October 10, 2009 at 2:51 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Front Office, Transactions
First of all, let me start by saying I have no agenda here. In no way am I “lobbing” for the Braves to trade Nate McLouth for Carlos Quentin. I’m sure there are twenty better ways to acquire a right-handed power hitter and I bet Frank Wren is already diligently exploring nineteen of them. I doubt anyone of importance when it comes to baseball decisions reads this site. And even if they did, I doubt they would pay any attention to it. I’m not an insider to the game. I don’t really know what’s going on. In fact, everything I write in this space could be complete bullshit. I generally believe that the principles I accept are true, but how do I really know? How does anyone know without working in a front office? How do they even really know then?
But before I launch into an internal philosophical debate, I’d just like to step back and say that the reason I do these trade proposals I do from time to time is because they fascinate me. I like to examine them from every angle. I like to find that perfect match. It’s fun to me. Nothing more, not of any particularly useful quality other than entertainment. Though that’s why we watch and write about and study baseball, right?
Furthermore, it doesn’t bother me if you disagree. I don’t believe that things I write along these lines are inherently right (i.e. I don’t think the Braves absolutely should do what I say. They’re a lot more knowledgeable, intelligent, and capable than me). It’s the discussion and the debate I enjoy. The types of readers I’m lucky enough to have attracted are exactly the type that I had hoped to–rational, respectful, and intelligent people more concerned with the truth and the process than the product. And I certainly don’t believe my opinion is better or more important than their opinion is.
My point is, I’m just doing this for fun. I not only don’t think these trade proposals should be taken as dogmatic*, I don’t even think they should be taken seriously. I just want to encourage intelligent discussion. Because that’s fun to me.
*I don’t think anything I write should be taken as dogmatic, really. I’m just a blogger, not a cult leader or someone of vast knowledge and experience who really knows what he’s talking about.
With that said, I have a little bit more on the McLouth-Quentin swap I proposed yesterday.
When prompted by the argument that the said proposal wouldn’t work because neither team would be dealing from a position of depth and it would subsequently create new holes (it was a very fair and good argument. Probably better than the one I’m about to make), this was my response:
I still think Atlanta and Chicago would probably both like to get that type of deal done. Chicago is looking for a LH bat to the point that they’ll move a RH bat to get one. Their best offensive player last year was Jim Thome. He hit .249/.372/.493 with 23 HR and was subsequently dealt in August. He was actually 3rd on the team in HR, behind Jermaine Dye (27), a RH-bat that most likely won’t return, and the right-handed Paul Konerko (28), whose contract expires after next year (2010). Though other than Jim Thome–who will not return to the team in 2010, there was not a legitimate left-handed bat on the team. A.J. Pierzenski, but he’s A.J. Pierzenski. And he only hit .300/.311/.425 with 13 HR. Chris Getz, playing 2B and making 415 PA’s (they could use a 2B, perhaps the Braves could include Kelly/Prado/Infante and get something else useful in return. A bullpen arm, maybe?), posted a .670 OPS with 2 HR. Though he did steal 25 bases and was caught only twice, it’s hard to have much of an impact when you’re batting average is .261, your OBP is .324, and you hit only 2 HR (.347 SLG%). The other lefties they had in 2009 include Scott Podsednik, who, in an extremely hit-lucky season (.341 BABIP), hit .304/.353/.412 with 7 HR (exactly one fifth of his career total); DeWayne Wise, who had a .628 OPS and 2 HR in 153 PA’s before basically being released; Mark Kotsay, who looks like he probably should’ve retired in 2006; and Jerry Owens, who has a career minor league OPS of .732. Point is, the White Sox need a LH-bat. Bad.
Also, given their current financial situation, the White Sox are not in a position to be aggressive on the Free Agent market this Winter. Not that the Free Agent market this winter is particularly good with regards to left-handed bats–Adam LaRoche, Johnny Damon, Russell Branyan, Rick Ankiel, and Bobby Abreu are your best options–but they don’t have the financial flexibility to acquire one of those guys, anyway. Also, they seem fairly married to their veterans. After all, four of them were around in 2005 when they (albeit improbably) won a World Series (Podsednik, Konerko, Pierzenski, and Buehrle), and they just acquired a few new toys they’re in love with (Peavy and Rios). The White Sox think they can win with this group, especially with all the young talent currently emerging (Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, John Danks, Tyler Flowers and Gavin Floyd). So moving a veteran to provide financial flexibility isn’t really an option for them, I wouldn’t think.
But, with their veteran core departing soon, 2010 may be their last chance to win with this group. And they’ve got the pitching to do it (Peavy, Buehrle, Danks, Floyd, and Garcia is a pretty damn good rotation). To have a realistic shot of competing in the AL Central they need to do two things. First of all, they need to add a left-handed bat or two. The whole point about financial flexibility is this: they’re not going to be able to acquire a good left-handed bat unless they make a trade like the one I mentioned, a premium piece they can part with for a premium piece they need. Otherwise, they’ll be sifting through the scrap heap hoping they find the next David Ortiz or Marco Scutaro (he bats right-handed, but that’s not the point). Secondly, they need to minimize their question marks offensively. Quentin, while he has tremendous upside, represents a question mark. He’s had only one consistently good season, 2008, and that one ended a month early because he broke a bat over his wrist (or his wrist over a bat, or maybe they both broke). Additionally, he’s notoriously injury-prone. McLouth, while he doesn’t possess the upside Quentin does, is less of a question mark. The floor is rather high for McLouth. He doesn’t get injured a lot, takes his walks, and steals some bases. So, even in the bad times (when he’s not hitting or not hitting for power), he’s going to be a somewhat productive player. Additionally, he’s a left-handed bat. And we know how badly they need left-handed bats. I think–given they don’t have a lot of other options and want to win now–that McLouth’s left-handed-ness and consistency, for lack of a better word, surpasses Quentin’s upside for the White Sox.
And then there’s the Braves. Almost as bad as the White Sox need a LH bat, the Braves need a RH power bat. Quentin is certainly that. Bill James once said that teams have something they do well even in their losses. For example, the 2009 Atlanta Braves largely get strong performances from their starting staff, even in losses. The Boston Red Sox get on base at a fairly good rate even in their losses, the Yankees hit even in their losses, the Phillies hit home runs in their losses, etc.. I’m of the belief that players are the same way. That is–even when they’re struggling, they’re still good at the thing they do best. Carlos Quentin is good at hitting home runs even if he’s struggling in every other facet of his game. For example, in 2009 Quentin hit .238/.323/.456 in a hitters’ park. A very bad batting average, a fairly modest on-base percentage, and a rather pedestrian SLG%. Still, he managed to hit a HR in 5.3% of his PA’s, nearly twice the league average (2.7%). Even when he struggled, he was able to hit HR’s. So, while he represents a question mark, the Braves know they’re at least getting a prolific Home Run hitter from the right side–their biggest need. A sort of Dave Kingman floor, if you will. And while Dave Kingman certainly isn’t your first choice to supply your team’s right-handed power–given his other limitations, this team needs a right-handed home run hitter to the point that adding a Dave Kingman would have a disproportionate effect and drastically improve the lifeless offense. So Carlos Quentin is a player that the Braves can afford to take a chance on. If he works out, excellent. If not, they’re probably still going to be OK and significantly improved.
