December 28, 2012 at 12:12 pm by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
When Dan Uggla was traded to the Braves in October of 2010, many viewed the trade as a “steal”. The club was able to acquire a middle of the order bat for a utility type player and a replaceable left-handed reliever. The following January, he signed a five-year extension, which at the time wasn’t necessarily viewed as an overwhelmingly good or bad deal, but a scary one.
Uggla is now two years into his contract. In those years, he has been all over the spectrum. He was hotter than hot during his 33-game hit streak in 2011 and colder than cold during the second half of last season when he was ultimately benched. Overall, he hasn’t recreated enough of his numbers with the Marlins to justify a $62M contract.
I’m going to use the $/fWAR model in an attempt to quantify his past two seasons and then project his value going forward. Hopefully this will help put Uggla’s time in Atlanta into context.
We’ll start with his first two seasons in Atlanta. Uggla was a 2.5 and 3.5 win player, per FanGraphs, in 2011 and 2012. In both those years the market paid ~$4.5M per win. These combined 6 wins have been worth $27M to the club. Using $5M $/fWAR for 2013, and a 5% inflation rate going forward (could be higher with influx of new national TV money, but won’t change the end result much), I project he will have to be worth another 6.5 wins over the next three seasons to justify the contract.
Big picture, Uggla has been worth just under half his total value during the first 40% of the contract. As in many multi-year contracts, especially when signing players past their peak years, much of the value is provided upfront in exchange for a drop off in production during the latter years. This is no different with Uggla. The problem is that he is likely to see a continued natural aging decline going forward, but carries some additional risk of a sharper decline, which we may already be seeing, because of his physical makeup and skill set.
Uggla is essentially a one-tool player, with his power tool being above average. Lets remember, he wasn’t a top prospect and was once selected in the Rule 5 Draft. However, his power tool turned out to be significant enough that it carried him to becoming one of the best offensive performers at his position and overshadowed any weaknesses in other facets of his game. Unfortunately, it seems that his power has either vanished or is entered a significant decline. In 2012, he posted a career low .164 ISO and horrifying .384 SLG%, while hitting under 25 HR for the first time in his career. He was able to maintain league average offensive success in large part to a sizeable jump in his walk rate. His total value may also have been inflated in 2012 by defensive numbers, which were well above career levels. This could either be normal variation in advanced defensive metrics, better positioning on the field or Uggla was in fact a better defender at age 32 that he was during the prime of his career. I believe it is a mix of the first two scenarios and it is reasonable to suggest he regresses back towards career levels. Again, he is not an athletic player and this will only hamper his value as he ages.
The table below is how I project him going forward during the next three seasons.
I would estimate his average value going forward to be around 1.5 fWAR per season. This would leave his total value to the club about $12M under what his contract was signed for. Uggla would have had to produce about 60% of his total value during the first 40% of his contract in order for anyone to feel reasonably good about the remaining life of the deal. In my opinion, he could very well be a replacement level player by the end of his contract.
Could he exceed those expectations? Sure. If he continues to walk at a good rate, cuts down on the number infield fly balls and regains some of his power he could prolong his value as a player. Personally, I wouldn’t take that bet. Having an increasingly high IFFB% is a key sign because it could signal his upper cut swing is becoming more severe. He is trying to force power out a swing that once came more naturally. David also had a great take and gave his explanation for an increased number of infield fly balls back in July.
Looking at some recent players who were relatively short in stature and produced similar power numbers, it is hard to find many comparisons. Players like Miguel Tejada and Ivan Rodriguez were athletically gifted and provided a great deal of value on defense. Others like Gary Sheffield, Jeff Bagwell and Brian Giles were far superior hitters with tremendous bat speed. The only other similar players I can think of off the top of my head are Matt Stairs and Raul Mondesi. Stairs was able to DH, attempt to play outfield and pinch hit, while keeping his power late into his 30’s. Aside from one season, Mondesi’s power steadily trailed off after his age 26 season and was out of baseball after his age 34 season with the Braves. For what it’s worth, Uggla had the highest K% and lowest contact rate in the group. He was below replacement level for much of his 30’s. There is never going to be a perfect comp, but please feel free to discuss any other players that come to mind in the comment section.
