Wally Pipping Jason Heyward

Jason Heyward has been having a bad year. He had back pain in spring training and missed a month this year with a shoulder injury, and was criticized by teammate Chipper Jones when he announced that he didn’t want to return to the starting lineup until he was fully healthy. Heyward claims to be unaffected by injury at the moment, but it’s hard to tell just how healthy he has been: pretty much all of his offensive numbers are substantially down, even including his walk rate. It’s hard for any team to go through something like this with a phenom; after his five-win rookie year, the Braves know he’s a huge part of their future, but this year he hasn’t been good at much except grounding weakly to second base. So the Braves did the unthinkable: they benched him.

Since August 1, after the Braves acquired Michael Bourn for center field, the team has played 14 games, and Heyward has made just six starts. The other eight starts in right field have been made by Jose “George” Constanza, a 27-year old career minor leaguer called up just before the trade deadline who has hit like Jeff Francoeur in July 2005, with a .425 wOBA over the first 17 games of his career. Constanza defines the phrase “hot hand” — he had an ISO of .066 in the minors, and he’s currently riding a 5.6 percent walk rate — but the Braves seem to have decided that they might as well ride him until the league catches up to him.

Heyward made the platoon decision slightly easier on the Braves by being utterly inept against lefties this year: he has just a .260 wOBA against southpaws versus a .330 wOBA against righties. The 70 point platoon gap is even more pronounced than it was last year, when he had a 52-point gap between a .393 wOBA against righties and .341 against lefties. So Constanza has been starting against lefties while Heyward sits, occasionally coming into the game as part of a late-inning double switch, or as a pinch runner or pinch hitter.

Unfortunately, while Constanza has been tremendously productive, amassing more wins above replacement in three weeks of work than Heyward has all year, the new arrangement hasn’t suited Jason at all. Since August 1, he’s hitting .136/.269/.273, with a .143 BABIP. He’s surely getting unlucky, but he has looked uncomfortable at the plate all year, and losing his starting job hasn’t helped.

That said, the Braves’ decision probably has to do with more than the Braves’ inconsistent offense and the slumping Jason Heyward. Fredi Gonzalez is a first-year manager, and I think he is trying to send a message and set a clear precedent that will last for the rest of his tenure in the Braves clubhouse:

    1. No one receives special treatment, not even Jason Heyward.

 

    2. This is not a team where superstars play by a different set of rules: you can play yourself into the starting lineup, and you can play yourself out of the starting lineup.

 

    3. Even if you’re a callup on nobody’s radar, and you bust your ass and you produce, then you can earn some playing time even if Kevin Goldstein doesn’t think anything of you.

If that’s what Gonzalez is signaling, that’s the kind of message that is heard loud and clear by marginal prospects and organizational players, by the 12th man in the bullpen and the last man off the bench. If they all believe it, that can lead to greater clubhouse cohesion. Gonzalez is probably also reacting against the last team he managed; his last club, the Marlins, was essentially torn apart because of a superstar who didn’t play by the rules, Hanley Ramirez.

But a message is one thing, and strategy is another. Gonzalez is playing a dangerous game with Heyward’s development. Slumps happen, and the only way to work through them is to play — as the Braves admirably demonstrated by allowing Dan Uggla to play through his slump earlier this year. No one views him as a permanent platoon player, but the only way to prevent that is to let him get the experience at the major league level, and make adjustments as needed.

He’s a very intelligent hitter, with a very advanced knowledge of the strike zone, and he’s going through what may well be the hardest time he has ever had in baseball in his entire life: it’s hard for a playoff team to swallow his growing pains, but he’s going to have to have them either way, and postponing the inevitable is often suboptimal. He has been saying the right things, expressing frustration with his slump while saying he understands why the manager has benched him, but the benching clearly isn’t helping him, even if the team has benefited from Constanza’s fluky performance.

Heyward has not been good this year. He hasn’t been punished by an evil stepmother: he has seriously regressed, and it’s not clear why. His falling plate discipline is the biggest indicator that he seriously needs to work on his approach, but his infield fly ball rate has spiked from 8.4 percent last year to 23.7 percent this year, and if you have watched him play in any game this year, you’ve almost certainly seen him roll over a ball and ground it to second base. It’s hard to know what to do with a young player who suddenly starts playing a lot worse. One option is the Moustakas treatment, where the player is assured by the team that he has a starting spot no matter what. Heyward hasn’t received that. He’s been bumped.

No one on the Braves is pretending that this situation is permanent. If and when Constanza turns back into a pumpkin, Heyward will probably be re-inserted into the lineup. That will probably happen some time shortly before the beginning of the playoffs, which the Braves are on pace to enter as the Wild Card. In the meantime, the Braves will have to hope that Heyward is able to figure out his problems despite reduced opportunities to do so.




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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.


128 Responses to “Wally Pipping Jason Heyward”

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  1. Giving_Chase says:

    Double standard for a struggling Uggla, though?

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    • Could have been a mandate from the front office. Money talks.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Is it REALLY a double standard?

      Are the situation sof Uggla and Heyward all that equal in terms of past history, etc? Same thing with another situation in which double standard was accused, Hanley Ramirez & Logan Morrisson.

      In both cases, a proven vetran was allowed to play through a slump or had their flaws tolerated, but the young player was not. Is it simply a double standard based on age? Or is it a reasoned decision based on perofrmance/history?

