March 26, 2012 at 12:58 pm by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves, Economic Analysis, Front Office, Injuries
A lot has been made about the Braves reluctance to deal with super agent Scott Boras when it comes to extensions. The first and foremost issue is that Boras loves to gamble on his players and almost always guides them to free agency. Famously, Andruw Jones went behind Boras’ back to negotiate an extension with the Braves, when Boras presumably wanted him to go to free agency.
Boras has a lot of clients, and thus, his main concern is maximizing his expected payout when the player hits free agency. He doesn’t care a whole lot about risk, because he has more than enough players to spread the risk around if one or two of them happen to take a pillow contract that substantially hurts them. Players, on the other hand, should be more concerned with risk, because they only have one client to earn their money with, themselves. If they take a risk and it blows up in their face, they don’t have 30 other clients to pull money from. In the business world, we call this a divergence of risk preference. It’s not quite a divergence in financial interests, because presumably both Boras and his clients want as much money as possible, however, his clients shouldn’t be willing to take as much risk as Boras does, something I think his clients all too often fail to appreciate.
However, that’s not the issue here. The issue here is might the Braves perhaps be glad that Boras is Jurrjens’ and Hanson’s agent? Why should they be? Well, primarily because it gives the front office a ready made excuse to not sign the two pitchers to long term, lucrative extensions. Fans and media harbor a certain disdain for Scott Boras, that while not totally unmerited (due to the risk issue outlined above) is certainly misguided (ie they’re more angry about guiding players to fair compensation for their talents). If a team isn’t making much headway in signing a beloved current player to an extension, two simple words often shift the ‘blame’ from the front office to the player, “Boras Client”.
So why wouldn’t the Braves want to sign Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens to long term contracts? They’ve both been successful young pitchers. Studies have shown that extensions are generally a better value for the team than free agent bidding wars.
The issues are injury concerns for Tommy Hanson and injury and uncertainty issues with Jair Jurrjens. Also, the Braves may be shifting to a ‘use, test, discard’ strategy with their pitchers. This is very similar to what the Rays have done with their young pitchers. They use them heavily, being maybe under-cautious with pitching mechanics, if the pitcher is successful and shows no injury concerns then you maybe re-sign him, if not, well, you let the pitcher walk as a free agent and become someone else’s injury concern.
Much has been belaboured with regards to Tommy Hanson’s pitching motions and whether or not it makes him injury prone. While he doesn’t have the dreaded ‘inverted W’, he does tend to have timing issues. For a particularly pessimistic view of Tommy’s mechanics see Chris O’Leary’s diagnosis. While I think O’Leary is maybe a little overzealous in his analysis, Tommy does certainly have biomechanical issues that are at least worrisome. His ‘new delivery’ may have addressed some of the pace issues, but most of the things that O’Leary worries most about with Hanson’s delivery are still present. He still has the timing/coordination issue and he still brings his elbow behind his shoulder. Well, why not just work with Tommy to change his mechanics? Two issues here: 1) Tommy is probably successful because of his mechanics. We have no idea if changing them would allow him to be the same pitcher he is. 2) Often times, for established Major Leaguers, changing mechanics only exacerbates injury issues. Pitching is a very specialized, and very unnatural motion. Changing a pitcher’s motion causes the pitcher to be less reliable in repeating it (since he hasn’t built the new motion into muscle memory) which can not only lead to inconsistency, but can lead to injury. One of the biggest issues that cause injuries in pitchers is not repeating your delivery consistently. When you don’t do so, you often end up having more developed muscles fight against less developed muscles, which puts strain on tendons and joints. SBNation mentioned this concern here.
Jair Jurrjens is a more controversial pitcher. His mechanics seem to be mostly fine from an arm standpoint. Though I do worry about his knees continuing to be a problem because he lands very hard on his heel, a problem that was shown in the recent spring training game against the Tigers, when he tore a huge divot in the mound. Ideally a pitcher would like to hit the mound with his whole foot relatively equally to better distribute the shock of the landing, and also to allow for more stability in the lower body. Jair seems to get less leg drive than he once did with his lower body, which is perhaps why his velocity has dropped. Knee injuries concern me, because they rarely go away, they tend to nag and routinely flare up (one needs only reference Chipper Jones and his recurring knee issues). I don’t know that Jair’s knees will ever be 100%, which could lead to further injuries or ineffectiveness.
