FOXSportsSouth.com checks in with play-by-play announcer Chip Caray to discuss the latest surrounding the Braves.
FOXSPORTSSOUTH.COM: It took Andrelton Simmons 52 plate appearances before he struck out for the first time this year, the best start of any everyday player in the majors. When he received his contract extension this spring, a lot of the talk revolved around whether his offense could catch up with his defense, but I think many people lose sight of the fact that he’s shown remarkable progress since late last season.
CHIP CARAY: He was one of the best hitters on team last year in the second half of the season. His reputation is obviously glove-first, but let’s not forget he hit 17 home runs. There are not a lot of shortstops in our league that hit 17 home runs and he did that.
He’s really still learning how to hit at the major league level. I think he was in the minor leagues for five minutes, it seems, and that’s a big leap and as a hitter learns on the fly, you figure it won’t go very well.
He’s a supremely talented player and where the organization is built is pitching and defense first and offense will come. He fits right into that and is going to be an elite offensive player at some point in his career. Like everything else it takes time, but what we’re seeing is fantastic.
FSS.COM: It really does stick out though, that one a team that the last three years set franchise records for strikeouts, you have a player that last year had a 8.4 percent strikeout rate and this year took more than 50 appearances at the plate to get that first K.
CC: That’s true, because the perception of this team from an offensive standpoint is all or nothing. Their either hit home runs or they don’t and when they don’t, they don’t score. We saw that the last couple of days in Philadelphia.
Simmons is a contact guy, that puts the ball in play and can be moved around and gives the manager a lot of options offensively. He may grow into a No. 2 player at some point in his career and he may move down a little bit further and be a run producer.
But that he’s doing what he’s doing hitting eighth most of the time is amazing and we already know about his, that’s the most amazing part of his game. He’s becoming more and more of a complete player and we’re certainly glad we had him.
FSS.COM: You were broadcasting Cubs games when Mark Prior and Kerry Wood came up and both faced incredibly high expectations. The same goes for Julio Teheran, who already has two one-hitters, the latest a complete game shutout. How have you seen the 23-year-old deal with the hype?
CC: I think he’s dealt with it just fine.
This is not an unknown commodity. He was the No. 1 pitching prospect in all of baseball and was in the minor leagues for a couple of years before he got to the big leagues. He stubbed his toe, went back to the minor leagues and had a bad year. He had to work back and figure some things out.
The Julio Teheran we’re seeing just now that we saw that was touted so highly by ‘Baseball America.’
I don’t think it’s fair to compare Teheran to the Prior and Wood situation in Chicago, because there were expectations for those two guys to be saviors of the ball club. Let’s not forget Carlos Zambrano was part of that as well, and he’s been in the best of the three.
When the Cubs brought pitchers to the major leagues, they were always looking for the next guy to be a star right away. It didn’t work out for Kerry Wood. He struck out 21 guys and was still very much a kid. Prior was definitely a star, but got hurt.
The beauty of the Braves system is that Julio Teheran can come up and grow into a No. 1-type guy. He doesn’t have to be the guy from the moment he picks up a major league baseball.
There’s not nearly as much pressure in Atlanta as there was in Chicago on pitchers and Julio Teheran has been able to grow up and develop and become the kind of pitcher we know he can be and is.
FSS.COM: It certainly seems that with Teheran, he’s unaffected by the situation. During that one-hitter, he was facing Chase Utley in a pressure situation and from his body language, you would think he’s throwing the second pitch of the first inning.
CC: When he first came up, his first couple of weeks in the big leagues and even his first couple starts last year, I sensed this ‘OK, am I really here? Am I really good enough?’
The turnaround that we talked about last year was the Colorado game (last April 23). To come out against that team in that ballpark in that weather and do what he did, he can pitch any place. That was a real bell-weather outing for him.
The same with Teheran this year. He did not have great stuff the first couple of starts, but he was as good as he can be the last time in the cold in very uncomfortable in Philadelphia against a tough lineup.
In the 10-year history of Citizens Bank Park, he’s the first guy that’s ever thrown a complete game shutout. That tells you what kind of stuff he had and what kind of mental toughness he had.
FSS.COM: Evan Gattis’ performance Wednesday against Cliff Lee made him the first player to go 4-for-4 or better with a home run in a 1-0 win since Roger Hornsby in 1929. It’s a remarkable feat by Gattis, but in another statistical oddity, he’s one of only three everyday players who has yet to draw a walk. It could be chalked up as an issue of plate discipline, but with a hitter as aggressive as Gattis, isn’t that just part of his makeup?
CC: I think he’s an aggressive guy. He wants to hit the ball hard. He goes up and he’s angry man at the plate and he wants to do damage.
Where someone else is going to take pitches and work the count, he’s going up there swinging and he’s going to do damage. We’re glad he’s doing that and that’s his role on this team. He’s a run producer and he’s a guy that they want swinging the bat and a guy that they want driving in runs. That’s because he’s got powers to all fields and he can put a crooked number up in a very, very big hurry against anybody, including the hardest throwers in baseball.
Speed is not his game, on-base percentage is not his game. Contact to damage ratio is his game and he’s doing a real good job of that.