2 Potential Problems for the Atlanta Braves at STP.

Mar 31, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; General view of SunTrust Park before a game between the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; General view of SunTrust Park before a game between the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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Mar 31, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; General view of SunTrust Park before a game between the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; General view of SunTrust Park before a game between the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Braves christened Sun Trust Park over the last week and from all accounts the park itself passed all the test.

Overall, the suits that run the Atlanta Braves have to be ecstatic how the first home stand went.

I heard or read separate reports about parking being easier than expected, traffic being less catastrophic than feared, and the Battery around the park being a pretty incredible experience.

As nice as all that is though, the most exciting part about this past week, at least for me, was finally seeing how the Braves new home park was going to play.

One of the great things about baseball is there is no uniform playing surface. Dimensions and wall heights vary. Every city is unique. Every park plays differently and we we finally got to see real baseball with real major leaguers in the new park.

Early on, we’ve begun to see some trends:

  1. Left handed power plays
  2. RH fly ball pitchers are going to struggle

Now before we get too far down this road let me insert the necessary qualifier: It’s still very early. I get that. These aren’t trends that are guaranteed to continue and therefore something that has to be addressed immediately. This is more of a “something to keep an eye on” post.

Okay, with the piece sufficiently qualified, let’s move on.

The most important reason for understanding how your home park plays is so the team can be built to maximize its strength and minimize its weaknesses. Ask Colorado about that concept.

And obviously by the title, this is where I see a bit of a problem.

Let’s start with LH Power

We all know about Freddie Freeman. He’s incredible. I wrote a piece in the off-season about how his batted ball data showed his break out year in 2016 wasn’t a fluke and he was monster in the making.

So far Freddie is making me look smart. David Cameron just wrote he may be the best non-Trout hitter in baseball. Yeah. Beast.

But after Freeman, the organization is relatively bare in the LH power department.  Power hitters in general are an area where the system needs to be improved but the few that are there are RH.

The team just traded for Matt Kemp and Alex Jackson, they recently drafted Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna, Christian Pache, Travis Demeritte, Dustin Peterson. All right-handed.

Now there’s nothing that says a right handed power hitter can’t hit the ball out to RF but obviously pull power is much easier to tap into.

Braxton Davidson is technically a left handed power hitting prospect but his development hit a wall a couple years ago and so far, the wall is winning. There’s also of course switch-hitting super prospect Kevin Maitan but he’s 3-4 years away if everything goes perfect.

That leaves Rio Ruiz. The 3B prospect acquired in the Evan Gattis trade has shown flashes of being a major-league hitter, more against RHP, and is at least interesting enough to follow.

Overall the team has seemed to focus more on RH power over the last couple years but now that we’ve seen the way the ball flies out to right field – I see you Ender – you do wonder if they’ll look to acquire more left handed pop.

The second part is a little more alarming.

Mar 31, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; General view of SunTrust Park during a game between the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves in the second inning. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; General view of SunTrust Park during a game between the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves in the second inning. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

Pitchers Plight

Because the jet stream in STP seems like it flies out to RF and RCF, right handed fly ball pitchers theoretically are going to have a hard time maintaining success. Again, please don’t take this as gospel. We’re dealing with the very small samples and projecting a bit here.

But two of Atlanta’s current starting pitchers fit the RH fly ball profile: Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz. Here’s a table from last year:

As you can see Julio and Folty already allow well above average fly ball rates. But where the numbers really jump is against LHB. And the results show in their overall numbers.

Against LHB, Teheran allows a .455 SLG% vs a .319 SLG% vs RHB. Folty’s SLG% allowed vs LHB is .520. Those are large numbers and given how much more damage the league does on fly balls vs ground balls, you can be assured both their fly ball rates are the main culprit.

Atlanta Braves
Atlanta Braves /

Atlanta Braves

Simply put, Teheran and Foltynewicz would have benefited greatly from a park that suppresses left handed power.

It’s the area they struggle most. Instead what they got was a jet stream out to right field and I’m very curious how this is going to go.

The team wants these two guys to anchor the rotation for the future and then they went and built a park that isn’t going to do them any favors.

This doesn’t mean these guys can’t make adjustments when pitching at home but if there was an easy way for them to handle lefties better, they would have done it already.

It also doesn’t mean the park will always play like this. The Battery around the park is in a constant state of change. Who knows if one big building somewhere around park changes how the ball flies?

Next: I'm Starting to Feel a Draft in Here

Just something interesting to keep an eye on.

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