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Entries in Atlanta Braves (42)

Wednesday
May082013

Now it's time to pay attention to Craig Kimbrel's struggles

Craig Kimbrel did not earn his 100th career save last night.

He did pick up his fifth career loss.

He also gave up his second and third homers of the season after allowing just three last year.

Facing the Reds, the stellar Atlanta Braves closer allowed a tying two-out homer to Devin Mesoraco and then Shin-Soo Choo hit his second home run of the game, this one a walkoff as Cincinnati topped the Braves, 5-4.

"All around, it's frustrating," Kimbrel told the AP, who is 10 for 13 in save chances. "I've blown three saves. Those are wins we should have had."

But the Braves need to be concerned not just about those three homers and three blown saves, but how effective Kimbrel will be the rest of this season.

Take a look at what 2012 looked like

Batters: 

  • Hit .126
  • OBP .186
  • Slugged .172
  • OPS .358 

Take a look at what 2013 looks like

Batters: 

  • Hit .224
  • OBP .269
  • Slugged .449
  • OPS .718 

Kimbrel is going more to his fastball this season and moving away from his slider

In 2013, batters are hitting .235 against Kimbrel's fastball and .200 against his slider

Both good numbers, but...

In 2012, batters hit .137 against Kimbrel's fastball and .100 against his slider

It may just be a bad start for Craig, but it's not too early for the Braves, and their fans, to start paying attention now

Thursday
Apr182013

A Tale of Two Uptons

The Atlanta Braves brought both Upton brothers to town over the winter, signing B.J. to a five-year, $75 million free agent contract and acquiring Justin from the Diamondbacks as part of a seven-player megadeal. The younger Upton has been the game's best player in April, pacing the majors with eight home runs while batting .333, getting on base at a .393 clip, and slugging .852. But big bro? B.J. has gone deep just once, and he's hitting .140/.232/.240. Why is Justin killing the ball for the 12-2 Braves, while B.J. is killing rallies? Here's a tale of two Uptons.

Justin Upton

  • Unlike last year, the younger Upton is crushing pitches thrown at the knees. Justin has hit 3 home runs and is slugging nearly .800 versus pitches in the lower third of the strike zone. He hit just 6 homers against low stuff and slugged .394 during the 2012 season.
  • One reason why he's performing so much better against low pitches is that he's not rolling over on the ball. Justin has hit a ground ball a mere 28% of the time in 2013, down from a 44% last year (the MLB average is about 44%).
  • Justin has been deadly with two strikes, swatting six of his eight home runs with his back against the wall. That already matches his two-strike home run total for all of 2012.

B.J. Upton

  • B.J. is making more contact against fastballs, with his miss rate against the heat being cut in half from 28% in 2012 to 14% in 2013. But that extra contact has been weak: His slugging percentage versus fastballs is just .370, compared to .533 last year.
  • While Justin is lofting pitches into the air more than ever, B.J. is struggling to get the ball out of the infield. His ground ball rate has jumped from 41% last year to 50% in 2012.
  • B.J. has been totally helpless with two strikes, going 0-for-23 in such situations. The elder Upton has never been a particularly good two-strike hitter, as his .127 average in two-strike counts since the start of the 2011 season ranks in the bottom ten among qualified batters. But 0-for-23? Brother, can you spare a bat?
Monday
Mar112013

Inside J-Hey's Bounceback Season

Jason Heyward burst into the majors in 2011, breaking car windshields with majestic home runs during spring training and then belting a three-run shot in his first regular-season at-bat in Atlanta. Just a few years removed from high school, Heyward played like a grizzled vet while posting the best offensive season by a 20-year-old (131 OPS+) since Ken Griffey Jr. back in 1990. Heyward, like The Kid, appeared primed for a strong of MVP-caliber seasons.

Instead, he crashed. Heyward dealt with a right shoulder injury for much of the season, hitting the DL from late May to mid-June. Pitchers pounded the 6-foot-5, 240 pound Heyward inside, and the long-limbed lefty struggled to adjust. His OPS+ plummeted to 93 -- more Jeff Francoeur than Griffey Jr.

Heyward bounced back in 2012, however, compiling a 117 OPS+ and crushing a career-best 27 homers with a healed shoulder. He put himself back in the discussion of the game's best young players by holding his own when pitchers tried to jam him. How did Heyward do it? Here's the inside story.

  • Heyward appeared passive to a fault against inside pitches in 2011, swinging just 36% of the time (the MLB average is about 45%). Maybe he was reluctant to swing because he knew he couldn't do damage against those pitches with a bum shoulder. He hit one homer against inside stuff and slugged a National League-worst .242. On average, the fly balls that Heyward hit against inside pitches traveled all of 199 feet -- about 45 feet under the big league average for left-handed hitters.
  • Heyward let 'er rip against inside pitches in 2012, swinging 46% of the time that pitchers tried to bust him in on the hands. He hit seven homers on inside stuff and slugged .411, slightly above the .399 average for lefty batters. His average fly ball distance on inside pitches climbed to 247 feet.

Still just 23, Heyward sometimes gets lost amid all the well-deserved Bryce Harper and Mike Trout hoopla. But if he stays healthy in 2013, J-Hey may join the 30 homer, 20 stolen base club -- an exclusive group that included just Trout, Andrew McCutchen and Ryan Braun last season. Pitchers and parking lot attendants, you've been warned -- Heyward could be in for an MVP-type year.

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