November 14, 2009 at 2:15 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Player Analysis, Statistical Analysis
Candidates to regress towards the mean in 2010:
The ’09 Overachievers
Jair Jurrjens – This one’s as much of a sure thing as there is. Jurrjens posted a 4.44 xFIP and a 2.60 ERA. Jurrjens benefited from an unsustainable 79.4% LOB% and a most likely unsustainable .274 BABIP. Expect regression from Jurrjens in 2010 to the tune of a full run. And that might not be enough. It’s absurd how lucky Jurrjens was in 2009 and in all likelihood, that ain’t going to continue. When you hear people suggesting the Braves trade Jurrjens, this is what they’re talking about.
Eric O’Flaherty – A 4.04 xFIP (versus a 3.04 ERA) and a 49.1% platoon advantage in 2009 will likely lead to regression in 2010. As I’ve pointed out before, O’Flaherty is very bad against right-handed batters. For instance, he posted a 15-to-12 K/BB ratio against RHB in 2009 but posted a 24-to-6 K/BB ratio against LHB in 2009. Bobby is going to use O’Flaherty as a full-inning reliever (and it’s going to be a huge mistake) in 2010 and that combined with the natural regression of his hit-luck will likely lead to a much uglier ERA in 2010.
The “I don’t know” group
Martin Prado – I have a rule of thumb: Never count on a guy who has a career minor-league 7.46 BB% and 0.093 ISO over 2000+ MiLB PA’s. That’s not really a rule of thumb, but those are Prado’s minor-league rate stats, which indicate a player had better contribute a hell of a lot with his glove or hit .330 to be a productive MLB regular. Well, after 868 MLB PA’s (not nearly as big of a sample size as I’d like), Prado’s walk rate has held steady he’s posted a 0.144 ISO, and he’s hit .307 (fueled by a .336 BABIP), leading to a .307/.360/.451. I’m skeptical as to whether the ISO or the BABIP is sustainable. I really don’t know whether or not we should expect regression from Prado in 2010 (again, SSS), but I wouldn’t be surprised either way.
Matt Diaz – Look, I love Matt Diaz, but I have to be skeptical about a guy with a career .362 BABIP, regardless if he has 1400+ PA’s. He boosted his walk rate to ~8.2% (5.1% career average) in 2009 and his ISO to 0.175 (0.149 career average). Assuming those are sustainable, he’s still probably not as good as his 2009 team-best .313/.390/.488. His .383 2009 BABIP is even higher than his absurd career average. Diaz is an extremely interesting player, there aren’t a lot like him. I don’t know what to expect because of the fact that he’s such a unique player. My gut tells me it’s sustainable, my head doesn’t know what to think. Like Prado, it wouldn’t surprise me if he regresses and it wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t regress.
The Ones That Will Welcome Regression
Regression isn’t a pejorative word. When you’re performing below your mean, regression to the mean is a good thing.
Chipper Jones – His actual 2009 line: .264/.388/.430. His predicted 2009 line: .294/.414/.477. Chipper may have lost a half step, but he’s still a significantly above-average hitter. He stumbled on a great deal of bad luck in 2009, but he’s the same person that hit .364/.470/.574 in 2008. Expect improvement from Chipper in 2010 if that bad luck doesn’t rear its ugly head again, which it usually doesn’t.
Kelly Johnson – His actual 2009 line: .224/.303/.389, his predicted 2009 line: .267/.339/.415. I’ve written about Kelly Johnson ad nauseam, so I’ll just say that he was extremely unlucky in 2009 and I expect a great deal of improvement from him in 2010. I think that’ll probably be elsewhere, though.
Derek Lowe – I’ve also written about him quite a bit. The basic point is his 2009 4.00 FIP is a much better indicator of his fundamental skills than his 2009 4.67 ERA. An ERA around 4 is to be expected from Lowe in 2010.
