March 29, 2013 at 9:00 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
It’s that time of year, predictions galore! So here it is, the CAC staff 2013 predictions with some commentary provided below…
BD: Of course, these predictions are very hard to nail down. I do not think there is another hitter in the NL near the same quality as Braun at this point, so he is a pretty easy choice for me. At NL CY I picked Bumgarner last year and he certainly pitched very well just not quite at a Cy Young caliber. I think with how young he is and how well he has performed, plus the fact that he pitches in a great park will allow him to win one sooner than later — and I think this year is the year. I really like Jedd Gyorko and with Chase Headley and Logan Forsyth running into injuries, he should find a regular spot early in the year and run with the job.
Trout is the best player in the game, and picking him was almost as easy as picking Braun except for the fact that Trout faces stiffer competition. Chris Sale is a dominant pitcher and is only going to improve. I have him and Moore pretty much neck and neck and Justin Verlander is always going to be in contention. Nobody would be surprised if JV came away with another this year. Aaron Hicks seems to have the inside track as he will start the year as the Twins center fielder. He should rack up enough counting stats to hold off others for the award, in my opinion.
EP: Cespedes may be a bit of a surprise at 3rd in AL MVP, but I really like him as a dude who could just go absolutely crazy this season beyond what he did last year. Similarly, really like what Darvish has to offer. Going with him over Price as more of a “bold move” type of thing. Also, I hate trying to predict who will be called up during the season, so I played it safe with respect to ROY candidates*. For the most part, I went with guys who will assuredly play a majority of the season in the majors and didn’t try to go out on a limb with iffy cases (other than Bundy). TB will hold Myers down for a while; Profar has no room in the infield; same with Olt; etc. etc. The AL ROY is a complete toss-up, to be honest. I had like 6 names in consideration, most of whom weren’t assured jobs to begin the season.
*Eaton wasn’t injured when I filled out the ballot; now it looks like he’s going to miss some time. With this in mind, Gyorko was my last cut, so I’d probably slot him behind Miller and Teheran. – EP
AS: I’m a huge Votto fan, in my opinion, he is the best pure hitter in the game right now. Considering that Sin-Shoo Choo (.381 career OBP) is projected to hit in the leadoff, it will be a major upgrade from the atrocious .254 OBP the Reds got from the leadoff spot last season. That should help Votto with some traditionalist voters who value RBI. Being an above average defender should also help his case. Braun has been a monster since he entered the league and I don’t see that slowing down in his age 29 season. It won’t be a popular opinion here, but I think Harper will have a phenomenal season. I feel the same for his teammate, Stephen Strasburg, who I believe if healthy should be a solid bet as the CY Young favorite. Teheran made every ROY ballot coming in with an average second place finish. Putting aside the spring results, I like the changes he has made so far. The Braves have had strong showing in that category the past three season, I think that continues in 2013.
In the AL, I see both of last seasons contenders in the mix, Trout and Cabrera, with Trout getting the nod this season. I think without the kicker of the triple crown this season, Trout’s all around game will be on full display again. Of course, normal regression is expected, but what he did last season was absolutely special and I don’t see a major falloff coming. I flipped Longoria and Cabrera back and forth multiple times, not that it exactly matters, but I’m expecting a big bounce back this from Longoria this season. CY was a bit of a jumble, but I still think there is another CY in Verlander’s future until he can prove his right arm does show normal human qualities. My ROY choices were pretty conservative, it’s hard to know how many PA or IP rookies will get throughout the season when they don’t start right away in the majors, so nothing too bold there for me.
Onto the playoff picture…
BD: The NL is so loaded at the top. I could see any of the five teams I mentioned breaking through and winning the NLCS. I have a hard time finding out what other team would eat into the other’s, although the Dodgers are a big name floating around due to their off-season acquisitions and the Brewers do not have a bad squad themselves. However, I think the other five teams are more well-rounded top to bottom than those two, so that is who I am betting on. To me, the Braves and Nats are the top two teams in the NL. It is basically a coin flip to me on who will win the division and then if they play each other in the playoffs, who will come out on top.