      —————————————-

      As for Heyward, I haven’t watched many Braves games this year, but looking at his swing data, he still has good discipline and he still swings a lot (and contacts a lot) in zone.

      It looks like a lot of balls that used to be line drives are now pop ups and fly outs. That could easily be explained by mechanics that lead to dipping or being fooled by change of speeds or injury that’s creating timing issues.

      IMO, the greater concern is whether future seasons are going to negatively affected (like this one) by injuries.

      If someone that has watched the Braves this year has some observations, I’d be interested in them.

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      • bsally says:

        His swing has changed from last year, and I’m confident that’s due to adjustments he made to cope with his shoulder injury.

        Taking that into account, the absolute worst thing to do with him is to platoon him. The Braves need him to be productive this postseason, and the only way he’s going to get back on track is to iron out the kinks by getting consistent ABs.

        When Proctor got released this past month, he had been involved in more August PAs than Heyward had. Fredi’s handling of Heyward has been egregious.

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      • TK says:

        I think bsally is right and if he is, then it makes more sense that Heyward sits through his slump while Uggla played. Uggla, for lack of a better term, mostly just needed to “get things going” (that might not play well here…), while a funked up swing requires work. Heyward has been putting in more time and effort in the cages lately (Fredi has given him advanced notice that he was not starting and thus did not have to worry about being fresh for games). Hopefully, it starts paying off soon. I bet it will.

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      • NEPP says:

        Shoulder injuries suck…and take a long time to heal.

        He’ll come out on fire next year.

        ~not a Braves fan~

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    • Komagawa says:

      compare the salaries involved.

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    • Not really. First, we didn’t have a suitable replacement. Secondly, Uggla has a multi-year track record of being a great hitter. Studly as Heyward has been last year and in the minors at incredibly young ages, he has only done it for one year up in the bigs.

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  2. Travis says:

    There’s no double standard for Uggla, there was just no one to replace him with. If some journeyman 2B came up and started hitting .400 and had more WAR in a three week stretch than Uggla had all year, I bet Gonzalez would’ve done the same thing then.

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  3. paul says:

    Not really. They don’t have a replacement for Uggla at 2B. Not to mention that Uggla just might be the best offensive player in baseball the last two months. Heyward’s been pretty bad all along, and because of his position (OF), easier to replace (despite the fact that his defense is above average and Uggla’s isn’t). I still think it’s wrong to play Constanza over Heyward, unless there’s a lefty on the mound, but both Constanza and the Braves have been playing pretty well, so it’s easy to see why Fredi keeps riding the hot hand.

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    • Shaun says:

      Prado could have replaced Uggla, with Hinske going to left. Conrad and Hicks are probably better baseball players than Constanza, so they could have replaced Uggla and it would have been similar to Constanza replacing Heyward. And perhaps most importantly, Heyward was never near as bad as Uggla. Uggla past Heyward towards the end of his streak in OPS+, which tells you how bad he was early on.

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      • paul says:

        Prado was out for almost a month and a half and when he wasn’t out, Heyward was. The Braves basically played without one or the other from mid-May through mid-July. I’m not sure how your replacement theory could’ve worked.

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      • Komagawa says:

        What data do you have to support “probably better “?

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      • This “better” business is the problem with the whole debate. It doesn’t matter if Heyward is one of the “best” hitters in baseball (and trust me, I am a big fan.) He’s simply not producing, and the Braves can’t keep a player like that in the lineup when they have World Series aspirations. Gonzalez spoke to that theory with regard to pulling Delgado the other day. He said with an older player or a team that wasn’t competing for the playoffs, it would have been fine to keep him in and let him take his lumps, but because that’s not where the Braves are, he’s not going to take those kids of “developmental” risks at the expense of team performance.

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  4. Nathaniel says:

    Plus Uggla was struggling in the first half of the year, and while the Braves’ pitching was still eating opponents up.

    Now Heyward is struggling when the pennant race is in full focus and Jurrjens and Hanson have mysteriously lost their ability to miss bats, so offense is badly needed. Regardless, Heyward got the start tonight.

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    • NEPP says:

      In Jurrjens’ case is it really “mysterious” or is it rather “regression to norm”? He was never as good as he looked in the first few months.

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      • Deadpool says:

        But look at his MLB numbers minus last years injury marred campaign. He’s starting to look like one of those guys who just ‘makes it work’ peripherals or no. Not as good as early ’11, but not this bad.

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  5. CircleChange11 says:

    Fredi Gonzalez is a first-year manager, and I think he is trying to send a message and set a clear precedent that will last for the rest of his tenure in the Braves clubhouse:

    1. No one receives special treatment, not even Jason Heyward.
    2. This is not a team where superstars play by a different set of rules: you can play yourself into the starting lineup, and you can play yourself out of the starting lineup.
    3. Even if you’re a callup on nobody’s radar, and you bust your ass and you produce, then you can earn some playing time even if Kevin Goldstein doesn’t think anything of you.

    It could also be that Fredi G doesn’t want Heyward to have to work out of the slump right in the middle of a playoff chase. The two teams chasing ATL for the WC have made this less of an issue.

    ATL may have noticed that certain pitches and/or pitcher types have really been effective against Heyward and choose to sit him against those guys. There’s really a lot that could be going on, only some of which we may assume from stats, and we can assume even less from things that are not revealed to us. He also may not feel as good on some days as others, and perhaps they told him to report days that he does not feel as good as he would like.