What I worry about even more than injuries with Jurrjens is his inconsistency. While the popular narrative has been that Jair’s bad seasons were almost totally attributable to freakish injuries (because his supporters don’t want him to be considered injury prone either), in reality his bad and good seasons have mostly been a product of swings in luck. As most “pitch to contact” guys do, Jair lives and dies by luck. A pitcher can primarily control three things to varying degrees: 1) His strikeout rate 2) his walk rate and 3) his groundball rate. For all three of these, Jair has been remarkably consistent. He has routinely sat at 6 K/9, 3 BB/9 and a groundball rate of 40-45%. First, these aren’t really good. One commonly held belief is that Jair is a groundball pitcher, when in fact this number is actually below the league average. It’s in the neither groundball or flyball range, but Jair is certainly closer to being a fly ball pitcher. His K rates and walk rates are also neither very good. What has made Jair good when he’s been good and bad when he’s been bad are things that pitchers seem to have relatively little control over: 1) their strand rate 2) BABIP and 3) home run rate.
I’m not going to say that pitchers have no control over any of these, however, these rates tend to randomly fluctuate much more than the other rates. Looking at Jair’s bad seasons and good seasons, we can see that his strikeout, walk and groundball rates don’t deviate significantly, but he sees large swings in strand, babip and homerun rates. In Jair’s good seasons he’s had a strand rate near 80%, babips around .270 and HR/FB rates around 6-7%. In ‘bad Jair’ seasons, we’ve seen strand rates at 70% or under, babips around .300 and HR/FB rates around 9%.
The issue with Jair is that these swings make it hard to know for certain which Jair is real. Pitchers can, over large samples outpitch their FIP in some cases. Tim Hudson has shown an ability to do so, as did Tom Glavine. (Contrary to popular belief, Greg Maddux didn’t significantly do so, his FIP for his career was 3.26 and his ERA 3.16, lower but not significantly so, Maddux was just a good pitcher and almost all of his FIP/ERA deviation can be explained away by pitching in front of good defenses). With Jair, his data have varied so wildly that we just can’t know how good (or mediocre) he might be. He might be the average of those two pitchers, or he might be the good one with some bad luck or the bad one with some good luck. We just don’t have enough data to know for certain, which makes a long term contract worrisome.
So why does Boras matter? Why wouldn’t the front office merely let these two pitchers walk at free agency (or preferably be traded prior to hitting it) regardless of their agent? Well, they likely would, but it’s just more convenient to do so with a Boras client. Front office types are not only worried about putting together the best team for the money that they can, but they are also concerned with perception of how well they are doing their job. In letting Hanson and/or Jurrjens walk at free agency they are taking a risk. They’re taking a risk that these injury and inconsistency risks fade away and they turn out to be excellent pitchers. And while I certainly think the smart play would be letting them walk, regardless, it’s much easier to say “Boras Client” if Jurrjens and/or Hanson turn out to be solid workhorses for years to come. Having the two be Boras clients is a “win/draw” situation for front office perception. If one or both turns out to be ineffective, then the front office is portrayed as smart, and if they don’t it’s simply a matter of a shoulder shrug and saying “Boras Client” to the understanding nod of those following the team.
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August 27, 2009 at 5:49 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Injuries, Pitching, Transaction Analysis
First of all, before I do transaction analysis, I want to comment on something I saw on ESPN or one of the affiliates. The little-league World Series semi-final game between Chinese Taipei and Curaçao was on and I stopped by to watch the beginning. I really like watching it, actually. But part of the broadcast simultaneously amused me and disturbed me. Well, I don’t know if it was the broadcast or not that disturbed me, but they invoked it if they didn’t, so they’re responsible.
