June 3, 2013 at 7:42 am by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves
For a long time the Atlanta Braves internet family has been blessed with two separate, but excellent blogs: Talking Chop and (I hope) Capitol Avenue Club. Each blog had its own character, and something of a sort of friendly sibling rivalry existed. Gondee and all the writers have been churning out lots of fantastic posts over at Talking Chop for quite some time, and Capitol Avenue Club in some ways filled in a gap by focusing on more technical, research driven postings. But in theory, there had never really been a reason why those two things couldn’t be united.
In a lot of ways this separation may have been holding us back, especially recently. One of the great joys of writing at Capitol Avenue Club is the weekly emails I get from readers who tell me that they were skeptical about the in depth ‘sabermetric’ type research we do at Capitol Avenue Club, but our articles changed their mind. However, in a lot of ways Capitol Avenue Club could be a lot like preaching to the choir, to such an extent that I would occasionally have an idea for a post, but not write it, because almost all of our readers would agree with it, and understand what I was saying already.
The thing about baseball is that it’s a simple sport. I firmly believe that the best ideas that the sabermetric community has come up with are incredibly simple: ideas like “not making outs is a good thing” and “judge players on things they can control, and not the quality of their teammates.” I believe that these ideas can mostly be communicated and understood by people who aren’t “math nerds” or wizards with an Excel spreadsheet. But in order to get these things across, we have to step out of our beloved little corner of the internet, and engage people who don’t already agree with us.
This is like coming full circle, as back when Peter started Capitol Avenue Club, it was under the guidance of Rob Neyer that his blog really took off. So it seems fitting that as we now head over under the SBNation banner, that Rob Neyer is the key figure in the baseball blog community over there.
While I know this move is a fantastic thing for both us at Capitol Avenue Club and the Braves family, it is bitter sweet. I’ve come to love this little blog and the regular commenters, and all the quirks that the wordpress format threw at me. However, the SBNation format is better suited overall to foster our growth. While Capitol Avenue Club had essentially been doubling in readership for the last 3 years in a row, it had begun to hit the ceiling of what we could really do given the sort of ‘do it yourself’ ethos of the SweetSpot Blog network and a wordpress blog that we paid for out of our pockets. The only way it could have sustained on this path is if we had made major changes, at least one of us quit our job, added lots of ads and went from there. That obviously wasn’t going to happen, as all of us are either in school or have very good jobs. So this move, in a lot of ways perfectly coincided with our personal lives and our desire to continue to see the message of Capitol Avenue Club grow.
And for our readers, I think this move is beneficial. Now you’ll be able to get a more thorough level of news all in one spot. Due to having a much larger writing staff (as many of our favorite writers from Talking Chop will be staying on over there) we’ll be able to cover much more news wise. At Capitol Avenue Club, we tended to focus less on news, and more on analysis. Now you’ll have all of that in one place.
Another thing we will be bringing to Talking Chop is the Capitol Avenue Club podcast. We are actually going to keep that name alive, and while perhaps it might be a bit confusing, we wanted to keep something around of this place. We believe that the addition of the Talking Chop staff to our podcasts will drastically enhance the quality of them, and should mean that we never have to take a week off.
If I had to describe me and Ben’s vision for the future of the combined site, it would be a combination of analytically informed journalism (much like they already produce) combined with separate posts of ‘pure’ analysis. In short, the regular scheduled type of postings and news that Talking Chop does, plus the types of posts we already do at Capitol Avenue Club. If there is an article that you don’t want to read, no big deal, just don’t click on it, haha.
I can’t express how much I’ve enjoyed writing here, since that fateful day a couple of years ago when Ben direct messaged me on twitter, asking if I wanted to join Capitol Avenue Club, as Peter was leaving. Back then it was a very daunting feeling to know that while I wasn’t replacing Peter (who could), I was the guy coming in as Peter was leaving. I feel the same way today about Gondee at Talking Chop, he’s done so much for the Braves community, and while I know that we won’t be ‘replacing him’ it is still incredibly daunting to know that we are stepping in as he’s leaving to follow other pursuits. As much as we’ve had a friendly rivalry of sorts over the years, we’ve never had anything but the utmost respect for all the work he’s put in at Talking Chop.