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    • The games at the beginning of the year are just as meaningful…though

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      • Nathaniel says:

        Yes, but the more important point is that there was no one else to play second base at the time, so there was little reason not to just leave him in and let him work it out. Not that they didn’t still worry about it.

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      • Shaun says:

        Prado could have replaced Uggla, with Hinske going to left. Conrad and Hicks are probably better baseball players than Constanza, so they could have replaced Uggla and it would have been similar to Constanza replacing Heyward. And perhaps most importantly, Heyward was never near as bad as Uggla. Uggla past Heyward towards the end of his streak in OPS+, which tells you how bad he was early on.

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      • Welp says:

        “The games at the beginning of the year are just as meaningful…though”

        The are of equal value in terms of record. They are not equally meaningful though because of pressure, remaining recovery time etc.

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  6. Keith_Allen says:

    The Braves are in the Wild Card race. Heyward should be playing less if the Braves want to win.

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    • bsally says:

      The Braves are running away with the WC race. It’s far more important for them to have Heyward firing on all cylinders come playoff time.

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      • Komagawa says:

        This is very optimistic of you “running away with the WC race.” The snakes are coming into town, all they have to do is sweep that series and your “running away” will disappear.

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      • MBD says:

        The Braves’ WC lead is over the Giants, not the Diamondbacks, and it’s at 6 after tonight’s 1-0 victory. Losing 3 to AZ would be bad, but it affects the WC only if the Giants are winning at the same time.

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  7. Shaun says:

    Yeah, the problem with the “no one receives special treatment” theory is that they stuck with Uggla and they’ve stuck with Prado though he hasn’t been much better overall this season than Heyward (though maybe Fredi doesn’t realize this because he’s overrating batting average and veteran leadership).

    Seems to me the Heyward thing is mostly about an institutional bias against young player, perhaps against players making less money than others (so they feel they have to play the more expensive player), against players that don’t wear emotions on their sleeves, against players who are perceived as not playing through pain and against players who aren’t living up to expectations even if they may be the best options to play.

    If Jason Heyward looked and acted like Kevin Youkilis, would he get the same chances as Uggla and Prado?

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  8. Hurtlocker says:

    So Heyward should play because he might be very good when he gets it togeather?? This is a team sport, you play the best team that can win. He’s young, this is another learning experience. Let him take his lumps and prove he belongs in the lineup.

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    • Deadpool says:

      Constanza has had one year in the minors with an OPS above .740. He’s clearly the better player and a light turned on the day he made the bigs.

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    • Shaun says:

      Hurtlocker, so what’s good enough for Uggla and Prado is not good enough for Heyward?

      If you’re a veteran player that makes a lot of money or shows emotion or has dirt and pine tar on your uniform, you get the benefit of the doubt. If you are a tall, black player in your second season and you are unemotional on the field, you don’t.

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      • kevin says:

        second drop of race by you Shaun: BOO and idiotic.

        money does have something to do with it, why Lowe still pitches.
        but it breaks down with the fact that there are more Heyward jersey’s in the stadium and more people come to see him play. If he does not play they don’t make as much.

        bottom line is the team is playing well with the speed, can you show that with stats? not sure, I don’t look at stats but I do watch the games every night. Heyward looks lost, does not seem to work the count like he use to. Uggla did not always look lost, he struck out the same that he does now, only thing is now when he hits the ball it does not go right at somebody, that hitting was more about being unlucky than being bad, while he was still bad. You have to play through being unlucky. Not having a clue, you don’t play through that.

        Earlier on in the season you never knew what you were going to get with the team. Look at an opposing pitchers point of view, for a while we had Nate, Jason, Uggla, Gonzalez, pitcher in the line up. That is five outs out of nine needed in a line up. The pitcher believed they could get them out and if not they would get the next guy. Plus Freeman was not yet known enough to be scared of. In the current line up with Constanza in there, where you going to go for an out? Prado, Constanza and Bourn all spoil good pitches with flairs. Dan is crushing it, Mac is well Mac. Freeman is getting noticed as somebody you got to watch out for and then there is Chipper. Gonzalez is good for a DP and then the pitcher. Uggla played like crap but it did not matter, lots others were too. Pitching was top of the line so it was okay. Pitching is fading or getting figured out. Runs are important and not being hot does not help.

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  9. Kevin S. says:

    Fredi Gonzalez had Jordan Schafer batting at the top of the order because he *thought* Schafer had the highest on-base percentage of his leadoff options. You really can’t reason with that kind of stupid.

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    • Bronnt says:

      This is the real answer. Additionally, after publicly announcing that he had no idea what the OBPs of his respective starting outfield were (at the time), he admitted being surprised, and then did not change anything in his lineup after LEARNING that Schafer had a sub .300 OBP.

      There are no managers who are going to set their line-ups based on a purely Book analysis, since they have preconceived ideas and player egos to deal with, but having no idea how well your players are actually performing is a cut above standard stupid.

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      • Not being able to quote specific stats and “having no idea how well your players are actually performing” are two TOTALLY different things.

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      • Nick says:

        It wasn’t the fact he couldn’t quote their OBP. He flat-out said he didn’t know whose was highest. He actually thought Schafer’s was higher. And IIRC, Schafer was behind both by over 50 points.

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  10. whatzitmather says:

    @Kevin S. I too have a hard time giving Fredi more credit for anything more advanced than “riding the hot hand”.

