September 20, 2009 at 11:14 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Pitching, Player Analysis, Statistical Analysis, Transaction Analysis
Question: Which player acquired by a team this past off-season has been the most valuable? In other words, who has been the most valuable pick-up?
No, it’s not Mark Teixeira, he’s fourth with 4.9 WAR.
No, it’s not Matt Holliday, he’s third with 5.0 WAR (for both the A’s and the Cards).
No, it’s not CC Sabathia, he’s second with 5.9 WAR.
You can probably tell from the title of the post, but it’s Javier Vazquez, with 6.3 WAR. In fact, that 6.3 WAR makes him the 14th most valuable player in all of baseball, sandwiched between Derek Jeter and Ryan Zimmerman tied at 6.4 and Felix Hernandez at 6.2.
I think it’s safe to call this a career year for Vazquez, he’s still got a few more starts and you’re already looking at his best season, though he has had similar seasons. In fact, an argument could also be made for 2003 as his best season. In 2003, he pitched 230 and 2/3 innings with 241 strikeouts, 57 walks, a 3.24 ERA, and a 1.105 WHIP. His ERA+ that year was 139. This year, he’s pitched 204 and 1/3 innings with 222 strikeouts, 43 walks, a 2.91 ERA (143 ERA+), and a 1.042 WHIP. Two other times in his career has he had an ERA at least 25% better than the league’s (125+ ERA+), 2001 and 2007. 2001 was also an excellent season for his rate stats. In 223 and 2/3 innings, he posted 208 strikeouts, 44 walks (4.73 K/BB, second best of his career. Bested only by 2009’s 5.16(!) K/BB ratio), a 3.42 ERA (130 ERA+), and a 1.077 WHIP. He set his career high in wins (16) that season. In 2007, in the AL, he pitched 216 and 2/3 innings with 213 strikeouts, 50 walks (4.26 K/BB, 3rd highest of his career. The 4th would be the 2003 season, which I already discussed), a 3.74 ERA (127 ERA+), and a 1.140 WHIP. The most valuable season he’s had since 2002 has been 2009′s 6.3–making him by far the most valuable player on his team. The only other time he’s posted a WAR of 6.0 or better was 2003, posting 6.0. In 2007 it was 5.2 and they don’t keep WAR data for years prior to 2002, so I can’t tell what that number was.
What kept Vazquez from posting numbers like these in years past (especially with respect to the ERA) was a) bad luck, he’s had rather bad luck throughout his career, and b) bad home run rates. Vazquez ceased having the latter issue in 2006. I tend to believe that the Braves saw his decline in HR rate in 2006-2008 as, “this guy’s figured out how to keep the ball in the park”. In 2006, 2007, and 2008, Vazquez’s HR/outfield fly rate dropped to 9.7%, 11.1% and 9.8%, respectively, after being 18.5% in 2005 and 14.0% in 2004.
This year, Vazquez continues the trend he displayed in 2006-2008, posting 10.8% HR/outfield fly rate. What doesn’t continue is the bad luck. Every year since 2003 his FIP has been lower than his ERA with the exception of 2007, the season in which he posted a 3.92 FIP and a 3.74 ERA (0.18 FIP-ERA). His FIP-ERA was -0.46 in 2005, -0.90(!) in 2006, and -0.86 in 2008. This year’s -0.15 is a result of his 2.91 ERA and his 2.74 FIP (that 2.74 FIP is 3rd in baseball, behind Lincecum (2.25) and Greinke (2.41)). Throw away most of the luck and the Home Run problems and Vazquez is an elite pitcher. 14th-most-valuable-player-in-the-league good.
What concerns me going forward is the fact that Vazquez seems to be getting hit harder this year. His LD% is up to 21%, after allowing batters to hit line drives off of him 16% of the time in 2006 and 18% of the time in 2007 and 2008. His career mark is 20% due to some ridiculously high LD% seasons at the beginning of the decade (all 3 seasons 200-2002 his LD% was more than 24%(!)). Additionally, the percentage of fly balls that don’t make it out of the infield is down to 9%, after being 15% in 2007 and 18% in 2008.
