Spongy New Grass Designed To Help Braves Infielders
The bright green grass at a baseball game has always been a thing of beauty, one of the many aesthetics of the sport. Groundskeepers really do some nice work out there and seem to have their fun … but is it a bit much when one tries to actually affect team performance? From Carroll Rogers:
Braves head groundskeeper Ed Mangan planted a new kind of infield grass this season in the hopes of slowing it down for the sake of the Braves infielders. The Turner Field infield is known for being quick, and Mangan planted a thicker grass he hopes will remedy that.
Atlanta could use a remedy I suppose. Their infield defense is among the worst in baseball, according to most scouting reports and advanced defensive metrics (pick any). As great as Chipper Jones has been with his bat, his overall defense hasn’t gotten a lot of compliments (excecpt that barehanded play he makes a few times a year). He’s going into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot regardless, but if he was good with the glove he could be considered one of the two or three greatest thirdbasemen of all time.
The anchor of the defense is usually the shortstop, and this year it’s rookie Tyler Pastornicky. There’s not really a definitive feel for his defense yet, but he’s projected to be on the average side of things. And then there’s Dan Uggla. He’s really, really good at hitting home runs and being jacked but he’s really, really bad at playing his position. Like worst-in-the-majors kind of bad. Freedie Freeman’s glovework has received mixed reviews. Data on firstbaseman is all over the place, but it’s not really a skill position anyway, usually reserved for the guy that can’t play anywhere else.
So that’s Atlanta’s defense in a nutshell. How does one make it better? Better conditioning? A Tom Emanski/Fred McGriff instructional video perhaps? No. Paspalum grass, of course.
Paspalum was originally found in sand dunes of South Africa, Mangan said, and is used on beach area golf courses because it can withstand a higher salt content in water … “Just looking for something to take a little bit more speed out of the ball on the infield,” Mangan said. “So far so good. So we’ll see how it pans. But just walking on it, you can tell a big difference.”
Uggla said the grass feels “spongier.” Jones said it would “take some steam” off the ball. They might be right, but it’s a little early to tell whether the new grass at the Ted will really make a difference.
It’s not like the Braves will have some sort of competitive advantage– the visitors will get to play on the spongy new grass every inning, too.
And Mangan getting to choose what type of grass the Braves use isn’t going to create any kind of controversy. Maybe if it was in New York or Boston, but not Atlanta. It’s actually pretty cool, just another quirky thing that gives baseball a personality. Now if only Mangan could use a humidifier on each baseball Chad Durbin throws so they stay in the park.