With other concerns, like keeping the starting staff together, acquiring a 1B or re-signing LaRoche (something I think they should do if they acquire a RH-hitting OF), and shoring up the back end of the bullpen, the Braves could certainly stand to make a salary-neutral or salary-beneficial move for a cheap, young player. In fact, they’ll probably have to if they want to acquire premium pieces. Otherwise you either have to a) pick your poison and do without the rest or b) sift through the scrap heap. I doubt Wren will want to take many chances off of the scrap heap, given their low success rates, Bobby Cox’s impending retirement, and the fact that this team is built to win now. So this is the type of move both sides not only can make, but need to make.
As far as losing McLouth, yeah, the Braves lose their CF’er and lead-off man. Their center fielder who put up a -1.5 UZR/150 and their lead-off hitter who hit .257/.354/.410 with 11 HR and stole 12 bases at a 66.67% success rate (below the break-even point) in 396 PA’s. I’m not talking about trading a Grady Sizemore or a Curtis Granderson or a Torii Hunter or a Rickey Henderson. Don’t get me wrong, McLouth is a nice complementary piece, but don’t be fooled into thinking he’s a super-star, he ain’t. Additionally, they’ve got a perfectly capable replacement–Ryan Church–who will do just fine until their real CF, the CF they’re planning on building with, Jordan Schafer, is ready for the bigs. The way I see it, having McLouth around is potentially going to do more harm than good when Schafer’s ready. McLouth is the kind of player who is too valuable to sit but who won’t really have a position if he can’t play Center. He wasn’t going to be playing CF and hitting lead-off for much longer, anyway, and if you can move him now to acquire a right-handed power bat, something you desperately need to compete in 2010, I think you do it.
For me, McLouth’s uncertainty is outweighed by Quentin’s right-handed-ness, ability to hit home runs, and upside. And I think a trade that involves McLouth for Quentin makes a lot of sense for both the Braves and White Sox.
October 9, 2009 at 6:12 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Front Office, Links, NFL Picks, Transactions
With the Braves’ season done, the hot-stove season has begun. Some links and insights for Friday.
- Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated says the Braves may make a run at Matt Holliday. Personally, I think Matt Holliday is a perfect fit for the Braves. He plays good defense and fixes the biggest systematic weakness of the team–the inability to hit for power from the right side. Of course, as a Scott Boras client eligible for Free Agency for the first time, he won’t come cheap. JC Bradbury of Sabernomics speculates he’ll get 4 years, $68 million and Jorge Says No! speculates he’ll get 7 years, $110 million.
- David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says the Braves will aggressively pursue a right-handed power bat and suggest Nelson Cruz may be a good fit. Cruz is arbitration eligible in 2011 and a free agent after 2014 and the Rangers would presumably want young pitching in return. A few weeks ago, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs wrote about Nelson Cruz’s contact rates. The comments section of that article is also rather insightful.
- I’ll make another suggestion with regards to a trade for a right-handed power bat. Carlos Quentin for Nate McLouth. The Braves need a right-handed bat, the White Sox need a left-handed bat. They have similar contract situations, McLouth is owed $12.25 million over the next two years with a $9.4 million net option for 2012. Quentin is arbitration-eligible for the next three years. While McLouth represents financial certainty, Quentin perhaps has the more favorable contract. Neither player lived up to expectations in 2009. McLouth hit .257/.354/.419 with 11 HR in 396 PA’s and played below-average defense in CF for the Braves. Quentin hit .236/.323/.456 with 21 HR in 399 PA’s and played fairly bad defense in LF for the White Sox. McLouth is the superior defender, but Quentin is the superior bat. Quentin’s low average can be attributed to BABIP and injuries, as his contact rates were very good (as well as his walk rates) and his LD% was up from 2008, a year he hit .288/.394/.571 with 36 HR. Quentin is rather injury-prone, but McLouth had his share of injuries in 2009. This is just a purely hypothetical scenario. If it were to happen, I imagine Church would play CF until Schafer is ready and the outfield would eventually consist of, left to right, Quentin, Schafer, Heyward; with Diaz and Church (if he isn’t moved) on the bench. I would have no reservations about starting Church in center for a few months. As Mac Thomason of Braves Journal notes, Church is probably a better Center Fielder than McLouth.
- In the above article David O’Brien also mentions the Braves will likely look to add a reliever or two this off-season to off-set the departure of Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez. Of course, the Braves kicked the tires on acquiring a reliever in July but weren’t able to find a match. My take: adding a “proven closer” is a rather inefficient way to go about shoring up the bullpen. On the other hand, Bill Shanks of the Macon Telegraph reports that the Braves may pursue Free Agent Billy Wagner this off-season. If the price is right, he could be a good fit, but he’ll probably also cost the Braves their 1st round draft pick.
- Speaking of which, the 2010 draft order is out and the Braves will pick 19th (ESPN Insider Subscription Required), provided they don’t sign a Type A Free Agent who was offered arbitration by his previous club.
- Speaking of which, the final Elias Rankings are out. Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez project as Type A’s while Garret Anderson and Adam LaRoche project as Type B’s. Tim Hudson missed the cut for Type B status.
- Mark Bowman of MLB.com suggests that Frank Wren will try to trade Derek Lowe this winter. My take: if you can trade him, do it, but don’t eat any salary in the process. Lowe will likely be worth his contract, so it’s not necessarily a salary dump from either perspective. Well, it would be, but it’s not like you’re moving a particularly bad contract. Moving a big, valuable contract for financial flexibility is different than moving a big, bad contract.
- David O’Brien writes about which Braves may not return to the team in 2010. I’m not convinced he’s correct about Boone Logan being arbitration eligible in 2010. According to my calculations, he’ll have ~2.6 years of service time which probably makes him a month or two short of Super-2 status. There is a new poll regarding the arbitration-eligible players.
- If you’ve been watching the postseason, you’ve probably noticed that Chip Caray and Joe Simpson are part of the TBS Broadcast team. In my opinion, Joe Simpson has done an outstanding job serving as the Color Analyst for the Phillies-Rockies series. However, Chip Caray has been nothing short of absolutely horehounds. It all started when he botched an extremely important call in the play-in game (game 163) between the Twins and Tigers. He nearly did the exact same thing the following night covering the Yankees-Twins series. As Matt Casey of NBCsports.com notes, ripping on Chip Caray has become an enjoyable October tradition. He’s also been very fond of using the phrase “fisted” to describe a batted ball hit off the handle of the bat, prompting the emergence of this hilarious Twitter page.
