Where Home Runs Go To Die, Ga. – It’s Friday and the Braves are at home, so of course there’s rain the forecast. Seriously, what the (Robert) Fick is up with that?
Let’s all hope and/or pray or whatever it is you do invidually to help us avoid a delay. There’s already been a couple of two-hour rain delays on Friday nights at Turner Field this season, washing out the postgame fireworks, which doesn’t really affect me, of course, but is still a shame for fans, especially since they are about the only fireworks we’re seeing at Turner Field this season.
Did I mention the Braves are only 2-1/2 games out of first place with 40 down and 122 to go? OK, well, I did now. They’re only 2-1/2 games out in a division that’s not looking nearly as tough as we anticipated,
Now, back to my point. It’s rained all season in our drought-stricken city (there’s a Yogi Berra joke in there somewhere, along the lines of his famous comment about how nobody goes to that club anymore because it’s too crowded).
But it’s not rained home runs in Atlanta. By the Braves or anyone else.
Which brings me to our first Astonishing Stat of the Day, which I stumbled upon this morning and have double- and triple-checked because it initially seemed hard to believe.
There have been only 16 homers hit in 20 games this season at Turner Field, far and away the lowest total in the major leagues. That’s 16 homers total, by both teams. It’s nearly inexplicable, even given the fact the Braves have little power in their lineup and a lot of good groundball pitchers on their staff.
The next-lowest total for home runs in any ballpark this season is 23 in 19 games at San Francisco’s notorious pitchers’ park, AT&T Field, where Barry Bonds no longer plys his trade. After that, the next-lowest is 28 in just 18 games Cleveland, where the lowly Indians and their opponents have hit 14 apiece.
Think about it, that Cleveland’s total is 75 percent higher than the homers hit at Turner Field, and in two fewer games.
After that, the next-lowest totals are also at big-time pitchers’ parks, Dodger Stadium (30 homers in 20 games) and San Diego’s Petco Park (31 homers in 20 games).
Yes, there have been barely half as many homers hit at Turner Field as there have been hit at Petco, where Padres hitters have whined for years about the fences being too deep and it being nearly impossible to hit homers there.
Sixteen homers at Turner Field, and fewer than 28 at only one other ballpark.
Sure, that ratio won’t last all season (it can’t, can it?). But 16 homers hit in 20 games is like something out of the deadball era, at least relatively speaking, when compared to all other parks in this day and age.
The Braves have hit a measly seven homers in 20 home games, and their opponents have hit nine. At no other park in the majors has the home team hit fewer than 11 homers (Giants) or allowed fewer than 13 (also Giants).
Eight of 16 NL teams have hit at least 23 homers at home, and nine of 14 AL teams have hit at least 23 at home. To repeat, the Braves have hit seven.
The Brewers have hit 30 homers at home. The Rangers have hit 34. The Yankees, an absurd 39 homers in 20 home games, and allowed 36.
Think about it: There have been 75 homers hit in 20 games at new Yankee Stadium, and 16 homers hit in the same number of games at Turner Field.
It’s almost like they’re not playing the same sport at those two ballparks.
◊ Punchless lineup: The Braves’ home-run leader at Turner Field? It’s a three-way tie between Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson and Chipper Jones, with two apiece.
The rest of the team has one homer (by Jeff Francoeur) in 463 at-bats.
There’s your second Astonishing Stat of the Day: One homer by all other Braves combined in 463 at-bats at Turner Field this season. One.
And even Chipper Jones is slugging just .356 in 20 home games, with those two homers being his only extra-base hits in 59 at-bats in 18 home games. Whether he’ll get another, or even swing again, this weekend remains to be seen, since he said the right big-toe injury he sustained last night made him day-to-day.
We’ll let you know as soon as we hear anything about him being in or out of the lineup.
Just one more time, since it’s hard to believe: One homer in 463 at-bats at home by all hitters other than Chipper, KJ and Escobar. One.
◊ Medlen info: In light of Kris Medlen’s rough debut last night, there was some discussion on the blog about how many pitchers struggle in their debuts, and some were mentioning or asking about some of the Braves’ old Big Three pitchers and how they did in their big-league bows.
So I looked it up for you today.
– John Smoltz made his first start against the Mets on July 23, 1988, and allowed one run, four hits and one walk with two strikeouts in eight innings for a win (then lost his next three starts).
– Greg Maddux gave up a run on a homer in one relief inning in his Sept. 2, 1986 debut for the Cubs, then made his first start five days later at Cincinnati. Mad Dog threw an 11-hit complete game and won, allowing three runs and three walks with four strikeouts (then he lost his next three starts).
– Tom Glavine made his debut at Houston on Aug. 17, 1987, and got knocked around for 10 hits, six runs and five walks in 3-2/3 innings for the loss (then gave up three runs and seven hits in 7-1/3 innings to beat Pittsburgh five days later).
A few others:
– Jair Jurrjens allowed five hits and four runs in seven innings of a loss at Cleveland in his debut on Aug. 15, 2007. (He won six days later when he faced the Indians again and allowed one run and one hit, a homer, in 6-2/3 innings).
– Derek Lowe made two long-relief appearances (three earned runs in 5-2/3 total innings) in 2007 before his first start at Minnesota that season on May 27, where he gave up six runs, four hits and two walks in five innings and got no decision in a loss.
– Javier Vazquez made his debut against Chicago at Wrigley Field on April 3, 1998, and allowed six hits, three runs and two walks in five innings for the loss (he went 1-6 with a 5.63 ERA in his first 16 starts).
◊ Tough task: The Braves are entering the final weekend of a homestand they need to salvage with a series win against Toronto, and it’s not going to start on an easy note.
Tonight, Kenshin Kawakami faces Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay. Yikes.
Halladay is 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his past five starts, with 31 strikeouts and five walks in 39 innings. He has a 1.12 ERA in his past three starts.
Kawakami is 1-2 with a 3.94 ERA in his past three starts, and the Braves failed to score any runs while he was in the game during those two losses. He’s 0-3 with a 5.06 ERA in his past three home starts.
And your third Astonishing Stat of the Day: Halladay has earned a decision in 26 consecutive starts, going 20-6 with a 2.57 ERA and five complete games in that stretch since June 30, 2008, and pitching at least seven innings in 21 of those 26 games. He’s 10-3 with a 2.52 ERA in 13 road starts in that period.
His only appearance against the Braves was 3-2/3 relief innings in 1999 game, when Chipper hit a homer against him. Garret Anderson is 10-for-32 with two homers against the dude known as “Doc.”
◊ Alright, running out of time. Gotta get to the park. I was going to mention something about Francoeur having moved into the major league “lead” as it were in percentage of first-pitch swings (48.5), and point out that maybe it’s because he’s hit .424 when putting the first pitch in play, and just .067 when he’s put the ball in play on 0-and-1 counts (45 swings, 1 hit in those counts).
But like I said, I’m out of time. So maybe we’ll expound on pitch-count results later.
“REVELATOR” by Gillian Welch
When you come to me
I’m the pretender
And not what I’m supposed to be
But who could know if I’m a traitor
Time’s the revelator
They caught the katy
And left me a mule to ride
The fortune lady
Came along, she walked beside
But every word seemed to date her
Time’s the revelator
Up in the morning
Up and on the ride
I drive into Corning
And all the spindles whine
And every day is getting straighter
Time’s the revelator
Leaving the valley
f*&#ng out of sight
I’ll go back to Cali
Where I can sleep out every night
And watch the waves and move the fader
Time’s the revelator
Queen of the fakes and imitators
Time’s the revelator