While Uggla has indeed outperformed what he has been paid the first two seasons, he needed to outperform by a greater margin to make up for what will likely be a final two or three years of underperformance. It is hard to knock the front office for this deal though. They were able to acquire a player in a steal of a trade, at an offensively weak position, who consistently played 150+ games and had a nice string of 30+ HR seasons. Trading Uggla seems unrealistic at this point in time. Eventually it may happen and the Braves will have to eat salary. If the Braves still have money left over to spend this offseason, I wonder if they would entertain the idea of reworking his deal, making him more tradable and less of a payroll liability down the road.
The Braves took a gamble that he would be able to produce enough in the first couple seasons to make up the final years of the deal. That hasn’t happened and likely means the club ends up on the wrong side of the deal. The book isn’t closed by any means, but it very hard to see this contract working out in the Braves favor when it is.
December 27, 2012 at 3:13 pm by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves
The Braves have a new spring training cap and twitter has been abuzz with reaction to it.
Let me first say that this article is not going to offer any answers. What will follow is an incredibly complicated issue, that will only barely have the surface of it scratched, if that. Hopefully what will follow is slightly more in depth and level headed than the simplistic “that’s racist” and “deal with it, lol” type responses that mostly characterized both sides.
Let me also say that I would personally be more than happy to see the entire “Braves” mascot/theme done away with. It has nothing to do with the city of Atlanta. It obviously does offend some people. Since there’s no real reason why it SHOULD be the moniker for the MLB team in Atlanta, and it does make some people uncomfortable, I’d personally just as soon get rid of it. I’m also not someone to take ‘tradition’ as a justification for anything. That’s my personal take, and that’s all it is. I have no interest in arguing that one way or the other.
What I do find interesting is the idea of racism in America. So the questions I want to address are these: 1) Is the usage of any Native American imagery, whatsoever, racist? 2) Is the usage of any Native American imagery to represent a school or sports team, ie as a mascot, inherently racist? 3) Is the image on the Braves’ spring training cap racist in a way that the Tomahawk it replaced isn’t? 4) If not, why was their outrage this year and not last year?
For the first question, I’m simply going to lay out the arguments, because they are well worn, and seem to be at a stopping point from both sides. It would be relatively easy if Native Americans agreed on the issue, but famously 91% of Native Americans polled by Sports Illustrated said that they didn’t even find the clearly pejorative term ‘Redskin’ to be racist or even offensive. However, I’m not saying that means that it’s not racist, just that one possible clear path to deciding the issue is cut off. If Native Americans themselves felt that the usage of these symbols and names were racist, then clearly I think it would be offensive to continue to do so. Minorities get to decide what terms offend them and are mocking. If it was clear that Native Americans were offended by the Atlanta Braves name, logos and imagery, the issue would be decided more or less. But it’s not. Now perhaps it’s the case that Native Americans are so discriminated against and marginalized that they themselves have grown unresponsive to racism and have come to accept it. This would be akin to the little African American girl in the 50s pointing at the white doll as being prettier. Sometimes a class of individuals is so harmed that they simply can no longer even recognize some discrimination levied against them.
The American Psychological Association, while speaking towards a resolution recommending the banning of all Native American imagery for educational institutions had this to say: “The use of American Indian mascots as symbols in schools and university athletic programs is particularly troubling because schools are places of learning. These mascots are teaching stereotypical, misleading and too often, insulting images of American Indians. These negative lessons are not just affecting American Indian students; they are sending the wrong message to all students.”
While the issue is particularly problematic for places of learning, some of that could still apply to their usage by a sports franchise. Perhaps a sports franchise has no obligation to foster learning, but it should at least not make things worse. Ultimately, for the Braves, I think the issue comes down to this question: Is the usage of the name Braves, the tomahawk and the image of the Native American on their spring training caps “teaching stereotypical, misleading and too often, insulting images of American Indians.”
An additional argument is that the usage of such is exploitive in nature. That essentially the Atlanta Braves are using the mass genocide of a native people as a cheap marketing ploy. While in some sense that might seem the easier path to declaring the usage of any Native American imagery wrong at all, it also ignores that using the same criteria most movies made about Native Americans are made by white individuals and using a simple “making money off of it = exploitation” argument would deem even insightful and positive movies like Dances With Wolves as exploitive and thus wrong. The counter there is that a movie like Dances With Wolves, while in some sense exploitive, has counterbalancing good, and is thus no longer bad. But to make that argument puts us back at square one. If we are to consider the societal impact of the usage of Native American imagery to make money, then we are simply begging the original question “is the usage of Native American Imagery inherently bad by sports teams?”