For the American League, I think the Blue Jays are clearly the class of the league. They were a competitive team until a slew of injuries destroyed their staff last year. Now, they have added some quality switch-hitters in Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, and even versatile Emilio Bonifacio. With a lineup that is as rock solid at 3/4 as can be, adding nice pieces around that contribute offensive and defensively, while also providing a good deal of depth to the rotation — Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek return mid-year from TJ surgery which will put them 8 starters deep — they are clearly the best team in the AL to me. I like the Red Sox more than most, I think they have enough offense and a dominant bullpen to perform well throughout the season. The starters aren’t bad themselves, though most are rather inconsistent.
EP: Feels crazy not to include the Rangers, but I’m not in love with their squad. Also, RANDOMNESS IN THE PLAYOFFS WOOO.
AS: Ditto for what Ethan said. Playoffs are so random but hey, I guess that’s what makes predictions fun. As you can see, I’m the only one who doesn’t have the Braves heading to the NLCS *ducks*. I will say I think the gap between the Braves and Nats is very very narrow, but as it is now, but on paper I like the Nationals rotation better. I am in the majority when I say that think the Nationals have the most complete all-around team in the majors, which is ultimately why I had them winning. I’m still not sure what to make of the Dodgers, but I think with Kershaw/Greinke and Kemp/Gonzalez/Ethier in the middle of the lineup (with a little luck), they will find themselves as the second wild card team.
As for the AL, I really like the Tigers. After losing in the World Series last season, I think their chances to get there again with their strong rotation. I think the Blue Jays will be able to put the pieces together after the off-season haul which immediately catapulted them to the top of the AL East. As we saw last year, anything can happen, I think there are a number of teams could be in contention for the wild card spots, even more than your average season.
So, feel free to bookmark this and comeback and laugh at us at season’s end. I believe we may discuss some more of these predictions along with more Braves specific projection stuff in this weekend’s podcast. Also, comment, discuss and share your own thoughts in the comment section. Most of all, enjoy the season, it should be a good one!
March 26, 2013 at 12:20 pm by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
Evan Gattis has obviously turned some heads. He started last Spring Training, but because there was no chance he’d make the team, he only received 8 AB and nowhere near the same publicity. Brian McCann was also healthy. When teams desperately need a position filled, fans tend to latch on to the best possible option in the team’s minor-league system and start wishing. It happened last year with Joey Terdoslavich as fans hoped for a replacement for Chipper Jones. It seemed to be happening again this off-season with Evan Gattis as people hoped for a replacement for McCann.
Gattis, however, has done a very good job of removing doubts about his ability at the plate and behind it. Offensively, he’s hit .358/.375/.736 in 53 PA, and the 5 home runs and doubles have been impressive. There is the Spring Training stats thing, though. According to Baseball-Reference, his opponent quality has been at the AAA level so far, and considering he spent a lot of the first few weeks playing late in games against minor-league pitching, that sounds accurate. Either way, anyone can go nuts over 50 PA and suck the rest of the time, so we haven’t learned much other than that Gattis really does have power. One of the things that would mildly concern me (and I mean mildly) is the 0/13 BB/K ratio, but if they’re grooving it, I’m not going to complain too much about him wailing away.
But Gattis’ power and bat weren’t really what worried us. The bar for catchers is pretty low, and Gattis figures to be a decent bet to at least match and probably better the .247/.319/.399 average catcher line from 2012. The concern surrounded his abilities behind the plate. So far so good on that front. He’s not dropping harder velocities, looks very fundamentally sound on the balls he’s had to block, and hasn’t (yet) had issues with pitchers in calling a game. I do have remaining concerns, however.
The first concern is catching an entire game a few times a week. This isn’t a huge concern, but he’s spent most of the Spring playing in 5-6 inning bursts. You can muster the energy to play 5-6 innings every other day early in the year, but will that be a problem later in the year? While Gerald Laird could come in as a defensive substitution late in the game, it’s not a typical arrangement because “who would come in if, God forbid, Laird would get hurt?”. The chances of that happening are tiny, but it seems to be something Fredi has typically been afraid of in the past. But again, this is a pretty small concern.
