March 17, 2012 at 12:10 pm by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves, Daily Post
* The Braves play split squad games today. Braves @ Mets (1:10 MLB.TV) and Blue Jays @ Braves (MLB.TV, FSS).
A mild amount of controversy since apparently the Braves wanted to use a DH with Medlen starting against the Mets. The Braves probably were balancing not wanting the Mets to see Beachy in a ST game v. preferring to use a DH in that game. It also caused Joey Terdoslavich to not start (though I’m sure he will come in for Prado pretty early).
@braves with the Lineups:
v. Mets: Simmons 6 Prado 5 Heyward 9 Freeman 3 Diaz 7 Ross 2 Sutton 4 Durango 8 Medlen 1
Gilmartin will follow Medlen (via DOB, linked below)
v. Blue Jays: Bourn 8 Pastornicky 6 McCann DH Uggla 4 Jones 5 Hinske 3 Parraz 9 Bethancourt 2 Constanza 7 Beachy 1
* Game recaps of the Braves WIN over the Astros from the AP, AJC/DOB and Bowman. My analysis: I think Heyward’s swing might just be okay. Tommy Hanson looked good, not great, his new delivery isn’t a major difference at all.
* Tommy Hanson felt comfortable on the mound for the first time this spring.
* Jack Wilson believes he won’t start the season on the DL.
* Bowman’s notes: Some repeat info here, but some info at the bottom that isn’t in the other articles
* Kris Medlen is excited for his start.
* Jason Heyward says the only thing he is really concerned with right now is getting his timing down.
Links you might have missed from yesterday afternoon/evening if you didn’t check back:
* In DOB’s latest blog, he examines the Braves thus far dismal record in spring training. He claims that based on his anecdotal experience with the Marlins that extremely good and extremely bad spring training records can be telling. He contradicts himself at the end of the piece by citing examples that completely refute that, but you know, why let facts get in the way of a good narrative? However, he does give some good info on Cory Gearrin taking a little off his sinker to get more movement, at the suggestion of Roger McDowell.
* Chipper Jones commented on Bryce Harper, and what it’s like to be a phenom in the Washington Post
* Jim Bowden says that he’s heard two rival GMs say that they beieve Teheran needs to go back to AAA to figure out how to pitch without his best stuff and get a better ‘feel’ for pitching. (ESPN Insider sub req’d)
* Camden Depot examines FIP by ‘rotation slot’ from last year in the NL East. To no great shock, the Phillies lapped the field, while the Braves were 2nd.
October 2, 2009 at 8:00 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Daily Post, Defense, Player Analysis, Prospects, Stat Leaders
By the time the Braves played yesterday the game was meaningless. The Rockies completed a 3-game sweep of the Brewers and clinched the NL Wild Card. So, the Braves won’t be playing October baseball this year. Well, not meaningful October baseball, as the regular season schedule extends into October this year on account of the World Baseball Classic.
It was a good run. Seeing all the progress this team made and the direction they’re headed in, the future is very bright. If you had told me that the Braves would still have hope for a post-season berth heading into the last week of the season 6 months ago I’d say they made extraordinary progress throughout the year. Think about it, this team lost 90 games last season. A shot at making the post-season is all you can really hope for.
This won’t be the season in review post or the let’s go get ‘em next year post. Those will be composed later. But think about it, we’re pretty lucky to be Braves fans. We’ve had a competitive organization for as long as I can remember and we watched the team play meaningful Baseball until October 1.
The good news? The Braves are looking better in the draft standings:
Moving on up. I’m anticipating a huge draft this coming summer.
Reasons To Watch The Braves
OK, so with the normal motivation of watching a meaningful game out the window, I’ll provide reasons to continue watching the Braves. They’re all related to our “races”.
- Brian McCann needs 8 more RBI to reach 100.
- Rafael Soriano needs 1 more strikeout to reach 100.
- Chipper Jones needs two more Home Runs to hit 20. He’d be the first player to hit 20+ HR in each of his first 15 seasons in MLB history.
- Peter Moylan still hasn’t allowed a Home Run. He’s appeared in 85 games this season. If he finishes the season without allowing a HR, he’ll own the record for most appearances in a season without allowing a HR.
Also of note: Javier Vazquez still leads Tim Lincecum for best xFIP in MLB (2.90 to 2.93). Lincecum and Vazquez are both done for the year, so Vazquez is going to finish the season as MLB’s xFIP leader. Garret Anderson recorded his 2,500th and 2,501st hits last night. Hopefully the Braves shut him down for the rest of the season. There’s simply no point in giving him at-bats in a meaningless September game.
Stat of the Day
Continuing my evaluation of the tedious, we’ll go with Fielding Bible Runs Saved. This covers the entire year and includes everyone who started at one point for the team:
So you can see why the team was pretty bad defensively. There aren’t very many good defenders on the team. There are precisely five. Yunel Escobar at SS, Ryan Church in RF, David Ross at C, Casey Kotchman at 1B, and Martin Prado at 3B. 3B belongs to Chipper, Prado’s just the back-up. Church hardly ever played because he was hurt or somehow in Bobby’s doghouse. David Ross is a back-up catcher. Casey Kotchman got shipped off for a below-average defender at the same position. The only overwhelmingly positive performance on defense was Yunel Escobar’s.
Jordan Schafer’s Lost Season
Perhaps the biggest question Braves fans had in their mind going into Spring Training was, “Who will play Center Field”. A trio of candidates would audition for the job–Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco, and Jordan Schafer. Gregor Blanco elected to play the World Baseball Classic and the Braves weren’t impressed with what they saw out of spring training. Blanco hit .174/.321/.304–much a continuation of last year’s 2nd half line of .243/.382/.302–and basically played himself out of the race. Josh Anderson played OK, but Schafer’s impressive showing, featuring a line of .324/.378/.471, won him the job out of Spring Training*.
*Giving the job to Schafer turned out to be the right decision. Josh Anderson has posted a .236/.272/.301 line in 291 PA’s with the Tigers and Royals this season, and Gregor Blanco hit .228/.326/.279 at AAA this season.
