September 28, 2012 at 3:14 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves, Chipper Jones
As I linked to in the news post today, Jayson Stark of ESPN wrote a great piece on the biggest accomplishments of Chipper Jones’ career, getting the opinions of several around the organization. It’s well worth a read in full, but I want to focus on one aspect that was mentioned on Twitter after the article was posted.
Feat No. 5 in Stark’s article is titled, “The greatest No. 1 overall pick ever.” Such a big claim is worth looking into deeper. Braves.com’s Teddy Cahill and I spoke back and forth briefly on Twitter yesterday after he brought up the topic, and you can follow the link to read our conversation in full. But this really highlights the point of it: “Right. Which makes this a philosophical question and there’s probably no right answer.”
So while I’m looking deeper into the topic, this isn’t an end-all post on the subject. People view the purpose of the draft in different ways. One way is that you try to get the most potential value for your big league club that will stay in the organization as long as possible. Another way is that you try to get the most potential value for your big league club by utilizing the draft selection in whatever way necessary to get equal value, such as trading him or receiving draft compensation as a free agent.
Chipper’s situation with the Braves obviously falls into the first category. He has played 18 seasons for the Braves, compiling a total of 90.3 fWAR, with a career line of .304/.401/.530 and .398 wOBA and 142 wRC+. He earned all of this for one team as a No. 1 overall draft pick. If that isn’t the very definition of value from a draft pick, I don’t know what is.
From Stark’s article: The GM’s take: Maybe Griffey and Alex Rodriguez can stake their claims to the title of Greatest No. 1 Pick Ever. But at the very least, says Braves GM Frank Wren, Chipper is the guy who’s had “the greatest value to the organization that picked him. How about that? I think you could make that case, from a standpoint of, he’s spent his whole career with one organization, and had a Hall of Fame career, whereas other guys haven’t necessarily done that.”
So yes, there’s no doubt Alex Rodriguez is the greatest No. 1 overall draft pick as a player. He has compiled 114.7 fWAR with a career .300/.384/.561, a .404 wOBA and 146 wRC+. He’s the best player to ever be chosen No. 1 overall in a draft.
But Rodriguez only gave the Mariners seven years of these numbers. Take away his two years of getting his feet wet as a teenager and he gave the Mariners 37.2 wins above replacement. Rodriguez then bolted for Texas and that mammoth contract, leaving Seattle with draft pick compensation in the form of Michael Garciaparra and Rene Rivera. Garciaparra never made the majors. Rivera played 53 games for Seattle and is currently a minor leaguer for the Twins. It’s safe to say the Mariners didn’t get as much value out of Rodriguez as the Braves did Chipper.
Then there’s Ken Griffey Jr., who is the best contender for Chipper’s title as most valuable to his team. Griffey’s final numbers were 83.9 fWAR, .284/.370/.538, .385 wOBA and 133 wRC+. But he gave the Mariners 11 years at a total of 73 wins above replacement.
Griffey was traded to the Reds at age 30 season for Brett Tomko, Mike Cameron, Antonio Perez and Jake Meyer. Tomko’s final value with the Mariners was exactly replacement level while throwing only 127 innings over two seasons. Neither minor leaguer ever pitched for Seattle.
Cameron, on the other hand, gave the Mariners his best years, earning 19.7 fWAR over four seasons. If you add that total to Griffey’s, the two combined for 92.7 fWAR, surpassing Chipper’s mark with the Braves.
So that’s something to think about. What defines value from a draft pick? As Cahill said, it’s a philosophical question, and people will view it in different ways. I’m of the opinion that what Chipper gave the Braves himself as a first overall pick has meant the most among the three. Others may think differently. That’s what makes it interesting.
September 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game 1 vs. Mets
The final home series of the regular season begins after the Braves swept the Marlins to finish their season series at 14-4 Atlanta. The Braves enter the Mets series at 10-5 against New York this season.
Jon Niese will pitch against Tim Hudson in the series opener. Niese has a 3.49 ERA and 3.76 FIP on the season, including a 20% strikeout rate and 6.1% walk rate in 183.1 innings. As I’ve written before, Niese has taken a step up this season at 25 years old, already throwing a career high in innings while setting a career best in ERA. He’s allowing a little more than one home run per nine, causing a slight increase in FIP from a year ago, but he’s maintaining good strikeout numbers while keeping his walk rate respectable.