They were having each member of the team say, “Hi, my name is ______ and my favorite baseball player is _________”. I didn’t see the Curaçao team attempt this, but I did see the Chinese team do so. First of all, what sort of made me feel weird is they made the kids (remember, these kids are 12, 13, and 14 years old) do so in English. Why? This is not a professional league. It’s comparable to the Olympics. If the Olympics were in Paris and an American won the 100-meter dash (picking something easily understandable and not significant, boy I’m subtle today) and the Olympic officials made the American athlete give his victory speech in French, you’d probably be furious. Now, if an American basketball player was playing in a French professional league, that’s different. Point is, I thought it was inappropriate that they would even think to make the children try to speak English for the purposes of the telecast*.
*Of course, let’s not rule out the possibility that the Chinese government themselves forced the children to speak English on the telecast. I don’t know why they would, I just know that if they thought they could benefit from doing so, they certainly wouldn’t pass up the opportunity. So, when this piece is done, remember this is also a possibility. But for now, let’s assume it was ESPN’s doing.
And then you get to the pronunciations. They were naturally very bad at speaking English. Some better than others, though it all pretty much sounded like, “Herro, me naah ess ______, aah me favorit-ah bas-uh-barr pray-er ess (and 90% of them were the following, which I sort of found suspicious, though it’s admirable to admire your national star, so I reserved judgment from the fact that most of their favorite player was) Chien-Ming Wang”. But I don’t think any of them would have been capable of carrying on a conversation in English. It’s handing you a piece of paper written in Russian when you’re 12 years old and asking you to read it. Of course you’re going to sound like a fool.
As the telecast went on, and it was for an uncomfortably long amount of time, I ceased being amused and began feeling somewhat angry at the fact someone would subject a 12-year old kid to this sort of embarrassment. I was thinking about how many people I know that would be laughing their rear off had they been watching this. I don’t usually try to get worked into the whole racism issue, but this seemed borderline–if not completely and without subtelty–racist.
Just shame on whoever made them do this. It was not only tasteless and ignorant, it was fucking stupid.
OK, back to transaction analysis. I don’t exactly know how this space evolved to me being serious about non-baseball things like the racism thing and joking around when it comes to transaction analysis. I’m pretty sure Law and Neyer didn’t get their start in sports writing that way. Oh well.
Optioned RHP Manny Acosta to Class-AAA Gwinnett. Recalled RHP Buddy Carlyle from Class-AAA Gwinnett.
A straight 1-for-1 swap of Acosta and Carlyle. I don’t know why the Braves chose to go with Boone Logan over Acosta. They both kind of suck and Logan has close to a year more service time than Acosta. They’ll both be out of options next year anyway, so it most likely doesn’t matter. I guess Bobby wants 3 lefties in his bullpen. I’m excited to see Buddy Carlyle back with the big club. He had a really good 2008 season that saw him win Fangraphs’ imaginary Mop-Up Man Of The Year award. He has since been diagnosed with Diabetes, and I love Diabetes success stories (see the link). At least it’s nice to know that there’s another semi-useful reliever stashed away in AAA. Whether he comes in as a September call-up or takes Carlyle’s place if he falters, you know you’ve got someone who kind of sucks but can play mop-up man there. Who isn’t Blaine Boyer. I suspect he’ll be called up again when he’s eligible (10 days) given the fact that the rosters expand soon*.
*Can you believe we’re already at roster-expansion?
Named Tim Hudson as Starting Pitcher for game Monday, August 31 against the Marlins.
This is obviously the more interesting and more impact-ful (made up a word. I think.) move. Hudson will skip his final scheduled rehab start and pitch for the big club again. I don’t know how I feel about this one. He’s obviously physically there if he can pitch in a game, but I don’t think another start in the minors would be devastating for him or the club. And I feel like he needs a bit more polish. Obviously the scouts don’t agree, and they’re right most of the time.
