June 29, 2009 at 12:44 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Billy Beane, St. Louis Cardinals, Transactions
Three way trades rarely happen in Major League Baseball. They just don’t. They do in the NBA, but not in MLB. But they’re not prohibited and they’re not completely un-heard of. Take the Mike Hampton trade for example (OK, so bad example to try to convince Braves fans that a 3-way trade is worth doing). Or the Jason Bay trade (OK, another bad example). Point is, they exist.
Since we’re on an Atlanta Braves site and I am talking about a 3-way trade, you assume I’m talking about either adding a competent corner outfielder or selling off a trade chip. I’m talking about the former. I still believe this team has a chance to win this year. Not with that worthless waste of space occupying right field, but with the other 7-10 regulars and 1 additional player. This 1 additional player is what I’m talking about.
The Cardinals acquiring Mark DeRosa is significant to this trade proposal. Not because DeRosa would’ve been a good fit for Atlanta (he’d have been OK, but not quite what I envision as an ideal piece), but because it shows the Cardinals are committed to winning now. They’re looking to contend for the World Series this season. DeRosa is a nice addition for them, but acquiring a rental means you’re looking to win now. Why stop there?
It has been well documented that the Cardinals were in pursuit of Matt Holliday. And for good reason. If the Cards are in win-now mode, Holliday is a perfect fit. They have the financial flexibility and they’re looking for a bat to protect Pujols. Matt Holliday would make not only make the Cardinals a virtual sure-thing for the post-season, he’d make them the favorite (or close to it behind LA and their spectacularly weak NL West schedule) to win the NLCS. The asking price on Holliday is high. It has been reported that the asking price is as high as Brett Wallace. This will likely come down as Billy Beane feels more pressure to deal Holliday as the deadline approaches (he says there’s no pressure, I’m not buying it). But still likely out of the Cardinals price range prospect-wise.
The Cardinals were reportedly willing to part with Ryan Ludwick in order to acquire Matt Holliday. I believe this is the Braves second chance (they missed the boat on the first chance) to acquire a very special player in Ryan Ludwick. The first chance occurred in the off-season when a swap of Kelly Johnson and Ryan Ludwick was rumored but never came to fruition. This was a huge mistake and should not be made again. If the Cardinals are looking to acquire Matt Holliday and they’re willing to part with Ludwick for him, the Braves should get involved sending prospects to Oakland to help the Cardinals acquire Ludwick. Something like Cardinals get 1 piece of bullpen help and Matt Holliday, Oakland gets two 1st-3rd round talent level prospects in the low minors (the equivalent of what Beane would get in the draft without the task of signing his draft picks while saving money by unloading Matt Holliday), and Atlanta gets Ryan Ludwick and cash.
Ludwick is currently experiencing a slump. Since returning from the disabled list, he’s hit .180/.260/.292 with 3 HR. A drastic change from his .274/.339/.538 pre-DL. Injuries have been a problem for Ludwick throughout his career and I have to believe that injuries are currently causing his slump. But Ludwick has shown the ability to post monster numbers when healthy, hitting .299/.375/.591 with 37 HR in 2008 hitting line drives 28% of the time (down to 17% this season, I blame the injury). A healthy Ryan Ludwick would certainly make the Atlanta Braves a competitive team. And even a not-healthy Ludwick isn’t that much of a downgrade from Jeff Francoeur.
Atlanta and St. Louis have the pieces to pry Holliday from Oakland and the thought of Holliday in St. Louis is enough to pry Ludwick from Oakland. Would the Cardinals be interested in Kelly Johnson still (he’s also slumping, a buy low sell low proposition)? Or would we be looking at providing a bullpen arm and a prospect (ala. Manny Acosta and Craig Kimbrell or the like)?
Bottom line, if the Cardinals are still serious about acquiring Matt Holliday and they’re still interested in moving Ludwick in the process, Frank Wren should ensure Ludwick ends up in Atlanta, not Oakland.
April 30, 2009 at 3:05 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, NL East News, Series Preview, Series Thoughts, St. Louis Cardinals
I predicted 1 out of 3 in that series, but I didn’t expect it to happen in that fashion. We didn’t win when 2 of our best pitchers went, but we won when Jo Jo Reyes pitched. Go figure.
In the first game we made a bunch of stupid mistakes, stranded a bunch of runners, and wasted a brilliant performance by Jurrjens to lose 3-2. I was pretty mad after the game because we played like crap. In the 2nd game, Jo Jo Reyes pitched 7 innings allowing only 1 run. We got lucky when Matt Diaz swung at ball 4 with 2 outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th, hit the ball off the end of the bat, Kahlil Greene made a terrible play, and the ball got through the infield on the ground for a 2-run single. Gonzalez pitched a perfect 9th striking out the side against the heart of the order. His fastball was back up to 94 MPH and he looked truly dominant. Much reason to be encouraged there.
