Braves scoring, so did Pendleton just get smarter?

If Terry Pendleton is so bad, how come Brian McCann is so good? (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Funny how the Braves' Terry Pendleton is ripped for being such a bad hitting coach. It hasn't seemed to affect Brian McCann. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

In the past couple of weeks, the Braves have won games by scores of 8-1, 11-3, 7-1 and 11-0 and scored four or more runs in 10 out of 11 games. They have 103 runs in the month of July, which is second most in the major leagues to the Angels’ 119. They scored only 93 runs in all of June, when they ranked 26th in the majors.

(I’m going somewhere with this, promise. But first, more numbers. It saves me from having to think of new adjectives and stuff.)

In July, the Braves also have the most hits (186), the most doubles (44), the eighth most home runs (19), the second-best slugging percentage (.479) and the second best OPS (.851). I still have no idea what an OPS is, nor do I care to. But I understand it’s really big with stat geeks, so I’m going with it.

Now, I don’t know how long this power surge is going to last. Maybe only until San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum throws his first pitch tonight. But I would like to know this: What happened to all of those people who’ve been ripping Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton?

Pendleton has been shredded on message boards and in open forums on AJC.com. I’ve never quite understood that. To me, the impact of hitting and pitching coaches in baseball always has been WAY overstated. Coaches can help, but they can’t swing the bat or throw the ball for the player. I was amused when the legions of Leo Mazzone fans in this town thought the world was going to end when Mazzone went to Baltimore. Mazzone would be the first to tell you that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery — the core of the pitching staff that gave the Braves their identity – were going to be great with or without him. (On a related note, things didn’t go so well for Mazzone in Baltimore. As it turned out, Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz and Avery didn’t greet him at the airport.)

That’s not saying hitting and pitching coaches can’t have an impact. Obviously they can. But people, let’s keep things in perspective. It’s about the talent. It’s always been about the talent. The Braves have taken off offensively largely because Martin Prado replaced Kelly Johnson and channeled the entire second-basemen’s wing of Cooperstown, Garret Anderson has gotten hot and Yunel Escobar’s talent continues to more than compensate for any downside he may have. There has been a ripple effect through the rest of the lineup.

And by the way: If Terry Pendleton is so bad, how come Brian McCann is so good? Oh wait, because he only listens to his dad and shuts out anything Pendleton might say. Yeah. OK.

Pendleton hasn’t changed. He’s no worse or better a hitting coach now than before. I have no idea where he ranks among baseball hitting coaches. I have an easier time grading the work of an NFL assistant, particularly a coordinator. But I will say this: Pendleton is one of the smartest baseball men I’ve ever come across, he’s respected by players and I do think he would make a great manager. And if the Braves start losing games, 4-1, again, my opinion isn’t changing.

190 comments Add your comment

Powder Springs Jacket

July 22nd, 2009
11:51 am

“Braves scoring, so does this Pendleton just got smarter”…might need to re-check that sentence, Jeff.

Tom in ATL

July 22nd, 2009
11:52 am

Plus – he looks a little like Emanuel Lewis – so he’s like got that going for him.

jeffrey d

July 22nd, 2009
11:53 am

At least we’re kicked off with a brilliant all caps comment from Darnell.

My attitude on Pendleton has changed. By the time they get to the majors, players have been hitting for 15, 20 years. One coach can’t suddenly bring them down the crapper.

But you have to understand our frustration – earlier in the season we saw average pitchers look like Cy Young candidates. We saw KJ and Francoeur have slumps of BIblical proportions. We saw poor fundamentals at the plate. We saw little discipline on notoriously wild pitchers. We also saw Terry Pendleton sitting on the bench chugging sunflower seeds. It just seemed like the world could point out our problems and nothing was being done about it. The team wasn’t hitting, so we looked to our hitting coach.

jeffrey d

July 22nd, 2009
11:54 am

Powder Springs Jacket – I think that was intended

Sage of Blueland

July 22nd, 2009
11:58 am

Does this grammar just got badder?

bass stringerfish

July 22nd, 2009
12:08 pm

I think the best thing you said Jeff is that (in effect) coaches get too much credit or too much blame for the prerformance of a team on the field. I would bet you Bobby Cox would agree with that statement. People think coaches at the big league level should act like they are coaching in the little leagues. Come on. Know your baseball before you start making stupid comments. MLB is not a kids game when it comes to coaching technique during a game. But it seems that you people that talk about coaches not doing anything have zero idea what is going on in the dugout and in the tunnels between innings and during the game. Did you hear Lemke the other day say Maddox would tell him a ball would be coming his way 3 pitches later? While he was pitching? That the batter was going to foul off two pitches and then be ready for a grounder his way? That’s not coaching, that’s talent you can not coach at the big league level. Do you know how much video watching is done after games? Before games? Come on folks. This isn’t East Cobb LL….