    And while the Uggla situation was different in that the struggling second basemen did have much more of a track record to fall back on, the logic breaks down when you consider Heyward vs. Constanza.

    Heyward has (albeit, a much smaller sample size) a much better track record of succeeding in the major leagues than Constanza. There is a reason Constanza hasn’t sniffed a whole lot of major leage PT until now. There’s also a reason Heyward was promoted so quickly and so highly hyped. He’s toolsy, powerful, and showed the maturity and ability to actualize those tools at the ML level. These facts mean we should expect much more from Heyward in the future than we should from Constanza.

    If the issue is approach and a loss of once present plate discipline, the only thing that will iron it out is PAs (either ML or AAA).

    If a lingering injury is the issue, Chipper sure didn’t help things by criticizing Heyward during his injury.

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    • It’s not Chipper Jones’ job to coddle Heyward, who has been missing games left and right for minor injuries since the earliest days of his pro career. Now, the franchise has dealt with it because he’s going to be such a valuable part of the club for a long time, but Chipper had a point. At some point, you have to suck it up and play. That’s what Chipper was doing at that stage in his career. From 23-30, he averaged 156 games a year.

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      • Jung Keun Bong Water says:

        You’re right, it’s not Chipper’s job to coddle Heyward. It’s also not his job to rag on him in interviews. I want Heyward healthy and manning RF every game as much as the next Brave’s fan, but if something’s wrong, he needs to sit. Jason OPSed .351 last May while trying to soldier through a thumb injury, only correcting course after resting for three weeks. His shoulder issues this year apparently date back to Spring Training.

        Either Heyward has developed a tendency to hide the extent of his injuries until they’re forced into the open by increasingly poor play or the Braves clubhouse has developed the mentality that a ‘team player’ plays through the pain (e.g. Jordan Schaffer in 2009). Why not encourage Jason to sit down for a week and get right if he has a legitimate injury rather than compounding the problem by adjusting his mechanics to play through it (and ultimately missing more time as a result).

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  11. CircleChange11 says:

    One of the knocks on the CWS is that they play struggling players when they could platoon and be overall better.

    One of the tough things about young phenoms at the ML level is they may not know how to work through struggles because they’ve never struggled before. They may handke it well, they may not.

    The best way to handle Heyward IMO is to put him in situations where he’s likely to be successful. If he’s not handling changeups well, then don’t put him in against guys with good changeups and things of that nature.

    As Dunn has shiwed us, there’s no mercy at the MLB kevel and if you’ve never struggled beforw it can be a nightmare.

    My guess is that Heyward gets more time and gets into somewhat of a rythum. If his shoulder bothers him him may tend to fly open or pull off balls that he normally is right on.

    Toung guys struggling for the first time can be a delicate situatuon. Beckham, LoMo, Rasmus, etc.

    But struggling guys tend to press and that can lead to even making the situation worse. I’d love to say he’ll be right back to the same great Heyward with regular playing time, but that’s not a given.

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    • Deadpool says:

      So limit him against lefties. He’s been around average against righties. The only starts JH has gotten till today have been on days when Chipper’s been out and Cistanza played left.

      He’s not even getting PH opportunities, just some PR and defensive subs on days when Constanza starts. That’s not giving him a chance to build on anything.

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    • Nitram Odarp says:

      I don’t know if he’ll get the consistent time he needs or not. Just recently against the Mets he put together a few good PA, netting a HR and a BB in 3 trips to the plate, then promptly got pulled mid game for a double switch and sat on the bench the next two days while Constanza started. It was almost like Fredi was actively trying to keep Heyward from getting locked in.

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  12. Fredi Gonzalez told Chipper he couldn’t hit 2nd because he can’t bunt. True story.

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    • Notrotographs says:

      Ron Gardenhire says, “what’s wrong with that?”

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      • efnasefhn says:

        Gardy would add that Chipper is not a 2nd baseman, and batting anyone other than a 2b in the 2 hole is against the rules.

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    • Bronnt says:

      It’s been cast as at least partly a joke…but it’s a stupid joke. Heck, even Fredi Gonzalez should realize how stupid bunting is in the second spot now that he has a lead-off hitter who can steal bases at an 80% success rate. No sense at all in forfeiting outs for something you can potentially get for free.

      Not that it’s a huge deal-the different between Prado and Chipper in the second and sixth spots is very marginal over the remaining 38 games of the season.

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    • Ha. Ha. He was joking, and the exact exchange was:

      “I said ‘Hey, looking forward when Mac comes back, what do you think about (hitting sixth),’” Gonzalez said. “He goes ‘I don’t care. Hit me second if you want.’”

      Gonzalez kidded Jones that if he wanted to hit second, he’d have to learn how to bunt. (Jones has had three sacrifice bunts in his 18 years in the major leagues.)

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  13. Will says:

    Good use of his service time. And how is benching him going to help him “fire on all cylinders”?

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    • Deadpool says:

      He’s been hitting the ball harder lately, but Constanza seems to be having all the BABIP luck. I’m hoping that some time in the next start or two for Jason he gets a 3 for 4 or something with some xbh and forces his way back into at least a 50% playing time situation.

      My biggest fear is that Constanza has built up enough cushion to stay in the lineup everyday at a below replacement level for an extended period of time. I don’t think Freddi would pull him now until his BA for the year is below .230 (maybe lower since Fredi’s likely to convince himself that “speed doesn’t slump”)

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  14. LionoftheSenate says:

    Hayward will eventually be good, just not this year. Get over it stat geeks.