Utimately, the question of whether or not any usage of any Native America imagery at all by sports franchises is inherently racist is one that nobody seems to agree upon. Native Americans don’t seem to agree, white people don’t seem to agree. Perhaps in 30-50 years society will move towards a consensus on the matter, but it’s clear that one doesn’t exist now. I think it would be a bit presumptuous to think we would find one here, but I am merely hoping that we at least viewed the issue with open eyes.
Next, let’s ask ourselves if the Atlanta Braves primary images are racist, in a way that Native American imagery doesn’t have to be. That is, for the moment, let’s put aside the arguments that apply to all Native American imagery, ie the ‘inherently bad’ argument. Because even if Native American Imagery being used by sports teams isn’t inherently bad, this particular instance might be so. We’ll also, for the moment, put aside the image on the Braves spring training cap, merely because I want to deal with it separately.
First, the simple name Braves, is it inherently racist? The name Brave isn’t actually itself a Native American term. It is a spanish term for North American native warriors. A sort of catchall that has the same latin derivation as barbarian. Bravo itself essentially meant courageous indigenous warrior. In fact, the term can also be found applied to pacific islanders as well in some historical documents, though the term fell away in that usage over time. Additionally, unlike what many proponents claim, the term isn’t an honor bestowed upon warriors by tribes themselves, and thus a celebration, it was a term used by enemies. The term did carry with it a sense of respect, but it was nevertheless a term created by Europeans for those that they were fighting. Further, even if the term was meant to honor Native American warriors, the usage by current day Americans for its sports teams can easily be seen as mocking them, ie we let silly baseball players be called the same thing we called your fiercest warriors.
Ultimately this is part of why I don’t particularly love the name of the team in the first place. I don’t really see the argument that the term Brave is a positive for Native Americans. I’ve never gained a deeper understanding of Native American traditions because of the term. However, I think jumping from ‘non-educational and perhaps ignorant’ to ‘racist’ is a significant jump.
I believe it’s important to clearly define important terms in an argument. To paraphrase Bertrand Russell, most disagreements between intelligent people come down to hidden disagreements on the meanings of the terms they were using. I’m going to define racism as
prejudice or discrimination directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as such.
And this is where I think the usage of the name Braves falls just short of racism. Simply by limiting the term to warriors it, by definition, isn’t intending to perpetuate a stereotype about all native americans, but just the warriors. The Braves aren’t the Atlanta Indians. It’s not uncommon for sports teams to (perhaps idiotically) equate sports with war. In fact it’s perhaps the most common metaphor used for both (ie sports metaphors in war, and war metaphors in sports). And many academics believe that our love of sports is in fact intimately related to primitive clan warfare. We are, after all, glamorizing arbitrary ‘us v. them’ designations and picking ‘sides’ based on nothing but shared geography and imagery. The idea that one should be ‘loyal to their team’ is idiotic without the clan warfare metaphor. That is, I don’t think that the name Braves and the tomahawk are by definition racist, because the term doesn’t itself make claim that all native americans were violent and used tomahawks, but that their warriors were violent and that the tomahawk was a weapon. A follower on twitter asked me why the Braves mascot wasn’t a picture of a Native American woman in a slightly colorized shirt. The answer, both complex and simple, is that she wasn’t a warrior, and thus would be a poor depiction of a Brave. In choosing the term Brave, the choice was made for a warrior mascot. Choosing to glorify (or perhaps mock) Native American warriors is perhaps an issue of its own, but that goes back to our first question that was left unanswered. The tomahawk chop is perhaps particularly egregious, because there is literally zero evidence that any Native Americans ever used the ‘war chant’ and it’s most likely a completely bastardized myth. It uses tones that weren’t even common to any Native American music. But racist? I don’t know.
