Can We Have An Ounce of Patience for Joey Bats?

Can We Have An Ounce of Patience for Joey Bats?

The Jose Bautista experiment hasn’t quite started with a bang. First, there was a sweep at the hands of the Giants. To some fans, Bautista was to blame because he “messed with team chemistry.” Shockingly, the “team chemistry” argument has more-or-less died off after Atlanta won their next three games. But Bautista, who has just three hits in 24 plate appearances, has not avoided criticism as the winning restarted. Yesterday evening, as the Braves crushed Drew Steckenrider and the other Marlins arms in the sixth inning, Bautista made a pair of outs in the inning. That was enough, despite a blowout win, for Braves fans to again call for Bautista’s head.

Bautista vs. Fastballs

Is the criticism about Bautista fair? To a point, sure. While early results are, well, early, Bautista continues to struggle against fastballs. That’s not to say he hasn’t made some adjustments – he may have. But the worry with Bautista is directly related to his ability to hit fastballs. It was something few batters were better at from 2010-15. It remains the thing to watch. Speaking of things to watch, Bautista was brought in for power but has just one extra-base hit to this point. On the other hand, Bautista has walked four times and struck out just as many – marks reasonably close to his Jays’ heyday. He’s also been victimized by an impossibly low .188 BABIP.

But, like I said, these results are hard to draw conclusions from. Six games are the sixth worst sample size you can possibly use. You could add Bautista’s dozen minor league games, but that is an iffy proposition.

If we all agree that Bautista has only played six games and it’s impossible to grade on that many games, why are so many doing it? Spoiler alert – it has zero to do with how Bautista has played.

Bautista was a polarizing figure before he came to the Braves. He hit long, majestic home runs – thrice reaching the 40-HR mark. He also enjoyed those home runs, taking slow trips around the bases and often adding a bad flip. Of course, no bat flip has ever bat flipped quite as much as the one Bautista hit in 2015 against the Rangers. Months later, that bat flip led to a memorable fight down in Texas. Last May, Bautista, with the Jays down five, hit a homer off Eric O’Flaherty that hasn’t landed yet. He flipped his bat, got yelled at by Jace Peterson, and came to words with Kurt Suzuki.

There is a perceived attitude issue with Bautista. That he’s in it just for him. I say perceived because there is no proof that Bautista is a toxic force in the clubhouse. I, like you, have not been teammates with Bautista. Marcus Stroman has been, though. “He’s like a brother to me. He’s been incredibly instrumental since day one.” That doesn’t sound like a clubhouse cancer. Here’s more from Stroman. “He’s a guy that took me under his wing, has been a huge mentor to me. He’s taught me the ins and outs. Not only just on the field, but away from it. How to go about certain things. He still mentors me now. He’ll pull me over and say, ‘Hey, try and do this.’ This is in baseball or in life, so I’m very appreciative of Jose and I’ll always be.”

Ryan Goins was also a teammate of Bautista and said, “All he cares about, and all I care about, is what he does for the 25 guys in this clubhouse every day, and that’s being a good teammate, coming to work every day ready to play, going out and contributing. He’s unselfish and wants the team to win.”

Yet, people are convinced that Bautista is a problem for team chemistry. These concerns don’t appear to be based in reality.

Naturally, we can pivot arguments. It’s not that Bautista has disrupted team chemistry, some argue. The problem is that he’s playing over a better player – Ryan Flaherty. Which is, at best, debatable and more likely laughable. Oh, I know Flaherty is hitting .315. Having a .394 BABIP has a fancy way of making you look better than you actually are. Flaherty is not really hitting the ball harder – though his Soft% rate is 3% below his lowest mark. He’s still hitting the ball at a ridiculous rate on the ground. His flyball rate entering Thursday was 17.2%. Only Milwaukee’s Jonathan Villar has a lower mark among hitters with at least 100 PA.

Sheer luck won’t be on Flaherty’s side for long. Just like more of the balls Bautista is hitting will find holes. In the end, they are probably similar. Neither is a particularly gifted pure hitter, both will take their walks, and Bautista has more power while Flaherty is a better defender. But Bautista likely has the higher end potential because he could go on a homer binge and literally carry the team for a week or two.

Johan Camargo is probably a better player once Dansby Swanson returns so maybe Bautista should have a short leash. But even then, the difference is likely not that great to worry about Bautista “blocking” Camargo. Austin Riley is the guy that has the ability to put some distance between himself and the pack of those competing for the third base spot. But he’s four games into his Triple-A career with just an additional 75 games at Double-A. Might be a good idea to not expect the world from him just yet.