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  15. George Steinbrenner says:

    All I hear from this Constaza fellow is Jason Heyward! Jason Heyward!

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  16. Steve-O says:

    maybe the braves should get sam fuld. that would be absolute genius and then you could right about sam fuld and maybe something about the rays…

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  17. Dainer's Hubris says:

    Trade him to Toronto. They’ll know what to do with him.

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  18. Frediblows says:

    No doubt ageism going on here – Prado and JHEY have same wOBA. I just can not believe wren would let this happen. It is embarrassing to let a manager possibly screw up a potential superstar. I watch almost every game and am as frustrated as the next braves fan with the weak grounder to 2b, but you ha e to believe in someone who has dominated every level and one of the best 21 year old seasons ever

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  19. Drew says:

    Maybe it’s about expectations – same with LoMo. For example, I have fairly intelligent friends who defend the demotion of LoMo, saying he “just sucked ass”. He didn’t – but a 40 game “slump” of OPSing 700-ish really does “suck”, for him. Meanwhile guys like Chris Young and Alfonso Soriano have put up sub-600 OPSes since the ASB. But we expect that.

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  20. Telo says:

    Rem, this was a really, really great read. Hit every point on the head. I hope jhey figures it out.

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  21. tobacco cards ftw says:

    is fred-i gonzalez the dumbest manager in mlb history? i mean, he can’t even spell his name correctly.

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    • Bill says:

      Fredi is his given name. So, his mamma is so dumb that she can’t even spell her son’s name. Or, that’s a common spelling among Cubans.

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  22. MBD says:

    According to the xBABIP quick calculator, Heyward’s BABIP should be .315 (through last night) instead of the .241 that he’s gotten so far, and the xBABIP is taking into account all those pop-ups. His ISO is .173, down only 6 points from last season’s .179. His walks are down from 14.6% to 10.6%, which could be the result of pressing a bit; his strikeouts are down a little, too.

    Maybe the quick calculator should watch more games and see all those weak grounders to 2B, but the numbers say he’s been the victim of bad luck and ZiPS ROS has him pulling a .366 wOBA going forward. Admittedly, we’re getting close to the point when ROS numbers vary a lot due to rounding.

    He should play.

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    • Phantom Stranger says:

      I have actually watched all the games he has ever played at the MLB level. The decline in BABIP is due to several factors, all easily explainable. Teams have much better spray charts now on Heyward, after hundreds of PA’s. His spray patterns are very predictable at the moment if you have decent stuff and pitch him correctly.

      Swing velocity has declined from last year, resulting in balls that are not hit as hard and hence easier to field. That might be a result of the injury, I have no inside information to confirm or deny on that point.

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      • Dan in Philly says:

        This! I don’t watch the man regularly, but the defensive and pitching philosophy has just come so far in the past 10 or 15 years. Look at Howard for an example of this, who would hit for a much higher BA if defenses played him normally.

        I would love someone to point me to a serious research article on this subject, it seems sadly neglected.

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      • Howard would also hit for a much higher average if he would just bunt the ball to the left side — and so would virtually any hitter who is played with a version of the Ted Williams shift. They’re basically conceding him an infield single, which he chooses not to take.

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      • Deadpool says:

        I’m gonna disagree on swing velocity. He’s still swinging as quickly, but his swing is longer, giving it the impression of slowness.

        I don’t think he trusts his shoulder to let him turn on a ball, so he’s throwing his hands out to get around and thus rolling over everything away.

        Ftr, he took some good inside out swings last night. I think he’s almost there.

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    • cpebbles says:

      His walks are down to about where his plate discipline components say they should be.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. Coach Edwards says:

    You play to win the game.
    No one is saying that Constanza is the better player, but he is playing better now. The object for Fredi Gonzalez and the Braves is to win games and, right now, playing Constanza over Heyward gives them the best chance to win games. Sure, that will change, and likely very soon, but you can’t possibly fault a manager for trying to win games, that is after all his job.

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  24. Phantom Stranger says:

    Fredi is simply playing the hot hand now, given the general ineptitude of the offense. Jason’s disappointing year has been a big part of that, so substituting Constanza at the moment improves both speed and defense even if he wasn’t getting very hit-lucky right now.

    Heyward is the future for the Braves, but some time off should improve his focus. Use the time off to eliminate the holes in his swing that most pitchers are taking advantage of on a nightly basis.

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  25. john says:

    56 replies and no sarcastic Seinfeld jokes? I’m disappointed, FG.

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  26. Angelsjunky says:

    I wish the Angels would give Vernon Wells the Heyward Treatment and let him watch Mike Trout show him what GRITz is.

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  27. Rob says:

    Alex,

    Why are major league at bats the only way for Heyward to work through this? He’s in his age 21 season and some of his problems at the plate appear to be mechanical. If that’s the case, some time at AAA getting back into the groove he was in during 2009 and 2010 doesn’t seem unreasonable. Is there any solid evidence to show that letting future stars work through these problems in the majors (and for Heyward during a playoff race) is actually the right thing for their development? Anecdotally, I think Braves fans who dispute that approach may have another right fielder to point to, even if he was never a player of Heyward’s caliber.