Now, to say that a term isn’t racist isn’t to say it’s good either. Even if the term isn’t overtly racist, it is possible that it helps perpetuate ignorant stereotypes and that it glorifies violence. This is where my problem with the name Braves and the tomahawks comes into play. Because people don’t particularly delve in to it, it can help people make shallow assumptions. This is especially the case because the name is a generic catch all for all native american warriors, indicating that they were some sort of homogenous monolith of a single, shared culture. It also glorifies their military aspirations, which I think we should be past glorification of violence by anybody. We clearly aren’t. But such is society. In sum, my issues with the term Braves is that it’s a european catch all term, and it does little to foster any real appreciation of Native American peoples. That it glorifies violence, like a large number of mascots do, and that is in and of itself not something I’m totally comfortable with.
Finally, addressing the hat that started it all. Keith Law characterized the logo as “a caricature of a racial stereotype.” A caricature is defined as: “A representation, especially pictorial or literary, in which the subject’s distinctive features or peculiarities are deliberately exaggerated to produce a comic or grotesque effect.” Sorry Keith, but this clearly fails any reasonable definition of the word caricature. Not even close. It’s a completely proportional image that is barely even identifiable as a native american outside of the mohawk and feather. Those two aspects aren’t exaggerated. Maybe it’s still a stereotype. Here though we run into the issue of how exactly do you make a depiction of a ‘brave’ look?
*Here* is an image from a magazine on indigenous youth leadership. It’s a depiction of a native American warrior/leader, as realistically depicted by Native Americans themselves. It depicts him with a mohawk and feathers. It may be a more complex drawing, showing complex chest tattoos and other features that the single face doesn’t show on the Braves’ cap, but is it categorically different than the logo on the Braves spring training hat? The problem with picking something to depict a Native American Warrior is that you have to depict something, some Native American warriors did in fact wear feathers and have mohawks. Is it a stereotype? Perhaps, but would it be any more or less of a stereotype if it showed two braids on the side? Mohawks aren’t really a stereotype, other than one of several period correct hair choices for Native American warriors.
Why find the image of the Native American offensive and not the tomahawk or name Braves? Ultimately, I think the issue is that the personification of the mascot reminds us that the name Braves has some non-arbitrary meaning. That it stood for Native American warriors. I think the tomahawk, and especially the name are easier to abstract, and to essentially forget what it is that they stand for. The picture reminds us precisely what and who it is that this symbology represents. And many are, perhaps rightly, uncomfortable with that. The name Braves and the tomahawk allows us to forget the issues above in a way that this image doesn’t. If the image of the Native American is bad, it’s bad in precisely the same exact way that the term Braves is and the tomahawk is. It’s just easier to ignore it for those, while the image of the Brave on the spring training cap literally stares you in the face.
Ultimately, I think the logo on the Braves spring training caps may be deemed offensive, and perhaps rightly so, but I do have trouble distinguishing any way in which it is offensive and the term Braves, and the usage of the tomahawk aren’t as well. If you find this hat offensive, and not those images, I think it’s because you simply like ignoring what the other terms and symbols mean. That was what was so curious to me. Ultimately I’m okay with saying we should do away with the whole idea of Braves to begin with, but I don’t see a way in which this particular thing is racist, and last year’s spring training hat, glorifying a Native American tool of war in a stereotypical way wasn’t. Ultimately I’d just as soon not have this design, but more because some people find it offensive in a way that all the other Braves imagery isn’t, for whatever reason, not because I think there actually is a reason. I do think that the image falls short of the most common definition of the term racist (although I’m willing to grant other people have different definitions of racism that perhaps it does fall under). However, it’s not politically correct. And while political correctness is often mocked, it is often a necessary by product of increased racial sensitivity to an issue that is important. If we are over vigilant in this regard, that’s certainly preferable to being crass and using logos like the *Cleveland Indians*, or a name like Redskins. In the end, while I may not agree with the outrage over this particular logo in comparison to everything else that the Braves do, perhaps the fact that people are outraged is a good thing.
The one thing I’m sure of though is that it’s much more complicated than “that’s racist!” or “just deal with it bro”.
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own, and not meant to be interpreted as representative of the beliefs of ‘the blog’ as a whole.
December 25, 2012 at 10:09 am by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
This isn’t usually a Capitol Avenue Club type story, but I came across this and have not seen it reported yet.
At about 3:50am, Andruw Jones was arrested in Gwinnett for battery.
The details of the story have been released and can be found here at ESPN. It was a domestic dispute that apparently involved Andruw dragging his wife down the stairs while intoxicated. Crazy stuff.