In the 3rd game Vazquez pitched 8 innings allowing 5 runs. Four of these runs came in the 5th inning when Vazquez allowed 6 hits (no walks), all singles, and not a one of them was hit hard. There were a few bloops and a few ground-ball singles. Folks, that isn’t Vazquez’s fault. Singles are largely luck and defense. Vazquez allowed 3 other hits in the 7 other innings he pitched and only 1 of them was for extra bases (a double). He walked 1 and struck out 8. Allowing 10 baserunners in 8 innings usually doesn’t result in 5 runs. I’ve got no complaints about how Vazquez pitched, he was just on the bad end of some terrible luck tonight.
On the other hand, Wainwright walked 5 batters and allowed 7 hits (1 for extra bases, a double by Kotchman) in 6 innings while striking out only 2. When you’re getting 2 runners on an inning you’re supposed to score more than 3 runs. Mac at Braves Journal makes a great point about our lineup:
But he [Adam Wainwright] got some good defense and the Braves’ peculiar lineup arrangement kept the most successful hitters (Infante had three hits, leading off; Kotchman had two and a walk in the cleanup spot; Schafer walked three times and stole a base hitting seventh) from interacting properly.
It reminded me of a great quote by Bill James on a similar subject. Bill James is the answerer p.s.:
Q: On the topic of batting orders, does it make sense to space out your best hitters instead of clumping them together. This would seem to give an advantage because the team never has to deal with a weak bottom half. You always have a good hitter up, or on deck. Also this might mess with the pitchers mind cause he wont be able to “rest” pitching to 3 or 4 bad hitters in a row.
A: It would seem to me that this offers speculative advantages and tangible disadvantages. Offense is interactive. If you have three good hitters, probably the worst thing you can do with them is to bat them 3rd, 6th and 9th.
We didn’t bat our 3 best 3-6-9, but 1-4-7 is the same thing. It just wasn’t the Braves’ night. By the way, in the series Yunel Escobar was 2-12 with no walks, grounded into a double play, and made 2 baserunning errors. Pretty weak.
We averaged 12 and 2/3 baserunners per game this series and managed to scratch across 7 total runs (2 and 1/3 runs per game). I’m not concerned with the lack of offense because we’re getting on base. We aren’t going to keep getting unlucky and stranding 10 runners a game. It will come. Don’t panic.
The offense DID receive a boost when Kelly Johnson was lifted from the 2nd game in favor of Omar Infante, who also started the final game of the series. Johnson has been struggling to the tune of a 4 for 39 slump and he needs some time to re-group. Well, I really don’t know what he needs, other than to start hitting.
The pitching staff allowed 10 total runs. The Cardinals were averaging 6 runs a game going into the series and they averaged 3 and 1/3 during our series. We can and will win games with this pitching staff. It is top-notch.
The 2nd win was huge. We’d had baserunners all night, failed to score, finally got a clutch (lucky) hit that put us on top, and Gonzalez delivered big-time. He was downright dominant in that outing and I’m looking forward to having him pitch the 9th for us in the future. Reyes’ outing was very encouraging too. More on this later, but the Braves will push back Kawakami’s start 3 days because he’s experiencing shoulder soreness and Reyes’ strong outing probably makes them feel much more comfortable about doing that.
I don’t have many complaints about the series. We played pretty well this series and most things didn’t break our way. That won’t continue. I was pleased with the result. We’re inching towards being ready to compete in a big-time series. I wonder what type of big-time series we’ve got coming up?
Well, we’re playing the Astros next, which isn’t a big-time series, but the Mets come to town for 2 games following the Astros series. Hopefully we’ll be ready to kick some butt by then.
Speaking of the Astros series, we’ll pitch Lowe, Jurrjens, and Reyes this weekend and they’ll be opposed by Mike Hampton, Russ Ortiz, and Roy Oswalt. Look, I hate how Mike Hampton cramped our payroll all those years he spent on the DL, but I like the guy. It isn’t like he WANTED to be injured and didn’t want to pitch, he’s just fragile as glass. I wish him well, just not against the Braves Friday night. He’s been pitching well recently and has a 3.86 ERA. Ortiz is sporting a super-cool 5.30 ERA and 1.74 WHIP and there isn’t an excuse for not scoring off of this guy, even with McCann out of the line-up. If we don’t win this game for Jurrjens I think he should be allowed to line all the position players’ wives/girlfriends up, pick one, and do something sexually filthy (I’ll let you use your imagination to keep the post PG-13) with her in front of everyone in the middle of the clubhouse, because that’s the kind of treatment he’s been getting from them lately. I’ll get to McCann in a second. Oswalt has an 0-2 record despite his fairly decent 3.96 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. I still like our chances at home with Reyes pitching, especially if he pitches anything like he did Tuesday night. This seems to be a very sweepable series and that’s the expectation I have for the club going into it. We’ll see if I’m disappointed or not.
