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Your one stop shop for everything Atlanta Braves

Updated: 2018-03-20T14:00:02-04:00


Are defensive shifts the way to beat Freddie Freeman?


Freddie Freeman has emerged in the last several years as one of the best hitters in baseball. Are opposing defenses making the right choice in terms of how to defend him? It is hardly a secret that Freddie Freeman has turned into one of the best hitters in major league baseball. A career .290/.376/.496 hitter, Freeman has posted wRC+s of 140, 132, 152, and 152, in order, over his past four seasons. For the uninitiated, that is really, really good. Over the same time period, he has accumulated 18.1 fWAR while clocking 98 home runs and driving in 306 runs. In short, he is a hell of a hitter. As with many of the best hitters in the leagues, opposing teams have to, at times, get creative in how to limit how much damage hitters like Freddie can do to them, especially when those hitters don’t have any glaring weaknesses in terms of plate coverage or pitch recognition/sequencing. One method that teams have used more and more over the last several years is to employ defensive shifts (shifting the infield to the batter’s pull side) to achieve that very end. If you can’t beat them at the plate, you can try to beat them in the field. I was going to go on a long diatribe to talk about how much more often defensive shifts are being used in today’s game, but then I remembered that Ivan wrote a fantastic article last year on that very subject, so you should go read that first before you go any further here. As per custom, Ivan is also going to pop in in this article as well partially because he is better at explaining the advanced analytics side than I am and also partially because I really like reading what he writes so I threatened to revoke his comment posting privileges unless he periodically wrote with me. The short version, defensive shifts are very effective in general, especially when you narrow the search to left-handed hitters. Defensive shifts are particularly adept at defeating ground balls and lefties have a tendency to hit more of them than righties. (Ivan stats: last year, lefties hit for a 78 wRC+ on balls in play, which includes pretty much every batted ball except homers. When you throw traditional shifts into the equation, the offensive production went down to a 71 wRC+. Meanwhile, there wasn’t really any such effect, collectively, on righties.) When looking at the effects that defensive shifts have on left-handed hitters in general, the league average for left-handed hitters in terms of wRC+ when there is no shift deployed is in the 75-90 while when the shift is on, the range is 70-80. Data Source: Fangraphs When you factor in the fact that over the last six years, around 22% of at-bats taken by lefties resulted in an outcome that would fall under the “affected by the shift” category, there is clearly a quantifiable difference between the two splits. The question remains, though: how has the shift worked on Freddie Freeman? Data Source: Fangraphs Starting in 2013, when teams did not shift against Freddie very much, Freeman’s splits were 138 wRC+ when there was no defensive shift and 70 wRC+ when the shift was on. That is a big drop off, but again... he wasn’t getting shifted against a lot yet. (For that reason, you can ignore the differentials between the blue and red bars in the first two years, where the shifted bar was just small sample size madness.) In 2014, now that teams had caught on a bit about reducing his effectiveness, he was shifted against more and his splits that year were 135 wRC+ with no shift and 115 with the shift on. Over the next few years, the amount of plate appearances where a defensive shift increased more and more (both for Freeman and league-wide) leading to last year where Freeman had a wRC+ of 119 with no shift and a 100 wRC+ with the shift with around 76% of Freeman’s plate appearances featuring a ball in play featuring a shift (that is really high when you consider the average across all lefties last season was just 37%). In general, the trend-reversing of Worldbreaker Freeman in 2018 notwithstanding, Freem[...]

Atlanta Braves off day open thread



Running towards the regular season.

The Atlanta Braves have made a series of roster cuts over the last 10 days. While we now know with certainty that Ronald Acuna Jr will open the season in Gwinnett, there are still some question marks in regards to who will be on the Opening Day roster. So today’s open thread theme is, lets help the Braves make these final decisions.

What will Atlanta’s Opening Day roster look like? What would it look like if you were calling the shots?

Let us know in the comments below.

What should the Braves starting outfield look like on Opening Day?