December 25, 2012 at 9:00 am by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
Of all the comparisons we heard about Jason Heyward as an up-and-coming prospect, one I seldom heard was Darryl Strawberry. In an article for RotoGraphs, my colleague Chris Cwik compares the numbers of Heyward to Strawberry (and also Justin Upton). Given Strawberry’s 6″6 frame, left-handedness, and dynamic athleticism, the comparison has a lot of steam.
At the close of their age-22 seasons, Strawberry recorded a wOBA of .359 compared to Heyward’s mark of .350. Add in the fact that Heyward is a much better defender, and you get a player of similar value who got it going in the majors at a very young age. Strawberry too was a high walk, high strikeout batter who hit home runs and stole bases in the 20′s annually. While Heyward’s legs really just got going this year, he could certainly elevate his game to 30/30 levels as Strawberry did in his age-25 season.
Everyone knows the issues Strawberry ran into that derailed his career, but seeing how he developed and progressed gives confidence in Heyward continuing to move forward as a hitter. I am sure most are confident that he will be great, but his sophomore year may force some to project him with caution.
Strawberry ended his career with a 137 wRC+ after posting a rookie mark of 131 at age-21. If Heyward ended up with a similar career rate after starting his career off with a 134 mark as a 20-year-old rookie, he will likely be a Hall-of-Fame quality player. It is of course early to project or expect that, but we have seen a very similarly sized and talented player move forward in an impressive way in the past and I will be surprised if Heyward doesn’t develop in a similar manner.
December 11, 2012 at 9:20 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
Braves GM Frank Wren, manager Fredi Gonzalez, and other top assistants traveled down to the Dominican this weekend to get an in-person look at a handful of Braves players. The Braves currently have four players on the Tigres del Licey club: Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Juan Francisco and Christian Bethancourt.
The first three names will likely have an impact with the Braves in 2013. I was able to watch the Saturday (Delgado) and Sunday (Teheran) afternoon games via Internet stream. During these games, I recorded some innings and plate appearances and later went back to jot down some notes. I thought I’d pass along some of my observations.
I just want to reinforce that these are my observations of a handful of innings in the Dominican Winter League. The league itself is a mixed bag of solid prospects and legitimate MLB players, but also has its fair share of scrubs. Everything should be taken in with small sample size in mind. Personally, I wouldn’t put too much stock into many of these stats (some are still useful like K and BB rates).
Teheran looked good. He finished the game with a line of 6IP, 1H, 0ER, 0BB (1 HBP), 8K on 73 pitches, continuing his dominance over the past three starts. So far, he has pitched a total of 30.2 innings, posting a 3.23 ERA with a 24/9 K/BB ratio.
His fastball sat between 94-95 and possessed great command for the first four-ish innings. He was constantly down in the zone and on the corners, once beautifully painting the corner at 95 for strike three. That command began to fade later in the game, as he started to leave his fastball up in the zone.
Teheran’s off-speed was also fairly impressive. His curveball was getting good downward movement and was able to induce a couple of swing and misses on balls low and in the dirt. His changeup was between 79-81 and featured good movement.
What was most impressive with Teheran was that he was able to punch out eight batters, while rarely going deep into the count. He breezed through the first five innings sitting at 59 pitches (15 balls, 44 strikes). As I previously mentioned, as he got deeper into the game, it looked as if he was either tired or just got a little out of control with his delivery. In the fifth, he was up 0-2 and proceeded to hit the batter up in the hands with a fastball. In the sixth, he was noticeably up in the zone, which forced him into multiple full count situations. Two of the outs wound up being on very hard hit balls. Leaving the ball up in the zone and trying to overthrow seems to be where he struggled in 2012.
Delgado was not as impressive as Teheran, but still pitched well. He finished his outing with a line of 5IP, 4H, 2ER, 1BB, 6K. So far, he’s totaled 24.2 innings with a 5.11 ERA and a 25/9 K/BB ratio.
Delgado struggled with his fastball control for stretches. It sat in the low 90’s most of the game, but was on and off with it’s location. In the fourth, he walked former Brave Mauro Gomez on four straight pitches and then was tagged for a double by Indians catcher Carlos Santana. He seemed noticeably frustrated with the home plate umpires zone at times.