But Schafer failed to live up to expectations, posting a .204/.313/.287 line in 195 PA’s before being optioned to AAA. That’s a .600 OPS. And though he was heralded for his defense coming into the season, he looked confused in the field and the advanced metrics rated him as a slightly below-average center fielder.
Basically, everyone expected more out of Schafer. The prospects guys hyped him to no end. In fact, here’s what Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus wrote about Schafer in November:
3. Jordan Schafer, CF
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2005, Winter Haven HS (FL)
2008 Stats: .269/.378/.471, .263 EqA at Double-A (84 G)
Last Year’s Ranking: 1
Year in Review: Last year’s breakout performer missed two months early in the season serving a 50-game suspension for some kind of involvement with HGH—the facts are still not clear. He got off to a slow start due to rust and plenty of distractions, but found a groove in the second half, batting .303/.387/.526.
The Good: Schafer’s tools rate as average or above across the board. He’s a patient hitter with a quick, quiet swing and at least average power. He’s a 60 runner and an even better center fielder because of his outstanding instincts, with one scout adding, “I don’t think I ever saw him break wrong on a ball.” His arm is another weapon due to both its strength and accuracy.
The Bad: Schafer struggled against left-handers in 2008, who found success both in busting him inside and getting him to chase good breaking balls. The suspension seemed to hang over his head much of the year; he was clearly pressing at times, and his body language left many wondering if he was having any fun out there.
Fun Fact: While 12 players have been drafted out of Winter Haven High School, Schafer is aiming to become the first to reach the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: An everyday star-level center fielder who annually hits .300 with 20/20 power/speed numbers.
Glass Half Empty: He turns out to be a one-sided star in desperate need of a platoon partner, a la Ray Lankford.
Path To The Big Leagues: Gregor Blanco does not provide a significant roadblock.
Timetable: The Braves still have the utmost confidence in Schafer, and while they do not go into detail, they have no long-term concerns about his suspension. Schafer is their center fielder of the future, and there’s an outside chance that the future could begin in April.
The Braves scouts at spring training were obviously very impressed with Jordan Schafer, because nothing about his minor league numbers suggested he was ready. He was about 400 PA’s shy of normal development time (I often hear minor-leaguers need 2,000 PA’s before they’re MLB ready. Schafer had 1,597 coming into 2009). Additionally, his only experience in the upper minor-leagues was 349 PA’s at AA.
But you know what, the Braves scouts were probably right. Because had it not been for a pesky wrist injury, who knows what Schafer would’ve done? Certainly more than the aforementioned Josh Anderson or Gregor Blanco. I think the scouts looked at Schafer and saw a .273/.415/.439 hitter. Why did I choose that? That’s what Schafer hit in the month of April. The timing of Schafer’s wrist injury is uncertain. All I know is a) his wrist was seriously injured for a significant amount of his time in MLB stint, b) he waited until after his demotion to disclose the injury, and c) the injury most undoubtedly affected his performance. So like I said, I don’t know exactly when his wrist was injured, but the .273/.415/.439 line in April and the .158/.239/.188 line in May suggests the calendar’s flipping may be a good demarcation point. Additionally, he posted a 23-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 7 XBH in 82 PA’s in April, but a 40-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio and only 3 XBH in 113 PA’s in May.
I suspect the organization has considered all of this. And I suspect they’ll give him the same shot they gave him last Spring, a chance to compete for the CF job. Though this time, the competition is going to be a bit tougher. Nate McLouth, who has hit .261/.356/.412 in 370 PA’s with the Braves, represents a formidable alternative. No such thing existed last go-around. On the other hand, the below-average defense suggests McLouth is a better fit for left field, even if his bat won’t play nearly as well there. So if Schafer recovers from his wrist surgery and has a good spring, I don’t see any reason that he shouldn’t be helping the Atlanta Braves improve their 21st ranked defensive efficiency in April of 2010.
The alternative is you sign a free agent, make a trade, or go with the group you’ve got. In the mix for LF and RF include Brandon Jones, Brian Barton, Gregor Blanco, Ryan Church, Matt Diaz, and Jason Heyward. Independently of what the Braves do with Heyward, they have a nice platoon of Matt Diaz and Ryan Church that could potentially fit at a corner, and a couple of spare parts. It seems to me like with Diaz and Church, your next best internal options to round out the outfield are McLouth and Schafer. Even when you add Heyward to the mix, I think you want all 5 of them on the roster.
Unless the Braves acquire a sure-thing LF’er in the off-season, they’d probably be best served to use Jordan Schafer to both shore up the defense and increase the overall athleticism of the club.
That’s all I got.
I don’t really care if the Braves win and almost want them to lose to get a higher draft pick.
October 1, 2009 at 10:33 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Daily Post, Defense, Draft, Front Office, Statistical Analysis
Ravens 24 at Patriots 23
Buccaneers 10 at Redskins 11
Titans 17 at Jaguars 20
Raiders 10 at Texans 27
Lions 3 at Bears 13
Bengals 31 at Browns 9
Seahawks 17 at Colts 27
Giants 31 at Chiefs 6
Jets 24 at Saints 31
Bills 35 at Dolphins 31
Cowboys 31 at Broncos 14
Rams 10 at 49ers 21
Chargers 17 at Steelers 21
Packers 31 at Vikings 30
The title says it all. The best the Braves can do at this point is tie. With a strange loss last night and a Rockies win, the Braves are 4 back with 4 to play. Their elimination number is one. Here’s the chart to illustrate:
|To Tie After 162|
It’s a shame the Braves will probably be eliminated, because they’re a good team. But this run has been fun, no question.
Gaffe Last Night
I’d like to make a few comments on the 2nd biggest base running gaffe in Braves’ history. First of all, you can’t hate Matt Diaz no matter how bad of a mistake it is. Matt Diaz is too like-able of a guy. I’m glad it was a like-able guy because the fans and front-office won’t overreact and condemn the player for one play despite all of his good work. Kelly Johnson, for instance, isn’t an extremely like-able guy, though I suppose he is as like-able as the next guy. But because he’s not a super-like-able guy, his reputation has never recovered from the “dropped pop-up“. Because it’s impossible for Matt Diaz to do wrong, his reputation won’t be extremely tarnished from one play.