Vazquez has actually been more hittable this year than in years past. He’s finally stranding an appropriate amount of batters (77%–highest since 2003) for his skill level. Though not a repeatable skill, he should be capable of repeating the result, as 77% is nothing out of the ordinary for a pitcher with a 4+ K/BB. So, really, this year’s numbers are more a product of Vazquez finally falling on some decent luck. He’s had bad luck in every sense throughout his career. In 2009, he’s overcome it.
Now that the luck’s removed, Vazquez is showing what he’s truly capable of. If the LD% and IF/FB% are an aberration, perhaps he’s capable of even better.
Regardless, Vazquez has been the most valuable pick-up of the off-season, no question really.
September 6, 2009 at 1:43 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Daily Post, Transaction Analysis
So the season is pretty much toast. After another shit performance last night, the Braves are 6 games out with 26 to play. Behind 3 teams. One of them, the Rockies, is better than the Braves with a much easier schedule. The ability to make up that much ground seems impossible. For good measure, I’ll post the standings.
Good to see that a contending team finally doesn’t have a negative run-differential. Though the fact that they did for so long tells me that they’re not really a contender. Here’s the thing–the Braves are a better team than the San Francisco Giants. And they have been all year. The Giants were worse than the Braves offensively even when the Braves had Francoeur, Schafer, bad KJ, and Kotchman. They’re that bad. They’re dead last in MLB in walks by a fairly wide margin–tasking the Kansas City Royals–and they’re 2nd only to the Mets in being bad at hitting Home Runs. They’ve got a fairly potent pitching staff all-around, but as Bill James said:
You can’t usually win a pennant with half of a team. Pitching and defense is half a team; hitting and baserunning is the other half. If half your team is good and the other half isn’t you’ll play .500 ball.
The Giants are, really, a .500 team that has stumbled on some luck and an easy schedule. But they’re not good enough to make the playoffs. Neither are the Marlins. The Rockies are.
Waving The White Flag
So I read this earlier, which I took as “the organization is waving the white flag”. Per Carroll Rogers:
Sunday lineup: no Chipper, no McCann, and again, no Escobar. Conrad gets the start at second
1. McLouth CF
2. Prado 3B
3. Anderson LF
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Diaz RF
6. Conrad 2B
7. Infante SS
8. Ross C
9. Hudson P
Yikes. At least they’re playing Prado at 3B. But man, that line-up sucks. If they really are waving the white flag, I’d like to see a few changes. First of all, stop giving at-bats to Garret Anderson. There’s no reason to stick a 37-year old DH in LF any more. I would suggest a platoon of Brandon Jones (once he’s done with the International League Playoffs) and Kelly Johnson (handling the LHP) in LF. Both players need AB’s. Brandon Jones is on his last option so he’s going to either be used by the big club next year or elsewhere. Why not get a preview and boost his trade value in September with meaningless at-bats? Kelly Johnson needs some AB’s to get his confidence back–preferably against LHP–and maybe he’s headed for a trade. Or maybe it’d just be useful to get him some reps in the OF.
I’d like to see McCann get some rest, too. I’m talking like 2-3 days a week. Chipper as well. And McLouth, though not necessarily as much rest. I’d also like to see McLouth get some reps in LF, but there’s probably no way that’s happening. Escobar is out right now, and when he returns I wouldn’t want him playing more than 4 days a week. Though the difference between Yunel and any in-house alternative is very vast. Basically, what I’m going for here is regularly resting all the pieces of the team that stand to gain something by resting.
Pitching-staff side, I’d shut Jurrjens down at 200 innings and I’d shut Hanson down at 180 or so. Hanson already has 160 innings this season and Jurrjens has 178. So 3-4 more starts each should be enough. I’d start Hudson every 5 days no matter what, I’d start Kawakami every 6 days (if at all), and I’d start Lowe and Vazquez as I would normally. Kawakami only pitched 117 and 1/3 innings last year and he’s already at 143 and 2/3 this year. 160 would be my shut-down point for Kawakami.
I don’t really care about most of the relievers, but there are a few that Bobby has a tendency to abuse that could be a part of our future–O’Flaherty and Moylan. Limiting their appearances is a must for September if the Braves are really giving up.
Here’s my philosophy about September when you’re out of it. 1) let your kids play, don’t give at-bats to old veterans who won’t be part of your future. 2) don’t risk injuring anyone who will be a part of your future. 3) don’t fuck somebody’s service time by granting the a September call-up if $$ is going to be an issue.