Hudson will assume Kenshin Kawakami’s rotation spot on Monday. The Braves haven’t told us anything about their plans for the rotation beyond Monday. That means destination speculation time. There are a few options here. Number 1 is to go with a 6-man rotation, which I think they will in some capacity. Basically, Kawakami is being skipped this time, so says Carrol Rogers:
Bobby said yes they considered a six-man rotation and no they will not pitch Kawakami out of the bullpen. And he said yes, Kawakami will start again. But they’ve got flexibility here in five days when rosters expand.
I’m curious as to what the corresponding roster move will be. The Braves are probably activating Hudson on Monday so he’ll be eligible for the post-season should they make it. This means at least a few roster moves will need to be made on Monday. First, someone has to get off of the 40-man roster for Hudson as he’s on the 60-day DL. Secondly, someone (and not necessarily the same person) has to get off of the 25-man roster for Hudson. McLouth is also eligible to come off the DL that day, so I imagine he will. Well, I’d do it differently. I’d designate Reid Gorecki for assignment on the 31st, keep McLouth inactive, and activate Tim Hudson. Clears a 25-man and a 40-man spot for him. Then, you can just call up McLouth on the 1st and everybody’s happy! Well, we’ll see what happens. Going with three true outfielders could be dangerous, considering Church’s injury history and the defensive brilliance of ACHE, Diaz, Infante, and–dare I say–Greg Norton. But with Infante’s ability to play all 3 OF positions, I think it would be OK to go with that roster for 1 day. Otherwise, you have to do something unfuckingnecessary to clear a roster space for McLouth and Hudson. We’ll see. I assume the Braves will take the latter route and clear a space for both players.
So that will be interesting to see. But for now, I assume the Braves will be going with a line-up of McLouth, Prado, Chipper, McCann, ACHE, Escobar, LaRoche, Church/Diaz for the rest of the year. And they’ll be doing some sort of weird rotation that involves Hudson, Kawakami, Hanson, Jurrjens, Vazquez, and that other guy.
Good move to get Hudson on the roster before Sept 1. We’ll see how they handle the massive activation and designation event on Monday. It’ll be interesting.
August 21, 2009 at 12:43 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Chipper Jones, Defense, Injuries, Statistical Analysis
I like defense. Most people don’t think about it when constructing a team, but it’s a lot easier to win with a good defense. It makes your pitchers better, energizes your team, etc. This year, the Braves’ worst positions defensively have been 2B, LF, and CF–costing the team a combined 26 runs. Third base has cost the team 5 runs. No other position is in the red.
Eventually, the Braves’ outfield will consist of–left to right–McLouth, Schafer, and Heyward. I don’t see any way this alignment is less than average. I strongly believe McLouth will be an above-average defender at a corner, Schafer will be plus, and Heyward will be plus.
Provided LaRoche leaves via free agency, the obvious solution to the hole is to move Prado to 1B and insert one of Kelly Johnson or Infante in at 2B. I have a different idea.
Chipper Jones has been awful at 3B this year, costing the team fourteen runs with his glove. 3B doesn’t rank as the team’s worst position because Prado has been very good there in a back-up role, saving the team 6 runs in only 184 defensive innings.
If you extrapolate Prado’s defensive prowess over a full season at 3B (which you can’t do, so I don’t for my actual calculations), he saves 32 runs at 3B, good for more than 3 wins. Chipper’s is good for -16 runs.
For how good Prado’s been at 3B, he’s been equally bad–for his entire career–at 2B. No matter what method you use, he’s been worth about -10 runs, or -1 win, at 2B over a full season. It’s pretty easy to see why. Prado moves better when he’s running forward (i.e. charging a bunt, something that you don’t do at 2B), but his lateral range is suspect. Plus his best asset is his throwing arm (which is a beauty). The arm is on display at 3B but wasted at 2B.
You probably see where I’m going at this point. The idea is simple. Play Kelly Johnson at 2B (I truly believe he is an above-average MLB 2B–with both the bat and glove–that fell on some bad luck this season), a position where he’s about average, play Prado at 3B, and move Chipper to 1B.
The question then becomes, how bad at 1B would Chipper have to be to make this defensive alignment a misallocation of resources?
