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Jeff Baker Acquired by the Atlanta Braves in a Subtly Brilliant Move

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 22:  Jeff Baker #18 of the Detroit Tigers swings and breaks his bat during a MLB game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park on August 22, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
Dave Reginek/Getty Images
Gavin AndrewsCorrespondent IISeptember 1, 2012

On August 31, 2012, the Atlanta Braves made a deadline deal that rounded out the club in a very significant way: they acquired Jeff Baker.

Hold on, hold on.  Hear me out.  I'm actually being completely serious here.

The Atlanta Braves do not hit left-handed pitchers—this is a fact of life.  The lineup stacked with four left-handed bats (and a switch-hitter whose power comes almost exclusively from the right side) has hit .247 with a .317 OBP and a .382 SLG against lefties in 2012.  

Dan Uggla, one of the right-handed bats responsible for hitting lefties well, has posted a .239 career average against southpaws, a ways south of his .258 career average against righties.

So consider this: Atlanta just added an infielder (who primarily plays second base) with a career slash line of .298/.346/.505/.851 against lefties.  

Now the move becomes more interesting, doesn't it?

Before the Baker deal, the Braves boasted the best bench in baseball.  Amongst Atlanta's reserves were a veteran catcher capable of reaching 20 home runs, a third baseman with ridiculous power (no really—the power Juan Francisco possesses is quite silly), and a gutsy fourth outfielder with plenty of hustle who may just be the best pinch-hitter in the game.

Atlanta then decided to bolster its left-handed hitting supply by signing first baseman Lyle Overbay, who got on base at nearly a .370 clip in 110 plate appearances with Arizona earlier this season.  A professional hitter, Overbay will compete with Eric Hinske, who has been completely ineffective in 2012, for playing time.  

And if Hinske continues playing like he has this season, Overbay and his career .354 OBP will win out.

With the left-handed bench bat shored up, the Braves then turned to their infield, and found that Tyler Pastornicky's .289 OBP was simply not good enough to continue getting at-bats.  Enter: Jeff Baker, the veteran infielder who can play both second base and first, and who is OPSing .851 against lefties on his career.

Suddenly, Atlanta has five viable bench options.  Baker even has the potential to start at second against southpaws if he can live up to his career averages.

Far from a glamorous move, Atlanta has solidified its bench and strengthened one of its biggest weaknesses by acquiring Jeff Baker.

That's probably a sentence you never expected to read.

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