- Speaking of announcing, I’m sure most of you know, but Boog won’t be returning to Fox Sports South to call the Braves games next season. He’s accepted a position as the full-time play-by-play announcer for ESPN Radio games. Personally, I really like Boog and I’ll miss having him call the games on a daily basis. That said, this is great news for him as it represents a substantial promotion.
- I can’t wait to watch Nick Blackburn pitch today. He pitched the 1-game playoff last year between the White Sox and Twins, one of the best games I’ve ever seen.
Browns 3 at Bills 24
Steelers 21 at Lions 20
Cowboys 38 at Chiefs 10
Vikings 44 at Rams 6
Raiders 3 at Giants 41
Buccaneers 3 at Eagles 31
Redskins 21 at Panthers 24
Bengals 21 at Ravens 24
Falcons 31 at 49ers 30
Jaguars 10 at Seahawks 11
Texans 35 at Cardinals 17
Patriots 20 at Broncos 21
Colts 28 at Titans 17
Jets 31 at Dolphins 20
October 8, 2009 at 8:24 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Defense, Front Office, Pitching, Statistical Analysis
This is going to be a very lengthy post. It will involve a lot of statistical analysis and will attempt to determine what the Braves did well, what they did badly, what they need to change, and generally how they got to where they are. While the purpose of this post is to examine the team as a whole, it will deal with the successes and shortcomings of individual players in the process. I haven’t formed any conclusions yet and won’t until the end of the post. So sit back and enjoy.
Part I: Where They Ended Up
Here’s what the NL East’s final standings look like:
The projection systems all had the Braves finishing with between 84 and 88 wins. They pretty much nailed it. Florida vastly overachieved. Philadelphia made some acquisitions and ended up being a better team than the projections thought. Injuries wrecked the Mets season. The Nationals were never in it to begin with.
A better indicator of how good a club actually is, rather than using the actual standings, is their Pythagorean W-L record. This method uses runs scored and runs allowed to estimate how many games a team should have won. We’ll take a look at the Pythagorean standings:
The Braves were much closer to the Phillies than the standings would indicate. A team that scores 735 runs and allows 641 should win 91 games. They won 86. However, second order Pythagorean wins is an even better indicator of how good a team actually is. These calculations don’t use actual runs scored and runs against, they use offensive components to determine how many runs a team would score and allow all luck removed. We’ll take a look at those standings:
And 3rd order Pythagorean wins is even more accurate. This takes into account the quality of opposition and park factors:
There’s nothing the Braves can do about this, really, it’s mostly just luck, but it’s rather annoying to think what might have been after watching the Phillies wallop the Rockies in game 1. Fundamentally, the Braves were probably the best team in the NL East. At any rate, this is a fairly good reference point for the rest of the post and a good starting point for 2010.
Part II: What They Did
Where the Braves ended up is a product of the four major categories–hitting, pitching, defense, and base running. We’ll examine each category with great scrutiny. We’ll start with the category that was undoubtedly the strength of the club: pitching.
There aren’t enough good things to say about the Braves’ pitching in 2009. Overall, staff ranked in the NL, as a whole, 3rd in ERA, 3rd in ERA+, 4th in WHIP, 1st in home runs allowed per 9 innings, 4th in hits allowed per 9 innings, 3rd in walks allowed per 9 innings, 5th in strikeouts per 9 innings, and 2nd in strikeout-to-walk ratio. In every meaningful category, the pitching staff was top-5 in the league.
The starting staff was exceptionally strong, posting a 3.52 ERA. That ranked 1st in the NL. Eight pitchers made a start for the Braves in 2009. We’ll take a look at their xFIP and ERA:
|Jo Jo Reyes||27.0||7.00||4.29|
Kris Medlen, Jo Jo Reyes, and Derek Lowe underachieved. On the other hand, Kenshin Kawakami, Jair Jurrjens, and Tommy Hanson underachieved. Javier Vazquez and Tim Hudson were in line with their pherepials. It’s a bit concerning that two of the team’s best starters were extremely lucky–Hanson and Jurrjens.
Jurrjens was able to accomplish this for a variety of reasons. Nine of the runs he allowed were scored “unearned”. If they were all earned, his ERA would’ve been 2.97. Jurrjens also benefited from a low BABIP (.274, 11 points lower than his career average and 25 points lower than the league average) and a high LOB% (79.4%). When you hear people say “trade Jurrjens while his value is high”, this is what they’re talking about. Advanced metrics suggest he’s incapable of repeating his 2009 performance with the same fundamental skills. They aren’t suggesting he won’t be valuable in the future, just not as valuable as he was in 2009.
Hanson also benefited from a low BABIP (.279), but his 80.3 LOB% is the biggest reason his ERA outperforms his xFIP. He also suffers because his HR rate is so low (0.7 HR/9), but that’s right in line with the rest of the Braves’ staff. A staff that has traditionally been extremely good at limiting home runs. I’m less concerned with regression from Hanson than I am from Jurrjens because Hanson’s strikeout rates and walk rates were significantly worse the first few starts than his minor-league numbers would indicate. He reversed the trend after a month or two and I expect that to continue in 2010.
Kawakami’s over achievement can be explained by his home run rates as well, something that he’s probably capable of sustaining. Kawakami also struggled with command in his MLB debut on account of a bigger, slicker baseball than he used in NPB and a smaller strike-zone. He’s seemingly made the adjustments he needs to and I expect improvement from Kenshin in 2010.
Derek Lowe was the biggest puzzler of them all. After signing a 4 year, $60 million contract, he disappointed with a 4.67 ERA. One would expect some regression due to park effects (Dodger Stadium is more pitcher-friendly than Turner Field), but this doesn’t account for a run-and-a-half of regression. Lowe didn’t get a whole lot of help from his defense in 2009. His .333 BABIP ranked 2nd in the league. This isn’t all luck, Lowe’s LD% was up in 2009, but a lot of it is. And of course his strikeouts were down in 2009 and his walks were up, but not significantly. All in all, his xFIP probably tells the complete story of Lowe’s abilities. In Lowe’s case, natural regression towards the mean will likely occurr in 2010 and I expect improvement from him. When it’s all said and done, Lowe will probably be worth every penny of that $60 million contract he signed this off-season.
The difference in Medlen’s xFIP and ERA isn’t particularly noteworthy and Reyes probably doesn’t figure to be a part of the Braves’ plans in 2010.