Niese gave up one run over six innings in his last outing against the Braves on Sept. 7. He also faced them Aug. 12, allowing one run over eight innings. The Braves have some work to do if they want to keep their winning streak alive.
Hudson rebounded from consecutive poor starts to throw 7.1 solid innings against the Phillies last time out, allowing a lone unearned run on two hits. His ground ball rate remained low in the game, but he showed better command and didn’t let home runs beat him.
Today is Chipper Jones Appreciation Day, as the Braves will honor Chipper prior to the game in what is his last regular season home series.
Double Totals and Prado
Martin Prado reached 40 doubles on Thursday, making him the first Braves hitter to reach the mark since he did it himself in 2010. Going back 10 years, Brian McCann had 42 doubles in 2008, Chipper Jones and Jeff Francoeur each reached 40 in 2007, Edgar Renteria had 40 in 2006, and Marcus Giles had 45 in 2005 and 49 in 2003.
While Prado may not reach his home run total from last season, he has seen an increase in doubles from 26 to 40, bumping his ISO from .125 to .136. However, comparing to his better 2009 and 2010 seasons, his ISO in 2012 isn’t quite as high, as he posted .150s those previous two seasons.
One of the best parts of Prado’s 2012 season is the increase in walks to 8.2%, raising his on-base numbers and providing more value in that way. His power may have seen a slight drop off from his previous two best years, but he’s getting on base and providing sound defense across the field, upping his fWAR to a career-high 5.5.
Braves.com recap for Thursday’s win.
AJC quotes following Thursday’s win. Fredi Gonzalez on Tommy Hanson: “He did OK. He kept us in the ballgame. He kind of scattered the ball around a little bit command-wise, but he made some pitches when he had to and only gave up two runs. We were able to score some runs for him and shut it down there with our bullpen. So he did OK.”
Several big names in the Braves organization or history spoke on Chipper Jones in a Mark Bowman article.
Michael Bourn has a slight sprain in his sore left thumb following an MRI. One would think Bourn will get a few games in before the wild card game, but we’ll see how the thumb feels each day this weekend.
Chipper Jones answers questions from Carroll Rogers of the AJC. A lot of this is stuff you’ve already read, but it’s still a great Q&A.
Jayson Stark does a great job of highlighting some of Chipper’s greatest accomplishments.
David Schoenfield gives his best moments of Chipper’s career, including a blurb from me and a link to my post on Chipper’s 10 most valuable games by WPA.
ESPN’s Triple Play series focuses on the NL Cy Young race, including whether Craig Kimbrel should be involved.
Jim Bowden guesses the rosters for the NL wild card game (ESPN Insider). We’ll analyze the roster when it becomes finalized.
Doug Thorburn of Baseball Prospectus analyzes Hanson’s mechanics and diagnoses the issues, namely timing and potential injury problems down the road.
Tyler Kepner of The New York Times has a great piece on Kris Medlen’s season.
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs looks at the free agent value of Bourn and what he might get on the market compared to what he’s worth.
September 27, 2012 at 10:12 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game MVP: Andrelton Simmons, .199
Least Valuable Brave: Jason Heyward, -.108
Most Valuable Marlin: Carlos Lee, .178
Least Valuable Marlin: Gorkys Hernandez, -.128
3rd – (MIA) Carlos Lee RBI double for a 1-0 Marlins lead, .128
4th – (MIA) Gil Velazquez RBI double for a 2-0 Marlins lead, .110
4th – (ATL) Dan Uggla RBI double for a 2-1 Marlins lead, .132
4th – (ATL) Andrelton Simmons RBI double for a 2-2 tie, .168
4th – (ATL) Error scored two for a 4-2 Braves lead, .225
Tommy Hanson got down early by giving up two RBI doubles in the first four innings, but he was able to last the usual 5.1 innings, walking two and striking out four while throwing 92 pitches.
The bottom half of the Braves lineup was the victor this time as Andrelton Simmons had two hits, including the game-tying double in the fourth, and Dan Uggla added two hits and three RBIs. David Ross also had two singles in between.
Martin Prado added a double to make it 40 on the season.
The Braves are certainly doing everything they can to catch the Nationals, but Washington isn’t cooperating, and it appears they will win again tonight, barring something crazy.