Kris Medlen – 67 and 2/3 innings isn’t nearly as big of a sample size as you’d like, but I’ll bet my bottom dollar that his .335 BABIP improves to somewhere around league average. His 2009 3.31 FIP is a much better indicator of his fundamental skills than his 2009 4.26 ERA. He had a higher K rate than Tommy Hanson in 2009 and I expect him to drastically lower his BB rate (he was rather nervous and walked batters at an uncharacteristically high rate at the onset of his MLB career). I expect very good things from Kris Medlen in 2010.
I probably missed someone.
October 27, 2009 at 8:00 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Statistical Analysis
Say the Braves re-sign Adam LaRoche and do nothing else with the offense. Go into the year with McLouth, Prado, Chipper, McCann, LaRoche, Yunel, Diaz, and Church as their starting 8. Using the Bill James projections and the Baseball Musings lineup analysis tool, I get that the Braves would score 5.301 runs/game (859/season). Of course, that’s best-case scenario, so that’s not particularly realistic, but that’s our base line.
Now, say the Braves also sign Matt Holliday. Replacing Church with Holliday (and shifting the 4-7 hitters down one spot), the Braves score 5.509 runs/game (892/season). It many not seem like much, but that’s three full wins. Plus, assuming the Braves keep Church around, it helps both the quality and the depth of the bench.
On the other hand, replacing Diaz with Heyward adds only 2 additional runs.
All of this makes way too many assumptions to be useful for much more than entertainment, but still, the Braves need a big bat. Bad.
This team is full of OBP machines. The lowest projected OBP is .348 (LaRoche and McLouth, .348. Also Church (.342), Schafer (.339), Ross (.333), and Infante (.331)). Yet they don’t really do much else. They don’t hit for much power, don’t play good defense, and don’t run the bases well. They need a guy who is going to both a) fix the power problem and b) not hurt you in the other areas.
And that’s why I’ve been pushing Matt Holliday. I haven’t seen a better fit for the Braves through free agency since Mike Cameron in the 2007-2008 off-season (and Holliday is a great deal better than Mike Cameron was in 2008). Does everything the Braves need.
This wasn’t supposed to be a Matt Holliday post. This team’s offense isn’t that bad, they scored the 6th most runs in the NL. They’re really just 1 impact player away from being a legitimate threat.
Don’t be pessimistic about the offense. It’ll be fine. Provided the Braves acquire a capable 1B or retain their current one.
October 26, 2009 at 8:00 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Pitching, Player Analysis, Statistical Analysis
Everyone knows (I hope) that pitchers’ ERA’s fluctuate a great deal more than their fundamental skills. Due to the pseudo-randomness of hitting singles, pitchers more or less have no control over whether or not a batted ball in play results in an out or a single. Doubles and triples are clearly different, but singles are–whether you want to believe it or not–mostly just luck. Whether a ground ball finds the hole between the 1B and the 2B or rolls right to the 2B, whether a shallow fly ball drops in front of the center fielder or falls into his glove, whether a broken-bat blooper gets over the SS or he’s able to make a jumping catch, these are all luck-based events. They’re lucky for a few reasons 1) the hitter wasn’t trying to do that. There wasn’t any skill, other than putting the ball in play, involved from a hitter’s standpoint. No hitter goes to the plate with the thought “I’m going to hit a weak fly ball and make it drop in front of the center fielder”. 2) It’s entirely up to the defense. The hitter and pitcher are out of the equation once the ball is put in play.
Therefore, the amount and rate of singles a pitcher gives up will fluctuate from year to year. Not because the pitcher has fundamentally gotten better or worse, but because of fluctuations of chance. Therefore, a pitcher’s ERA fluctuates similarly and parallel to the fluctuations in singles.
A metric called BABIP was created to model this phenomenon. Studies show that pitchers can’t control their BABIP, it’s a function of nothing they’re able to influence. It is calculated (H-HR)/(Balls put in play).
Which brings us to Derek Lowe and the hit-unlucky numbers he posted in 2009. They aren’t good, 4.67 ERA, 1.515 WHIP, 1.76 K/BB, etc. But Derek Lowe posted the 2nd highest BABIP in the NL in 2009–.333–leading to a league-high 232 hits allowed. While this isn’t a good thing by any means, it tells us something. If he can do everything he did and get a little luckier with the balls he allows in play next year, his numbers are likely to improve.