The Relievers were a less impressive group. Overall, they ranked 5th in the NL with a 3.68 ERA. We’ll take a look at the relievers’ ERA, xFIP, IP, and number of appearances. We’ll cut it off at 15 innings pitched. Kris Medlen, who primarily pitched in relief, is included in the previous table and not in this one:
Most of the work out of the bullpen was done by four relievers–Rafael Soriano, Peter Moylan, Mike Gonzalez, and Eric O’Flaherty. Soriano was excellent, notching the first Braves’ reliever 100-strikeout season since John Rocker did so in 1999. Peter Moylan proved to be an extremely valuable set-up man, despite having to dig his way out of a 7.88 ERA he posted in April. Moylan returned from Tommy John surgery in 2009 and many would argue he returned pre-maturely. His April performance suggests he probably did, but that’s neither here nor there. What’s done is done and, so long as no injuries surface, whether or not he came back too early isn’t particularly relevant going forward.
Something else happened to Moylan that was pretty noteworthy in 2009. He finished the year without allowing a home run. He shattered the major league record for appearances in a season without allowing a home run in doing so. The absence of Home Runs hit off of Moylan accounts for the difference between his ERA (which was in line with his FIP) and his xFIP (which adjusts FIP to account for league-average HR rates). While it would be unrealistic to expect Moylan to allow zero home runs in 2010, sinkerballers tend to limit home runs, so I believe his ERA is sustainable.
Mike Gonzalez was also excellent out of the bullpen. After being relegated to set-up man on account of Soriano’s dominant performance, he excelled and was probably the league’s top set-up man. His ERA was a bit of an illusion, but he did post an excellent 90-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Gonzalez was also invaluable as a late-innings left-handed reliever, limiting lefties to a .581 OPS.
Eric O’Flaherty rounded out the group of late-innings arms. O’Flaherty was used primarily as a lefty specialist and was excellent in that role. He was even more effective than Gonzalez against the lefties, allowing them to post a .559 OPS and posting a 24-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio against them. As the season grew, Bobby Cox became more and more comfortable using O’Flaherty against right-handed batters. He wasn’t nearly as good against them, allowing them to post a .375 OBP against him. Using O’Flaherty in a full inning role in 2010 would be a mistake, but he’s more than capable of being one of the best LOOGY’s in the game.
Jeff Bennett was terrible and able to sustain a low ERA despite horrible peripherals before being released. Manny Acosta wasn’t too good out of the bullpen either, but he’s perfectly capable of pitching low-leverage innings. Buddy Carlyle was diagnosed with Diabetes and, as a result, we have little meaningful data on him. He was good in 2008 and I expect him to compete for a long-relief role in 2010. The most interesting pitchers of the low-leverage group (apart from Medlen) was Boone Logan. Logan, who was acquired from the White Sox in the Javier Vazquez trade, has a big arm and pitched fairly well for the Gwinnett Braves, but wasn’t used very much with the big club. His platoon splits (in an admittedly small sample size) suggest he’s perfectly capable of filling in as a situational lefty. His peripherals were fairly solid.
Injury concerns arose during the season due to Bobby Cox’s overuse of the 4 back-end arms, but Bobby did a much better job of managing the bullpen in the 2nd half. I’m not too concerned that overuse will cause injuries to suffer in 2010, but it’s something I’ll be keeping an eye on.
Overall, the pitching staff was very good. The Braves will most likely bring all 6 starters back, but may have to deal with the departures of Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez. While I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary, it would be nice to have another top-notch reliever in the 2010 bullpen to soften the blow of losing Soriano and Gonzalez. Otherwise, I think the Bullpen is much healthier than it was leading into 2009. Still, provided injuries or bad luck don’t rear their ugly heads, the pitching staff should be just as strong in 2010 as it was in 2009.
On the other side of run prevention–defense–the Braves weren’t nearly as good. This was, to me, the biggest surprise of the season. I envisioned an above-average defense. But when it was all said and done, the Braves ranked 21st of 30 teams in defensive efficiency (turning balls put in play into outs). We’ll take a look at how the team stacked up defensively, as a whole. Each position is listed along with the number of runs the team saved (+/-) at that position:
There are three positions that obviously need improvement–LF, CF, and 2B. Individually, we’ll look at what the Braves did:
Brian McCann has improved to a league-average catcher and his back-up is more than capable defensively. When the Braves traded Casey Kotchman, they lost something on defense. Kotchman is a plus defender. While LaRoche isn’t a complete slouch with the glove, he’s average at best. None of the 2B were particularly good. Yunel Escobar was outstanding at SS and has turned into one of the best defensive SS in the game. Diory Hernandez isn’t good at anything–defense included. Chipper Jones, who I expected to have an average season after performing surprisingly well with the glove in 2008, was miserable in the field in 2009. The only reason the Braves’ +/- number for 3B was positive is the excellent defensive work Martin Prado put in as the back-up.
In the outfield, left field was rather miserable every time Garret Anderson was out there. The good news is he most likely won’t return in 2010. Matt Diaz wasn’t particularly good out there, either. In center field, Jordan Schafer failed to live up to the hype. He was touted as one of the best defensive CF in the minor leagues, but got to the big show and looked completely lost. I expect him to play plus defense in CF going forward. McLouth had an overall positive defensive season, but it’s worth note that his UZR/150 with the Pirates was +5.6 but it was -1.5 with the Braves. I view McLouth as a below-average defender in center, but probably an above-average defender at a corner. One way to possibly solve both defensive OF problems would be to allow Schafer to resume full-time duty in CF and play McLouth in LF. In Right, Church was the 2nd best defender on the team. Matt Diaz and Francoeur both weren’t very good.
I have reviewed this team’s defense endlessly in this space and concluded that if this team wants to get better defensively, they probably have to just do it internally. There aren’t any openings (1B, corner OF) to add an impact defender. But with a commitment to defense, this club could push themselves into the top-half defensively. Ranking in the top-half defensively should be good enough to make this club the best in baseball at preventing runs in 2010.
Offensively, the Braves started out extremely slow. For this, they got a bad rap, but they ended up averaging 4.54 runs a game, good for 6th in the NL. They ended up finishing 5th in walks, 4th in hits, 4th in doubles, 6th in average, 5th in OBP, but finished 9th in SLG% and 10th in HR. It’s fairly obvious that the biggest systematic weakness of the team was the inability to hit home runs.