The next concern is how he’ll hold up over an entire season. The most games Gattis has caught in a season is at most 80 games (if he played all 52 games in college behind the plate in 2010, which is doubtful). He played 52 in 2011 and 27 in 2012 behind the plate, so I worry about his seasonal stamina behind the plate. A back-up catcher, however, typically gets about 40-50 starts over a season, so while his seasonal stamina could be an issue if considering him a full-time starter, it’s not really an issue for
2012 2013. Most of his playing time will be concentrated at the beginning of the season when he’s the freshest, so this is a minor concern as well.
My real concern centers on his ability to throw out opposing baserunners. It’s not that I don’t think he can, but minor-league teams have run on him in the past – 100/138 (72%) in 114 games. For comparison’s sake, MiLB teams were 108/163 (66%) against McCann in 206 games. I’m not terribly worried about the success rates here because more goes into successfully stealing a base than the catcher – namely, how well the pitcher holds the runner – but teams seemed pretty willing to run on Gattis. Then again, opposing runners are 226/365 (62%) in 304 games against Christian Bethancourt, so maybe it isn’t a big deal. But only 3 people tried to steal on Gattis in Spring Training, and he caught one of them (Jose Tabata) because Tabata got an unbelievably terrible jump. We just haven’t had an opportunity to get real pop times from Gattis so far.
It still remains to be seen whether Gattis or Pagnozzi wins the back-up catcher spot. The rest of the bench appears to be Ramiro Pena, Chris Johnson/Juan Francisco, Reed Johnson, and Jordan Schafer, so the bench could really use another bat. At the beginning of Spring Training, we were pretty pessimistic on Gattis as back-up catcher, but Spring Training stats/performance aside, the possibility has become very real and no longer seems a scary proposition. None of us should be ready to call Gattis a “good” defensive catcher, but he certainly seems “capable”, which is an upgrade from “incapable”. There are still concerns about him holding up during a full MLB season. There are still concerns about basestealers having a field day and that affecting the rest of his defense. There are still concerns about the league adjusting to him and scouting reports ruining him. The game changes when the calendar flips from March to April and teams start playing for keeps.
But those concerns have diminished over the past six weeks, and considering he’s likely to remain a part-timer for now, the potential offensive addition is more than the potential damage.
March 25, 2013 at 2:12 pm by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves
Y’all. So close. To quote some tweet I read on twitter but can’t remember who said it “it seems as though pitchers and catchers only reported to camp yesterday, but in reality it was 90,000 years ago.”
Some over-unders, talk about the Varavarro-Martinez ‘battle’. Other stuff.
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March 22, 2013 at 10:00 am by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
One of the questions students used to ask me was, “What’s so important about history? It’s all in the past, and it doesn’t matter if I remember certain dates and people.” It’s actually a really good question. If you can’t answer the essential question of “Why?”, then it’s probably not something worth doing, and “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it” is the worst answer – it doesn’t explain anything. My response to the students was always that you don’t know who you are until you know where you’ve been. Each one of us has led a certain life and experienced certain events that have had an impact on who we are. We can argue nature vs. nurture all day, but to ignore nurture would be idiotic.
More generally, we can’t truly understand who we are as a society until we know where we’ve been and what we’ve experienced societally. Why is Santa Claus the way he is? The original St. Nicholas didn’t always wear red, probably wasn’t fat, and definitely didn’t have reindeer. Odin (where “Yule” comes from) traditionally had a long beard and rode on horseback, but there was no red and no sleigh. Sinterklaas wrote in a book about who was naughty and nice, had a long beard, and wore some red, but he wasn’t particularly nice and rode a white horse. Father Christmas was a nice man, but he wore green. It actually wasn’t until the mid-1800s that the modern image of Santa Claus came to be, and it wasn’t really until Coca-Cola popularized the image in the early 1900s that it became a national image.