I speak for all the writers for Capitol Avenue Club, both past and present, when I say that this has been an incredibly rewarding experience that we’ve all enjoyed immensely. We’ve graduated a doctor (Peter), the St. Louis Rams social media guy (Kevin) and the lead beat reporter for the Augusta Chronicle (David). It’s a track record to be proud of. We’ve enjoyed the discourse. We believe we’ve made a little dent in the universe of Braves’ fanhood, but now we’re aiming to put a little bit bigger dent in it.
When Ben asked me if I (and in some sense ‘we’) wanted to make this change, I had to think about what Capitol Avenue Club was, because I certainly didn’t want to give Capitol Avenue Club up. I loved it too much. What I came to realize is that Capitol Avenue Club isn’t a web URL, it isn’t a custom wordpress design with a vaguely Braves color scheme, it is a message. It’s a message that that baseball is an interesting sport, and is better enjoyed the more clearly you understand it.
I’ve always felt that the greatest compliment I could ever give someone is that they changed the way I think about things. Bill James changed the way I think about things, as did Dan Dennett, and many untold others. Many of our regular readers and commenters here have changed the way I think about things, and I’ve probably learned just as much as I’ve taught here. For that I thank you all. And I hope that at some point we’ve managed to change the way some of you think about things. But most of all I hope we’ll continue to change the way you think about things at Talking Chop, along with a lot of new people as well.
For the curious, the current roster on Talking Chop will be:
Ben and Franklin running the site, and making posts with Mark Smith, Andrew Sisson, Ethan Purser, Anthony Almeyda, Bennett Hipp, Dan Simpson, Scott Coleman, Jacob Peterson, Faux Frank Wren making regular postings. There may be further additions (or there may not, but that is the roster we have at this juncture. As you can see, that’s eleven of the best Braves writers on the internet, all in once place, so yeah, I’m extremely excited about that.
It’s a pretty awesome time to be a Braves fan on the internet you guys.
May 30, 2013 at 5:07 pm by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
7:10 PM on Sports South
RA Dickey hasn’t been the same pitcher since his move to the AL East. He’s still striking out batters at a decent clip, but his walk and homer rates have increased, substantially in the case of the walk rate. He’s a knuckleball pitcher, and the knuckler is notoriously difficult to be consistent with, which is one of the reasons his success last season was so noteworthy. The success hasn’t continued this season in the tougher league, but he’s back against the NL tonight. So we’ll see.
The Staff Ace (TM) is on the mound tonight. This is a tough lineup, but no Brett Lawrie or JP Arencibia makes it a little easier on Minor. He’ll still have to avoid Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but if he can manage that, I think he’ll be okay. Lots of bench players in the lineup for the Braves tonight, and we’ll hope for a little magic from Pena, Schafer, and Gattis to even the series.
May 29, 2013 at 4:08 pm by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
7:10 PM on Sports South
I am both intrigued and befuddled at seeing Esmil Rogers as the starting pitcher tonight. If this is going to be an all-bullpen night, then that is one thing. But if Rogers is forced to throw 4+ innings, I’m curious what the Blue Jays are doing. Rogers is a hard-throwing right-handed reliever that will essentially throw fastball/slider. He will add in a curveball as a change-up substitute to LHH, but it’s certainly a “show me” pitch. I’ve long been intrigued by Rogers as a reliever because of the arm strength and ability to miss bats, but starting him is not something I’d anticipated. Regardless of the long-term intentions, Rogers is off to a slow start this season as he’s not nearly missing as many at-bats, and his groundball rate has severely dropped. So it’s even more interesting if the blue Jays chose to give Rogers the extended outing tonight as he’s not even performing well. I’m not sure what’s going on, but it should be interesting to watch.