Is Bautista broken and this experiment doomed to failure? Maybe. But do we know anything for sure to give up on it? No. We just don’t know. Bautista could hit two home runs in today’s game. Or strike out three times. Neither result will definitively tell us anything, though. Like any player, we need to give Bautista time to show us if he has anything left in the tank.

Regardless, don’t tell me that Bautista is keeping Flaherty out of the lineup. There’s not a person in Braves Country who thought much of that signing just a few days before the season. Now, because he’s on a BABIP-infused tear, he’s irreplaceable?

Just don’t see it.

16 Comments

I didn’t love the Joey Bats signing; but it’s really not because of the bat flips, or any attitude problem he may, or may not, have. My issue is with how our GM has handled this 3B situation in general.

Consider this…

For $6,500,000 dollars, or maybe a bit more, Mike Moustakas could be hitting in the heart of the Atlanta order with a stat line of…

.291 Avg. 10HR 28RBI 24R.

However, AA loves him some former Blue Jays, so he spends 1 million dollars on Bautista. Before that it was a million on Peter Borjous, $750,000 on Ryan Flaherty- and then there’s all the nickels and dimes he spent on bullpen retreads. On top of that, all the money he gave away just to get rid of Kemp, and lend the Dodgers a hand… a little of that could’ve been useful. And Kemp hasn’t hit too badly.

It just feels like he’d rather spend $55 plugging a tire ten times than he would spend the money to get a new one and be good to roll. He’s maddening to me.

I really do hope Joey Bats does well, though. He’s provide some much needed punch to the order to go along with Freddie, Acuna, and of all people, Albies. Lol. And as you pointed out Tommy, it’s tough to judge anything off of 6 games. He’s still effectively in ST, in a way, as it relates to time. I can’t see him hitting anywhere close to 30 homers; but if he can belt out 15-20, without making a ton of defensive miscues at 3B, he might be enough to vault the Braves into a WC.

King, I don’t totally agree with this assessment. First, Moustakas probably would have only signed that $6.5M contract with the Royals and no one else. Also, he would have cost the Braves a draft pick. Trading for him before the Bautista signing using whatever spare pieces we have was a much better option. Regardless of the efficacy of signing Flaherty, it has worked out really well, and he is our real backstop for not being able to trade for Moustakas not Bautista. Further, it looks like the Braves are pushing Riley aggressively to be able to see if he will be ready before a trade might need to be made. That move, I think, is a good one as Riley should be considered to be the long term answer. If he’s not ready, then trade for a rental like Moustakas or Beltre and make sure Riley is ready next Spring.

I don’t feel like the loss of a 4th rd. pick would’ve really been that consequential. I don’t have any hard proof to support this, but I feel odds are a team is drafting for depth there more than upside. And I know the IFA restrictions have made some fans extremely concerned with that, but would anyone be that devastated if the Fire Frogs were a quality RP short, if the Braves were playing October baseball?

And I do hear you on the money argument, Roger. I’m sure KC got something of a discount. There again though, if AA hadn’t wasted so much cash, going higher isn’t a big deal.

Another consideration is if Bautista doesn’t work, and they rush Riley, thus pushing up his clock, what’s the cost there? Wouldn’t that put him on the same FA track as Acuna?

I can’t see them rushing Riley, FWIW. Once Dansby comes back, even if Bautista never hits and the Braves move on, I think they’ll ride it out with Camargo and maybe go rental hunting. Now, Riley could force their hands a bit. And yes, if he’s brought up this season, he’ll be on the same track as Acuna.

I’d rather see them go the rental route, if need be, than rush Riley. The future is always an unknown, but I don’t want there to be the remote possibility that they’d have to lock up Acuna and Riley in the same offseason.

Looking ahead at the schedule, it’s going to be tough on Bautista to really get going. There’s four games against the Cubs, who rank 5th in the league in team ERA, three against the Phils, and three against the BoSox. The only break he’s going to catch is next weekend’s home series versus the Marlins.

King….The Problem with losing a 4th round pick..has LITTLE to do with the ‘actual’ player we may end up picking (it is possible that The Braves end up drafting a ‘senior sign’ type of player)….is The SIGNING BONUS MONEY allocated to the 4th round selection!

Given that The Braves had their 3rd round pick (and allocated signing bonus money that is attached to that pick) stripped from them because of Coppy’s shenanigans with negotiating Drew Walters’ contract last summer…..also losing the 4th round pick by signing Moustakis (when it was FAR FROM CERTAIN during the past offseason that The Braves were going to contend in 2018) would have puat a crimp in our ability to maximize draft/sign strategy in the upcoming June Draft.