    On the other hand, as you point out, it’s pretty much impossible to tell just how healthy he is. His numbers in August (as well as the time he spent on the DL) give a pretty good reason to believe he’s playing at least somewhat banged up right now, which would seem to justify the platoon, even if his current performance might not justify playing him at all.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Shaun says:

      Francoeur had red flags all over his minor league performance, accentuated in the big leagues. Heyward had very view. In Heyward’s rookie season he was much young than Francoeur in his rookie season and he put up a season that Francoeur never approached. All prospects are different. Just because they were both Braves rightfield prospects doesn’t mean there are very many similarities.

      Sending him down would have been vastly better than sitting him on the bench. But the issue is that they were patient with Uggla, they’ve been patient with Prado. A lot of inconsistencies there that point to a lack of in-depth understanding of some basic performance indicators and a bias against young players.

      I also think there is something to be said for playing him in the majors. He has nothing left to prove in the minors. One could argue that facing inferior pitching that he’s already shown he can handle will not help him advance.

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  28. J.E. says:

    Have no facts to back it up, but can’t say it’s hard to imagine that a manager who hit .199 in his minor-league career might be resentful of and consequently irrationally hard on a young stud who can coast on natural talent.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  29. M says:

    Still don’t get this ‘hot-hand’ thing. When’s it over? Is it over now? If Brandon Hicks gets called up and goes 4 for 4 is he going to start over Sea Bass because he has the ‘hot-hand’?

    I don’t get it.

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  30. Depley says:

    I wonder why it is that Derek Lowe is still starting if these are the givens?

    “1. No one receives special treatment, not even Jason Heyward.
    2. This is not a team where superstars play by a different set of rules: you can play yourself into the starting lineup, and you can play yourself out of the starting lineup.”

    You cannot tell me that Derek Lowe has pitched well enough to stay in the rotation. The only reason I can figure is the 15M salary.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Tomas says:

      Track record, remember that awesome September last year, and the fact that they want to trade him are the cause of this. When Hanson comes back, I have a hard time taking Minor out. If Lowe doesn’t getting together in his next start, Fredi has to consider taking Lowe out of the rotation, although I heard he was pondering a 6 man rotation as well.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • efnasefhn says:

      3.56 FIP…but I doubt the braves even know what FIP is

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  31. H. Peterson says:

    This article is a load of crap. You’re 3 reasons to “set a precedent” are insane.
    1. No one gets special treatment. Really? Dan Uggla didn’t get special treatment? Gonzalez has fielded well, but he’s getting special treatment at the plate. He’s horrible this year
    2. Superstars play by different rules. Please see above
    3. Youngsters can play. Unless they have a slumping Uggla or Gonzalez in front of them.

    I love Constanza, but you don’t get your phenom out of a slump by sitting him. And don’t write stupid articles when there are other guys playing that prove you wrong.

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  32. Tomas says:

    Can’t really blame Fredi, Constanza has provided so much, and Heyward so little, and in a playoff race, you play the hot hand.

    The Moustakas treatment, unfair comparison, Royals have no playoff hopes, if they did, he would probably receive the same treatment as Heyward and Dominic Brown.

    He looks healthy right now, and it shows on his PA’s lately. I don’t know much about the great stats they show in fangraphs, but I know there’s a stat that tells how lucky a player has been. I guarantee you one thing, lately he has been very unlucky hitting line drives and opposing teams. Making great plays on him. He has also had very good long at bats, and showing why he has a reputation of having a good eye at the plate.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  33. oven mitts are for pussies says:

    Prado has been just as bad as Heyward, so why is Jason the only one being benched or the “hot hand?”

    Also, speed does not a good defender make. Constanza isn’t adding value defensively. He’s pretty bad actually.

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  34. SD says:

    Here is my take on the whole Constanza vs Heyward thing.

    First off just a little about me that let’s me speak to the situation. I have played professional baseball all the way up to single A where I played with the Columbus Catfish in the Dodgers Organization (at the time).

    I am currently pursuing a masters degree in mathematics where I intend on becoming a college level statistics professor.

    These two things I believe give me a unique prospective on the situation. Now on to my thoughts.

    1. Let me get this out of the way. Heyward is clearly the superior player I don’t think that anybody on any board has refuted this.

    2. You cannot use the hot hand fallacy the way some on here try to use it. I’ll explain more later.

    3. Trying to play through a slump is often more detrimental than helpful.

    Now that those are out of the way I’ll explain in more detail.

    The hot hand fallacy is absolutely correct when determining events that are completely independent from each other like a coin flip or a card being turned over in poker. No matter what the player does he cannot change the outcome of the next card played. Thus creating the independent event.

    Evidence suggest that long term most baseball players tend to navigate towards their mean thus creating the illusion of an independent event. The problem lies when people try to use this to predict short term data where things can be completely different.

    You have to think of Jason heyward as two separate entities at the current moment. Jason Heyward A (JHA) and Jason Heyward B (JHB). JHA is what he will project career wise JHB is what his current output is. What we have to figure out is what is different between JHA and JHB because you cannot expect JHB to just suddenly turn into JHA without fixing the differences between the two.

    Right now if you watch the swing you can notice the differences right off hand.

    1. Heyward has opened his stance since last season. Probably in an effort to generate more power. I noticed it at the beginning of the season where his stance was looking more like Ryan Howards than Jason Heywards.

    2. When players try to generate more power they become pull happy and tend to drop in their swing. This easily explains the IFF%, the and ground balls to 2nd (trying to pull outside pitches instead of driving them to LF like he did last year).