Kris Medlen will take on reliever-turned-maybe starter Esmil Rogers. Medlen certainly isn’t the same guy from last year, but his walk rate is higher than it’s really ever been with the exception of his first 70 innings in the majors. It’s a puzzling situation as he’s never really had issues throwing a lot of strikes, and while his walk rate is league-average, that’s pretty bad for Medlen. It’s also a reason I think he’ll improve as the season goes on because I don’t see why he would simply lose his main talent so quickly, though his velocity continues to decrease. But we’re only a third of the way through the season, so there’s plenty of time to right the ship.
May 28, 2013 at 5:00 pm by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
I’ll be honest up front. I don’t like pitcher extensions. Pitchers get hurt more often than hitters, and considering a goal is to keep the best and highest-paid (because they are usually the better players) players on the field, you don’t really want to have large chunks of your payroll sitting on the bench. Even if you have insurance on the player, you can’t just pick up a player to fill in for the one you lost.
If you’re going to do it, Matt Moore and Tampa Bay show us the perfect example. The extension is for a pitcher who has elite stuff and has the potential to be one of the best pitchers in the sport at some point during the contract. The guaranteed money is cheap – $14M guaranteed over the first 5 years. It also covers free-agent seasons, and even more crucial is that those free-agent years are club options, which limits the risk of the contract as the big-money are not exposed. If a team wants to extend a pitcher, following this model would be ideal, though Moore was signed before he pitched a full season.
Who might fit this?
Mike Minor – Dec 26, 1987
Again if you’re going to extend a pitcher, you should probably start with the best one you’ve got, and while Minor may not fit under the “elite” column, he’s seemingly made himself into an above-average starter.
Looking at the comps, Chris Sale is probably the ceiling of what Minor could get. Sale was in serious consideration for the AL Cy Young last season, and I’d be surprised if Minor received more than sporadic votes. Jonathon Niese, however, provides a nice comparison. Neither throw particularly hard, and both pitchers improved/is improving in their second full season of starting. Niese lost a full run off of his 4.40 2010 ERA, though he didn’t really perform much differently, and Minor is well on his way to doing the same this season. Niese’s contract covers the last pre-arbitration season, all arbitration seasons, and one free-agent season in the guaranteed portion, and it adds two club options at $10 and $10.5M for the next two. Holland is another solid example, but he does throw quite a bit harder. Either way, such a contract would take Minor through his age-32 season, and it’s actually a pretty decent contract.
Kris Medlen – Dec 7, 1985
Medlen will have to pitch better than he has if he wants an extension. He’s also a solid reminder to never sign a player after his best season unless you have to. Whether or not it was the result of luck, the player likely had to put everything together to perform so well, and the chances of him repeating are low.
Matt Harrison’s extension probably provides the best comparison. Like Medlen, Harrison waited a few years into his career to really blossom, and as a result, he signed his extension a little later than most players. The arb years look like solid comparisons as Medlen makes $2.6M this year, and the free-agent seasons would make sense if Medlen can recover and pitch well in the remaining two-thirds+ of the season. The free-agent seasons are more expensive than Minor’s, but you’ll have to pay a little more because Medlen is two years closer to free-agency. Signing Medlen is a little less desirable because of the injury history, but any talks are certainly contingent on better performance moving forward.
Brandon Beachy – Sept 3, 1986
Beachy is a tough case. Coming off of Tommy John surgery, we have no idea how he will recover. He’s been throwing well, but it’s still early in the recovery process. Medlen didn’t pitch very well until nearly a year after he came back. This is a double-edged sword, of course. On one hand, the injury means that Beachy likely couldn’t ask for much, but on the other hand, the lack of leverage would likely mean Beachy wouldn’t be interested until he re-established value. That might happen with a strong half of the season. Either way, the Braves will likely pass for now because of the healing/injury risk. Beachy could well end up in Medlen’s situation next season. We’ll have to revisit this later.
Paul Maholm – June 25, 1982
I could mention Tim Hudson, and while I wouldn’t necessarily mind having Huddy back, it would probably be on a one-year deal and not worth worrying about as we’re basically looking long-term here. Maholm, who would be entering his age-32 season, could be headed for a multi-year contract. Jake Westbrook’s contract might be a decent starting point. Westbrook’s contract is basically 2 years/$18M, but while the last year of Westbrook’s contract is an option, Maholm would likely have to have it guaranteed considering the age difference and that Maholm has been better, longer.
