New York – Good afternoon to all you folks, especially those who were up with us Tuesday night for a strange game that had some controversy among the late-innings Braves meltdown.
Yes, the replay showed that Carlos Beltran was out at third base. Yes, it might have been a different outcome if they right call was made.
But as Mike Gonzalez told me while ago, if he, the Braves closer, had done his job better, there wouldn’t have been an opportunity for the umpire to miss that call on the Carlos Beltran stolen base, because Beltran wouldn’t have been on.
Beltran doubled on a 0-and-2 slider that Gonzalez said was a bad pitch selection and poorly executed. He wanted to throw it in the dirt, but left it up too far for such a hot hitter as Beltran. If he had it to do over, he wouldn’t have thrown that pitch.
But that was the pattern for Gonzo the whole inning, getting ahead of hitters 0-and-2 and not putting them away. He also hit Fernando Tatis on an 0-and-2 pitch afer Beltran stole third base, which set up the Luis Castillo sac fly that tied the game and sent it to extra innings.
And we know what happened there. Jeff Bennett walk-a-thon, Braves loss.
I asked Gonzalez if being used so much lately had any effect on him, and he was adament: No way. “I fell good, man. I’m ready to get back out there today and put that behind me.”
♣ New lineup today: In case you missed it when I posted the lineup on the other blog, it’s a different one today as the Braves try to get a series win to cap what would then be a 6-2 trip. Bobby Cox has struggling Jeff Francoeur on the bench along with Kelly Johnson and hot-hitting Casey Kotchman.
Cox said he just wanted to give Francoeur a day off so that he’d have two days to refresh (Braves are off Thursday). But it’s no secret that Francoeur hasn’t been hitting many balls hard lately, and Monday night he went 0-for-5 and left seven runners on base.
”Mentally, probably more than anything,” Francoeur said this morning, when I asked him if a day off is good for him right now. “The last two or three days I’ve been grinding, trying to do too much.
”So it’s good to get a day off today, then get home and hopefully get a fresh mind. I knew I was going to get one off sooner or later, with this stretch fo 43 games in 45 days.”
His slump has gone longer than a few days, however.
After hitting .381 (16-for-42) with a .409 OBP and .595 slugging percentage in 11 games from April 12-24, the right fielder is just 15-for-71 (.211) with three extra-base hits, a .213 OBP and a .282 slugging percentage in his past 17 games.
He’s got a .204 OBP and .255 slugging percentage with eight strikeouts and no walks in his past 12 games.
Francoeur’s overall average is down to .261 and his OPS has plummeted to .665, including a .277 OBP and .388 slugging percentage.
This is not the bounce-back the Braves were looking for after his disappointing 2008 season, particularly when he showed such encouraging signs in spring training.
Hey, it’s early. Real early. But this has got to be troubling for the Braves.
He’s boosted his average against lefties from last year’s .210 to .356 so far this season in 45 at-bats. But against righties, Francoeur’s hit .213 (19-for-89) with six extra-base hits and a .237 OBP, third-lowest among NL qualifiers.
Today’s Braves lineup
1. Omar Infante, 2B
2. Yunel Escobar, SS
3. Chipper Jones, 3B
4. Garret Anderson, LF
5. Matt Diaz, RF
6. Martin Prado, 1B
7. David Ross, C
8. Jordan Schafer, CF
9. Jo-Jo Reyes, LHP
Bennett’s been bad: While ERA is an important statistic for starting pitchers, it’s way down the list of crucial stats for relievers, not reflective of the inherited runners they let in, the messes they might leave for others, or the importance of almost any run allowed by those who pitch in close games.
For example, Jeff Bennett.
Folks, he’s been quite bad this season, and yet he has a 2.51 ERA.
But look deeper at the number that really matter for a reliever like him. He has allowed a .393 batting average (second-worst among NL relievers) and 21.3 baserunners per nine innings pitched (third-worst).
He’s allowed a .466 OBP, meaning nearly half of the batters he’s faced have reached base.
And against right-handers, he’s allowed a staggering .452 average (14-for-31) and .500 OBP.
With runners on base, he’s allowed a .417 average (15-for-36) and .489 OBP. And with runners in scoring position, he’s allowed a .333 average (8-for-24) and .455 OBP.
In close-and-late situation (like last night), Bennett has allowed a .364 average (4-for-11) with four walks, one hit batter, and a .529 OBP.
Granted, it’s a relatively small body of work. But can the Braves afford to let that body of work get much bigger? How long can they put him in pressure situations without getting better results?
Last year Bennett allowed a .243 average and .339 OBP, including a .236 average by righties. He was one of the Braves’ best in crucial situations, allowing just a .200 average with runners in scoring position and two outs, and a .204 average (22-for-108) in close-and-late situations.
And get this: Last year in two-strike counts, batters hit .142 (24-for-169) against him. This season, they’re hitting .308 (8-for-26) against him in those counts.
♣ OK, gotta get this filed. I’ll update you on Glavine later, but he felt good in his two simulated innings today in the bullpen. Probably will have one more session like that with more pitches, then make a couple of minor-league rehab starts before rejoining the Braves as soon as the last week of May, provided he has no more setbacks.
“60 ACRES” by James McMurtry
Turned off the TV
sat down to dinner
phone rang, we were saying grace
grand ma died
left us sixty acres
the last of the old home place
sixty acres up on the cap rock
what am I supposed to do with that
uncle Claude got a eight wheeled tractor
plow it under in nothing flat
we could plant some maize
we could plant some cotton
we could plant some oats just to see if they’d grow
but I don’t like farming
don’t like the hours
don’t like a life that goes so slow
right back atcha
hope that’ll do ya
don’t look at me like theres something I shouldn’t a’said
just cause that old bird’s dead
now cousin Clifford
he got the good land
right on the highway out by Air Base road
looks like a Wal-Mart waiting to happen
I mean to tell you it’s a pot of gold
It’s in the city limits, zoned commercial
Got city water and a sewer line
What with the base expanding from consolidation
It’s worth a fortune and it oughta been mine
right back atcha
don’t she look natural?
don’t look at me like there’s
something growing outa my head
just cause that old bird’s dead