The Braves attempted to solve this problem all season long, which led to a re-tooled offense. Going from a line-up that typically looked like this:
1. Kelly Johnson* – 2B
2. Yunel Escobar – SS
3. Chipper Jones# – 3B
4. Brian McCann* – C
5. Garret Anderson* – LF
6. Jeff Francoeur – RF
7. Casey Kotchman* – 1B
8. Jordan Schafer* – CF
To a line-up that typically looked like this:
1. Nate McLouth* – CF
2. Martin Prado – 2B
3. Chipper Jones# – 3B
4. Brian McCann* – C
5. Garret Anderson* – LF
6. Yunel Escobar – SS
7. Adam LaRoche* – 1B
8. Matt Diaz – RF
Drastically improved their overall offensive numbers, but the only sort of impact home-run hitter added was Adam LaRoche, who is a free agent at the end of the season and has 30-HR power in a good year. We’ll take a look at every player’s weighted On Base Average, minimum 95 PA’s:
The Braves did a fairly good job of getting the useless bats out of there. Jordan Schafer’s .273 wOBA was replaced by Nate McLouth’s .342 wOBA. Jeff Francoeur’s .278 wOBA was replaced, in large part, by Matt Diaz’s .384 wOBA. Kelly Johnson’s .306 wOBA was replaced by Martin Prado’s .355 wOBA. And Kotchman’s .332 wOBA was replaced by Adam LaRoche’s .404 wOBA. There was one more bat they should’ve gotten rid of, that was Garret Anderson. For instance, if Bobby Abreu’s .367 wOBA had been playing left field instead of Garret Anderson for the 534 PA’s he consumed, the Braves would’ve netted 3 more wins. And that’s just with the bat.
Overall, they’re dealing with a fairly solid group of offensive players. With rebound seasons from McLouth, Schafer, Kelly Johnson, and Chipper Jones, they’ll have a decent enough offense. However, if they’re serious about winning in 2010, a power bat to man one of the corner outfield positions or 1B is going to be a necessity. Due to the fact that most of the Braves’ power-hitting comes from the left side (Chipper, McCann, and McLouth, specifically), a right-handed power bat would be ideal and may have a disproportionate effect on the offense, propelling them from a slightly above-average one to a top-4 offense.
On the base paths, the Braves were absolutely miserable. Not just a little bit bad, they were plain awful. In fact, if it weren’t for Baltimore’s incredible incompetence on the base paths, the Braves would’ve ranked dead last in the majors in base running, costing the team nearly two wins on the bas epaths. As you can probably guess, there weren’t too many positive performances individual performances on the base paths, seeing as the team ranked 29th of 30. We’ll take a look at EqBRR (Equivalent Base Running Runs) for each individual, anyway:
Simply put, nothing overwhelmingly positive is going on here and plenty of overwhelmingly bad things are going on here. I have previously concluded that the Braves probably aren’t in the position to add an impact base runner, so they’re probably better off just trying to improve within. I don’t see any reason it can’t be done. With a little bit of focus, some coaching, and some re-tooled workouts, I don’t see any reason why this team has to continue killing themselves on the base paths.
Part III: Where They’re Going
After losing 90 games in 2008, losing most of the rotation and the centerpiece of the offense, Frank Wren was tasked with trying to re-build the club. He was able to field a competent pitching staff–the inability to do so was the downfall of the club in 2008–but the offense didn’t take off until Wren made some in-season moves. As it stands, the club is probably good enough to make the playoffs in 2010, but Wren has some interesting decisions on his hand. We’ll take a look at the payroll commitments for 2010:
|SP -||Derek Lowe||$15,000,000|
|SP -||Javier Vazquez||$11,500,000|
|SP -||Tim Hudson||$12,000,000|
|SP -||Jair Jurrjens||$400,000|
|SP -||Tommy Hanson||$400,000|
|SP -||Kenshin Kawakami||$7,333,333|
|RP -||Peter Moylan||Arb 1|
|RP -||Eric O’Flaherty||$400,000|
|RP -||Manny Acosta||$400,000|
|RP -||Kris Medlen||$400,000|
|RP -||Boone Logan||$400,000|
|C -||Brian McCann||$5,666,666|
|2B -||Martin Prado||$400,000|
|SS -||Yunel Escobar||$400,000|
|3B -||Chipper Jones||$13,000,000|
|LF -||Nate McLouth||$5,000,000|
|CF -||Jordan Schafer||$400,000|
|RF -||Matt Diaz||Arb 2|
|BC -||David Ross||$1,600,000|
|UT -||Omar Infante||$1,850,000|
|UT -||Kelly Johnson||Arb 2|
|OF -||Brandon Jones||$400,000|
|OF -||Ryan Church||Arb 2|
You’re basically looking at 6 starters, 5 relievers, 2 catchers, 5 infielders (no 1B), and 5 outfielders. The Braves probably need to add a reliever or two (which could be accomplished by moving a starter to the bullpen), and add a 1B and OF. They’ve probably got about $12 million to play with right now. I won’t start playing the roster game, because I’ll never stop, but there are plenty of options.
The outlook for 2010 is good. Right now the Braves have one of the best teams in the NL and they’ll just be looking to re-tool, as opposed to completely re-construct a pitching staff and offense. Adding an impact bat and reliever would certainly make this team very formidable, but they’re probably good enough to make it as they’re currently constructed.
It was a very successful season. The pitching staff was completely re-built, Francoeur is a Met, the rest of the out-machines are elsewhere, and the Braves finally played meaningful games. They enjoyed the successful run that almost took them to the post-season and will look to build on it in 2010. With the much-anticipated arrivals of Craig Kimbrel and Jason Heyward, among others, the Braves could be looking to begin another run similar to the one they experienced in 1991.
While the Braves didn’t make the playoffs, the future is very bright and there’s plenty to be excited about going forward. 2010 will be a good year for the Braves. Count on it.
October 1, 2009 at 10:33 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Daily Post, Defense, Draft, Front Office, Statistical Analysis
Ravens 24 at Patriots 23
Buccaneers 10 at Redskins 11
Titans 17 at Jaguars 20
Raiders 10 at Texans 27
Lions 3 at Bears 13
Bengals 31 at Browns 9
Seahawks 17 at Colts 27
Giants 31 at Chiefs 6
Jets 24 at Saints 31
Bills 35 at Dolphins 31
Cowboys 31 at Broncos 14
Rams 10 at 49ers 21
Chargers 17 at Steelers 21
Packers 31 at Vikings 30
The title says it all. The best the Braves can do at this point is tie. With a strange loss last night and a Rockies win, the Braves are 4 back with 4 to play. Their elimination number is one. Here’s the chart to illustrate:
|To Tie After 162|
It’s a shame the Braves will probably be eliminated, because they’re a good team. But this run has been fun, no question.
Gaffe Last Night
I’d like to make a few comments on the 2nd biggest base running gaffe in Braves’ history. First of all, you can’t hate Matt Diaz no matter how bad of a mistake it is. Matt Diaz is too like-able of a guy. I’m glad it was a like-able guy because the fans and front-office won’t overreact and condemn the player for one play despite all of his good work. Kelly Johnson, for instance, isn’t an extremely like-able guy, though I suppose he is as like-able as the next guy. But because he’s not a super-like-able guy, his reputation has never recovered from the “dropped pop-up“. Because it’s impossible for Matt Diaz to do wrong, his reputation won’t be extremely tarnished from one play.