Maholm, however, could push the fact that he’s been above-average for three years running now, and he may want something closer to 3/30 or even 4/40. Considering the possible options the Braves have in the rotation, that might be a little too much for the Braves, though it may not be an unreasonable demand. At a certain point, it might be better to just keep Hudson around for another year at a cheaper price, but I’m not sure how the market will look at a pitcher who throws mostly in the 85-87 mph range.
Julio Teheran – Jan 27, 1991
Teheran is an interesting case. While the 3.67 ERA looks nice, it’s likely not sustainable unless we see an improvement in peripherals, especially the K rate of 15%. This is just his first season, so this is plenty acceptable. But he’s not yet the pitcher his ERA suggests he is. Considering he still has 5 years of service left after this season, there’s no real reason to extend him unless he wants a Matt Moore-type deal.
Craig Kimbrel – May 28, 1988
I did a lengthy post on Kimbrel earlier in the year, and nothing has really changed all that much. In that post, I pegged Kimbrel for something around 5 years/$43M because he’s an elite closer. That’s a lot of money for a closer, but remembering that he’s the best in the game and worth about 3 wins a season, it’s not unreasonable. Of course, you have to ask if you want to take that chance – the chance of having $13M tied up in a guy who throws 70 innings on the DL because those 97 mph fastballs finally blew his arm out – but you basically have to ask that with any of these pitchers.
Out of all the pitchers on the list, Kimbrel and Minor are the only young pitchers I’d consider talking extensions with, though I’d talk to Hudson and Maholm about sticking around a little longer. Pitchers simply get hurt a lot, and if I have a limited amount of money to spend, I’d rather spend it on guys who have a better chance of staying healthy. I’d also rather spend it on guys who are or may be elite players in the future, and only Kimbrel fits that bill here.
In the next post, I’ll start to put all of this into context and start picking and choosing who gets extensions. As of right now, my only lock is Simmons because he should be rather cheap, but I’m also very interested in keeping Heyward and Upton around a very long time. But again, we’ll talk about this later this week, but feel free to make your points in the comments section.
May 28, 2013 at 10:17 am by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
12:37 PM on Sports South
Brandon Morrow is one of those guys with a lot of talent, but he just can’t avoid injuries. Morrow has never thrown 180+ innings in his career, and he’s only eclipsed 150 innings once. But alas, he can still bring it with a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s. Morrow adds a slider and a splitter to the mix (along with a smattering of three other pitches), and as you can see, his slider has ended up in the middle of the plate an awful lot this season. When we’ve looked at other sliders, they’re mainly in the lower part of the zone to the pitcher’s glove side, and a lot of it is usually out of the zone. Not so with Morrow, who is leaving the slider over the heart of the plate. It’s a significant difference from past years, and it’s probably the reason his K% has decreased while his HR/FB% has increased. Morrow’s 2013 has been replacement-level production, but I wouldn’t expect that to continue all season unless something is hurt yet again.
Paul Maholm will take the hill today, and as I said yesterday, I don’t like the match-ups for our lefties in this series. You saw part of that reason last night as this lineup’s righty power did the damage. These Blue Jays haven’t played well this season, but it’s not the offense’s fault. Maholm will have to be at his best, and his command will have to avoid the middle of the zone in this one. Morrow, however, has been struggling, and the Braves will hopefully take advantage, even with the mysterious disappearance of Justin Upton from the lineup.
May 28, 2013 at 9:00 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
The Blue Jays teed off on Braves pitching last night, final score 9-3. I’m going to go ahead and call this a four game series even though they’ll switch locations tomorrow. The probables for the rest of the series are Maholm v. Morrow (12:37), Rogers v. Medlen (7:10) and Dickey v. Minor (7:10).