We have a couple of polls for you on this lovely off-day during spring training regarding what the Braves starting outfield SHOULD look like. The Atlanta Braves outfield is arguably the biggest source of debate amongst media pundits (including national outlets and lowly bloggers like us). To get this out of the way, Ender Inciarte is an absolute lock in center field. Not only is he under contract for the foreseeable future, but he is also among the best defensive center fielders in the game to go along with perfectly reasonable offensive production. He is going to be there. Nick Markakis has had a perfectly fine spring and is a lock for right field as well even if there are metrics that seem to indicate that he should either be shifted to left field or traded to another team. He has posted a .728 OPS this spring and has been consistently average at the plate, but he is also in the last year of his contract and reviews on his defensive value are mixed at best. Preston Tucker, meanwhile, has been excellent in his first spring with the Braves as he has posted a 1.060 OPS at the plate and is showing power while striking out only three times in 43 plate appearances as he has been fighting for a shot at being the Braves’ starting left fielder. Some thought coming into the year that he would have to be platooned with another player due to his struggles against lefties in his career, but he is giving the Braves plenty of reason to consider him for a full-time role. Lane Adams was a prime candidate for significant time in left field as well after a solid 2017 campaign at the plate. He has the ability to play all three outfield positions which is also very useful. However, his defensive numbers last year were not great and he has struggled thus far this spring with a .622 OPS if spring training numbers mean anything. Of course, the biggest elephant in the room is the impending arriving of Ronald Acuna Jr. which factors into a LOT of decisions including the ultimate fates of Tucker and Markakis. Acuna has met and/or exceeded all of the lofty expectations placed upon him this spring as one of the top prospects in baseball has he has posted video game numbers this spring (1.247 OPS) while showcasing his power, speed, and defensive ability in nearly every game he has participated in. In a vacuum, he would be an auto-include on the Opening Day roster. However, service time considerations must be made and while he is VERY likely to start the season in Gwinnett and get called up mid-April, there are at least a few reasons to consider him for the Opening Day roster. There are also names like Ezequiel Carrera, Dustin Peterson, and Danny Santana that have made varying degrees of convincing cases for playing time in the outfield in 2018 this spring. You can read more about all of the players that are competing for spots by looking at Kris’ weekly roster stock reports right here to help with this. With that in mind, we are going to be introducing a newish feature for off-days at Talking Chop. To help us get through the dark times without major league baseball to watch (after you read the minor league recaps of course), we are going to be posting at least one poll question each off-day to help guide discussion and get feedback from all of you. We are still going to do off-day threads, but this will be a way to spur discussion when there isn’t actual baseball going on. In that spirit, here is the question for today: Let us know your reasoning is in the comments section, especially if you end up in the “something whacky” column (there are only so many options we can put in a poll and there are plenty of other permutations worthy of discussion). Have fun and don’t forget to be kind to each other in the comments section. [...]

Braves are ready to take next step in rebuild


It has been a long four years but the Atlanta Braves’ rebuild is finally nearing it’s end. The 2018 season is shaping up as a pivotal one for the Atlanta Braves who are entering the fourth year of their rebuild. Much of that focus of that rebuild has centered on reviving a barren minor league system and transforming it into one of the best in baseball. With some of that top talent pushing its way towards the major league level, 2018 is year of evaluation where the team must figure out which prospects will make up its core with a hopeful return to contention. That is the task facing new general manager Alex Anthopoulos who was brought on to replace John Coppolella following an embarrassing investigation by major league baseball into transgressions on the international free agent market. That investigation resulted in Coppolella receiving a lifetime ban and the loss of 13 prospects along with other sanctions. It was one of the darkest moments of this franchise and one they hope to distance themselves from quickly. Anthopoulos arrived shortly before the winter meetings and has taken an otherwise patient approach to the offseason. His biggest move to date was unloading Matt Kemp to the Dodgers in a five-player trade that brought veteran pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir to Atlanta along with utility man Charlie Culberson. The Braves accomplished two things with the move. One, it freed up a corner outfield spot for top prospect Ronald Acuna who is slated to arrive at some point in 2018. It also helped clear the deck from a salary perspective which allow Atlanta to potentially make a splash in free agency in 2019. This year’s team figures to be a younger group and their could be more youth on the way. Ozzie Albies arrived late last season and was impressive in his debut. He is entering his first full season as the team’s full time second baseman. Acuna is slated to arrive sometime after opening day but should be a fixture in the team’s outfield upon his arrival. Acuna ascension to top prospect status was sudden. He dominated through three levels of the minors last season as a 19-year old and got better at every stop. The Braves have been careful not to place any lofty expectations upon Acuna’s shoulders so far but the hope is that he will be an impact player sooner rather than later. Despite Acuna’s excellence, the biggest part of this rebuild has been the accumulation of pitching depth. Some of the top arms in the organization are moving close to the major leagues. Sean Newcomb, Luiz Gohara, Max Fried and A.J. Minter all got their feet wet in the majors last season. Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard and Kyle Wright could be right behind them this season. All of that young talent is the reason Anthopoulos has chosen a patient path. The Braves are in position this season to cycle a lot of players through in an effort to figure out which ones can help the club now and in the future and which should be dealt away in order to fill holes on the roster. With a young core in place, the team’s salary structure couldn’t be in better shape. By taking on more money now and unloading Kemp’s salary obligation for next season, the Braves have just over $38 million in committed salary for 2019. Combine that with an increase in revenue thanks to their move to SunTrust Park and the team could be flush with cash for what will be a loaded free agent market. Anthopoulos is hoping that the prospects develop and there aren’t many holes to fill. Third base remains an area of concern. Austin Riley turned heads in the Arizona Fall League and has impressed during spring camp. He is probably a year away and the Braves will be watching him close while trying to decide if he can be the answer at third base or whether they may need to look in free agency. Atlanta could be in search of a corner outfielder, a major league level catcher and a top of the rotation arm. The important thing is they have the assets to fill those needs wh[...]

TC Podcast Ep. 106: Rotation preview, 2018 predictions and more



Scott Coleman joins us for a jam-packed season preview episode.