Would Moustakis be a nice addition to this lineup? Sure. However it would have made our lineup HELLA lefty in the middle of the order. What The Braves really need..is a power hitting right handed hitter…to slot between Freddie and Markakis!

I feel that it is very possible that Austin Riley may be due for a callup by mid-July (IF he continues to rake in AAA). He’ll probably be inserted in the 7-hole (like all rookies, lol…even though he’s hit #3-#4 throughout all his MILB career, lol) upon his callup to Atlanta (even though The Braves DO NOT need another #7 hitter, lol)….however if he shows early that he isnt overwhelmed by MLB pitching, he’ll possibly be moved up in the order.

A lineup come August 1st of the following would be ‘interesting’:

1. Albies…2nd
2. Acuna…LF
3. Freeman…1st
4. Riley…3rd
5. Markakis…RF
6. Suzuki/Flowers….C
7. Inciarte….CF
8. Swanson/Carmago (if Dansby’s wrist doesnt ‘come around’)…SS

Lefty-Righty balance THROUGHOUT the order….also, even though he’d be hitting clean-up…I dont feel that there would be too much pressure on Riley..because he’d have two VETERANS hitting in front/behind him who can ‘pick up the slack’ if he has a bad game or two!

I’ve been HELLA BUSY the past week (didnt make time to post any)…however I’m impressed with how The Bullpen is starting to ‘come around’! While the INABILITY of our rotation to go further than 6 innings ‘frustrates me’…..at least (with the exception of Brandon McCarthy lately) our starters are giving The Braves 6 ‘effective’ innings!

If McCarthy continues to struggle come June….The Braves should go with either Gohara or Kolby Allard! While I was hoping that McCarthy would be ‘effective enough’ to attract trade interest come The July Trade Deadline…The Braves simply cannot just allow McCarthy to deplete their bullpen with his ‘100 pitches/3 2/3rds innings/4 walks/6 hits/5 runs allowed’ outings! McCarthy simply has very little ‘swing and miss’ ability at this stage of his career.

The Braves have already ate A HUGE AMOUNT of salary in 2018 by releasing both Adrian Gonzalez and Scott Kazmir. Why not DUMP McCarthy’s prorated $10 mil 2018 salary once either Gohara or Allard are ready to join The Braves rotation?

While I’m excited that The Braves are in 1st place/exhibiting the possibility of contending come the summer by their play in the 1st 40 games of The 2018 Season….I’ll stand by what I’ve said all along about the main goal/purpose of The 2018 Season: To position The Braves to start DOMINATING MLB, starting in 2019 (by 1. giving our PLETHORA of young players AS MUCH playing time as possible. 2. Using The Payroll Flexibility that comes with having A PLETHORA of pre-arbitration players..by going after 3 Free Agents after The 2018 Season ends…who’ll fill The Main Holes that The Braves have).

What our GM, AA, will have to do..is ‘balance’ out the importance of setting the stage for 2019 and beyond…with not ‘throwing away’ an opportunity compete for a playoff spot in 2018. Sure, I’d ‘love’ to see The Braves contend/even make The Playoffs in 2018! However NOT at The Expense of Sacrificing OUR FUTURE!

In other words…NO TRADING for the likes of Moustakis or any pricey veterans (who’ll surely have high upside prospects attached as the cost of acquiring them). Let Washington dangle Victor Robles and others….in order to ‘go for it’ in possibly Harper’s last year in a National’s uniform! I’m confident that AA can address The Braves ‘needs’….via “bargain basement” shopping (been effective so far, lol)!

By the way…what the HECK happened to The SF Giants (who basically BITCH-SLAPPED our Braves when they visited Atlanta for 3 games…..however, totally LAID DOWN while getting swept 4 games by The Phillies RIGHT AFTER THAT)? “Thanks” Giants! You guys SUCK!

You fail to mention one immutable rule of baseball that the Braves are breaking here – never mess with a streak (winning, hitting, pitching, whatever). You ride a horse until you’re ready to put him out of his misery. That’s the worst part of the Bautista deal. Flaherty should have been played until his face was round and orange. Furthermore, you know, I know, everyone knows that Bautista has nothing left – it was obvious at AAA. In addition, AA made big show of saying how much he valued defense. This change is certainly counter to that idea. I could see Bautista as a RF platoon for the “old” Nick (not the new Nick), but I’m not sure Bourjos or, certainly, Lane Adams wouldn’t fill that role better. Right now, Bautista and Culberson are fighting tooth and nail to see who can perform the worst on the team. I, for one, don’t give a hoot about his on-field antics and trust what you and others have said about his clubhouse persona. I just think it was a bad bet that is proving to be every bit as bad as one might have imagined based upon performance on the field. He has an ISO = .000, OBA = .200. No other team was willing to give him half the chance that AA has.