Secondly, Bobby Cox states after the game:
I haven’t seen too many end like that — and Matty’s our best base runner.
Well, Matt Diaz has cost the Braves more runs on the base paths than anyone on the team except the departed Casey Kotchman, Chipper Jones, David Ross, and Brian McCann. None of their EQBRR’s are below -3 (except Kotchman, who is a painfully bad base runner. PAINFUL) and this is largely a function of the opportunity to cost runs (i.e. times on base). And of course, the team leader, Omar Infante, has just over 2 EQBRR, so we’re not talking a ton of difference here. I mean, all together this is a very bad base running team. But Baseball Prospectus thinks Matt Diaz is below-average on the base paths, and 29th of 33 Braves. So you know what my position on Diaz’s base running probably is*. But let’s assume, for a second, that Bobby Cox doesn’t check the Baseball Prospectus EQBRR numbers as frequently as I do.
*It’s actually a lot better than 29th of 33. Diaz, I had always thought, was good at taking the extra base and just sort of “heads up” base running moves. This year he’s tried to steal more and his 70.59% success rate hurts him a bit. He’s also made a gaffe or two, like last night. But I don’t think the numbers necessarily represent Diaz’s actual value, here. Though any way you slice it, he isn’t a significantly above-average base runner.
What makes him think Diaz is the best base runner? Him and Nate McLouth both have identical SB-CS numbers (12-5), but McLouth has accomplished it in 50 fewer PA’s. They lead the team in SB. Kelly Johnson’s 7-for-9 in SB (77.78%), Chipper and McCann’s 4-for-5 (80.00%), and the four players that have stolen a base but haven’t been caught–Omar Infante (2), Gregor Blanco (2), Garret Anderson (1), and Reid Gorecki (1)–are all better SB success rates than Matt Diaz’s 70.59%.
I know “the best” and “the most valuable” don’t always equal, otherwise clubs wouldn’t spend millions of dollars on the development of their prospects, but I think the evidence is pretty clear that Matt Diaz is not the Braves’ best base runner.
But this brings up a bigger point. The Braves are horrible at running the bases. When your manager, and one of the best all time, mistakes the 29th most valuable base runner for the best, you simply, as a whole, are indistinguishable and overwhelmingly mediocre. The Braves are currently, and will finish at best, 28th in baseball with -13.536 EQBRR. I discussed earlier the impact of base running and concluded that if you’re looking to build an offense around base running and that’s the only feature of the offense, the offense will fail. To that end, I don’t suggest the Braves go out of their way to fix their base running problems by acquiring players to improve base running at the expense of another area. It’s absolutely easier to win with the 28th best EQBRR than the 28th OBP or SLG% or AVG or ERA or Home Runs or Home Runs Allowed etc…
But I think it should be Jeff Porter’s mission to have all of the players on a diet and work-outs geared towards getting faster next year. It theoretically helps defensively and with regards to base running. The Braves two biggest weaknesses of the four major categories (Pitching, Defense, Hitting, Base Running) are defense (the Braves are 19th in defensive efficiency) and base running.
I concluded earlier that the way the Braves are configured, they’re not in a position to add an impact defender. Their only conceivable positions to add a player are 1B and corner OF, you’re not going to get an ultra-valuable defensive player at either of those positions. So, if they want to get better defensively, they’re probably going to have to do it internally (using more favorable alignments and a commitment from the players to get better individually and focus more). By the same token, base running isn’t an important enough category to justify adding an impact player at the expense of adding an impact player in another category. So to get better on the base paths, the Braves are probably going to have to just do it themselves. And I think Jeff Porter needs to step in here and have the players commit to being in better condition next year. For the sake of defense and base running.
Of course, this also begs the question, should Brian Snitker be fired? And you all know my position on that issue. (In case you don’t, the answer is a “yes”).
Thoughts on Closers
When asked what I thought about the possibility of bringing in a free agent non-closer and letting him try to close, this was my response:
I like the idea of bringing in someone who hasn’t closed before (or in awhile). Paying market rate for closers is the fastest way to add a bad contract to your team. See this year: Francisco Cordero, Jose Valverde, Francisco Rodriguez, Billy Wagner, Brad Lidge, B.J. Ryan, Kerry Wood, and Brian Fuentes. All of these pitchers were significantly less valuable than their contract and they were all either signed as free agents or locked up at market-rates before they hit free agency. The list of economically successful post-FA closers is much smaller. Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, and Trevor Hoffman (but for the deal he signed, he’s hardly being paid market-rate for a closer).
So if you want to shore up the bullpen, paying market rate for a free agent seems like the worst way to do it. That leaves a) paying less than market rate for a closer on the FA market, b) acquiring a non-closer like you suggested, or c) making a trade for a reliever. I’d hate to give up prospects for a reliever, although a spare part (Kelly Johnson, Ryan Church, etc..) for a reliever could work.
Otherwise, you’re left with scrap heap closers, the type of acquisition you pray will work out and rarely does, and those that never got the opportunity to close. And if you’re good with your scouting and research, you might be able to find someone who is just as capable as the best reliever on the market (the one who is being well overpaid to close games for the Cubs) from the group of FA RP’s that have never closed.
Maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t. There’s inherent risk every time you bring in a new RP, regardless of whether or not they’ve closed before. RP’s are so volatile in the first place that you assume risk with each pitcher you acquire. There’s always that chance that they injure themselves or forget how to get outs. I think there’s more uncertainty in the bullpen than any other position in baseball. Teams cycle through relievers, discard them and recall them at their whims. That’s because they accept the risk and choose to get by riding the hot hand rather than devote resources there.