Tranny Blog Again: Atlanta Braves
Recalled RHP Manny Acosta from AAA Gwinnett. Optioned RHP Luis Valdez to AAA Gwinnett.
Acosta was optioned when the bullpen was cashed and the Braves recalled Carlyle to have a fresh arm. Valdez was part of the first wave of September call-ups to provide bullpen depth. Turns out that was unnecessary and Valdez didn’t throw a single pitch in this particular MLB stint. The Braves intended to bring Acosta back up after 10 days–when he was eligible–but it’s peculiar why they would option Valdez to Gwinnett. Except Valdez is Gwinnett’s closer and they just made the playoffs. So at this point, the Gwinnett season is more important than Atlanta’s, and Valdez is more valuable to the organization closing games in Gwinnett than riding the pine in Atlanta.
This doesn’t represent a significant move. Neither would have been or will be used in meaningful innings. Though they all sort of lose their meaning at this point. I suspect Valdez will be back in Atlanta after Gwinnett’s season is over.
Minor League Baseball Winding Down
Monday will be the final game for three of the Braves’ full season teams. The Rome Braves, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, and the Mississippi Braves. It will be Gwinnett’s final regular-season game but they’re in the playoffs. The two short-season teams, the Danville Braves and the GCL Braves, are already finished. Danville won the Appalachian League Championship. Kudos to them, there are a handful of very interesting prospects at Danville that I can’t wait to see in Rome next year. With that in mind, I’ll start doing some prospects year in review shit on Tuesday. I’m going to formulate my list of top-40 prospects, write a year in review about each one (and the ones on last year’s top 40 that aren’t on it anymore), and publish it here. One of my many off-season projects.
Hudson aims to become the third Braves pitcher this year to receive consecutive W’s. Meaning, nobody else on the team got a win between today and his last win. Derek Lowe did it in early May and Hanson did it June 23 and 28 against the New York Skankees and Boston Shit Sox. Damn, the Braves need a win.
That’s all I got.
September 6, 2009 at 8:16 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Prospects, Transaction Analysis
Here goes Transaction Analysis.
Purchased the contract of RHP Valdimir Nunez. Recalled OF Jordan Schafer and placed him on the 60-day DL.
Vladimir Nunez is a Cuban born relief pitcher who enjoyed a fairly successful MLB career before injuries derailed it. Nunez spent the 2002 season as the Marlins’ closer racking up 20 saves with a 3.41 ERA. Of course, he pitched 97 and 2/3 innings that year, the year after pitching 92 innings of 2.74 ERA, so it wasn’t hard to see he was destined for an injury-infested 2003 campaign. He pitched a combined 36 and 1/3 innings in 2003 and 2004 with an ERA a tick under 10 (9.66). Ever since he’s been working toward getting back to MLB, and he did so successfully for the injury-plagued Braves in 2008. He racked up 32 and 2/3 innings (most since 2002) of 3.86 ERA with a 24-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio that year. The Braves thought he was promising enough to offer a minor-league deal to in 2009. Year to date at Gwinnett he’s pitched 83 and 1/3 innings with a 2.16 ERA and a 79-to-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Personally, I didn’t understand why the fuck the Braves didn’t just release him after he failed to make the big club out of spring training. I mean, is it really good for the development of your organization to have a 34-year old afterthought with more than 400 MLB innings under his belt taking 83 innings at AAA? I guess development really doesn’t happen too much at AAA and they thought he might be useful at some point. The numbers in 2009 suggest he may be capable of contributing, but not much more than they did in 2008. This year, his strikeouts are down, though the walks are down and his K/BB is about the same. The ERA is down, but that’s all BABIP.
Whether or not Nunez is useful won’t really matter. The season is pretty much done at this point and even if it weren’t, the Braves wouldn’t be giving meaningful innings to him anyway. He’s the 15th pitcher on the staff.
In order to make room on the 40-man roster for Nunez, the Braves recalled Jordan Schafer and placed him on the 60-day DL. The Braves had previously optioned Schafer to AAA shortly before he decided to tell people that his wrist was fucked. So, good news, the Braves added Vladimir Nunez to their 40-man roster without removing anyone from the organization. Bad news, Jordan Schafer will now start accumulating service time while he’s on the 60-day DL. He had ~57 days earlier this season and in my estimation he’ll have ~90 days by the end of this season. If he’s ready to go in 2010 he’ll still avoid Super 2 status and will be arbitration eligible for the first time in 2013. 2 years, 90 days won’t be enough. The service time doesn’t seem to be an issue unless unforeseeable bumps in the road rear their ugly heads.
