 BA, 13 H 94 AB, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 9 BB, 34 K, .219 OBP, .266 slugging)

Uggla, with a .601 OPS, ranks 165th.

(.163 BA, 14 H, 86 AB, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 15 BB, 37 K, .287 OBP, .314 slugging)

The good news? They can’t get much worse. Check that — Uggla has gotten worse each year in Atlanta, so it wouldn’t surprise me if his BA remains south of .200 for the duration of the season.

The bad — really bad — news? The Braves will be paying Uggla through 2015 and B.J. through 2017. Handsomely.

FW has done some great work as GM — the trade for Justin Upton was unquestionably the shrewdest move of the offseason — but his track record on contract extensions and free agent signings remains pitiable.

Week 1 autopsy

  • There’s a definite buzz about this team. More than 120,000 turned out for the Cubs series — and not many of them seemed to be rooting for the Little Bears. Yes, they got a boost from the Final Four, but the crowds have been more enthusiastic than in recent years. FSS and SS are also benefiting, as the three games vs. the Phillies registered the highest average rating for a season opening series in 11 years. The opener, meanwhile, was the most-watched since the 2000 opener on TBS.
  • The Braves struck out 16 times twice this week  but still won both games. That’s all fine and good, but God forbid we end up facing Kershaw or Cain in the wild card game.
  • B.J. Upton looked like a different hitter in the lead-off spot, walking three times and stealing two bases, in addition to Saturday’s heroics. Fredi said he may leave him there even after Andrelton returns (probably tomorrow). It’s worth nothing that B.J. posted OBP’s of .386 and .383 in his first two full seasons with the Rays.
  • Speaking of Fredi … no complaints, earlier nitpicking notwithstanding. The confidence he showed in Avilan, using him against more than just LH batters, was rewarded. His bullpen management has improved by leaps and bounds from 2011.
  • Speaking of the ‘pen: JV hasn’t been missed, and that’s not a reflection on him. Braves relievers are just that good.
  • Frank Wren doesn’t have the best people skills but DL’ing Freddie was the right call. And I like that Freddie was pissed about it. Dude’s a gamer.
  • What’s the over/under on Monday’s home opener for the Fish? I’ll be generous and say 32,000.
  • Anyone still think the Phils and Yanks will make the playoffs?
  • Why did I spend $20 on John Axford in my fantasy draft?

Braves targeting B.J.

According to Bowman, they hoped to sign Justin’s older brother and Torii Hunter, who went to Detroit instead. B.J. Upton is still available and no free agent has more potential.

He’s not quite as fast as Bourn, or as good defensively, but he’s above average. Offensively, he’s a mixed bag. His 28 HR in 2012 were a career best, but his OBP was a career worst .298. Strange, since the 29-year-old had two seasons early in his career with OBP’s above .380.

Still, I’ll take him over Cody Ross or Victorino.