Bill James invented a metric called Component ERA, which attempts to determine what a pitcher’s ERA would be just from hits, walks, homers, etc. It’s abbreviated ERC. Derek Lowe’s ERC was 4.80 last season. However, if you adjust his BABIP from .333 to his career average (.295), he only allows 208 hits instead of 232. 24 hits doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but his ERC drops to 3.98 simply by removing those 24 hits. I’ve dubbed this aERC (adjusted ERC).
I think that 3.98 figure is probably what we should expect from Derek Lowe in 2010, though not just aERC, ERA as well. His FIP was 4.00 this season and if his fundamental skills hold steady and he has any luck at all, it’s reasonable to expect an ERA around 4.00.
2009′s numbers, on the surface, aren’t a true representation of Lowe’s fundamental skills. The smart money is on him bouncing back. Entropy exists in the universe, things have a natural tendency to regress towards the mean. The mean for Lowe isn’t 4.67, and we should see regression towards the mean–around 4.00–in 2010.
October 22, 2009 at 5:46 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Chipper Jones, Stat Leaders, Statistical Analysis
When you mention “2008″ to a Braves fan, he usually thinks of a few things. First off, how bad that team was. They finished with a 72-90 record, their worst since 1990. Fundamentally, they weren’t that bad, but it was such a large deviation from the norm that Braves fans remember it distinctly. A 72-90 season is nothing to a Reds fan, it’s quite a big deal to a Braves fan. Secondly, they remember how the pitching staff was slowly dismantled by injuries. First, predictably, Hampton, then Moylan, then Smoltz, then Glavine, then Hudson, etc… There were virtually no noteworthy performances among pitchers apart from a rookie and a 29-year old minor-league free agent Mexican League veteran. Again, this is a huge deviation from the norm. For 15 years the Braves had one of the best staffs in baseball, they had one of the worst in 2008. Third, they remember the team’s terrible fortunes in 1-run games. An 11-30 (.268 winning percentage) record in 1-run games kept any false hope for that team to make the playoffs at bay. Fourth, Jeff Francouer. Everything about him. How he was so fucking terrible but idiotic fans were too fucking dense to realize. How he was an insufferable fucking jerk, a complete son of a bitch, whining about getting sent down and refusing to admit he was hurting the team with his sub-.290 OBP. How the organization was so god damn slow reacting to it. How they immediately caved to his (or perhaps his sponsors) desires and recalled him nearly immediately after sending him down when it was beyond clear that he didn’t belong on a MLB roster. Just Jeff Francoeur in general.
But this is not a Jeff Francoeur post. There are a few other things fans recall. Trading Teixeira, Kotsay, Bobby breaking the ejection record, etc. But that’s generally the taste of 2008 Braves fans have in their mouth. I intentionally left something to remember off my list, though. Chipper Jones winning the batting title.
Not just Chipper winning the batting title, Chipper’s season in general. Chipper Jones hit .364 in 2008. .364. Take a minute to let that sink in. That .364 figure ranks 3rd this decade by a NL hitter, behind Barry Bonds’ .370 in 2002 and Todd Helton’s .372 in 2000, which shouldn’t really count with Coors Field and everything. Though Helton did hit .353 and post a 1.074 OPS away from Coors that year, it’s not like he was a bum who got really lucky, though the Coors effect does cheapen it.
But stop and think for a second, Chipper Jones hit .364. That’s not just a high batting average, that’s not just a batting title-worthy average, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime average for the best of hitters. Chipper Jones was hitting .400 on June 18. Halfway through the season, he was hitting FOUR-HUNDRED. I’m being intentionally emphatic here because I feel like Braves fans tend to view everything that went on in 2008 as pejorative and, thus, we look at Chipper’s season and say, eh, “he only played in 128 games” or “his OPS was only 1.044″ or “he only hit 22 HR”. It doesn’t matter, .364 is something that speaks for itself, regardless of everything else. I talk about secondary offense a lot in this space. But this isn’t intended to be one of those super-analytical pieces that scrutinizes walk rate and HR/FB ratios, this is art. Chipper’s batting title was beautiful. One of the greatest seasons by an Atlanta Brave ever.