Maxwell Snark

July 22nd, 2009
12:23 pm

Pendleton’s never been dumb. Sports fans engage in uninformed, barber shop banter on AJC blogs. Case in point, Casey Kotchman (provided he stays healthy) looks like he’ll hit .280-plus and drive in 80 or so runs. Yet, on this blog, people write that he should be released, he’s worthless, has no power (his history suggests 15 homer power). Then others suggest that the Braves should trade two of the better late relief guys in either league for minor league prospects. WTF?

So, no, Pendleton didn’t get smarter. Sports fans, myself included, are laymen with opinions.

SimpleDawg

July 22nd, 2009
12:27 pm

Nope, TP is no smarter or dumber than he was a week ago or a month ago. The lineup card is better. Martin Prado is finally playing regularly, Escobar is in a place in the batting order where he can drive in runs, McCann is getting back in the groove, Garret Anderson is becoming more consistent, and we are minus a couple of “sure thing” outs in the lineup ( ex. Frenchy & KJ ). Now, if we can get McLouth to hit a little better, the Braves will be a serious contender.

Chipper and Kotchman will do what they do….which is hit for average and a few homeruns.

The starting pitching is strong….and the defense has been really good.

Now, can we stop suggesting that we trade Javy and Yunel?

Poorbrave

July 22nd, 2009
12:27 pm

2 weeks hot spell does not mean TP did anything to cause it. Kelly and Frenchy gone has helped 100%. Someone must have put a bug in BC’s ear…..change the line or hit the road?

Ron E.

July 22nd, 2009
12:33 pm

The test of a hitting coach is not what he does for players who are hitting well but what he does for players who are struggling. The Chippers and McCanns hardly need a hitting coach. We haven’t seen much evidence in TP’s time on the Braves that he can help a struggling player (Thorman, Langerhans, Francoeur, Johnson) figure things out. Mostly the Braves are scoring more because they are healthier and because they have replaced several unproductive hitters (Schafer, Francoeur, Johnson) with better ones. TP isn’t smarter or dumber. The roster is just better.

MIKE

July 22nd, 2009
12:35 pm

Enter your comments here

MIKE

July 22nd, 2009
12:36 pm

JEFF WHY NOT SAY ANYTHING UNTIL THE END OF THE SEASON .. BECAUSE THATS THE ONLY WAY YOU COULD GET ANYTHING RIGHT

Paul H

July 22nd, 2009
12:37 pm

I’m inclined to believe that not having the automatic outs, or as Chipper quoted, “easy outs” in the lineup anymore has a lot to do with it. Not sure if he was referring to Franceour and KJ.

L-Dawg

July 22nd, 2009
12:44 pm

Schultzie…. I have to admit I laughed out loud (or lol’d, as the kids would say these days) when I saw the headline of this blog. I do not feel Pendleton has the slightest thing to do with the current offensive suge. I thank poor pitching we have faced recently and just a little contagious clicking throughout the lineup. Baseball is a funny sport, where I think we all agree good or bad production is contagious. Even if we continue this pace, TP needs to go. I understand his loyalty to us / us to him, but I think it’s time we call in Julio Franco, so he can teach the boys how to ALWAYS get 3 balls before you decide to make contact. GO BRAVOS!!!!

wbk

July 22nd, 2009
12:48 pm

Maybe it is because they do not take third strike across the middle of the plate as much. Or it could be they are not just guessing but swinging the bat. I will take the latter.

David

July 22nd, 2009
12:51 pm

OPS = “on base percentage plus slugging.” Baseball has way too many metrics, but OPS is one you should learn. It’s a great measure of offensive production.

Off topic: I’d like to see what you think the Braves should do with Kelly Johnson. Seems to me the Braves have been much more potent since Martin Prado took over. They should option Kelly back for assignment to AAA after his rehab start. Let’s not lose any traction we’ve gained with Prado in the lineup.

Homer

July 22nd, 2009
12:52 pm

FIRE SCHULTZ!!!