Over the years, we’ve changed, adopted, and twisted the image to fit our needs. Santa’s a fat, jolly man with a beard because we don’t want kids to be afraid of him, but he’s still got that book with everyone’s name in it because he can’t give gifts to everyone! We need some way to make our kids behave! The point is that Santa doesn’t really have to the be fat, jolly old man with a long, white beard who wears red and sits on a sleigh. It’s not an objectively correct image. It’s just the one we have. Understanding history and where we come from helps us understand that the society/government/ideology/etc. we have aren’t necessarily “correct”. In most cases, they came into existence and gained acceptance for certain reasons pertinent/important/available at the time, but knowing why and where they came from help us understand how “correct” they may be. This theme holds true for more important ideas, but we’re not here to talk about those. We’re here to talk baseball, which has its own form of historical influence.
I doubt many of you know who Henry Chadwick is. For those who don’t, Chadwick is one of the Fathers of Baseball. As one of the first national baseball writers and a member of the rules committee, Chadwick had an undeniable influence on the game. He was even one of the first statisticians in the game, having worked on Beadle’s Dime Base-Ball Player (one of the first guides to baseball) and creating the modern box score. He played a significant role in the early tabulation of statistics and the keeping of records. It was during this time – the mid and later 1800s – that many of the traditional stats we know came into existence. Though they weren’t necessarily the creation of Chadwick, he probably had a say in whether or not they remained in the lexicon.
Whether or not Chadwick is responsible really isn’t the point. The point is that a select group of men created and popularized these statistics, and the public came to accept them. This includes such statistics as batting average, RBI, pitcher wins, and ERA. There was nothing really wrong with what they did. The game was new, and keeping track of these events was pertinent and important. They did what they could with what they had, and these came into existence.
Over the next century, the public came to accept them and use them. Box scores repeatedly flashed them across newspaper pages, then radio waves, and eventually TV and computer screens. They even shifted in meaning and usage. The original intent of most statistics was simply to tally them as a record or to help tell the game story. Over time, these statistics came to be used in analysis. Baseball fans spent 100 years talking about and evaluating players with them, thus reinforcing their place in society.
This is, of course, where we come to the crux of the issue. In the 1960s a man named Earnshaw Cook began looking at statistics in a different way, and in the 1970s Bill James took that to another level. Over the next 30-40 years, “sabermetrics” and advanced statistics have pushed their way into the baseball lexicon because they asked the “Why?” question. It wasn’t meant in an intentionally antagonistic manner, but when a strategy or idea didn’t jive with someone’s hypothesis, someone did some digging and came to several discoveries, which we don’t really have to get into now.
Going back to the beginning of the post, the most important question one can ask is “Why?”. It gets to the very purpose of an idea or action. Why does batting average have to be how we measure a hitter? Why do we use pitcher win-loss records? If your answer is “Because that’s what we’ve always done”, you need a new answer. Yes, there may have been a reason for them. Yes, people did accept them for a time and for a reason. But new ideas arise. New technologies are invented. If they surpass their ancestors in might or right, they replace them.
The only constant through history is change.
This doesn’t mean the old ways or those who led them should be forgotten. Chadwick should be revered as one of the Fathers of Baseball. And the journalists who followed in his footsteps should be lauded for their efforts to inform the public and popularize the game to the best of their abilities. But that doesn’t mean everything they did was exactly right, and that one cannot improve upon what they did. How could they have known or done any different?
But now we know … or at least we’re closer to knowing … we think. Improvements in statistical research made possible by the improvements in technology have changed what is possible. Armed with new weapons, we can ask why and come to answers closer to the truth than our predecessors. While they may need further advancement and better technology to further uncover the truth, the advancements really are advancements. “Why?” depends on the metric or model, and any of us would be happy to point you toward an article with an explanation.
All of this doesn’t mean we are better than our ancestors. To use some sabermetric terminology, our replacement level has simply shifted up. To borrow some relevant clichés, “To whom much is given, much is expected,” and “With great power comes great responsibility.” We have more to work with now, so we should do more. It’s not a question of better or worse, and it shouldn’t be about power. It should be about knowledge and the ability to critically think for ourselves. It should be about evaluating new ideas and accepting the good ones while discarding the bad. It’s those skills I hope history teaches its students.
