Posted: 9:34 am Thursday, May 29th, 2014

The Braves really need La Stella to keep hitting 

By Mark Bradley

It's important that La Stella doesn't drop the ball, as it were. (Elise Amendola/AP)

It’s important that La Stella doesn’t drop the ball, as it were. (Elise Amendola/AP)

July 1985: Milt Thompson was summoned from the minor leagues and started the second game of a doubleheader and again the next day. He had five hits in those two games. After the latter, Atlanta Braves manager Eddie Haas was asked, in a jocular way, if it would be hard to keep a guy hitting .417 out of the everyday lineup.

Haas, who had no ear for humor or nuance and who wouldn’t manage the Braves much longer, gave this question serious thought before finally saying: “He’s probably not going to hit .417 all year.”

Tommy La Stella isn’t going to hit .500 — or have an on-base percentage of .500 — all year. But the rookie’s 2-for-4 debut was encouraging for three basic reasons: He got hits, he got on base and he didn’t strike out. He batted eighth in a batting order that included a DH last night in Boston. At some point Fredi Gonzalez will need to bump him up. Like maybe tonight.

As noted in today’s AJC column — it’s available on myajc.comLa Stella hits singles, which few guys for any team do anymore and way too few Braves do. They’re not hitting home runs at the rate they did last season, when they led the National League, and they’re not stringing hits of any kind together, which is why no team in baseball has scored fewer runs than these still-in-first-place-but-only-just Braves.

Promoting La Stella was the in-house move the Braves had to make. If he gets on base enough, he could make a difference in a batting order gone dormant. (Didn’t help last night, though. The Braves were shut out.) If not, Frank Wren will have to go shopping, and there’s really not much to trade. The Braves can’t sell many young pitchers — Alex Wood, David Hale or Lucas Sims — because three current starters (Ervin Santana, Aaron Harang and Gavin Floyd) are working on one-year contracts and aren’t locks to be back in 2015.

Owing to their rotation, the Braves had a great April. The inevitable regression nearer the mean by those starters, coupled with the continuing failure to hit and score, has nearly overridden the earlier good work. Not to put too much pressure on a smallish call-up, but La Stella really is a big man on this team. He doesn’t have to hit .500, or even .417, to make an impact. But he does need to hit.

Further reading: Are the Braves a playoff team? (Yes, I think.)

49 comments
BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

I know this is an older article but moving LaStella back down in the lineup was the right move!It seems that he has started to make things happen again!.....................GO TOMMY BOY!

14-Straight!
14-Straight!

Refresh my memory please.  Why is Fredi G batting BJ in the two spot vice somebody, anybody, that can put the ball in play more than BJ?

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

They have him at lead off and that is totally DUMB. they guy is learning to be a big league player NEVER batter lead off in his life, and now is the time ?


DUMB DUMB DUMB !

chrisbeyer
chrisbeyer

The Braves will be a .500 club this year...no better than that.  Other than Tehran, no outstanding starters and a lack of quality hitting throughout the lineup.   The Braves can't be a playoff team with one buy (Gattis right now) being hot.   They have an overall weak offensive lineup.

GetBackJojo
GetBackJojo

Hey Mark. my point below, yesterday Tommy was 2 for 4, half of the total hits from entire team. I think he gets it. How about a new article on why none of the others are hitting, and what are the coaches doing about it, if anything.


GO BRAVES !!! In spite of everything....

GetBackJojo
GetBackJojo

Hey Mark.... I think it's time to take this three week old article down, Tommy is doing a really good job adjusting to the majors. Maybe if Fredi will keep him in the line up instead of putting his buddy Danny Boy in, because he is handling his downgrade and has a positive attitude. If I was being paid the money he is, I'd have a pretty good attitude also. Maybe you could write an article about the space between the ears of  Fredi Gonzalas, though it would be hard to find anything to write about.


GO BRAVES !!!!

chrisbeyer
chrisbeyer

Hows's that Hope and Change working for you Freddie? Uggla went 0-4 and committed to two errors that cost the Braves the game! Had it not been for his errors, the braves would have been up 3-2 at the end of nine.


One has to wonder if Freddie is the right man for the job with a bonehead move like this. LaStella is hitting .400 plus, Uggla 173. Right or left-handed there is no excuse for this kind of managerial decision making.

Zagnut
Zagnut

Baghead has it right.  FIRE WREN!  He has just killed this team with poor free agent signings and.trades.  BJ Upton had a large sample size during his time at Tampa Bay.  So what did that large sample size say?  A .246 hitter who was not a good defender, had a poor attitude, played lackadaisically and struck out a ton.  Now that's somebody you want to drop 15 mil a year on, right? He had some power and speed, but hasn't brought that with him to Atlanta.  Even that would not overcome his attitude, poor defense and lackadaisical play.  It just sickens me to see someone playing this great game the way that he does.  For 15 mil a year you can't hustle?