I was impressed with his off-speed stuff, especially his changeup, which hovered around 78-80. It was a solid velocity differential from his fastball and appeared to have great arm side movement. He was able to induce a lot weak contact (6 groundouts/2 flyouts) and even a couple of swing and misses.
For starters, the Braves official twitter account posted a picture of Francisco over the weekend along side Gonzalez and Bethancourt. He looked visibly thinner in the picture, which goes along with the reports that he has been working with a personal trainer this winter to lose weight. You can be the judge here (left).
Francisco hit cleanup for the Licey team in both games. So far in 108 at-bats, he’s posted a .315/.375/.565 slash line, with 7 HR’s and a 11/31 BB/K ratio. He is currently leading the Dominican League with a .940 OPS. From what I saw, he looked similar to the Juan we saw in Atlanta this season. As you’d expect, he had a very hard, pull-heavy swing (he lost his bat into the stands once). Overall, he did make some solid contact that resulted in a couple hard hit balls.
Again, this is a very small sample so it’s tough to put much, if any, weight into this. The numbers do look good, but I would avoid getting too giddy and temper the expectations until we see him in the spring for a month. If anything, a slimmed down Francisco is the strongest take away. This would also undoubtedly improve his range at third, where he already possesses a very strong-arm.
It was cool to catch a couple of games that featured Braves players who should make important contributions during the 2013 season. As of now, Teheran and Delgado will be fighting for the fifth spot in the rotation until Brandon Beachy returns near the end of July. Personally, I prefer Teheran. I like his ability to have better feel for all three pitches along with his higher ceiling. I still see Francisco as a very good bench option for now and expect the Braves to find a left fielder which will move Martin Prado to third.
We’ll have to keep an ear out for what Wren and Co. took away from this weekend’s trip.
December 6, 2012 at 2:01 pm by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez had his option picked up by the club Wednesday for the 2014 season. Gonzalez has managed the team to a .565 winning percentage in his first two seasons.
Fredi became an easy target for Braves fans after his first season was filled with head scratching decisions. Whether it was the use of small sample sizes, construction of the batting order, the use (not to be confused with the *overuse* of Kimbrel/Venters/O’Flaherty, which I didn’t necessarily have a problem with) of the bullpen, or his love affair with Jose Constanza, he earned himself the wrap of being a poor manager. Tactically, almost all of this frustration towards him was probably well deserved.
However, I believe Fredi did a better job in 2012. There were still plenty of moves that left me cursing at the TV, but at least there were signs of improvement. One that stands out was his benching of Brian McCann in the one game playoff for David Ross. It was a tough and unexpected move considering his past, but it was correct considering the circumstances. Even if David Ross didn’t validate his decision with a home run, it was right call.
Those types of decisions can be somewhat measured. A lot of what I believe Fredi is good at can’t be, which is a reason for him being thought of they way he is. A big part of a manager’s job, like any other sport, is not just the in-game decisions making. For example, how does he interact with each player? How does he handle tough losses in the media? Can he keep control of the clubhouse and the players motivated? There are no real ways to statistically measure these contributions positively or negatively, so they are often discounted. He may tip his cap at the end of games and give the boring, politically correct answer, but he will always back and protect his players in the media.
Overall, it would be wrong not to acknowledge that Fredi is at least improving. That is not to say he is “good” by any means, but I think he is trending in the right direction. It may be selective watching and a small sample of correct moves, but I think decisions like playing Ross and bringing in Kimbrel in the eighth inning, during a high leverage situation, shows he can adapt. There were a number of times in the final months where I was pleasantly surprised with the moves he made. I won’t go back and rehash every right and wrong move, but in the aggregate, he was better in 2012. He will never be the ideal manager we all want him to be, but there are only so many Joe Maddon type managers in baseball. You won’t see many managers willing to push against “the way it’s always been done,” even if it does slightly increase the chances of winning.
At the end of the day, the amount of importance a manager has on team wins and losses is up for debate. What can be mostly agreed upon that a poor manager can hurt more than a great manager can help. When it comes down to it, the players have to play and perform in the situations given.
A couple of weeks ago there was a great article on Baseball Prospectus written by former major leaguer CJ Nitkowski. I highly recommend it as a look through a different window for those of us who like to quantify everything.