John Schuerholz understood this perhaps better than anyone. In the age of relievers getting huge contracts and closers being paid like DH’s, Schuerholz never committed long-term to something as volatile as a relief pitcher. As well he shouldn’t have. Look at all the different single-season saves leaders (and others that saved at least 10 games) during the playoff run:
1991 – Juan Berenguer – 17 (Alejandro Pena – 11)
1992 – Alejandro Pena – 15
1993 – Mike Stanton – 27 (Greg McMichael – 19)
1994 – Greg McMichael – 21
1995 – Mark Wholers – 25
1996 – Mark Wholers – 39
1997 – Mark Wholers – 33
1998 – Kerry Lightenberg – 30
1999 – John Rocker – 38
2000 – John Rocker – 24 (Mike Remlinger – 12, Kerry Lightenberg – 12)
2001 – John Rocker – 19 (John Smoltz – 10)
2002 – John Smoltz – 55
2003 – John Smoltz – 45
2004 – John Smoltz – 44
2005 – Chris Retisma – 15 (Dan Kolb – 11, Kyle Farnsworth – 10)
That’s 12 people that saved at least 10 games in 15 seasons. There was zero stability there. So whoever says you have to have a big-name, established closer to win is full of it. And someone who says you have to have a big-name, established closer to win in the post-season is even stupider. The Braves made the post-season 14 consecutive times. And the three years that the best closer they’ve ever had was closing games for them, they lost in the post-season, too.
I should add that I think keeping everyone on the pitching staff except Soriano and Gonzalez is the correct decision. Whether that sends Lowe, Kawakami, Hudson, or whoever to the bullpen, I don’t care, but the invaluable rotation depth is something the Braves should value and preserve at all costs. Even that of the bullpen. If you’ve got enough resources to bring in a 1B or corner OF and you can bring in some bullpen help, then you go cowering through the trade market and free agents searching for a bargain bullpen arm. But that’s the last thing you add.
- Brian McCann is still at 92 RBI.
- Chipper Jones is still at 18 HR.
- Peter Moylan is still at 85 appearances and still hasn’t allowed a Home Run.
- Rafael Soriano still has 96 strikeouts.
- Javier Vazquez still leads Tim Lincecum 2.90 to 2.93 in xFIP.
At Least the Nationals are here
But it doesn’t really matter. Nothing like playing a meaningless game with the Nationals again. The Braves played so many of them last year (18) and only managed to win 6 of them. And who knows, maybe the Braves improve their draft order. They’d pick 23rd if the season ended now, so here are the teams the Braves could potentially overtake in the draft standings over the next few days:
San Francisco, Florida, and Texas have been eliminated, but the Tigers still have to clinch the AL Central (they could do so with a win against Minnesota today). So there’s probably a decent chance the Braves will pick 22nd or even 21st. The best-case scenario is would be 19th. Regardless, they’re not getting a protected 1st rounder, so I wouldn’t advise signing Type A Free Agents that have been offered arbitration by another club.
Fixing a Hole
As much as I ramble about defense and base running, the Braves’ biggest hole for over a year now is the absence of a right-handed power hitter. Jeff Francoeur was supposed to be that person and, well, that didn’t work. It looks like the Braves will make fixing this hole a priority this off-season. Per David O’Brien:
As it relates to Braves, you should presume Braves will focus on right-handed power bats, not another lefty. They’re serious about getting a right-handed bat, from what I hear. Not lefty.
He also goes on to dismiss the notion that the Braves should push for Chone Figgins (a stupid suggestion in the first place).
Who doesn’t love Chone Figgins’ game and think he could help their team? But the Braves want to add a power bat, and he’s not that. He’s many things, but not a big power hitter.
I think it’s good that the Braves are looking to fill their need. The two most logical targets, though, are Paul Konerko and Derrek Lee, two players with no-trade clauses and players whose teams don’t match up well with the Braves for a potential trade. Perhaps they add a OF. I hope they don’t go with Jermaine Dye. I can’t take another year of bad OF defense.
Elias Rankings Update
Remember when I said Hudson is a Type B? Forget I ever said that. The rankings were wrong. He’s not a Type B and likely won’t be. Not that it’s of huge impact. Everything else is correct.
That’s all I got.
September 30, 2009 at 1:31 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Daily Post, Farm System
Update 3:45 PM
I’ve read two articles that have been very good and I have to link to them here:
With a Braves loss and a Rockies win last night, the Rockies’ magic number is now 3. By the same token, the Braves’ elimination number is 3. That is–the total number of Rockies wins and Braves losses for the rest of the year can’t equal 3 for the Braves to make the post-season or play game 163 to get to the post-season. In fact, here’s a chart of what has to happen in order to get to the post-season:
|To Tie After 162|
|To Lead After 162|
Things aren’t looking too rosy, though hope endures. The position the Braves are in is still the same. They still have to keep winning and hope the Rockies stumble. The urgency of the matter is much greater, though. The good news is the pitching match-ups seem favorable the rest of the way. It’ll be Javier Vazquez vs. Ricky Nolasco, Tommy Hanson vs. Garrett Mock, Derek Lowe vs. Livan Hernandez (again, thank god), Jair Jurrjens vs. Ross Detwiler, and Tim Hudson vs. J.D. Martin. If the Braves can force a 1-game playoff, Javier Vazquez would face Jason Hammel (or Aaron Cook on short rest). Per the new rules, the Braves would host the 1-game playoff since they tied the season series and own the better record in their division.
The Rockies will throw Jason Hammel vs. Jeff Suppan tonight, Aaron Cook vs. Manny Parra tomorrow, Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Randy Wolf on Friday, Jorge De La Rosa vs. Clayton Kershaw on Saturday, and Jason Marquis vs. Hiroki Kuroda on Sunday. The Dodgers have the on-paper advantage in every game of the series if they decide they want to play to win. Whether they do or not is to be seen.
Like I said, all you can do is win and hope. And try to make this flip up-side down.
Pretty much a 2-horse race at this point. Man, 2.0 out looks a lot better than 3.0 out. And 1.0 out would look even better. Perhaps the Braves will be 2.0 out by tonight. I don’t think they’ll lose another game. You’d really like to get it to 2.0 games heading into the Nationals series. 2.0 out with 4 left is a much better position than 3.0 out with 4 left.