I mentioned on another blog that I will give AA credit for being shrewd with this play. I figure he is doing his pal Bautista a favor by giving him a showcase while hoping for some miraculous positive output. Since Riley is now at AAA and will have about 6 weeks until the ASB to prove he’s ready for a promotion, Bautista is just another way to fill the gap until that happens. If Riley proves himself at AAA (and the returns so far are positive), I expect him to be promoted either just before or just after the ASB. That will give him a month in the majors before the Braves have to decide if they’re going to roll with him or find a rental and let Riley finish the year in AAA with a September promotion. The only difference between this and letting Flaherty/Camargo fill that gap is the favor AA is doing for one of his “guys”.

Also, it seems to me you are seriously underselling Flaherty’s potential. Flaherty has always had occasional pop and there was a big deal made out of the fact that he changed his approach with the Phillies during Spring and that Seitzer seems to be a pretty good hitting coach. How do you know that Flaherty hasn’t turned a corner and found something he didn’t have before? Don’t you have to ride that long enough, at least through the first big slump, to see if the change is for real or just BABIP infused? Who was it that said “I’d rather be lucky than good”? Shouldn’t we follow that advice? Besides, he strikes out a lot less than Bautista. As soon as he came into the game last night, he went 1/2 while Bautista had an 0-fer.

I didn’t mention that “rule” because I don’t buy into it. You get ahead of things before they happen, not wait for what is destined to happen. As for Flaherty, if I saw any evidence that he has changed his approach, was hitting the ball better, etc., I would have a little more faith that Flaherty had much of a chance to keep it going. Like Kurt Suzuki – we can spot the real changes he made at the plate. Same with Markakis. But Flaherty’s hitting the ball in a similar fashion to his career rates in quality of contact metrics. Now, he is hitting a host of groundballs, which I brought up, and that’s different only because it’s so extreme. My problem with Flaherty is the only real difference between the past and now is tied into BABIP. To be fair, his walk rate is up 3% over recent MLB production and 5% over his career rate – likely tied into hitting eighth in the NL. My other issue is I think BABIP was already getting him. In the eleven games, nine starts, before Bautista was promoted, Flaherty had a .229/.341/.343 split. His OPS had already fell 100 points. To me, trying something new before Flaherty’s numbers fall even more is fine with me.

So what I see in your statistics Tommy is that Flaherty hit better in his slump than Bautista has at his best (or beginning). Let’s match Flaharty’s eleven game slump to Bautista’s output after eleven games. If he’s better than Flaherty’s worst then I might concede part of a point. But, if he’s worse than Flaherty then I expect you to come out and argue for Flaherty to get his job back. Bautista is a done deal; there’s nothing left in the tank. He can’t hit a fastball.

Tommy…I agree with you about ‘the rule’ (riding a ‘hot streak’ strictly because someone is hot) being ‘not totally sound’!

Hall of Fame San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh once stated “it is better to trade a player A YEAR TOO EARLY….than A YEAR TOO LATE”!

Too many teams keep ‘trade-able’ players TOO LONG! Patriots Coach Bill Belichick has adhered to Walsh’s philosophy throughout The Patriots run (accumulating draft picks for players that appeared to ‘still have lots in the tank’..only to ‘lose it’ after getting traded). The trade of Jimmy Garoppolo does not fall into that category…simply because The Patriots were going to lose him anyway as a Free Agent! The Patriots had little leverage when it came to increasing what they could get for him.

Some would say that The Braves waited too long to trade Teheran. However I disagree (one, Teheran was only 24 years old 2 years ago, lol). Teheran is still ‘trade-able’ IF he continues to show that he’s ‘adjusting’ to pitching to hitters in The Launch Angle Revolution! Teheran will be making a relative ‘bargain’ of $11 mil in 2019 and a team option $12 mil in 2020 (with a paltry $1 mil team buyout). Given the dollars thrown at BUMS like Tyler Chatwood (3 year/$38 mil. While he has a 3.37 ERA so far in 2018…in 37 innings, he’s walked 32 hitters to go along with giving up 26 hits! That’s 58 base runners in 37 innings pitched so far in 2018!)….even teams with playoff aspirations would LOVE to have someone like Teheran pitching as a #4/#5 pitcher (his 2019-2020 salaries makes him a nice fit for MANY teams).