Promoted OF Jason Heyward to AAA Gwinnett
Count it. That’s Heyward’s 3rd stop in the MiLB development chain this season. He’s still 20 years old. This move makes a ton of sense. Heyward will get between 12 and 60 more AB’s than he would in Mississippi because Gwinnett is headed to the International League Playoffs (and the M-Braves are not) and Heyward will probably be useful to Gwinnett. Developmentally, I don’t really know what it means. Maybe the organization thinks he’s ready for the majors, I don’t know. Maybe they think he’s ready for AAA. Maybe they don’t and just want him to get more AB’s. There’s just no way of knowing what’s going through the organization’s head. The next stop for Heyward will be the AFL. After that, we’ll have a better idea of what the organization’s plans for Heyward are. Gah. I remember–the other day it seems like–when he was raking for Rome in the Sally League. He’s now 1 step away from MLB.
That’s all I got for the Tranny. I’ll be with you on the daily post later today.
September 1, 2009 at 5:17 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Transaction Analysis
I guess I have to write a transaction analysis blog. Which is quickly becoming a regular segment in this space. I guess I should go ahead and make it categorical. Anyway, here goes.
Outrighted Brian Barton to AAA Gwinnett
So Brian Barton cleared waivers and the Braves outrighted him to AAA Gwinnett. Effectively, the Braves took Barton off the 40-man roster to make room for Tim Hudson, who will make his first start of the season today. I don’t understand this. From what I gathered, Brian Barton pissed someone the fuck off. For instance, on August 29th, Mark Bowman wrote the following:
It’s a little harder to project what the Braves will do to make room for Hudson on the 40-man roster. But there’s a chance the club could choose to part ways with outfielder Brian Barton, who has fallen out of favor since joining the Triple-A Gwinnett club in April.
I mean, it’s hard to be more fucking vague than that, but that’s what I took from it, considering the fact that he’s probably more useful than the other two scrap heap AAAA outfielders occupying Gwinnett’s outfield. And certainly more useful than Reid Gorecki, who sucks. Gregor Blanco has hit .240/.336/.295 in his time with AAA Gwinnett and played horse-shit defense. Basically doing the same thing he did in the 2nd half of last year, when he was a completely 1-dimensional player (and that one dimension was being able to draw a walk) hitting .243/.382/.302. He’s only 25 years old, but he’s 5’11″ 170 lb and doesn’t project to be able to do anything else ever. He’s basically better off making his fame in winter ball. Brandon Jones has turned up the power as of late and has boosted his season line to .279/.355/.415 and he’s only 25, but he’s defensively limited to left field and doesn’t hit for power. Little chance he proves to be a useful major league player. Reid Gorecki is 28 years old and will never amount to anything more than organizational filler.
So why does Brian Barton, who has posted a nearly identical season line to Brandon Jones with more speed and can play CF, find himself as the odd man out? The only reasonable explanation I have is he pissed somebody off. The fact that the Braves decided to purchase Reid Gorecki’s contract rather than call up Barton was sign number 1. If the Braves just call up Barton they don’t find themselves in this clusterfuck in the first place. But like I said, he probably pissed somebody off.
I’m spending way too much time analyzing something so fucking simple and meaningless. Who gives a shit what of the 4 crappy outfielders the Braves call up or whatever?
Anyway, what this means for Barton is a) he can never be outrighted again in his career without his permission and b) the Braves have to either place him on their 40-man roster again before December’s Winter Meetings or risk losing him in the rule-5 draft. I don’t suppose either will happen. I don’t suppose the Braves will put Barton back on the roster and I don’t suppose any team will shell out $50,000 for the privilege of keeping Brian Barton on their roster for a full year. Although he preformed fairly well in St. Louis when he was rule 5′d the first time.