Looking forward to this season, a lot of the roles on the team seem to be fairly straightforward. Frank Wren has done a great job so far constructing the team with each player having a clear strength and purpose that should only help with the in-game decisions that are made, especially in the bullpen. He certainly will never be an ideal manager, but after two years, that’s something we should already know. I’m not excusing Gonzalez past decisions by any means, just trying to suggest that they are getting better.
December 3, 2012 at 6:24 pm by Ethan Purser under Atlanta Braves
The Braves claimed right-handed pitcher David Carpenter off of waivers from the Boston Red Sox.
Last week was a big week for the Braves. The team inked free agent outfielder BJ Upton to a 5 year, $75.25 million deal on Thursday, filling the hole in center field left by Michael Bourn. On Friday, the Braves also made waves in the trade market by sending Tommy Hanson to the Los Angeles Angels for reliever Jordan Walden. Shortly after the trade, the Braves announced that David Carpenter had been claimed off waivers from the Red Sox. While this move definitely pales in comparison to the others, Carpenter has an interesting background and could play a role in the bullpen in 2013.
The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Carpenter in 2006 as a catcher out of West Virginia University. He spent portions of 2006 through 2008 behind the plate before he was moved to the bullpen during the 2008 season. Since being moved to the mound, he has produced solid numbers across all levels of the minors, posting a 3.02 ERA with 215 strikeouts and 78 walks in 202.1 innings of work, allowing only 181 hits and 12 home runs during this time.
After being traded for Pedro Feliz in 2010, Carpenter made his Major League debut in 2011 with the Houston Astros. He pitched 27.2 innings, posting a 2.93 ERA/4.18 FIP with 29 strikeouts and 13 walks, seven of which being of the intentional variety. He was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in a ten-player deal last July. He pitched 32.1 innings between the two clubs, posting an 8.07 ERA/4.86 FIP with 31 strikeouts and 16 walks, allowing 51 hits and five home runs. Along with Mike Aviles, Carpenter was sent by the Blue Jays to the Red Sox as compensation for the hiring of John Farrell. The Red Sox designated him for assignment on November 20th.
The 6’2″, 215-pound righty brings two pitches to the table: a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider. When all is well, the fastball features plus to plus-plus velocity with heavy arm-side run into the hands of right-handed hitters; other times, the fastball is straight with very little movement. Carpenter has trouble locating the fastball on a consistent basis, frequently missing high and to the arm side or low and to the glove side. Due to the speed of the pitch and the late movement it often generates, Carpenter can induce swings and misses within the strike zone with the offering. The slider features heavy tilt and sweep when located down and away to right-handed hitters/down and in to left-handed hitters, profiling as a swing-and-miss pitch. He runs into trouble when he misses his spots with the offering, as the pitch tends to hang and become slurvy with much softer break when thrown to the arm side. Manny Machado took advantage of this here.
Using Brooks Baseball’s Pitch F/X database, Carpenter’s fastball has generated 95 whiffs out of 433 swings over his 60 innings in the majors, good for whiff/swing of 119 (using PitchIQ Score, where 100 is average). His slider, which has generated 59 whiffs out of 145 swings, has a whiff/swing of 118. The data suggest that the two pitches profile as swing-and-miss offerings.
Mechanically, Carpenter has a quick and live arm with a deep, elbowy arm action. He tends to fly open in his delivery, which causes his arm to drag behind the rest of his body, limiting the accuracy and efficacy of his pitches—specifically his slider. Pitchers who fly open will frequently miss high and to the arm side, as their arm must rush in order to catch up to the rest of their body. He lands on a very stiff front leg, cutting off his pitches and losing valuable length on the front side. All-arm throwers not unlike Carpenter will also frequently exhibit severe head-jerks as they deliver the ball, which often has a negative effect on overall control.
Going into Spring Training, Carpenter will presumably compete with Cory Gearrin for the final right-handed spot in the bullpen. Given Gearrin’s performance in 2012, his track record with the club, and his effectiveness against right-handed hitters, I would put my money on Gearrin winning the spot, although a strong performance from Carpenter in the spring could turn heads*. All in all, having a superfluous power arm when constructing a bullpen is a good problem to have, as it opens up a bit of flexibility in the event that a reliever is traded in the coming weeks—a possibility Ben explored Friday.
*For the record, Gearrin and Carpenter both have one option year remaining.