Nolasco has a 5.17 ERA in the month of September and a career 5.o2 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) against the Braves. Javier Vazquez has a 1.93 ERA in September, but a 5.88 ERA against the Marlins this year. Hopefully he gets back on track. The Marlins match-up well with Vazquez because they’re aggressive hitters and Vazquez lives in the zone. A lot of Braves hitters have high career OPS’s against Nolasco. Chipper Jones (1.649), Brian McCann (1.224), Yunel Escobar (1.158), Matt Diaz (1.264), Martin Prado (1.000), Greg Norton (1.400), Gregor Blanco (1.000), and Ryan Church (.939).
Nolasco’s best pitch is his slider (12.2 RAA). With that, we’ll do stat of the day.
Stat of the Day
wSL. How well the starting 8 hit the slider.
Nolasco’s pitch is more of a cutter/slider than a true slider anyway, so I don’t feel like this has much predictive value. I know the Braves have taken care of Nolasco and I expect them to continue today.
Tentative Top 10
I’ve started ranking the prospects and I’ve come up with my tentative top-10 list. There’s a good chance something changes before I come out with my top 40. But here’s what I’ve got at the moment.
1. Jason Heyward
2. Julio Teheran
3. Freddie Freeman
4. Randall Delgado
5. Brett DeVall
6. Craig Kimbrel
7. Cole Rohrbough
8. J. J. Hoover
9. Tyler Stovall
10. Adam Milligan
Before you ask, Mike Minor would be number 11 and Zeke Spruill would be number 12. That’s all I’ve got so far. I miss minor league baseball.
Rafael Soriano 100 Strikeout Watch
Rafael Soriano is now at 96 strikeouts. He wasn’t used tonight so he should be available tomorrow night. Now, only 4 away, it seems likely that Soriano will reach the century mark.
Other “races” include:
- Brian McCann 100-RBI watch.
- Peter Moylan home-run watch. Peter Moylan has broken the Braves single-season appearances record and is yet to allow a home run. If he finishes the season without allowing a home run, he’ll hold the record for most appearances in a season without allowing a home-run.
- Javier Vazquez xFIP watch. He’s at 2.93 and Lincecum is at 2.94. Will Vazquez finish the season leading the league in xFIP?
- Chipper 20-homer watch. If Chipper hits 2 more homers (I hope he hits 5 more) over the final 5 games, he’ll become the 1st player in MLB history to hit 20 or more home runs every year for the first 15 years of an MLB career*. Chipper’s currently tied with Eddie Matthews with 14.
*Hank Aaron hit 20 or more home runs for an astonishing twenty years, but he only hit 13 home runs in 509 PA’s his rookie year, so he doesn’t qualify for this list. Hank Aaron is tied with many at the bottom of the list with zero.
I’ve refrained from discussing this topic in this space for awhile now. I’ve wanted to bring it up for a month, but figured it’d be better to see them finish the season. I don’t suppose a player’s value tremendously dips or skyrockets over the final 5 games, so I guess it’s appropriate to bring it up here. Here’s a list of everyone who could possibly be considered team MVP:
- Brian McCann
- Yunel Escobar
- Martin Prado
- Chipper Jones
- Matt Diaz
- Javier Vazquez
- Jair Jurrjens
- Rafael Soriano
- Peter Moylan
I’ll list their WAR:
Vazquez is clearly the most valuable pitcher. Whether or not Yunel or McCann has been more valuable is debatable. Fangraphs doesn’t know how to handle Catcher’s defense so it just doesn’t include it. It’s admirable that they’ll admit they don’t know what to do, but ignoring it all together is a lousy solution. No doubt McCann’s WAR would suffer if his defensive performance were included. Secondly, UZR rates Yunel worse than he performs. +/- has Yunel at +10 runs while UZR has him at merely average. That’s a full win right there.
Apart from Vazquez, McCann, and Yunel, there isn’t another suitable candidate. Matt Diaz and Martin Prado haven’t played enough. Relievers don’t pitch enough innings to have major impact. And Chipper and Jurrjens haven’t been good enough.
There are arguments that a starting pitcher shouldn’t be a MVP because he only participates in ~20% of the games. It’s not a bad argument. And if you buy into that, the decision is, in my eye, is between Yunel and McCann.
That’s all I got.
We need a miracle.
September 29, 2009 at 12:56 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Daily Post, Pitching, Player Analysis
Did the Braves just pull off their second 7-game win streak in 18 days last night? I think they did. The Braves didn’t have a single 6-game win streak before September, now they have two 7-game win streaks, going on 8 tonight. Pretty incredible. This it the kind of team I hoped the Braves had out of Spring Training. A bunch of on-base machines with a bunch of guys who hit doubles and a few HR’s.
The Matt Daiz
Would you like a list of things that Matt Diaz leads the Braves in as of two days ago? OK, here goes:
Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, Slugging Percentage, OPS, OPS+, and HBP. He’s been tearing it up this season, hitting .322/.391/.485/.876. The question is: is it sustainable?
I don’t know. With a guy like Matt Diaz, who swings at everything and puts the ball in play all the time, you never know. He’s probably capable of hitting .300 every year. I don’t know about .322, though. He doesn’t seem to have much power and goes the other way a lot. Most of his power is batting average driven. Still, a guy hitting .300/.370/.465 will have a place in a line-up somewhere. Considering the Braves outfield has been such a mess for so long, you might as well hope Matt Diaz can repeat his performance.
Josh Johnson Tonight
In order to make it 8 in a row, the Braves will have to overcome a tough obstacle tonight. Josh Johnson, previously scheduled to start Sunday afternoon, was scratched and will, instead, face the Braves tonight. That’s good news for Garret Anderson, who has a 1.333 OPS against Josh Johnson (2-for-6 with a 2B and a HR). Omar Infante also owns a 1.333 OPS against Josh Johnson in 3 career PA’s. Kelly Johnson has a 1.055 OPS against his cousin* and Greg Norton, against all odds, has a 1.000 OPS against him.
*They’re not really cousins.