Barton was once considered a 5-tool prospect until he fucked his knee in the Indians organization and he hasn’t been the same player since. The Braves got him from St. Louis for Blaine Boyer (who was in turn DFA’d and picked up by the Arizona Diamondbacks for nothing). He’s currently got a 2.17 ERA but it’s all smoke in mirrors as he’s struck out 14 and walked 10 in 29 innings.
If you haven’t seen the show Californication on Showtime, please watch it. It’s phenomenal.
August 27, 2009 at 5:49 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Injuries, Pitching, Transaction Analysis
First of all, before I do transaction analysis, I want to comment on something I saw on ESPN or one of the affiliates. The little-league World Series semi-final game between Chinese Taipei and Curaçao was on and I stopped by to watch the beginning. I really like watching it, actually. But part of the broadcast simultaneously amused me and disturbed me. Well, I don’t know if it was the broadcast or not that disturbed me, but they invoked it if they didn’t, so they’re responsible.
They were having each member of the team say, “Hi, my name is ______ and my favorite baseball player is _________”. I didn’t see the Curaçao team attempt this, but I did see the Chinese team do so. First of all, what sort of made me feel weird is they made the kids (remember, these kids are 12, 13, and 14 years old) do so in English. Why? This is not a professional league. It’s comparable to the Olympics. If the Olympics were in Paris and an American won the 100-meter dash (picking something easily understandable and not significant, boy I’m subtle today) and the Olympic officials made the American athlete give his victory speech in French, you’d probably be furious. Now, if an American basketball player was playing in a French professional league, that’s different. Point is, I thought it was inappropriate that they would even think to make the children try to speak English for the purposes of the telecast*.
*Of course, let’s not rule out the possibility that the Chinese government themselves forced the children to speak English on the telecast. I don’t know why they would, I just know that if they thought they could benefit from doing so, they certainly wouldn’t pass up the opportunity. So, when this piece is done, remember this is also a possibility. But for now, let’s assume it was ESPN’s doing.
And then you get to the pronunciations. They were naturally very bad at speaking English. Some better than others, though it all pretty much sounded like, “Herro, me naah ess ______, aah me favorit-ah bas-uh-barr pray-er ess (and 90% of them were the following, which I sort of found suspicious, though it’s admirable to admire your national star, so I reserved judgment from the fact that most of their favorite player was) Chien-Ming Wang”. But I don’t think any of them would have been capable of carrying on a conversation in English. It’s handing you a piece of paper written in Russian when you’re 12 years old and asking you to read it. Of course you’re going to sound like a fool.
As the telecast went on, and it was for an uncomfortably long amount of time, I ceased being amused and began feeling somewhat angry at the fact someone would subject a 12-year old kid to this sort of embarrassment. I was thinking about how many people I know that would be laughing their rear off had they been watching this. I don’t usually try to get worked into the whole racism issue, but this seemed borderline–if not completely and without subtelty–racist.
Just shame on whoever made them do this. It was not only tasteless and ignorant, it was fucking stupid.
OK, back to transaction analysis. I don’t exactly know how this space evolved to me being serious about non-baseball things like the racism thing and joking around when it comes to transaction analysis. I’m pretty sure Law and Neyer didn’t get their start in sports writing that way. Oh well.
Optioned RHP Manny Acosta to Class-AAA Gwinnett. Recalled RHP Buddy Carlyle from Class-AAA Gwinnett.
A straight 1-for-1 swap of Acosta and Carlyle. I don’t know why the Braves chose to go with Boone Logan over Acosta. They both kind of suck and Logan has close to a year more service time than Acosta. They’ll both be out of options next year anyway, so it most likely doesn’t matter. I guess Bobby wants 3 lefties in his bullpen. I’m excited to see Buddy Carlyle back with the big club. He had a really good 2008 season that saw him win Fangraphs’ imaginary Mop-Up Man Of The Year award. He has since been diagnosed with Diabetes, and I love Diabetes success stories (see the link). At least it’s nice to know that there’s another semi-useful reliever stashed away in AAA. Whether he comes in as a September call-up or takes Carlyle’s place if he falters, you know you’ve got someone who kind of sucks but can play mop-up man there. Who isn’t Blaine Boyer. I suspect he’ll be called up again when he’s eligible (10 days) given the fact that the rosters expand soon*.
*Can you believe we’re already at roster-expansion?
Named Tim Hudson as Starting Pitcher for game Monday, August 31 against the Marlins.