Edit: The Nationals did indeed win, making it four games back with six to play.
September 27, 2012 at 11:38 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game 3 vs. Marlins
The Braves made sure of at least a series win against the Marlins with a 3-0 win on Wednesday. Paul Maholm pitched 6.2 scoreless innings for a 70 game score, while Martin Prado went deep and drove in two. The Braves reached 90 wins with the victory but remain four back of the Nationals with seven to play.
Tommy Hanson will face Jacob Turner in the series finale. Turner was listed as the Tigers’ No. 1 prospect this year before being traded in the Anibal Sanchez deal. He’s had a rough go of it in 41.1 major league innings, recording a 5.23 ERA and 5.43 FIP. But he has flashed the talent that made him a No. 1 prospect, such as seven shutout innings against the NL Central-winning Reds on Sept. 14.
Turner’s biggest strength is variations of a very good fastball that runs 90-95, showing the ability to cut, sink and run arm-side. He also has a plus power curve in the high-70s that he goes to for strikeouts, as well as a good changeup.
After a few good-enough outings from Hanson, he went back to being a pumpkin last time out, allowing five runs in 5.1 innings to the Phillies. While his control has been better lately, his command remains weak, and he lacks the stuff to overcome it. Whether his shoulder is dead or his stuff and command have simply dropped off with fatigue, only he knows. But each five-plus-inning start means one fewer as a Brave, in my opinion.
Appy League Ranking
Baseball America rolled out its top 20 prospects in the Appalachian League. Braves prospects are Mauricio Cabrera (5th), Lucas Sims (6th) and Jose Peraza (18th).
Cabrera had a 2.97 ERA in 57.2 innings at Danville this season, including 48 strikeouts to 23 walks. He was ranked 21st on our midseason list, and Ethan said at the time: “Mauricio Cabrera is one of the most exciting arms in the system. Equipped with three potential above-average offerings, the 18-year-old Dominican right-hander has pitched exceptionally well in the Appalachian League, which is loaded with older college hitters. … Mauricio could be a top-5 prospect within the next year or so. Follow this kid.”
Many will remember Sims as the Braves’ first-round pick this year out of Brookwood High School in the Atlanta area. After three good starts in the GCL, he had a 4.33 ERA in 27 innings for Danville to end the season. The best part of his stint there was the 29 strikeouts to 12 walks, which is a good start for a kid fresh out of high school in the rookie league. Ethan: “All in all, Sims is definitely a special talent and garners close attention over the next couple of years. His ceiling resides near the top of the rotation thanks to a projectable three-pitch mix.”
Peraza put up a solid .281/.351/.339 line in 136 plate appearances at Danville as an 18-year-old. He hit our midseason list at 22nd. Ethan: “Jose offers a combination of defense, speed, and contact ability, and this is a nice package on which to build for an 18-year-old physically undeveloped shortstop that is knocking on the door to full-season ball.”
Braves.com recap for Wednesday’s win.
AJC quotes following Wednesday’s win. Paul Maholm: “Going out there the first few innings were trying to find the rhythm and get back into it. And going out for the third I felt like I found my rhythm and was able to pretty much throw every pitch for a strike.”
Per notes, another mention of Craig Kimbrel striking out four in one inning last night, and more details of the Braves honoring Chipper Jones on Friday. Also, Brian McCann played his 1,000th career game yesterday, making him the fourth catcher to reach that mark for the Braves; Joe Torre, Javy Lopez and Del Crandall are the other three.
In Maholm’s start Wednesday, according to ESPN Stats & Info, the Marlins swung at 15 two-strike pitches out of the zone from the left-hander (ESPN Insider).
Yahoo’s Tim Brown talks on Kris Medlen’s season.
Mark Polishuk of MLB Trade Rumors looks at Medlen as an extension candidate.
Grant Brisbee of SB Nation writes on the wild card berth for the Braves.
Danny Knobler of CBS Sports writes on the Braves staying patient after last year.
Rob Neyer does the same.
September 27, 2012 at 1:54 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game MVP: Paul Maholm, 70 game score
Least Valuable Brave: Freddie Freeman, -.046
Most Valuable Marlin: Gil Velazquez, .033
Least Valuable Marlin: Bryan Petersen, -.121
1st – (ATL) Martin Prado solo homer for a 1-0 Braves lead, .117
Paul Maholm didn’t need Miami’s ballpark to have a strong outing against the Marlins. In fact, he did even better at home, throwing 6.2 shutout innings with no walks and six strikeouts. Maholm had 11 ground balls to just five fly balls and three line drives in this game. He was very efficient, throwing 72 strikes out of 104 pitches.