Well, I’ve pegged Prado, for the purposes of conservative calculations, at +19 runs at 3B. I’ve got Kelly Johnson at +2 at 2B. I’ve got Prado at -10 at 2B and Chipper at -16 at 3B. Between the two positions, you’re looking at a 47 run difference, assuming whatever 1B we were going to use plays average defense.
So, you’re looking at a 47 run, or roughly 5 win, improvement just by shifting the infielders a bit. And Chipper would have to be 47 runs below average to make this alignment disadvantageous.
Mike Jacobs was the worst fielding 1B last year and he cost his team 20 runs. I think I may be on to something here. Unless Chipper is 27 runs worse than the worst, the alignment is, overall, helpful.
Then you get into injuries. Chipper’s most valuable asset is obviously his bat and you want to keep that bat in there at all costs. People suggesting moving Chipper to 1B to prevent injuries is silly for 2 reasons. 1) he hardly ever gets hurt in the field (usually swinging and missing). 2) 1B has way more chances than 3B, so I think the injury risk is greater at 1B. As I said, though, he hardly ever gets hurt in the field. Let’s assume, for a second, that the change in position will require Chipper to miss more time. Then, how much time will he have to miss to make the change in position counter-productive?
Over his career, Chipper has been worth approximately 0.26 runs above average (using simple wOBA extractions) with his bat every game he plays. Assuming he’s bottom-of-the-barrel bad at 1B, -20 runs, how many games would he have to miss to justify not making the change in defensive alignments?
The answer? 104.
It’s not that crazy. Prado is a very good defender at 3B, he’s a bad defender at 2B. The Braves have an average defender at 2B on their roster. And they don’t have a 1B. But they have a 3B who is 37 years old and costing the team runs left and right with his glove at 3B. It’s almost stupid not to move Chipper to 1B. Prado-Yunel-KJ-Chipper 3rd to 1st. I could live with that.
Of course this all hinges on Kelly Johnson hitting next year, which I think he will.
The solution at 1B may be internal for this club. I think it is. Keeping the pitching staff intact and using Chipper at 1st may be the key to getting back to the post-season.
August 17, 2009 at 6:36 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Injuries, Transaction Analysis
If you haven’t heard, Nate McLouth was placed on the 15-day DL due to the hamstring injury he sustained awhile ago. He’s eligible to come off of the DL on August 31st and I imagine he will do so on that date. The Braves elected to bring up Reid Gorecki to serve as the 4th OF in McLouth’s absence. I imagine Diaz will play right every day, Church center, and ACHE left. The decision to bring up Gorecki and add another player to the 40-man roster was most undoubtedly influenced by Gorecki’s ability to play center. He’s probably an offensive and defensive upgrade over Blanco, but a downgrade from Brandon Jones I’d speculate.
A lot of people were vexed that the organization didn’t choose to bring up Jason Heyward. Look, the Braves know what they’re doing. They’ll bring up Heyward when he’s ready to contribute. We don’t know more than the organization, they’ll know when he’s ready. Obviously they feel he’s not. There’s not much empirical evidence to suggest they’re wrong. 149 PA’s at AA is hardly the tell tale sign someone is ready. I’m fully confident the organization will make the correct decision when it comes to Heyward.
In the mean time, Matt Diaz, who has hit .293/.358/.457 this season, will enjoy an every-day role. Church is probably a better center fielder than McLouth, and McLouth had only hit .260/.344/.417 in his time with the Braves. I think he’s a better player than that, but I hardly think losing McLouth for a few weeks is the end of the world.
It seems like McLouth never really recovered from the hamstring injury. Hopefully this down-time gets him fresh, healthy, and primed for a stretch run.
In other news, 2009 Braves 1B Stats: Casey Kotchman – 6 HR in 339 PA’s. Adam LaRoche – 4 HR in 58 PA’s.
