November 28, 2012 at 5:15 pm by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
According to Ken Rosenthal’s twitter, the Braves have signed BJ Upton to play centerfield. The contract being reported by @BNightengale says it is a five year $70-75m contract.
That contract seems very reasonable to me, and using a $5m per win estimation and assuming it is for $75m, the Braves are essentially expecting him to be a three win player throughout the next five years. While there are certainly risks in any long term deal, see Derek Lowe and Dan Uggla, I do like taking a gamble on Upton for this length and for this amount of money.
While it is doubtful that he outproduces Bourn’s 2012 season, he does provide the Braves with solid defense in center as well as a powerful right-handed bat that has historically hit left-handed pitchers very well.
Upton has had a few big seasons, most notably his 2007 and 2008 campaigns, and while it is true that he has never quite maximized his potential, that is one of the reasons I am in favor of signing him. It is rare that a free agent signing has the ability to actually be better than he has been. I caution everyone not to expect him to be better, but the potential for him to perform at a higher level is real.
What we are getting is essentially a 3.5 win player in a prime position during the prime of his career. He has had a history with “lackadasical” performances that may cause some to worry about his level of interest, but that is pure speculation and does not belong at a place like this where we are here to discuss baseball in a logical and reasonable manner.
If I had to make a quick projection of what to expect out of him, his season last year certainly looks reasonable. His average and on base percentage were subpar, but he hit 28 home runs and stole 31 bases in a pitcher’s ballpark.
November 13, 2012 at 4:32 pm by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
According to a twitter report from Ken Rosenthal, the Braves are in on free agent outfielder Cody Ross.
I predicted yesterday that Ross would be the left fielder for the team, and while I don’t “love” signing him I also don’t “hate” it either. I kind of like it, actually. What you can expect out of him is essetially a .320 OBP with some power and average defense. That’s not great, but it’s also not terrible.
What makes it appealing to me is his career 141 wRC+ against lefties. That would make him the best hitter on the roster against southpaws. If he stinks against righties, the Braves still have Juan Francisco to put in against them at least on occasion. Those are my quick thoughts, you guys tell me what you think, do you like targeting Cody Ross in free agency?
November 12, 2012 at 9:02 am by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
@jprice89: How bad is losing Ross to the BoSox going to hurt?
It most certainly has the potential to be a relatively big blow to the team, due to Brian McCann’s performance and injuries over the past year and a half. Since Ross came to Atlanta, the Braves had the best catching duo in baseball and it is doubtful that anyone they acquire will be of th same quality as Ross. If they sign a guy like Kelly Shoppach, they may get a hot streak out of him during the early part of the season while McCann recovers from his shoulder surgery, but the combination of Ross’s consistency both offensively and defensively in that role will be extremely difficult to replace.
@Eric_Adam10: What could Juan Francisco look like as a full timer? Any chance we reach that point?
I think he could look like Pedro Alvarez of last season if he is given regular plate appearances. I am probably a bit higher on Francisco than most, but I see the talent when he is at the plate and believe he could develop rapidly if he is able to be a bit more patient. I doubt he ever gets the shot to start on his own, but I could see him making the transition to regular ala Martin Prado. By that I mean, filling in for an injured or poorly performing player and running away with the job.
@RavensNiinja: How would you rank Fredi Gonzalez’s couching (FS09 meme) ability?
On a scale of 1-5 I think I would put him between a 4.5 and a 5. His first year was awful and his tenure in Florida wasn’t terrific either, but he did really well last year in most regards and learned a lot from the mistakes he made in 2011. He will likely never be a great manager, but if he is able to just not be terrible then the team should be able to succeed at a relatively high rate for the foreseeable future.
@Dongofrommcongo: What’syour guess on the starting OF?
My guess is just as good as anyone’s, but I’ll say Cody Ross, Denard Span, and Jason Heyward.
I hope you guys enjoyed this quick mailbag, if you have any questions you want answered send them over to me @Ben_Duronio
October 5, 2012 at 11:03 am by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
The team will exit the season with two Cy Young candidates in Kris Medlen and Craig Kimbrel, which is awesome if I must say. Not everything went well in terms of the “young veterans” in the rotation, meaning Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens, but the staff was able to battle injuries and poor performance and overall perform at a decently high level for a majority of the season, thanks to Tim Hudson, a midseason rebound from Mike Minor, an awesome stint from Ben Sheets, and some decent outings from Paul Maholm. The front office did a great job of working around the injuries to the staff that forced them to move pitchers in and out of the rotation for nearly the entire season, and they deserve credit for this team winning 94 games despite having no pitcher throw 180 or more innings.
All in all, this was a weird season in some places but a good one. The team had lackluster performances from some people they were counting on, suffered a huge injury in Brandon Beachy going down, but were able to battle adversity and put together some great stretches. This has been a streaky team all year, so let’s hope tonght starts one of those big long winning streaks that we have become accustomed to in 2012. And let us also hope that tonight is not the last time we ever see Chipper Jones play a major league baseball game.