This is obviously the more interesting and more impact-ful (made up a word. I think.) move. Hudson will skip his final scheduled rehab start and pitch for the big club again. I don’t know how I feel about this one. He’s obviously physically there if he can pitch in a game, but I don’t think another start in the minors would be devastating for him or the club. And I feel like he needs a bit more polish. Obviously the scouts don’t agree, and they’re right most of the time.
Hudson will assume Kenshin Kawakami’s rotation spot on Monday. The Braves haven’t told us anything about their plans for the rotation beyond Monday. That means destination speculation time. There are a few options here. Number 1 is to go with a 6-man rotation, which I think they will in some capacity. Basically, Kawakami is being skipped this time, so says Carrol Rogers:
Bobby said yes they considered a six-man rotation and no they will not pitch Kawakami out of the bullpen. And he said yes, Kawakami will start again. But they’ve got flexibility here in five days when rosters expand.
I’m curious as to what the corresponding roster move will be. The Braves are probably activating Hudson on Monday so he’ll be eligible for the post-season should they make it. This means at least a few roster moves will need to be made on Monday. First, someone has to get off of the 40-man roster for Hudson as he’s on the 60-day DL. Secondly, someone (and not necessarily the same person) has to get off of the 25-man roster for Hudson. McLouth is also eligible to come off the DL that day, so I imagine he will. Well, I’d do it differently. I’d designate Reid Gorecki for assignment on the 31st, keep McLouth inactive, and activate Tim Hudson. Clears a 25-man and a 40-man spot for him. Then, you can just call up McLouth on the 1st and everybody’s happy! Well, we’ll see what happens. Going with three true outfielders could be dangerous, considering Church’s injury history and the defensive brilliance of ACHE, Diaz, Infante, and–dare I say–Greg Norton. But with Infante’s ability to play all 3 OF positions, I think it would be OK to go with that roster for 1 day. Otherwise, you have to do something unfuckingnecessary to clear a roster space for McLouth and Hudson. We’ll see. I assume the Braves will take the latter route and clear a space for both players.
So that will be interesting to see. But for now, I assume the Braves will be going with a line-up of McLouth, Prado, Chipper, McCann, ACHE, Escobar, LaRoche, Church/Diaz for the rest of the year. And they’ll be doing some sort of weird rotation that involves Hudson, Kawakami, Hanson, Jurrjens, Vazquez, and that other guy.
Good move to get Hudson on the roster before Sept 1. We’ll see how they handle the massive activation and designation event on Monday. It’ll be interesting.
August 17, 2009 at 6:36 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Injuries, Transaction Analysis
If you haven’t heard, Nate McLouth was placed on the 15-day DL due to the hamstring injury he sustained awhile ago. He’s eligible to come off of the DL on August 31st and I imagine he will do so on that date. The Braves elected to bring up Reid Gorecki to serve as the 4th OF in McLouth’s absence. I imagine Diaz will play right every day, Church center, and ACHE left. The decision to bring up Gorecki and add another player to the 40-man roster was most undoubtedly influenced by Gorecki’s ability to play center. He’s probably an offensive and defensive upgrade over Blanco, but a downgrade from Brandon Jones I’d speculate.
A lot of people were vexed that the organization didn’t choose to bring up Jason Heyward. Look, the Braves know what they’re doing. They’ll bring up Heyward when he’s ready to contribute. We don’t know more than the organization, they’ll know when he’s ready. Obviously they feel he’s not. There’s not much empirical evidence to suggest they’re wrong. 149 PA’s at AA is hardly the tell tale sign someone is ready. I’m fully confident the organization will make the correct decision when it comes to Heyward.
In the mean time, Matt Diaz, who has hit .293/.358/.457 this season, will enjoy an every-day role. Church is probably a better center fielder than McLouth, and McLouth had only hit .260/.344/.417 in his time with the Braves. I think he’s a better player than that, but I hardly think losing McLouth for a few weeks is the end of the world.
It seems like McLouth never really recovered from the hamstring injury. Hopefully this down-time gets him fresh, healthy, and primed for a stretch run.
In other news, 2009 Braves 1B Stats: Casey Kotchman – 6 HR in 339 PA’s. Adam LaRoche – 4 HR in 58 PA’s.