Russ (Savannah)

July 22nd, 2009
12:53 pm

I totally agree! Never thought it was TP’s fault. I had a friend lay the blame on TP as well-so we checked out the team’s OPS in the six years before and six years after he came on as hitting coach. Its slightly higher with TP as hitting coach despite the fact that they are spending less money on players. Who has left Atlanta that was struggling as a hitter and done better? Andruw and his .227 BA? TP was a smart player and is a smart coach. He’ll make a great manager when Bobby retires.

Waldo

July 22nd, 2009
12:56 pm

Ron E., You couldn’t be more wrong.Thorman, Langerhans, Francoeur, Johnson struggled because they suck and will not have productive Major League careers.

MaconDawg

July 22nd, 2009
12:59 pm

Ron E. No other hitting coach has been able to turn those players around since they left ATL.

dawg22

July 22nd, 2009
1:00 pm

The Pirates traded Adam LaRoche to the Red Sox

dawg22

July 22nd, 2009
1:00 pm

Does anyone see the braves adding a bat before the deadline?

dawg22

July 22nd, 2009
1:01 pm

Does anyone see the braves making a trade before the deadline?

VRS

July 22nd, 2009
1:01 pm

Fire Terry P. 2 good weeks does not make up for 3 seasons. Talk about a bandwagon jumper Schultz you are the worst. Stay on or stay off.

timthebrave

July 22nd, 2009
1:03 pm

Jeff Schultz, You really don’t know what OPS is? That’s really surprising coming from a sports writer.

Teheran

July 22nd, 2009
1:03 pm

I really don’t think the fans have been on TP that much it mainly you guys who has been putting the blame game on TP and not Cox and Wrens. Finally some guys who can play. The Braves still needs a first baseman and a pinchhitter.

VRS

July 22nd, 2009
1:04 pm

Since Terry P. is so loved by players and front office staff maybe he is all it would take for us to get Adam Dunn. Even swap T.P for Dunn. Play Dunn at 1st base. Put Kochman on the bench to replace Norton.

James

July 22nd, 2009
1:05 pm

“Webster” AKA Pendleton is probably heir to the Braves head coaching throne once Bobby decides to step down.

ugacpa02

July 22nd, 2009
1:09 pm

The improvement is a result of changing the lineup. Yunel anywhere but 2nd in the lineup is much better. He would get a double play way too often in that spot. So I guess that’s a Cox improvement.

Aunt Esther

July 22nd, 2009
1:10 pm

Enter your comments here

Hillbilly Deluxe

July 22nd, 2009
1:10 pm

Maybe after all those years in the game Pendleton suddenly got smarter in the last 2 weeks……….or maybe people who are paid to hit just started hitting.

Aunt Esther

July 22nd, 2009
1:13 pm

What’s wrong with your message board, sucka?

Yeah, I see your point about Mazzone, but the truth is when that sucka left town the Braves quit making the playoffs.

Prado should have been in the starting lineup opening day…

…sucka.

Tami

July 22nd, 2009
1:14 pm

Could be something to it, DOB. We’re also talking about the same hitting coach that advised Francoeur who chose not to listen, and is now using roughly the same advise TP dispensed with his new team. I doubt very seriously that the Muts…oh, excuse me…the METS have dispensed anything more enlightening to him. The only pressure Francoeur had was the kind he put on himself. The Braves had been extremely patient with him, as well as the others on the team. I love that Prado & Escobar have heated up to take some of the pressure off of Chipper & Brian. Hitting is indeed contagious, as evidenced by this team in the last 10 days or so thus far. I’m not complaining..LOL. I hope they keep it up, because this is just plain fun!

TomahawkFlop

July 22nd, 2009
1:14 pm

I think the reasoning is simple. Jeff Francoeur is one of the easier outs in baseball. Church and Diaz work counts, get on base more, keep more innings alive and all in all…they get out less. The odds favor the Braves scoring more runs over time with Church/ Diaz instead of Francoeur. This surge may be unreasonable to carry out over the season, but it is hard to argue that the Braves lineup is not better off with Church/ Diaz instead of Francoeur. There are really not many easy outs in the lineup now.

Brian

July 22nd, 2009
1:15 pm

I suspect you’re being facetious with the OPS comment, and I sure hope you are. In the next five years or so, that will probably be the #1 stat the everyday fan looks at to measure offensive performance. It is already the #1 stat among serious baseball fans and sports writers. I hope you’re one of them.

Tami

July 22nd, 2009
1:15 pm

Oops…a correction: “and is now using roughly the same ADVICE TP dispensed with his new team”. Hard to type & eat lunch at the same time….lol.

TomahawkFlop

July 22nd, 2009
1:17 pm

Oh, and I meant to add that ever since Prado took the #2 spot over in the lineup, this offense has been pretty effective. Compare his stats to KJ and it’s not too hard to see why.