July 30, 2009 at 8:53 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Injuries, Joke, Transactions
Those may be the most encouraging words uttered this week. Jeff Bennett is a free agent. As David O’Brien of the AJC reports:
Jeff Bennett is a free agent. Braves had suspended his pay after he broke his hand punching the wall, and Bennett filed a grievance. Braves had to either give him his pay or let him become a free agent, and they opted for latter option.
Hard to argue with their decision. Though Bennett wasn’t making more than the league minimum, he was a very bad and it was probably in the best interest of the club to never activate him again anyway.
To truly understand how bad Bennett was during his time with the Atlanta Braves in 2009, you had to watch him. The statistics don’t do how bad he was enough justice. The statistics do indicate he was very bad. The 3.18 ERA is extremely deceiving. He was very bad at getting hitters out, but somehow good at stranding them on base. In 34.0 IP, he allowed 42 hits and 21 walks, good for a 1.853 WHIP. Yet somehow only 13 of the 63 baserunners he allowed managed to score. An 80% strand rate. I can’t really explain it. Most of it is just luck. Stranding runners on base is not a repeatable skill. Getting hitters out is. If you get them out with men on base more frequently you’re more lucky than good. Here’s a fun fact: he had one game where he gave up a hit and 3 walks in 2/3 of an inning, walking Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded to end the game. If they had finished the game, he probably would’ve given up more runs, considering batters have hit .316/.415/.421 against him. The league, for example, hits .258/.330/.407. That was basically the story for Bennett all year. Walking in the game-winning run.
But like I said, the statistics don’t do him justice. He was much worse than that. He was a pathetic pitcher. In 2008 he was decent. But he gained quite a bit of weight in the off-season and his sinker just sort of, well, stopped sinking. This is a problem. When you’re a sinker-baller and your sinker doesn’t sink you stink. And Jeff Bennett stunk. I think the defining Jeff Bennett moment of the season would be the game he appeared in immediately before his last with the Braves. In this game, he entered in the bottom of the 9th in Fenway park scheduled to face the 8-9-1 hitters. Nick Green, and I would look up the next two batters he was scheduled to face, but it didn’t matter, because he gave up a 1st pitch home run to Nick Green. Yes, the Nick Green.
The writing was basically on the wall at that point. In his next outing he gave up a run, punched a door, broke his left hand, went out and pitched another inning with a broken hand (he didn’t notice it was broken), and was put on the DL and stopped receiving a paycheck the next day. He thought he should still be getting paid. Fair enough. He filed a grievance. The league said the Braves have to either pay him or grant him free agency. They chose the latter. End of story. And a good ending for the Braves, because most Braves fans never want to see him again. By the way, his rehab hadn’t exactly gone well. He gave up 5 hits, a walk, struck out nobody, allowed 4 runs, and threw a wild pitch in 2 appearances (2.0 IP) for Class AAA Gwinnett.
Good Riddance, Jeff Bennett.
July 27, 2009 at 9:52 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Injuries, Pitching, Transactions
The buzz today has been that the Braves are leaning towards standing pat at the trade deadline. Several sources have indicated the Braves won’t be part of any major trade discussions. In his blog, Buster Olney says:
The Braves have won three consecutive series after beating the Brewers on Sunday. Heard this: Although Atlanta is talking with other teams and monitoring the market, the Braves don’t have a glaring hole. They’ll look to add bullpen help, if available, but probably won’t be a factor in any major trade talks.
Separately, Mark Bowman reports:
Wren believes he is already in line to gain the pieces to satisfy his pitching and offensive needs.
“I think we’ve made our moves early,” Wren said. “I don’t think there is any pressing need for our club. Like any other team, we know that our club isn’t perfect. But I think we’re playing the best baseball that we’ve played in the last three or four years.”
We had previously heard that the Braves will look to add a reliever. But with the organizational depth the Braves possess, this may not be necessary. The bullpen is currently constructed of Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez, Eric O’Flaherty, Peter Moylan, Kris Medlen, Boone Logan, and Manny Acosta. With Buddy Carlyle, who has recently pitched 4 scoreless innings allowing 3 hits and no walks and striking out 4 for Class-AAA Gwinnett, looking to return from the DL very soon and Jeff Bennett (whose rehab hasn’t gone so well, allowing 2 hits, a walk, 2 runs, and throwing a wild pitch in his lone appearance while retiring only 3 batters for the same Gwinnett team) working towards a return, the Braves probably feel secure in that department. They also may have more pitching depth than others think.