Greetings! Opening Day is rapidly approaching and, in short, a lot is happening in Braves Country. Episode 106 of the Talking Chop Podcast here to preview the 2018 campaign for the Atlanta Braves and TC’s own Scott Coleman joins us for what a comprehensive show.

Topics for the program include the following:

  • Ronald Acuña is headed to Gwinnett to start the season and, even if that isn’t a huge surprise, the choice to keep him off the Opening Day roster is (quite) controversial
  • Dustin Peterson will be joining him in Gwinnett and Scott weeps on the air
  • The long-awaited, correct pronunciation of Luiz Gohara is here.
  • The Ryan Schimpf experiment isn’t off to a lights-out start
  • Ezequiel Carrera is on board and we discuss his potential role
  • What happens if Johan Camargo isn’t ready for Opening Day?
  • Previewing the rotation, with Julio Teheran set to make another Opening Day start and real uncertainty at the back end
  • Bold predictions for the upcoming season, even if they may be too bold
  • Projected win-loss records... if the Braves stay quiet until next Thursday
  • Much, much more

Please check out the podcast via the iTunes Store (where we strongly encourage you to leave a five-star review and rating) or you can find us at our SoundCloud page for all the latest.

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Braves News: Acuna optioned to minor league camp


The Braves made the leap on Monday, optioning top prospect Ronald Acuna to minor league camp, thereby confirming that he will begin the season in Triple-A. BRAVES NEWS Ronald Acuña Jr. gets reassigned to minor league camp The Braves did on Monday what everyone, including Acuna himself, believed they would, sending the game’s top prospect to minor league camp. By optioning Acuna, the club confirms its intention to have him begin the regular season in the minor leagues, which allows them to control him through the 2024 season. As the Cubs did in the Kris Bryant saga in 2015, the Braves received a lot of backlash for manipulating the service time of a player who could very well be the best player on the team right now. The criticism is, of course, more a reflection on the system itself rather than the Braves, who are simply taking advantage of the rules in place to gain a competitive advantage. For those who disagree with the move on the basis of Acuna being ready now and needing to help the Braves immediately, the question really boils down to this: Would you rather have Acuna in Atlanta for the first two weeks of his rookie season or the entirety of his seventh season? Teheran’s tune-up terrific, Braves blank Blue Jays 6-0 Braves officially name Julio Teheran their Opening Day starter The Braves got a strong start from Julio Teheran on Monday, as the veteran right-hander went six-plus innings, allowing no runs, four hits, and one walk while striking out six. Offensively, the Braves got two hits each from Nick Markakis and Ozzie Albies, whose triple in the first off Aaron Sanchez set up Freddie Freeman to drive in the game’s first run on sacrifice fly. After the game, manager Brian Snitker confirmed that Teheran would start on Opening Day for a fifth consecutive time. The honor comes as no surprise, as Teheran is the longest-tenured member of the organization and has been a cornerstone of the franchise for the better part of his career. Ranking All 30 Of MLB’s Ballparks: First To Worst The Braves drew rave reviews in most circles for the design and integration of their new ballpark in 2017. Those rave reviews do not, however, extend to Maury Brown of Forbes, who ranked SunTrust Park 18th in baseball on Monday. Such a low ranking seems odd given that the ballpark is brand new, but then again, Brown ranks Wrigley Field tenth, two spots behind Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Whatever. MLB NEWS Justin Turner breaks wrist, out indefinitely The Dodgers lost a significant piece of their lineup on Monday, as third baseman Justin Turner was struck on the wrist by a Kendall Graveman fastball, resulting in a fracture that could keep the All-Star on the disabled list for an extended period of time. The Braves experienced a similar fate last season, as Freddie Freeman missed significant time after being struck on the wrist with a pitch. Mark it down: These things will happen in 2018 Mike Petriello of lays out seven things that will occur in the 2018 season. Take a look at some of the recent trends in the game that are expected to continue, including the push for higher launch angle, the lack of everyday catchers, and the infinite power of the New York Yankees. [...]

Camargo not certain to be ready for Opening Day



While there is some optimism, it is possible that the presumed Braves’ starting third baseman will not be ready for Opening Day

Just last week, the BravesJohan Camargo missed some time with what was described as a minor ailment that was only supposed to keep him out for a couple of spring training games due to tightness in his back. With Camargo expected to be a major part of the Braves’ plans at third base in 2018, an injury to him would make things pretty interesting at the hot corner.

Well, things may very well get interesting as it looks like Camargo’s injury is either more severe or taking longer to heal than initially thought.

Either way, you definitely can’t say that Acuña is being held down due to performance or readiness, since he made it abundantly clear that he’s ready for the bigs.

Today’s news isn’t a shock but it’s more of a confirmation that we’re just going to have to be patient and that the Braves (for better or worse) are willing to throw two weeks of Acuña to the wayside in exchange for another year.

It stinks for us fans who want to see him as soon as possible and all we can do now is ask Cubs fans how they felt when they did the same thing with Kris Bryant back in 2015.