As the year progresses, I feel that AA will be able to clear out ‘the deadwood’ (replacing the ineffective veterans with high upside young players)! The Braves simply DO NOT need to trade for pricey 2 month veteran rentals! I LOVE this team not only for what it is…BUT also for what ‘it could be’ (as the life of our team, our high upside/young prospects continue to inject LIFE into our team…FOR YEARS TO COME)!

The Veteran Help…will arrive come Free Agency AFTER The 2018 Season ends (when The Braves will be able to KEEP our prospects AND sign Free Agents)!

I do see a reason for the signing. that if it works, itll work great. but if it doesnt, oh well. but we cant have too much patience with this experiment. truthfully, the signing i would have preferred more would have been bringing back brandon phillips to play some third. he even said before the season started hed be willing to play somewhere other than 2nd. above average defense. he’d get on base and could hit 10-12 homers. and hell, he’d be alot easier to flip at the deadline, if we chose to, than flaherty or bautista

Brandon, the Braves could have Phillips whenever they want him. He is still unsigned. And Bautista would be too if it weren’t for AA. Let’s quit with the old guys who are basically done. At least with L. Adams (28), Culberson (29), and Flaherty (31), they’re still young enough to have some upside. And they have been bred to fill bit roles as opposed to Bautista and Phillips who are used to starting.

After last night, it’s time for Joey to go or ride the pine. Statistically, he is the worst hitter/fielder on the team. Flowers and Culberson have now slightly surpassed him.

Aaaannnd… just like that, Jose Bautista’s run in Atlanta is over.

Everything about this experiment was a little perplexing, from the signing, to the shift back to 3B, and lastly to the fact that he hardly got any time to get himself going offensively before being released.

Now they’ll turn to Camargo at 3B, who isn’t a full-time 3B. He’s best suited as a UT player, which they’ll hopefully realize. Third will continue to be a void in Atlanta until either Riley locks it down, or they go and get someone else who will.

Is it wrong that I hope Chase Headley’s agent doesn’t have AA’s phone number, and vice versa? Lol

King..I agree with you in that ultimately, Carmago is better suited to serving in a super-utility role on The Braves. However for the time being, I feel he’ll be ‘ok’ being our 3rd baseman for the next few weeks/month.

I feel that the idea is to give Austin Riley the next month/perhaps 2 months…to show in AAA that what he did in AA was no fluke. The Braves need a right handed middle of the order/power hitting 3rd baseman (which Riley fits TO THE TEE)…to slot between Freeman and Markakis in the batting order (sick and tired of seeing opposing managers bring in a tough lefty to face 3. Freeman. 4. Markakis. 5. Flowers/Suzuki. 6. Inciarte. That’s 3 lefty hitters out of 4 that a manager can bring in a tough lefty reliever to face our middle of the order hitters. If we had a power hitting righty hitter to slot between Freeman and Markakis….the opposing manager would instead be faced with the prospect of his tough lefty reliever NOT being able to face two lefty hitters in a row)!

Our GM, AA, has shown a willingness to tinker/give guys a shot to come up and prove himself.

I feel that once late June/early July gets here…additional high upside prospects who have the ability to make SIGNIFICANT contributions to this lineup/pitching staff…..will be on the way (like Kolby Allard, Austin Riley…even Kyle Wright and Evan Phillips, a reliever at Gwinnett who in his last 20 innings has struck out 30 hitters, only walked 4 hitters with a 0.45 ERA).

By then, The Braves will be loaded with young players. However, the important thing is that they will be getting VALUABLE PLAYING EXPERIENCE (even if we fall short of The Playoffs in 2018….NOT ONLY would this season be WAY MORE EXCITING than any of us anticipated…BUT our Braves will be positioned to be SERIOUS World Series Contenders…FOR YEARS TO COME)!

When all the ‘dead’ payroll comes off the books at The End of The 2018 Season…..The Braves will be THE ABSOLUTE ENVY of all of MLB! AA can PICK AND CHOOSE which Free Agents he ‘wants’ to come to The Braves! This season (even if The Braves fall short of a Playoff Berth)…will show prospective Free Agents that this team is BUILT to win LONG TERM! Some very good players without World Series Rings…may look at what The Braves are building (along with the available Free Agent Money that The Braves have available) as something that they want to be a part of. We’ll see!

By the way..I want NO PART of Chase Headley coming to The Braves…UNLESS someone gets hurt…and The Braves are only responsible for the ‘prorated’ MLB Minimum portion of Headley’s contract for 2018.

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