More impressive than Chipper’s .364 batting average was his .470 on-base percentage. Let me repeat that. Chipper Jones posted a .470 on-base percentage in 2008. He safely reached first base in exactly 47 percent of his plate appearances. It’s often stated that the gold standard for the slash stats is .300/.400/.500. .300 is the gold standard for batting average, .400 is the gold standard for on-base percentage, and .500 is the gold standard for slugging percentage. Only 9% of players each season post a .400 OBP or better. Getting on base at a .400 clip is, in itself, both an outstanding accomplishment and sufficient to make one a productive player. Chipper didn’t just post a .400 OBP, though, he posted a .470 OBP. As Joe Posnanski notes, Chipper’s numbers are sometimes easily forgotten because of the era in which we play baseball–the era of huge power numbers. He’s overshadowed by the Griffeys and the A-Rods, etc. Posnanski writes:
Chipper Jones’ numbers seem classically understated. He is like a superstar from a different age, Musial in a minor key. He has played his whole career with one team (and not just any team — the Atlanta Braves, a team that made the playoffs every one of his first ELEVEN seasons). He has never hit more than 45 homers and never fewer than the 18 he has this year. He has never struck out 100 times in a season. He has hit more doubles than homers, walked more times than he has struck out, and scored more runs than he has driven in.
There’s just a beautiful balance in his numbers. And maybe that is what makes him so easy to miss.
Posnanski is writing of Chipper’s career in general, but I think it’s applicable when discussing 2008 as well. Because the Braves posted their worst record since 1990 and because he only hit 22 home runs and because the Rays were stealing all of the baseball attention and for many, many other reasons, Braves fans are guilty of not realizing just how incredible of a season 2008 was for Chipper Jones. At 36 years old he managed to reach first base in 47% of his plate appearances. That, in itself, is an amazing statistic. It needs no context. A .470 OBP isn’t just good, or MVP-caliber, or HOF-caliber, it’s historic.
How historic, you ask?
Chipper Jones’ .470 OBP has been equaled or bested by an NL player exactly 9 times during the live-ball era by only four players.
Rogers Hornsby – 1924, 1925, and 1928.
Hornsby posted a .507 OBP in 1924. That year he hit .424 which, along with his OBP, led the league and slugged .696, which also led the league. He also led the league in total bases, hits, walks, doubles, runs scored, OPS, and OPS+. For some reason, he was only 2nd in MVP voting that year. A 28-6 record, a 262 ERA+, and 30 complete games was enough for Dazzy Vance to win it, despite Hornsby putting up the greatest offensive season ever seen to that point.
Hornsby repeated his OBP title in 1925, though this time he only hit .403 with a .489 OBP and .756 SLG%. Though he led the league in RBI, so he got the MVP that year.
In 1928 Hornsby produced his third and final season of reaching base more than 47% of the time, hitting .387/.498/.632 in his lone year in Boston. He finished 13th in MVP voting that season, despite leading the league in every slash statistic, which is an abomination.
Arky Vaughan – 1935
As a 23 year old SS for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Arky Vaughan led the league in pretty much everything. He hit .385, that led the league. He posted a league leading .491 OBP, he slugged .607–that led the league, his 1.098 OPS and 190 OPS+ led the league along with his 97 walks. Another fun fact about Vaughan’s 1935 season, he struck out only 18 times. Somehow he only finished 3rd in MVP voting. There isn’t a strong argument for him not winning it other than the Pirates finished 4th in the league and didn’t have a particularly strong fan base (6th of 8 in attendance). Neither of which are good arguments.
63 years passed before someone else did it. Joe Morgan came close with a .466 OBP in 1975 and Gary Sheffield posted a .465 OBP in 1996, but it wasn’t until 1998 that the threshold was again reached.