Secondly, Bobby Cox states after the game:
I haven’t seen too many end like that — and Matty’s our best base runner.
Well, Matt Diaz has cost the Braves more runs on the base paths than anyone on the team except the departed Casey Kotchman, Chipper Jones, David Ross, and Brian McCann. None of their EQBRR’s are below -3 (except Kotchman, who is a painfully bad base runner. PAINFUL) and this is largely a function of the opportunity to cost runs (i.e. times on base). And of course, the team leader, Omar Infante, has just over 2 EQBRR, so we’re not talking a ton of difference here. I mean, all together this is a very bad base running team. But Baseball Prospectus thinks Matt Diaz is below-average on the base paths, and 29th of 33 Braves. So you know what my position on Diaz’s base running probably is*. But let’s assume, for a second, that Bobby Cox doesn’t check the Baseball Prospectus EQBRR numbers as frequently as I do.
*It’s actually a lot better than 29th of 33. Diaz, I had always thought, was good at taking the extra base and just sort of “heads up” base running moves. This year he’s tried to steal more and his 70.59% success rate hurts him a bit. He’s also made a gaffe or two, like last night. But I don’t think the numbers necessarily represent Diaz’s actual value, here. Though any way you slice it, he isn’t a significantly above-average base runner.
What makes him think Diaz is the best base runner? Him and Nate McLouth both have identical SB-CS numbers (12-5), but McLouth has accomplished it in 50 fewer PA’s. They lead the team in SB. Kelly Johnson’s 7-for-9 in SB (77.78%), Chipper and McCann’s 4-for-5 (80.00%), and the four players that have stolen a base but haven’t been caught–Omar Infante (2), Gregor Blanco (2), Garret Anderson (1), and Reid Gorecki (1)–are all better SB success rates than Matt Diaz’s 70.59%.
I know “the best” and “the most valuable” don’t always equal, otherwise clubs wouldn’t spend millions of dollars on the development of their prospects, but I think the evidence is pretty clear that Matt Diaz is not the Braves’ best base runner.
But this brings up a bigger point. The Braves are horrible at running the bases. When your manager, and one of the best all time, mistakes the 29th most valuable base runner for the best, you simply, as a whole, are indistinguishable and overwhelmingly mediocre. The Braves are currently, and will finish at best, 28th in baseball with -13.536 EQBRR. I discussed earlier the impact of base running and concluded that if you’re looking to build an offense around base running and that’s the only feature of the offense, the offense will fail. To that end, I don’t suggest the Braves go out of their way to fix their base running problems by acquiring players to improve base running at the expense of another area. It’s absolutely easier to win with the 28th best EQBRR than the 28th OBP or SLG% or AVG or ERA or Home Runs or Home Runs Allowed etc…
But I think it should be Jeff Porter’s mission to have all of the players on a diet and work-outs geared towards getting faster next year. It theoretically helps defensively and with regards to base running. The Braves two biggest weaknesses of the four major categories (Pitching, Defense, Hitting, Base Running) are defense (the Braves are 19th in defensive efficiency) and base running.
I concluded earlier that the way the Braves are configured, they’re not in a position to add an impact defender. Their only conceivable positions to add a player are 1B and corner OF, you’re not going to get an ultra-valuable defensive player at either of those positions. So, if they want to get better defensively, they’re probably going to have to do it internally (using more favorable alignments and a commitment from the players to get better individually and focus more). By the same token, base running isn’t an important enough category to justify adding an impact player at the expense of adding an impact player in another category. So to get better on the base paths, the Braves are probably going to have to just do it themselves. And I think Jeff Porter needs to step in here and have the players commit to being in better condition next year. For the sake of defense and base running.
Of course, this also begs the question, should Brian Snitker be fired? And you all know my position on that issue. (In case you don’t, the answer is a “yes”).
Thoughts on Closers
When asked what I thought about the possibility of bringing in a free agent non-closer and letting him try to close, this was my response:
I like the idea of bringing in someone who hasn’t closed before (or in awhile). Paying market rate for closers is the fastest way to add a bad contract to your team. See this year: Francisco Cordero, Jose Valverde, Francisco Rodriguez, Billy Wagner, Brad Lidge, B.J. Ryan, Kerry Wood, and Brian Fuentes. All of these pitchers were significantly less valuable than their contract and they were all either signed as free agents or locked up at market-rates before they hit free agency. The list of economically successful post-FA closers is much smaller. Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, and Trevor Hoffman (but for the deal he signed, he’s hardly being paid market-rate for a closer).
So if you want to shore up the bullpen, paying market rate for a free agent seems like the worst way to do it. That leaves a) paying less than market rate for a closer on the FA market, b) acquiring a non-closer like you suggested, or c) making a trade for a reliever. I’d hate to give up prospects for a reliever, although a spare part (Kelly Johnson, Ryan Church, etc..) for a reliever could work.
Otherwise, you’re left with scrap heap closers, the type of acquisition you pray will work out and rarely does, and those that never got the opportunity to close. And if you’re good with your scouting and research, you might be able to find someone who is just as capable as the best reliever on the market (the one who is being well overpaid to close games for the Cubs) from the group of FA RP’s that have never closed.
Maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t. There’s inherent risk every time you bring in a new RP, regardless of whether or not they’ve closed before. RP’s are so volatile in the first place that you assume risk with each pitcher you acquire. There’s always that chance that they injure themselves or forget how to get outs. I think there’s more uncertainty in the bullpen than any other position in baseball. Teams cycle through relievers, discard them and recall them at their whims. That’s because they accept the risk and choose to get by riding the hot hand rather than devote resources there.
John Schuerholz understood this perhaps better than anyone. In the age of relievers getting huge contracts and closers being paid like DH’s, Schuerholz never committed long-term to something as volatile as a relief pitcher. As well he shouldn’t have. Look at all the different single-season saves leaders (and others that saved at least 10 games) during the playoff run:
1991 – Juan Berenguer – 17 (Alejandro Pena – 11)
1992 – Alejandro Pena – 15
1993 – Mike Stanton – 27 (Greg McMichael – 19)
1994 – Greg McMichael – 21
1995 – Mark Wholers – 25
1996 – Mark Wholers – 39
1997 – Mark Wholers – 33
1998 – Kerry Lightenberg – 30
1999 – John Rocker – 38
2000 – John Rocker – 24 (Mike Remlinger – 12, Kerry Lightenberg – 12)
2001 – John Rocker – 19 (John Smoltz – 10)
2002 – John Smoltz – 55
2003 – John Smoltz – 45
2004 – John Smoltz – 44
2005 – Chris Retisma – 15 (Dan Kolb – 11, Kyle Farnsworth – 10)
That’s 12 people that saved at least 10 games in 15 seasons. There was zero stability there. So whoever says you have to have a big-name, established closer to win is full of it. And someone who says you have to have a big-name, established closer to win in the post-season is even stupider. The Braves made the post-season 14 consecutive times. And the three years that the best closer they’ve ever had was closing games for them, they lost in the post-season, too.
