Friday, June 8, 2012

Speaking of the glove...

Let me state upfront that there is no amount of defensive improvement at 3B that could justify continuing to play Jose Constanza over Chipper Jones, and the Braves will rightly return Prado to LF when Chipper returns from his rehab stint in Rome Monday. But there are two highlight reel plays in this sequence that show Prado's skill with the leather. The first is a reaction play, with Prado positioned way over into the SS hole while the Braves play a shifted infield. Chipper makes that play too I think. He's still got the twitch instincts of a natural third baseman.

The second play, maybe not. It's a classic "chopper to Chipper" scenario that takes a really awkward bounce on the final hop, kicking way off at an angle toward the 3B line. Prado, who was fielding the ball with his glove until it spun off sideways barehands it instead and laser beams the throw to first. That is somewhat the sort of play that Chipper has excelled at defensively his entire career, but Chipper is far more adept at barehanding the slow roller off the grass and making that throw. I'm not sure he makes the reaction grab while changing direction on the fly.

Again, none of which is to say the Braves should even think about continuing with Constanza in LF and Prado at 3B, because Chipper's bat over Constanza's is far more valuable than the plus defense you get at both positions with Chipper on the bench. But it's worth noting that defensively, Martin Prado is far more valuable at the hot corner than the Hall of Famer he will replace* there next year.

*Juan Francisco has quickly played himself out of any consideration for that slot going forward. Expect the Braves to look for a new left fielder in 2013 with the money they're saving from Chipper's retirement, Derek Lowe's contract finally ending, and Jair Jurrjens' mysterious disappearance from the face of Planet Earth.

Smell the glove!

Or, how to magically create better pitchers without changing any of your pitchers...

This is a link to the highlights of last night's 8-2 Braves win over the Marlins. The sixth video in the sequence is titled "Simmons turns two."

From Opening Day until his demotion last week, former Braves SS Tyler Pastornicky accrued an abysmal -11 bRAR (runs above/below replacement, via Since that demotion, and the call-up of Andrelton Simmons that went with it, Simmons has already accrued a bRAR of 3.

Negative 11.

Plus 3.

This is another link, this time to's stats reports for Braves pitching, sorted by ground ball percentages.

Simmons has been touted as a defensive wizard since becoming a full time position player. His performance to date is in line with expectations and scouting reports. (His early bat has been an unexpected plus.) In the next few months, expect the guys at the top of that list to benefit significantly from going from a terrible defensive SS to a true defensive asset in that hole. Note that in addition to infamous sinker-baller Tim Hudson, all three of the shut-down relievers in the pen - Kimbrel, Venters and O'Flaherty - induce grounders when they're not striking batters out.

Note also that the other two pitchers who induce ground balls at a 50/50 clip or higher are Randall Delgado and Kris Medlen (currently stretching out as a starter in AAA.) Compare to the last guy on the list, Mike Minor, who is decidedly not a ground ball pitcher. In the battle for the final rotation spot, Delgado and Minor are "pitching for the slot," and in addition to simply out performing Minor to date, Delgado should benefit dramatically from having Simmons making plays behind him on the infield, while Minor will continue to rely on his outfielders to chase down fly balls when they can.

Welcome back to Gwinnett, Mike.