Newer metrics aren’t the final say, and they’re simply a step on the road to enlightenment. This isn’t the “end of history”.
Because the only constant throughout history is change.
March 21, 2013 at 10:30 am by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves
This is a notoriously difficult time of the year for bloggers of our sort of slant to write. While most articles at this time of year focus around things like who the opening day starter is and spring stats and performances, we’re actively opposed to furthering those sorts of stories. So, I thought today we would briefly talk about the myriad reasons why we don’t value spring stats.
1) Sample size – The most obvious reason is simply the small number of plate appearances and innings pitched. In the course of just a few days we can see Evan Gattis’ batting average drop by nearly 150 points, Mike Minor’s ERA double and Uggla bring his batting average up by 50 points with one single. Often it takes more than a full season’s worth of plate appearances to really have a reliable indicator of a player’s quality, yet sometimes we try to do this with something like 30-50 PAs?
2) Players really are ‘working on things’ – A lot of fans groan at this explanation as some sort of excuse for poor spring training performance. But it really has a lot of merit and manifests itself in several different ways. First, is the obvious angle that players may be working on a certain pitch, thereby showing hitters a subpar pitch and showing it repeatedly; hitters may be working on an adjustment to their swing; fielders may be getting used to new positions. Secondly, pitchers don’t pitch to a scouting report in spring. During a regular season game, if a player was known to have a certain hole in his swing, you can bet that a pitcher would be targeting that. During spring games though, most pitchers concentrate more on executing their pitches than worrying about what the hitter at the plate is doing, ie the Chuck James approach. And we see how well that approach worked for Chuck James over the long haul. Further, hitters with certain holes in their swing are less likely to have those holes exploited, and they’re likely to see more pitches in their ‘happy zone’ than they may in the regular season.
3) Pitchers aren’t seeing the lineup as many times as they do in the regular season – A big key to being a successful starting pitcher is how well you fare the third time through the lineup. As pitchers tire and hitters see the arsenal throughout multiple at bats, the advantage shifts from the pitcher to the hitter. How much the pitcher mitigates this shifting is a major key towards how good of a pitcher they can be. Often times the difference between a #3 starter and a #4 starter is that the #3 can successfully navigate through the lineup the third time with minimal damage, and perhaps even face some hitters a fourth time, where your typical #4 starter is going to begin being hit harder the 3rd time through and really hard if he faces hitters a fourth time. In spring most hitters won’t face a single starter 3 times in one game all spring, let alone 4 times. A large percentage of runs scored on starting pitchers in the regular season come from those third and fourth times through the lineup. Removing them highly alters how the game works.
4) Quality of opponents can vary so wildly – Some players will be hitting or pitching against mostly MLB talent, while some face the equivalent of AA opponents. This non-uniformity of opposition essentially makes stats that were already pretty meaningless for the reasons outlined above even more meaningless. Yesterday Mark talked a bit about non-uniformity of schedules this season, and how it could impact the Braves. But consider that the difference between MLB teams and what players face in spring are different by orders of magnitude.
Ultimately it’s very important that we keep the ‘training’ aspect of spring training in mind when we look at these stats from spring. While it’s important that we don’t worry too much about a struggling player whose swing or pitching motion otherwise looks sound, it’s perhaps equally important that we temper our expectations on players who are having incredible springs. Mike Minor from last year is perhaps a pertinent cautionary tale that ended up turning out alright. He was near flawless all spring, but as soon as the games started to count, he struggled for the entire first half of the season. Instead of ascribing this to some sort of ‘learning to deal with the pressure’ or whatever imaginary ex post facto explanation we might apply, we should probably just understand that Spring stats are meaningless and have very little bearing on what we will see come April 1.
March 20, 2013 at 3:49 pm by Mark Smith under Atlanta Braves
One of the things that drives me nuts about baseball are the uneven schedules. I really don’t want to have to play our division rivals 18-19 times a season. It’s not because I think the NL East is a tough division (it is), but I just get bored watching the same teams every time. Worse yet, the always seem to condense it further, with the teams facing each other several times over a couple weeks and then not again for a few months. I understand the practical issues that cause this, but it drives me insane from a fan standpoint.
