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Entries in Atlanta Braves (42)


The Uggla Truth

Dan Uggla of the Atlanta Braves turned around a horrible season with a 25 game hitting streak.  Since the streak started on July fifth, Uggla's approach at the plate is very different.

The story starts with where pitchers threw the ball.  They worked Dan away:

Dan Uggla, pitch frequency, through 7/4/2011.That was a good approach, because Dan did not swing at those pitches as much:

Dan Uggla, swing rate, through 7/4/2011.He liked going after pitches inside, especially those off the plate.  That was about the only place he made contact.

Dan Uggla, contact rate, through 7/4/2011.Uggla made his best contact with balls outside the strike zone, which in general leads to poor performance.  By not swinging as much a the outside pitches, he also put himself in a hole:

Dan Uggla, taken strikes, through 7/4/2011.He gave the pitchers nearly half the plate.  The combination of all the above led to a poor heat map when he put the ball in play:

Dan Uggla, in play average, through 7/4/2011.As you can see, all that inside contact did him no good.

Since the start of the streak, pitchers still work Uggla away:

Dan Uggla, pitch frequency, since 7/5/2011.But Dan swings more at the strikes thrown:

Dan Uggla, swing rate, since 7/5/2011.He really cut down on swings on inside pitches.  Concentrating more on the middle of the plate, Dan makes better contact.

Dan Uggla, contact rate, since 7/5/2011.He's also taking fewer strikes:

Dan Uggla, taken strikes, since 7/5/2011.All of that leads to a much better in play heat map:

Dan Uggla, in play average, since 7/5/2011.Uggla moved his concentration from the inside to the middle part of the plate, and that's given him much better plate coverage.  He'll need to keep this up for a while to get his season back to his career averages, however.


Bourn Again Hitter

Michael Bourn, recently acquired by the Atlanta Braves from the Houston Astros, is posting the best numbers of his career in 2011.  His BA, OBP and slugging percentage all stand as best single season marks for the outfielder.  Bourn's improved strike zone judgement stands as one reason for his progress:

Michael Bourn swing rate, 2008-2010.Michael used to chase pitches inside quite often.  He stopped doing that in 2011.

Michael Bourn swing rate, 2011.He's improved his coverage of the strike zone.  He still chases a lot of pitches, 67% this season, but down from 76% the previous three years.  His better pitch selection is leading to better results when he puts the ball in play, however:

Michael Bourn, in play batting average, 2008-2010.He's hammering the low, inside quadrant of the strike zone this year:

Michael Bourn, in play batting average, 2011.With Michael no longer fishing at pitches off the plate inside, pitchers are forced over the plate more.  That's leading to a hits driven rise in all three of his averages.


Freddie Freeman Finds His Power Stroke

Freddie Freeman won't turn 22 until September, but Atlanta's rookie first baseman is already producing like a veteran. After last night's 3-for-5 showing versus the Pirates, Freeman has a .287 batting average, a .360 on-base percentage and a .474 slugging percentage. He's besting the cumulative line for major league first basemen in all three triple-slash categories (.267/.342/.442), and he has gone on a serious power binge since a mild spring:

April: .163 Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average)

May: .118 ISO

June: .202 ISO

July: .267 ISO

Freeman crushed pitches on the inner half of the strike zone in April and May, but he didn't do much damage on low or outside pitches:

Freeman's in-play slugging percentage by pitch location, April-May 2011

That was a problem, considering that pitchers most often tossed him stuff low and away:

 Frequency of opponents' pitch location vs. Freeman, April-May 2011 Pitchers continue to throw Freeman low-and-away pitches...

 Frequency of opponents' pitch location vs. Freeman, June-July 2011

But the rookie has seemingly adjusted, drilling pitches at the knees and on the outer half...

Freeman's in-play slugging percentage by pitch location, June-July 2011

Covering the low and outer portions of the zone has made the lefty-swinging Freeman an all-fields slugger. Since June, he has hit 10 home runs and 13 doubles. Five of those homers were hit two center field, and two to left field. Nine of Freeman's doubles were sliced to the opposite field, and one was hit to center. The Braves must be thrilled that Freeman has shown the ability to adapt to the scouting reports that teams have on him, punching low and outer-half pitches to center and left field for extra bases.