I said I’d get to McCann. McCann went 1-3 while DHing for Myrtle Beach tonight. He’s using a different contact lens in each eye. I’m legitimately concerned. The way this has been handled leads me to believe the organization is hiding something, which is NEVER good. When the organization hides things it is usually because they’d hurt attendance if revealed and they hope it just sort of “corrects itself” before they have to reveal anything. How many times have we heard about a pitcher “diagnosed” with “elbow inflammation” with the organization saying he’ll make his next start only to see him going under the knife for Tommy John surgery 2 weeks later? We’ll see. If he’s activated on May 8, I’ll be beyond thrilled. Unless the organization is really THAT stupid and they’ll run McCann out there with crappy vision just to salvage attendance.
The most recent topics of discussion have centered around the line-up. While I don’t think line-ups matter all that much, here’s how I’d line ‘em up (full health assumed):
Interestingly, Escobar hits RHP better than LHP. I know it is weird, but just one of those things. He hits into ENTIRELY too many double plays to be hitting in the 2-hole. I’m sick of seeing the lead-off man get on only for Yunel to erase him in front of Chipper Jones. In these line-ups, we minimize the double plays batting him 1st (where you always lead off the 1st inning and are more likely to lead off any other inning in the NL because the pitcher makes the last out a lot and they like to walk the number 8 hitter and pitch to the pitcher) and 5th where he can’t take the bat out of Chipper or McCann’s hands. Switching it around that much based on platoons probably isn’t a good idea, though. That’s why I’m only a critic and not an actual manager.
As I previously stated, Kawakami’s start has been pushed back 3 day so he can recover from shoulder soreness that he’s experienced. This goes back to my Kawakami article. You expect things like this to happen when you’re adjusting to a 5-man rotation and a larger baseball. We’ll see how he responds to the extra rest. He’ll be going on 8 days rest so that should be more than adequate and I’m expecting him to respond positively and turn in a strong outing. We’ll know more on Tuesday. I don’t think we’re dealing with an injury here, he’s just not used to doing what the organization is making him do. I think this shuffling of the rotation will mark the end of our 4 and 1/2 man rotation gimmick.
Other news around the NL East:
The Nationals have re-shuffled their bullpen. Again.
Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge will both attempt to avoid the DL on Friday when they throw bullpen sessions. Hamles sprained his ankle in his most recent start and Lidge has been battling knee inflammation.
Have no fear, Marlins (and baseball) fans. Hanley will return Thursday.
The Mets are having bullpen issues again. Putz has been erratic and they’ve blown leads a few times already this season.
Until next time,
April 26, 2009 at 5:04 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Series Preview, Series Thoughts, St. Louis Cardinals
You have to feel good about winning a series in Cincinnati this early in the season, but you really can’t be too excited about how you played. I’m still getting the feeling that this team is not ready to play competitive baseball in a tight division race. But 2/3 is 2/3 and it puts us back at .500 and really salvages the road trip after dropping 4 of the first 6 and looking utterly pathetic against division cellar-dwellers for all but 1 of the games.
In the first game we really showed we weren’t ready to compete against a top-flight starter. We were getting no-hit through 3 yet we’d gotten 3 runners on. 2 via base on balls and 1, Escobar, was hit by a pitch. This was actually pretty hilarious because he didn’t appreciate it very much and proceeded to walk towards him looking like a Colombian gangster screaming Spanish obscenities at him while their catcher, the umpires, and pretty much everyone else on both teams (both benches and bullpens had cleared onto the field) tried to hold him back. In the 4th inning we all but gave up swinging the bats and it worked to our advantage. 2 bases-loaded walks would provide our first two runs of the day and Volquez would retire Escobar to end the 4th down 2-1 with a no-hit bid still intact. He gave up a home run to Francoeur the next inning, though, and with his no-hitter gone, Dusty Baker gave him the hook down 3-2 after the 5th. We got a crucial insurance run in the 7th to make it 4-2 which set up our late-innings group who preformed well. Moylan worked a scoreless 7th, Soriano ran into trouble in the 8th allowing a lead-off double followed by a walk and a sacrifice to put runners at 2nd and 3rd with 1 out, but he escaped the inning with the hold allowing only 1 run to score on a sacrifice fly and the lead still intact 4-3. Gonzalez retired all 3 batters he faced in the 9th including 2 K’s and a groundout in his finest outing of the year to nail down the save. Vazquez had a nice outing allowing 2 runs (1 earned) on 7 hits and 1 walk while striking out 9 in 6 innings. The only defensive error was made by Moylan in his scoreless 7th.