Anyway, all this got me to thinking about the schedule and which months are harder than others. Last season, the Braves ran through a tough first half schedule on the way to a much easier second half. What will it be this season?
The above chart shows the Braves’ opponents W-L records according to PECOTA for 2013. The “Mod” means “modified” as I multiplied the number of wins or losses by the number of games against the individual teams. Looking at the table, it looks like the Braves are in for another tough first half.
April will begin as one of the easiest months, but there are a lot of games on the road. The Braves will get the Marlins, Rockies, Royals, and Cubs, and it would be good to win a lot of those. Detroit and 5 games against the Nationals also await.
May projects as the most difficult month, and it’s a very difficult month on the road as they’ll face the Reds, Giants, Diamondbacks, and Blue Jays away from Turner Field. They’ll get 3 against the Nationals and 2 against the Blue Jays at home, but a slight reprieve against the Twins in the middle of the month needs to net at least 2 wins.
June isn’t much easier, but at least the good competition comes to Atlanta. The Nationals (2), Pirates (3), Giants (3), and Diamondbacks (3) all head to The Ted in June. The Braves will head to the Dodgers and Brewers this month with easier trips to San Diego and Kansas City. If the Braves have an underwhelming record by this point, part of it may be simply that they’re playing a tougher schedule early. For example, the Braves will have played the Nationals 10 times and the Marlins only 3 times.
Things are Jeckyll-and-Hyde in July. The Braves play the Marlins 6 times, the Mets, and the Rockies, but they also have to play the Reds, White Sox, and Cardinals. With the rest of the games against the Phillies and the Mets, the month ends up not as difficult as others.
August, however, may be the most difficult month of the season as most of the difficult games will be on the road. Luckily, there aren’t many away games, but 6 are against the Nationals and Cardinals. At home, the Braves get 1 against Colorado and 5 against Miami along with a trip in from the Indians at the end of the month.
The last month of the season shouldn’t be too difficult. A series against the Nationals and Brewers are really the only tough series of the month, and the Braves will get a little help (hopefully) in series against the Padres and Cubs. The season, however, ends with 6 games against the Brewers and Phillies, so the Braves won’t want to have to make up games in the last week.
March 18, 2013 at 12:00 pm by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
At this point in March, there are only a couple of spots on the team up for grabs that likely won’t be decided until the conclusion of Spring. Most of us are just simply hoping and praying the core group of players can remain healthy until the games start counting in a couple of weeks. While this topic doesn’t necessarily have any forward-looking impact, I thought it may be a good time to go back and take a look at the trade that brought Michael Bourn to Atlanta. Of course, by looking back, we’re using the benefit 20/20 vision and now have knowledge of some of previously unknown risk, so it shouldn’t change your view of the trade at the time. It is more of a way to see how it’s played out and towards which team the bar has shifted in favor of since.
At the 2011 trade deadline, trade the Braves received Bourn from the Astros for OF Jordan Schafer, LHP Brett Oberholtzer, RHP Paul Clemens, and RHP Juan Abreu. Not that the book is exactly “closed” on this deal, but many of the players have moved on from their respective teams or have provided us with a bigger sample of information where we can get a good grasp on the result of this trade.
At the time of the trade, the Braves were in need of, well, Michael Bourn. Lacking a centerfield option and a hitter that could get on-base at the top of the order, Bourn fit both of those needs to perfection. Bouncing between Nate McLouth and Jordan Schafer during the first half of the season, Bourn was exactly the upgrade the Braves were looking for, both in the lineup and in the field. As a kicker, he also had an additional year of team control after the season with team friendly arbitration numbers (2012: $4.4M, 2013: $6.845M).
Considered the “centerpiece” of the trade for Houston, Jordan Schafer, 24 at the time, hadn’t fulfilled the top prospect tag the Braves had hoped for after drafting him in the third round in 2005. The Astros hoped there was still untapped potential in Schafer and a change of scenery would be helpful. Brett Oberholtzer and Paul Clemens, 22 and 23, were both starting in the Mississippi rotation and were the two pieces the Astros thought would provide future value in the quest to rebuild. The final piece was Juan Abreu, 26, a flame throwing RHP with control issues in the Gwinnett bullpen, who fell short of claiming a spot in the big league ‘pen.
