After a hot start, Constanza sputtered to the finish line.
Building off of Jacob's review of Jason Heyward, it's time to talk about Jose Constanza and Matt Diaz, who both took playing time away from Heyward during the season.
Neither player of course started the year with the Braves. Constanza was called up in late July after Nate McLouth injured his oblique and was put on the disabled list. Our old friend Diaz signed a two-year, $4.25 million deal with Pittsburgh this past off-season, but was traded to Atlanta on the last day trades could be made on August 31st.
Let's take a look at what both did for Atlanta and what the future holds for them.
The 28-year old career minor leaguer finally got a chance to play in the major leagues, and made a big impression for about his first two weeks in Atlanta. From July 29th when he made his major league debut to August 15th, Constanza was on fire and was a constant in the lineup at Jason Heyward's expense.
A speedy slap-hitter who hit all of six home runs in seven minor league seasons, Constanza hit two home runs in his first 16 major league games. In those 16 games, he put up a ridiculous line of .414/.452/.569/1.021 with five steals. That line was helped out thanks to an also ridiculous .431 BABIP.
During that two week period, he was an incredibly fun player to watch and provided a boost to the Braves lineup.
However, after August 15th, Constanza crashed back down to earth as was expected. From August 16th to his last start on September 6th, he posted a line of .205/.239/.205/.444 but still earned 12 starts during this time. It's safe to say that Fredi Gonzalez stuck with Constanza too long after it was obvious he wasn't performing well.
Once he did cool down and was finally taken out of the lineup, Constanza wasn't used much at all down the stretch. Some Braves fans have complained about this, but Constanza failed to record a hit after September 5th and his batting average tumbled from .414 to .303 in the span of August 15th to the end of the season. When balls stopped finding holes, his great speed was useless. He recorded only six walks in 109 plate appearances.
Constanza finished with a line of .303/.339/.385/.724 and a fWAR of 0.8 for the season.
Going forward, I don't see Constanza as anything more than a 5th outfielder at the major league level, and he certainly isn't a starting major league outfielder.
A fan favorite in Atlanta, Matt Diaz made his return in a trade with the Pirates as the Braves sought to improve their bench for the stretch run. Diaz is well known for his ability to hit left-handed pitching, something Atlanta struggled with in 2011. He possess a career line of .328/.367/.506 against lefties, which is fantastic.
Unfortunately for Diaz, he suffered a power outage in 2011. After hitting seven home runs in 244 PA's in 2010, Diaz failed to hit a single home run in 268 PA's in 2011. His isolated power dropped considerably as well, from .188 in 2010 to .060 this past season.
After arriving in Atlanta, Diaz was put into a platoon in right field with Heyward and started 10 games for the Braves down the stretch.
Some hoped that a change in scenery back to Atlanta would bring back his power, but that was not the case. Diaz recorded 10 hits as a Brave in 2011, with only one of them going for extra bases (a double).
He posted a line of .286/.297/.314/.612 in an Atlanta uniform this year. The average looks nice, but there's no secondary offensive value in that line.
Looking to 2012, Diaz is under contract for $2 million. How Atlanta views him will be very interesting, as that's a lot of money for a player who it seems has lost all of his power. Diaz is a nice piece to have on the bench because of his ability to hit left-handed pitching, but he needs some of his power to return to provide value.