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

The Braves need SOMEBODY to keep hitting.. ANYBODY !

They also need to stop making 2-3 errors a game.  

They also need some hustle in the outfield, but hey most folks NEED to win the Lottery, but won''t !

MikeS777
MikeS777

If recent history holds true, La Stella will be settling in around .200 with the most of the rest of the team.  The Braves of the last several years have managed to continue to take at least solid hitters and remove their bats entirely.  No Dan Uggla and BJ Upton are not this bad.  Neither is Laird.  Neither was Nate McLouth.  Neither was Heyward when called up from AAA.  Neither was Yunel Escobar who found his bat after leaving the Braves.

Dan Uggla's replacement (Pena) had been hitting below .200 as well.   Everyone but Gattis, Freeman, Justin Upton, Johnson, and SImmons are hitting well below their averages everywhere else.

I keep saying this over and over, but you can only point the finger at a player or two for so long.  The Braves haven't hit as badly as they have the last few years since the 1980's.  There is something completely messed up with how they go about managing hitters.

WhopperDawg
WhopperDawg

I close my eyes when the ball is thrown or hit to him.

moboman
moboman

So far, La Stella has misplayed three balls in two games that say he's not a great second baseman.  He gave up on a fly that dropped in between him and BJ, he let a ball up the middle take an extra bounce that cost a putout, and he failed to catch Chris Johnsons throw last night.  Gonna take a lot of hitting if he's going to be a defensive liability.  So far Im not seeing good fielder instincts.  He's made some decent plays as well, but at the major league level, you need to be making ALMOST all the plays correctly.  Giving teams extra outs is a recipe for losses.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

Any truth to the rumor that the Braves just traded Uggla for SS Mario Mendoza?  We could sure use a .200 hitter.

JAS0N
JAS0N

This more I watch this braves team, the more I think this is one of the greatest assemblies of players in major league history.  Plus they have courage.

bigcooterb
bigcooterb

No the Braves are not a playoff  team and they need more that La Stella to hit.

bigcooterb
bigcooterb

No the Braves are not a playoff team and they need more than La Stella to hit. 

GSUEagle
GSUEagle

This is like watching a team with Dave Kingman batting 1 - 8.  Painful.  Hope Tommy's approach is contagious throughout the line up.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

Is there any truth to the rumor that Chris Johnson has changed his name to Kris and wants "K Jo" put on his uni?

Falcons73
Falcons73

For all the folks that are screaming "the GM is a joke", step off the ledge. Being a GM isn't an exact science and for every BJ & Ugla their is a Harang, Floyd, Garcia, Justin Upton, Chris Johnson, Gattis, Carpenter, and so on.

All that can ask of your GM is to field a competitive team and is the hunt at the end of the season and four straight winning years is proof.

ComaToes
ComaToes

MB says, "LaStella must produce".  He did, last night.  The problem is the lack of capable managing by the man currently occupying that seat, and not knowing what to do with a lineup to get the best results. His(FG) ineptitude shows through clearly by the fact the Braves are currently the team with the worst first place record in all of MLB.  This, so far, is just a repeat of last year.  If not for being in the NL East the Braves would be just your average "middle of the pack" major league team.  FG has to be the luckiest mgr. in the history of baseball !  Last night the two bottom hitters, #8 and #9 were 4-8, and the top 7 were 5 for 28.  No better word to describe that other than pathetic. Those 2 batters should be at #1 and #2 in the lineup.  FG has blinders on obviously. He may get by with his "blunders" until the All Star game, but after that somebody like Miami will take off.

Pat_Pending
Pat_Pending

Leadoff is an over-analysed baseball cliche. In a perfect game, the leadoff guy leads off three times and makes three outs.

That said, Heyward is not a leadoff hitter. If you drop him down to say six (Freeman, Gattis, Justin Upton, Heyward), that's impressive (at least on paper). Then who "leads off?" Try BJ again. LaStella in the 2 hole. BJ will likely fail but he's not hitting anyway and he's just the first out in the game and you move on.

Fredi is plainly out of ideas.

BSNBC
BSNBC

Trade Heywood! He's dead weight and will never hit as hoped!

redleg24
redleg24

The Braves are not a very good team for two reasons. One-they are weak on defense, especially in the outfield and at third base.   Two- they have very few really hitters.  They have a lot of bat swingers, but only about three good hitters.   And just to add a little gas to the fire, they removed their good young pictures and went with the average old pitchers.  And the results since Hale and Woods were put in the bullpen have been what in wins and losses.  Time to rest Chris Johnson for a week or two--no production and lots of strikeouts.