Somehow, the Braves were able to escape the deal with out giving up their top four pitching prospects in Teheran, Delgado, Vizcaino and Minor. Many believed one of the four would have to be parted with in order to land the impact player the Braves were looking for. Oberholtzer and Clemens, both regarded as mid-level, high C/low B grade, prospects that profiled as back-end of a rotation pieces, were stuck behind the Braves stable of young pitching. Essentially, all the pitchers the Braves gave up were expendable; the Astros chose quantity over quality.
Looking back, the general feeling was that this trade was a big win for the Braves. There were able to get the perfect top of the order/centerfield combo, at a reasonable price, for a once hyped prospect and a bundle of pitching prospects that were clogged behind a very talented core of young pitching in the upper minors. The Astros came under fire for not receiving enough in return for one of the most prized targets at the deadline. So, how exactly has it played out since?
Michael Bourn’s tenure with the Braves came to an expected end after signing a 4 year/$48M deal with the Indians this off-season. In his one and a half seasons, Bourn played 208 games in Atlanta, putting up 7.6 fWAR during that span. His .275/.341/.381 triple slash and 99 wRC+ were all above average for his position. In the field, his speed and quickness continued to show why he was one of the premier defenders at his position. As was expected, a great deal of his value came in the form of run prevention where he accumulated a DRS of +27. Bourn’s return was exactly what the Braves were in need of. The general expectation from day one was the Braves weren’t expected to resign the Scott Boras client after the 2012 season. With the establishment of the new CBA rules, the Braves will also receive a compensation pick, either 31st or 32nd overall, after Bourn turned down the Braves 1 year/$13.3M qualifying offer.
Schafer on the other hand was a large disappointment for the Astros, racking up an abysmal -0.3 fWAR in 136 games. His .220/.301/.298 slash and a wRC+ of 69 was accompanied by a 28% strikeout rate, which is something you usually see from the Juan Fransico’s of the world, instead of a player who should be maximizing his speed and on base ability at the top of the order. Unlike Bourn, Shafer did not help his value in the field, posting a -11 DRS in an Astros uniform. The Braves, in a somewhat surprising move, reacquired Schafer off waivers in November.
Oberholtzer and Clemens, now entering their age 23 and 25 seasons, haven’t exactly made the quick progress the Astros have hoped. You will see neither floating around many top-prospect lists, and it’s not just because Houston now boasts one of the better farm systems in the league. Last year, Oberholtzer threw 166.2 innings between AA and AAA in 28 starts, posting a 4.37 ERA and a 137:40 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Also pitching at the same levels last season, Clemens threw 143.1 innings in 27 games, exhibiting a 5.87 ERA and a 105:45 K/BB. Oberholtzer has already been assigned to minor league camp this spring, while Clemens appears to be in the running for the long-relief role in the Astros bullpen. Still in their early to mid-twenties, neither should be written off yet. Both still have the potential to deliver some future major league value, but the Braves aren’t exactly kicking themselves for trading away the pair.
Juan Abreu on the other hand did find his way into the Astros ‘pen in 2011, throwing 6.2 innings in relief. After a disastrous start to the 2012 season in Triple-A, Abreu was selected off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays last August. He has since signed with the LA Dodgers.
On the Braves end of the deal, this trade turned out even better than the front office expected at the time. It’s been commonly stated in the industry that front offices never root against the players they trade away, but knowing that the head decision makers were able to properly evaluate players and the organizational outlook, does offer a positive feeling. Using FanGraphs $/fWAR model, Bourn was worth $32.2M in value with his time in Atlanta. If you want to add in the compensation pick, which conservative estimates suggest to be worth $3.5M in surplus value, you can see how one-sided this trade has looked considering the Astros have yet to see a positive return in major league value on their end.
Overall, A+ Frank Wren.