    3. The shoulder injury has not helped matters in this situation. I honestly believe that it is healed hence no DL but the bad habits he has created from it are still there.

    Until he fixes these issues he will remain JHB and continue to slump. Expecting him to return to career norms just because his name is Jason Heyward is foolish.

    Then we have those saying that we are stunting his growth by not playing him, to which I reply, what if he doesn’t fix the problem in his mechanics? Continues to struggle and loses every bit of confidence that he once had? Do you not think that that would stunt his growth as well? What if him playing everyday just reinforces the bad habits he has already established? Statistically minded people (and I’m one too just not as one sided as most) argue that he will eventually return to JHA because that’s what evidence suggests. I agree with the key word being eventually because eventually he will fix these problems and JHA will return to us. Short term this is not the case.

    Now onto playing Constanza over Heyward.

    Personally I believe this is the correct call. At the current moment he gives us the better chance at winning because JHA is clearly the superior player JHB is not. Is constanza playing over his head right now? Absolutely once again don’t see many educated people refuting that. How long will it last who knows? Nobody does.

    This is where I return to the flaw in the hot hand fallacy in the short term. A player can have a direct effect on the outcome of an AB, not saying they can hit whatever they want at anytime but they can effect the outcome. Changing a stance, moving up in the box, seeing the ball well, guessing correctly, confidence level, etc. All of these minor changes can effect an AB and all can effect the next AB, thus eliminating the notion that 2 AB are completely independent events.

    Now some people claim that Constanza is getting extremely lucky and while I agree that luck has something to do with it it’s not everything to do with it.

    If we put Jason Heyward and Jose Constanza up and gave both of them the exact same results as constanza has produced since coming up and Heyward easily has 10 less hits than constanza because of the speed factor. Where Heyward has to hit the ball perfectly to reach base on an IF grounder Constanzas margin fir error is much greater because of his speed. Now luck does have something to do with it because he does have a .427 BABIP but his career minor league BABIP is right around .360. So even adjusting for this he’s dropping to the .340 range which is still producing better than JHB.

    Now being a former player I’m going to end with this. Hot streaks and cold streaks exist. To dismiss them is foolish. Too many unquantifiable events go into them to just completely dismiss them like so many extreme stat people try to do. Long term I agree with them things tend to even themselves out because long term things change. Short term it’s foolish to dismiss these all together.

    Playing constanza right now is the correct choice.

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Thanks for this analysis.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Justin says:

      “Now being a former player I’m going to end with this. Hot streaks and cold streaks exist. To dismiss them is foolish. Too many unquantifiable events go into them to just completely dismiss them like so many extreme stat people try to do. Long term I agree with them things tend to even themselves out because long term things change. Short term it’s foolish to dismiss these all together.”

      The point is that hot streaks tell you very little about what is likely to occur going forward. People aren’t dismissing the hot streaks, they’re dismissing their predictive value.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Nick says:

      In his first 10 games, Constanza had 3 XBH and 13 singles. Here are his singles:

      1) Ground-ball single barely past Omar Infante.
      2) Solid ground-ball single the other way in the 5.5 hole.
      3) Pathetic ground-ball down the 3B line. Infield single.
      4) Solid ground-ball single in the 3.5 hole.
      5) Straight up Baltimore chop over Livan Hernandez’s head. Infield single.
      6) We have a line-drive, ladies and gentlemen! Through the 5.5 hole.
      7) Bloop single that fell right behind the infield dirt at third.
      8) Line-drive through the 3.5 hole.
      9) Pathetic ground-ball that the pitcher failed to field. Infield single.
      10) Bloop, weak fly ball to left that Jason Bay probably should have caught.
      11) Pathetic ground-ball that the pitcher failed to field. Infield single.
      12) Bloop fly ball to left field that he DROPPED THE BAT WHILE HITTING.
      13) Bloop fly ball to left field.

      8 of those 13 were bloops or infield singles. Even with Constanza’s speed, that’s getting ridiculously lucky on infield grounders. Michael Bourn, a player with similar speed, has 21 IFH. Constanza already has 9.

      It’s not just his speed; it’s where he’s hitting the ball. He’s hitting these grounders in the perfect spot. Dan Uggla was doing the same during his 33-game hitting streak. IIRC Uggla had 9 IFH during his hitting streak; he has 17 on the entire season. I saw most of them and almost every single one was a slow chopper hit deep into the 5.5 hole. That’s more luck than anything else. Move it a few feet left or right and it’s a routine groundout.

      This leads me to my next point: players have little control over where the ball goes. Sure, they can somewhat direct where it goes (left, right, or middle), but after that it’s impossible to intentionally hit it where you want. From watching almost every game of Constanza’s career, it’s obvious he is just getting lucky. He’s taking half-swings, dropping the bat during his swing, and barely making contact and they’re turning into hits. It’s not anything special he’s doing.

      I disagree with you re: the hot-hand fallacy. While in the short-term players can change their stance, move up in the box, see the ball well, guess correctly, have a high confidence level, etc., but even then they can kill the ball and get out. Smoke a line drive to 3rd, but because Ryan Zimmerman is there instead of Mark Reynolds and Zim turns a double into an out despite the hitter doing everything right. Going back to Uggla, this was happening to him a good bit about a week or so before his streak began. But because the hits still weren’t falling, no one noticed.