The Rockies were off yesterday. They’ll face Chris Narveson and the Brewers in the Mile High City tonight. Narveson is a lefty with a 2-0 record and 3.82 ERA in 37 and 2/3 innings this season. He’s got a 3.92 career minor-league ERA and doesn’t seem like much more than a AAAA starter or MLB swingman. But we’ve seen plenty of those pitchers turn in good outings and let’s hope Chris Narveson does so tonight. He’ll face Jason Marquis, who has a 6.49 ERA in his last 6 starts, dating back to August 29. I have a good feeling about this one. (Knock on wood).
Batting Practice Yesterday
I went on the field for that batting practice thing yesterday. Honestly, it was overrated. I enjoyed watching BP at Spring Training more than this. First of all, by the time they let us out there virtually everyone had already hit. I watched Kelly Johnson take 2 rounds. After that, it was all Omar Infante, Ryan Church, Greg Norton, and Reid Gorecki. Not that I didn’t enjoy watching Omar Infante and Ryan Church take some BP, but I really would’ve liked to seen someone like Yunel Escobar, Garret Anderson (I think it’d be fascinating to watch him take BP, even if I’m not a fan of his game), Brian McCann, Chipper Jones, or just someone I enjoy watching hit. Greg Norton sucks.
It was interesting to watch the coaches interact. At one point, I was about 15 feet away from Frank Wren and Chino Cadahia talking to Fredi Gonzalez. It looked like the team was having fun in the outfield, though I couldn’t really see that far with the angle I had. They were doing things like throwing their glove at fly-balls attempting to catch it. Yunel put on a show, of course. By the way, if you’ve never watched Yunel in the on-deck circle, it’s hilarious. Greg Norton sucks.
The Braves were on the field for all of 20 minutes. Then the Marlins took over. You would think that the planners would have worked this out by now–perhaps they do it on purpose–but 20 minutes of Braves and 40 minutes of Marlins isn’t exactly what I wanted to see. Greg Norton sucks.
Stat of the Day
Since Josh Johnson’s best pitch is his fastball (20.7 RAA), today’s stat revolves around how well Braves starters hit the fastball. I imagine the line-up tonight will be:
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
9. Tim Hudson – RHP
So, we’ll look at how well the first 8 hit the fastball. Here’s what it looks like:
So, if you need to put money on a Braves hitter, put it on Garret Anderson, who has a 1.333 OPS against Johnson, kills the fastball, and has a platoon advantage. If he gets to a 3-1 count, bet your buddy he hits a home run. It works, trust me. He’ll be amazed that you were able to predict that. Anyway, you can see that Adam LaRoche, as he is in so many other things, is at the top of the list. He’s also a good bet to perform well. McLouth, too. And even though Prado doesn’t have the platoon advantage, if he’s on his game tonight, I bet he’ll have a hit or two.
Elias Rankings Update
- LaRoche is still a B.
- Garret Anderson is still a B
- Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez are still A’s.
- Tim Hudson is now a Type B. He’s still on the border, but he’s qualified for Type B status for the first time this year. And he’s got a good shot at finishing the year a Type B now. Which means the Braves could get a 1st supplemental round draft pick if they decline Hudson’s option, offer him arbitration, and Hudson declines and signs elsewhere. Largely irrelevant. But now the decision to let Hudson walk makes a bit more sense. Still not a ton, though.
Here’s what the 3 relief aces usage looks like over the past 3 days:
Soriano has pitched on three consecutive days, even though he only got 1 out on the 26th. Moylan has worked back-to-back games for a total of three innings. If I were Bobby, I’d rely on Kawakami, O’Flaherty, and Gonzalez (Logan, Medlen, and Acosta if needed) to finish the game. Of course, Bobby will probably bring Soriano in to protect a lead and Soriano will make it very interesting.
That’s all I got for now.
September 25, 2009 at 1:35 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Daily Post, Draft, Farm System, Minor Leagues, Series Preview
Elias Rankings Update
The new Elias Rankings are out courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors.
- Adam LaRoche remains a Type B and puts some distance between him and the “no-status” status.
- Garret Anderson, against all odds, remains a Type B by a fairly large margin.
- Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano remain in no jeopardy of falling out of Type A status.
- Tim Hudson may have an outside shot at achieving Type B status, but he’s a fairly large ways away (Tim’s at 53.333 points, Pelfrey, the highest on the list who isn’t a Type B, is at 58.409, and the lowest Type B, John Lannan (whom Kelly has a career 1.133 OPS against, gotta squeeze in the agenda!), is at 60.00).
We Swept ‘Em Back-to-Back
Two straight sweeps of the Mets. Not that this deserves any bragging, as it’s probably easy to beat the Mets without Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, J. J. Putz, and Johan Santana. But it still feels good to sweep the Mets. Always. Never gets old.
Right at 12%. That’s pretty much all wild-card at this point. Perhaps I just cursed the Braves who head into a 10-game stretch where they play 3 at Washington, 3 vs Florida, and 4 more vs Washington. We’ll hope the Braves don’t read this site and try to prove me wrong.
Getting down to it, though, the Braves need to win 10 of their last 10. Seriously, running the table is pretty much the only option. After Colorado lost last night*, they sit at 86-67 and the Braves 82-70. If the Braves go 10-0, they’ll be at 92-70, the inverse of last year’s record. All Colorado has to do is go 6-3 over their final 9 to force a 1-game playoff and 7-2 to win the wild-card. Perhaps the Braves have help on the way, though. Colorado’s final 9 games feature 3 vs. St. Louis, 3 vs. Milwaukee, and 3 @ Los Angeles. There’s a good chance that the Rockies win less than 5 of their final 9. So the Braves chances are still alive. You’ve just gotta run the table.
*Good lord, about time the Rockies lost**. It’s annoying. Earlier in the year, the Braves were on a huge streak and gained no ground on the Phillies. It’s the same story here. Every time the Braves go on their streak, seems like someone else ahead of them follows suit. The only option is to go on an unattainably long hot streak.
**I wrote this post yesterday and the Rockies had just lost their first to the Padres. The Rockies have since lost again, putting the Braves in an even better position.
And you’ve gotta start tonight in Washington.
