As the Mets came into Atlanta I couldn’t help but feel that there was a great chance for redemption. After losing 4 straight games to start the season, the Braves had managed to win 5 straight including an impressive sweep over the Brewers. This team looked completely different once they returned home and I was hoping for the winning streak to continue. With Hanson on the mound I didn’t see any reason to worry.
And to be honest Tommy Hanson pitched a pretty darn good ball game. His entire outing was dictated unfortunately by one pitch. A curve ball that Ike Davis hit over the right field fence as Jason Heyward watched helplessly. Hanson was more or less cruising through the first 5 innings. The only run he allowed was in the 2nd inning where a poor pick off attempt to a not so great fielding 1st baseman Erik Hinske didn’t go as planned. This would allow the Mets to play small ball and push across a run.
As we entered the 6th inning Hanson had a reasonable pitch count and had done a great job of limiting his base runners. I know you guys aren’t reading this for a full recap of the game as you could go to a 101 different websites and find that. You come here looking for an opinion and a different take on things. However I figured I’d include just a small prelude to my point.
As we fast forward partially through the 6th inning we will find that the Mets have a runner on 3rd base with 2 outs. Tommy Hanson is still in the game and still looking relatively strong. I can honestly say that with 2 outs in the 6th inning he was still the guy that should be out. No need to lift him for the bullpen.
David Wright comes up to the plate with the go ahead run at 3rd base. Fredi Gonzalez signals for the intentional walk. As Wright headed down to 1st base I couldn’t help but scratch my head in confusion.
Now this isn’t intended to disrespect David Wright, not at all. I’m actually a very big David Wright fan as some of you know and I have a lot of respect for his abilities. And on the surface I see where Fredi was coming from because many Braves fans seemed to support the move. Wright is swinging a very hot bat and is the Mets best player, while Ike Davis has been ice cold. So you naturally would want to avoid Wright, correct? Not in my opinion.
If I were Fredi Gonzalez I would have pitched to David Wright and taken my chances with whatever outcome was intended to come my way. Why? Because David Wright is 3-20 against Tommy Hanson all time. That accounts for a .150 career average. I don’t care if you are the Virgin Mary. If you are 3-20 against someone then you can’t hit them. That’s what the numbers say. Right?
Hanson is obviously a right handed pitcher and Wright is obviously a right handed batter. Immediately that accounts for something in my opinion. If I’m going to intentionally walk a right handed batter to get to a left handed one when my pitcher is a righty then I’m going to need a lot of evidence to do so.
Wright does not have the career numbers against Hanson to warrant that walk. Hanson was forced to face the left handed Ike Davis who is not a bad hitter and who possesses a fair amount of power. He doesn’t have an impressive average at the moment but you have to remember it’s the beginning of the season. He’s hit a lot of balls hard this year that could have easily been hits.
After throwing 5 straight curve balls to Ike Davis, Hanson watches the last one fly over the right field fence. One swing later the game goes from a 1-1 tie to a 4-1 Mets lead. Of course at this point in the game that’s a decent size hole for the Braves to climb out of as their offense has shown signs of life but still hasn’t completely clicked.
If Hanson faces Wright who he has outstanding numbers against and gets the 3rd out, the game is tied going into the bottom of the 6th inning. The Braves would likely need 1 or maybe 2 runs to win this game. O’Flaherty and Venters would dominate a Mets line up that is almost all left handers, making it nearly impossible for them to get any type of rally going.
So I pose the question… What’s in the numbers? Did Fredi Gonzalez not do his homework on the Mets hitters? Did he know the numbers and ignore them? Should a game be managed by the numbers or by gut instinct. Yes, David Wright appeared to be the more intimidating batter but it was Ike Davis who ultimately burned the Braves.
By: Bob McVinua
“We haven’t had a true lead off man since 2005”. Those words were spoken by Braves GM Frank Wren right after the trade for Bourn was complete. Naturally Braves fans felt excited about the trade as it was clearly pointed out that we had filled a hole that had been missing for almost 6 years.
While were on the topic of Furcal and Bourn I think that many of you would interested in comparing the two players. Yes they are both “true” lead off hitters but there are certainly some crucial differences between the two players. The differences between the two could alter the way they would help the Braves win ball games.
Now we have to keep in mind that we are comparing the Michael Bourn of today to the Rafael Furcal of 2004-2005 time period. This is the best place to go for comparisons because they would both be roughly 28 years old. That way we can’t argue that age is a factor and they both played for the same team in the same ballpark.
SPEED: Both players are extremely fast. There’s no arguing that. However do both players use their speed in the same capacity? Not exactly. Up to this point in his career Michael Bourn has a season high of 61 steals. Rafael Furcal in his best base stealing year only had 46 steals. That’s a 15 steal difference which is pretty significant. The speed advantage goes to Michael Bourn.
POWER: Power? Yes I’m talking about lead off men and power in the same conversation. It’s something that I found to be an interesting comparison. Michael Bourn has never hit more then 5 Home Runs in a season and usually hits several less then that. Rafael Furcal during his stint with Atlanta hit double digit home runs for 4 straight seasons, topping out at 15 Home Runs twice. Timely home runs from your lead off man is nothing to over look. So the power advantage goes to Rafael Furcal.
On Base Percentage: A good lead off man gets on base right? Doesn’t matter if he walks or gets a bloop single. His job is to set the table for the 2-3-4 hitters that are coming up behind him. The first two categories saw clear cut winners. This one isn’t so cut and dry as Furcal had a .347OBP through his first 6 seasons. Bourn currently has a .339OBP as he has played several less seasons then Furcal. To me there’s no winner in this category and I’d chalk it up as a draw.
Let’s did just a little bit deeper into the Furcal and Bourn comparison. Here are some other highlights that should be observed when making this judgement call. This is based on the first 6 seasons which puts them at the same age of roughly 28. I see no real “advantage” for either player in terms of “fairness”. Stats are what they are.
Rafael Furcal: .284 batting average, 292 RBI, 924 hits, 817 games played, 38 triples
Michael Bourn: .272 batting average, 145 RBI, 597 hits, 671 games played, 32 triples
Who’s better. I’ll let you be the judge. If your asking me for my opinion, then I’m going with Rafael Furcal. It’s close and I don’t believe there is a clear cut winner. However Furcal handled the bat better then Bourn and gave the Braves some pop at the top of the order. A guy who can hit 15 home runs in the lead off spot and posses his speed, that’s no joke.