July 9, 2009 at 9:18 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Cincinnati Reds, Front Office, Texas Rangers, Transaction Analysis, Transactions
Whenever the beloved (by some, self included) Jon Sciambi or Joe Simpson can’t call a Braves game due to prior commitments or unforeseen circumstances, Ron Gant frequently fills in. Ron Gant is one of my favorite baseball players of all time. And one of the better Atlanta Braves. He had two particularly great seasons. 1990 and 1991. In the former he was slightly better (mainly just do to BABIP (.306 in 1990, .258 in 1991) as he hit the same number of HR both seasons and stole 1 more base in 1991), but they were both monster seasons*. The latter was much more memorable, however, as the Braves ended up making it to the World Series and losing to the Twins 1-0 in a 10-inning game 7 that capped off the greatest World Series of all time**. In those two seasons, he hit 32 HR each year, stole 33 bases in 1990, and stole 34 bases in 1991. Each season alone would qualify him for the “30-30 club”, but the two put together put him on a list of 9 people to do it multiple times (the feat alone has been done 52 times by 32 players). Ron Gant, Barry Bonds, Alfanso Soriano, Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero, Raúl Mondesí, Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa, and Howard Johnson make up this list. Pretty elite company. I suspect Hanley Ramirez will join it this year. Another note about the 30-30 club. There have been 4 Braves to put together 30-30 seasons. Hank Aaron in 1963 (for the then Milwaukee Braves), Dale Murphy in 1983, and Ron Gant’s two seasons. But that’s all trivia and I’m rambling.
*Ron Gant hit .303/.357/.539 with 32 HR, 33 SB, and 34 2B in 1990 and .251/.338/.496 with 32 HR, 34 SB and 35 2B in 1991. What I would give to have a corner outfielder putting up those kind of numbers for the Braves in 2009… Anyway, he was 14th in MVP voting in 1990 and 6th in 1991. Goes to show playing for a winner really does change how people vote for MVP.
**I own the tape I linked. I still own a VCR for the singular purpose of occasionally watching that tape.
Anyway, like I said, Gant is the “emergency play-by-play/color analyst” for the Fox Sports South and Sports South broadcast. And while he was one of my favorite baseball players, he’s far from my favorite baseball announcer. They say, “Good hitters don’t necessarily make good hitting coaches”. Well, good baseball players don’t necessarily make good baseball announcers*. Ron Gant proves this theorem to be true. At least in my eye.
*See Fire Joe Morgan.
Gant (all too) frequently uses variations of the phrase “that’s one he’d like to have back”. For example, you’ll (also all too frequently) see Chuck James throw a letter-high big ole’ fat change-up over the heart of the plate, a ball that Ted Lilly would hit over the fence, and watch it sail off of Ryan Zimmerman’s bat into the parking lot. Gant, in his infinite baseball wisdom and without any reservations concerning the use of clichés or the over-use of phrases, will chime in: “You know, that’s a pitch he’d like to have back”. Really, Ron? He’d really like to have not thrown a pitch so hittable that it got hit harder than anything anyone hit in batting practice today? OK, I’m not being fair here. Maybe to the casual baseball fan it is helpful to explain a letter-high middle-of-the-plate pitch is hittable. It’s the over-use of the phrase that ruins the whole Ron Gant calls the game experience for me.
So, as a tribute to his baseball career and a mockery of his broadcasting career, I entitled this entry, which largely has nothing to do with Ron Gant outside of my ~550 word rambling introduction, “One They Might Like To Have Back”. It has nothing to do with anything that Ron Gant, to my knowledge, has professionally discussed. Not one of Chuck James’ fat pitches, one of Kelly Johnson’s inopportune errant misplays, one of Jeff Francoeur’s disgraceful plate appearances, or one of Bobby Cox’s moronic strategies*. This has to do with a trade. A high-profile trade. A high-profile trade that should be even higher-profile. Because it has undoubtedly changed the face of two franchises. People act like it just didn’t happen. People talk about the Bay trade or the Teixeira trade (which actually did probably change the face of Texas’ franchise), but this trade was also huge.
*Oh. My. God. That pinch-bunt Bobby had Diaz try to execute on Tuesday. I wanted to throw a brick at my television. Check it out. Play-by-play courtesy of ESPN.