I should add that I think keeping everyone on the pitching staff except Soriano and Gonzalez is the correct decision. Whether that sends Lowe, Kawakami, Hudson, or whoever to the bullpen, I don’t care, but the invaluable rotation depth is something the Braves should value and preserve at all costs. Even that of the bullpen. If you’ve got enough resources to bring in a 1B or corner OF and you can bring in some bullpen help, then you go cowering through the trade market and free agents searching for a bargain bullpen arm. But that’s the last thing you add.
- Brian McCann is still at 92 RBI.
- Chipper Jones is still at 18 HR.
- Peter Moylan is still at 85 appearances and still hasn’t allowed a Home Run.
- Rafael Soriano still has 96 strikeouts.
- Javier Vazquez still leads Tim Lincecum 2.90 to 2.93 in xFIP.
At Least the Nationals are here
But it doesn’t really matter. Nothing like playing a meaningless game with the Nationals again. The Braves played so many of them last year (18) and only managed to win 6 of them. And who knows, maybe the Braves improve their draft order. They’d pick 23rd if the season ended now, so here are the teams the Braves could potentially overtake in the draft standings over the next few days:
San Francisco, Florida, and Texas have been eliminated, but the Tigers still have to clinch the AL Central (they could do so with a win against Minnesota today). So there’s probably a decent chance the Braves will pick 22nd or even 21st. The best-case scenario is would be 19th. Regardless, they’re not getting a protected 1st rounder, so I wouldn’t advise signing Type A Free Agents that have been offered arbitration by another club.
Fixing a Hole
As much as I ramble about defense and base running, the Braves’ biggest hole for over a year now is the absence of a right-handed power hitter. Jeff Francoeur was supposed to be that person and, well, that didn’t work. It looks like the Braves will make fixing this hole a priority this off-season. Per David O’Brien:
As it relates to Braves, you should presume Braves will focus on right-handed power bats, not another lefty. They’re serious about getting a right-handed bat, from what I hear. Not lefty.
He also goes on to dismiss the notion that the Braves should push for Chone Figgins (a stupid suggestion in the first place).
Who doesn’t love Chone Figgins’ game and think he could help their team? But the Braves want to add a power bat, and he’s not that. He’s many things, but not a big power hitter.
I think it’s good that the Braves are looking to fill their need. The two most logical targets, though, are Paul Konerko and Derrek Lee, two players with no-trade clauses and players whose teams don’t match up well with the Braves for a potential trade. Perhaps they add a OF. I hope they don’t go with Jermaine Dye. I can’t take another year of bad OF defense.
Elias Rankings Update
Remember when I said Hudson is a Type B? Forget I ever said that. The rankings were wrong. He’s not a Type B and likely won’t be. Not that it’s of huge impact. Everything else is correct.
That’s all I got.
September 23, 2009 at 4:54 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Front Office, NL East News, Transaction Analysis, Transactions
As you all probably know by now, Bobby Cox will return to manage the team in 2010. After that, he’ll fill in an advisory role from 2011-2015. Basically, 2010 is Bobby’s last year managing the Braves. Per David O’Brien:
Just got upstairs after the interview with Frank and Bobby. As you’ve heard, Cox is coming back for one season to manage, then has a five-year contract to be an advisor. They said that with all the misinformation and speculation out there the past couple of days, they went ahead and announced now what they were going to announce after the road trip.
Both again denied that anything close to what reportedly happened in spring training actually happened. Bobby said sure, they’ve had disagreements like any GM and manager, but he laughed at the suggestion that he almost quit because of any of those disagreements.
I think this is a good thing for the organization. Both so it gives the organization another year to find a replacement and ensures Bobby will be around for 6 more years. Having Bobby around is not a bad thing.
There are, generally, only three types of different opinions on Bobby Cox. He’s a polarizing character. He’s been around a long time, and everyone who has been around a long time causes polarization. So, and correct me if I missed one but, there are only three types of opinions on Bobby Cox that I can think of.
1) The “I love him” opinion. This one usually belongs to an older fan or a fan that is more rooted in the traditions of the game. People who don’t really give a shit about statistical analysis at all. And not even pseudo-analysis (RBI, HR, AVG. They simply couldn’t care less about the numbers). Let me stop and say I don’t think this is a bad thing. I learn things from them every day. And if you think they’re bad for the game you probably fit in category two. But anyway, they don’t care that a bunt costs you runs in the long run. They’re intent is to win each game, not to maximize their efficiency. Not that they’re correct in their execution of this strategy, as maximizing efficiency generally leads to more wins, but that’s what they’re about. And I give them an “A” for effort. And even though they could be wrong, you still learn things from “”A” for effort” people in every facet of life. Baseball included.
2) The second type of opinion is the “I hate him” opinion. This one generally belongs to the younger fan. The 15-to-29-year-old fan that thinks they know a lot more about the game than they actually do. They criticize Bobby Cox for playing Francoeur then they criticize Bobby Cox for sitting Francoeur. They criticize Bobby for using Moylan then they criticize him for not using Moylan. They criticize Bobby for using Prado then they criticize him when he sits Prado. These are just a few examples of the copious amounts of complaining these people do. Not that I completely discourage the complaining. I don’t think the entire spectrum of one’s baseball discussion should revolve around Manager’s failings, though. The larger problem is that they fail to see the bigger picture. The fact that a manager makes a sub-optimal decision he has much less impact than you actually think. And people constantly rattle off things like, “Bobby cost us the win tonight”. Like I always say, if there was a manager that was worth 5 wins, teams would pay him $20 million. No such character exists.
3) The “I really don’t care” opinion. This one is shared by those most in-touch with the game today (not necessarily the past), the most statistically savvy that actually know what they’re talking about. The reason they don’t care is because they realize what goes on behind the scenes is much more important than his on-field decisions. The on-field decisions, while they have some negative impact, are far outweighed by his ability to manage the clubhouse and get the most out of his players. So, as long as he’s doing that, he’s doing his job. And Bobby Cox has certainly done his job. Realizing that managers don’t have very much impact, they’re rather indifferent on the issue. Should he actually be costing the teams wins, perhaps they may be more inclined to take an opinion on the issue.
The consensus among good baseball fans is that this is–at worst–a no impact move and at best a good move.
September 15, 2009 at 1:19 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Front Office, Pitching, Transactions
I guess Monday is the most common day to have off. And I guess it enables me to watch Monday Night Football. But the Braves had consecutive Mondays off. And guess what! The Marlins lost! I didn’t know the Marlins did the whole losing thing based on what I saw from them earlier this year. Anyway.