Mark McGwire – 1998
McGwire’s 1998 season was more famous for a number of things than posting a .470 OBP, but nonetheless, he posted a .470 OBP. The .470 OBP is overshadowed by the .752 SLG% or record-breaking 70 Home Runs or 216 OPS+ or steroids he took, but it’s there nonetheless. Despite leading Sammy Sosa by 93 points in OBP, he finished 2nd in MVP voting to him. Something I can’t justify. One thing to note, he was intentionally passed 28 times that season.
Barry Bonds – 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004
In 2001, Bonds broke the home run record that was set just three years ago by Mark McGwire, hitting 73 HR–a record that still stands. In the process, he posted the highest OBP of the live-ball era to that point–.515. He also led the league in walks (177), SLG% (.863), OPS (1.379), and OPS+ (259). He was intentionally passed 35 times.
After that, pitchers pretty much stopped pitching to Bonds. In 2002 he hit .370/.582/.799 with 46 HR and 198 unintentional walks. Pitchers intentionally walked him 68 times, which led the league by a very wide margin. He was intentionally passed more times than ten other entire teams were. Take away Bonds’ intentional walks and his OBP is under .470. In fact, taking away intentional walks, the only season that Bonds would’ve posted an OBP over .470 was 2001, when it would’ve been .471. He won his second consecutive MVP that year.
In 2003 Bonds hit .341/.529/.749 with 148 unintentional walks and 61 intentional walks. He won his third consecutive MVP and fourth consecutive Silver Slugger that year.
In 2004 Bonds shattered his own single-season intentional walk record with 120, leading to a .362/.609/.812 line (all league-leading) with 232 unintentional walks (also league leading). The .609 OBP is largely a product of his IBB’s, but that is still, today, the single-season record and I have my doubts as to whether or not it will be broken.
And that’s it. Achieving a .470 OBP is so rare, it’s been done 10 times by a NL in over 100 years. Four times by who I think is the greatest hitter ever. He was also on steroids and he accomplished it in large part due to the fact that opposing managers elected to put him on first base rather than actually pitch to him. Once by a similar steroid user. Once by a 23-year old whiz kid who led the league in everything. Three times by the greatest second baseman of all time, 1st ballot hall of famer, and one of the best hitters in the game’s history. And once by Chipper Jones in 2008.
It’s amazing to me that Chipper finished 12th in the MVP balloting in 2008. Albert Pujols certainly deserved the award, but Chipper Jones was the next best candidate. Ryan Howard, who hit .251/.339/.543, finished 2nd. Ryan Braun, who posted a .335 OBP and played for a team that made a gutsy trade for CC Sabathia and barely squeaked into the playoffs, finished 3rd. Manny Ramirez, who played in only 53 games, finished 4th. CC Sabathia, who made only 17 starts, finished 6th. Brad Lidge, a RELIEF PITCHER, finished 8th. I don’t bitch about award voting a lot because I’ve accepted the fact that the voters are idiots. But god damn, if Chipper doesn’t deserve the award more than any of the above I’ll eat my dirty socks.
2008 was a bad year for Braves fans, but all wasn’t lost. We watched Jair Jurrjens and Yunel Escobar develop into young stars, we had a good draft, and, most of all, we watched one of the greatest NL seasons ever take place. It wasn’t just great, it was historic. We’re all guilty of not appreciating just how great of a season Chipper Jones had in 2008.
October 14, 2009 at 12:00 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Research Studies, Statistical Analysis
Updated 10/15/2009 : See Bottom
In an effort to deviate from prospects (I’ve been doing them constantly for awhile, now), I’ve written an article on “Beane Count”. Enjoy.
Sabermetricians are constantly talking about walks and homers. They are, perhaps, the two most important secondary offensive skills. We frequently judge players based on their slash statistics–their batting average, their on-base percentage, and their slugging percentage. In order to produce secondary offense (offense independent of batting average), hitting homers and drawing walks are hugely important. In addition to boosting one’s secondary offensive production, walks and homers are also relatively free of statistical noise. That is, their aren’t a lot of outside influences that distort the meaning of the data. When a player draws a walk, he’s drawn a walk. There’s no ball put in play and it’s simply a function of three things: plate discipline, pitchers’ control, and umpires. While a batter doesn’t have any control over a pitcher’s ability to throw strikes or an umpire’s ability to call balls balls and strikes strikes, these two things mostly even out over the course of a season, leaving only the third thing–plate discipline. The same can be said about Home Runs. There’s relatively little luck involved with the ability to draw a walk or hit a homer. The opposite is the case with batting average, a metric that is much more luck-dependent.