R Johnson in center field. A Heilman relieved S Marshall. J Francoeur reached on infield single to shortstop. B Conrad reached on bunt single to pitcher, J Francoeur to second. M Diaz hit for M Gonzalez. M Diaz bunt popped out to third.
I’m talking about the trade that sent a rehabilitated and re-made Josh Hamilton to Texas for Edinson Volquez and a “Danny Herrera”. I looked it up, a “Danny Herrera” is a 5’7″, 145 LB left-handed pitcher*. Obviously, the Reds and Rangers viewed the deal as a Hamilton for Volquez swap with Herrera on top to sweeten the deal. Not that he does much to a deal that already involves a) a 23-year old flame-throwing right-handed pitcher that shot up from Class A Advanced to AAA and eventually to MLB the previous year and b) a 26-year old feel-good story of a former number 1 overall draft pick who just hit .292/.368/.554 in 337 PA’s during his first taste of the big leagues and plays a defensively challenging position. So you get the idea, blockbuster-type deal. When major young talent gets exchanged, it qualifies as blockbuster. Maybe not from a mainstream media’s perspective, but for my purposes, it does.
*I didn’t actually have to look up who he was, I remembered from the trade news at the time and when he faced the Braves 4 times this season pitching 5 and 2/3 scoreless innings, though I did have to look up his height and weight (which I distinctly remember was not much on both counts) and his stats.
When people do discuss this trade, something that happens all too infrequently, they seem to go with the premise: “The trade worked perfectly.” I’m not so sure it did. When I was doing my research for this article, I came across this one from USAToday. First of all, I’d like to share some portions of some of the comments from the article, which I find funny.
The Rays are just LOSERS. Talent coming out their ears, but bottom barrel, every single year. They are the only expansion team not to win, aren’t they? Marlins have 2 WS, D’backs have one, Rockies played in one this year. Where are the Rays? Moaning about the talent they squander, that’s where. LOSERS.
Boy, was that guy eventually wrong. That comment was written on New Years Eve of 2007, by the way. Lad needs to lay off the booze or make some friends (or both). And another:
It’ll be interesting to see how Hamilton does without the Narron family babysitting him. I know Jerry lost his job midseason but his brother was still around as the batting coach to hold his hand. Josh’s ties with the Narron family was the only reason he got a second chance in Cincy. I believe the Reds dumped Hamilton off on the Rangers in part due to the public fit he threw when Jerry Narron was fired.
I’d say his stint in Texas has worked out alright despite the lack of presence from the Narron family. But the comment that really caught my eye was this one, which basically sums up my whole thesis for this piece.
The Rangers chase after more hitting year after year. And their downfall is always lousy pitching. So they trade away a top pitching prospect for more hitting. I think another year in the cellar of their division is a pretty good bet. Sorry Rangers fans- you deserve better.
Finally, I’m getting to my point. If the Reds had Josh Hamilton right now, where would they be? Imagine the Reds’ offense plus Hamilton. The offense looks decent on paper, but they’re 14th in the NL in runs scored*. If the Rangers had Volquez, where would they be? Pitching is clearly their weakness right now. And if they had that extra starter, they might be capable of running away with that division. Both teams have shown they can function without the key player they netted in the trade. They’ve both been on the DL this year. During Hamilton’s stint on the DL, the Rangers went 15-15. Since Volquez went on the DL, the Reds have gone a very respectable 14-19 over a particularly difficult portion of the schedule. Each player fills a glaring need for the team he was traded by.
*They’re 14th in runs scored for a few reasons. Two of them: 1) suspect management by Dusty Baker, giving entirely too many PA’s to very, very bad players and 2) Votto has been on the DL, which has undoubtedly hurt them. But they’re still stacked in the SP department and lacking in the offensive department.
I would argue that both teams would be better off if they could take back this trade. Yeah, I’d hate to break up the Rangers’ offense or the Reds’ rotation. But I believe they’re both more complete teams if they don’t make that trade. So to those who say this trade worked perfectly, I have to disagree. I think both teams lost this trade. They both added to (what they currently consider) depth and plucked from (what they currently consider) slim-pickings. Which is the opposite of what you’re supposed to do. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and neither the Reds nor the Rangers are complaining about the trade, so it wasn’t a colossal failure. But you have to wonder, is this trade “one they would like to have back”?