The Nationals are 7 losses away from a 100-loss season, the Mets have to go 7-11 to match the Braves’ 2008 record, and the Braves are 8 out in the loss column. That’s all you need to know.
2010 Bullpen Preview
I promised I’d preview the 2010 Braves bullpen. Here goes:
Candidates: Under Team Control
Kenshin Kawakami ($6,333,333), Peter Moylan (arbitration eligible, 1st time), Manny Acosta (pre-arb), Boone Logan (pre-arb), Eric O’Flaherty (pre-arb), Luis Valdez (pre-arb), Jo Jo Reyes (pre-arb), Craig Kimbrel (prospect), Todd Redmond (prospect), Jonny Venters (prospect), Mariano Gomez (prospect).
Candidates: Outside the Organization
It’s impossible to list all of the possibilities, but Rafael Soriano (type A), Mike Gonzalez (type A), and Vladimir Nunez (minor league deal) are impending Free Agents. The Braves have been linked to Billy Wagner–an impending Type A Free Agent–by John Heyman, as well. I’ve stated that Kerry Wood might be a nice buy-low proposition, suggesting the Braves ship a fringe prospect to Cleveland for Kerry Wood provided they eat some of his salary. For a list of impending Free Agents, click here.
How I’d do it:
I would pick up Hudson’s option, move Kawakami to the bullpen, and let Soriano and Gonzalez walk and collect the draft picks. Between Kawakami, Moylan, Medlen, and (eventually) Kimbrel, I don’t think you have any trouble closing games. Fill out the pen with Logan, O’Flaherty, and Acosta, holding onto the depth of Gomez, Valdez, etc.. My philosophy is that spending money, prospects, and draft picks on the bullpen is usually a mis-allocation of resources. Relievers simply don’t pitch enough innings to be worth a ton of money or talent. On the flip side, a good bullpen helps a team overachieve, so it’s a nice thing to have. Still, I think the Braves have enough quality arms–especially with the emergence of Kimbrel, provided his AFL, Spring Training, and 2 months at AAA go well–to have a good bullpen without allocating any resources towards it in the off-season.
Go with, for most of the season, a bullpen of:
CL – Kenshin Kawakami
CL – Peter Moylan
SU – Kris Medlen
SU – Craig Kimbrel
LH – Eric O’Flaherty
LH – Boone Logan
MR – Manny Acosta
Prediction as to what will actually happen:
The Braves let Soriano and Gonzalez walk and sign Billy Wagner. They use their 1st round pick to do so, but they got 2 back from Soriano and Gonzalez (plus two sandwich round picks), which softens the blow. Go with, basically, this bullpen:
CL – Billy Wagner
SU – Peter Moylan
SU – Craig Kimbrel
SU – Eric O’Flaherty
LH – Boone Logan
LR – Kris Medlen
MR – Manny Acosta
The Mets Come To Town
As I pointed out earlier, the Braves have nothing but NL East opponents left for the rest of the season. They open this 19 game stretch against the New York Mutts. Today it’ll be Hanson vs. Misch. Wednesday it’ll be Lowe vs. Parnell. And Thursday it’ll be Jurrjens vs. Figueroa (maybe the most complicated pitching match-up to spell in the history of this space). Sweep is necessary for two reasons. One, the Braves can’t afford to lose any ground. Two, it’s the fucking Mets, and you have to sweep them, because they’re the Mets.
Braves Discussing Extension With Hudson?
According to Buster Olney, the Braves may discuss extending Tim Hudson. He’s looked good in 3 starts and if there’s a way to keep him in Atlanta for longer at a lower salary, I’d probably be all for it. Mark Bowman reports that Tim Hudson likes the idea as well. I’d like to see Vazquez and Hudson sign extensions this off-season.
That’s all I got for now. Go Braves.
September 6, 2009 at 7:10 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Front Office, Transactions
Turning the page on the 2009 season, the Braves have a strong class of impending Free Agents. If everything plays out perfectly, the Braves could net a very strong 2010 draft class. Let’s take a look at the class.
Rafael Soriano – RHP (relief) Type A
Soriano will likely command a longer term deal than the Braves will be willing to offer. I won’t rule out the possibility of the Braves re-signing him, but I don’t think it’s likely. There’s zero chance he slips down to the type B status. I believe there’s no chance the Braves don’t offer him arbitration and collect the two draft picks. If Soriano accepts, he’ll likely make ~$9 million. Although this may have to be coupled with a corresponding move (trading a SP, specifically), I don’t think the Braves would feel too bad about paying Rafael Soriano $9 million for 1 year.
Mike Gonzalez – LHP (relief) Type A
Gonzo is basically in the exact same boat as Soriano. Probably seeking more years and dollars the Braves are willing to spend and there’s no possibility he drops to type B. Again, I don’t think there’s any chance the Braves pass on offering Gonzalez arbitration. I believe the organization would most likely be more willing to sign Gonzalez than Soriano, and I think they’ll at least attempt to sign one of them, but if they don’t they’ll happily accept their draft picks. Again, an arbitration raise for Mike Gonzalez isn’t something the Braves can’t handle, so the no-risk high reward decision to offer Gonzalez arbitration will be an easy one.
Adam LaRoche – 1B/DH Type B
LaRoche, who the Braves acquired for Casey Kotchman at the non-waiver trade deadline, has boosted his Elias ranking up to type B on account of his stellar performance in a Braves uniform, hitting .345/.421/.586 with 8 HR. LaRoche highlights the group of free agent 1B on the market this off-season, so he’ll likely look to exploit that and land a big deal. The Braves most likely won’t be able to–or desire to–meet his demands. Again, I don’t think there’s a chance the Braves pass on offering him arbitration. And while they could also handle having LaRoche accept, there’s virtually zero chance he will. So the Braves will most likely get a draft pick out of this one. There’s a chance LaRoche will slip back into the “just missed Type B category”. In that case, no point in offering LaRoche arbitration.
Garret Anderson – OF/DH Type B
Garret has hit .285/.321/.431 this season and played lousy defense. He’s pretty much a DH at this point. This one’s more tricky than the others because I don’t imagine the Braves want Garret Anderson anywhere near their payroll. He’s been alright, but the Braves need to move onto better and younger things. Does Garret even play next season? Would he accept arbitration if offered? If the Braves are confident Garret won’t accept arbitration and wants to sign elsewhere, he’ll be offered arbitration. I just don’t know if the reward of a draft pick out-weighs the risk of Garret accepting and having a $5 million bench bat next season.
The Braves could gain 6 additional draft picks next year. It will be interesting to see how the entire off-season plays out, but I’m especially looking forward to seeing how the impending free agent class is handled. Specifically with respect to arbitration. One final thing of note. There’s an outside shot that Tim Hudson sneaks in as a Type B. I have a feeling that the Braves will exercise his option, though.