In the 2nd game Escobar’s bat exploded after being hit with a pitch AGAIN. Escobar went 3/4 with 3 runs scored and 4 RBI’s and finished a triple shy of the cycle. He hit the home run after being hit by the pitch. Arroyo was horrible and we were on base all night, scoring 10 runs and leaving 13 on base. Lowe was strong going 7 allowing 2 earned. He had a particularly memorable inning when he should have had a runner at 2nd 1 out but instead had runners at 2nd and 3rd nobody out on a botched call during a run-down by the 3B umpire. Lowe proceeded to strike-out the side. He later said he was thinking: “only give up 1 run”. He gave up 0. Overall just a blowout. If we could play like that against a decent starter we’d be a good team.
In the 3rd game Kawakami was pretty strong through 3 innings then gave up 2 runs in the 4th and 6 in the 5th, exiting down 8-0 with 2 outs in the 5th. Carlyle didn’t allow any of Kawakami’s runners to score so his ERA now sits at a cool 7.06. Jay Bruce managed to homer twice off Kawakami within the span of 4 outs. Down 8-0, we started to mount a comeback in the 7th, with David Ross hitting a 1-out solo shot and Kelly Johnson singling. Yunel Escobar followed Kelly and singled to right with 1 out, but was caught trying to stretch the single into a double with 2 outs to end the inning. OK. You’re down 8-1. All you want to do is get on base. Getting into scoring position now isn’t important and it’s not worth the risk of losing the out. What makes this incredibly stupid is there were 2 outs and Chipper was coming up to bat next. You stay at 1st and let Chipper extend the rally. You don’t represent a meaningful run, so don’t waste an out. I don’t know if we have Brian Snitker, Glenn Hubbard, or Yunel Escobar to blame for that, but it was one of the most bone-headed plays I’ve ever seen. And I apologize for the 2nd person rant. Brandon Jones, who celebrated his first start of 2009 by going 2/3 with a walk and an RBI, drove in the final run of the game and we ended up losing 8-2 as Carlyle and Parr combined to shut the Reds out over the final 3 and 1/3 innings.
Kawakami’s bad day was really just a bad day and there’s nothing to be concerned about. He’s having trouble getting deep into games. When you’re used to using an undersized ball in a 6-man rotation you’ll probably need some time to adjust to the heavier workload of MLB pitching. Pitching in Cincinnati only exacerbates the problem. He’d been a very acceptable starter up until this point and I don’t foresee him having troubles like this frequently in the future. Everyone has bad outings and how you recover is key. He’s a veteran and there’s no reason to hit the “Panic/Send Kawakami to AAA in favor of <insert name here>” button.
The only run the bullpen allowed all series in 8 and 1/3 innings was Soriano’s, the guy who hadn’t allowed a run yet. Go figure. Much reason to be encouraged by the bullpen. And much reason to be encouraged by the rotation apart from Kawakami.
The bottom line is we didn’t look dominant in the series, but we didn’t look pathetic. I like the trend, may it continue.
This whole skipping the 5th starter and carrying a useless pitching staff member every other turn through the rotation hopefully will end for good after this series. Jurrjens, Reyes, and Vazquez will get the ball for the home-stand opening series against the St. Louis Cardinals. After the Cardinals, we play the Astros for 3 and the Mets for 2. Not exactly the easiest homestand, especially with the Cardinals on absolute fire right now.
The Cardinals come into this series co-owning the NL’s best record at 13-6. They’ll send Joel Pineiro, Kyle Lohse, and former Brave Adam Wainwright to the hill. Winning that first game, Jurrjens vs. Pineiro, would be huge as we’ll run into really tough right-handers in Wainwright and Lohse for the final 2 games. You still feel like you have a chance to win, especially the game Reyes ISN’T pitching, but dropping the first game of a series when you’ve got 2 really tough pitchers coming up would be pretty crappy.
The key to this series is going to be keeping runners off base in front of Albert Pujols. Making sure we go after their 9-1-2 hitters and don’t issue them any free passes in front of Pujols will be huge. You’ve also got dangerous hitters behing Pujols so walking him isn’t an option either. If Albert Pujols hits 5 home runs this series I don’t care as long as they’re solo shots. Providing him with unfavorable circumstances to produce runs is going to be key in this series. Otherwise, the offense needs to WAKE UP and play consistently. McCann out will hurt, but we’ve still got enough to win games provided our pitching continues to impress. I’ll be happy if we take 2/3 in this series. I’ll actually be surprised. If we get swept I’ll also be very angry. And it wouldn’t surprise me really. But I’m predicting we’ll take 1 out of 3.