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.