According to the AP, Craig Kimbrel became the first Brave to strike out four batters in one inning since Mark Wohlers in 1995.
The Braves reached 90 wins for the second time since the division title streak ended in 2006.
The Nationals beat the Phillies 8-4, meaning Washington remains on top in the NL East by four games with seven to play.
September 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game 2 vs. Marlins
While the Braves clinched a playoff spot Tuesday with a dramatic walk-off home run by Freddie Freeman, by no means are they cruising the rest of the way. They are close to solidifying the home spot in the wild card while sitting four games out in the NL East with eight games to play. While it’s a large number to overcome, we know well that anything is possible over a week’s worth of games.
And so it continues with Josh Johnson on the mound for the Marlins against Paul Maholm. While the Braves didn’t light Johnson up the last time the two faced, they were able to avoid a high strikeout total while scoring three runs in six innings. As was mentioned at the time, the Braves did well to avoid whiffs on the slider and pinpointed other pitches, and expect more of the same tonight.
Maholm took advantage of the spacious Miami park last time out, allowing two runs in 6.2 innings with just one walk and five strikeouts. For a fly ball pitcher like Maholm, outings against a weak offense in a park that big sum up to excellent nights. While Turner Field isn’t Miami, it’s still neutral, and the Marlins offense remains weak.
Braves.com recap for Tuesday’s win.
AJC quotes following Tuesday’s win. Freddie Freeman: “This is the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Chipper Jones: “There was never any doubt. We knew that last year was somewhat of a fluke. We kind of got caught not really knowing what to expect. A lot of these guys they took the attitude of trying to hang on, this year we took the bull by the horns and we were like we were shooting for the stars. We’re still shooting for the division until they close us out. and we’ll let the wild card be a byproduct of finishing second and coming up short. But we’ve still got life.”
Mark Bowman gives 10 reasons why the Braves are in the postseason.
Michael Bourn is expected to return to the lineup today. Bourn has missed the last two games with a jammed left thumb. Also in notes, Fredi Gonzalez and Jeffrey Loria go at it, Paul Janish is expected to undergo surgery in the offseason for his dislocated shoulder, and minor league pitcher Greg Ross is the player to be named later in the Jeff Baker deal. Janish is still hopeful for the NLDS if the Braves reach the series.
The AJC has a slideshow of photos from the celebration last night.
ESPN Stats & Info has some good notes on the game last night. Included: “Freeman is the seventh player in major league history to hit a walk-off home run to clinch a team’s postseason berth.
He is just the second, however, to hit the game-winning homer with his team trailing in the game. The other was Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” for the 1951 New York Giants.”
Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs lists the most valuable games of Jack Wilson’s career as a tribute to his retirement.
September 25, 2012 at 10:03 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game MVP: Donovan Solano, .548
Least Valuable Marlin: Mike Dunn, -.832
Most Valuable Brave: Freddie Freeman, .484
Least Valuable Brave: Andrelton Simmons, -.176
2nd – (MIA) Donovan Solano solo homer for a 1-0 Marlins lead, .123
2nd – (ATL) Dan Uggla RBI single for a 1-1 tie, .114
6th – (ATL) Jason Heyward triple with one out, .127
7th – (MIA) Solano two-run homer for a 3-2 Marlins lead, .453
9th – (ATL) Chipper Jones leadoff double, .243
9th – (ATL) Chipper advanced on a wild pitch, .147
9th – (ATL) Freddie Freeman two-run homer for a 4-3 win, .441
WPA might be in favor of the Marlins in this game, but the result is all that matters, and the result is a walk-off, two-run homer by Freddie Freeman to clinch a playoff spot for the Braves.
The Freeman home run, worth .441 WPA, is the second most valuable play of his career so far, but it’s sure to be the most memorable.
Kris Medlen was again outstanding, allowing three runs on the two Donovan Solano home runs, giving up five hits over seven innings. He didn’t walk any and struck out eight. The Freeman home run pushed the Braves’ winning streak in Medlen starts to 22.
Just another night to remember among a season of great memories.