Eight or nine years ago, I came up with a silly little thing called Beane Count, which was a way of looking at how teams fared in a couple of sabermetrics-friendly measures: home runs and walks. How many you get, and how many you give up.
The metric is calculated on a ranking scale. If you rank 16th in the league in home runs hit, you get 16 points. The same for home runs allowed, walks drawn, and walks allowed. It’s scored by the golf method–lower is better. Here’s what the final 2009 Beane Count standings look like:
I love the simplicity and good intentions of the metric, but how well does it predict the ability for a team to win baseball games?
We’ll take a look at how well Beane Count did in 2009.
For the purposes of this study, I used two sets of data. First, I compared the opposite of a team’s winning percentage to their Beane Count. I used the opposite of winning percentage (1-W%), rather than the actual winning percentage to generate a positive correlation, rather than a negative one of the same magnitude. Since Beane Count works like golf (lower is better) and winning percentage works the other way, 1-W% also works like golf. I ran three sets of data. One using only the AL’s numbers, one using the NL’s numbers, and one using all 30 teams’ numbers. The following charts should be self-explanatory.
- Some things of note: the coefficient of determination (R squared) for the NL study was 0.373. It was 0.497 for the AL and 0.418 overall. This number attempts to tell us what percent of the change in our 1-winning percentage (also winning percentage) can be explained by change in Beane Count. Of course, since Beane Count influences winning percentage (aka the variables are not completely independent), the data isn’t perfect. And we aren’t working with an extremely robust sample size here. But still, I’m shocked at how well the two correlate.
I previously mentioned I used two sets of data. The second set was not the teams’ actual winning percentage, but their 3rd order winning percentage. This gives you a better snapshot of how good each team is. It attempts to answer the question: what would this team’s winning percentage be in a luck-neutral environment. The three graphs that followed:
- Some more things of note: the coefficient of determination for this data set is even stronger. 0.539 for the AL, 0.445 for the NL, and 0.460 overall. Again, the sample size is small, there is some statistical noise in the data, and I didn’t preform any sort of test of significance. Still, this is a fairly shocking result. 0.460 isn’t a particularly strong coefficient of determination, but we’re not shooting for 1.0 here. If it were really 1.0, Adam Dunn would be paid $40 million a year*.
*An exaggeration, of course. But maybe not.
Interpreted literally, this would mean that 46% of a team’s ability to win baseball games is derived only from their ability to draw walks, hit homers, and limit the opponents from doing the same. We’re not including the ability to hit singles, doubles, triples, steal bases, run the bases well in general, field the ball, for pitchers to get ground balls, for pitchers to strike batters out, etc.. We’re talking about two things here, walks and homers.
I’m sure there are other metrics that correlate just as well, if not better, with winning percentage. The thing is, I don’t think you’ll find another metric with as little statistical noise as walks and homers that correlates as well with winning percentage as Beane Count does.
In addition to being a “silly little thing” (as Rob calls it), it’s actually a pretty important thing to maximize (or minimize, golf scoring, remember) if you’re concerned with winning baseball games.
Final Thought: I don’t think I’ve discovered anything new here. But quantifying it makes it that much more real, I guess.
Final Thought #2: The eight playoff teams among the top-12 teams in Beane Count. The 4 in the top-12 that missed the playoffs? The White Sox, Rangers, Rays, and Braves. The latter three teams came very close to making the playoffs and were very good teams. The White Sox probably stumbled on a lot of bad luck.
The p-values for the study have been requested. P-values are stated as probabilities. In this case, they indicate the probability that the correlation demonstrated in the data is a result of random chance and no underlying correlation exists:
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.