      And that’s my biggest issue with believing in the hot hand. When does it start? When does it end? Every single day we see guys have great games without hitting the ball hard and guys have terrible games creaming every pitch. So are you no longer hot if you kill the ball for 4 outs? Do you lose your hotness by going 0-fer in 3 straight games? 8? Or can you go cold with a string of 1-hit games? During Uggla’s streak, he had 22 1-hit games. But most would consider him still hot since he was in a streak.

      Whether someone is hot or cold is usually decided in hindsight. “Oh, Uggla was cold all season until July 5th”, I’ve heard in the last month. Why July 5th? Because that’s the day his streak began.

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      • Mike says:

        I love the detailed “analysis” of his weak singles, but virtually completely glossing over Constanza’s .530 SGL %, and his 2 home runs, 1 3B, 1 2B, 6 of 7 SB, in 66 AB’s. And that’s not in his first 10 games (why did you choose that time period? The guys only played 19 games… why choose the first 10 to make your point?)

        If hot streaks don’t exist, then I guess the only alternative is that Constanza is, in fact, a .400 hitter.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Nick says:

        Mike — That analysis was done when he only had those 10 games under his belt. I don’t have his most recent ones to add to it. But even if his most recent games contained nothing but legitimate hits (which they weren’t), that doesn’t discount the fact 8 of his first 13 singles were garbage hits and in no way point to a hitter being hot. Unless by “hot”, you mean “everything worked out for the best despite poor execution”. And if you turn those 8 into outs, suddenly he’s hitting .273.

        It’s obvious why his XBH were left out: they were indisputable. They were all hit well, most of them line drives. But the majority of his numbers are coming from his singles and (at least at the time) the majority of those singles were fluky.

        If you hit for an unsustainable average like Constanza is, you’ll have a high SLG% even if 22 of your 26 hits are singles, which Constanza’s are.

        There is another alternative if hot streaks don’t exist: luck. When you get a hit on a swinging bunt, that’s luck. When you hit a seeing-eye single through the hole that barely gets past a defender with poor range, that’s luck. You as a hitter didn’t intentionally place the ball nor was the hit a result of your talent at hitting a baseball well. You got lucky. In small sample sizes, those lucky hits (or on the other end of the spectrum, unlucky outs) can make weak hitters like Constanza look great and make good hitters look bad.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Mike, in parts of seven minor league seasons, over 3164 plate appearances, Constanza’s minor league slugging percentage is .356. His slugging percentage in 363 minor league PA this season is .351.

        Meanwhile, he currently has a .530 major league slugging percentage in 19 games and 73 PA.

        Which do you think more accurately describes his power?

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      • He hit nearly .400 during his streak. Most SHOULD consider him hot.

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  35. JT Grace says:

    Jason has looked great in his last two games. Last night in the first inning he hit a solid line drive that unfortunately went right to the right fielder for the Giants. In his 2nd at bat he hit another line shot to the outfield for a single. In his third at bat he got to a 2-0 count and then they walked him to get to K Gonzalez (good strategy). Fredi is a complete fool if Jason is out of the lineup again tonight. He is looking more relaxed at the plate and he is hitting the ball hard to the outfield (no rolling over the ball). In Wednesdays game he went the other way for a single which is another good sign. He needs to build on his recent success at the plate, not go back to bench to sit.

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  36. SD says:

    Justin – long term you are correct, but hot streaks can tell you more about the next game than predicting the next game based on a players career numbers with a mechanical flaw. The issue comes down to this.

    Does JHB have more of a chance to suddenly fix his mechanical flaws and become JHA again or does Jose Constanza have a better chance of maintaining (or at least out producing JHB)? until constanza is proven that he cannot out produce what JHB is giving us then he needs to remain in there, because JC is giving us a better chance of winning than JHB.

    When I was playing I wanted to win the game no matter who was playing. In one game situations hot streaks should weigh more than career numbers if there is a noticeable difference in the players mechanics.

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    • Nick says:

      How long does it take for Constanza to prove “he cannot out produce what JHB is giving us”? And if JHB is on the bench, how do we know when he becomes more like JHA?

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  37. SD says:

    Nick – yes different defenders can cause different outcomes another reason the hot hand fallacy is flawed in this instance. But answer me this. Does the changes in the hitters approach effect the fact that he actually hit that line drive? Short answer is yes.

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  38. Jim telvin says:

    Prado is a key team leader. Heyward isn’t close to being one yet. Huge difference.

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  39. SD says:

    Nick – I’d say 20-25 PA of struggling around .200 or so is sufficient. Then change them out because at that point he is no longer out producing JHB. 4-5 games of one player over another isn’t going to change the out come significantly, but ride it out as long as he’s producing.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Nick says:

      I’ve asked this question a million times in the past 2 weeks and you’re the first person to actually give some kind of answer. Appreciate it.

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  40. Phantom Stranger says:

    Constanza on a pure speed basis is probably one of the fastest players in the league. I haven’t timed him yet but looks a tick faster than Bourn, who has led the league in steals the past three years. Constanza also looks much better in the field than Jason, whose defense has regressed if anything this year. In games as close as the Braves play, those are material advantages at the moment and the reason to play Constanza right now while he is hot.

    Prado has just not looked right at the plate since his staph infection.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  41. Thought says:

    If Jason reaches then potential, then he will be a stud regardless of him being plantooned/benched/humbled over fifty games in his sophomore season.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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