October 5, 2012 at 10:47 am by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
With how right-handed the Cardinal lineup is, Medlen’s usage of his curveball throughout the game will be a very big key for the Braves while St. Louis is at the plate. He will face three lefty hitters, so he will not be able to utilize his changeup at the same rate as he has all season, even though he does use it against right-handed hitters more frequently than most changeup specialists do. His curveball has taken the biggest jump of any of his pitches this year, and he will have to locate it it with regularity to succeed this evening.
Both pitchers do well at keeping the ball in the ballpark and avoiding free passes. This means there will be a lot of balls put in play, so whichever team makes fewer defensive miscues will probably have an advantage. The Braves outfield defense is one of the best the league has ever seen, so they should not have many issues there. In the infield, they could run into problems outside of shortstop. Not being able to balls has been an issue all year, but what they really need to focus on is not giving away outs. The Cardinals have below average defenders at many positions, so keeping the ball in play and avoiding strikeouts will be rather important for the Braves this year to take advantage of the underwhelming defenders for St. Louis.
Cristhian Martinez has been left off the post-season roster, something I would not have done. I would have kept him over Luis Avilan, even though Martinez has reverse platoon splits. The Cardinals really only have one left-handed hitter in their lineup when you consider switch-hitters, so I am not quite sure the team needs three left-handed relievers to get through their lineup. If Fredi sticks to Venters in the sevenh and O’Flaherty in the eighth regardless of matchups, there could be problems. As mentioned, the Cardinal lineup is very right-handed so matching right-handed pitchers up with their tough right-handed bats will be key. I would also consider throwing Kimbrel for two innings if they have a lead and are facing a tough part of the Cardinal order.
October 3, 2012 at 9:20 am by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
If you follow my posts over at FanGraphs, I pick a pitcher a week to dissect and figure out why they have been successful or have struggled this year compared to years past. The matchup in the wildcard game is particularly interesting considering how surprising both pitchers have been this season. Nobody expected Kris Medlen to be the team’s best pitcher at the start of the year, and nobody expected Kyle Lohse to record a 2.86 ERA over 33 starts. After all, Lohse is just two years removed from posting a 6.55 ERA over 18 starts, so his transformation has been just as surprising as Medlen’s stellar season. Here is what we should expect on Friday from the Cardinal’s starting pitcher.
Traditionally, Lohse features a sinker heavy arsenal with his four-seam fastball used at roughly a 10% frequency, which is similar to Medlen. His sinker heavy approach has allowed him to limit walks at a tremendous rate, as his 4.4% walk rate ranks fifth in the majors. What he has done differently this season is increase the usage of his slider. Usually, the increased usage of a breaking ball would correlate with a higher walk rate, but Lohse has shown tremendous command with all of his pitches this season and posted a walk rate lower than he ever has in his career. As he has been able to maintain such a stellar walk rate, the increased usage of his breaking ball has allowed him to post a career high strikeout rate of 16.6%. Together, his 3.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio is significantly higher than his previous career high of 2.89. He has shown a great ability to pound the zone and create enough strikeouts to post a strikeout-to-walk ratio that is far above a respectable level.
One interesting note is that despite throwing his sinker at such a high rate, his 40% ground ball rate is not something to write home about. This is where I believe the Braves will have to take advantage. Since he is such a high contact hitter, they will have to get a hold of the sinker and put it in the air. Lohse has done a solid job of limiting home runs this season, and the game will be played in a slight pitcher’s ballpark, so pushing one out of the stadium will be difficult. Even so, if they can elevate his sinker slightly they could put balls into the gaps and rely on rallies to score their runs. Lohse is going to throw strikes, so being aggressive is likely the best way to attack the sinkerballer. Even though his strikeout rate is higher than usual, compared to the rest of the league it is not entirely impressive. The Braves will make contact, they just need to hope the ball lands where the fielders aren’t.
I expect this to be a pitcher’s duel, despite the Cardinal’s big bats and right-handed heavy lineup, which should slightly neutralize Kris Medlen’s changeup — though he does throw it to pitcher’s of both handedness. Lohse and Medlen are similar pitchers in that they avoid free passes, so this game will come down to who avoids hitting the ball to fielders the best. My money is on Medlen.
October 3, 2012 at 8:52 am by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
If there is one group the Braves could not have lived without this year, be it the rotation, the bullpen, the infield, or the outfield, the group to choose without a doubt would be the outfield. Here are some numbers that detail just how incredible they were this season.
All three outfielders were 6 win players or better by fWAR
All three outfielders were 5.4 win players or better by bWAR
The top three players in all of baseball by UZR are Bourn, Heyward, and Prado in order. That’s not just top three outfielders, that’s top three players. Of course, UZR has its issues, but there is no doubting that all three are tremendous defensively. On that side of the ball, I’m not sure I have personally seen a better group.
All three are in the top six in stolen bases for their respective outfield positions.
All three are in the top three of fWAR at their respective outfield positions. Heyward has been the top right fielder by WAR, while Prado has been the second best left fielder (behind Ryan Braun) and Bourn has been the third best center fielder (behind Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen).
If you have any other wild notes about the outfield, leave them in the comment section.