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

As someone who grew up watching the Big Red Machine burn, pillage, and wreak havoc on its path to several NL Pennants and World Series participation, the Braves are a very difficult and frustrating (not to mention boring and sadly predictable)  team to watch. 


The Braves have a ton of  talent (not as much as the Reds teams of yore - Rose, Bench, Perez, Morgan, Concepcion, Griffey, Sr., Geronimo, Foster), and they should be playing in the same sandlot as San Francisco and Toronto, but for almost unfathomable reasons, they are barely a .500 team - and one currently getting its butt kicked by an AL team coming off of a 10 game losing streak.  But the reason is becoming clear as his tenure as manager wears on. 


What's the problem? Hate to say it, but I think it is becoming evident that it  is their Get Along, Go Along manager,  Fredi Gonzalez. Fredi is a good manager, but not the kind this kind of team needs to win. They need a Sparky Anderson or a Vince Lomabrdi, or a Bobby Knight, or a Greg Popovich. They need a never satisfied manager  to push, push, push  them and make them anxious and nervous -- so  they can push the teams they play and make them even more nervous and anxious.  


And they all need to learn many basic fundamentals that they have some how never learned on their way up the ladder. And a Fredi led Braves organization is not the place where they are going to be pushed to learn them. 


And could Sparky Anderson ever manage his pitchers?  The starter might have just struck out the side and next inning, you see two guys warming up in the bull pen. Whazzup? The pitcher is doing great. Yeah, but he might not do so great this inning. And Sparky (aka Captain Hook) was never caught with his pants down with 2 or three men on and no outs, a struggling pitcher, and no  warmed up reliever ready to go. 


Yes, it is "nice" to give your guy, who clearly doesn't have his stuff tonight, a "chance" to get out of it. (so gentlemanly, so respectful of his "professional" status as an MLB starting pitcher. But uh oh, 3 runs later, maybe that was not such a good idea. Capt. Hook never worried much about that kind of thing. And in Cicinnati and in Detroit, he won a lot of games. But the excitement lived in Cincinnati. 


Rose leads off and walks, and then sprints to first base, and takes big ridiculous lead offs.  Or, more likely, he gets a single and stretches it into a double with his patented head first slide. The crowd is immediately excited and  into the game and there electricity in the air at the get go, in the bottom of the first.  


Someone bunts him to third or gets their own single or extra base hit. If Rose is stealing or the thit and run is on, he makes it from first home on a single. The crowd is rocking. Runners on base take big lead offs. All of the players can bunt, and on base they all take big leads. They know the fundamentals,  how to get the jump on the pitcher,  and know they  how to slide and to steal bases. 


On base they are fidgety, aggressive, taking big leads, horses chomping at the bit, ready to run, ready to take risks. The batters put the ball into play. They make the defense very nervous. The fielders make errors. The pitchers get frustrated. They put the ball into play with almost every at bat.  


And if that isn't enough, Bench, Perez, Morgan, Foster, and Griffey, Sr. would just knock it out of the park or get extra base hits. They actually knew how to hit for power when it counted - when runners were on base. 


Sometimes it was like watching a scoring pin wheel. So much fun, so exciting, so different than watching the Braves on offense - like watching paint dry.  And, unfortunately, that comes from the top down. 


Yes, I know. The true blue cool-aid drinkers don't like this kind of talk. Hey, stop complaining, they are leading their division, they will get in the play offs, etc.  (maybe).  Yes, I realize  that the Braves do well, and in the weak East they dominate and annually compete for and often win their division. They are the all time division winning kings, I think. I actually wonder if they really want any more than that division title? 


So these words are for those who see the Braves as what they are, a severely under performing team, and trying to figure out why.  Someone needs to light a fire under these guys and to push them and challenge them and sit their butts down when they don't rise to the occasion.  They need to get aggressive, create some buzz. and excitement. Learn to bunt (shameful that a team like this cannot bunt the baseball), push the runners around, make the defense nervous - and no one seems to be reallyu addressing that problem at all.  


It just takes time. These things happen. It's just a dry spell. They will come out of it. I don't question their effort. They are dedicated. They really want to win . . . . . blah, blah, blah. 

58Supersports
58Supersports

You could get  Franklin for  one of  Braves AA pitchers, per MLB rumors last week.

MichBravesFan
MichBravesFan

Trade Gattis to a team in need of a power hitter in exchange for a leadoff type hitter. We already have enough swing-for-the fences types on this team. Maybe Gattis for Nick Franklin---mariners 2b prospect. then call up betencourt 

58Supersports
58Supersports

GM is a joke...so what do you expect ?  This is his  team and his mess and JS don't have the b*lls  to do anything about it.