The Pitching match-ups include Javier Vazquez vs. John Lannan, Tommy Hanson vs. Garrett Mock, and Derek Lowe vs. Livan Hernandez. I like the Braves in all 3 of those. It’s important to take them 1 at a time, though. Meanwhile, the Rockies will be pitted against the likes of Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Kyle Lohse this weekend. It’s a great opportunity to gain some ground.
The Braves have the best chance of any team of overtaking the Rockies. It’d take a trick they themselves have pulled to overtake them, though (the Braves have won 11 of 13. The Rockies won 21 of 22 to get to the World Series. The Braves need to win 20-21 of their final 23).
Earlier, Christian Bethancourt was named the GCL’s number 1 prospect. I didn’t report it because I don’t know anything about GCL players, usually. Baseball America followed up with their Appalachian League Top 20 Prospects. The Cartagena Kid was ranked number 1. Danville also won the Appy league, so it would stand to reason they would have a few in the top 20. Last year’s 2nd rounder, Tyler Stovall, ranked 16th on their list. 2009 4th rounder–Mycal Jones, a toolsy college SS, hit .258 with 19 SB (4 CS), 4 HR, and a .767 OPS, enough to rank 17th on the list. Brett Oberholtzer (LHP), a 2008 8th rounder, also cracked the top-20. The article also mentions two break-out performers who didn’t crack the list:
Two of Danville’s first-year pros made a huge impact in the Appy League but just missed the cut. First baseman and league MVP Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg, a 16th-round pick from Nova Southeastern (Fla.), hit .359 to win the batting title, and his strength and knowledge of the strike zone portend a bright future. Lefthander Chris Masters, an 11th-round pick from Western Carolina, led the league with 85 strikeouts in 70 innings and narrowly missed winning the ERA title at 1.42. He expertly spots an 87-92 mph fastball but needs to refine his secondary stuff.
Games Last Night
Even though the Braves didn’t play, I watched some baseball last night. First the Padres-Rockies. That game was pretty crazy. Then the Giants-Cubs, that one was even crazier. Let’s just take a look at the Win Probability Graphs. First Rockies-Padres:
And the Cubs-Giants:
It was a great day for Braves baseball even if they were off. The Rockies lose (and now have 9 games against tough opponents), the Cubs win (so the Cardinals have to play at least one meaningful game against the Rockies), and the Giants lost, putting them behind the Braves in the Wild Card standings. Great day.
Packers 34 at Rams 17
Redskins 21 at Lions 10
49ers 20 at Vikings 21
Falcons 34 at Patriots 35
Titans 10 at Jets 17
Chiefs 3 at Eagles 33
Giants 31 at Buccaneers 17
Browns 3 at Ravens 24
Jaguars 21 at Texans 38
Bears 17 at Seahawks 16
Saints 38 at Bills 35
Steelers 27 at Bengals 0
Broncos 9 at Raiders 10
Dolphins 17 at Chargers 34
Colts 27 at Cardinals 21
Panthers 35 at Cowboys 34
I’ve already done Kelly Johnson Fan Club for the upcoming series and I feel like I should be diverting more attention towards getting the Braves in the playoffs (like I can have any impact…) and less to my “KJ needs more playing time” agenda. Although I think the two would probably correlate. So that’s all I’ve got for now. Let’s beat the Nationals tonight, and tomorrow, and Sunday!
September 23, 2009 at 3:15 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Daily Post, Kelly Johnson Fan Club, Player Analysis, Quotes
Matt Diaz, the Greatest Little Platoon Hitter Ever
Matt Diaz has hit .317/.391/.496 this season. Let me repeat that. Matt Diaz has hit .317/.391/.496 this season. In nearly 400 PA’s. Remarkably, this is the first season that Matt Diaz has been to the plate more than 100 times and had a platoon advantage of less than 45%. This year his platoon advantage has been 37%. Sounds like he’s making a fairly strong case for being an every-day player. Not so fast.
Matt Diaz, in his career, has hit .346/.382/.538 with 90 K’s and 28 BB’s in 663 PA’s against LHP. That’s a .919 OPS. His career BABIP against LHP is .372. That’s half of a platoon I’d take any day. Against RHP? Not so much. He’s hit .278/.335/.388 with 161 K’s and 38 BB’s in 709 PA’s. That’s a .723 OPS (.352 BABIP). You can see why the Braves have largely used Diaz in a platoon role for most of his career.
This year, the story is much the same. He’s hit .410/.456/.642 with 19 K’s and 9 BB’s in 148 PA’s (.445 BABIP) against LHP. That’s a 1.098 OPS. Against RHP he’s hit .258/.352/.404 with 64 K’s and 21 BB’s in 247 PA’s (.343 BABIP). That’s a .756 OPS. He still hasn’t shown that he can be an even average hitting corner outfielder against RHP. His line is inflated by the left-handed portion which is inflated by the BABIP. But his line against LHP? Makes him the most perfect small part of a platoon. I would suggest Matt Diaz needs to be in the team’s plans going forward, but not in a starting role. Until he shows he can consistently hit RHP.
Bobby Cox’s Future
Yesterday Gordon Edes of Yahoo Sports opened up a can of shit-worms when he wrote the following:
Another situation that bears watching is in Atlanta, where manager Bobby Cox has been hedging about whether he will be back. According to a major league source, the relationship between Cox and GM Frank Wren deteriorated during the spring to the point that Cox packed his bag and climbed into his car to drive home from spring training until dissuaded from doing so by one of his coaches.
Cox was unhappy at the way the John Smoltz issue had been handled, the source said, and because he had not been kept up to speed on other personnel decisions. The relationship appears to have been patched up, although the parting with Tom Glavine was another strained episode, and the expectation is that Cox will be back because he’s excited that the Braves have another core of young talent developing. Stay tuned.