Tonight Tim Hudson made his first AAA appearance in his 3rd rehab assignment. Hudson needed only 41 pitches to get through 4 innings. He allowed 4 hits (3 singles and 1 double) and no walks while striking out 2. Eight outs were recorded on the ground, including 1 double play, and only two were recorded in the air. Two of the hits were well-struck, but they were on the ground and there’s much reason to be encouraged by Hudson’s outing. He was locating his fastball to both sides of the plate and using a sharply-breaking overhand curveball with some tilt. He threw 27 of his 41 pitches for strikes. Hudson will most likely make 3-4 more rehab starts working up to 6-7 innings before he returns to Atlanta, presumably to join the rotation. There has been some speculation that Hudson will return to the Braves as a reliever, but it’s now known that the Braves intend to use Hudson as a starter. Provided everyone in the rotation as it is currently constructed–Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vazquez, Tommy Hanson, and Kenshin Kawakami–is healthy when Hudson returns, the Braves will have an interesting decision to make. Who gets bumped from the rotation?
It’s unlikely that the Braves would opt to move either of their young stars, Jurrjens or Hanson, to the bullpen. Theoretically they could do so to limit their innings, but I don’t get the sense that they want to. They’re developing as starters and pitching very well. There’s little upside to moving either out of the rotation as it could impair their development and weaken the rotation. Of the five starters, Derek Lowe has the most experience pitching out of the bullpen–beginning his career primarily as a reliever and notching 85 saves before being converted to a full-time starter in 2002. But given the fact that Derek Lowe was brought in to be a durable starter and to give the team quality innings and considering the contract the Braves and Lowe agreed upon this off-season (4 years, $60 Million), it is unlikely that the Braves will desire to move Lowe out of the rotation. Lowe has historically been a 2nd-half pitcher (career 2nd half 3.53 ERA vs. 3.96 in the first half) and having a 15-million dollar arm pitch out of the bullpen isn’t the most efficient allocation of resources. Javier Vazquez has been an absolutely dominant starter and there’s no chance the organization will consider moving him from the rotation.
The obvious choice to be moved to the bullpen is Kenshin Kawakami. Kawakami has suffered from shoulder fatigue this season and the same ailment shut him down after 117 innings last year in NPB. The adjustment to a 5-man rotation and a larger baseball has undoubtedly contributed to his shoulder fatigue. Utilizing Kawakami out of the bullpen would allow the Braves to monitor his innings, workload, and health. Additionally, it gives Bobby Cox another arm he can trust to pitch out of the bullpen. Kawakami, Gonzalez, Soriano, Moylan, and O’Flaherty would combine for excellent late-innings bullpen depth and plenty of overall bullpen strength. It isn’t inconceivable that Kawakami could initially function as a long-reliever or possibly piggyback with Tim Hudson (or any starting pitcher), but eventually, the Braves will most likely desire for Kawakami to settle into a late-innings role.
So with the return of Carlyle and Bennett to the Braves’ bullpen and the return of Hudson to the rotation which will most likely push Kawakami to the bullpen, doing nothing could be the equivilent of making a big move under other circumstances. If everyone is healthy, I imagine a 5-man rotation of Hudson, Vazquez, Lowe, Jurrjens, and Hanson and a 7-arm bullpen of Kawakami, Gonzalez, Soriano, Moylan, O’Flaherty, Carlyle, and Bennett/Logan/Acosta with Medlen manning the Class AAA Gwinnett Braves rotation for development purposes by the end of August. Still, with the recent injury concerns regarding Gonzalez and the general overuse the bullpen–especially its’ top arms–endured in the first half, another quality reliever would be a welcome addition. Kelly Johnson, who recently improved his trade value, could be used to obtain said reliever. We’ll keep you updated on the Braves-related rumblings in this space and on twitter @CapitolAvenue all week leading up to Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
July 21, 2009 at 4:24 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Chipper Jones, Injuries, Joke
Every blog needs an official joke according to Joe Posnanski, so I’ve taken a page out of his book and I’m pleased to present you with the official Capitol Avenue Club joke*.