Last night was an ugly one for both Tim Hudson and the relievers. The Blue Jays brought their big bats, putting up nine runs on 11 hits (six extra bases). The big debate on Twitter last night was centered around Hudson. It ranged from “he’s getting unlucky” to “he just plain sucks at this point”. I think he is somewhere between the two. Before the season began, I had my concerns about Hudson, like most, about various baseball dynamics working against him. I thought he would lose a notable step in his performance level this season, even if he was able to go through the season healthy. That is what it looks like what we are seeing at this point, but I also believe he is getting a bit unlucky.
Just taking a quick graze over the numbers, his 3.79 xFIP and 4.16 FIP do indicate he has outpitched what his 5.37 ERA would suggest. Hudson has outpitched both these ERA estimators over his career by 0.30 points, so we could think he is due for some sort of regression. From where? Well his current LOB%, 64.1% should move closer to his 73.7% career mark, so he had been getting a bit unlucky with men on base. Another thing that makes this kind of odd is that his K% is currently above his career rate, something you don’t usually see from an aging pitcher especially a ~4% jump from 2012′s rate. A final thing that stands out to me is the contact hitters are making is about 5% less than it was last season, which almost doubles to around 10% less on pitches outside the zone. Missing more bats would seem to have the opposite effect in the long run, if it can be sustained. Obviously, the results have been subpar which may already sway your opinion if you projected him to take a noticeable step back this season, but after looking at some key peripherals, there are still reasons to think the amount of runs he has given up will start to come at a lower rate.
Buster Olney wrote a piece for ESPN Insider yesterday discussing probably the Braves biggest issue right now, their bullpen. We have discussed it a bit on here but the hope is the club can piece it together when Walden (and hopefully Martinez) gets back and reevaluate the situation closer to the deadline once a trade market starts to form. At that point the Braves will have their best opportunity to make a deal for the reliever. Trading for anything now will likely result in an overpay that is probably unnecessary at this point in time.
Jonah Keri ranks the Braves as the fourth best team this week and discusses getting #Gattitude into the lineup.
May 27, 2013 at 4:17 pm by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
7:07 PM on MLB Network
You’ll notice that the Rogers Centre is basically just smaller than Turner Field, and with most of it inside of a dome (there’s a retractable roof), there’s no wind to knock balls down. The park plays a bit small despite the high walls, and there should be plenty of offense to go around this series.
Blue Jays ISO Maps
According to wOBA, the Blue Jays have a similar quality offense to the Braves, and they have similar power (.170 ISOs for both). The lineup starts with Melky Cabrera, and despite your feelings toward him, he can hit, though power has never been his calling card. Jose Bautista hits next in an ingenious move, and he’s just destructive. Edwin Encarnacion isn’t a whole lot nicer, and he doesn’t strike out much. Adam Lind is having a resurrection-type season, and it’s best to go up-and-in or low-and-away. JP Arencibia has massive power, but he also has massive holes in his swing (see upper part of zone). Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie aren’t having the greatest years, but they are both capable of stretches of brilliance. And the last two guys aren’t much to worry about in the power department, but Emilio Bonifacio can be a nuisance if he gets on base, though he’s not doing a lot of that at the moment. Most of the talent in this lineup is right-handed, which will help Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen but will hurt Paul Maholm and Mike Minor.
We all know who Mark Buehrle is at this point. He’s a soft-tosser who works quickly and throws strikes. Buerhle has basically been the exact same pitcher in the AL East except he’s not getting away with things as he had been, and his walk and home run rates have increased. In a weird twist, he seems to throw as many strikes with his breaking pitches as with his fastball, and considering the velocity of those pitches and Buherle’s command, you wonder if he uses them as chase pitches now, knowing they have a decent chance of being pounded. Soft-tossers gives the Braves fits, so while Buerlhe is having a rough time this year, the Braves might end up helping him out.
Tim Hudson hasn’t really been as bad as his 4.98 ERA indicates. His strikeout rate is up while keeping his walk rate at normal levels, but his groundball rate continues to decrease and his home run rate is up. It could be an indication that the cliff might be coming, but at the same time, his FIP is 3.74 even with the increased home run rate. That being said, trying to get regression going at the same time you face a pretty good Blue Jays lineup isn’t the most ideal situation. I’m not a huge fan of this match-up tonight, but the Braves remain the better team.