J

July 22nd, 2009
1:17 pm

Sports fan rant b/c they listen to crap like 680 the fan and 790 the zone and all that dumb chatter btw meatheads … they basically take most of the media’s opinions and form them as their own w/o even watching a game or even fully understanding the sport … it CRACKS me up

Even better when you have a casual fan say, oh i can do better than this GM … where’s Jeff Foxworthy when you need him … here’s your sign

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 22nd, 2009
1:19 pm

Wow, he got smarter based on 1 to 2 weeks. Maybe 1. We have a little better lineup but more likely #2. the Braves have faced 2 legit pitchers in the past two weeks. They scored 3 runs off Marquis and nothing off Santana. Schultz, you are the worst.

Jeff Schultz

July 22nd, 2009
1:20 pm

Bass – That was a fine example with Maddux (and he was off-the-charts smart, obviously).

Maxwell Snark – Maybe the ‘Cone of Silence’ would help?

Mike – I’d love to but not sure what the AJC would pay me for one column.

L-Dawg (and others): Decided to change the headline and go straight.

David: I’ve always thought totals runs was a pretty cool stat. … On Kelly Johnson: I think he’s gone because Braves won’t want to pay him next year. So he’ll either be gone in trade or released (my opinion).

VRS – I was never OFF the Pendleton bandwagon.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 22nd, 2009
1:21 pm

Uh, Foxworthy doesn’t do “Here’s your sign” that is someone else (Bill Engvall).

Falconian

July 22nd, 2009
1:28 pm

Getting rid of the little sweet meat, pretty boy, easy out in right field has made Pendleton look a lot better.

Bravo

July 22nd, 2009
1:28 pm

I’ll tell you what, the Braves need to look at moving Lowe to the Angels for a return of Brandon Wood and Will Smith (AA-minor prospect, GA native). This would remove 15mil off the books. Then they need to move Marek and Heath to the Pirates for Snell. Snell would be an excellent addition as a 5th starter or possibly the 4th starter. Pirates are looking to move him and he’s wanting them too so this is a win win situation. They could set the rotation of Vazquez, JJ, Hanson, KK and Snell/Hudson. Plus, with Wood he’s been playing 1st this year some and he’s got good power. He could play anywhere they need him.. 3rd, 1st and LF. Great power off the bench. Then I would talk to the A’s about a possible trade for Holliday if the price comes down. Maybe move Schafer or Medlen in this trade? or better yet, maybe a trade of Schafer, Medlen and Anderson/Diaz for Ryan Braun. This would fix all of the power issues plus not weaken our pitching. We would still replace our minors with the addition of Wood and Smith. Sign Braun long term, Wood would be there as insurance to Chipper going down or a power option at first. Really couldn’t see where this would hurt the Braves. You subtract 15mil and add 4.5mil with the Braun addition.

ExecutiveStinger

July 22nd, 2009
1:32 pm

L-Dawg…

I completely agree. Completely.

Cincinatti Bowtie

July 22nd, 2009
1:33 pm

Stupid article Schultz. It’s been a week, clean your dumba$$ glasses and realize he still has to make up for the first half of the season. And yes, i bet Mcann does dismiss what Pendelton says in favor of his father.

Braves Analysis

July 22nd, 2009
1:33 pm

Bravo, that’s a very interesting concept. If they could or would swing those moves I could see that paying major dividends. You’d make a good GM with that train of thought. Vazquez is the better option versus Lowe cause of money and the willingness of him wanting to be around for another extension plus Wood is a hoss of a player. I’d love to see him in a Braves uniform. Don’t know much about that Smith player guess I’ll have to do some research on that one. Braun would also be a great addition if the Braves could persuade that move, probably would definitely be a hard sell but not impossible, plus that would be a fix for not just this year but for the next few years. He’d be good protection for Chipper.

Knuckle Sandwich

July 22nd, 2009
1:34 pm

As much as Pendleton has been ripped for lousy hitting, almost no praise has been paid to Roger McDowell for the performance of the rotation and the ‘pen.

Mike

July 22nd, 2009
1:34 pm

Right on Bravo, we need you making the decisions!!

Chris

July 22nd, 2009
1:35 pm

Those are the most idiodic ideas I’ve ever seen on the internet.

And that’s a feat with Bradley’s blog.

Bravo

July 22nd, 2009
1:36 pm

Thanks guys, would love to see those moves. Sure would generate a lot of excitement.