CouchPotato
CouchPotato

My vote - trade Heyward and Santana for a true leadoff hitter.  Then you can plug Wood or Hale back in the rotation.  I know it sucks because you still have BJ, but realistically, you aren't going to get anything in return for BJ on the trade market

MichBravesFan
MichBravesFan

Does Gattis or Betencourt have any trade value? 

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

There are tradeable pieces: Minor and Heyward, Justin...IF the price was right.

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

Problem is he's currently one of the five players needed to hit in the eight hole.

EmoryEagles
EmoryEagles

Hoping for .285 or so, but I wouldn't be disappointed with .300....

BocaBaby
BocaBaby

@moboman Last night he looked like a AAA player needing a little more refinement. I agree that his fielding leaves a lot to be desired.  And if the Braves bats are going to be quiet defense is a must.  It cannot be a liability.

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

@JAS0N What Courage ?  To go out play a little boys game not very well and get paid very well to do it ?  That takes Courage ?  Really what are you smoking ?

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

@GSUEagle Agreed, I can't remember why I watch Braves games anymore, so I hardly do now...... The boring baseball has finally gotten to me.

Gman84
Gman84

@GSUEagle 

Good analogy GSU. Can't trade 20 homers for 200 strikeouts. That's the entire Braves lineup and its unwatchable.

Gman84
Gman84

@Falcons73 

The Upton and Uggla contracts alone should be the end of FW. These contracts are like 5 or 6 year prison sentences. This team would be much better on thefield and financially with Michael Bourne and Omar Infante instead of these automatic outs

WJK83
WJK83

@YogiBare The Braves have the 9th best winning percentage. Toronto also benefits from a week division and so does Detroit. Have the Braves played great? No. But considering the two albatrosses he has in the line up, i think he's doing OK. 


BocaBaby
BocaBaby

@Ficklefan With all that analogy why are you not an executive in baseball?  Someone could surely use your insight.  In case you don't recognize sarcasm let me be a little more frank: If you prefer Cincinnati Delta is ready when you are.

Birdhair
Birdhair

@Ficklefan I think you're way off here. What would our record be if Bobby Cox or Dusty Baker managed the team last year or the current season with both BJ and Uggla? You know that either one of those guys would have played BJ and Uggla nearly every day and all season long. Manager isn't the big problem. It's the white haired clown GM upstairs. He puts the players on the field who cant get on base.

Baghead
Baghead

@58Supersports Supersports gets it.  We need more voice against Wren.  This is clown is not only one of the worst GMs in MLB, but in all U.S. professional sports.  Derek Lowe, Uggla, BJ Upton, and Kawakami - $215MM of wasted funds.  He should have been fired years ago.  And, he still hasn't learned!!! The recent CJ extension is flat out dumb.  FIRE WREN!

Baghead
Baghead

@CouchPotato We could get a good leadoff or major upgrade if Heyward goes alone.  

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

@CouchPotato


Not sure why everyone wants to trade Heyward! Just not a good idea.  If you try to fit a square peg in a circle..does it fit?  Well a 6'5, 245 pound guy cant hit lead off............he just cant do it! Stop putting him in a circle when he is a square! I bet dollar to dollar that if they moved him in front or sandwich him between the good Upton and Freeman..............Heyward would blow the doors off.............but this clown of a manager has no clue! 

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

@ChefTimDix


Hate to disagree with you Chef, but trading Heyward would be one of the dumbest moves this team could make...........heck they did sign BJ and Uggla so it is not out of the realm.  Read up and check out Ficklfan's post and he hit it on the nose! The problem is the manager...........you don't bat a 6'5 245 pound guy lead off...........it worked last year because you were lucky! This guy has no right being in the lead off spot. What you are doing is killing his career! This is almost like putting Fredi Freeman in the leadoff spot, because he gets on base! The Braves culture has been the same way since BC managed this team. Good pitching, good defense, wait for the three run homer! Not much has changed except we got bad defense now, and we really not driving those three run homers out the park! Change the culture of the team and this team will SKYROCKET out of the gates! Changing the culture means putting someone in the management role that knows how to manufacture runs...............someone like Terry Pendelton...........remember when he played for those Cardinal teams that would rough ride a team just with speed, and basic hitting. 

rockinreel
rockinreel

@Birdhair You got that right.  Nailed it.  We could have three hitters leading the league in strikeouts and Bobby Cox would have never ever benched them.

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

The problem I have with JHey is the hole in his swing that he has never adjust to. Here's a guy with tremendous power who refuses to keep his hands back thus has a long extended swing. He is not feared like Freeman becuase of this. He has trade value due to his contract number as does Justin.

Defensively he's great but outfield gloves are a dime a dozen...