The first thing I thought when I read this was, “Bullshit”. There’s no way Bobby Cox packed his car and was headed home and I didn’t hear about it until now. There’s simply no way. Apparently I wasn’t alone in this sentiment, as David O’Brien writes:
So a few of you apparently think that if I or Bowman had heard in spring training that Bobby packed his car and was ready to head home because of a squabble(s) with Wren, we wouldn’t have reported it? Believe me, if either of us had heard that story from a reliable source and felt certain — and our editors agreed — that it was true, I know that either of us — I probably shouldn’t speak for Bowman, but I will — would have reported it. That would have been a hell of a scoop in spring training, the kind you certainly never would pass up if you got it confirmed by one of the parties involved or if you and your editors felt strongly enough that your source was reliable (and, or course, you would ask the parties directly for a reaction and tell them what you’ve got on record from a reliable source).
I read a comment from someone critical (imagine that) of no one having this story until now, someone incredulous that we hadn’t heard about this. As though we all are staying in close quarters during spring training and we could have looked out our window and seen Bobby in the early morning hours, angrily packing his car in the parking lot and murmuring aloud about the GM, something like that.
If this story is true — Gordon is a very good writer and reporter; as some of you know since I’ve mentioned it before, I worked with him at the Sun-Sentinel and he’s actually the guy who asked me to come over to cover the Marlins with him, before he left for Boston — then it’s something that was told to one writer by one upset source who didn’t tell anyone else at the time. It happens. Some sources say something once and never say it again.
I think the “if” is huge there. Seriously, what are the chances that something like this happens and both the beat writers and all national analysts go uninformed until now?
Maybe it’s true, but I’d still expect Bobby Cox to be back next year.
Anyway, Mark Bradley calls BS on it too:
Reached by phone Tuesday night, Wren described the report as “inaccurate.” But it’s fair to say that the relationship between Cox and Wren hasn’t been as seamless — to use a John Schuerholz word — as the one between Cox and Wren’s predecessor as GM. Cox and Schuerholz talked almost daily, even in the offseason, and rarely disagreed on anything.
That said, Cox was complimentary of Wren’s rebuilding work over the winter. “He’s done everything, really,” Cox said then, and this, it should be noted, came after Smoltz signed with Boston. But it also must be noted that even Schuerholz was so distressed by the way the Braves cut ties with Glavine that he offered an apology on behalf of the organization.
Asked Tuesday if he wanted Cox to remain the Braves’ manager, Wren said: “Sure, absolutely.” And this: “We’ll sit down and talk, and we’ll have an announcement at the appropriate time.”
But Bradley doesn’t stop:
Said Cox, speaking via iPhone from New York: “Everything is fine. Frank has been outstanding … I couldn’t believe it when I [learned of the report].”
Another Point About Managers
Baseball teams pay players based on what they think they’re worth. They pay players because they’re going to get on-field value from them. Wouldn’t it make sense that managers are paid like that, too? Considering the highest paid managers get $5,000,000 a year (and I’m completely guessing here), wouldn’t it make sense that Managers only impact the game by at most around 1 win? If there’s a manager that can take a team from 86 to 90 wins, teams would pay $20 million a year for him. No such things exist. Think about that when you’re thinking about the impact of managers.
Gunning For The Sweep
Going for the second sweep of the Stem in 10 days, the Braves send Tim Hudson to the hill against staff ace Mike Pelfrey for the series finale. No matter what, sweeping the Mets never gets old.
Speaking of the Mets, I went onto my favorite Mets blog, Amazin’ Avenue, last night and posted the following comment:
Braves announcers pointed out that Sheffield was used in the bottom of the 9th with 2 out, yet sat on the bench with runners at 2nd and 3rd in the 7th. What’s your take on this decision? Perhaps Jerry had draft order in mind.
I post this because I don’t know. I don’t follow the Mets closely. I didn’t know if Sheff had been struggling or whatever. But anyway, I got a few hilarious responses.
No take other than that Jerry is just unfathomably horrible. I was at Friday’s game when, if I remember correctly, he let Wilson Valdez bat with the bases loaded and one out…and then had Sheffield lead off the next inning.
That’s our Jerry.
Pinch hitting Tatis in that situation, when he had Sullivan, Reed and Sheff available, was just retarded. But at this point, losses are kind of a good thing.
Pretty funny. Just goes to show there’s discontent with managers everywhere.
Kelly Johnson Fan Club
The scheduled starters for the next series (@Washington) are John Lannan, Garrett Mock, and Livan Hernandez. KJ has a 1.133 OPS against Lannan (6-for-15 with 2 doubles and a homer). He’s doubled in his only plate appearance vs. Garrett Mock. Friday and Saturday, Kelly Johnson should start. Somewhere.
That’s all I got.
Go Braves! Sweep the Mets.
SPECIAL FUCKING COX-WREN UPDATE!
Mark Bowman further shat on the notion:
But those of us that have been around the team throughout this season, can’t deny the fact that the working relationship shared by Cox and Wren was definitely strengthened in the days, weeks and months following this event.
No later than Monday, Cox will likely confirm that he’s returning to manage at least one more season. If he truly felt that he couldn’t continue to work with Wren, the 68-year-old skipper would have already provided more indication that he’s currently spending his final days on the bench.
Like Cox’s successor will have big shoes to fill, Wren didn’t exactly encounter an enviable situation when he assumed the role that John Schuerholz had mastered for so many years.
To simply refer to Schuerholz as a great baseball man would be an insult. His greatness was gained through the great leadership that he continues to provide the Braves organization as its president.
Still during the 17 years that Cox and Schuerholz shared a manager-GM relationship, they had their differences. But over time, they developed a working relationship that drew envy from the peers that shared their positions throughout the Majors.
Wren has done an excellent job ushering the Braves away from holding on to tightly to their successful past. While saying goodbye to the likes of John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, he’s ushered the club toward what he foresees as a bright future.
At the same time, Wren has also shown the willingness to make the adaptations necessary to build the strong working relationship that has given Cox even more reason to stick around a little longer to be part of this future.
That’s also big news, Bobby’s coming back! And you’re probably stupid if you think that’s a bad thing. Or just misinformed or delusional or spoiled or just generally have unrealistic expectations. So, at least don’t be sad that Bobby is coming back. Neutral is the most negative opinion you should have about this.