*This isn’t the original form of the joke, but I’ve tailored it for my purposes and adopted it as my own.
Some time in the not so distant future, David Wright goes down south for a duck hunting trip one October. He rents a pair of waders, borrows a 12-gauge from Adam LaRoche, and gets all the camouflage he needs for the hunt at his local Wal-Mart. He spends the night at a hotel near the lake he’ll be hunting on, wakes up at 3:30 AM, gets ready, and heads to the lake. After he gets to his blind around 5:00 AM, he waits until the sun comes up and the ducks to start moving. For three hours he furiously pursues his limit, but to no avail. Just as he’s ready to call it a day, one duck shy of his limit, he sees a crippled wood duck flying and figures he might have a shot at getting his limit. He takes a rather long shot and somehow connects with the duck, sufficient to knock it to the ground, though it lands away from the water.
So he gets in his boat and travels over to the shore where he anchors the boat and begins to look for the duck. As he’s heading in the general direction of the duck he sees a fence that encloses a rather large field. So, assuming the duck landed in the field, he starts towards the fence as a tractor, heading in his direction from the other side of the fence, becomes visible. As he approaches the fence so does the tractor and a man steps off to greet David. Low and behold, that man is Chipper Jones.
David says: “Chipper Jones! I haven’t seen you since you hit that walk-off go-ahead, decisive homer at Shea Stadium Citi Field in game 7 of the 2013 NLCS. How have you been?”
Chipper replies: “Not too bad, David. What brings you down here?”
“Well, I’m just trying to get my mind off of the massive meltdown the Mets just experienced again, so I thought I’d come down here and do a little hunting to clear my mind.”
“So I guess you’re responsible for this.”
Chipper holds up his right hand, which he has wrapped around the neck of a slain wood duck. David’s eyes light up, he’s finally found the duck and has his limit.
“Oh, great!”, David replies, “You found my duck.”
“What do you mean your duck?”, Chipper said, “it landed on my property.”
“Well I killed it, so it’s mine, right?” David replied.
“No sir. My property, my duck.”
“Come on, Chipper, that’s my limit you’re holding.”
“Nope. It’s my first of the day.”
“Chipper, don’t be an ass, or I may just call the police.”
Chipper sort of chuckles at the notion and proposes a counter-offer.
“I’ll tell you what, around here, we settle things by the 3-kick rule“.
“I beg your pardon?”
“You’ve never heard of the 3-kick rule?”, Chipper replies in shock.
“No, I’m afraid I haven’t.” David admits.
“Well, here’s how it works. I kick you three times, then you kick me three times. We go back and forth until someone “gives”. Whoever prevails, wins.”
David’s eye starts to sparkle.
“You mean to tell me that an old man like you wants to challenge me to a kicking contest?”
“You bet. You’ve got no idea what’s coming.”
“OK, then.” David replies, “You’re on”.
David stands ready with his hands covering his groin area as Chipper readies himself to commence kicking. Chipper takes a step forward and delivers a forceful kick–aided by his steel-toe boots–right into the kneecap of Wright. David keels over in pain and grabs his kneecap. Just as he bends down, Chipper comes back with another, this time right in the face. Wright leans back, nose bleeding and in an extraordinary amount of pain. Before he even realizes what happens, Chipper delivers a third blow right between the legs. Wright immediately falls to the ground and begins to vomit. After 5 minutes of recovery, Wright finally looks up and musters up what energy he has left and says in a raspy, barely audible voice,
“Alright you son of a b****, my turn now.”
Chipper sort of smiles at him and says,
“Nah, that’s alright”, and he throws the wood duck and hits David Wright in the side of the face.
“I give. You can have the duck”